Romans 7:19-20 NLT | Romans 8:1-2 | Luke 15:10b

“We should regret what we do wrong, but we shouldn’t feel hopeless about being able to do better.”

Picture yourself in a courtroom. You have committed a crime, and the judge has asked you to explain your choices. So you say, “Your Honor… I want to do the right thing, but I just don’t. I can’t help it!” How do you think the judge would reply?

The Apostle Paul knows that God does not judge people the way human judges do. Confronted with his wrongness–his sin–he uses this same defense.

I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.

Romans 7:19-20 NLT

Paul likewise concludes that ‘he can’t help it.’ But he goes one step further, pinpointing the culprit: sin living in him. He goes on in subsequent verses to call himself “a slave to sin” and to name Jesus Christ as the answer to his helpless situation.

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. 

Romans 8:1-2 NLT

And as you can see, Jesus is not just the answer for Paul, he is the answer for anyone who belongs to him. His life-giving Spirit can free you from this miserable, deadly enslavement.

If you believe that Jesus died on the cross as a sacrifice for your sins, and you follow him, you are forgiven and have been set free from judgement. God bangs his gavel and says, “Not Guilty.” 

You shouldn’t be. (Guilty, that is.) As Josie pointed out, you will feel conviction when you have sinned, but you do not have to suffer condemnation. Conviction is knowing that you have done wrong, while condemnation is being beyond forgiveness.

The devil is your enemy. He wants to make you think you are too far gone to be forgiven. That is a LIE. Even the worst sinner can come home to forgiveness through belief and trust in Jesus.

The devil wants you to think of God as a relentless judge who wants to punish people for their mistakes. But that is not what gives him joy…

“…there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.”

Luke 15:10b NLT

People turning away from their sin–no matter how oppressive it may be–that is what brings joy to God.

Again, picture yourself in a courtroom. This time God the Father is judge, while Jesus and the Holy Spirit are your legal team. The gavel has just banged after a quick but firm pronouncement: “Not Guilty.”

And you will not be tried for that same crime again. No double jeopardy.

So if you hear a voice in your head reminding you how wrong you were, making you question whether you are forgiven…that voice is not your friend. Because there is no condemnation for those who belong to Jesus Christ, who–once and for all–paid the cost for your sins.

Questions for Group Discussion

  • What is the definition of Double Jeopardy? Can you find reference to it in the U.S. Constitution?
  • Have you had the experience of continuing to feel guilty for something, even after asking God’s forgiveness?
  • Why would the devil want you to keep feeling bad about something for which you have been forgiven?
  • How can you fight the Double Jeopardy scenario in your own conscience?

Challenge: Know the Difference

Court cases are based on interpretation of the law. Prosecutors say, “The law clearly states…” And defense attorneys argue, “But that does not apply to this case because…”

Winning legal disputes requires knowing when a principle applies and when it does not. This in turn requires studying the law, and oftentimes the difference comes down to the definitions of various legal terms.

When it comes to your guilt before God, you should know some legal terms and concepts as well.

Define, Then Compare

Find the individual definitions for each term in the following pairs, then compare the terms to each other and note the differences. (Tip: For the differences, you might try doing a web search for each paired term vs. the other, as in “conviction vs. condemnation”.)

  • Conviction
  • Condemnation
  • What is the difference?
  • Guilt
  • Remorse
  • What is the difference?
  • Shame
  • Sorrow
  • What is the difference?
  • Punishment
  • Consequence
  • What is the difference?

BONUS: Add your own pair(s) of legal terms to define and compare.