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Groundhog Day

August 6th, 2009 · 1 Comment

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil that I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me who does it.

“So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:15-24)

*****

Remember the movie “Groundhog Day”? Phil Connors (Bill Murray) goes to bed on the evening of February 2 (Groundhog Day) only to wake up the next morning on February 2 (Groundhog Day) … again. Everyone in town, except Phil, is unaware that they’re repeating the same day. Phil goes to bed the night of his second Groundhog Day and wakes up the next morning only to find out that it’s February 2 (Groundhog Day) … again!

In the movie, Phil knows he’s repeating the same day, so he varies his actions, pulls outrageous stunts, and changes his routine day after day – anything to break out of this apparent time-warp. The townspeople, completely unaware that the day is repeating itself, act exactly the same, go through the same motions and give the same greetings day after day.

Sometimes I feel like I’m repeating Groundhog Day … except everyone else is outside the time-warp, conducting their lives, moving from one day to the next. I’m the one stuck; repeating the same motions, day after day, trapped in my old habits, unable to move forward. Every morning I know what I want to do, but I don’t do it; instead, by habit, I do what I don’t want to do, and Groundhog Day repeats itself … again.

Sound familiar?

Paul was in the middle of writing a letter to the believers in Rome when he started in on, “For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Paul was talking about sin. I imagine that Rome wasn’t a place very conducive to living a righteous lifestyle. It was the capital of the empire and everything was available. Kind of like pushing together Las Vegas, New Orleans, New York, Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and adding public hot tubs.

Earlier in his letter to the Romans, Paul explained that, if they had been born again in Christ, they had died to sin – they were no longer slaves to its power. Through his death, Christ covered man’s sin, and no matter how much sin increased, God’s grace through Christ’s sacrifice increased even more to cover it. So man was free from sin’s power and consequently free from sins death penalty!

Why then, if Christ beat sin and man was no longer in it’s evil control, was Paul admitting that, “I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members”? If he was set free from sin why hadn’t anyone told his body? Ahhh … that’s the problem, isn’t it?

In my mind, Christ has set me free from sin’s power, but my body lags behind, still following those same trails I cut when sin had me in its grip. It’s like there are two me’s fighting for control; the re-born me, who delights in God’s law, and the old me, abiding inside the members of my body, still following those old habit patterns of sin and death. So that, even though I want to do the right thing, I find myself doing the wrong things.

Woe is me! How am I ever going to get out of this miserable existence?

At least Paul found himself in the same spot, and so, apparently, did the Romans. If we’ve been born again and set free from sin’s power, how come we’re still trapped in the middle of it? Paul gives a simple and profound answer; one that I had missed over and over again.

“Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord! So, then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.” (Romans 7:25)

I knew Paul was trying to give me the answer, but I never could figure out just what he was saying the answer was. “Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Yup, great; I’m all for that, Thank you Lord, you’ve set us free … now what’s the answer. After the Thanks be to God thing, Paul is right back where we started – “I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.” There’s got to be an answer in there somewhere!

That’s when the Holy Spirit shined a little flashlight on the spot I’d been missing. “Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” That’s the answer! “… through Jesus Christ our Lord!” I’d read that passage a hundred times and every time I read it: “ThanksbetoGodthroughJesusChristourLord!” All one train going down the track, like ThankyouJesus! I was looking for the answer after the sentence, not in the sentence!

Question:” Who will rescue me from this body of death?” Answer: “Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Ding! The lights are now on!

When Jesus paid the penalty of sin by laying down his life as a sacrifice for all of us, he broke its power to control us. It’s like every person in the world was lying in a dark prison cell, shackled hand and foot with heavy chains. Jesus, in his act of redemption (buying us back from sin), entered the prison and went around to each inmate and turned a key that opened the lock that fastened our chains. He didn’t shake off the chains and walk us out of prison; he opened the locks that held our chains fast.

Before Christ rescued us by his death, we were powerless to break free of our chains no matter how hard we struggled because the lock that held the chains in place was still locked. But now that Christ has turned the key and opened the lock that gave sin its power, all we have to do is shake off the chains and walk out of prison! The chains are still there, still wrapped around the members of our bodies, but lock’s been opened, the chains by themselves can’t hold us! That’s the answer!

*****

If you’ve spent any time in church or listening to motivational speakers you’ve heard the story of how circus trainers keep elephants fastened to a stake. Adult elephants, of course, are too powerful to be held by a rope fastened to their back leg, tied to a stake. They’ll simply pull with their fastened leg and jerk the stake from the ground. An adult elephant is too strong to be held in place by a single stake.

But the circus trainer knows this, so he starts when the elephant is just a baby, just learning to walk about. The trainer drives a stake into the ground and fastens one end of a rope to the stake and the other to the baby elephant’s leg; when the animal realizes its back leg is tied it goes berserk! It jerks and pulls and runs around the stake and hollers, but the baby elephant doesn’t have the strength to free itself by pulling the stake from the ground.

Exhausted by the struggle and failed attempts to free itself, the baby elephant eases its fight against the stake and learns to live within the confines of the rope tied to its leg. In time the elephant gives up pulling against the stake entirely. It knows that as long as the rope is tied around its leg it will never be free from the stake, so it doesn’t bother trying. The baby elephant grows into an adult and that rope is still there and the adult elephant never pulls against it to try the stake. And that’s how you keep and adult elephant in check.

*****

We’re going to talk about chains and locks and ropes and stakes for the next few weeks. If we are really only held in place by chains with no locks or a rope tied to a stake that we could easily pull from the ground, why don’t we free ourselves? Come back next week; we’ll work on that.

Until then, give that rope a little tug.

In Jesus,

Steve Spillman

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Bill Henning // Aug 7, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    Hi Steve,
    When I began your article I thought you had tripped over a study that I had just finished two months ago. Although your article isn’t finished I’m sending my finished booklet to you.
    I began my study two or three years ago trying to identify the extent of the things Jesus gave man victory over. I knew that He redeemed us and gave us victory over sin, but was that all I could expect to receive. No, along with sin, He also gave us victory over eternal death. Then my study revealed a final victory–a victory over Satan, accomplished by His resurrection from the dead.
    I find that many Christians, after being born again, do not feel victorious and are still troubled with their sin. One of the reasons is because they have not completely surrendered their lives to Him; they hold things back and are unwilling to surrender all of them completely to Him. At this point, Christians must re-surrender themselves again, asking the Holy Spirit to reveal those deep-down unsurrendered items in order to gain total peace and victory over them. These items may be mental, spiritual or physical and if they ask, I know the Spirit will tell them what they are. Everything that is a hindrance must be surrendered and dealt with including anger, hatred, lust, envy, adultery etc.
    Once they are surrendered, then by faith believing that they are now victorious, standing on His Word confessing it to be so. These are the things that separate us from the love of God and confessing them will draw us closer to a oneness with Him.

    Space here won’t permit the rest of the study and you can read is when it arrives. If you want to study beforehand, read Jesus words in Mark 7:17-23 and Paul’s words in Galatians 5:16-26. They should prepare the groundwork as to where I am going with my study.

    Let me know your feelings as to the “far out” lesson that the Spirit led me to. I have not found any studies by anyone arriving at my conclusion and like I write in the book, I have experienced every one of them.

    God Bless, Bill

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