Month: May 2022

No Condemnation

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, (Romans 8:1)

What a strong declaration! Before we were in Christ, we lived under a sentence of condemnation. If the evidence were presented in court the verdict would be: guilty.

But thanks to the atoning work of Christ that sentence is vacated. Unequivocally and totally. Can’t be undone!

But here’s a problem: what happens if you do feel condemned anyway?

We have an enemy who often attacks us with an overall generalized unlimited sense of condemnation, wanting us to feel like a piece of filth. These allegations come fast and furious in an overwhelming crescendo. The tone is harsh, accusatory, unloving and unkind. Not too long ago I endured a day filled with such a blistering attack.

The nasty voice tells you: Think of when you did ___________ and ________ and ________. It goes on and on. These blanks are tailored to whatever it is you feel the guiltiest about. Then the accusing enemy says: “How dare you think you are forgiven for those ???How can you even call yourself a Christian?? You disgusting creep.”

Thankfully, I had help recovering from the vicious onslaught and regaining a restful heart.

Consider 1 John 3:19-21: This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence:  If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God

First, I saw how “If our hearts condemn us” does not contradict “no condemnation.” Here’s why:
The condemnation we are freed from in Romans 8:1 is the eternal the doom of hell. We have been set free from that and given eternal life.

But even as Christians, there are ways we still can offend God. We are then temporarily guilty. So, our hearts condemn us means there is a specific offense to which God is drawing attention. This is quite different from the bogus shotgun blast that comes from our enemy…of us being a worthless unforgivable piece of garbage.

There is a much better truthful exchange that God offers. An example:
God: You are harboring a real bitter & nasty & unforgiving attitude towards ___________.
Me: Yes, I am. I repent. Forgive me.
God: Christ already paid the penalty for that. You are forgiven.

Being led to this genuine repentance leads to something sweet. After I repent, my heart stops condemning me and my rest and confidence before God are restored. What a freedom repentance brings! With my heart again at rest, I return to the joy of living in freedom and forgiveness. There is no condemnation!

Dirty Magazine

 I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” John 10:10b

I heard a story in a sermon a couple of years ago that had an eerie parallel to my own past.

The sermon story: Success
My own story: Failure (but not permanent!)

(Do note: the following incidents happened before the days of all this stuff being readily available on the internet!)

Our pastor told a dirty magazine story.

At the end of the semester, cleaning up in the dorm, he found a dirty magazine under a mattress and threw it away. He had a conviction against keeping the mag, even if no one would see or know that he took it. He threw it away, thinking how it would be a wrong against his fiancée and God.

At first, I felt discouraged after hearing our pastor’s dirty magazine story, remembering I had done the exact opposite back then! At the end of a semester, as the dorms were emptying, I found dirty magazines in the trash bin for the building, and I kept them.

Without making an excuse for what I did back then, I do see how my weak understanding of how Jesus works let me do it so casually. Back then, I viewed it as OK to take the magazines. It’s only a magazine, I thought. I’m not actually doing any of the stuff that is shown there. If someone from church had seen me taking the magazines, I would have felt embarrassed that I was caught, but my discomfort would be from being caught and exposed, and not because I viewed taking the magazines as wrong.

What kept me from remaining discouraged for being so far below the level of maturity and obedience during college that my pastor described, was to admit that I was wrong back then, and to be thankful that I am forgiven for it.

So, the big question is how am I handling it now? Jesus has been after my heart. It’s taken a long, long time to shift to a deeper level of obedience where my most private actions and thoughts are brought more into conformity with what Jesus wants. And I am driven not by fear of punishment as much as seeking something better in life.

I am glad when I do pass a similar test today…. yet I am warned to not get overconfident. I cannot blithely guarantee that I will pass every test for the rest of my life. But I do know that I really am quicker to turn from crummy thoughts and attitudes than I used to be, because Jesus really does provide forgiveness and abundant life.