What does it say about our faith
when we still experience guilt after being forgiven?"
Last year I spoke to a group of ladies gathered for a church rummage swap. I compared sin and guilt to the trash discovered during spring cleaning. The drastically condensed version below is a bit longer than my usual answer, but it makes the point "cleanly." ;D
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There are three kinds of trash in our lives.
The FIRST is trash that has always been trash and always will be trash. Until we clean it out, it will sit around and make the house dirty.
The ugly little critter above is trash.
Let us lay aside every weight,
and the sin which so easily ensnares us.
Hebrews 12:1 (NKJV)
Until we go looking for dust bunnies in all the places they like to hide, they just keep getting bigger.
Sin is like a hidden dust bunny. We need God's Spirit to show us what sin is hiding in our hearts. Until we clean sin out of our lives, it will make our souls sick and dirty and just plain ugly.
The SECOND kind of trash is stuff that used to be good and useful, but isn't anymore.
Guilt is good when it makes us feel bad for sin so that we'll want to ask forgiveness.
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 (NKJV)
The first Person we need forgiveness from is God. God sent Jesus to die for our sins so that we could say to God (in our own words), "Father God, since Your Son Jesus took my punishment for sin, would You please forgive me and give me peace with You and be Lord of my life?"
When we say we’re “saved,” we mean that because we have God’s forgiveness, we’re saved from any punishment for sin after we die.
But even if we’re saved, there are at least three reasons we might experience guilt:
1) we still sin, and we still need to confess that sin to God so He can clean it out of our lives;
2) if we haven't done it yet and if it's possible, we have guilt until we ask forgiveness from the people who have been hurt by our sin;
3) if we've asked forgiveness from God and others, (even if they refuse forgiveness), and we still have guilt, then we're allowing someone to remind us of our sin in a way that steals the joy and the peace of forgiveness.
There is therefore now no condemnation
to those who are in Christ Jesus.
Romans 8:1 (NKJV)
When guilt compels us to confess sin and ask forgiveness, it's from God’s Spirit and is a good thing called conviction. But when guilt stops being conviction from God and it starts being condemnation—whether from the devil, from others, or from ourselves—it has become trash which must be thrown away and replaced with the truth of Scriptures like the one above.
The LAST kind of trash started out as trash, but is no longer trash.
You peel open and eat the cheese, then throw away the wax—unless you're my daughter Elizabeth, who found a way to make treasure out of trash.
God can do the same thing.
The story of Joseph and the brothers who sold him into slavery 22 years earlier comes to a climax when they voice fear that he will now retaliate. Joseph responds:
"Don't be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." (Genesis 50:19-20)
God used something as ugly as his brothers’ hatred to put Joseph where God could use him to save the lives of his family during a famine.
Every person here has been hurt by sin, and sin is always trash. But we have a God so good and so powerful that He can shape the leftovers of sin and hurt into something good, whether it is our own sin or someone else sinned against us.
God wants to heal our hearts from the hurt that sin causes. The first step is obtaining forgiveness from God, and then asking it of others. It’s just as important for us to forgive, even if we haven't been asked for forgiveness.
If Joseph hadn’t forgiven his brothers before they even knew who he was, he would have killed them or put them in prison instead of saving their lives. But because he forgave them, something bad became something good.
When we forgive the sins of others, we begin to turn evil into good. We begin to be free in our own hearts from the hurt they've caused us.
And in the practice of forgiving others, we also learn to forgive ourselves.
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