May 25, 2018

Tear Up Those Prison Papers!

Romans 7:1–8

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Released from the Law

Or do you not know, brothers1—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage.2 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.

Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 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. 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.3

The Law and Sin

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead.


[1] 7:1 Or brothers and sisters; also verse 4
[2] 7:2 Greek law concerning the husband
[3] 7:6 Greek of the letter

Tear Up Those Prison Papers!

Bio | Morgan Miller

Hey, y'all! My name is Morgan Miller, and I've been at Watermark as long as I can remember. As I'm writing this, fall has just begun, and I absolutely love the things it brings—like pumpkin spice lattes, jumping in leaf piles, sweatshirts, and marching band! I play the baritone/euphonium, which is kind of a combination between a tuba and a trombone.

I also like doing calligraphy and photography, as well as writing. I serve two-year-olds in Watermark's kids ministry. It's such a blessing to be able to work with those kids!

Central Truth

We don't need to do good things in order to be saved because God has already paid the price for our freedom.

Devotional | Romans 7:1–8

I love the musical Les Misérables. As the story opens, Jean Valjean—a thief whose only crime was stealing bread for his starving sister and her family—has just been...

I love the musical Les Misérables. As the story opens, Jean Valjean—a thief whose only crime was stealing bread for his starving sister and her family—has just been released from serving almost 20 years in prison. To Javert, the police officer who pursues Valjean in the musical, the penalty seemed perfectly fair because he was all about enforcing the law at all costs. After his release, Valjean is forced to carry papers telling everyone of his past crimes. After facing hardship and harboring anger at the world around him, Valjean comes to understand grace and vows to turn from his old ways. To symbolize his transformation, he rips up the papers that once bound him to a life of sorrow.

Like Javert, we could think of Christianity as a list of laws and rules that we need to check off our list in order to be saved. However, doing good things isn't going to get us to heaven. Romans 10:9 says, "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." God has set us free from the law, which means there is no checklist. God isn't keeping score based on our works to save us. All He wants us to do is believe in His Son and what He did for us on the cross.

I struggle with this a lot because it can be reassuring for me to think that my eternity is something I can control by doing the right things. However, it's even more reassuring to think that there is a God who has already paid the penalty for my sin and that I don't need to do anything to earn it.

Valjean ripped up the papers that defined him by his past crimes, so we, too, can set aside our bondage to the sin that so easily entangles us and keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2).

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Discussion Questions

1. Your "prison papers" could be anything that make you feel chained and keep you from pursuing Christ, like the expectation that you have to do things for God to love you. Maybe it's just a dysfunctional relationship, shame and hardships from your past, or anything else. What are your "prison papers"?

2. Have you asked God to set you free from these things? If not, what's holding you back? 

3. How can you use your story of being set free from sin to encourage others? If you're still not sure what it means to be set free, reach out to someone who can you help you. (There are lots of people at Watermark that would love nothing more than to do so! Call 214.361.2275.)

11 Comments available

Tonni Shook 10 months ago

It would take an entire book to list my “prison papers”! In my journal from this passage, I write: Jesus paid the price for my prison sentence. Let that sink in! I should have been locked up and the key thrown away. BUT, Jesus said, “I’ll go. Let her go.”

Thankful this day for Jesus, the Savior of the world.

Jason Vorel 10 months ago

Morgan - you’ve provided us with some great insights. I definitely relate to wanting to have control. How amazing is our King that He is in control and frees us from our papers. Way to tie in a classic story.

Sue Bohlin 10 months ago

Hi Morgan! Great use of the prison papers from Les Mis. I focused on the same idea as I dug into the Greek in verse 6, “But now we have been released from the law, because we have died to what controlled us…” The words “released” and “controlled” remind me of what cruise control on a car would be like if we couldn’t override it by applying the brake to slow down or pressing the accelerator to go faster. It would be so frustrating to have our speed controlled, unable to go faster or slower than what was set by someone else. What a joy to be released from that kind of control!

It’s even better to be released from the control of the old life where sin reigns. It’s even better to savor the joy of the “new life of the spirit” that we can enjoy thanks to Jesus!

Sarah Dulin 10 months ago

Love. Thank you!

Shannon Miller 10 months ago

Morgan, Thank you for encouraging my heart this morning. You have always been wise beyond your years and I am so thankful I have a front row seat watching you live this out. I can’t wait to see the spiritual truths you pull from your next broadeay experience. I love you! Mom

Michael Scaman 10 months ago

Paul scrupulously, copiously, carefully kept the letter of the law or so he thought, and yet looking back says ‘The law killed me’ and 'Produced all kinds of desires contrary to the commandments. Some even suggest Paul’s pre conversion zealousness may have been a way to compensate for these feelings. In the midst of his religiosity he was blind to what had happened even. Looking back by grace he saw better. Looking forward he saw freedom.

greg jones 10 months ago

Morgan, I love little kids, they have no law in a sense. When you’re in a room full of them and they are safe, learning, and smiling, looking and acting like the kids they are, the spirt of a law is at work in the room that leads to life. When the law of totally adult behavior is expected in the room, it leads to the death of a two year old class room. Note to self: I’m not a two year old anymore, but I’m not the adult that God is, just to give myself some perspective. Explore your room, laugh, smile, learn. Enjoy correction for the sake of laughing at the right things, smiling for the right reasons, learning correctly, and being safe. Let the spirt of that law be at work in your life. Thank you so much Morgan for that lesson today.

Hope Harris 10 months ago

Love your use of Les Mis this morning Morgan. It’s one of my favorite shows. I hope you are in a marching band playing that brass instrument.

Verse six from the Voice translation:

“But now that we have died to those chains that imprisoned us, we have been released from the law to serve in a new Spirit-empowered life, not the old written code.”

The Message “But now that we’re no longer shackled to that domineering mate of sin, and out from under all those oppressive regulations and fine print, we’re free to live a new life in the freedom of God.”

Released and now longer shackled! Enjoy Shane and Shane 's Liberty.

Lindsey Driscoll 10 months ago

Morgan, great illustration using Les Mis and how we too carry around the prison papers of what we did before Christ; “bore fruit for death.” (7:5) I love verses 5-8 where we see the relationship between the law, which we are released from and yet how the law was used to show us how we fall short of God, and our need for a savior.

Hugh Stephenson 10 months ago

I love the idea of prison papers.

Q1 - What makes me feel still chained? I think of this question as asking myself “what seems to be keeping me from producing fruit”? (Galatians 5:22). Reflecting on this question reveals to me that its (strangely) my inbox and task list. I can surrender to God’s plan for my life, but not His plan for my day.

What a crazy way for pride to tempt me! There is a big part of me that actually thinks I can “get it all done”. I sacrifice quiet time, sabbath time, having margin etc. Those good and Godly activities are sacrificed on the alter of “tyranny of the (supposedly) urgent”. Sounds like a skit from Monty Python!

God sets a boundary for me in sleep. Then He gives me a choice how to use the other time. I choose too much of it for work.

Scott Miller 10 months ago

Morgan, One of the great joys of my life is getting to see your face every morning. And especially today as you creatively walked us through this passage. Grace is the greatest gift any of us will ever receive, so embrace it tightly and run with the freedom of Christ all of your days. I’m so proud of the wonderful young woman you are and can’t wait to see how God will use you in the days to come. I love you!

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