We desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (Hebrews 6:11-12) Please open your Bible at Hebrews 6. This...
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” Romans 8:1 (NIV)
This series is called RESCUED! because that’s the word Paul uses when he describes the human struggle with sin: “What a wretched man I am, who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24).
Faith is calling 9-1-1
A rescue is something that somebody else does for you. If you’re trapped in a fire, or you have a heart attack, you call 9-1-1 because you need someone else to do for you what you cannot do for yourself.
Calling 9-1-1 doesn’t save you. It is the fireman who saves you. It is the paramedic that saves you. Calling 9-1-1 puts you in touch with somebody who has the ability to save you. The one who answers your call is the one who saves you. That’s important. The Bible says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). “Saved” is another way of saying rescued.
Some people have the idea that believing is something we do to save ourselves. But if you are able to save yourself then, by definition, you do not need to be rescued. Believing is calling 9-1-1. It is the way that you call on the Lord Jesus Christ. And it is Christ who saves you.
This series is about what Christ actually does in the rescue. We’re going to see how Christ will rescue the whole of this planet, how His rescue will bring you into the greatest joy a human being can ever know, and how you can have full confidence in the total success of His rescue operation.
“There is now no condemnation…” (Romans 8:1).
That means there was condemnation before. Some of us may find that hard to believe. Our natural instinct is to go one of two ways: Either you feel you are so bad that you cannot imagine your condemnation ever being removed: “How could God possibly love a person as bad as me?” Or, you feel that you are so good that you cannot imagine ever being condemned. “How could God possibly condemn a person as good as me?” Either way the Gospel doesn’t seem that great.
Human beings are born in a condition of alienation from God, rebellion against God, and guilt before God that places us under the condemnation of God. It’s true of every one of us. That’s why we need to be rescued. That’s what we need to be rescued from.
You find this everywhere in the Bible: David says, “Surely I was sinful at birth” (Psalm 51:5). Even though God describes him as “a man after God’s own heart,” David says he was born in sin. This is not unique to David, it crosses every racial and ethnic barrier. Paul puts it this way: “Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin” (Romans 3:9). Notice the phrase “under sin.” We are in a predicament that we can’t get out of, except through the rescue.
John makes this fascinating statement: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him” (John 3:36). John does not say God’s wrath will come on the person who rejects His Son. He says God’s wrath will remain on that person. It’s already there. By default we start out under God’s wrath. The question isn’t whether God’s wrath will come on us, but whether it will remain on us.
God will not let even a hint of sin into His heaven, because heaven is the home of perfect righteousness. How big of a crack does it take to let water in your basement? The tiniest crack in your foundation wall will let moisture seep in and soon the whole place will stink! If God let one sin into heaven, it would ruin the whole place.
How much sin did it take to ruin the whole world? Read the story in Genesis: One act of disobedience. Adam and Eve were told not to eat from the tree and they ate from the tree. Was that such a big deal? Yes, because sin is like a deadly disease. It is like a virus, like an epidemic. Once it gets started it spreads and it multiplies like rabbits.
In order to enter into heaven on the last day, and not be condemned, you would have to live a life of love, filled with the fruit of the Spirit… 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
That means you would have to be patient and kind, always, without hesitation, or exception. You would never boast because there isn’t a hint of pride in you. Peace would rule your heart, keeping you free from all worry, because you have total confidence in God.
You say, “That’s impossible. I can’t do that. Not even close! No-one can do that.” Now we are getting in touch with why we need this rescue, and what we need rescued from. We are sinners by nature and by practice, every one of us. And the better you know yourself, the more you will know that is true.
Paul says that “the law was powerless” to save us, because “it was weakened by the sinful nature.” The law would be great if it wasn’t for the flesh. The law describes the good life God calls us to lead, and the problem lies in our inability to do it.
God takes the initiative
“For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son…” (v3)
The disease of sin has taken away our capacity to live a life that is pleasing to God. That’s why we need the rescue. And here’s the good news: God has taken the initiative. He sent His Son into the world.
Al Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Seminary, says this well:
“The culture tells us that the problem is ‘out there’ and the answer is ‘in here.’ The Gospel tells us that the problem is ‘in here’ and the answer is ‘out there’—in Jesus Christ.”
The Father, the Son and the Spirit are all involved in this rescue. The Father sends, the Son atones, and the Spirit empowers. The Father justifies us through the work His Son, and He sanctifies us through the work of His Spirit.
The Atoning Death of Jesus
“For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son…” (v3).
God saw our need. He saw our plight. He saw that we were completely hopeless. And He had compassion on us. The Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. This is what we call “the incarnation.”
God sent His Son to rescue us
“…in the likeness of sinful man…” (v3).
He was like us because his humanity was real. He was different from us because He was without sin. He was close enough to make the rescue, but distinct enough to be the rescuer.
Jesus became our sin offering
“…to be a sin offering…” (v3).
Christ came into the world to be a sin offering. Here’s the job. Here’s what it will mean for you to make the rescue: Leave heaven and be born as a man. Live a perfect life 24 / 7 / 365. Live the life that none of them have ever lived.
Then offer yourself. Lay down that life. Become the sin bearer. Take on yourself the guilt and the stench of human sin. Bear the condemnation in your own body. Carry it utterly alone, suspended on a wooden pole between heaven and earth, rejected by both. That’s what it will take to rescue them.
That is an extraordinary job description! And Jesus said, “I want that job.” This is what He did: he became the sin-bearer, and he offered himself as the sacrifice for our sins. Christ bore our sins in his body on the tree. He became sin because of our sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). He became a sin offering.
God condemned our sin in Jesus
“…and so he condemned sin in sinful man” (v3).
God rescues us from condemnation, by condemning our sin in Christ. “He was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities. The punishment that brought us peace was upon Him…” (Isaiah 53:5).
The reason there is no condemnation for me is not that there is nothing in my life worthy of condemnation. It is that the condemnation for my sins has already been passed on to Jesus. He stood in my place and took the condemnation for me, when he died on the cross.
Charles Wesley catches this in His great hymn “O, For a Thousand Tongues to Sing”:
“See all your sins on Jesus laid; The lamb of God was slain.
His soul was once an offering made for every soul of man.”
Try to do that right now. Think about your sin. If the guilt of your selfishness, pride, impatience, and all your other sins has really been transferred to Jesus, and if he suffered the penalty for these sins on the cross, then the condemnation has passed. It is no more. Nor can it ever be again.
That’s not all!
Here’s another verse from Wesley’s great hymn:
“He breaks the power of cancelled sin; He sets the prisoner free.
His blood can make the foulest clean, His blood availed for me.”
The Gospel is not simply that sin is cancelled, and hell is removed. We are not simply forgiven. God’s rescue operation in Christ involves removing the condemnation of sin’s penalty. It also involves breaking the condemnation of sin’s power.
The Empowering Life of the Spirit
“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” (v4).
The agent of this new life that pleases God is the Holy Spirit. Some have understood these words to be about justification—the righteousness of Jesus being counted as ours, imputed to us. But if Paul had been talking about justification, he would have said something like this: “the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met for us, who live by faith in Christ’s death on the cross.” But he didn’t say that, Paul said “the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us…”
Saved from the penalty & the power of sin
If God’s rescue only included saving you from your sins, saving you from hell, and granting you entrance into heaven forever, what kind of rescue would that be? What would it be like if God saved us from sin’s penalty, but not from sin’s power?
To the man with a bad temper, someone who is always angry, God would be saying “Here’s my rescue: I will not send you to hell for your bad temper. But unfortunately your wife, your kids and your colleagues will have to endure your anger, and you will go on having a bad temper for the rest of your life. You are weakened by the sinful nature and that’s not part of the rescue.”
To the person struggling with lust God would be saying “Here’s my rescue: The blood of Christ covers your foul imagination. You will not go to hell because of these things. I will grant you entrance into heaven, but you will remain enslaved to your passions for the rest of your life.
What kind of rescue is that? The condemnation in eternity is removed, but you are left with the condemnation of living with yourself as you are, weakened by the sinful nature! That would mean that you go on being defeated by sin until God takes you to heaven. That’s certainly not God’s kind of rescue!
God’s rescue means not only that the condemnation of sin’s penalty is removed, but also that the condemnation of sin’s power is broken. This is the Gospel! When God rescues you, He sends His Holy Spirit into your heart giving you the power to live a new life.
What is your mindset?
“us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit” (v4).
Paul is not saying that there are two kinds of Christians—some Christians live according to the flesh and some Christians live according to the Spirit. He is saying that if you are in Christ, the Holy Spirit lives in you, and if the Holy Spirit lives in you, you “live according to the Spirit.”
What does that mean? “Those who live according to the Spirit (that is, people who are in Christ) have their minds set on what the Spirit desires” (v5).
When Karen and I were first married, she took a job as a teacher in North London. The school was run down, under-funded, in a really tough neighborhood in North London. The school had been without a principal for some time. Morale among the staff was low.
A few months after Karen began, a new principal was appointed. When she arrived, she called the staff together for a meeting. “This school,” she said, “has the reputation of being the worst in the area, and I intend to make it the best!”
You can imagine the reaction. Some of the staff had been there through years of decline. They didn’t like what she was saying, even though they must have known it was true. Karen had just arrived, and inside she was cheering. Here’s someone who is able to make a difference!
Over the next years, the new principal was as good as her word. With extraordinary energy, she set about fund raising. New books appeared, equipment was donated, classrooms were painted, carpet was laid, morale was lifted, and children’s grades improved. She swept through that school like a whirlwind! The whole environment was transformed under her leadership.
Under new management
That’s what God’s rescue looks like. The Holy Spirit puts your life under new management. When God the Holy Spirit moves into your life, He moves in to take over, and if you have seen your need, that will be your greatest joy. “Those who live according to the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires” (v5).
A good principal coming to a bad school has desires, a plan, a vision for what that school will become, and she throws herself into making it happen. Do you think that the Holy Spirit of God would do less?
When the Holy Spirit enters your life, He does not sit passively in an office somewhere. He comes to do a massive renovation project. He has desires. He has a plan. And He sets to work. His plan for you is that you should reflect the glory of Jesus Christ. And when you are converted, you have your mind set on what the Spirit desires. That’s the mark of being a real Christian, and the joy of the Christian life.
In Christ Jesus
“There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (v1).
Being “in Christ Jesus” is what really matters, knowing that the glorious gifts of the Gospel are really yours. What does it mean to be “in Christ”?
When you came to church today, you started outside this building. There wasn’t anyone who slept here last night. Whatever direction you came from, however far you traveled, however short your journey, we were all outside. We all start outside Jesus Christ.
But you came in. Some came in slowly, others came in quickly. Some came in early, others came in late. But you came in. There was movement. All of us moved from being outside the building to being inside.
Faith is the way that you move from being outside Christ to being “in Christ.” Faith is the way in which the atoning death of Jesus, and the empowering life of the Holy Spirit become yours. That’s why the Bible says: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). Believing will put you “in Christ” and Christ will save you.
So here’s the question: Are you ready to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ? Are you ready to believe that you need to be rescued, that you cannot save yourself? Are you ready to trust Him to remove your condemnation by His sacrifice on the Cross?
If Christ were to say to you “Your life is the worst under heaven and I intend to make it the best!” How would you respond? Would you be among those take offense at that? If Christ offends you, your condemnation remains. Or would you respond “The rescue I’m hearing about is exactly what I need!”
Believing Christ means saying to God, “I do not have the capacity to become the loving, generous, patient, person you call me to be. I don’t have that in me. I need to be rescued. Save me from sins’ penalty by Your atoning death and save me from sin’s power by Your Holy Spirit. Take control of this run down, disordered life. Give me direction. Bring me resources that I do not have. You lead, and I will follow! Put me under the new management of Your Holy Spirit.”
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be able to say “There is no condemnation for me now because I’m in Christ Jesus. I am a new person in Christ. I have a new mind and it is set on what the Spirit desires.”
That is an amazing rescue. If God is doing this in your life it will be your greatest joy. If not, I invite you to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ today.