“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you [me] free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 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 [for a sin offering] 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.” Romans 8:1-4 ESV
“In Christ Jesus” – what a powerful phrase! Being “in Christ” by accepting His atoning sacrifice for my sin, is the reason that I can stand before an absolutely just and righteous and holy God and face “no condemnation.”
The previous chapters in Romans explain that the law of Moses was given by God to expose our sin, to illustrate our complete inability to keep the law perfectly. In fact, the sixth chapter ends with the statement, “for the wages of sin is death. . .” Without the Holy Spirit’s power in me I am a “slave to sin.” That is the weakness of the law – its inability to completely atone for sin. “For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of those realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. . .For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” (Hebrews 10:1,4 ESV)
But God, the righteous and holy judge of all the earth, made a way for me to stand pure and blameless before Him. Amazing!! He sent His own Son (Jesus) as the ultimate and final and complete sin offering. Not bulls and goats and yearly and daily sacrifices, but an atoning sacrifice “once for all.” (see Hebrews 9:24-28). Because this once for all sacrifice was complete and eternal, there is therefore no condemnation. To continually punish myself for past sins is to say to God that Christ’s sacrifice must not have been complete. There is no bargaining with God – “I promise I’ll do better from now on; if you forgive me this time, I’ll ______.” The payment is already made by Christ. In my flesh, there is NOTHING I can do that will please God. That’s the point; when I try to “please God” in my own strength, I will fail. Shame results. Anger. Disappointment. Failure. “Why didn’t God come through for me? Why is this happening?”
To accept Christ’s atoning sacrifice is to acknowledge my complete dependence on His payment for my sin. It is to realize that being “in Christ” does not mean saying a prayer and then going on to live life on my own and in my own power, just fitting God in somewhere in my busy life. Being “in Christ” is a moment-by-moment relationship. There is no pride, no self-satisfaction, no “look how well I’ve done.” Any good that I do, I do because the Holy Spirit is working through me; my “goodness” is submitting to the Spirit of life, rather than working through my flesh, my own nature.