I can be really hard on myself, especially when I keep repeating the same mistake or when I make a series of mistakes related to the same thing. For instance, I remember being a recruit at The Citadel and we were doing turns (column left, column right, for those familiar with those terms). I kept making turns on the wrong foot. This throws off the whole formation and it’s especially obvious if you are just marching as a squad. I was getting so frustrated at myself that my cadre corporal, who was supposed to be all over my case, actually was trying to calm me down. But every time I made a mistake I condemned myself more. Finally, he pulled me aside and told me that if I didn’t calm down I would get so wound up that I wouldn’t make it through the next two weeks. He gave me a moment or two to collect myself and then it was back in formation and back to marching. Because I had released the condemnation for myself during those few minutes, I was able to more easily learn marching the way I needed to. And I ended up sticking at The Citadel and graduating after four years.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. – Romans 8:1-6, ESV
Life is more difficult than trying to comply with the US Army Drill and Ceremonies manual. And it is in life that when we continue to condemn ourselves that we really do damage to ourselves. I said condemn ourselves. What about God? When we sin, aren’t we condemned? Yes, and no. Our sin makes us unrighteous. Our sin separates us from God. Our sin makes us unbearable and intolerable in His sight. But that was before the Cross. That was before we surrendered to Jesus, accepted His free gift of grace (to which He called us), and were saved by Him. His death on the Cross redeems us from our sin. It justifies us in the sight of God our Father. It means God looks at His Son’s righteousness and holiness and not at our own. And because of all of this, there is no condemnation for those who belong to Jesus. Christ’s death on the Cross dealt with our sin and removed condemnation from our heads. At least, as far as God is concerned. We’re a different story. We’re very good at condemning what and who God doesn’t. And that’s especially true of ourselves.
Yes, sin in our lives needs to be dealt with. It needs to be turned over to God. We should ask for His forgiveness. And we should repent of that sin. But the thing of it is we often hold on past that point. It’s as if God’s promise to forgive our sin and to remember it no more isn’t trustworthy. We’re terrible at forgiving and forgetting so therefore God must be also. We’re also terrible at sinning but we don’t pin that on Him, too! So why do we find it so hard to believe that He, who is so much more than any of us, can forgive and forget in a way we struggle with? I don’t know. I just know we struggle. And we struggle a lot when we know we could have done better, should have done better, want to do better, and then don’t. We have a tendency to relive old failures, whether old means a few seconds ago or decades in the past.
Stop this! Trust God on His promise. Don’t condemn yourself when He no longer condemns you. When we condemn ourselves, that influences everything else that we do. That harms everything else that we do. We all know this is true. We can’t give our best to what is to be done in the present if we’re still dwelling on the past. And if this is our behavior, then our mind isn’t set on the Spirit. We may be trying to live according to the Spirit, but if our minds aren’t with the Holy Spirit, if our minds are on condemnation, whether towards ourselves or others, than we won’t experience life and peace like we should. Go back and read those verses again and what Paul tells us:
- There is … no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
- The Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus.
- By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us.
- To set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
This is what God wants us to experience. This is what He has already delivered, if we just would claim it. However, our own bent for condemnation keeps us from this state. This isn’t to downplay sin. Rather, it’s to uplift grace! Sin is horrible. It’s abominable. But if we are truly in Christ Jesus we understand that and we seek to repent and turn away from sin every time we find ourselves committing one (and this happens a lot). But God doesn’t want us to stay there. He wants us to own up to it, give it to Him, and then move on to be effective again. He broke the shackles of sin that hold us back when He died on the Cross. The last thing He wants is for us to reshackle ourselves and act like those sins hold us back. I say act like because the shackles are broken. For the believer, they are shattered. They can’t hold us back. It is a prison of our own making, a prison of condemnation, that will keep us from going where God would have us go and doing what God would have us do. Believe His words of “No condemnation” and cast aside the broken shackles and embrace the mission to further His Kingdom!