In Response

by James D. Witmer

No Condemnation?

We are a beautiful letdown
Painfully uncool
The church of the dropouts
The losers, the sinners, the failures, and the fools

(Switchfoot, “The Beautiful Letdown”)

I am convinced that admitting my sinfulness is a first step to knowing God. But that doesn’t make it easy.

A friend once put it this way:  “I’d like to think that while I’m not a great Christian, I’m not a bad guy, either. I’m not an adulterer or thief. “I’m just a middle-of the road, ‘okay’ guy.”

He added, “But it’s a big lie!” – and for good reason. According to Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5, my friend IS an adulterer. And a murderer, a thief, and a disobedient son. And so am I.

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.” (1 John 1:8-10)

You can tell whether I’m embracing this truth by how I respond when confronted with my failures.

When I insist on waving my membership card to the “Okay-Guy Club”, I fight the friends who hold up a mirror to my shortcomings. I resent seeing my sin, because it fractures my false self-image. I feel badgered and beleaguered by reminders of my shortcomings.
(I want to focus on the positive! I’m doing a lot, doesn’t that count for something?)
And then, since my conscience bears witness to the truth, I eventually have to admit my sin and shortcomings.
I feel dejected as my Okay-Guy card is repossessed.
I resent myself for not living up to my illusions.
And I probably resent my friend. I wish that he would mind his own darn business, or at least “be more loving”.
I begin to sulk.
In a word, I experience condemnation.
But “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”. What’s that all about? What kind of “in Christ Jesus” would stop a cycle like this?

“I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me…

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,

because

through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For

what the law was powerless to do

in that it was weakened by the sinful nature,

God did

by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.” (Romans 7:14-8:3)

It is human nature to resent being humbled. But those who BEGIN humble can rejoice in an opportunity to repent and draw near to Love.  If we believe that we all “have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), then we aren’t surprised and horrified when a friend points out our falling shorts. And we can be thankful to our friend for helping us see the barriers between us and our True Love.

“This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness.” (Ezekiel 34:11-12)

To a happy farm animal, this means little. But to a lamb lost at pasture, this is the very best news.
(reprised from an 2010 article)
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One comment on “No Condemnation?

  1. Olivia
    April 9, 2012

    James,thank you again for sharing.This was refreshing to hear.. I know I want to be teachable and willing to see my sin, but I also know I don't follow through on this desire, probably most days. Your words are encouraging, and your struggle is good.Keep writing:)

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This entry was posted on April 6, 2012 by .

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