“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
Romans 8:1, NIV
Those of us who examine scripture, are quickly confronted with this very direct concept of absolutely no condemnation for everyone who believes in Jesus Christ. God’s own Son has died to bring us home. We are under no condemnation, our lives have been brought under His direction. His grace has done all of this, for us.
“What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? 33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself.”
Romans 8:31-33, NLT
There is absolutely nothing that can touch us. There is no condemnation that comes up against us. Our acceptance is total and complete in Christ. A vital faith in His Word has secured our salvation. But men still live in guilt and remorse, unable to break free of sin.
We have been counted ‘just’, and this is not a clerical mistake!
He has made us right with Him. He is now in direct intervention of the total immensity of my sin. And He is waiting for me to respond.
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Romans 5:1, NIV
Our faith has the capacity to make us right. As we seek this out, He makes us righteous. This is in spite of our darkness. He intervenes in our darkness to bring us into the light. We stand clean before our Lord.
Anything that could be smeared on us, has been carried by Jesus as the sin we gave Him.
He carries us on His frame, with all of our darkness and twistedness. He has become evil so that we might be made good. He absorbs sin, drawing in all my evil and taking it as His own. Maybe this is strange, but I believe Jesus Christ is “God’s sponge.”
Justification, by our faith, is His gift to us.
“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
2 Corinthians 5:21, NASB
What in the world is there to say? What words can really communicate what has just happened? Let’s just stop, and think a moment. By faith “it is just as I’ve never sinned.” That is markedly good news.
The following excerpt is from the devotional book, “Living the Message,” by Eugene H. Peterson. This pastor-professor is probably the person I want to grow up to be like; he has a gentleness and eloquence that is seldom seen–and highly respected.
Dr. Peterson died in 2018.
Author of many books, and his great translation of the Bible, titled “The Message” is regarded by many as a masterpiece of the English language.
Additionally, he has recently focused on the pastor, and on the many issues, a pastor might face. He understands being a servant of the Gospel and the Church.
I encourage you to read his stuff.
“When Christian believers gather in churches, everything that can go wrong sooner or later does. Outsiders, on observing this, conclude there is nothing to this religious business, except perhaps, business…and a distant one at that. Insiders see it much differently.”
“Just as a hospital gathers the sick under one roof and labels them as such, the Church collects sinners.”
“Many people outside are just as sick as the ones inside, but their illnesses are either undiagnosed or disguised. It is similar with sinners outside the church.”
Some other quotes by Eugene Peterson:
“All the persons of faith I know are sinners, doubters, uneven performers. We are secure not because we are sure of ourselves but because we trust that God is sure of us.”
“When we submit our lives to what we read in scripture, we find that we are not being led to see God in our stories but our stories in God’s. God is the larger context and plot in which our stories find themselves. “
“When we sin and mess up our lives, we find that God doesn’t go off and leave us- he enters into our trouble and saves us.”
“American religion is conspicuous for its messianically pretentious energy, its embarrassingly banal prose, and its impatiently hustling ambition.”
“Some Christians are called to endure a disproportionate amount of suffering. Such Christians are a spectacle of grace to the church, like flaming bushes unconsumed, and cause us to ask, like Moses: ‘Why is this bush not burned up?’
“The strength and stability of these believers can be explained only by the miracle of God’s sustaining grace. The God who sustains Christians in unceasing pain is the same God — with the same grace — who sustains me in my smaller sufferings. We marvel at God’s persevering grace and grow in our confidence in Him as He governs our lives.”
— John Newton, author of “Amazing Grace”
All of us know a brother or sister who seems to be a target of an undue amount of suffering. It seems like they’re always in the furnace. All we can do really is to shake our heads and then give them double honor for their faith in God’s grace and providence.
Ministering to these sufferers can be a challenge.
What can we say to those who seem to be on “God’s anvil?” How can we bless those who are in pain?
Perhaps a simple word of calm encouragement is the most effective. In the midst of some awful difficulties, I once had a dear brother who gently and carefully quoted Philippians 1:6 to me over and over whenever we met and whenever we parted:
“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”
It was a precious thing that he did. I didn’t mind it all, as a matter of fact I grew to like it. At first, I’ll admit it was strange, but my faith began to ‘mix’ with the Word and I began to believe it. It’s now my favorite verse in the Bible.
He refused to preach (or counsel) at me.
He had the maturity to see what God was doing and to make himself available to God on my behalf. Perhaps that patience he showed should be for us the method of choice? I look forward to seeing him someday, someway.
“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.”
A keyword in this verse is “rejoice.”
It is a good reminder that the pain we feel is not the end. These trials have a limited duration (although it seems far away). There is coming a day when we can navigate through these issues and come out on the other side. “We will shine like the stars” (Daniel 12:3).
Much wisdom is needed in our ministry to disproportionate sufferers. We should have a fear of intruding on the work the Lord is doing. We must be patient and humble in this matter. There is no rushing God, after all, it’s His work. Most importantly we must be very much ‘present’ for our friend.
But not only that! We even take pride in our problems, because we know that trouble produces endurance,
A “word” spoken out of place can cause even more ‘heartache’ for the sufferer. Let us be careful. At times it’s better not to say anything, and that’s alright. Job’s friends were best sitting in the ash heap, saying no word.
The Lord God gives me the right words to encourage the weary. Each morning he awakens me eager to learn his teaching.
Isaiah 50:4, CEB
Ask the Father to guide you. Be gentle. Be there. Hw will give you (in His time) a good word for them.
This poem is written in the “villanelle* form. I wrote it as a reminder to myself of how hard the darkness of depression can be so that I don’t lose my compassion for those in my world who are struggling to find the Light. But it is also a reminder that the Light of Christ does shine in that darkness, however faintly, and will never be extinguished. If you feel oppressed by the darkness, seek His Light.
The light shines in the darkness Faintly I see His light My need I will confess
Toward the light I press Keeping hope in my sight The light shines in the darkness
Despair my soul’s distress Entangled in the night My need I will confess
His grace I will profess Giving me the strength to fight The light shines in the darkness
I feel anguish oppress Crushing with all its might My need I will confess
Feeling His love’s caress Compassion burning bright The light shines in the darkness My need I will confess
* vil·la·nelle, [vil-uh-nel]
a short poem of fixed form, written in tercets, usually five in number,
followed by a final quatrain, all being based on two rhymes.