One of the most persistent struggles an ex-legalist will have, especially in the early days of leaving the unhealthy church structure, is continuously feeling condemned. This is the way unhealthy church structures ensure conformity, by brainwashing congregants into believing that God will immediately damn them for stepping out of that man-made system.
Yet, Paul, used in the correct context, gave hope to you in saying “Hast thou faith? Have it to thyself. Happy is he that comdemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.”
At the end of Romans 14, which is one of the most powerful sections of Scripture dealing with anti-legalism and judgementalism, Paul gave us many amazing instructions on removing ourselves from our own internal condemnation.
And don’t forget too, that Jesus himself long before declared man-made judgmentalism and legalism worthless to Him;
Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. – Mark 7:7,8, KJV
Like Christ, Paul recognized that it isn’t what other men declare as the touch not, taste not commandments that become a stumbling block between man and God. Rather, it is what you feel condemned to do before God. This, of course, is NOT to say you are free to break God’s moral righteousness if you don’t feel condemned by it.
What it is to say, is that men’s commandments do not condemn you, if in your spirit led walk with God, you yourself do not feel condemned in allowing things other men condemn.
Consider the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 14;
The one who eats [everything] is not to look down on the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat must not criticize or pass judgment on the one who eats [everything], for God has accepted him. – Romans 14:3, AMP
First and foremost, this is to say that God is the judge of the living (you!) and the dead, not your brother, your sister, or your pastor. Can I also note, that not a single church leader in Scripture called themselves Leader or Pastor.
One person decides in favor of one day over another, while another person decides that all days are the same. Let each one be fully convinced in his own mind: – Romans 14:4, AMP
Paul didn’t say you must be fully convinced by another man who is a self-declared authority over your faith. Rather, he said, “be fully convinced in your own mind“.
Consequently, each of us will give an account of himself to God. – Romans 14:12, AMP
The building theme here, in the book I’ve called the Book of Judgmentalism, Romans 14, is that each person will give account to God for his own faith, his own actions, and his own choices.
Paul goes on to say;
Therefore, let’s no longer criticize each other. Instead, make up your mind not to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. Romans 14:14, AMP
Paul then goes on to describe the method in which Christians should apply Grace in their lives. The idea is this; if what I allow myself to do causes others to stumble in faith, or reject the Christian faith, I shouldn’t allow it.
Furthermore, Paul completes this idea with the statement that no legalistic or cult-style leader will apply to themselves, but we must implore them to do so. And we all, as saints, should follow this model every bit as much as leaders should, for each of us is to lead souls to Christ.
The faith which you have [that gives you freedom of choice], have as your own conviction before God [just keep it between yourself and God, seeking His will] – Romans 14:22, AMP
Where the legalist goes wrong is adopting a personal conviction, or standard, and then creating an aura of self-righteousness, and then causing others to believe that God has adopted those personal convictions and methods for salvation.
If you have left a legalistic structure, and still struggle with feeling condemned, remember that Jesus condemned the commandments of Men and that Paul promised you happiness for those things you allow in your heart, seeking God and finding HIS approval, not the approval of man!
Happy is he who has no reason to condemn himself for what he approves!
Gods peace be with you as you find freedom from the condemnation inside!