Low Grade Guilt

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1, ESV)

Condemnation is something we all deal with at one time or another in different degrees. It’s a mistake to think condemnation is a problem only for people who have committed “major” sins. We can become condemned over any sin, great or small, past or present. The common element is a sustained sense of guilt or shame over sins for which you have repented to God and to any appropriate individuals.

Are you allowing condemnation into your own life? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you relate to God as if you were on a kind of permanent probation, suspecting that at any moment He may haul you back into the jail cell of His disfavor?
  • When you come to worship do you maintain a “respectful distance” from God, as if He were a fascinating but ill-tempered celebrity known for lashing out at His fans?
  • When you read Scripture, does it reveal the boundless love of the Savior or merely intensify your      condemnation?
  • Are you more aware of your sin than you are of God’s grace, given to you through the cross?

Do you see any traces of condemnation in your life? Don’t be surprised if you do. But don’t keep carrying the burden! Because of the gospel’s power you can be completely free of all condemnation (C.J. Mahaney, The Cross Centered Life, p. 126).

A Monday Morning Prayer

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock. Isa. 26:3-4
The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:7
Most kind and trustworthy Father, you haven’t promised us a storm-less, hassle-free, disappointment-empty life. You offer us no formulas for decreasing the probability of sad things happening around us or disillusioning things happening to us. But you have promised something that transcends the uncertainty and the predictable unpredictability of life. You’ve promised to keep us in perfect peace, no matter what happens or who threatens. Hallelujah, several times over!
“Being kept by you”… what price tag can we possibility put on such assurance and hope? What bullion can compare what that currency? Father, I treasure the promise of being kept by you. I’ve been convinced afresh that I cannot keep myself. I’m out of bootstraps to pull up; there’s no magic happy pill to take, no fix-it button to push. Thank you for being a Father who will never forget or abandon your children—who will never forget or abandon me.
But you’ve promised even more: you’ve promised to keep us in perfect peace. All we have to do is mine the riches of the gospel and keep in mind the wonders of your love. For you are the Lord—the everlasting the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Rock that is higher than me; the Rock of refuge that offers shelter found nowhere else: the Rock of ages from which eternal life flows freely to us.
Because the gospel is true, because Jesus is the precious “living Stone” (1 Pet. 2:4-8), I will not despair when I am weak in concentration and focus. Indeed, Father, you’re not calling me to trust in my ability to trust, but to trust in you—in your trustworthiness. For you’ve even promised your children a peace that passes, surpasses, and at times even bypasses all understanding. Hallelujah!
What a God you are! How great are your mercies, how profound your kindnesses, how more-than-sufficient your grace. So very Amen we pray, in the name of Jesus—the Prince of Peace.

Wild Thing (James 3:6-12)

“And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.” (James 3:6–12, ESV)

I’m not an pet guy. I’ve tried it and animals and I just don’t work out. Nonetheless, I do enjoy watching animals at shows or on Planet Earth, so long as they keep their distance and I am not responsible for cleaning their messes and stains. I am especially impressed whenever I see people teaching incredible stunts to animals whether it be dog owners on the beach, trainers at SeaWorld or circus bears (when they ride their wee bikes with those teeny Shriners hats, no human being can resist a smile). To tame a wild animal (as if teaching it NOT to eat you isn’t impressive enough) and then teaching it to perform difficult tricks on command requires time, patience and lots of skill.

Today’s passage tells us that there is one wild thing that man has yet tame — the human tongue. We’re told it is a “restless evil, full of deadly poison.” Just as a venomous snake can strike quickly and leave its victim reeling in pain, so too can one hurtful word find its mark, pierce the soul and leave the victim racked with pain. Sometimes our hurtful words are intentional. We may plan them out or we may simply react out of our own hurt and pain, but as they leave our mouth, their intent is to hurt or retaliate. Sometimes our aim is not malicious, yet our words cause unintended pain. Regardless of our intent, we need to give careful thought to our speech before we allow it to leave our lips. Ask God for wisdom (James 1:5-8) and be slow to speak and get angry (James 1:19).

James goes on to let us know that it is simply foolish to think that it’s fine for both blessings and cursings to come from the same place. A spring can produce both fresh and salt water. A tree cannot bear both olives and figs. And the tongue which God has given us for His glory should not be used to tear asunder the body of Christ.

Great damage can be done by the tongue, however great things immeasurable can come from it as well. Go to God for wisdom so that, by his grace, that wild thing might be brought under the control of the Holy Spirit.

It’s All About Me

Self-centeredness. Whether we realize it or not, we all battle it. We kind of enjoy believing the world revolves around us — how I feel, what I want, what my opinions are and what I deem important.

Greg Forster captures it well:

But almost all of us pay too much attention to our own emotions. We’re happy, we’re despondent, we’re in love, we’re lonely, we’re thrilled, we’re bored — we’re a bunch of drama queens. We’re each the star of our very own prime-time soap opera. True, my show’s audience is small, consisting only of God and myself. And the critics hate it — God is always giving my soap opera negative reviews, urging me to switch the channel and watch something else for a change. But in spite of all that, I just can’t help thinking everyone around me would really love my show if only I could get any of them to quit watch their shows (which are boring anyway) and watch mine instead. Besides, who cares what anyone else thinks– when I can simultaneously write, direct, and star in the My Feelings Show, why watch anything else? (The Joy of Calvinism, p. 146)

But God wants us to tune into another channel. He wants us watching the It’s All About God and Others show. One day, Jesus was speaking to a Jewish lawyer and completely summed up the law by saying:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27, ESV)

That’s the bottom line. It’s not about me. It’s about loving and glorifying God and serving other people. Take a minute today and find out what channel you’re tuned into. It may be time to get the remote!

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