For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. Romans 7:15–20 (esv)
Can we be honest? Can we just call it what it is? We have a problem. There is an ever-present gap between who we aspire to become and who we actually are right now. Can you just say this next sentence out loud? “I want to become more than I presently am.” Say it again. Did you hear those words coming out of your mouth? Say it once more, this time with feeling.
Congratulations! Do you realize what you just did? You identified within yourself what we call “holy dissatisfaction.” It puts language around the gap between who we know ourselves to be and who we seek to become. When we honestly name this condition in ourselves, we set foot on the path we refer to as the “second half of the gospel.” There’s the first half of the gospel, which is the process and the crisis of becoming a Christian. Then there’s the second half, which is the crisis and the process of, yes, actually becoming a Christian.
Okay, more honesty. This little band you are forming is not your typical accountability group. This is not about holding one another accountable to be better managers of the sin in your life. Today’s text is a good description of sin management. The followers of Jesus do not live in Romans 7. Our home is in Romans 8, which begins by saying, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death” (vv. 1–2).
The gap we feel between who we are and who we want to be is the gap between Romans 7 and Romans 8. The problem for most of us followers of Jesus is we have become trapped in Romans 7. We are caught in the gravity of sin. From here the best we can do is commiserate with other believers about our sin and do our best to be accountable to managing it. The second half of the gospel actually begins with a major shifting of the center of gravity. The new reality of the followers of Jesus is the gravity of the Holy Spirit. This is the place of deliverance from sin’s power. This is the place where, in the words of the great poet laureate of Methodism Charles Wesley, “He breaks the power of cancelled sin. He sets the prisoner free.”
I know. That’s a lot to roll out on a Monday. It will take time, but that’s where we are headed. Remember, dissatisfaction can be a good thing, holy even. It can be a doom loop, as in Romans 7, or it can be a doorway into Romans 8.
Father, I’m tired of the same old patterns, habits—and yes—ruts in my walk with you. I’m ready to move beyond managing sin and on to real deliverance from it. I want to walk in the light. I want to live free. I want to become the person you imagined when you first made me. Come, Holy Spirit, and make my dissatisfaction with where I am holy and a doorway into a new reality. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Share together about how you see the difference between sin management and true freedom and life in the power of the Holy Spirit. Share a word that puts courage into your band mates about taking this journey. Be bold.
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