Thus far in Romans we have learned that no law can conquer the evil within. Evil is too powerful. "The best laid plans of mice and men" will fail to lift us above the fray of sin and evil. I would like to come up with a plan that would destroy the evil person that lives inside of me. I would like to force him to live by the rules. What would be even better is to force him to live somewhere else. I would like to evict him. I would like to beat him down so that he would never raise his ugly head again. What a glorious freedom that would bring! That would really be something to be proud of, wouldn't it? Oh no, there he is again. Did you see him slip back into my life --- in what I just said? "PROUD." If we could conquer the evil we would become egotistical. Pride always brings frustration and downfall. Now you see the frustration. Many who live good lives are too proud to see any good in others. Even our goodness brings decay and ruin.
Romans leaves us focusing only on our condemnation. When condemnation is all that we can see, we may want to close our eyes to the reality of our condemnation.
Others see this verse and start trying to do what is right without seeking help from God. They start trying to save themselves through obedience to the law. Unknowingly they set aside the grace and power of God as they try to save themselves. They beat themselves up trying to put the old sinful man to death. But you canít kill him he will always be there using the very law you seek to adhere to as the means of your destruction. Paul says, "I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died
You have seen these game machines that have cartoon figures popping up out of holes. You are supposed to take this rubber mallet and knock them back into the hole they pop up out of. You are supposed to keep all of their heads down. You never know which one is going to pop up next. Sin is like that, in that it keeps popping its head up in unexpected places. When you think you have conquered one area of your life and habits it pops up in another arena of your life. Sin is relentless and frustrating, but it can point us to a better way of living.
The law merely makes our lives more frustrated --- this is good --- frustration is the beginning of discovering freedom in Christ. For frustration is definitely the mother of liberty for it creates a burning desire for peace. True peace only comes through God.
We may think --- if we were smarter --- life would be different. The frustration that we, and our world experience has nothing to do with how wise we are or how smart we are. It has everything to do with the will and wisdom of God who subjected the whole creation to frustration. God gave Solomon wisdom --- and how wise he was --- but he found himself frustrated on a lot of dead end roads he tried going down. He finally concluded that he needed to fear God and follow him. (Ecclesiastes 12:13) This was the greatest wisdom Solomon ever gave. It was discovered on the dead end roads of Frustration and Despair by one of the wisest men who ever lived.
We Discover Hope In Futility
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. (NIV)
It isn't our choice that we live in a frustrated world. Paul says that God has subjected the world to frustration. It was God's will to subject the creation to frustration.
At this point in the sermon many want me to become a philosopher. You may want me to abdicate God from his throne. You want me to tell you why God chose this method to bring liberation from evil. Imagine the next time we send a space shuttle into space strapping ants into the cockpit to maneuver it into outer space and back. Imagine how those ants would feel. They wouldn't know what was going on. That's the way I feel when someone tries to strap me to God's throne and make me tell them why God subjected the creation to frustration in the first place. I am just an ant. I am not God, nor can I be. I cannot begin to fathom the depth of his thinking, but I can trust him. I can trust him to liberate me as I seek to live according to his Spirit's direction. This is what Romans 8 is all about.
Paul indicates that frustration can be the mother of liberty. God has subjected the creation to frustration in hope that we would be liberated from our bondage. Frustrations design is so we will discover our true liberty in Christ. Our frustration is designed to bring us into the glorious freedom of the children of God. A desire for freedom is produced through the consequences of slavery. Frustration creates a burning desire for something better. Frustration gave rise to democracy. When our forefathers stepped onto the Mayflower, they did so out of frustration. They eventually discovered freedom for us.
Sin's frustration leads to freedom in Christ. When we see that the sinful nature leads us astray --- that its way doesn't work --- we should seek another direction.
When things don't go as planned, it's easy to write off the whole undertaking as a complete loss.A Christian, however, should never do this. Since God has a good reason for allowing us to fall short of our goal, we should ask Him to show us His purpose in altering our plans. Unanticipated events can sometimes turn out to be very beneficial.
This actually happened in the space program a few years ago. A Thor rocket, designed to test a new anodized film, malfunctioned shortly after it had been launched.Scientists didn't achieve their stated purpose, but they got so much valuable data from the pictures flashed back by the faulty machine that the caption of the news release read:"A Successful Failure ".
It seems that the STOPS of a good man are ordered by the Lord as well as his STEPS!
With God All Things Are Possible
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. (NIV)
It is on the roads of Frustration and Despair that we discover all things are possible with God. Throughout the scriptures God has always made the impossible possible. Knowing the real life stories of the Bible teaches me God brings order from disorder, peace out of chaos, and freedom and peace out of frustration and despair. I may not know why God chooses the methods he chooses, but I can know --- that he knows what he is doing. Through this I discover peace and comfort. (Romans 15:4)
I use a computer everyday to do my work. I do not understand anything about computer programming language. I don't understand the language of triangles and symbols the programs are written in. The programs are written to frustrate me. Too often the instructions themselves are just as frustrating to understand. But I accept the challenge. I simply trust the instructions of the programmers who have written the programs. They simply tell me which keys to press to make certain things happen. I usually hunt and peck until I discover the way I am supposed to go. When I really get frustrated, I stop and read the directions given to me in a book. I am usually liberated from the problems of frustration and despair in the computer world by listening to the people who created the program.
We live in a complex world; a complex God created it. We are not asked to figure it all out. We are simply asked to follow the directions of the One who created it. That takes the same kind of faith you use when you read the instruction books of computer programmers. You are not asked to master the programmer's knowledge. You are asked to follow his directions. That is all God is asking you to do.
God's directions are not like a computer programmers directions. When you follow God's directions for one area of your life, it will not make his program for other facets of your life collapse.
Motivation for Change
We are assured of the power of God. God has always worked within the limits of a frustrated world to accomplish the impossible. God subjected himself to time and circumstance when he came in the flesh. He didn't come changing the way people did things. He subjected himself to the culture of that time. He didn't try moving the culture forward to a more modern age. He didn't give them an automobile or tell them how to fly. He didn't tell them about DNA or give them a cure for cancer. He did introduce them to the Great Physician. He bound himself by time and circumstance just as we are bound. The miracles he performed simply pointed to a power beyond all time and all circumstances. It is available to you and me regardless of the impossibilities we face.
God always entered the cultures of our world in exactly the same way. Cultures do not change over night. Change usually begins with one person at a time. All alone Noah tried to point the world lost in the deluge to their possibilities in God, but they refused. The amazing thing is that God saved Noah within the context of his culture. He used the ancient means of building to build that ark. There were no modern day skill saws, or lumberyards. God worked with Noah within the limitations of that culture to provide for Noah's needs.
When God appeared to Abraham, he confined his work to the culture of the time. God was committed to working within the limits of Abrahamís own weaknesses. It was necessary for Abraham to become frustrated with his own way before he could truly discover Godís Way. There was no hocus pocus to change Abraham or his circumstances. He had to face the frustrations of the creation, as we certainly must. But it was there he found his freedom to live for God.
The leading of the children of Israel out of Egypt demonstrated Godís willingness to confine his work to time and circumstances. God certainly led the children of Abraham out of bondage, but he also allowed them to face the frustration of creation head on in the wilderness. He gave them a law that frustrated them even more. They couldnít keep the law--- and furthermore they didnít want to keep it. Most wanted to go back to the slavery in Egypt. All those under 21 years of age died in frustration and despair in the wilderness --- including Moses.
When I think of all the prophets who led lives of quite despair, I realize Godís plan was triumphant through their work. They were people like you and me. God accomplished his work through them because they walked according to his purpose. This allowed God to do the impossible with their lives.
These people discovered the freedom God offered in spite of the impossibilities of time and circumstances, which they faced.
We are assured through the resurrection power of Jesus Christ. The resurrection is about the availability of God's power over time and circumstance.With God as your partner you can handle that impossible task. Donít get me wrong --- that evil nature will not be eradicated from your life. However, Godís power will allow you to do the impossible --- live above the circumstances of time.
The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation-- but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (NIV)
The same Spirit that resurrected Jesus Christ from the dead also gives us life. All some people know about Romans is Romans 3:23. God has declared us all dead in sin. But we canít stop there. That verse alone only leaves us wretched and condemned. Read on. In Romans 8 Paul tells us how to discover the power to a new and living way. It is through focusing our lives on a life led by his Spirit. We must set our minds on the things of the Spirit of God.
The resurrection power of Jesus Christ is more real than something that is better felt than told. Examine the power of the apostles in the book of Acts. Don't look just look at what happened on Pentecost. Don't just look at the miracles they performed. Look beyond those things and learn how God was working in their lives. Look at their triumph as they moved from city to city under the power of God. Look at the changed lives when those who had worked miracles left the cities. They were not left alone. The miracles were only pointing them to the power of God.
The powerful Holy Spirit intercedes for us. Too many times in prayer I do not know what to ask for, or which way to turn.
Romans 8:26-28In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (NIV)
In this passage we understand God knows what is in our hearts and he knows what is the mind of the Holy Spirit. This is a picture of how the Holy Spirit intercedes for us. We don't know what to ask, but the does know what to ask of God. God looks at our hearts and at what is in the mind of his Spirit and works all things out for our good.
Looking at creation helps us understand what is going on in our lives. In the beginning the heavens and the earth were created by the authority of God's power. (Genesis 1:1-26) We continually see the command, "Let us make. . . " It was Jesus Christ who was creating the elements of our universe at God's command. (John 1:1-5, Colossians 1:15-17) The Holy Spirit was organizing the elements of creation as he moved on the face of the waters. (Genesis 1:1-2) The Holy Spirit set forth the physical laws by which our universe operates. It is God's power, which works through these laws.
The physical creation enables us to understand God's new spiritual creation in Jesus Christ. When God by his authority planned the creation of this world, he also planned to recreate a new world in Christ. Jesus Christ died to purchase our pardon by the authority of the Father. Now the Holy Spirit is busy making our salvation possible. He seeks to bring us to life through the new spiritual creation, which Jesus Christ has purchased for each of us. God knows our hearts, the Spirits intercedes for us according to our needs and God meets our needs in every situation we face through his power.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all-- how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died-- more than that, who was raised to life-- is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (NIV)
We may tend to think that all things just naturally work out for our good. We may think this happens by laws, which were set in motion when God created our world. Paul is telling us that God is presently involved in making all things work for good. God knows our hearts and the Spirit knows our needs as he presents them to God. God's power makes the Spirit's plan work for our lives.
Accepting these scriptures as the basic premise of my life gives me faith in the impossible circumstances of life. Discovering faith in the impossible circumstances liberates me from the frustrating impossibilities. Liberation isn't dependent upon the size or quality of your faith; liberation is dependent upon an act of God. God can make the weakest stand. (Romans 14:1-5)
Godís Power is available to those who walk after the Spirit.
Romans 8:1-8Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. (NIV)
An employer went duck hunting with one of his employees named Sam, so the story goes. They took a horse and carriage, and on the way a rim came off one of the wheels. As Sam hammered it back on, he accidentally hit his finger and let go with some bad words. He quickly fell to his knees, asking God's forgiveness. "Lord, it's so difficult at times to live the Christian life," he prayed.
"Sam," said his boss, "I know you're a Christian. But tell me, why do you struggle so? I'm an atheist, and I don't have problems like that."
Sam was silent. Just then two ducks flew overhead. The boss raised his gun and two shots rang out. "Leave the dead one and go after that wounded bird," he shouted. Sam pointed at the duck that was fluttering desperately to escape and said, "I've got my answer for you now, Boss. You implied that my Christianity isn't any good because I have to struggle so. Well, I'm the wounded duck, and I struggle to get away from the devil. But Boss, you're the dead duck!"
Are you a struggling duck or a dead duck? If you are a dead duck, you can be resurrected to a new life through the power of Christ. In Christ you can soar with him beyond sinís grip.
If you are a wounded duck take heart for your frustration will eventually lead you to absolute freedom.