Paul was arguably the greatest Evangelist in the history of the church. And certainly, the most prolific New Testament writer.
Then how could he also seem to be battling personal sin? My greatest wonderment is that God can use flawed people to advance His ministry. We know that we do not need to intentionally sin to identify with sinners around us who do not yet know our Lord and Savior.
There are two problems I see with this realization. One who are people who mention often they are sinners saved by Grace, but without any seeming remorse. The others are people who have “arrived”. This side of heaven no one has “arrived”; only Jesus.
None of us is on the right track all along. If we are open to God, we’ll find areas in our lives that need correction. We will discover we are not always strong spiritually. We always need the Lord’s insight and strength which comes through the Holy Spirit.
To be an Evangelist (which we are all called to do) requires a listening ear that is not easily shocked. The first part of listening is getting to know the person as they are. It is not our job to correct them at the moment, but to simply learn about their environment and motivation. The second part is to offer support for them to follow a more wholesome lifestyle. And the third part is to acquaint them with God and Jesus Christ and the plan God could have for their life.
A single person may not be the one to take someone from first encounter all the way through to saving Grace. Each one of us along the way can be adding seeds, watering, weeding, fertilizer, and harvesting. Just as easily we as a body can bring a lost soul to salvation. But we must also be aware that a simple step along the path can become a snare for the unsaved.
And this is where trust and integrity come into play in a big way. Paul took years before he was accepted into the inner circles of the church. It is much harder to maintain the trust of an unbeliever. In everything we must be genuine. Paul had no issue on that score. He might seem harsh to new believers (included me) but you can see by his salutations and his prayers that he was fully vested in the church and its people.
Everyone reading the next three verses will say to themselves – that is me! I think the word carnal is a little strong. But I remember the argument Paul had with Barnabas about not taking John Mark on their second missionary journey. Ultimately John Mark became a trusted part of Paul’s team of young preachers. But it was the gentle approach of Barnabas, rather than Paul’s harshness, that mentored a successful Evangelist in John Mark.
(Romans 7:14-16 WEB) 14For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15For that which I do, I allow not: for what I would, that I do not; but what I hate, that I do. 16If then I do that which I would not, I consent to the law that [it is] good.
Do you find Paul’s logic as hard to follow as I do? And after pointing out that he does what is contrary to doing good since he is under the power of his flesh. Aren’t we supposed to learn to exercise control over our flesh?
Can we always say like a once familiar comedian, Flip Wilson, “the devil made me do it”? Or does his admission that he knows keeping the law is righteous show that he is aware of failings in his life that need correction?
(Romans 7:17-19 WEB) 17Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 18For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but [how] to perform that which is good, I find not. 19For the good that I would, I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do.
Before we were Christians the flesh held sway in our lives. Even if we were “good’ and admired, didn’t we take credit for ourselves? When did our words and actions bring praise to God? The devil through our flesh will do everything, even seemingly “good” if he can point us away from God.
I see in verse 18 the recognition that just having a desire to do good does not count if we fail to learn “how” to do good. Evangelism is a case in point. It can be easy to take offense at what an unbeliever says and try to correct them or act offended. If they’re being honest, then even the sordid events in their lives are still relevant to their lives and how they might perceive the Gospel.
(Romans 7:20-22 WEB) 20Now if I do that which I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 21I find then a law, that when I would do good, evil is present with me. 22For I delight in the law of God, after the inward man:
Be a New Man – Ditch the Old Man
This whole section of scripture seems negative to me as Paul writes about the power of our flesh to override our spiritual intentions. We need to focus on the fact that the old man is dead, and the new man is in control if we are in Christ. When we revert to the patterns of the old man, we are not in Christ even though we are saved.
There is far more pleasure and rewards for staying on the same page as Jesus. We ALL know that, and yet like Paul, we ALL still battle the flesh. Paul continues in Chapter 8 of Romans with assurances of our salvation and our eternal destiny.
Indeed, that destiny is great. But do we act as if its our secret or do we grieve for the people who are lost? There are many ways we can contribute to the successful outreach of the church. All of them are important, from the custodian to the preacher.
One way I found to know where and how to serve has been when I grieve over a ministry that is absent, needing help, or needing a new direction. In all that we do, however, needs to follow: (Galatians 5:22-23 WEB) 22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
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