The Path to Freedom

Romans 7:24-25 (NKJV) 24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 I thank God–through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.

Romans 8:1 (NKJV) 1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

As we study the Grace of God in the book of Romans we come to the end of chapter 7 and the beginning of one of the most important chapters in the Bible. Grace is God’s unmerited favor. Its fullest manifestation came in the ministry of Jesus and the salvation he brought to man. Thank God that we are saved by grace not by keeping the law. We are not saved by works. There were no works that we could do that would have negated the sin nature that came upon man in the fall.

We were saved by grace through faith. No one is excluded, and no one has any right to boast. Jesus paid the whole price for the sin of mankind. There is nothing more we need to do to be saved and inherit heaven as our eternal home but believe.

Romans 7, however reveals that we still need to deal with the flesh. The law, more specifically the commandments, have not gone away. We still must not steal, murder or lie. Under normal circumstances, these things will not cause us to lose our salvation, but they do open the door to the work of the enemy in our lives. They also damage our testimony. Finally, and most important, they cause us to displease our Father.

Galatians 5:24 (NKJV) 24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires..

Paul makes it clear that if we are Christ’s we have crucified the flesh. On the one hand that is a spiritual reality. In Galatians 2:20 Paul says “I am crucified with Christ.” That is reality in the spirit. Paul also wants us to know how to make that a lifestyle reality. He says that crucifixion must manifest in dealing with the flesh. If we have crucified the flesh we have dealt with its passions and desires.

The King James uses the stronger word for desires, lusts. A lust is any desire that controls. If I am Christ’s I can have desires for many things. I cannot let them control me. Somehow, I must deal with these controlling and often ungodly desires and appetites. If I do not I will never fulfill what I can be in Christ. My testimony and my destiny will be compromised. I may “miss hell and make heaven” but there is so much more to this life than just getting by and not being too bad until we get to heaven.

Romans 7 is Paul letting us know 3 things.

1. The problem is not the Law of God. The Law is good and has its purpose even in the life of the New Testament believer.

2. The Law cannot save us. It reveals what is wrong, but it is a “tutor” to lead us to something far better (Galatians 3:24-25.)

3. Even those who are saved and have some degree of maturity struggle with the flesh. We do what we should not do, and we do not do what we know we should. Keeping the letter of the Law is not the solution.

Paul’s final words in Romans 7 paint both a sad and hopeful picture. He is wretched when he lets his flesh dominate him. However, he knows that God has provided a way out. What is that way out. How can we successfully deal with the lusts and appetites of the flesh? Some would say we do not need to. Whatever we do is fine because Jesus paid for it anyway. That is a low and weak form of Christianity. Grace does not provide that for us. Grace gives us what we need to deal with the lower elements of our nature. The question is how?

We transition from one of the saddest and most confusing chapters in the bible to one of the most powerful. Romans chapter 8 has long been one of my most favorite sections of scripture. I believe Paul gives us the solution to the wretchedness of his Romans 7 condition in Romans 8.

We quoted the last two verses in Romans 7 at the beginning of this post. Look at the end of Romans 8.

Romans 8:37-39 (NKJV) 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Paul goes from being “wretched” or “miserable” to “more than a conqueror. He goes from not understanding his own behavior to being “persuaded” that nothing can separate him from the love of God. He goes from struggling with the flesh to victory over all kinds of difficulties. What happened to Paul in this chapter? What truth has he found that he wants to reveal to us?

He begins to show us in the first verse. We are very fond of quoting the first part of the verse. “There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ.” I believe in that statement. I believe it is very important as it stands. I must realize that my Father never condemns me. If I do not start there, the rest of what Paul tells us in Romans 8 will descend back into law. What is condemnation?

Condemnation in a legal sense is the state of a criminal when he has been tried and sentenced. He is a condemned man. He has no hope. He is going to suffer the punishment for his crime. There is no mercy in condemnation. He is judged a “criminal” and therefore something is wrong with him. He must be separated from society. In extreme cases he may be put to death because he is no longer fit for the world.

In spiritual terms, condemnation is the feeling that something is wrong with us. We may do something wrong, but condemnation always focuses on how we are wrong. It presses us to accept that we are somehow less than others. It tells us there is no hope. We have sinned because we are flawed and unworthy of God’s forgiveness. The result of condemnation is that we usually give up. We get worse because we are bad, flawed or faulty.

There is NO condemnation at all in Christ. Neither Jesus nor the Father will ever point to you as flawed or evil. Neither will ever say you are hopeless. Both the Father and Jesus love you with an everlasting love. They will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5.)

There is another related word that does apply to you and me. That word is conviction. A convicted criminal is one who has been judged guilty but not sentenced. We must realize that God will convict us of what is wrong in our lives. The difference is that he convicts of what is wrong but does not condemn us as unable to overcome it. He does not make what is wrong in our lives our identity. He shows us how to overcome the weakness of the flesh. Romans 7 is Paul convicted but not condemned.

So, there is no condemnation in Christ. None. Not any! However, that is not even the end of the sentence. He tells us how to get rid of the conviction that comes from both the devil and our own soul. There is no condemnation “to those who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”

What changed Paul from wretched to more than a conqueror. What caused him to overcome all kinds of opposition in life. How did he stop doing what he did not want to do and start doing what his inner man knew was right? He learned to walk in the spirit not in the flesh. That is the solution. That is what grace provided in Christ.

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