Updated: Sep 12, 2020
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
I promise you that the "no condemnation" plan is not a cop out. I know you need to know why if you're going to ever fully trust God in it. Because if God is a wishy-washy nice guy who can't call a spade a spade, some kind of spineless judge who lets criminals run rampant, he really isn't worth trusting with your life.
But that's not the case (of course.)
It is possible for God to not condemn us (even though we're guilty) and still be just. His choice to not condemn us sets in motion a series of events that leads to our ultimate righteousness - and vindicates his justice in setting us free.
The gospel (= no condemnation) doesn't just let us off the hook. A criminal running free isn't good news; it's bad news because he's only going to go back and do more harm. But the gospel of "no condemnation" has actual power to turn us into people who measure up to his standards - power to turn us into the image of Christ.
The good news is not that God lets criminals run free to keep sinning. The good news is that God sets criminals free from their sin and from the judgment and death that sin brings. He chooses not to condemn us because he wants to make something new out of us. We are rescued, restored, refurbished, redeemed.
Because making things new is what he does best.
We are set free by the Spirit of life who has power to give life to the dead and bring light from darkness. That life is seen and shown in our increasing Christ-like love of all that is pure and good and green. (See Romans 6 for more on this.)
This freedom is complicated, of course, by the fact that our flesh (still waiting for new creation in the physical realm) is still subject to death and still prone to an appetite for sin. (See Romans 7 for more on this.) Hence the fact that Christian freedom doesn't always feel like freedom. It's a war. But remember the war in The Matrix between Zion and the Machines? They were fighting, struggling, sacrificing, precisely because they were still free. As long as there is struggle between your spirit (alive) and your flesh (dead) there is freedom. Freedom to fight and to keep fighting as long as it takes.
Freedom to keep fighting even after you go down. Because no matter how many times you fall, if you keep getting up again to fight, you're still free. The fight you're in - the misery - proves you aren't a slave anymore. You're protesting your sin. You're not going to lie down and let it have its way with you anymore.
I believe there is a love for life and a deep desire for goodness in you. People want things to be good. I also believe, if you are God's child, that your sin makes you want to puke and crawl out of your skin. That is the Spirit of life in you - and it's exactly why I know you're going to win. Because he never gives up on what is his and he always succeeds.
When you sin, your misery is precisely the result of your willfully crawling back into the harness of sin and telling yourself you don't have a choice. You think the misery is guilt, God pointing his finger at you and saying, "You fail." But he's not. The bad feeling you have when you sin is the feeling of sin itself, and of God's Spirit pulling you out of the harness and ripping your hands out of the cuffs. Yeah, it hurts. But it's the harness and the cuffs that hurt. God isn't rejecting you. He's claiming you back. There is no condemnation. God isn't going to let you live there, and if you insist, it might hurt a little (or a lot) as he yanks you free again. You belong to him, you're his child, and he's not going to stand for you being in bondage forever.
You don't have to keep doing the sinful thing that is corroding your soul. And the rest of Romans 8 will explain that, ultimately, God won't let you. He's in the process of winning your heart so that rather than distrusting him for being so daft as to overlook your sin, you can relax into him as he systematically dismantles that sin and builds up something remarkably green in its place.
For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
Claim it. When you feel judged by God, condemned, rejected, tell him that. Tell him you want not just to believe but to feel and know the reality of his grace and the trustworthiness of his love for you. When you do things that you know aren't right, rather than seeing God as the one who is disappointed in you, see him as the one who is working to wrangle you free from what you know is making you miserable. Work with him. Cooperate. The best way I know how to do this is, when you feel condemned, to physically stop whatever you're doing - walking, talking, working, doing. Take a minute to sit yourself down, and tell God you need him to remind you that he loves you. Wait for it. When you get up again, don't let go of it. When temptation strikes, rather than condemning yourself, grab hold of his love for you, and run towards it with all your might.