It is only as we think about and reflect and meditate on the glorious fact that because of his death we will never, ever be condemned that we will find the power and incentive and desire to live as if we were dead to sin and temptation. Continue reading . . .
We read in 1 Peter 2:24-25 that Christ “himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2:24-25).
His point is that the work of Christ on the cross that delivers or cures us from divine wrath is the foundation for our experiencing freedom from the power of sin in our lives. It is only as we think about and reflect and meditate on the glorious fact that because of his death we will never, ever be condemned that we will find the power and incentive and desire to live as if I were dead to sin and temptation.
Let me drive this home by drawing your attention to how Paul put it in Romans 8:1. Hear me well: you will never “walk in the steps of Jesus” or “die to sin and live to righteousness” or return to the Shepherd and Overseer of your soul until you come to grips with the fact that because of what Jesus has done on the cross there is therefore now no condemnation for you!
What you read in Romans 8:1 ("There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus") is the result of one thing and one thing only. It is the result of Jesus bearing our sins in his body on the cross.
Paul emphasizes three things: (1) the nature of the gift; (2) who enjoys it; (3) when is it ours?
(1) The nature of the gift – “No condemnation!” None! Not any at all! Ever! The word “condemnation” has a dark and ominous sound to it. It’s hard to imagine a more sinister, depressing, hope-killing word than “condemnation.” We hear it used often.
We read of someone “under sentence of condemnation” for some heinous crime committed.
The President “condemns” the terrorist activity of 9/11.
A dilapidated building is “condemned” by the city and consigned to ultimate destruction.
No less foreboding is the use of the word in Scripture where it refers to the liability or exposure of sinners to the penal sanctions of divine law; vulnerability to divine wrath, etc. It is the opposite of justification. If to be justified is to stand boldly before God because righteous in his sight, to be condemned is to cower with fear because unrighteous and worthy of death.
When we think of that word and all it entails: the loss of hope, fear of the future, uncertainty of today, shattered dreams, painful separation, etc., Paul’s declaration suddenly begins to echo and reverberate in our hearts with a power and force that makes it feel as if we are going to explode with joy, exuberance, gratitude.
If you are in Christ Jesus, there is no valid reason why you should ever again experience fear or apprehension about your relationship with God or your eternal destiny. That doesn't mean you won't experience such fear. It just means there’s no condemnation if you do! It means there is no valid reason why you should experience fear
Do you use this truth as an excuse to defect to the other side? Do you use it to rationalize sin? Or does it create such joy and release in your soul that your only thoughts are of how you can enjoy this God who has made it possible, how you can honor him for what he has done, how you can tell others of so great a salvation?
Living under condemnation actually strengthens and solidifies sin in your life. How? The pressure of condemnation, the feeling of shame, the fear of judgment, eventually become unbearable. You need relief. You are driven to self-pity and eventually to self-indulgence. We despair of ever being free, of ever feeling good about ourselves. Sinning then becomes even more attractive: an outlet, an appealing escape, a way of easing the pressure of bringing some measure of feeling alive and valuable.
No condemnation, not even in the midst of those experiences and trials that tempt you to believe that God is far removed, unconcerned, or angry, experiences such as . . .
Physical pain, suffering
Rejection by peers
Also, note that Paul doesn’t say there is no conviction, no complaints by ourselves or others, no spiritual disciplines to pursue.
Why is this declaration by Paul so important? Three reasons: (1) Nothing paralyzes as powerfully as guilt/shame. Financial worries, family struggles, physical pain, etc. are hindrances and create pressure in life. But nothing makes life look like it’s not worth getting up for like guilt/shame/condemnation. (2) Because the only sin we can defeat is a sin that has been forgiven. There are natural ways of overcoming bad habits: therapy, formulas, will-power, etc. But they invariably produce self-righteousness, not God’s righteousness. (3) When you feel beautiful before God, you feel powerful before sin.
Forgiveness of sin, the removal of guilt, with the consequent declaration: no condemnation, must precede our battle against sin if it is to empower our battle against sin. God’s declaration of No Condemnation must precede and enable and energize our transformation into righteousness loving, Christ exalting people. The divine declaration must come before the human transformation. Being right with God must precede doing right for God.
(2) Who enjoys it - But note well: Paul does not say Christians are free from condemnation because they are sinless but because they are in Christ. No Condemnation is not a universal blessing. It is reserved for those who are in Christ through faith. We must be careful to resist the temptation of false sentimentality that beckons us to give false assurance to a non-Christian simply because they are “sincere,” “nice,” “religious,” “believe in God,” etc.
(3) When is it true? – Now! Not when we get older. Not when we get more mature. Not when we overcome all sinful habits. Not when we get past being hurt by others. Not when all our bills are paid. Not when we get a new job. Not when we learn more of the Bible. Not when people start treating us nicely and with respect. Not when we get the praise and public adulation we think we deserve. Not when our enemies stop persecuting us. Not when the wrongs against us have been put right. Not when we’ve been vindicated. Not when we stop making fools of ourselves in public. Now!
No condemnation! Praise God!