“Hell is being looked at,” said the famous existential philosopher Jean-Paul Sarte. I went to Gettysburg College, and you guessed it, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, for two reasons: to play football and to wrestle. A severe neck injury my first year ended both. The next year I transferred to the University of Massachusetts. Why? I did not want to be looked at, looked at as the kid who got injured, looked at as the ex-athlete. The experience of being looked at can be traumatic. Welcome to Romans 8.
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8.1). Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones spent thirteen years preaching through Romans (cut your pastor some slack!); his sermons fill fourteen volumes. Preaching on Romans 8.1 he said, “This is one of the greatest statements of the Scripture, one of the most important for Christian experience, and for the health and well-being of the Christian believer….Most of our troubles are due to our failure to realize the truth of this verse.”
What kind of troubles are due to our failure to realize “there is therefore now no condemnation”? The need to prove ourselves, the stress of being squeezed liked a vice between formal obligations and the ‘oughts’ on one side and personal desires and needs on the other, the diminishment of self or a depleted confidence which fuels depression, the lack of joy and confidence in relationships, and the lack of rest and energy in our relationship with God, name only a few.
Why are most of our troubles due to our failure to realize “there is therefore now no condemnation”? The Apostle Paul’s response is that being looked at is traumatic. Jean-Paul Sarte is right – “Hell is being looked at.” “Condemnation” is a legal word stirring up the image of a trial. The accused is being looked at, being judged, examined, assessed, analyzed, and evaluated. All eyes are on you in order to determine the ultimate verdict of whether you are good enough. Are you a good enough father, wife, daughter, athlete, writer, professor, attorney, artist, friend, leader? Are you wanted, loved, successful, liked, approved? All of life from sunrise to sunset is a trial, broken down into moments, life events, conversations, endeavors, and relationships of striving to be good enough. Good enough to be somebody, loved, wanted, accepted, worthy, righteous. Good enough not to be condemned.
Listen again to the wonder of verse 1: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” The ultimate verdict is in. The trial is over. There is now no condemnation. There is only welcome and acceptance. You are now good enough. Why? Jesus went on trial for messed up people… Jesus was good enough for you. Jesus experienced the ultimate verdict of condemnation. All condemnation for sin and not being good enough was experienced and extinguished at the cross so that in Jesus’ death and good-enough life, there is now no condemnation.
The trial is over. Messed up people are now good enough. All eyes on Jesus.