The Grip of Guilt

Many Christians who come to me for pastoral counseling are locked solidly in the grip of guilt.  They simply cannot get past a past littered with sin . . .

  • The sin of self-rule
  • The sin of self-focus
  • The sin of self-righteousness
  • The sin of self-centeredness
  • The sin of self-love

And the list goes on and on and on.  This is the place the devil wants us to live.  He wants us to wallow in the past, which keeps us from living in the present.  To be sure, the devil cannot take you out of the nail-scarred hands of your Savior (John10:28), but he can get you to focus so tightly on your sinful past that you never live in the forgiven present of your God-given potential.

Living in the grip of guilt stunts our growth, slows our progress, and shuts off the flow of God’s blessings to our lives.  In other words, we take a truncated view of the glorious Gospel.  We view the work of Christ on our behalf as incomplete in its ability to save us “to the uttermost” (Hebrews 7:25) and remove all of our guilt.

But this is not for you!

There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.  (Romans 8:1-4)

If Paul did not believe what he wrote, he never would have been able to rise above a past littered with sin—and not just your common, garden-variety sin, but his approving role in the execution of Stephen, the first Christian martyr. Read Paul’s words carefully, remembering he was the one who held the coats of those who stoned Stephen to death.

Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.

(1 Timothy 1:13-15)

How could Paul see himself as the “chief sinner” and still do the work God called him to do?  The answer is that Paul had a clear view of the Gospel and refused to be held in the devil’s grip of guilt.

John Newton wrote one of the most beloved Christian hymns, Amazing Grace. Newton wrote those wonderful lyrics with the full knowledge and remembrance of his past life as a notorious slave trader.  So how could he rise above this horrible history and faithfully serve his Savior until he passed into glory?  Like Paul, Newton had a clear view of the Gospel and refused to be held in the devil’s grip of guilt.

So . . . what about you? How clear is your view of the Gospel?  Check your guilt and remember these words John Newton uttered shortly before his death at the age of 82: “My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things: that I am a great sinner and that Christ is a great Savior.”

Now that is what we should remember as we respond to God’s call in our lives; God’s grace is greater than all our sins! And so we are to shake free from the grip of guilt, no matter what our past was like.

This is the Gospel.  This is grace for your race.  NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

 

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