How Much Condemnation Is Okay?



How much condemnation is it okay for the Christian to experience?

Many times after I sin, I have a sense that condemnation is okay, that it’s the right, penitent response to sin. As if my feeling of condemnation somehow atones for the sin that I committed against God. As if I need to punish myself for the sin I committed.

I harbor this sense that a little condemnation is good, that it will keep me from sinning and help me repent.

And so sometimes I labor for hours, or even days, under this vague sense of divine displeasure. There is no joy in Stephen on those days. Just the sense that I’m a sinner. End of sentence. Nothing more.

But there really is NO room for condemnation in the Christian life. Paul did not say, ?There is therefore now a little bit of condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

There is no condemnation. Zero. Not one drop.

Condemnation doesn’t please God. It doesn’t make him happy. It doesn’t exalt the work of Jesus, and it doesn’t highlight the free grace of God. Condemnation is centered on self.

I can’t atone for my sin, and it really doesn’t please God when I try.

Jesus was condemned in my place, so I don’t ever have to experience condemnation.

Does anyone else feel like they need to allow a little condemnation into their lives?

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+photo by Cuba Gallery


  • ben power says:

    Waaaay too often.

    This is a treasure to read – real power.

  • Wow… this is something that me and my best mate have been talking about for a while. I have a tendency to beat myself up about my sin. I thought that was perfectly fine. It was shown as perfectly acceptable in all churches I have attended, and it was encouraged by the youth pastor I was under in highschool. I honestly thought this awful, joyless way of life was biblical until he showed me what you point out more clearly here. Thank you for sharing this. It is an encouragement to me!

  • Caroline says:

    I have had that feeling many a times.Had to dwell on the truth that there is no condemnation for those in Christ.

    "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do." Rom 8:1-3

  • Thanks for being honest about this Joshua. I think all of us have a sinful tendency to focus overly much on our sin, as if somehow God thinks that's good. In reality, our focus should be on the wonderful finished work of Jesus!

  • I need to dwell on that truth over and over.

  • Jon Sidnell says:

    I can definitely relate to this. I wasted way too much time beating myself up about sin when I was a teenager, and still do from time to time if I'm not careful. What's changed in more recent years is that God has been tenderly speaking to me of the reality of the grace offered to us in Christ.

    This has come in so many ways – in terms of hymns, you've got Before the Throne of God Above and Jesus, My Only Hope (which was written by your Dad I think). The joyful, holy exaltation of Christ's finished work and exultation in being a recipient of the benefits modeled a healthier, condemnation-free approach to handling sin.

    Biblically, along-side Romans 8:1, I realised from Hebrews that the sin most often talked about in that book is unbelief that abandons what Christ has done on our behalf, and seeks to make it on our own before God. I realised that God is only pleased by faith, not by works offered up to try and appeal to or appease Him. Putting these two truths side-by-side, I saw that running my conscience through the mill every time I sin has the appearance of Godly wisdom but is nothing less than sinful unbelief that refuses to trust Christ even in my most sinful moment.

    Since then, I've been approaching God through the new and living way, through the new curtain – Christ's body, broken for us. I don't throw pity parties any more when I sin. I just get before the Father and say "Father, I'm sorry – mucked up again, but I'm not going to waste any time in self-pity when Jesus has already paid the price for my sin. Thank you that He has done everything needed for there to never again be a barrier between us. I'm coming back into Your presence in full assurance of faith to worship you again!"

    Such a better way to live!

  • Jennifer says:

    Awesome post. Thank you so much. I have been meditating recently on guilt, and how sometimes I think I'm motivated by guilt (or condemnation?) to do what God is calling me to do, as opposed to being motivated by Christ's love for me….!! When condemnation is fueling my actions, there is no joy in it, and it basically just gets worse. When It's centered on Christ, there is real joy….. thank you thank you! You actually just helped me to piece together something God has had his finger on for a while, but I couldn't see it!

  • Mark G. Knox says:

    I've been a Christian for 45 years and this very question has been the focus of my struggle and meditation of late. I've really tried to stop beating myself up when I fail and learn to truly experience His grace and love. So I quote Romans 8:1 to myself often. "No condemnation."

    At the same time, Scriptures speak of us as believers that we should seek to live a life that pleases God in all things (1 Thess.4:1), to not grieve the Holy Spirit (Eph.4:30), and to mourn for sin (James 4:8-9). But I'm certain there's a difference between this mourning and the condemnation that burdens so many of us.

    I recently spent some time in 2 Corinthians 7: 8-12 and made note of the difference between godly sorrow or grief and worldly sorrow. The conscience, properly understood and properly instructed, is a gift from God. We are supposed to feel a sense of sorrow when we sin; God does not intend for His grace to make us lax toward holiness and godliness. Anyway, the result of my study follows. Hope it's instructive.

  • Mark G. Knox says:

    2 CORINTHIANS 7:8-12

    1. GODLY GRIEF is short-term (v.8 – “only for awhile”) / WORLDLY GRIEF IS long-term, chronic
    2. GODLY GRIEF IS productive, not just sorrow for sorrow's sake (v.9 – “not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting”) / WORLDLY GRIEF is unproductive
    3. In GODLY GRIEF, there is no loss of relationship (v.9 – “you suffered no loss”) / WORDLY GRIEF creates a barrier/loss of relationship
    4. GODLY GRIEF produces repentance (v.10 – “a repentance that leads to salvation”) / WORDLY GRIEF produces death (v.10)

  • Mark G. Knox says:

    5. GODLY GRIEF leads to a specific response (v.11 – “earnestness,…eagerness to clear yourselves.,…indignation,…fear,…longing,…
    zeal,…punishment”) / WORLDLY GRIEF leads to a general weight of helplessness and hopelessness
    6. GODLY GRIEF produces no regret, there is relief from guilt (v.10 – “without regret”) / WORLDLY GRIEF produces regret, on-going shame
    7. With GODLY GRIEF, the correct response provides relief (v.11 – “proven innocent”) / With WORLDLY GRIEF, there is no relief from guilt and shame
    8. GODLY GRIEF reveals the earnestness of self before God (v.12 – “in order that your earnestness for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God”) / WORLDLY GRIEF reveals self-centeredness apart from God

  • Bob M says:

    Hey Stephen,
    Great meditation. We discussed this a little in caregroup tonight as we began going through The Bookends of the Christian Life. Do you think there is a type of good guilt that is not condemnation but more a conviction from the Holy Spirit to lovingly show us our sin? Jerry Bridges uses the analogy of it being like pain which signals a needed change. Although I think the remedy for this would be the same – coming around full circle from our inward focus and shifting our focus on Christ's righteousness and the power of the Holy Spirit for change.

  • lisa says:

    I was going to ask the same question, Bob, but couldn't figure out how to word it. Thanks for asking the question in a so well! :-)

  • lisa says:

    Sorry, originally wrote "in a clear way" and wanted to change it to "so well." :-)

  • That's a great way to live Jon. I love the thought of not dwelling in self pity, but moving ahead in Christ. Not letting condemnation keep you from approaching God, but going forward in faith in Christ.

  • That's so true. When we're motivated by guilt, there's very little joy in what we do. Great insight.

  • Thanks for sharing your insights from 2 Corinthians. It seems like you're really getting a handle on the difference between godly grief and worldly grief.

  • Yes, I think there's a huge difference between conviction and condemnation. I was planning on doing a post on that subject tomorrow, so stay tuned.

  • lisa says:

    Great! Thanks, Stephen! Looking forward to it! :-)

  • Kat says:

    I was in a church that taught the more we focus on our sin, the more we would appreciate grace. So, instead of talking about grace, everyone talked about sin. I'm actually not sure, but I think they refer to that as the "grace teaching". People became very depressed and despairing and we endured long meetings of listening to people cry about their sin. We even had them reenact their sin. Then, everyone analyzed their sin to see what to call it. No worship. No prayer. No Jesus. No grace. No hope. No purpose. No vision. It seems that people who talk about sin a lot, sin a LOT.

    Condemnation happens when you repent and are forgiven of something on Wednesday, but then you must confess and rehearse and drag everyone through it on Friday at care group as though there was no forgiveness and then someone volunteers to call you everyday and remind you of that sin to hold you accountable.

    How much more redemptive to show up on a Friday and confess, "I sinned in anger on Wednesday, but God in her mercy completely forgave me of my sin and I'm here to praise him today for his mercy" and then all break out in song.

  • Kat says:

    Just to clarify – God in HIS mercy…not HER.

  • Laura says:

    I would grieve my sins for months! I still have momments that come to mind from years ago… I did not know until recently that my grief, which I thought was God convicting me was my own self pity. I thought I needed to be perfect and when I didn't measure up, I grieved greatly. Now I know there is no comdemnation in Christ. All that grief was for nothing.
    Your post sums this up perfectly. I can't wait to share!

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