Having sought to be a disciple of the Lord Jesus for over 60 years and to disciple others as well, I have come to a solid conviction about the only three possible attitudes that a Christian can have about their following of the Lord. Those three mindsets or attitudes are as follows: you can live condemned, you can live in oblivion, or you can live forgiven. The Lord Jesus wants us to live forgiven, but Christians are so encumbered with their own weaknesses, lack of knowledge, and poor yielding to the Lord’s voice that they mostly live with either condemnation or oblivion dominating their attitude. Hundreds of Christians I have counseled seem to carry with them a constant sense of their own guilt. There is a vague yet impactive sensing of their lack of obedience to Christ and productivity for His cause. They don’t realize it, but they let their guilt be greater in their minds than God’s forgiveness for their guilt. Their unintentional yet practical focus is primarily on what they have not done for God rather than what God has done for them. They even feel guilty because they don’t feel more guilty!
The second kind of Christian, trying to blind themselves to the costly demands of the cross and not be eaten up by their sense of impotency and failure, choose to live in oblivion. They hide from the truth; cover up their lack of obedience by throwing themselves into secondary, trivial, or irrelevant activities; and remove themselves from the searchlight of radical faith. This attitude proclaims that it is better to live in darkness than face the light. It is the foolish stance that “ignorance is bliss so long as you remain ignorant!” Their primary occupation devolves into making the darkness comfortable and striving to get the most out of this world that they can, even without the Lord. Being oblivious enables them to escape deeper realities.
The Christians who live condemned express a legalistic approach to the love of God. They have a list of major and minor rules, envision what they think will please God, and establish their own code of righteousness. They then seek to live it out and calm their conscience. Even though they act normal and moral, even participate in the life of the church, there is a nagging sense of guilt about all that they do. Paul told the Philippians that this is one of the worst things that a Christian can do, to establish their own human righteousness while missing the righteousness that has been given to them by the Lord Jesus. “… I don’t want my own inferior righteousness, rules I keep by my own power that I have established; I want the righteousness of Christ. That positive, pure, and powerful love that exalts my heart, that He gives and puts within me as I believe and yield, that puts Christ’s life into mine!” (Phil. 3:8-9, HDM, Greek, Peterson).
Those of us who keep coming to His light increasingly realize that Jesus loves us in spite of what we are (John 8:12, 1:4-9, 9:5, 12:46). In fact, one of the main reasons that we can qualify to experience His love and forgiveness is to face our failures, agree with Him about what we’re not, admit our desperate need, be open with Him about all we are doing, and all we have done and thought.
I think the greatest revelation I have ever had about dealing with my sins is the Lord’s love for me even before I committed them! When I accepted the Savior over 64 years ago He knew then all the sins I was going to commit in the next 64 years: all my failures, all my deviations, all my prideful and lustful thoughts, all my self-centered motives and actions, and all my deceits and hypocrisies! Wow! Yet He still went ahead and forgave me, saved me, accepted me into His triune fellowship, and promised to stick with me to the end until He made me like Himself! That is the one thought that empowers me most to live forgiven, not live condemned, or live in oblivion.
As I see it then, we have only three options for living but only one best choice if we are to be what the Lord wants us to be. Paul tells us in Romans 6 that our sin nature and sins of action should not have dominion over us. That triumph begins with seeking, thinking, and possessing the right thoughts about how the Mind of Christ wants you to live (Phil. 2:5). The Lord doesn’t want us to live in oblivion or to live condemned but live in the forgiveness of His love which He has lavished upon us in Jesus Christ (I John 3:1-3). Truly, the greatness of His forgiveness exceeds the greatness of all of our sin. Blessed and liberated are those who believe this and keep coming to Jesus to learn the cross and follow His lead!
Let me summarize: 1) we can live forgiven in reality as a disciple of the Savior or 2) we can live condemned by reality as a slave of the circumstances or 3) we can live oblivious to reality as a fool of the culture.
It’s thrilling to make those distinctions and determine the option we will live out in our daily lives! Only the Jesus disciple can possess the joyous, abundant forgiveness of our Heavenly Father. Only the forgiven cross follower can see the glory of Him who sent His Son from heaven to cleanse us from all of our sins. Only those absorbed with the Mind of Christ comprehend the processes of how He is making us like Himself. If these thoughts dominate our thinking, then we truly experience not letting sin have dominion over us. Sadly, too many sincere Believers choose to be slaves of circumstance or fools of culture if not both. But we know better, don’t we!