The Amazement of No Condemnation

Steve Viars September 22, 2007 Romans 8:1-3

 

- this week I have an opportunity that serves, I think, as a fitting illustration of the verses we’re about to study...

- I attended college at a place called BBC, or Baptist Bible College in Clarks Summit, PA...

- for those who were here a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that when I was talking about one of my professors, Dr. Rembert Carter...

- this is BBC’s 75th anniversary, so they have invited some of their graduates to come back and speak in chapel and I have the privilege of doing that this week...

- that’s an honor of course, and I’m very thankful for it and humbled by it...

- but additionally, I find the whole thing an amazing demonstration of God’s grace...here’s why...

- when I was a student at BBC...I made a lot of great friends with some guys who really loved the Lord, but they were also pretty wild...I’m not talking about drinking or drugs or any of those kinds of things...but words like rebellious, rowdy, foolish, mischievous...would fit the bill pretty well...

- one of the things we used to like to do was to go bushwhacking...

- the college was in the mountains and there were a lot of rural roads not far from campus and so it was a place that attracted couples who would go parking...smooching for lack of a better word...not necessarily students from BBC although was occasionally the case as well..

- so groups of us would get together, sometimes 6, sometimes 8, sometimes 10 or 12 would get together, load up in a pickup truck...and then go find a car that was parked in this fashion...

- and I’m sure there are many variations of bushwhacking, but our brand was to line up in single file behind the back of the car, and then jump on the trunk, run up over the top and down on the hood in a single file line...

- that was back in the old days when cars were built a bit sturdier and that was just what we did...

- one might, just a few days before the end of my junior year...we hadn’t been bushwhacking for some time...and several of us went out and did so...came back to campus...

- and a few minutes later somebody said...there are police cars around the dorm with their flashing lights on...

- now, this was a Bible college campus...those kinds of things did not happen...

- apparently the bushwhackees took down the license plate of the truck that we had been driving that was owned by a big wrestler in our dorm...

- the police went to his room and said...tell us who was out bushwhacking tonight...

- he tried to play it cool and said...I’m not going to tell you...

- either tell us, or you’ll spend the night the night in jail...

- within 10 seconds, he had spilled his guts and given them all our names...

- the next day, we were taken to the police station and fingerprinted...

- that’s when it starting dawning on me that that this was a lot more serious than I realized...apparently the car we bushwhacked had been damaged and the owner wanted to be compensated...

- so a few days later we had to appear in court before the local magistrate...we didn’t bother getting a lawyer....no one was going to get us out of that, so we just pled guilty...

- and I’ll never forget him saying these words...I sentence you to 90 days in the Lackawanna County jail...

- I didn’t know how the system worked, and I was supposed to be going home in a few days for the summer...

- and then he said...after what seemed like a pause that lasted an eternity...I am willing to suspend that  sentence and reduce the charges to a misdemeanor if you pay a $500 fine plus pay for the damage to the owner’s car...

- we later found out from the police that they had a file of a few other cars that had been damaged over the years...and asked if we would like to have those cases opened as well...we paid for all of them and got that over with...

- but then we had to face the school...the Bible College where we were studying to be...pastors...

- and there was no question in anybody’s mind what was going to happen...

- that morning in chapel the Dean of Students discussed the whole issue with the student body and let’s just say that he made it clear that they wanted all bushwhacking to cease...

- then at 2:00 we were scheduled to meet with the disciplinary committee...

- everybody knew that we were going to be kicked out of school and we certainly deserved to be...

- after the committee met with us...they discussed it privately with themselves and said...we think you’ve learned your lesson, and we’re willing to allow you to come back next year and graduate if you promise to keep yourself under control next year...

- I graduated from that school 25 years ago...and to go from that, to having the privilege being brought back for chapel in their 75th anniversary year is nothing short of amazing...

- two things had to happen to get me to that place of really appreciating the school and its leaders...

1. I finally had to be confronted with how bad what we were doing really was.  I honestly never thought much about that.

2. I also had to be a in the position where the only way I was going to get through the problem was by someone showing me an incredible, and undeserved amount of grace.

- this morning I’d like to suggest to you that a person will never grow the way God desires, until they too become aware of, and amazed by both dynamics.

- we’re talking this morning about The Amazement of No Condemnation.

- would you please open your Bible to Romans chapter 8?...page 123 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you...]

- [by the way, if you are wondering if I disclosed my criminal past to the church before being hired here, I actually did.  I wanted Pastor Goode to be sure he was aware of it when he was talking about a position here.  For reasons I never really understood, he thought it was hilarious – develop the way he would introduce you on the road]...

- we’re working verse by verse through Romans 6-8, the most extensive passage on how to grow in all the NT...

- last week we studied the end of chapter 7 which teaches the power of authenticity...

- Paul honestly discusses the spiritual struggle he still experienced even as a mature follower of Christ...that ends, really, the argument of the first 7 chapters...now we’re ready for chapter 8 – read 8:1-3

- in the time we have remaining, let’s look for Three steps to achieve amazement that followers of Christ no longer face condemnation.

I. Understand Why the Words “No Condemnation” Are So Delicious.

- I wonder how many people go through life not being particularly moved by passages of Scripture like this because they would say...well, I was never under condemnation to begin with...

- that’s similar to the shallow view of bushwhacking I had before the police helped me think through the true selfishness and destructiveness of my actions...

- and Paul has been trying to give a clear picture of both the nature of God and the nature of man throughout this book...so we verses like...

- Romans 1:18 - For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,

- a theology that has no place for the holiness of God, or the sinfulness of man, or the appropriate wrath of God is simply not a biblical theology...

- and I understand that a person can choose to believe whatever they want...so that individual could make up a God that fits their fancy...but if the Bible is going to be our guide...condemnation is exactly the condition in which we are born...

- and that is true for several distinct reasons...

A. Because of our sinful heritage.

- I’m not talking about your parents—I’m talking about our race...

- Paul explained the implications of our relationship to Adam in Romans chapter 5...

- Romans 5:17-18 - For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.

- by the way, there was actually a day when all children were taught that about their essential nature, early in their education...

- if you go back to the old McGuffey Readers which were used to teach children to read...when they learned the letters of the alphabet, they were taught a little saying to help them keep the letters in order...

- do you know what small children were taught to say for letter “a” – in Adam’s fall, we sinned all...

- people in culture at that time understood that what we are talking about right now isn’t going to damage a child, or harm a person---if it’s the sum of the problem, and it is---it is better to get it out on the table and try to find a way to deal with it...

B. Because of our sinful nature.

- Ephesians 2:1-3 - And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

- that’s not pleasant to hear, but it’s necessary if it was//is true...[why do horses like to run?---it’s their nature, why do pigs roll in the mud?...why do people sin?]

- just like me and bushwhacking, it is very easy to become callous or cavalier to our very nature unless we’re helped by Scripture to think otherwise.

C. Because of our deeds/lifestyle.

- even if we disagreed with God’s diagnosis of our relationship to Adam, or the essential nature in which we’re born...there’s no way to get around the significance of our deeds...

- Romans 3:23 – For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.

- John MacArthur - Man is not simply influenced by sin but is completely overpowered by it, and no one can escape that dominance by his own effort. Sin is a defiling disease that corrupts every person, degrades every individual, disquiets every soul. It steals peace and joy from the heart and replaces them with trouble and pain. Sin is implanted in every human life, and its deadly force brings a universal depravity that no man can cure.

- now, what’s the point of all of that?...in that courtroom 25 years ago, there was a point at which I realized I was in big trouble...

- this wasn’t as funny as I thought...this wasn’t something that I could talk myself out of...this wasn’t cute...and it wasn’t like I could ignore the problem and it would quietly go away...

- I was condemned...and I deserved to be...it never crossed my mind to try to blame it on someone else or make some lame excuse...I was condemned—I deserved to be—and I was scared to death of the consequences...

- and even after we got through the civil aspect of it all...

- there was no question about me being dismissed from school...

- so those three years training for the ministry were gone...

- all the time, all the money invested---gone...

- and the hope of some day being a pastor, believing that’s what God called me to be...gone...condemned, and deserving to be...

- and I can’t tell you how shocked, and amazed, and indebted we were when the Dean of Students said---we think you’ve paid enough, we’re not going to condemn you any more...

- and here’s the point – that is the way it is...or that is the way that it can be...between you and God...

- and I would encourage you to roll those words around your mind...taste them---aren’t they delicious...no condemnation...

- Paul also says this...

II. Rejoice in How the Words “No Condemnation” Were Made Possible.

- verse 3 is a wonderful summary of the essence of the gospel...

- these great words were not made possible...

A. Not by adherence to the law.

- that was covered in the early part of chapter 7...

- the law can’t make men righteous; it just exposes your unrighteousness...

- and arouses your sinful passions...

- and enslaves you to habits that displease God...

- in other words, it condemns you on every front...

- that’s why verse 3 says – the law was never intended to reconcile a person to heaven...the law could not do that...it was “weak as it was through the flesh...”

- but don’t you love the rest of the argument of the verse?...

- what the law could not do...God did, by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin.

- the words “no condemnation” are only possible...

B. By Christ’s substitutionary atonement.

- when is the last time you can remember being genuinely moved that God loved you so much that He sent His Son to take on a body, so he could be tempted in that flesh and not sin---proving His deity, and then allow that body to be beaten, and pierced, and crucified...and then, in that body, experience separation from the Father while He bore the weight and penalty for our sin?...

- would you lock onto those words in the middle of verse 3 – “sending His own Son...”

- I asked Adam and Gabriella if I could use this illustration because this is a very tender time for them...

- their baby son, when Gabriella was 7 months along in her pregnancy died a few weeks back...you’ve been praying for them and ministering for them and they are very thankful...

- I was asking Adam how they were doing and if there were any ways we could especially minister to them...Adam said something that stuck in my mind...”This is our family’s first taste of death among us, and it has been surreal at times – to utter the words ‘I’d like to purchase a grave for my son’ just doesn’t sound right as it exits your lips”...

- I wonder sometimes if we have gotten so used to the gospel, so used to the price that was paid for our redemption that we fail to sometimes recognize the incredible sacrifice made by the Father...

- there is no question that this verse clearly teaches the substitutionary atonement of Christ...

- we are not saved by Jesus’ teaching....we are not saved by His marvelous example...

- we are saved on the basis on his death, burial, and resurrection in our place...

- He was an offering for sin and thereby He condemned sin in the flesh...

- Martin Luther - Faith unites the soul with Christ as a spouse with her husband. Everything which Christ has becomes the property of the believing soul; everything which the soul has, becomes the property of Christ. Christ possesses all blessings and eternal life: they are thenceforward the property of the soul. The soul has all its iniquities and sins: they become thenceforward the property of Christ. It is then that a blessed exchange commences: Christ who is both God and man, Christ who has never sinned, and whose holiness is perfect, Christ the Almighty and Eternal, taking to Himself, by His nuptial ring of faith, all the sins of the believer, those sins are lost and abolished in Him; for no sins dwell before His infinite righteousness. Thus by faith the believer’s soul is delivered from sins and clothed with the eternal righteousness of her bridegroom Christ.

- so where does this leave us?

 III.  Consider How These Truths Should Impact You.

A. Be sure that you arrived to this position God’s Way.

- what we are talking about this morning is not the way the average person would have designed the salvation process if he/she was God...[develop – something that you had to earn, something that you would never be sure of, and something that you would lose the moment you messed up...]

- this is also not the way the average person on the street thinks about their relationship with God...[I think I’m going to go to heaven, I’m a pretty good person...]

- a person like that in living in one of two places...

1. I still can’t shake the guilt and uncertainty---I’m not really sure...

2. I’m like PV while bushwhacking---I’m guilty but I’ve seared my conscience so that it doesn’t bother me...

- the only way to genuinely be in a position worthy of the word “no condemnation” is to first find a way to be in the position labeled in that same verse – “In Christ”...[develop the gospel...]

- but how should this condition affect those who say they do know the Lord?

B. Understand that growing/serving in response to grace is always better than growing/serving to earn righteousness.

- that has been the underlying concern throughout this passage...

- if salvation is truly but grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone...people will take advantage of it...they won’t be motivated to grow in personal holiness...

- and here’s the bottom line...Father knows best...that is, our heavenly Father knows best...

- He believes the best way for you to grow in personal holiness isn’t by trying to lamely keep his commands in order to earn your salvation some day by your works...

- He believes it is best to relate to you by grace...and it’s necessary to relate to you by grace...

- and by providing His Son...[His own Son...]

- and by making it possible for you to be united to His own Son...so that [v. 2] – the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus will set you free from the law of sin and death...

- and He believes that that is the best way to motivate people to personal holiness and sacrificial service...when they are doing it not to earn something but in response to receiving a gift they could have never earned...

- can I ask you this morning...in your case, was He right?...

- does the thought that you can be in a position with the God of heaven and earth where there is no condemnation...move you to want to significantly grow in Him, and want to sacrificially serve Him?...

C. Be amazed that your salvation is secure.

- I realize that some people grew up in theological systems that suggested that you could lose your salvation...either Romans 8:1 is true or it is not...

- and there are no conditions in this text other than the fact that we are talking about a person who has trusted Christ...

- and this is entirely consistent with what we read in other places in God’s Word...

- John 10:27-29 - My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;  and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.

- Ephesians 1:13 - In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise,

- Ephesians 4:30 – Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

- you might say...well, what about the person who has totally denied the faith?...or what about the person who has no evidence of spiritual fruit?...it is highly likely that such a person never genuinely knew Christ...but God does not motivate people by developing a condemnatory relationship with them...

- he motivates us by the polar opposite...

- 1 John 5:13 - These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.

D. Quickly run to God when you have failed.

- do you have some people in your life who, if you really messed us, you could go talk to...and it doesn’t mean that would agree with what you did...it doesn’t mean you wouldn’t have to face consequences...but do you have some people who would not condemn you in the sense that they didn’t want anything else to do with you...”If I messed up, I know I could go talk to ....”...

- I hope you have a list of people like that...

- can I ask you this...is God on that list?...according to this verse, He should be, He wants to be...

- and that doesn’t mean that there won’t be consequences—sometimes there is...

- it doesn’t mean there would be chastisement—sometimes faithful fathers have to do that with their sons...

- but here’s what a believer in Christ will never find at the throne of God...no condemnation...

- do you remember the delightful story in John 8 about the woman taken in adultery...[develop]...

- John 8:10 - Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?”

- John 8:11 - She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.”]

E. Make our church a place of “no condemnation” of others.

- and of course that has to be balanced...

- we can’t look the other way when it comes to sin...

- we have to talk about how God wants us to change...

- sometimes we have to confront one another---the Bible is clear about that and it can be done in non-condemnatory fashion...

- but here’s the bottom line...there are plenty of people in this church who have messed up...like a pastor who got arrested for bushwhacking...

- and a lot of other people on all sides of the spectrum...

- and the world in which we live can be a pretty condemnatory place...

- when people walk in here, I hope they’ll find people who speak like Christ...we do not condemn you either—go and sin no more.

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video