“Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus” Romans 8:1.
Does the voice of condemnation ever whisper in your heart?
Do you ever feel unacceptable to God?
Recently, as I began praising Him in prayer, I was overwhelmed with a general sense of inadequacy. Thoughts of “You’re not good enough to pray” or “You can’t praise Him!” assaulted my mind. I felt that God wouldn’t receive me or extend love to me until I changed…something, though I wasn’t sure what. Oh, I have plenty of shortcomings, and could always do better at so many things – read my Bible more, pray more, abide in Him more consistently. But were these thoughts of condemnation from Him?
So I began asking Him about this. Does He push us away when we come to Him with genuine outpourings of love and adoration? (It sounds ridiculous to actually put that in writing! But when I stop to think about it, these emotions are frequent visitors in my soul. Just being vulnerable here, people! :-)) I often feel that I have to prove to God (by a good track record) that I’m repentant of sins I’ve confessed to Him before He will be close to me.
Psalm 66:18 says, “If I cherish wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear.” For as long as I can remember, this verse has been my constant companion – either at the forefront of my mind, or in my subconscious thoughts when I pray. It has “guided” me for years. I mean, what good is prayer if He won’t hear me? My understanding (or misunderstanding) of this verse has been at the root of my feelings of condemnation and “unacceptable-ness” before God. It has kept me from wanting to pray because, I’ve reasoned, surely there is some sin I’ve missed or forgotten to confess. Crazy thoughts, I know. Maybe I’m the only one to ever feel this way. Probably not.
As I meditated on this verse, I realized that I’ve totally misunderstood it. To “cherish” sin is to see it, enjoy it, hold onto it. Cherishing sin while still trying to walk with God is like trying to serve two masters (Matt 6:24). It’s trying to walk “in the flesh” and “in the Spirit” at the same time (Gal 5:17). It’s hypocrisy. This is a question of my devotion, my allegiance.
According to Ps 66:18, the consequence of cherishing sin is unheeded prayer, not a rejection of the one praying. In John 6:37, Jesus says, “All whom the Father gives (entrusts) to Me will come to me; and the one who comes to Me I will most certainly not cast out. [I will never, no never, reject one of them who comes to Me]” (Amplified Bible). He will “never drive away” (NIV) His own. Never. Not when we come to Him for salvation, or at any future time in the relationship. Cherishing sin will hinder our prayers. But it will not make God reject us.
On the contrary, we are invited to come boldly to His throne of grace when we are in need (Heb 4:16).
Boldness involves “free and fearless confidence, cheerful courage, boldness and assurance.”* This invitation implies full acceptance of the one invited. It recognizes the weakness, the neediness, of the recipient. And, most importantly, it is based on the compassionate understanding of our Mediator, Jesus Christ (Heb 4:15). He gets it. He knows what it’s like to be tempted, to go through tests and trials. But not only can He sympathize, He can empower us to overcome! He was without sin, even in the onslaught of temptation levied by the devil himself. He understands our weakness and has given us the power to be victorious (Eph 1:19-20, 2 Cor 2:14). We can experience that power as we stay connected to Him (Jn 15).
We can’t “clean up our act” before coming to God as Christians, anymore than we could before we were saved. Trying to do so may seem “spiritual,” but it’s really the height of pride. (And while God does not drive away His own, He does resist us when we walk in pride. See James 4:6-8.) We need Him – to convict us of sin, to enable us to see it through His eyes, and to help us turn from it. Our focus must be on Him (Heb 12:2), not on ourselves or our sin. Otherwise, we will live in discouragement. We will shrink away from His presence and will inevitably sin more.
So by all means, run to Jesus!
When you are weak, come to Him for strength. When your heart is hard or complacent, come to Him for healing. When you’re weary, come to Him for rest. When you are lonely, come to Him for companionship. When you are happy, come to Him in gratitude.
Praise Him. Adore Him. Enjoy Him!
If you know Him, come in faith! If you don’t yet know Him, come in faith! He won’t turn you away.
When the voice of condemnation whispers in your soul, press harder into Him. Speak truth to yourself. If you are His, you are redeemed, forgiven, and made holy. Celebrate Him!
Lord, I come. I will praise You, adore You, enjoy You. No, I am not worthy. Only Jesus is worthy. But I am accepted, welcomed, even drawn by the One who died to bring me near (Eph 2:13).
What thoughts hinder you from boldly approaching your Father?
*From the Blue Letter Bible Lexicon