ROMANS 7:21 – 8:39

So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

Do you make New Year’s Resolutions? If your experience is like most people, following through with your resolutions is a lot harder than making them. One-third of the resolutions made on January 1st are broken by February 1st. So by February 1st many people regret the money they spent on a treadmill or gym membership. Others have given up on quitting smoking or losing weight. They’re frustrated and right back where they started.

The apostle Paul knew the pain of failed attempts at making lasting change. He genuinely wanted to live to please God . . . and failed . . . again and again. He gives a window into his frustrated emotional state when he says, “What a wretched man I am!” Continually failing made Paul miserable. He felt like he was his own worst enemy. Do you ever feel that way?

But Paul’s story didn’t end with his failures. He points us to the hope he had for the future. He writes, “Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” The answer to Paul’s misery was not found in his own attempts at perfection, but in the perfect life of Jesus Christ.

One can sense the huge burden that was lifted off of Paul’s shoulders as he focused on Christ’s perfection instead of his own failures. Jesus lived a perfect life. Jesus kept all of God’s commands. And on the cross Jesus gave his life and traded it for Paul’s life and your life. God delivered Paul through Jesus Christ and he did the same for you. The burden of trying to be perfect to please God has been taken off your shoulders forever.

Now we face the daily struggle of living a life of thanks to God. Let’s be honest, it isn’t easy. Sometimes we will enjoy success. Other times we will fall short. But don’t live in misery. Live in peace. Christ offers you strength for the battle and hope for the future.

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for giving me the victory through Jesus. Send your Holy Spirit to strengthen my faith in you and to increase my love for those in my life. Amen.

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Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life has set me free from the law of sin and death.

Old school games have elaborate rules for every situation. When you play those games, you are supposed to play by the rules. If you play those games in organized leagues, someone is hired to enforce the rules.

Many newer online games, by contrast, introduce first-person situations where it seems almost as if there are no rules. The player interacts with other players in the virtual world and tries things out to see what will happen.

Some people prefer old school games, and others live to play the newer ones.

You don’t have a choice when it comes to the game of life. If you sin, you die. That’s the rule. In fact, it’s a law, a statement of fact. It doesn’t matter how big or small the sin is. And it turns out that it’s no game.

But Jesus Christ did not sin, and he still died. By doing that unfair thing, he took the punishment for my sin, and for the sin of every person of all time.

As a result, through faith in Christ Jesus, the law cannot condemn me to death. Instead, the Spirit gives me eternal life. This basic principle of the Bible, of Christianity, means that no one can condemn me. Since God has forgiven me through the work of Jesus, I can live without guilt.

And I can enjoy all of the games of life, whether they are old school or online.

Prayer: Lord God, thank you for taking away my condemnation. Keep me safe in Christ Jesus all the days of my life. Amen.

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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, 4 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.

It is tempting to think that by doing random acts of kindness we can earn enough points with God to get to heaven. Since he tells us what we should do and what we should not do, he expects that we can actually do the right thing, right?

Wrong. Just because the credit card company sends the bill doesn’t mean that they assume we can pay it. They just tell us what we owe. The bill does not give us the ability to pay it.

And the law does not give us the ability to keep it. That’s because we have sinful natures.

In the Old Testament, God commanded his people to give an offering when their sinful nature led them to sin. The offering was to atone for the sin. The people were learning the concept that something had to be done to make up for sin.

Jesus has made up for our sin once and for all by being our sin offering. His suffering and death on the cross were the punishment for our sin.

Now the righteous requirements of the law are fully met in us, not by anything we have done or refrained from doing, but by our connection to Jesus. God the Holy Spirit has given us faith in Jesus, and we live according to that faith. Jesus’ perfect life and his atoning death are ours.

Now the Holy Spirit leads us to do random acts of kindness. Why? Not so that we can go to heaven. Jesus has already accomplished that for us. Our random acts of kindness flow from a heart that is thankful for what Jesus has done.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for giving me opportunities to thank you for your gift of perfect righteousness. Amen.

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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. 6The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace. 7The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.

There is an element of truth to the cartoons and skits where the person has an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other. It’s true that in everyday life we are often confronted with choosing between right and wrong.

There is also something misleading about that picture. In real life, we don’t need a devil on our shoulder to tempt us to do the wrong thing. Our own sinful nature does that well all by itself.

And in real life, it’s not an angel on our other shoulder telling us what is right and good. The Holy Spirit himself lives in us, and prompts us to thank God for his blessings by doing what is right and refraining from what is wrong.

It doesn’t please God if our sinful nature stumbles onto something that looks good. The sinful nature cannot please God, because the motives of the sinful nature are never a joyful response to what God has done.

God has to overrule the sinful nature by bringing us to faith. He does that by the power of the Holy Spirit, who works through the promises of God in Word and sacrament.

Does it make any difference whether we listen to our sinful nature or to the Holy Spirit? It certainly does! The sinful mind is death. The mind controlled by the Spirit is life. It’s not complicated. Life is better than death.

Prayer: Holy Spirit, thank you for leading me to life through faith in Jesus, my Savior. Amen.

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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. 10 But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 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.

Have you ever seen a child, who for whatever reason, seems to rebel at authority? No matter what his parents say, he is not going to listen. He has made up his mind to do his own thing, and anyone who tries to interfere will be blasted by anger and temper tantrums. The child is going to do what he wants and no one is going to stop him.

This is what a life controlled by the sinful nature looks like to God. It’s a life that completely rejects his authority and has no appreciation for his love. It’s a life that disregards his Law and only follows its own selfish desires. As we read previously, “The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so” (Romans 8:7).

How different is life by the Spirit! The apostle Paul says, “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you” (Romans 8:9a). If the Lord had not sent his Spirit, every one of us would be controlled by our sinful nature. We too would be hostile to God and our end would be judgment and death.

But God sent his Spirit into our hearts. How can you know if the Spirit lives in you?

Simply ask yourself this question: Do I believe that Jesus is my Savior from sin? If you answered, yes, you can be sure that the Spirit is dwelling in your heart. The Bible says, “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3b).

While we might not see it, feel it, or experience it with our senses, the Spirit’s presence in our hearts changes everything. It connects us with Christ and gives us a desire to live in his righteousness. It motivates us to put to death the desires of our sinful nature and follow Jesus. Not only that, but the Spirit who dwells in our hearts through faith so intimately connects us to our Savior, that when we die, our bodies will be raised to life. Praise God for this life by the Spirit!

Prayer: Dear heavenly Father, thank you for sending your Spirit into my heart to connect me to Jesus. Help me to live in the joy of his righteousness and to put off the desires of my sinful nature. Amen.

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Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. 13 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, 14because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

Most everyone would agree that there is nothing more important to a child’s well-being than having loving and caring parents or guardians. When children feel protected, taken care of, and nurtured, they are usually more obedient, do better in school, and know how to form relationships with others. However, when children live in constant fear of a parent, just the opposite often happens. They suffer in school, have a low self-esteem, and find it difficult to trust others.

God gave us life by his Spirit when he led us to trust in his Son Jesus. This gift of his Spirit changed our relationship with our heavenly Father. The apostle Paul says it this way: “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship” (Romans 8:15). Without God’s Spirit in our hearts, we would fear God and have nothing to look forward to except his judgment on our sin. But the Spirit leads us to see Jesus—the one who became our sin, so that we could be God’s forgiven children. Right now, we can be confident that God loves and cares for us as we await the glorious inheritance he has waiting for us.

This wonderful truth not only changes our future, it changes our lives right now. There is a huge difference between a child who obeys his parents because he is afraid of punishment, and a child who obeys because he knows that he is loved and cared for. Instead of living as slaves to our sinful nature with nothing but death as our future, we can live as God’s grateful children making the most of every opportunity to thank our Father.

Prayer: Dear heavenly Father, help us to always remember that through Jesus we are your dear children and you are our dear Father. Amen.

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“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 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. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

The mini-van was loaded with the two parents and four kids, ranging in age from 3-10. The trip was a long one. Assuming good travel, it was going to take about 20 hours. After about 2 hours the 6-year-old said, “Are we almost there?” :-) The husband and wife glanced at each other and murmured, “Patience, patience!”

Patience isn’t the easiest thing for any of us, whether we’re 6 or 66. And while a cross-country trip lasts just a day or so, things like dealing with illness or injury or a broken relationship can last day after day after day after day. Patience, patience.

For what reasons does God allow difficulties and challenges to come into our lives? One reason could be that dealing with those difficulties can teach us patience.

But they also whet our appetite. It is going to be great when we’re released from the difficulties of this world and enter our heavenly home. It is going to be awesome to have a perfect, glorified body. It is going to be fantastic to have only perfect relationships. It will be amazing to meet Adam and Eve, Noah, Mary and Joseph. It will be wonderful to meet Jesus face-to-face!

All these things will be great! Amazing! Wonderful! You will experience all of that, and more, because Jesus lived, died and rose for you!

And how can it help us to know all of this about the future? It gives us patience! Yes, this world might be trying and difficult, but something amazing is coming! Kind of like that road trip was long, but we got to grandpa and grandma’s house, and it was all worth it. All that we go through in this world will be worth it, too.

Prayer: Lord, help me patiently await the glory which is to come. Amen.

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In 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.

Sometimes we don’t know what to pray for, because the situation is just too difficult for us to comprehend. Or, sometimes we are too weak to pray because we don’t know what God has planned for our good.

In life we experience all kinds of adversity and accidents. We struggle to understand how these things can be beneficial when they smash into us and mess up our lives. In difficult times, it’s hard to know how God is working all things out for our good.

Sometimes we don’t know what to pray for because we don’t know the situation in the lives of others, and what they need. So we don’t pray for them.

But the Holy Spirit knows. He knows all things, perfectly. And so when you and I don’t know what to pray for, the Holy Spirit actually prays in our place. Yes, God himself prays the prayer that we don’t know – couldn’t know.

What an amazingly gracious God we serve! Not only did he save us eternally, but he even steps into our shoes in day-to-day life situations, praying for us according to his will! Thank you, God, for helping us in our weakness!

Prayer: O Holy Spirit, continue to pray for me. Amen.

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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.

“God works for the good of those who love him.” Really?!

What about the Christian father ripped by death’s ugliness from his wife and three small children? What about the child battling cancer instead of going to school with his friends? What about the spouse who relied so much on the lifelong partner who is no longer there?

The dying and hurting and wondering, people who are suffering and searching, grasping and gasping—situations that lead people, yes God’s people, to ask: Why me? Why him? Why her? Why this? Why now?

How can this be for good?

This is God’s promise: Every situation in life will in some way be used by God for the good of his people. Everything that happens to us will be used by him for our spiritual and eternal welfare and/or the spiritual and eternal welfare of others. Perhaps we won’t see how right away, and perhaps there will be situations we won’t understand this side of heaven, but still God’s promise is true!

How can you be sure?

Look at the One who made the promise. He is the One who knew you in eternity and chose you to be his own. He is the One who called you out of the darkness of sin through faith in his Son who is now your Brother. He is the One who declared you not guilty and made you one who shares in the blessings of Christ. He is the One who assures you that the glory you taste now will be perfectly experienced by you with him in heaven.

This is God’s promise. Trust him. Trust that God can and will make all things work for your good.

Prayer: Dear Lord, though there are times when I and others don’t want to hear these words, let them be spoken. Let them be heard. Let them bring comfort. In time. In Jesus. Amen.

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What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 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 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 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.

Satan and those in league with him want to raise doubt in your mind and heart—doubt about God’s loving care for you in this life, and doubt about the reality of a glorious life to come. “How can you be sure? How can you be sure God will deal graciously with you in this life and take you to be with him in heaven?”

When you are challenged by the devil and these questions, turn to the truths God holds before you today:

1. (verse 31) Because God is for you, no one can be against you. No one can undo what God has done for you. Not Satan. Not the sarcastic skeptic. Not your nasty neighbor. No one. God is infinitely greater than all of them!

2. (verse 32) God willingly gave his Son for you, to make the needed and perfect payment for your salvation. Since he did this, you can be sure he will supply everything needed for a blessed life as his child, now and forever. God’s providence never fails!

3. (verse 33) No one can accuse you. No one can bring a charge against you. No one can say you are not worthy (not even you). God has chosen you. And he has justified you. God has declared you not guilty. And so you are not guilty!

4. (verse 34) No one can condemn you. Jesus died for you; any charge that might have been brought against you is erased. In fact, Jesus’ resurrection assures you that this is the case. What’s more, Jesus is at God’s right hand interceding for you. You couldn’t ask for a better advocate. God continues to act on your behalf!

When situations or circumstances or the questions of Satan challenge your faith, turn to the God-promised, God-accomplished, God-given truth.

Prayer: Dear Lord, work through your truth to remove all my doubts. In Jesus. Amen.

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Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 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.

The love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord is the most important love of all. This is very comforting and encouraging for us to remember because you and I are born sinful and we live in a world twisted by sin. As a result, when we walk with Christ Jesus our Lord, we will face trouble and hardship. We will face some sort of persecution. We will face our version of famine or nakedness or danger or sword. Paul quotes Psalm 44:22 when he says about himself, the Roman Christians, and all those who follow Jesus: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

This life will have its share of troubles. Some trivial. Some nagging. Some severe. Some seemingly insurmountable. What a joy to know, therefore, that none of this can separate us from the love of Christ! None of these things can overcome us! In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us!

That’s not about us. That’s not about our strength. That’s not about our love. It is about God’s love. Through the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord we are victors—victors who live with and for him now, and victors who look forward to living with and for him in glory everlasting.

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for convincing me 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 me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus my Lord. Amen.

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