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Living In The Victory of Christ: Over Condemnation

Over the next six weeks we are going to hear about living in the victory of Christ. I am preaching these sermons because it is so easy to feel defeated. It is easy to feel we aren’t doing enough or that we aren’t performing as we should.

We feel defeated by sin and our failings. We feel defeated that we don’t measure up with God. We feel defeated in our ability to grow as Christians. We feel defeated by the suffering in our lives and in this world. We feel defeated by our inability to pray. We feel defeated by hard things that come our way.

These sermons will come from Romans chapter 8. And towards the end of Romans 8 Paul writes that “we are more than conquerors through him who loves us.” More than conquerors! Victors. Winners.

Romans is one of the richest books in the Bible. Chapter 8 is a favorite of many Christians. The legendary classical composer Johann Sebastian Bach wrote a cantata around the words in Romans 8. Some of the best promises of God are found here. I am going to preach from this one chapter over the next six Sundays because it gives so much hope and confidence to us. True, in ourselves we can easily be defeated. But with Christ we have victory.

Romans 8 begins with this promise: Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

It is really easy it is to condemn ourselves. We know we shouldn’t have done that or said that, or we should have done that and we didn’t, and we put ourselves in God’s dog house. How easy it is to feel God condemns us. We know what we are really like and we know God sees it all and knows it all. He must absolutely be disgusted. We imagine God glaring at us. Maybe he has turned his back. Maybe he doesn’t want to hear from us. But that is not what the gospel says.

The good news is that there is now no condemnation.

The first word is “therefore” which means Paul is making a statement based on what he has said previously. Because of that, therefore this. In chapters 1-7 of Romans Paul states that everyone is wrong before God. Every person whether Gentile or Jew, non-religious or religious, has fallen short of his standards. But then he writes that though all are guilty before God, all have been made right with God as a free gift that comes in Christ Jesus

He writes in chapter 3 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.[1]

Paul says, “Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.”[2]

And because of this there is no condemnation for those who are in a trusting, believing relationship with Christ Jesus.

One of the reasons Romans is such a powerful book is that it speaks of all Christ has done for us and its effects in our lives.

There is reference to two laws in Romans 8. There is the law of the Spirit and the law of sin and death.

God gave people the law to show his standards. But we could not keep the law. No one could. The thing about the law is that it could not make us good. It’s one thing to have the rules. It is another thing to keep them. The law diagnosed the problem of human hearts, you might say.

But God came in the person of Jesus Christ and perfectly kept the law. That’s what is meant when it says “what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh…” By flesh, Paul means our weak, mortal human bodies, including our minds, wills, and souls. Christ came as one of us to do what we could not do, and we reaped the benefits.

He was made a sin offering. Because people could not keep the law people were required to bring a sin offering to the priest periodically to be restored to the community and be reconciled with God. This was the offering when someone did wrong not knowing that it was wrong, or they knew it was wrong but did not intend to do it. A lamb was often the sin offering.

A day came when God made his Son the sin-offering, the sacrifice for our sins. His Son, who knew no sin, was crucified for the wrong of all people. And that’s a lot of wrong.

But therein lies our victory. It says, “the righteous requirement of the law has been met in us.” In other words we look like we have done everything right before God. Now, we have a standing with God as if we had kept all of the law. It’s like an Olympic skier who trained, worked, competed and won the gold medal, giving us her gold as if we had done all the work and won it and us being treated like Olympic champions for the rest of our lives.

It’s like someone taking the SAT for us, getting a perfect score, and it is attributed to us, all on the up and up.

We couldn’t so Christ came and did it for us. He fulfilled the law. The guilty cloud that hung over us has been blown away. The finger that the law pointed at us is gone. And now we are no longer condemned.

Condemnation is a harsh word. Condemnation is a scolding. It is being declared reprehensible. It is a severe punishment. There is kind of a finality about condemnation.

Many of us know the story of a woman caught in adultery being brought to Jesus. Jesus is in the temple courts teaching the people when the teachers of the law and the Pharisees bring this woman. It says “they made her stand before the group” and you get the sense that they do this to shame and humiliate her.

The teachers of the law know what Moses said should be done to a woman caught in adultery. She is to be put to death by stoning. And they ask Jesus what he thinks should be done.

Here’s the thing: the law of Moses also says a man caught in adultery is to be put to death in the same way. But where is the man? The religious poohbahs only brought her.

It is before this crowd of people, religious leaders and an adulterous woman that Jesus speaks this line that even nonbelievers know and quote, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Jesus throws the door wide open to condemn her, even kill her.

But no one does it. It says each one began to go away one at a time. Was it because they knew they were also guilty in some way? Maybe not of adultery but of something, because we all have something. Oh, we all have something. In fact, you can’t receive the good news until you know the bad news about your failings.

One by one people leave “until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.” Jesus asks, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.

Jesus says, “Then neither do I condemn you.” He doesn’t say what she did was right. He doesn’t excuse her actions. In fact, he recognizes she has sinned. He says, “Go and sin no more.” But he does not condemn her.

And that is how he speaks to all of us. “Neither do I condemn you.” “Go and sin no more. But you are not condemned.” We are not to take advantage of the fact that we are not condemned. But God is not holding anything against us.

No condemnation means that God never sends bad things into our lives to punish us. God isn’t punishing anyone. Our minds often go there, don’t they? “God is doing this because I have been such a failure before him.” When we think like that we condemn ourselves. But that is not how God works.

That there is no condemnation does not mean what we have done is OK. Again, the promise is that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. What he does is charge it to Jesus. It is our relationship to Christ Jesus that gives us such a blessing.

No condemnation does not mean we are perfect or don’t struggle with sin. Paul does not say that those in Christ Jesus no longer sin. Hopefully, I am going to grow in goodness. Hopefully, I am going to bear more fruit for the Lord and be more loving and faithful as the years go on. But I am always going to struggle with certain things.

In fact, the recognition of wrong and the desire to not go there is an unmistakable sign of the Spirit. If you find yourself doing things, thinking things, desiring things that you know aren’t of God that is a sign of the Spirit working in you. So don’t despair when you are tempted or feel the weight of something you have done. You obviously are sensitive to God’s Spirit pricking your conscience. It is to have no sense of doing wrong that is a scary place to be.

In Romans 7, right before Romans 8:1 and Paul’s words about no condemnation, Paul openly admits his own struggle with sin. He says, For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.”[3] [Oh yes, Romans 7 is revealing.]

To say we are no longer condemned does not mean we are perfect. It says, “no condemnation.” It does not say, “you really aren’t that bad.” We still struggle. We slip up. But “our skirmishes with sin do not defeat the believer.” Colossians 2:14 says that God “having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.”[4]

Christians still live with effects of sin, but we do not live under its authority.

Maybe it’s like this: When the city of Paris was liberated in 1944 the Allies declared France free even though a large portion of the country was still under Nazi control. With loss of the capital the Nazi power base was broken, and it was only a matter of time until the remaining forces were driven from the land. The cross of Christ has once and for all broken the claim and power of evil over the lives of believers. The capital city belongs to Christ, so to speak, even if certain things still need to be mopped up and dealt with. The future is assured though we can’t see it yet.[5]

No condemnation means our hatreds, our lusts, our lies – the big ones and the little ones, our prejudices, our moral failures, our betrayals, our angry rages, the things we should have done that we did not do, the stupid things we have done in weak moments, our coldness, these are not held over our head.

Thus, there is a certain freedom in the Christian life. Yes, I will still stumble but God does not give up on me. As he said to that woman, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” And I have the opportunity to go and be different.

The Prayer of Confession that we join in each Sunday is a way of reminding ourselves that there is now no condemnation in Christ Jesus. It is a way of acknowledging that we aren’t perfect, but we are forgiven.

Say this after me:

I am not condemned.

I have failed God.

But I am not condemned.

I still struggle with sin.

But I am not condemned.

God has taken away my debt to him.

And I am not condemned.

And so I am free.

I will not live with guilt.

I will live by God’s forgiveness.

Here’s how we might live: Don’t worry about every little mistake. God is not watching us like a hawk. We don’t have to make up for what we have done. Admit and confess the wrong and leave it with God. Admittedly, this is a hard thing to keep in mind, but it is something we have to keep in mind if we are going to live by this promise of no condemnation.

Jesus Christ is on our side. A few verses later in Romans 8 Paul asks rhetorically,

Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? [that’s us] It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.[6]

Think of that. The Lord Jesus Christ died and rose again and is within earshot of the Father and prays for us. If anyone has the right and could and would condemn us it is him. But he doesn’t. He is for us. “We are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

Now, I tell you, if I know I am guilty and someone says you aren’t condemned, I am going to be different. I am not going to abuse or waste my freedom. Living in that freedom is that second law Paul speaks of: the law of the Spirit. It is the Spirit he will now talk about.

And that is who we will hear about next week.

Prayer: Gracious God we thank you for the forgiveness you give to us that leaves us under no condemnation. Thank you for Jesus coming to live fully alive and obedient to you, dying for our sin, and us getting the credit. It is an astounding exchange.

[1] 3:23-24 [2] The Message [3] 7:18-19 [4] James Edwards, Commentary on Romans, pp.198-99 [5] Edwards, 200 [6] Vv.33-34

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