Where’s the Balance: Condemnation or Conviction?

Peninsula Community Church

Where’s the Balance: Condemnation or Conviction?

August 2, 2015

Romans 8:1-4 – There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Before I begin this message, I must confess that my name is Bob Odom and I am addicted to condemnation. Now, before you judge me or add to my condemnation you need to know that I am recovering from this addiction but none the less it raises it head every so often. I, for one, can relate to what Charles Spurgeon, the great pastor of the late 1800’s said. He made the following statement. “I have struggled against inward sin and rejoiced in full justification at the same time.” Spurgeon was one of the greatest pastors of all times. His writings and books are just as popular today as they have ever been. Many are not aware of this but this great preacher struggled with depression all of his life. He faced intense bouts with depression and possible bi-polar anxiety. He would often go several weeks at a time where he would be confined to his home because of the depth of the depression which came from his sense of inadequacy, the criticisms that were leveled at him, and the fact that he was sick so often. In spite of this, he is credited with winning hundreds to Christ through his ministry and outreach.

Personally, I can feel his pain as I have often struggled with not feeling good enough and being unacceptable to God and to people. But, if the truth be known, we all deal with this addiction from time to time. We all fight the battle of acceptance. We all fight the battle of being good enough. We all fight the battle of feeling we have failed and feeling that we could have done more in certain situations. The pain of this is enhanced by the words spoken by others and by the accusations leveled at us from others as well as the enemy of our souls, the accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10). Now, while I admit this addiction to you, I am here to bring you hope and a promise just as I have received this hope and promise for my life.

Paul begins this passage with the statement. “There is therefore now no condemnation.” To understand why he makes this statement, we have to understand that in terms of Paul’s writings he did not pause here as suggested by the break between the two chapters. In fact, he continues his discussion from chapter 7. In chapter 7, we find Paul dealing with the struggle so many of us have. We want to live holy and we want to do the right thing, but if seems the things we should do, we do not do. The things we should not do, we do. It is an endless cycle of failure. The result is a struggle that results in judgment and condemnation. We see this in Paul’s words in Romans 7:24. “Oh what a wretched man I am. Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Paul then continues in Romans 8 to answer his own question.

So with that in mind let us look at the subject of condemnation. First of all, we must understand there is a difference between conviction and condemnation. One comes as a result of the accuser of the brethren while the other is motivated by the power of the Holy Spirit. Both conviction and condemnation have similarities and both start at the same point. They begin with truth but they quickly differ from there.

We need to understand that condemnation is often based in a truth but the accuser of the brethren comes to us to say that while we have a truth before us, there is no hope for change or hope for a better day. The reason the accuser is so intent on this is seen in a comment made by Bill Hybels. Hybels who stated that the accuser knows very well that a thoroughly discouraged Christian is an utterly useless Christian. We begin to feel there is no use in sharing the gospel or living righteously. For that reason our power to live free is neutralized by the enemy’s attacks. For this reason, the accuser of the brethren will do everything in his power to cause us to believe that we are condemned beyond hope. He gets us to believe that there is no hope for change and that this is the way things will always be. When this happens, he has achieved his goal of neutralizing the believers testimony and their sense of hope.

Conviction on the other hand begins with truth but leads to confession, repentance, a changed heart, and growth in Christ. We must recognize that this does not mean that we will never deal with guilt. In fact, guilt can be a good thing when it leads to repentance and change. In fact, the Bible says that Godly sorrow leads to repentance. I would venture to say that our current society could use a bit more godly sorrow over the things that break the heart of God (abortion, gay marriage, infidelity, immorality running amok, and so on). But the undeniable fact is that it is sorrow over sin that leads us to repent and subsequently change our ways and our habits. Paul was aware of this when he penned the following words.

For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter (2 Corinthian 7:8-11). The problem is that too often when there is no motivation toward repentance we will never change or make difference. 

Thirdly, to refuse to live in condemnation means that I allow grace to awaken me to my need to surrender my life to Christ. You see there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. When we lean hard on him we can receive His love, His grace, and His forgiveness. It is hard to walk in freedom when we are detached from God. The accuser of the brethren will make sure that we don’t lean on him. He will make sure that we walk in fear and trepidation so that we cower from reality and live in fear. Notice that Paul says that there is therefore no condemnation in Christ (verse 1) and later he notes it is for those who walk not after the flesh but after the spirit (verse 4).

Fourth, we must recognize that rather than condemnation, real conviction is from the Lord picks us up out of the dirt, looks into our eyes, and says, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” The words of John 3:17 echo this message. “For he (Christ) came not into the world to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved.” He continues by saying that “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” Do you see what it says? Those that believe in Christ, or those that walk in the Spirit, have no reason to walk in condemnation.

In John 8:3-10 we have the classic example of Christ offering forgiveness when the world and those in the world were trying to condemn and judge him. This is the same story I related to you last week. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.

Notice a couple of things in this story. One, Jesus recognized that she was indeed a sinner. He did not deny she had sinned. He did not minimize her sin. She was caught in the act of adultery. This an undeniable fact. She sinned, she broke the law, but rather than condemn her, he offered her forgiveness. Second, the leaders who condemned the woman were also guilty of sin themselves. Jesus recognized that the religious leaders who brought her to him were not exempt from sin but in fact were just as guilty of sin. Third, the religious leaders deflected their sin and self-righteousness on her rather than accept responsibility for what they had done. This is a phenomenon that occurs so often. Those living in sin are good at pointing out sin in others rather than dealing with their own sin.

Fourth, Jesus commanded her to go and sin no more. He did not condemn her, he offered her forgiveness. But there were strings attached, so to speak. She was to go her way but she was to go without sinning again. Yes, she was receiving forgiveness rather than condemnation but she was to live as one free and not condemned. In other words, she was forgiven but that did not give her the right to continue to live in sin. It was quite the contrary. We need to take Jesus’ advice. Receive His forgiveness and then not sin again.

Let us bring this home today. Jesus also commands us to go and sin no more by giving us a second chance. When we walk in forgiveness and not condemnation we are making a statement to ourselves, to the world, and to the enemy of our souls. What are the statements made. Let me mention a few. Your future is not determined by your past. Your future is not determined by what you used to be. Your future is not determined by what you used to do, but your future and my future is determined by who Jesus Christ is and what he can and will do. In the story of the woman caught in adultery, we find the crowd pronounced judgement and condemned this woman to death. In the natural, her situation was hopeless. But with God, this woman got a second chance. Did Jesus give this woman another chance so she could go out and repeat her mistakes and fall into sin again? No, he told her “Go and sin no more.” So, today, we must understand that Jesus is giving us a second and third chance. Rather than condemnation, he is giving us hope and an opportunity to reengage in life, in ministry, and in the hope that comes through Christ. Will you accept His gift?

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2015 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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