And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. Romans 7:18-19 (NLT)
This Scripture is Paul’s woeful description of the power sin holds over a person. The application for the life of a believer/follower of Jesus Christ is pretty clear:
When Elizabeth and I first moved to our current home, 15 years ago, I discovered some wild grapevines in the back yard. They were wrapped around a very large pine tree; well, it used to be a pine tree - now it’s a pile of decomposing termite food…dead!
The ancient tree in my back yard was immense; it was about 36” in diameter; the vine was about 4” in diameter. How could something so small take down something so large? Well, you do recall David and Goliath, don’t you? For every giant there is a little slingshot!
Now, those vines would have been easy to pull out by the root a few years prior, but by the time I saw them they were so embedded in the tree stem, it was impossible.
Those grapevines are a vivid metaphor of sin in a Christian’s life.
When sin, particularly selfishness, is entertained within, at first it will be much like a young grapevine, no bigger than a hair. You can train it, use it to decorate your life and pretty much control it. You’re still in the driver’s seat (or so you think!).
But the Scriptures also inform us that sin’s pleasures are but for a season. (Hebrews 11:25) Sooner or later the unintended harvest of this kind of vine becomes a force in you that you won't be able to defeat!
If you indulge selfishness long enough you cultivate a crop of loneliness and spiritual blindness that will strangle any possibilities of generosity and kindness. The vine of sin grows stronger; you, the real you, the one created in the image of God, the “you” of generosity and vitality – you shrivel and die.
As Paul lamented, you can get to the place where you want to do right, but cannot.
Like my back yard grapevine, the process is insidious, growing and wrapping itself around every part of your life, until the host is replaced by the vine alone. There is little left of the original “you” – just a pile of spiritual sawdust!
Now all that sounds pretty dismal; it seems like you’re doomed if you slip-up. Paul’s statements sound ominous and final.
But he doesn’t leave us dangling like the hangman; listen to the end of Paul’s chapter:
Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Romans 7:24-25 (NLT)
Followers of Jesus have blessed hope to proclaim – Christ is stronger than our sin.
Here’s a great practice for any believer – check the base of your life’s tree every day for seeds of rebellion and selfishness.
Pull ‘em out while they’re small!