Tag Archives: new life

No Condemnation

Peninsula Community Church 

April 22, 2018

No Condemnation 

Romans 8:1-2 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.

If I polled this room I am sure that I would find that most of us have dealt with regret, failures from the past, and the condemnation resulting from sins committed and those already forgiven. If you are like me, when you look back over your life, you are keenly aware of things you wish you could have done differently. I often wish I could go back and raise my kids now with the wisdom I have obtained through the years. Unfortunately, it does not work that way. For some of us, there are jobs we wish we had taken. There are jobs we wish we had not taken. There are decisions we wish we had made and some we wish we had not made. There are words that have been spoken but there are also words which were never spoken that haunt us.

In Romans 7, Paul describes this battle by painting a picture of the struggle of human life. Paul masterfully describes a life in chaos. As you read Paul’s words in Roman 7:15-20, we are captured with the pressure he is experiencing. Listen to his own words. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. Through this turmoil he reached the conclusion that he was a wretched man as noted in Romans 7:24.

The term wretched is interesting in that it means “to bear a callus.” It can also mean “to be exhausted through intense labor.” The bottom line is this word represents an intense miserableness. It represents the condition of the heart and mind when the believer is weary of the fight to do what is right. It represents the struggle to fulfill the requirements of the law in an attempt to be pleasing to God. In fact, how intense and ineffective it is to try to live this way? How painful it is to fail to do or not do what we desire over and over again? It can be frustrating and debilitating. 

From here Paul makes a desperate plea. Who will deliver me from this body of death (Romans 7:24)? Paul reached the point that so many reach. He is saying I am tired and I am weary. There is an annoying reality that is hanging over me. No matter how hard I try, I fail at doing what is right and honorable before God. I keep blowing it. How am I going to get past this? How am I going to get to the place that who I spiritually and who I am in the flesh is in alignment with God’s will and purpose? How can I overcome the plight of my life? How will I ever be accepted by God? 

The disservice of our modern translations of the Bible is that we have chapter and verse designations, which at times can break up a discussion. You see, Romans 8 is a continuation of all of the previous chapters as well as the discussion in Romans 7. In Romans 8:1, Paul makes a powerful life changing statement. He proclaims There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. This is an interesting passage. To understand it, we must dig a bit deeper. 

The first thing to consider is that in the original Greek language it was common for writers to place the most important word at the beginning of the sentence. In our English language the first word is “therefore.” In the original Greek, however, the word “no” comes first. The word used here is not the normal word for no but is the strongest word in the Greek language for “no.” The statement then is an emphatic NO to condemnation. It is like saying, “There is no condemnation, none whatsoever, for the believer in Christ Jesus.”

Secondly, we must understand why the power of condemnation is so destructive. Condemnation has been defined as a statement or expression of very strong and definite criticism or disapproval. Condemnation negatively impacts the believer’s outlook on life in many ways. It reminds us of our past failures and indiscretions. Condemnation gives the false sense that there is no hope and that is just how things will be. There is no dispute on the truth of the accusation per se, but it is how the truth is used that makes the difference. One way brings hope, the other  brings despair. Condemnation also causes us to feel rejected by people and disenfranchised from God. The result is that we walk in guilt and fear and somehow we believe that we have failed ourselves and/or God. Condemnation can also force us into a lifestyle of works rather than living in grace. We are falsely drawn into the attitude that if we just strive harder, God will love us more. 

Thirdly, this passage reminds us of a powerful truth. The idea of no condemnation does not come as a result of our actions but rather our position in Christ. It is not how we act, but where we are positionally that counts most. We are in Christ. That is our position. That is how we need to live. We are in Christ and not under the bondage of past sin. Notice that Paul states the power of living without condemnation comes only to those who are in Christ Jesus.

This truth is critical to our success as the Spirit points us to a life in Christ, because He has delivered us from the power of sin. Paul asks who can deliver him from this body of sin (Romans 7:24)? Who can satisfy this longing to live holy and righteously? It is Christ! It is His death on the cross that paves the way. It is His resurrection that brings power to overcome the sin in us. 

I love what John Piper said in relationship to being in Christ. Being “in Christ Jesus” is a stupendous reality. This stupendous reality of in Christ Jesus brings many benefits. If you are “in Christ” listen to what it means for you. In Christ, you were given grace before the world was created (2 Timothy 1:9). In Christ, you were chosen by God before creation (Ephesians 1:4). In Christ, you are loved by God with an inseparable love (Romans 8:38-19). In Christ, you were redeemed and forgiven for all your sins (Ephesians 1:7). In Christ, you are justified before God and the righteousness of God is imputed to you (2 Corinthians 5:21) . In Christ, you have become a new creation and a son of God (2 Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 3:26). In Christ, you have been seated in the heavenly places, even while living on earth (Ephesians 2:6). In Christ, all the promises of God are Yes for you (2 Corinthians 1:20). In Christ, you are being sanctified and made holy (1 Corinthians 1:2). In Christ, everything you really need will be supplied (Philippians 4:19). In Christ, the peace of God will guard your heart and mind (Philippians 4:7). In Christ, you have eternal life (Romans 6:23). And in Christ, you will be raised from the dead at the coming of the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:22). All those united to Adam in the first humanity die. All those united to Christ in the new humanity rise to live again.

The question therefore is will you live a Romans 7 life or a Romans 8 life. Will you live with the torment of a condemned life or will you live a condemnation free life?  How does this work? It is by grace, but we must act by faith to secure our walk in Christ. By faith, we choose to live in Christ. We choose to walk in His ways. The decision for us is whether or not we will we walk according to the flesh or according to the Spirit. These expressions bring out a strikingly essential distinction between the law and the work of Christ. The former seeks to control and discipline conduct by requirements and threats which brings condemnation. The latter introduces into man’s inner being a new principle of life, where right conduct spontaneously flows from the Spirit. Coercion is the focus of the one and inspiration is the focus of the other.

As I was preparing for this study, something hit me that I had not seen before or at least I did not remember it. The chapter begins with “no condemnation” and ends with “no separation.” I love this thought. The chapter begins with the concept that there is no condemnation when we are in Christ. The chapter ends with the fact there is nothing that can separate us from the love of Christ. In between these two great truths we have the unfolding of truths that help us live as effective, passionate followers of Christ to maximize our purpose in the kingdom. 

In our discussion there is a secondary and equal point that needs to be made. When we speak of no condemnation and the principle that God’s love never ceases, we must also be aware that this does not mean that sin will not be dealt with or judged by God. Too often, we believe in the premise that since there is no condemnation we are allowed to do whatever we want without regard to the consequences. That is hyper grace and should not be given any room or merit in this discussion. Those who hold to hyper grace believe we can do whatever we want to because we are under grace. This is the exact issue that Paul dealt with when asked the question earlier in Romans. “Shall we continue to sin that grace may abound” (Romans 6:1)? His answer was an emphatic no. You see there are consequences to our sin and that must be considered before any decision is made or action taken. Yes we live by grace, but we must not cheapen the grace given to us by thinking we can sin and get away with it. Dietrich Bonhoeffer had this to say about cheap grace. Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession… Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus, living and incarnate. That is not what Paul is talking about here. He knows that God’s grace brings us to repentance and healing and does not free us to live in our sin.

We can live in freedom because there is no condemnation for past sin and failures. At the same time, if we blow it, there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God. Remember Paul’s words. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword (Romans 8:35)? We can be assured there is no outside influence that can keep us from God’s love. God’s love is not exhaustive and it never ends no matter what. The fact is there is nothing you can do to stop God from loving you. If He already loved us at our worse, why would He start now. He loved us while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8), why would He not love us when we do something as a believer. 

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

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Spiritual Transformation of the Heart

Peninsula Community Church 

Spiritual Transformation of the Heart 

February 18, 2018

Romans 7:15-21 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.  Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.

How many can relate to Paul here in this passage? How many struggle in the battle between wanting to do what is right but having the tendency to fail to do or to live up to what is right or good? The truth is for too many there is a real battle that rages within us. It might be the amount of food we eat, the amount of alcohol we drink, the way we treat others, or what we think or feel about  ourselves. No matter the issue, the battle rages, but there is a way of hope and it is called spiritual formation or transformation. That is what we will focus on today.

 

Since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, there has been a need to deal with the heart and man’s reactions to life itself. This has been the inescapable human problem since the fall. Unfortunately, this problem has no human solution although many have tried to do so by way of human means. Some have tried psychiatry, drugs, and many other things to bring change. I do not discredit these resources because there is a need in many cases to have such things available. Unfortunately, too often, these things become the only source investigated, but in the end they do not always bring permanent change or transformation. The fact is, we need a work of God in us to make this happen in a more permanent and effective way. For example, this week we have witnessed another mass killing. The immediate response by many has been to call for more gun control, but this is not a gun control issue. It is a heart issue. The shooter’s heart and mind had been formed by disappointment, rejection, and low self-worth, and he had come to a place where he would have used whatever means possible to create mayhem and murder.

While the need for transformation is an inescapable human problem, I am afraid that as a whole Christianity has been ineffective in imparting answers to the vital questions of human existence. Now before you misunderstand what I am saying, let me explain. Too often, the Gospel has been liberalized or the message of the Gospel has been softened to the point that it does not bring real change. While the Bible has been and continues to be the source of hope for change, too many do not effectively preach the whole counsel of God in a way that meets the need of man. As Christians, we do not hold the Word as being precious and relevant to our needs. Therefore, many Christians have rejected the Gospel as a source of help, hope, and change. The end result is that we present an ineffective and powerless Gospel by the way we live.

The answer to inner transformation must also be more than the church I attend or the denomination I serve. When we are asked about our relationship with Christ, too often our patented answer is to relate to the church we go to or what denomination we have joined. We often say we are Methodist or Presbyterian or I attend PCC. The answer to our spirituality and Christianity must go deeper than religious associations. We attend an awesome church, but this church in itself is not a solution to permanent change. The real answer must come from a heart aligned with God’s will and His purposes.

A second problem is that we can be so focused on the outward expression of change that we miss the deeper issues of the heart. Too many hold to an inaccurate view that by simply changing the outward man, the inward man will follow. While there is some validity to this, too often this kind of change falls short of its intended purpose. The problem is that while we might change the outward man, the inner man is not necessarily changed which leaves us without the proper motivation for additional change. That is why Paul’s spiritual honesty in Romans 7 is so important for us to consider. There is an ongoing battle in doing what is right, We do what we do not want to do and we do not do what we should be doing.

So what is spiritual formation? For the Christian, spiritual formation refers to the Spirit driven process of transforming our inner being in such a way that it becomes like the inner being of Christ Himself. The result is that what is within us is manifested outwardly. Remember that “out of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matthew 15:18-19, Mark 7:21, and Luke 6:45). We speak and act from what is contained and stored in the heart. While the fruit of a changed heart is an outward manifestation of inward change, we must not just focus on the outward manifestation of change. We must align our inward man and our outward expressions of faith to God’s word. With that said, the outward expression of change must never be accomplished at the expense of the spiritual renewal of the heart. When the external becomes the supreme measure of one’s success or spiritual growth we risk not having real or effective change inwardly.

In Mark 8:36 the Scripture tells us For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? In other words, what good is it to gain notoriety, riches, and outward perfection and lose our souls in the process. I also love 2 Corinthians 3:18 which says And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. In the Old Testament man could come into the presence of God without having their faces covered. In the New Testament that changed and now we are invited into His presence without a veil. In His presence change comes and it is from there that we reflect the glory of God in our life. Paul refers to this to as being changed into the image of Christ from one degree of glory to the next. This happens one step and one victory at a time.

A number of years ago in the Bronx, there was a problem with people vandalizing abandoned apartment complexes. The city, under Mayor Koch’s leadership, decided to handle this problem by applying decals to the windows which gave the appearance that the apartments were occupied. The goal was to deter vandalism and diminish the number of homeless living in the apartments. As you might guess, this action, a costly solution, did little to change the problem. While having the best of intentions, they were in essence trying to change the outward but the inner problem was not addressed or changed.

This is where we must emphasize that growing into Christlikeness is not based on human attainment. It has been and continues to be a gift of grace. The liberty that is ours in the Spirit motivates us and moves us toward acts of righteousness. Action alone is not enough without the Spirit at work in us. Let me explain this in this way. We can make a decision to be more loving and then try to act more patient and kind, but in the end we fail to be as loving as we desire which can be frustrating and painful. Merely trying to act more loving will lead to despair and defeat, if there is no corresponding transformation of the heart. The same is true of faith. We can try to live an outward faith, but we can fall short without an inward positioning of our heart toward God and His goodness, regardless of what is happening around us.

Since this is a work of grace, this transformation should not be a burden. Grace should be the answer to the weariness of trying to do better and live right. How many have been frustrated at trying to do good but fail over and over? That is Paul’s argument in Roman’s 7 and that is why Paul begins Romans 8 some much needed encouragement. 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 (Romans 8:1-4).

Notice the law was weakened by the flesh. The law was powerless to bring permanent change. The law can be correlated to the outward expression of action. For that reason outward action on its own is powerless but the Spirit of Life can and will set you free. Why is this? It is because the Savior, the Son of God, took on the flesh and sin and He fulfilled the righteous requirements of the law. He gave us the Spirit that can now leads us to transformation.

Here is the beauty of all of this, God the Father, gave us grace through the death of His Son, who abolished sin by the cross and the power of sin over our life in the resurrection. He also sent His Holy Spirit to reside in us so that we could be guided to truth and reality. He speaks into our heart and He brings change to the inward man so that we manifest that change on the outward.

So how are you doing this morning? How is your heart? Are you being changed inwardly or are you only working on the outward expression? Is God more important you than your church or your issue? Let us pray!

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

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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