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Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Artist's Brush of Hope

"There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit" (Rom 8.1). Guilt, anxiety, and worry depress faith in us so that we do not pray as we ought. Anemic prayer lives lead to anemic Christians and anemic churches.

The problem of sin and death operates through the Law according to Romans 7.7-25. Romans 8.2-11 makes clear that God has overcome this problem. "For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh" (Rom 8.3).

The problem of sin, it's solution, and right in the middle there is Romans 8.1 - a brushstroke of hope from the Master Artist. There is NOW no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. That is, the reality of eternity and our future in Heaven begins now in the present time. Right NOW, there is no condemnation for those in Christ.
  1. When I was diagnosed with lymphoma cancer this past year, I faced the prospect of a long, drawn out illness and possible death. I still do. The cancer may yet be very painful and financially devastating. Yet if that is or is yet to be God's portrait of my life, I can find beauty in it because there is not one dark tint of condemnation in it.
  2. If my wife had left me back in 1990 due to my salvation in and/or stand for Jesus Christ ...if no beautiful boys were given to me as a heritage for the Lord ...if no blessing of a one-flesh union came to me, then I would consider it worth it because of the beauty of no condemnation in the portrait of my life.
  3. If my boys should grow and rebel, leading to the downfall of my pastoral ministry ...even if I am to blame for the rebellion in a minor or major way ...if I fail in my roles as father and pastor, the fact remains - I live in the broad and beautiful brushstroke of no condemnation.
  4. If my marriage fails and ends in the divorce that God hates, grievous consequences would hound me right up to the end of my temporal life. But for time and eternity, there will always be the beauty of the Artist's brush of hope - there is no condemnation!
  5. If I fail the church I pastor through prayerlessness, lack of study, indifference, indecisiveness, ...even if fail to keep us separate from evil, ungodly, sensual practice ...if I fail to discipline members who will not repent, the fact remains that upon the canvas of life are the words, "No Condemnation".
This truth does not give me liberty to continue in sin publicly or privately. I have the freedom to choose not to sin in word, thought, and deed. I have that freedom because I am in Christ. The fact that there is no condemnation because I am in Christ drives me to deeper dependence. I am a branch; He is the Vine. The desire of my life to live according to the Spirit not the flesh. While I live in this body of sin and death, I still am not satisfied because I know to live in the flesh is death. I am led away from eternal life, knowing Christ.

True beauty is found in the only medium acceptable to the Master Artist: the blood of Jesus Christ. I am a new portrait; the old is passed away, all things are new. There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.

There is condemnation for those who profess but do not possess Christ. There is condemnation for those who are determined in their religious duty but know nothing of Christ. There is condemnation for those who fear and doubt concluding that they are wretched but stopping short and finding escape in something or someone else other than Jesus Christ.

But as for me - there is therefore now no condemnation because I am in Christ walking according to the Spirit. What about you?