Last week I highlighted the bold claim in Romans 8 that there is no condemnation for those who belong to Jesus. But there is a very obvious counter argument to this claim…we still sin and make wrong choices, even though we belong to Jesus. Isn’t this bold claim simply a licence to sin? Can’t we just claim the grace of God covers what we do and carry on sinning?
It’s the argument Paul’s audience bought up when they heard this teaching. Also, I said last week that ‘condemnation’ is defined as ‘very strong disapproval’. Isn’t the conviction of the Holy Spirit and our conscience also a ‘strong sense of disapproval’? How does ‘condemnation’ differ from ‘conviction’.
Let’s deal with this question first. This is my personal experience but when I feel the weight of condemnation, I lose all hope and I can’t see a way out. When the Holy Spirit convicts me, I feel mortified and sorry for my actions but also know I can ask for forgiveness and be freed from my sin. In other words, I still have hope of redemption. I live in the strange place of ‘the now and not the not yet’, where ‘now’ I am a sinner and I still make wrong choices and ‘I’m not yet’ completely set free from the power and desire to sin and ‘yet’ the day is coming when I will be resurrected with the a new body just like Jesus and I will be living in the Kingdom of God just like Jesus and I will never sin again just like Jesus. And if you can get your head around that mind-blowing truth, you’ll never look at this life in the same way.
But what about the grace of God being a licence to sin all the more? Paul deals with that in Romans 8. He states that there is no condemnation for those who belong to Jesus because through Jesus, the Spirit, who gives you life, has set you free from sin. That, however, is just part 1 because Paul goes on to say ‘therefore’. In other words, there is an expected response from us. Listen to what he says
Romans 8: 12 Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. 13 For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.
My father-in-law was a beautiful godly man who became more gracious and patient and longsuffering (especially with people) the older he got. He confided in me that the older he got the less often he had to repent before the Lord about his sin. He didn’t tell many people about this because he thought people might think he was boasting. That wasn’t his point. He was trying to explain that that older he got, the more he heard God saying ‘don’t do it’ before he made the wrong choice. Not only that, he heard God and obeyed. Not always but more than when he was younger.
This idea that you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges to do is not a pie in the sky ideal. Nor is it a reality of heaven that we wish for. It’s the reality of this world right now. It’s the truth we know and what we do each day is work on the gap between what we know the bible says (our theology) and our lived lives (our praxis). It’s time to start doing what we say we believe church! And this is a very good place to start.