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If I had to choose just one favorite book of the Bible, I would choose Romans, chock full of theology, which I love.
And if I had to choose just one favorite chapter in all of Romans, hands down it would be chapter 8.
And if I could choose only one verse in chapter 8 to tattoo across my shoulder, it has to be verse 1: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
That, to me, is the definition of grace, beginning with the word “therefore.” As they say, whenever you see the word “therefore,” you need to find out what it’s there for. (I don’t know exactly who says that, only that they do.)
Romans 7 describes the wrestling match Christians have within themselves. The apostle Paul, probably the most obedient, law-abiding Christian who ever lived, describes his (and our) experience this way:
“I know God’s law, but I can’t keep it. I want to do good, but then I turn around and don’t do it. Likewise, I vow with all my heart not to do bad, but I go and do it anyway. Not all the time, but often enough to doubt if I can or will ever change, ever be better.
“Is there any hope for me at all? Have I gone too far? I need help! Who will deliver me from my sinful self? Thank God, Jesus can and will and already has” (Romans 7:17-25 my paraphrase).
Therefore, Romans 8:1 begins, because Jesus has set me free from the penalty and the power of my sin, I am not now condemned. Let me break it down:
Therefore, there is now.
Now. At this moment, no matter when the moment is. Now was/is yesterday when I may have been rude to someone on the phone. Now was/is every time I have hurt someone. Now was/is every time I’ve blatantly turned a deaf ear to the Holy Spirit urging me to think of others before myself.
Now is now as I write this with thoughts of who I might impress.
Now is tomorrow and the next day and all the days that follow.
Therefore, because of Jesus, there is now - past, present and future - no.
No, none, nada, nyet. Not even a trace, not one little bit. None is hiding, ready to pounce. There’s none in reserve.
There is no. God says there is now no, so who am I to say now there is?
Some people try to say that God’s no really means “no, but,” as in, “There is now no... but you have to be good in order to keep yourself in the no.”
Some say there’s a line you can cross from no to “not no,” although they don’t say where the line is. But if I don’t know where the line is, how will I know if or when I’ve crossed it?
Thankfully, God says “there is now no,” therefore, I choose to trust him rather than someone else’s “no, but.”
God says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation.”
I love that! That’s worth shouting about. No condemnation - no fear of being damned or forsaken, cast aside, stomped on, abused or refused.
It means not only that I don’t get what I deserve, which is condemnation, but I get a party. I get adopted into God’s family. I get Jesus defending me, pleading my case and taking my penalty.
I get to be called friend of God, beloved child.
Accepted, embraced, welcomed, cherished.
Now. No condemnation - for those who are in Christ Jesus.
For those who are in Christ Jesus, there is no condemnation, now, forever and always.
Given by grace, through faith, in Christ. Not by anything I do or don’t do, only as a result of being in him.
As I (and the apostle Paul) said before, I don’t do the good that I want to do and often do the bad that I hate and don’t want to do. Even so, I sleep peacefully at night and rest throughout the day knowing that I am free from any fear of condemnation because I am safe within the love of Christ.
Therefore, that is why that’s my favorite Bible verse.
As for tattooing it on my shoulder, I think I’ll probably pass on that. Besides, it’s already tattooed on my heart.
Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria - I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing,” and her latest book, “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at 352-564-2927, Monday through Thursday, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.