Feeling guilty, like a convict?

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Sleep eluded me, my mind a whirl of thoughts of regret and guilt. I lay there wondering, “Why did I say that, act in that way?” You probably know that middle of the night awareness of failure, too. The guilt can serve a good purpose in me, bringing me to change, causing me to open my heart to God and, as necessary, to go and make things right.

There is a toxic response to the Spirit’s conviction that calls us to repentance; a lie which we must not allow to find a settled place in our minds. It’s called – condemnation! That is when we begin to believe that deception that insists we are too bad, too far gone, beyond the love and mercy of God.

Paul, after writing at length about how God sets us right with Himself through Christ Jesus, breaks out with a great declaration.  Take note of the transitory word, “therefore.”  The conclusion that we are about to read does not flow from human effort, from firm resolve, or from stellar religiosity! The freedom we can experience is provided solely by faith through Jesus.  Look at it. “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.” (Romans 8:1-2, NIV)  No condemnation!

 Condemnation is a translation of a compound NT Greek word that literally means to ‘judge down.’ It was used of a court’s determination of guilt and subsequent sentence under law. The judge determined guilt, the matter settled. The offender then lived with that conviction, paid the penalty, carrying the stigma of that condemnation.

To this day, to be convicted of a felony (a crime more serious than a misdemeanor) is an awful thing with consequences extending the rest of life. That criminal conviction becomes a part of personal history, known to banks, employers, courts, and anyone who does a background check. Many jobs are closed to convicted felons, even long after they have served their time. Depending on the state in which they reside many rights are lost to felons.

Under God’s Law, we are judged, convicted sin, one verse reminding us that we are ‘by nature objects of wrath.’ It is a desperate situation. There is condemnation, a fearful expectation of eternal separation from God and good. If you don’t like that statement, your issue is not with me but with the Lord Himself.

There is a brilliant phrase that shines into that dark place of hopelessness. “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:4-6, NKJV)

A convicted felon may be freed from the life-long stigma of his crime with a pardon. Certain of our elected executives are invested with the power, by law, to grant a pardon, erasing the conviction. There is no more condemnation! That is what our Father in Heaven did for us in Christ Jesus. The sin that condemned us, the judgment that destined us for destruction, the guilt that dogged us in the night – these are no longer necessary because we are, through Him, justified and therefore no longer condemned!

 When guilt that calls for repentance morphs into condemnation that insists you are beyond the mercy of God, refuse it standing on the truth. No more guilty condemnation for you, for me. Why? We are pardoned, our conviction under the Law erased by Jesus.

Here is a word from the Word.  Read it prayerfully, asking that the Spirit will settle it into your mind and heart.
 “Yes, Adam’s one sin brought condemnation upon everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness makes all people right in God’s sight and gives them life. Because one person disobeyed God, many people became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many people will be made right in God’s sight. God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful kindness became more abundant. So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful kindness rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:18-21, NLT)

Now, because of Him, no condemnation.

_______

And Can It Be

(the grand hymn of justification)

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood
Died He for me who caused His pain
For me who Him to death pursued
Amazing love how can it be
That Thou my God shouldst die for me

He left His Father’s throne above
So free so infinite His grace
Emptied Himself of all but love
And bled for Adam’s helpless race
‘Tis mercy all immense and free
For O my God it found out me 

Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night\
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray
I woke the dungeon flamed with light
My chains fell off my heart was free
I rose went forth and followed Thee

Amazing love how can it be
That Thou my God shouldst die for me

 No condemnation now I dread
Jesus and all in Him is mine
Alive in Him my living Head
And clothed in righteousness divine
Bold I approach th’eternal throne
And claim the crown through Christ my own
Amazing love how can it be
That Thou my God shouldst die for me

 Amazing love how can it be
That Thou my God shouldst die for me

Charles Wesley © Words: Public Domain

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