Summary: Stuff Jesus Changed, part 2. This messages examines the most prevalent feeling people experience in relating to God (and to one another) -- guilt. It looks at where guilt comes from, at sin-guilt, and at how to live as guilt-free as possible.
Stuff Jesus Changed, part 2 – Guilt
Wildwind Community Church
David K. Flowers
April 15, 2007
A defendant was on trial for murder. There was strong evidence indicating guilt, but there was no corpse. In the defense’s closing statement the lawyer, knowing that his client would probably be convicted, resorted to a trick: “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I have a surprise for you all,” the lawyer said as he looked at his watch. “Within one minute, the person presumed dead in this case will walk into this courtroom.”
He looked toward the courtroom door. The jurors, somewhat stunned, all looked on eagerly. A minute passed. Nothing happened. Finally the lawyer said, “Actually, I made up the previous statement. But you all looked on with anticipation. I therefore put it to you that there is reasonable doubt in this case as to whether anyone was killed and insist that you return a verdict of not guilty.”
The jury, clearly confused, retired to deliberate. A few minutes later, the jury returned and pronounced a verdict of guilty. “But how?” inquired the lawyer. “You must have had some doubt. I saw all of you stare at the door.” The jury foreman replied: “Oh, we looked. But your client didn’t.”
I want to talk to you about guilt today. We’re in part 2 today of our series “Stuff Jesus Changed.” Basically I think people fit into one of three groups with regard to guilt. First there are the people who never feel guilty. Interestingly enough, they’re usually the ones who have most to feel guilty about, but they have antisocial personalities and no conscience and no amount of wrongdoing leaves them feeling guilty. Second, you have people who feel guilty sometimes – they have fairly healthy guilt mechanisms. The problem is they don’t always feel guilty about the right things! Third is those people who feel guilty all the time whether they’ve done anything wrong or not! These are your Charlie Browns. I want to talk to group two and group three people today, since there’s little point in talking about guilt to people who never feel guilty. Besides, most of those folks aren’t exactly regular church-goers, so I don’t think anyone will be getting left out today.
Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines guilt as "feelings of culpability, especially for imagined offenses or from a sense of inadequacy; self-reproach." The definition tells you something important about guilt, doesn’t it? Nowhere does it say that guilt is related to things you actually did wrong! So let’s begin there, with the guilt many people feel for imagined offenses. The guilt you might feel for not mowing the lawn on the only day last week when it didn’t rain. The guilt from not joining that committee at work you were asked to join. The guilt from not giving to your church as much as you wish you could give. The guilt from not providing for your children in the way you believe you should. The list is endless. Let’s address this guilt from a Biblical perspective.
Actually, the only way to address this kind of guilt from a Biblical perspective would be to ignore it, because any time the Bible speaks of guilt, it speaks only in the context of sin. Most guilt we experience is related to social faux pas and situations, and scripture doesn’t have much to say about that. Still it’s a constant force in the lives of some people. So we’ll address this before moving on to what we might call legitimate Biblical guilt.