Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Managing Your Guilt

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery" (Galatians 5:1).
Because all of us are susceptible to stumbling ~ none of us is perfect ~ we are all susceptible to feeling guilty. If we are ever going to be able to manage our feelings of guilt and have victory over them consistently, we will have to learn how to manage and deal with them in biblical ways that lead us to freedom, as the verse above reminds us.

Dealing with Guilt: The Options

What options do we have when we are plagued with feelings of guilt?
  1. We can allow our thoughts to continually condemn us.
    We can blame ourselves over and over, and replay the tape of our wrong actions in our mind.
  2. We can try to shift the blame.
    We can blame our circumstances, contemporary society, or our lack of knowledge or strength.
  3. We can try to drown the guilt.
    One major cause of addiction is overwhelming feelings of guilt, and there are many addictive behaviors available to us today.
  4. We can punish ourselves.
    We can decide that we don't deserve any happiness or fulfillment by abusing our body, denying care for our personal health, or refusing to pursue educational or career goals.
  5. We can face the music and move on. Face the music and move on ~ six little words that represent some significant mental work and discipline, but it is the only option that makes sense!

Dealing with Guilt: A Plan

We will need a plan for guilt management because this is not going to happen overnight. We will need to be intentional about this because our good intentions will take us nowhere.

Here are principles for managing guilt that will apply to every kind of guilt that might plague us ~ whether it be true or false, major or minor, long-term or short-term, intermittent or constant ~ and they will help us take positive biblical steps toward dealing with our guilt.
  1. Accept Responsibility
    We must accept the responsibility that is ours, without excuses, and openly and specifically confess to God the sin that caused the true guilt. We may or may not have emotional feelings of relief after such a prayer, but if we pray in faith, then our guilt is gone.
  2. Change Our Thought Patterns
    Now we must learn to live in the truth that our sin has been forgiven. We must confront negative thought patterns not by merely telling ourselves to change those patterns, but by being prepared with a biblical method for bringing our wrong thoughts under control.
    "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5).
    We must fill our minds with right thinking so there is no room for wrong thinking. Bible truths and promises are the best replacement thoughts, so if we choose to memorize a few verses, we can have a ready response to negative thinking patterns.
  3. Praise God for Victory over Our Guilt
    We must talk and live as though this victory is complete, for indeed it is complete in Christ. We must defeat the negative attitudes and feelings with a megadose of praise.
    • Praise through Thanksgiving ~ thank God for his goodness!
    • Praise through Song ~ music is a wonderful avenue of praise, so simply sing praise to God.
    • Praise through Adoration ~ recite the wonders he has done in creation all around us and in our own lives!
    • Praise at All Times ~ become intentional about praising God throughout the day.
    • Praise in Corporate Worship ~ be involved in a good church where we can praise God with others.
    • Praise in Advance ~ praise God in advance, knowing God will fight for us.

Making Your Own Plan

There is no question God can deliver us from a life plagued with guilt. We can be set free so that our lives glorify Him. Are you ready to break free? It's time for you to write your own plan so you can become more intentional and biblical in confronting the guilt you struggle with, and live FREE!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Guilt Is GONE!

Do you struggle to let go of the shame and guilt of your past? Do you find yourself regurgitating your sins to God, confessing them again and again?

If you have become a child of God through faith in Jesus Christ, God chooses to remember your confessed sins no more! Thus, when you repeatedly confess the same sins to Him, His response essentially is, "I don't know what you're talking about!"

This is how God treats our sin, according to His Word:
"He [the Lord] does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us." (Psalm 103:10-12)
"I, even I, as he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more." (Isaiah 43:25)
Although He remembers our confessed sins no more, sin is still a big deal to God and He deals with this to quite an extent in His Word. There are 167 references to guilt in the Old Testament ~ 38 of them in the book of Leviticus alone, a book primarily documenting God's laws for His people.

So if our sin, and thus our guilt, are removed from us through faith in Jesus, why even read Leviticus? The real benefit in reading it is to understand what it was like to constantly try to perform up to God's specific standards while constantly failing to do so!

We might also wonder this: Why would God give His people laws to live by if He knew full well they couldn't live up to them? Simply because those laws were necessary to show them ~ and us ~ that no one can justify him or herself by living up to the law! It's only when we understand the burden (and impossibility) of trying to live up to God's holy requirements that we can appreciate the free gift of the righteousness of Jesus Christ, which is ours because Jesus paid the price for our sins!

In Leviticus, there is a wonderful teaching concerning the Day of Atonement which teaches us much about letting go of guilt. It was on this Day, once a year, that the high priest engaged in a ritual that was intended to help rid the people of their guilt. Furthermore, the events of the Day of Atonement are a series of visual aids through which God taught the Israelites what their Messiah would do when He would come to redeem the world from sin!

Let's look at the rituals of the Day of Atonement and see how they symbolize what Christ did for us.

The Humbling:
  • The high priest was one of the most important people in the whole nation, and the clothing he wore displayed the dignity of his office. But on the Day of Atonement, he set aside his magnificent clothes, wearing instead a simply white cloth, the dress of a common slave.
  • Likewise, Jesus set aside His magnificent clothing ~ His glory, His exalted position in heaven ~ and took the form of a servant, wearing strips of cloth as a baby in a manger.

The Preparation:
  • Before the high priest could enter the presence of God to deal with the sins of the people, he had to deal with his own sins first by sacrificing a bull and sprinkling its blood on the mercy seat inside the Most Holy Place.
  • Here, Jesus differed from every high priest in the Old Testament: He committed no sin, so no sacrifice was necessary for His preparation. He was and is a qualified Savior.

The Atonement:
  • The high priest next sacrificed a goat for the sins of the people, similarly sprinkling some of the blood on the mercy seat inside the Most Holy Place. The blood from the sacrifice was a visual statement that sin and guilt cannot be removed until a death takes place. God's judgment demanded a blood sacrifice from the sinner ~ and God's mercy allowed the death sentence for people to be transferred onto an animal. He accepted a substitute sacrifice for the people, allowing the sinful people to live.
  • Jesus served as our substitute sacrifice. His blood was shed on Calvary and God's judgment fell on Him. This satisfied the justice of God, and allowed His mercy to be released to all who will come to Him by faith.

The Confession:
  • Sin cannot be atoned for and forgiven until it is confessed and forsaken. So next, the high priest would take a second goat and, laying his hands on the head of that live goat, he would confess all the sins of Israel, thereby transferring the people's guilt onto the goat. This goat hadn't committed any of those sins ~ he was innocent! Nonetheless, they were placed on him as the scapegoat.
  • This is a picture of what our Lord did when He died on the cross for our sins: All our sins were transferred to Jesus ~ blameless, innocent, righteous Jesus.

    "God made him [Jesus] who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (II Corinthians 5:21)
"He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed." (I Peter 2:24)
Just as the priest had to confess the sins of the people, we also must confess our sins. In so doing, they are transferred to Christ and are included in the sin for which He died.
The Release of Guilt:
  • As the final ritual of the Day of Atonement, the high priest sent the guilty goat way out into the desert, where it was let go. The goat ~ and the guilt ~ were gone forever!
  • When John the Baptist saw Jesus, he said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29) As you lay hold of Jesus by faith and confess your sins, can you picture your specific sins being taken away into the distance and out of sight? Can you believe that through the finished work of Christ, your sins are not only forgiven but your guilt is also removed?
Won't you recognize that your sin and guilt have been taken away, never to be remembered against you again? Friend, go and live in that freedom today!