Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set youfree from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1-4
"Live from New York....it's Saturday Night!" As a child, my weekend was complete the moment I heard the familiar catchphrase come out of the mouth of announcer Don Pardo. I was obsessed with the gold standard of sketch comedy shows. My parents didn't like me staying up late, so I had to sneak past them and make my way downstairs to tune in.
Matt Foley. The Church Lady. Linda Richman. Dieter. Stuart Smalley. Wayne and Garth. Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer. I tried to mimic the characters I watched religiously. I loved doing impersonations and got pretty good at a few of them, but they were never better than the real thing. They sounded close to the original, but if you listened carefully, you would notice a difference here and a difference there.
When facing our struggles and confronting our sin, we hear two voices that sound familiar: conviction and condemnation. Pastor Steven Furtick says, "Condemnation is the enemy's best impersonation of the Holy Spirit." If we don't stop and pay close attention to the words they're saying, we can very easily confuse one for the other. Mixing them up can send us in a downward spiral, but being able to recognize their contrast can propel us forward into growth.
The direction of our lives is determined by the voice we listen and respond to the most. We can listen to the accuser (Revelation 12:10) or our Advocate (John 14:26). Contrary to what we might think, the enemy's main job isn't temptation, but accusation. If he can make us feel worthless and dejected, then in the moments when we need to pray the most, we will feel like we can come to God the least.
During those times when we mess up, the enemy begins to whisper in our ear and attempts to mimic conviction. He makes things personal (What's wrong with me?), permanent (I ALWAYS...) and pervasive (...mess up EVERYTHING!). He attempts to take something we did and try to convince us that the something we did is who we are.
Because we've done something wrong and we feel bad about it, we mistake condemnation for the right voice of conviction. Believe it or not, conviction is one of the greatest gifts God gives us. It's understandable the enemy would try to mimic it by offering us something less than.
Conviction focuses on correction and moves us forward. Condemnation concentrates on punishment and keeps us stuck in the past. Conviction leads us to repentance and makes us want to change while condemnation keeps us stuck in the past feeling useless and hopeless. We're pulled closer to Christ and others when we listen to conviction. Condemnation pushes us towards isolation where we avoid Christ and those around us. Conviction reminds us of our new identity in Christ while condemnation only allows us to see our shame and old self.
Shame and condemnation can't change us, only grace can. Be careful who you listen to; it matters more than you realize. Don't fall for the impersonator.
In what ways have you listened to the voice of condemnation in your past? How are you listening to it currently?
What are the 2-3 most condemning thoughts you tend to struggle with? Why do these thoughts plague your thinking? What does God's truth say in response to those struggles?
God, You extend me grace in the midst of the struggle. I will tune my ear to the Holy Spirit and silence the enemy. May I listen to Your voice that reminds me I am not what I did, but I am who You say I am and that is loved, forgiven, and redeemed. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.