Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Struggling With Condemnation?

In our weakness and failures we go through self-condemnation and guilt, we feel the disdain of society, the disappointment of our friends, and neglect or rejection from the church. This swirl of emotions and experiences can leave a person confused and struggling, and cause him to forget that God loves him with a steadfast and unfailing love that is beyond comprehension.

I received the following email from a friend. He writes…
“I say this with mixed feelings of regret and joy: at (almost!) 60 years old, and after 42 years as a Christian, I am actually beginning to have an abiding awareness of God's affection for me and gracious care of me. It has taken me an awfully long time to get past feeling like expecting Him to really like me and want to do good for me is presumptuous. (‘Who is poor, pitiful me to expect anything from a holy God?!’) Not sure where that came from, except a lot of shame in my past, but I am very gratefully learning to renounce such a curse and embrace blessing. I considered you and Bob Stamps my very closest friends for a lot of those early years, and I continue even now to rejoice in our friendship.”

I responded with the following email:
“Thanks, L____, I appreciate and treasure our friendship. And regarding your comments about ‘pitiful’ you, even the Apostle Paul said, ‘Oh wretched man that I am...’ But he did it in the context that we are all that way, and God loved us while we were yet sinners. I think the low self image that thinks God does not like me, and the pride that thinks I am such a great person are both equally a lie. God simply loves us because we are His and created in His image and because that is His nature.
Even His discipline in our lives is a sign of His love. He ‘scourges every son whom He receives’ (Heb 12). And the key word there is ‘receives’ because it is the opposite of ‘reject.’ If God loves you, He takes you out to the ‘woodshed’ every now and then. If He leaves you alone, then you're in trouble.
You projected onto the Lord the rejection you felt from others, and also you believed the lie of the devil that said you were unlovable, not worth much, and not very important. His love for us ‘passes all understanding.’ We just have to accept it and believe it and know that our thoughts to the contrary are a big lie. He loves us- all of us. ‘To whom much is forgiven, the same loves much,’ Jesus said.”

Society’s Condemnation
“Love covers a multitude of sin.” -1 Peter 4:8
“Dead flies spoil the ointment and cause it to give off a foul odor, So does a little folly to one respected for wisdom and honor." -Ecclesiastes 10: 1

The two verses above stand in contrast. One refers to the mercy you receive from people who love you, and the other refers to the disdain you receive from the general public when you fail.
It is true that love covers a multitude of sins. People who love you will tend to think the best of you, give you the benefit of the doubt, and be merciful to your faults and offenses. However, those who dislike you will see every wrinkle, blemish, and flaw (including some that aren’t there), and will tend to be critical of everything you do, no matter what you do. And they will take pleasure in making sure everyone is informed and knows about your areas of sin and failure.

A man's folly is more entertaining to the public than his wisdom, and his sins will be trumpeted much louder than his accomplishments, especially if they follow his accomplishments. Our failures often make a bigger “splash” than our successes, and so a little bit of foolishness can spoil an otherwise good reputation. People will often forget all the good things a man has done and judge him based on the one mistake or failure in his life. Some well-known Christian leaders have learned this the hard way. Many who have done great works and accomplished many good and significant things will be remembered primarily for the moral failure or some area of mismanagement that was discovered in their lives.

Satan’s condemnation
The Bible calls the devil “the accuser of the brethren.” Our proclivity to sin makes us vulnerable to accusation, and the enemy of our souls takes advantage of this in order to accuse us to ourselves, to society, and even to God. He slanders us in our innocence, and accuses us in our guilt.

In Zechariah 3, when Satan tried to point out all the reasons why God could not use the people of Israel and why God should reject them, the Lord’s answer was simply, “I have chosen them.” God’s sovereign choice settles the matter. The work of the cross makes the enemy powerless in his accusations. When he charges us with sin and failure, God simply says, "Jesus bore their sin, the penalty has been paid, and I have chosen them. They have been tried in the fire (they have been disciplined). I have chosen them, and My sovereign choice stands."

Zechariah 3 should be very encouraging to us because it reveals the enemy's helplessness before the blood of Christ and the sovereignty of God. There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. God has chosen us and we have surrendered our lives to follow Him. How great is His abundant grace and steadfast love to His children!

God’s Redeeming Power
A student who had confessed to sexual immorality was asked to stand before her Christian high school to express her repentance. Word of her situation had spread around school and everyone knew about the sin. Therefore, it was decided that the students should also be informed of her repentance. She stood before the assembled students and told of her failure and how she had turned back to the Lord. The Holy Spirit began to touch people. Teachers and students began to weep throughout the auditorium. Afterwards many came up in tears asking for prayer and confessing their own sins and need for help. The Lord had forgiven her and enabled her to be a blessing to many others. God is able to turn our shame and remove our reproach.

We are able to strengthen others when we turn to the Lord in our weaknesses and failures. Those who have never failed tend to be proud and critical and are often judgmental and condemning of others. Those who know their own frame (Psalm 103: 13-15) and who have seen their own “feet of clay” are more prone to show compassion and mercy toward others.

Like the woman "who was a sinner" we should turn our sin into true repentance, deep love, sincere gratitude, faithful service, and a faithful testimony (Luke 7: 36-48).
Have you stumbled or failed in some way? Is the enemy pressing you down with guilt and shame? Do you feel like you are standing before God wearing filthy garments? The Bible says that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.