First of all, I want to thank Tim Lewis for giving me the idea for this post. As is often the case when one is preaching the Message of God's Word to an audience, a grain of truth finds its way into a heart in a way that the messenger may not be aware of or even intended. In pointing out the sad truth that some have a hard time believing that God could love them because their sin is so grievous, I was encouraged to think of my own life and admit what I knew to be true, but, like everyone else, sometimes have a hard time remembering. God loves me! Thanks, Tim.
Guilt is a good thing...with some qualifications. This is such a radical idea in this day and age, that some may actually stop reading right here. Please do not!! Some have the idea that guilt is the greatest of evils. The television is full of preachers who preach that guilt should be the furthest thing from your mind; that Jesus died to absolve you of all guilt. Well, that is only part of the story.
Yes, Jesus did come into this world bringing salvation to all men (Titus 2:11); however, that salvation is offered conditionally (i.e. on the condition that we respond to that offer in faithful obedience and faithful obedience as God has defined it in His Word). What does that have to do with guilt? Guilt is built into us by God and is a good thing when allowed to function as He intended. And that function is to help us humble ourselves before God. Guilt reminds me that I am a sinner and that when I approach the throne of God, "I am a man of unclean lips" (Isaiah 6:5). I do not deserve to be in His presence; I do not deserve His grace. Thanks be to God, however, that He does not act on my behalf based on what I deserve, but on His own love toward me!
Here is the message I want to leave you with today. You may very well think that your sin is so bad that God could not possibly forgive you, never mind love you, but you are wrong. You may think it bold of me to say that, but it's true. Do you find yourself in a cycle of sin that has you feeling guilty, sincerely repenting and then, after a period of time, returning to the same sin? I do! When I consider my life, I remember that Jesus promised to "vomit out" of His mouth the lukewarm Christian (Revelation 3:16 NKJV). My guilt sometimes makes me think He must surely have me in mind because that is what I think of myself.
It is somewhat like the husband that gets angry and beats his wife. We have all seen this guy on television (sometimes reality TV). We do not have much pity for someone who would do that, and we really don't understand why his wife will defend him and then forgive him and take him back when he comes in tears and apologizes and promises to never do it again. Please do not misunderstand me to be defending such behavior!! If you are like me, when you see that guy on TV, you think to yourself when he apologizes, or she defends him, "Yeah, right!" We know he will do it again, don't we? When I sin, I feel like I'm that guy!
We think we have people figured out...that we know someone (e.g. like the wife-beater who will do it again). We don't buy their apologies or penitence one little bit!! And I have committed certain sins so many times that God must surely think the very same thing of me. If I am so disgusted with myself, He must be, too. The fact of the matter is, God does know me. He knows the sincerity of my heart, the self-loathing I feel when I come to Him in penitent prayer, asking - no begging - for His forgiveness. When I have Godly sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:10), He knows the truth about whether there is "longing" in my heart to be right with Him, or if there is really is a "zeal" about my desire to be right with Him (2 Corinthians 7:11).
Well, it makes me feel a little better to know that I do not have to worry that I was not convincing enough to God when I repented. I am left with the acknowledgement of my weakness and a need for His strength to keep fighting to overcome the temptation to commit that certain sin.
I truly love the people in my life who say nice things about me; who tell me they admire this or that thing about me. However, every time I hear a compliment, a part of my mind thinks, "If you only knew..." and the self-loathing is there, always there, ready to bind that heavy ball and chain of guilt to my ankle. I feel its weight and I feel its threat to overwhelm me. Another preacher many years ago reminded me of something that I have tried to repeat as often as I can. We all realize the most difficult person to forgive is...yourself. The fact of the matter is: forgiveness is not my job! Forgiveness of me is God's job; my job is repentance and faithful obedience to His will. So, I must do my job and let God do His!!
Friend, do not give up in despair and hopelessness when you find yourself in that cycle of sin. God knows you and your heart and He knew it before the foundations of the earth; Jesus knew it when He submitted Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death on a cross (Philippians 2:5ff). A word of caution: He does not forgive sins when we do not repent, but if you will submit yourself to His will as He has instructed in His Word, you do not have to worry about convincing Him of your sincerity. If you are sincere, He knows!!
I hope that gives you some encouragement this morning. The weight you carry is not one that is heavier than anyone else's. We have all been there and many of us are still there (1 Corinthians 10:13a). I hope you can begin the new year with the realization that God loves you and I really want you to know that I love you, too. God bless you!
Welcome to Barnabas Notes. The title of this site comes from the Biblical character of that name who was a companion of the apostle Paul on his first missionary journey and whose name was actually Joseph. He was called "Barnabas," which means "son of encouragement," because of his ability to bless the lives of others. We hope that this blog will be such a blessing in your life!