Summary: Part 13 of "Being the Church," focusing on the terrible power guilt has over many of our lives and how God overcomes guilt with the power of His grace.
Stephen N. Collins
Millville – 09/05/08
Being the Church
Icebreaker: A wedding guest bubbled over with accolades to the bride as she passed through the receiving line. She said, “Oh, you look so lovely, my dear. I’m so pleased that Jess chose you to be his wife.” Then she whispered in the young bride’s ear, “Whatever happened to the ditzy blonde he used to date?” The new wife whispered back, “I dyed my hair.”
-You know, no matter how hard we try to cover it up, sometimes our past still comes back to haunt us.
Intro: It’s good to have my mom here with us today. My mom has an interesting past. Her dad was a preacher, so she was raised in a pastor’s home. She was a preacher’s kid. When she got a little older she married my dad. Not too long after they were married, he felt God calling him to be a pastor. So then she became a pastor’s wife. A few years later, God called her baby brother into the ministry, so she became a preacher’s sister. And a little ways down the road, God called her son to be a pastor, so now she is a preacher’s kid, a preacher’s wife, a preacher’s sister, and a preacher’s mom. She needs a lot of therapy. Just kidding!
-But this morning, we are going to be talking about our pasts. Our past doesn’t have to determine our future, but so often we let it do just that.
-Let’s take a poll: how many of you have done something stupid in your past? Something you regret? We all have.
-Even the great Apostle Paul did:
“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.”
-The Apostle Paul
Now, of course we need to be aware of where God has brought us from. Guilt is not always a bad thing, especially when we have sinned.
-And we need to be clear about this today before we go any farther: If you are living in sin, if you are living your life in a such a way that you know God doesn’t approve of the way you’re living, you are going to feel guilt. And as harsh as this may sound, you should. In your case, guilt is not a bad thing. Guilt is God’s way of telling you that you’re made for something better than this and you know it.
But many people I know have accepted Jesus as their Lord and savior and are still burdened by feelings of guilt.
And you know, one of Satan’s most effective methods of wrecking the lives of Christians is the use of guilt to paralyze them from accepting God’s grace
-But today, what I want you to leave here knowing in your heart, no matter where you are in life, is that God is concerned with who you’re becoming rather than who you’ve been.
-We’re continuing our journey through the book of Acts this morning in Acts 23. We’re going to take a look into a time in the great Apostle Paul’s life when he absolutely blew it. And around the same time he blew it in Acts 23, he wrote a letter to his friend Timothy, and in that letter we’re going to see how Paul’s understanding of guilt and grace allowed him to overcoming guilt in his life.
(READ ACTS 23:1-11 AND PRAY)
3 Things to Remember when You Feel Guilty
1. God loves you in spite of your past.
Questions: Remember all the hands that were raised just a second ago? We’ve all done things that can make us feel guilty. How does guilt make you view yourself? As a screw-up? As undeserving? As worthless?
Illustration (Steve May): “Several years ago a woman came to our church and told me God could never love her; she had committed the worst possible sin. In a fit of rage, she said, because her baby wouldn’t stop crying, she shook him so hard that his brain was permanently damaged. Every day she is reminded of the fact that her own child is forced to live with the consequences of her sin. The guilt was too much for her. She said she had no right to be a mother, she had no right to be a Christian, in fact, she had no right to live. "God couldn’t possibly love me after what I did," she said.”
Main Point: His response to her was the same thing I’m saying to you today: God loves you in spite of your past.
-Imagine what it must have been like for Paul in Acts 23. As he sat alone in jail, knowing that his temper had gotten the best of him and he had squandered an opportunity to share Jesus with people who needed him.