God's Way of Handling Guilt: Grace
When I was a brand new Christian, one of the first verses of the Bible that I was taught about how to live this new life that God was giving to me was
1 John 1:9 “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness (unrighteousness).”
This verse is so freeing if we allow ourselves to feel forgiven. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive. That’s good news! That’s grace. We don’t have to feel guilty once we have confessed our sin to God. He is faithful and just to forgive.
I CONFESS my sin.
We say, "God, I did it. I confess my sin." Not just our need -- our sin. Not just our frustration -- our sin. Not just our problems -- our sin.
Ps. 69:5 “O God, you know how foolish I am; my sins cannot be hidden from you.”
There's nothing more difficult than trying to hide something that cannot be hidden. There is nothing more wearying, nothing more costly. Why try to hide it from God? Tell Him. Be honest with Him. He actually loves it when his children turn back to him and ask for forgiveness. He is quick to forgive. He loves you.
Telling God, confessing to God, means more than just admitting. The literal meaning of this word is "saying the same thing about". You say to God, "I agree with You about this. It's wrong. I agree with what You think about this wrong that I've done."
How do we do that? How do we tell God? We do it through prayer. All prayer is, is taking to God. You can talk to God. Even right now where you're seated just start to talk to Him about it. He'll listen.
I know some of you are thinking, "I've done that. You don't know how many times I've confessed this sin. It may have happened 20- 25 years ago. I've talked to God about it again and again and I still don't feel forgiven." The second part of 1 John 1:9 reminds us to really experience God's grace we not only have to confess our sins but we need to ...
I TRUST God's character.
Many people confess their sins but really never get to know the God who is forgiving them. Because of that they never feel the forgiveness that He wants to give. "... He is faithful and just..." You can count on God. You can count on His faithfulness. I know a lot of people who think they can't get close to God because they just don't feel forgiven. In a way that's a trap, because the truth is the closer you get to God, the more you'll feel forgiven.
Heb. 10:22 “Let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean…”
Jesus makes us free from a guilty conscious. That's what the cross is all about. That's what Him giving His life for us is all about. Once I've accepted that gift, the invitation is, "Get close to me." When you get close to God and understand His grace in a new way it frees you to become the person that He wants you to be. It doesn't happen through guilt. You don't become the person God wants you to be through guilt. You become the person God wants you to be through His grace.
I ACCEPT God's forgiveness.
If we confess our sins, He's faithful, He can be trusted to forgive us our sins and the verse ends by saying, "... and cleanse us from all wickedness.” He will purify us from all wickedness or unrighteousness.
John 3:18 “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him (God’s Son).”
When we believe in Christ and trust what He did for us on the cross, the Bible says we're not judged guilty.
If you've already trusted in Christ and believed in what He's done, why are you continuing to judge yourself guilty when God's already said, "I judge you not guilty." If you've never trusted in what Christ has done for you, His willingness to forgive you -- and God's saying, "I'm willing! I'm willing to say `Not guilty!' to you!" why not take advantage of that offer? We all have this picture that we're going to be in heaven at the pearly gates and that's where we're going to be judged guilty or not guilty. That's not where it happens. It's determined here on earth, not in heaven. Right here and now, today. You can settle the issue. God's willing through Christ to say, "I will judge you `Not guilty!'" Why? Because you deserve it? Of course not. I don't deserve it. You don't deserve it. But because of God's grace. Accept God's forgiveness.
Does that mean you'll never fail again? Never make a mistake again? Of course not. But it does mean when you do, you confess your sin again, you recognize His willingness to forgive, you take the consequences and recognize that His grace can even help you with the consequences. In closing, I have a verse for you.
Ps. 32:5 “Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, ‘I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.’ And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.”
Incredible! Some of you need the first half of that verse. “Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt.” You need to say, "God, I admit it! I need Your forgiveness. I'm tired of trying all my ways of making up for it."
Some of you need the second half of the verse. "... and You forgave me. All my guilt is gone." The sad thing is that for some people it's taken them 10, 15, 25 years to get from the first half of this verse to the second half of the verse.
Don't let it be that way with you. Recognize that He's the God of grace who wants to forgive and showers grace upon us. Why? Because we deserve it? No. Because He love us? Yes.