Free At Last
“There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ.” - Romans 8:1 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave us one of the most celebrated lines in modern speech making and literature. Quoting an old spiritual, he stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial one day in 1963, and proclaimed to his listeners:
"Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"
I know that he was referring to a hope and a dream of a day when “all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing” those now famous words. He was talking about freedom from prejudice and discrimination, freedom to live as God intends us to live.
He also understood spiritual freedom, and nowhere is spiritual freedom more proclaimed than in Romans 8:1, one of the boldest, most freeing and revolutionary statements found in any sacred writing:
“There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ.”
Do you know what it means to live with “no condemnation?”
Or to be “in Christ?”
Condemnation is a curse.
It is a poison on the planet that leads to despair, and discouragement and even the kind of religious fanaticism that leads to terrorism and racism. Condemnation is the sad result of a spiritual life gone wrong.
Condemnation is easy to recognize because:
You feel guilty all the time, like you’re just not quite good enough.
You’re fearful, sensing that somehow things are not quite right between you and God and you’re afraid that someday, somewhere, He’s going to get you.
+ You live with a profound sense of rejection. You might know in your mind, intellectually, that God has accepted you and forgiven you, but in your heart you always feel not quite loved or accepted. This translates into how you view and interact with other people as well—and causes you to reject others through prejudice or fear.
The Christian life is an exchange.
We exchange an old life for a new one. We replace bad habits with new ones. We exchange a sentence of death for the gift of eternal life. We replace fear with freedom.
Fear is one of the last great strongholds in many of our lives.
We can know we are saved, relish a new life in Christ, rejoice over new-found joy, peace and love—and yet we can still be haunted and nagged by the shadow that follows us, threatening to ruin everything.
Do you know what the answer is to fear?
Romans 8:1! “There is no condemnation…” There is no doom, no gloom, no reason to be afraid. When you are “in Christ,” He is also “in you,” the hope of glory, filling you with His Spirit, driving fear away.
You can’t be free and be controlled by fear.
Fear is the worst kind of tyranny and oppression. It hinders life and paralyzes its victims. Fear quenches the Spirit, and deceives us into forgetting that we have a Heavenly Father, who promises,
“For I know the thoughts I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).
Romans 8:1 is one of the most liberating statements to ring through eternity. And, for those who have given their lives to Jesus, it is the truth—the truth that will set us free.
When I contemplate the meaning of this powerful Scripture, I want to echo the words of Martin Luther King, and cry with joy,
“Free at last, thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
[Photo: Kelly Sikkema, Creation Swap]