By Martin Morrison.
One of the great chapters in the Bible is Romans 8. It teaches us the great truths about life in the Spirit. So we will spend a number of devotions working through this chapter. Today we start with Romans 8: 1-4.
The philosopher Edmund Burke (1729 – 1797) said, “No passion so effectively robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear”. We’ve all struggled with fear. Fear of losing a loved one; fear of losing your job; fear of not getting married; fear of staying married; fear of being exposed; fear of death, judgement or hell. The main theme of Romans 8 is safety, security, certainty. Romans 8:1 starts off, “No condemnation”, and ends off with Romans 8:39, “No separation”.
Romans 8 is enormously realistic. Realistic in two ways. Firstly, it understands that we, as Christians, still struggle with sin. You win some; you lose some. But it’s an ongoing struggle. So Paul speaks of us groaning inwardly as we await our final adoption into glory. And as we struggle and wrestle, we sometimes wonder if we are still Christians! Look at my performance! Look at my failures! And so you slip into despair, wondering whether you can really be a Christian. And Paul says, “There is now no condemnation”. Secondly, Romans 8 is realistic in that it understands that we struggle with suffering. When we go through suffering we wonder if God still loves us. And Paul tells us that, “Nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God”.
Paul describes one of the greatest salvation privileges of a follower of Jesus. He tells us that we are free from condemnation, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). That is one of the most remarkable statements in the Bible. Think back over some of the things you did or said over the years: broken relationships; broken promises; lies; hand in the till; stepping on people, using people; illicit sexual activity; pornography. Perhaps you passed on HIV/AIDS; damaged your spouse, your children, your parents; damaged your reputation. Some of your thoughts or actions have haunted you for years; woken you up at night, and given you no hope of sleep. Everyone reading this page has secrets, things you are not proud of. And the reason is that all of us as Christians have lived in Romans 7: 15, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate”.
And then Romans 8:1 comes gatecrashing into our shameful lives and says, “There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”. Jesus was my sin offering; Jesus was my substitute; Jesus died for my sin.
The Old Cycle: I sin, I die. The New Cycle: I sin, he dies; He dies, I live.
Becky Pippert tells a remarkable story in her book, “Hope has its Reasons”.
After Becky had spoken at a church conference, a lovely lady asked to speak to her privately. She was obviously troubled and sobbed as she told Becky her story. Years back, she and her fiancé (to whom she was now married), had been youth workers at a large church. They were a well-known couple and had a significant ministry with young people, who greatly admired them. A few months before they got married, they started having sex, which left them living with guilt and hypocrisy. And then she discovered that she was pregnant. “You cannot imagine what it would mean to admit it to the church. We couldn’t bear the humiliation. So I made the most excruciating decision we’ve ever made. I had an abortion. My wedding day was the worst day of my life. Everyone smiling at me and I kept thinking, you’re a murderer; you were so proud you couldn’t face the shame and humiliation; you murdered an innocent baby”. She sobbed so deeply, she couldn’t speak. “How is it possible I could do such a thing? The Bible says that God forgives, but I can’t forgive myself, even though I’ve confessed it a thousand time., How could I murder an innocent life”.
Then Becky took a deep breath and said, “I don’t know why you are so surprised. This isn’t the first time your sin has led to death, it’s the second. When you look at the cross, all of us put him there. Religious or non- religious, good or bad; aborters or non-aborters. We are all responsible for the death of the only innocent man who ever lived. We all sent him there. Martin Luther quite correctly taught us that we all carry his nails in our pockets. You’ve already done something worse than murdering your baby. You put Jesus on the cross. That’s how really bad you are. And if God can forgive you for THAT sin, of killing his Son, don’t you think he’s able to forgive you for your abortion”. The young lady kept weeping, but now not out of grief but out of gratitude and relief.
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”.
There is no religion or philosophy on earth that comes close to matching the amazing grace of the Gospel. None. Not one. In every single religion, you have to earn your forgiveness; you have to work for your salvation. It is only in Christ, and in the substitutionary death of Christ that you will find no condemnation. As David Powlison said,
“Are you too bad to receive grace?
How could you be too bad to receive what is for the bad?”
For further reading:
Becky Pippert: Hope has its Reasons.
David Powlison: Anything.