For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
Look at Jesus' words above. He said, "I didn't come here to condemn. I came here to save. I didn't come here to judge you. I came here to be judged on your behalf. I didn't come to condemn you, but I will take your condemnation, your blame, and suffer that for you". The one person with every right to point the finger at you and me decided not to, and all fingers were pointed at him instead. He took the blame.
He did it so that it would no longer fall upon us, if we believe.
That's the good news. The beautiful gospel. If that's not the message you've heard, again I am terribly sorry. You have to realize that people cannot give something they do not have. They cannot extend forgiveness if they still feel blamed. They cannot extend "no condemnation" if they still feel condemned. I believe this simple foundation of the gospel is something the Lord is restoring to us in these days, and you need to hear it.
When I first joined a church back in 2003 man was I zealous. But in my zeal, I alienated many of my close friends and even my family. I caused a lot of hurt. I was zealous for God, for this gospel, but also for a bunch of other things– my new church, my new lifestyle, my new friends. And so people close to me felt replaced, and dare I say betrayed. I thought I was doing the right thing because– who can argue with seeking God first? Right? Not entirely.
I was Judgmental.
What was my message then? I wanted to be a witness, but what was I witnessing? It would sound something like— "Seek God first. He's knocking on the door of your heart. Let him in. Stop doing bad things. Start doing good things. There's a better way to live". And so they would look at my life and ask – "Is that a better way to live?". All they see is how much time I'd spend at church and immerse myself in that culture and lifestyle. They'd also see my many flaws as a person. What I was really selling was that lifestyle. Many times they'd hear that message and feel... judged.
Let me be the first to say, there was nothing inherently wrong with my message back then. Nor is there anything inherently wrong with earnestly trying to "do things for God". It's just that, that is not the good news. That is not the gospel. The gospel is what God has done for us, not the other way around.
So 17 years after and I'm still a weirdo for Jesus! But I have certainly learned some things along the way. I've gone through the spectrum of being an alienating Christian, to not wanting to share my faith altogether in the name of just "loving" and connecting with people. But the good news is nothing to be ashamed of. So long as it is actually the good news.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.
So I'll say it again. Judgmental Christians are not going to change the world for Jesus. And now I'll add that only the gospel of Christ will. And no one should hear the good news and walk away feeling condemned and judged. If they do, then maybe that's not the good news. Jesus did not come to condemn the world but to save it. The things we've added to it, or turned it into just won't cut it.
Judgmental Christians Feel Judged
I mentioned this earlier but now let's talk about it. People cannot give what they do not have. The biggest reason why Christians can get judgmental is because they feel judged themselves.
We've added to the gospel and taken away its power. We've fallen from grace.
Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.
We've wrapped up our standing before God in our behavior. Our lifestyle. And we can't live up. That is the complete opposite of the Gospel message. The Gospel message says our standing before the Father is exactly the same as Jesus' standing before the Father. It will not change when we miss it. When we fall. Nor will it improve when we do great things. We're no longer in an economy of earning or deserving favor. We just receive favor for free – which happens to be the dictionary definition of Grace. It is unmerited, else it is not grace.
Christians today believe they're saved by Grace. But once you're saved you have to work your butt off. "Grace gets you in the door, but your effort keeps you there." And once we fail, which we will – because we're relying on our flesh instead of the Spirit – we feel condemned. We expect judgement. We think we've lost our connection to God. We think he's disappointed in us and will cross his arms and not bless us anymore until we say sorry.
We've projected so much of our broken nature upon God. We think he's mad when we fail. Then we say sorry and then he decides to forgive and be good to us again. That is not how he is. This kind of relationship is not why Christ came to die. We're not supposed to be in this cycle of try-not-to-sin, sin, God is mad, confess, God is un-mad, try-not-to-sin... That is not a life of victory. That is definitely not Good News.
Freedom from the Law
One of the biggest reasons why Christians feel this way is because they've taken the Old Covenant, the New Covenant, put them in a blender and hit the switch. Then they drink that milkshake and say they read it in their bibles. I did that once too.
But you see, Christ came to put an end to something so he can start something new. That something is the Law of Sin and Death. It is the cycle I described earlier.
You ask a random person what Christianity is about and they will talk about doing good and avoiding evil. Morality. 10 commandments. You ask a random Christian and he will likely say something similar. But listen – the 10 commandments cannot save you. The 10 commandments is not the gospel.
The 10 commandments plus 613 other commandments were weaponized by the Pharisees to keep people away from God. "Try harder" was their message. "Try harder like us". And Jesus opposed them. The 10 commandments were there just to give us a sense of navigation because our conscience can't cut it anymore. And once navigation is restored, we'll discover our utmost need of being saved.
But instead of discovering that, we actually TRY HARDER. We've seen this movie before. If the Law could get us right with God, then Jesus wouldn't need to come. If it produced something actually good instead of hypocrites who think they're good, then we wouldn't need saving. We all default to trying harder. No! That doesn't work.
So Jesus came. Then he took the commandments and nailed them to the cross.
Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.
He nailed it. Literally, he nailed the Law. Because a: He accomplished all of them and b: He paid for all those that couldn't accomplish them. You and me.
So if we are in Christ, which is to say putting your faith in what Christ did, God treats us like we accomplished the law too. That's the gospel. That is the good news. That is what turns this world right-side-up.
No one who sees this, truly understands this, should remain feeling guilty. And no one who truly internalizes this would continue preaching a gospel that leaves people feeling condemned. If you receive the gift of "no condemnation" then how can you turn around and condemn another? You wouldn't. The only reason we're not condemned is the cross. Apart from that, we're all the same. Once you see that, you just want to extend that mercy and grace.
We're free from the law. Free to live from the inside-out. This is where the lifestyle part comes in. But it comes in after, not before. It comes in because of, not so that. And it doesn't make the free gift something that is conditional. Yes the sequence matters. The sequence is everything.
"Neither do I condemn you...
Let me tell you one of my favorite stories in the bible. You will find it in John 8:1-11. I encourage you to read it alone another time. But let me tell it to you in my own words.
One day Jesus was teaching in temple. That would be for us preaching in church. And there was a crowd. Suddenly, the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees interrupted everything and dropped before all to see: a woman caught in adultery.
It didn't matter to them if she was barely dressed or not, or how many people were watching. It didn't matter that this was in church. And I shudder to think how they "caught" her. They proceeded to ask Jesus: "Moses' law says we should stone her. What say you?"
They were right. Moses' law did say that. It said a lot of other things. It pointed to the moral absolute that no man can live up to. It pointed to why we needed saving in the first place.
Jesus wrote on the floor, as if to say "this finger was the same one that wrote that thing you're quoting". And it is with that authority that he stands and says: "Alright. Stone her on this one condition. He who has not broken Moses' law cast the first stone."
One by one, the rocks fell. Romans 6:23 says "All have sinned and fallen short". And the truth is... we know it.
So Jesus is left alone with the woman.
"Where are your accusers? Has no one condemned you?", asks Jesus.
Sobbing, she replies: "None my Lord"
Tenderly, Jesus says: "Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more."
That is the message. Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more. And yes the sequence matters. It is everything. And it's what we've missed.
We're saved FROM sin by the message that God is no longer holding it against us. God is no longer judging us for what we did – if we receive what Jesus' did. Just believe. That is what gives us the power to be set free.
What about sin?
That is likely the first question on your mind if you have been reading intently. Well what about sin? As I said earlier – it's paid for. On the cross. As far as God is concerned it is no longer an issue between you and him if you've accepted it. It will not be held against you. It will not push God away. It doesn't change your status or your standing before him. You're righteous because of what Jesus did, not what you did. So you don't maintain it with your performance. This is as far as God is concerned. For all who've accepted freely.
As far as you're concerned, obviously sin still hurts you and the people around you. There's still an enemy prowling around looking for someone to devour. That's why Jesus still told the woman "Go and sin no more." Because that old lifestyle doesn't suit her new identity. And he knows she wants to stop. Today, God hates sin because it hurts you. He hates it as much as he loves you. And it doesn't push him away. He is beside you ready to help you up. If there was such a thing, I believe it actually draws him closer, not further.
Look, I’m not saying everything in the Bible will tickle your ears, even in the New Covenant. There are many things here that will just collide with your way of thinking, your value system and your lifestyle. That's the point. We do need saving! We do need to change the way we think and see things. Jesus came to save us from all of this. Not just forgive, but set us free.
If sin isn't a big deal, Jesus wouldn't have to come and die for us because of it. But now that he did that, it's not an issue between you and him. It doesn't turn his face away from you. It may turn your face and your heart away from him, but he is ever smiling at you, ever loving you. Freedom from sin is part of the good news. But it's not what gets you in the door. "Neither do I condemn you" always comes first.
My God is For You
So let me end with this. My God is for you, not against you. It is because God so loved you that he sent his Son. He may not approve of everything in your life, all the decisions you've made, but he approves of YOU. You are the joy set before him. The thought of being your friend was worth dying for. He is the first to extend "no condemnation" towards you.
in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them
2 Corinthians 5:19
My God is not counting your sins against you. In Christ he is reconciling YOU to himself. Would you accept this?
The gospel is not centered around sin and judgment. It's centered around Christ and his love. It's about forgiveness. That's the message that will save the world. That's the message that saved me. That's the message that will save you.
It's time. Come home.