Don't Rot Away
A church leader once said, ‘Guilt is the rot of the Church!’
It really stood out to me because we all feel guilty and/or shameful at points in our lives. Let me distinguish the difference between guilt and shame: Elizabeth Chapin said that guilt is focused on behaviour ("I did something bad") and shame is focused on the individual identity ("I am bad"). At the end of the day the problem is the same... it's not about whether or not it’s good or bad, but rather the consequence this has on our life. We are all affected by guilt and shame, whether we are conscious of it or not, and we all do bad things everyday. Looking back, we’re reminded of how we have already fallen, and therefore we worry that our future plans and actions will not be for the glory of God. As a result of all this, we realise that our identity is inherently sinful.
We react to this in different ways. For example, to say ‘I am what I am, deal with it’, or to simply deny it. Another way is to constantly ask God for forgiveness as we think that this will take away the weight of our sin. Lastly, some of us make ourselves suffer, or don’t allow ourselves to be happy.
It's our conscience of good or bad that leads us to feel guilty. Religion helps us because we can simply follow a law, but does this law therefore justify and save us?
"The wages of sin is death"
This raises questions... such as, 'who will go to heaven?' and 'who can be righteous before God?'
"Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin."
Basically, you can try to follow the law right until the end and still not be saved, only becoming more aware of the sin you commit. So what does the law show us? It shows us that we have two problems: our sins and our sin. They are two different things.
Sin is a form of untameable power, which has been in us since the beginning, so it's not a question of what you have or have not done but it's a question of your nature. It's because of our nature that we sin. That’s the fundamental problem. You can benefit from the best Christian upbringing but still be entrapped by the law of sin.
"Repent and believe in the good news."
Repentance comes from the greek "métanoïa" which means to change and transform. We therefore need to change our mentality, our conscience and understanding in regard to God’s word. You have to take what God says as the truth. If you find that your thoughts aren’t in line with this then repent, and change your mentality. It’s up to us to change our way of thinking. God doesn’t change, but we can. And we do, with the help of the Holy Spirit. We have to learn to know God as He truly is, not just how we might imagine or perceive Him to be. Because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, we are led to repentance and made right with Him. Those feelings of guilt and shame are no longer credible! Rather, we have the right to a clear conscience and peace of mind, that which transcends all understanding (Phillippians 4:7).
Those feelings of guilt and shame are no longer credible!
It’s no longer a question of what you’ve done, what you haven’t done and who you are by nature. God has set before us a higher calling. God declares that whoever puts their faith in Jesus Christ is justified and restored to a state of pure righteousness. Through the Old Testament Law of Moses we understand what sin is, but this cannot solely justify us (John 1:17). It is in the New Testament where Jesus declares that he has not come to abolish the law but to fulfil it (Matthew 5:17). It is by this Good News that Jesus invites us to stop beating ourselves up over our guilt. Jesus died so that, through faith in Him, we would become 100% justified. Through God’s eyes our nature is no longer sinful. Jesus took the place of the sinner on that cross, he took our shame. He took the penalty that we deserved and in doing so gave us complete righteousness.
Yes, we will all carry on falling short of God’s glory, of what He requires from us, BUT we can be certain that we are infinitely made righteous, through God’s promise of salvation, if we choose to believe. A completely new way of living has been set before us and as a result the rot, which is guilt, no longer decays within us leaving us shameful, rather we live in freedom from sin, no longer being entrapped by it. Our new nature before God is righteousness. Jesus commands us to live in this new way
"Then neither do I condemn you" Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin."