Leonid Padun: "Righteousness. Freedom from condemnation"

What do we think about ourselves?

Everyone has an opinion about everything, including him or her own self. People always try to figure out who they really are and where do they belong in this world. And they often either overestimate, or conversely, underestimate themselves. Someone climbs on top of the "mountain" and proudly looks down on everyone, but someone is sitting in the "valley" of self-deprecation, mourning over his life.

That's why before Jesus Christ came, there was John the Baptist, who proclaimed: "Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low" (Luke 3:5). Of course, the prophet didn`t worry about the real mountains and valleys, but about people, to whom he was sent to preach.

One can notice that most people are more likely to underestimate themselves. Of course, we all try to look our best, to keep our image and smile, no matter what. But God knows what is really going on inside of us.

All human beings fight self-deprecation. We all occasionally find ourselves in a state that was described by King David: "The enemy pursues me, he crushes me to the ground; he makes me dwell in darkness like those long dead. So my spirit grows faint within me; my heart within me is dismayed" (Psalm 143:3-4).

David felt himself a victim whose heart is dismayed and no longer responds either to joy or to sorrow. It is a terrible state when we feel ourselves destroyed, crushed by circumstances that press us from all sides, by people who hate us for one reason or another, or by sin which we can not overcome.

"Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me... You know my folly, O God; my guilt is not hidden from you" (Psalm 69:1-2,5).

Sometimes we feel like we’re about to drown. The swamp of sin we are so desperate to get out from, sucks us down deeper and deeper. Realizing that we need to move in life in another direction, we resist, but the rapid current pulls us in the opposite direction. There's nothing we can do about it, and in panic we cry out for salvation...

In difficult times David saw himself that way. And most of us also evaluate ourselves like this in similar situations. But how objective is such an opinion?

God's view of us

Together with our own understanding and opinion, there is always exists another point of view – God’s point of view, and it is completely different from the human one. By the mouth of the prophet Isaiah God says, "As the sky above the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Is.55:9).

We can see ourselves and feel as worst backsliders, and at the same time, God may have quite different thoughts about us!

"For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, "Abba, Father. "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are - children of God" (Romans 8:15-16).

What kind of fear is it? Fear of the abyss of condemnation and the past sins, fear to depart from God and end up in hell. Did not every believer fight such thoughts? The devil is just waiting for the moment to throw us another lie. But God says totally different things! Through all our doubts and frustrations, the Spirit of God is trying to reach out to us and convince that by our faith in Jesus Christ we are sons and daughters of the living God!

Will normal parents ever hesitate to save their child from harm and danger? Will they allow their children to sink to the bottom or will they make every effort to save them? But we are God's children! And he promises: "When you pass through the waters, I am with you - through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: When you walk through the fire, not burned, the flame kindle upon thee" (Is.43:2).

We blame and judge ourselves for everything, and at the same time God is looking at us with quite a different view! Sometimes it is hard to believe that this is indeed so. Our mind insists stubbornly that we have to be punished and condemned for the wrong things we did. So where is the logic?

"God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and gave us the word of reconciliation. Him who knew no sin he has done for us by the sacrifice for sin, that we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Kor.5:19,21).

The truth is that someone has already suffered all punishment on our behalf. Someone has already taken it all. Someone carried all condemnation of the world and has been punished for the sins of all mankind!

Son of God, Jesus Christ died and rose again for our justification. He went to the Father with His own blood as the only acceptable sacrifice for sin. This blood has a voice and is crying out for forgiveness and mercy. And now, when God looks at you personally there is no enmity, no anger and condemnation. He has nothing against you! The case is closed!

Guilt and condemnation like rust destroys all the good things in your life: joy, peace, comfort. But God does not judge those who received Jesus Christ, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Romans 8:1).

"To live according to the flesh" means to stick to my own understanding. "In the spirit" means to live according to God's point of view. What will we choose?

Whose point of view shall we choose?

Someone may say, "Yes, but how about those of my sins I'm falling in regularly? So much for a righteous living!"

As long as we live on this earth, we will sin. The Bible says, "If we say we have no sin, - we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us" (1 John.1:8).

But if we look at ourselves through the eyes of God, we will not continue to wallow in our "swamp" of sin, mourning and feeling sorry for “poor me”. We will hasten to get rid of all the sin through genuine repentance, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (John.1:9).

Often we sin, because we keep to our point of view regarding ourselves and it makes sense because for a sinner it is naturally to live in sin, and for the righteous - to live a righteous life and do the works of righteousness. First - righteousness, and then the works of righteousness, not vice versa.

As long as will we live on this earth we will face the choice either to live according to my view of myself or to God’s?

The parable of the prodigal son very clearly demonstrates this principle.

Both sons had the wrong idea of themselves. Having returned home, the younger one had a choice: to continue to think of himself as of unworthy sinner or to agree to take the view of his father. For a time he doubted, but after seeing his father's eyes, full of love and mercy, having been in his arms, he decided to abandon his views.

The elder son stuck to his point of view. He deprived himself of all what was available to him as well as his younger brother. He was sure that his father is holding things from him.

This is a picture of our lives. Everyone lives according to his or choice: in joy and blessing, or in murmur and self-pity. But as soon as we see ourselves through the eyes of God, we find the reality around us changed!

God has a unique ability to survey the whole earth, but to see every single one of us. Moreover, while looking at his children God is not sad. He feels a great joy, "The Lord your God is in your midst, He is able to save thee rejoice over thee with joy, have mercy on his love, he will joy over thee with singing" (Zeph. 3:17).

Our Heavenly Father is so happy when He looks at you, so happy that he is ready to dance for joy! This is the God's view of us!