“Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.” ~Mother Teresa
Close your eyes. I want you to picture this in your mind. You stand staring at a condemned house. Weeds and ivy have taken over the land. Broken glass litters the ground. A window in front is boarded shut with splintered wood. The windows upstairs are broken and dark. The roof is caving in and the entire structure is in shambles. Everything about the house resembles death, darkness, danger and broken dreams.
And across the front door, a sign is hung: Keep Out.
Some might view this scene as depressing. Others may find it intriguing or even a tad romantic. What could possibly have led to such a sad sight? What was the story behind the old house?
Speaking for myself, it overwhelms my heart with sadness. It represents the death of dreams, of life, of light. A condemned house smacks of something precious that was slowly and painfully destroyed, whether intentionally or through neglect.
Do you know what is even more upsetting? Many of us have hung a ‘condemned’ sign over our own hearts.
According to Merriam Webster, ‘condemned’ is defined as:
*to pronounce guilty
*to adjudge unfit for use or consumption
Are you overwhelmed with fear? Insecurity? Do you feel like you never measure up? Maybe you’ve struggled for years with depression, grief, people-pleasing, addiction or anxiety. Maybe you’ve been sexually or emotionally abused. Maybe there is something in your past that you know God has forgiven you for but you just can’t forgive yourself.
If you feel ‘stuck’ in this same rut of struggle and helplessness, you may have a ‘condemned’ sign hanging on your heart.
The Condemned List
Have you ever told yourself any of these things?
__ Why can’t I stop these bad habits?
__ I’m a pathetic Christian.
__ I feel useless.
__ I don’t read my Bible enough or pray enough.
__ I don’t see how God could truly love me.
__ If others knew the real me, they wouldn’t love me.
__ I just need to try harder.
__ It’s easier to keep to myself than open up to others.
__ Loving people is too risky.
__ I’m not good enough.
__ Compared to ______________, I’m terrible.
Whether we realize it or not, these ‘self-talks’ can be one of the subtle forms of condemnation.
The Two Types of Condemned Houses
Condemned houses can take two different forms: the scare-away or the fake-out.
The scare-away house is the one mentioned in the start of this section. It’s openly condemned and looks to be in shambles. Signs are plastered all over it warning people the imminent danger of approaching. In the same way, a scare-away heart is the person who feels so unworthy that they live in fear and dwell on their past mistakes or they are so terrified of opening themselves to others that they hang the ‘keep out’ sign in front. They appear cranky and unlovable as a way to protect their hearts.
The fake-out house is a little trickier. It may actually look pretty good on the outside. But the inside, oh mercy! It’s structurally unsound. There are massive holes in the dry wall. An engineer could come through and fill up an entire clipboard full of problems in every corner. However, the public and the real estate agent may miss it because of the fresh paint covering the walls and the warm cookies on the counter.
The fake-out heart bears little difference from the scare-away heart except that it keeps its pain carefully hidden, coated in pretty paint and good works but broken inside.
And when a house is condemned, what happens? It’s no longer habitable and is scheduled for destruction.
So how do we become condemned?
I think they are two sources that make us feel condemned: Satan and ourselves.
Satan is an accuser. A liar. And a gigantic pain.
“He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” ~John 8:44
When you learn to recognize the weeds of his lies, it will be easier to refuse them a place to grow in your heart. Satan uses accusations like ‘you are worthless and filthy’. He will tell us we are not pleasing to God. He tells us our sin is unforgivable. In fact, he will keep bringing those shameful memories up over and over again. Sometimes he even uses other people to do it.
Understand something, my friend: Jesus will never tell you what a loser you are.
When the devil condemns us let us remember he is a liar through and through (John 8:44).
I can hear the question rolling around inside you. “But, Tara, I’m not perfect. Obviously, I mess up. I’m human. God doesn’t turn a blind eye to sin. So where does that come in?” That’s why we’re going to discuss the difference between condemnation and conviction.
So what’s the difference between condemnation and conviction?
Condemnation is from the enemy. Conviction is from God. The difference can be found in the purpose between the two.
Let’s make a list to contrast them.
Comes from Satan Comes from Holy Spirit
Intends to tear you down. Exposes with purpose of lifting up and setting free
Focuses on self Focuses on God
Points out failures Points out hope and forgiveness
Avoids the solution Jesus: “Come to me.”
guilt, shame Godly sorrow to lead to repentance
Simply put, condemnation points out all your problems but conviction shows you the answer in love. The Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin but Satan attacks our worth.
The enemy wants you to wallow in despair, insecurity and unworthiness. Why? Because when you do, you are rendered ineffective for Jesus and the plans He has for your life.
Oftentimes, we heap guilt and expectations on ourselves, for no other reason than simply being a broken human. We compare ourselves to others, live in the world of ‘shoulds’ and perfectionism, only to realize we can never measure up. Even more destructive, we inadvertently condemn God because we have no idea how He could possibly love us unconditionally.
I think sometimes we focus more on what we hear about God, than what we really know about Him. The world seems to have this idea that God is constantly frowning, pointing a finger at His children, demanding we do the perfection dance to win His good graces. Nothing could be further from the truth!
If you have given your life to Christ and accepted His gift of love and redemption, you are no longer condemned in His eyes. You’re no longer a filthy beggar from the Land of Darkness. You are His.
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1)
You can’t do anything to win His love and you can’t do anything to lose His love. Not because of who you are, but because of who He is. God doesn’t want you feel condemned, broken or useless. In fact, His Son died so you wouldn’t feel that way any longer.
One of my favorite movies is It’s a Wonderful Life. George Bailey is continually baffled by the beauty his wife sees in their old, drafty, worn down home. He only sees the creaking steps and sagging trim. But Mary Bailey’s eyes light up with hope and promise as she drinks in the sight of the big, rambling house. She sees the hidden beauty just waiting to be exposed. And I believe that is exactly how God sees us.
“Perhaps you’ve allowed the enemy to hang a ‘Condemned’ sign on your heart and you’ve almost given up on authentic love….take your pulse. If your heart is still beating, it’s worth healing! Here’s the catch, however: God’s method of healing a condemning heart is to love it to death, then create in us a new heart…A heart filled with faith instead of fear.” (Beth Moore)
It’s time to know and rely on the unconditional, overwhelming love God has for us…for you. Sometimes our insecurities scream at us. We fear we’ll never be good enough, or smart enough, or brave enough…but the truth is, we don’t have to be. Jesus is all of those things for us.
And every time you’re tempted to hang up the ‘Condemned’ sign, remember that your name is engraved on the palm of His hands. (Isaiah 49:16) You’ve been restored.