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Now No Condemnation

I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. Romans 7:18-23

It seems that when the lights are out and I am in bed needing to go to sleep, my mind is most susceptible to the flood of thoughts about how I have legitimately failed or wounded my children, husband and others in the course of that day. Sometimes I will want to go snuggle with my peacefully sleeping children as if to make up for my impatience, divided attention or otherwise hurtful or neglectful behavior toward them in the course of the day. Sometimes this overwhelming feeling of guilt is blown out of proportion by my tired mind and heart. At other times, very vivid moments are played like film clips in my mind’s eyes, unavoidably declaring me guilty as charged.

That control freakishness that could easily define me in the eyes of my husband condemns me as I lie there feeling it’s divisive power. I can so easily be that person around whom he has to walk on egg shells, never knowing if he put the dishes away properly, offered the right food to our children, suggested a winning idea for a family activity and so on. Oh how my sin condemns me and stifles the joy and freedom in those I love most!

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.7:24-8:4

This is the only thing that answer such a guilty conscience, and I am only beginning to grasp it’s glorious, life-giving implications. I used to think “now no condemnation” meant that it had all been a misunderstanding, that my felt guilt was just “negative self-talk”, “stinkin’ thinkin'” or being too hard on myself for things that are common to all. But I stand “not condemned” not because my sins are common but because Jesus bore the full weight of the wretchedness of my body of death that I on occasion feel deeply. It is because my guilt is accurate – I have been unfairly demanding of Chad, micro-managing and short with Terrell and my shame and despair in regard to these areas is right. But the burden of their weight, their recovery and their redemption, both in my heart and those I have hurt, is carried by Jesus!

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. Rev. 12:10

Satan’s accusations are so effective because, in many cases, they are true! But they do not contain the rest of the story. Like Edmund in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe who betrayed his family and Aslan, the Jesus like figure in the story, his guilt was deserving of death. But Aslan took his place and there was only one death to be died for the offense. Jesus died one time for all the sins of all His people in all of time.

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 1 John 3:2

I love this acknowledgment that I am both a fully accepted child of God and that the perfect likeness of Jesus in me is not yet apparent or even complete yet. This helps me understand a little better why my new creation in Christ still acts a bit like the “old man” in me. Why I still don’t do the good I want to do and yet still do the bad I don’t want to do. I have been promised that His work will be completed even though it is quite obvious that there is still some way to go in that process.

My friend Melissa has learned not only the identity of her child in Uganda, but increasing tidbits about his personality and activities as their arrival is anticipated and they all wait to pick him up from the babies’ home there. He now belongs to them, is their child and is brother to Henry and Mary Taylor even though they haven’t gotten over there to make it official in Ugandan courts and by bringing him home. Should other infants and toddlers in the babies’ home be able to talk, an observer might tell their son, “You don’t have parents. You are just an orphan, alone like all the others here.” The comments would be right, from an immediate perspective, and yet utterly false. What will be has not yet been known clearly to all observers either here in Atlanta or there in Uganda, but it is true nonetheless. What is declaratively true about me in Jesus is equally true, even if barely in part to my own heart’s eyes and the perceptions of those around me.

This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 1 John 3:19-20

Over and over again, He shows me my unbelief and replaces it with greater faith – that I am not condemned even though condemnable, that His grace is in fact more than sufficient for me and that I can trust His redemptive work to be completed in me and in those who will need Him to recover from me. (: Hee hee. Hallelujah what a Savior indeed!

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