Romans: A Heart Divided

Good morning and welcome to Journey Church.  My name is Phil Human and it’s a pleasure to continue our study on the book of Romans.

In 1886 Robert Lewis Stevenson penned one of the most famous books ever written, the strange case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde.   You are probably familiar enough with the story.  It’s about a Doctor who is frustrated by the split-ness in his own heart.

He realizes that within his own heart there lies this desire to do the wrong thing – there resides within his heart evil along with good.  And it’s so frustrating to him.

See, the good part of him is frustrated that the evil part of him holds him back from being exceptionally good.  And the evil part of his is frustrated by being held back by the good part of him.  And so he devises a potion that is meant to separate these two competing parts of himself. And he thinks – during the day the good doctor will be really good – and at night he can drink the potion and the evil part of him can blow off steam at night.

But when he drinks the potion he discovers the bad part of him is far more evil than he ever imagined.  He writes that in fact Mr. Hyde was ten times more evil than he ever imagined himself being and it thrilled him.  Alas – one evening Mr. Hyde kills a man, and so the doctor realizes he can never drink the potion again – lest Mr. Hyde be arrested and hanged for his deeds, and the doctor commits himself to being really really good to make up for his deeds, and he succeeds – until – many months later, he is sitting in a park and he thinks to himself – “Look at me, look how good I’ve become.  I’m so much better than the average lazy person walking through this park – and suddenly he feels something happening and he looks down and sees that his hand is gnarly and hairy and he realizes that he turned into Mr. Hyde without drinking the potion.

By the way – this is an important part of the story.  There’s two ways to be self absorbed.  You can be self-absorbed by doing wicked things, and you can be self-absorbed by being really really good – and this is where Mr. Hyde found a way to escape – through Dr. Jeckyll’s self absorbed pride at being better a better person than others around him.

In fact, now he needs to drink the potion in order to turn into Dr. Jeckyll.  And when he runs out of potion he realizes he will forever be Mr. Hyde.  What a wretched man indeed.

Do you know that you too have the capacity to be far more evil than you ever imagined?  Are you in touch with the reality that Mr. Hyde is hiding within you?  That there is a part of your heart, even after you cross the line of faith, that desires to do what you know you shouldn’t do?

This morning we are reading portions of Romans chapter 7, where the Apostle Paul – the guy who wrote half the new testament – gets very honest and confesses the splitness of his own heart – that he is far more capable of evil selfishness – and that he needs help.

In some ways this is Paul’s AA meeting moment.  Hi I’m Paul and I’m a sinner and I need help overcoming this war that wages within.  I need help to overcome the evil that lies within my heart.

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

18b For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.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.

21 So I find this law at work: Although 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 me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 

24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 

What do you think about what we just read?  Don’t you appreciate the way Paul gives a nod to reality -a nod to our humanity?

Paul describes two competing realities.  I am a child of God and want to walk the narrow path – but there’s a part of me that wants to go backward.

And those competing realities leave us suspended, hanging precariously in between.

What a wretched condition?  Is there anyone who can rescue me from this state?  Of course there is – we kow who can rescue us.  And he will get to that – but first – let’s back up a bit to the beginning of Romans 7 to see what cannot rescue us.

And what cannot rescue us is trying really really hard to be a good person.  We cannot overcome the Mr. Hyde in us through behavior modification.  Dr. Jeckyll tried that and it ended up turning him on that park bench into even more of a devil than before.

And the Bible insists that you cannot become a good person by trying really really hard to be a good person.  You have to put that idea to death.  In fact – here’s how Paul introduces the subject to us back in verse 4 of Romans 7.  He says something rather startling…

So, my dear brothers and sisters, this is the point: You died to the power of the law when you died with Christ.

Now – let me mention an important thing here – and in fact Paul is going to elaborate on this himself in verses 7-13 – a section we will not read this morning.  But did you notice that Paul – in Romans 6 Paul says that we are dead to sin.  And yet here, he substitutes a different word – he says we are dead to the law.

What’s the law?  The law is the ten commandments, and all the other 600 and something commandments with it.  And it feels weird that in one moment Paul says – you are dead to sin and alive in Christ – and now he says you are dead to the law and alive to God.  Is Paul therefore saying that the Old Testament is equal to sin?  Is the Law a bad thing?

And in verse 7 he asks that question – Well then, am I suggesting that the law of God is sinful? Of course not!  So why does Paul seem to lump sin and the law together in the same basket?  He does so because of what the law does.  And Paul tells us that the law informs us of our sinfulness.  It shines a light on our sinfulness and in doing so the law becomes companion or a sidekick to sin.

Not only that- but Paul tells us a very interesting thing here – Paul says, the law also has a way of instigating our sinful, of inflaming our rebellious side.

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.

Ever tell your son or daughter – “Do not touch that.”  And the kid does one of these deals where they stare at you in the eyes while they reach out and grab it?  At that point it’s not about the thing you said not to do, is it?  It’s about you and the child.  the child wants to know – who exactly do you think you are to tell me what I can and cannot do?

Paul informs us that God’s law has a way of inciting and inflaming that inner rebel – who once it learns what God forbids, suddenly finds it irresistible.

Paul knows, more than any of us – the vanity of trying to become a good person by following all the rules.  Paul was an expert at following the rules of the Old testament and yet, was participating in the murder of followers of Jesus.  And it never even downed on him the incongruity of it all.

He followed the law to a T and yet was 10 times more wicked than he imagined.

This is why we have to stop believing that we can become really good people by trying extra hard.  It doesn’t work.  We have to die to that idea.  Paul tells us through faith we are dead to the law.

We aim not at externally focused behavior issues.  Instead, we aim towards an inner transformation of our character through the power of the Holy Spirit.

So Paul lumps the law and it’s effects in with sin itself.  And he tells us that through faith in Jesus, we are freed from bondage to sin.  The old has gone.  We are freed from our slavery to sin – we are dead to sin and sin is dead to us.  All of that is behind us.  It’s yesterday.

So this side of the room here – you are now what we used to be.  We used to be slaves to sin.  The old has gone though.  We are moving on.

How did this happen? We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus.  It happened the moment we placed our faith in Jesus.  The bible tells us that at the moment we crossed the line of faith and decided to follow Jesus, everything changed for us in the heavenly realm.

We are freed from our slavery to sin.  Positionally meaning in God’s eyes – we became sinless.  Col 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  We are united with Jesus, and now God sees us as sinless people.  It happened once and forever.  Our sins are gone.  We are new.  We are forgiven.  We become children of God.  All of that happens immediately upon faith in Jesus.

Faith free us from our slavery to sin and allows us not to declare a new allegiance to Jesus.  Now we are united with Jesus.  And we become alive to Christ.

Back to Romans 7:4  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.

So this side of the room all the way over here- you are where we are going.  You are the vision of what God is going to make out of us.  He is recreating us in order that we might produce a harvest of good for God.

There’s no end to the potential that God sees in people like us.  He says that we can become the kind of people who naturally and easily produce fruit like, Love and joy and peace and patience and kindness and goodness – they all just fall out of us through our faith in Jesus.

Every once in a while it’s good to remember what God is in the process of turning us into.  The kinds of people who determine the quality of life in our age and in our own environment.  He says we will be the salt that adds flavor to this bland world.  Like Light in a dark room, people will be thank God that He has placed us in their life.  Cool and humbling and sometimes, it feels so far away.

This is what Paul is getting to.  I want to be that person.  And yet, why do I so often want to turn backwards – why does that life still seem appealing?

On one side we have what we once were.  On the other – what we are in the process of becoming.  And here we are now.  Caught in the middle, suspended between two realities.

The dividing line of what once was and what is yet to come runs straight through the middle of our heart.  And it can be painful to live here.  Pulled between what we once were and what we are becoming.  To live suspended between what we once thought was ultimate and what we are making ultimate.

There is a war within us and it’s real!  No wonder Paul likens the faith Journey to a fight.  I am fighting the good fight against the part of me that wants to go backward.

The fight is real.  It’s universal – none of us shall escape it – and at times it’s sheer misery.

But – it’s winnable!

In other words the struggle is real but Paul is not being fatalistic.  In fact he is building a case – Romans 7 only makes sense if you continue to read Romans 8. Without Romans 8, Romans 7 is the most depressing chapter in the bible.  But remember how it ends. Paul asks a question –

Romans 7:24 Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? But thank God he answers it!  25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. 

And Paul is about to launch us into what many, including me, would say is the greatest chapter in the Bible.  Romans 8.  And I know that Jim is going to break Romans 8 down next week for us, but I’m going to steal the first three verses…

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 

And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. 

It’s interesting that in chapter 7 Paul mentions the law something like 22 times.  He only mentions the Holy Spirit once.  But in chapter 8 Paul inverts the numbers – he talks about the Holy Spirit more than 20 times and barely mentions the law.

What conclusion can we draw other than the difference between living a Romans 7 life and a Roman 8 life is the Holy Spirit.  God himself – living within us.  Empowering us to do what Jesus tells us we can do – and empowering us to be who Jesus says we can be.

The war within is a winnable war.  We are not condemned forever to be wretched miserable Christians.  We are not condemned to forever stay in Romans 7.  God loves us too much to not include Romans 8.

And you and I are not destined to remain stuck in Romans 7.  Yes, it’s an accurate and moving depiction of the frustration of living suspended between two realities. It’s an accurate depiction of the war within – but with God on our side it’s a war we cannot lose.

Empowered by the Holy Spirit we will find ourselves inching, stepping, moving closer and closer toward becoming the kind of person Jesus describes we can become.

But it’s not an easy process….  How?  Here’s the million dollar question.  How do we move closer to life in Christ?  How do we win the war within?

Here’s Jesus in Luke 9

23 Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me.

Just as being freed from slavery to our old sinful ways required a death, so too does our movement toward becoming the person Jesus describes us becoming require death.  It requires a daily death to self.

To be freed from our slavery to sin required a positional death that comes to us by grace through faith.  We are now freed TO someone – and that requires a practical death to self.  Our daily death to self frees us to become the people God sees we can become.  Pick up your cross daily and follow me.  Become practically dead to sin.

What does this mean?  He wants all of us.  He wants everything.  See – last week we talked about the dangers of making a good thing an ultimate thing – that’s idolatry.  Idolatry is making a good thing – like relationships and children or money and career – and making them an ultimate thing.

I’d suggest that there is another danger – and that is making what should be an ultimate thing – Jesus – and turning him into a good thing.  Jesus is not interested in being a good thing.  He demands that we make him our ultimate thing.

It’s the only thing that will make faith work.  But it’s not an easy thing.  The old nature wants to entice us to do the stupid thing.  But with God’s help we can daily die to ourselves and learn to rely on Him for help.

Here’s some steps for you to take to help you fight the good fight against the Mr. Hyde within.

Step one.  Admit you are powerless in your own strength to overcome the evil in your heart.  No amount of being good will defeat it.  Only an act of God can rescue you.

Step 2.  Ask God to fill you with the power of the Holy Spirit to be able to handle whatever comes your way – whatever temptation comes your way that day.  Rejoice in his infinite power aimed at your aid – available upon request.

Step 3.  Make a decision to turn your will and your life over to God.  Your soul is a castle with many rooms.  Make a decision to give God the master key to unlock all of it.  Invite the Holy Spirit to completely fill every room in your soul.  Abandon yourself to God and give Him permission to fill every room in your soul.

Allow God to take an inventory of your soul and courageously give God permission to put to death whatever it is inside of you that needs to be put to death.

Fearlessly run at the problem at every and every level.  Be willing to do the difficult thing.  Be eager to rid yourself of things in your life you know are holding you back from your walk with God.

Maybe you need to find a friend to confess to and ask help in keeping accountable on the road toward life.  You know, Mr. Hyde was named Mr Hyde for a reason.  Maybe it’s time to move Mr. Hyde into the light by speaking with a trusted brother or sister about things that need to change in your life.

Maybe you need to make an appointment with one of our counselors at Spence counseling – we will subsidize it for you, you know.  Just let me know or write it on your communication card and we will help get you set up so that you can get to the root of some of the issues that keep tripping you up…

Do you need to attend an AA meeting or an addiction recovery group?  Die to yourself and find life!  And if you let us know we can get you in touch with someone who can help you find your way.

What does it look like for you to take up your cross and die to yourself?

Die to yourself.  Pick up your cross daily and follow the One who is able – the only one who is able – to rescue you from your misery.

A Romans 8 world awaits you, but it will not come without some courage to fearlessly face the reality of our condition.

Who will rescue us from the misery of a split heart?  Thank God there is One who can help.

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