Self-delusion Verses Self-condemnation

“The greatest enemy of the spiritual life is self-rejection BECAUSE it contradicts the Voice that calls you Beloved.” –Henri Nouwin

I’ve referred to this Nouwin quote before. It’s poignant to me again today as I contemplate the opposite manifestations of a single theological problem. The manifestations are self-delusion and self-condemnation. The first characterizes us when we excuse our sin or talk ourselves out of it. Our view of ourselves and our God can’t handle an honest assessment of our problems. We “can’t handle the truth,” as Jack Nicholson famously says in A Few Good Men. So we blame shift and manipulate others’ perception of ourselves. We manipulate our own personal perception of ourself as well. Then the day comes when we can no longer escape it. Maybe we took our anger out on our kid one time too many, and he gives us the finger as he walks out the door. Or we lost our job because our addiction to pain killers resulted in an undeniable lack in judgement. Or our husband walks out the door because we finally pushed him too far.

Those moments, when we wake up to our sin and its consequences in the lives of the ones we love, can be devastating. I have at times kicked myself over and over again at the realization of my sin and mistakes. It’s self-flaggelation. I hate myself, but punishing myself brings NO relief. And it’s just as bad for those around me as self-delusion. Self-delusion and self-condemnation are two sides of the same coin. Either way, I can’t handle the truth, or what I believe is the truth about myself. Either way, those around me are affected by my sin and unbelief.

I’m convinced that our identity in Christ is the crux of our problems. We are not confident in what God has said over us, so we can’t handle real self-examination. I have to be right, or good, or helpful. **I** do, because apart from me giving myself my identity, nobody’s going to do it for me. Oh, how false and unhelpful! One of my favorite chapters in Scripture that clears it all up for me is Romans 8.

It starts off with a bang. “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). None. At all.

Condemn – to express an unfavorable or adverse judgment on; indicate strong disapproval of; censure. (

God does not disapprove of me. He doesn’t censure me or express unfavorable opinions of me. Why? Because He laid that all on Christ. And He in turn laid all of Christ on me. He sees me wearing Christ’s righteousness, and Christ stands before Him daily as my advocate, showing His wounds that give me this privilege. And it is THIS privilege that allows me to face my sin and deal with it.

Do you have sin you need to face? I encourage you to read through Romans 8. First face the truth of all God says over you in Christ. I love the section headings of the chapter in the ESV– heirs with Christ, future glory, and everlasting love. Then after meditating on it and owning first the truth of God’s love for you and His good plan for you through Christ, own your sin. You did it. It hurt others. Repent. Ask forgiveness of those you wounded. And repeat as necessary. Your sin doesn’t define you. Christ defines you. And in Him, you can face your sin without either self-delusion or self-condemnation.

1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

 9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

Heirs with Christ

 12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Future Glory

 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
 26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

God’s Everlasting Love

 31What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

    “For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
   we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

3 Responses to Self-delusion Verses Self-condemnation

  1. Sarah Guild October 21, 2011 at 6:27 pm #

    I studied the this passage for a women's retreat earlier this month, and I found the end of Chapter 7 especially insightful when looking at Romans 8. Paul states clearly his conviction of sin. Then, he states his hope in Jesus. Then, he writes Romans 8, beginning with the powerful first verse. Chapter 7 leads us to a deeper understanding of the beginning of 8, and doesn't allow for delusion or condemnation. Oh, such sweet words!

  2. Sarah October 24, 2011 at 4:25 am #

    Fantastic post! Thank you!

  3. lightenough October 26, 2011 at 11:36 pm #

    This is an excellent post. For a number of years I was in a branch of evangelicalism that over-emphasized our “saintly” status as Christians. With all the saintly emphasis, one would think it would have been a very saintly place. Ironically, we observed more sin in this church than in any other we'd been a part of! There was a lot of pretense, rationalization of sin, and self-deception. People could not honestly face their weakness and sin. And when things are ignored, it usually only gets worse!

    From my perspective, they were too focused on themselves…their holiness, their victory, etc. Instead of focusing on Christ and their position IN CHRIST. I appreciate the scriptural passages you bring out. When our focus is on Christ and our position in Christ, we can, as you word it, face our sin “without either self delusion or self-condemnation.”

    I have blogged on different aspects of this since it was such an issue for us at this former church. But I have never taken quite the approach as you have. It is excellent.

    Our “saintly” theology friends can't seem to grasp it. They think if you honestly admit your weakness/sin, then it is self-condemnation,and thinking negative. And if you think negative, this will only lead to more sin. Thus, they would only think of themselves as saintly. But that clearly was not working. Anyways…