One summer at camp, some students got busted for sneaking off and smoking pot in the bushes. They might not have been caught except one of them bragged about it to some other kids and his leader overheard. The students were confronted, the paraphernalia was produced, and the truth came out. The camp had a strict no drugs policy so the student’s parents were informed.

All the students were remorseful after learning their punishment was an early trip home courtesy of their own parents, but one student was so upset about his dad finding out that, while his dad was being notified, he took off. It took me a while to find him, but when I did, he wasn’t far from the camp. He was still in tears as he talked about how he didn’t want to face his dad’s wrath. I tried to help this young man see the gospel, telling him how much he was loved and how Jesus showed that love for him by paying for his sins on the cross. The message was making an impact on his spirit, but sadly, it didn’t sink in all the way. He hugged me wailing in tears, crying out, “Oh, the things I’ve done, if you only knew the terrible things I’ve done.” As much as I tried to explain to him how Jesus knew those things and his sacrifice cleansed those things, he refused to place his trust in Jesus that day.

Paul shared a vision of what can happen through the public proclamation of truth in the church. “But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.” 1 Cor 14:24-25

Sadly, this student did not move past condemnation to worship. He wouldn’t look past himself to God. Rom 8:1-2 teaches, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”

This student’s story reminds me of Judas. After agreeing to betray Jesus and being paid to do the deed, Jesus, knowing about it all, still washed his feet and offered him bread in fellowship (John 13.) Judas later realizes that he messed up, the Holy Spirit is working on his heart, but rather than conviction leading to repentance, he only experiences condemnation leading to suicide (Matt 27:1-5.)

In condemnation, people can’t get their eyes off of themselves to see Jesus. This is one of our enemy’s greatest ploys. Plant the lie that even God couldn’t love you. It is a lie. The Holy Spirit does not condemn, he convicts of sin so a person can see God’s love and worship in response.

John Riley
Jr. High Ministry Pastor

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