The Gospel Applied: Dealing with Guilt, Part I
2 Corinthians 7:10
Let’s turn to 2 Corinthians 7. Of course, anytime and every time the bible is preached, we are called to be attentive and I’m sure that is what God’s people do. I kind of want to say this in a fresh way, for you particular note takers that you will take notes and as you take them if I am going a little too fast, of course always feel to contact me, not only after the service but even sitting down afterwards. Perhaps in your home, wherever that might be. We are going to be dealing with how to apply the gospel and dealing with guilt. Guilt and guilty feelings, and we are going to do so because that is a gospel application, which the gospel is applied to everything in the life of a Christian. We are going to this over the next three weeks, so I want to begin and encourage you to pay close attention because I promise you, over the next three weeks this will be very helpful. No matter how long you have been a Christian, certainly perhaps by your own personal ecclesiology, you will be persuaded to trust by the spirit and it will teach us his truth. When we come before it, we will allow the words of Christ to actually, if we need to, etch-a-sketch some things. So it will guide us into the truth. We can be established in the truth and built in it. Because without the truth of the scripture, I say this to you and you (as the church does) will hold me accountable as the church of the Bereans were, to apply the text. I do not ever, and by God’s grace to my knowledge have never offered the words of my own volition to the congregation. I can say that the word of God has been faithfully taught here for 20+ years, that I know to be true because I have been here. If we lose this, then we really don’t have anything to build on. We really don’t even have anything to guide our relationship with. Any presumptions that we have on our own, as we face the text, I trust and pray that the Holy Spirit will teach us and point us to the gospel as to how it should be applied. So we begin, and we begin with a verse that I think will apply appropriately, because it gives us, as we will see this morning, a text to go on over the next three weeks. I want you to look with me at 2 Corinthians 7:10.
Paul was using this verse to apply to the church that was dealing with some church issues, but the gospel is always relevant to the church. It is not like the gospel for you and I, and I have been saved for over 45 years, is a finished product. I am not in my resurrected body yet. It is always at work and working. The Godly grief which came to your hearts as you were being converted to Jesus, continues to produce in your heart a Godly sorrow over your sin, that leads to and produces a genuine repentance; repentance towards the God who saved you. That leads us to a salvation without regret. There are no regrets. There are not regrets. There is no disappointment in anyone that has truly been converted by the gospel to God, through the person of Jesus Christ.
Worldly grief, over against the Godly grief, produces death. I want to begin by sharing with you a certain truth so that we will all understand this. Every human being, since the fall, has to deal with guilt. People who are lost have to deal with guilt, people who are Christians, have to deal with guilt. Guilt in that regard is an objective reality, for all of us. What is guilt? What is guilt and where does it come from? I want you to turn with me back to Genesis 3, and we will find that even in the garden, where guilt began, since the fall it has been something that all of us have to deal with. Genesis 3, follow along as I read and listen closely to the words found in Genesis 3. The responses that we find here, since the fall of man, is that which is guilt. Guilt is that which a person incurs when they violate a law. God had given a specific stipulation in the garden and that stipulation was violated, the result of that became guilt. Adam and Eve hid themselves. They ran from God over against where they had this open relationship with God and interacting with him, where obviously since had not yet occurred. There was no guilt necessary, and no guilt that was there.
I want you to notice a couple of things before we branch into other areas to help us understand what guilt is and how to deal with it. What takes place here, as a result of their guilt as they run from God, then they blame shift. Adam blames, in essence God, because it was God who gave him Eve, as a beauteous grace-gift to complement him as his helper. He is the one that failed in protecting his bride that God had given him. This often times happens with guilt. This is often times what happens in the world, where they attempt to deal with guilt in worldly means, as we looked at in 2 Corinthians 7:10. There is a worldly grief that produces death. So the world, without Christ, will take various means to deal with those things that are associated with guilt. Now I tried to recollect back to some of the first times in my early days where guilt was associated in my life. We entered into the summertime and I grew up in Hazel Park and lived for the most part, as we moved back from Tennessee, on Cayuga. We always played baseball on Beecher Junior High’s football field. The reason why we did this was because they had grass. We wanted our field to look like, not having to deal with dirt, but it felt like the major leagues. We built, literally dug out, on Beecher’s football field every summer. We went there daily, all of the dudes in the neighborhood, to play baseball. Well when you cross 9 mile road, because I lived between 9 and 9 ½, there was a store and it was elongated and pretty much, where you paid for your items was at the front of the store so it was easy to steal. We were the type of kids that would go across and stay as long as we could, all day long to play baseball. We didn’t leave the house with Gatorades and drinking soup cups and all these things kids often have today when they play sports. We were staying out there all day, and probably would have sauntered off to a house with a house and everyone drank from it and everything else. But from time to time, I confess to you, I would steal in that store because I didn’t have a dime on me. That was the first time that I began to realize, though no one had told me, there was guilt on me because I had violated a law. God had said thou shall no steal. So when no one was around me, I felt the burden of that guilt. Pastor Alex mentioned how the structure of the service is to acknowledge guilt, to find the grace of God so guilt can be dealt with, then to move into a life filled with hearts full of gratitude. Really, my friends, that was the order of the temple service. People would come and they would bring a sacrifice for their sin, and that sacrifice was an acknowledgement of their own guilt, if it was a true heartfelt repentance and not just going through a religious activity. It was acknowledgement that God would come and he would bear the sin. Guilt to grace to gratitude.
Guilty feelings though all of us have it and all of us meaning the world, those without Christ, and the church, those who are in Christ, have a subjective response. Turn with me to Jeremiah 3. I want to describe to you, two opposite ends of the spectrum. There are ways we want don’t want to fall prey to when dealing with guilt. Jeremiah 3.
The first subjective response we want to look at is guilt without guilty feelings. It is guilt without guilty feelings. That is, you are guilty, yet you don’t have the sense of the feelings of guilt. This obviously often times happens when ones conscience is seared. Sometimes this is referred to in the world of psychology of psychopaths or sociopaths. Let me give you an example. Where one will so often lie in their lives that they begin to believe their lies, and if someone even confronts them in their lying, they get very aggressive to get them to back down. They have become, a psychologist would call, a psychopath or sociopath. Very aggressive. This can happens with parents, where their children may fall into some form of sin or perhaps lying or whatever it might be, and to protect their emotion, they’ll cover up their guilt by saying that things are okay. They become more child centered, rather than dealing with the reality in their children, so it builds in their children this victim mentality. When someone becomes, a psychopath or sociopath, they have guilt and they suffer, but they have no feeling of emotion. They just lack it; it’s gone it gets removed. This becomes a way the world deals with guilt. There is an example here of this, I want you to look at this with me in Jeremiah 3. Whereas there were men in Israel that had decided to put off their wives to obtain other women for their own sexual pleasures and they bore no guilt associated with that, because they were just feasting on their own desires and their own lust. That is guilt without guilty feeling. Here, of course, Jeremiah is dealing with that they should have and maintain a fidelity to YHWH and yet they were proceeding and acting in such a way, the men of Israel, with no blush, no shame, no sorrow. There can come a place and a time where people, who deal with their guilt by worldly means, that they don’t even regard the feelings. They disassociate that. What is it? It’s guilt. True guilt, yet without guilty feelings. I believe part of the DNA of being born in the image of God is that we have fallen. This is on all people. There is a natural reaction (just as I had when I stole) that we are wrong, that we are guilty. This comes upon the world, that all of us and perhaps even you now are thinking of particular sins that you know you are guilty of. The chief and most important sin, for those of you that deny Jesus, is that you have rejected Christ.
Now the opposite side of this is guilty feelings without guilt. That people can experience guilty feelings without guilt. Some time ago, I would say 30 years or more, Valerie and I went, long before kids, we went and visited some friends of ours on a weekend. We went to church with them. During the church service the pastor used the book of Jonah and launched from Jonah 1:1, Jonah 2:1, Jonah 3:1, and Jonah 4:1 to literally abuse 8 women who wore pants at the Christian schools soccer game in 28 degree weather, over gauchos. Now some of you that giggled know what gauchos are. Gauchos are those shirt pants. Those would have been appropriate. It was freezing out, the day before was a Friday when the soccer game had taken place and it had been reported to the pastor and we sat there, of course aghast, because that was not only the principle point of the sermon, it was the only point of the sermon. Gauchos. We were talking about gauchos. Guilt feelings without guilt. It has happens often times in the American church since the days of prohibition. Legalistic churches where men will attempt to heap guilt upon people who really don’t have any guilt. There is no guilt there because nothing has been wrong. I would submit this to you, people who fall under (and this is why I would challenge you to take these verses down so you can understand what is sin over against what is not sin) this kind of burden that is placed upon people keeps them in a yoke of slavery to their feelings. Because they have these types of guilty feelings and they don’t know how to battle them, and its not predicated on eternal truth. Its predicated upon a legalistic standard that is not born out of the word of God, thus enslaving those that have been redeemed by the grace of God. It is horrifying. Perhaps you have been affected by this. I know I have in past times of my life. What happens when someone who has and maintains and gathers these guilty feelings without guilt as they fall under this yoke of slavery, they carry the grace of God in salvation to this standard that leaves them bitter and leaves them angry and leaves them in misery. We are talking about gauchos. Where the world, that doesn’t know Jesus and perhaps bumps up against us, says, “What on earth are they talking about?” Guilty feelings without guilt.
Now whether one posses guilt without guilty feelings, or one (I would say I fall in this category more) guilt feelings without guilt, neither one of them deal appropriately to the response that God calls upon us to have because we objectively do have guilt. Don’t we? Some of you already, by this Spirit of God (even as he done me) as he works on our hearts for the truth, we have to deal with guilt. Turn with me to Romans 3. You know Romans 1:16-3:23. Paul is dealing with the issue of sin. Often times, if I could submit this to you perhaps if you do any kind of reading you can connect with this, there is another aspect of the gospel that is coming up under the history of America and there is a book written called The Healing Gospel by Derek Flood uses worldly means. He calls it the gospel, but it is not really any gospel at all. To not have to deal with these issues of guilt, that ultimately him and those others who are in this openness theology that ultimately God is just going to forgive everybody. He is just going to forgive everybody. He doesn’t deal with the reality of guilt and literally from this type of teaching has wiped out the very thing that gives you and I relief from the burden of guilt, which is repentance. This for me, this book was recently written, has been a long category from a group of people that have really confused the church in our country. To use its methodology giving a hope of getting people past the guilt, because we do want to get people past the guilt, no one wants to walk around day to day suffering with the guilt when God has provided, in the gospel, an application of one of the most beautiful things that is looked upon almost like the worst cussword in the American language, which is repentance.
My question to you, as we read this this morning, what do you do with your guilt? Because as pastor Alex appropriately said this morning, we sin don’t we? We sin daily. Its not as if we want to take our sin lightly, because we don’t want to abuse the grace of God in our lives, God didn’t give his grace to abuse him. Grace is not cheap. It cost God some significant things, which was Jesus. The grief that it caused God is something that is very difficult for us to comprehend because for those moments on the cross when Jesus became sin for us, there was a suffering in the Trinity that is hard for us to comprehend. When the creation itself bowed its head in shame in darkness, as Jesus became sin for you and I so that we can be made free from our sin. What do you do with your guilt? We don’t want to pass over it, do we? We don’t want to think of it like that child centered parent. We don’t want to begin to step back and so compare our lives unwisely and blame others and almost become a liar to our own sin and guilt and shame and begin to believe, like a psychopath, our own guilt and shame. We lack emotions towards our sin and sorrow that literally caused Jesus to suffer. My sin did. My sin. Look with me as Paul makes this summation that basically the whole world is guilty before God. Please friends don’t run from this. Getting right in there and dealing with it is going to help you have the capacity not only to battle your own sin, but to not be ashamed of the gospel because some dear person in your life needs a freedom because they are caught in a yoke. They are enslaved with something and without repentance they will never get the freedom of salvation. They will keep battling it in a subjective way, worldly ways that won’t produce salvation to be enjoyed. To be enjoyed like we enjoy. We want to enjoy God’s freedom and grace. We want to do so without bitterness, anger, and misery. That does not reflect the gospel. We don’t want to create standards upon people that are flat out not biblical. Perhaps some of you are sitting here under the bondage of some legalistic form or things you have held to that you know aren’t found in the scripture that has produced in you guilty feelings when you are not, in fact, guilty. What do we do with our guilt? Well it’s clear to us from the summation of this text, that we are all guilty. All humans are guilty. Verse 9.
How often have you heard this phrase when dealing with someone who is a guilty in a situation, “Hey man, nobody is perfect.” Usually that is a set up to begin to blame shift the guilt. Nobody is perfect. The text tells us hamartia in the Greek, which means to miss the mark. Verse 19 – 23. Here is the mark, here is the benchmark and it is true. We always want to hold to this and treasure this to be true that God’s law and God’s character is perfect. Sometimes you will read the word perfect in the bible and it has to do with maturity. I want to give you an example where Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount was trying to help everyone identify because they had set this religious standard on people in various ways and he will go through this. You say you don’t lust, you don’t commit adultery, well have you lusted in your heart? You say you don’t have anger and you are just okay with God. You have not murdered, but do you have anger? And so on. But turn with me and I want you to see this because this is helpful. Matthew 5. We want to find freedom because guilt is a good thing in the gospel because it points us to something. But guilt that is dealt with in a worldly perspective only produces death. Here is the reason why we are guilty, every last one of us. Verse 48, he is giving a summation having gone through anger, lust, divorce, oaths, retaliation, about loving your enemies, and all these kinds of things. He had a mass amount of people. He had Pharisees there. And it wasn’t just that, he had a mass amount of people at the Sermon on the Mount from the least in life to the greatest and he says this. Listen to this standard, this is good to use in gospel application as people are coming to Christ. Jesus is not saying you must be mature, and be more mature than the person next to you so you can haughtily look down on them because they are not as mature as you. He is not saying that. He is saying we must perfect, without sin, as Jesus was, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Life with God, the standard is perfection. This is why the gospel is such good news for you and me, because we do miss the mark, and because God is holy, and because God’s word is holy and righteous and good. Because God’s moral law still lies on our conscience and points us when we are in sin, in secrecy or violation of the law. When you have guilt feelings that warrant addressing, how do you do it? Are you subjecting yourself to the world’s man made methods to deal with guilt? Some often times do this and they spiral downward for years and years and create a legalistic thickness to haughtily look down on others.
Let’s go back to the text and we will wrap this up this morning. In 2 Corinthians 7, I want you to notice a couple of things before we wrap this up and go to the table. From the text we are going to flip it. We are going to deal with worldly grief first. The world gives us methods and gives us ways to deal with guilt. Sometimes even saying there is no such thing as sin, there is no such thing as dealing with guilt in a man made way. Guilt is built in with shame, sorrow, causes us to worry, and creates anxiety. Sometimes people will beat themselves up, or move to forms of asceticism, like Luther did. Where he would torture himself because he wanted to be right with God whom he knew was perfect and holy, yet he could not get past. He thought if he treated himself worse and worse, and it was actually reading the book of Romans that God broke through to his heart the gospel of grace and he found the freedom where only guilt can be applied. He was severely disciplining himself. Why? Because he had a desire to make amends, to pay a penance. He thought he could redeem himself. That is why the confessional booth does nothing for anybody. Only genuine repentance to the one who can bear your sin. Jesus alone is the remedy for anybody’s sin. It is not Jesus plus anything, it is Jesus. It is not Jesus and me doing x amount of said things that is going to make me righteous and guiltless before God. No. I am guilty. So I stand here, say some 40+ years removed from the time I went into Hi-Lo stealing some BBQ potato chips or a Pepsi on the way out. I stand here as one who has stolen from the grace of God because I am guilty. I am guilty. It is with that acknowledgement that God begins to produce in a heart, look at this it is so beautiful, we would never want to wipe out repentance from the gospel for Godly grief produces a repentance the leads to salvation. Please church, listen to this: a gospel with no sin and guilt, with no need to repent, is not good news. It is not! It just leaves us subjected to our own thoughts, our own life, and produces a greater angst to where we get more isolated. We are running into the trees like Adam and Eve were because they knew they were guilty. It is trying to produce some way to release that burden. It was this very thing that drove me to Jesus.
In July in a non-air conditioned house, we are literally laying in bed listening to the hum of the fan. God pounded in, “Kevin you are guilty.” I had church people around me telling me I am not guilty and I was. Because I had walked the aisle. I was guilty and I knew it. God produced in me a Godly sorrow that admitted to him, “God I have wronged you. I acknowledge to you that I am a sinner and I need your salvation.” You see we offer the gospel and we don’t ask people to beg for repentance, to beg for salvation. We have belittled God and heightened ourselves. We don’t want to subject ourselves to a weeping and to remorse to acknowledge our own sinfulness and our guilt, but it is only in and through that that you will get freedom. From the shame, from the anxiety, from the worry, it is an honest and humble admission. It is that acknowledgement of your own sin. In genuine repentance you turn to Jesus and then I know that Jesus bore my wrath. Jesus took what I deserved. Jesus took the shame, that public shame of the cross that I was due. He suffered the guilt, though he himself was innocent and pure and perfect and holy. Church, Jesus took what you were due to that you could enjoy the beautiful Gospel applied truth of repentance. So that you could drive to work, while alone, and you can openly confess to Jesus in thanksgiving. Because of repentance he has given you freedom so you can move past where the accusing of the brethren, which is Satan, to cast you down. My friends, you are guilty and so am I. But because Jesus is my advocate I have one with my Father. Jesus is my advocate. Jesus Christ, the righteous. Here is what happens sometimes, you get to talking about sin in a pleasant conversation, and people start clamming up. Please church, recognize in the people you love, not in an attacking way but in an inclusive way. It is only through that discussion in the gospel do people come to know Jesus. Let us not cover up that sin, “well that’s okay”, no it is not okay! You are okay, I am okay, we are all okay is a lie! People are guilty. I am guilty. We are all guilty. We find freedom, we find sweet freedom. For me on that night, it seemed like I had born that guilt for a thousand years, though I was 12 or 13. As I recall back and reflected on that night this week, it seemed like I was sleepless for 3 months just hoping that guilt would go away. Thank God that he produced in my heart a Godly sorrow over the recognition of my own sin and that I couldn’t save myself. So if you are sitting there and you have not acknowledged Christ in this regard, acknowledge your sin before God. Humbly accept that position because it is true. Know this, that if you believe upon him, Jesus has born your wrath. He has taken your sin so that you could be free from the burden of the penalty of your sin. To the church now, as we go to a time of prayer, let us thank God for that! Let us not shirk the joy of repentance. Because ultimately here is what repentance does, as you exchange your life, it brings for you, when you acknowledge your sin in repentance, peace and comfort and joy and freedom. Each and every one of us in here that knows Jesus, we have people around us that desperately need that.