July 23, 2017

Pastor Bernt Tweit



Old Testament Lesson; Exodus 33:12-23                          

Gospel Lesson; Matthew 11:25-30

Sermon Text; Romans 7:15-25a


The game of baseball is an interesting game.  I am not here to talk to you about teams.  I am not talking about strategies that different managers have.  But, in and of itself, the game of baseball is interesting, including the best hitters in baseball.

Just from a statistical perspective, if you were to look categorically at the best hitters in baseball, you would see in the National League and in the American League, the best hitters in baseball hit somewhere in the low 300's.  The greatest hitter in baseball was Ty Cobb.  For his career he hit .366.  That was the best ever.  But, most hit in the low 300's. 

In one perspective you might say, “Well, somebody who hits in the low 300's is doing pretty good.  They are in the top ten statistically, or categorically.”  But, that also means seven out of ten times those best hitters in baseball are failing. 

When the best hitters in baseball go into a slump, they talk to their hitting coach, they look at video to see if their mechanics are off, and  they take extra batting practice to try to get their swing back.  They might, for awhile, but then maybe they go back into a slump.

As a Christian, have you ever felt that way, where in life you feel you are failing more times than you are succeeding?  You feel even like the best hitters in baseball.  When you are in that slump, you go to God, go to His Word, and go to God in prayer.  Maybe you come out of that slump for awhile, but in time, you feel like you are going right back into that slump, and you feel like you are failing more than you are succeeding.

This morning I want you to know this.  You have good company, if you feel that way.  The greatest evangelist in the world, and certainly the greatest evangelist in the New Testament, the Apostle Paul, felt exactly the same way.  He felt that way, because of his sinful nature.  He was failing more than he was succeeding.

And so, this morning, let's look at God's Word, and see this struggle the Apostle Paul is talking about. But, let's also talk about the thanksgiving the Apostle Paul concludes with, in our text for today, which is taken from Romans chapter seven, looking at verses fifteen to twenty five.  Here God's Word says:


The Apostle Paul says, “For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not keep doing what I want.  Instead, I do what I hate.  And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.  But now it is no longer I who am doing it, but it is sin living in me.  Indeed, I know that good does not live in me, that is, in my sinful flesh.  The desire to do good is present with me, but I am not able to carry it out.  So I fail to do the good I want to do.  Instead, the evil I do not want to do, that is what I keep doing.  Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who am doing it, but is is sin living in me.  So I find this law at work:  When I want to do good, evil is present with me.  I certainly delight in God's Law according to my inner self, but I see a different law at work in my members, waging war against the law of my mind and taking me captive to the law of sin, which is present in my members.  What a miserable wretch I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death?  I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord!


This is God's Word.


In our text for today, the Apostle Paul is talking about the natural condition he is in.  The natural condition he is talking about is who he is by nature.  He is sinful, and he is inherently evil.  This is what Martin Luther, in his catechism, referred to as 'Original Sin' that each, and every one of us has. 

Now, that is not what God intended.  When God created Adam and Eve,

        -He created them perfect. 

        -He created them holy. 

        -And, He created them without sin. 

But, after the Devil deceived them, and they fell into sin, all people have had this inherited condition, (with the One exception of Jesus), and it is the condition of 'Original Sin'.  So, here is what Martin Luther, in his catechism, wrote about 'Original Sin', and what it is.

'Original Sin' is the total corruption of our whole human nature, inherited from our first parents, which makes us inclined only to evil, and unable, and unwilling to do what is good.”

This last spring I was reminded of this.  I was at a high school track meet in Lodi, Wisconsin.  It had been rainy this spring so there was soggy conditions.  There was a fence around the track and on the outside of the fence, the grass was really wet, and really soggy. However, the track was dry, and the sidewalks were dry. 

As I was visiting with the brother of one of our members, here at Holy Cross, there was a ten year old boy who walked past us, dragging his hooded sweatshirt on the ground, even though the sidewalk was dry.  I thought to myself, “I am glad I am not this little boy's mother, who has to do his laundry.”

As we continued our visit, we kept our eyes on this little boy who was walking away from us.  Down farther on the sidewalk there was a muddy puddle that was out of his way.  But, as he was walking, he went out of his way, and he walked right through that muddy puddle, dragging his hooded sweatshirt! 

The person I was talking to looked at me, and said, “That is a classic definition of 'Original Sin', right there.” 

Classic definition.

That event that I just described to you in an example of original sin.

We are inclined to do that which is evil. 

Now, as a Christian, this was something the Apostle Paul struggled with.  He knew that was his inherited condition, by nature.  But, he also knew what Jesus has done for him, and he had come to faith.  He was now a Christian.  He was both of these people in one.  He was a sinner, who is also a saint. 

Now, 1,500 years later, Martin Luther would write about that, and say, “We are a saint, and sinner at the same time.  We have both together in one.”

About this very portion of scripture, this is what Martin Luther wrote, when he talked about this struggle we have.  He said, “Both expressions are true, being a saint, and a sinner.  That he, himself, does it, and he, himself, does not do it.  A Christian is like a horseman.  When his horses do not trot the way he wants them to, it is he, himself, and yet it is not he, himself, who makes the horse run in such, and such a way.  For the horse is not without him, and he is not without the horse.  But, because of carnal, physical man, certainly consents to the law of his members, he certainly himself does what sin does.”

And so, the Apostle Paul is talking about this struggle he is going through.  In our text he uses the word, 'war'.  It is this 'war' that is taking place.  Sin is just warring against who he is.  He goes on to say, “I am held captive to it”.  Really, the Greek word there, is talking about a spear, an enemy who has a spear, who has held you captive.  You are a prisoner of war, because of this inherited condition you have.

But, the more the Apostle Paul matured in his faith, the more he was strengthened in his faith, in Jesus as his Savior.  The more he knew, with God's help, and through what Christ had done for him, Jesus was winning the battle for him.

In the 1940's, and the 1950's, there was a theologian, a Christian theologian by the name of C. S. Lewis.  Earlier in his life, he was an atheist.  He had come to faith to believe in Jesus, as his Savior.  There are many quotes that are attributed to C. S. Lewis.  Here is what he wrote, in talking about this struggle a Christian has, the struggle between good and evil, or good and bad.  Here is this quote from C. S. Lewis.

“When a person is getting better, they understand more and more clearly the evil that is still in them.  When a person is getting worse, he understands his own badness, less and less.  A moderately bad person knows they are not very good.  A thoroughly bad person thinks they are alright. This is common sense really. You understand sleep when you are awake, not while you are sleeping.  You see mistakes in arithmetic when your mind is working properly: while you are making them you cannot see them.  You can understand the nature of drunkenness, when you are sober, not when you are drunk.  Good people know about both good and evil.  Bad people do not know about either.”

And so, the Apostle Paul, knowing who he was by nature, having this inherited sinful condition says,

“Who will rescue me from this body of death?. 

Who will rescue me?”

Well, coming marching onto the scene, just like the victory theme in Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, comes the answer pretty quickly. 

“Who will rescue me?” 

The answer comes very clearly. 

“I thank God,

through Jesus Christ our Lord!”  

In that very simple sentence comes a mouthful, because it tells us who has rescued us.  Jesus has.  Jesus is the name given to the God-Man.  The name 'Jesus' means 'Savior'. 

He came to rescue us, and deliver us. 

'Christ'.  'Christ' is the fulfillment of The Old Testament word 'Messiah, the Anointed One'.  It is a title, just like Mr., or Mrs. is to us, today. 

Christ has rescued us. 

It our Lord who has rescued us.  He is our Master.  He is the One who has control. 

And so, who has rescued us? 

“I thank God, through Jesus Christ, our Lord.”

It was Jesus who not only rescued the Apostle Paul, but it also is Jesus who has rescued you and me. 

The Apostle Paul, also when he was writing to the church in Corinth said the same thing. 

“Thanks be to God. 

He gives us the victory,

through our Lord, Jesus Christ.”

There was once a Russian soldier who was struggling with a particular sin.  It was the sin of gambling.  He thought he could get out of his debt by gambling more.  But, the day came when his debt was so large, he knew he couldn't get out of the debt by himself. 

He was about ready to take his own life.  But, in exhaustion he wrote on a sheet of paper, “Who will pay the debt?”.  And then, in exhaustion he fell asleep.

It just so happened, walking past him was one of the Czars of Russia.  It was Czar Nicolas.  Czar Nicolas looked at this Russian soldier who was sleeping, went over to him, and saw the sheet of paper on the table that said, “Who will pay this debt?”.  He took out a pen, and wrote on that paper, “Czar Nicholas.” 

Not only could Czar Nicholas pay the debt, but he did pay the debt.

You and I are in that same situation.  The debt of our sin is so great that we need to write on a sheet of paper,

“Who will pay the debt?”

Then, Christ Jesus, our Lord comes walking by.  He writes on that sheet of paper,

“Jesus Christ.”  

        -Jesus Christ has paid the debt of our sin. 

        -He has forgiven us of our sin. 

        -He has given you eternal life in Heaven. 

Now, something has changed in your life.  This is what has changed.  You are a new person.  You are regenerated.  You are sanctified.  You are made new, and holy through what Christ has done for you. 

But, we do understand this, too.  On this side of Heaven, our life of sanctification, our life of regeneration, our life of being new and holy will never be perfect, on this side of Heaven.  But, it will be, in Heaven.

The game of baseball is an interesting game, isn't it?  Statistically, the best hitters in baseball hit in the low 300's.  While on one hand that is good, that still means they are failing 70% of the time.  When they go into a slump, they talk to their hitting coach.  They take extra batting practice.  They look at video to see what they can do to improve.

Sometimes in life, we may feel just like that.  We are failing more than we are succeeding, and the struggles we go through in life, because of our sin.  But, that has been overcome.  We now can go to God in thanksgiving, and we can say, just like the Apostle Paul,

“I thank God

through Jesus Christ our Lord!”  

Jesus has given you, and me the victory.  Today, we have the opportunity to return to God, and thank Him for the victory He has won for us.  Whether you do it today, or whether you do it during the course of this week, whether you write it down, or you do it mentally in your head, what are thanks you can give to God for, despite the struggles you endure?

Who will rescue me? 

Thanks be to God He gives you the victory. 

He gives us the victory,

through our Lord Jesus Christ!