Summary: Believers need to be established in the grace of God in order to live a stable Christian life. Pastor shares his observations from being in a legalistic church; then gives biblical teaching on the freedom Christians have from condemnation because of what
Our text is Romans 8:1 1 “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (NIV).i In 1962 I received the Lord at an old fashion Pentecostal church. Those leading that congregation knew how to invite the Lord’s presence into a service. I am so grateful for all I learned from them. I learned how to enter into worship; and I had many precious experiences with the Lord. However, there was not much grounding in the Word. The theology was that if you sinned you lost your salvation and you need to get re-saved. Most sermons were exposing sin and calling for repentance. The honest ones got saved every week.
If you think that a sin causes you to lose your salvation, you will not have a very stable walk with the Lord. In the second chapter of his epistle James tells us that if you commit one sin, you are guilty of the whole law. If our salvation is based on keeping the law, then even a sin as common as partiality would cause us to lose our salvation. Listen to the apostle’s reasoning in James 2:8-11 “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you do well; 9 but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. 11 For He who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.” Because of their lack of biblical understanding most of the people in that congregation fell away. They would struggle and try harder and still fail. They would try again even harder, but it didn’t work. Then the Devil would convince them that they simply couldn’t live the Christian life and just as well give up. Many went into gross sin because they believed that lie.
Fortunately for me, about the time I experienced those things I met people who were grounded in the grace of God and shared that understanding with me. When people don’t have a revelation of the grace of God they are vulnerable to the enemy. I saw the other extreme in another church where they turned the grace of God into lasciviousness. Many of them fell into sin because they abused the grace of God.ii I know from many years of experience that it is important to get a biblical understanding of these things. So my text this morning is this one simple statement from Romans 8:1 “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (NIV).
I have a message for someone who is struggling. In Romans 7 Paul describes the struggle that a Christian goes through when he or she is trying to do the right thing, yet stumbling and failing. The frustrations of that experience led him to cry out in Rom. 7:24 “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” People who are not trying to do right don’t experience that kind of frustration. They sin and shrug it off with little concern. It is the person who really wants to live godly that can get into that state of mind—the person who tries; and when that doesn’t work, tries harder; and when that doesn’t work tries even harder until there is this point of desperation crying out from deep inside, “What am I going to do about this?” “I can’t seem to live according to my values. Yet I love and fear God too much to just ignore the sin.” Has anyone besides me, ever been there?
It is the result of pursuing the right thing in the wrong way! It is what happens when we, with all good intentions, try to beat a habit in our own strength—try to live for God out of our own willpower. It’s not a question of sincerity. When Paul was experiencing this, he was a sincere as you can get. But he had to learn how to depend upon the Lord for his sanctification.iii He had to learn that his own best efforts were not good enough. He had to discover a way of dealing with the matter that actually works.
That discovery is expressed by Paul in the next verse, Rom. 7:25 “I thank God -- through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Through a reliance on what Jesus has done for me, I can live in victory. The center of my attention and the center of my faith must be in Jesus—not in my own efforts, not in religious ritual, but in the person who is the “author and finisher” of my faith.iv