Thursday, May 26, 2005

Feeling Guilty?

What do you do with.... Romans 8v1?
"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Romans 8v1 (ESV)
My observation of pastoring students is that most of them seem to feel guilty most of the time. Different pressures afflict them. For some it is the pressure to have a daily quiet time of prayer and Bible study, which like me they fail in regularly. For some it is the pressure to have evangelistic conversations, which like me they fail in regularly. For others the pressures are not to drink beyond certain rules, not to feel angry or lustful, and so the list go on.

Lists and rules that have no place in the Christian life. Christians are to fight against sin. We have a sinful nature and the Holy Spirit. They are at war with each other so we don't always do what we'd want. The war is good. If it felt like peace that would not be a good sign.

But the battle with sin is not to be taught by imposing rules on each other. It cannot be won by tying ourselves up with intricate systems and regulations. Such rules focus all attention on the sin we're trying to avoid. And such rules put our hope in ourselves to avoid the things that our sinful nature desires. I am not a good place to place my confidence. And God is insulted.

The Bible offers another way. It says believe God's promises. Promises like Romans 8v1 which insist there is no condemnation for those in Christ. A Christian is under no condemnation. That isn't just about becoming a Christian but also about staying one. It's not gospel to become a Christian and law to live as one. Gospel to become a Christian and gospel to stay one! The same message for both.

Hebrews 10v14 says that Christ has perfected forever all Christians. Not by rules but by his death. And he is sanctifying such people - transforming them.

If we would immerse ourselves in the promises and grace of God then sin would lose its appeal. As C.S. Lewis says our desires are simply too weak not too strong. We settle for less when more is offered. God promises eternal joy if we'll live in him by the Spirit... sin offers only glimpses of short term satisfaction.

To fight against sin let us "fight fire with fire" (John Piper). Let us fight against sin not by turning to the sin and showing it a rule. Let us fight against sin by turning to the cross.

Several years ago Cassells Morrells of IFES showed me what needs to happen. We become Christians with some small knowledge of our sin and some small knowledge of God's grace. As we go on our sin and God's holiness both become more apparent.... a gap emerges.

We can either try to fill that gap with performance and legalism or guilt and lies about our sin..... in which case the cross stays small and we get miserable. Or... we can look again to the cross and rejoice that though the gap looks bigger the cross of Christ amply fills the void!

What do you do with.... Romans 8v1?
Celebrate it! Rejoice that in Christ we reign in life by God's grace. Turn my eyes again to the cross to see that Jesus death accomplishes everything to leave me perfect before God. Nothing to add. No way in which I can screw it up. No condemnation! What joy!

3 comments:

  1. Thats a great post. and definitely something everyone struggles with.

    I found that as my relationship with God got deeper these past couple of years i've realised that its not the rules and stuff that makes me not do things as a Christian, it's knowing that God is my friend, and doing certain things hurt him. We wouldn't intentionally act in ways that would hurt our friends in the flesh? So why would we (I) do the same to God?

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  2. What is the relationship between the flesh (or sinful nature) and the person. In what sense is it my person?

    Richard

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  3. That'a a good question!

    I'm working through Galatians with one of my students... seems that the flesh is both a dead part of me and something that gets revived and fights against the Spirit... and which the Spirit fights against.

    I wonder whether Lloyd-Jones' exhortation to "preach to yourself"... to be telling your sinful soul "O My Soul, see how wonderful God is..." and likewise in many of the Psalms is helpful. We still have a sinful nature that has influence but we also have the Spirit...

    Will I listen to myself (Sinful Nature) or preach to myself (by the Spirit)?

    Any one else got any thoughts on that?

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