March 2, 2012 Ė Paul: A Called Apostle or Baffled Buffoon?
15 For I do not understand my own actions [I am baffled, bewildered]. I do not practice or accomplish what I wish, but I do the very thing that I loathe [which my moral instinct condemns]. Ė Romans 7:15 AMP
The latter part of Chapter Seven of the Book of Romans in the NIV is subtitled Struggling with Sin. Paul, the great man and apostle credited with writing nearly half of the New Testament, had struggles with sin in his life. This passage in Romans left me wondering about Paul and how he would be treated in society today.
Letís put Paul into a twenty-first century scenario. This man has started numerous churches worldwide. He is very intelligent, a brilliant speaker, and confronts sin in the faith with reckless abandon. Then he up and writes a letter like Romans which contains this passage. As todayís verse says, he doesnít do what he wants to do, but what he does, he hates.
What? Did he hate to start all those churches? Does he hate traveling the countryside, spreading the message of Christ? If you were one of his close confidants, how would you react to Chapter Seven of Romans? In todayís world, I know what I would have done. I would have made Paul an appointment with a psychiatrist. My buddy obviously either needs some anti-depressants or at least a short stay in an institution that can, you know, help him deal with his issues. Maybe after a sabbatical he will really have the mind of Christ.
But Paul didnít live in our day, and he definitely wasnít insane. His whole dissertation in this passage was not to present himself in a weak light; it was all to build up to something. He was laying a foundation in the minds of the Roman believers so he could come to his point.
24 O unhappy and pitiable and wretched man that I am! Who will release and deliver me from [the shackles of] this body of death? 25 O thank God! [He will!] through Jesus Christ (the Anointed One) our Lord! So then indeed I, of myself with the mind and heart, serve the Law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. Ė Romans 7:24-25 AMP
Paulís whole point was not to show his confusion or borderline insanity as a Christian. What he was saying was that Jesus had delivered him. Jesus had rescued him from his struggles with sin. Itís a shame that too many Christians look to this passage to excuse sin rather than have victory over it.
The news is full of stories daily of Christians doing the most ungodly things imaginable. Whether itís extramarital affairs, murder, extortion, or even ministers molesting children, there seems to be no end to what believers will do next. There are even some who will claim that the devil made them do it, which is in and of itself a lie. The devil cannot make anyone sin no more than God makes any of us raise our hands at church during worship. We all have the power to choose.
Now donít go thinking that Iím trying to talk bad about mental institutions. These institutions actually can and do help some people, but such behavior is hardly indicative of the mind of Christ. What Iím saying is that Christians too many times blame fleshly behavior on some unseen mental condition so that the consequences of their sinful actions wonít be as harsh. If you are living such a way my advice to you is simple: come clean and stop doing whatever it is that youíre doing. Whether you know it or not, you are a new creation in your relationship with Christ.
Paul knew this. He also knew in his mind and heart that Jesus was the Lord of his life. And because of that the struggles he wrote of in Romans were never used excuses to sin. Thatís where we all need to be in our own walk with God.
Maybe it makes Christians feel better to think of Paulís struggles and relate them to their own life. I mean, if the likes of Paul struggled, some feel that is a good enough excuse for them to struggle as well. Some even add Paulís thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7) to the Romans passage and use those as justifications to keep sin in their own life forever. But what many fail to realize is that Paul knew he had been delivered and rescued from all of it.
Thatís where we all need to be today. Paul was not insane. He may have said he was bewildered and even sounded confused, but read the entire passage. At the end of his confusion there was understanding. He knew that his relationship with Christ saved him from all of it. When you come to that point in your life like Paul did, there will no longer be any excuses. None of us will have that anchor around our neck. And like Paul, weíll know that we are no longer a bewildered buffoon.