January 15. Romans 7:24. Our Wretchedness, Chuck’s Inability, and Faith.

Romans 7:24. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

If you’ve been reading these blogs from Romans 7 and thinking “I don’t understand. I don’t remember ever having a Romans 7 type struggle. I don’t feel a battle going on in me. God said it, I believe it, that settles it.” If you think and believe this, then “Houston, we have a problem.”

Honestly, I’m way more worried about Christians who can’t recognize or feel the struggle then I am those who are beat down from the battle. Why? Because we only desire and receive grace from the place of the battle. Only the wretched man will cry out for deliverance. Only the dying man will cry out for life. Only the crucified man will experience resurrection.

Although Romans 7 is not supposed to be the normal Christian life, it is the necessary Christian experience if we are to move forward into Romans 8 – Spirit empowered living. If you are living in true Romans 8 victory, you only got there through Romans 7:24.

Romans 7:24 is so hard for us to come to grips with mostly because we are so bad at self-awareness and because we are so good at self-righteousness. If you think “Now that I’m saved I can keep God’s law…” Nope. You’ve missed the point of Romans 7 and especially the cry of Romans 7:24 – O wretched man that I am!

Grace = God does something for me.

Law = I do something for God.

Romans 7 leaves us with this reality – we can do nothing for God. All is grace. This is why we are dead to law. Once saved, many Christians try to live from law, trying to do things for God. Watchman Nee compares this mindset to a clumsy servant. If nothing is asked of him, he can sit still and his clumsiness is never revealed. But once demands are made (the law) he begins to trip and spill and break things. His clumsiness and weakness are revealed. Or, for all you Chuck fans out there, it’s like Chuck’s complete ineptitude when he’s trying to be a super spy. For Chuck to be of any value required him to experience an internal change – a new mindset. (If you’re not familiar with the show just watch the trailer here and you’ll get the idea)

What the law requires it never empowers. It gives no help in carrying it out. Instead it only reveals our weakness. Our wretchedness.

So is freedom from the law a freedom from requirements? Doesn’t God still require things from us? Of course he does. And Christ himself requires even more than the Mosaic Law ever did. But herein lies the importance of substitution. All that is required is fulfilled by Christ. He did it and he still does it. So where does that leave us? What is my part? Faith! Faith that Christ is fulfilling all of God’s demands in me. That’s good news!

You can stop trying to please God.

Wait, what?!?! Stop trying to please God! What heresy.

OK first, if you are disturbed by such a statement, you haven’t yet embraced Romans 7:24. You don’t understand your own wretchedness. Your own complete inability to do anything good, anything spiritual, anything pleasing to God of your own will.

Second, I didn’t say you can stop pleasing God. I said you can stop trying to please God. We can only stop trying to please God if we embrace the finished work of Christ by faith. Now that faith is what will please God (Hebrews 11:6). We trust that Jesus will please God through us. Through our good and bad. Through our successes and failures.

Again from Nee, “We all need to come to the point where we say, ‘Lord. I am unable to do anything for Thee, but I trust Thee to do everything in me’.”

Have you come to this point? Have you fully embraced your wretchedness? Your desperation? Your need? Your inability? Your attachment to the body of death? Or are you still trying to please God apart from faith in Christ? Apart from his righteousness alone? Are you crying for deliverance? Or are you still taking matters into your own hands, managing your own spiritual growth strategies? “To live is Christ” offers us an honest look at our wretchedness and hope in the one who will deliver us from the body of death.

 

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