Overcoming Self-Condemnation

By Gene Lawley


Of a certainty we are all dirty, rotten sinners, standing alone and giving in to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life with seeming regularity!  What a condemnation that is! According to the first “Be-Attitude” (Matthew 5:3), however, it is only when we come to fully realize that truth:  “Blessed are those who realize their spiritual poverty, for only then are they able to receive all the blessings of God” (my paraphrase).

God does not share His glory with any human; He makes no partner-ship with the flesh (carnal man).  That is why “you must be born again”, for it is “Christ in you, the hope of glory” that makes one fit for the presence of God. 

According to the great inventor, Thomas A. Edison, every failed attempt to turn an idea into a workable device was just another discovery of an approach that did not work.  Because of the greatness of God’s gift of grace and the absolute certainty of His forgiveness and redemption, we can be sure that we are not condemned before Him for our failures.  It is only when we fail to believe His total forgiveness and turn back to walking by the dictates of the flesh that we wallow in self-condemnation.

The very reason Jesus came as God’s sacrifice for our sins was because of the fact that we are totally depraved and dreadfully sinful—in the flesh.  “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1). This verse includes a last phrase not found in all translations. That phrase, “…who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit”, is clearly identified in the next few verses.  It is a truth that is foundational to the principle of living by faith.

One of the great promises of the security of the believer is John 5:24,

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.”  No condemnation from God, ever again, He tells us.  So, how is it that condemnation comes over us like a blanket sometimes?

One who lives by faith and not by the law must hold fast to the promises of God in Christ and not trust in his own works of righteousness in trying to keep the law.  Faith and works do not mix at the same level—faith must come before works in every instance.  Paul

writes in Galatians 2:21, “I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain."   

John also brings clarity to the issue this way: 

“For if our heart condemns us [because of failures], God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God” (I John 3:20-21). 

What does He know?  That we are redeemed by the blood of Christ and “there is, therefore, no ondemnation” for the redeemed!  (Exactly what we are supposed to believe in, not our works!)

Now let’s consider the pragmatic results of this position of the redeemed for its benefits and blessings. The above affirmation,

“Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, then have we confidence toward God” (I John 3:21) is a turning point for living   by faith in Christ.  Once we realize our sinful disobedience in a given issue, and confess it to God, He tells us, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”

(I John 1:9).  Now, we are free to live by faith and not by works of the flesh.

Confidence toward God, then, is an attitude of faith based on assurance of acceptance.  John writes, interestingly, in I John 5:11-13, that eternal life is in God’s Son, and he who has the Son has life, that those who believe may know they have eternal life, and that they may believe on the name of the only begotten Son of God. [My italics]  [This phrase is not included in many translations, but it seems to address a deeper meaning of belief.]

The very next verse seems to indicate that that phrase in italics speaks

of a faith that rises out of the assurance of salvation, which is the beginning of all confidence toward God.  Verses 14-15 read, “And this is the confidence we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us, and if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.”

The great challenge of faith is to believe the promises of God no matter how unworthy, sinful and sorry we feel about ourselves (that’s self-condemnation).  Paul confesses in Romans 7:24, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”, and turns his heart and mind to serve the Lord and give no quarter to the clamor of the flesh.  We come to Christ empty-handed, and we have no righteousness of ourselves to contribute to our salvation nor our service to Him.  It is all of grace--His grace.

Motivational speaker Les Brown often refers to “an old African proverb” that seems to fit this scenario very well:  “If you have no enemies within, your enemies without can do you no harm.”  Like-wise, I John 4:4 seals it for us:  “…He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”