Why do we have feelings of guilt? Can any good come from those feelings? What if we haven’t done anything wrong but we still feel guilty? Robert gives us a sound and balanced look at what the Bible says about guilt.
ROBERT >> Do you feel guilty today? What is it that makes us feel guilty? Let me ask, can guilt feelings be a benefit to us? Can they be harmful to us? Could it be that guilt helps us to realize we’ve done something wrong and maybe we need to do something about it? Or could our guilt feelings become so overwhelming that we become helpless and hopeless? What does the Bible say about guilt?
SINGING>> Speaking the truth, speaking the truth, speaking the truth, speaking the truth in love.
ROBERT >> In dealing with this problem of the heart called guilt, let’s notice what some do with guilt, and then let’s see what the Bible tells us about overcoming that guilt.
First of all, let’s notice what is it that some people do with guilt. What do you do with your guilt?
Sometimes we refuse to admit that we’ve done wrong. James 3:2 tells us that we all stumble in many things; but many times we don’t want to admit that. We don’t want to admit that we’re weak and that we make mistakes and that we falter and that we sin against God. But we all do. Those of us who are Christians, we sin against God.
In fact, John said in 1 John 1:8, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”
And so if we refuse to admit that we’ve done wrong, we’re just refusing reality. We’re not being truthful, and it’s not going to help us to overcome this problem of guilt. Another thing that sometimes we do is we rationalize it away. We try to make excuses or somehow or another say we’re really not responsible for it. Go all the way back with me if you will to Genesis 3:12-13, when that first sin was committed by the man and the woman in the Garden of Eden. And here you see how they responded to guilt when God approached them there in the garden about their sin.
The Bible says in verse 12, “Then the man said, The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.”
You see how the man tried to deflect responsibility? It wasn’t my fault. It was the woman. It was the woman you gave me, God. In effect, Adam was blaming God for what he had done.
And then in verse 13, “And the Lord God said to the woman, What is this you’ve done? And the woman said, The serpent deceived me, and I ate. It wasn’t my fault, Lord. It was the old serpent, the devil who tempted me. He deceived me.”
And so there are many ways in which we might try to rationalize away our sin and make excuses for our sin. Well, everybody else is doing it, or we’ll point the finger and blame somebody else, or it really wasn’t my fault. Again, that’s not dealing with reality, and that’s not helping us with this problem of guilt. There are those who would just ignore their guilt, try to suppress it. Look with me if you will in Psalm 32:3-4. Often in the Psalms we will see the psalmist dealing with his sin, dealing with his weaknesses and trying to struggle through those things in prayer to God.
Here in Psalm 32:3-4 the Bible says, “When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was turned into the drought of summer.”
Now, if this is the psalm of David when he had sinned with Bathsheba, and many believe it was, we know that David had kept silent about his sin for about a year now. He had not confessed his sin, he would not face what he had done in committing adultery with Bathsheba and having her husband put to death at war. No, he tried to ignore it. He tried to act like he had not done anything wrong. And you see the awful effects that it had upon him physically and emotionally and mentally and spiritually. We cannot ignore or suppress our guilt and think that it’s going to go away. It’s not going to do us any good. But there are still some who say, well, it isn’t real, this guilt that so many people are trying to put on us.
I think about another psalm, Psalm 14:1, where the Bible says, “The fool has said in his heart, There is no God.”
Oh, I think we all know there’s a God. It’s the only logical reason or explanation to this creation, this universe in which we live; but many times we act and live as though there is no God. We don’t want to admit to the fact that there might be someone to whom we have to give account. In fact, that is the reality.
Romans 14:12, the Bible tells us “each one of us shall give account of himself unto God.” And so we must live our lives in such a way that we will answer someday. To say it isn’t real, there’s no God, we’re not going to have to give account, there’s no such thing as right and wrong is once again to live in a fantasy land. And someday we’ll be awakened to that fact if we don’t already see it; but then it’ll be too late. There are others who want to try to run away from their guilt.
Look with me in Genesis chapter 3 once again. Genesis chapter 3, when Adam and Eve sinned there in the garden, before God came to ask them about what they had done, what were they doing after their sin?
Genesis 3:8 says, “And they heard the sound of the Lord walk in the garden in the cool of the day; and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord among the trees of the garden. And then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, Where are you? And so he said, I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, and I hid myself. And he said, Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?”
You see, Adam and Eve tried to hide from God. When they sinned, they realized they had done wrong, and they felt bad about it, and so they tried to run away from it, if they could just put some distance between them and their sin. When they heard God’s voice in the garden, they were afraid. They tried to answer to him for their sin, and so they tried to cover it up.
Listen, you can run as far as you want to run, you can try to cover it up and hide it, but it’s always going to catch up with you.
In Numbers 32:23 the Bible tells us, “Be sure your sin will find you out.”
And when we read Psalm 139, we’re especially impressed with the wisdom and the knowledge of God and how it’s impossible for us to ever escape him.
Notice with me just a few passages from this psalm, Psalm 139 beginning in verse 7. “ Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I take my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall fall on me, even the night shall be light about me. Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You; but the night shines as the day; and the darkness and the night are both alike to You.”
There’s no way to get away from our guilt, to get away from our sin, to run away from God and our responsibility to him. You might remember that old prophet Jonah who was commanded to go and to speak against Nineveh because of their sin. But Jonah didn’t want to do that, and so he tries to run from God, gets on a boat headed to Tarshish, as far as west as he would go, and God had told him to go to Nineveh in the east. No, it’s impossible for us to get away from God. Even there on that boat, God found him. In the midst of the sea, caused the storm to come up until he was cast off of that boat; and the great fish, you remember, came and swallowed him and spit him up on the land so that he could go and finish his mission to Nineveh. These things will not help us to deal with our guilt, refusing to admit we’ve done wrong, rationalizing it away, ignoring it or suppressing it, saying it isn’t real, trying to run away from it. It’s not going to do anything for us. But some say, Well, I think time will remove it. If I just wait long enough, after a while, it’ll be forgotten, it’ll be okay, and it won’t really matter.
But look with me in Numbers 14 26:38. Do you remember when God asked his people to go into the land of Canaan, to fight the people there, to take that land that he had promised to them? Well, they didn’t believe in God, and they refused to go into the land.
And so here we learn in Numbers 14:26 what God said about that. “But as for you, your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness, and your sons shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years and bear the brunt of your infidelity until your carcasses are consumed in the wilderness. According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for each day you shall bear your guilt one year, namely forty years, and you shall know my rejection.”
Yes, forty years would pass, and at the end of that forty years they would all have died for their sin there in the wilderness. It will not do us any good to think time’s going to remove our guilt. God knows what we have done, and that will not remove our guilt. Ultimately we will have to pay for our guilt no matter how much time may have or have not passed. There’s another thing that people try to do. Some are trying to make up for their wrongs by doing good. And I understand that thought. We’ve done wrong, maybe we can do some good and we can make up for that. But the Bible teaches us in Romans 6:23 that we could never make up for what we have done wrong, to somehow or another pay for that and remove our guilt. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Yes, you see, all of us have so sinned that we deserve to die spiritually. He’s talking here about spiritual death, being separated from God. That’s what our sins do to us. And so you see, there’s nothing we can do to make up for those sins. As long as we have those sins in our life, we’re going to be separated from God. And thus it required God in his grace to provide for us the penalty for our sins. He did that through Jesus Christ, his only son, who he sent to live a perfect life here in the flesh and then offer that as a sacrifice for our sins at the cross. It was only that perfect sacrifice, the death of an innocent one, that could pay for our sins. Only that could satisfy God’s justice. Only that could appease his wrath so we could be forgiven. So you see, overcoming guilt, it’s not something that we can do on our own. We need a savior.
The Bible says in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
So let’s think in the time that we have left today how it is that we are able to overcome guilt in our life.
Let’s first of all determine if any wrong has actually been done. Maybe we’re feeling guilty when we really should not feel guilty. Perhaps we really haven’t done anything wrong. Maybe somebody told us we did, but they really didn’t know what the Bible said about it.
The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 13:5 to “examine ourselves to see whether we be in the faith.”
The best thing that we can do is take a good, serious, very honest look at our heart, at our life to see what kind of life we are living and to see what kind of people we really are. Have we lined up with God’s word, or have we gone astray, have we violated his commandments?
Are we truly desiring to live for God?
To determine if any wrong has really actually been done would be the first step in overcoming guilt. But then when we see our wrong, when we see where we have missed the target of doing what God said, when we’ve fallen short, then we need to repent of that sin. We need to decide in our heart that we deserve to be separated from God for that, and we need to turn away from that, and we need to confess that to God and call upon him for his forgiveness. Every Christian, every child of God has the privilege to come to him each day with their sins. In Acts the 8th chapter we read about a new Christian, Simon the sorcerer. He had believed and he had been baptized, but an evil thought came into his heart. And because of that, he was doomed for hell, because he allowed that desire to consume him and to take over his life.
The apostle Peter commanded him there in Acts 8:22-24 to “repent and to pray, if perhaps the thought of his heart might be forgiven. And Simon, realizing what he had done and how serious a matter it was, he called upon Peter also to pray for him.”
And that’s what we as Christians are called to do, in James 5:16, “to confess our faults one to another and to pray for one another.”
We have this wonderful promise in 1 John 1:9. Here in this passage John reminds us that it’s bringing our sins to God that we can find forgiveness of those sins.
1 John 1:9, the Bible tells us that “God is faithful, that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Yes, if you want to overcome the guilt in your life, you’re going to have to determine if any wrong has been done; but when you see that wrong, you’ve got to make that decision to turn away from it, to bring it to God in prayer, to seek his forgiveness. And having done that, Christian brother or sister, you need to accept his forgiveness. I’m afraid that there are some who just cannot forgive themselves. They cannot let it go. They haven’t been trusting in what Jesus did for them, that he can also take care of their sins, no matter what they might be. Sometimes our sins are so awful, they seem so terrible that they could never be forgiven. Certainly sin is awful. It’s so terrible it cost the blood of Jesus on the cross. But let us remember that that blood was able to provide the penalty for our sins, and accept God’s forgiveness when we turn to him for it.
Listen to what Isaiah said in Isaiah 1:18. “ Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool. Yes, God can completely obliterate our sin from our life.”
He can cleanse it, he can wash it, he can take it away.
In Romans 5:20 we learn that his grace is greater than our sin. It’s always sufficient for our sin. Because you see, God wants to forgive us, he wants to cleanse us, he wants to make us right with him, he doesn’t want us to live our lives where we’re constantly burdened by guilt.
1 Timothy 1:12-16, the apostle Paul uses himself as an example for all of us to realize that God will forgive us no matter what it is we may have done against him if we’re truly penitent of that and we’ll obey his word.
Look here with me if you will in 1 Timothy 1:12-16. The apostle Paul describes his former life and then how in God’s grace he found forgiveness. “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.”
You sigh, even though Saul of Tarsus, who became the apostle Paul, was one who persecuted God’s own people, consenting to their death, even that murderous one, upon him God had mercy, and he found forgiveness through the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus came to save sinners. Paul said, of whom I am chief. He’s giving us an example, a pattern, he says, so that we can know that we can be saved, that we can be forgiven just as he was. So let us accept the forgiveness that Jesus provided for us at the cross of Calvary.
Let us remember the words of the Lord in Hebrews 8:12, where he says, “I’ll be merciful to their unrighteousness; their sins and lawless deeds I will remember no more.”
God puts those behind us. Let’s leave those sins there. Let’s remember that he’s not going to bring them up against us again, but accept his forgiveness. And finally, let us learn to forget the past and move on. Put it behind us, keep it behind us, and stretch forward and go ahead and move past the things that we’ve done before.
Paul understood this and taught us about this in Philippians 3:13-14. Here’s what he said: “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
You see, the apostle Paul realized that he had not yet obtained perfection; that yes, he still stumbled, and there were times in his life when he would sin against God; but Paul said I’m going to put those things behind me. Knowing God’s forgiveness, his love, and his mercy, I’m going to press on. I’m going to stretch forward, I’m going to do everything that I can to keep on going towards heaven.
We, too, need to learn to forget the past and not let it keep us down and keep us from moving on spiritually in the Lord. Let’s remember this morning that guilt, that this emotion of the heart can help us to see that we need to make some changes in our life, that we need to turn from certain things and begin to do the things that are good and right that God has revealed for us in his scriptures, to help us to realize that we are indeed sinners in need of God’s grace and that forgiveness that’s provided through Jesus Christ at Calvary.
If you have never come to him as your Lord and your Savior, then confess him today and be baptized into him. Turning away from your sin, trusting what he did for you at Calvary, you can be forgiven, you can become a child of God, remove that guilt from your heart and from your life.
And those of us who are Christians, as we go on in our life, let us remember not to let that guilt slow us down, but to keep it behind us and keep pressing on toward the goal of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. And whoever you are, let us know how we here at The Truth In Love can help you towards heaven today.
SINGING>> On Zion’s glorious summit stood
a numerous host redeemed by blood.
They hymned their king in strains divine.
I heard the song and strove to join.
I heard the song and strove to join.
While everlasting ages roll,
eternal love shall feast their soul,
and scenes of bliss forever new rise in succession to their view,
rise in succession to their view.
Holy, holy, holy Lord.
God of hosts on high adored.
Who like me thy praise should sing,
oh almighty king.
Holy, holy, holy Lord.
God of hosts on high adored.
Holy, holy, holy.
ROBERT >> I hope that you found today’s lesson helpful. And to help you in your continued study, we’d like to offer you a free copy of today’s lesson. Thankfully, members of churches of Christ make these materials available to our viewers absolutely free of charge. And all you have to do is contact us and let us know the name of the program that you’d like to have a copy of. You can see the title of today’s program on your screen. Let us know the format in which you’d like to have it. You can have the program in the form of an audio CD or a DVD or a written transcript. You can have any of these formats again free of charge. It won’t cost you a thing. And you can contact us in a number of ways.
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SINGING>> Unto the hills around do I lift up my longing eyes.
Oh, whence for me shall my salvation come, from whence arise?
From God the Lord doth come my certain aid,
from God the Lord whom heaven and earth hath made.
From every evil shall he keep thy soul, from every sin.
Jehovah shall preserve thy going out, thy coming in.
Above thee watching, he whom we adore shall keep thee henceforth, yea for evermore.