170723 Romans 7:15-25a

Last Updated on Sunday, 23 July 2017 Written by Pastor Pagels

Text: Romans 7:15-25a
Theme: Thanks Be To God!

Quick quiz. How many of you think you can name the four U.S. presidents whose faces are carved in granite on Mount Rushmore? Let's list them chronologically. First there was George Washington, then Thomas Jefferson, then Abraham Lincoln, and finally Theodore Roosevelt. These four men are memorialized in this unique way because of their achievements, because of their commitment, because they stand among the greatest leaders our country has ever known.

The standard that sets apart our nation's greatest presidents can be applied to other rankings that are less than presidential. For example, I can remember watching a group of sports personalities on ESPN argue about who belongs on the Mount Rushmore of NFL quarterbacks. And a quick Google search listed results for the Mount Rushmore of actors and rock bands and video games.

What if we applied the same standard to spiritual things? What if you were asked to come up with a list of people in the Bible who belong on the Mount Rushmore of believers? Who would make the cut? Noah? Abraham? Moses? David? Mary? Peter? John? Would your short list include the man who wrote the letter we have been studying this summer? What about the apostle Paul?

Paul wrote roughly half the books of the New Testament. After his conversion Paul dedicated his life to world mission work. Paul traveled thousands of miles and preached to thousands of people. If you look at the evidence, you might ask yourself: who wouldn't include Paul on their Mount Rushmore of believers?

Today's text from Romans 7 reveals a surprising answer: Paul. Paul didn't see himself as some kind of spiritual super hero. Instead he confessed that he was sinner. He lamented the fact that he couldn't stop sinning. He knew that no matter how hard he tried he couldn't make up for a single sin. When Paul looked back at his track record of mistakes and missteps and missed opportunities, he concluded that he was...wretched (his word choice, not mine).

But at the end of the day, and at the end of today's text, Paul doesn't sound at all defeated. He is at peace. He is filled with confidence, and we can be too. In spite of what we have done, in spite of what our sins deserve, we can lift up our heads and our voices and declare with Paul...


1. He knows us intimately
2. He loves us anyway

Paul's significant contributions to the New Testament canon come in the form of epistles (today we call them letters). Some letters he wrote to friends and co-workers. Others, like Romans, were addressed to Christian congregations. But in the verses before us today, we find another writing style. In Romans 7 Paul's words can best be described as autobiographical. And they take on the tone of a personal confession. Paul wrote:

"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" (15-19).

Paul recognized that he had a problem, but it wasn't understanding the difference between right and wrong. As a Jewish boy, he had learned the Ten Commandments. As a Pharisee, he knew the Torah backwards and forwards. Knowledge wasn't the problem. His sinful nature was. He knew God's will. He was very much aware of the consequences of disobeying God's will, but neither of those things kept Paul from sinning. And it made him cringe when he thought about how many times he knowingly and willfully chose evil over good.

Paul's struggle was intensely personal, but it might sound familiar because he is really describing the conflict that exists inside every Christian heart, the life-and-death struggle between the New Man and the Old Adam. The New Man loves God. The Old Adam hates God. The New Man wants to serve and obey God. The Old Adam wants to sin and sin and sin some more.

In this chapter Paul gets personal, but his description remains pretty general. He doesn't make a list of specific sins. He doesn't single out any of his pet sins. And so we won't do that either. I am not going to ask you to turn to the person next to you and confess the sins that always seem to get the best of you. But I do want you to admit that those sins exist. We all have them. We all struggle to overcome them. And if Paul was willing to admit it, you can admit the many times when you were overcome by them.

I want you to think of a specific sin like that in your life. It's a sin that you have committed before. You confessed it. You were assured that God has forgiven it. You resolved that you would never do it again...until you did it again...and again...and again. It is a self-destructive cycle that never seems to end. It makes you feel guilty, powerless, worthless, ashamed. You can appreciate why Paul called himself "wretched" because sometimes that word describes how you feel too.

Whether you want to admit it or not, whether you write it down on paper like Paul did or not, you can see what no one else can see, the deception, the depravity, the wretchedness that lies within. And what makes a bad situation even worse is that God can see it all too. Not only does he know how many hairs are on your head. He knows how many times you have failed, how many lies you have told, how many people you have mistreated, how much time and money you have wasted. The God of heaven and earth knows you intimately and has every right to condemn you eternally, and he loves you anyway.

That's why Paul cried out, not with screams of pain and anguish, but with an exclamation of praise. That's why Paul lifted up his arms, not to throw up his hands in despair, but to raise them in the direction of his salvation. It was a miracle of divine grace that prompted Paul to declare: "Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord" (25).

The God of the Bible doesn't just tell us that he loves us. He showed us how much he loves us. God so loved the world that he sent his one and only Son, and God's Son has a name. Actually, Paul describes him using three distinct names. These names are probably familiar to you, but it's worth a couple minutes of our time this morning to review what each name means for you and me.

Jesus. That was the name the angel Gabriel told Mary to give her baby. In a dream Joseph was told to give the same child the same name because it would prove to be prophetic. Jesus means "Savior," and saving the world was the reason Jesus was born into this world. That is why we celebrate his birth on Christmas Day and Christmas in July and every other day of the year, because Jesus has saved us from our sins.

Christ is a title. The Hebrew equivalent is "Messiah," and both names mean "the anointed One." In the Old Testament the Lord anointed special people to serve him in special ways. Oil was poured on the heads of prophets, priests and kings. What makes Jesus different, what makes Jesus Christ unique, is that he was anointed by God to be all three wrapped into one.

As our Prophet Jesus still speaks to us, every time we open our Bibles, whenever we meditate on his Word. As a Priest, he offered up himself as a once-for-all sacrifice for the sins of the world. As our King he rules over all things, and he rules in our hearts by faith.

And he is our Lord. The devil will never stop coming after us. The unbelieving world wants to dig its claws into us. And our sinful nature (that ever-present Old Adam) will sometimes get the best of us. But sin is not our Master. Let me say that again. Sin is not our Master. Jesus is. Jesus is our Lord, and he has pledged to protect us and provide for us, to never leave us or forsake us, to equip us and encourage us and, when the time comes, he will give us eternal rest.

Paul declared "Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord" (25), but he didn't stop there. He didn't just say "Thanks for everything, God" and go home and make tents for a living until the Lord called him home. He worked tirelessly. He went without food. He went without sleep. He walked into dangerous situations not knowing if he would ever come out. Why?

I have the answer in my hand. Last month some members of St. Matthew's gave me tickets to the US Open at Erin Hills. It was a very generous gift, and I had a great time. I saw the couple in church again after the tournament, and when I did I gave them one of these. It's a golf ball imprinted with the 2017 US Open logo. Compared to what they gave me, it isn't much. The cost of the souvenir didn't even come close to the tickets' face value. But that's not why I did it. I didn't give them something to make up for what they gave me. It was simply a way for me to express my gratitude. It was a small token of appreciation.

Do you see the connection? Do you understand why Paul worked so hard as a Christian missionary? It wasn't to make up for his sins. It wasn't to chase away his personal demons. It was a way for him to thank God. And everything Paul did to spread the gospel showed his gratitude for everything the gospel had done for him.

What does your golf ball look like? What can you do to thank your Savior for saving you? Or maybe a better question is, what are you doing already? For one, you are here to worship God when you could be in so many other places on a sunny Sunday morning. In a few minutes, you will have the opportunity to express your gratitude for the gospel with your offerings that support worker training and mission work all over the world. At the end of the service, you will have a chance to support the Live Nativity through a freewill offering. Out in the fireside room there is a white board with a thermometer showing that our Forward project is moving forward. We are getting closer and closer to our goal so that we can expand our ministry, so keep praying and keep giving. In the next couple weeks we will have our VBS (over 100 campers have already registered) and our outdoor service/church picnic in the park, both ways to connect with people in our community and invite them to learn more about Jesus.

So many different opportunities to reach out with the gospel, but the underlying motivation is the same. It's not to make us feel good about ourselves. It's not to pay for our past mistakes because Jesus has already taken care of that. It's not so that someday we can have our faces carved into the side of some mountain, but to thank the Lord for writing our names in his Book of Life. Thanks be to God! Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! Amen.

Our Mission Statement:

Compelled by the love of Christ, St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and School seek to reach out to our families, community and world, using Law and Gospel to make disciples, growing and nurturing them in their Christian faith and life.


Worship Schedule

8:00 A.M. & 10:30 A.M.

9:15 A.M. Bible Study for All Ages

Monday at 7:00 P.M.

Television Broadcast
Thursday at Noon & 7:00 P.M.
Sunday at 10:00 A.M.
on Charter Cable Station 985 or on-line


St. Matthew's Lutheran Church
818 West Wisconsin Avenue
Oconomowoc, WI 53066




© 2012. St. Matthew's Lutheran Church • Privacy Notice
Powered by Joomla 1.7 Templates