Preacher: Japhet De Oliveira
Reflection: Japhet De Oliveira
Live Wonder: Jessyka Albert
Live Adventure: Jessyka Albert
Live Purpose: Jason Calvert
Editor: Becky De Oliveira
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 7:13-25 in the English Standard Version (ESV). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: I was correcting a paper for someone not too long ago, and I asked the individual to check the opening sentence. They read it quickly, looked at me and said, “I can’t see anything wrong with it!” I asked them to repeat the exercise but instead of reading the sentence in their head to read it out loud. They did this twice, each time very quickly and each time correcting the error verbally. “Read slowly,” I said. It was only on the third try that they finally saw the written mistake—which was a repeated word. Because they knew what the sentence should have said—and because they were rushing—they couldn’t see their mistake.
The passage for this week requires us to slow down and digest it slowly. It has so many incredible applications and it has been used it so many different ways. While these interpretations are not always entirely authentically attached to a true exegetical application, they have nevertheless served as powerful reminders to people at different points in their lives.
Let me share three ways of looking at these verses—as embodying the concepts of transformation, tension, or trust.
If we take these verses at face value their application could either go unnoticed—or they could be the most transformative words we have ever heard in our lives. They could cause us to turn our world upside down and recommit ourselves to Jesus. They have had the ability to speak deep truth into people’s lives for centuries.
The verses raise one important question: Is this Paul before he was a follower of Jesus, Paul while he was a follower of Jesus, or Paul in the process of learning to follow Jesus? This invites us to reflect on our walk with Jesus and the way we handle the ethical and moral choices we make every day. Protestantism is divided between the Calvinist and Arminian approaches to Romans 7—whether or not it is possible to overcome sin.
When we get to Romans 8 next week, we will start to see Paul unfold the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. For now, do you catch the glimmer of hope and trust that Paul raises in Verse 25? Is that about us or something bigger? When you read this text, do sense that there is a better way?
Recalibrate: Without much further study, what is your best guess as to the meaning of this text for your life?
Respond: Pray for the Holy Spirit to give you fresh insight into your choices.
Research: Read Chapter 11, “Perfection, Love, and the Last Generation,” by Nicholas P. Miller in The Reformation and the Remnant.
Remember: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (Romans 7:15, NIV).
Japhet is senior pastor at Boulder Adventist Church in Boulder, Colorado, and was co-founder of the One project. Originally from southeast London, he served in the South England Conference for nine years—as a pastor and later as conference youth director—before moving to the United States in 2006. He is married to Becky and they have two sons, Joshua (18) and Jonah (14).
Paul tells us in this section of Scripture that we understand more clearly what sin looks like because the law has shown us what it is. What are some things that you have told your child they should or should not do? Would they have known not to hit someone with a piece of Lego if you hadn’t told them? Maybe they could figure this out on their own, but they probably learn more quickly when they receive guidance from parents and other adults. Talk with your kids about the rules that help us have the best life ever and that help us care for others. Pray about living life just like Jesus did.
How do you know if what you’re doing is good or bad? Why do you know ? The Bible tells us that we know what things are bad because the law helps us understand how to live in the best way possible. Do you know what that law is? The Bible gives us ten really important laws that can help us see the good things we should do and also the things we should not do. Do you know where you can find these laws in the Bible? Look up Exodus 20:1-17. Ask your parents to help you understand some of the really big words. Do you know why God gave us these rules? He gave us these rules because He wants us to live happy lives. He doesn’t want us to be hurt or to hurt others. God wants us to have the best life ever!
Have you seen the movie Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle? About halfway through the movie, the four main characters meet up with Jefferson “Seaplane” McDonough (played by Nick Jonas) in the game. Initially they don’t think much of it or consider how long Jefferson’s been in the game. But then it happens. There’s a scene when Jefferson uses words and phrases he thinks are popular: “Fly,” “Da bomb,” “Get jiggy.” The other characters are totally confused, thinking, “Why would he use such old language?” Then it finally occurs to main character, Dr. Smolder Bravestone (played by Dwayne Johnson), that Jefferson has been stuck inside the game for twenty years! His old, outdated language gave him away!
Sometimes we think the Bible is old and outdated and uses confusing language that really is out of touch with today’s world and culture. But then it hits us. We read Paul’s words in this week’s passage, and even though they were first penned nearly two thousand years ago, they could’ve been tweeted two minutes ago. The writings of Paul (and, I would argue, the rest of the Bible too) are so amazingly practical, helpful, and real.
This week we’ll be unpacking Romans 7:13-25. Take a moment to read it. What appears to be Paul’s struggle? Paul is so amazingly human . . . like you. Paul’s struggle is also your struggle and mine. This passage might as well be titled #thestruggleisreal or #paulsstruggleismystruggle. Many of us are starting school this week or just started last week. Think about your life, your struggles, your habits. What are they? What do they look like? Sound like? Now think about you one year from now. This school year is a clean slate to start something new. What habits do you want to start or stop? What struggles do you need to remove from your life? This week, like Paul and the rest of humanity, we’ll be taking an honest look at our struggles and what to do about them. How do you want your life to be different one year from now?