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Gospel centred sermons, based on the lectionary often in advance.

Jun 22, 2011

Focus Reading: Romans 7:15-25a

A friend embittered by his experience with the church once asked me, “Shouldn’t Christians be different?”

Well I believe the answer is absolutely “Yes” BUT I believe the reality is that we are not, at least some, maybe even a lot of the time as different as we should be, but despite this God still loves us. We are still the Church, called to be God’s people and Jesus still lived and taught, and healed and died for us and was raised for us. He still calls us into being. I think this mismatch, between who we are and what we should be is what Paul is on about in Romans 7. All of us know what’s right but we often still manage to do what’s wrong. The good thing is that God loves us anyway, and keeps leading us forward and keeps calling us on. If that’s so then we should live lives motivated by thanksgiving and not by guilt.

 

Questions for thought or discussion

How often do you do  the wrong thing even though you know what the right thing to do might be? In what ways are we like Paul in Romans 7:14ff? What would motivate you to do the right thing more often? How do you feel about guilt as a motivator? How do you feel about gratefulness or thanksgiving as a motivator?

 


Andrew Gillies
eight and a half years ago

THIS TEXT IS NOT QUITE THE SERMON RECORDED BUT ONE VERY SIMILAR FROM 3 YEARS AGO
I’ll be honest with you, I’ve just started here in the last few weeks and I’m playing catch-up.... I haven’t been looking ahead....

Despite this without thinking about it I’ve been doing some reflection on the passage from Paul I’m preaching on today.

What I shared with the children was a bit simplistic in some ways but it’s the basic message of most of this passage... [We know what the right thing to do is, but somehow we keep doing the wrong thing, and in fact knowing what the wrong thing to do is sometimes tempts us all the more to do it.] BUT even though we don’t do the right thing, the thing we know we should God loves us anyway, and keeps leading us forward and keeps calling us on.

I said I’d been doing some reflecting on this passage. It wasn’t in study or planned reflection. It’s been a couple of conversations I’ve had. One in particular was with a friend who was reflecting on his difficult experience with the church.

He made an observation along these lines. If the Christian fath is real. If this God stuff is true then the church and Christians should be markedly different to the rest of the community. He quoted John 13:35. “By this will everyone know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” And he said that as far as he could see the church was no different to the rest of the community. Now he was reflecting on some of his bitter experience with particular congregations, but there is some research to back up his point of view. Studies of people’s attitudes and aspirations have found that Christians differ very little if at all from from non-Christians.

Now as you can imagine this discussion I was having with this friend was interesting and stimulating but it was at the same time challenging and uncomfotable.

My response was to talk about Paul’s experience in Romans 7:15-25. Paul knew what the law was... Paul believed that the Law was given... He knew the 10 commandments... He agreed with Jesus that the greatest.... Yet if we take what we read in Romans 7 at face value, he failed to live up to them... Even more he said it was as though the desire to do the wrong thing was like a force within him, which was even goaded on and fed by the Law to do the wrong thing... In the thought for the week I talked about Heather and wanting Peanut Butter.... But an even more stark example is that of teenage girls and smoking...

I’m with Paul here and I think that this is part of our common human experience...

The question though that has to be asked, that is begged by that, is - “Shouldn’t Christians be different?” That was the question that my friend was really asking me. His experience of the church was not the one that Jesus describes in John 13. In fact some of his non-Christian friends were more supportive and loving toward him...

Well I believe the answer is absolutely “Yes” BUT I believe the reality is that we are not, at least some, maybe even a lot of the time as different as we should be, but God still loves us... We are still the Church... Jesus still died for us...

I think this mismatch.... is what Paul is on about in Romans 7. And I believe he is speaking as a mature Christian. Now Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Barth, all agree with me. But Wesley does not he argues Paul is speaking lines like an actor as a non-Christian... In fact quite controversially, Wesley once argued that following conversion the Christian never sins. I’m sorry Stan, but I think Wesley is wrong. I think it’s part of our Christian experience as well as our human experience and I believe the Scriptures make it clear. I think of 1 John 1:8-10
8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

I’m thinking of David...
I’m thinking of Peter...
I’m thinking of myself...

Well perhaps I’ve convinced you... Thanks a lot Andrew... What do we do now?

Or to put it the way Paul put it “Wretched man that I am...”

Well as I said earlier, today’s message is really pretty simple. We know the right thing. But very often we do the wrong thing. BUT God loves us anyway, in spite of our sinfulness. We are owned by Christ...

So part of the answer tp the question - what do we do now is simply this. Don’t feel guilty don’t beat yourself up. Do what Paul does and Thank God in Jesus Christ that we are loved, forgiven, in spite of ourselves.

Another thing we can do is our best to live a life that says “Thank You” to God, yes we will get it wrong, time and time again, and on the one hand that’s bad, but on the other so what, everyone else is in the same boat.

That’s the whole reason that Jesus became one of us, not to lay some heavy burden on us, but to live our life and die our death, so that we could have new life, forgiveness, and a sure and certain knowledge that God loves us.

There’s a bit more of an answer, but it’s in Romans 8 and if the baby doesn’t come I’ll get to that next week

Just before I finish, I quoted some statistics before, about how Christians don’t look that different... live longer... happier... more involved in community service.

But to sum up today’s message. We know what the right thing is. But very often we do the wrong thing. God still loves us and forgives us anyway in Jesus Christ. SO let’s live lives that show our thanks!