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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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Strongholds – The Baggage We Carry

Peninsula Community Church

Strongholds – Baggage

April 17, 2016

Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

I ask your forgiveness in the beginning of this message. I know that it will appear that the message will be focused on my life and my testimony. But I ask that you bear with me because as I was preparing I thought there was no better way to express the power of the baggage we hold onto than through my personal testimony. As I share this I do not in any way want to take away from the Gospel but it is the Gospel and the power of Christ that I am where I am today.

With that said in 1979, when I moved to New York City after Bible College, one of the jobs I had was to help refugees resettle to the United States. In particular, we were helping Christians who came from Communist countries and had lost everything as a result of their stand for Christ. In that job one of my roles was to travel to churches to present the program and seek to have churches sponsor refugees. I enjoyed this because I was able to fly around the country and visit some exciting churches and meet some awesome people. On one such trip, upon my arrival back to New York I found out that the person who was suppose to pick me up was not able to do so and I would have to find an alternative way home.

So I began to consider how I was going to get home from LaGuardia Airport which was not as easy as it might seem. The problem was that I had a huge trunk, a large suit case, and a brief case because I had to carry all of the church presentation material with me. Upon investigating how I was to get home I found out that I needed to take a bus from the airport to the Grand Central Station. From there I had to take a subway to Penn Station where I would catch the Long Island Rail Road to West Islip. On the Long Island Railroad I was required to make one transfer. Can you imagine me pulling a 75 pound plus trunk (with no wheels), a large suit case, and my brief case onto the bus, down the stairs of the subway, up the stairs of the train station, and then down the other side to catch the Long Island Rail Road and then to do it all over at the transfer point.

Once in West Islip I called only to find that no one could pick me up. So I had to get a taxi to take me home. So now I had to wrestle with this stuff again. When I arrived home, I drug the trunk, the suit case, and the brief case into the house only to find the person who was to pick me up was watching boxing matches with his sons. Needless to say I was not a happy camper. By the way it took me almost four hours or more to get home from the airport. I laugh at that story now but the fact is the excess baggage I had with me weighed me down and kept me from being very mobile. I had to drag this baggage around with me in order to make any progress at getting home.

While this is a humorous story the fact is that many of us have baggage that tends to weigh us down as we take this journey called life. The writer of Hebrews expresses this as weights and sin. Both the weights of life and the sin (ongoing sin) that possesses us holds us back and causes us to be immobile and ineffective in this journey called life. It is of note that a weight in itself is not necessarily a sin but it is something that is cumbersome, annoying, and it holds us back from being all that we could be, otherwise.

I am sure that you know what I mean. Our collection of baggage begins early in life as we experience the ups and downs of life. For me, it began as a child because when I was just a year old or so I was rushed off to my grandmother’s house to live so that my mom could find herself in Texas. During this time my grandfather who was my best bud died. It was in that moment that I began to pick up the bag of rejection and abandonment. The problem of course was that as I grew older I began to stuff that bag with more and more rejection and abandonment. When I was six years old I moved back with my mom. While living with my mom we moved every year to two years until I was eleven because of my step dad’s drinking problem. At eleven years old I was moved to my aunt’s house because of the issues at home. And after one year with my aunt I suddenly found myself at the doorsteps of my dad’s home in Alabama. Each of these actions added to the baggage I carried. The bag of rejection and abandonment became much heavier. To make matters worse I began to filter everything through the prism of rejection and assumed that rejection and abandonment was going to be a way of life for me.

In addition to the baggage of rejection and abandonment, I also picked up a bag of abuse and wounds as my step dad was abusive physically, emotionally, and mentally. He would punish me with military type punishments. One such punishment was to have me stand six inches from the living room wall with one foot in the air for 45 minutes. If my foot dropped, he would slap me and the time would start over. This was just one case of the physical abuse. In many ways the physical abuse was nothing compared to the emotional abuse I encountered with my dad. By the time I turned eleven or twelve my self esteem was blown and I had experienced the power of insecurity in big ways.

This lead me to take on other baggage such as fear and guilt. I feared for my life as I did not know how my step dad was going to be when he arrived home. I also felt guilty because I felt I was the problem. After all my step dad would regularly remind me that the issues at home were my fault. He would say such things as I was never wanted and that I should have stayed with my grandmother. He would blame me for all of the problems he was facing and would blame me when he and my mom would fight which was often. At 7 years old I began to accept the idea that my parents issues were my fault.

Throughout my life I picked up more and more baggage until I was weighed down and had became immobilized by the baggage I carried. The fact is I knew no better. The fact is that people who were around me did not even know that I was dealing with this burden as I did a great job of hiding my real self. I assumed that this was just the way of life so I had to a accept it and move on. On March 4, 1974, as a teenager, I received Christ and through that action I thought that life would be grand. While I had been forgiven of my sin, I still carried the baggage I had collected throughout my life. In fact, instead of getting rid of my baggage I actual picked up another piece of baggage called religion. Even though I had accepted Christ and I was going to church regularly, I still carried the baggage of my past. Instead of living in freedom, I tried to obey the rules that had been given me. But as I continued my journey with Christ, particularly after my Bible college years, I began to realize that I did not have to walk with the baggage that was weighing me down. I learned that there was a better way of living.

Let me share with you a few of the Biblical truths I learned that helped me let go of the baggage in my life. First of all I learned that true forgiveness meant that none of my past issues had to dictate my present circumstances or my future life. You see I had accepted Christ but I had not accepted His forgiveness. I confessed Christ but I not taken what He had accomplished for me to heart. I failed to grasp what Peter had stated in 2 Peter 1:3-5. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. You see one of my problems was that I was relying on my own strength and I was good at keeping all of the rules to be a “good Christian.” I did not fully realize that God had already given me everything I needed to overcome the baggage in my life and that I could be a partaker of the divine nature of Christ which brings freedom.

Secondly, I learned that I did not have to walk in the fear of rejection or abandonment again. The words of Timothy reminded me that God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. You see I had so much fear that I could never be free or so I thought. I was afraid of everything. I was afraid of rejection. I was afraid of being abandoned. I was afraid of the future. But once I grasped the power of the words of Timothy, I now know that I do not have to walk in fear but I now have a power to overcome the baggage in my life.  

Thirdly, as I grew in Christ, for the first time in my life, I began to realize that I was accepted and received by Christ. Even though I had accepted Christ I still struggled with the fact that Christ really accepted me. What I did in life was in fact done to get Christ to love me and accept me. I did not want Him to reject me. After all I felt everyone else did so. As I began to grow in Christ I began to realize and grasp that I was accepted by Christ not because of who I was but because of who He is. Listen to the words of John 1:12-13. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. Look at this, Christ gave us the right. He gave us permission. He opened the door for us to be children of God. You see Paul is saying you are not just forgiven, you are accepted by God as His child.

Fourthly, I learned that I was not responsible for the actions or decisions of others. I also learned that I needed to take responsibility for my life, for who I was, and what I had done. While I had many things done against me I defaulted into the blame game mode. I had become  good at pointing out other’s sin and their shortcomings. I was good at blaming my parents, my step dad, my mom, my real dad, my step mom, my brothers and sisters for my sin and the wrongs I had done. But I had to take ownership of what I had done. I had to own up to my sin. I had to come to terms with the fact that I had allowed baggage to begin to dictate how I was to live.

Fourthly, as the baggage began to fall off, I realized that I had to fill my life with something. According to physics, a vacuum is never empty, it always filled with something. It is for this reason that Jesus Himself explains the need to be filled with all that God is and not to remain empty. “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came. ’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation (Matthew 12:43-45)

You see I can get rid of my baggage but I need to be filled with something good or else I will begin to fill my life with more baggage and I will find that seven more evil spirits will come. You see I need to be filled with Christ’s love and the power of all He has given me. I need to be filled with His word, His spirit, and His power. In so doing, I can let go of all of the baggage in my life and not worry about being entrapped by those things again.

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

Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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