Are You Trying to do the Right Thing the Wrong Way?

The street where we lived in Puerto Rico was a one-way street. Many a time I’d watch as a car, going in the wrong direction barely avoided a head-on collision. Did the driver not see the sign? Was the person so lost that they weren’t paying attention?

I’m sure it’s happened to you. You attempt to live your life with all good intentions but the sinful, evil nature that is within all of us, wins in the end and you fall into temptation. Hey, remember the popular phrase, “The devil made me do it,”? Yeah.

In Romans 7, Paul tells us that no matter how much we try on our own, living under the law — trying to be a good person — without the Grace of God, is an exercise in futility.

Now, remember, Paul is writing to the predominately Jewish congregation in Rome. To them God’s law was the 10 Commandments and all the laws found in Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy — you know, those boring books in the Old Testament. However, it applies to anyone trying to be good under their own efforts.

Romans 7

Now, dear brothers and sisters—you who are familiar with the law—don’t you know that the law applies only while a person is living? For example, when a woman marries, the law binds her to her husband as long as he is alive. But if he dies, the laws of marriage no longer apply to her. So while her husband is alive, she would be committing adultery if she married another man. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law and does not commit adultery when she remarries.

So, my dear brothers and sisters, this is the point: You died to the power of the law when you died with Christ. And now you are united with the one who was raised from the dead. As a result, we can produce a harvest of good deeds for God. When we were controlled by our old nature, sinful desires were at work within us, and the law aroused these evil desires that produced a harvest of sinful deeds, resulting in death. But now we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit.

God’s Law Reveals Our Sin

Well then, am I suggesting that the law of God is sinful? Of course not! In fact, it was the law that showed me my sin. I would never have known that coveting is wrong if the law had not said, “You must not covet.” But sin used this command to arouse all kinds of covetous desires within me! If there were no law, sin would not have that power. At one time I lived without understanding the law. But when I learned the command not to covet, for instance, the power of sin came to life, and I died. So I discovered that the law’s commands, which were supposed to bring life, brought spiritual death instead. Sin took advantage of those commands and deceived me; it used the commands to kill me. But still, the law itself is holy, and its commands are holy and right and good.

But how can that be? Did the law, which is good, cause my death? Of course not! Sin used what was good to bring about my condemnation to death. So we can see how terrible sin really is. It uses God’s good commands for its own evil purposes.

Struggling with Sin

So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.

And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.

I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.

Romans 7

God’s Law Reveals Our Sin

Just like a scale doesn’t make you fat — it just tells you that you are — the law tells us that we are sinners. The road sign that’s telling you that you’re going in the wrong direction isn’t bad, you’re bad for ignoring it. There are consequences to ignoring the law.

That’s where Jesus comes in…

When Jesus declared, “It is finished!” on the cross, the moment He died, we died to the law. We are no longer under the law, but under God’s Grace. Through Christ, WE died to the law. By ourselves, we are sinful and we will die. It’s only because Jesus died for us, that we will live even though we die. We have eternal life!

Romans chapter 8 is next and it’s the juicy one. It’s one of the most-quoted books of the Bible. I can’t wait!

Soli Deo Gloria – to God Alone be the Glory!

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