13 Did what is good cause me to die? Not at all! Sin had to be recognized for what it really is. So it used what is good to bring about my death. Because of the commandment, sin became totally sinful.
14 We know that the law is holy. But I am not. I have been sold to be a slave of sin. 15 I don’t understand what I do. I don’t do what I want to do. Instead, I do what I hate to do. 16 I do what I don’t want to do. So I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, I am no longer the one who does these things. It is sin living in me that does them. 18 I know there is nothing good in my desires controlled by sin. I want to do what is good, but I can’t. 19 I don’t do the good things I want to do. I keep on doing the evil things I don’t want to do. 20 I do what I don’t want to do. But I am not really the one who is doing it. It is sin living in me that does it.
The Law Is Holy And I Am Not
I tend to root for those who break rules. I went to see The Harlem Globetrotters last Sunday in Rockford. I would recommend the show to any of you who are planning on seeing it at All State Arena in Chicago. However, the Globetrotters are portrayed as cheeky rule-breakers. The biggest threat to their winning is the other coach working with the referee to uphold the rules. The result is that the Globetrotters look like non-conformist rebels and the ref and the opposition coach look like killjoys.
When there is a gunfight at a gas station, I tend to think the police are brave and noble. However, when I see people pulled over after a stop sign, or I see a camera flash because the nose of a car has strayed inches over the white line, I tend to think the law enforcement is unnecessary. However, the law is clear. A rolling stop is not a complete stop. The white line at the light is the absolute standard. If you cross it, you deserve a ticket according to the law. My attitude says more about me than it does the law.
This is where Paul goes with God’s law. In recent years people have tried to overrule God’s laws. They say they are contradictory, out-of-date, or just plain silly. However, God has made rules to show his standard of perfection. The breaking of each rule has the same penalty: death. This death is not the execution of the gallows or the electric chair of yore. It is the severing of a relationship. In particular it is alienation from God.
As a people group, North America can agree that ISIS or other terror groups claim godliness but their actions show they are alienated from any God who we would want to follow. In America we have recreated God in the image of Santa Claus. When he fails to deliver sparkly presents for a narcissistic, hedonistic New Year, we put Jehovah on the shelf in favour of our true God – self. Then we are caught in a trap of having standards to live by that we never live up to. We fail, and we have no-one bigger than us to lift us out of the cycle of death.
I hate rule-keeping and being held to a standard. I want other people to play by the rules and I acknowledge that we all have to have standards. Yet, when I fall foul of the law on petty details I become angry and defensive. I do not want to examine the darkness that causes me to balk. I am not righteous. I am not good in and of myself. Transform me and make me holy as you are holy.
- Is the law a villain in Paul’s thinking?
- How can the law lead to such inner turmoil?
- Is the experience of Paul a common experience to all people? Why? Why not?
- What standards do you tend to ignore (speed limits, stop signs, purity of language, stewardship of your body)? What excuses do you make to God in order to leave those areas unaddressed?
- How do you address the fact that you fall short of God’s standards for your life?