January 10

Guilt is a judicial concept. To be guilty there has to be a standard or law, of which one fails in their conduct to measure up to. Sin means to miss the mark, or fall short of the required behavior. One can hit a tennis ball over the net, but if it lands outside the lines, it is a fault. It doesn’t make any difference how far out the ball lands, or how narrowly one misses. Since we have all sinned, we are all guilty and in need of forgiveness. God is a just God, and cannot for a moment be anything but righteous. If God were to meet out justice, we would get what we deserve, and that would be hell. But God is also merciful, and mercy is not giving others what they deserve. If we plead guilty in a court of law, and throw ourselves upon the mercy of the court, we are asking the judge to not give us what we deserve. “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His mercy” (Titus 2:4,5).

Grace is giving us what we don’t deserve. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8,9). There is not one verse in the Epistles encouraging believers to ask God to forgive them. Why not? Because they are already forgiven. Then why do so many feel guilty? I mentioned faulty theology yesterday, but there is also psychological guilt. We have all incorporated into our minds certain standards for right and wrong. Our conscience is always true to itself based on those standards, but it is not infallible. Deeply ingrained legalistic standards will make one feel guilty when violated, but that is not a true guilt, and there is no need to be forgiven. The writer of Hebrews advised, “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience . . .” (10:22).

We have no right to violate another person’s conscience, nor should we be too quick to dismiss our own. The process of renewing our minds includes renewing our consciences to the right standard. If we believe something to be wrong, to us it is, until we have been enlightened otherwise. I believe we should all have core convictions that are non-negotiable, which are clearly reflective of God’s character. In such cases “others can, but I cannot.” A hundred people with personal preferences are worth less than one person with godly convictions. On the other hand, “Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves” (Rom. 14:22).

Beloved, your sins are forgiven, because the penalty was paid when Jesus died in your place. You are no longer under the Old Covenant of law. The law which you could not keep condemned you, but as a believer you are under the New Covenant of grace which states, “For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jer. 31:34). That does not mean that God forgets our sins, because He can’t, being omniscient. It means that He will not use our past against us. “As far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).

Dr. Neil

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