Shackled Under Condemnation’s Chains

We’ve all been there. We’ve just committed the sin which we feel is unpardonable. Sure, we know that sin is by definition rebellion against our Creator and Redeemer. We know that those images, those new gadgets, that relationship, or that job cannot fill the longings of our soul. Yet we repeatedly revisit those old wells that never satisfy. Revisiting those empty wells leaves us thirsty. Sin always promises satisfaction, but never delivers on its apparent promises.

Satan convinced Adam and Eve that by eating the forbidden fruit they would be satisfied. You can read the story for yourself. Adam and Eve were convinced that by eating this fruit they could become like God. The truth is that they were already like God. They were created in His image and according to His likeness. (Gen.1:26-27) They had the privilege of walking with God and knowing Shalom or perfect peace, yet they were convinced that eating the forbidden fruit would bring satisfaction. Perfect peace was broken and our first parents immediately felt shame, so they patched together garments to cover their nakedness. God called out to His children and they hid.

There is continuity between our experience and the experience of our first parents. We repeatedly worship comfort, pleasure, or entertainment over Yahweh. As C. S. Lewis remarks, “We are far too easily pleased.” Almost immediately we feel the shame brought on by our sin.

The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin when we fail, but often we feel condemnation over conviction. We forget that Satan is called the accuser of the brethren.

I wish I would have been able to know Dr. John Gibson before he made the decision to end his life. Dr. Gibson was a beloved man on the campus of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He was quick to love others and served as a vessel of grace to the faculty, staff, students, and community. Though Dr. Gibson modeled Christ’s love for others, he struggled to accept it himself. He, like Adam and Eve, took a bite of the forbidden fruit and felt the bitter sting of shame. He had apparently gotten involved in the Ashley Maddison scandal and became afraid. He was afraid of what his family and what the community would say upon discovering his sin.

Dr. Gibson believed in the matchless grace of Jesus, but struggled to accept it himself. He was shackled by the chains of condemnation. I don’t know about you, but I relate to this struggle. I know that only through the imputed righteousness of Jesus can I be justified before the Father. (Romans 5, 2 Corinthians 5) Yet when I fail I feel like I have to start all over again. This feeling is simply a lie from Satan. He is the accuser of the brethren.

Do you feel condemned today? If you have confessed Jesus as your Lord you are forgiven. (Proverbs 28:13, 1 John 1:9, Romans 6:23) There’s no sin God cannot forgive. You have not gone so far that He cannot redeem you. Even while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Even as the crowd cried, “Crucify him” he pleaded, “Father, forgive them”. May the His word set us free from the shackles of self-condemnation.

You do not have to remain bound under the shackles of condemnation. You too can be set free from the chains. It will not happen by your effort. It won’t happen simply by trying to be better. Liberation comes when we submit to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Sin’s shackles are no match for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Jesus has conquered death, hell, and the grave.

I do not know your struggles. I do not know the empty well you continue to revisit. I do know that we all struggle with sin. We are redeemed sinners, but we are still sinners. If you are struggling with condemnation you must remind yourself that God’s word is true. You don’t have to be Satan’s prisoner anymore. Let’s remember that we are pilgrims. Let’s remember that we are a community of sinners saved by grace through faith. Please don’t keep your struggle to yourself, like Dr. Gibson did.

Conclusion

Sin causes us to feel separation from our Creator and Redeemer. Conviction and condemnation are not the same. Conviction comes from the Holy Spirit, but condemnation comes from Satan. We need to be reminded that “There is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1) We need to remember that Satan has been defeated as Revelation 12:10-12 reminds us.

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night.  “And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.  “For this reason, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them. Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time.” Revelation 12:10-12, NASB.

*Please continue to remember the Gibson family in prayer. For more on his life and influence at NOBTS, click here. For the CNN article, click here.