Romans 8:1. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Listen, I get it, no condemnation is hard to believe. I mean this idea isn’t true in any other part of our lives. Actually guilty but not condemned? That is not a real thing anywhere else – society, school, family, our own consciences. Sure, many of us can quote this verse, and we probably say we believe it, but do we really believe it in our hearts? Do we actually live free from condemnation?
Why is no condemnation so hard for us to accept? Because we are constantly looking at ourselves, instead of at Christ. We look at our own behavior, our own performance, and our own failures way more than we look at what Jesus has done for us. We fail to see who we truly are in Christ – dead to sin and alive to God. We think that our union with Christ is a process, a union of degrees, as if we are partially in Christ and still partially guilty at the same time. No. With Christ it’s all or nothing.
Why does Paul start this glorious section of scripture about walking in the way of the Spirit with this declaration of no condemnation? Because he knows that if God is after our holiness (and he is), it will never come from condemning us. Feelings of condemnation will never produce heartfelt repentance and righteousness. Only God’s kindness will (Romans 2:4).
You see, condemnation always produces a fight or flight response. Our objective condemnation (yes, you’re guilty) produces a subjective self-condemnation (you feel guilty), and when we feel self-condemnation we will do all kinds of things to escape it. We will compare ourselves to others. We will turn the blame around on the one who we think is condemning us. We will embrace a victim mentality. Or we might try to lessen the “law” that is condemning us, turning sin into “no big deal.”
But the beauty of no condemnation in Christ is that when anything in life seeks to condemn me, I can allow Christ to turn it around and use it to teach me, enlighten me, and encourage me. In Christ, all objective condemnation is gone, and all self-condemnation is reversed. What once condemned me, now convicts me and encourages me.
This is the power of the clear conscience, and the power for spiritual growth.
Hebrews 10:22. let us draw near [to God] with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience.
But let’s be honest shall we? The truth is that our consciences aren’t clear very often. In fact, every day our conscience reminds us just how bad we really are. And in some pretty cruel ways too. And so we spend most of our time trying to silence our consciences.
Earlier in Romans Paul described our consciences this way:
Romans 2:15. [the Gentiles] show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them.
Accusing and excusing.
This is what our conscience, apart from the gospel, normally does. It accuses or excuses. But how?
- Do you spend most of your Christian life trying hard not to sin?
- Do you surround yourself with people that are “worse” than you?
- Do you work really hard at self-improvement?
- Do you engage in religious exercises that bring you absolution?
- Do you turn your sins into virtues (like “at least I’m authentic”)?
Ever since the Garden we’ve been really good at sewing fig leaves together instead of wearing the clothes that Jesus has made for us. The only real way to experience the reality of the clear conscience is a steady diet of the truth of the gospel. And here it is:
The truth is you ARE a mess. Even when the Devil is lying about God, he’s probably right about you. The law’s mirror still doesn’t lie. And your inner lawyer has run out of arguments. All of this is true. But the clear conscience means you can stop excusing. You can face the reality of who you really are – a sinner.
But the truth doesn’t end there. You are also a saint. You are forgiven. You’re forgiven of both your bad works and your self-righteous good works. The law might reveal the realities of our sin, but it can no longer destroy us with its condemning power. This clear conscience means you can stop accusing. You can face the reality of who you really are – a saint.
Because of “to live is Christ,” the force of condemnation – excusing and accusing – is no longer at work in our conscience. Now our conscience is guided by the love of Christ. And the more we allow the gospel to overwhelm our hearts, the more we can listen to our conscience, and follow it into the battle for the hearts of others.
What has sought to condemn you recently?
You in Christ
How can your union with Christ allow you to be convicted and encouraged by this very same thing?
Christ in you
How can you use it to find Jesus’ grace and compassion for others?
Playlist: No Condemnation
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