Spiritual Success or Distress?
Quarter 3, Lesson 1

Lesson One

Surrendering to Jesus

Text: Romans 7:7 - 8:4

The world is in a mess! America is in a mess! This state is in a mess! This city is in a mess! Life is in a mess! Families are in a mess! My neighbors are in a mess! The people on the job are in a mess! My friends are in a mess! Uh ... my family is in a mess. Uh ... my life is in a mess.

THE question: when people want to get "out of my mess," what do we tell them? When I want to get "out of my mess," what do I do? Do I suggest religion? Have you taken an honest look at religion lately? Do I suggest the church? Have you taken an honest look at the church lately? If every Christian who struggled with a mess [silently or with loud sobs; secretly or openly; privately or publicly] dropped off the scene, church buildings would be empty.

What is God's answer? Is His answer the "good news of try harder"? "Try harder" is "good news"? It is not good news to the person who used the "try harder" approach to difficult, gut wrenching, agonizing, guilt drenching, enslaving problems. "Try harder" may make better athletes, but it will not rescue people from "their mess."

Did Jesus say to all those who labored and were burdened, "Come to me and try harder" [Matthew 11:28-30]? Did Paul say that all things work together for good to those who try harder [Romans 8:28]? Did John say that God is faithful to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness if we try harder [1 John 1:9]? Did Peter say that we purified our souls if we tried harder [1 Peter 1:22]?

To make "try harder" the answer to "fixing messes" is to place faith in us. We are the answer. The answer is within the person. The answer is in human ability, or human knowledge, or human strength, or human determination, or human resolve. The answer is in the human will, not in the will of God. Christianity becomes more and more humanistic as the emphasis on human ability grows and the focus on God fades.

Ultimately, "try harder" always fails. It depresses. It devastates. It morally bankrupts. It crushes. It creates despair. But the church loves it! We love it because the only thing trying harder requires is faith in self! We love it because "I am the answer!" We love it because we can create a Christless Christianity and a Godless salvation! We fear trusting anything but self.

To be a servant, you must have a master. To be a good servant, you must trust your master.

Read Romans 7:7 - 8:4.

Begin by noting the obvious in 7:7-14.

(1) The problem is not created by God's law; the problem is created by sin [evil]. (2) Sin [evil] and the law are not the same thing. (3) The law came from God, but sin [evil] used the law. How? by educating us! (4) Understanding what to rebel against is essential for rebellion to occur. (5) Rebellion brought sin [evil] to life, and rebellion killed us. Evil uses deceit to motivate us to rebel. However, when we rebel against God we destroy ourselves.

  1. In regard to Paul's behavior (what "I do"), did he understand himself (verse 15)? Why or why not?

  2. How did his behavior confess that the law emphasized good (verse 16)?

  3. What determined how he behaved: (a) his desire to be godly, or (b) the evil that lived in him (verse 17)?

  4. After struggling against the evil existing within him, what was his conclusion (verse 18)?

  5. What existed at the foundation of his struggle (verse 19)?

  6. In his struggle with internal evil, he came to a full realization. What did he realize (verses 20,21)?

  7. In his mind as he seeks God, with what does he agree (verse 22)? However, what does he see and experience in his physical body (verse 23)?

  8. His struggle between (a) his godly desire to do what is good and (b) the evil that expresses its power in his physical body, reduced him to what feeling or attitude (verse 24)?

  9. What answer or solution to this struggle has God provided (verse 25)?

  10. [Remember that the chapters and their breaks are a human device to find references in scripture more easily. They are a convenience that we added to make it easier to study the Bible.] How perfect is God's solution to this struggle between our desire to be godly and the evil that controls our physical bodies (8:1)?

  11. What has set the Christian free from the "law of sin and of death" (verse 2)?

  12. Why could the law not set us free (verse 3)? How did God set us free?

  13. In whom are the requirements of the law fulfilled (verse 4)?

If "trying hard" is the solution to the enslavement of evil, God had no reason to send Jesus. If the answers are produced exclusively through human effort, human strength, human achievement, human wisdom, human power, and human control, we did not need a savior. We just needed "the formula" to "powerful human behavior" to destroy the evil within us.

The importance of understanding this truth cannot be exaggerated: we of ourselves cannot defeat the evil that lives within us. Those who wish to escape their struggle with addictive behavior and enslaving evils need answers. They do not want to be victims. They do not want to be slaves to the evils that control them. And they know that human will power cannot end their struggle. If "willing" an escape from evil freed a person, they would be free. Just like Paul, the harder they tried to be godly through human resolve, the more aware they became of their evil. "Trying harder" made them realize their wretchedness! It made them more aware of the reality of evil in their lives!

We need answers. Church buildings are filled with people who are afraid to confess, afraid to ask for help, and afraid to admit struggles. The church created the belief that Christians do not have problems and do not need help. Many Christians who struggle with evil either (a) pretend or (b) suffer in silence. Either way, Satan will be victorious in them. What an eternal shame!

Paul knew his wretchedness. But he also knew what God did and does for the person in Christ!

Link to Teacher's Guide Quarter 3, Lesson 1

Copyright © 2000
David Chadwell & West-Ark Church of Christ

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