I lead a small group at my church for “young ladies” – most of them are women aged 19-29, a few maybe older, a few maybe younger. In between curriculums, we occasionally like to watch sermons on video, and we have a few favorite speakers that I keep “on hand”.
In one of our favorite in-between-curriculum-sermon DVDs, the speaker mentioned a certain “roadblock” or “hindrance” several times. It wasn’t even the point of the message, but it seemed that she kept on saying it, using it as an example, mentioning it in passing on the way to the real point…. I’m going to skip naming “it” here. I don’t want you to get “hung up” on an issue and miss the forest for the tree. Just “fill in the blank” yourself today – what hindrance to Christian growth comes to mind right now for you? (Is it alcohol? Pre-marital sex? Coarse language? Fill-In-The-Blank?) Got “it” in your mind? Okay, then – that’s the one.
When the video came to a close, I brought “it” up. An issue that touched all of us in that room in some way, an issue that one probably wishes to avoid in the presence of the pastor’s wife, but I jumped in anyway. Usually, its best to “tell the truth and shame the devil”. One of these ladies had an insight/wisdom to share: she said that if you have to JUSTIFY an action or behavior, it is most likely an indication that you are being convicted of it in your spirit. How true, and it applies to everything we do. The Holy Spirit is a gift, and we need to follow His guidance and seek His guidance in all things. However, like a fly gets caught in the spider’s web, we can get caught up in “words” and “perceptions” and “semantics” and become stuck. Let’s clarify a few important distinctions to be made as we navigate through life, avoiding as many hindrances, pitfalls, roadblocks as we can:
JUSTIFICATION comes from our sinful self nature I’m not talking about the justification of sin by grace – I’m talking about the homophone justification, where we justify our own sin. Where we tell ourselves that “it isn’t SO bad”, “it could be worse” or we make ourselves feel better by comparing ourselves to others (“I might have done THIS, but at least I didn’t do THAT”). Truth is the only measure – the only comparing we should be doing is ourselves to the Word of God. If you find yourself justifying your actions like this, that should be a red flag letting you know that something is not right. Backtrack your steps. Go to the Bible. Don’t be afraid to tell the Lord that you messed up (He already knows). Don’t be afraid to tell the people around you (the ones who are watching you as their example, the ones who may be hurt by your actions) that you messed up. Don’t stop at the words – turn around, repent, and get on with the business of being better.
CONDEMNATION comes from our enemy the devil Romans 8:1-2 teaches us, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death” (NKJV). Condemnation is when an adverse or unfavorable judgement has been passed on you. Condemnation is what you feel when you make a mistake, commit a sin, and the enemy of your soul (the devil) is right there to tell you: “you aren’t worthy, you aren’t lovable, you are bad”. The devil wants you ashamed. The devil wants you to hide. The devil wants you to keep secrets. He wants to condemn you and block your view of your Heavenly Father, who is standing arms wide open ready to love us in spite of our shortcomings.
CONVICTION comes from the Holy Spirit and is meant to gently guide us back to truth and transparency Hebrews 12:6-11 states, “My dear child, don’t shrug off God’s discipline, but don’t be crushed by it either. It’s the child he loves that he disciplines; the child he embraces, he also corrects. God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out. He’s treating you as dear children. This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children. Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves. Would you prefer an irresponsible God? We respect our own parents for training and not spoiling us, so why not embrace God’s training so we can truly live? While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them. But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best. At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God” (MSG). While you feel the conviction, take every opportunity to feel the LOVE of God! If He didn’t love you, He wouldn’t care whether you were involved in sin or not. If He didn’t love you, He would leave you to your own devices. When you feel convicted, feel deeply LOVED by the ultimate parent, who would rather you go through a moment of discomfort than an eternity of separation from the truth and the protection He offers.
WISE JUDGEMENT is an ability to see rightly and still operate in the love of Christ The word “judgement” has almost become a four-letter word in Christian circles as much is it in “worldly” circles. No one wants to be called “judgmental”, and we might even avoid telling the truth just to avoid being called “judgmental”. Get over it! The ability to judge rightly is a gift. Determining a person’s worthiness by what you judge is being judgmental. Please appreciate the difference. Zechariah 8:16 states, “These are the things which you should do: speak the truth to one another; judge with truth and judgment for peace in your gates”. Do not allow the fear of being called “judgmental” keep you from speaking the truth in love to yourself and to those around you. Do not let the fear of being “judged” keep you from receiving truth from the Bible and from godly people around you.
Refuse to be distracted by condemnation (that’s from the enemy – reject it). Refuse to be distracted by a wrong view of conviction/correction (that’s from the Lord – welcome it). Refuse to be distracted by a misunderstanding of judgement (it IS okay for one to recognize right and wrong. It is NOT okay for one to determine a person’s value based on their behavior).
The word of God is a “light to our feet and lamp to our path”(Psalm 119:105). The ability to apply it correctly and continue to grow in grace is a TREASURE, though it doesn’t always come easily. Praying that you recognize the Light and continue to press forward!