January 18. Romans 7:25-8:2. The Plot Twist, Church Dropouts, and the Fourth Law.

Romans 7:25. So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

Romans 7:7-25 leaves us feeling the full weight of the law. It’s a burden that we are all incapable of bearing, even as Christians. The only resolution is to cry out “Oh wretched man that I am, who will save me?”

This very last phrase of Romans 7 (above) reminds us that this battle is going to continue forever on this side of Heaven. Even after Paul confesses his inability (Oh wretched man that I am) and cries out to God (who will deliver me?) and gives thanks for Christ (but thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord), even then, he almost anti-climatically reminds us of the struggle of the desires of his spiritual mind and his natural flesh. His victory cry lead to another dose of realism – “I’m still a mess.”

Do you remember the three laws? The law of God. The law of the mind. The law of sin.

Romans 7 describes the battle within the mind (the law of the mind). A battle to either try to obey the law of God or to just give in to the desires of the flesh (the law of sin).

A recent Lifeway Research survey of 23-30 year olds revealed that 2/3 of those who had regularly attended church dropped out for at least a year between the ages of 18-22.

But why? Why do young adults drop out of church? The given answers were: Moving away to college. Judgmental or hypocritical church members. Lack of connection. Disagreement with the church’s stance on a political or social issue. Work responsibilities.

But maybe there is a deeper answer. 70% of those surveyed said they did not intend to drop out of church. So they may have desired (law of the mind) to obey the law of God. But something caused them to leave anyway (the law of sin). The battle was raging in their mind. Obey God’s law, or obey the law of sin and walk away.

But here’s the Romans 7 plot twist (you may want to sit down): Both of these are the wrong answer. Both trying to obey God’s law and running from God’s law toward the law of sin are a dead end. They both lead to the wretched man. They both lead to complete condemnation. And my guess is that this is what is behind the answers on that bar graph above.

Do you remember the Prodigal Son story? The Younger Brother lived from the law of sin. He didn’t care about his dad and so he left home and wasted his inheritance on “prodigal living.” The Older Brother stayed home and kept the law, the rules. He worked hard every day and never disobeyed his dad. And yet the story reveals that his heart was still very far from the Father’s. He was judgmental and vindictive toward his brother. He rejected the grace of his Father. He NEEDED to earn. Both were wretched men. Both needed deliverance.

Which are you? Younger Brother? Older Brother? Are you serving the law of God in your mind? Or are you serving the law of sin in your flesh? Either way you are condemned. And when we feel condemned we walk away in one way or another.

If only there was a third way? A fourth law?
Romans 8:1-2. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

Praise God there is. There is a fourth law, the law of the Spirit. A law which is a life. A law which is love.

What can prevent young adults from dropping out of church? Better music? Cool programs? Hipster pastors? Not likely. Love. Life. The Spirit. Understanding “to live is Christ.” He alone will keep you coming back when you want to quit. Not law. But rather the law of life.

Audrey’s is one of my favorite versions of this hymn. The third way is a new vision.

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