Guilt and condemnation is such a trick of the devil, yet I lived buried under it for decades and I’ve spoken to so many friends on my grace journey this past 9.5 years who are also in the process of digging themselves out. Many have said, Wow, I never realized that I lived under so much condemnation until Jesus began to set me free through a revelation of His grace.
Condemnation carries with it the threat of punishment for sins and the interesting thing is, although we may think condemnation would actually clear our conscience by causing us to feel like we are making up for what we did wrong, it actually places us in a weakened state which ends up dragging us into more sin, more often.
My Mom, Joyce Meyer, says this about condemnation, “Not only is condemnation not productive, but it is actually counter-productive. It not only doesn’t help you change but actually keeps you from changing.”
It is critical that we know who we are in Christ and specifically that we are the righteousness of God in Christ, apart from our works.
For John Bunyan – author of the Christian Classic, Pilgrim’s Progress – the discovery of the imputed righteousness of Christ was the greatest life-changing experience he ever had. For him, it was the end of years of spiritual torture and uncertainty. Bunyan came to understand the Gospel message in its entirety.
He discovered that the good news was, not only the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross as payment for his sins (which is great news), but he also discovered that Christ’s perfect life of obedience to His Father was imputed to his account.
When I read this about John Bunyan, I thought, Oh my gosh, that’s exactly what happened to me. Understanding my righteousness in Christ as a gift instead of a reward for my works; also for me like John Bunyan, ended years of spiritual torture and uncertainty.
This my friend, is why I was able to finally stop running on my treadmill of accomplishment and exactly why I haven’t lost this new excitement and intense love for Jesus in over 9.5 years. And when I do feel spiritually dull on certain days I now know just what I need, which is to be re-awakened to my righteousness in Christ Jesus! My spirit comes alive talking about it and it comes alive writing about it!
Over the past nearly 10 years, the more I’ve meditated on and understood what Jesus really provided for me through His finished work, the less I have been willing to allow the devil to continue burying me under condemnation. I started seeing condemnation for what it really was, which was me dishonoring Jesus’ finished work. It was me trying to pay for, or at least add to, what Jesus already paid for at the cross on my behalf. That’s actually self-righteousness.
You see, when Jesus hung on that cross for us, He was providing a way through our faith in Him, for our individual destinies to be completely turned around. On that cross, our sins were literally imputed to Christ. They were put to His account. He was credited with our sins.
The perfect, sinless Son of God willingly took the judgement for all the sins of the world, giving those who would place their trust in Him an opportunity for a brand new life. Doesn’t that make you want to give Jesus the biggest hug ever and cast your crowns at His feet the minute you see Him? It does me!
But, this is only half of the Gospel and the half that we most often hear. In the same way that our sins were taken from us and placed into Christ’s account, the righteousness of Christ is put to our account when we believe in Him. We are credited with the righteousness of Christ. We are reckoned to be righteous. On this basis, we are justified – declared to be righteous.
As I said before, the more understanding I have gotten on this, the more I think, There is no way I am messing with guilt and condemnation after what Jesus went through on my behalf.
Look at this amazing scripture explaining the beautiful exchange Jesus made with us:
2 Corinthians 5:21
For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin so that we could be made right with God through Christ. (NLT)
Justification by Faith Alone, in Christ Alone. This is the Gospel message.
1 Corinthians 1:30-31 say,
It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, Who has become for us wisdom from God– that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” (NIV)
Do you know that when I lived under the law and was depending on my own works to make me righteous I was very consumed with getting attention from others and pointing people to me. It was something that I felt condemned about for a long time because I didn’t want to be that way. But when God showed me what true grace really was and made it real in my heart, that desire to point people to me turned into a desire to point people to Jesus.
Listen…. I am telling you that I had a serious stronghold in this area of wanting to exalt myself by telling everyone the good things I was doing for God or the strides I was making in being more like Christ. Because I was living under the law, I was constantly trying to prove to myself… and everyone else that I was good.
So you can imagine the relief I felt when I realized that Jesus’ righteousness had been imputed to me as a believer in Him. I don’t think I can even put into words the level of relief I felt.
Honestly, it took me quite a while to fully believe this good news could really be true because of the perpetual wrong fear that I lived with that I would be punished by God if I messed up. What if I believed in this and I wasn’t suppose to? The devil was getting nervous now because he knew I was getting close to freedom so he pulled out everything he could possibly think of to keep me from fully believing in my righteousness in Christ. But my spirit knew better and confirmed time and time again, This Is Right!
Once I got it, from that day on I became like a little kid in my perception of God. I kept going around my house with a big smile saying, “God loves me, I am OK” (meaning, I am righteous through Christ).
I now knew that it wasn’t about me getting up everyday and trying real hard in my own strength to be obedient. It was about me believing that I am, presently, right at this very moment, righteous in Christ and as I rested in Him, the power of the Holy Spirit would go to work on the inside of me, changing me from the inside out.
Good works and good behavior is the result of right believing and my experience has been that once I let God help me get my believing right, I no longer had to struggle to produce this good behavior or these good works. They just naturally began to flow. This is why I like to say that when we are living in Christ, living under grace, we begin to change effortlessly. How is that possible? Because under grace the Holy Spirit begins to change us from the inside out instead of us continuing to force change from the outside in. He even gives us the want to to change so it no longer feels like a struggle.
Always remember, you are not fighting for victory, but from a place of victory because Jesus already won totally victory for you through His finished work! I have grown more spiritually in this past decade through the power of The Holy Spirit than in all the years put together of trying on my own, independent of the power of The Holy Spirit. And I know full well that this spiritual growth is a result of God’s grace alone.
There is a new spring in my step and to this day, I still spring out of bed most mornings with the same feeling that I am a good girl in Jesus (righteous in Him), He loves and accepts me fully, and He is for me and not against me every step of the way.
I have a strong desire to see people set free in this area so they can also take a deep breath, relax in God’s love and start allowing Christ to live His life through them!
I know this sounds terrible, but before I understood grace, who I was in Christ and the New Covenant, I rarely ever thought about what Jesus did for me on the cross or what He provided for me through His finished work. I was mistaken in thinking that the weight of living this Christian life was on me and that I needed to keep trying harder and harder until I got it right. That was wrong because Jesus already got it right on my behalf and I needed to believe it and receive it. Thankfully, now I do this on a daily basis and I encourage you to as well!
Years ago, when she was much younger, my daughter Starr came to me with tears streaming down her face because she struggled with being bossy toward her twin sister Angel. Sometimes Angel also struggled with being bossy toward Starr, but Starr is more like me and Angel is more laid back like her Dad. So I could tell Starr was feeling bad that she had been bossy once again and I knew I had an open window to her heart to minister to her right then while she was coming to me with an openness.
We talked for a long time and I told her this: “The devil would love it if you would lay up in your bed tonight and feel real bad about yourself, trying to figure out how you are going to change. I can see that you are sorry and that is very important, but I can also see that you are feeling the need to try to make up for what you did wrong and you can’t do that because Jesus already paid the price on your behalf.”
I then asked her this: “Do you believe you are a good girl in Jesus?”
She replied, “Yes.”
Then I went on: “Do you really believe you are a good girl in Jesus even though you just sinned?
“Her reply was “Yes,” but a little more reserved this time.
I went on, “Do you know that if you did this same thing 25 more times tonight, you would still be just as much of a good girl in Jesus as you are right now and Jesus would love you just as much as He does right now?” That got her. You could see the surprise on her face.
Some may think, “Why did you tell her that Sandra?”
I told her that because I knew she wouldn’t do that same thing 25 more times, especially if she lives her life from the right belief that her sins are forgiven – past, present and future sins (read Hebrews 10) – and that she is righteous, not based on her works, but as a gift from God because of Jesus.
We no longer parent our kids under law because we have found out that the law is the strength of their sin. We are teaching our girls grace. We now understand that a person who has a true understanding of grace does not want to go out and sin more so I knew Starr wouldn’t do that same thing 25 more times and that her knowing without a shadow of a doubt that God was NOT going to stop loving her, no matter what, was the power she needed to say no to sin.
In fact, I asked Starr, does me telling you this make you think:
1.) “Great, I can just keep bossing Angel around then, because God will love me anyway” or does it make you think
2.) “Oh my goodness, I deserve something bad for what I did, but God is not going to give me something bad. Instead God is extending His mercy and love toward me and reminding me I am a good girl still. This makes me love Him more than ever before and want to be obedient.”
She replied without hesitation, “Number 2!”
Again, I told her that it is good that she was willing to admit that she was bossy. Now I encouraged her not to go and lay in her bed feeling condemned about this. In fact, I encouraged her not to waste another moment of her life being condemned because it will do her absolutely no good, but will actually hold back her spiritual progress.
Instead, I suggested,
- “As you lay in your bed tonight, think about what Jesus did for you on the cross and thank Him for it.”
- “Think about His great love for you and thank Him for it.”
- “And remember that you are a good girl because of Jesus and thank Him for it!”
You see, right there, I was encouraging Starr in right believing. I also encouraged her to lay in bed and talk to God about this. She knows that she does not have the ability in and of herself to change herself and that the Holy Spirit will produce the fruit of self-control as she refuses condemnation and stays in rest!
If we simply focus on our kids behavior but do not help them get their believing right, there will be no hope for them in the area of their behavior. Sure, they could produce some of the right actions from trying hard enough, but behavior modification and heart transformation are two different things.
There is a pharisaical (hypocritical) attitude that comes in when we are intent on behavior modification rather than heart transformation.
Always remember that when we try to control ourselves with rules, those rules work on us from the outside, but they can’t change our heart. On the contrary, us receiving God’s grace (His unmerited, unearned, undeserved favor) begins to change us from the inside out which is why grace produces heart transformation!
A simple way of explaining this is that we either trust in ourselves to do the work or we trust in Christ to do the work in and through us!
God doesn’t condemn us, but does He discipline us?
God does discipline us out of love for us. But it is not something we have to be afraid of because His discipline is not Him looking back in anger at what we have done, but rather looking ahead to the person He knows we can become.
Because of the misconceptions I had about God, for a long time I really didn’t know how to receive His discipline. I was fearful that He was standing over me ready to bang me over the head in disappointment each time I failed.
What a relief it was when I realized that God was pleased with me apart from my works and that He would never love me more or less than He did right at this moment because He already loves me perfectly. His love transformed me into a totally different person!
Now I see God’s discipline in a positive light.
I read this scripture one day years ago after I started seeing God’s discipline as a sign of His love for me.
I am able to do nothing from Myself [independently, of My own accord, but only as I am taught by God and as I get His orders]. Even as I hear, I judge [I decide as I am bidden to decide. As the voice comes to Me, so I give a decision], and My judgment is right (just, righteous), because I do not seek or consult My own will [I have no desire to do what is pleasing to Myself, My own aim, My own purpose] but only the will and pleasure of the Father Who sent Me. (John 5:30 -AMP)
When I read this I knew right away this wasn’t totally true of me and God was using this scripture to bring me up higher. So I simply said to God, “This scripture isn’t true of me. I do things of my own accord with an independent spirit. I do seek and consult my own will and I do seek to please myself more than You, Heavenly Father.”
So I accepted His discipline by agreeing that I was going in the wrong direction and turned around and started heading in the right direction. This is repentance! I didn’t beat myself up or have any fear about it, I was actually excited that The Lord showed me this so I could allow the scripture to do a work in my heart.
Before I understood true grace, I would repent a lot out of fear. “Oh my gosh, have I repented of everything?” I would anxiously think. I was extremely sin-conscious. Now repentance is just like breathing to me.
When the Holy Spirit shows me something, I take ownership of that sin without fear, repent (change my mind) by believing the good news again, become conscious of Christ and everything that is right about Him and how I am righteous IN HIM, receive the forgiveness that has already been extended to me because of Jesus’ finished work, place my faith in God’s unmerited favor (His grace) that is working in and through me to change me, and I move on.
I believe this is why I have experienced rapid spiritual growth in this past year, by His grace, because remember that condemnation holds us back. If we spend days to weeks in condemnation and struggling to get free from every sin we commit, this naturally slows down our spiritual progress.
There is a better way, a more restful way, the way of grace.
There is a reason the devil tries to keep us trapped in the mud of guilt and condemnation. He knows if he can keep us stuck we won’t be as productive in advancing the Kingdom of God on planet earth. Our freedom in this area makes him very nervous. He knows that if we get free from condemnation we will boldly come before the throne of grace, even when we have messed up, to receive mercy and find grace to help in our time of need! (see Hebrews 4:16)
Jesus is your High priest and advocate and will not condemn you when you sin. On the contrary; He will show you how the temptation overcame you and He will be your wisdom from God, showing you how to overcome temptation from a place of victory in the future. He will show you how to obey God by the Spirit and not just struggle unsuccessfully with the flesh. (see 1 Corinthians 1:30)
If you have not yet made Jesus your Savior and received the wonderful joy that His finished work on the cross has provided for you to live in, please visit my page here titled Jesus In The Driver’s Seat. On this page I explain the good news of the gospel and you will have the opportunity to pray a prayer of salvation, making Jesus your Savior! Jesus loves you and His arms are wide open!