Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Heart of Romans Chapter 7

To stop the Mongolian raiders from the north, a Wall was built during the Ming Dynasty. It was called the Great Wall of China.  By its height, width and impenetrable structure, it kept China safe from invasion for years. The only weak spots were the passage-ways where travel was permitted through gates. What made those gates weak spots was not the construction, but the guards who could be bribed to allow invaders to pass through. The security of China rested on the integrity of the gate-keepers.

President-elect Trump will now find his life controlled by Gatekeepers. Their job is to limit access and protect him from sources that will try to influence him.

There is a gate-keeper in our lives as well. Nestled somewhere within our minds is our control center. We call it our will. Our will controls the gate through which
every decision, suggestion, impulse, action or reaction comes in or goes out.

Our wills are as unique to us as we are to each other.

Some of us have strong wills – stubborn, inflexible, determined, iron-clad
Some of us have weak wills – impulsive, indecisive, impressionable, pliable
Most of us have some combination of both.

Our wills operate within a context of influence:
·         Outside influences from the world that stimulate, fascinate and captivate us. The advertising world is built on being able to influence our choices.
·         Inside influences we receive as suggestions from our flesh and spirit.

From Romans 6 we learned that our wills before salvation were enslaved to the rebellious and hostile, self-determined nature of rejecting God’s best and seeking our own pleasures and desires. Though we could make good choices those choices were measured by our definition of good and not God’s. Those choices were driven by our body of flesh.
Salvation broke the controlling power of our old self—Sin—and set us free from that old nature driving our lives.

Hey, I still have those things going on.
·         I want things I shouldn’t want.
·         I do things I shouldn’t do.
·         I say things I shouldn’t say.
·         I feel things I shouldn’t feel.

So what got set free? Our will. It no longer is obligated to surrender to the influence and input from our old self. It can override those desires and make a different choice.

A slave no longer has to serve its former master. He has been set free.

Still, even in a redeemed life, there is a weak link. Our old self will constantly try to bribe the gatekeeper to invade our life with its impulses and desires. But a free will can now choose whether it will give in to that influence or not.

I have a sugar addiction. The leftover Halloween candy is in a bag by my chair. Why not put it away? If I get tempted, I don’t want to have to get up and go all the way to the pantry. I sat watching Thursday night football and I kept thinking about the tootsie pops beside me. I kept saying no all the way up until the very moment I was unwrapping the tootsie pop and putting it in my mouth. 

Can the old self control us again? You bet. Whenever the will gives in to the bombardment of self-centered desires, it will climb back on that dead horse and ride. The old nature has had control for so long, it doesn’t realize there is another influence.

That other influence is the spirit. It contains our conscience. Every person has a conscience. It’s that positive force to move our lives toward good. But it has limited influence.
·         A conscience can become seared—hardened by life.
·         It can become insensitive by neglect or lack of use.
·         It can be wounded by hardship, trauma or rejection.
·         It can be overridden by stronger desires.

Our conscience can’t be counted on because it can be molded by society, reprogrammed by education or misled by deceit. A conscience can be reshaped. It’s not dependable.

So the redeemed life needs something else: a connection to the mind and intentions of God.

For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. For we have the mind of Christ. (1 Cor 2:11-16)

What does the mind of Christ give us? Insight, wisdom, understanding, purpose.

It’s getting direct answers from the one who designed my life.  Like the Owner’s Manual.

I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. (Jn 14:16-17)

But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. (Jn 16:13-14)

H.S. is the power to resist our old self and submit to God.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, (Eph 3:20)

Because the Spirit of God lives within me, I’m getting input from the very heart and mind of God to direct my will.
            I can know what God wants me to know.
            I can choose what God wants me to choose.
            I can live like God wants me to live.

How does this work? My will—the gatekeeper of my life—blocks the impulses of my old life and opens up to me the input of the Spirit of God.

So, because the Spirit of God lives in my life I won’t sin anymore?

Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with [lose its control], so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. (Rom 6:6-7)

Freed from Sin but not sinning. Biggest shock to my young spiritual life was I still wanted to sin, I still felt ungodly urges, I still had evil desires, I still was self-focused.

Romans 7:15-24
For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.

What’s going on? The battle of influence. The gatekeeper, our will, is fighting the battle of which it will respond to. The body (my old self, my flesh) is wanting its control back. My spirit is aligning me with God’s best. My will must decide which to follow.

So if the battle is in my mind how do I fight it? By reinforcing the will.

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, (2 Cor 10:3-5)

Little kid: what’s your name – No, no Charlie. Tell yourself no and give it to God.

Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts. (Rom 13:14)

Don’t make it easy to fall into temptation.
·         Set up road blocks – Quit looking at inappropriate material: movie, TV, magazine, internet – If you’re struggling with your diet don’t sit around reading cook books or watching the food network.
·         Quit making excuses – This is just the way God made me, I’m just really passionate, it’s the way I was brought up. (No man can succeed if he is willing to make excuses for his failures.)
·         Don’t go there. Avoid the fantasy world between what is and what could be.
·         Move the tootsie pop bag from beside your chair.

Don’t think this is just our effort to be good. It is a battle for what controls our lives. Consider it a spiritual war and pray for the power to resist the urge to give in.

When we try to live without relying on the power of God, we end up caught in the trap of our own making.

Catching monkeys by using their own tendencies. Yelling, complaining, hollering but trapped until they are finally captured.

I cannot allow my old self and its tendencies to control my life.

The ultimate answer: Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

When temptation knocks on your door, let Jesus answer.
            Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.

1.       Every soldier knows that freedom isn’t free.
2.      The moment we stop fighting for it, captivity creeps back in.
3.      Jesus broke the power of what enslaved us and controlled our lives.

4.      If we do not live within that freedom we will become entangled again in that from which we were set free.

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