“I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing…” (Romans 7:19)
We have been talking about the importance of “being” rather than “doing.” Jesus came to make us new creations – that we could BE new. Righteous. Holy. God-pleasing. Like Jesus. This IS who we are in Jesus… because of Jesus.
The gospel message is that Jesus came to do what we could not do – so that we could be what we could never be without Him.
Jesus put an end to the need for human effort (to be good or righteous) by taking our place – by securing, with His sacrifice, the very thing that all our “righteous” or “religious” efforts could never accomplish.
Human effort (at doing good) never earned us God’s grace… and it never will.
This is a lesson that is so difficult for us as believers. We tend to receive God’s grace (with thanks) – and then go about trying to DO all the things that we think God enjoys. In a sense, all our doing is our effort to earn what we never earned in the first place.
I hear a lot of Christians “connecting” with Paul’s soliloquy in Romans 7. We tend to think that Paul is talking about his experience (and frustration with himself) as he tries to live the Christian life (and fails miserably). “We gotcha Paul. We feel that way too, brother.” We tend to take great solace in the fact that if an apostle of God struggles so mightily with trying to do what is right – then what hope do we have?
But Paul’s words in Romans 7:14-24 are some of the most misunderstood and misquoted verses in all of Scripture!
Paul had an odd way of expressing himself (at times), but what he is really trying to teach us is about the futility of trying to do what is good and right in our own human efforts and willpower. He is not talking about his Christian experience – he is talking about the experience of any person who is consumed with “doing” righteousness… rather than “being” righteous, because of Christ’s work.
In this famous passage, the word “do” is used 18 times (in the NIV) – and never in a positive light. Paul is making a point. Our efforts at “doing” good never accomplish our goal. Our “doing” is a “fleshly” effort to try and please God. Those who are not Christians try and “do” it this way. It is the temptation for Christians to employ the same tactics! Paul voices what everyone who has tried to “do” what is right has experienced: “I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.”
Our human efforts (even as Christians) can only produce human results. No wonder we fail, so often, to live the way we know we should!
God’s solution to the problem is different (and magnificent!). Jesus came to make us new. But more than that… Jesus came to make us a place of habitation for God Himself. That He could live in us – and work through us. Doing God things. Through our lives. “Christ in us… the hope of glory!” (Col. 1:27)
All because He has done all that was needed to make us to BE something…