Tag Archives: condemnation

The Twisted Message

Linked to the article in which the question of whether gay Christians can go to Heaven was another article that gave the “Scriptural” explanation of why they cannot.  I confess that this is the kind of thing that gets me riled.  It is one thing to reveal your prejudices.  It is quite another to use Scripture to support them.

The key passage this person used was from 1 Corinthians:

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”- 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

I find it fascinating that a person could read this passage and come out with a judgment against gay people.  Of course, the passage, shortened to the pertinent words, does say, “…the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God… nor men who practice homosexuality.”  So there it is, right?

There are two things that must be pointed out (which the author of the linked article apparently could not see).  First, whatever applies to gay people in this passage also applies to a lot of others.  Anyone who is sexually immoral.  Anyone who is an idolator (and how do we apply that today?)  Anyone who steals.  Anyone who wants what others have (greedy or covetous).  Anyone who drinks to excess.  Anyone who is a mischief maker (reviler—gossip, dissenter, backtalker, spreader of lies or half-truths, etc.)  Anyone who extorts money from others (perhaps by suggesting that the tithe is still binding on Christians?)  (And, while we are still in this part of the text, any young boy slave used by a wealthy Roman citizen for sexual purposes.  That word is left out of the NIV, which this person quotes, but it is in the original text.)

So, there you go.  Have you met any of these folks in church?  Well, none of them will go to Heaven, according to this interpretation.  I would guess that we could add another whole list of things that Paul forgot also.

But what about the rest of the passage?  This writer seems to completely miss the point.  “Such were some of you.”  That means that they are not that now.  They were thieves, or immoral, or homosexual, or greedy but they are no longer.  Why?  Was it because they stopped doing the things associated with these labels?  Was it because they conquered their sins and lived perfect lives?  Was it because they never again allowed their feelings to dictate their behavior?  What was it that took them from what they were to what they are?

But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

This passage is not a judgment on gay people!  It is a celebration of what Jesus has done for His people.  He has changed us.  He has taken our sins away.  He has re-created us.  He did it . . . and it had nothing to do with us changing our behavior.

It grieves me to think that this condemnation is the only message many will hear from the church.  Guilt, shame, rejection.  That is not the gospel and it is not the heart of God.  He loves us and He does for us what we could never do for ourselves.  And listen: even if we still can’t seem to change, at least not yet, He still loves us and He still brings us to Himself.

It isn’t about what you do.  It’s about what He did and continues to do.

 

Your thoughts?

2 Comments

Filed under grace, Grace definition, Legalism

The Christian and the Conscience

When the conscience became a tool of the Law everything turned toward the things of the Law.  Rules, standards, things to avoid—these became the focus of religious (Law-centered) life.  Good was obeying.  Evil was disobeying.  People still made choices, but they made choices with a new perspective.

But here’s the problem: the conscience was still broken.  The conscience, even under the Law, could not discern right from wrong.  So David wrote:

Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. Psalm 19:12

And the author of Proverbs called his readers to wisdom, to go past the voice of the conscience to the voice of God:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

So, even before the cross, the people of God were to be aware of the brokenness of their conscience.  They were to seek the word of the Lord.  Their own understanding, that which the flesh system had built in them, was insufficient and deceptive.  They would not be able to depend on it for truth.  They needed the voice of the Lord.

When Christ came to us and we were saved and His life became ours, two things happened in relation to the conscience.  First, the reality of our situation changed.  We no longer were under condemnation of any kind and the Holy Spirit was resident within us.  All our sins—past, present, and future—were washed away in the blood of Jesus.  We were set free from the domination of sin forever.

But our conscience doesn’t understand that.  I ask people all the time to tell me how much sin is on their accounts with God.  I get all kinds of answers.  Some say lots; others say only what has not been confessed; some understand that there is no sin on their accounts because it has all been dealt with on the cross.  But the reality of that truth does not come from our flesh.  Our flesh is still the same old system it always was.  It still sees life the way it used to.

Our flesh is a system with which we are very familiar.  We grew up with it.  We put it together over years and through many experiences.  It is very difficult for us to leave it behind.  Much of the perspective offered by our flesh still makes sense to us.  Our conscience is still active and still messed up.  It still misleads us and it still condemns us.

John wrote:

For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. 1 John 3:20-21

In other words, if your conscience condemns you, find the truth in the Lord.  He knows and He tells you that there is no condemnation (Romans 8:1).  If your conscience does not condemn you, give thanks that you are beginning to walk in the Spirit.  Either way, your focus should be on the Lord.

and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

1 Comment

Filed under grace, heart, Legalism, Uncategorized

The Conscience and the Law

It would be difficult to determine what the conscience was like before the Law.  The Scriptures tell of a law written on the heart (Rom 2:15), which may be a reference to the general knowledge of good and evil all people carry whether they know of the Law or not.  Even if this “law in the heart” can be ignored or deceived, it is still present in some way.

But when the Law was given to Israel and, through Israel, disseminated to the world, a framework or definition was given to the conscience.  Now God was in the equation and things like holiness and righteousness were presented to the conscience.  Suddenly, those confronted with the Law found an expression for the general shame they felt.  They had sinned.

I realize that some will think that it is strange to refer to the conscience as an almost independent force in our lives, while denying that the conscience is the same as the Holy Spirit.  But the conscience is an arm of the flesh and the flesh feels and acts almost foreign to the believer.  The unbeliever doesn’t feel this in the same way, but still hears the “voice” in a way that seems separate from himself.  So the conscience became an accuser against those who discovered the Law.

All things work together for good, right?  God used the conscience in the lives of many unbelievers to draw them to Him.  The Holy Spirit spoke truth into their lives and the conscience spoke condemnation.  Why did the conscience speak condemnation, especially when it was supposed to serve the flesh?  Isn’t the flesh set against the Spirit?  Wouldn’t the flesh draw a person to evil?  Why would God use the conscience?

Under the Law the conscience found the reason for its struggle.  It was never the purpose of the conscience to draw us to evil.  The conscience was broken by sin and could not truly discern good and evil.  Decisions were made on the basis of faulty knowledge and perspectives.  We lived under a tension that would not go away.  When the conscience was exposed to the Law, things began to make sense.

Now, remember that the Holy Spirit is very active on behalf of unbelievers.  He convicts them, the Scripture says.  That suggests that He moves them in the direction their conscience is pushing them and makes them ready for the way of salvation.  One example is when David disobeyed God.  Notice what the text says:

And David’s heart condemned him after he had numbered the people. So David said to the LORD, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done; but now, I pray, O LORD, take away the iniquity of Your servant, for I have done very foolishly.” 2 Samuel 24:10

Notice that David’s conscience (heart) condemned him.  But David knew the Lord and the Holy Spirit was active in his life, so David went directly to the One who could and would forgive.  With the condemnation was the salvation, praise the Lord.

But the conscience became a tool of the Law for those who had the Law.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under heart, Legalism, Relationship

Do you deserve condemnation?

 

Yep, trick question.  Almost all of us were taught to say yes to that one.  I just read a blog where a pastor writes to his congregation: “We truly deserve eternal destruction every day!”  His point, of course, was that the judgment of God is hanging over each of us and the only thing stopping us from sliding straight to hell is the choice of God.  If God changed His mind about us, we’d be in trouble.  So… be afraid!

But is this true for believers?  Do we deserve condemnation?  Is the axe hanging over our heads about to strike?  And what would be the deciding factor?  Some teachers say that we have to be worthy of God’s forgiveness.  Some say that we have to be in the right church.  Others just tell us to be good—very, very good.  If we fail, is the danger real?

So, let’s be sure that we get this right.  First, we used to deserve condemnation.  There is no doubt about that.  We all deserved to be cut off from God forever.  But that was past tense.  That’s what we were.  Then Jesus came into us and saved us.  He reached down to us in the midst of our condemnation and shame and brought us out.  We did deserve hell before Jesus saved us.

But now there is no more condemnation (Romans 8:1) for us.  The punishment for our sin was laid on Jesus and He took it away from us.  There is no axe hanging over our heads.  The penalty has been paid.  Our sin is as far from us as the east is from the west.  (Psalm 103:12)  This is what Jesus did for us.

No, you and I no longer deserve condemnation.  We did, but Jesus saved us.

2 Comments

Filed under Freedom, grace, Grace definition, Legalism