Part 2 of the “No Condemnation in Christ” sermon series. This week is an exegetical sermon on Romans 8:1 that looks at how we fight guilt, flee false gospels, and find forgiveness. This sermon was originally preached by Pastor Duane Smets on June 3rd, 2007 at The Resolved Church in San Diego, CA.
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:: The Resolved Church :: June 3rd, 2007
“No Condemnation in Christ (part II)”
I. Fighting Guilt
II. False Gospels
III. Forgiveness in Christ
Let’s read our text for this morning and pray. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Father God, you have instructed us in your Word to devote ourselves to the apostle’s teaching. That is what we endeavor to do here in this portion of our service. God, as we work hard to understand what these words mean would you grant that grace which enables your truth to pierce us in our hearts and are then filled with conviction and passion for Your holy name. May the gospel of Jesus Christ be preached today. Amen.
Three weeks ago we began our journey into Romans 8. The first sermon I preached was an overview of the entire chapter and then in the second sermon we pulled back and began working just on verse 1. In that first sermon on Romans 8:1 we really got into the mechanics of the verse…what the word condemnation means, how one goes from being outside Christ to inside Christ, and what that means theologically for how one experiences condemnation and who that applies to. That was the mechanics of this verse.
What I want to do today is get into implications of this verse for us if we truly take this phrase, “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” and make it our own. This is one of those key building blocks in the life of a Christian that become a stamp and a seal of your identity. It is one of those phrases that when you think of yourself and what it means to be a follower of Christ, this is what it means. There is no condemnation in Jesus.
I. Fighting Guilt
Last time when we talked about this word, “condemnation” we looked at the legal aspect of it and how it includes both the sentence and the execution of the sentence from a judge toward a guilty party. We talked about the sentence and the execution but we didn’t talk much about guilt.
What is guilt? The feeling of guilt? Because it is one thing for someone to say you are guilty of doing something wrong, but it is a far different thing to feel guilt and remorse…to know deep inside that you have really hurt someone and done something really wrong. To feel guilt…that is a far different thing.
I don’t think we feel that very often. When was the last time you really felt guilty? I don’t think we feel it that often because we don’t like to feel it and so we fight it. We fight it in several ways. One, when we start to feel that inclination of guilt we begin to reassure ourselves that we really shouldn’t feel that way and we start rehearsing either the bad things that someone did to us or how whatever it is we did isn’t really that bad.
Or another way is to just try and distract ourselves. We don’t like the feeling so we will go do something else to try and ignore whatever situation has arisen resulting in us feeling guilt. We try to alleviate the inner tension with activity in other things so that we won’t have to deal with it.
Here is my question, where does guilt come from? Why do we even feel it? If we are merely the products of biological revolution and survival is the chief virtue, why do we feel guilt? Any opportunity to excel and move ahead ought to bring us delight no matter what the expense, right? But it doesn’t. We feel. I believe that is because, our conscience or whatever this non-physical part of who we are that make us feel, our sense of right and wrong…I believe that comes from God. I believe all guilt is a God issue.
We could talk about husbands and wives hurting each other with their words, friends who turn out not to really be friends, parents who have left deep scars in the lives of their kids…hurt and pain and wronging each other is the experience of our human race. But when it comes down to it, it is really all about God isn’t it? We wouldn’t feel or think those things unless there was some source and sustainer of morality would we? That’s why I think guilt is a God issue.
When we hurt each other we know that we have not only done something wrong but we have violated the God of the universe who designed and made humans and speaks this sense of right and wrong into our souls.
So let’s talk about gospel guilt, how this verse applies and relates. Gospel guilt works like this. In the first sermon I preached on this verse I said that phrase, “in Christ” means if you are in Christ then whatever happened to him happened to you. You are united with Jesus and all his life its actions, including his propitiating death, become yours…because you are in him. To the charge of guilty, condemnation, the sentence and the execution and the despairing feeling that follow if you truly come to know the weight of offense that sin is toward God…it is crushing, to that the answer of the charge is yes, guilty. I am guilty, there is no question about it. That is gospel guilt.
But gospel guilt does something unique and different. Gospel guilt freely admits human depravity and corruption but then it grabs a hold of those two words “in Christ” and it point to Jesus. It says, yes I am guilty, but I plead Christ’s blood. Gospel guilt says, Christ died for me! I am guilty but Christ died for my guilt, he suffered the sentence and the execution for me, in my place. I am guilty as charged but I stand in Christ. He is all my hope, all my righteousness, all I have. Are you in Christ today or does the weight of guilt hang over your head?
I see two ways gospel guilt applies. One, is toward the unbeliever. Sometimes guilt is one of the biggest barriers to faith, one of the biggest obstacles toward coming to believe in and follow Jesus. Perhaps that is you. Perhaps you know you are guilty and feel like what you have done is just too bad. It is a too unforgivable. Guilt weights deep in your soul and eats away at you. Here the gospel today, Christ stands before you and offers his blood, “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” In AD 33 Jesus, the only human who never sinned died a death to deal with guilt so that all sinners might find hope and peace and relief by embracing his death as their own. Hear today, Christ’s blood is sufficient and he offers it to you. Embrace him while you can. There is no sin that is too great that his blood cannot cover, be relieved of your guilt.
Paul, the author of Romans, the book we are studying was a murderer. He took part in the stoning to death of a man named Stephen and before he came to embrace Jesus had as the ambition of his life to kill anyone who called themselves a Christian. Jesus condemnation is sufficient for murder.
What about sexual sin? That weights heavy on many, I know. Consider the woman at the well, one the first people Jesus ever shared the gospel with. In her life she had seven different husbands and when Jesus met her, she was sleeping with someone she wasn’t married to, this woman was essentially a whore. And Jesus welcomed her with open arms. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.
What about substance abuse? Drugs and drunkenness run ramped in our culture and yet there is no end to their fill. They only create dependencies of a constant need for more. Jesus offers living water and offers us to come to him and thirst no more.
But perhaps you say, how does that work, how can it? How can I be in Christ and because of that have the feelings of guilt taken away? I think it works like this. We know our deeds are evil and that they deserve punishment and a punishment we could never fully pay. So when Christ offers himself to us, and we believe he is able, it is almost as if we take all the memories and all the pain and we cast it onto him, on his body on the cross and we see it punished and then we run to Jesus in thanks and adoration and love. That is how the gospel works in me. That is why I love Jesus. Not because of anything I have done, I’m guilty. But I love Jesus for dying for me.
But what about this side of Jesus. After becoming a Christian and falling into sin. Here is how that usually goes. I’ve seen it so many times I know it well. If you claim to be a follower of Christ but something happens and you know you guilty and have blown it…guilt sets in. And because you feel guilty toward the God who has shown you so much love and compassion you run and hide. You quit reading your Bible, you don’t answer or return the calls of people who care about you, you stop going to church or if you go you cut yourself off emotionally to anything of God and His Spirit and guilt eats and eats away until you can’t take it anymore.
I don’t think that is how guilt is supposed to operate for the believer in Jesus. I think God intends this verse to be for us a powerful weapon in fighting guilt with the gospel. Let me offer an alternative method to for guilt on the believing side of Jesus. This is other way I think gospel guilt applies. John Piper calls it “gutsy guilt.” I like that. He says, gutsy guilt is when “the believer admits that he has done wrong and that God is dealing roughly with him. But even in a condition of darkness and discipline, he will not surrender his hold on the truth that God is on his side.”
It seems to me that guilt and accusing thoughts of guilt are one of Satan’s chief devices in his attempt to steer believers away from God. Charles Spurgeon said it well, “The devil says there is condemnation, he accuses us day and night, but he was a liar from the beginning and is the father of lies.” Have you dedicated your life to Christ? Had high moments of passion for his glory? Dreamed dreams of who you might become and what you might do for the sake of the gospel? …But in the moments when sin has got the upper hand in your life you have felt it is all a loss?
Don’t believe it! You have an advocate in Christ. John Calvin said it this way, “The trembling consciences of the godly have an invincible fortress for they know they abide in Christ and are beyond the danger of condemnation.” Let that truth sink into your soul. Learn how to fight guilt like a justified sinner. Leave behind the devils lies and plead Christ’s blood as your all. Receive the humble offer of the Lord and stand again in his strength and leave behind that which has entangled you.
II. False Gospels
Part of learning the secret of how to fight guilt is knowing the obstacles that can deceive us into thinking there is another way. So beware of the false gospels.
Beware of a lying gospel which either tells you there is no such thing as condemnation or it tells you that being in Christ is a sort of fire insurance policy that you bought to protect you in case it turns out that there is condemnation. Those are two huge errors.
Trying to convince yourself that there is no such thing as condemnation is a bankrupt cause. That you cannot rid yourself of the question is evidence in itself not to mention how we as a people are those who cry out for justice when we are wronged. Hell is real and that is an inescapable truth. It is built into the fabric of who we are as humans…eternity is in our heart and we know there is a danger of a condemnation called hell.
And no matter how much we try and chalk that up to religious manipulation, or social convention, some crazy ploy of fiery preachers…our souls still know it is real. I think that is why some people even get so angry at those who believe in hell. Because they don’t like it and don’t want it. Neither do I. And so I stand in Christ taking his condemnation for my own.
The other side of that coin is thinking that being in Christ is something that is solely based in the past, either because of growing up as a Christian, or because you prayed some prayer, or have gone to church…there is a danger in thinking that those things guarantee you of being in Christ and because of that you can live and do whatever you like. No. That is a false gospel and it is a scary one…because Jesus said in the end, when hell is proved so, many will call upon him, saying “Lord, Lord!!” And Jesus will reply, “depart from me I never knew you.”
There is a danger in how you live. The Bible’s perspective is how you live proves whether your faith is real. In 1 John the apostle says, if you claim to be in the light but live in darkness then you are a liar and the truth isn’t really in you…and then goes on to say that those who appear to have been in the faith but then leave it, that they walk away because deep down they never truly believed or they would have continued.
Now, don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that there isn’t something permanent to being “in Christ” that is unchangeable and irrevocable. I believe that. But I am pleading with you as a church to, as 2 Peter 1:10 says, to be “diligent to make your calling and election sure” by taking on your identity daily as a person who is “in Christ.” Where you wake up each day with a sense that “I need Jesus today.” We can’t rely on past experiences. They are not enough. Just as we need food and drink every day, we need the salvation of Christ daily. We need the gospel in our lives. We need the name of Jesus in our hearts and on our lips. That is what it means to be “in Christ” where Jesus is our all.
III. Forgiveness in Christ
My last point for this morning is “forgiveness in Christ.” Now, my third point isn’t just because it makes for a nice outline with three “f”s…well maybe, because I’m a nerd and like things that are neat and tidy. I’ve been preaching now for ten years and my preaching has slowly changed. There were a few years when I had to have every sermon alliterated with 3 p’s or 4 s’s or whatever…but I ran into a problem because that takes a lot of time and I would start spending more time on that than I was working with the text. But when it works out it’s nice. J It looks pretty.
But the reason I want to talk about forgiveness in Christ is because I think that there is an intimate connection between the nature of forgiveness and fighting guilt with the condemnation of Christ, there is a connection between condemnation and forgiveness. I think so far we have done a pretty good job in navigating what Scripture is really trying to teach us here and what it is not. What is left is the result of embracing the condemnation of Christ for your guilt and that result is forgiveness.
Forgiveness. It is what the affection of guilt long for but cannot get because it knows it is unjust for its wrongs to go unpunished. Have you ever heard anyone, maybe yourself, use the phrase, “I just can’t forgive myself” or “He or she just can’t forgive themselves for what they have done”? Now, usually the intention of those phrases, the implied answer is that the person should and can really forgive themselves and the way to do that is just to forget what happened, pretend it wasn’t that big of deal and assume everything will just be okay.
The problem is that’s not true! You can’t do that even if you try! The saying that a person “just can’t forgive themselves” is true, they can’t, you can’t, I can’t…no one can. You can’t forgive yourself because what do you have to give in exchange for your guilt? Nothing.
But hear the gospel today, there is forgiveness from Christ. He has something to exchange…His perfection for our imperfection, his salvation for our sin, his righteousness for our wickedness, his death for our life. You see, in Jesus wrongdoing is not just swept under the rug. When I was little my mom used to make me take vitamins and I hated them…the taste still freaks me out. So when she gave them to me I would either try to act like put it in my mouth and but keep the vitamin in my hand or I would put it in my mouth, go in the other room and then spit it out. Then, I would take the vitamins and go in my room and shove them underneath my nightstand. This went on for over a year until one day when my mom was cleaning she moved my nightstand and found this whole pile of pills shoved underneath there. J They never went anywhere. They were all still there. And it is the same with our guilt and our sin…it will not go away until we embrace Christ as our own who takes the pill of eternal punishment in our place and then offers us the hand of forgiveness.
I believe the forgiveness of Christ is the ground for all forgiveness in this life. Whether people know it or not, are a believer or not, I believe the reason why anyone can forgive, why there is such a thing as forgiveness, is because of the love of God in Jesus. All forgiveness flows from the cross of Christ.
Listen to Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ has forgiven you.” All forgiveness flows from the forgiveness of Christ. We need this. The only reason why I can forgive my wife Amy, or actually more often, her forgiving me…is because of Christ. This is huge. Without forgiveness anger and bitterness swell.
I have been learning this the hard way. About a year ago, there was a couple in this church who lived with us and the man had an affair, denied his faith, became very angry and bitter toward Jesus and his church and said that if I didn’t stop preaching the gospel he was going to kill me and kill my wife and so I better watch my back. I wanted to beat his face in right then and there but I knew I would have no right to stand before you today if I did. But what happened is that over time I have become angry and bitter toward this man and have had many evil and murderous thoughts against him. So I went and saw Ted, the professional Christian counselor who preached last week. It’s hard to forgive someone who is not sorry. But this is a gospel issue because hate and anger and bitterness do not make one happy, it only makes you miserable. I am learning the depth of Christ’s love for me in a way I have never known.
Listen, being a church means being a family. If we really are a church then we are a people who really come to know each other, care for one another and share in life together and work in unison for the sake of the gospel. And if that is happening then you know what will happen? We will hurt each other. It’s a fact. There is no perfect church because church is a group of sinner who are being saved by the gospel of Jesus Christ.
And listen, we are not in competition with each other to see who is a better Christian like we are fighting to get to the top of some hill. No we are struggling up together, giving each other a hand, confronting in love when needed and offering grace and compassion all the time. With gutsy guilt we are continually turning to Christ and then to each other and are “kind and tender hearted” and are “forgiving one another just as God in Christ” forgives us. That is what comes from embracing “no condemnation.”
Let’s conclude today’s sermon. We’ve covered a lot. First, let us be a people who fight guilt with the cross of Christ. What’s that mean? It means we take our sin seriously, we don’t try and make light of them and just consider them an accident. No, we shudder at them as a contradiction of who we are in Christ and then we turn to Jesus in repentance. 1 John 1:9 says that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness.” Do you have some sins to confess today? Do that and embrace the condemnation of Christ as your own and walk forward in forgiveness and strength and confidence and hope. And then when the devil brings charges against you, throw up the shield of Romans 8:1 and say no, “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” and I stand in his righteousness and not my own.
Second, let us beware of false gospels that arise in our hearts. Do not think for a second that condemnation is not needed or that hell is not real but just a figment of insecure and ignorant Christians. No, our souls demand it and heap up guilt deep within because they know its reality. So if you do not yet consider yourself a Christian then begin following Jesus today and receive all his blessing provided for you.
If you do claim to be a Christian, a follower of Christ, do not believe the false gospel that would tell you that you got Jesus so you are okay. Jesus isn’t interested in being some lifeboat on the side of a cruise ship. No, he is our anchor and our daily safety in the ocean of this world. We need to live for Christ daily. So realize that you need Jesus and his salvation every day. Be in Christ and make your life all about him.
Lastly, be forgiven. Run to the forgiveness of Christ time and time again. There is no end to his supply. He is the eternal son of God and his death on the cross was of infinite worth, large enough to cover every single sin of every single human throughout all time. Become a forgiven person who is forgiving to others. That is what is going to change San Diego and start a gospel city within the city…the loving forgiveness of our church family who knows the ground of forgiveness, Jesus. Do you need forgiveness today? Receive the love and compassion of our Lord.
And for our kids, today’s sermon has been about how you feel all icky inside when you do something wrong and how the only way to make that go away is to pray and ask Jesus to forgive you and take it away. On the cross Jesus died for you and all the things you have done wrong and will do wrong, so always follow and love Jesus.