After losing a disastrous war with France, impoverishing the country and alienating the church, King John finally succeeded… in inciting his Barons to rebel and take control of London. Holed up in Windsor Castle, he had little choice but to agree to their demands, And so, on 15th June 1215, by the river Thames at Runnymede, King John signed the Great Charter, acknowledging that even the king would in future be subject to the rule of law. For 800 years, Magna Carta has inspired generations of reformers and radicals, statesmen and lawyers not just in Britain but the world over.
In the 17th Century, it was used to thwart attempts by Charles I to raise taxes without Parliament. In the 18th Century the American Founding Fathers found inspiration in drafting their Declaration of Independence and Constitution. In the 19th Century reformers invoked Magna Carta against Parliament in defence of the freedom of expression and independence of the press.
And in the 20th Century it inspired what Eleanor Roosevelt once described as a Magna Carta for a modern era. Four years earlier, on January 6th 1941, her husband, Franklin Roosevelt addressed the US Congress on the state of the war in Europe. He concluded by sharing his vision of “a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.” He named them: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. He died just three weeks before the Nazi’s surrendered in 1945. He never lived to enjoy the peace he had laboured to secure. Yet Roosevelt dreamed of what the world could be, indeed should be, even in its darkest hour. We remember his vision because in December 1948, just three years after the allies had defeated Nazism and brought peace, those four freedoms became incorporated into the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
People the world appeal to these four freedoms, even though, as we see in counties like China, North Korea and Zimbabwe, they have yet to be realised for many people on earth. But there was actually an earlier charter that preceded and inspired both the Magna Carta and the UN Declaration of Human Rights. It is the charter upon which English Law is founded, the charter upon which every witness in a British court must swear “to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help me God”.
It is the Bible, the Word of God. The rights enshrined in Magna Carta and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are based on the rights bestowed by our Sovereign Lord. This morning I want us to consider the four throne rights we have inherited as children of God. Four rights the Lord Jesus Christ won for us on Calvary when he defeated Satan. Four rights that brought us peace with God. Four rights bestowed by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost when God came to indwell his people.
Please turn to Romans 8. What are they? Freedom from judgement, freedom from defeat. Freedom from discouragement. Freedom from fear.
Freedom from Judgement – No Condemnation
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful humanity to be a sin offering.” (Romans 8:1-3)
“Therefore” – Therefore because of the finished work of Christ on the cross, who died in our place, there is now no condemnation for those who trust in Jesus. Notice there are no conditions for us to meet. We cannot get right with God by being good, or by being moral, or by being religious. The basis of this wonderful assurance? “for those who are in Christ Jesus.” In Adam we were condemned. In Jesus we have been set free. In legal terms we are either declared guilty or innocent. Everyone lives in one of those two states, these two realms. If we trust in the Lord Jesus we have been declared not guilty, because,
1.1 The Law cannot claim you (8:2)
The OT Law no longer has any jurisdiction over you. It no longer applies as the basis for determining your eternal destiny, because that was decided on the cross. Jesus has acquitted you and set you free. If the Law cannot claim you.
1.2 The Law cannot condemn you (8:3)
There is in English Law the “principle of double jeopardy.” (Although subsequently qualified by the Criminal Justice Act 2003). It simply means that a person cannot be tried twice for the same crime. You cannot be charged, tried, sentenced and punished for the same offence twice. Why? Because Jesus has already suffered your condemnation on your behalf on the cross. So the Law cannot claim you nor condemn you, therefore,
1.3 The Law cannot control you (8:4)
The Law never had the power to produce good behaviour, only to remind us and condemn us for our failure. But the indwelling Holy Spirit enables us to please God because we begin from a place of love and acceptance, a position of peace and security. So let me ask you – feeling condemned this morning? Judged? Criticised? Guilty? If you are trusting in Jesus those feelings are not from God. Refuse to live under them. Don’t give up your freedom. There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. Freedom from judgement.
2. Freedom from Defeat: No Obligation
“You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.” (Romans 8:9-11)
If you have received Christ, you have received His Spirit. The same Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead, indwells you and is enabling you to live a new life. Therefore we are under no obligation to live according to our former way of life, no obligation to let our sinful nature rule. We can help it. We can change. We can be different. How? Because the Holy Spirit gives us a new nature, a new motivation, a new reason for living!
“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” (Romans 8:14-17)
This is a very, very, special passage of scripture. Several profound truths are listed here: God has chosen you, adopted you, forgiven you. You are a child of God. Notice these are all in the past tense. There is therefore no need to feel defeated, or rejected, or discouraged, or a failure. If you feel any of these emotions this morning they are most certainly not from God. Don’t let them control you. God’s Holy Spirit now indwells you and is making you more and more like Jesus. Freedom from Judgement – no condemnation. Freedom from Defeat – no obligation.
3. Freedom from Discouragement – No Frustration
In verses 8:18-30, God addresses the very real problem of pain and suffering. To help you remember its content, he uses the imagery of groaning – in fact he uses it 3 times.
3.1 Creation Groans
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” (Romans 8:18-22)
Creation is subject to frustration (20a) – But creation will be liberated from bondage to decay (21a). The image used is one of a woman in childbirth. Yes there is pain, but the pain is necessary to deliver the child. And after the child is born, safe in the mother’s arms, the sense of relief and thankfulness shows that the pain was worth it. The reality is suffering is the normative experience of life on earth but we are told confidently it is nevertheless not worth comparing with what is to come.
God will renew his creation. Creation Groans.
3.2 God’s Children Groan
“Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” (Romans 8:23-25)
Part of the suffering we endure now is due to the fact that we have only just begun to experience all that the Holy Spirit has in store for us. Pentecost, which we celebrate today, was only the beginning, a foretaste of what is still to come. Life may at times be frustrating and in those times, remember there is a better life to come in heaven, free of temptation, free of pain and free of suffering. Creation groans, believers groan, and, third, we are told,
3.3 The Holy Spirit Groans
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27)
He groans because He identifies with us. He feels our frustration, just like a parent feels for its child when it sees it struggling. Indeed the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf when we don’t know what to pray for. So it doesn’t matter when you don’t know what to pray, or can’t find the words. God knows your heart. The Holy Spirit groans with you and for you. Creation groans. Believers groan, the Holy Spirit groans. For what purpose?
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” (Romans 8:28-30)
We love to quote Romans 8:28 – to other people who have troubles. I wonder whether you’ve put it to the test yourself? Or rather been tested by it? How can death, accidents, personal failures “work for your good?” Lets see what the Lord is actually saying. Re-read 8:28. “we know” = we have this confident assurance. It doesn’t say, “In all things God works for good”, but “In all things God works for the good of those who love him.”
That means every situation is redeemable. Nothing is wasted, nothing pointless, nothing can get in the way of God’s purpose to make us more and more like Jesus. God assures us here that the difficulties in life are working for us and not against us. God disciplines and refines because this is his only way of making us more like Jesus. Notice in 8:29-30 the sovereignty of God from beginning to end. Here is the process by which God accomplishes his will: He Foreknew, He predestined, He called, He justified, He glorified. All of salvation is God’s sovereign initiative from first to last – to make us like Jesus. That is his accomplished plan and therefore our assured destiny.
So far we have discovered three of our freedoms: Freedom from Judgement. Freedom from defeat. Freedom from discouragement. The fourth freedom?
4. Freedom from Fear: No Separation
The emphasis in this final section in verses 8:31-39 is on our security. We do not need to be afraid of the past, of the present or the future because we are secure in the love of Christ. God makes five unshakable assertions to leave us in no doubt of our security. There can be no separation between the believer and the Lord because:
4.1 God is for us (8:31)
4.2 Christ died for us (8:32)
4.3 God has justified us (8:33)
4.4 Christ intercedes for us (8:34)
4.5 Christ still loves us (8:35-39)
Sometimes God does indeed need to chasten us. When necessary he will discipline us. But that is only because he loves us! Nothing can separate us from Him. Read 8:37-39. No condemnation; no obligation; no frustration; no separation. This is the Magna Carta of the children of God. Lets us value them, rely on them, and enjoy them to the glory of God. The Westminster Catechism asks the question “What is our ultimate purpose?” Answer. “Our chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.”
Let me ask you, are you enjoying God this morning? We celebrate Pentecost today but God wishes that we experience his presence, his blessings afresh every day.
In his book, Knowing God, Jim Packer asks these questions which I invite you to reflect on:
“Do I, as a Christian, understand myself? Do I know my own real identity? My own real destiny? I am a child of God. God is my Father; heaven is my home; every day is one day nearer. My Saviour is my brother; every Christian is my brother and sister too. Say it over and over to yourself first thing in the morning, last thing at night… any time when your mind is free, and ask that you may be enabled to live as one who knows it is all utterly and completely true. For this is the Christian’s secret of – a happy life? – yes, certainly, but we have something both higher and profounder to say. This is the Christian’s secret of a Christian life, and a God-honouring life… May this secret become fully yours, and fully mine.”