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: Is it harder to be the person who ends a relationship or the person who is on the receiving end of the breakup? Is it harder to be a dumper or a dumpee? Probably depends on the context. There are certainly relationship endings that give either a huge sense of relief or tremendous pain—no matter who did the dumping. The implications and emotional responses vary, of course, depending on the length and seriousness of the relationship. Had you had two casual dinners or a 50-year marriage? What caused the relationship to end? Were there children involved? Financial obligations or problems? (I hope that if you are going through a divorce or break-up that you do not go through it alone. A good resource for local churches to explore is Divorce Care, if they do not have a similar ministry in place already. At Boulder Adventist Church, we also encourage couples not to wait until things start to fall off the wheels but to be proactive about the state of their relationship. Just as you see your doctor once a year for a health check, consider doing the same with your marriage using ReFoccus. They also offer a pre-marriage preparation course for those who are just starting out.)
To have loved and to have had your heart broken and to know also what it is to break someone else’s heart gives you a unique relationship empathy. You can appreciate and understand the journey of complex relationships. You navigate them with wisdom. You hear and understand others’ stories better. You are aware.
It is the same with this passage. For the Christian, for the Jew, for the believer who understands the law—who understands the intent and beauty of the law when it is in its correct place—we read this passage and it makes us aware that we are not living in accordance with God. We understand that to have our will handed over to God means living a life that brings joy and justice. If you know the stories from the First Testament, the motive behind the Ten Commandments, along with the truth that to know Jesus is to know the Father, this passage will likely resonate with you. It can have a powerful personal application even though it has so much more to say beyond the personal.
But without that context, it is easy to miss the strength of these words. You may find yourself thinking that following Jesus is impossible. The passage could sound like the ranting of someone with major issues. It might not speak to you at all.
Recalibrate: How can we learn to extend more grace to each other? To have more empathy? Do we need to extend a little bit more grace to God? Have we judged God too harshly?
Respond: Ask for a larger capacity to share grace with others.
Research: Read Chapter 18 in The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan and compare his view of the law with Paul’s view of the law.
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).
What are some of the habits that you have formed since you have become a parent? What are some of the habits you have always had? Think about how you have raised your child so far. Have you noticed any of your habits being passed on to your child? Maybe you bite your nails, or you get really angry when you stub your toe. Have you noticed your child doing those things? What are the habits that you hope you pass on to your child and what are the ones you hope they’ll never pick up? Make a habit of playing with your child. Our God is fun and creative. Set aside a chunk of time each day just to be present, to play, and to laugh.
Paul talks about this struggle with his human body and mind and following Jesus with his whole heart. He talks about it like it’s a tug-of-war game. Have you ever played tug-of-war? Play a mini version of the game with a piece of string, a spaghetti noodle, or something else small. Tug-of-war can make you really tired if you are playing against someone who is super strong—but it’s easy if your opponent is very weak! Who do you think is stronger—Jesus or all the bad stuff on earth? Jesus! He is always stronger. Remember today that even when we make mistakes, we can still be on Jesus’ side in the tug-of-war game. He makes it as easy as playing against a piece of spaghetti.
What #hashtag do you find yourself using the most? According to Insta, over 3.5 million of us use #thestruggleisreal. Yes, some of us post screenshots of battery life at 1%: #thestruggleisreal #firstworldproblems. But millions of us, deep down, know that we all are struggling. Every single person you meet—your teacher, your parent, your friend, that dude working at Walmart, that weird kid in your class you really don’t want to talk to—everyone is struggling with something you will never know about. How does this reality affect how you treat people?
Often, the struggle we’re going through ends up looking and sounding like a habit. Paul says, “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). This is real. This is life. This is the struggle. When we try to figure it out, this is the final scene. We may recognize a habit we need to change, so we work and work and stress and struggle to take the “h” away—but “abit” is still left. Then we struggle and feel guilty and work harder and we end up taking the “h” and “a” away. But if you’re like me, “bit” still there. So we dig deeper to do what we know we need to do and take the “h,” “a,” and “b” away, but “it” always remains. This is the struggle Paul’s talking about. So what’s the answer?
We do what we can do to get rid of the “h,” “a,” “b,”” and “i” (stands for us trying to do it all), which means the only thing we have left is the “t” representing for the cross. Only Jesus provides real change. So right now, this year, this day, what do you need to give Jesus?