Most of the sermon I have preached have been sermons written and preached to my own heart. The legacy I hope to pass down to my children and my grandchildren are the collection of sermons that I have preached and tried to apply to my own life. Occasionally, I am motivated to write a sermon for a person or for a group. This is one such sermon. I understand loss. I understand the pain that is experienced when it is time to say goodbye to someone you love as that person passes from this side of eternity to the next. I also know the deep pain that comes when someone you love so deeply dies without you ever having the opportunity to say goodbye.
This sermon is for those of you who are experiencing a Mother’s Day without the company of or a phone call from that person you would have shared this day with today. This sermon is my Mother’s Day card for my wife who is experiencing for the first time, a Mother’s Day without her mother. If I could have been at the memorial service that celebrated Nang Bawk’s life, and had the honor of preaching the message, it probably would have sounded a lot like this sermon I share with you today. This sermon is for all those who hate death and love life. This sermon is for those who long for hope and want to be recipients of some really good news.
It is no mystery as to what one of my favorite Bible verses is. My favorite verse in the Bible is Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” What follows this verse are at least six reasons why verse 1 is true for anyone who believes that Jesus died for their sins on a roman cross and rose from the grave of a borrowed tomb (we will look at the first three reason today, and the last three reasons next week). I want to encourage not just my wife today, I want you be encouraged if you are a real Christian. If you are not a Christian, then it is my hope that you will discover what I am about to say as the best news you have ever heard.
If you are a person who is convinced that Jesus died on the cross for your sin and because of your sin, and if you are a person who is sure that he defeated death by rising from the grave, then what I am about to say is true of you.
You are Not Condemned Because Jesus Was (vv. 2-8)
Romans 8:1 begins: “There is therefore…”. A rule of thumb anytime you are reading any literature that when you see the word “therefore”, what you are about to read was written in light of what you just read. What did Paul write in the previous chapters of Romans? In Romans 1-3, we are all sinners who fall terribly short of meeting God’s standard of holiness and righteousness. In Romans 4-6, we learn that our only hope for the forgiveness of our sins and the redemption of our souls is someone who is able to stand in our place as both our sin substitute and our righteousness; that someone was Jesus who lived the life we could never live and died the death we all deserved. Finally, in Romans 7, we are told that the only hope we have from the bondage of sin is Jesus Christ who became sin for us to break the power of sin and death that we were once prisoners of.
In light of Romans 1-7, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (8:1). In what way was Jesus condemned in the place of my mother-in-law, in what way was Jesus condemned in your place and mine? According to verses 3-4 we are told he Jesus was condemned in our place: “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
You are Not Condemned Because You are Now in Christ (vv. 9-11)
The moment you believed in Jesus as your savior, the Bible says that your identity changed by association. You went from being in and of the world to being in Christ and a citizen of his kingdom. We are told that once you believed in Jesus, you were indwelled and sealed by the Holy Spirit.
Before you became a Christian, you were, “dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of the world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience… and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Eph. 2:1-3). The moment you believed in Jesus, you were, “made alive together with Christ” (Eph. 2:4), when you were dead in your sins.
Let me share an illustration to help you understand what Paul is talking about in these verses. When I used to work at a bulk mail company, before the days of automated everything and during the days of dial-up internet, we had a meter machine that we had to take to the local Post Office to have the meter machine filled with more postage money. The way they would do that was by opening the meter machine to move some dials with numbers on it. The only way into the machine was to cut a wire that kept the little door from being opened; on the wire was a metal seal that was marked by the USPS. To break the seal was a federal crime; the only authority that could break the seal was the USPS.
When Jesus went to the cross, Jesus paid in full what was necessary to cancel my debt before God. The day I received the free gift of my salvation through faith in Jesus, guess what happened? God put his seal on me in the form of the Holy Spirit. There is only one who has the authority to break that seal. This is what Paul means in Romans 8:11, when he writes: “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”
When Roi Maw’s mother began to experience her heart and her breath fail, death appeared to be to win, but because her faith rested in Jesus, there was a seal that not even death could break! Because she was “in Christ” there was no need to worry about what was coming. Many people enter death’s doorway only to stand before God as a judge, but those who are in Christ will stand before God as a father.
You are Not Condemned Because You are an Heir with Christ (vv. 12-17)
The third reason why the Christian is free of any threat of condemnation from the one where it matters most is because we are, “…heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (v. 17). What does it mean to be an heir of God and with Jesus? It first means, as Paul described: “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God (v. 14). In Paul’s day, when a boy was an adopted legally and made a member of a family, he also became the legal beneficiary of the family who adopted him. The point Paul is making here is that regardless if you are male or female, if you are a Christian, you have been legally adopted into God’s family and have been made the legal beneficiary of all that belongs to Him.
If you the author of life is now your Daddy, what can death do to you? If you are the son or daughter of the One who owns all things because he created all things, what is it that you are lacking in life? If you are an heir with Christ, there is really nothing to fear because even if death comes knocking, it is life that answers the door of your future. The Christian may flinch at COVID-19, you may flinch at cancer, you may flinch at the grave side of your mother or loved one, but when death comes knocking at the door of your mortality, the Holy Spirit bears witness that death has now power over you because it has been swallowed up by everlasting life. This is why we are reminded: “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” (v. 15).
What is there to fear if Jesus became your condemnation? What do you have to fear now that you are eternally identified with Jesus and have God’s seal upon your soul that no one else has the authority to break? What do you have to fear now that you are legally and eternally a child of the God of life who calls you his son or daughter? You are no longer a slave to fear because you have no real reason to fear!
I read about a person who believed that what Jesus did on the cross the forgiveness of our sins like a heavenly bank account that Jesus purchased for us. He said: “It’s like a heavenly bank account. As long as I make more deposits than withdrawals, I’m in good shape.” What he failed to realize is that Jesus died because we were bankrupt, and what we needed was for him to open a new account that says: “paid in full.” But you see, the new account Jesus opened up for us is not one that we can make deposits or withdrawals. The account that Jesus opened for us is unlike any other account that ever had before, for although you cannot make deposits or withdrawals, you have received all the benefits of this new account.
If you are a Christian today, you are living off of the interest of the account Jesus purchased on your behalf. If you are a Christian today, you are living off the benefits of the inheritance that is now yours. The reality that is now yours is Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” The question I have for you today, is this: “Are you living in light of your present reality?”
Paul says something in verses 16-17 that makes sense of verses 18-39; we will have to wait to dive into these verses, but I want to show you something first. Take another look at verse 17 in light of the three reasons Paul has given us for why there is no condemnation for the Christian: “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” This is one of those verses the NIV got wrong and the ESV gets it right. Literally we are “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” What does Paul mean here? Does he mean that our salvation is only guaranteed if we stick it out through thick and thin, for better or for worse? Nope.
What Paul means in verse 17 is that if we really believe that because Jesus was condemned in our place, that our identity is now found in Christ, and that we are heirs with Christ, then when the bad things happen, when suffering turns our world upside down, when global pandemics plague our communities, or when death robs us of a life on this side of eternity, we will be able to endure such things without walking away from the faith. We will be able to stare death down as an enemy and say: “You may bring your worst, but I still have Christ! Because I have Christ, I have life!” You will not walk away from Jesus, because you will not be able to bring yourself to do it because of your new identity in him. Because of who you now are, you now have the ability to stare death down like a dog, and you are able to do the same with COVID-19, cancer, disease, and anything else that will attempt to rob you of your joy.
You are able to suffer with Jesus, because you are now a child of God. As a child of the God of life, death in not your inheritance (vv. 18-25). As a child of God, he is for your good (vv. 26-30). As a child of God, you are loved with an everlasting love that no one is able to disrupt, pervert, or destroy. This is the reason why my mother-in-law is in heaven today, and it is the reason why you can live your life with a purpose that transcends the grave.