Romans – Week 22 Sermon Notes

INTRO: TED Radio hour on NPR…7 deadly sins

*There is no biblical basis for these 7 being particularly “deadly”…but they do have an ominous title.

The host said that there are many who believe popular TV shows and movies are cast around the 7 deadly sins:

-Gilligan’s Island:

  1. Sloth: Gilligan
  2. Pride: professor
  3. Wrath: Skipper
  4. Gluttony
  5. Greed
  6. Envy
  7. lust

Different speakers for each of the 7, I’ll summarize just two.

Lust: Sexual monogamy was designed to protect the “property” of a man…he quoted the OT to make his point and said that monogamy is a human invention.

-Nothing wrong with monogamy (his parents did it) but also nothing right with it.

-Lust is not harmful, strike it off the list.

Jealousy and envy: Motivator, powerful catalyst…resenting someone’s excellence drives us to accomplish things.

-Envy is desire(I would debate that) and we can’t live without desire.

-Envy is a part of being of human…Darwin she said, believed it is an important survival mechanism.

What is interesting is how both of these speakers referenced Darwin like a Christian would reference Jesus as an authority on what is real and true.

Certainly Darwin and the Scriptures present two competing worldviews.

For Darwinism, as an all encompassing ideology (ID ology) (as it has become. Whatever is, is right…or more accurately “whatever is, just is”…how can blind, undirected forces of nature be right or wrong? They just are.

For the Christian there is an ultimate right and wrong and a standard that is absolute by which to judge human belief and behavior.

On a terrible side note: The Darwinian worldview has killed a lot people…

  1. Stalin operating from a social application of Darwinism killed up to 60 million people.
  2. Mao up to 100 million
  3. Hitler was an ideological Darwinist… another 50-80 million people…if you give him credit for most WWII deaths.
  4. Then there was Castro, Pol Pot, etc.

It has destroyed the lives of many more outside those dictatorships…people who have bought into it as an inclusive worldview that justifies certain beliefs and behaviors

My point is not an anti-Darwinian rant

My point is that when faced with a formidable foe (like sin) you can:

  1. Fight on, keep losing, then die.
  2. Call your enemy your friend and join him…whatever is, just is…this sin isn’t sin, its the normal course of things.
  3. Win (fight on but win)

For the folks on the radio show they seemed to look at humanity through a lens that says to a degree…”whatever is, just is”

There is no standard higher than human minds and behaviors by which to judge our thinking and doing…so we explain “why our behavior is useful from an evolutionary standpoint.”

I don’t think they are dishonest…It seems they really believe this. I just think they are wrong.

So…we must, as all people must and do…decide…what is real, true?

And then what, I decide…essentially I will give my life to.

What we believe… which determines how we behave…what we will do.

So, worldview questions, religion questions (and atheism is techincally a religion)…are the most important questions by far…because how we answer them determines what we will spend our one life one.

Students: who you will date, marry, where you will go to college, or get a job…is not nearly as important as what you will believe about ultimate things…because those beliefs will more than anything determine how you spend your life or in some cases waste your life.

Israel had made it through the wilderness wanderings…now they are on the threshold of the land promised to them (that they could have entered 40 years earlier if not for their rebellion)

Moses is gone, Joshua is their leader now and he stands before the people and tells them to “decide”

What will you believe? What is real about the world? Which view of the world will you believe and act on?

Josh. 24:14   “Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.

They have been exposed to competing views of what is real…each of these beliefs determines different kinds of behavior

15 But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

You have a choice…and you must and you will make a choice…everyone does

By the way, the Amorite belief system…lead to horrific behavior

Joshua said…”I’m choosing the Lord…but I can’t choose for you.”

16   Then the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the LORD to serve other gods! 17 It was the LORD our God himself who brought us and our fathers up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed those great signs before our eyes. He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we traveled. 18 And the LORD drove out before us all the nations, including the Amorites, who lived in the land. We too will serve the LORD, because he is our God.”

Ok, Good…they made the right choice…but wait, listen to Joshua’s response.

19   Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the LORD. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. 20 If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.”

Why is he so negative?…he just asked them to “choose” and they did…instead of congratulating them….now he seems to be saying…”no, you can’t choose the good, you will fail.”

Perhaps he was challenging them to really count the cost…he sensed they were too quick to reply

Perhaps he meant it…they cannot live this way, they need grace…they don’t have what it takes on their own and they need to realize that.

So he is saying…”You cannot, but by the grace of God you can.”

In fact they did for a long time.

Josh 24:31…Israel served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and the elders who outlived him…

But it would not last indefinitely, the days would come when they would forget what they had committed to and what God had done and they would no longer rely on God’s grace.

And their beliefs would shift and their behavior would follow and they would suffer for believing and behaving out of line with the reality of God.

So…you and I and everyone we know has and is choosing…what is real to believe and by that choice what is the right way to behave.

Take the lady who takes Darwin at his word and says that envy is (in some forms) a positive human quality.

Where Paul, in Romans 7 used its close kin (coveting) as the prototype of all that is wrong with us.

Clearly Darwin and Paul can’t both be right.

In looking at your life…the world you live in…your worldview is the lens by which you see everything.

If the lens is distorted then the way you live in the world will be as well.

So people must choose…they must decide on who will be their authority for determining what is real and true to believe…and that will lead to how they act (live)

Rom. 7:13   Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! (he is talking about the Law of God…the standard for human beliefs and behavior) But in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it produced death in me through what was good, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.

Sin is the ultimate cause of death…the law is the instrumental cause.

Like a scalpel being used to harm rather than heal…the murderous hand, not the scalpel is evil.

The law is good but it revealed how utterly bad sin is (not just bad for us, but bad as an affront to God)

We fail to see the “badness” of sin because we fail to see the holiness and greatness of God.

But if we open our eyes…it is not difficult to see how destructive sin is.

The law reveals the destructive nature of sin, opens our eyes…how we miss the mark.

“Darwin is wrong…lust is not beneficial, or envy, or anger…these destroy you.”

The law reveals this…but it provides no power in itself to deal effectively with sin.

14   We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.

God’s law (his word) originates from him…its origin is the Holy Spirit…it is spiritually derived.

So, the “lust” expert was wrong…monogamy was not a human invention it was God’s idea.

The law is (God originated) but humans apart from the gospel live in sin slavery…unable to live in the freedom of God.

15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.

This doesn’t mean we are unaware of our sinful actions.

Our problem is not that we are naive but that we are conflicted.

“What is wrong with me? Why would I do something this stupid, or bad?”

Who has not felt that way?

I don’t want this…but I keep doing it…I hate this but I do it.

16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.

When people feel guilty, or bad about the wrong they have done…they are showing (even if they don’t believe in God) that the law is good.

The standard they have violated must be good because they regret having transgressed that standard.

Many men in prison (not all but many), as they have time to grow older and reflective…come to deeply regret the choices they made, choices that at the time did not seem wrong to them.

Not regret just because it is costing them their freedom…but regret because it was wrong and it hurt others

17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing.

Paul is not denying responsibility…like there are “two hims” and the bad “him” does bad and its NOT the fault of the good “him.”

You hear this kind of thing a lot in the news, someone does or says something very wrong and they reply with “This does not represent who I really am.”

Well, it may not fully represent who you are but it accurately represents who you are…it came from you.

It may not be all of who you are…but certainly it is who you are…because you did it.

So Paul, speaking as the prototypical human being…is not denying responsibility, he is confessing impotence…he has no power in himself to live in ongoing victory.

20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

Again he is not denying responsibility rather he is showing how powerful a force sin can be in our lives.

21   So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.

“Inner being” is another way of saying “my mind”…”I intellectually, or cognitively agree with the law” and would often like to do it.

But there is another “law” (figure of speech…Law of sin as opposed to Law of God)…at work in my physical body.

This law of sin is waging war inside me, taking me prisoner.

So the picture he is painting is a land where there are laws in place…good, healthy, necessary laws.

But in this land the people are without power to keep the laws because the lawful government has been overrun by a renegade faction.

The insurrectionists…have their own set of laws…these laws are destructive, remove freedom and enslave the people.

The country is the person who has inside of her…laws (that she knows are right and good) and rebels, with their own version of laws that are in effect lawlessness.

Laws and freedom: So it not a contrast between “law” and “freedom” but “laws that lead to freedom” and “laws that lead to bondage.”

A land without laws is a land without freedom…a place where death rules.

The very young and the very naive believe that freedom means “no rules, no laws”…but anyone who has been to such a place in the real world or tried to live that way…knows better.

24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God — through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

The “I” of this passage is widely debated by people who take the Scriptures seriously.

There are three main positions you can take.

  1. This is the pre-Christian experience of Paul.

-There are many good arguments that this is not talking about Paul in his redeemed status but before his conversion.

  1. This is the experience of a post-conversion Paul

-There are equally good arguments that Paul is talking himself in the present tense. His struggles accurately represent himself at that point in his life and faith.

  1. Both…it is the ongoing experience of all people but it manifests in different ways.

-It could be that the arguments are so finely balanced because is not intending us to see this as believers or unbelievers but rather to see the fact that the law has no ability to transform human beings…Christian or non-Christian.

The outcome here is pretty gloomy but the sun comes out in the next chapter.

So this description of failure is not the whole of Christian experience…chapter 8 will show that believers are empowered by the Spirit to believe and behave in line with the reality of God.

Let’s cheat and look ahead one verse.

Rom. 8:1   Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,

So sin, uses the law to condemn…but there is no one or nothing who can condemn those Christ has set free.

Let’s look at others passage from Paul’s writings where he says something similar regarding our ongoing struggle.

Gal. 5:16   So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.

Phil. 3:12   Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. 15   All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained.

Look especially at verse 16

“Only let us live up to what we have already attained.”…odd?

What have we already attained (or has been attained for us)…victory. (already, indicative)

Now…let us move further in our lives into that victory. (not yet, imperative)


The struggle is real, the victory is real…the Scriptures make sense out of both of these facts.

Can a believer live in destructive sin patterns?…yes.

Must a believer do so?…no

Substantial, significant, and observable victory over sin is the expected norm.

  1. Substantial: Indicates it has substance, it is real
  2. Significant: Indicates it is meaningful, impactful
  3. Observable: Indicates you can see it, measure it over time.

The change is not just in beliefs and rituals.

So…its not…”I used to be a person who was angry, covetous, insecure and proud who did not believe in God, the Bible, the gospel and I did not attend church.”

“Now I am an angry, covetous, insecure and proud person who believes in God, the Bible, the gospel, and I go to church.”

This is somewhat common…but not supposed to be normal.

Question: Is this the kind of outcome you would expect if all this stuff were real?…I mean…none or little change over time.

God is real, Jesus is real, Spirit is real, Bible is true, transformation is real…if so what would you expect to happen with a believer over time?


-Substantial: Of real substance, matters that impact more than just what I think about things but how I behave towards God, others, events in my life.

-Significant: Signifying something important. Things that would be difficult or impossible to explain apart from the work of God in my life.

-Observable: Able to be seen by those around me. Internal changes that work their way into my life.

During the Welsh revival of the early 20th century around 150,000 people came to Christ in a year.

One of my favorite stories is that the mules that worked the mines stopped working…because they couldn’t understand the miners anymore because the miners stopped cursing.

Not that cursing is one of the worse sins…but the point is…change was observable in their lives.

More on this as we move into chapter 8.

But it seems to be really important that we capture a personal vision for conversion (becoming a Christian) that leads to change now.

We saw an observable change in our oldest daughter Crystal when she came to Christ as a child.

She was a handful…and she remained energetic but there was a “conversion”…from “this kind of Crystal” to a “new kind of Crystal”

2 Cor. 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

My goal is not to cause intense “introspection” or increased doubts as to the reality of your experience with Christ.

My goal is to cause intense expectation of change and to increase our faith in the reality of our experience with Christ.

We have been told…covertly and overtly…that we cannot really change.

And at the same time…that we don’t really need to…whatever is, is ok.

The problem is…we know this is not true…we need to change, we want to change.

20 years ago Sara Mclachlan wrote a hit song “Adia”

She picked the name because she liked the sound of it…it is a female name that means something like “God’s gift”

Here’s the line that is of interest to me…

“We are born innocent, believe me we are still innocent…its easy, we all falter does it matter?”

Sara said about the song “More than anything is about my problems in dealing with feeling responsible for everyone else.”

Its just a song…I don’t know the full extent of what Sara had in mind…but songs build the life philosophy of people in our culture probably more than any other sources of ideas.

So let’s think about it: What if a 16 year old loved that song in 1997 and it became a lens through which he viewed his life…this is not a stretch…its how things work.

Make no mistake we are all believing something and behaving in line with that belief…unfortunately much of what people believe comes from pop culture.

Now he is 36 and is wondering what has gone wrong with his life.

Maybe was desperate to please people (an impossibly hard way to live life)…and he believed the solution is…”I’m innocent…I must believe I am okay.”

“I should look in myself to find the strength I need to live life.”

Now his life is a mess or…because behavior follows belief…it matters that we know what is true.

I am not okay, I am not innocent…I cannot find the strength in myself to live a God-pleasing life of freedom rather than a people-pleasing life of bondage.

I need God’s power in me…

Choose…what will we believe about ourselves, our world, our choices, the possibility of change?

What we choose to believe…will determine what we do (how we live).

It does matter that we choose right…because in the real world choosing to believe what is real, matters.

Paul is making his case here in Romans for the reality of the gospel…I believe this is the transformational truth of God.

Do you?

Many believe there is an endless marketplace of ideas about what is real…and it doesn’t matter what you choose as long as you are sincere.

But they don’t believe that way in other areas of their lives…eating food versus poison, paying attention to the reality of gravity when walking on a mountainside, taking medicine when they are sick.

Many people live a two-story life: there are ideas (believes) where sincerity is what matters, and then there is a world of certain kinds of behaviors where facts matter.

But reality is a single-story…it is the reality of God as he has revealed himself in Scriptures.

And the world of ideas (about what is real) is the starting point for life choices.

Is the gospel real?…really real?

If so…then shouldn’t substantial, significant and observable change be possible…be expected…be experienced.

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