"Guilty! Everyone Guilty?"
Dr. Karl Menninger, in his book 'Whatever Became of Sin?' begins his first chapter with an intriguing illustration. On a sunny day in September, a stern-faced, plainly dressed man could be seen standing still on a street corner in the busy Chicago Loop. As pedestrians hurried on their way to lunch or business, he would solemnly lift his right arm, and pointing his finger at the person nearest him, shout the single word 'GUILTY!' Notes Menninger, "Then without any change of expression, he would resume his stiff stance for a few moments before repeating the gesture. Then, again, he would raise his arm, point, and solemnly pronounce the word 'GUILTY!' to the passerby. The effect of this strange pantomime on the passing strangers was extraordinary, almost eerie. They would stare at him, hesitate, look away, look at each other, and then at him again: then hurriedly continue on their ways.
"One man, turning to another, exclaimed: 'But how did he know?'
"No doubt many others had similar thoughts. How did he know, indeed?
"Guilty!' Everyone guilty? Guilty of what? Guilty of over parking?
Guilty of lying? Guilty of unfaithfulness to a faithful wife? Guilty only of evil thoughts – or evil plans?" (Whatever Became of Sin? pg. 1,2)
Think of the havoc that guilt produces! Unrest, agony of mind, severance of relationships, ineffectiveness in creative work, and on and on!
Romans, chapters 1-3, is written primarily to contrast the righteousness of God's character with the sinfulness of man's character. The universality of sin among all humanity is the devastating conclusion of these three chapters. Chapter one is a description of 'down-and-out' Gentile (pagan) sinners, morally perverted and grossly immoral. Chapter two is a description of self-righteous, hypocritical Jews who prided themselves in their racial descent, and claimed God's special favor because Abraham was the father of their faith. Chapter one and two of Romans reveal two sides of one coin. The 'coin' is sin. One side of the 'coin' is the life of sensuality. The other side of the 'coin' is the life of self-righteous morality. Both ways of life are condemned by God. Neither the down-and-out sinner nor the up-and-out sinner can gain God's approval. Both the sins of the flesh and the sins of the spirit bring God's judgement. Irreligious passion and religious hypocrisy both bring God's severe judgement. Sinful actions and sinful attitudes are alike condemned. The sensual sins and the sophisticated sins alike are scrutinized. Neither the life of paganism nor the life of religion can gain God's approval. The repulsive life of sensual perversion and the respectable life of self- righteous morality are equally offensive to the all-holy God, and both ways of life lead to the same eternal destination!
"O God, forgive me for secretly thinking that my own 'righteousness' in some way makes me more acceptable to you. I exchange the filthy rags of my own self-righteousness for the pure garments of thy holiness and righteousness!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The worst enemy of Christ-centered Christianity is self-centered religion!
"God Has No Grandchildren — Only Children!"
There are two major flaws in attempting to gain God's approval by a life of outward morality.
First, the man of self-righteous morality is shallow in his understanding of the nature of sin. He can easily condemn the immoral behaviour of 'out-and-out' sinners. Adultery, stealing, cheating, murder, and other such actions are easily and rightly condemned. But the man of morality finds it difficult to diagnose the universal disease of all mankind – the disease of self-righteousness and self-centeredness. ''The thing that is deeply wrong with human nature is not that some people commit adultery, and some steal, but that all of us are self-centered — the decent and the indecent, the nice and the nasty. Manners, polish, refinement, and culture only cover the disease, like rouge on the face of a woman dying of anemia. They can't affect the deadly disease underneath." (Questions People Ask About Religion, William Sangster, pg. 58)
The second flaw in the man of self-righteous morality is his hypocrisy. Of the self-righteous Jews, God says, ''You are just as bad (as the Gentiles). When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are talking about yourselves, for you do these very same things… God will punish the Jews for sinning because they have his written laws, but don't obey them. They know what is right, but don't do it. After all, salvation is not given to those who know what to do, unless they do it." (Romans 2:12-15, Living Bible)
At the time of my conversion, I was an 'up-and-out' sinner. I was living a morally respectable life, with no noticeable 'bad' habits, and attending Church services three times a week. I read the Bible, memorized Bible verses, 'said' prayers, and perform my share of 'good deeds'. I believed that because I was a fifth generation Free Methodist, I was morally acceptable to God and that God would automatically let me go to heaven. I, like the morally upright Jews described in Romans, felt that God favored me. I reasoned that because I didn't indulge in grossly immoral sins, that surely I was acceptable enough to God! The day came, however, when I realized that God has no 'grandchildren', only children. A second-hand experience of God, through my godly mother, would never suffice! I needed personally to repent of my sins-my sinful attitudes, my pride, my self-righteous claims, my dependence upon morality alone to save me. I realized that 'up-and-out' (religious) sinners needed God just as much as 'down-and-out' (irreligious) sinners. One kind of sinner can go to hell as quickly as the other kind!
If all are sinners, is there any hope? Wrote Paul, ''Yes, all have sinned; all fall short of God's glorious ideal; yet now God declares us 'not guilty' of offending him if we trust in Jesus Christ, who in his kindness freely takes away our sins." (Romans 3:23-24 Living Bible)
"O God, I see from your Word that it is not the circumstances of my birth that make the difference; it is the crisis of my spiritual rebirth that determines my destiny for time and eternity!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: He who is born once, dies twice–in time and eternity! He who is born twice-physically and spiritually-dies only once in time!
Inadequate Ways Of Dealing With Guilt
There are many guilty people who claim innocence in regards to sin. Some rationalize sin, and say "I am as good as many church folks!" True, but irrelevant! What does this statement prove? God is our standard, not other people! Hypocrites will keep many people out of heaven!
Some project the blame of their sins onto someone else – that is, they scapegoat their sins. lilt is easy enough to find all kinds of defenses behind which to seek to hide. We may blame our sins on our heredity, on our environment, on our temperament, on our physical condition." (Daily Study Bible; Barclay; pg. 39; I John) ''We ascribe the responsibility to a group, we offer up scapegoat sacrifices, we perform or partake in dumb-show rituals of penitence and atonement." (Whatever Became of Sin?; Menninger; pg. 17)
"At three I had feeling of Ambivalence toward my brothers, And so it follows naturally I poisoned all my lovers. But now I'm happy; I have learned The lesson this has taught; That everything I do that's wrong Is someone else's fault."
Have you heard people try to escape personal moral responsibility by saying, 'The devil made me do it!"?
It is bad enough to rationalize sin. It is perhaps worse to blame others for our actions of moral irresponsibility. Worse yet, is to be callously indifferent to sin and sin's consequences. Notes Barclay, "At first a man regards some wrong thing with horror; the second stage comes when he is tempted into doing it, but even as he does it, he is still unhappy and ill at ease and very conscious that it is wrong; the third stage is when he has done the thing so often that he does it without a qualm." (Daily Study Bible; Barclay; Ephesians; pg. 114)
There are those who "claim that sin has no effect upon them, who say that they can sin and take no harm; who insist that they can take their pleasures, and, if need be, make their mistakes and emerge none the worse for them". (Daily Study Bible; I John; Barclay: pg. 39) In other words, there are those who feel that they can sow 'wild oats' and yet never have to 'reap wild oats'. They do not see the 'cause and effect' of sin! Paul wrote, "Don't be misled: remember that you can't ignore God and get away with it: a man will always reap just the kind of crop -he sows! If he sows to please his own desires, he will be planting seeds of evil and he will surely reap a harvest of spiritual decay and death; but if he plants the good things of the Spirit, he will reap the everlasting life which the Holy Spirit gives him." (Galatians 6:7-8 Living Bible)
"O God, not to deny them or to rationalize them. Help me to accept personal moral responsibility for my wrongs, rather than to 'scapegoat' them onto someone else. Then, true confession of my sins shall lead to complete resolution of my guilt and total healing of my soul!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The pain of confession will lead to the pleasure of conversion!
"The Forgotten Word Of Proud Twentieth Century Man"
In the last devotional we looked at various inadequate ways to deal with guilt. Some rationalize sin. Some project the blame onto others. There are some who are callously indifferent to sin and to sin's consequences. And there are still others who outrightly deny the very existence of sin. They deny the reality of guilt and declare that what one feels is not real guilt, but only guilt feelings or guilt impulses. Some psychiatrists have gone so far as to say that guilt feelings or anxiety feelings are caused because a person secretly wants to commit certain acts but dares not because of parental or societal restrictions. Thus, according to their theory, society's restrictions are mainly to blame for people's 'guilty feelings'. Some belittle the idea of an objective Moral Law such as the Ten Commandments.
Notes Paul Rees, "Someone ought to set up a 'Bureau of Missing Words'. If we had such an institution, somewhere on its dust-laden shelves would be found the word 'sin'. It is the forgotten word of proud twentieth century man… There is simply no end to the lengths we will go in building a silky vocabulary that leaves out the serpent-hissing word – sin… The one thing that most of us are stubbornly unwilling to do is to locate the troubles of human society where they really are – inside of our own prideful, peevish, perverse hearts, with their wicked unbelief that turns away from God's Christ and serves other gods instead" (The Word of The Lord Came Unto Me Also; pg. 160,161)
Our Scripture reading for today records Jesus' conversation with the Pharisees who claimed to be innocent, although Jesus knew they were guilty. They denied their sin, and were barred from God's forgiveness! "Then Jesus told him (the healed blind man), 'I have come into the world to give sight to those who are spiritually blind and to show those who think they see that they are blind.' The Pharisees who were standing there asked, 'Are you saying we are blind?' 'If you were blind, you wouldn't be guilty,' Jesus replied. 'But your guilt remains because you claim to know what you are doing. '" (John 9:39-41 Living Bible)
Comments Barclay, ''The man who is conscious of his own blindness, and who longs to see better and to know more, is the man whose eyes can be opened and who can be led more and more deeply into the truth. The man who thinks he knows it all, the man who does not realize that he cannot see, is the man who is truly blind, and who is beyond hope and help. Only the man who realizes his own weakness can become strong. Only the man who realizes his own blindness can learn to see. Only the man who realizes his own sin can be forgiven." (Daily Study Bible; John: vol. 2; pg. 58; Barclay)
"Almighty God, awaken me to my true moral condition. Let me see myself, not only as I am but as what I can become through your transforming power. I am a great sinner in need of a great Saviour. Where sin in my life abounds, your forgiving grace super abounds! I claim your forgiveness for all my sins!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The Holy Spirit has come into the world 'to disturb the comfortable, and to comfort the disturbed'. I will allow Him to disturb me now, that He may comfort me eternally!
Severe 'Love In Action'
What is the answer to the problem of complacency which we described in the last devotional? Complacent and 'blinded' persons (John 9:41) need to be disturbed by the Holy Spirit. Someone said that the Holy Spirit has come to 'disturb the comfortable and to comfort the disturbed'. Such persons need conviction of sin. They need to stop rationalizing sin, to stop denying sin. They need to see the seriousness of self-deception: "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." (1 John 1:8) These persons need to humble themselves and confess their sins, in true repentance, following an awakening of the Holy Spirit. "And when he (the Holy Spirit) has come He will convince the world of its sin, and of the availability of God's goodness, and of deliverance from judgement." (John 16:8 Living Bible)
It is the Holy Spirit's ministry to convict of sin. It is important to realize the nature of sin. The complacent need to be disturbed. There must be an awakening of guilt, before there can be a resolution of guilt. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to awaken in man a wholesome sense of guilt, which might be likened unto spiritual fever which is intended to motivate one to go to a doctor – Jesus!
"The repression of conscience, the reflex of self-justification and the projection of guilt upon others, are only false solutions to the problem of guilt… The only true solution, both from the psychological standpoint and in the light of the Bible is the reverse of this, namely, the acceptance of our responsibilities, genuine recognition of our guilt, and repentance and the receiving of God's forgiveness in response to this repentance.
"To tear men from this impossible situation and to make them capable once more of receiving grace, God must therefore first of all reawaken within them "the repressed guilt. This is the positive significance of the sombre, severe and threatening pages of the Bible…
If Jesus Christ Himself, speaks with an implacable severity which is the source of much misunderstanding, because it seems to be contrary to the love of God. This severity can only be understood if we are aware of its ultimate aim. It aims, not to suppress the arrogant sinner, but to arouse his sense of guilt, and so to humble him, thereby opening for him the way of grace," (Guilt and Grace; Tournier; pg. 142)
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus shifts guilt from the mere formal level of the ACT to the deeper level of the MOTIVATION. Jesus teaches that outward respectability may cover an inward impurity. A good action can have bad motives. Jesus' scrutiny and seeming harshness is really 'love in action' for the purpose of awakening suppressed guilt to produce healing.
"O God, deliver me from self-delusion. Help me to confess my sins openly, in order that I might know the joy of full forgiveness and the peace of total reconciliation. 'Search me, 0 God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.' In Jesus' name. Amen."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God always acts in love towards sinners – severely towards the complacent and soothingly towards the repentant. I will be repentant!
Understanding The Nature Of Sin
The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to continue the ministry of Jesus in the world today.
The Holy Spirit convicts of sin. ''When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgement." (John 16:8 NIV) The word that John uses of the work of the Spirit "is the word which is used for the cross-examination of a witness, or a man on trial, or an opponent in an argument. It has always this idea of cross-examining a man until he sees and admits his errors, or acknowledges the force of some argument which he had not yet seen… Now clearly such cross-examination can do two things – it can convict a man of the weakness of his case, and the strength of the case which~ up to this time, he has opposed. In this passage we need both the meanings; we need both convict and convince." (Daily Study Bible; John vol. 2; pg. 192; Barclay)
It is the work of the Holy Spirit to convict man of his sin, and to convince a man of his own weakness and of Christ's strength.
The Spirit of God, speaking through the Holy Scriptures, convicts man of inward attitudes and sinful desires against which there is no civil law. Civil laws are made against murder, but only the Spirit can convict a man for anger. Civil laws can convict a man for perjury and fraud, but only the Spirit of God can convict a man of malice and resentment. There are civil laws against adultery, but who, other than the Spirit of God, can convict one of lustful desires and impure thoughts? Laws against stealing are made by society, but only God's Spirit can convict one of the wrong in covetousness, envy, and jealousy. What passes the scrutiny of man, does not pass the scrutiny of God. Jesus said that the Spirit convicts the world of sin because the world does not believe in Him. One may not be a murderer, or an adulterer, or a thief', but if he does not truly believe in Christ, that person stands condemned. "Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son." (John 3:18 NIV)
Jesus said that the Spirit convicts the world of sin because the world does not believe in him. In God's sight the worst sin of all is unbelief. The most respected man of the world may be the chiefest of sinners, for he may be the man who has sunk deepest in the mire of unbelief.
In understanding the Spirit's conviction, one must first realize that conviction is personal. Says one, "He (the Holy Spirit) undertakes to convince every man of his own utter sinfulness – to convince him that his individuality is as fully recognized by God in the sinfulness of the world as was that of Adam in the first transgression, or as though he were the only one in all the world who had ever sinned." (The Holy Spirit, A Study; Hogue; pg. 154)
"Father, I come to you with a receptive heart and an open hand to receive your gifts of divine grace. I stand convicted of my own inadequacies, and convinced of the adequacy of your grace. What passes the scrutiny of man cannot pass your scrutiny. I confess my hidden sins in order to receive your revealed mercy."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will not allow society's approval of my outward conduct to blind me to my need for God's cleansing of my inward condition!
The Convicting Work Of The Holy Spirit
In the last devotional we said that conviction of sin is first personal. Next, we can say that conviction is guilt-producing. What made the crowd to whom Peter preached feel pricked in their hearts (Acts 2:37)? Before this time, the people in this crowd felt comfortable and complacent and even thought they had done God a service by crucifying the professed Messiah – Jesus. It was the Holy Spirit that made them realize that they had committed a terrible sin in crucifying the very Son of God! It was the Holy Spirit that made them cry out, under the preaching of Peter, "What should we do?" They saw themselves as God saw them, and "they were moved to the depths of their hearts." (Acts 2:37 Berkley)
Third, it is the Holy Spirit who allows the concealed sin of the sinner to be exposed. Again, the Spirit's purpose in this is redemptive. Repressed guilt of hidden sin must be exposed in order for healing to be affected. The Bible says, "Be sure your sin will find you out." The following true account interestingly describes this truth. "A few years ago The Times reported a strange case of crime in a certain German town. A lady in that town found a basket on her doorstep, and the basket contained a pigeon. There was a note also inside, an urgent, imperative, threatening note which said that if the lady did not fasten a certain sum of money to the clip on the pigeon's leg and release the bird immediately, her house would be burnt down that night. The lady immediately informed the police and the police acted with amazing rapidity… They chartered two aeroplanes and having tied a streaming ribbon to the bird's neck they released the bird and instructed the pilots to pursue it. The pigeon rose in the air and wheeled round several times before it finally took its course. The inhabitants of the town… stood in amazement at the strange gyrations of the two aeroplanes and feared for their church steeple; but as soon as the pigeon flew on a direct course the aeroplanes were in hot pursuit, while the police followed, as best they could, in a high-powered car below. Presently the pigeon flew down to a loft and one of the aeroplanes took a photograph of the spot while the other dropped a note to the police. The police dashed to the house and discovered two brothers untying the tell- tale ribbon in feverish haste from the bird's neck and they were placed under immediate arrest. The men protested, however, that the bird was not theirs. 'It just flew into our loft', they said, 'it is not our bird.' 'Very well,' said the officer, 'we will test that', and he ordered the pigeon to be taken away and released from a distant spot… and it came home. A second time it was taken away and a second time it came home. A third time – and a third time it came home. And every time… it deepened the certitude of their guilt. Finally, they broke down arid confessed… SIN IS LIKE THAT. IT COMES HOME." (Daily Readings; William Sangster; pg. 57)
"O God, my sins – even the secret sins of my heart – are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him who sees all and who knows all! Where can I go to hide from your presence? Nowhere, for you fill the universe with your presence! I confess even my hidden sins to you. In Jests' forgiving name. Amen."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The One who knows all is ready to forgive all – if I openly confess my sins to Him!
1 John 3:4-10 James 4:17
What Are The Causes Of Real Guilt?
Notes Paul Tournier, "'False guilt' is that which comes as a result of the judgements and suggestions of men. 'True guilt' is that which results from divine judgment." (Guilt and Grace pg. 67 in 'The Best of Paul Tournier)
One cause of true guilt is transgression against the known laws of God. "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law; for sin is the transgression of the law." (1 John 3:4)
What is the meaning of the 'Laws' of God? Using the Bible as a whole to interpret this, we can say that 'Laws' refer to at least two areas: the Laws of Morality (Exodus 20 – the Ten Commandments) and the Laws of Relationship:; (Matthew 22:37-40 – Love for God, Neighbor, Self).
The Laws of Morality (Ten Commandments) can be 'boiled down' to one word – 'Respect'. The first four commandments refer to Respect for God, and the last six commandments refer to Respect for Others. To violate the Laws of Morality is to violate the call to respect for life. To transgress against the known laws of Respect (Ten Commandments) is to bring guilt to one's soul.
The Law of Relationships is only an amplified form of the Laws of Morality. "For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love they neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." (Romans 13:9-10)
Love is the supreme Law – love for God, love for others, and love for one's self.
Not to surrender fully to God in love is to sin against God. Not to care compassionately for others is to sin against one's neighbor. Not to sincerely love oneself is to sin against ones own personhood. Thus, guilt is incurred when one is not truly loving God, loving others, and loving oneself. Lovelessness is sin!
Prayerlessness is a form of lovelessness and is sin. Said Samuel to the nation of Israel, "As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you." (1 Samuel 12:23)
Failure to do the good we should have done also constitutes sin, according to James 4:17. "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin." These sins are sometimes called 'sins of omission' in contrast to the 'sins of commission' which is described in I John 3:4. Jesus gave the Golden Rule: "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets." (Matthew 7:12)
"O God, the more I understand the nature of sin, the more I sense my need for your forgiveness. I have broken most of the Ten Commandments. I have failed to love you supremely, to love myself wholesomely, and to love others sincerely. I do not ask to be treated justly. I ask rather to be treated mercifully!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: "The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in Love… He does not treat us as our sins deserve." (Psalms 103:8, Psalms 103:10)
Matthew 7:12; Matthew 25:31-46; James 4:17
What Are 'Sins Of Omission'?
Jesus gave the Golden Rule: "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets." (Matthew 7:12)
Notes Barclay, lilt is not difficult to find many parallels to this saying in its negative form… Many voices had said, 'Do not do to others what you would not have them do to you', but no voice had ever said, 'Do to others what you would have them do to you…
"When this rule is put positively, when we are told that we must actively do to others what we would have them do to us, a new principle enters into life, am a new attitude to our fellow-men. It is one thing to say, 'I must not injure people; I must not do to them what I would object to their doing to me.' That, the law can compel us to do. It is quite another thing to say, 'I must go out of my way to help other people and to be kind to them, as I would wish them to help and to be kind to me.' That, only love can compel us to do. The attitude which says, 'I must do no harm to people', is quite different from the attitude which says, 'I must do my best to help people'." (Daily Study Bible; Matthew; Barclay; pg. 280)
Failure to do practical works of compassion is also considered serious sins of omission which incur both guilt and eventual judgment from God. Some of Jesus' strongest teaching on the sin of omission is found in Matthew 25. "For' I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me 'no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me." (Matthew 25:42-45)
Good intentions are good, but good intentions must find good expressions.
"'A bell is not a bell til you ring it, A song is not a song til you sing it. Love in your heart is not put there to stay, Love is not love til you give it away."
"The guilt of omission… comprises all that we had dreamed and have not attained, the poems shoved into a secret drawer whim still have a few lines missing or a few corrections to be made; it comprises the promises made in the mystical impetus of a short-lived moment; all that we have attained only incompletely, begun and abandoned; all that is unfinished, timid, unexpressed, shapeless," (Guilt and Grace; Paul Tournier; pg. 52)
"Lord God, be merciful to me, a sinner. I confess all my sins to you – the sins I remember and the sins I don't remember, my sins of commission and my sins of omission. Not only have I transgressed against your visible laws, but I have, even worse, broken your heart by being indifferent to your love. Give me not only forgiveness for what I have done – transgression – but impart to me strength to do what I haven't done – deeds of compassion!
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God will enable me to translate my good impressions and my good intentions into good expressions!
Looking At The Cure For Real Guilt
Psalms 32 tells us that unconfessed sins have tragic results, in terms of both the body and the soul. Increasingly it is being shown that hidden, suppressed, and unconfessed sin infects the body as well as the soul. David wrote of the result of his own unconfessed sin: "When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long." (Psalms 32:3)
Guilt impairs the soul as well as the body. Guilt produces within man a sense of God's displeasure. Man is made for God and remains restless until he finds rest in God. Guilt causes man to avoid his own best Friend (Jesus Christ), and makes that Friend out to be an enemy!
Guilt also brings to man the sense of divine conviction. The hand of God rests heavy upon the sinner: "For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer." (Psalms 32:4)
What is the cure of real guilt? Psalms 32:5 is the answer to coping with guilt: "Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity, I said, 'I will confess my transgression to the Lord' – and you forgave the guilt of my sin."
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)
Notes Dr. Karl Menninger, "If the concept of personal responsibility and answerability for ourselves and for others were to return to common acceptance, hope would return to the world with it!" (Whatever Became of Sin?; Menninger; pg. 188)
How is real guilt dealt with? David knew by experience: "acknowledged my sin unto God… I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord." (Psalms 32:5) There is no attempt to escape personal moral responsibility. The blame is not put on one's environment, heredity, background, society, parents, or friends. Says Dr. Boisen, perceptive psychiatrist, "My observation is that the patient who condemns himself, even to the point of thinking he has committed the unpardonable sin, is likely to get well. It is the patient who blames others who does not get well… Self-blame, even when it leads to severe psychosis, means the recognition that something is wrong and the acceptance of one's responsibility for the difficulty. The emotional disturbance which follows is then analogous to fever or inflammation in the body. It is not an evil but a manifestation of nature's power to heal" (quoted in 'The Crisis In Psychiatry and Religion; O. Hobart Mowrer; pg. 66) Real guilt comes, not from acts which the individual would commit but dares not (Freudian psychology), but from acts which he has committed but whishes that he had not committed (Christian view). Therefore, confession of sin to God is the only way to find deliverance from real guilt!
"Merciful Father, your Word teaches me that you forgive all my sins, and heal all my spiritual infirmities, and redeem my life from the pit, and crown me with love and compassion (Psalms 103:3-4) – if I am willing to confess all my sins to you in the spirit of true humility and repentance. Glory!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: As far as the east is from the west, so far has the Lord removed my transgressions from me! (Psalms 103:12)
Finding The Joy Of God's Salvation
Acknowledgement of a life of transgression which leads to a sincere confession of sin is the first step towards a full and abundant life, free from the plague of debilitating guilt! Involvement in earnest prayer is always necessary if there is to be release from guilt. David confessed to God: "Against thee… have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight." (Psalms 51:3) He spoke directly to God in prayer. David's guilt was not imaginary guilt; it was real guilt. He had broken God's law ('Thou shalt not commit adultery', etc.). Such guilt could only be resolved by confessing his sin to God – not to man. "Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities… Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation." (Psalms 51:8-9, Psalms 51:12 a) Only God, through His Son, has power to forgive sins. "The Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins." (Mark 2:10)
To experience full release from guilt, it is necessary to accept Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord. Jesus bore our sins in His own body on the Cross. He is our sin-bearer. He judged our sins and took our hell on Mount Calvary, when he died, the godly for the ungodly. Therefore, "Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son." (John 3:18) "He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life." (1 John 5:12)
After one becomes a believer, through the exercise of faith in Jesus as Saviour and Lord, there is need for daily confession of sins of omission (1 John 2:1-2), sins of omissions (James 4:17), and even sins of ignorance, After one has surrendered himself to Christ, there is need for daily cleansing. "If we walk In the light, as he is in the light, we have. fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from every sin." (1 John 1:7 NIV)
Some Christians strangely think that love for God is incompatible with confession of sin on a daily basis, and thus, such persons accumulate guilt because of a lack of daily confession. In the life of every believer there is need for a daily 'soul-purging' through confession. All believers need daily cleansing of mistakes and failures and human blunders, even though these things are not sins, in "the strict sense of the word (I John 3:4). Even believers who are mature in love are not assured of perfection in judgment and in conduct. Even unintentional errors or sins of ignorance should be confessed to God, and, if necessary, to man (James 5:16). Jesus taught His followers to pray, ''Forgive us our debts", which assumes a need for sincere daily confession.
"O God, I see now that there is no way to experience forgiveness of sins except through Jesus. For He is my atoning sacrifice. Through His death, I may live. Through His blood, I may experience cleansing from all my sins. Thank you! Thank you!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The cost of forgiveness is great – it cost the death of Jesus! I will ever glory in the Cross of Calvary!
1 John 1:7; 1 John 2:1-2
Experiencing Daily Cleansing And Confidence
It is possible for a Christian to sin, but if a Christian falls into an act of sin, God, because of Christ's atonement, will forgive and restore the repentant believer to fellowship. This is the teaching of 1 John 2:1. "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." (1 John 2:1) Jesus, as advocate, pleads our case before the Heavenly Father. "An advocate is a helper, a supporter of someone's cause, an advocate is someone's defense." (Barclay) Jesus is the one who intercedes on man's behalf before God the Father. Jesus alone is worthy to be an advocate before the Father, because Jesus alone is inherently righteous.
Spirit-filled believers are not to have a 'sin-fixation'. Rather, they are to have a 'Christ-fixation'. Believers should not focus on sin. They should focus instead on the Saviour! For where sin abounds, grace superabounds!
But, while declaring the proper focus and emphasis, it is important for the sincere Christian to recognize his need for constant cleansing. The blood of Christ cleanses, and continues to cleanse, from the pollution of sin, as the believer continues to 'walk in the light' of truth (1 John 1:7). Even the Spirit-filled believer must maintain his sense of forgiveness and power by constant reliance upon the cleansing blood of Christ. His sense of release from a sense of perpetual guilt is found to the degree that he continues to appropriate the cleansing blood of Jesus, constantly applied to the believer's life!
He who practices 'agreeing with God's grace-estimate' of himself (1 John 1:9) (present tense in Greek for 'Confess'), is he who enjoys a sense of pardon and a sense of conscious release of guilt. When the repressed guilts in the believer's life are released into the conscious mind, it is this process of confession that must be practiced in order to continue to enjoy a sense of relief am pardon.
To 'pray without ceasing' is to practice an attitude of confession. Not centering primarily upon the sin, but focusing primarily upon the mercy and love and grace of Christ, whose blood continually cleanses as one continues to confess. Grace is always and only for the humble, rot; for the self-satisfied – and this goes for believers as well as for the unsaved.
Jesus is the believer's advocate who pleads his case before the Father, and who applies the atoning blood to his sin.
"'Confess' means 'agree along with'. O Lord, I agree along with you – that you are right and I am wrong, that you are the all-sufficient Saviour and I am the totally-needy sinner, that your blood alone can cleanse me initially from my moral pollution and can continue to cleanse me from my daily shortcomings and sins."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: "The cleansing stream, I see, I see! I plunge, and, oh it cleanses me!"
Romans 5:1-2; Romans 8:31-34; Hebrews 4:14-16; Hebrews 10:35
Learning To Forgive Yourself
"What is the cure for real guilt?" There is a five-fold answer to this important question: (1) Acknowledgement of transgressing life, resulting in humble confession of sin, (2) Involvement in earnest prayer, (3) Acceptance of the Son of God as Saviour, (4) Daily confession of sins and failures, and (5) Learning to forgive yourself of your forgiven sins and mistakes.
It is this last step that we must focus our attention on today. Notes William Sangster, "Having accepted the forgiveness of God, don't brood over the past. There are many people in the family of God who do not doubt God's forgiveness, but they never seem able to forgive themselves. The memory of their sin lacerates them. It is hardly ever out of their minds. So, far from being able, as some are, to forgive themselves lightly, they seem unable to forgive themselves at all. Just like some unhealed wound in the body, this unhealed wound in the spirit drains their strength, hinders their progress, pours pus into the blood-stream, and keeps them in a state of spiritual invalidism.
"God has forgiven you; forgive yourself. Who are you to have superior moral values to the Almighty God? Here are two things which will help you to forgive yourself.
"(1) Can't you see that your unwillingness to forgive yourself is a form of spiritual pride? What you are really saying, at the deep level of your mental and emotional life, is this: 'How could I ever have done that?' (Note the stress on the 'I'.) 'Me! A spiritual giant like me!' injected into your veins. Accept the forgiveness. (You cannot undo the past. God has forgiven it, and, if God has forgiven you, who can justly accuse you? That is the first thing: forgive yourself.
"(2) Here is the second. In some mysterious way – beyond our human fathoming – God can use sin… the God who is mighty in creation is also mighty in transformation." (Daily Readings; William Sangster; pg. 71)
God will not allow anything in our past lives to be wasted. He can take even the bad of one's past and use it in the development of good! I know of one man, who for many years lived deeply in sin, but soon after he because a Christian he began to champion righteous causes. He was no stranger to pornography when he was not a Christian, but soon after his conversion to Christ he spear-headed a courageous campaign against pornography within his local community. Another man, before he was a believer, involved himself in deceptive practices and ended up in prison for several months. After becoming a Christian and after he was released from prison, he began a Christ-centered prison ministry which gained national recognition and acceptance! So, whatever your past sins are, confess them to God, and allow God to use even your past sins to bring about some good! Doing this helps you to learn to forgive yourself.
"Loving God, if you have hid my sins in the 'sea of your forgetfulness', then I have no right to live remorsefully. Confessing all my sins to you, I now release from my conscious mind the regrets and shame which my sins have caused me. Henceforth, allow me to live confidently and joyfully!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Because God has already judged my sins in the person of Jesus when He died on the Cross, I will never have to face an angry Judge, but only a loving Friend!
Discussion Questions On 'Freedom From Real Guilts'
What evidence is there from Scripture that everyone is guilty of wrong doing?
How can chapters One and Two of Romans be described by way of contrast, as each relates to the subject of sinners?
What are two major flaws in attempting to gain God's approval by a life of outward morality?
Name and describe four inadequate ways of dealing with real guilt.
If Jesus is 'Love Incarnate' (i.e., God in human form who best demonstrated the love of God), then how can we justify Jesus' seeming harsh and severe treatment of some of the religious leaders of His day?
What can be learned, from a study of 'The Sermon on The Mount' (Matthew 5:21-42), regarding the true nature of sin?
Share at least three different characteristics of the Holy Spirit's Conviction of sinners.
How does Paul Tournier distinguish between 'False Guilt' and 'True Guilt'?
Name and describe at least two causes of real guilt. What is the difference between 'sins of commission' and 'sins of omission'? Give Scriptures which describe these two types of sin.
What is meant by the 'Laws of Morality' and the 'Law of Relationships'?
Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Lovelessness is sin!"
What is the 'Golden Rule' as Jesus stated it, and in what way is the 'Golden Rule' unique among the ethical principles taught in the ancient world?
What does Matthew 25 teach mankind regarding the importance of good works? Based on a study of this chapter, is it accurate to say that, unless there is evidence of good works in one's life, one's profession of faith in Christ is meaningless?
List and describe the five steps that are involved in a person realizing an effective cure for real guilt in his life.
Contrast the Freudian view with the Christian view, regarding the origin of guilt in one's life.
Why is confession directly to God through prayer the only adequate method of ridding oneself of guilt? Why is a human mediator not adequate in the confession act? (Note 1 Timothy 2:5-6)
Discussion Questions On 'Freedom From Real Guilts' (Continued)
After one becomes a believer, through the exercise of faith in Jesus Christ, why is it necessary for such a one to daily confess his sins to Jesus Christ?
According to 1 John 1:7, what condition must be met if a believer is to enjoy daily Cleansing from Christ?
What is the significance to the believer of the present tense in Greek for 'Confess'? In light of 1 John 1:7, 1 John 1:9; 1 John 2:1-2, give your interpretation of the following statement: "Grace is always and only for the humble, not for the self-satisfied – and this goes for believers as well as for the unsaved."
What insights could you sharp. with a sincere believer who is having a difficult time forgiving himself of his past?