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The antidote to poisonous thinking of guilt and condemnation

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We all suffer from stinkin’ thinkin’ at one time or another. It’s unavoidable.

Fortunately, God offers an antidote to the poisonous thinking that we sometimes allow to invade our minds. It can be found in Romans 8:1 – “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

And why is that? That answer is in Romans 8:2 – “because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”

Romans 8:1 is one of my all-time favorite passages in the Bible, and was a real life saver for me.

I had been obsessed with pornography for many, many years. Even after I became a Christian I would view it often, sometimes daily, for years. Every time I would fall, I would beat myself up or allow others to flog me with Bible passages.

As a result, I felt condemned, and that’s no way to fight a battle to victory.

You can’t stop sinning

I really came to understand the power of this passage nearly 20 years ago as I was working on a course about overcoming pornography addiction offered by an online group.

During the second half of the course, I was feeling a lot of condemnation and feelings that maybe I wasn’t a Christian after all. The author was teaching that it was possible to lose your salvation, if you continue to sin.

Perhaps that’s correct if you see no problem in what you are doing. For me, I hated what I was doing with a passion, but I felt unable to stop. Satan could have a field day quoting passages like this:

“No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.” – 1 John 3:6

And that’s the gist of what the author of the pornography addiction class was teaching. If you claim to be a Christian, but keep on sinning, then you really don’t know Christ.

But, the more I studied the Bible, the more I realized that was way out of context. For I knew Jesus! I had committed my life to him April 12, 1995. I was becoming a new man. He had already changed me so much, but I was clinging to this one nasty habit I could not break.

There is no condemnation

One day, after I had fallen – again – and I was beating myself up, the Holy Spirit comforted me with these words, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

If I was in Christ Jesus, and I knew deep down that I was, then there could be no condemnation. The feelings of guilt, shame, inadequacy, failure, insecurity and all the crap that came with it were not of Christ, but of his adversary.

Remember, Satan knows the Bible inside and out. He’s had thousands of years to study the scripture and he can quote it as eloquently as any preacher. But, he does so in a way that confuses people.

He wants them to think they either haven’t been saved (when they really are) or they aren’t worth saving (if they have yet to make that decision).

He wants them to think that God is so disappointed in them that they wouldn’t dare come near his presence. So, like Adam, they run from God rather than toward him where they’ll find hope and healing.

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Conviction vs condemnation

Yes, it’s possible to feel guilt when you sin because you know it is wrong. And it’s healthy that we feel that way whenever we do something that goes against God’s word. But, once you are saved, God’s way of making you feel guilty DOES NOT involve condemnation. But he will work to convict you of your thoughts or behavior

Here’s how you’re likely to experience conviction of “holy guilt.”

GOD:  Greg, can we talk?

GREG: Sure.

GOD: I know you’ve been viewing pornography quite a bit lately. Do you think that’s the best use of your time?

GREG: No, not at all.

GOD: Can you think of anything you could do instead that would be more productive?

GREG: Perhaps invest the time in studying your word, spending time with my kids, writing a love letter to my spouse, fixing up the house, helping my friend with his problem, or….

GOD: I think you’ve got some great ideas there.

GREG: Thank you, God. Please forgive me.

GOD: I already have.

You will never hear condemnation like this:

GOD: Greg! Listen, how many times are you going to take advantage of my grace?

GREG: I’m sorry God!

GOD: How many times have I heard that before? And yet you keep doing the same thing, day after day, year after year.

GREG: I’m sorry God!

GOD: Sorry isn’t enough. Really, I thought I saw something in you, but you’re different from all the other Christians whom I truly love. You don’t measure up.

GREG: I love you God! Please, please forgive me.

GOD: Why should I bother? You’ve been such a disappointment to me. If you don’t get your act together and start obeying my commands, I’ll enjoy throwing you in the lake of fire. Now, get lost. Don’t come back until you’ve proven your worth.

God’s amazing grace

Every Christian is probably familiar with the ageless hymn Amazing Grace, especially the first stanza of the song:

“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now I’m found,
Was blind, but now, I see.”

But, the second stanza explains how God uses guilt to catch people’s attention and change their lives:

“T’was Grace that taught,
my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear,
the hour I first believed.”

You see, God’s word will act as a bludgeon to get our attention. He needs to stop us dead in our tracks and help us realize that we are, in fact, sinning. So his word will cause our heart to fear. So much so that we fall to our knees and ask for forgiveness. Then the magic happens.

God, in his infinite mercy, forgives ALL of our sins and takes our fear away. “All” means all, as in everything, the whole number, completely, wholly and entirely wiped away.

“All sins” include the sins you committed before you received salvation, the sins you commit today, the sins you commit next year, and those you commit many years after that. All means ALL.

Even if you’re still trapped in one particular sin you can’t seem to shake? Yes, you can lean on scripture.

You can be purified of all sins

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” – I John 1:7

And if we have been purified of ALL sin, how can we stand condemned? “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

While we are counting the days we have successfully been able to resist temptation in our own strength, God knows that if we remain in him we’ll get there eventually. So, he’s counting down.

“YAHOO!” we say, “I’ve been free of pornography for 28 days.” Then we fail and feel miserable.

But, what does God say? “YAHOO! Only 3,296 days until Greg finally understands that he can use my power to overcome his porn problem and walks away from his struggle once and for all as a free man!”

Peeling the onion to get to the core

I liken my situation to a very large onion. In order to get to the core of my problem, God had to remove one layer after another of all the guilt and shame that I had wrapped myself in for most of my life.

I had to overcome:

  • My parents divorce when I was 8
  • Not being able to see my father for months at a time
  • Moving away from my friends several times
  • Being teased relentlessly at school
  • Being physically abused every day of middle school (I even had my arm broken by a bully)
  • Being told by my mother daily that I should go live with my father
  • Feeling inadequate because I didn’t know or understand sports
  • Being rejected by the first girls I showed interest in
  • Being fired from my first job
  • Being denied confirmation at my church because I asked too many questions
  • Flunking out of college
  • The death of my father when I was 19
  • Not being able to get a job in the career field for which I had invested thousands of dollars in training
  • The failure of my first business
  • Two bankruptcies
  • Being abandoned by every male that came into my life, with the exception of two, within 8 years of meeting them
  • A failed marriage
  • Being wrongly accused and investigated for doing something I did not do (I was exonerated, thank God)
  • Waking up every day thinking I was a failure and wondering who would be the first person I’d disappoint that day

Why didn’t I feel like a “new man?”

I know there are pastors who preach a literal definition of 2 Corinthians 5:17 – “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” They argue that once I made a commitment to follow Christ and accepted him as my savior that I was literally a new man. Then why didn’t I feel like a new man?

I seemed to go from one problem to the next to the next to the next. It felt like a dog pile, with me at the bottom bearing the weight of all these problems and all these things that impacted my self-esteem.

Understand this. God is infinitely patient. His grace is new every morning. (Lamentations 3:22-23) A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. (Isaiah 42:3)

Even if you are just clinging by your fingernails to the promise that God will deliver you from any sin, he understands what you are going through. Do not be afraid to come to him naked, dirty and ashamed. Hold firmly to your faith!

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” – Hebrews 4:15-16

Some might say that I’m taking 1 John 1:7 out of context because anyone who is viewing pornography is certainly not “walking in the light.” Besides, verse 6 notes, “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.”

Well, duh. Pornography certainly is darkness and by viewing it we aren’t investing that time to be in fellowship with Christ. That’s true.

The key to overcoming any sin

Verse 8 is key to understanding that we really do have forgiveness, even when we repeat the same sin over and over and over. And to fully understand it, let’s look at verse 1 John 1:6-10 in its entirety.

“[6] If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. [7] But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. [8] If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. [9] If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. [10] If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.”

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” How does that apply?

When you view pornography, even days and weeks in a row, do you feel badly about doing so?  Do you know deep down that it is sin?  Do you know that what you are doing is wrong? Do you wish you could stop?

Then, as a Christian, your sins are forgiven and you’re purified from all righteousness. And even if you feel like bruised reed or smoldering wick, relax. God’s still watching over you.

But, if you think it’s okay to view pornography and that God’s word really doesn’t apply to your particular situation, then my friend, the truth is not in you and the word has no place in your life. In that case, be afraid. Be very afraid.

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”

What a relief! What a God!

Who really has power to forgive?

As long as you are facing the Son, his light will shine upon you – even if you’re 92.95 million miles away, like earth is from the sun.

One more thing. Some mainstream churches say that you need to ask God for forgiveness every single time you sin. That’s not necessary.

When you accepted Christ as your savior, you were purified from all sin and every one of your sins were forgiven right at that moment – including the ones you’ll commit in the future.

If it makes you feel better to ask God for forgiveness, then by all means do so. But the truth is that he’s already forgiven you. So, you don’t have to nail Christ to the cross again to pay for the penalty for your latest or next sin. He died once to cover all your sins.

Nor do you need to say a bunch of prayers in specific order as “penance” before you can be forgiven. By doing that you’re telling God the death of his son on the cross wasn’t enough to pay your sin penalty.

Trust me, repeating a bunch of memorized words over and over still isn’t enough to cover the penalty for your sin, regardless of what some man may tell you.

You are forgiven by faith alone, in Christ alone, by grace alone.

It’s decision time! You can do this!

If you can’t recall a specific instance in your life where you have accepted God’s gift of forgiveness through the death of his son, make that decision now.

A relationship with Christ is absolutely essential if you want to be rid of pornography — or any sin — once and for all. Run to him. Today!

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Greg Gerber

A native of Wisconsin who moved to Arizona in 2009, Greg Gerber is a DODO -- Dad of Daughters Only -- to three grown daughters. He worked as a journalist for many years before pursuing a career as a faith-based writer, author, coach and speaker. Greg is the author of Pornocide: How Lust is Killing Your Faith, Stealing Your Joy and Destroying Your Life.

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