Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Romans 8:1-11 in the New Living Translation (NLT). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: Have you ever been to court for something that you did in fact do?
I remember driving from New York with a group of friends back to Andrews University. It was after a school break and we were excited to be heading back to the cold weather of Berrien Springs, Michigan (joke). The route from New York to Berrien was a simple one. We crossed from New York into New Jersey, got on I-80, and then it was a straight shot 10-hour drive to South Bend, Indiana, followed by a 30-minute drive up into Berrien Springs. I had done this drive many times, and without incident. Not this time.
In the final hour of the journey, during which I was driving, I began to get sleepy. I pushed through the fatigue as best I could, my head nodding every now and again. My morale was lifted when I began to see signs that read “Mishawaka” and I instinctively began to speed up as I drew closer to my destination. I was doing fine until, you guessed it, lights appeared in the rearview mirror.
I pulled over, the officer approached. I knew I was speeding. In fact, the officer alerted me to the fact that not only was I doing about 15 miles per hour over the speed limit, but that he had also been behind me for almost 10 minutes with his lights on. I had been so tired that I hadn’t even realized he was there. He also cited me for passing on the right and another violation that I can no longer remember.
I was ordered to appear in Elkhart, Indiana, before a judge who would decide my fate, as my offences warranted more than a simple speeding ticket. I left an afternoon class early and, for the first time, appeared before a judge. I was petrified. While I had not committed murder or grand larceny or grand theft, I knew that I was guilty on all counts. This being my first time in court, and with such an extensive list of offenses, I had no idea what the judge would say. He looked me over, asked some questions, and then looked me over again. After a few minutes of deliberation, he spoke. He told me what he thought of my offenses, he told me what he thought of me, and then he paused again. Finally, with a swing of his gavel he rendered his verdict: guilty but free of penalty. I had committed the crime, but I would face no penalty!
I know. I was as shocked as you are. I had anticipated that at the very least there would be a fine or some community service, but I was free to go. And, the even better news was that I didn’t have to go back!
We are all, at the heart of the matter, guilty. We have sinned, and, for the most part, we know it. If we do not believe this, John offers this assessment: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (I John 1:8, NIV). He follows that up two verses later by saying that we not only lie but also make Christ out to be a liar as well. The term condemnation that Paul uses is a legal term. It means the rendering of a guilty verdict and the consequent sentence. It is a verdict that every human being deserves to hear, but one that we do not have to hear. For with the same certainty that John declares that we have all sinned, Paul declares that we are not condemned if we are in Christ Jesus. It is a legally binding statement of fact, and one that cannot be overturned. Those who are in Christ cannot be condemned.
Recalibrate: What does the term “no condemnation” mean to you? If we are not condemned, does that mean that we can do whatever we want? If Jesus has accepted your guilty verdict as His own, what should your response be?
Respond: Take some time today to really consider what it means to be condemned. Imagine yourself on death row and having a perfect stranger come in and take your place. Write a letter to that person conveying your thoughts.
Remember: “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2, ESV).
Kory P. Douglas is the youth director for the Central States Conference in Kansas City, Kansas. He is a native of Brooklyn, New York, where he previously served as a Bible teacher. Kory has a beautiful family comprised of his wife Kimberly, daughter Carsyn Rei (2), and son Noah Kai (10 months). He loves God and young people, and wants to see everyone become the best version of themselves they can be.
Make a water play station with plastic cups and plastic water bottles. Talk about pouring water in and then pouring it out. If you’re outside pour the water onto some plants or grass and talk about how water makes things grow. When the Holy Spirit is poured in and it overflows, it makes things grow. Pray that the Holy Spirit will pour into our heart so we can grow to be just like Jesus.
Write the name Jesus in bubble letters so it takes up the whole page. Think about how much Jesus loves us. Inside of Jesus’ name, write the names of all the people you know, all the time praying that they would love Jesus. See if you can remember Romans 8:1 and say the words aloud.
On the first day of my current job, I met the person whose position I was taking. While I had already been given an orientation, he told me a bunch of the company’s rules I had to follow. I didn’t ever look up these rules but assumed that he knew what he was talking about. I started to notice that these rules were adding extra time to my work day and it was hard to keep up with all of them. I’m one of those people who tries to keep every rule perfectly, so I was pretty overwhelmed. Recently, I was discussing one of the rules with my supervisor and she looked at me and said, “Vanessa, that is not one of our policies.” I breathed a huge sigh of relief! Then I listed all the other rules I thought I had to follow and she told me none of those were true. I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I was living under the weight of imaginary rules that weren’t a measurement of my job performance. I wanted to give her a hug. I was so relieved. In Romans 8:1-3, Paul explains that the law of Moses was unable to save us. The law of Moses was made up of ceremonies, rituals, and symbols that God’s people followed. Over time, people became obsessed with observing these. When Jesus died for us, in addition to dying for our sins, He fulfilled all of the requirements of those laws. Take some time to thank Jesus for defeating sin and for paving a path for all of humanity to have eternal life.