In the course of my ministry as a pastor, I’ve met quite a few people who go through life with what seems to be an invisible cloud of condemnation hanging over their heads. It makes no difference what they do or how obedient they are to the Lord; the feeling stays with them. They don’t know what it is or why they feel so defeated in their spiritual lives.
God never intends for His children to live under a cloud of condemnation. He clearly says in Romans 8:1, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” To be condemned means that a sentence of guilty has been pronounced and punishment is imminent. If we have received Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, then we are “in Christ Jesus” and are not under God’s condemnation.
To be set free from this oppressive cloud, we must first determine its origin. One of the primary sources is early childhood experiences. Parents are appointed by the Lord to represent Him to their children. A child’s first concept of God comes from the example of his parents. If a father or mother is harsh and hard to please, the child realizes that no matter how good he tries to be, he can never measure up to his parents’ standards. Then when he learns about God, he sees Him in the same way—as a disapproving authority figure whom he can never please.
Another source for this feeling of condemnation is our own sin. For some of us, the guilt becomes overwhelming, and even though we have repeatedly confessed it to the Lord, we don’t feel forgiven. This is especially true if it’s a sin we’ve committed repeatedly. We start listening to Satan’s lies as he whispers, “Do you really think God’s going to forgive you again?” Yet we have the Lord’s promise to His children in 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Based on Micah 7:19, Corrie ten Boom once said, “God takes our sins—the past, present, and future, and dumps them in the sea and puts up a sign that says NO FISHING ALLOWED.” Once we have confessed our sins, we have no business digging them up and letting guilt hang over us like an oppressive blanket.
Once we have confessed our sins, we have no business digging them up and letting guilt hang over us.
Second, we need to understand the damaging effects of a continuing sense of condemnation. When we carry around needless guilt, we can’t become or accomplish what God desires. Christ came to set us free from sin and death so we could live fully for Him (Rom. 8:2). But if we refuse to live in that freedom, we’ll walk through life carrying an unnecessary burden.
Perhaps the most damaging result of feelings of condemnation is an inability to experience the love of God. We may know theologically and scripturally that He loves us, but we just don’t feel it because we see ourselves as unworthy. As a result, we’re never quite sure about our relationship with the Lord. Our lives are guided more by a fear of displeasing Him and being punished than by confidence in His unfailing love for us (1 John 4:18).
The next step in overcoming a sense of condemnation is understanding that it is invalid. For believers in Christ, the cloud of condemnation is not a fact but a feeling. God loved us so much that He sent His Son to rescue us from our guilt. Jesus bore our condemnation for sin when He hung on the cross and died in our place (Rom. 8:3). We have been justified and declared no longer guilty because Christ paid the full penalty for our sin. He wrote canceled on the record of all our sins and nailed it to the cross (Col. 2:14).
Even though we still live in earthly bodies that are subject to sin, our wrongs can never reverse God’s legal decree. When we confess our sins to the Father, He cleanses us and restores our fellowship with Him. And if we continue in sin, He will be faithful as a loving Father to discipline us in order to bring us back to Himself (Heb. 12:7). However, as His children, we will never come under His condemnation.
Finally, we must make a choice to believe the truth rather than our feelings. As stated earlier, God’s Word assures us that there is no condemnation for those in Christ. Since our emotions flow from our thoughts, we need to fill our minds with God’s truths. This may take some time, but if we’ll persist in replacing condemning thoughts with verses from the Bible that assure us of God’s forgiveness and love, in time our emotions will begin to align with His truth.
The Lord wants us to live in the freedom and joy He’s provided for us in Christ Jesus. As we begin to act on the basis of truth rather than feelings, we’ll be set free from the oppressive cloud of condemnation. And best of all, we’ll be able to experience the love of God, which further assures our hearts of His forgiveness and gives us confidence before Him.
Charles F. Stanley
P.S. All of us at In Touch Ministries pray that you will have a happy Easter as you gather with one another to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord. Let this holiday be a reminder of the victory that we have in Christ, who overcame death and has promised that we too will be resurrected when He returns for us.