“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.”
– Rom 8.1-2
Perhaps one of my favorite aspects of the Christian faith is that God has set us free from the power of sin and death! If we are in Christ He has forgiven us, He has removed our hearts of stone and given us a heart of flesh, He has given us the Holy Spirit to live within us and to guide us in righteousness and life. “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Gal 2.20). I am no longer condemned. I wrote last week on the wrath of God being that from which we need to be saved. He is angry. Angry at sin and angry at sinners. But when we by faith turn to God and repent of our sins and accept His free gift of eternal life and salvation, there is no condemnation remaining for those who are in Jesus. And when we do fall and sin we have an advocate who intercedes for us!
But in many Christian circles today, we often misunderstand this idea. Since Jesus paid the penalty for my sins, that does not give me warrant to sin freely. It does matter what I do. The Spirit is not laissez faire when it comes to sin or the holiness of His people. He has come to indwell believers and to convict the world concerning sin, righteousness and judgment!
“And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.”
– John 16.8-11
The freedom from condemnation necessitates the implementation of conviction. People who do not have the Spirit at work within their lives function under the condemnation of their own conscience as that which has been revealed about God is made evident to them through creation and conscience (Rom 1-2), but people who have the Spirit indwelling them have the guiding conviction of God leading them into holiness and right living. Those who practice the deeds of the flesh will not inherit the kingdom of God. Period.
“Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
– Gal 5.19-21
And we will give an account for our actions and it is by our deeds that we will be judged:
” [God] will render to each person according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”
– Rom 2. 6-10
The tension is this: We do not earn our salvation by not practicing deeds of the flesh or according to our works. But it is the necessary outworking of the Spirit in our lives that we put to death such practices. All who are saved, all who are transformed by the saving grace of God through the forgiveness of sins and all who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit will live transformed lives. Lives that honor God, and are not characterized by that inexhaustive list of sins. If your life has not been transformed, you do not have a relationship with God. You are not saved. If you can willfully practice sinning without the conviction of the Spirit in your life, you have an expectation of judgment awaiting you. Because God will render to each one according to his deeds. And we can test our hearts by observing our obedience and the working of the Spirit through our lives. So let us test our hearts! Let us examine ourselves and make sure that we are in relationship with God, through repentance and through grace. Let us turn to God. Let us submit our ways to Him and let us love Him. Christians are people that love God! Let us not minimize conviction because of our freedom – don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater!