A Christian radio show host I enjoy listening to recently shared a story about his daughter looking for a job to help put herself through college.  She applied at a local daycare and had success getting an interview.  However, during the interview she was shocked to be informed by the supervisor that one of the core values of the institution was that a child under their care must never be told “NO!” about anything!  I guess they were concerned that hearing the word “NO!” might squash the children’s personalities or scar them for life.  (Maybe it’s just me, but by that definition I think I was benefitted by being “squashed” and “scarred”!)  This past Wednesday Night we looked at Romans 8:1-17 in terms of three “NO’s!” that children of God should be encouraged, convicted, and strengthened by.

NO CONDEMNATION Part 1—Our Debt’s Been Paid (Rom. 8:1)…Romans 8 begins by telling us that “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!”  The word “therefore” implies that a conclusion is being made from information that has previously been given.  So to fully appreciate the crescendo conclusion of Romans 8:1 we must look to the prelude verses leading up to it.  Romans 7 finds Paul lamenting that he struggles with sin.  He wants to do what is right but the fallen nature that has infected every member of the human race pulls him toward sin.  In a somewhat exasperated tone he finally calls himself a wretched man and wonders who can set him free from what he calls “this body of death.”  Now there was a known tradition by a people group of ancient days whereby if a murderer was caught in time enough the punishment he would receive was to be tied to the body of the one he had killed.  The decay of the dead body would seep into the body of the murderer and the criminal would over time die from being tied (literally) to the carnage he himself had caused.  Paul knew he was a sinner who would be lost and undone apart from the work of Christ.  The law that he had based his righteousness on before coming to know the Lord was sufficient to convict him as guilty but was not up to the task of providing a way to clear him as innocent.  I’m glad the post-conversion Paul had an answer to the question of who could set him free from “this body of death”, it was none other than “Jesus Christ our Lord!”  Jesus died the terrible death on the cross, showing the heinous nature of sin and the high penalty that it must incur.  However, Christ was not paying a price for His own sins, for the spotless Lamb of God never sinned in word, thought, or deed!  So, whose sins was He paying for?  The sins of all of those who would repent and put their faith in Him as THE Savior!  If you’re a genuine child of God then the rap sheet of your sins has been washed whiter than sin, your iniquities have been pardoned, your transgressions have been cast as far away as the East is from the West to be remembered against you no more!  You don’t have to worry that your sins are halfway forgiven and that our Heavenly Father sees you as a second class member of the family of God.  There is no elephant in the room holding you forever at arm’s length from the Presence of the Almighty because of your past if you are now “In Christ”!  If you’re a blood bought child of the living God then the law has convicted you but Christ has cleared you.  The debt has been paid!  We’ve been set free from the “body of death” that our sins caused through the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus!  “Jesus paid it all, All to Him I owe, Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow!”  Indeed, “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!”

NO CONDEMNATION Part 2—We’re In A Different Jurisdiction (Rom. 8:2)…About a year or so ago my wonderful wife was driving down Glenwood Avenue in East Ft. Myers when out of nowhere she heard and felt something hit the side of our car.  It was pouring rain so she didn’t get out.  She drove around the block a couple of times trying to find what it might have been but saw nothing.  She came home and we drove back to the scene together.  Nothing was there, but something had hit our car as evidenced by the huge dent in the passenger side!  In an attempt to make sure the event was reported I called the Ft. Myers Police Department.  They asked me where the incident occurred and when I told the operator they informed me that City jurisdiction ended at Prospect so it was a County issue.  As soon as the city operator gave me a hasty, but pleasant goodbye I dialed the Lee County Sheriff’s Office.  The county operator began by asking me where we lived.  When I gave her my home address she informed me that I needed to call the Ft. Myers Police Department because I lived in the city!  (*I then called 911 to report a medical emergency due to my suddenly elevated blood pressure!  Just kidding!*)  Before the LCSO operator could give me a hasty, but pleasant goodbye I interjected that the incident had occurred within County borders.  She then took my information and eventually we were contacted by a Sheriff’s Deputy to get the report dealt with sufficiently.  It was a hassle being transferred back and forth between departments, especially when in a time of need.  That being said, I recognize the necessity to make sure that they were the authority in charge in the location where the scene occurred.  Jurisdiction is important.  Romans 8:2 declares that “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.”  If you are a genuine child of God then there is no condemnation for you!  Why?!  Because you have been set free and transferred into a new jurisdiction!

NO TO THE SINFUL DESIRES OF THE FLESH—And YES To The Spirit! (Rom. 8:5-11)…Though certainly not a new doctrine, the idea of “The Carnal Christian” has become increasingly popular in the past 20 or so years.  The teaching basically divides people up into three groups.  The first group would be Unbelievers.  These have rejected the gospel of Christ; they are unrepentant of sin and have not placed faith and trust in Jesus as the only Savior for man.  Their end, should they remain in their unbelieving condition, is eternal, conscious torment in the fires of hell.  The second group of people are Bonafide Christians.  They have turned from sin and put their faith in Christ.  These folks read their Bibles regularly and take what it says seriously.  They do things like go to church, pray, give of their substance, care for their brothers and sisters in the Lord, and even share their faith as God would provide opportunity.  Then there’s the third group of people.  These are the Carnal Christians.  They’ve heard the gospel message, repeated a prayer after someone, maybe they’ve even walked the aisle and perhaps even got baptized.  However, their commitment to Jesus, or at least any continuous and abiding commitment, is quite lacking.  They own a Bible, but don’t much read it.  They go to church, sometimes.  Maybe at Christmas or Easter, perhaps when they’re going through a really difficult time, maybe when there’s a funeral or wedding, or perhaps when there’s absolutely no other work related event or sporting championship taking place, when the weather is a perfect 75 degrees, when 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep occurred on Saturday night, when all the traffic lights are guaranteed to be green, and if it happens to be a leap year ending in an odd number (don’t think about that last one too deeply)!  They pray when they need something..I mean when they need to…I mean…well I think you get what I mean.  They give in the offering, on the occasion that they actually made it to church and feel especially generous and if they’ve already taken care of all their personal financial needs and several of their financial greeds.  They maybe even tell someone else about Jesus from time to time, but it might be wise to make sure that the person they’re speaking to is sitting down because they’ll be surprised to find out that someone they’ve heard profane the Lord’s name and live an ungodly life in various and sundry kind of ways is actually claiming to be a follower of His!  “The Carnal Christian” doctrine says that these folks have “accepted Christ as Savior but do not know Him as Lord.”  They don’t live holy lives or seek after God but should the trumpet sound they’re going to rise with Jesus; should they die today then their eyes will open to see the glories of Heaven.

There’s only one thing wrong with the “Carnal Christian Doctrine”; IT’S WRONG!  The Bible clearly teaches us that there are only two kinds of people in the world: the saved and the lost; the blessed and the damned; the sheep and the goats; the believer and the unbeliever; the wise and the foolish; those going to Heaven and those going to Hell!  Many people rejoice in the Romans 8 idea that being in Christ means that there is NO CONDEMNATION for the sins that they’ve committed.  Jesus’ sacrifice has paid the penalty for sin!  Hallelujah!  However, so few keep reading in the chapter to discover that being in Christ, being a genuine believer, also means that they now are empowered through the Holy Spirit to say NO TO THE SINFUL DESIRES OF THE FLESH!  Jesus’ sacrifice has not only paid the penalty for sin, but has also broken the power of sin!  To be a Christian means we now have the power to have a mindset on the things of God instead of on the things of this world.  To be In Christ means we are now at peace with God instead of in a state of enmity with Him.  To be a child of God means that we seek to please Him instead of living to please ourselves (or worse yet trying to twist His Word and His Arm trying to get God to please our selfish whims).  Now don’t get me wrong, salvation is not based on our works, it is on the basis of grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone!  I know my flesh (at least to a degree) and what I know makes me have absolutely no confidence in myself to merit any benefit from God, much less the benefit of glorious salvation and a place in Heaven.  That being said, I know Christ and who He is and what He has done is so powerful that I have every confidence that a genuine believer in Him cannot help but to have their lives changed towards the holiness of God!   Some may grow fast and some may grow slow, but everyone that is born again must grow!  If we’re not growing then we must question our birth!  If our lives have no fruit, then we must question if there’s really a root!  No one living comfortably in perpetual and unrepentant sin should have any assurance of salvation.  We must make our calling and election sure.