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.

On Running to Christ

Matthew Henry once said, “It is not humility, but infidelity, to put away the offers of the gospel, as if too rich to be made to us or too good news to be true.”

When I was young, I wasn’t a perfect child, because, well…those don’t exist.  Like any other young kid, I was terrified when I did something wrong, not because I understood how much it hurt my mom or my grandparents, or whoever it may be, when I disobeyed them, but because I feared punishment.  So instead of drawing near to my leaders, I ran away.  I still have a clear memory of hiding on the playground one time just because I had said something mean to another kid and didn’t want my teacher to find me and punish me.

It is not natural for us to run toward the person we offend.  We withdraw because we are fearful.  We fear punishment, loss of reputation, loss of relationship, and a multitude of other losses.

And yet the God of the universe, the only one truly worthy of fear and trembling, commands us to run TO Him when we sin against Him.  1 John 1:9 tells us we can confess our sins in repentance before the Lord and trust Him to forgive us and help us change into the men and women God’s called us to be.

But running toward God doesn’t make a lot of sense, because, after all, God is holy, and we are sinful, and our sin merits His wrath and eternal destruction.  And of course, those things are true.  But God is also a God of grace that desires all people be saved (1 Tim. 2:4).  We know we can repent and trust God to forgive us because it is God who gives us repentance and faith (2 Tim. 2:25).  This is amazing news.  This is ridiculously good news–He whom we have most offended, He who has the right to condemn us for all eternity, welcomes us back with open arms, no matter how bad we’re struggling.  And He doesn’t just invite us back and wait on us–He runs to us, like the father in Luke 15.  He takes the initiative to seek us out and grant us repentance.  While we absolutely must repent and trust Christ, it is by God’s power and grace that we can do this.

Notice what is missing from 1 John 1:9–qualifications for forgiveness.  Jesus offers forgiveness for the “little” sins and the “big” sins.  Whether you stubbed your toe and cursed, or whether you murdered someone, Jesus is ready to be your Savior.  And while this doesn’t mean there are no consequences here on Earth for your actions (such as prison for the murderer), it does mean you don’t have to fear condemnation from God, because you know through the cross of Christ and His resurrection, your sins have been paid for and you are trusting in Christ for your salvation.

We need to run to Christ.  Let all talk of Jesus only wanting those who kinda sorta have it together end.  Jesus came for the weak, for the sick, for the sinner that cannot get it together.  And let’s be honest: do any of us truly have it all together?  Certainly not, especially not compared to a holy God!  Jesus came and died because you don’t have it together, because you are not and never will be good enough to stand righteous before the Father, because you are a sinner in need of a Savior.

If you’re a little sick, you take a little medicine.  You probably don’t even have to go to the doctor.  But if you have a terminal illness that you know can be treated, you run with abandon to the nearest hospital.  So why, when we are struggling with sin, do we run away from the Savior?  When we’re really struggling with sin, when we’re falling more than we usually do, that is a time to run to Christ, not away from Him!  The last thing God wants is for us to try and do His job–this is pride of the most deceptive kind, because it comes under the guise of humility, masquerading as godly sorrow while, in reality, it is unbelief in the promises of God.  O God, save us from this pride!

The grace of God never tells us that our sin isn’t a big deal.  The cross leaves no room for cheap grace or cheap love making little of God’s holiness and sin’s gravity.  The cross shows us costly grace that exalts God’s holiness and man’s depravity.  The cross also shows us the goodness of God, for “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Jesus cried, “It is finished!” What does that mean?  It means the work of salvation is done.  You, believer, do not have sins to pay for.  That debt was settled 2,000 years ago.  All that’s left for us to do is trust Him to forgive us and help us follow Him in new life.  J.D. Greear, in his excellent book, “Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart,” says that it would be wrong for God to hold the sins of believers against them, since Jesus has already paid for them.  We are saved because God is gracious AND just–gracious to not punish us, but just and holy to punish Jesus in our place.

So let us run to Christ and trust His grace.  His grace is sufficient.  His resurrection proves the Father accepted His sacrifice for ALL of our sin.  Trust Him.

God, may we not run away from you when we fail.  May our faith be strengthened and made more confident in Christ.  May you continue to change us and help us be holy as you are holy.  May we share your grace with the world around us.

God bless,

Neal E.