Are You on the Naughty or Nice List?

There is therefore, now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.  {Romans 8:1}

I clearly remember my carefully laid plan.  When the teacher told us to get out notebook paper, I would grab my tiny sheet of preprinted paper with all my spelling words on it to hide under my blank notebook paper.  Then I would proceed to cover my head with my sweatshirt under the pretense of keeping other kids from looking on.   I felt guilty just making the plan & it was really pointless because I was a good speller.  In fact, I almost always made 100’s on spelling tests.  But for some reason, this week the words seemed too hard for me.  Instead of trying to learn them, my 10-year-old self devised a plan to cheat on my test! 

I have no idea why I did it because I had never cheated before but this time I went straight to the deep end of the sin pit. The guilt weighed heavier with every single word the teacher called out & by the end of the test I felt like I couldn’t I breathe.  I don’t know if it was the sweatshirt over my head or the building guilt in my heart but I felt like I couldn’t breathe.

Then the worst thing happened.  My teacher walked around, desk-to-desk, to collect the tests.  She had never done this before.   In all my careful planning of how to cheat, I didn’t take into account that when I lifted my notebook paper from the desk to turn it in, the fact that it was covering the little sheet of paper with all my spelling words on it would be exposed.   I tried my best to do a magic trick & make the little paper disappear when I handed her my test but she saw it.  Not only that all the kids around me saw it too.  

I was caught & I got detention for a whole week.  

When Christmas rolled around I knew for sure Santa wasn’t going to visit me.  I had been “naughty”.  I do remember that I had asked Jesus to forgive me & having grown up in a Christian home, I knew grace was bigger than my sin, but I also believed I had to be a “good girl” & earn back my rightful place of blessing.    

I didn’t understand at the time that I was falling for the enemy’s perfect attack on my identity as a beloved daughter.

I knew Romans 8:1 by heart.  It was a verse I was required to learn in my small Christian school, but I didn’t understand it.   The realization that because of my salvation I was walking in the Spirit had not taken root in my heart {Ephesians 2:8}.  And if I was walking by the Spirit then how did my flesh take over & lead me to give in to the temptation to cheat?

Unfortunately, I continued living this cycle for years.  The idea that I had to be good in order to be in right standing with God kept me completely bound to trying more to be more.  I believed if I tried harder to “be good” I would somehow gain more favor with God.  Unfortunately, in my own strength, I continued to fail & continued to believe I was a disappointment to God.  Thus a weight of guilt, just like the one I felt in fourth grade, lingered over me.

Several years ago, as I read the scriptures just before Romans 8:1 and those that shortly follow it, I realized the answer to my internal guilty struggle was there in black & white.  Because of the sin of one man {Adam}, we were all made sinners & in order for God to set apart His people from the rest of the world, the Law {10 commandments} were given in order that we might know right from wrong.  But the law magnified human sin & made it so obvious that we were destined to continue to fail in our attempts to do right.  

But then Jesus came & God’s grace in “fuller, greater measure” was magnified because through one Man’s obedience we who are in Christ, are made righteous. {Romans 5:19}

Because of this, we can walk free of condemnation!  But then does that mean we are free to go about doing whatever we want in the absence of the Law?  

What shall we say then?  Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? Absolutely not! {Romans 6:1-2a ESV}

Paul tells us that God’s grace is not our license to sin.  We were created to serve our Creator & if we do not have the Law as our guiding truth, grace will not have any place in our lives.  But through God’s grace, we have become servants of obedience to God which sets us free from the Law itself.  You see the Law itself cannot fix what is wrong with us.  It is a blueprint of how we should live but in our humanity, we give in to sin.  The law brings that sin to the surface but it can never change the heart or free us from the power of sin.  

Enter grace.  Grace changes our heart.  Grace gives us power over condemnation from the Law.  Grace frees us from acceptance based on our own good works & gives us the ability to walk, uncondemned in the Spirit.  Grace takes me off the “naughty list” & places me on the “nice list” in Jesus permanently & John’s gospel tells us that Jesus is the complete fulfillment of GRACE & TRUTH {John 1:17}

The power of sin & death is eclipsed by the power of the Spirit.  

So what does all this theological rhetoric really mean in my life & yours?  

We are no longer on the “Naughty List” ~ The weight of the guilt of our sin was placed on Jesus & through His shed blood, we are made right with God.   The Law, moreover Satan as the accuser, condemns with guilt through the flesh.  But Jesus came & gave the weakness of our flesh the power to live righteously.  Not through anything we have or ever could do, but through His righteousness.  {Romans 8:3-8, Romans 5:8-9

We don’t have to earn a place on the “Nice List” ~ The Greek word Paul uses when he describes God’s grace actually means “superabound”.  This means that not only can sin never exceed the grace provided by God but sin loses even its threat of victory in our lives when compared to the superabounding grace of God!  That means no matter what we have done, we are free from condemnation because the grace of God is bigger.  I don’t know about you but the realization I have finally come to is that I cannot be condemned & having lived with guilt for much of life over failing at the Law, this truth brings life & freedom to me.  {Romans 5:20}

If you live with a veil {or a sweatshirt} of guilt that hovers over you, tell the enemy to take a hike & walk free in the superabounding grace & truth of Jesus.

Put your name in the blanks of the verse below:

There is therefore now no condemnation for _________ because he/she is in Christ Jesus, because ________ doesn’t walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.  {Romans 8:1}

When the law came into the picture, sin grew & grew; but wherever sin grew & spread, God’s grace was there in fuller, greater measure {Romans 5:20 the VOICE}