John 3:18 is emphatic - humanity is condemned already for its unbelief in Jesus. The verdict is already handed down, the sentence is already passed, the human race is already lost. The gavel has fallen, court is adjourned. There's no higher Judge, no appeals process, no loopholes, no going back, no ifs, no buts. Condemned. Perfectly, completely, irreversibly condemned.
Are you human? Are you flesh and blood? Then you are condemned. Condemned already.
You want a retrial? Stiff bickies, as they say in Australia.
But let me tell you why it's good news that we're condemned already.
It means I'm not crushed under the weight of determining my eternity! I don't stand at a crossroads with heaven and hell depending on my wise and moral choices. Neither am I walking a tightrope - one wrong step and I plunge to my doom. No, no. Thank God the pressure's off. I'm condemned already.
It means that none of my past sins have condemned me to hell and none of my future sins ever can. That betrayal, that abortion, that infidelity, those years of rebellion will not take me to hell. My sins and my works just don't have that power. They don't even come into this equation. They are only the fruit of a condemned tree, the symptoms of a condemned condition. Reality is, I'm condemned already.
It means that both the problem and the solution lies in the realm of my being not of my doing. I'm not expected to summon up the strength for a 5-point plan of salvation. All that nonsense is irrelevant. I'm condemned already.
It means I don't need to worry about judgement day as though that will have the decisive word on my destiny. Judgement day is not about presenting my good works or my right confession of faith (as though we'll be in the queue nervously rehearsing our confession "Please let me in because of the blood of Jesus shed for me"). Nothing hangs in the balance. And no-one hangs in the balance. Judgement day will only confirm what we are and therefore what we have chosen.
It means that hell is God's pronouncement upon those who remain in unbelief: 'have it your way.'
And it means that Jesus is my only hope. There's nothing in me that's not sunk in perdition. Therefore my eyes are taken off myself. I must look to a Saviour completely outside myself because I'm condemned already.
In evangelism it means that we do not address religious consumers with their capacities for choice. Instead we address condemned criminals with news of a pardon. We do not treat unbelievers as mighty decision-makers with eternity in their hands. They are lost. And we do not preach judgement simply as something hanging over them but as something in which they are already sunk.
Do you think we give enough emphasis to the already-ness of humanity's condemnation?
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