David Jeremiah - A Revolutionary Freedom
Several years ago, an issue of, "The New York Times" featured a story about a 50- year-old ex-convict named Robert Salzman. After a horrific childhood, Salzman spent most of his adult life in prison. When he was released from prison in 2001, he found it very difficult to enjoy his freedom. He didn't have any money. He couldn't pay his rent. He didn't know what to do. He'd lived so much of his life in prison, he didn't know how to live outside of prison. But finally in June of 2010, Salzman had a grace-like experience. He was riding a New York City subway, and he was found by Rashad Ernesto Green, a writer and director, who was searching for someone to play a tough-looking former convict for an upcoming film. After an audition, Green surprised nearly everyone when he gave Salzman a key role for the film.
In the following months, Salzman found it hard to believe that he'd actually been set free, set free from prison, that he was outdoors. He was outside doing what he wanted to do. On one occasion, while he was filming with Green on location in the Long Island Penitentiary, an exhausted Salzman fell asleep on a cot in the prison cell. When he woke up, he became very confused and thought he was still a prisoner. Salzman started crying in despair until it slowly dawned on him that he was now a free man. Salzman was overwhelmed by the joy of knowing that at any moment he could walk out of that cramped cell and through the prison doors. On the other side of the prison walls, he could enjoy his new life of freedom.
In a very imperfect way, Salzman's story reminds me of many of us, who have been set free by the gospel. But if we're not careful, we act like it hasn't happened. We forget that we're free. We wake up out of our sleep and can't figure out why the burden still seems so heavy upon us. In Romans chapter 8, we will learn about our freedom. Romans chapter 8's been called the greatest chapter in the greatest book, containing the greatest verse in all of Scripture, Romans 8:28. There is no chapter in all of the Bible that presents so clearly what the spiritual life is really all about. An old German commentator named Spener, said that, "If the Bible were a ring and the book of Romans its precious stone, then chapter 8 would be the sparkling point of the jewel".
Stephen Cole, another writer said, "I've come to Romans 8 again and again when I've been discouraged or depressed. I don't see how you can read Romans 8 and remain down. If you struggle with guilt, read Romans 8. If you struggle with sin, read Romans 8. If you don't know how to pray, Read Romans 8. If you're struggling with the assurance of your salvation, read Romans 8".
So, we begin this series on Romans 8 with just four verses, verses 1 through 4. These verses are like an overture to a great symphony. All of the themes of the entire chapter are mentioned in some way in the first four verses, and these verses will help us get our bearings for this whole study. Paul announces that if we're in Christ, something is true about us. What I want to do today in these four verses is help all of us to review and recapture what it means to be a Christian. What are the blessings that are ours because we're in Christ? No wonder many people have memorized this whole chapter. Because when you begin to doubt about your salvation, you begin to wonder if all of this is really true, you need to go back to the truths of Romans 8 and be encouraged and strengthened in your walk.
So, here are four things you should know about yourself, if you're a Christian. First of all, you are free from the penalty of sin, if you're a Christian. If you've been born again, if you're saved, if you're in Christ Jesus, you are free from the penalty of sin. You don't have to read very far in the Bible before you discover that sin is a destructive and a deadly force. You remember David said, "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me". Paul tells us that sin is universal. Romans 3:23, "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God". Jesus said, "The end of sin is condemnation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved, but he who does not believe will be condemned".
And against that backdrop, Paul's words in Romans 8:1 are totally astonishing to us. If all have sinned and all have come short of the glory of God, how could it ever be said, as it is in Romans 8:1, "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus"? Against that backdrop is this incredible declaration of Paul. This verse teaches us the reason for our freedom. If you read the first chapters of the book of Romans, you will see Paul extrapolating all of the details of salvation, how when we were without strength, Christ died for us and that we have been justified freely by the grace of God. And then you get to Romans 8 and verse 1 and you hear him saying, "Therefore, therefore", because of all of this, you are free. We are not free because of anything we have done. We're not free because of the church we go to or the creed. We are free because God has done something to free us from our bondage and free us from our slavery.
Romans 5:1 is the positive statement. Romans 5:1 says, "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ". Romans 8:1 is the negative statement. Let me read the two verses together. "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. There 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". Now, in our heads, we all believe that. We've probably heard some preacher say it, maybe this preacher. But let's stop at the next word. "There is therefore now".
That's the result of your freedom. Today, right now, where you are, you are not being condemned. This one fact alone is the difference between a Christian and a non-Christian. The unbeliever has his judgment day before him. If he does not repent and receive Christ, one day he will be judged. The Scripture says condemned. But the believer in Christ has his judgment day behind him. For the believer, the judgment is past and gone, and there is therefore now no condemnation.
Here's a good word from Donald Gray Barnhouse. "If the members of the human race are permitted to yell because their team won a football game, because their candidate won an election, because they have won $50 on a horse race, because their drilling has produced a gusher, then let us shout for joy because we are in Christ Jesus. Therefore, there is no condemnation for us now". You don't have to shout, but you could give the Lord a good handclap right now for that, amen? The Bible says that at this very moment, you and I, we do not have any condemnation over us. We are not condemned. There is therefore now, here's the next word, the reality of your freedom. No condemnation.
Condemnation is a forensic term which includes both the sentence and the execution of the sentence. It means to be pronounced guilty and sentenced to punishment. But Romans 8:1 is a verse full of important words. The most significant word in the whole verse is the word "no". In fact, when Paul wrote this verse in the Greek language, "no" is the first word in the Greek text. Sometimes they moved words around for emphasis. So, if you were to read that in the Greek text, it would say, "No, not any," and then the rest of the verse. Paul is not saying that we don't have some condemnation. He is saying we have no condemnation. We don't have limited condemnation. We don't have appropriate condemnation. We don't have calculated condemnation. We don't have a little condemnation. We have no condemnation. What does that mean? Well, most basic meaning of no condemnation is that there is no rejection by God. God will not turn you aside. He will not kick you out of his family. No matter what you do, he will never, ever leave you.
The second thing no condemnation means, according to Ray Steadman, is that God is not angry with you when you struggle in life. You want to be good? You want to stop doing this? When the moment of temptation comes, you find yourself overpowered and weak, and you give away, and then you hate yourself for what you've done. And though you may condemn yourself, God does not. You know why? There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.
The third thing is that no condemnation means God will never take you to the woodshed because of your struggles. You may punish yourself. You may be frustrated. You may cry out, "Oh, wretched man that I am," as Paul did in Romans 7. But God doesn't say that. Even when you are being corrected for disobedience, you still are not being condemned. I want you to get that message today, because so many people live like the young man who was still is prison in his mind. You are not condemned. If you're a Christian, your sins have been covered by the blood of Jesus Christ. You are forgiven, you are free, you are not under condemnation.
And here's what Charles Cranfield said. "For those who are in Christ Jesus, there is no divine condemnation, since the condemnation they deserve has already been fully born by the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. He condemned sin for us. He took the penalty we deserved". Do we deserve to be condemned? Absolutely, probably just for what we did last week. But God took that, and he placed it on his Son, Jesus Christ. All the condemnation that you and I deserve was leveled on him when he died on the cross. Therefore there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. Oh, what a truth that is. How that should liberate us and free us. And then the Bible says the relationship of this freedom belongs to those who are in Christ Jesus.
Now, everything we have, according to Paul, is because we are in Christ Jesus. What does that mean? Did you know that this expression is one of Paul's favorite expressions? I think it's in every one of his epistles. In Christ Jesus. And it pictures a new sphere into which the believer is brought to salvation. The concept of being in Christ is not an easy one to grasp, but I want to tell you a story from the Old Testament that will help. When the ark was finished and a perfect way of escape from divine wrath was provided, an invitation went out. "Come into the ark with all of your household", Genesis 7:1. The Bible says the ark was pitched within and without.
Interestingly enough, with pitch, which is the identical word used elsewhere for the word atonement. The ark was covered with pitch. It was covered with atonement. Between the saved in the ark and the waters of judgment without was the hewn wood and the pitch. And once Noah and his family were safely in the ark, we read that the Lord shut him in. Here was complete security. When the wrath of God came down in the flood, where was Noah? He was in the ark. When the wrath of God comes down on the world because it's so well-deserved, we are not in the ark. We are in Christ, and Christ has taken everything for us, and we are in Christ, and Christ is with us.
Once again, let me just tell you a little football story. Here's a story by Rankin Wilburn, who explains in his own terms what it means to be in Christ. He said, "When I was in junior high school, I played football on an organized team for the first time, and my size gave our team a distinct advantage. You see, I was the smallest player on the field. I was so small, in fact, that when I had the ball, the opposing team had difficulty finding me, so they could tackle me, they couldn't see me. So, in crucial situations, when we had to have yards, our go-to play was called Refrigerator Right in honor of the Chicago Bears defensive lineman, turned running back, William the Refrigerator Perry. You remember him. Coach Junior sent Andrew, the biggest guy on our team in front of me as a blocker. And the quarterback handed me the ball with Andrew leading the way. One man made a way for another. I was completely obscured by his strength and powerful work, but I was running to freedom. Everything that was supposed to hit me hit Andrew. He blazed a path for me against hostile forces. He made a way to glory. I was hidden in him".
And the Bible says that those who belong to Christ are so intertwined with his life, that when he died, we died with him. Everything that was supposed to hit us, even the judgment of God for our sins, instead hit Jesus. He blazed a path against hostile forces, seen and unseen. He made a way to glory. One man made a way for all to live. We are hidden in Christ. That's one picture of being in Christ. We're in the ark, we're following the Lord. Martin Luther said, "It is impossible for a man to be a Christian without having Christ. And if he has Christ, he has at the same time all that is in Christ". What gives peace to the conscience is that, by faith, our sins are no more ours, but Christ's, upon whom God has laid them. And that on the other hand, all of Christ's righteousness is ours, to whom God has given it. Christ lays his hand upon us, and we're healed. He casts his mantle over us and we're clothed. For he is the glorious Savior blessed forever.
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 the property of the soul. The soul has all of its iniquities and sins, and they become thenceforth the property of Christ, who is both god and man. Christ, who never sinned and whose holiness is perfect. Christ the Almighty and eternal, taking to himself by the 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 at the same time, clothed with the eternal righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ, hallelujah.
Listen to me. There are two books. This book is the book containing all of David Jeremiah's sins. I'm not gonna tell you how many pages are in the book. This book is a book that contains all of the righteous characteristics of Jesus Christ, the righteousness of Christ. When I became a Christian, God switched the covers. His righteousness came over my book that was filled with sin. My sin filled up his book that was filled with righteousness. The Bible says Christ became sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might become the righteousness of God. The Bible teaches you are free from the penalty of sin because you are in Christ. But here's the second thing. You are free from the power of sin. Notice what it says in verse 2. "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death".
Now, you don't have to be a real brilliant scholar to notice that in that verse there's two laws. There's the law of the Spirit, and there's the law of sin and death. The law of the Spirit is kind of one of the main themes of Romans 8. Did you know that in the 8th chapter of Romans the Holy Spirit is mentioned 20 times. That's pretty amazing. 2 Corinthians 3:17 says, "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty". Romans 8 tells us that when we have the Spirit of God in us, we now for the first time in our whole human existence, we have something that can give us victory over the law of sin and death. The Spirit of God is the distinguishing mark of the Christian, and that means that sin can be defeated. Paul is saying that when the Holy Spirit comes into a person, that person is liberated from bondage to evil and finds a new power within, a power that causes the defeat of sin and leads the liberated person into ways of goodness and love.
When you become a Christian, what happens is God gives you the Holy Spirit. He comes to live within you. And while you don't always do the right thing, now you have the power to do the right thing. Now you have living within you the Holy Spirit, who can lift you up above all of that and give you victory. And the more you submit to the Holy Spirit, the more you give him control of your life, the more victory you have over the things that once drug you down. There's the law of the Spirit, and then there's the law of sin and death. "The law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more". The reference to the law of sin and death was to the law of Moses. And the Bible tells us that in the Old Testament, the law of Moses was good, but it was ineffective.
Well, you say, "Pastor Jeremiah, how could the Ten Commandments", and there were many more commandments. There were hundreds of commandments beside the Ten. "How could those not be effective"? Well, it wasn't their fault. The Bible says the law is weak because of the weakness of the flesh. What does that means? There's nothing wrong with the law. The problem is the standards are so high, nobody can keep it. Nobody can keep the law, and the Bible says if you break one of the laws, you become guilty of all. You have to get 100% on the test, or you fail. And no one can do that. That's the law of sin and death over, over in the Old Testament, they had to bring sacrifices, as a picture of atonement. And thank God, we're on the other side of the cross, because the Bible says God put his Son on the cross, and he paid the penalty once for all, so that all of our sins are atoned for, past, present, and future.
We are forgiven. There is no condemnation to us who are in Christ Jesus. The law of sin and death keeps a Christian from living the kind of life he wants to live. So, here's the deal. When you become a Christian, the law doesn't go away. Sin and death doesn't quit. I mean, until we get to heaven, they're always going to be present with us. And you heard me give this little poem. I try to give it as often as I can because I think it's profound. Two natures beat within my breast. The one is foul, the one is blessed. The one I love, the one I hate. The one I feed will dominate. What nature are you feeding? Because you still have the old nature.
So, you say, "How does the law of the Spirit overcome the law of sin and death in the believer"? Here's how I understand that. If you stand beside a 747, and you look at the massive weight and size, I've often thought this, and I'm sure you have, too. How in the world is that plane ever gonna get off the ground? How is it ever gonna break the force of gravity that's holding it to the ground? Well, when the power of its engine combines with the law of aerodynamics, the plane is able to lift itself to 35,000 feet and fly 600 miles an hour. Gravity is still pulling on the plane, but as long as it obeys the laws of aerodynamics, it can break free from the bonds of earth.
How many of you know that when you become a Christian, there's an awful lot of pull on your life not to live the Christian life? But when you put the law of the Spirit to work in your life, he's like the aerodynamic lift that takes you away from the law of gravity that wants to pull you down. So, when you become a Christian, now you not only have freedom from the penalty of sin. You have freedom from the power of sin, because the Holy Spirit's come to live within your heart, hallelujah. And then you have freedom from the punishment of sin. Notice verse 3, "For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did it by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh on account of sin, and He condemns sin in the flesh". The Bible says that you can never again be condemned for your sin.
The Fifth Amendment of our Constitution says, "No person shall be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb for the same offense". Once you've been found innocent, you cannot be tried for that same crime again. In verse 3, Paul is saying something like that to us. You cannot be condemned because Christ has already suffered that condemnation for you on the Cross. The law of double jeopardy states that a person cannot be tried twice for the same crime. Since Jesus paid the penalty for your sins and since you're in Christ, you have been declared innocent, and God will never condemn you. You are free. Don't tell me all the stuff you're still doing that you shouldn't do. You need to yield your life to the Holy Spirit and rise above it. But in the midst of it all, you are not condemned. You're not gonna stand before God someday and have to give an answer for your sin, because all of your sin has been condemned at the cross, and you have been completely forgiven.
And some of you will say to me, as I've heard so often, "But Dr. Jeremiah, I get that. Up until the time I was saved, all my sins were covered at the cross. But once I got saved, now I'm kind of responsible to carry this kind of life out, right"? No. And here's the answer to that. How many of your sins were future when Christ died for them? All of them were. Christ doesn't see any distinguishing marks in your life. He doesn't say past sins, present sins, future sins. All of those were future sins when he died on the cross, and the Bible says he condemned them all. He paid for them all. He forgave you for them all. So, when you sin and you do something you shouldn't do, you don't have to go to Jesus Christ and ask for forgiveness so you won't be condemned. You go and ask for forgiveness so your relationship can be restored, so you can be friends again and fellowship again. But through all of that time, there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.
Number four, you're actually free from the practice of sin. Did you know you can live your life and not practice sin? Verse 4 says that the righteous requirement of the law might be filled is in us who do not walk according to the flesh, and but according to the Spirit. Paul says while we can't keep the law in our strength, when the Holy Spirit comes, the righteousness of the law can be experienced by us who walk by the Spirit. When the Holy Spirit is in control of your life, your righteousness is like the righteousness of the Old Testament law, only empowered by the Spirit of God. God's commands now have become something you can do. In the full sense only Christ has fulfilled all of the law's requirements, but when you're in Christ, you can fulfill the law's requirements in him. Before we came to know Christ, we were continually defeated by sin. When we came to know Christ, we received the indwelling Holy Spirit and were able to attain a standard we could never reach in our own strength.
Listen to me. When you become a Christian, if you look back over your life after a few months, you should see a different person than the person you were when you became a Christian. Someone gave me this little poetry that helps you understand what I've been trying to say. Here's what it says. "To run and work, the law commands, but gives me neither feet nor hands. But better news the gospel brings. It bids me fly and gives me wings". Grace is not simply leniency when you have sinned. Grace is the power of God in you not to sin. So, there you have it, the four things that are true of you, if you're a Christian. You are free from the penalty of sin. You are free from the power of sin. You are free from the punishment of sin. You are free from the practice of sin. Let me add this. When you get to heaven someday, you'll be free from the actual presence of sin. What a think that is to look forward to.
So, just let me give you two takeaways from this that you should apply to your life. Number one, start living forgiven. The Bible says no condemnation. Others, even our own self-talk often say condemnation. Who are you gonna believe? Are you not condemned or are you? Is there now no condemnation or is that not true? In the Explicit Gospel, Pastor Matt Chandler tells the story of driving through his hometown many years after he had left. As he drove into town, he paused, as he passed a field where he once got into a fist fight with another kid. It was not a fair fight, and Matthew completely humiliated the kid in front of a large crowd of people. Then he drove past his first house and thought of all the wicked things he had done in that house. Next, he passed a friend's house where once at a party, he did some of the most shameful things he had ever done.
Afterward, on the drive to a conference in which he was speaking, Matt was overwhelmed with the guilt and shame of the wickedness that he had done in that city before he became a Christian. He could hear the whispers in his heart. "You call yourself a man of God? Are you going to stand in front of all these guys and tell them how to be men of God after all you've done"? There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. And Matt said, "In the middle of all that guilt and shame, I began to be reminded by the Scripture, that old Matt Chandler was dead. I was the new Matt Chandler. The person who did those things, who sinned in those ways was nailed to the cross with Jesus Christ. And all his sins, past, present, and future were paid for in full on the cross of Jesus Christ".
I remember as a kid learning this verse in Galatians 2:20. "I am crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me, and the life that I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith in the Son of God". Why is that important? The Bible says that the old you has been crucified. Why? 'Cause you're in Christ. Christ was crucified. You were in Christ when he was crucified. Your old you is dead. It is dead, and there's a new you, an uncondemned you. Start livin' like you're forgiven, livin' like you're forgiven. Livin' every day like you're forgiven 'cause you are. Nobody can tell you different. Everybody can come and say, "Oh, yeah, but"... No, you don't have anything to remember except one thing. There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.
Second takeaway, start living forgiven and start living free. One day, Abraham Lincoln went to visit a slave auction. He was appalled at what he saw. His heart was especially drawn to a young slave girl whose story seemed to be told in the pain on her face. She looked with hatred and contempt on everyone around her. She had been used and abused all of her life, and this was but one more cruel humiliation for her. As the auction began, Lincoln offered his bid. As other amounts were bid, he countered with a larger amount until finally Abraham Lincoln won the bed for that girl, and he now owned her as his slave. When he paid the auctioneer the money and took title to the young woman, she stared at him with vicious contempt. She hated him like she had hated all of her other owners. She asked him what he was going to do next with her, and he said, "I'm going to set you free". "Free"? she asked. "Free for what"? "Just free," said Lincoln, "completely free". "Free to do whatever I want to do"? "Free to do whatever you want to do". "Free to say whatever I want to say"? "Free to say whatever you want to say". "Free to go wherever I want to go"? "Yes, free to go wherever you want to go". She said, "Then I'm going with you".
And that's the way it is when we're in Christ. When we're set free, it's not just to go do other things that we always thought - we're set free to walk after the one who set us free. We're set free to serve him and love him. That's the way it is. He sets us free to go anywhere we want to go, say anything we want to say, do anything we want to do, but because we have come to know him as the great freedom giver, we want to be where he is. We want to follow him. So, we serve Jesus Christ, not out of duty or responsibility, but out of love for the one who has set us free. Hallelujah. And today, if you hear my voice please know, if you're a Christian, there's no condemnation now or ever because the condemnation has already taken place, and the result of that is you are forgiven, and you are free. And John 8:36 says this. "Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed". Say this with me, "I am free indeed. I am free indeed". And you are.