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Never Condemned

Never Condemned

03 August 2011

Reading: Nahum 1-3; John 5

Scripture:

“I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.” (John 5:24 NLT)

Jesus was responding to harassment from the Pharisees over a miracle of healing he had done on a Sabbath day in Jerusalem. The Pharisees were caught up in the pettiness of criticizing Jesus for healing a man (working) on the Sabbath day and for telling the man to pick up his sleeping mat (work) and go home to rejoice with his family. Jesus had done a powerful miracle and had changed a cripple’s life and they were stuck in the details of their religious code. As Jesus responded to their criticism, he spoke words that help me better understand the real issues and keep from getting hung up in legalistic detail.

Over coffee yesterday, my friend Gary and I were discussing the challenges and disappointments and joys of real street-level ministry. Gary leads our church’s ministry to those who have been caught in the web of addiction and whose lives are often defined in terms of their addiction rather than their faith, their relationships, their abilities, or their achievements.

Gary told me about a man who had sort of isolated himself in a pattern of relapse into the darkness of his addiction. When Gary sought him out, he was under so much condemnation he didn’t even want to talk. He was too discouraged to hope, too filled with guilt to even try. As Gary patiently and gently reminded him of God’s love and of his faith in Jesus, hope rekindled and guilt melted away. It’s his clearly confessed faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and not his temporary defeat that determines the eternal residence of his soul. As I heard this man’s story, my soul rejoiced! I rejoice in a God whose love, mercy, and grace is stronger than the lapses and failures of a struggling man and greater than the arguments of religion.

Prayer:

Father, Thank you for this faith-building, hope-quickening verse. After the arguments and discussions I’ve heard about who’s in and who’s out, and who’s going to make it and who’s not, it’s so refreshing and faith-strengthening to read a simple statement from the lips of Jesus that so clearly answers the questions and settles the issues. Thanks for your Word and your Spirit. Amen.

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