She had sinned. The sick feeling in the pit of Jessie’s stomach grew, and a heavy weight seemed to fall onto her shoulders. As she recognized her sin, she was overwhelmed by the feeling that she was unclean. Filled with revulsion at herself and acutely aware of her unworthiness, she became timid to approach God in prayer. She had failed, after all— and not only once. Although Jessie had repented, the words guilty, guilty, guilty still echoed in her mind.
Learning to deal with sin is one of the fiercest struggles in the Christian life—and often, one of the most discouraging. I have discovered that the more time I spend studying God’s Word and in prayer, the more my own hideous unrighteousness is revealed to me. In the illumination of God’s holiness, my sinful thoughts and behavior are laid bare. In fact, my knowledge of my own sinfulness is growing continually. Like Jessie, you and I may listen to a convicting sermon or message, and then leave the building filled with an overpowering sense of discouragement and frustration, not joy. Even after repentance, the guilt that my sin has wrought often burns within me. The nagging question is: Now what?
It’s tempting to think that the feeling of guilt which results is beneficial. Somehow, we think that if it’s so painful, it must be a good thing—but it isn’t. C.J. Mahaney put it best:
“Don’t buy the lie that cultivating condemnation and wallowing in your shame is somehow pleasing to God, or that a constant, low-grade guilt will somehow promote holiness and spiritual maturity. It’s just the opposite! God is glorified when we believe with all our hearts that those who trust in Christ can never be condemned.”
The Answer: the Cross
Two nights ago, I lay awake in bed, unable to sleep. Suddenly, I felt a strong sense that God desired me to get out of bed to kneel prostrate on the ground. Although I do not often pray in that position during the middle of the night, I knew that there was a specific reason for it that night. I began to pour out my heart to my Father, and immediately, one of the main things that He impressed upon me was the glorious truth of Romans 8:1. The verse cries triumphantly, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” None! All our sins were atoned for at the cross where Jesus died. He suffered the penalty that we deserved, and the burden of our sin has been completely removed. We are forgiven and set free! I needed this reminder on Thursday. I had once again been feeling the weight of my failure to live up to God’s commands, and consequently, I was discouraged and frustrated with myself. But as I prayed, the wondrous truth of the gospel changed my disheartened attitude into thanksgiving and joy. Jesus suffered a brutal death on the cross for the very sin that I committed yesterday, and last week, and this morning. Because Christ is the propitiation for my sins, there is now no need for condemnation!
In fact, when we linger in our guilt, we are telling Christ that His sacrifice was not enough. We are adamantly insisting upon carrying a burden that He has already removed forever. If you have placed your faith in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, you have been justified by His blood. You now stand spotless and blameless before God’s throne-- clothed in the glorious righteousness of the Son of God!
Why, then, is it so easy to fall into this pattern of self-condemnation, when God so clearly desires the message of the cross to be ever-present in our hearts? A fundamental misapplication of the gospel lies at the root cause of this issue. You and I feel condemned only when we do not let the power of the gospel transform our lives. Our minds must be constantly renewed by the truth of God’s Word, and we ought to make it our daily goal to search out the depths of God’s unmerited grace towards us. God wants us to be firmly convinced of our position in Christ! When we meditate on the life-transforming truth of the gospel, we will be filled anew with awe and wonder at the great God we serve, not weighed down with guilt.
Acknowledge your sins before God. Admit the depths of your depravity and confess with tears the sinfulness of your heart to Him. “But don’t stop there!” says Mahaney. “Move on to rejoicing in the Savior who came to save the worst of sinners. Lay down the luggage of condemnation and kneel down in worship at the feet of Him who bore your sins.” Yes, recognize your sin. Then turn to the cross with a heart brimming with gratitude and joy, for there is no longer any condemnation for those in Christ Jesus!
Labels: Biblical womanhood, devotional