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No condemnation - Romans 8:1-17

This is a sermon by Malcolm Peters from the Riverside Church service on 27th July 2008.

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I wonder if you’ve ever seen the advert for Ronseal on the TV:  apparently “it does exactly what it says on the tin”. 

And when people are looking at Christianity from the outside, that’s what they want to know: does the Christian faith work?  Does it do what it says on the tin?   Can it sort out the mess in my life and produce love, joy and peace;   or is it like the endless adverts for miracle cleaning products which claim effortless whiter than white results;  but when you actually buy some, it doesn’t actually do what it says on the tin.  So does the Christian faith work?

And it’s not an academic question is it?  Because we all know of people who’ve professed to be Christians, and who were really keen and going for it, but who are now either stuck in 1st gear, or who’ve totally rejected the faith and possibly now living openly immoral lives.  Last week I briefly mentioned 2 vicars who’ve recently had affairs which have led to the break up of their marriages.  So does the Christian faith work?  Or is my preaching just like the ads on the TV?  Well that’s the issue Romans chapter 8 is all about.   The results of Christian faith.  And those results are generated by the HS – as the title for chapter 8 in the NIV puts it:  life through the Spirit.   As we’ll see next week in the rest of chapter 8, the HS is the one who opens our blind eyes to the truth of the Gospel.  It’s the HS who brings us to new birth in Christ as God so chooses.    And so one of the very first jobs of the HS in the life of a Christian is give us assurance that we’re free from condemnation, which is the title of this morning’s sermon:  No condemnation.    Look with me at 8:1

Rom 8:1:   Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,

No condemnation.  And so we’re going to look at that overarching theme under 3 heading:

1.      The Holy Spirit sets us free from the law of sin and death [v2-4]

2.      All Christians have the Holy Spirit [v5-11]

3.      So live according to the Holy Spirit  [v12-15]

The HS sets us free from the law of sin and death    [v2-4]

First of all then in v2-4, we see that the HS sets us free from the law of sin and death.  The HS sets us free from the law of sin and death.    What’s the law of sin and death?  Well first notice that it’s only through or  in Christ that the Spirit sets us free.  You can’t separate the work of the HS from the work of Christ on the cross.  It’s only because of what Christ did on the cross that its benefit can be applied to us in the first place.  So what’s the law of sin and death?  

Well look again at v3:

3For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature

In chapter 5, we learnt that we are all by nature in Adam.  Adam’s sin affects us all.  We are all corporately in Adam and so also responsible for Adam’s sin.  But worse, as we saw last week, this original sin which we’re born in weakens our nature so that we’re incapable of obeying God’s Law on our own.  So although the Law is good, we saw that the effect of the law is to provoke further sin in us.  By nature, we’re spiritually weak and prone to sin.  And because the wages of sin are death, by nature, we’re all subject to God’s judgement – eternal death. 

But the Good news in the rest of v3, is that God sent his son.  And although Jesus never committed any sin, he came to earth in the likeness of sinful nature to deal with sin once for all. How did he deal with sin?  By dieing on the cross.  And the result of that death was, in v4, that the righteousness requirements of God’s good law are fully met in Christians.  The law of sin and death stated that sin must be punished.  But Jesus has taken that punishment for us if we’re Christians.

But it’s more than that.  The substitution which Jesus was doing on the cross wasn’t simply Jesus taking His people’s sins into himself.  He was also giving back to His people His perfect life of obedience.  Not only are Christians’ sins forgiven, but they’re also clothed in J’s perfect obedient righteousness.  It’s like you’ve come in from muddy game of football;  you get to the back door and you take off your old muddy clothes and you put on some clean clothes.  The filthy clothes are off and have been replaced by nice clean ones. 

And it’s the same when we become Christians; you’ve taken off the filthy rags of sin and put on X’s perfect new clothes of obedience;  so when God the F looks at a Christian, he doesn’t just see a neutral person, free from sin;  no God sees us clothed in J’s perfect obedience.  It’s a double substitution;  Jesus takes away our sin and gives us His perfect obedient righteousness.

But it’s God’s plan that our status of obedience which Jesus has given us should gradually be reflected in the actual obedience of our lives.   It’s what theologians call sanctification.  As well as having put on clean clothes, our bodies underneath those clothes need to be cleaned up as well.  And that’s what the HS sets out to do in every a genuine believer – clean us up from the inside out, so that our lives reflect more and more our new status as righteous people in Christ.   And this is no soap powder advert;  it guaranteed  because it’s a promises from God;  Christians will be progressively cleaned up from the inside out and, when we reach heaven, that cleansing process will be complete and we’ll be perfect.  Guaranteed for all eternity.   

  

All Christians have the HS            [v5-11]

So the key question this passage forces us all to ask is this:  are you in Christ?     Which bring us onto the passage’s second main point in v5-11:  all Christians have the HS;  all Christians have the HS.  So what does it mean in real life to be in Christ?  What does it mean to have the Spirit and to live accordingly to the Spirit?  Well look with me at the second half of v5: 

5b: those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.

And the second half of v6 says: 

6b:  the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.

The mind of the spirit is concerned about things which please God – things like love, joy and peace.  So the mind of the spirit-filled person is set on spiritual things, which is why, in chapter 12, we’re told to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.   

So what’s the foundation of a renewed mind?  Well look with me at v10: 

10But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.

Somebody once told me that Christians are so heavenly minded that they’re of no earthly use.  Maybe you’ve heard that phrase too!  But actually the Bible tells us that it’s the other way round.  Many Christians are of little earthly use, because they’re not heavenly minded enough.  If you’re a spirit-filled Christian, then your ultimate citizenship is not British or Zimbabwean or whatever;  it’s heavenly;  you should be living with, and experiencing, the tension of living in the sinful now while waiting for the perfect heavenly not yet as we saw last week.  Or as v 11 puts it, you need to have your eyes fixed on the destination that God has for you:  an eternal life in God’s perfect heaven.  If the Spirit dwells in you, then the power of the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead on Easter Sunday, will one day raise your decaying and mortal body to become an perfect and sinless body;  a body fit for an eternity in a perfectly recreated world;  a world with no more pain, no more tears, no more dying and no more sin.    

When I worked in the City, I was sent on lots of management training courses.  And on one of these courses, I remember this slogan:  ‘if you don’t know where you’re going, you not very likely to get there’.  And it’s the same in the Christian life;  if you haven’t got your eyes fixed on heaven, then you’re going to be blown of course by the trials and hassles of life is this transitory sinful world.  When the next bombshell hits, you’ll begin to question God’s love.  When you start to get older, and your body wears our and maybe you face the need for surgery, then you’ll loose your focus on heaven.  When you’ve got problems at work or the neighbours from hell move in, you’ll become distracted.    Whatever the issues in your life, if you haven’t got your eyes fixed on the goal of heaven, with Jesus as you firm anchor, you’ll definitely been blown of course by the storms of life.

So the mind of the Spirit-filled Christian is focused on Jesus, focussed on heaven and focussed on how to please God on the way to heaven.  And the mind of the spirit-filled Christian is realistic and alert about all the distractions along the way. 

So is that you?  It’s an important question, because the opposite of the spirit-filled Christian is the one who lives according to the flesh.  Look with me at v5: 

5Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires;

And onto v6:    “The mind of sinful man is death”

And v7:

77the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. 8Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.


Anyone who doesn’t have the Spirit will have an inner hostility to God and his righteous law;  you might be able to cover it up will with those around you, but if you haven’t got the Spirit, then you’re a God-hater.  As the second half of v9 puts it: 

Rom 8:9b:   if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.

So the question is:  have you got the Holy Spirit or not?  Are you still controlled by the sinful nature, having a mind set on disobedience and death.  Or are you spirit-filled:  living to please God.  It’s perfectly possible to be a professing Christian, church member and yet still hear these words from the Lord Jesus on the last day:  “I never knew you;  depart from me your workers of lawlessness.” 

And if that’s you, then you need to cry out to God for mercy before it’s too late.  You need God’s help because, accordingly to v7, the sinful nature is hostile to God, incapable of submitting to God’s law and incapable of responding to the Gospel on its own.  If that’s you, then you need to cry to God that He would soften your heart, that he would open your blind eyes to the truth of the Gospel;  and so that you can be justified by His gift of faith in Jesus.  Only then will you have able to have any assurance that God is your Father and that there’s no longer any condemnation for you when you die.    And if that’s you, then pl sort it out with God before you go home this morning.  It really is a matter of eternal life and death. 

So live according to the Holy Spirit  [v12-15]

In v5-11 we’ve seen that all genuine Christians have the Holy Spirit.  So now in v12-15, for those in Christ, we’re commanded to live according to the Holy Spirit.  Live according to the Holy Spirit.  Which means 2 things:

First in v13, negatively we’re to put to death the deeds of our ongoing sinful nature. Which means what you might be thinking?  Well we could turn to many NT passages, but as an example, just listen to these words from Paul’s letter to the Colossians:   

 5Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9Do not lie to each other

Well aren’t these real issues for us here at [SF/ Riverside]?   Deal with any sexual immorality, greed and pride that’s among you says the Spirit.  And what about anger, malice, slander, deceit, dishonesty or even a dose of double-mindedness as the Apostle James would have put it?   What about factions, divisions and dissentions?  Yes of course we need to discuss real issues in the church;  yes of course we it’s right to pass on constrictively critical feedback about things we feel are not right.  But let’s make sure we handle such issues in a godly way.  Let’s make sure our discussions and feedback are done ‘in love’ and for the right motives.  And overall let’s make sure we’re putting to death all those deeds of the flesh:  all that deceit, slander, malice and general negativity.  Yes it’s hard, especially when some things might not be going as well as we’d hoped or when you’ve been hurt by someone else, even another Christian.  But as Christians, we have God’s powerful spirit within us, helping us live His way;  helping us put to death the deeds of our ongoing sinful nature.

Live according to the Spirit, v12-15 are telling us.  And the first thing we’ve seen this means in practice is that we’re to put to death the deeds of our ongoing sinful nature.  But secondly, from v14, we’re to be led by the Spirit into positive godly behaviour.  So does this mean we just let go and let God as I’ve heard some people teach?

Absolute rubbish.    Throughout the NT we find comparisons of the Christian’s life to that of an athlete, or a solider or a hard working farmer.  Whatever the comparison, the message is the same.  Our minds are to be renewed as we feed on Scripture and find out what the Lord’s will is.  And then we seek God’s help to live according to the Spirit.  And let’s be careful to spot yet more false teaching which divorces God’s Spirit from His Word;  they always go together. As Paul puts it elsewhere:  we struggle with all His energy which works so powerfully in us through the HS as we seek to obey His Word. 

We’re to work out our salvation as we struggle in the battle against sin which chapter 7 described; we’re to work out our salvation as we seek to live a life pleasing to God.  What does that mean in practice?  Well hard work in understanding the Scriptures to see how God wants us to live;  and then more hard work as struggle to live as God has shown us in His Word.  Can you give us some specific examples you might be thinking?  Well later in chapter 12 Paul says this: 

9Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honour one another above yourselves. 11Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

In the Christian life, people and relationships are central.  We are to love people, and love people holistically;  which means we’re not just interested in people for what they can do for us;  we’re not just interested in people as evangelistic targets, even though the greatest way to love someone is to pray for them and to lead them to Christ.  We’re to be generous with our money, our time and our homes;  we’re to make an effort to be interested and concerned about the details of each other’s lives; to remember that Mrs Smith’s husband died a few years ago and she’s still struggling;  to remember and pray about Mr Jones’s 3 grown-up children, none of whom know the Lord and so are currently heading for an eternity in hell.  We’re to face setbacks, affrication and difficult people with patience and joy, not because we love hassle;  but because we’re forgiven people ourselves and our heavenly destination is guaranteed;  and, in the meantime, we have the spirit’s help for all our struggles. 

It’s hard;  and this side of heaven we’ll still mess up and need to come back to God seeking his forgiveness.  But with the Spirit working within us, we can and will make progress. And, on that day, the day we reach the celestial city, the Spirit’s work will be complete and we’ll be perfect.    On that day, the struggle will be over. 

So we come back to the question we began with.  Does the Christian faith work?  Does it do what it says on the tin?   And the answer is yes.  If you’re genuinely one of God’s people;  if you are a spirit-filled Christian, then yes, the Christian faith works;  yes you are forgiven;  yes you are being transformed from the inside out;  yes one day that process will be complete and you’ll be perfect;  and yes, if you’re a Christian, there is no condemnation, now or ever;  guaranteed. 

Does the Christian faith work?  Yes, for those who are truly His.  And so the bigger issue is this:  are you a genuine Christian?  Does your inner spirit bear witness in v15 that God’s truly your Abba Father, that you are one of His children?  Because if you’re not, then the redemption which Christ accomplished on the cross, won’t benefit you.  The Christian faith won’t work for you, if you’re not a genuine Christian, even if you pretend to be.  The Christian faith really does work for those that are truly Christian.  And so the real question is:  are you a genuine Christian?  If you are, then praise the Lord for His eternal blessing to you in the Spirit.  But if not, then it’s time to do something about it.  Let’s pray.

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