10 years ago I had heart surgery and leading up to the surgery I wore a Nitro Patch each day. Well, I heard a story of a heart patient who had visited his cardiologist for his two-week follow-up appointment. He informed the doctor that he was having trouble with one of his medications. “Which one?” asked the doctor? “The patch,” the man replied, “the nurse told me to put on a new one every six hours and I’ve run out of places to put it”. The doctor was flabbergasted. He had the patient quickly undress. The man had over fifty patches on his body! He didn’t understand that each time he put on a new patch, he needed to remove the old one.
St. Paul in our lesson from the Epistle speaks of those who are alive to their sinful nature and those who are alive to God. And he makes it clear: we can live in one camp or the other, but we can’t live in both. We must take off the old patch of worldliness before we can put on the new patch of life in the Spirit.
St. Paul in this week’s lesson from Romans: “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.” (Romans 8:8)
We also read in Romans as we accept Christ into our life, our world is guided by the Holy Spirit and we hear of one of the great promises of the Bible: There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!
The letter to the Romans would have been read to the congregation of its day, in its entirety, all at once! But scholars believe that when we get to the end of Romans 7 verse 25 there should be a long pause. Then we would hear the words:
Therefore, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Paul went on for almost two chapters about the old nature, living in the life of worldliness. He spoke of living in a life of sin and how sin entered into the world. Paul emphasized the consequences of sin being death but rejoiced over the gift of God with eternal life. Then Paul hits Chapter 7 and he becomes more personal. Paul’s begins to speak about his own struggles with sin.
Often when I think of the apostle Paul, I think of somebody who is bigger than life. I see him standing up and defending his faith in front of the Roman governors and even the emperor. I see him on his great missionary journeys all over the Roman empire. I think many of us are aware of Paul’s instruction to the early churches to be faithful. I am also encouraged as I read of his instruction to Timothy and Titus to remain true to their calling.
Often we place Paul on quite a pedestal. But when we come to the 7th chapter of Romans, we get a peek into the life of the Apostle. He becomes a lot more human than we might have first thought. Paul is a fellow struggler.
This is not Paul talking about the way he used to be sinful before he became a Christian. This is Paul saying, “Just this morning, I gave in again.” It happens to us all. Earlier in his letter he has proclaimed “No one is righteous, not even one.” Later he stated “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” But now he states it even more personally. “I struggle with sin, and sometimes I lose.” Finally, the frustration of losing seems to break through to the surface as Paul proclaims in Romans 7:22-24
22 For in my inner beingI delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging waragainst the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sinat work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?
How often we try to live right.
Try to be patient with the kids, the grand kids. We try to be civil with someone and all of a sudden we get angry, we burst out and we say words we wish we could take back.
As we replace the patch of worldliness with the patch of a life in the Holy Spirit, we begin to trust that God will begin to direct and guide us, through the power of the Holy Spirit. John Wesley speaks of this second working of grace, as a life of sanctification.
Do we still sin? Yes of course we do.
But as we rely more and more on the Spirit of God for guidance and direction, we move into a holier life style. We fall, we get up, we fall we get up, but our falls should become less frequent. Like when I quit smoking. The first week was terrible, but each week it became easier, to a point I could overcome the temptation to pick up another cigarette (over 30 years ago).
However, the greatness of the promise of God’s grace is that even when we fail again, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. There is security in our relationship with God. If we are in Christ, we don’t need to wonder if God is angry with us. “For there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
Having a relationship with God does not depend on how well we do or how perfect we are. It is based solely on the mercy and grace of God.
Phil Yancey writes, “Grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us more. And grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us less.” God so Loved the world….!
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Take off the patch of worldliness and put on the patch of holiness!