Living Word Church
Saturday, December 16, 2017
Down-to-earth people looking upward to God
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Devotional 1

The Sin of Self-Condemnation
Copyright 2007 by Shea Oakley
All rights reserved
Many earnest Christians struggle with a tendency towards self-condemnation. This painful attack on ourselves is usually triggered by a sense that we are guilty of some sin. Said transgression may be small or great, real or imagined, but whatever it is the self-condemning believer focuses on this perceived sin and magnifies it. Along with this magnification is a desire, conscious or unconscious, to punish ourselves for what we have done.
For every Christian who tends to dismiss their sin there is one who hugs it.
The form of punishment takes many forms. Self-condemning persons may physically hurt themselves; deprive themselves of legitimate pleasures in life, indulge in guilt and fear to the point of depression and other forms of mental illness or remove themselves from people in their lives who love them. Worst of all they may withdraw from fellowship with a God who they assume wants only to join in the punishment. If it seems as if self-condemning persons are trying to pre-empt God’s punishment by taking the initiative themselves it is because this is exactly the case. Self-condemnation is really a cover for self-atonement. It is, in and of itself, a great trespass, perhaps one greater than whatever the sin that triggers it. When we sin Christ is to be our atonement. We insult both Him and His Father when we presume to be able to somehow make things right through any action of our own.
For this reason it is imperative that the self-condemning person truly repent from this sinful response to personal transgression. Only the kind of love-driven sorrow that the apostle Paul describes as indicating a real change of mind and heart about sinful acts can break the destructive cycle of sinning, punishing oneself in a self-atoning way, and then sinning again with no significant change in behavior occurring.
Some would counsel a less stringent view of what truly constitutes sin and what does not. Others advise not reacting to small sins the same way we would to larger, more obvious ones. Speeding and murder are not in the same league they would say. Their may be some truth in both these positions. Self-condemning people do have an unfortunate ability to see sin where it does not truly exist as well as an inclination to make moral mountains out of what might be molehills.
But addressing these tendencies is not enough to fully deliver someone from this bondage. Only a heart-level re-orientation towards the forbearing love and grace of our Lord can do that. The best thing a self-condemning believer can do is learn to believe that God loves them despite their sin as well as their wrong reaction to it. This comes with time spent seeking God’s benevolent face in prayer, meditation and study. It is also facilitated by seeking to fellowship with fellow believers who do not have a penchant for harsh criticism of a pharisaical nature.