We have a new kitten in our home. I named him Sebastien, but we are thinking his real name should be “Stinker,” because he is quite mischievous.
Sebastien was a feral kitten, being carried in his mother’s mouth as she and the family crossed a busy street in Salina, Kansas. While crossing, an automobile struck the family, killing the mother and Sebastien’s two siblings, leaving Sebastien as the sole survivor of the family. My wife rescued him and brought him home to live with us in Washington.
Being feral, Sebastien has trust issues. And being a kitten, his play oft-times becomes rather aggressive, which results in him being scolded for biting, scratching, and attacking. By default, Sebastien believes he is in trouble, so when Alean or I reach down to pet him or pick him up, he cowers in fear, or runs away. It breaks Alean’s heart to see him fearful of us.
Far too many Christ-followers live with this same fear of our Heavenly Father, cowering in fear before an awe-inspiring God, yes, but a God who loves us, and wants only what is best for us. He loves us with an everlasting love.
The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” – Jeremiah 31:3
But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children.” – Psalm 103:17
Discipline Is Not Condemnation
One of the greatest frustrations I experience is seeing Christ-followers who confuse discipline with condemnation, or conviction with guilt. Discipline comes from the Father (Hebrews 12:6-11), and conviction from the Holy Spirit (John 16:7-8). These are both good things. They may not feel good at the time, but discipline and conviction mature us, and keep us on the narrow path to life.
Guilt and condemnation, however, do not come from God, but rather from the evil one, the liar, the thief. The devil wants us to feel condemned, guilty, beaten down, depressed – so depressed that we throw up our hands in frustration and give up. His voice, and the resulting emotions do not deserve our attention, and the most certainly do not deserve our surrender!
Dual Divine Intercession
Are you feeling a little beaten down, or maybe a lot beaten down? Then feel, instead, the impact of this exhortation from the apostle Paul:
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? – Romans 8:31b-32, ESV
When you feel even a hint of defeat from the world, let that passage come flooding back to your mind like a tidal wave. God is FOR us. Nothing and no one can stand against us.
And when you feel the finger of accusation wagging in your face…
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. – Romans 8:33-34, ESV
In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words – Romans 8:26, NASB
Here we see that we have two intercessors, two advocating on our behalf. The Holy Spirit intercedes when our prayer life is awkward. And the Son intercedes from the right hand of God when we sin. The only one who is qualified to condemn us does the exact opposite of that, interceding for us with the Father. We are a blessed people, indeed!
When we sin (and we will), “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1b-2, ESV). We have the best representation we could ever hope to have, being represented and advocated for by the only one qualified to prosecute us. “For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son” (John 5:22, ESV). Jesus is not going to condemn the very people for whom he died.
Four Reasons to Reject Condemnation
1. 1 Corinthians 15:3b, ESV – Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures. We know that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), but because of Jesus, that is a price we are not required to pay. The one who died for us is not going to turn around and condemn us when we commit lives to him and his care.
2. 1 Corinthians 15:4b, ESV – he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. Jesus did not stay in the grave, but rather rose victorious over death, the very death that is the price of our sin. Just as Jesus is firstborn from among the dead (Colossians 1:18), we who hope in him will be adopted as his siblings (Romans 8:29). He is firstborn by nature – we, by adoption. Jesus will not deny his own.3. John 14:3, ESV – And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.. Not only has Jesus paid for my sin through his own death, and overcome my death sentence through his resurrection, but now he is preparing for my arrival. Rather than condemn me, he actively anticipates our being together.4. Romans 8:34, ESV – [Jesus] is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. While he awaits my arrival, for as long as I live in this body, Jesus is making intercession for me with the Father. He assures my acceptance, and obliterates any possibility of condemnation, because “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1, ESV).
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 8:38-39, ESV
Rest in that.