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Forever Forgiven

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2008-09-14 (pm) Romans 8:1-17 Forever Forgiven.

          Because we have been saved from our bodies of death, “therefore there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life sets us free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2). 

          Now, what does it mean to be free from condemnation, and what does it not mean?

          Let’s look at what it does not mean.  This is an area of misinterpretation, for some people.  Some believe that being no longer condemned means that they can live consequence free.  That is to say, that they can live any old way they want, and do whatever it is they want, and to not worry about it.  They’re no longer condemned, so therefore, all will be beds of roses.

          But is that true?

          If I murder someone, will I not suffer the consequences?  I will be arrested.  I will be charged with murder.  I will be tried and judged by a jury of my peers in a court of law.  I will be sentenced and I will have to serve the time of my sentence.  Being not condemned in Christ will not prevent those things from happening to me.

          So, why should I believe that because I am not condemned, that I can then live any old way I want?  In our passage this evening, Paul tells us that it is in fact impossible to live such a way.  If we truly are in Christ, then we will not live our lives any old way we want, but we will instead live them in as pleasing a way as possible, for Christ.

          So, even though we are no longer condemned, it does not mean that we are no longer accused.  We are.  Satan comes along, people come along and accuse us of being proud, arrogant, mean, ugly, all kinds of things.  What being condemnation free does mean is that all of those accusations will be thrown out. 

          In the end, it doesn’t matter how imperfect we are.  It doesn’t matter that we’ve sinned and yes, have been guilty of all those things.  We’re not trying to stand on our righteousness, if we were, then there would be condemnation.  As it is, we stand on Christ, and He clothes us in His righteousness, thereby squashing the accusations.

          So, let us go back to committing murder.  Satan would come up to us and say, “Ha!  You’re a murderer!  You will always be a murderer.  You do not deserve God’s grace and mercy, because you have desecrated a precious life.  Don’t you know that the Holy Spirit breathes life?  And you treated the Spirit’s work like garbage, you treated life like filth.

          But a person, even someone guilty of murder, who claims Christ’s precious blood and righteousness, who confesses everything, who finds absolutely no strength in herself, no accusation, no matter how factual, can stick to the person.  Though she might be spending the rest of her life here on earth in prison, in her heart, she is already eternally set free.  She’s forever forgiven.

          Nor does Paul say that since there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, that suddenly we’re perfect, that there’s nothing in us that deserves condemnation.

          Just because we’re declared to be condemnation free, it doesn’t mean that we’re suddenly free of anything that deserves condemnation.

          It is not as though we’ve suddenly gone from being a murderer one minute, then all of a sudden we’re not a murderer then next.  Believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, does not finally remove all our desire to sin.  Nor does it make us perfect in that moment.  No, sin still lingers.

          Those who are perfectly honest with themselves and with God confess their sins, and they own them.  They say to themselves, I am a murderer.  I declared my hatred for my brother by giving false testimony against him.  They admit their guilt.  They weep and are exceedingly frustrated that they fell into sin.  They condemn themselves for sinning.  They say to themselves, “You ignorant blockhead!  You should have known better!  Why did you go and do that!  You’d better smarten up next time.”  But they also realise that that episode of sin does not lead to death.  They realise that Christ has made them free from sin.  Therefore, they don’t get too worked up by it.  They own it, confess it, and claim Christ’s righteousness for their own!

          Nor does Paul try to indicate that because there is no condemnation that all of life is smooth sailing!  He doesn’t say that at all, and besides, Romans 7 hardly describes a pleasant, happy, smooth life. 

          The reality is that we will yet deal with the cross.  We have to come to terms with the cross.  The cross is the reminder of the curse.  It is a reminder of Christ’s suffering.  It is a reminder of the extent to which Christ loves us.

          Someone once asked me, “Do you know how much Jesus loves you?”  I responded, “Very much.”  A smile came across his face, and he said, “He loves you this much.”  The cross is a permanent fixture in the Christian’s life.  It is not a removable fixture.

          The cross is also personal.  A person bears their own cross.  One person’s cross might be having the right attitude in suffering.  Another person’s cross might be to have the right attitude in wealth. 

          Nor does Paul indicate in any way that Christians are suddenly affliction free.  Jesus does not promise earthly health and wealth.

          John Piper has the following words written above his office door, so that whenever he leaves his office, he reads them.  This is what it says, “Remember the Rich Young Man.”  That man loved his possessions more than he loved Christ.  Jesus might test our love for him by taking our possessions away.  Jesus might test our love, our faithfulness by afflicting us.  God tested Abraham, to see if Abraham treasured God more than he treasured Isaac.  Abraham passed the test.  Would you?  Would I?

          Consider these passages: Romans 12:12, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”  Colossians 1:24 “Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.  Revelation 2:9 “I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich!  I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.”

          Now that is just a sampling of verses.  I could have quoted more.  Christ does not promise earthly wealth.  He does not guarantee earthly wealth.  But he does promise heavenly, or spiritual health, I’d say, if you’re going to live forever, you’re probably pretty healthy.  Spiritually, our treasure is out of this world!      

          In this life, we’d better be prepared to suffer.  Jesus Christ suffered, are the disciples greater than the master is?  Will we not be tempted?  Will the evil one not attack us?  Will we not endure trials?

          But not all afflictions are from the world.  Sometimes we’re afflicted in order for us to see something.  It might be necessary for us, sent by God to us, so that we may realise that we’re not perfectly right with God.  That there’s an area in our lives that we need to give over to him.  Oftentimes, in those cases, it is pretty obvious in how we’re sinning, so that we can acknowledge it and confess it and repent.

          God might even be displeased with us, but that doesn’t mean that we’re condemned.  We will be corrected by God, we will be straightened out by God, but not condemned to everlasting death and punishment alongside of the world. 

          But how do we get this?  How do we get condemnation free?

          It comes from being in Christ Jesus, united with him through faith.  We are eternally secure. 

          In the Old Testament, before the Israelites entered the Promised Land, God instructed them to set up cities of refuge.  They were to set up six cities where someone who has killed a person could flee. 

          So, whether you killed a person by accident, or even on purpose, you could hightail it to one of the cities of refuge, and you would be safe there either until you died, until you left the city, until the elders declared you innocent, or guilty.

          Now, all people are guilty of murder, oh on the basest level, we’re all guilty of thinking horrible things about our brothers.  But anyone who has sinned has committed sin against God.  And because of our sin, God had to send His Son to die in order to gain righteousness for us.

          So, all people are guilty of Christ’s death.  But the amazing thing is this.  We do not run to a city for refuge, we run to the one we killed!  Jesus is our city of refuge.  Provers 18:10 describes the name of the Lord as a strong tower, the righteous run to it and are safe.

          We know that Jesus Christ is our strong tower, even though we’re guilty of sin, guilty of His death, we are permitted, welcomed, even, to run to him and, mercy of mercy, grace of grace, receive righteousness in Christ.

          But there is more.  It is not as though we’re simply just not condemned.  God in his mercy and grace is actually pleased with us.  God delights in us, and we delight in him.

          Now, getting back to the beginning, but without starting over, what does that mean for us, for our daily living.

          How does not being condemned, being forever forgiven, translate into our lives?

          The result is nothing less than total life transformation.  We walk not after the desires of the world, but after the spirit.

          Now, again, people will be quick to condemn.  They will say, “Ah, this one sinful activity you’ve done, well that’s clearly indicative of who you are.  You’re a sinner.  You’ll forever be defined as that type of person in their eyes.

          But our lives are more than one sinful act or even one righteous act.  The character of a person is seen, not in one moment, because no one is perfect.  Would it surprise you to know that an upstanding Christian fell into sin?  And what of it.  Would finding out that John Calvin had an adulterous affair suddenly make his life work less valuable?  Should it?

          We’re not looking at single instances, we’re looking at a person’s life character!  And we look, not just at their character walk, but what motivates their lives.  What’s the primary influence on them?  Is it the flesh, the world, or the spirit?  Is it the old self or the new self?  Is it corruption or grace?

          What moves us in our lives?  If we examine our lifestyles, we ought to be able to determine what moves us, what grabs our concentration, what causes us to give up some things in favour of other things.

          For example, some people have hockey rituals.  They will make sure they are watching television every single Saturday night of the season.  They do not miss Hockey Night in Canada, for anything.  They make provisions in their lives so that they can keep this seasonal, weekly appointment.

          What provisions do we make in our lives as Christians?  How do we organise our days?  Do our daily activities demonstrate a passion for God?

          What influences our decisions?  Is it God?  Is it the world?  When we contemplate a major purchase, do we consider God’s will, or do we listen to peer pressure, or advertising, or the passion of impulse? 

          When we decide our activities, on which side are we aligned?  Are we aligned with the spirit or the world?

          Joshua’s challenge remains relevant today.  “‘Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.  But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.’”  Amen.

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