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“We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives 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 what I do is not the good I want to do; no, 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.

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. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

~ Romans 7:14-25

Knowing Jesus does not mean we suddenly are incapable of sinning. That we are now immune to the Devil’s whispering lies. But that’s what a lot of Christians think; now the only voice in our heads is the voice of God, and that Satan can no longer speak to (or through) us. This is one of the biggest misconceptions in Christianity today, yesterday, and for nearly 2000 years.

Coming to Jesus means understanding and accepting that we are all sinners, every one of us. And while we are prisoners of the flesh, we will keep on sinning.

As Paul said, I know what it is to do right, and I WANT to do it, but I keep doing wrong. My love for Jesus and His love for me doesn’t magically mean that I stop sinning. That’s simply not true. Being a Christian does not make you perfect. FAR FROM IT. But in Jesus, we find forgiveness. The point of coming to Christ isn’t that you are no longer a sinner, but rather that forgiveness for our perpetual sinning comes from knowing and acknowledging who Jesus is — God Himself, becoming mortal, giving His very life that we might believe and be forgiven OUR sins.

Romans 3:20: “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in His sight by observing the law”; Acts 13:39: “Through Him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses”; Galatians 2:16: “We have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.” All three of these verses say that if we were judged under the law of Moses — the physical law — then none would be saved. It also says in James 2:10 that if you break the law in one place, you’ve broken the entire law.

1 John 3:15 says that if you hate a man in your heart, you’ve murdered him. Matthew 5:28 states that if you lust after a woman in your heart, you’ve already committed adultery with her.

There are two sides to wisdom in the Bible, and that understanding applies to all things, including “laws”. For every physical law there is a spiritual understanding to be gleaned. You may not be guilty of breaking the law in the physical sense, but if you’ve broken it spiritually, you would stand condemned under the law. But praise God, this is the very reason that Jesus came and died on the cross. Jesus’s blood covers the sins of the flesh.

People like to say that Salvation is free, but that’s not quite true. Salvation is freely offered to all, Jesus died for all. But we as human beings made in God’s Image, Likeness and Form have choice. It’s up to us to choose to accept Jesus’s sacrifice or reject it. So no, Salvation isn’t really “free”. It’s something that must be accepted. There are conditions. Either you believe that Jesus is the Messiah, God Himself, Truth and Love in flesh, or you don’t. Your choice.

Remember that everyone starts out with their name written in the Book of Life. And the only person who can blot your name out of the book is you. God doesn’t remove our name, we do. Life is all about the choices we make, and if we make the wrong ones, that’s on us and no one else.

But like Paul, who loved Jesus with all of his heart and wanted nothing more than to do good yet kept on sinning… who will rescue us from this body of death? Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Today’s Paintings: Nicolas-Bernard Lepicie’s “The Conversion of St. Paul”, 1767; and Jusepe de Ribera’s “Saint Paul the Hermit”, 1640. Header image is a detail of Lorenzo Pasinelli’s “The Penitent Magdalene”.