Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Paul about the change of being born again


I really like the JST for Romans 7:15-27.

15  But now I am spiritual; for that which I am commanded to do, I do; and that which I am commanded not to allow, I allow not.
16  For what I know is not right, I would not do; for that which is sin, I hate.
17  If then I do not that which I would not allow, I consent unto the law, that it is good; and I am not condemned.
18  Now then, it is no more I that do sin; but I seek to subdue that sin which dwelleth in me.

This is really comforting, especially when we find ourselves getting discouraged in our fight against sin. We may say to ourselves, Because I am having such a hard time with this, I must not be a good person. I must not be really converted. 

The truth is, the fact that we want to escape the sin or the bad habit shows that we are converted and changed because we are working so hard to stop. We are trying to subdue the sin in the flesh.

19  For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing; for to will is present with me, but to perform that which is good I find not, only in Christ.

You have to give Paul credit for complete honesty when he says that in his flesh dwelleth no good thing. 

About the only good thing we can do is will or desire what is good. Our body is so fallen that it requires grace from Christ to subject it to perform the good works we want to do.  (And when the D&C 84 promises sanctification and renewing of the body, that is also a great encouragement.)

20  For the good that I would have done when under the law, I find not to be good; therefore, I do it not.
21  But the evil which I would not do under the law, I find to be good; that, I do.

So when we are born again, our very perception of what is good or pleasurable changes. The things we thought were attractive before, we discover they are evil or vain or foolish. The things we didn’t care about or were not interested in before, we discover are beautiful and good.

I remember talking to a new convert a few years ago and he told me he had noticed after his baptism that movies he’d previously thought were okay to watch were starting to bother him. I was able to tell him that this was part of the conversion process and the Holy Ghost was changing him. I told him he’d have to be choosier with his media and the important thing was to do what he could to keep the Holy Ghost with him.

22  Now if I do that, through the assistance of Christ, I would not do under the law, I am not under the law; and it is no more that I seek to do wrong, but to subdue sin that dwelleth in me.

The law just tells you the difference between good and bad; it doesn’t actually give you the power to do good. So if you are able to do good with the grace of Christ when you couldn’t do it before with just knowing the law, you don’t have to worry about being condemned by the law.  And if you are able to do good, then you wouldn’t seek evil and spoil it all.  So any sin you fight isn’t really you; the fight is part of subduing the flesh.  But if we choose sin deliberately, then that is rebellion.

23  I find then that under the law, that when I would do good evil was present with me; for I delight in the law of God after the inward man.

Paul noticed that when he wanted to do good, he still had something in him that tried to hold him back, something he had to fight.  The converted person delights in the law of God, even if they still have to work to subdue sin in the flesh. 

24  And now I see another law, even the commandment of Christ, and it is imprinted in my mind.
25  But my members are warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
26  And if I subdue not the sin which is in me, but with the flesh serve the law of sin; O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

If we’ve been converted but we don’t subdue the sin in our bodies, that makes us truly miserable because it seems like we’re stuck doing things we hate and know are wrong. It’s slavery to the body. We need Christ’s help to subdue that sin.

27  I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord, then, that so with the mind I myself serve the law of God.

Even if it might be hard to serve God in our bodies, at least our converted mind wants to easily.  This is where following Christ becomes a real discipline.