- The No Condemnation Concept
- Romans 8:1-11
- Lyndol Loyd October 6, 2019
There are moments when it can feel like the world is starting to come unraveled in front of our very eyes. Everywhere we look, brokenness seems to be growing. Into a world where separation, betrayal and brokenness are the norm, God speaks.
The good news for us is that, in Christ, we can be connected to the heart of the Father with inseparable love. Nothing can make God stop loving us. No one can snatch us from the Father’s hand. In Christ we are loved, secure and safe.
This morning we are turning our attention to a single chapter of scripture – Romans 8. Our plan is to camp out here for the next several weeks, and as we do so, I think you’ll find that, as Christians, life starts to make sense again when we view life through the lens of this passage. Hope rises like the sun after a dark cold night, and we can almost feel the strong arms of God the Father wrapping around us. For Romans 8 helps us remember that we are loved children and our Father will never let go of us.
If you don’t know the sport of hockey, or if you are a casual viewer, you might get the impression that there aren’t many rules, and that players indiscriminately hit each other with their sticks and fists. This simply isn’t the case.
Hockey does allow a fair amount of physical contact – it’s part of the game. But there are many rules that are quite specific, and if a player breaks one, he is sent to what’s called the penalty box.
Depending on the infraction, a player is banned from the ice for a certain amount of time and forced to sit in the penalty box. Once he has “served his time,” he may return to the ice and get back into the game.
Take for example this television advertisement for the Florida Panther hockey team… (Video Clip)
Even if you have never played hockey, there is a chance you have spent time in a spiritual penalty box. You have broken one of God’s rules (sinned in some way) and decided that you needed to spend some time off the ice, out of the game.
You figure you’re disqualified from walking with Jesus, serving him, experiencing joy, having peace, or living in his power – at least until you’ve done “penance” and deserve to be back in God’s good graces.
During these precious hours, days, months, and even years, Christians can squander their lives sitting on the spiritual sidelines of life.
For many followers of Jesus, the process of calling a foul on themselves and spending time in the penalty box can actually feel spiritual.
- But how can we know the right amount of time to mope around, feel bad, beat ourselves up, and stay in the penalty box?
- What is the appropriate time-out penalty for each infraction against God’s holiness?
- When are we allowed back in the game?
If we are going to play the penalty box game, it might be helpful to have some guidelines. First, we need to identify how to feel and act during our time in the penalty box.
- Feel guilty and condemned.
- Lose our joy.
- Feel far from God.
- Distance ourselves physically and emotionally from other believers and don’t spend time with them.
- Disqualify ourselves from service and ministry.
- Do things to prove to God that we deserve his grace.
Second, we need to clarify how long we should consign ourselves to the penalty box for specific infractions. Consider these possibilities:
- Mad at a friend or family member – 45 minutes
- Tell a white lie – 30 minutes
- Tell a big lie – 5 days
- Lust in your heart – 4 hours
- Act on your lust – 4 months
Is all of this starting to sound a little silly? I sure hope so!
Because of the grace of Jesus, we don’t have to walk around feeling condemned, discouraged or guilty. We no longer need to waste hours, days, and weeks disqualifying ourselves from service, fellowship and joy of God.
Jesus came to set us free from these kinds of spiritual games. In Christ’s grace, we don’t have to spend one more second in the penalty box.
Here is what the Bible has to say to those who are prone to put themselves in the spiritual penalty box every time they commit a sin. We find it in Romans 8:1-11.
1 So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 2 And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. 3 The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. 4 He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.
5 Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. 6 So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. 7 For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. 8 That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.
9 But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) 10 And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. 11 The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.
This passage of scripture from Romans 8 makes it crystal clear that God does not condemn those who are in Christ Jesus. And if God does not condemn us, who are we to condemn ourselves? Christ has dealt with our sin on the cross. It is gone.
One of the things that the Apostle Paul does as we look at this passage and elsewhere in the New Testament is to draw a vivid contrast for us of what life lived according to our sinful nature looks like, and what a life guided by the Holy Spirit looks like.
GETTING OUT OF THE PENALTY BOX
Whenever we sin, most of us say in our heart of hearts, “Oh, no! I’m sure God is really ticked off at me now. I am so going to be in trouble for this.” What happens is that we recognize our disobedience and sense that, in all honesty, we deserve some sort of punishment. This is a very common response.
Jesus sadly shakes his head when he observes such self-condemnation. The Word of God says it so clearly, “There is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” God is saying, “I don’t condemn you.”
So here is a great question: “Who are we to condemn ourselves?” Are you trying to tell me that you have higher standards than God? I don’t think so.
In these moments we must listen to the rock-solid teaching of scripture and the voice of Jesus. Each time we are about to head to the spiritual penalty box, Jesus wants to remind us of what he did so we could live without condemnation: He died on the cross… He rose again… He paid the price… and he said, “It is finished!”
He does not desire our passive inaction of sitting on the sidelines for days or weeks. Instead, he calls us to Spirit-led action. Confess your sin. Repent and turn away from it. Make things right with those you have hurt. Stay connected with God, remain in connection with other believers, and keep pressing forward. Don’t spend unnecessary moments in the penalty box.
I know that I certainly believe in the devil. I hope that you do as well. I’m not talking about some little red guy with horns, a cape and pitchfork. I’m talking about a true spiritual adversary who loves to make a bad situation worse.
Guilt, remorse and shame are the normal results of wrongdoing, but according to scripture we know that the devil continues to accuse us. This means that one of his strategies is to take the normal guilt that comes from wrongdoing and intensify it, exaggerate it, and push it to its limits.
The devil knows full well that a thoroughly discouraged Christian is an utterly useless Christian. So whenever a believer does something he or she regrets, the devil swings into action immediately and starts intensifying the shame.
God says, “No Condemnation,” but the devil has other ideas. The devil lies to you and says, “Now you’ve done it. That was the last straw. God is fed up with you. His patience has ended. His grace is used up. He is sick and tired of your stupid mistakes, weary of your premeditated foul-ups and sins. No amount of pleading or penance will ever be enough to make God change his mind about you. You are history, out of the family. Give it up. You are condemned. See you in hell.”
I know that from time to time I have bought into those lies. Something tells me that you have as well. Ask any counselor or therapists and they will tell you that there are all kinds of folks out there who struggle so much with this that they wake up in the morning felling condemned and go to bed at night feeling even worse. They are defeated, demoralized and sure that God has no further use for them.
THE HEART OF THE FATHER – RESTORED RELATIONSHIP
Jesus said, 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:17)
If God the Father wanted to simply bring condemnation on the earth, he could have done it long-distance without the involvement of Jesus. Instead, our loving, heavenly Father sent Jesus to love and save, redeem and restore.
God does not operate from a spirit of condemnation. God has an enormous capacity to forgive his wayward children and receive them back.
This is not to say that God never judges. When people suppress the truth about God, exchange it for a lie, and bring condemnation on themselves by refusing to be adopted into his family through Jesus, they will face condemnation.
But that isn’t Paul’s audience here in Romans 8. He is talking to believers who have stumbled, who have fallen into discouragement; he’s speaking to believers who have been victimized by the devil, who are busy intensifying their shame, guilt and remorse so that they become incapacitated, useless and stuck perpetually in the penalty box.
To those people, Paul is speaking the truth that they are not to live under condemnation.
We need to understand that our failures, shortcomings and sinful thoughts and deeds don’t have the power to separate us from God’s love. We are inseparable, and the Father who sent Jesus has open arms and is always ready to welcome us home.
It doesn’t matter how far we have wandered or how much we have sinned. The Father is ready to forgive, restore, and celebrate our homecoming. We must never underestimate the depth of the Father’s love for his children. Once a Father… always a Father. Once a child… always a child.
God’s love is bigger than we can imagine or dream. The Father is looking down the road, expectantly waiting for any prodigal child to come home. When we do, he runs – not walks – to us and embraces us with grace.
As we read Romans 8 and other biblical passages, we see a picture of a Father who sent his only son as the sacrifice to wash away our sins and restore our relationship to him.
When we understand this, we realize that he also loves those around us, which in turn ought to impact the way we treat and forgive them.
THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
At the moment in time we trust Christ as Savior and Forgiver, we become a child of God. In that very breath, the Holy Spirit – God’s internal presence – moves in to begin his work of transformation, and we never have to live with God’s condemnation again.
The same Spirit who brought Jesus back to life now gives us life, making us responsive to God, giving us power, giving us spiritual gifts, imparting love for people, granting peace which passes all understanding, and so much more.
As we recognize the presence and the power of the Spirit that dwells in us as God’s children, we won’t want to spend another second living in condemnation, sitting in the penalty box. There is too much to do, and wasting time sitting on the sidelines of life is simply no longer an option.
WE ARE FREE.