April 26, 2010

"No condemnation"!

His face was dry and cracked like an old pair of shoes. His hair was disheveled, dirty, and matted. His beard grew long and tangled like crab grass. Bags were under his eyes. And he was cowering beneath a pile of leaves, hiding in a hole in the ground. That was Saddam Hussein in the days and hours before he was captured by American forces in 2006. He was cornered; he was helpless; and he was afraid. He was a picture of condemnation. He was a portrait, outwardly, of what the human soul looks like when it has been caught in sin, cornered by God’s justice, and sees no way of escape – desperate, alone, and afraid.

We may not see it on their faces, but there are people – punching the clock beside us, or cutting the grass across the street – who are, inwardly, in this exact predicament. They are condemned and they feel it. Their souls are disheveled, dry, and cracked. They have contemplated suicide – figuring it would be better to end it all than to go through another week miserable, guilty, and without hope. Do you see them?

Alongside them there are countless others who are just as condemned – equally on the broad road that leads to destruction – but do not know it. But someday the justice of God will be made real to them. Someday, either in life or in death, they will see that they are surrounded by wrath and judgment with no prospect of escape. And in that day they, like Saddam, will look for a hole into which they may crawl.

Condemnation is horrific thing. Horrific as you watch someone live under its drying, cracking, aging, maddening effects. And even more ghastly when it comes to its end – in a noose for Saddam Hussein, in a leap from a bridge, or as someone slips, unwittingly, into the lake of fire. That is where men and women all around us are headed … and where we, too, deserve to be. For “the wrath of God” (Romans 1.18) “is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth.” For men, women, and children who suppress what they know about God, an eternity of conscious condemnation awaits.

Thanks be to God, then, for Romans 8.1! “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Thank God that we who believe do not have to live – or die – cowering in a hole, hiding from the inevitable! Thank God that we need not hide, or cower, or despair! There is no judgment sentence awaiting us. We are forgiven in Jesus. There is “no condemnation”.

As an unbeliever, you were sitting on death row. You were doomed. You were trapped. There was no way to save yourself. There was no case to plead in your defense. And one day, into your cell walked Jesus with your orders of clemency, signed in His own blood. And now you are free from the eternal death you deserve. He is preparing a place for you on high, that where He is, you may be also. “There is now no condemnation” but only everlasting joy!

O, how happy we would be if we could only remember these things; if we could remember that God does not carry a big stick, waiting to bloody our knuckles with it. If you’re like me, you need reminded of that. You need to remind yourself that, if you are “in Christ Jesus”, God is happy with you … and not just as it relates to the there and then, but also in the here and now! He loves you! So you can be confident. You can allow yourself to feel loved by God. You can talk to Him freely. You can expect Him to give what is good when you ask Him. And you can know that, even when He spanks your bottom, He does so not in wrath, but in love. There may be chastisement for those who are in Christ Jesus. But there is “no condemnation”!

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