Summary: Every feel like God could never forgive you? Ever try to get rid of guilt by making up for it or adding to the guilt? Jesus is a Savior who does away with your guilt for good.
A Savior for the Guilty
I know that many of you think that your pastor is perfect (ha,ha). But many years ago, at the Eagle grocery store, I lingered just a bit too long at the candy bar aisle. There it was, the snickers, like they knew it would be more tempting in the little “fun” size packet. I stared; I looked; I grabbed; I ate. The empty wrapper went in my pocket. Moments later, mom appeared with that freaky suddenness only moms have perfected. “Matt, did you steal a candy bar?” Now, a smart kid would have figured out that she was on to me. Surely she couldn’t have noticed the giant ring of chocolate on my face! But I was not that smart. “No.” I squeaked, but my voice was a dead give away. Guilt oozed out of every pore, along with the smell of chocolaty peanuts. I was trapped. My stomach sunk to the ground.
Guilt is good when it drives us into sorrow over sin and the arms of a forgiving God. Unfortunately, that is all guilt was meant to do. It was never meant to linger.
You see, lingering guilt not only traps you. It kills your spirit. Shallow religious “experts” think that a luscious helping of lingering guilt is good. But God doesn’t agree. Guilt doesn’t bring us closer to him; it drives us from him. It ushers in ulcers and sleepless nights. We begin to wonder if that chronic cramp or that broken bone is God’s way of letting us have it. Maybe he’s giving us what we deserve. Guilt destroys people and families. It even kills. Have you had any lately? A lot of people do…
People often answer lingering guilt with greater guilt. I know someone who felt guilty about being raped so she slept with men to make the pain go away. The alcoholic feels guilty because he’s drinking his life away, so he drinks to feel better. Or a man feels guilty because he’s a failure so he beats his family to feel better. Maybe we’re not that extreme but we try other tricks to bury our guilt. We beat ourselves up by donning depression and despair, two deadly sins. We figure that if we beat ourselves up enough, the guilt will go away. Other times, we lash out at others. For instance, we’re feeling guilty about not spending much time with the kids. Our spouse leaves a mess on the table and we blow our top. The mess isn’t a big deal, but the guilt needs to come out somewhere. Sound familiar?
And there are other ways to deal with it. Maybe we try to purge our guilt by making up for it. If only we throw a few more bucks in the plate, maybe we won’t feel so bad about cheating on our taxes. Maybe we try to keep our lives so busy that we don’t have time to contemplate our guilt. It doesn’t work very long.
So, how do you get rid of it? How do you move from guilt over sin, to a life of peace in loving service to a loving God? That’s a question which finds its answer in another sermon preached by Jesus’ enemies, this one while he was hanging on the cross.
Matthew 27:41-42 41 In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. 42 "He saved others," they said, "but he can’t save himself! He’s the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. (NIV)
Jesus saved YOU.
In almost every action movie, about 20 minutes before the end, what happens to the good guy? He gets caught, beaten up and bound in a seemingly impossible situation, right? Then he fights his way out and saves the day. (Like…) Is that what happened to Jesus on the cross? Let’s think about it.
The chief priest, the teachers of the law and the elders were right; they understood that Jesus had saved many others. You will notice all throughout the Gospels that Jesus’ enemies never once questioned the authenticity (the reality) of his miracles – not once. They believed in the miracles; they just didn’t believe in Jesus.
But that’s where their understanding ceased. They concluded that even though he saved others, he couldn’t save himself now. They were dead wrong. For weeks already Jesus had been predicting the details of his death down to the murderers, the whips, and the cross. Before he even walked into Jerusalem he said, “I lay down my life willingly; no one takes it from me (John 10:17,18).” And his prophecy came true in the Garden of Gethsemane. When a mob came to arrest him, he calmly questioned the group: “Who is it you seek?” “Jesus of Nazareth.” “I am he,” he said, and fell over backwards, every one of them, from the humble servant to the hardened soldier. Then, when Peter attempted to rescue Jesus by cutting off one man’s ear, Jesus stopped the brawl and healed the servant’s ear. Then he calmly handed himself over to execution.