If you are anything like me, you feel right at home in Paul's message from Romans seven. Some days we feel like we have it all figured out, and other days the wheels come off the bus, and we spend the rest of the day hanging out in Sin-town. Regardless of which type of day or sometimes year you are having, the only thing more confusing than your current situation is why you made the choices that led you there in the first place.
From Pauls's words in Romans, the Apostle also wrestled with this question. From the beginning of mankind, sin has been present, lurking deep in our hearts, waiting for a perfect time to emerge. In Genesis One, Eve first lies to the serpent, and then, in an act of iniquity, she eats from the Tree of Knowledge, which God had directed them not to.
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate, I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 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. 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. - Romans 7:15-20
Of all the Biblical truths and principles that we grapple with, living a holy life is one of the easiest to understand yet possibly the hardest to live by. How is it that we know the truth yet seem unable to walk on that side of the line for more than two seconds without tripping and falling down? Living Holy, or set apart, as we know, consists of doing life as God prescribed, according to His will and His plan. This applies at church, at home, at work, at the store, and even when nobody is around to see.
Fear not if this strikes a nerve with you; it strikes a nerve with almost every person reading this, including me. Regardless of age, gender, location, occupation, or skin color, anyone pursuing a Christ-like life must eventually confront the topic.
How do I live a Holy life?
The paradox we run into as believers in Jesus Christ is that we know right from wrong in almost every situation. We have over six hundred Torahs (laws) as well as four books in the New Testament dedicated to demonstrating exactly how Jesus lived. We don't even have to guess. What do I do when a sick person asks me for help? What should I do on The Sabbath? Should I forgive people who wrong me? Is it acceptable to take something from someone else that I did not earn?
Rarely do we find ourselves in a dilemma where we do not know what the right thing or wrong thing is to do. On the rare occasion when we can not recall, we all have, in our possession, a copy of the Bible; with the advent of bible apps, most of us have a library full of Bibles and commentaries. We can never claim ignorance or that we do not know what is and is not sinful. After all, we have access to the truth of every situation. What makes this so tricky is that because of fancy marketing and social pressures, we blend, if not replace, the Word of God with the viewpoint of the world. Despite clear directions, literally, in black and white, we trade the sometimes hard yet profitable guidance of God and replace it with the easy, eternally empty bankruptcy of a broken world. The world's False Doctrine of Love blinds us toward the true love and truth God so richly proclaims in the Bible.
Why do we struggle so mightily with this?
The Answer, it seems, would be: Sin, and in particular, our inequity and our depraved human nature.
But what do we really know about sin, and just as significantly, how does sin affect our lives on both sides of glory? To find the accurate answers, we need only open the Bible and read this collection of sixty-six letters.
The Basics Of Sin. A Conversation Between An Ever-Changing World And A Constant God
The mocking world: Who Has sinned?
The Word of the Lord: For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
- Romans 3:23
The denying world: Are you sure I have sinned? I have loved people as I understand love and have done mostly nice things.
The Word of the Lord: You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
- Matthew 5:48
The questioning world: Has anyone lived this perfect life, other than your Jesus? What about Mother Terresa or that guy King David you are always yapping about?
The Word of the Lord: Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins. - Ecclesiastes 7:20
The bargaining world: Well, people are not born bad; something has to happen to people to turn them evil. It's not like I was just born with the ability to sin.
The Word of the Lord: Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. - Psalm 51:5
The rationalizing world: Life is short, and if I'm not hurting anyone who cares, we have to get some while the getting is good. I don't know all the rules, but I don't think I sin a lot.
The Word of the Lord: Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
- Galatians 5:19-21
The Arrogant World: I'm pretty good at not getting caught, its all good bro?
The Word of the Lord: But if you will not do so, behold, you have sinned against the Lord, and be sure your sin will find you out. - Number 32:21
The defeated world: So what, I sin, you got me. What the big deal anyways?
The Word of the Lord: For the wages of sin is death….
- Romans 6:23
The Scared World: Death? No, no, no, I don't want that. I don't want to die. What can I do, can I put a fish sticker on my car, build a wing for a church, listen to Christan music... I'll do anything, what can I do?
The Word of the Lord: Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord. - Acts 3:19
The seeker: Is that enough, that doesn't seem like a lot of work for a huge reward. How can a lifetime of my sins be erased just like that?
The Word of the Lord: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. - 1 John 1:9
The New Believer: So how did the death of some Jewish guy, 2000 years ago, clean me up and make me guiltless?
The Word of the Lord: He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
- 1 Peter 2:24
The concept of sin is not man-made, and therefore it cannot be a man-made solution to resolve it. All throughout Scripture, mankind asks for forgiveness and makes offerings and sacrifices as a temporary form of atonement. In Genesis three, sometimes known as the protevanglium or in English the first gospel, God promises us a solution, a permanent means to cross the great spiritual divide and restore our relationship with Him. In this short, mysterious portion of the third book of Genesis, God promises His redemption through a savior.
And I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel."
- Genesis 3:15
Because of our gracious God and His great promise, we no longer live in fear and shame. When we do those things we know we should not or do not do the things we know we should, we have hope. With faith and repentance, all is not lost and no hole is too deep to come out of.
After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, "I thirst!" Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, "It is finished!" And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.
- John 19:28-30
God's solution, Jesus Christ, the living embodiment of our creator, came down from His rightful throne in Heaven and dwelt amongst us on this wicked and broken world. Our High Priest walked the earth, experiencing life complete with all its temptations, and traveled through it while living a holy life. He stayed true to who He was and was crucified in plain sight for all to see because of it.
What a friend we have in Jesus! His story, His good news, His Gospel is the reason for our hope. Now that we know just how much our Lord and Savior has done for us, do we not want to respond in obedience and begin operating with integrity or continue living in the shadows, worshiping and following a world that has never saved a single soul?
Maybe it's time we stop talking about what would Jesus do and begin living life as Jesus did.