In Romans chapter seven Paul wrestles with his conscience. The great Apostle Paul, who was one of the most prolific contributors to the New Testament, is struggling. He talks about his battle with the ‘sinful nature. ‘For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death’ (Romans 7:11). He knew the law better than most. He had once been a Pharisee persecuting those who did not live according to the Law. And here he was, caught in the same trap. He was himself deceived by sin. ‘For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out … No, the evil I do not want to do - this I keep on doing’ (Romans 7:19).
But does it matter?
In the Book of Deuteronomy (30:11), God Himself lays out the blessings, or the consequences, of life or death, urging us to ‘choose life, so that you and your children may live ... for the Lord is your life.’ Although life and death are God’s domain, where we spend eternity is very much in our hands. Jesus said, “For truly I tell you.. not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished” (Matthew 5:18). ‘For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Romans 6:13).
We can’t complain that we haven’t been told. It’s all about our belief, or understanding of the words and promises of Jesus. ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life’ (John 3:16). The key is to understand that it cannot be earned. It cannot be bought. It’s a gift, but it has to be received. We all enjoy receiving presents, with colourful wrappings and a label with our own name on it: “To … from … with love, from …” It’s personal. It has our name on it. And the wonder is that everybody receives one. But it has to be accepted, and received with gratitude. Because it’s a very expensive gift. It cost the life of the Son of God. If we just put it in a cupboard and forget about it, to us it has no value whatever. It has to be opened.
So what about Paul and his problem? He received a revelation from God. ‘Thanks be to God - through Jesus Christ our Lord … there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. 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’ (Romans 7:25 & 8:1-3).
Jesus died in our place so that we can choose freely, and it’s in God’s heart that we choose life.
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