“All the love and acceptance which perfect obedience could obtain from God, belongs to the genuine Christian because Christ was perfectly obedient on your behalf” – Charles Spurgeon

Horrible Pie  A Seattle friend told a group of guys, “We were at a family dinner and were served dessert. It was pie, and it was horrible.  Some months went by and he was with his daughter-in-law, having forgotten the context of the horrible pie.  He went on and on about how miserable the pie was at some previous dinner.  Later he remembered that she had made that pie.  My friend was  embarrassed and felt stupid.

Cathy, a comic strip character, appears to be about 30 years of age.  In one picture, she was sitting at home . . .  alone thinking: 

  • I shouldn’t have done some things at work.
  • Things I promised myself I would never do again, I did again. 
  • Why did I waste so much time yesterday?”
  • I should have taken our dog to the vet a week ago–she has been whimpering 
  • I need to have our neighbors over–we were there for dinner six weeks ago. 
  • The front closet needs to be cleaned out. 
  • I lost my temper last week with the committee.

The last picture shows Cathy summarizing her plight: “Even when I am not going anywhere, I have 300 pounds of luggage to move.”  Like Cathy, we can feel condemned. 

It takes 1000 different forms.

  • A businessman who did not invest enough time with his children when they were small. By the time they were 14 or 18, he sees how his neglect has hurt them.
  • The undercurrent of grief and self-torture of the woman who had an abortion years ago.
  • The guilt we feel for saying things we regret. 
  • If people knew what we think about–if it suddenly appeared on computer screens within one mile–we would all be enormously embarrassed–and no one would trust us again.   

Condemnation Quiz    Are you allowing condemnation into your own life?  Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you relate to God as if you were on permanent probation, suspecting that at any moment He may haul you back into the jail cell of His disfavor?*
  • When you come to worship do you maintain a “respectful distance” from God, as if He were a fascinating but ill-tempered celebrity known for lashing out at His fans?*
  • When you read Scripture, does it reveal the boundless love of the Savior or merely intensify your condemnation?*
  • Are you more aware of your sins than you are of God’s grace, given you through the cross?*

Any of those describe your life?  Don’t be surprised if some of that characterizes you, but also, do not keep carrying the load. It should not surprise us when we discover we are what God says we are– sinners.  Own up to being a sinner. Recognize the daily battle that is the life of each Christian.  But don’t camp there. 

Legalism   It’s a mistake to think condemnation is only a problem for people who have committed “major, serious” sin.  We can become condemned over any sin– great or small, past or present.

  • Legalism says, “I can be good enough to escape condemnation if I earn it.”
  • Condemnation says:  “I can never be good enough to escape.”
  • Gospel grace says, “I can’t earn my way out of condemnation, love my way out, or live my way out. Jesus died for all my sins–past, present, future. I will live in that freedom (Galatians 5:1) because Jesus Christ purchased that for me.” Because of the Gospel’s power you can be completely free of condemnation.  Not mostly free–completely free

The Cycle    What do you think God is doing as we go through this sin-repent-walk-with- God-a-while, and-then-sin-again, repent-again cycle?  Where is the spiritual advance in that?   He is making us aware of our sinfulness and drawing us to make much of the forgiveness available in Jesus Christ. He is making us more aware of ourselves as sinners so we will appreciate how gracious He is.  He is preparing us to worship Him forever.    

Don’t buy the lie that cultivating condemnation and wallowing in your shame is somehow pleasing to God or that a constant, low-grade guilt will somehow promote holiness and spiritual maturity.  

The opposite is true–when we believe in freedom in Christ, we’re able to turn from old sins and walk in grace-motivated obedience. 

While legalism seeks to force obedience from without, grace seeks to generate obedience motivated by love from within.  The Living, Loving God of the Bible conquers us by forgiving us when we know we’ve been wicked.  His mercy eventually kills the stupidity and insanity of our sin. 

In Luke 7:36-50 the Bible records a most unusual dinner party our Lord Jesus attended at the home of Simon the Pharisee. Imagine attending that dinner occasion.  If I were a cinematographer I would want to do this scene.

We will look at that dinner party in the next article. 

  • Starred quotes are from C.J. MaHaney’s book The Cross-Centered Life