“As it is, it is no longer I myself but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.
For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.” Romans 7:17-20.
Spoken like a true Hebrew!
Every year, during Elul, the last month of the Hebrew calendar, prior to the Feast of Trumpets (Yom Teruah or Rosh Hashanah) which preceded the most holy day of the year, (Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement), a trumpet was blown daily as a reminder to every Jew to prepare for Yom Kippur. This was the day when God judged and forgave all sin for another year.
Preparation consisted of three things, teshuvah, tephillah and tsidaqah – repentance, prayer and works of righteousness. However, repentance was not about turning away from sin but returning to the person God created them to be. Prayer was not about petitioning God but about turning towards Him and learning to think like He thinks. Works of righteousness were not about doing things for less fortunate people even though they were undeserving, but about being merciful and generous to others because God had shown mercy to them.
Paul recognised that sin was an invader, illegally occupying the person God had created him to be. This was not as God intended. He had been taken over from conception by a squatter who had no right to be there but whom he had no power to evict. He differentiated between his true self and the sin that ruled his life. He was not making excuses for his behaviour or trying to evade responsibility for his choices, but rather recognising that God was not responsible for what he was because sin was not in His blueprint for man.
God is good (functional) and everything He made, including man, was good (functional), working together in perfect harmony with God’s nature and with one another. The entire universe was created to be a unit. It would remain that way as long as human beings, who were to rule the earth, chose to live in harmony with God’s will.
When man rejected God’s way and set up his own rules, he and the whole universe became dysfunctional. He has repudiated God’s right to tell him how to live by giving his allegiance to a usurper, and paid the price God had warned him about – death. He was still man, made in God’s image with the potential to be one with God, but now his bent was towards rebellion. There was a foreigner in charge and he was obligated to obey Satan because he, man, had relinquished control.
Paul recognised that his sinful nature was dysfunctional, incapable of obeying God and doing the right thing. There was civil war in his inner being. He longed to be obedient to his Creator, but he had no power to change his nature which was under the influence of the enemy and driven by enmity towards God.
He was trapped in this inward conflict with no hope of ever getting out of it by his own efforts. The problem was that, legally, he in the dock, judged guilty, living in shame and fear and awaiting sentence on the Day of Judgment. By his own sinful life, he proved that he was in cahoots with the usurper and rightfully declared guilty.
What a terrible plight he was in. He knew he was condemned yet, at the same time, he yearned to be free to worship God and follow His ways. He was inside his prison cell peering wistfully through the bars at the beautiful world outside, with no way to get out and enjoy the freedom that should have been his.
What was he to do? He needed someone to step in and rescue him.
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