No Longer Guilty
AUGUST 20, 2020
The relationship between you and God can be restored. You don’t have to worry about bad self-image or death or hell. You can be totally, wonderfully, joyfully accepted and forgiven.
Do you want to hear the bad news or the good news first?
Sin is the bad news.
Sin isn’t just something you do that is human and makes no difference. Sin does things to you that conflict with the way you were created to be.
God doesn’t sit in heaven and say, “Every time one of My creatures finds something interesting, fun, and exciting to do, I’m going to call it a sin, because I want to make My creatures miserable.” Instead, God wants us to be obedient, so that we might live as fulfilled lives as possible. Benjamin Franklin was not known for his Christian commitment, but he spoke a biblical truth when he said, “Sin is not hurtful because it is forbidden, but it is forbidden because it is hurtful. Nor is duty beneficial because it is commanded, but it is commanded because it is beneficial.”
It is important that we see what sin does to us. Have you ever blushed privately thinking about something you had done? Have you ever been robbed of sleep because your guilt was eating you alive? I heard recently about a young woman who said she knew she had become a Christian because of the bed sheets: Before she was a Christian they were always twisted and disheveled, but after she came to know Christ she would wake up in the morning with the sheets smooth and straight. She smiled and said, “I sleep better.”
I think it was in one of A. J. Cronin’s stories that a certain doctor worked for one company for most of his career. He started out with high aspirations and a genuine desire to help people. But as the years went by, he sold his soul little by little. He started drinking and became a self-centered, bitter man. His wife died, and after her death he was going through her pocket-book. He found letters from people he had helped and some pictures of himself when he was a young, idealistic doctor. He walked to a mirror, looked at the man he had become, and said, “You thought you would get away with it, but, by God, you didn’t.”
Sin does more than just hurt us; it also divides us from other people. In your whole lifetime, you will be lucky if you have three or four good friends. We have lots of acquaintances but few friends, and do you know why? It’s because we don’t want that many people to know what we are really like. You see, we wear masks that hide the ugliness underneath. We show others our masks so they won’t see the way we really are. There are only a few people who can see what is behind our masks and love us anyway. So our sin separates us from other people.
But by far the most horrible consequence of sin is that it separates us from our holy God. The God of the universe is holy and righteous. When He gives His commandments, He doesn’t put them in the form of suggestions. When He says, “The wages of sin is death,” He means that those who sin will be separated from Him eternally. Paul said, “To those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation [will be the result]. There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek” (Rom. 2:8-9).
It is very foolish to stand before the God of the universe and be flippant about sin. Isaiah knew better. You will remember that he was in the temple when he had a vision of God. He saw the Lord on a high throne, with His train filling the temple. In his vision, Isaiah saw heavenly beings surrounding God’s throne, and the beings were calling back and forth to one another, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory” (Isa. 6:3). Isaiah didn’t say, “Wow! Isn’t that something!” He didn’t say, “What a loving God!” He didn’t say, “It is nice to have a personal encounter in my heart with a wonderful God.” This is what he said: “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts” (Isa. 6:5).
One of the reasons most people are miserable is that they were created to be in fellowship with their Creator yet they live outside Him. Augustine said, “Thou hast created us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.” Pascal said that we have a God-shaped vacuum in our hearts, and nothing fits in the vacuum except God. The problem is that our sin separates us from Him. He is infinite and we are finite; He is in heaven and we are on earth; He is holy and we are sinful. Our approach to the source of our joy, power, and forgiveness in God is blocked by sin. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Paul cried out, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24)
The Bible says that at the fall of Adam in the Garden, a terrible disease entered into the world (see Rom. 5:12). It is a disease far more destructive than cancer, and it is universal. We sin because it has diseased us; it is in our blood. We sin because Adam sinned, but we also sin as Adam sinned. Almost all sin is first-degree sin, in that we contemplate it and play with it long before we make it an active part of our lives.
And even when we understand the origin of our sin, we still sin. Even when we understand that what we are doing is hurting us, we do it again and again.
Jesus is the good news.
Now let’s talk about the good news. The Bible says, “For while were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly [that’s everybody]. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:6-8).
Most of us have a superficial view of forgiveness. Forgiveness is a simple thing, right? Wrong. Forgiveness is very difficult, because whenever anyone is forgiven, someone gets hurt. Think about it for a moment. If I punch you in the nose, you can choose to forgive me or not. If you choose not to forgive me, you can punch me back and things will be balanced out. But if you decide to forgive me, it’s going to cost you that punch in the nose. There is no such thing as cheap forgiveness–on our part or on God’s part. Forgiveness always costs.
Our being forgiven cost God His Son. Jesus bore the cost of our sin on the Cross. Paul said, “Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). That means you don’t have to be guilty anymore. The relationship between you and God can be restored. You don’t have to worry about bad self-image or death or hell. You can be totally, wonderfully, joyfully accepted and forgiven. Gert Behanna said that when she got up from her knees after confessing her sin before God and asking forgiveness because of Christ, she not only felt forgiven, she also felt welcomed.
The bad news is that we are sinners. The good new is this: If Jesus has come, we are forgiven. At the close of his life, John Newton said he could remember two things: “I am a great sinner and Jesus is a great Saviour.” That’s true, and it is exciting. I’m not okay, and you’re not okay–but Jesus had made it okay.
Adapted from Steve’s book, If Jesus Has Come.