First Mennonite Church
April 22, 2018
No Condemnation in Christ
Text: Romans 8:1-11
In the early chapters of Romans, Paul writes that Jews and Gentile stand equally guilty before God, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (3:23). But in Christ, God will justify both Jews and Gentile in the same ground of faith (3:30). For that reason, everyone who is in Christ Jesus is at peace with God (Romans 5:1). In Chapter seven, Paul goes on to describe the impossibility there is for anyone who wants to please God by obeying the laws. In Paul’s lament he also describes the struggle there was for every Jew regarding the law:
I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. 17 But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.
Paul describes the struggles he as Jew had in his attempt to please God. In his heart/mind he knew what God wanted of Paul. But his flesh was not strong enough to do what his heart dictated him. The great news, Paul says, is that with the coming of Jesus Christ pleasing God became possible. Thus, Paul writes: 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Paul knew very well that God’s intention in giving his laws was to guide his people to live lives pleasing to him. But the sinful human nature, which Paul refers to as “the weakness of the flesh” only added to the difficulty of obeying God’s laws. However, the coming of Jesus and the atonement he made for our sins confer to everyone who would believe in his name, the righteousness of God, which was impossible to achieve through obedience of the law. But not only that, God’s Spirit now indwells the believer and enables him or her to live a life pleasing to God. Therefore, that which was impossible through the law, that is: being righteous before God, was made possible through Jesus our Lord and indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
We know very well that even when believing in Jesus and having the Holy Spirit dwelling we still struggle with the nature of our flesh. Deep in our heart we all desire to serve and to please God alone. But when we are confronted with the choices in our everyday life, the task of pleasing the Lord is not always the easiest thing to do. If we do not keep our guard, the sin nature overtakes our will and consequently our actions. It is easier to snap back at someone who would speak rudely to us. Sometimes we might feel it is easier to hide the truth with a half-truth or white lies for the sake of self-preservation. There are times when wanting to take revenge seems more enjoyable than to let go of the offense. We might be tempted believe that the rule of “eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth” is fair enough to deal with those who offend us. And Paul knew exactly how to describe that feeling: For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. But once again, we are reminded that God’s Spirit now guides us and lives in us to give us the power to follow Jesus’ law of love.
Today, I would for us to reflect a little more on verses one and two: Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. Have you ever felt guilty about something? Have you ever wondered whether you failed as a parent in raising your children? You wonder, “What did I do wrong with this child that led him or her where he or she is today?” But besides our possible feeling of self-condemnation, condemnation often comes from outside. Maybe there is something you did or said many years ago for which you are still blamed today. And though you’d prefer not to remember, yet every time it comes up you feel guilty about it. Or, you go to the doctor and the doctor tells you that in part your health problem is of your own making. And again you feel guilty. But the most common source of guilt can come from your knowledge of the Bible. You feel you are not what God wants you to be and you feel guilty. Or, it could be that there is something for which you come to God over and over to confess the same sin. I wish I can tell you something different, but the truth is that we all struggle with the desires of our flesh. The reality is, that despite our being in Christ and having been justified through faith, we continue to struggle with sin nature, inherent in our material existence and body. Despite our being believers in Christ Jesus and even when the Spirit of the Lord dwells in us, the nature of our flesh continues to push us away from God and his ways. But we should know that there is nothing wrong with having struggles with the flesh and its desires. Being a follower of Jesus Christ means we refuse following the ways of the world and of our flesh. Our struggle with sin is simply the cost following Jesus in this fallen world.
Paul reminds us that there is no condemnation for you and I who are in Christ Jesus. The emphasis Paul made when writing this statement is hard to reflect in our English translation. In Greek, emphasis is shown by putting the emphasized word at the very beginning of the sentence. The first word in the sentence is “No.” Literally, the sentence might sound something like this, “None absolutely, there is now no condemnation for anyone who is in Christ Jesus.” Despite this statement being very clear, we often forget it or do not take it seriously. As I mentioned earlier, we often burden ourselves with unnecessary guilt and condemnation. Yet, it is not only Paul who said this. Jesus said it as well. “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17). And Paul again said it. “Who is to condemn, it is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us” (Rom. 8:34).
Jesus Christ came to save, not to condemn. Does that mean we have a free pass even when we sin or fail the Lord? Or, how can we know the difference between feeling condemned—guilty and being convicted by the Spirit of God? When God convicts us of sin, the Holy Spirit will always show us what to do. God will show us where we missed the mark and the Holy Spirit will lead us to repentance. The Spirit will bring conviction and will lead us to Jesus, our Savior. But when we have a sense of guilt, or a feeling of being a failure in the eyes of God, that might be a way of the enemy. The devil might be trying to bring discouragement and a sense of worthlessness before God. Condemnation is that feeling unworthiness of God’s love, which instead of leading us to seek God’s forgiveness will fill us with fear and discouragement. Those feelings do not come from God, but from the devil.
God’s Holy Spirit that he made to dwell in us from the day we received Jesus as Lord and Savior and his love and forgiveness he gives each of us when we confess our sins, will never be withdrawn from us simply because we struggle with sin. God will continue forgiving us countless times, as long as the Spirit continues to move us to repentance and confession. Paul says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” That means we are no longer under God’s judgement as of now. Jesus is the one who has freed us from God’s judgement. Jesus is the one who intercedes for us today.
I want to invite you to pay close attention to the words of the closing hymn today, “Jesus Paid It All”. Receive God’s forgiveness. Let us give thanks to God that he gave us a Savior who took away the consequences of our sins. But let us follow the Spirit’s lead as well. There is no greater good news than this, that Jesus paid it all. Let us surrender our lives to the Lord. Amen!