No Condemnation If…

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.” (Romans 8:1-2 ESV)

No Condemnation Means _____________.

This word “condemnation” includes more in the Greek than its common use in the English. In English to be condemned can simply mean spoken to harshly or someone sharply disagreeing with us. Someone might say, you are a bad, bad person. You are scourge on society. You are a colossal disappointment. In English, that’s condemnation.

Condemnation here is the declaration of guilt. By whom? The only person that matters. God. God condemns sin and sinners. We are legally guilty. Personally guilty. Shamefully guilty. Eternally guilty.

But this is way more than a guilt trip. The Greek word is both the declaration of guilt AND the sentence for it. Pronouncement and punishment. This is guilt and hell. This is guilt AND separation from God. This is guilt AND eternal and unending separation from God and all love, truth, and beauty. This condemnation is an eternal condemnation. Eternal death.

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Loving God’s Image Everywhere

All Human Life is Sacred Because it Bears God’s Image

I would hope all Christians would say yes to this, but do we know why? Do we know why we recoil in horror at a mass murder like Sandy Hook or Las Vegas? Why should we recoil in horror at the thought of a mother and doctor discussing whether to keep or destroy the newborn infant? Here’s why:

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.” (Genesis 1:27-28 ESV)

In the very first chapter of his book, God lays out who he is and who we are and how our purpose and value are derived from God. God created man “in his own image.” What does that mean? It means human life is unique. God created everything else in the universe, and nothing else is given this sacred distinction.

Parenting for the Next Trillion Years

Key Priorities in Parenting Your Children Toward Christ[1]

Attitude toward church

For better or worse, the church represents God. A parent’s attitude toward the local church will be interpreted by the child as to where their heart is toward God.

I grew up in a home in which we always went to church. It wasn’t even an issue or a question. If the doors were open, we were there. What did that say? Church is important, and God is important. You know, I hear about parents sometimes asking their 12-year-old, do you want to go to church or do you not want to go to church? Really? Do you do that with school? Would you rather watch Disney movies all day or go to school? We laugh at that because we say we would never do that because education is so important. Don’t make it an option. In general, you want to look for opportunities to show them that spiritual things are more important than other things.

I remember when basketball became an issue. My dad loves basketball. He himself played and we played. We played for hours and hours in our driveway. I attended every league and camp available. My sophomore year I was attending a large public high school where basketball practice was on Wednesday nights, sometimes late enough to interfere with the youth ministry that night. This was a dilemma for my dad; a little Mt. Moriah moment because he desperately wanted me to succeed in sports. But he went to the coach and said, “My son will not be available after 6:30 on Wednesday nights.” Coach said, “Fine,” but didn’t like it. Wednesday nights I went to youth group. It hurt my playing time that year. But I learned a lesson about my dad’s heart. Today, which is more valuable? My sophomore year basketball statistics or the impression my dad’s stand made on my heart?

Your attitude toward church and leaders and the place of it in your schedule will speak volumes. If you’re negative toward the church on the Sunday drive home, don’t be surprised when your child turns 18 with a negative perspective on Christianity. You formed it in them, bit by bit for 6,000 days.

Atmosphere in the home

Deuteronomy 11:18–19 tells us God told Israel to create an atmosphere of spiritual instruction in the home. Talk about the Lord in the day-to-day of life. I strongly encourage you to have regular family devotions, either in the morning or at night. There are books available of Bible stories when children are younger that keep them interested. Pray together. Memorize verses together. Put up spiritual quotes and truths around the house. Those have a way of sticking with you.

Some people will say, you don’t want to take that too far! Yet you go to their house and they have shrines to IU basketball or the Bears. Memorabilia everywhere. Why all this? These are important to us. Will these be important in a trillion years? How important is where your child is a trillion years from now?

Adherence to God’s command

This is the daily ethic of our lives. Hear me. NOT spiritually perfect, just spiritually real. Lots of confession and forgiveness. Lots of Romans 7 stuff. This is directional. Is the general direction of my life toward the things of God? It’s the single most influencing human factor in the spiritual lives of our children. Who are we before them on the Mt. Moriahs of our lives?

Today, we are giving you the opportunity to pray together. Parents, together, families, however you want to pray. Confess to God and maybe to your children, Mommy & Daddy want to do this better. They don’t need perfection, they need reality. Maybe today can be a fresh start.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

© 2019 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

[1] Pastor Bob Russell gave three key priorities in a message I heard 25 years ago that is the seed of this blog post.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

Family Math: Division

The Stages of Peacemaking

Bear with it 

Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” (Colossians 3:13 ESV)

What do we bear with for the sake of peace? The little daily annoyances, personality traits, and preference matters. They don’t rise to the level of calling for a peace summit. When we make a big stink out of an insignificant thing we come across as petty, which only makes actual peace harder. What should we do with the non-sin idiosyncrasies everybody has? Do to others as you would have them do to you. Do you want peace summit level inquisition about your quirks? Every single person has qualities that require the people around them to simply bear with them. Bearing in love is good, especially when people bear with us.

Sometimes in conflict or disagreement, this requires us to just agree to disagree. Bear with their opinion or preference. It’s a broken world. We don’t all agree. Let’s go on for Jesus.

The Justified Marriage

Justification means I’m forgiven for far worse than anything my spouse can do

“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” (Romans 3:21–25 ESV)

Justification is God’s eternal judgment over a sinner declaring them completely and wholly righteous with the promise to treat us forever fully righteous. Within this are basic constructs in Romans 3:10, “None is righteous, no, not one.” All human beings are sinners. We are declared righteous by faith in Jesus’ substitutionary death on the cross and are forgiven all our sins apart from obeying the law of God. This is an act of God’s love for us and toward us.

Justification is ours without any personally contributing righteousness on our part. All we contribute is our sin. Everything is God’s saving initiative which the Bible calls grace. Grace is God giving us not only what we don’t deserve but the complete opposite of what we do deserve.

So, justification is undeserved righteousness, undeserved love, undeserved grace, and the undeserved and unearned promise of grace toward our sins forever. We might say it this way: God promises to love us for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, and death won’t part us from his love because we live forever in his love.

There is the reality. Not the reflection. The reality. A marriage will succeed to the extent that both spouses intentionally seek to reflect that reality.

Happiness is Holiness

“So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” (Romans 7:21–25 ESV)

The More Spiritually Profitable Something is, the More Inner Resistance to it I Will Feel

“So, I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.” (Romans 7:21) One paraphrase translation gets the sense of it. “It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up.” (The Message)

This is an incredibly helpful verse on how sin works in our lives. John Owen wrote an entire book on indwelling sin from this one verse. While powerful, indwelling sin is quite predictable; so much so that Paul calls its predictability a law.

“When I want to do right.” This is Paul’s spiritual self with a desire to do something pleasing to God, something spiritually helpful, gospel-advancing, others-uplifting, personally enriching, whatever. Anything that God would call good.

When I have the desire to do something good, evil lies close at hand. The NIV states it, “Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.” Close at hand. In my face. Part of this admission is that we never do anything with motives that are completely free from any taint of sin. Even our very best motives and desires have some small old fleshly me in it. There’s always something that smells a little.

Doing What I Hate

“Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 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.” (Romans 7:13–20 ESV)

“Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means!” (Romans 7:13) Or you could say it this way, Did the law bring death to me? By no means! There’s that incredibly strong negative again. God forbid! The problem here isn’t the law of God. The law didn’t bring death.

Well then, what is its purpose? “…in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.” (Romans 7:13) Here is Paul’s summary of the purpose of the law. It’s not to bring death. The wages of sin is death. God’s moral law shows sin to be sin. God’s law tells us about God, but by doing so, it tells us about ourselves. It shows us who we are in the categories that matter to God. Not wealth. Not power. Not fame. But holiness, righteousness, and godliness. And in these categories just The Ten Commandments are damning enough. The law shows us what sin is, and through the commandment we become sinful beyond measure. Measureless. This is often called depravity. It means that the law doesn’t show us to almost make it, but just fall short. No. We aren’t even close. How far short are we to the glory of God? Short beyond measure. I could say like jumping the Grand Canyon, but then technically they could measure the distance from your where your body lands to the other side of the Grand Canyon. We fall so short it’s impossible to measure.

“For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.” (Romans 7:14) Here Paul gets personal. The law is good, but I am not. What is he talking about? Paul is analyzing his internal spiritual struggle with sin. The “I” is saved Paul. Spiritual Paul. Regenerated Paul. The enemy is “the flesh” within him. This is indwelling sin. The remnants of the old carnal Paul.

“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:15) Does that sound familiar? We use language like, I don’t know what came over me. That wasn’t me. Or we try to blame shift. The devil made me do it. Paul does none of this. He owns it. He has committed sins of omission and commission. He fails to do the good that he in his Christian self wants. Paul wanted to act and think and speak as Christ did. But he says, I fail to do that.

But he also fails to not do what he shouldn’t. These are sins of commission. He regularly does things that he hates. Things he knows that God hates. His carnal self loves these sinful things, but his true Christian self hates them. Hear the wannabe language? I wanna be like Jesus. And I hate what I see in me that isn’t like him.

“Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good.” (Romans 7:16) Even when I sin, I still say the law is good and agree with what the law says about my actions.

“So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.” (Romans 7:17) Paul isn’t blame shifting here. We can’t blame the devil and we can’t blame indwelling sin. No. We are still responsible for what we do. Paul is identifying the problem. It’s not the law. It’s me! Old me. Old sinful me still dwelling in me. All of us have it and anyone honest with themselves knows this internal delight in sin.

Paul isn’t comparing himself to others, he is comparing himself to the holy law of God. Sin weaponizes that law, creates desires to violate that law, and then uses the law to condemn us. It’s worse than any betrayal ever. Worse than Brutus to Caesar or Absalom to David. And it happens within us every single day.

“Sin is pictured as having taken up residence in Paul. This is not the honored guest, nor the paying tenant, but the “squatter,” not legitimately there, but very difficult to eject. Paul is personifying sin again; it is in some sense a separate entity, even though it is within him. But it is not external to him. This sin that lives in him, though it is not the real Paul, is what produces the acts which the real Paul hates so much. Sin is out of character for the believer, even though it is so difficult to be rid of it entirely.” (Leon Morris)[1]

Doing what we hate. Part of our problem is that we don’t hate sin enough. Sometimes after we commit it, we hate it. But in the midst of temptation to sin, indwelling sin deceives us into loving the very thing that we hate. Why else would we do what we hate?

“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.(Romans 7:18-20) In that last statement, remember that “I” is spiritual Paul. What Morris called “the real Paul.” Throughout this verse he bemoans how often his actions and attitudes are NOT the good his spiritual self wants. His summary lament is in verse 24, “Wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24)

That’s what this is, it’s an internal grieving by the apostle who wants so much to be holy and righteous—indeed sanctified—to be like Jesus.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

© 2018 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

[1] Leon Morris, The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Epistle to the Romans, p. 293.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here