Dealing with Guilt
Grant van Boeschoten
March 11, 2011
Guilt is something that has to be dealt with. If you don’t deal with guilt, it has a nasty tendency to grow and grow to a point where it can become unbearable. Throughout time, there have been many different ways created to deal with guilt.
- There is the “Just Get it Out” method. The guilty person will do whatever it takes to just get it out of their system. They will confess to whoever will listen. And you need to be careful, because if you are around one of these “just get it out” sorts of people and they’ve got guilt, it might all come spewing out on you just when you are in the middle of having an awesome day.
- There is the “I can deal with it myself” method. The guilty person makes a deal with themselves to never tell anyone what has happened. Maybe this person finds ways to punish themselves. Maybe they just carry around a heavy weight, hoping that no one figures out what is really going on. Maybe they try to ignore it, and let time take care of the problem.
- The “You can deal with it for me” method. Here is where the guilty unload there guilt on a friend or pastor or someone like that. They want to confess it all, and then just walk away, thinking that their consequences won’t affect them anymore.
- Here is another way. Own it, Admit & Move On. Instead of trying to shift the guilt, you take responsibility. You admit where you were wrong and then you leave your past in the past.
- What other ways do you know of that people deal with their guilt?
At your core, the way that you deal with your guilt reflects what you really believe about life, and about God. What I am saying is, “Show me how you deal with guilt, and I can understand what you really believe.”
This is a heavy subject. Sometimes it is more convenient to change what you believe then to change how you behave.
For example. Most people in our culture grow up with the firm belief that cheating is wrong. There aren’t many parents out there who teach their kids how to cheat, and lie and extort people. We could probably say that for most of us, cheating is flat out wrong. That is what we believe. However, the statistics are surprisingly high for cheating on tests and assignments in school.
Just for the fun of it, I want to do a quick survey and see how many in this room have ever cheated on a test. EYES CLOSED. Put your hand up if you have ever cheated in school. Keep it up if you cheated in the last year, month, week.
So the question for the cheaters becomes, what do you do with the guilt that comes from cheating?
Do you go to your teacher and confess, and suffer the consequences. Or do you change what you believe about cheating. Do you find a way to change at the core of who you are what you believe, so that your behavior won’t have to change?
The answer to that question is so revealing to what a person believes about life and about God.
There is a major problem that arises if you are the type of person who will change what you believe, instead of how you behave. The question is where do you stop. In the case of cheating, will you still be cheating on your taxes in 10 years, and finding some new way of believing that will justify it. What about in the area of getting physical with your girlfriend or boyfriend and crossing lines that you said you would never cross. Where does it stop? Where will you change your beliefs to justify your current behavior?
Our world has a system of punitive justice to deal with the guilty, who in many cases have changed their beliefs instead of their behaviors and don’t even consider themselves guilty.
Here is how it works. You are brought to trial. In front of you is a judge or a jury who ultimately will decide your fate. You have access to a lawyer who will use his reason to show how you are law abiding. There also is another lawyer called the prosecution. They build a case to how you are guilty of breaking that law.
At the end of the trial, the lawyer takes all the evidence that has mounted up against you either acquits you or declares you to be guilty. At that point your future is in the judges hands. The judge takes the evidence, applies the conditions of the law and proclaims a judgement.
Of course, you and I know that our system of justice in not perfect. There are times that the guilty go free. There are times when the innocent are convicted. The reason why are justice system is not perfect is because it is run by people, and we are not perfect.
God has a justice system as well, and it carries far more weight than the worlds. Fortunately, where the world’s is flawed God’s is perfect. God knows the facts, and no lawyer can convince Him other wise. There is no amount of arguing with God that will change his mind.
God is a fair God, He is just. The Bible says that He is unchanging. And God is fair with every single person who is guilty of breaking His law. His punishment doesn’t vary for some and not for others. Good looking people don’t get any extra credit, funny people aren’t given more grace, smart people aren’t given the benefit of a doubt. God is the same for everyone.
The Bible says “For all have sinned and fall short of God’s glorious standard.” In other words, we are all guilty. The question is, what will we do with our guilt.
It is quite the dilemma, because according to God the evidence of our sin is stacked up against us and the law dictates that we are forever separated from God. That means that we can’t have the relationships with Him that we were created for. It means that our eternity after this life will be spent in Hell, apart from God. What are we going to do with our guilt?
The problem comes to a head when we realize the truth, we are helpless to help ourselves. There is nothing that you and I can do to argue or earn our way out of this punishment.
This is a problem that is very near to God’s heart. He didn’t create us to live under the weight of guilt. He didn’t plan for us to be separated from Him. But at the same time, God is full justice. He can’t just say that our sins are OK, that they don’t need to be punished. God is just, he does not let the guilty go free, there are no exceptions.
So here we are, unable to deal with the guilt of our sins. Here is God, wanting a relationship and the best for each one of us. So He does the only thing that He can do. He sacrifices his own son to take our punishment, so that our relationship with God can be restored.
Maybe you’ve heard this verse before. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that who ever believes in him will not perish but will have eternal life.” John 3:16
Jesus is the Son of God. He never sinned, so he never carried around the guilt. He never deserved a punishment of being separated from God or death. Yet The Bible tells us that he died on the cross. He died there not because he deserved death, but because he was taking our just punishment.
He rose from the grave on the third day. He is not dead, he is alive. And he says that if we will confess our sins and put our trust and our faith in Jesus Christ, that our guilt will be nailed to that cross with him.
You can’t deal with your guilt. Only God can. What you can do, is call out to God to forgive you of your sins and put your full trust and faith in God.
Talking to God the Father, Jesus said, “You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings or burnt offerings or other offerings for sin, nor were you pleased with them” (though they are required by the law of Moses). 9 Then he said, “Look, I have come to do your will.” He cancels the first covenant in order to put the second into effect. 10 For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time. (Hebrews 10:8-10)
For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy. (Hebrews 10:14)
“This is the new covenant I will make with my people on that day, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.”
17 Then he says, “I will never again remember their sins and lawless deeds.”
18 And when sins have been forgiven, there is no need to offer any more sacrifices. (Hebrews 10:16-18)
At your core, the way that you deal with your guilt reflects what you really believe about life, and about God.
In the court of law if you were to admit your guilt it would be called a confession. God says that if we want Him to deal with our guilt, we must first confess it to God. If you were to confess to something, and then go back and do it again, we would have to question how genuine you were being. That is why repentance is also essential. To repent is to make a commitment to stay away from the wrong things that you were doing. It is also committing to stay away from the things that would tempt you to do wrong.
If you believe that Jesus is the son of God, that he died and rose again taking your punishment for your guilt, then you can confess your sins to God and he will deal with your sins. He will take the guilt of your life and you can be called pure, and holy before God. You will be forgiven.