The Death of Guilt at the Cross

Everyone, at some point in their lives, has felt guilty. Everyone has skeletons they’d like to keep buried in their closet. Every single one of us has done things we aren’t proud of. The feeling of guilt can paralyze us and make us live in shame and doubt for the rest of our lives, if we don’t deal with it correctly.

So how do we deal with it? How do we react when we feel guilty?

First, we have to remember that we feel guilty because we are guilty. Those feelings of shame and guilt we feel at our actions come because we are legitimately guilty, not just before man, but before God.

Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” All. Not 95%, not 99%…100%. All fall short of God’s glory, and incur, not just feelings of guilt, but actual, real guilt before a holy God.

If you’re looking for a god who will tell you that it’s all okay, and that your sin is “no big deal,” and you simply need to “overcome negative feelings and emotions,” and “believe in yourself,” you need to throw away your Bible, because you won’t find a “god” like that in it. The God of the Bible, far from telling us our sin is okay, demands blood. He is a holy and jealous God, refusing to bend even slightly from His holiness. To do so would be to betray His own character and reject His own rule and reign over us.

Think about a parent who just lets their kid get away with whatever they want. Do we consider them to be good parents? Of course not! I worked in retail for two years, and I can tell you I really appreciate parents who discipline their children, instead of the parents who let their kids destroy my department and make my job 50 times harder than it has to be. Good parents discipline their children. And a good God punishes sin, because sin is offensive to Him and ruins the world and the people He created.

Thankfully, the story doesn’t end here. We don’t have to suffer the wrath of God as a result of our guilt, because our God is a gracious God, who sent someone to suffer in our place.

Here’s how God deals with our guilt:

“For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God, on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.”–Heb. 9:24-26

God deals with our guilt by punishing His own Son. God throws every ounce of our real guilt, our real sin, our lust, our laziness, our murder, our anger, our idolatry, on His Son. The Son of God became our sin, became cursed, so that those who were not children of God could become children of God.

In light of His great sacrifice, here’s how the Bible tells us to deal with our guilt:

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”–1 John 1:9

How simple is this? Not easy…dealing with our sin is never easy…but it is simple! We confess our sins, with faith and repentance toward Christ, and He forgives us and changes us!

God never expects us or asks us to “make up for our sin.” He never commands us to try and add to what Christ has done for us…and yet, how often do we try to do so?

I watched The Da Vinci Code a few nights ago. Don’t worry, I’m well aware that the movie’s view that Jesus had a wife and kids is total garbage….but I’m also well aware that Tom Hanks is a great actor. Anyway, one of the main antagonists in that movie spends time in self-flagellation, that is, brutally beating himself in order to “please God” and earn forgiveness of sins. It’s quite the gruesome scene. It’s also quite the ungodly scene.

Beating ourselves up and atoning for our own sins sounds nice if we don’t dig too deeply. We’d probably respect someone who is so convicted that he or she decides to “make up for it.” We love those stories…the convict who spends time mentoring others so they don’t wind up in prison, the recovering alcoholic who spends time warning people of the dangers of alcohol abuse, etc. And while there’s nothing wrong with that (if it’s done for the right reason), all of that can be a cover-up for legalism.

If we try to show God how sorry we are by beating ourselves up, or by shedding thousands of tears, thinking that those actions will merit His love, we spurn the love He showed at the cross. If we try to show God how much better we can do by self-effort, we miss the message of the cross. The cross says that our sin is so wicked that we cannot save ourselves–there must be a death that occurs. The cross also says we are so loved that God Himself paid that price for us.

If Jesus has fully paid for our sins, why do we act like there’s something else we have to do to “earn” forgiveness? The good news is that we don’t “earn” forgiveness…we receive forgiveness, freely, through the blood of Christ, through faith and repentance in Him.

If you have trusted Christ for forgiveness, and you are submitting to Him as Lord, looking to Him to lead you in new life, you are completely, 100% forgiven. There is nothing you can do, no sin you can commit, that will make God love you any less. There is nothing you can do, no good work you can commit, that will make God love you any more. While we can please and displease God with our actions, we can never lose His love, if our faith is in Christ.

So what do we do with our guilt? We take it to the one who died for us. We lay it down at the cross. We rest in His forgiveness, and trust Him to help us follow Him.

And then we get up. We walk forward, day by day, by the grace of God. And we keep living.

Don’t be paralyzed by guilt. Take it to Christ, and be rid of it.

Lord, may we never forget the cross. May we not beat ourselves up, or try to add to your work with our effort. May we rest in your grace. May we move forward in holiness by your grace. May we lay our guilt down at the cross, and worship you.

God bless,

Neal E.


The Grace of God Saves the Sinner: Ephesians 2:1-10

We continue our study in Ephesians by looking at how God saves sinners.  This section of Ephesians is well known, particularly verse 8, as we remember God’s grace in saving sinful men and women. Let’s examine more of what God has for us in this great passage.

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience–among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”–2:1-3

If you are not a Christian, the Bible is clear: You are spiritually dead. We cannot waste time and try to sugarcoat this tragic truth: Sin does not make us worse, and it is not a small dark blot on our otherwise stainless record….sin kills us.  Sin separates us from God, leading to spiritual death. Before we come to know Christ, we have no way of knowing God, trusting God, or pleasing God.

The Bible is also clear on this: No one escapes this.  Paul says we ALL once lived this way, not just the really bad humans, but every human. Here is the offense of God’s Word–it tells us what we really are, not what we’d like to believe we are.

There’s one more point to draw from this opening section: We are children of wrath outside of Christ. We are not children of God before we come to know Christ. That may step on some toes and upset some, but the Bible is clear: The only people who can rightly claim to be children of God are those who have received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (John 1:12). Being God’s child does not come naturally when we are born because, as stated above, our sin separates us from God. While we are all created by God, only those who know Christ are children of God.

Let’s summarize: Dead. Sinful. Separated from God. Children of wrath. Overall, this is a pretty negative picture of our spiritual state. There’s no way to sugarcoat it. There’s no way to fix it, not in and of ourselves. Dead people can’t do anything..they’re dead.

Which is why Paul’s next two words are the sweetest words in the Bible: But God. But God refused to let the story end here. God refused to let the Bible stop after Genesis 3. God acted to save His creation.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved–and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”–2:4-9

Remember this, Christian–God loved you when you were dead! What great news for all! If you are a Christian, God loved you when you were dead (so He surely will continue to love you now)! If you are not a Christian, God loves you now! There is nothing we do to earn God’s love, He simply chooses to love the unlovable.

It is God who gives us spiritual life. Unable to trust Him on our own, or have a heart that desires to live with Him and for Him, He gives us a new heart, as He promised in Ezekiel 36. He opens our eyes and gives us life to turn from sin and self and turn to Christ.

Faith, then, is a gift from God too. I love this quote from the Gospel Transformation Bible: “Faith is not the ultimate good deed that saves us but the instrumental cause of our salvation–grace flows through the channel of faith, but the channel is itself of God’s construction.”

Thank God for the faith that saves, the faith we now have in Christ! This passage then destroys the idea that “God helps those who help themselves.” That is an ancient Greek idea, not a biblical idea. It stems from a stoicism that is divorced from biblical truth. Don’t buy it–our God does not help those who help themselves, our God raises the dead to life!

We also receive the “immeasurable riches of his grace” and are “seated with Christ.” We are not just forgiven and restored to God–He continues to shower us with grace and unites us with His Son–as we said last week, everything Jesus has, we have! What grace!

The point of all of this? To point us to rejoice in our God. Paul’s aim is that the church understands, knows, rejoices in, and praises God for all that He has done for them. What a word to help them do this.

We were dead; God made us alive.

We were blind; God made us see.

We did not trust God; God gave us faith.

We were condemned; God saved us.

We were slaves of Satan; God freed us to follow Him.

We were children of wrath; God adopts us as His children.

Meditate on this. Let the truth of God’s love and what He’s done for those who are in Christ lead you to worship Him and love others.

There’s one more verse we need to look at:

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”–2:10

God does not save us by our work, but one of the reasons He saves us by grace is that we do good works from a renewed, godly heart. He has made us His. He has called us His children, and in light of that, He calls us to do good works for His glory.

Where do we start? We start in prayer. God has “prepared (them) beforehand.” He has called each believer to do good works–seek God’s will for your life, and how you can begin to serve Him.

Lord, may we never forget the grace found in you. May we remember what you’ve done for us, bringing us from death to life, from disobedience to obedience, from slaves to sons and daughters. May we worship you for your abundant love and grace. May we seek to do the good works you have prepared for us.

God bless,

Neal E.