It has been happening most mornings recently. I’ll wake up feeling crushed and exhausted. Condemnation. I’m doing everything wrong. And everyone knows it. It feels like when I wake, the whole human race rolls its eyes and sighs, Oh. It’s this guy. I don’t know why this happens, just that it does, and that it feels utterly real. And if this is what others think (and why wouldn’t they?), then what must God think? After all, they only see the outside of my life; he sees the inside. There’s no excuse for someone like me.
So this is what I’m banking on: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).
Whatever condemnation there might be from others (and in my better moments I know the human race doesn’t spend its time consumed with my daily failings), this verse says in three words what I need to hear every day: Now no condemnation. Three simple words. Can I dare to believe them?
To condemn someone is to expose them because of what they have done. This is what we all deserve. It’s what I deserve.
What have I done with the life God has given me? I have squandered opportunities on an hourly basis to love him and to love others. How can we even quantify this loss? I should feel crushed by the weight of it all. People who think they have their lives together baffle me. I’ve been around human beings long enough to know what we’re really like.
So here it is, in black-and-white letters on the page of Holy Scripture. Somehow it’s possible to go from deserved condemnation to no condemnation. Such a category exists. But if it in any way depends on me, I can’t do it. So Paul sets me straight: “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
This is not our normal way of speaking about Christians, but it is the New Testament’s. Far and away the most common description of us is those who are “in Christ.” Open any New Testament letter at random and you’ll see this phrase multiple times on the page. Being “in Christ” means we’re united to him, such that what is true of him is now also true of us. What is naturally his is now shared with me. It’s like a marriage, where the estate of the one becomes the estate of the other. Christ absorbs my debt; I gain his righteousness. He faced condemnation in his death so I could enjoy the future prospects he naturally deserves. I can’t say, “There is now no condemnation for Sam Allberry.” But I can (and must) say, “There is now no condemnation for Sam Allberry who is in Christ Jesus.” That status is mine only because I am his.
“No condemnation” means God will never count my sin against me. Even the most shameful things I’ve done will never be used against me. His disposition will forever be one of favor. He will always be for me, never against me.
Now No Condemnation
Paul isn’t just talking about some hypothetical future prospect; it’s a present-day reality. It’s not something I have to wait for, hanging in there until it arrives. This reality is now.
I was recently at a large banquet where each table was summoned in turn to go to the buffet. As always with these things, the process took far longer than expected, and everyone else’s table seemed to go up long before ours. But eventually one of the staff came up to us with that glorious word, “Now you may go and be served.”
It’s even more glorious to know that now there is no condemnation for me. What Jesus has done applies this moment of this day. It applies when I wake up tomorrow. However I feel, I will be waking up to the undiluted favor of God. I need to bury that truth in my deepest core, allowing it to seep into the innermost parts of my heart. It needs to define how I see myself. I need not fear the disapprobation of man when I have the guaranteed approval of God.
- When You Feel Like a (Christian) Imposter (Sam Allberry)