Romans 8:1(NKJV) 1There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
As we come to the end of this week, let us summarize Romans chapter 7. Paul begins by telling us that we are no longer “married” to the law because we have died with Christ. That does not mean we are single, as it were. We have been married to another, the Spirit through our covenant relationship to Jesus. The point is simply that we no longer live according to God’s principles by keeping the letter of the law. We live according to Godly principles from the inside out by developing the spirit of man, that part of us which was born again in Christ.
The law provides the standards that we are to live by. It defines what is and is not sin for us. It tells us what things offend God and open the door of death into our life. In the natural we most often think of law in terms of punishment. However, in this context the law is much more for definition than punishment.
Finally, Paul defines the struggle most Christians face when they attempt to live this out. They know that the Law of God is good and the right way to live. They want to keep the law but they fail. In Paul’s words they “do what they don’t want to do and don’t do what they do want to do.” His conclusion is that, since he acknowledges the law with his mind, it is not Paul that sins but the flesh that sins. He is not saying this to excuse accountability. He is saying it to highlight the solution. He must strengthen the inner man, the part that loves the law of God and will keep it.
Paul ends Romans 7 with a cry that most of us have felt at one time or another. After we have given in to sin and conviction comes upon us, we cry with Paul, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” In Romans 8, Paul tells us the things we must do to “walk in the spirit” so that we will keep the law inwardly by the spirit not outwardly by the letter.
The very first verse of Romans 8 lays a foundation we must understand if we are going to be successful in learning to walk with our inner man in control. There is no condemnation for those who walk in the spirit. Condemnation is a counterfeit of what God uses to bring us to him and to show us what we need to change. God brings conviction. These two forces, although they seem similar, are very different in the way they operate. One brings life while the other brings death.
The devil brings condemnation on an individual to drive them away from the Lord and to bring them to a state of hopelessness. Conviction brings an understanding that we are wrong, but it also contains the promise and power of God to bring change in our lives. Condemnation leaves us with the weakness of the flesh while conviction calls us closer to God and strengthens us inwardly. Condemnation will always lead the individual deeper into sin, while conviction will lead him toward the freedom that is available in Christ.
Let me use the legal system in our country to illustrate the difference. There are many steps to the process of bringing criminals to justice. Once the trial has been finished and the verdict rendered the person is said to be convicted of the crime. This simply means that it has been determined that he or she is guilty. The person has done something wrong. What has not yet happened is the setting of the consequences for being wrong.
At this point there are many things that can happen. Depending on the nature of the crime there may be probation, or even a suspended sentence. They may have to serve 5 years or 10 years in prison. They may suffer life in prison or, in many states, be put to death. Conviction does not eliminate hope, but condemnation does.
Once the person is convicted by a jury of his peers, he is sentenced by the judge. In most cases the judge has a great deal of leeway in the sentencing process. It is he or she who will decide the fate of the convicted person. However, once the sentenced is passed, the person in now condemned to that sentence. With no appeals available, all hope is now gone. That person’s fate is sealed. He will serve the sentence.
The Lord does convict us of sin, of wrong living and of things that do not please him. He does point out where we are guilty. If he did not, we would never change. We would never come to the point of repentance. Repentance to the believer is not a bad thing. Though it may involve sorrow it is a joyous thing because in the end it produces life. Conviction, the verdict of guilty does come upon us; however we are not ever condemned by God.
You see our Father is the judge in the case. Our older Brother is the “advocate” or lawyer for the defense. (1 John 2:1) Not only that, he has already paid the price for the crime. The sentence from the judge is always “Sentence paid by the blood of Jesus.” We are never without hope. We are never condemned. We are convicted and thereby called closer to God. With the conviction there is always the hope that the power of God is there to help us overcome.
Condemnation always points to what you cannot do. It always emphasizes how bad you are and how you can never overcome this problem. When you here phrases in your mind like, “I always” or “I can never”, you can be sure condemnation and not conviction is at work. The conclusion of condemnation is always, “There is something wrong with me. I am just too weak. I am not good enough to overcome this problem.” Condemnation focuses on you personally. Look out for it. It is not of God and it will not lead you to freedom. I will lead you to more bondage.
Conviction can sometimes feel the same, especially if a person grew up in a condemning environment. If you were constantly condemned by parents, siblings or someone else you will tend to respond to conviction as if it were condemnation. However the actual effect of conviction properly understood and responded to is very different.
Conviction focuses on what is wrong not on how bad you are. Conviction says, “This is not God’s way and you are God’s child. You can do better.” Conviction from God would never say, “There is something wrong with you.” It will always point to the availability of the power of God in our lives that can elevate us to a higher plane. It will always lead us to the spirit and away from the flesh. The whole focus of condemnation is the weakness of the flesh.
Do not give in to condemnation. However do yield to the loving, convicting hand of God. It will always lead you to a higher and stronger place.