Happy New Year, guys! As I’m writing this, I’m realizing this is a pretty profound way to start out. But, as you know, I’ve been reading Crash the Chatterbox by Steven Furtick, and I was reading this one part and thought, “Oh! My Reader’s may need to hear this!” It’s really good, and I know it’s something we can all relate to in one way or another. Let me know your thoughts! -ash

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“Condemnation will always prompt you to speak in the first person about your failures and flaws. To a degree, this is appropriate, even helpful.

In the previous chapter we established our responsibility to take our sin seriously. We’ll never cure condemnation by blowing off the internal warning signs when something in our hearts isn’t right. We’ll only give the Accuser more ammunition.

Furthermore, in many respects, God expects us to take our sin personally. Blaming other people or circumstances for our actions can be even more destructive than blowing them off. Jesus said to take the log out of our own eyes before pointing out a speck in someone else’s. I say that we need to put down the magnifying glass, with which we so thoroughly evaluate the faults of others, and pick up a mirror. Michael Jackson would have agreed – when something needs to change, the best place to start looking for a solution is within. Take a look at yourself.

So, obviously it’s necessary – and profitable – to own up to our dysfunctions.

The problem comes when we go beyond confessing our sin (which means agreeing with God about it) and begin defining ourselves according to the sin. In this way we allow our lives to be defined by what we did rather than anticipating our tomorrows according to what Christ has done. We allow the Enemy to rob us of the value of grace’s great exchange, which is the central proposition of Christianity. We stop learning from our mistakes under the tutelage of the Spirit. And we start accepting labels created by the lies of condemnation.

In her book Unglued, my friend Lysa TerKeurst writes about the limitation of living with the wrong kinds of labels. She explains how labels “imprison us in categories that are hard to escape”:

I should know. While I’ve never been a numbered inmate in a federal prison, I’ve put labels on myself that have certainly locked me into hard places…

I am angry. 

I am frustrated. 

I am a screamer. 

I am a stuffer. 

I am just like my mother. 

I am a wreck. 

I am a people pleaser. 

I am a jerk. 

I am insecure. 

I am unglued…

Those labels start out as little threads of self-dissatisfaction but ultimately weave together into a straightjacket of self-condemnation.

What labels have you been allowing condemnation to slap on you lately? Wouldn’t it be nice to start peeling them off and hand in the label maker back to God? After all, isn’t the manufacturer and owner of an object the only one who has the right to label it? And doesn’t God occupy both of those roles in our lives?

You see, if I is the most common word in the chatterbox’s vocabulary, God is the most conspicuously absent. When we stop identifying primarily with our new life in Christ, our performance becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, with condemnation calling the shots.

Our sin is our personal responsibility, but in Christ it is no longer the center of our identity.

I can’t improve on this synopsis by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung: “We cannot change anything until we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses.”

Freedom is not to be found in denial; neither is freedom to be found in deprecation. It is only to be gained by embracing the paradox of the Cross.

It is a paradox the apostle Paul summarized brilliantly in one of the best-loved verses in the New Testament”

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galations 2:20)

This is the same Paul who said the following about himself in a letter to his protege Timothy:

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst. (1 Timothy 1:15)

How can the same man deem himself the “worst of sinners” and yet so confidently claim full association with Christ? The key is in the phrase “Christ…in me.”

Yes, this seems to be a contradiction. But there is a difference between a contradiction and a paradox. A contradiction cannot be true. A paradox appears as if it cannot be true, but something beneath the surface makes it so.

The Christian life is a perpetual paradox. I am crucified, yet I live. I have sinned and continue to sin, yet I am without blame. Not because of the good in me, but because of Christ in me.

In the paradox of my failed performance and God’s faithful promise, Christ is revealed. The more He is revealed, the more I become like Him.

So I acknowledge what I was, but I place greater weight on what Christ did to change who I am. And I am being conformed to His image in the process.

None of this excuses me from the responsibility to change. but it liberates me from the bondage of lies so that change is actually possible.”