Summary: This sermon looks at three aspects of God’s forgiveness: 1. I need to ask for it. 2. I need to trust in it. 3. I need to walk in it.
GOD’S FORGIVING GRACE
The defendant sat in the courtroom as the charges were read. It was a long list of charges. It was then that the judge asked the question: “How does the defendant plead?” The accused stood to his feet and without hesitation replied: “Guilty as charged.”
This is not the scene that most of us see in the movies or on television - nor in real life. Most of the time the accused will plead innocent – whether they are guilty or not. But do you remember hearing the phrase – “Confession is good for the soul”? Confession is good at the right time and in the right place. I have often told Christians that if they do something wrong it is good to feel guilty about it – because it shows that the Holy Spirit is still working in their lives. The truth is, all of us have been guilty at one point or another and it would not do us any harm to admit it and say: "I did it." The Bible tells us:
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9 (NKJV)
Guilt plays a big part in confession – or at least it should. We should feel remorse and guilt if we have sinned against God. When King David was confronted by Nathan about his affair with Bathsheba – David cried out: "I have sinned against the Lord." 2 Samuel 12:13 (NKJV)
The prodigal son when he returned to his father cried out: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son”’ Luke 15:21 (NKJV)
This morning I want to talk to you about God’s Forgiving Grace. But in order to do that I need to talk to you about guilt. So what I would like to do this morning is to define guilt – give you three tests for good guilt – talk about bad ways to handle guilt – and then talk about God’s way to handle guilt. The way that God handles your guilt is to show you His Forgiving Grace - so let’s get started:
WHAT IS GUILT?
Guilt is like a warning light on your dashboard that comes on as you are driving down the road. It is telling you that you have a problem and it needs to be fixed. The purpose of guilt is not just to make you feel bad. God has a greater purpose than that in guilt. Guilt is a way for God to tell you: "Something is wrong. Something needs to be fixed." In the Psalms it says:
“I made my sins known to you, and I did not cover up my guilt. I decided to confess them to you, O Lord. Then you forgave all my sins.” Psalms 32:5 (GW)
David acknowledged that he had a problem and he did something about it. He confessed his sin to God and God forgave him.
But here is a problem – sometimes the warning light goes off and there is nothing wrong. Sometimes we have false guilt. Perhaps it is self imposed guilt or someone else has made us feel guilty. How can we test whether the guilt we are feeling is from God or not. Let me give you three tests of guilt.
THREE TESTS FOR GUILT
These three tests that will help you discern whether this is true guilt or false guilt.
1. Is the guilt God focused or people focused?
True guilt is focused on God. Dr. Paul Tournier says, "False guilt is that which comes as the results of judgments and the suggestions of men."
True guilt is that which comes as a result of divine revelation and judgment. It is God who is doing the convicting.
One way to determine if it is false guilt is to ask the question: “Who am I trying to please?” If you’re struggling with false guilt, you’re going to find yourself striving for the approval of other people. When you are trying to get the approval of others you can become be an approval junkie - you need other people’s approval to make you feel better about yourself. You run after Joe’s approval and you get. Then you run after Jane’s approval and you get it. Then you run after Jerry’s approval - and the process never stops - you have become an approval junkie. But the truth is – if your relationship is right with God – if you are pleasing God - you will feel better about yourself.
You can not please everyone – and if you try to live up to other people’s expectations you will wear yourself out.
2. Is the guilt vague or is it specific?