No Condemnation

January 27, 2013   Romans 8:1   No Condemnation  

       Maybe you’ve heard about the 3 church guys who went fishing one day, all friends in church in the same town.   While they were fishing they began confessing their sins to each other... The first man said, "Do you know what my big sin is?   My big sin is drinking.    I know it’s wrong, but every Friday night I drive to a city where no one will recognize me and I go to a saloon and get drunk!    I know I shouldn’t, but I can’t help it, it’s my big sin."   The second man said, "Well fellas, to be honest with you, I’ve got a big sin big sin is gambling.    As a matter of fact, you know all the money I raised for that mission trip to India?    I took it to Las Vegas instead and lost it all!   I’m so ashamed, my big sin is gambling."    Finally it was the third man’s turn.    He said, "Guys, I probably should have gone first, because my big sin is GOSSIP—and I can’t wait to get back to town!"  

      Guilt and condemnation are huge issues today.  One reason that it is a big deal is because people are guilty.   One Christian psychologist recently stated "Guilt is the most difficult problem in the whole realm of psychological therapy."  Guilt has been a problem since the beginning of time.   It was guilt that caused Adam and Eve to hide when God came walking in the cool of the day.   It was guilt over his adulterous affair that caused David to say, "My bones almost wasted away while I hid in my sin."    The IRS once received a letter from an anonymous taxpayer.    It read, "I have cheated on my income tax for the past seven years, and tonight my conscience is troubling me to the point that I cannot sleep. I have enclosed a $100 bill as my way of saying ‘I am sorry.’   If I find that I still can’t sleep, I will send the rest of what I owe." The person did not quite finish the process to get rid of their guilt.   Guilt has been a companion of mankind from the beginning.   A good biblical illustration is Joseph’s brothers who sold Joseph into slavery in the Old Testament.   When trouble came their way they thought this has come upon us because of the way we treated Joseph.   Joseph later told them no God was behind this to accomplish His will.   That is not an excuse for what they did to him.  Judas betrayed Jesus and Judas was responsible for that but Jesus was to be crucified.  

    This passage says there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  I was thinking this morning as I was doing dishes that maybe there is no condemnation for this church.   Maybe God has expressed his sovereignty in where this church is at whether we like it or agree with it or not.    He certainly speaks to people to come to this church and maybe He has spoken to some to leave.   I am not saying that we should not pray, think, evaluate, and ponder the church situation.     Is God sovereign?   Well yes we would say.   Some of us would say if /God has told you to go then go and others would question if God has spoken to them.     We cannot force people to stay and yes we work to make this church as Christ like as possible.  We do strive to do things the way that the Holy Spirit leads us to do.     God has told some of us to stay here and God could easily tell others to stay or even to come back IF God wants to.  I am not saying that we do not strive with all of our hearts to obey and trust God.   I remember a couple that left this church years ago and I thought of them for probably 2 years virtually every day. It hurt and God’s love is real.    This is an interesting verse - there is no condemnation to those in Christ.   How does it apply to you today – not your brother or sister or spouse but you?  

    The enemy will come and whisper in your ear and so many Christians struggle with guilt.  Revelation 12 tells us that Satan is the accuser of the brethren.       He will seek to get you to think about how you did something wrong.   He will tell you that you could be better and that you should do more and that whatever you do is not good enough.   He will tell you that you are not a good enough parent.   You are not a good enough spouse.   Your life is not altogether.   He will seek to bring guilt, despair and fear of God’s judgment.   He will seek to point out weaknesses in your life that are not even sins.   God can’t use you he will say look at that area of your life and instead of appreciating how God wired us we can be angry with God.   Temptations are real and we may put them off and dismiss them and then feel tremendous guilt over them.   We forget that Jesus was tempted in all points like we are.   He suffered temptation but He was sinless.   There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.   That is good news.  

     We do not see many perfect people in the bible actually only Jesus.   God speaks the truth of their life.   Paul in the previous chapter writes we know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.    I do not understand what I do.    For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.  And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.    As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.    I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.   For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.    For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.  (We know that Paul did not lead a life of sin and he is not promoting a life of sin.)    Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.    So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  For in my inner being I delight in God's law;  but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.   What a wretched man I am!   Who will rescue me from this body of death?   Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!

     It seems that Paul experienced something of a struggle in his life.   Perhaps this is his testimony before Jesus.   I suspect that Paul felt the battle that we all feel.   As you look at Paul’s life it was pretty good and Paul said follow me and as I follow Jesus.  Some would argue that this passage does not really pertain to him.    I think at times all of us can identify with Paul.  I wish I was better.   Certainly as Paul starts chapter 8 he raises the tone of what he is saying.   Therefore there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  Do churches feel condemnation?     Romans 8 just bursts forth with light and joy.  It bursts forth with power.  Shout it from the roof tops.    By the power of the Holy Spirit we are lifted into Jesus.   The Holy Spirit tells us immediately that there is no condemnation.   That is blessed good news for weary troubled sinners.   It is good news for the guilty.  There is forgiveness and there is peace with God.   God’s wrath has been removed from the Christian who walks in the spirit.   We have been raised to a new level.   We have something to shout about and be thankful for.  God has done something great for us.  We are no longer under the law of sin and death.  We have a new law working within us and a new power in us.    We have a new righteousness not form or by the law.   We have blessing.  We can come before God because there is no condemnation.  

    The Holy Spirit is telling us something about God.   We see the character of God in this verse.   We can see that God is not the big bad policeman in the sky waiting to pounce on you as soon as you make a mistake.   Do not liken him to some spouses that cannot be pleased.   Some of those spouses are men and some of them are women.   God is not the impossible parent to please.   We all could grow in our understanding of God’s love.     We cannot grasp the depth of his mercy.   Many Christians are afraid of God.   Many Christians do not want to hear his voice – why because they are afraid of him.   One pastor I know said his church went through a split and in that split he understood and realized God’s love for him.   If you are trying and striving to walk with God he is pleased with you.   He is pleased with your efforts.   The other day I was doing dishes and I asked God to forgive me for doing dishes.   Lord I could be doing other things.   Well God could have made our lives so that we did not need to do dishes.  I am reminded that Jesus washed the disciple’s feet.    Now if the only thing you are doing are dishes or the work of life and you have no time for Jesus reading the bible and prayer then yes confession is probably in order.   Jesus left the crowds to spend time with the Father. 

    There is no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus.   I look at my life and say gee I could read the bible more.   I could pray more.   I could be a better pastor.  I could visit more.   I can share the gospel more.   That is all true.   I could sacrifice more and I could give more money.   I am learning that no matter how good or perfect I am God is not indebted to me nor can I ever deserve for God to grow the church because of me.   I am learning to trust more in Him and what he can do and not so much of what I do.   It is about Him not me.  Keep your eyes on Him.   I can spend lots of time thinking about what I could do more and never spend any time trusting God and resting in God.   I can be so self evaluating that I never rest and never trust God to work and to move and do what I can’t do.   It is his church and He is the builder of it.   The builder of all things is God Hebrews tells us.   Psalm 127 unless the Lord builds the house its builders build in vain.   Unless the Lord watches over the city the watchmen stand guard in vain.      I believe that I could never be holy enough to deserve a church of even 50 people and that is not an excuse to be slothful or sinful.   Maybe some would not agree with me about that.  Jesus died on the cross and that should be the basis of our prayers.   Father you are worthy to be glorified by answering my prayers and not pray well so and so is so deserving.   That does not mean that we do not strive to be holy.   As Paul said in Romans shall we sin that grace may abound – God forbid.    The closer to God we are the more God can use us.  

   Steve Furtick wrote I have one piece of advice for you as we start out this New Year:  Don’t put Jesus first this year.

Yes, you read that correctly.   Before you label me a heretic, let me explain.   I imagine many of you are going through a similar process as me right now of setting and resetting your priorities.   Personally, he writes I love this time of year. I’m a very goal-oriented individual, and I’ve found reprioritizing and recalibrating your life is an indispensable activity if you really want to actualize your potential.  And here’s what it usually looks like: We start by putting Jesus at the top. Then family. Then maybe career. And so on. So our priorities look something like this:  1. Jesus/God  2. Family  3. Career  Looks good. However, I’ve found this isn’t very effective when you get down to the grind of everyday life.    For example, what does it even mean to put Jesus before my family?    Do I ignore my family to spend more time with Jesus?   Or with your career, do you stop working to put Jesus first? 

    He says the essential problem with this approach is it segregates the different priorities of life.  You end up removing Jesus from where you spend the majority of your time and putting Him on an island by Himself.   The biggest island maybe, but an island nonetheless.  I don’t think this is the way it was ever supposed to work.  Colossians 1:15-20 repeatedly tells us Jesus is first before and over everything.    But it also says all things were created through and for Him.   That in Him all things hold together.   That the goal of the cross was to reconcile all things to Himself.   Can we reconcile all the things in our life to him?   Can we truly relax and trust Him to be God and trust him to work, trust him to move and trust him with all our concerns?    His argument is to keep Jesus in the center of your life.   It is not Jesus and then family but Jesus in my family.   It is not just church and Jesus but Jesus in church.   It is not ministry and Jesus but Jesus in ministry.   It is not just work but Jesus in work.  The goal is to keep Jesus in the center of our life.   If Jesus is in the center then everything else flows.  We will not feel guilty doing dishes or spending time with our children or going to work.   We need to let Jesus into all the areas of our lives.   Jesus wants us to walk in liberty.   Sometimes it feels like bondage and sometimes the enemy would make it confusing.      

      There is condemnation for those who are not in Christ Jesus.  Those who have not received Jesus will be lost and they will be condemned and they will be cast into the lake of fire.   They will be punished and tormented.   We need to pray for them and love them and share Jesus with them.   But the Christian will not be condemned.  Our works will be judged.  The fire will try it and those works that remain will be rewarded I Corinthians 3.   Verse 2 says the law of the spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.   All people live under one law or the other we are either in the Spirit of God or under the law of sin and death.   Galatians 5:1 tells us to stand firm then and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.   If we do not stand firm the danger is that we will come into bondage.   Christ has set us free.   That is good news.   We do not need to live in Egypt but in Canaan.   We need to live in the spirit.  We need to live in His presence.   We need to walk in His love.  We need to remember that we are forgiven and enjoy the blessing of that.  

     Harry Houdini, the famed escape artist from a few years back, issued a challenge wherever he went. He could be locked in any jail cell in the country, he claimed, and set himself free in short order. Always he kept his promise, but one time something went wrong. Houdini entered the jail in his street clothes; the heavy, metal doors clanged shut behind him. He took from his belt a concealed piece of metal, strong and flexible. He set to work immediately, but something seemed to be unusual about this lock. For thirty minutes he worked and got nowhere. An hour passed, and still he had not opened the door. By now he was bathed in sweat and panting in exasperation, but he still could not pick the lock. Finally, after laboring for two hours, Harry Houdini collapsed in frustration and failure against the door he could not unlock. But when he fell against the door, it swung open! It had never been locked at all!   But in his mind it was locked, and that was all it took to keep him from opening the door and walking out of the jail cell. 

    Brothers and sisters you have been set free.   Satan would tell you that you are locked in but Jesus has set you free.  We have been given a new life.   The law is slavery but in the spirit is life and peace.   We can walk in quiet confidence and joy.   Jesus said my yoke is easy and my burden is light.   I am reminded of the prodigal son.   He wrecked lives and wasted money on wild living and shamed his family but he came to his senses and came back to his father.   His father did not condemn him but welcomed him with open arms.   If you are coming to God his arms are open.   Maybe part of the answer for this church is to realize that we have taken some hits over the years and we could have done things differently at times over the years but God is sovereign and there is no condemnation and with God’s blessing we will do and accomplish His will for His glory.  Souls will be saved the captives will be set free and the saints will be discipled and our God will perform powerful things in our midst.  Amen.