Pastor Nelson Bonilla: 7-9-23 “Come To Me”

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ROMANS 7:15-25; MATTHEW 11:16-19, 25-30.

What we read this morning from Romans can be described by the story of a young person who lived a lifestyle that was becoming self-destructive: parties, alcohol, sex, and drugs. It was a downward spiral. This person looked for help with a therapist. During one session, the therapist asked the question: “Why don’t you stop?” what you are doing is killing you. This person appeared shocked by the question, then after a while the person responded, “You mean I don’t have to do what I want to do?” Like this person from the story, millions of men and women seem to be victims of their own desires. And for some unknown reason they cannot stop, even when they wish for. They believe in doing what they want, regardless of the result. They live in a constant battle between doing what they want -even when is wrong and self-destructive- and what God wants them to do.

Paul understood such a dilemma, for he felt much the same. He sensed within himself a battle between good and evil, between God’s will for his life and Paul’s old human nature. Most of us can understand that battle as well, for we constantly have felt it within us.  

In chapter 7, Paul describes God’s law as a reflection of God’s character: pure, righteous, and holy. As Paul indicates in verse 7, the law enables us to understand God’s expectations for our lives; the law is described as a teacher, a standard by which we can measure our lives. The law -Paul says- is good. Sin took advantage, and what God prohibited for our own good became stumbling stone, because we desire what is against God’s will.

 Paul, who on the road to Emmaus had experienced the transforming power of God in his life was called to serve God, and he did. And according to Romans everyday there was within him a desire to be obedient to God’s will and purpose for his life. But there was also something else at work within Paul, just as it is present within us. Paul was talking about the power of evil. He said, “Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.”

Evil never comes to us with the open invitation to disobey God and destroy our lives. No, the invitation is usually to a moment of pleasure or profit. Evil usually come to us with expressions like: “that won’t hurt anyone “or “no one will ever know” or “you deserve that.” But at the end it hurts; it hurt us and hurts our relationship with God and others. Paul knew, as we do, that evil can be overpowering. He lamented, ” I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” (v. 18).

Many scholars believe that when Paul wrote this, he was referring to a time before his conversion. However, many others believe, it reflects the reality of Paul’s life and ours, after coming to Christ. Paul desired to do what was right, yet constantly fell short. And this, my brothers, and sisters, is the story of our life too. This is a struggle with which we can relate. We are on the same battlefield—wanting to do right, but time and again succumbing to the temptation to cut corners, grab the gusto, surrender to what we know is less than God’s best. Thankfully there is hope. And Paul exclaimed, “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (v. 25a). Though the battle within seems to be lost for some, the reality is that for those who are in Christ; for those who place their life in Jesus’ hands the outcome is already decided! Christ is already victorious over sin and death, and as we experience his growing power over evil and his growing presence in our hearts, we are able to claim His victory in our own life day by day.

This personal battle between good and evil; between God’s will and our fallen nature’s will can be debilitating and tiring for those who take seriously the requirements of the Christian faith and try hard to live up to them. Thanks be given to God, because Jesus knew this, and he has a message of hope and renewal. In Matthew 11:28, Jesus said, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Come to the eternal God who made himself known through Jesus. Jesus’ invitation calls us to turn to him rather than to the ways of this world. But more important, the invitation tells us that those who are tired of the struggle between the desire to do what is good and the inability to carry it out can find rest to restore their strength.  

The invitation Jesus is doing to all of us this morning comes with a promise: “I will give you rest.” What does that mean? We do not see that the Christian faith gives us rest from the work of trying to make this life better. On the contrary, it demands more and more from us. The rest we get is from guilt, self-recrimination, anxiety, and struggling. Jesus is the only One who can give us rest from searching “for things that do not satisfy.” St. Augustine said, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God the Creator, made known through Jesus Christ.”

Today, Jesus is calling those who believe that are losing the battle; to those who believe that evil is gaining ground and he is telling loud and clear, do not give up, rest in me, regain your strength, and continue believing and continue fighting the good fight. Paul the one who exposes and shares with us this spiritual and inner battle between good and evil said – and I believe he said it when he was in the middle of one battle- “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” He also said in Romans 12:21, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Brothers and sisters, let us not give up so at the end we can repeat what Paul said in 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

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