Trained sinners at the table
"I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members." -Romans 7:21-23This is probably the most inconvenient truth ever to be denied by mankind, even Christians -- a law of sin. Like the law of thermodynamics. Like inertia.
What does this practically mean? Sometimes I look at Paul's explanation of "the evil that I would not," as being inadequate to describe my heart. After all, at least the apostle's will seems to be engaged to correctly combat sin...
But what if the picture I see is more akin to Peter's description of false teachers whose hearts are "trained in covetous practices"? (2 Peter 2:14) That sounds a lot like ordinary selfishness -- the me-first mentality. Actually, it just sounds like me.
Earlier in the passage (2:12), he compares them to "brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed." The image: animals, only inclined toward self-service -- and not just brute instincts. We are trained to covet.
Trained to sin... Don't bother asking who or what trained us. It doesn't matter since we still do the sinning. What matters is that the solution does not reside in us. Not even after initial repentance (via the Holy Spirit's regenerating power). Repentance goes on. It is a vital part of sanctification. New life in Christ means so much more than our justified standing before God's throne of justice. It means, we continue to turn to him for everything.
What else can we say when we are confronted by 1 John 3:7,8?
"Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning."Is this our doom? What is John trying to say. Who doesn't sin? Are all doomed?
But John is actually revealing the essence of the relationship between law and grace, since Christ is the fulfillment of the law. He goes on in verse 23:
"And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment."That's when it comes right down to it, trusting in Christ is to be sinless. Sounds bold and daring I suppose. But we already know that in Christ, boldness is supposed to be our attitude when we approach the throne of grace.
Tomorrow, my church is celebrating the Lord's Supper. How will we dare to approach? Aren't we trained sinners? Aren't we inclined toward all evil? And having sinned, aren't we of the devil? Yes, yes and yes. But not in Christ. Indeed, this is the whole point of the table: we are sinners in need of Christ. His command is that we come, as indeed the command to the whole world is to turn and repent and believe in the Name of Jesus Christ. How much more should we, having repented, not obey and come boldly to partake of His grace at His table?
Have you sinned? Don't you dare hide and abstain! Come and be restored. It is His means of grace. It serves no other purpose.