Dental Condemnation

I hate dental visits. In fact, dentists frighten me (no offense to any dentists), and are ranked number three on my frightening people list, just behind car salesman and mimes (don’t ask). A trip to the dentist’s office is a trip into the land of pain. First they jab your teeth with their little pick axe. Then they go in with their high-powered roto-tiller toothbrush, determined to turn your grimy yellows into pearly whites. Finally they whip out the dental floss, invading every nook and cranny of your mouth with that ghastly piece of string, causing small trickles of blood to flow between your teeth. And of course your mouth is hanging open during this whole process, yet you can’t swallow, resulting in large pools of spit collecting in the back of your throat.

But the worst part is the interrogation that takes place after the cleaning. They always ask if you floss regularly (I believe the ADA recommends flossing between 16 and 18 times a day), which we don’t. I floss approximately three times per year, and it’s always after I eat corn on the cob. At no other point will you see floss enter my mouth. And so we walk away from the dental office feeling like a complete dental failure. We’ve failed to meet the standard set by our dentist.

Unfortunately there are many times when I bring my dentist mentality into my relationship with God. As a Christian, I must live by God’s standards. I seek to read my Bible and pray on a regular basis. I fight to kill the sinful desires that are within my heart. I make every effort to love and serve my wife. I try to be humble and teachable.

But the painful truth is, I fail to keep God’s standards. In fact, I’m not even close. Instead of rising early to read my Bible, I decide to sleep and extra 30 minutes. Instead of serving my wife, I serve myself. Instead of pursuing humility, I give in to pride and arrogance. I don’t just miss the mark, I completely miss the target.

When I fail to meet God’s standard, I feel condemned. I feel like God is just barely tolerating me, like He’s cold towards me, like He doesn’t particularly like me anymore. This condemnation weighs me down, stealing my joy and robbing me of my peace.

It’s in these moments that I need to speak the truth of the gospel to myself. I need to grab my soul by the ears and remind it of 1 Timothy 1:15, which says, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” I can’t allow myself to wallow in condemnation and discouragement. I must fight for faith in the truth that Christ Jesus died for all my sins, and that God delights in me because of the cross. I must speak this truth to myself, and thank God for this truth, and rejoice in this truth until my heart believes every word of it. The gospel is the antidote to condemnation.

Do you experience condemnation when you fail to meet God’s standards? If so, you need to preach the gospel to yourself. Preach it until you believe it with both your head and your heart. Don’t allow condemnation to rule you. Fight the good fight of faith by believing the gospel.

  • jul

    You are definately right that we should never feel condemnation because of the cross, and I appreciate your bold assertion of God’s grace, however, I must disagree with something else you wrote.

    You wrote: “As a Christian, I must live by God’s standards.” I want to humbly submit that that is wrong. As a Christian, we are to live by the Spirit and Him only.
    As long as we are trying to live up to God’s standards (the law) we will experience condemnation.
    Romans 8: 1-2 says: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus because the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”
    The New Testament is full of verses telling us that we are dead to the law, it’s obsolete, we’re no longer under it, etc..it only stands for the unjust, that is unbelievers (1 timothy 1:8…)and that Jesus fulfilled the law for us and is the end of the law for all who believe.

    I definately agree that the gospel is the answer for condemnation!

  • lydia joy

    Hello, checking out your blog, I am all too familiar with expereincing condemnation myself, and I agree with both you and Julie, remembering the gospel is the only solution to defeat condemnation, to remember that God accepts us fully and sees us as righteous is Awesome! I have to agree with Julie again and say, we do not have to live by God’s standards, the law. Christ abolished the law, and we are in a New Covenant of Grace…..we now live by faith…I honestly think when we try to live up to the law we will always battle condemnation because the whole Law was meant to be kept, who can do that? And since we are dead to the Law and alive in Christ we can be free from condemnation by faith in the Gospel…
    Anyway, I know God does not intend for us to experience condemnation ever – so cling to this and yes let’s keep preaching the gospel to ourselves!

  • Stephen Altrogge

    Jul and Lydia,

    Thanks so much for reading the blog and for your comments. I really appreciate them. Perhaps I need to clarify a bit here.

    When I say I must live according to God’s standards, I do not mean to obtain salvation. I will never be saved by my obedience to God’s law. I am saved only by Jesus Christ and his obedience.

    However, as a Christian I am still called to make every effort to obey God and his standards. I am commanded by God (hence the word “must”) to pursue holiness, put off sin, and put on righteousness (Col 3). So even though I’m not trying to obey God to earn salvation, I am called to make every effort towards obedience. This obedience can only be done by God’s power.

    Does this make sense?