Monday, July 28, 2008

On the 1662 Book of Extraordinary Prayer (#1)

A few years back, my church very kindly presented to me a personal copy of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer (BCP) on my ordination to the Presbyterate (Priesthood) . I have other copies of the BCP, but the print is so tiny that my eyes hurt to read it. But I now have a readable copy.

So, anyways, I thought I'd write a series of posts sharing my thoughts on the 1662 BCP as I read though it. I have no other agenda here except to point out things of interest to me.

The catalyst for my interest in common prayer is the Hoo Haa of the Anglican Church . I ought to say that I have previously written about my 'journey' with liturgy HERE. So you can click on that and read if you want to.

Here is my first observation on the 1662: The writers of the Preface, in speaking about some alterations from previous books, wrote this-
For we are fully persuaded in our judgements (and we here profess it to the world) that the Book, as it stood before established by Law, doth not contain in it any thing contrary to the Word of God, or to sound Doctrine, or which a godly man may not with a good Conscience use and submit unto, or which is not fairly defensible against any that shall oppose the same; if it shall be allowed such just and favourable construction as in common equity ought to be allowed to all human Writings, especially such as are set forth by Authority, and even to the very best translations of the holy Scripture itself.
I didn't do a lot of thinking about what it means to be 'Anglican' in previous parishes. There are cultural, historical, geographic and personal reasons why that was the case. In every good way, I thought of myself only as a Christian; as an adopted child of God. If anything else, perhaps I thought of myself as a reformed evangelical. But I did not think a whole lot about being Anglican.

But here in America, the Christian world is so very denominationalized. You cannot really get by without taking in account heritage, and why a person chose the church they did. Young and old alike, people ask me about being Anglican. All of which I found quite puzzling.

One question I am regularly asked is:
  • What is the 'Anglican position' on 'X'?
It's a good question. It fascinates me (in part) because there often isn't an Anglican-specific answer. Who is the 'Anglican Church' to give us the 'Anglican position'? Is it my rector's thoughts? A congregation's? Is it a Bishop's position? Then which Bishop? Is it the Archbishop of Canterbury? Is it the deliberations of my Diocesan Synod? Or is it popular scholarship? ('I'm for Stott'. 'I'm for Wright'. 'I'm for Packer'.) Is the 'Anglican Position' found in Roman Catholicism for Christology, and in the Protestant Reformation for Soteriology?

The question itself, without a concrete answer has caused some here in the U.S. to consider Roman Catholicism. I have written HERE about that. The appeal for them is that there appears to be an actual answer to the question. What does it mean to be Roman Catholic? Discover the Magisterium of the Church. (Says the Catechism: "The task of interpreting the Word of God authentically has been entrusted solely to the Magisterium of the Church, that is, to the Pope and to the bishops in communion with him.").

I can't tell you how much this bothers me. Here is the rub for me: What happens if, while searching and then even finding an answer in the Magisterium of Rome, you discover a deeply flawed position or teaching? What if the desire to have an answer ends up overriding the answer itself? Put simply: I may desperately want an answer to the question. I may want it so much that I am willing to accept all sorts of crazy and weird revisions. For example, the Immaculate Conception of Mary? Hello?

So, what is the 'Anglican position' on 'X'?

The simplest answer is this: "The 'Anglican Position' on 'X' is the Christian position on 'X'. I do not mean to be arrogant or obscurantist. I mean to say that when someone says: What's the Anglican Position? I say -- Well, what does the Bible say? What does Jesus command? What do the prophets and the apostles say? If we can, together with all the saints both now and throughout history, submit to the Bible's teaching, then we have ourselves an 'Anglican position'.

I believe that Alister McGrath calls it "Christianity's dangerous idea."

I know that leaves many questions open. But Article 6 of the 39 Articles, simply says this:
Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.
In other words, Anglicans are a Bible people (or at least they are meant to be.) So I'm thinking that if you are an Anglican, go and read your Bible.




Go and 'read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest' it.

And then begin a lifelong journey in learning with others. Marking and digesting the work of trustworthy men and women throughout history who have also submitted themselves to 'read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest' the Bible.

But before you go, make sure you pray the Prayer for the Second Sunday in Advent:
BLESSED Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
See if you find an Anglican position. (It's the Christian one).


Further Reading: Dr Paul Barnett's Ten Elements of Historic Anglicanism.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Saturday Shot

The Little Man has just locked into his first historical obsession:

The Titanic.

He asks about it all day. We have to keep saying that while it may be interesting, it is still a tragedy.

With a little help from Dr Laurel, The Little Man made the Titanic today.
  • What interests did your kids lock down on early in their life?
  • Did it become an obsession?

Help another friend of mine.

Friend #1:

A friend is seeking ordination. And he was asked this question in the ordination process:
Article XVIII of the 39 Articles says that (BCP p 871), “Holy Scripture doth set out unto us only the name of Jesus Christ, whereby men must be saved.” What does this mean to you? What should we say to Buddhists, Muslims, and members of other religions? (less than 100 words)
In less than 100 words, my friend wrote this draft response:
Only Jesus Christ can save us. Only his saving action can deliver us from eternal condemnation. The only way I know that we can be saved is by calling on the name of Christ. I do not know for certain if people who do not call on Christ can be saved. It is possible, and I think the Bible may allow, that people who practice other faiths may be accepted into heaven. But I would never assume that any Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, or atheist is somehow saved. I also believe that the greatest joy possible is to know and love Christ. I would share Christ’s love, respectfully, with people of other faiths.
Yes or No? How would you answer? Where in Scripture ought Friend #1 go? Is he on the right track, or off it? Don't be shy. Comment freely.

Pic on Flickr by Free ~ [ Saving's Life.

Help a friend of mine.

At a Bible Study, we read Romans 8, and in particular these verses:
28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
So a friend emailed me:
How do I ever know if I am one of those God "foreknew?" Suggest some reading for me please.
Can you help her?


Friday, July 25, 2008

Romans 8: The Comfort and the Challenge of Hope

A further thought on the back of the sermon last Sunday:

In my preparation, I couldn't decide whether Romans 8 functions as Comfort, or as Challenge. Obviously the contextual answer is comfort. But what about in application? My sermon ended up having two foci (is that possible?):

Hope does two things:
  • It comforts the faithful sufferer in this way: There is God-ordained meaning in the madness; there is an end in sight; and there really is a God who suffers alongside us and is sovereign in all of it. There is, as I said in the sermon, a Christ-driven narrative in creation (from slavery to liberation; from death to resurrection). There is a rich and lush hope to come. And 'we who have the first fruits of the Spirit' are included into that same story and bound for the same destination. So Hope lifts up the downtrodden.
  • And yet, Hope also challenges the hedonist* - the yearner of mere 'things' - in this way: There is, in the Messiah Jesus, a better vision of reality to live for and it is yet to be seen. It is a better hope than we might currently have: better than travel to Europe, better than fine wine, better than chic furniture or metrosexual clothing or larger homes or sporting contests. As good as these things are (really), the hedonist has set his or her sights way too low. It is a vision that is too myopic, and too self-oriented.
What does Clive Staples Lewis say?
We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
Or Jurgen Moltmann?
Where freedom has come near, the chains begin to hurt. Where life is close, death becomes deadly. Where God proclaims his presence, the God-forsakenness of the world turns into suffering. Thus the theodicy question, born of suffering and pain, negatively mirrors the positive hope for God’s future. We begin to suffer from the conditions of our world if we begin to love the world. And we begin to love the world if we are able to discover hope for it. And we can discover hope for this world if we hear the promise of a future which stands against frustration, transiency, and death.
Some further reading/listening:

* Not the 'Christian Hedonist'!
Pic on FLickr by Magda.Indigo.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Does a Train Track get any better?

Oh. The Joy of it. Again.

Compare with last month's effort:

  • Anyone appreciating out there?
  • All criticisms and observations made in love received.
Care to comment, Tubman? Reuben? Rodeoclown? Anthony? Kieth? Seapea? Jane? Jason? Samr? Mandy? rd? Eric? Moffitt the Prophet? Dre? Sam? And anyone else who commented on my previous post. with Martin.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Verdure –noun: The greenness of growing things.

(Guest Blogger once more - Dr. Laurel)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sermon: Romans 8:18-30 - Searching for a Better Reality.

Text is Romans 8:18-30.

Let me guess something about you. (I can guess this about you because I know it in me):

Some time in the last week, you’ve daydreamed of simply ‘getting out of here’. You've daydreamed of finding a better reality than you currently have; or of how you can organize yourself to have less pain; or you’ve wondered what you can purchase to make your world a little better.

It’s in the our condition to yearn for a better reality than we currently have.

So when we meet a genuinely contented person, we are surprised - That person is seems like a glitch in the system.

You know someone who’s on a weekend getaway; you’ve checked the internet for travel destinations; maybe you just want to get away from responsibility. So you think about what new work you’d like to do.

Maybe it’s about the city. Your apartment is too small; too expensive; too noisy; too hot. You can’t get up the stairs (if you are in a walk-up); you can’t get the Super on the line (if the elevator is not working); the neighbors are disruptive; and the landlord is a crook. And you wonder if I just got out of the city, then you’d be happy.

‘Getting out of here’ rarely makes the human soul content. For the fact is: YOU always take YOU with you. And YOU take YOU to another part of the WORLD that is ALSO subject to futility.

Or maybe you are tired of being at your Church, you are tired of serving at Church, or volunteering again in service; or you are tired of church not being what you want it to be. So if I try that other church, then maybe I’ll find my ‘home’.

Maybe you are unmarried and you want to be.
Or maybe you’re married and you don’t want to be anymore.

Maybe you don’t have kids, and you would like them.
Or maybe you do have kids, and you would give anything to have a break from them.

So you think to yourself:
  • Will I always be want things to be different?
  • Will I always want more?
  • Will I always be unsatisfied?
  • Will I always be perpetually seeking a better reality?
Only to find the better reality wasn’t really what I wanted, so I then go to seek... a better reality. And when someone tells you that you are in a cycle, (which is obvious) you get upset...

...Because you can’t think of living any.other.way.

Now let me say straight up on the authority of God himself -- the Bible does not say that this yearning is wrong. Far from it. The Bible simply requires that we locate those yearnings in the right place.

Pic from Post Secret.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

My Two World's Collide Pictures.

A Follow Up to the MoMA post.

Compare this in North Haven:

To this in Manhattan:

Weird, huh?

Note to Self: Don't Ruin the Text

I've been thinking more and more that the job of a preacher is not to explain the text, but simply to get out of the way, and let the text speak for itself.

The job then, is simply not to ruin it!! :)

That is especially true of the text I have been given for Sunday: Romans 8:13-30. There is so much power and wonder and hope in these words:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
What grabs your heart and soul in Romans 8?
Has this text been important to you over the years?

Pic on Flickr by Patrick Q.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

My Two Worlds Collide on West 53rd St tonight.

If you'll pardon the melodrama, but tonight, my two worlds collide.

Andrew Katay and his wife Catriona have been my friends since we served in InterVarsity (EU) at the University of Sydney. They have embraced Dr Laurel and we enjoy the rare times we get to spend with them. Andrew is the Rector (Senior Minister) of Christ Church Inner West Anglican Communities in Sydney.

They are here in NYC for a very unusual reason: The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) on West 53rd St has an exhibition called "Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling." Basically, they are rebuilding 5 exceptional homes in the vacant lot next to the Museum.

What has this to do with Andrew and Catriona?

Andrew and Catriona have a vacation home 4 hours north of Sydney, and theirs is one of the homes that is being rebuilt here in NYC. And so they are here for the MoMA opening tonight, and one of the architects of the project, Jeremy Edmiston, has invited us to tag along.

Dr Laurel and I visited the home, in sleepy North Haven, about 3 years ago now. Back then, it was only just taking shape (and an unusual shape at that). It will feel very strange (and nicely out of place) to see that same home reconstructed in busy Midtown New York City.

As I said, my two worlds will collide.
  • You can see more in the pictorial journey in this MoMa site (Click on Burst*008 for pics).
  • You can read the NY Sun, which has some great slides of the Katay's home in North Haven.
  • Click for an article in Metropolismag, where Andrew talks about the 'Drive-bys' in the sleepy town.
  • Or click on the Sydney Morning Herald for more.
The Herald has has my favorite quote from the architect:
The house is made of plywood and decorated with giant flower cut-outs. But the oddest thing is the completely asymmetrical exterior; there are no straight horizontal or vertical surfaces or lines in the frame of the building, apart from the columns supporting it.

We're not really living in a symmetrical time, says architect Jeremy Edmiston. "Who has symmetry in their lives?"
Indeed, who does?

Should be fun tonight.


Monday, July 14, 2008

A Question for my NYC readers...

From E.B White, of Charlotte's Webb fame:
There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born there, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size, its turbulence as natural and inevitable.

Second, there is the New York of the commuter--the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night.

Third, there is New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something.

Of these trembling cities the greatest is the last--the city of final destination, the city that is a goal. It is this third city that accounts for New York’s high strung disposition, its poetical deportment, its dedication to the arts, and its incomparable achievements.

Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness, natives give it solidity and continuity, but the settlers give it passion.
OK, my New York Readers, its time to come out from lurking:
  • Which New York are you?
  • Does the shoe fit?
  • Why did you come to New York?
  • Have you found what you are looking for?

H/T Stephanie Dahle for the quote.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Hungry in Miami

Another interesting Google Search that led to my Blog. This search came from Miami:
where have all the good sermon gone, i am looking for one with scripture, and powerpoints
Hungry in Miami, I'm with you.

Except for the bit about 'powerpoints'.


Pic on Flickr by garyturner.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

So you met an American Girl? (How to do Long Distance Relationships)

A young man I knew an eon ago Facebooked me for advice. He is Australian, and he is dating an American. They are followers of Jesus. They are keen for advice from someone who has been through the the whole trans-Pacific relationship thing. I met Dr Laurel in January 1998 in Atlanta GA, and married her in May 2000. I am excited for this couple.

But if there are others reading this, I want you to know for the record: I do not recommend the trans-Pacific relationship. We managed it by the Grace of God. If I may sound pagan for a moment, for a relationship like this to work, all the planets have to align at once. And that is not easy. But God is sovereign over the affairs of men.

Anyways, that being noted, I put this together and emailed them (I have tried not to include things that belong to every couple: prayer, love, good communication etc)
  1. Enjoy this time and each other as a gift from God.
  2. And yet overseas relationships necessarily take more time. It’s good to allow for that. So don’t make blithe promises you can’t keep. The Pacific Ocean is a serious body of water and a large barrier to overcome.
  3. Make the most of your time apart: It’s certainly easier to be pure, and also you are forced to express yourself almost exclusively in written words. (Less so now with Skype. Pity.)
  4. And yet, the best way to plumb the depths of your friendship is certainly face to face. You want to maximize that as much as you can. Don’t believe that sending an email is truly relating. The verse I'm thinking of is 3 John v13-14.
  5. Don’t believe the illusion that to marry someone from another country is ‘exotic’. It quickly ceases to be, and starts to be very, very normal. And the exotic thing is at first an attraction, but it can end up very quickly being a destructive illusion.
  6. Be aware that if you meet someone overseas, then it often has an ‘unreal’ element to it. Your guard is down, you are on vacation, or you are working in a new environment. People see you as different, and you usually have a lot to talk about. But back down on earth, things are far more ‘normal’.
  7. Home is always and only where you live as husband and wife. Never talk about ‘home’ as being the country of your origin or where your parents live. If you see home as being ‘back with the parents’, then it will harm your relationship. That’s in Genesis 2:24.
  8. I decided in my heart that wherever we lived at any one time was the place we would live until we die! (Or until God changes our mind). The reason for this is that if I say: ‘We’ll be here for 3 years’, then we’ll always pine for another place, and we will be less likely to put down good roots. I found that easier to decide in my heart than my wife did.
  9. Become international, by which I mean: don’t see yourself as particularly Australian, or as an American. That will only put distance between you both. I say this especially to Australians, who like to make loose and unfair distinctions between Australians and Americans. So American jokes are out. To me, it is far too insecure anyway.
  10. Your marriage does not mean that you have legitimate travel for the rest of your lives! It means that you will basically travel only one dark path: LAX to SYD. For us, it excludes the rest of the world. We can never spend money going east of New York City. It is almost irresponsible for us to do so.
  11. Get involved quickly in a church: both feet, and don’t hold back.
  12. Make your vows in one country, and a have decent celebration in the another one.
  13. You will face difficult choices if God gives you children: One of you will live further away from Grandparents than the other. There is not much you can do about that, except by persuading one set to move, or by moving to a third country denying both sets of parents. But living near grandparents may be very good and helpful for you (and for them), but it is not the Golden Calf. You’ll just have to talk about that with each other and with your parents.
  14. Obey all rules of immigration and do it quickly and thoroughly. Start on the path of dual citizenship as quickly as you can.
  15. If God gives you kids, register their birth quickly at the consulate of the nation that the child was not born in. Make sure that their dual citizenship is secure early on.
  16. Keep in touch with friends from both sides of the Pacific.
  17. Your true home is not your simple address. As Hebrews says: 'Long for a better country prepared by God.'
So, have you been in a relationship like this? Care to offer any other advice? Or critique mine? Which points are wrong or right?

You may be helping my new friends if you care to comment. And feel free to forward this post as an email to those you know in a similar situation.

Pic on FLickr by KyussQ.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Sermon Audio on Romans 7: New Life in the Spirit

OK. Romans 7 is a deeply controversial chapter. This is my attempt to teach it on a Sunday morning in 25 minutes:

Click HERE FOR SERMON AUDIO. (Or right click, 'Save as' to Download.)

A few things for the record:
  • Yes, I do believe that the Christian Life is a life of struggle.
  • No, 25 minutes is not enough time to really dive into all the arguments.
  • Yes, I hate Sinless Perfectionism in every way, shape or form, .
  • No, I don't think I have it all figured out.
  • Yes, I do believe in total and utter depravity (in fact, this reading is stronger on total depravity, for it points out that Romans 7 is not a struggle, but a total defeat.)
  • No, I do not believe that Paul is being autobiographical -- either before or after his conversion.
  • Yes, I do know what 'the Present Tense' means in grammar.
  • No, I do not believe that you can easily reconcile his 'sold as a slave unto sin' and being 'of the flesh' with THESE verses from Romans 6-8.
  • Yes, I believe (in 7:7-12) that he is speaking of himself as being 'in Adam, back then'. (Hence, 1st person and past tense.)
  • Yes, I believe (in 7:13-26) that he is speaking of himself as being 'in Israel, right now', as in unbelieving Israel, with Torah, but without the Spirit. (Hence, 1st person and present tense.)
The point of the chapter is that without the work of the Messiah, the Torah is powerless against the real problem: the Tsunami of Sin. So the Torah is neither the problem, nor the solution.

Sin is the problem, Jesus the solution, and the Law good.

That means that the Spirit doesn't merely 'help us' in a struggle, but he totally and utterly *saves* us from total and utter defeat.

I am VERY open to change. I just can't see the other side just yet (Sorry, Big Gav.)

Pic on Flickr by Polarity4Peace.

PowerPoint: It is your destiny

I just received this email from a friend:
I've been thinking (as we all do from time to time) about good communication in sermons, use of PowerPoint etc. Got this from one guy warning about how PowerPoint can rob a presentation of narrative & dramatic impact.
Basically, I have repented of my use of PowerPoint.

Especially after I saw THIS -- The Gettysburg Address on PPT.


Verses in Romans 6-8 that have to be read alongside Romans 7:7-25 (My emphasis)

Romans 6:6-7

We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin.

Romans 6:17-18

But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.

Romans 6:22

But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.

Romans 7:5-6

For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

Romans 8:9

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

Romans 8:12-14

So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

Pic on Flickr by Morellasmails.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Vaughan Roberts, Romans 7 and Intellectual Humility.

Two thumbs up.

My good friend Michael Jensen (and godfather to The Little Man) goes to St Ebbe's Church in Oxford. MPJ recommended his rector's sermon on Romans 7 from March this year. So I downloaded the MP3. It's a message by Vaughan Roberts and the sermon can be listened to by clicking HERE.

I think it is one of the few sermons I've heard on Romans 7 that is intellectually honest with the exegetical difficulties of the chapter. He makes the point that Paul's main reason for writing V7-25 is to answer the charge that the Law is in itself the problem (The subject of my post below). So Roberts keeps the main point, the main point. He says that he is not precisely sure who Paul is referring to in V14-25. So he touches on all the arguments.

In the end, he gives solid application, to each view that is suggested. Not bad for 40 minutes.

The one thing I found hard in listening to the sermons this week was the way in which people quickly dismissed the other side. One preacher said that if you hold the view that this is not Paul as a Christian, it's only because you want to defend Sinless Perfectionism. Or that you have a low view of sin. Which is just plain bunk.

But re Vaughan Roberts: Two very enthusiastic thumbs up.

Pic on Flickr by Phototropism.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Romans 7: A New Life in the Spirit

I'm preaching this Sunday on Romans 7. I've had my head and my heart in Romans 6-8 for about 20 years. It is a chapter that thrills me, and gives me so much hope in the face of an ocean of sin.

I really don't pretend to have it all figured out, but here is my take:

The question guiding the chapter is not 'What is the Christian's experience of sin?' (as important as this is). I have read and listened to several sermons this week, and I fear that some have changed the starting point, and therefore have arrived at a different finishing line.

I listened to 3 sermons from Tim Keller (which were brilliant as always). But it troubled me that he used Stevenson's 'The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde' as an illustration of the experience of a Christian in Romans 7. Dr Keller was very close to using the novel an interpretative key to the text. Dr Keller is a brilliant teacher, but I wasn't convinced that it was a great reading of the text.

Paul was directly responding to the question: 'Is the Torah sin?', together with a follow up question: 'Did that which is good (the Torah) bring death to me?"

In other words: "Are you, Paul, saying in your gospel, that the Law is the real problem, since the Law somehow 'arouses sin', and 'increases trespass', and brings death?

I believe that Paul's interlocutor believed that disregarding the Torah was the problem, and the solution was the reestablishment the Law. If the kids aren't obeying the Torah, then we need more Torah schools, the argument might go. And Paul seemed to be showing disregard for the Torah by suggesting that it was not the solution, but in fact, part of the problem.

And Paul's answer to the question 'Is the Law sin?' is simple:

No way, Jose.

The Torah is holy, righteous and good.

So what is the problem then, if disregard for the Torah isn't the problem?

'It was sin', Paul simply says in V13. The Torah, then, is good, but - and here is the key - it is deeply limited in the face of the Tsunami of Sin. The Torah can expose Sin. But to the person 'of the flesh, sold under sin', Paul says 'I do not understand my own actions', and 'I do the very thing I hate', and 'I have the 'desire to do what is right', but not 'the ability to carry it out'. In other words, the overpowering influence of sin in the human heart is the problem that screams out for an answer. Flesh makes a person a 'wretched man.' Israel, with just the Torah, was always and forever overrun by Sin.

And what is the solution for Israel 'sold as a slave to sin', if it is not obedience to the Torah?

In the face of a Tsunami of Sin, the only solution is found in Jesus. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do, and he did it by 'sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.' (Romans 8:1-4)

We need Christ, and new life in the Spirit. Not Law.

Jesus is the solution, Sin is the problem, and yet the Law remains good, righteous and holy.

It was my friend Rob Smith, who first showed me that Romans 7:5-6 are the guiding verses of Romans 7-8.
(Summing up Romans 7:7-25): For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.
(Summing up Romans 8:1-17): But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.
So, if you are in Christ, you have been set free. You are not Mr Hyde. And you are certainly not Dr Jekyll. Paul says:
"You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you."
Is it a struggle to live this life? Of course. Is it difficult? No doubt. But you have the opportunity and the resources that those under Torah never had: You have been released to serve in the new way of the Spirit, not in the tragic way of the old way of the written code.