Sunday, August 5, 2012
Why Do I Feel All This Guilt?
They said to one another, “Alas, we are paying the penalty for what we did to our brother; we saw his anguish when he pleaded with us, but we would not listen. That is why this anguish has come upon us.”
Then Reuben answered them, “Did I not tell you not to wrong the boy? But you would not listen. So now there comes a reckoning for his blood.” They did not know that Joseph understood them, since he spoke with them through an interpreter. He turned away from them and wept; then he returned and spoke to them. And he picked out Simeon and had him bound before their eyes. Genesis 42:21 - 24 (NRSV)
Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Happy are those to whom the LORD imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. While I kept silence, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah
Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah
Therefore let all who are faithful offer prayer to you; at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters shall not reach them. You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with glad cries of deliverance. Selah
I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding, whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle, else it will not stay near you. Many are the torments of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the LORD. Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart. Psalm 32 (NRSV)
If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 (NRSV)
Guilt is something that plagues everyone, like the man who wrote to the IRS; he enclosed a check with a note explaining that he couldn’t sleep because he had cheated on his income tax the year before. He added a postscript that said, if I still can’t sleep I’ll send the rest. Unresolved guilt is debilitating. It affects our health, our attitude, and productivity in careers. As followers of Jesus Christ it also affects our worship and service.
The three texts today are all about guilt. In GenesisChp 42 we find Joseph’s brothers, who had hated their brother and sold him into slavery, brought the misery of decades of guilt down on their heads. King David (Psalm 32) sinned with Bathsheba, and tried to hide it; but he only multiplied his sins by concocting a plan to have Bathsheba’s husband murdered so David’s sin would be hidden. David’s testimony was that the guilt was so strong his “bones wasted away” inside him.
If unresolved guilt eats you from the inside out, to be released from that guilt is the greatest joy in the universe. And that is what our final text (1 John 1:9) is all about. Let’s prepare for the Lord’s Table with a little reality check about guilt – its source, effects and the solution.
WE FEEL GUILTY BECAUSE WE ARE GUILTY
Paul tells us that everybody sins (Romans 3:23). Innocent? We know better than to claim that when standing before holy God. John’s epistle specifically states that if we try to claim we are not sinners we’re only deceiving ourselves (1 John 1:8).
There are all sorts of techniques for our denial:
1. WE TRY TO HIDE THE EVIDENCE
Joseph’s brothers hid their sin of selling their younger brother into slavery. But God knew all about it and eventually brought everything out in the open. There is no such thing as “secret” sin.
2. WE TRY TO BLAME OTHERS
Of the eleven brothers who sold Joseph, Reuben (the oldest) tried to shift the blame from off his shoulders by blaming the other ten; that didn’t work for Adam and Eve either. (If you recall, Eve blamed the serpent. That was bad enough, but Adam blamed Eve AND God. He said, “…it was the woman YOU made for me, Lord.”
Now, with all our techniques for getting rid of the guilt, we still feel guilty.
WE DON’T FEEL FORGIVEN BECAUSE WE AREN’T!
When a person simply tries to get rid of guilt for the sake of trying to feel better, by trying to hide the evidence or shift the blame, we never accomplish what we’re after. A little boy was dressed by his Mom in his best Sunday suit – white! She told him to go outside and wait by the car; she’d be out in 10 minutes….and don’t get dirty! Thirty seconds later he’d found the bucket of dark green paint and was chasing after Buster the family beagle. Paint sloshed everywhere, but he couldn’t catch up with Buster. As Buster ran for the safety of the front porch, the little guy followed in hot pursuit. The front door swung open wide. As the now green-paint-covered white suit and green-haired little boy screeched to a halt, he looked up to see his angry Mom staring down at him. Bucket in one hand, and brush in the other, and beagle cowering in the porch corner, the little guy stammered, I didn’t paint Buster!
Until we deal with the source of our guilt (sin) we can never “feel” forgiven because we aren’t. It’s like an elephant in the room that nobody wants to acknowledge. Sin stands between us and God like a dark green paint stain.
This was Peter’s agony. In the Gospel accounts it tells us that when Jesus was on trial they took him from Pilate’s house. Peter was in the courtyard watching. His and Jesus’ eyes locked and Peter knew he’d denied Christ. He went out and wept bitterly. After the resurrection John 21 it is recorded that Jesus had a conversation with Peter that searched deep into Peter’s soul. It was a simple conversation, but forced the fisherman to deal with his guilt.
In King David’s case it took Samuel the prophet to look the king square in the face and call him a murdering philanderer. Until David faced the truth about his own behavior and confessed his sin(Ps32:5) he was never going to be free.
Friend, if you’re eaten-up with guilt over something and have not confessed it to God, you will never feel forgiven because you aren’t forgiven!
WHAT TO DO?
Here are a few simple, but vital steps to take
1. MAKE CERTAIN YOU CONFESS YOUR SIN
Don’t rationalize (hide the evidence or shift blame)…God already knows you’re a sinner… just confess, admit it to Him and be forgiven.
2. BE HUMBLE – LEARN FROM PAST MISTAKES
You cannot do anything about what happened yesterday, but God rejoices in your confession and loves to forgive and rebuild you!
3. PRAY FOR GROWTH TO USE YOUR PAST FOR KINGDOM GOOD
Stand ready to help others in the areas you’ve been blessed.
4. SPEND TIME THANKING GOD FOR HIS BLESSINGS
This is why we have the Lord’s table…come, ye forgiven beloved sinners and rejoice!