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  • Wild Dog or Child of God?

    Posted on April 6th, 2008 admin No comments

    One of my good friends as a child had a major wild streak. When he was good, he was good. But when he was bad, he was bad.

    Yogi and I would play for hours. The sticks, worn baseballs, torn tennis balls and the meandering creek held our friendship together. Yogi was a good friend, but there were times when his wild streak would surface. He would snap, turning from the loyal Chesapeake Bay Retriever I loved into a wild, ravenous wolf. Without any notice, the curly brown hair on Yogi’s back would stand up, his head would tilt, his ears would cock back like a wild stallion, and he’d bolt toward his prey like a hawk toward an innocent field mouse. In a matter of seconds he’d grind a full-sized Great Dane into bacon bits. He’d chew a prize-winning border collie into a pile of fur. He’d make a chicken disappear and a goat wish he had wings. This dog was wild.

    Yogi became a huge risk as my livestock operation grew. The defenseless chickens and sheep stood no chance against Yogi. Whenever I came home from school and discovered Yogi was loose, I’d run to the barn fearing massive destruction. Fortunately that never happened because unfortunately Yogi took a one-way trip to the vet’s office. One injection later and Yogi never returned home.

    No one could tame the wild dog in Yogi. All he had to do was be good – follow the rules – and he could have had a wonderful life. But, even Yogi couldn’t control the wild dog in him.


    You need to know that there is a wild dog in you. This wild dog is not an animal that barks but it is your old sin nature. The wild dog in you wants to growl it’s way into the daily activity of your life. The wild dog in you knows the smell of sin. It can hear the meow of sin from miles away. The wild dog in you wants to bolt toward sin and turn it into a five-course meal. It wants to seat you at the head of the table where sin is served. If you don’t do something to keep the wild dog in you under control, you will soon fall victim to your old sin nature.


    You can hear the faint cry of sin calling your canine name. It seems like it would be o’ so good. The wild dog within you wants to chase it, devour it, but the Spirit of God within you whispers, “sit, stay, don’t go, don’t do it.” How do you respond to this battle that takes place within the depths of your being? How do you respond to the me-ow of sin? Do you respond like a wild dog, or a child of God?


    Our text this morning begins in Romans chapter 7. The apostle Paul writes about his experience as a believer in Christ. He begins this letter, Romans, referring to himself as a bond-servant of Christ. He also references his apostolic authority. He is a Christian. We are taking the view that Paul’s experience recorded in chapter 7 is a Christian experience. Not everyone holds this view, but it is difficult to argue otherwise. Let’s read Romans 7 verses 14 through 24.

    Romans 7:14-24:

    14 For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.
    15 For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.
    16 But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good.
    17 So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.
    18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.
    19 For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.

    20 But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.
    21 I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good.
    22 For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man,
    23 but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.
    24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?

    This morning you will see first that there is a wild dog in you. Second, you are unable to overcome the wild dog tendency on your own. Third, we will answer the subject question, how do you respond to the meow of sin?

    First, there is a wild dog in you. No matter how good you are. No matter how easy obedience is for you. No matter how powerful your testimony. How radical your conversion experience. Somewhere in the depths of what makes you you, there lives a wild dog. This statement will come as a surprise to some. I mean, we could bring the most loving, gentle, mercy-filled senior citizen to this platform. Maybe we’d have to escort her up these stairs and provide her with a chair to rest her aging body. From our perspective, we would see the wonder of a life well lived. We would see the miracle of a person made in the image of God. Yet, somewhere in that child of God there lives a wild dog, a sin nature, or a capacity to sin. Even in mature believers there exists a desire or predisposition to sin. That old sin nature is what we are calling the wild dog in you.

    In verse 14 Paul contrasts the bad, wild dog in him with the good Law. The Law is spiritual; it came from God. But, Paul refers to himself as “of flesh,” or unspiritual. There is a tension between human beings made in the image of God, formed in the womb by God, and the Law. Human beings are of the flesh, sinful. The Law is spiritual, without sin.

    In the final phrase of verse 14, Paul says he is “sold to sin.” Wait a minute, this is the same man who earlier wrote in Romans 6, verse 11, “consider yourselves to be dead to sin.” In verses 18 and 22 of chapter 6 he wrote that believers are “freed from sin.” Why then does he come back in chapter 7 and say he is “sold to sin?” Which is it: “freed from sin” or “sold to sin?” Well in chapter 7 he is talking about the old nature that is still part of every Christian. He is referring back to Adam in Genesis 3 who sold all of us into bondage to sin when he disobeyed God. Paul said this idea already in Romans 5:12, “through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” All of us were sold to sin by Adam. On the other hand, in chapter 6, we learn if you have believed in Jesus for salvation, yes, you are dead to sin. You are freed from sin in that sin no longer has to dominate your life. You no longer have to be controlled by sin. However, there remains a lure, or an appeal, to sin that influences Christians. You are “freed from sin” but that doesn’t change the fact that you are also “sold to sin.”

    ILL: Take wild birds, such as pheasants, that are raised in captivity. They don’t know anything other than living life in bondage. If they try to fly, they’ll hit a net that forms the extent of their little world. These birds basically live like hamsters; the only thing they can do is run from one end of their pen to the other. Sounds cruel, but there comes a time when these birds are released in a big open field. They are set free. Then sportsmen armed with hunting dogs and shotguns come marching across the field. The birds are supposed to fly so that the sportsmen can shoot them. Some of these birds are so used to captivity, that they won’t fly. They’ve been set free, right? Yes, but their nature tells them the only thing they can do, at best, is run. We live just like those birds. We were sold into sin by Adam. Conceived in captivity to sin. We were then set free by faith in Christ, right? Yes, but our sin nature lingers around and it keeps us from soaring into a life uninfluenced by sin.

    In verses 14 through 17 Paul acknowledges that there are times when he lives like a wild dog. His sinful nature influences him so much that he does the very thing he hates. Verse 15, “What I am doing, I do not understand; I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I’m doing the very thing I hate.” You know you shouldn’t do it, but your sin nature takes control and you yield to the wild dog, doing the very thing you hate.

    Can I get a witness? Please tell me I’m not alone here.

    In verse 16 Paul says the problem isn’t the Law. The Law, the Mosaic Law, is good. Love the Law; for, it leads us to Christ. Without the Law I may actually think I can live the Christian life on my own. I may be tempted to judge whether or not I am “right with God” based solely on the way I live my life. If I’m living life well, surely I’m more “right with God” than he who is not.

    ILL: O’ without the Law I would like that man in Philadelphia earlier this week. Evidently this man was an e-Bay seller who had been bugging Senator Obama all day for an autograph and a photograph to prove the authenticity of the autograph. This man didn’t get what he wanted at one stop so he went to another where he pushed his way through the crowd and reached Obama. The two men started arguing like little kids and eventually a Secret Service agent put his hand between the man and Obama, and said, “That’s it.” The man responded, “No, I’m good.” I’m good. Without the Law, we’d be tempted to say the same thing about our spiritual lives, “I’m good.” But the Law comes in like that agent’s hand and shows us that we are nothing like the Holy God. With the Law as God’s standard of righteousness, we know, “There is a wild dog in me.”

    In verse 17 Paul writes, “So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.” “Not me, but sin which dwells in me.” Sounds like a cop out on the surface, but notice there is a contrast between the “I” and the “sin which dwells in me.” The “I” refers to the new man Paul became at his conversion, Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” Let’s call the “I” the new nature. The “new nature” is that “complex of human attributes predisposed and inclined to righteousness.” The “new nature” is the new man who is freed from sin. The “new nature” has been bought by the blood of Christ. The “new nature” is guided by the Holy Spirit of God and empowered to live righteously. Yet, the “new nature” is also influenced by the old sin nature, by the wild dog who lives in you.

    Verse 18, “I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.” This term for flesh, σάρξ (sarx), refers to human nature. Ryrie defines this usage as, “the personality of man controlled by sin and directed to selfish pursuits rather than to the service of God.” You sin because you still have an old sin nature. That’s a tough truth if you’ve never wrestled with it before. Popular Christianity may say you believe in Jesus for salvation, then you will earn the Distinguished Citizens Award. Paul, on the other hand, says, “I believed in Jesus. I am a Christian. And I still wrestle with my old sin nature.”

    ILL: Let’s visit Lowman Elementary across the street. Monday morning little Johnny calls his classmate Patty, fatty Patty, and he picks a fight with Mike over Oreo cookies at lunch. The vice-principal calls Johnny’s mommy at work. She insists, “My little Johnny wouldn’t do that. He is good.” “Ma’am, there is nothing good in your little Johnny. Sin dwells in him. Why couldn’t he do that?”

    Christian, know that there is a wild dog in you. It is your old sin nature. Why else would you do the very thing you hate?

    Second, you are unable to overcome the wild dog tendency on your own.

    In verse 21 Paul states a principle. Some of your translations use the word “law.” What does Paul mean in verse 21 when he says that he has found such a “law?” The 17th century Puritan John Owen suggests that we can think of the term “law” in one of two ways. The first usage of law refers to a directive, or a rule. Along with this type of law comes moral commands, where a person is directed to do one thing or not to do another. A good example is the Mosaic Law, to which Paul referred earlier. This type of law is external and is directed inward to the person it affects. The second usage of law can also be moral. However, this type of law is internal and it constantly inclines a person to act one way or another. Paul uses this second usage of law in verse 21. The law Paul discovers in his Christian journey is this: “evil is present in me.” My internal old sin nature exerts power over me in such a way that it achieves its own desire in me. I can do nothing to overcome my old sin nature on my own because it works from within the depths of my being.

    ILL: Earlier this week in Minneapolis a pit bull jumped a fence to get into this lady’s yard. The pit bull attacked the lady’s skinny little Labrador retriever. The pit bull had its jaws locked on the dog and had it pinned to the ground. Without thinking, the lady bent down, looked the pit bull in the eyes and bit it right on the nose. That’s right, the lady bit the pit bull. The pit bull yelped and let her dog go. This lady’s wild bite saved her dog. After word of the incident spread, the lady was of course interviewed. She said she didn’t even think. Instinct took over. Now you can’t tell me there is no wild dog in that lady. “Evil is present in me.”

    In verse 22 Paul says, “I joyfully concur with (or delight in) the law of God.” Paul writes as a new man. He is now a child of God. He knows that the law is good. He knows that obeying the law is in his best interest. He knows that the law is the Father’s way of protecting and caring for his children. Understanding the law of God from this grace perspective causes Paul to delight in it.

    AP: When was the last time you delighted in the law of God? It is not part of my daily routine; maybe that should change. Imagine delighting in, “I will not have any other gods besides you. I will not covet my neighbor’s house, the lake behind his house, his Browning 525 Citori or anything that belongs to him.” Such delighting would develop a mind focused on pleasing God.

    However, in verse 23, Paul says simply concurring with the law does not get him very far. Paul, a child of God, says there is a different law in the members of his body. This different law, as we see near the end of verse 23, is the law of sin. It is natural rebellion against the law of God. It is the old sin nature. It is the wild dog tendency.

    There is a conflict in the heart of believers. Wild dog versus child of God. The child of God within you wants to obey God, but the wild dog in you wants to disobey God. As a child of God, you have the ability to know and to respond appropriately to spiritual truth. At the core of your being, you know what God expects from you. However, you cannot tame the natural rebellion within your soul. The wild dog wages war with the child of God. You come to church, listen to sermons, read books, read the Bible, memorize scripture, pray, fast, give. You do all you can in an effort to tame the wild dog, but you cannot overcome the influence of your old sin nature. When you rely on your own works to get you to the next step in your spiritual life, you discover that the wild dog defeats the child of God every time.

    In verse 24, Paul is fed up with this conflict between the child of God and the wild dog. He cries out, “Wretched man that I am!” The guilt, the pain and the shame of doing what he knows he should not do, leads him to a life of death. He feels like a prisoner in his own body. He wants to escape. He has tried to set himself free, but he cannot overcome the influence of his old sin nature. The child of God is bound by the prison bars of his own body.

    ILL: Parents, teachers, employers, lovers, keep in mind that even Christians will disappoint you. There is a conflict taking place within them. Don’t be surprised when the wild dog wins. Don’t beat others up either. The child of God is still in there somewhere. Let’s help feed the child of God in each other rather than throwing table scraps to the wild dog.

    ILL: At this point in our message I’m reminded of a brief dialogue between a father who skipped church and his young son who attended church with his mother. The two church goers returned home after the service. The dad, who stayed home, asked his son, “What did the preacher talk about boy?” The kid thought about it for a moment, then responded, “sin.” The dad then asked, “Well what did he say about sin?” The kid answered, “It is bad.”

    Yeah, that’s a great summary. But, we need more, because right now all we have is a big problem: Your old sin nature still influences your life. You are unable to overcome your old sin nature on your own. This is not a new idea; Augustine said it years ago.

    Paul asks a rhetorical question in verse 24, “Who will set me free from the body of this death?” If I can’t win the battle between my old sin nature and my new child of God nature on my own, where do I turn? Where do I get the strength as a child of God to tell the wild dog within me, “sit, stay, don’t go, don’t do it?” Paul answers the question in verse 25, “Thanks be to God.”

    Our third point, God enables you to live like His child.

    Romans chapter 8, verses 1 through 4:

    1 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
    2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
    3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh,
    4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

    Victory over the old sin nature comes through Jesus Christ! Let’s say that together, “Victory over the old sin nature comes through Jesus Christ!” What does that mean? Well, I think it means more than our finite minds can comprehend. But, let’s see if we can find some application that will tell us how to take the next step in our spiritual lives.

    In Romans 8:1 Paul writes, “Therefore,” he is about to conclude everything he has said in Romans 3 through 7, “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” “No condemnation,” that means God will never condemn those who are in Christ to an eternity separate from him. “In Christ Jesus,” refers to those who have been identified with Christ in his death (Rom 6:11). They have placed their faith in Jesus Christ. They are eternally secure. They are eternally “right with God” because they are “in Christ.” They may fall out of fellowship with God but they will always be “right with God.”

    The truth of eternal security is one you must know. While the conflict between the wild dog and the child of God rages on within you, if you have placed your faith in Christ for salvation, you can trust you are eternally secure. Christ suffered for your sins in your place. Just as he will not be condemned, neither will you who have believed in him; you who are in Christ.

    Now, no condemnation is different than freed from judgment. Even though we have been granted eternal life, we will still face judgment for our deeds – good and bad (2 Cor. 5:10). Future judgment should motivate us to live like a child of God.

    In verse 3, we see that there was something the Law could not do. That something is significant, so don’t miss it. The Law could not save you from sin and death. Keep in mind that no man could ever keep the law because every man, other than Jesus Christ, is influenced by the old sin nature. So God, in His marvelous grace, did something profound. He sent His son, Jesus Christ, to earth in the likeness of human flesh as a sin offering. Christ came to earth, not in sinful flesh, but in the likeness of sinful flesh. He was without sin – two natures; fully God and fully man. Christ was fully righteous.

    If you are in Christ by faith, you have been given the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Person of God who indwells you. The Holy Spirit gives you strength to overcome the wild dog tendency. This strength is realized in you when you (verse 4) do not walk according the flesh, but walk according to the Spirit.

    No surprise that the term, walk, περιπατέω (peripateō), means first “to walk around.” Mark used the term, “Get up, pick up your pallet and walk” (2:9). Peter used the term, “The devil walks around” (1 Peter 5:8). Paul however used the terms to refer to the walk of life. Believers are to walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16), to walk worthy of God (1 Th. 2:12), to walk worthy of the Lord (Col. 1:10) to walk worthy of your calling (Eph. 4:1), to walk as children of light (Eph. 5:8).

    Would you like a simple overview of true spirituality? 1) Believe in Jesus Christ and you will receive the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. 2) Walk by to the Spirit. We are talking about a moment by moment surrender to the work of God in your life. When you walk by the Spirit, you are controlled and empowered by the Spirit. You allow the Spirit of God to do whatever he whatever he wants to in you. When you walk by the Spirit, he produces the fruit of the Spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control; through you.

    Why walk according to the Spirit? 1) For abundant life, 2) For eternal rewards, 3) For the fruit of the Spirit, and 4) For the glory of God.

    When the lure of sin calls your name and that conflict begins within you, remember, “I am a child of God. I choose to walk by the Spirit. Lord, get me out of this situation. Lead me and I will follow you.”

    ILL: C.S. Lewis writes in Mere Christianity, “The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self – all your wishes and precautions – to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are all trying to do instead. For what we are trying to do is to remain what we call “ourselves”, to keep personal happiness as our great aim in life, and yet at the same time be “good”. We are all trying to let our mind and heart go their own way – centered on money or pleasure or ambition – and hoping, in spite of this, to behave honestly and chastely and humbly. And that is exactly what Christ warned us you could not do…

    That is why the real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind.”


    Today you have seen that there is a wild dog in you, you are unable to overcome the wild dog tendency on your own, but God enables you to live like His child. Take your next step to true spirituality by walking according to the Spirit. No special formula. No tricks of the trade. Just a challenge to be sensitive to the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in your life. You need his strength. You need his strength.

    ILL: Tian Huiping of Beijing, China had no where to turn when she learned that her son, Taotao, was autistic. Her husband had divorced her. Her doctor had no experience with autism and could not offer any counsel. In a country where disabilities are not part of public conversation, Tian had no community or government help. Tian and Taotao were alone.

    Not knowing how to cope as a single mother faced with the difficult task of raising an autistic child, Tian considered ending her son’s struggle and her own. She made a poison that would end both of their earthly lives. As she prepared to feed her son the poison, she looked down and “saw her boy smiling up at her happily.” She knew then she couldn’t do it. She “thought, I have no right to end his life, and I cannot kill myself and leave him.”

    The wild dog was barking, but the child of God prevailed!

    Tian then embarked on a journey of tremendous blessing. She discovered a small brochure in a hospital that explained basic concepts on teaching kids with autism. She read it several times and began working with her son. Over time she started to see progress. She saw hope. She then rented space in a kindergarten and opened her own school with only six autistic children. The venture was not economically viable, so the kindergarten closed the doors to her school. Regardless, the children made progress and word began to spread. More parents came to Tian seeking help for their autistic children.

    Now fifteen years later, the Stars and Rain Education Institute for autism, which Tian started, helps over 3,000 children a day. The school’s focus is on teaching parents how to educate their children. They now send teachers from Beijing to a center for children with special needs in Wichita, KS, where they are trained to educate parents.

    The Chinese government says there are about 100,000 autistic kids in China. Unofficial estimates put that number at 1-2 million or more.

    Believers in Christ, the Holy Spirit of God indwells you. You have everything you need to live like a child of God. Walk by the Spirit and watch God work.


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