No Condemnation

“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

This famous verse starts with “So now”. In other translations it’s “Therefore”. It is as though Paul has turned a page in His thinking and writing about the Law and sin, and particularly his personal inability to live the righteous life he wants to live. He leaves the previous chapter with a wail of despair, “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death” (Romans 7:24)? But thankfully he followed up his cry with a statement of reassurance, as he writes, “Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord …” (Romans 7:25a). The fact that Jesus brought the answer to his dilemma is then amplified in our key verse today, as if he suddenly realised its implications.

For the Roman Christians the message was really Good News. But the life-changing importance of this verse has reverberated down through the ages to the present day. Christ-followers have grasped this verse with grateful hearts, knowing that its earth-shattering conclusion has saved them from an eternity that would otherwise have been spent in a place so dark and hot, and so inevitable, that even the devil will find himself incarcerated there. You see, there will come a day when everyone, past, present and future, will stand before God to give an account of their lives. And the really Good News is that all those who have accepted Jesus and His redeeming grace will be declared “Not guilty”. They will not become men and women condemned to an eternity in hell, even though they deserve that fate because of their sins. 

We pilgrims “belong to Christ Jesus”. No ifs or buts. Through His breathtaking grace, the implications of belonging to Him means that we have been set free from “the power of sin that leads to death”.  What a wonderful Saviour! We are condemned no more. Paul continues with his message as he unfolds the truths of what Jesus has done for us. Exciting reading! But even more exciting news!

Father God. What can we say? We are overwhelmed with gratitude for Your love and grace. Amen.

It’s Sin’s Fault

“So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. 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 7:14-20 NLT

Paul is perplexed. In fact, he is so perplexed that he repeats his dilemma twice in these 7 verses. He says, “I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it”. But is this really the case? Is it a valid excuse to say before a judge, “I haven’t done anything wrong – it’s the sin living within me that is at fault”? Of course it isn’t but, superficially at least, that seems to be what Paul is saying. 

The picture emerges in Paul’s mind that within him there are effectively two people. One person who loves God’s ways, who wants to spend all his time with Him, and who really, really, wants to do what is right. And to help that “man” inside of him is God’s Law, which “is spiritual and good”. The other person inside him is the “old man”, his sinful nemesis, a part of him determined to continue in the ways of evil. Perhaps an internal battle that never seems to subside. The Godly part of him mourns and grieves over the thoughts and actions of the sinful man, leading to frustration and conflict. At least Paul doesn’t blame the devil, as some have done, for his sinful man. Personable responsibility is never avoided, in Paul’s life.

Does all this sound familiar to us pilgrims? Are we too caught up in this internal battle that never seems to end? Of course we are. And in the days ahead, we will, with Paul, journey into a place where God has provided a remedy. What a wonderful Saviour!

Dear Lord. Thank You for Your salvation, a gift so freely given. Help us to grasp it and grow in the nurturing soils of Your grace. In Jesus’ name.Amen.

Instinctive Law

“Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right.”
Romans‬ ‭2‬:‭14‬-‭15‬ ‭NLT

A human being is an incredibly complex organism. The physical content of bone, blood, muscles and organs is amazing in itself. But when the spiritual side of us, something that no researcher or surgeon can find, remove or dissect, is added into the mix, it is somehow incredible that so many of our scientists and educationalists believe it all happened by chance. Our ability to think, to meditate, and behave, with emotions that can be so unpredictable, somehow has to be connected to a wonderful Creator God. Human behaviour is something that is least understood by our medical and mental health practitioners, and often today a pill is prescribed to “fix” a problem that has a spiritual root.

Something that God designed into His creation, human beings, was a conscience. Somehow, we are programmed with enough of God’s law to understand what is right and what is wrong. Our behaviour is therefore shaped and directed by what God has put within us. But there’s a problem. We call it sin. And we end up in an internal tussle, with our sin dragging us one way, and our consciences saying something different. Every day we face into the consequences of this struggle and it will never cease until we achieve the reality of our salvation. We will come back to this very problem later in this blog.

The Old Testament prophesied that the Old Covenant between God and His people, the Jews, was not working out as God had planned it. Though there were a small minority who perhaps claimed that they were keeping His laws, the majority weren’t. Having a set of laws invites people to live a legalistic life, but God wanted to enjoy a relationship with His people. And being a box-ticker is not being a child of God. Jeremiah prophesied what God was going to do. We read in Jeremiah 31:33, ““But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel after those days,” says the Lord. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people”“. With the benefit of hindsight, we know what happened “after those days”. God sent His Son Jesus to be our Saviour, something we are celebrating in this Christmas season.

The question for us pilgrims is this – what is the state of our hearts? Not the physical organ that pumps blood around our bodies, but that complex invisible organism within us that is our central processing unit. Where are thoughts and responses are churning away. Where are consciences are dealing with factors such as sin. Have we given up and instead have shut our spiritual life away somewhere and allowed sin to rule our days? Or are we in good spiritual health, walking hand in hand with our wonderful Heavenly Father? One of my go-to verses is 1 John 1:9, “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness“. That verse wasn’t written to unbelievers but to believers. Fellow pilgrims on their journey to Heaven. Of course, we will screw up from time to time, but it is not inevitable, as we allow that God-made organism within us, our consciences, to function as they should. as we bring our thoughts and desires under God’s spotlight, He will expose any issues and help us seal with them. If we let Him.

Dear Heavenly Father. We are indeed “fearfully and wonderfully made”. And we have You to thank for that. We worship You today. Amen.

The Sign

“All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).”
“The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.”
“For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!”
Isaiah‬ ‭7:14, 9‬:‭2‬, ‭6‬-‭7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

If we were going to write about a sign of something coming, we would relate it to the world around us. As a small boy I learned to look for the mechanical railway signal changing, because then I knew a train was coming. And it did, soon enough, a great fiery snorting beast puffing clouds of smoke and steam on its way at speed through the station near where I lived. We receive an indication, a sign, of the next day’s weather by the sunset the previous evening. A doctor checks a patient’s blood pressure, looking for signs of heart-related and other types of illness. Signals and trains, sunsets and weather, blood pressure and illness. All related indicators and signs helping to foresee an event that may or may not be coming. 

But here we have a crisis in Judah’s history. The king of Israel had joined forces with the king of Syria to capture Judah, and in Isaiah 7:23 we read that “…the hearts of the king and his people trembled with fear, like trees shaking in a storm“. Through Isaiah, God told Judah’s king, Ahaz, that the expected invasion would never happen. To reassure Ahaz further, we read in Isaiah 7:10-11, “Later, the Lord sent this message to King Ahaz: “Ask the Lord your God for a sign of confirmation, Ahaz. Make it as difficult as you want—as high as heaven or as deep as the place of the dead””. But because Ahaz refused to do as God suggested, God Himself gave him a sign. And what a sign it was! Perhaps the people would have expected some mighty warrior to come and rally their demoralised troops, as a sign of victory ahead. Or perhaps they expected some astrological sign in the heavens giving them a hint. And I’m sure signs were looked for everywhere. Who would ever expected, though, the sign to be sent through a virgin. A young woman not yet betrothed. I’m sure no-one saw that coming!

In hindsight, we pilgrims can only be amazed and astounded by this prophetic word delivered through Isaiah hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus. Its accuracy can only mean that God was at work. That God had a plan for the salvation of mankind, an infinitely bigger issue than a comparatively-minor fracas between local nations in Palestine. The accuracy of Biblical prophecy is beyond question, and we worship and praise our wonderful God, who has given us access to His thoughts. His precepts. His loving care. May we pilgrims celebrate afresh, worshipping the Saviour of the World.

Dear Lord Jesus. We thank You that You came to Planet Earth so willingly, to come and get us, a rescue mission like no others. We worship You today. Amen.


“You know what I long for, Lord; You hear my every sigh. 
My heart beats wildly, my strength fails, and I am going blind. 
My loved ones and friends stay away, fearing my disease. 
Even my own family stands at a distance.”
Psalms‬ ‭38:9-11‬ ‭NLT‬‬

David, the Psalmist, is ill. And it sounds pretty serious. Serious enough for people to keep well out of his way. We don’t have any clues from Scripture about what he was suffering from, but he was complaining well. 

How do we react in times of illness? Of course it depends on how serious the situation is. Some people are positive and stoical. Others see the Grim Reapers coming up the garden path with the first snivel. I’m the worst when it comes to illness, complaining and ruing the injustices in life before whatever I have caught even takes a hold. In this Covid pandemic, however, we’re reminded once again of the frailty of human life and how vulnerable we are to the damage microscopic organisms can do to us. Unless we lock ourselves away to avoid contact with the people and the environment around us, we will always be at risk of catching something. 

But in His wonderful design, our Creator God has provided two defence mechanisms. One is the natural process our bodies go through to deal with infections, our immune systems, boosted by the vaccines and drugs provided by modern science. The other is the power of prayer and the importance of our relationship with Father God, particularly when the illness is more serious and as yet beyond what medical science can treat. 

What was it about the great missionary doctors and nurses, who in past ages deliberately ignored the risk of infections, instead to minister compassionately to those with horrible illnesses like leprosy? Or those Christians in the Middle Ages, who stayed behind to nurse plague victims while everyone else did a runner? These were dear people who often died at a young age from illnesses caught from those they were ministering to. They had that realisation that our time here on Planet Earth is finite and our lives as Citizens of Heaven has to be lived in accordance with God’s will and purposes; they dedicated their lives to the care of others. 

But David also made the association between his feverish state and his sins and guilt. Is there such a connection? Many people have argued that there isn’t but others, even the medics, have found that an uneasy and guilt-ridden conscience can impact our bodily functions. Personally, I think there is a link, because God has designed us with something called a conscience inside of us; the violation of it will upset our physical and mental well-being and equilibrium, as our Psalmist David knew well.

David finished his Psalm with the prayer, “Come quickly to help me, O Lord my Saviour.” There are two significant words and sentiments here – “help” and “Saviour”. God is always our Helper; He is only a prayer away from our predicament. And He is also our wonderful Saviour. What a wonderful God He is!

God’s Master Plan

“O Lord my God, you have performed many wonders for us. Your plans for us are too numerous to list. You have no equal. If I tried to recite all Your wonderful deeds, I would never come to the end of them.” Psalms‬ ‭40:5‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Any attempt to unpick and drill down into this verse can only end up in becoming lost in the depths of our Creator God, full of grateful praise and worship. The bottom line is that God’s wonders, plans and deeds are uncountable because there are so many of them. For example, just take the environment in which we live. The number of conditions that combine to enable life as we know it on this planet are uncountable. And it was God’s plan to create a world where His plans could be developed. And look at the complexities of human life – how could two cells coming together in a mother’s womb ever develop into a human being capable of so much? It beggars belief that so many people believe the lie that our world and all its contents happened by chance. As the verse above points out, our Creator God has performed many wonders and deeds in implementing His plans.

But there is a wonder, a plan, a deed, that is far above anything else God has done for the human race. We find in the Genesis account that God created men and women in His image. And He wanted to have a relationship with them based on love and friendship. But things went horribly wrong with man’s response to God, as we can find in the early accounts of the Israelite nation. God wasn’t going to give up on His creation, though, and He devised a master plan to reconcile mankind back to Him. His love for us was so intense that he wasn’t going to let us continue in living a life less than how He designed it to be. A life without the ultimate richness of being a friend of God. We can read about God’s master plan through the words of Jesus in John 3. This is the Message version. “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.” That was God’s plan. To put the world back into the place He had designed it to be. He wasn’t going to give up on His creation and He never will. Through Jesus, God’s Master Plan, everyone person living on this planet can find out about God’s wonders, plans and deeds. If they want to. The choice is theirs. The choice is yours.

Mud and Clay

“I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.” Psalms‬ ‭40:1-3‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Imagine the scene. You have wandered over some fields and come to a bank, down which you accidentally slip. You find yourself stuck in a bog, mud up to your knees and you are starting to sink further. Your cries for help are unheeded because of the remoteness of the place and very quickly the enormity of your predicament floods over you leaving an acute feeling of fear and despair. So you cry out to God for help, waiting with patience for Him to answer, full of assurance that He will do just that. And then, out of nowhere, a rope falls in front of you. You grab it and find a stranger at the other end who manages to pull you out, back up the bank, to a place of firm ground. God hears your cries and prayers for help and sends someone to rescue you.

Imagine the scene. After several days of heavy rain, the local river has burst its banks and your house is being flooded. The ground floor is now under water but you have managed to get onto the roof. You look anxiously around at the water-filled devastation, watching trees, rubbish, even cars, float past. Despair and fear increase. There is no-one to help. But God hears your prayers and sends a rescue helicopter, that quickly lifts you to a place of safety where you can wait for the flood waters to recede.

Imagine the scene. You realise that you are heading for a lost eternity because of your many sins. You are filled with fear and despair. Your situation appears to be hopeless because you realise you can’t save yourself. You cry out to God for help. But God has a plan. He loves you so much that He sends His Son, Jesus, to rescue you. But it’s a costly exercise – to rescue you Jesus has to become a sacrifice for your sins. There is no other way. And through His death on a cross, Jesus takes upon Himself all your sins, leaving you without guilt and shame, in right standing before God and able to say with confidence that your future with God in Heaven is secure. You have found a place of security. Solid ground on which to stand. Paul wrote in his Roman epistle, “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.” (‭‭Romans‬ ‭5:6‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

Three scenarios. Two of physical danger, one of spiritual danger. But all three a potential “pit of despair”. But after rescue what do you feel? Elation? Relief? Most probably an overwhelming feeling of gratitude to God for His rescue. A song you have never sung before comes from deep within you, as you sing grateful praises to God. A song that tells of God’s amazing works. A song that brings others into a trusting relationship with God too.

Far-fetched scenarios that don’t apply in real life today? God may, or may not, rescue us from all occasions of physical danger. It wouldn’t be danger if He always did. But we can have an assurance that God will always rescue a repentant sinner from spending eternity in that place Jesus called hell. How do I know? The Son of God, Jesus, told me. “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” ‭‭John‬ ‭3:16-17‬ ‭NLT‬‬.


“The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are attentive to their cry;
The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles.
The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all; He protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.”

Psalms‬ ‭34:15, 17, 19-20‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

Who or what is a righteous person? Does such a person exist? And why does he or she have troubles? These are questions that aren’t easy to answer, especially in a short blog post. From a Christian perspective, people are made righteous through their faith in Jesus. We believe that Jesus was, and is, the Son of God, both human and divine, and that He came to this earth with one mission – to manifest God’s love for mankind by saving them from the consequences of their repented sins, by His sacrificial death on a Roman cross at a place called Calvary. Jesus took onto Himself our sins and in return gave us His righteousness. The faith that we hold, through a continuing trusting relationship with God, in our righteous state, brings us to a place where we can cry out to God and He will answer us. The verses before us today don’t say that we won’t have troubles. But it does say that God will deliver us from them. Sometimes, this deliverance happens quickly. But at other times it will only come after we die. But the faith and trust that we have in God will sustain us through all our troubles.

In the news this morning is yet another story of a person with Motor Neurone disease who wants to end his life through assisted suicide. A person without hope for the future. A person without a belief in God. A person who thinks that only blackness awaits him after death. But a person who will find that there is a worse place to be than this life here on earth. God has compassion and love for all mankind and it must break His heart to see such a person in such a hopeless state, rejecting the very One who will deliver him from his troubles. As Christians we must pass on God’s love to everyone we meet, not just those in such dire needs, in the hope that they too will embrace our wonderful Saviour and find that His righteousness is available to everyone

The Sins of Youth

“Remember, O Lord, Your compassion and unfailing love, which You have shown from long ages past. Do not remember the rebellious sins of my youth. Remember me in the light of Your unfailing love, for You are merciful, O Lord. Psalms‬ ‭25:6-7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Oh dear! Those difficult days in my teen years, when I wore the badge of being a “youth”. When I said things that I shouldn’t. When I did things that hurt others. Those rebellious sins committed when I knew no better. The difficulties I encountered in those days seemed endless. But thanks to our Saviour Jesus, and His death on a cross outside Jerusalem, my youthful sins have been forgiven. But, sadly, the memories remain. Embarrassing. Uncomfortable. But why should they, because God no longer remembers them. As it says in Psalm 103:12, “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” His grace, love and compassion is endless. So if I pray for forgiveness for a previously-confessed sin, God replies, “What sin? I can’t remember it.” God has forgotten it, because Jesus exchanged it for His righteousness at Calvary. Amazing. Humbling. There are not enough thankful words to describe the eternal consequences of His grace. I praise and thank You today for Your grace, love and mercy, Lord.

If you, the reader, are struggling with the weight of your sins today, reach out to our loving Heavenly Father for His forgiveness. And assure yourself a future with Him for eternity.