Guilt, Guilty

* Involving others in our guilt

One of the realities of sin is that its effects spread.  After Eve sinned, she involved Adam in her wrongdoing.  When we do something wrong, often we try to relieve our guilt by involving someone else.  Like toxic waste spilled in a river, sin swiftly spreads.  Recognize and confess our sin to god before you are tempted to pollute those around you. (NLT)

Genesis 3:6-7 – The woman was convinced.  The fruit looked so fresh and delicious, and it would make her so wise!  So she ate some of the fruit.  She also gave some to her husband, who was with her.  Then he ate it too.  At that moment, their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness.  So they strung fig leaves together around their hips to cover themselves.

* Guilt warns us of wrongdoing

After sinning, Adam and Eve felt guilt and embarrassment over their nakedness.  Their guilty feelings made them try to hide from God.  A guilty conscience is a warning signal God placed inside you that goes off when you’ve done wrong.  The worst step you can take is to eliminate the guilty feelings without eliminating the cause.  That would be like using a painkiller but not treating the disease.  Be glad those guilty feelings are there.  They make you aware of your sin so you can ask God’s forgiveness and then correct your wrongdoing. (NLT)

Genesis 3:7-8 – At that moment, their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness.  So they strung fig leaves together around their hips to cover themselves.

Toward evening they heard the Lord God walking about in the garden, so they hid themselves among the trees.

* Admitting guilt is only part of true repentance

When the Israelites realized their foolish mistake, they were suddenly ready to return to God.  But God didn’t confuse their admission of guilt with true repentance because he knew their hearts.  Sure enough, they soon went their own way again.  Sometimes right actions or good intentions come too late.  We must not only do what is right, but also do it at the right time.  God wants complete and instant obedience. (NLT)

Numbers 14:40-44 – So they got up early the next morning and set out for the hill country of Canaan.  “Let’s go,” they said.  “We realize that we have sinned, but now we are ready to enter the land the Lord has promised us.”

But Moses said, “Why are you now disobeying the Lord’s orders to return to the wilderness?  It won’t work.  Do not go into the land now.  You will only be crushed by your enemies because the Lord is not with you.  When you face the Amalekites and Canaanites in battle, you will be slaughtered.  The Lord will abandon you because you have abandoned the Lord.”

But the people pushed ahead toward the hill country of Canaan, despite the fact that neither Moses nor the Ark of the Lord’s covenant left the camp.

* Be careful about accusing others of guilt

If anyone died because of violence, murder was assumed, but the murder suspect was not automatically assumed guilty.  The cities of refuge assured the accused that justice would be served.  But if that person left the city, then he or she would be assumed guilty and able to be killed by the avenging party.  The people were to be intolerant of the sin yet impartial to the accused so as to have a fair trial.  The cities of refuge represented God’s concern for justice in a culture that did not always protect the innocent.  It is unjust both to overlook wrongdoing and to jump to conclusions about guilt.  When someone is accused of wrongdoing, stand up for justice, protect those not yet proven guilty, and listen carefully to all sides of the story. (NLT)

Numbers 35:11-28 – designate cities of refuge for people to flee to if they have killed someone accidentally.  These cities will be places of protection from a dead person’s relatives who want to avenge the death.  The slayer must not be killed before being tried by the community.  Designate six cities of refuge for yourselves, three on the east side of the Jordan River and three on the west in the land of Canaan.  These cities are for the protection of Israelites, resident foreigners, and traveling merchants.  Anyone who accidentally kills someone may flee there for safety.

“ ‘But if someone strikes and kiss another person with a piece of iron, it must be presumed to be murder, and the murderer must be executed.  Or if someone strikes and kills another person with a large stone, it is murder, and the murderer must be executed.  The same is true if someone strikes and kills another person with a wooden weapon.  It must be presumed to be murder, and the murderer must be executed.  The victim’s nearest relative is responsible for putting the murderer to death.  When they meet, the avenger must execute the murderer.  So if in premeditated hostility someone pushes another person or throws a dangerous object and the person dies, it is murder.  Or if someone angrily hits another person with a fist and the person dies, it is murder.  In such cases, the victim’s nearest relative must execute the murderer when they meet.

“ ‘But suppose someone pushes another person without premeditated hostility, or throws something that unintentionally hits another person, or accidentally drops a stone on someone, though they were not enemies, and the person dies.  If this should happen, the assembly must follow these regulations in making a judgment between the slayer and the avenger, the victim’s nearest relative.  They must protect the slayer from the avenger, and they must send the slayer back to live in a city of refuge until the death of the high priest.

“ ‘But if the slayer leaves the city of refuge, and the victim’s nearest relative finds him outside the city limits and kills him, it will not be considered murder.  The slayer should have stayed inside the city of refuge until the death of the high priest.  But after the death of the high priest, the slayer may return to his own property.

* Guilt comes from trying to fulfill rash vows

Jephthah’s rash vow brought him unspeakable grief.  In the heat of emotion or personal turmoil it is easy to make foolish promises to God.  These promises may sound very spiritual when we make them, but they may produce only guilt and frustration when we are forced to fulfill them.  Making spiritual “deals” only brings disappointment.  God does not want promises for the future, but obedience for today. (NLT)

Judges 11:34-35 – When Jephthah returned home to Mizpah, his daughter—his only child—ran out to meet him, playing on a tambourine and dancing for joy.  When he saw her, he tore his clothes in anguish, “My daughter!” he cried out.  “My heart is breaking!  What a tragedy that you came out to greet me.  For I have made a vow to the Lord and cannot take it back.”

* Don’t let guilt keep you from praying

In spite of Samson’s past, God still answered his prayer and destroyed the pagan temple and worshipers.  God still loved him.  He was willing to hear Samson’s prayer of confession and repentance and use him this final time.  One of the effects of sin I our lives is to keep us from feeling like praying.  But perfect moral behavior is not a condition for prayer.  Don’t let guilt feelings over sin keep you from your only means of restoration.  No matter how long you have been away from god, he is ready to hear from you and restore you to a right relationship.  Every situation can be salvaged if you are willing to turn again to him.  If God could still work in Samson’s situation, he can certainly make something worthwhile out of yours. (NLT)

Judges 16:28-30 – Then Samson prayed to the Lord, “Sovereign Lord, remember me again.  O God, please strengthen me one more time so that I may pay back the Philistines for the loss of my eyes.”  Then Samson put his hands on the center pillars of the temple and pushed against them with all his might.  “Let me die with the Philistines,” he prayed.  And the temple crashed down on the Philistine leaders and all the people.  So he killed more people when he died than he had during his entire lifetime.

* Guilt shouldn’t cripple believers

Many Christians are plagued by guilt.  They worry that they may have committed a sin unknowingly; done something good with selfish intentions, failed to put their whole heart into a task, or neglected what they should have done.  Guilt can play an important role in bringing us to Christ and in keeping us behaving properly, but it should not cripple us or make us fearful.  God fully and completely forgives us—even for those sins we do unknowingly. (NLT)

Psalm 19:12-13 – How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart?  Cleanse me from these hidden faults.  Keep me from deliberate sins!  Don’t let them control me.  Then I will be free of guilt and innocent of great sin.

* Absence of guilty conscience doesn’t mean you’re doing right

While the storm raged, Jonah was sound asleep below deck.  Even as he ran from God, Jonah’s actions apparently didn’t bother his conscience.  But the absence of guilt isn’t always a barometer of whether we are doing right.  Because we can deny reality, we cannot measure obedience by our feelings.  Instead, we must compare what we do with God’s standards for living. (NLT)

Jonah 1:4-5 – But as the ship was sailing along, suddenly the Lord flung a powerful wind over the sea, causing a violent storm that threatened to send them to the bottom.  Fearing for their lives, the desperate sailors shouted to their gods for help and threw the cargo overboard to lighten the ship.  And all this time Jonah was sound asleep down in the hold.

* How to be declared “not guilty” before God

After all this bad news about our sinfulness and God’s condemnation, Paul gives the wonderful news.  There is a way to be declared not guilty—by trusting Jesus Christ to take away our sins.  Trusting means putting our confidence in Christ to forgive our sins, to make us right with God, and to empower us to live the way he taught us.  God’s solution is available to all of us regardless of our background or past behavior. (NLT)

Romans 3:21-29 – But now God has shown us a different way of being right in his sight—not by obeying the law but by the way promised in the Scriptures long ago.  We are made right in God’s sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins.  And we all can be saved in this same way, no matter who we are or what we have done.

For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard.  Yet now God in his gracious kindness declares us not guilty.  He has done this through Christ Jesus, who has freed us by taking away our sins.  For God sent Jesus to take the punishment for our sins and to satisfy God’s anger against us.  We are made right with God when we believe that Jesus shed his blood, sacrificing his life for us.  God was being entirely fair and just when he did not punish those who sinned in former times.  And he is entirely fair and just in this present time when he declares sinners to be right in his sight because they believe in Jesus.

Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God?  No, because our acquittal is not based on our good deeds.  It is based on our faith.  So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.

After all, God is not the God of the Jews only, is he?  Isn’t he also the God of the Gentiles?  Of course he is.

* Are you carrying a load of guilt?

Though you know Christ, you may believe that you have to work hard to make yourself good enough for God.  But rules and rituals have never cleansed people’s hearts.  By Jesus’ blood alone (1) we have our conscience cleansed, (2) we are freed from death’s sting and can live to serve God, and (3) we are freed from sin’s power.  If you are carrying a load of guilt because you are finding that you can’t be good enough for God, take another look at Jesus’ death and what it means for you.

When the people sacrificed animals, God considered the people’s faith and obedience, cleansed them from sin, and made them ceremonially acceptable according to Old Testament law.  But Christ’s sacrifice transforms our life and heart and makes us clean on the inside.  His sacrifice is infinitely more effective than animal sacrifices.  No barrier of sin or weakness on our part can stifle his forgiveness. (NLT)

Hebrews 9:12-15 – Once for all time he took blood into that Most Holy Place, but not the blood of goats and calves.  He took his own blood, and with it he secured our salvation forever.

Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow could cleanse people’s bodies from ritual defilement.  Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our hearts from deeds that lead to death so that we can worship the living God.  For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins.  That is why he is the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people; so that all who are invited can receive the eternal inheritance God has promised them.  For Christ died to set them free from the penalty of the sins they had committed under that first covenant.

* How to forget past guilt

Paul had reason to forget the past—he had held the coats of those who stoned Stephen, the first Christian martyr.  We have all done things for which we are ashamed, and we live in the tension of what we have been and what we want to be.  Because our hope is in Christ, however, we can let go of past guilt and look forward to what God will help us become.  Don’t dwell on your past.  Instead, grow in the knowledge of God by concentrating on your relationship with him now.  Realize that you are forgiven, and then move on to a life of faith and obedience.  Look forward to a fuller and more meaningful life because of your hope in Christ. (NLT)

Philippians 3:13-14 – No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.

* – People can feel so guilt-ridden by their past that they think God could never forgive and accept them.  But consider Paul’s past.  He had scoffed at the teachings of Jesus and hunted down and murdered God’s people before coming to faith in Christ.  God forgave Paul and used him mightily for his Kingdom.  No matter how shameful your past, God also can forgive and use you. (NLT)

1 Timothy 1:12-17 – How thankful I am to Christ Jesus our Lord for considering me trustworthy and appointing me to serve him, even though I used to scoff at the name of Christ.  I hunted down his people, harming them in every way I could.  But God had mercy on me because I did it in ignorance and unbelief.  Oh, how kind and gracious the Lord was!  He filled me completely with faith and the love of Christ Jesus.

This is a true saying, and everyone should believe it: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—and I was the worst of them all.  But that is why God had mercy on me, so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners.  Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.  Glory and honor to God forever and ever.  He is the eternal King, the unseen one who never dies; he alone is God.  Amen.

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