Sunday, November 27, 2011

No More Condemnation for those in Christ Jesus

TEXT :  Romans  8: 1-17

TITLE:  The Gospel  teaches us that there is no more condemnation for those in Christ Jesus 

Date :   27 /11 /2011                                                  

Today  we  will consider  yet  another phenomenon   that   would  attack and undermine   the  good seed , the gospel  and therefore  the centrality of the   person and the  work  of the Lord Jesus  Christ  in our  heart , mind , soul and passion:  False  guilt and shame! 
This problem   is  precipitated  by ‘non thinking’  or  ‘shallow thinking’  , or  perhaps by  busy , cluttered minds that do not  want  to  think  through the  teaching of Scripture  on the  achievement  of the cross  for the true believer :  “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Christians who let others  do the thinking for them  will  at some time  either  be  confused by  legalistic  “Galatian type  Christians”  , or  antinomian [1]  “ Corinthian type Christians “ .  Both letters of Paul to these respective  churches reflect  a very stern  rebuke .

Here is  a practical  outworking  of these two positions in terms  of  attending  public worship on  the 7th day  :
The legalist  says :  “ You have to go to  public worship on  the 7th day   if you are  you are a Christian “ .  By this statement  the legalist  indicates  that   one’s  works  prove  that you are a Christian . This was the error of the  Pharisees. They  were   meticulously focused  on  law and works , but  this was not combined with  love  for  God  Himself   . Therefore they refused to embrace Christ - the gospel .
The antinomian says  : “ You must not  be legalistic  about public worship  on the 7th day  , because  you are not saved  by  law or works    , but by  grace alone “ . The antinomian  is right , of course . But  you can be right  in your  doctrine   and yet  not love   Christ  The antinomian needs to read the letter  of  James as a corrective . James teaches us that  works  must  surely follow your profession of faith .   
Conclusion  : If  public worship  is seen as a duty and not as a delight  ,  there is a problem  , whether you are  a legalist or an antinomian . In  both cases the  center of your delight in  worship is not Christ  , but   ‘duty’   or  ‘anti-duty’     . Public worship is a good , sound habit   which   God has  designed  as a  means of grace , and those who do not use  this  means of grace   will eventually  suffer the consequences  .  

When you let others do the thinking for you , you may  become very easily enslaved by teachings that enslave you rather than free you .    I  remind you  that  God has given you  a   mind . It  must be  used  prayerfully  and  in dependence upon  the gracious aid   of the Holy Spirit who  helps us to think. The Bereans of Acts 17:11  were  a good  example  of  such a  people  .

So with respect to false guilt  and shame  that is imposed upon us  so very often by others or by our cultural actions or reactions  , what can we learn from  our passage in Romans 8: 1 -11  ?

1. We consider firstly  the plain teaching of Scripture  :

Verse 1  sums up   the theme of the entire chapter  : “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  This is a  general statement of what is true of the Christian. It is a fundamental  truth ! The  remaining 38 verses are a 'working - out' of the theme...

Verses 2  - 4   teach   us  that  Christians  have been freed from the law of sin and death ( not meaning that the law is evil , but that the law is  unable  to save us ; it  can only condemn us) . Christ Jesus  has  done it !   Christ’s  death  frees the true  believer  from all the accusations , all guilt  all condemnation  that might be  brought against him/her  .

Verses  5 -  17   teach us  that there are  two kinds of people in the world , who  have  two different kinds of desires , and who  have two different  reactions to God and therefore they have two different  future  destinations  and  therefore two  present responses :
(i)            Two different kind of people : those who live according to the flesh  versus those who live according to the Spirit
(ii)          Two kinds of  desires  :  those who set their  minds on the things of the flesh (8:5,6,7)  versus those who have set their  minds on the things of the spirit  (8:4,5,6)  
(iii)         Two  kinds of reactions to God  :  the mind set on the flesh is hostile to God (8:7) and cannot please God (8:8)  , versus the spiritual mind that is at peace with God . The spiritual  mind  has the Spirit of God ( 8:8)… the Spirit of Christ(8:9)
(iv)         Two kinds of destinations  :    those led by the flesh   do not belong to  Christ (8:9) . Their destiny is eternal death  ( 8:6)  , whereas  those who are led by the spirit , have life and peace  ( 8:6) . This means  that even though their bodies must  die , they will be resurrected to eternal life  ( 8:11) . Our salvation is guaranteed, because of the work ( the deposit – Eph  1:14) of    the Holy Spirit within us. He  gives   us  true life (8:2); He enables  us to walk  according to His power  ( 8:4) ; He enables us to have our mind fixed on the things  of God ( 8:5)  ;  His presence in us produces life and peace( 8:6)  ; He dwells in us   and thereby mediates the  real and life giving  presence of Christ  (8:9  -11) .
(v)           Two kinds of  responses :  debtors  not to the flesh,  to live according to the flesh ( which leads to death – 8:12,13a)  BUT  debtors  to Christ, who gives us His Spirit  by whom we  are enabled to live  as sons of God – i.e. not  in slavery and fear (8:15)  BUT as adopted (8:15)  children of God  ( 8:16)

The big point about chapter  8 is that those who are truly Christians  ( as seen by those distinctives  that set them apart from non-believers)  are fully supplied  by God’s   grace .

2. Application  : How does this  knowledge  help us ?    

This passage  helps  the believer  in terms of his/her assurance . The conclusion  near the end of chapter 8  in the light of all this teaching is this : “ If  God is for us , who can be against us ? “ ( 8:31) . If you understand  the complete and powerful work  of  God in  you  in terms of dealing with your sin  and forgiving all your sin , then it   helps  you greatly .  You  are helped to see  that Christ  completely unloads   any  false guilt and condemnation  under which  you may  currently live.  Let us try to see this in real life  situations  in which  various Christians  may find themselves.
  •  a  Christian father  who  has to work away from home frequently  lives with constant guilt that he   is not there in the growing up phases of  his children . 
  •      a  Christian mother  lives under perpetual guilt and self condemnation because she thinks she does not do enough for her children, her husband , the finances…
  •   child   growing up in a Christian home   feels perpetual   guilt and shame  for not  living up to its parents expectations . 
  •   a   woman has had an abortion  a few years ago ; since then she has become a Christian ,    but she continues to labour under heavy guilt and shame.  
  •   You  may perhaps   experience a  continuous   sense of regret over your lack of prayer. 
  •    Pastors   often  feel guilty for not being able to meet everyone’s need in the congregation  etc .
 Some of these guilt issues  come such a long and far way , that  some   have begun to think  that it is normal to go through life  bearing such  burdens . Although  you are a  Christian   and  although  you are supposed to be  one of  God’s free people , you  rarely feel free . Many of us feel trapped  and enslaved  by someone or something , and  we  know nothing  of the joy  or the  victory that  is supposed to be   our portion.

The truth is  that apart from the cross , apart from the gospel , apart from Christ  condemnation  is normal !  That is why natural  people drink and do drugs , or engage in a number of distractions  to get rid of these ‘normal’   feelings of condemnation .  The truth is  that  without the gospel ,  apart from  the cleansing and  pardoning work of  our  Lord Jesus Christ we all deserve  to be  condemned.  No one is righteous , not even one …( Rom  3:10-18)

But  here the Bible tells us  : “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  Here you are,  Christian man and woman  , and you feel  perpetual guilt  and condemnation . What  is it that  you are  not understanding?
You  are not  yet understanding  that  the work of Christ in you  is greater than all your sin !
The Bible  constantly affirms  that  in  Christ  the believer’s  sins  ( past , present and future) have been  completely taken care of .  Consider also  what Colossians  2: 6- 14  teaches  us  in this regard . 
Your entire record of debt that stood against  you  with its legal demands , was nailed to the cross   (Col  2:14)  .

This is  precisely what  Horatio Spafford  had understood when  he composed the hymn: It is well with my soul  in 1873
My sin – oh the bliss of this glorious thought
My sin , not in part but the whole
Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more
Praise the Lord , Praise the Lord oh my soul.”

So now  I trust  that  you understand the  magnificent grace of God ; His total forgiveness  for all your sins . Consider then all the  guilt and condemnation that you as a Christian  might still experience  to be  nailed to the cross!
Jesus died for all your sin . You bear it no more.
Moreover , you are no longer a slave  ( see 8:15!)  “ For you did not receive  the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the  Spirit of adoption as sons by who we cry  Abba , Father!
You have received power to obey  , and  by this  grace you are able to turn  from old sinful  ways of living  and you are able to walk in grace motivated  obedience . The motive  for going to church on a Sunday  is  no longer duty driven . It is  a delight , because  Jesus is there  , and His Word is there , and His people are there ,  genuine love is there , and a whole lot of spiritual gifts that minister to  you are  there  …

All this does not mean that you will not  regularly  face your own depravity and sinfulness. It is a reality . But the difference is that  when you have taken this scripture into your heart  that  you  will know that the reality of Christ’s  death and forgiveness  of your sin  is a greater reality ! Paul  knew himself to be the  chief of sinners  ( 1 Tim 1:16)  , but note that he wasn’t paralyzed  by condemnation . On the contrary , he    now had  a better appreciation  of   God’s grace by  recognizing his own unworthiness  and sin as  he  marveled at the mercy of God .

It doesn’t  mean that  you will not occasionally struggle with condemnation and feelings of guilt, but you  will know what to do with  it .

And when you do sin  ( and there is no one who does not sin  – 1 Jn 1:8,9 ) , then you must confess your sin  to God . He  who is faithful  and just   has promised  to forgive us  our sins and to cleanse us from  all  remaining sin –  from all  unrighteousness!

By this knowledge may you learn to live the rest of your days  in  worshipful thankfulness  as you  are reminded with  Paul :  But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.  (1 Timothy 1:16 ESV)

[1] Antinomianism (a term coined by  Martin Luther , from the  Greek  ντί, "against" + νόμος, "law") is defined as holding that, under the gospel dispensation  of grace  , moral law  is of no use or obligation because faith alone is necessary to salvation . 

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