Hi everyone. Rob here.
One of the biggest struggles we face in this life is believing what God truly thinks of us. Most people I know, Christians included, find it very easy to sink into self-condemnation, self-pity or self-hatred. At times this has even been encouraged by the church as the appropriate response to the depth of our sin and rebellion against God. The problem with that is the Bible tells an entirely different story. At the end of Romans 7 Paul is reflecting on what life was like when he was ruled by his sinful nature.
As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out…Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it (Romans 7:17-18, 20).
Paul contrasts two states of being. the part of him that wants to do good, that wants to do God’s will, is his true self. Sin is the invader. It is his sinful nature that is the outsider. Sin is not who he really is and nor is it who we really are either. He goes on:
What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!… Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death (Romans 7:24, 8:1-2)
Through Christ we move from seeing ourselves as “wretched” to people free from condemnation, sin and death. As the chapter moves on Paul says this:
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God…The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory (Romans 8:14, 16-17).
For those of us who have given ourselves over to Jesus Christ as our King, this is the reality that we live in. When God looks on us he sees Christ in us. What’s true for Christ is true for us. We are one with him. He is in us and we are in him. To believe that we are wretched or condemned would be to believe that Christ himself is wretched or condemned! We are not our sinful actions. Sin is not who we really are. It is a foreign invader. Christ himself is our home.
So what do we do when we are overcome with this self-condemnation? And let’s face it: we all are at times aren’t we? The danger with self-condemnation is that it moves us away from the one person who can truly heal us; Jesus. We can come to believe that it is Christ condemning us. But when we’re in this state it is only Christ who can rescue us. No pep talk will do! How do we get the truth into our heads and our hearts?
I used to journal my confessions and the truth that I knew. It would help me see the lie that had lodged itself in me, but too often it turned into naval-gazing, eventually leading me nowhere. Confession of sin matters as does confession of truth, but the big game-changer for me was when I started confessing that I am a beloved son embraced by an outrageously loving Father. It helped me worship. It helped me to see beauty and the kingdom in my midst. It helped me put down sin and resist that foreign invader. It helped me renounce lies and agreements that kept me enslaved. It helped me into freedom. The more I stood in that truth the more I believed it and the more God affirmed it.
We’ve all lived in Romans 7 but God wants us to live in Romans 8. It’s a life where we are free from condemnation, led by the Spirit, taking our place in life as God’s children and co-heirs with Christ as we live in him and he in us.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).
Grace and peace everyone.