Part 6 – Why Do We Do What We Do?
This message and the next one will focus on the last half of Romans 7 – the so-called ‘confusion section of double talk’. Pastors and others often stumble at this section for two reasons:
- People are sure who Paul is referring to (himself before his conversion; all people; an ‘unsanctified Christian’, etc.)
- The wording and repetition of certain words and phrases sounds like ‘double talk’ and frustrates readers.
To set the record straight, the best way to understand or interrupt this section is to look at the vast number of personal pronouns that Paul uses in describing this person’s spiritual dilemma. Paul uses the personal pronouns I, me, my, and myself a total of 43 times in these fourteen verses, which indicates to me that that Paul’s main purpose here is to describe the struggle the Christian will face IF he tries to live out the Christian life IN HIS OWN STRENGTH or the FLESH. The section that specifically speaks this way was examined in this sermon, and will be concluded in Part 7.
The universal question of ‘Why do we do what we do?’ has plagued philosophers, theologians, parents, and criminologists from the beginning of time. We can blame our behavior and/or decisions are the environment, parental upbringing, cultural influences, traumatic experiences; the list goes on and on. But the Bible is clear: ‘All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God’(Romans 3:23), and ‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?’(Jeremiah 17:9), so we do what we do – although there are ‘other influences’ – primarily because we are born sinners – our deepest nature spiritually is rebellious, self-centered, and dead (as far as the Lord is concerned, since He IS Life).
In these verses Paul relates the conflict that a Christian goes through when he/she tries to live out the Christian life – tries to ‘become sanctified within their soul/mind’ – by working or trying in their own strength – in the flesh. Paul tells us that all Christians – deep down (in their innermost being) want to do the right thing, but rather than trusting in and walking in the Spirit (Romans 8) the Christian tries and tries and tries – in vain – to become ‘holy’.
As we will continue to see in this Sunday’s message, as well as when we journey through Romans 8, we do have to ‘step out of the boat’ and walk in holiness, but never ever in our own strength. We don’t need to deny that we have urges of the flesh and pretend that they are not there, but rather we acknowledge that those crybaby desires are from the flesh and of the flesh, and we are not ruled by the flesh, but by our innermost being, which is Christ’s life.
Today’s few verses introduce Paul’s point by emphasizing that the law of God is good, holy, and righteous, but it is the sin in man (sinful nature of unbeliever, and flesh of believer) that is the source of trouble. The Christian has been truly set free from the domination of sin and from the need to follow the law in order to be justified, but whenever the Christian starts believing and then acting within the confines of his selfish, as-of-yet-unredeemed, or immature flesh (mind – the way he thinks, feel, and chooses) then it is as if the believer is back in bondage and slavery to sin. We are NOT back in bondage, but we act and think like we are, which only discourages the believer and hinders his effective walk with Christ and his personal sanctification, or spiritual growth,
Let’s just face the facts: We will struggle with the crybaby cravings and desires of those areas of the flesh/mind that are still ‘immature’, but living a life in the confidence of Christ’s finished work, and by keeping in step with the Spirit, the believer will face the temptations of the flesh and the world with greater and humble strength – strength and confidence in God’s grace and Spirit.