Why False Guilt Hurts God and Keeps You From Getting Close To Him
I’ve been thinking about past sins and why we have a desire to punish ourselves for them. Sometimes the punishment takes the form of physically trying to hurt ourselves. Or by doing some kind of body numbing penance. But more often we punish ourselves by never letting go of our guilt.
Many religions talk about how to rid oneself of guilt. All the numerous things a person has to do. But I believe this is all about control. And a false belief that our God is not the grace filled loving creator He says He is.
We dwell on our sins because deep down we refuse to believe they have been paid for. We believe that to make sense of our world and be truly forgiven, we must work off our sins by exacting punishment on ourselves. However, this is a lie. It’s not what the Bible says.
Only God Has The Power to Judge Sins
The fact is that only the KING has the authority to judge sins. Even on ourselves! Indeed, Paul in 1 Corinthians 4v3-4: (NIV) says:
“I care very little if I am judged by you or any human court; indeed I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.”
Paul understood that the Lord and only the Lord is fit to judge. And that includes even when it comes to judging himself. There is nothing in the Bible that says we have a right to judge ourselves while the Lord has the right to judge others.
The Lord judges everyone. It is not up to us to meet out punishment on ourselves. Even if we think we deserve it! Punishment is the Lord’s.
Self Punishment Is A Form of Pride: It Is Rebellion
So if the Lord is to judge us, any attempt to take away His authority is SIN. It’s like kicking Him off His holy throne and telling the King of the Universe “DON’T BOTHER ME. I KNOW WHAT’S BEST FOR MYSELF!
No matter how noble self punishment sounds, it’s really a form of godlessness. It’s nothing but selfish pride. A rejection of God’s authority over your life. A rejection of His authority to forgive and give rest to the one He loves.
Think of it in earthly terms. Would you tell a child’s father, “I’m sorry but you shouldn’t love your kid anymore?” And watch how they react when you insist “Oh by the way, you should punish him more!”
In most cases, they would rightfully tell you to butt out of it. It’s not your place to tell a father how to love his children. And so it is with Jesus. When you believe in Him, God is your father. And you need to step back and let Him do the judging. Even about yourself!
So if the Lord and only the Lord is to judge us, then what does the Lord say about sinners? And more importantly, what does He say about being forgiven?
What The Lord Says About Being Forgiven
For the answer I don’t look to Martin Luther, nor to my pastor nor to my friends. I go back to the Bible which is God’s Holy Word.
In Hebrews 4:16 the Bible commands us not to be timid. Instead like a son before a loving parent we are to trust Him and “Come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
“If we confess our wrongs, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”1 John 1:9
Think about the two criminals on the cross next to Jesus. One cursed Jesus, but the other one admitted he, himself was rightfully condemned for his crime. And it was this law breaker that asked Jesus to be saved. So what did Jesus do for the one who confessed and boldly came before Him?
Did He say “too bad, I will not help you because you asked to be saved at the very last second and simply because you’re afraid of judgment?” Of course not! Nor did He require this man to do anything to earn his salvation. Instead, Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:39-43
THAT’S THE GOD WE SERVE! A God who forgives us when we really believe in Him.
Now there’s plenty of good reasons to live a Christ filled life, both for the here and now and also for the hereafter. But once you believe in Him and let Him into your heart, it’s no longer an issue of salvation.
You never have to do penance before God for past sins you’ve confessed to. And that brings me to James 5:16, which is my favorite verse on confessing and praying. By following this verse in particular, the Lord freed me from being trapped in the bondage of pornography. And IT WAS ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL TO FINALLY BE FREE.
This verse is very fitting for both of us Ron. It tells us to have the courage to confess to other believers and pray for them, which is exactly what we did on Friday night!
By doing this, we take a risk that we will be rejected by those we confess to. But the Lord wants us to see exactly the opposite! That by confessing and praying for one another, we will instead be shown amazing love and mercy. A grace that defies our comprehension!
And if mere sin filled people can have such grace, mercy and forgiveness for one another, HOW MUCH MORE FORGIVENESS WILL BE SHOWN TO YOU BY THE ONE WHO IS PERFECT AND BLAMELESS. ABOVE EVERYONE ELSE. OUR ALL LOVING, ALL POWERFUL AND EVER SO HOLY CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE. THE GOD WHO WANTED US TO WIN IN THIS LIFE AND IN THE NEXT.
With Him living in us, we are free. Yes we sin. But then we confess it to Him and we move on with love, power and purpose.
We don’t dwell on the sins we confessed because doing so does not help us love Him more. Nor does it help us love other people more. And loving God and loving people are the two greatest commandments. Do this and you have fulfilled the law and the prophets. Matthew 22:36-40
In fact, when has your guilt for past sins ever gotten you to love God more or love people more? It doesn’t. It never has. And it can’t. It’s a false form of godliness that has no power. Instead it makes us want to run away from God and hide from people. I know it did for me.
When Is Guilt Good And When Is It Bad?
For the believer, guilt has only one God given purpose. It’s to drive us to repent. And to seek our Lord Jesus for love, healing and forgiveness. When we confess and abide in Him, we throw away our guilt. And He gives us the fruit of the spirit after doing so, which is love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23
Think about the peace you felt just after confessing to me. We were never meant to carry our sins inside but to confess them to God and others and then move on!
So for those who know Jesus and have confessed, there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1
So if the King of the Universe, who came to Earth as a man, died and was resurrected, if this King says we are free, then we must accept Him at His word. When King Jesus sets you free, you are free indeed.
It’s settled. The Scriptures are clear that we’re not condemned. Our God truly forgives us in spite of our past sins.
So how do you think our God feels when we refuse to believe Him? When contrary to His Word we reject Him in His goodness, because we know what’s right for ourselves? How does He feel when we refuse to accept His mercy and grace in our lives?
A Real Life Example Of How God Must Feel When We Reject His Free Gifts
Yesterday you paid for my drinks and for that I am grateful. But imagine another scenario. Suppose you had asked to pay for my drinks but instead I refused because I felt too unworthy of the gift. Suppose instead I had said Ron, you don’t know what a worthless scumbag I am. I have done drugs, seen hookers and done many cruel things to people. I am unworthy and I absolutely refuse your kindness.
As a friend you’d probably tell me you’d be happy to pay for my drinks. That you don’t care what I’ve done because you accept me as I am. You like me. You revel in my company. And personally it makes you happy doing good things for me.
But what if you were powerless to convince me of this? If no matter what you said or did, I continued to reject your overtures? Wouldn’t you feel sad for me? And not just that, wouldn’t it grieve you that you and I could not be close? After all, with a barrier like that how could we be!
There’d be no trust between us for I could never take you at your word. And without this trust, there could be no deep connection between us. For your attempts to bridge this gap would always be discounted. You would be forever rejected by my unbelief that you are who you say you are. Someone who truly cares for me. This is how the Lord feels when we reject Him.
Jesus does not leave us in the dark on how to relate to Him. He gives us parents and friends as earthly examples. He is our “Father” in Heaven. And when He was with the disciples He called them His “friends“.
And so like a father with a son or a man with his friends, the Lord wants us to have a loving relationship with Him. A relationship that involves intimacy, grace and forgiveness. This is what I have with Him. And I want you to have this with Him too.
And you can have this with Him at a Protestant church or at a Catholic church or at any God filled Church. But it’s not the church that gives it to you. It’s your personal relationship with Him. Just ask, seek and knock, and it will be given to you. Matt 7:7-11 That’s what I did and it was given to me.