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WHY IS THE NEWS SO GOOD? Romans 8:1-2 Theme of the Month Ministry/Service/ Stewardship

Edith Watt

Guest Speaker, English Congregation Vancouver Chinese Baptist Church, Vancouver, British Columbia

Sunday Sermon for 5 September 2010

Scripture Passage Romans 8:1-2

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. 1 2

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Introduction The Becketts were very proud of their son, Frank. When he went to college, they missed him; but he wrote and they looked forward to his letters and saw him on weekends. Then Frank was drafted into the army. After he had been in the army for about 5 months, he was called to Vietnam. Every week they heard from him and were thankful for his well-being. Then one week went by without a letter—two weeks—and finally three. At the end of the third week a telegram came, saying, “We regret to inform you that you son has been missing for three weeks and is presumed to have been killed inaction while fighting for his country.” The parents were shocked and grieved. They tried to accept the situation and go on living. About three weeks later, however, the phone rang. When Mrs. Beckett answered it, a voice on the other end said, “Mother, it’s Frank. They found me, and I’m going to be all right. I’m back in the U.S. and am coming home soon.” Mrs. Beckett was naturally overjoyed, “Oh, that’s wonderful! That’s just wonderful, Frank”  she says to her son. There was silence for a moment, and then Frank said, “Mother I want to ask you something that is important to me. While I’ve been here, I’ve met a lot of wonderful people and I’ve really become close friends with some. There is one fellow I would like to bring home with me to meet you and Dad. And I would like to know if it would be all right if he could stay and live with us, because he has no place to go.”  His mother assured him it would be all right. Then Frank said, “You see, he wasn’t’ as lucky as some; he was injured in battle. He was hit by a blast and his face is all disfigured. He lost his leg, and his right hand is missing. So you see he feels uneasy about how others will accept him.” Frank’s mother stopped to think a minute. She began to wonder how things would work out, and what people in town would think of someone like that. She said, “Sure frank, you bring him home~ for a visit, that is. We would love to meet him and have him stay for a while; but about him staying with us permanently, well, we’ll have to think about that”. There was silence for a minute, and then Frank said, “Okay, Mother,” and hung up. A week went by without any word from Frank, and then a telegram arrived—”We regret to inform you that your son has taken his life. We would like you to come and identify the body”. The parents were horror stricken and could only ask themselves, “Why had he done this?” When they walked into the room to identify the body of their son, they found a young man with a disfigured face, one leg missing, and his right hand gone. While all of us would say, “How could she?”  there’s another part of us that relates to Mrs. Beckett. We recognize all the mistakes we’ve made, the horrible, irreversible, dumb, and harmful things we’ve done that have hurt ourselves and others because we were scared, frustrated, angry, distracted, desperate. We know there’s enough of Mrs. Beckett in us that we could be found guilty ourselves. We could’ve easily said the same thing to Frank because it’s all part of being human. Chapter 8 of Romans begins with one of the greatest promises in the entire Bible. It’s the Christian’s declaration of freedom because of our union with Christ. But I believe many of us WHYISTHENEWSSOGOOD? 2


really never get off the ground with our faith because we don’t grasp the whole significance of this freedom.  Our hearts hold on to the past wrongs because we feel that we deserve to be condemned for what we’ve done. Many even feel paralyzed by the guilt. When I prayed about what to preach on, God simply said, “Preach on what you’re experiencing in your life right now”. You see I’m presently struggling with self-condemnation of past sins I’ve committed and it’s a hard to overcome it. I’ve been asking God to open the eyes of my heart so that I’ll understand and fully receive IN MY HEART what Jesus has done on the cross for me. Most of us can recite the gospel without even blinking an eye; we get it up here in our head but do we really get it in our heart? Do we really get why the gospel is GOOD NEWS? So this morning, I’m asking God to open the eyes of your heart, for God to give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation. I’m asking Him to give you an “AHA”  moment, a defining moment of truth that sets you free from any condemnation you’ve been carrying around that has kept you in slavery, that has put you in a ball and chain; and for you to be free of condemnation in the future. It says in Galatians 5:1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery”.  The Reality of Freedom – No Condemnation (Romans 8:1-2) “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” The word “therefore” introduces a result or conclusion based on what has been said previously. You see, chapter 7 is one of the most powerful statements about struggling with sin in the Bible, because it’s Paul who gives us a glimpse into his own struggle. This is encouraging because I often think of Paul as someone who is bigger than life. I see him boldly standing up and defending his faith in front of those who persecute him and have the power to kill him. I admire his courage and passion as he travels, under difficult circumstances, all over Asia Minor to plant and shepherd churches. I love his pioneering spirit. But when we come to chapter 7, we get a sneak peek into the apostle’s struggles and he’s a lot more human than we think. Listen to what Paul says in Romans 7:18-19, “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.” This is not Paul talking about the way he used to be before he had his encounter with Christ. This is Paul saying, “I did it again this morning!” I love these verses because they are so human, they speak to my humanity. I can relate to them!!! And it makes me feel like I’m not alone in my struggle with sin. How many times have we failed and wanted to kick ourselves? ❖ You try to be patient with your kids or your spouse, but in a flash you strike out and the words you say have done their damage before you even knew it. ❖ You knew you should’ve stayed away, but you thought you could handle it. Before you know it, you’ve found out the hard way that you were weaker than you thought.

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In a thousand times and in a thousand different ways we try to live by the standards we know are right, but we don’t; we fall short. We think to ourselves, “I wish I’d done that differently” or “I shouldn’t have said that”. Sometimes our errors are so large we can’t get them out of our heads or stop condemning ourselves. I don’t know if any of you do this, but when I do something wrong, I’ve called myself “stupid”, “loser”  and other names….I’ve thought it in my head.  I’m the first to take a big stick and hit it over my head and even worse, I keep on hitting myself for the same mistake years later. I keep on punishing myself to try and make up for what I’ve done. You see, we’re all a product of our culture, of this world and we live in a world of what Philip Yancey very appropriately call “UNGRACE”. He says, “From nursery school onward we are taught how to succeed in the world of ‘ungrace’. The early bird gets the worm. No pain, no gain. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Demand your rights. Get what you pay for. I know these rules well because I live by them. I work for what I earn; I like to win; I insist on my rights. I want people to get what they deserve – nothing more, nothing less. Ungrace plays like the background static of life for families, nations, and institutions. It is, sadly, our natural human state.” Paul, in chapter 7 acknowledges this internal struggle going on within every human being, and when we try to win on our own strength, we often get pinned to the mat. Listen to how he ends the chapter, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Paul is telling us that he can’t get away from himself. Have any of you ever felt this way? If we stop here and don’t flip over the page to go on to chapter 8, we’ll be in despair and hopelessness. There seems to be no way out for us, but we haven’t heard the closing arguments; all the evidence isn’t in yet. As we turn the page and begin reading Romans 8, we’re struck by a bigger than life, freedom-giving promise: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” The greatness of the promise of God’s grace is that even when we fall again and again, there’s NOW no condemnation for those who’re in Christ Jesus. NOT LATER but NOW because the work has been done on the cross by Jesus Christ 2000 years ago. Condemnation in the Greek means, “to pass judgement, to accuse”. Therefore, what Paul is telling you and I is that there’s absolutely no judgement or accusation that can stand against us when we’re in Christ Jesus; NOT EVEN A LITTLE BIT. There’s complete and utter security in our relationship with God. If we’re in Christ, we don’t need to wonder if God is angry with us because there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. The key words are “IN CHRIST”. There’s no condemnation for those who have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. When God looks at you, He doesn’t see a wretch; He sees a son or a daughter. Do you remember the story of the prodigal son? The boy disregarded his father in every possible way. In the Jewish culture, for the son to ask the father for his share of the inheritance before he dies is plainly saying, “I wish you were dead father”. The only difference between the son in that pig pen and the pig is that no pig has ever asked himself, “I will arise and go to my father”. And when that dirty, stinking boy came within eyesight of home, His dad was there to clean Him up and thrown Him a party! WHYISTHENEWSSOGOOD? 4


Paul wants to make sure you know that God is just as anxious to throw His arms around you. “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”. This is why the news is so good! THE GOSPEL IS GOOD NEWS!!! We may be accused, but God pays no attention. We may be judged, but God pronounces us righteous. At the cross, Jesus not only delivered us from sin and the guilt of sin, but we’re also freed from the guilt we feel over personal decisions. It means we can move forward and not carry the heavy load of despair over what we’ve done. Paul says in Philippians, “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus”. What’s Paul forgetting? He zealously persecuted the church. He was instrumental in killing Christians. It’s with this kind of past that Paul writes, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”. Condemnation vs. Conviction It’s very important to understand the difference between condemnation and conviction because there’s sometimes condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus because Satan wants to kill and destroy us. Satan loves to fool us into believing that we’re condemned. He traps us into believing that God doesn’t want anything to do with us. Therefore, in order to live a life of freedom that God is offering freely to us through, we must learn to distinguish between the voice of God and Satan. 1. Tone of Voice ❖ God our Father speaks to us in a gentle, loving voice, appealing, beseeching, and inviting us to return to Him. ➡ The Devil’s tone of voice is accusing, mocking, confusing and questioning. 2. Specific vs. Indirectness ❖ The Holy Spirit points out one needed area only. Conviction deals with that sin committed. ➡ Satan always generalizes. He generates guilt and hopelessness. 3. Encouragement vs. Discouragement ❖ God always encourages us to trust Him and rely on His willingness and power to save and to keep. ➡ Discouragement is Satan’s strongest weapon. He’ll tell you you’re not important, you’re worthless, you’ll never make it. 4. A New Creation in Christ vs. Dwelling on the Past ❖ We’re a new creation in Christ by grace through faith. God has once and forever accepted the believer in His Son Jesus Christ. In Him we are new.

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➡ Satan wants you to remember the bad past in unbelief and despair. The old life is brought up.  5. God Draws Us into Christ vs. Spiritual Separation ❖ The Holy Spirit continually draws us closer by revealing the Father.  ❖ He grants us a heart of repentance, love, faith, humility toward Him, and dependence upon Christ. ➡ The Devil gives feelings of worthlessness, rejection and shame.  ➡ He distorts the Image of God and produces fear towards God. 6. God Draws Us into Fellowship vs. Isolates ❖ The Holy Spirit unites us together in our weaknesses unto one Body. ➡ The Enemy plants suggestions of independence, self-importance, strife. 7. Builds Faith in the Word of God vs. Produces Feelings ❖ The Spirit brings us continually back to the Word of God. He states facts, reveals truths, and principles of faith so we stand against Satan. ➡ Satan tells you that your feelings are the truth. ➡ He draws you into negative feelings towards God, others, self, work, Church etc. 8. God Speaks Positive Words and Scriptures vs. Negative Scriptures ❖ The Spirit edifies and encourages us with positive Scriptures.  ❖ He doesn’t bring condemning and negative verses to our mind or during our reading. ➡ Satan attempts to bring unrelated condemning verses to your attention.  He uses the law against you. 9. God Corrects and Disciplines vs. Satan Crushes ❖ God positively strengthens and liberates that’s necessary for spiritual growth. ➡ Satan attacks are to destroy and crush anyone he can get in his grip. 10.Reassures vs. Accuses ❖ God’s Spirit reassures us of His love, forgiveness and grace, ❖ God reassures us that He’ll never leave us nor forsake us. ➡ As the accuser of the believers, Satan continually lies that God doesn’t love you anymore because your sins are too big.

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The Real Story is Grace, Mercy, and Forgiveness In 1984, 22 year old college student Jennifer Thompson identified Ron Cotton as her rapist. On her testimony, he was convicted and sentenced to 50 years in prison. While in prison, he found that another inmate, Bobby Poole, had confessed to a cell-mate that he had committed the crime. Cotton won a new trial, but was convicted again, this time for 2 life sentences. Finally, after 11 years, DNA evidence proved that he was innocent and Poole guilty. When Thompson heard the news, she was overcome with guilt and asked to meet with Cotton.  When she entered a local church she started crying immediately and said to him, “Ron, if I spent every second of every minute of every hour for the rest of my life telling you how sorry I am, it wouldn’t come close to how my heart feels. I’m so sorry.’ And Ronald just leaned down, he took her hands said, ‘I forgive you. I don’t want you to look over your shoulder. I just want us to be happy and move on in life”. Thompson thought this is what grace and mercy is all about. This is what they teach you in church that none of us ever get. Conclusion Does this story sound familiar? You and I are the characters. A wrongfully-accused man suffers unjustly because of us, and instead of revenge, justice, and retaliation, he offers us grace, mercy, and forgiveness. He gives us what we don’t deserve, we don’t expect—FREEDOM INSTEAD OF CONDEMNATION. “THEREFORE THERE IS NOW NO CONDEMNATION FOR THOSE WHO ARE IN CHRIST JESUS”. AMEN.

Reflection Questions 1. What does Romans 8:1-2 mean to you in your life? 2. Is there anything in your life that you’re still condemning yourself for? How has it affected you? Do you believe in your heart that the cross justifies you for what you’ve done? 3. What are some things you can do to claim the freedom Jesus has given to us on the cross?

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Why is the News So Good?