For years, I justified my constant sense of guilt by saying I had a “tender conscience” but I now realize that I simply did not believe this plain statement in the Word of God:
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)
At one level, I knew it. I knew that I would go to heaven when I die. I just felt that God was never pleased with me and I had to try harder or He would frown. This is a lie from the pit, a device of Satan to put my focus on works instead of grace. Like the cart before the horse, a sense of ‘I must work hard to please God’ carries with it a load I could not pull. When grace takes the load, it becomes a light burden, a delight.
Of course, one of the enemy’s strategies is to make Christians think that his thoughts are their thoughts. In my case, I thought it was my mind and conscience, my heart condemning me, but God knows my heart. The Bible says, “God is greater than our heart, and He knows everything.”
God knew my struggles. He knew this continually beating up of myself was not from Him. While He wants me to walk in obedience, He also wants me to walk in confidence, knowing Jesus bore it all and that forgiveness is total, complete, never to be reversed. To bring me to that place, He used a sequence of events that seemed disastrous, but He used them for good.
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:28–39)
I’ve always loved this passage of Scripture. Early in my Christian life, God showed me the truth of the first two verses — that God would use everything to transform me into the likeness of His Son. What I see now is that in that process He also reinforced my understanding of the next verses — that nothing or no one can condemn me and nothing can separate me from His love. The Holy Spirit uses my conscience to convict me of specific wrong-doing that needs to be confessed and forsaken, but He is not hovering over me with a vague sense that I’m no good.
Jesus, You died for me so I will not perish. You rose again for my justification so I a considered by God ‘just as if’ I never sinned. You are seated at God’s right hand, the place of One who has completed His work, a work that the Father has accepted because the One who offered it is sinless and perfect. You gave me Your perfection — I do not have to strive for it because all that You are is available to me through the power of the Holy Spirit. I am complete, my salvation is complete — because You are complete. Then, as icing on the cake or as an exclamation mark at the end of a glorious statement, You live forever to intercede for me. Even when I stumble, You are praying for my forgiveness and restoration. Because of Your prayers on my behalf, those lies behind my fears and guilt has been exposed, and You have assured me that there is no longer any condemnation for those who are in You!