Meditations in Romans : 25: A New Way
Rom 7:5,6 For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.
For those who know Romans 7, you will see words in these verses that will trigger memories of what is to come. The crucial words that Paul is going on to expound are, “the sinful passions aroused by the law.” He is looking backwards yet again to the time before we knew Christ when the motivating force within us was that self-centred and godless disposition at the heart of Sin, which in itself was subject to the pressures of human desires – to eat, drink, have sex, get one’s own way – more and more. We were driven by these things. What made it worse was that if we were challenged and someone quoted moral laws at us, we got all defensive and made excuses why we did what we did because, deep down, we knew we’d prefer not to be like that, but however hard we tried we found we couldn’t keep the rules, even ones we set for ourselves.
This old lifestyle sometimes made great hopeful flourishes – turning over a new leaf, making New Year resolutions, or doing a self-help course, but after a while, after the initial enthusiasm had died down, we were back where we started. It was a deadly existence. We hoped for new life and none came. Again and again we faced the rules as we set ourselves fresh targets. We knew what people expected of ‘nice’ people, of successful people and so on, and so there were these expectations leering at us, challenging us to struggle to meet them, knowing all the while we never would. Whatever we did was self-centred and we had no time for God, and it seemed we just didn’t have the resources to bring change to our tired lives. Spiritually we were dead on our feet. God seemed a million miles away. Some of us made a pretence of spirituality but whatever we did was still self-centred, and we were the ones we were trying to escape from. We were the walking dead and nothing seemed able to help us.
But then we came to a crisis point in life and although we didn’t realise what was happening, God’s Holy Spirit started convicting us of our need, showing us our plight as we’d never seen it before. Suddenly we started feeling disconcerted with what we saw of ourselves and we recognised that we didn’t like what we saw. We wanted to be free from it but we knew, if this was just another set of expectations, we were still helpless to change. But in our yearning and openness we were ready to hear about Jesus Christ. Suddenly what we were told about him was like a straw to a drowning man and we grabbed for it. Nothing else mattered. The old life, we recognised, had been a waste of time and we gladly turned our back on it as we knelt before God. We surrendered our lives to Him, willing for Him to do whatever He wanted to do with us; we died to the old and with longing held our arms out to Him in surrender.
And with that death to our old selves came death to all the striving to meet the expectations that had been laid on us, the ‘Law’ from the world around us. We had strived for those expectations and failed and given them up. It was a waste of time striving to meet all the expectations that we and others laid on us. Any moral rules, ethical standards, self imposed hopes, all went into the dustbin at the point we surrendered to God. They died in our thinking and as we turned from them to God, they lost their power to inflict a sense of failure and guilt upon us. No longer were these ‘rules’, these ‘laws’, these ‘expectations’ leering at us any longer for we saw them for what they were – unobtainable goals. When we came to God, He seemed to be merely asking us to believe in His Son and follow him as he would lead us by his Spirit. No longer were we led by the world’s expectations, but by a man, the Son of God.
Yes, as his Spirit came into us, we felt different, we were born again, and we were filled with joy. Something wonderful had happened. We didn’t understand it but we knew it had happened. Suddenly we started having new thoughts, new ideas, a new purpose in life. The Bible started coming alive to us and we found a new purpose and new direction emerging and as it went on, we learnt that it was God by His Spirit now leading us, now motivating us, and it was wonderful! Hallelujah!