Grace Flows Down by Christy Nockels
What is guilt and what is the source of guilt?
No Condemnation in Christ
Mark 16:5-7 (NIV)
5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”
Peter was devastated when he realized he’d denied Christ not once but three times, as Jesus had foretold (Luke 22:61-62). This was the man who just hours earlier had bravely vowed to die for his Lord (Luke 22:33). I doubt he ever forgot the horror of such utter failure. He probably spent the next few days suffocating under a weight of guilt.
Maybe you know exactly how heavy that burden feels. The weight of your sin goes everywhere with you, dragging your heart into a pit of despair. God’s disfavor seems to bear down on you. In a word, you feel condemned. However, for all who have trusted in Jesus’ atoning death on their behalf, the feeling of condemnation is just that—a feeling. It isn’t the truth.
The fact is that believers are not condemned for iniquity, no matter how terrible or habitual their transgression may be (Rom. 8:1). Condemnation is reserved for the unbeliever, who is declared guilty of sin and punished (John 3:36). We may judge ourselves harshly because our actions and motives fall short of a holy standard. But when God looks at the Christian, He sees only the righteousness of Christ, which clothes us the moment we say yes to the Savior’s sacrifice on our behalf. No one can do enough good to merit his own salvation. Jesus alone removes the believer’s sin and guilty verdict.
God understands our heart’s burdens, even self-inflicted ones. That’s why the Lord sent Peter a message: The disciple needed to know Jesus had risen—conquering sin and death—and was waiting in Galilee (Mark 16:7). God’s hope is for all believers to understand there is no condemnation in Christ.
Romans 5:6-11 (NIV)
6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Guilt is something with which we’re all familiar. Oftentimes, Christians wear it like a badge of honor, in some misguided effort to demonstrate humility. But this is a misunderstanding that poisons the church and steals the joy of Christ from believers. It’s worth taking the time to stop and ask the question, “What is guilt?”
When we see the term in English translations of the Bible, we tend to apply a worldly interpretation of the passage. In the context of the world, guilt refers to feelings of remorse, depression, or rejection over some event from the past. Scripturally speaking, however, the word is used only to denote responsibility. The word is not associated with feelings of shame or rejection; instead, it is more of a legal term, as when a court finds an offender “guilty.”
What does this mean for the believer? Well, we should already know that we have been found guilty—we all have an enormous sin debt that we could never pay. However, Jesus Christ took that guilt upon Himself at the cross, and He paid our debt in full. We need to realize that if He has already paid our debt and released us from liability, then we are no longer guilty. Yes, we have been tried, but we’ve been declared forgiven.
The Lord doesn’t want us to hide the joy of our salvation beneath a smothering blanket of guilt. Rather, we are called to rejoice in the glorious redemption that Christ’s sacrifice made possible. For this reason, we can proudly proclaim, “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). Go, and be free today.
2 Corinthians 7:9-10 (NIV)
9 yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. 10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.
I once read a survey that asked 500 people what emotions they felt when experiencing guilt. The answers were heartbreaking. Respondents reported feeling punished, depressed, worthless, rejected, and isolated. Many were overwhelmed by a general sense of low self-esteem. There was no joy, no hope, and no vitality. In a sense, it was as though the feelings of guilt had completely blotted out everything else in their life.
This seems like such a sad way to exist, and yet it’s safe to assume that we all—even those of us who are believers—have experienced these exact same emotions. In fact, you may be dealing with intense guilt right now. If so, let’s consider one simple question: Where does it come from?
In 2 Corinthians 7:10, we see two forms of guilt. One is a sorrow that comes from God. This call to repentance is a tool the Lord uses to draw unbelievers to Himself through salvation in Christ. It also motivates believers to confess any wrongs causing “interference” in their fellowship with Him.
A second form of guilt is the dark emotion that plagues people with remorse and the reactions mentioned on the survey. Such sorrow isn’t from God at all, but from the world.
If you’ve received Jesus’ free gift of salvation but still struggle under the assault of guilt, let Scripture assure you: These feelings didn’t come from God. He is not attacking you. Rather, He holds the keys to your freedom. Don’t fall victim to the enemy’s lies. In Christ, you are forgiven and free. Lay down your chains today.
The Morning Bible Study notes are posted here.
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