I Shot An Arrow In the Air
Ro 7:7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, "You shall not covet." 8 But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. 9 I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. 10 And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. 11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. 12 Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. 13 Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful.
Ro 7:7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Having just accused the Law of arousing passions that “bear fruit to death,” Paul quickly comes to the defense of the law.
“Is the Law sin? By strict definition, sin is “missing the mark.” Is the Law missing the mark that God has set before us? Is the Law missing God’s will? Certainly not! On the contrary the Law points us or aims us toward the target of God’s perfection. Toward God’s will.
Something very interesting about the Torah as it relates to this law, the Law of Moses. The Torah is considered to be “the law of Moses.” It is the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible written by Moses. The word “Torah” is derived from the Hebrew word “yarah (yaw raw) This word has the connotation of aiming or controlling, like an archer aiming an arrow.
So the law of Moses, the writings of Moses which include the ten commandments, serve as an aimer, they aim us toward perfection. What could be sinful or “missing the mark” about that? Nothing except as we consider our thoughts, words, and deeds, we realize that we continually fall short of God’s target of perfection.
Is it the law’s fault? No! It’s our fault because even though we are aimed correctly by the law, we don’t have enough strength in our own flesh to pull the bowstring back far enough to hit the mark, we will always fall short. “All have sinned and what?.....fallen short of the glory of God.”
“On the contrary, I would not have known sin (missing the target) except through the law.” ( for without aiming properly, the target will never be in sight!)
Mankind is a bit like the Longfellow poem,
“I shot the arrow in the air, It fell to earth, I knew not where; “
Longfellow shot his arrow without a target, therefore sin or missing the mark would not be an issue. There’s a whole world out there that has lost sight of the target, and sin is no longer an issue.
Unfortunately there is a large portion of the church which has lost sight of the target, and sin is no longer an issue. And one of the purposes of preaching the Law is to bring the target back into the picture.
One thing we try to do here at Living Word is bring the target back into the picture by using the law to point you in the right direction of the target. And listen up now, we don’t do it, so that you become a better shot. You can’t become a better shot! Get that through your head! The reason we preach the law is to show you how awful your marksmanship really is.
And don’t think you can go through your life like Longfellow shooting arrows aimlessly, because where they land....matters. And just because the world is shooting it’s arrows into a field with no target in sight, doesn’t mean that there isn’t a target.
It’s there, it is God’s perfection, and the law helps bring it into view. One of the problems though in bringing it into view is that our flesh thinks we can hit it. Indeed, we want to hit it, it’s a challenge! Some of you here today are still trying to hit the target in your own strength, and you’re miserable and frustrated, and God can’t do a thing with you until you are ready to stop trying..
The Law cannot attain perfection for you. It can only aim you, in the direction of right living, and it can only show you how far short of the target you consistently fall. Perfection comes only as we respond to the Gospel and yield our lives to the Master Archer Jesus Christ, who never missed....bullseye every time!.
Paul then gives us a glimpse into his own sinful life to illustrate this truth. As a Pharisee, he thought he was doing well with his bow and arrow. Oh my he was good at the letter of the Law.
Php 3:4 though I also might have confidence in the flesh. (Hey if anyone could’ve hit the target, it would’ve been Paul) If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. 7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, (and we might add always comes up short) but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;
Yes he was quite the outward believer, but then he met Jesus on the road to Damascus and although we aren’t given the details, the Holy Spirit evidently showed Paul an arrow that was consistently missing the mark, “Thou shalt not covet!”
“ For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, "You shall not covet."
You know, all the other commandments can appear to be kept from outside appearances. But the coveting commandments deal with the true condition of our heart. Actually the rich young ruler spoken of in the Bible had something in common with Paul. He too struggled with covetousness.
Remember? He came to Jesus and asked what he needed to do to inherit eternal life.
Mt 19:16 Now behold, one came and said to Him, "Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?"
And Jesus replied, “if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments."
What? What was Jesus doing here? Why didn’t He answer, “you must put all your eggs into one basket! You must put your faith in Me?” Why didn’t He give him the Gospel? Because the man had to first see his need. And if Jesus’ answer seems puzzling, listen to the man’s response!
18 He said to Him, "Which ones?"
What, are we allowed to pick and choose? Isn’t that a crazy question? Which ones are the important ones? Which ones are the ones that God is going to look at when the final judgement comes around?
But isn’t that just like us? So many have the idea that God is just going to judge us on the biggies. And so we think we are safe as long as we haven’t killed anyone or stolen from anybody.
How would’ve you responded to that man? I would’ve likely said something like....”well all of them you silly!” But Jesus, realizes that this man must still see his need, lists them off.
Jesus said, "'You shall not murder,' 'You shall not commit adultery,' 'You shall not steal,' 'You shall not bear false witness,' 19 'Honor your father and your mother,' and, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'"
Jesus concentrates on the Second Table of the Law and mentions them all except, “Thou shalt not covet.”
20 The young man said to Him, "All these things I have kept from my youth. Boring bullseye after bullseye after bullseye. What do I still lack?"
The answer implies, “is that all there is to it!” No problem, and the answer also implies an unsettledness in this man’s soul, there must be something more, what is it Jesus?
21 Jesus said to him, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me."
Bingo! Jesus brings up the man’s covetousness, without actually saying “thou shalt not covet.” He is trying to get the man to see that his bullseye is missing a few arrows.
22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. (NKJV)
Jesus revealed the true condition of this man’s heart and this man was not willing to let it go. He was willing to take his chances with 9 out of ten hits on the target....even though eternal life demands complete perfection! That’s what Jesus meant when He said “keep the commandments!” Be perfect!
Listen to the man’s question again. What must I do to inherit eternal life? Jesus answered the question perfectly, because as long as you think it is something you have to do then you must keep the commandments. The better question would be, How can I inherit eternal life, and Jesus would respond, “by putting your eggs in My basket, putting your trust in Me alone because I have kept the commandments perfectly in your stead.”
In Paul’s case the coveting and lust showed up in another way. The way that is best explained by James:
Jas 1:14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.
15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. (NKJV)
Paul had an unhealthy lust for persecution. He had an unhealthy zeal for the Pharisaic way of life, and this unhealthy lust led him to the unhealthy pursuit of the church of Jesus Christ. And when Jesus met him on the road to Damascus, he forced Paul to examine this unhealthy pursuit.
He asked, “Why do you persecute me?” And the Holy Spirit used that question to cause Paul to examine the true condition of his heart. For the first time, he saw his motivation for going after Christians, and it was a direct violation of the commandment against covetousness. It was lust! Lust that ultimately led to the sin of murder. Paul finally saw his need for a Savior!
He may have been able to say that he outwardly kept the commandments, and that his persecution of the church was justifiable homicide by the letter of the Law, but when the Holy Spirit revealed his true motivation, he was broken and ready to listen to Jesus.
8 But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead.
The prohibition against coveting and lusting was a starting point for Paul’s sin, and it produced all manner of evil desires in his heart. The Christians just gave him the opportunity to express his lust.
The forbidden fruit gave Eve opportunity, the promise of a big payday gave Balaam the opportunity, the beautiful Bathsheeba gave David the opportunity. All these opportunities would not matter without the law, because without the law, sin is dead, out of the picture. Out of sight of the aimer.
Had these objects not been presented, the evil desires of the heart might have slumbered, and never have been called forth. But the fruit for Eve, the money for Balaam, and the sensual passion for David all brought forth sin. The rich young ruler would not have known he was lusting until Jesus put his wealth before him.
No one really knows how wicked their heart is, until some object is presented that calls them forth into a conscious decision to sin.
Oh that terrible law, giving us an opportunity to rebel! How I hate it because I can no longer claim ignorance, for the target is in sight. I hate it because it is impossible to keep it in my strength. I hate it because my members seem to go out of their way to find ways to disobey it. I hate it because it screams at me......you are a sinner! You keep falling short you wimp!
But I love it for that very same reason. For by seeing my sin, by seeing how hopeless it is to obey it perfectly, I must turn elsewhere for help! My help is in the name of the Lord! Oh where would I be without Christ! This Law that works death in my members no longer has power over me because I have turned to Jesus
9 I was alive once without the law, (Paul says, folks, I was doing just fine as long as I was adhering to the letter of the law, but you see, the letter of the Law is not God’s target! But when the spirit of the law hit Paul) but when the commandment (the spirit of the law) came, sin revived and I died.
So how are you doing? You were probably doing pretty well until you came to this church. You were alive without the law, shooting arrows in the air, where they land you knew not where, nor did you care. But since coming here, the target of God’s perfection has been brought into view.
Yet even in this church we must be careful to not preach the letter of the law, we need to preach the spirit of the law. And when the spirit of the law is preached, not one of us should be left standing. We all should realize that our arrows are falling short of the mark.
10 And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death.
And the letter of the law, which you thought would bring you life because it was easy to keep outwardly, you have come to find out only brings death. All have sinned, (missed the mark) and the wages of sin is death!
11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me.
Lust for forbidden fruit is awakened by the command against it, and it deceives us, it makes us think that we are missing something in life, but when tasted, we see that what we have missed is the target of God’s perfection. Our arrow falls short and it kills us because lack of perfection condemns each one of us to hell.
12 Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.
Don’t blame the Law. Don’t blame God’s commandments. All His Law is holy, all His commandments are just and good. The culprit is our disobedience, our responding to the lust of our flesh. The forbidden fruit, money, or sensual passion, and our refusal to turn the bow over to Jesus when the mark is set before us, this is the culprit.
13 Has then what is good (God’s Law and commands) become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, (show how short our arrows are falling) was producing death in me through what is good, (through the law) so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful. (Missing the mark will become more and more evident)
Where are YOU in all of this? Maybe you think you’re doing pretty well with your bow and arrow. “Hey, I’m closer to the target than HE is or SHE is! Or THEY are!” “Look God! See how close my arrows are to the target!”
Sorry my friend, close doesn’t count! Close doesn’t count except in horseshoes, hand grenades and atomic bombs. Doing better than others doesn’t count. Be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect!”
“Why don’t you just be quiet pastor and hand me another arrow, and let me give it another shot. I’m going to keep trying this until I get it right! I’m going to obey the Law in my own strength, won’t God be proud of me when He notices my efforts?
And Jesus said:
Joh 15:5 "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. (NKJV)
Without Me, you can’t hit the broadside of a barn!
What commandment, what part of the Law of God is finally going to convince you of that fact?
Will it be “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me?” IS that the one that is keeping you from eternal life? If you say you have no other gods before God, why aren’t you spending time in His Word on a daily basis? Why aren’t you trusting in Him and His promises as you go through this life?
Will it be, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain?” “Oh, I let a little cuss word slip out every now and then, but it’s not that big of a deal.” Oh really, then why does God say that He won’t hold you guiltless when you curse? (Ex. 20:7) Just one swear word and you have missed the mark!
Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy. So you’re in church every Sunday...good, but how are you at resting on this day?
Honor the father and mother. - Young people, every time you are disrespectful or disobedient to your parents, your arrow falls short. And every time we adult children cease to honor or forgive our parents or treat them with respect, we fall short.
Thou shalt not kill. - Just hating someone or speaking an unkind word about them constitutes murder in the spirit of the Law!
Thou shalt not commit adultery. - Just looking at a woman with lust constitutes adultery.
Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not lie, Thou shalt not covet, are you running out of arrows yet?
Do you really want to keep trying?
Don’t listen to the devil. He is happy to keep handing you arrows. Start listening to the Spirit of God who says, “ Jesus is the only one who has the strength to pull the bowstring back far enough to hit the target.
You must allow Him to come alongside and pull the bowstring back. Use His perfect, holy and good Law to aim you in the right direction, but then trust Him for the perfect score. Believe me, on the last Day there will only be one arrow in the target and that will belong to Jesus.
Only those who are found in Christ, grafted onto that arrow, will be granted the perfect score. Learn from the rich young ruler. Even though Jesus showed him where his arrows were falling short, he refused to do what was necessary for eternal life.
He refused to admit that his arrows were falling short, that he had a problem with covetousness, and he refused to follow Jesus. That is, he refuse to attach himself to Jesus. He refused to allow Jesus to be his perfect score.
What must you and I do to inherit eternal life? We must keep the commandments. We must hit the bullseye every single time. I hope and pray that today will be a wake up call for you. I hope you will take a walk down to the target and see how you are doing.
Those arrows that you see along the way are not someone else’s my proud friend...they are yours. Fess up to that fact and don’t go back to the starting line to try again, rather fall on your knees right where you are and plead to the perfect archer, “Have mercy on me, a sinner.” From now on Lord, You pull the arrow back, I’m tired of falling short, I admit I can’t do it in my own strength.
Jesus, save me, from my self. Amen.