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When I saw this beautiful work of art, Extravagant Grace, by Cherry Ashen Fargo, it took me back to a recent Chris Tomlin concert where we heard a short message by pastor Louie Giglio on the parable about our Heavenly Father found in Luke 15. He explained that the word “prodigal” means “extravagant, lavish,” although the son was extravagant in his lifestyle, our Heavenly Father portrayed in this parable was also extravagant in his grace, love, mercy, and forgiveness.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”—Matthew 11:28-30 The Message
“Your love is extravagant, Your friendship, so intimate, I find I’m moving to the rhythms of Your grace, Your fragrance is intoxicating in our secret place, Your love is extravagant, Spread wide in the arms of Christ is the love that covers sin, No greater love have I ever known, You considered me a friend, capture my heart again…”
What greater example of God’s extravagant grace is there than the thief on the cross who says to Jesus, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). And Jesus said to him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Christ has great joy in redeeming sinners … “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” A word study reveals that the phrase that’s translated, “I tell you the truth,” comes from the single word, “Amen.”
When the thief prays, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom,” Jesus replies, “Amen, today you will be with me in paradise!” He says, “Amen!” to the prayer of faith. This is why He came. This is why He is suffering. Christ says, “Amen” to the simplest faith.
How is God’s extravagant grace made known to us and lavished upon us? In the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. One of the thieves has a change of heart, and right there on the cross Christ saves him. Pastor Charles Haddon Spurgeon says, “This man was our Lord’s last companion on earth and His first companion in heaven. He says to him, “Today you will be with me in paradise. I’m going to make you my friend.” Spurgeon pictures Christ entering the glory of heaven, “Who is this that enters the pearly gate at the same moment as the King of glory? Who is this favored companion of the Redeemer? Is it some honored martyr? Is it a faithful apostle? Is it a patriarch like Abraham or a prince like David? It is none of these. Behold, and be amazed at sovereign grace…” Extravagant grace!
Christ saves by grace, through faith and without works. The story of the thief on the cross makes God’s extravagant grace in salvation crystal clear—this man had no works to offer, before or after his salvation. Pastor A. W. Pink asks, “What could the thief do? He could not walk in the paths of righteousness for there was a nail through either foot. He could not perform any good works for there was a nail through either hand. He could not turn over a new leaf and live a better life for he was dying.” The wonderful truth is that God saves by His extravagant grace, through faith and without works.
A man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. Galatians 2:16
He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. Titus 3:5
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
The gift of assurance flows from Christ saving us by His extravagant grace, through faith and without works. If our works were in any way involved in our gaining entrance into heaven, assurance would be impossible. We could never know if we had done enough. His work is finished. It’s perfect and complete.
Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Christ is the Lord of paradise. He holds its keys. There can be no higher assurance than His promise.This man is a criminal and he’s on a cross. He’s absolutely hopeless and powerless, and in the middle of all this pain and guilt, Christ says to him, “You will be with me in paradise, today!” Pastor Charles Haddon Spurgeon says, “This man had breakfast with the devil, met Christ before noon, and then had supper in paradise.”
Death does not lead to a long period of unconsciousness. For a Christian believer, death is an immediate translation into the joys of life at the right hand of God. “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord…Today you will be with me in paradise.”
Heaven is much nearer than we think. I love the way C. S. Lewis pictures that in the Narnia novels, where the children slip into a glorious world that is just on the other side of the wardrobe. Our life is like a mist, like steam or a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Everything that’s burdening us and consuming us now is like breath on a window on a cold day. Paradise is heaven and the greatest joy of heaven is the presence of Jesus. “The lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd. He will lead them to springs of living water” (Revelation 7:17). Christ Himself will lead us into all the joys of heaven. To those who die, Christ says, “You will be with me,” and to those who live, Christ says, “I will be with you. I’ll never leave you, I’ll never forsake you.”
This drew my heart to do a word study on the Truth contained in Romans Chapter Eight, scripture passages I wrap around my heart, like the Loving Arms of my Savior Jesus Christ.
I remember a Bible study my Daddy, Eston Willis, taught on Romans 8, in which he had us repeat several times at the beginning of each session these opening words: There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.
Romans Chapter Eight is uniquely the chapter of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is mentioned in Romans 8 no less than 19 different times. No other chapter in the New Testament contains as many direct references to the Holy Spirit. Romans 8 is also the chapter of Christian assurance. As theologian Frédéric Louis Godet said, Romans 8 begins with “no condemnation” and ends with “no separation” . . . which draws me to a word study of the word, condemnation…
Romans 8:1-3 . . .
Amplified Bible: Therefore, [there is] now no condemnation (no adjudging guilty of wrong) for those who are in Christ Jesus, who live [and] walk not after the dictates of the flesh, but after the dictates of the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life [which is] in Christ Jesus [the law of our new being] has freed me from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the Law could not do, [its power] being weakened by the flesh [the entire nature of man without the Holy Spirit]. Sending His own Son in the guise of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, [God] condemned sin in the flesh [subdued, overcame, deprived it of its power over all who accept that sacrifice].
NLT: 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. The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins.
Phillips: No condemnation now hangs over the head of those who are “in” Jesus Christ. For the new spiritual principle of life “in” Christ lifts me out of the old vicious circle of sin and death. The Law never succeeded in producing righteousness—the failure was always the weakness of human nature. But God has met this by sending his own Son Jesus Christ to live in that human nature which causes the trouble. And, while Christ was actually taking upon himself the sins of men, God condemned that sinful nature. So that we are able to meet the Law’s requirements, so long as we are living no longer by the dictates of our sinful nature, but in obedience to the promptings of the Spirit.
Wuest: Therefore, now, there is not even one bit of condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit, that of the life in Christ Jesus, freed you once for all from the law of the sinful nature and of death. For that which is an impossibility for the law, because it was weak through the sinful nature, God having sent His Son in likeness of flesh of sin, and concerning sin, condemned sin in the sinful nature, in order that the righteous requirement of the law may be brought to completion in us who, not as dominated by the sinful nature are ordering our behavior but as dominated by the Spirit.
Young’s Literal: There is, then, now no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus, who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit; for the law of the Spirit of the life in Christ Jesus did set me free from the law of the sin and of the death; for what the law was not able to do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, His own Son having sent in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, did condemn the sin in the flesh.
Condemnation from the Greek word katakrima. It comes from katá which means against or down, and krino, which means to separate from which the idea of discriminate, distinguish, and then to judge or pronounce sentence against. This word appears only in the book of Romans. The idea literally is of judgment coming down on someone. The Apostle Paul says God’s judgment is not going to come down upon us as believers, not now, not ever! Those in Christ are not condemned, because Christ was condemned in our stead. There is no punishment for us, because Christ bore our punishment. The word condemnation may also be translated judgment. There is no judgment for those who are in Christ because sin has already been judged in the substitutionary atonement of Jesus.
Katakrima means to judge someone as definitely guilty and thus subject to punishment, which accounts for the literal translation of “adverse judgment and resultant punishment.” It is a legal technical term for the result of judging, including both the sentence and the execution or the sentence followed by a suggested punishment (The suffix –ma makes it the result of judgment). Katakrima is always an adverse verdict. Stated another way, katakrima (condemnation) relates to the sentencing for a crime, but its primary focus is not so much on the verdict as on the penalty that the verdict demands.
Pastor F. B. Meyer explains katakrima this way, “Our standing in Christ is present: “Now.” If we are in Christ, we need not wait in doubts and fears for the verdict of the Great White Throne. Its decisions cannot make our standing more clear, or our acceptance more sure. We can never be more free from the condemnation of God’s righteous law than we are at this present. There are some who live on a sliding scale between condemnation and acceptance. If health is buoyant and the heart is full of song, they are sure of their acceptance with God; but if the sun is darkened and the clouds return; when the heart is dull and sad, they imagine that they are under the ban of God’s displeasure. They forget that our standing in Christ Jesus is one thing; our appreciation and enjoyment of it quite another. Your own heart may condemn you; memory, the recorder of the soul, may summon from the past evidence against you; the great Accuser of souls may lay against you grievous and well-founded charges; your tides of feeling may ebb far down the beach; your faith may become weak and lose its power and grip; your sense of unworthiness may become increasingly oppressive–none of these things can touch your acceptance with God if you are in Christ Jesus.”
During a recent hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico, a news report highlighted a rescue device used on the oil rigs. In case of fire or hurricane, rig workers scramble into the bullet-shaped “bus” and strap themselves into their seats. When the entry port is shut, the vehicle is released down a chute and projected away from the rig. The seat belts protect the occupants from the impact with the water. The capsule then bobs in the sea until rescuers come to pick it up. The device parallels the theological truth of Romans 8:l—There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. Justification does not mean our world always stops falling apart. The rig still may topple in the hurricane. The storm will take its course. The welfare of the workers depends on whether they are in the rescue device—those in the right place, whether a rescue module, or spiritually, believers in Christ, will weather the storm and be carried safely to the shore. Praise His Holy Name!
Lord Jesus, Thank You for this encouraging Truth from Your Word, that there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. Thank You for the free gift of salvation, that we are justified on the basis of Your finished work on the Cross. Thank You that, right now, we are under the completely sufficient imputed righteousness of Christ. Because we have placed our trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ, we are redeemed by Your precious blood. The threat of failure, judgment, and condemnation has been removed. Knowing that God’s love for us and approval of us will never be determined by our performance is the most encouraging promise to which we cling. We love You, Lord. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
Look Up—meditate on Romans 8:1-3 … pray to see what it reveals about the character of God.
Look In—as you meditate on Romans 8:1-3 … pray to see how you might apply it to your life. Be propelled to ask galvanizing questions about your discoveries: “Because God is_________, I will_____________.”
Look Out—as you meditate on Romans 8:1-3 …pray to see how you might apply it to your relationships with others. Let the nature of God impact on every relationship, for your good, and for His glory.
* If you liked this post, you’ll love this book – Name Above All Names Devotional: Focusing on 26 Alphabetical Names of Christ
If you would like to purchase the beautiful Extravagant Grace mixed media pictured above by artist Cherry Ashen Fargo, here is the link where a digital download can be purchased. You can also connect with artist Cherry Ashen Fargo’s etsy website