Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Romans 7:1-12 in the English Standard Version (ESV). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: I’ve had all kinds of enemies seeking for destruction in my life. None of them were as tenacious as the mushy little round bite-sized instruments of bitterness and death called Brussels sprouts.
We had a law in my home. The law was this: you can’t have any dessert until you eat everything on your first plate. This was usually not a problem for me. I could breeze through a main plate, have seconds of the entrée, and then get a healthy portion of dessert.
One day, I was confronted with my own personal great controversy. On my plate were six little green lumps that stared me down like a gunman in an old Spaghetti Western. I hate Brussels sprouts!
Now typically, I would have just eaten everything except the Brussels sprouts and skipped dessert. No big deal. But this night was different. My mom had made homemade rhubarb pie with homemade vanilla ice cream for dessert. As much as I hated Brussels sprouts, I loved rhubarb pie and vanilla ice cream.
I tried arguing with my mom about not eating my veggies. This was a no-go. No veggies, no ice cream.
The battle lasted for several hours. I didn’t get my dessert until 10:00 p.m.
My point? You don’t ever need to make a law for me that says, “Thou shalt not eat Brussels sprouts.” You don’t need to etch it in stone. You don’t need to post it in my office. You don’t need to have a lawyer explain it to me. This is not a law that would ever, in a thousand years, apply to me.
Now, if there happened to be a law that banned me from enjoying rhubarb pie and ice cream, I might struggle. I might be tempted to break that law. I might need more grace and more forgiveness after I sneaked about and got my rhubarb fix.
So how do Brussels sprouts and rhubarb pie relate to Romans 7? Laws were created because somewhere along the line, somebody saw somebody else doing something harmful or weird and said, “There oughta be a law against that.”
Most of us aren’t interested in killing others, robbing others, or committing adultery. Those laws don’t really apply to us because none of those things are temptations for us. That’s why the written code of Moses is so limited. Having the Holy Spirit speak to each individual, whispering God’s desires and will, correcting behavior that will draw away from love of God and neighbor is much more effective for leading us toward Kingdom wholeness than anything etched in stone. This is built on the foundation of the life and death of Jesus and is the key to living a fulfilled life in the new Kingdom.
Recalibrate: What are some laws that don’t apply to you because you have no desire to break them? What are some laws that apply to you because you have a propensity toward breaking them?
Respond: Ask for God’s Spirit to live in you so that you will naturally do His will.
Research: Read Jeremiah 31, where the Old Testament mention of God’s law in our hearts.
Remember: “Still, the Law and its commands are holy and correct and good” (Romans 7:12, CEV).
Mark Witas is the lead pastor at Pacific Union College Church in Angwin, CA. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Mark has served as a youth pastor, Bible teacher, college and academy chaplain, and lead pastor in the United States and Canada for the last 33 years. He has also authored four books: Born Chosen, Live Out Loud, Portals, and Just Jesus.
With your little one on your lap, hold the Bible or a kids’ Bible in front of them. Flip through the pages and show them all the words, so many words. These words tell of adventures, good and bad, of people who listened to and loved God and those who didn’t. Even though your child cannot read yet, encourage them to look around at the world and search for all that is good and right. Look for love because that is God speaking. You and your little one are a living picture of what love looks like. Live in that love.
The Bible says, in Romans 7:6, that we have been released from the law. We live in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code. “Written code” is another way of saying “law.” The law points out all the stuff we do wrong, think wrong, and say wrong. The new way of the Spirit is living in all that Jesus has done right. We choose to say, “I want to play like Jesus, be on team Jesus, learn to play like Him, listen to the coaching of the Holy Spirit, and live in love—just how God designed us to.”
I’ve come to realize something in life—we all sin differently. Some people struggle with smoking, others with pornography. Still others have a problem with overeating. We all have a struggle—maybe more than one! I find it funny when people talk about others and say, “They really need to overcome that!” Usually “that,” whatever it is, is something that the person calling out the sin doesn’t struggle with. My aunt is an ex-alcoholic-smoker-lesbian-cusser. To many, she is the epitome of "sinner." You know what else she is? Kind, loving, sacrificial, generous with what very little she has, gracious, forgiving, and hopeful. I have never met a person as compassionate as she is. It would be easy for me, as someone who doesn’t sin like she does, to sit back and proclaim her lost because she isn’t following all of the rules that I follow. But you know what? I struggle to follow all the rules she keeps. I might not smoke, but I struggle with forgiving at times. Never identify a person by the rules they break because they can do the same thing to you! Luckily, Jesus does not identify us by our broken rules. What are some rules you struggle with keeping? Have you ever judged someone for breaking a rule that you keep? How can you focus more on the good in others?