Nehemiah – Getting Stuck in the In-Between

img_0373What an amazing week in Chapters 9 & 10! I’m so enjoying this study

Did you notice the timeline between Chapters 8, 9 & 10?

If you remember from Chapter 8, they gathered together on the first day of the seventh month to hear Ezra read the Mosaic Law. Now in Chapters 9 & 10 we see that it is the 24th day of the same month.

We’ve witnessed the people from their initial hearing of the Word and weeping at their sin, then turning immediately to obey the Lord in their celebration of the Feasts of Booths.

And now in Chapters 9 & 10 we see them three weeks later, coming before the Lord and confessing their sins, signing a covenant with the Lord, not just verbalizing.

This is where we see them really acting on their repentance and there is so much for us to glean from their example.

And just in case you need some clarification on what repentance and covenant mean, here are the definitions.

Repentance: agreeing with God about our wrong and then doing an about-face and walking the other way, committing sin no more.

Covenant: A binding agreement between two parties, typically involving a formal statement of their relationship, a list of stipulations and obligations for both parties, a list of witnesses to the agreement, and a list of curses for unfaithfulness and blessings for faithfulness to the agreement.

Marriage is a great example of a covenant agreement.

So we see the people coming before God, praying with a united heart of confession, and putting in to writing a covenant, which lays out their heart intent.

These people were serious about their commitment to God.

The question that came to my mind as I was studying for this message was what went on internally, for each one of them during these weeks leading up to chapters 9 & 10?

What kept them from not shying away from it, laying low in a pit of wallowing self-pity, or pointing at someone else.

This led me down the path of conviction versus condemnation, which is what we are going to look at today and how this applies to each one of us.

At times in my life, I’ve struggled with this whole idea of conviction versus condemnation, and what is the difference between them, so that’s what we’re going to take a closer look at today.

But before we go any further, let’s look at the definitions of conviction and condemnation. (I’m a definition mood today)

Conviction: The word convict is a translation of the Greek word elencho, which means “to convince someone of the truth; to reprove; to accuse, refute, or cross-examine a witness.” The Holy Spirit acts as a prosecuting attorney who exposes evil, reproves evildoers, and convinces people that they need a Savior.

Condemnation: to declare to be reprehensible, wrong, or evil usually after weighing evidence and without reservation

Allow me to illustrate with a story.

There was once two men who had a common friend. These two men had pledged to stand with their friend through thick or thin. They were part of a group, more like a band of brothers who were brought together by God.

But when times got tough and enemies threatened the group, the two men were both faced with opportunities to get ahead, to preserve and take care of themselves over their friend.

And they both took the opportunity to do so.

This wrecked them and they became broken, ashamed and distraught. How did they come back from this? How could they ever be forgiven for what they had done?

One took the road of conviction, while the other travelled the lonely road of condemnation.

These two men were Simon Peter and Judas Iscariot. One denied he even knew Jesus and the other betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.

Simon Peter, who preached the Gospel on the Day of Pentecost and saw 3,000 saved that day.

Judas went a different direction. We find in Matthew 27:4, “I have sinned,” he said, for I have betrayed innocent blood.”

After that, he hung himself.

Jesus forgave and restored Peter, but Judas never made it to that point. He was overwhelmed with his sin and let it crush him.

Do you see the difference between conviction and condemnation?

Nicky Gumbal, the developer of the Alpha Course, explains that conviction is specific and condemnation is general.

It’s the difference between telling your child that they are a bad verses saying their action or choice was bad.

Condemnation labels the person overall and dumps hoping to weigh down. Conviction brings to light the truth and points the way to Jesus’ work on the cross.

I know there have been times where I’ve come face to face with my own sin, and been crippled, unable to go one step further. Times when I wonder why I bother getting out of bed in the morning because I just can’t “do” this Christian life thing. I feel like I just keep failing.

But I’ve also been in a place where I’ve had someone confront me on the error of my ways, or had the Word of God speak something to me and I feel alive. While I still feel icky at the sin or offense I’ve committed, I can see clearly how God wants to walk me out of it. How He wants to cleanse me.

“Jesus always goes for conviction and conversion rather than condemnation and coercion.” – Timothy Keller

So how to we get conviction and not condemnation?

2 Corinthians 3:17 says, Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

Romans 8:1 also says 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.

Conviction leads us closer to God and deeper in to relationship with Him.

For example, if you’ve ever had a fight or disagreement with your spouse or a friend, you feel very far apart. But then as you work through it together, each admitting your part, it draws you closer than you were before.

That is how it is with conviction. Our sin is obstructing our relationship with God. When He reveals the thing standing between us and Him, He will be very clear about what the problem is and how it needs to be dealt with. He wants to help us deal with it.

On the other hand, when we are feeling condemned, it’s an overwhelming feeling of oppression. We feel bogged down, foggy and sometimes fearful in general. We hear the voice of ridicule and shame.

Friends, ridicule and shame do not come from God Almighty. Those are the tactics of Satan who wants us to stay alone, isolated and as far away from God as possible. He wants to render us helpless.

And although we don’t get a first hand account of what the people of Israel go through during those 3 in-between weeks, we can see from the result they experienced conviction in a healthy way.

Only conviction will reap repentance before the Lord.

What about you? Maybe you are reading this, feeling condemned and possibly shamed for something. It could be something you’ve been hanging on to for years, allowing it to weigh you down. Let me encourage you today to take it to God and ask Him to pinpoint anything you need to deal with in a clear manner, then proceed with repentance.

Maybe you are experiencing conviction over something. While it can be hard facing the ick of our sin, I encourage you to allow God’s forgiveness and love to guide you in those situations. Cling to the truth that He wants to pull you closer to Him.

It’s so easy to get stuck in the in-between of having our sin revealed. Don’t get stuck there, but turn and embrace the hope that God brings into the darkness.




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