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Facing up to condemnation
- Jacob Ninan
Christians who are feeling very insecure in themselves or who have faced high doses of condemnation from a legalistic approach to God in the past tend to be very self-defensive about the idea of condemnation. They try to keep all thoughts of condemnation away from them, quoting to themselves passages such as Rom.8:1. But this approach where one does not face up to condemnation and deal with it is very unbalanced, and it also keeps one away from the real freedom from condemnation. In the true freedom that is in Christ we can face condemnation without being scared of it, and have the ability to walk away from it with joy.
There is no saint of God who does not sin in some way or other (1Jn.1:8;Jas.3:2). When we sin we ought to feel guilty about it, which is what would help us to run to God for forgiveness (2Cor.7:10), and to seek God for help not to sin the next time (He.4:16). In other words, we should feel the weight of God's condemnation for sin and then rush to Him for mercy and help. Of course, when we run to God He does not condemn us (Ro.8:1), because our judgment has been taken away by Jesus on our behalf on the cross (1Th.5:9). When we recognise the way God looks at sin and recognise that we have sinned against Him, our forgiveness will be sweet (Ps.32:1,2), and we will have a fresh desire not to grieve our Lord again (2Co.5:14,15).
On the other hand, if we are scared of facing condemnation for our sins and have made a habit of claiming freedom from condemnation as a first response to sin, are we not being superficial about it? It is all right for spiritual babies to do this. But don't we need to become mature in the way we face reality?
Some of us have received so much input into our mind about the unmerited favour of God that we have forgotten what it took for God to 'gain the right' to show us that grace. His Son had to suffer and die in order to be able to forgive us without overlooking His sense of righteousness. Our sins had to be punished with death (Ro.6:23), but His love made Him to take that death on Himself. We need to understand this when we ask God for forgiveness whenever we fall into sin. Otherwise we tend to treat grace as something cheap, because we don't realise how seriously God looks at sin, and we also don't value forgiveness itself.
A mature Christian is able to keep things in balance. He can boldly face the condemnation that is due to him because of his sins, and hold the freedom God has granted him from condemnation--at the same time.
While there is so much of legalistic preaching that condemns people, there is also a lot of hyper-grace preaching that takes people into unreality. People who follow the latter face the possibility of not dealing with themselves and their sins in the proper way. Isn't this somewhat like pretending to be healthy by ignoring the symptoms in the body? The right way is to recognise the sickness and then go for healing. Let's not be unrealistic.