A lot of people won’t darken the door of a church—even around the holidays—because they consider religious organizations “too condemning.” While it is true that some legalistic preachers can beat their congregations down with an impossible list of do’s and don’ts, that’s not what genuine Christianity is all about.
When an important leader of Jesus’ day came to Him for answers one night, the Lord made it very clear He wasn’t here on a mission of condemnation, but of love and deliverance. Most Americans are familiar with John 3:16. But have you ever studied the verses immediately following that famous scripture? Jesus told Nicodemus,
God doesn’t condemn us; the Law does. Just like civil law today, God’s Law in the Old Testament defined acceptable and unacceptable behavior for the nation of Israel. It also outlined consequences for violating those norms—with everything from taking a bath and isolating yourself from others until evening or repaying what you took or damaged, to the loss of a body part or the death penalty (e.g.— Exodus 22:1-4; Leviticus 11:39-40, 24:19 & 20:1-21).
If you choose to live under the Law, you make yourself subject to all those rules, regulations and requirements. If you break just one of them, you are guilty of violating the Law as a whole and put yourself under the full weight of its consequences (c.f.—James 2:8-11). You are condemned for falling short of God’s perfect standard.
That’s where Jesus comes in. He was perfect, sinless. He never broke even one of God’s laws or failed to perform what the Heavenly Father sent Him to do (Hebrews 9:28). Because He had no sin of His own to take care of, Jesus was able to carry everyone else’s sin—and the consequences thereof—in His body to the cross. He swapped places with us, becoming condemned in our stead, so we could be made right with God (2 Corinthians 5:21 & Isaiah 53).
Now because Jesus, God’s Son, was raised from the dead and taken into heaven, He is forever able to intercede on our behalf with God (Hebrews 7:24-25). He serves as our Advocate, reminding God the Father that our sin debt was paid in full at the cross (1 John 2:1).
Look at it this way: Whether you like it or not, as a resident of earth, you are subject to the authority of the One who made it (Psalm 24:1). He has laid out basic instructions governing the behavior of all mankind, which has been “written on their hearts” (See Romans 2:6-16). When you violate one of those laws, your conscience condemns you. You are arrested and brought before the Judge of heaven, who “will pay all people back for what they have done” (Romans 2:6, GW).
In addition to our conscience that tells us we have messed up, there is a Prosecuting Attorney, named Satan, who lives to accuse and condemn us before God (Zechariah 3:1 & Revelation 12:10). But Jesus comes alongside us as our Defense Attorney. He says to our accuser, “Yahweh rebukes you, O Satan! …Is this not a stick snatched from the fire?” (Zechariah 3:2, LEB). He removes our filthy, sin-stained clothes and puts us in clean, holy garments (vv. 3-6). Acquitted of our guilt before God, we are commissioned as messengers of His kingdom to carry the Good News of our pardon to those who have not yet experienced it (Zechariah 3:6-10, Isaiah 6:1-8 & 2 Corinthians 5:17-20).
If we accept Christ’s services as our Representative, the record of our wrong-doing is expunged forever (Isaiah 43:25, Jeremiah 31:34 & Acts 3:18-20). But, if we refuse His help and rely on ourselves, we are condemned to eternal suffering—the just penalty for our crimes against God and humanity (Mark 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:22 & 2 Thessalonians 2:7-12).
So, if you feel condemned by messages from the Bible, chances are you are not trusting Jesus to acquit you of your sin. Or maybe you have listened too long to our adversary, the devil, who keeps reminding you of charges the Lord has already dropped. Come to the Savior, who offers forgiveness and eternal release. He will enable you to walk in freedom by His Spirit and release you from the condemnation of the Law (Romans 8:1-13). Now, that’s a Christmas gift that keeps on giving!
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