This was the question I asked myself during Sunday morning's worship service at Eastwood Presbyterian Church in Montgomery, Alabama.
Bart Lester was preaching from 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."
Here are a few of the notes I jotted down during Mr. Lester's sermon:
- Justification is not dependent upon my progress in sanctification.
- All progress in holiness in this life is due to the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Question: How is sanctification (progress in holiness) possible in light of the continuing presence of sin in this life? Answer: NO CONDEMNATION!!!
I am justified, not condemned. When am I justified? Now. The proper motivation to pursue holiness rests in this confidence: I am not condemned/am under no condemnation, but am fully covered/freed by Jesus.
- Where ever sin is the governing authority, there is death/lawlessness.
- Where ever the Spirit is the governing authority, there is life/light/sanctification.
The Christian is not free from the presence of sin in this life, but the Christian IS free from the enslaving power of sin. "Walking by the Spirit" means going back to the law - which no longer has the power to condemn me - and being gradually conformed to the law by the power of God's Spirit working in me.
NO CONDEMNATION. It is so easy to read these words and to mentally affirm them as true.
It is so very difficult to live like I sincerely believe these words, to tell my emotions to go take a hike when they say something different.
I was sitting there listening to Mr. Lester, and got to thinking, What condemns me? What is it that, whenever I think about it, it makes me feel guilty, condemned, ashamed? What makes me hang my head, with my countenance downcast?
Oh, that would be a list too long to post here. But for starters, how about...
I was a failure as a military wife. An unqualified disaster. I don't think that's something my husband has ever truly gotten over. Sadly, I haven't managed very well as a civilian wife, either. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.
I was a mess as a mother, too, often majoring on the minors and minoring on the majors. Not often enough modeling to my children the love, mercy, and grace shown to me by God in the person and work of Christ. Frequently lost in a gray fog of exhaustion, relying on my own limited ability and insufficient strength. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.
I am a woman. What woman has not felt that female-ness, by it's nature, is a kind of falling short, of being less-than? In the home, in the church, in community life, in the work place - the attitudes and comments and actions that so clearly communicate that, by virtue of being a woman, I will never measure up, will always - despite my best efforts - fall short of good-enough. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.
The list could go on and on, but these are probably the Big Three. I'm a disaster - as a wife, as a mother, as a woman.
And then I read...
THERE IS NOW NO CONDEMNATION.
Reminded of this great truth, I can go back to that law which requires that I love God (not myself) supremely and that I love my neighbor (husband, children, church...) as myself - and, instead of feeling guilty/ashamed/condemned because I honestly cannot measure up, I can pray with expectant faith, "Lord, make it so."
I don't know about you, but I need to hear this good news, this gospel - NO CONDEMNATION! - every single day.