The Gospel Applied: Dealing with Guilt, Part II

Romans 2.

We are going to continue to look through the summer as the gospel applied and we have begun by looking at guilt, because guilt is a part of the gospel component. I grew up, basically until I went to college, in a one-room church. Along the times, and certainly afterwards, in particular coming to Christ in faith, I would attend church with my mom and dad. At the end of the service I will never forget, in particular the last three months prior to receiving Christ, suffering mightily with guilt and with good because, as we saw last week, I was clearly guilty. It was intense, I can remember this even now. There was only one door out that I really knew about and certainly there was only one way that people in and out regularly. The pastor of the church was always at the back, and it seemed to me in those last three months, prior to confessing Jesus and suffering alone in this guilt, he would ask, “Kevin are you okay?” And then I’d be doing this number like this, “Man can he read my mind?” and I’d go, “Yeah, I am alright. I’m fine.” And I would go along. Until obviously, God’s grace and peace broke through as I found Christ and removed the guilt that I was suffering with. 

Now we began last week to look at some things and how to deal with guilt, which we are going to continue today and transition, because where we were at last week was dark. Romans 1, 2, and 3 is really a dark place because there is a stark reality that needs to be understood so we can understand our need to be, as the bible uses the term, saved. We need deliverance. In Romans, which Paul writes about this in chapters 1, 2, and 3, it is a lengthy dissertation that has to do with sin and the guilt of it. So as we dip into this, and we are going to make application for our own selves, what I want you to know about this, look at me in verse one of chapter two. He is in the middle of it here. He is addressing, not only the Judaizers but religious gentiles, people that had sat back and resting in their own minds on their laurels, their own good deeds, their own good works, to be sufficient to make their lives in satisfaction with God. They were, coined in a phrase, self-righteous. This is what he is writing against, this is what he is dealing with, this is what he is trying to let that group of people understand, when he is writing about a statement about sin. Now we move through a few verses in this dissertation, I want you to think about a few questions for your own life and certainly answer to your self, but how many people really live up to their own standards in life? I want you to think about, however it was when you first stepped out into adulthood and you began to think about the life and career that you wanted to have, have many of you have really lived up completely and fully, perfectly if you will, to your own standards? By and large, I would dare say if we were to be honest with ourselves, we would say we really haven’t. There is this area or that area in my life that I really haven’t lived up to the standard that I thought I had set for myself. Now you think about your own life and you set that as the text is dealing with, and that is the graphic nature that Paul is trying to deal with. He is trying to pinpoint this to religious gentiles and of course the head of the self-righteous Judaizers, the Pharisees. Think about that in light of God’s standard, what God’s standard is, which obviously as we know is infinitely higher because it is perfect and holy. 

As we began to reflect upon that last week, it’s obviously the text begins to bear a weight, it begins to place a type of burden upon us that was really, whether we recognize it or not, is a healthy thing at first to identify to us the reality of God. But the two things, as we begin to move along with this, that we looked at last week is to understand that guilt is an objective reality that every human being has. Guilt is associated with a moral law that has been violated, so somewhere along the way our conscience will bear guilt. I gave an illustration last week when I was a kid and I used to steal from Hi-Lo, at the end of Cayuga. That began to lay guilt over me that God used. But everyone has to deal with guilt, even as a Christian. As Pastor Alex led us to this point when leading the service. It is a good and healthy thing that we should deal with the guilt, but everyone should do that. It doesn’t matter if you are a Christian or if you are an unbeliever because everyone has violated the moral law laid upon the conscience by God. In part of what we looked at last week, as we transition through this, we looked at two opposite ends of guilt so that we would understand what real guilt is. That first of all, that there is guilt without guilty feelings. This comes with a psychopath type of liar. One begins to lie to themselves so often, and perpetuate that so long, that they begin to believe the lies that they are telling. To give you an illustration of this, the Pharisees, the leaders that plot to kill Jesus, did so on the heels on him raising Lazarus from the dead and they self-righteously convened together thinking it was okay to kill Jesus. Talk about lying to yourself! Guilt without guilty feelings. They didn’t feel any guilt, because at that point their conscience had been silenced because they had shunned guilt. The opposite end of that has to do with legalism, which is a people possessing guilty feeling without being guilty. That is where a standard, or a box, has been set, a list of 10 or 20 or whatever that box may be, to where there is guilty feelings heaped upon, without true guilt because its not really in the bible. We looked at and talked about two opposite ends, and now what I want us to look at and turn back to Romans 1. I want to look at a couple of things as we transition to this. 

The first one is denying our guilt. What does denial look like? You were perhaps in this place, or you know someone who is in this place, and I would say in this particular category it would be with an unbeliever. But you have yourself, you have guilt, and we have God. You are having this gospel conversation, which it is because we are trying to figure out how to apply the gospel not only to ourselves but I trust the rich friendships you are making with those that don’t know Jesus. They respond in this fashion, “Well, I don’t believe in God.” In Romans, Paul begins to talk about this where they suppress the truth of God in unrighteousness. They will respond in this way, “I don’t believe in the bible” or “There is no such thing as being truly guilty.” Paul begins to deal with this type of thought starting in Romans 1:18. To deal with guilt they suppress the truth because it has an association with our knowledge of God. Paul, as he is writing this and he is trying to direct the Judaizers and the religious gentiles so they would understand that they are guilty, pointing them to the reality that God exists and that reality is pointed through creation itself, when one looks around, and also in your own conscience. It’s the conscience now that we want to begin to talk about, begin think about, and you begin to reflect upon your own conscience. We all know this, as we looked at last week. All humanity has been created in God’s image. So that it is in the fall that our conscience became wounded in such a way, that though it still points us to the reality that there is a God, it also leaves us guilty. There is a dual thing that is going on with the conscience of all people.

What is this actual conscience that God’s deals with in terms of us being guilty? Look again with me to Romans 1:18. God’s moral law is placed upon people in their conscience so they know the difference between right and wrong. Without reading it in the bible, people know because of their conscience that it is right or wrong to steal. It is wrong to commit murder, it is wrong to do a set amount of things. Those that do such are obviously guilty. God’s moral law, in that regard, has been published plainly written in the scriptures. Often times when we think about God’s law we think of the Law of Moses and certainly that is true, and grace people will go to in this idea that the law doesn’t have to be dealt with, but the law continues to be dealt with in the gospel. You and I live with people who are guilty every day. They are hiding in or they are burdened under that guilt. The law of God, God’s moral law has been written to us in the scriptures. Now you might be sitting there thinking this, and perhaps it has been responded to you, as it has been to me, “Well I don’t believe the bible. I don’t believe that the bible is God’s word. It’s a book made by man.” Yet here is one of the identifying factors that the bible talks about that help people understand, then why do you feel guilt? The hearts of every individual have an innate sense of right and wrong. It is their conscience that bears witness to that. They have been clearly perceived as Romans 1:20 tells us. When one begins to recognize that it is guilt and begin to accept guilt for what it is, that I am guilty, there is an immediate recognition that God is my authority, I owe him, and I have wronged God. We obviously know this; the world does not want to deal with that whatsoever. The world specifically tells itself that they don’t want any authority but themselves, humanism. They are their own god. But God has given for all of us, and for all of humanity, a conscience that points to the reality that God is alive and there is a moral law that is written on people’s minds and hearts. There is an innate sense of right and wrong. There remains for all of us, since childhood, as we are able to understand reason, this oughtness. This is what I “ought” to be; yet I don’t measure up. Guilt is usually associated with those things. Of course the world hates the thought of being guilty, yet every moral creation posses this. Humanity, which bears a soul. 

Turn back to chapter 2, he goes along this heavy, heavy passage, dealing with sin and the nature of it. He talks more about this law of God or this moral law. People take, in the world in the lost state, and they begin to make excuses when they are accused in their own conscience. We looked at last week in the garden, Adam begins to shift blame right to the face of God, Eve, who you gave me, even though he knew he was guilty. Over time, here is what happens, we begin to be desensitized in our conscience to our sin. Obviously in the world it gets completely silent. Though the conscience doesn’t save you, we need the gospel, there are more components. It just heaps, because of the fall, this burden we are under this burden. The world runs the various things of sources to deal with the guilt. Flip over to Romans 3. One wrong result of guilt is to deny our guilt and secondly to rationalize our behavior. We begin to justify ourselves. For those that deny their guilt, they begin to rationalize their behavior. They begin, as Paul says in Romans 2:15, to make up excuses, sometimes even when we know we are flat out wrong. I go back to the illustration I used about a liar, where someone begins to lie so often they honestly begin to believe their own lie and they are buried under it. They begin to justify their circumstances, and they will begin to convince family or friends around them, when it is only obvious that what they are doing is lying. 

Here is what the religionist does, here is what the Universalist does, which is who Paul was dealing with, he was dealing with people who though, “Hey look, I’m a good person and I feel my goodness will be accepted by God.” The religionist and the Universalist begin to cast aside guilt. They do not want to deal with it honestly. Here is how it comes up, God is love, he will look over my debt and really when I think about my life, my good outweighs my bad. They shirk what Paul leads them to in 3:19. Everyone is going to give account to God. What he is saying is that everyone is guilty. Because of their guilt, they are going to give an account to God. The Universalist and the religionist begin to outweigh that, he will forgive me, he will look over my debt, my good outweighs my bad, I am doing okay. Millions of people are banking on it. When you think about that, it’s terrifying. Every religion outside of true Christianity, deals with God on their righteousness basis. It is works based. Only in true Christianity can someone find the freedom from guilt. Guilt of course, even bombards Christians, which we are going to continue to look at. But our rest, our hope, is always found in the gospel, and how to deal with and battle with our guilt. The truth is, our good works will not pay our debt. It won’t. 

That is where I want to begin to transition us now, to understanding that reality. Turn to our text, 2 Corinthians 7. There are several parts to this, where God deals with our guilt. I want to talk for the remainder of our time this morning about what this means: grace and peace. Here is our text again, because this is the summation of how all of humanity deals with guilt. Guilt is there. Guilt is associated with us all. Guilt is the boat we are all in and everybody has to deal with it. Guilt is the bad news if we apply a worldly grief over against a Godly grief. Grace and peace are for those who deal with their guilt with a Godly grief that results in repentance. Grace and peace are parts of the remedy of your guilt. Now in the scriptures, Paul addresses in 9 of his epistles in an introductory way with grace and peace. He writes 5 times personally to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, with grace and peace as its introduction. Peter, in both of his epistles, talks about the church, the believers under grace and peace. John in addressing the seven churches of Asia in chapters 2 and 3 addresses them in chapter 1 with grace and peace. This is such a sweet truth. I tell you that today because I want to bring you to the water, where you can drink fresh. Perhaps you are under the burden of your guilt where you find the sweet release that God provides in his grace and peace, which is for his people called the church. The group gathered, the called out ones, the followers of Jesus, God says, “They get my grace and they get my peace.” We receive grace from God the father and peace from the Lord Jesus Christ, and then talk about it being multiplied. God wants us to enjoy the freedom that is the remedy to guilt. What is it about grace and peace? Grace remits the sin. Grace cancels the debt. The debt that you have violated, that all of us have violated in different ways, but it is grace that remits the sin. It cancels the debt. It is then peace that quiets the conscience. It is peace that calms the soul.

I remember being frightfully unstable in my soul, in my inner man, and really was wrestling with it unbeknownst to anyone around me. I was constantly being told in that little church, “Hey look he is the good kid. He is the good Kevin.” And man was I running around, guilty as all get out in my mind. The burden was so heavy; God gave peace to my soul. God allowed me to sleep, after I had spent so many nights restless without sleep because I was bearing my guilt, bearing my shame. Sin, the conscience, and guilt, it torments us. It torments us. Christ has overcome! Christ has paid the debt of sin and when Godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, God sheds his grace. Jesus gives us his peace. 

Now sitting there, you may think, “Now Kevin, I don’t really want to talk about this, but I am struggling as a Christian.” What I want you to know, first and foremost, is I am struggling too. You’re struggling, I’m struggling, and if we are honest with ourselves every one in this room is struggling. That is the battle cry we are called into as Christians. What Satan tries to do often times with guilt, is to isolate people and get them away from the body as he continues to accuse them so they will run to worldly means that only produce, as Paul says, death, when guilt isn’t remedied in God’s way. The facts are, you and I are in an upward climb. We have been made part of a beloved family, the family of God. God gives us his grace and his peace and they come to us in repentance, in confession, in mercy, and in forgiveness. Yes, you confessed Jesus as Lord and Savior when you got saved and you repented of your sin, but confession and repentance are a continual work that is going on in your heart and mind. It is one of the proof qualities that you know you are his. Because we are struggling, because the truth is, we are guilty. We are guilty. Thank God we are forgiven because of Jesus! Jesus forgives us. Jesus’ forgiveness allows us to enjoy his grace and peace. It is provided for his people. Worldly grief brings despair. It leads to death. Godly grief works in repentance. It cancels the debt. God gives us peace and tranquility of soul. Those are the two responses to guilt. Worldly grief or Godly grief? 

What is Godly grief? Godly grief is this, where you come under the guilt of your sin and you begin to realize that my wrong, my error, is against God who is holy and God in his love has offered me salvation in Jesus, in his death and in his resurrection. In that Godly sorrow, it begins to work in acknowledgement to your sin, a desire to repent because you have wronged God. You want to apprehend God’s mercy that is only found in Jesus. You see, my friends, Jesus is the only remedy to guilt in this life. He is the only remedy that the bible tells us. The gospel is a solution to a problem. It is a problem that you cannot solve, and I cannot solve. We have a debt that we owe, that we cannot pay. It is good for us to sense that burden, not to try to suppress that. When we accept that burden we begin to acknowledge that I’ve wronged God, we begin to acknowledge that yes God, I am a sinner and I need a Savior, and I repent. We cannot save ourselves. We have this debt that sin owes, simply because you and I are guilty. Christ alone, of course, is the provision. He alone is the one who cancels the debt. Jesus remits the sin. 

Turn real quickly to 1 John 2. We will see this and then we will wrap it up this morning. In Godly sorrow, shame and guilt are given over, where grace and peace can reign in your heart and in your mind. Though we struggle, because since still remains in us, our flesh still remains and the truth is we can fall into sin. Let’s be honest, we can fall into a grievous sin. Grace and peace are our hope. God provides his grace and his peace in Jesus. Look at 1 John 2:1. He is addressing believers in this passage. God pours out his grace, his forgiveness, his mercy, his peace, and his love. My friends, Jesus bore the shame. Jesus bore the wrath. Jesus bore the sorrow. Jesus bore the guilt, though he was not guilty, on our behalf. You and I can enjoy grace and peace because of the cross, because of Jesus’ death and resurrection. I pray this morning, that God’s grace and peace are two items that are refreshing your heart.