So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code Romans 7:4–6
Romans is so confusing. Even Paul’s contemporaries, the folks who walked with Jesus and were apprenticed by him and sent out to bring to good news to the world, said that reading Paul was tough sledding. Even so, I think we make it harder than it is. A little context helps.
Think passion. Paul is passionate about the grace of God. For much of his life, he lived with dual goals: 1. Trying to do all the right things to try to be “righteous” before God; and 2. Protecting God in the face of those who were not righteous. These two goals, especially when held together are dangerous. The “right things” approach leads either to despair, false pride and legalism, the “protecting” posture leads to judgmentalism and hate (and violence). When Jesus himself invited Paul to a better way in him, he was converted. Not a “religious” conversion, but a life conversion. No longer seeking the approval of God, he lived in the amazing reality that he was adored by God, no longer seeking to protect a God (who asks not to protect him but to follow him) he loved people to the point that he would die for those who had it wrong, so that they might experience the freedom, hope, joy — the contentment in all circumstances — that through the grace of God he discovered.
So, when he is writing, Paul gets excited. He pleads “brothers and sisters,” please listen, hear the freedom of the gospel. His message is simple: “The work has been done, you are released from the disordered desires that kill you, so that you can move to a desire that will heal you.” “You have been released.” “You have been set free.” You are no longer bound.” “So die to the things that are killing you, because they are killing you!” “Experience the life that God wants for you, all of you, living and moving and having your being, guided by the Spirit of God, in the power of the risen Jesus.”
What are the things that are killing you? What are the disordered desires in your life today? Is it worry? Lust? Bitterness? Jealousy? Despair? Hopelessness? Greed? The list could go on and on, and each of us can identify something. What is the thing that is killing you? Paul says, and I say, die to it, kill it, tell it that it has no place because it has been defeated and there is a King on the throne who has power over it. Practically speaking, invite one or two people into the killing of this killing thing. Share with them, pray with them, ask them to hold you accountable. And as you move through the process of killing this thing, know that it is already dead, and that God looks at you and says, you are beautiful, I love you more than you could ever know.
Peace, hope and love Doug