Do you ever find yourself paralyzed by what you think of yourself? Do you beat yourself up over things?
As Christians, we know that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). But even though there’s no condemnation coming from God, sometimes there’s condemnation coming from us.
So, why do we self-condemn?
Sometimes it’s because of a sin struggle we just can’t seem to get on top of.
Sometimes it’s because of the way we were raised — our parents set the bar high and we could never reach it.
And sometimes it’s because of a sermon we heard. We walked into church feeling great, and we walked out feeling miserable about ourselves. We’re weighed down because our hearts are condemning us.
But have you ever condemned yourself to the point where you start doubting your salvation?
If you’re stuck in this type of self-condemnation, it leads to a lack of confidence before God. We want to hide from him. It destroys our prayer life — we don’t want to talk to him because we feel so bad about ourselves.
In his first letter, John anticipated we might feel this way, and he wanted to encourage those who may be beating themselves up. In 1 John 3:19-24, he writes:
“This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.”
I want to draw your attention to one specific phrase in this passage: “If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.”
What he’s saying here is that when you’re feeling paralyzed by what you think of yourself, stop thinking about yourself. Shift your focus to God instead. When we focus our thoughts on God’s knowledge, his love, and his grace, our hearts stop condemning us. We are no longer paralyzed, but we start to experience Life.
When we change our focus from, “Look how much I’m falling short,” to, “God knows it all and loves me anyway,” we can start to live. But how do we know we can live in such confidence?
Verse 24 of the passage above says, “The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.”
“The one who keeps God’s commands” — who can possibly keep all his commands? Well, this verse reminds us that the Christian life is impossible to live — only one person has ever lived it. But that person lives in us, and as we’re living in dependency on him, he will live the Christian life through us.
If you’re a believer, you’re in Christ. You stand redeemed, justified, recreated, and saved. He indwells you by his Spirit, and he will empower you. And through dependency on him, he will live and love through you.
This is the essence of the Christian life: put your trust in Christ, depend on him, and let him live through you. That’s it.
And if we stop beating ourselves up, we can live in the freedom of this truth.
John wants you to know that your assurance isn’t based on your performance. (We can all breathe a sigh of relief!) Your assurance is based on your union with Christ. It’s not our behavior that establishes our identity in him.
So, whenever your heart condemns you, first ask yourself: What am I dwelling on right now? If you’re beating yourself up, you’re probably dwelling on your poor performance. In that moment, ask the Holy Spirit to enable you to change your focus from how you’re falling short to the fact that he knows it all and loves you anyway.
Getting from a life of self-condemnation to a life of worship is simply this: We stop thinking about ourselves and our failures, and we turn our heart’s attention and affection to the God who knows it all and loves us anyway. And in that place of grace, we find ourselves bold to be in his presence and bold to be a part of his kingdom work. In that place, he reminds us that it all comes because of our union with Christ and the power of his Spirit.
Taken from Pete’s message “Paralyzed No More.”