Many Christians live with a misunderstanding of God that hovers over them like a dark cloud, blocking the warm rays of God’s love and stealing their joy by making them think they are never good enough in God’s sight. In spite of intellectually knowing their position in Christ, God’s love for them, and that they are forgiven—they feel the pressing weight of condemnation.
If you are a Christian who battles the pressing weight of condemnation, take heart: Romans 8:1 says that there is now NO condemnation for those in Christ. This means that when your heart screams thoughts of condemnation at you, it’s a lie.
Feelings of condemnation betray what you functionally trust for justification before God. It means you are believing a distorted or false gospel that your performance is what will make God pleased with you and not the finished work of His Son.
A pastor once shared with me that Romans 8:1 is the verse he uses the most for counseling addicts in the Celebrate Recovery Program. When we let the truth that “there is no condemnation for those in Christ” preach to our souls, what a glorious freedom it brings—no matter what you’ve done, past, present, or future, you stand before God perfect in His sight! Romans 8 continues, expressing where the condemnation we deserve goes:
“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.” (Romans 8:3-4)
God condemned sin in the flesh by regarding His own Son as sinful man, placing our punishment and condemnation on Him.
Don’t let familiarity with this truth strip away its revolutionary power: God doesn’t accept you on your performance, your children’s performance, or based on how much fruit you have borne for Him lately. God accepts you on the basis of what Christ has done. We are not treated like prisoners on parole, having to maintain His approval by our performance—God treats us like His Son because we are united to His Son. In Christ, we receive God’s benefits and Jesus takes our sin upon Himself, taking our condemnation. Calvin writes so helpfully on this:
“…since Christ has been so imparted to you with all his benefits that all his things are made yours, that you are made a member of him, indeed one with him, his righteousness overwhelms your sins; his salvation wipes out your condemnation; with his worthiness he intercedes that your unworthiness might not come before God’s sight. Surely this is so: We ought not to separate Christ from ourselves or ourselves from him…And to confirm this he uses the same reason I have brought forward: that Christ is not outside us but dwells within us. Not only does he cleave to us by an invisible bond of fellowship, but with a wonderful communion, day by day, he grows more and more into one body with us, until he becomes completely one with us.”
—John Calvin in Institutes of the Christian Religion (McNeill 570-571)
Christian, put away feelings that you don’t measure up in God’s sight. God has declared that Jesus measuring up is all you need.
When you feel condemned, examine your heart to see what you trust for justification instead of Christ. Then repent. Work actively to put sin to death, not to earn God’s approval, but to thank Him for the glorious approval that is already yours in Christ. Fix your eyes on the gospel that saves sinners, sanctifies us by His Word and Spirit, and works in us to will and to work for His good pleasure.
“Whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.” 1 John 3:20