02/04/2009

How long should we bear our guilt?

I was reading Numbers 14 this evening, the tragic history of Israel's unbelief and failure to enter the promised land. They were condemned to spend 40 years in the wilderness. God said, "According to the number of the days in which. You spied out the land, forty days, for each day you shall bear your guilt one year, namely forty years, and you shall know My rejection." (Num 14v34).

I felt prompted to ask God a simple question, "Under the new covenant, for how long should we bear our guilt?" God gave me a simple reply, "For NO TIME AT ALL."

Many believers sadly live under mindset which means that after they have sinned, they live under a sense of condemnation and God's displeasure until enough time has passed for the sting of guilt to fade a little. I've been there! In the past, I have spent days and days after each and every failure, bearing my guilt! I need to say, that such a mindset is old covenant and, since Jesus has borne ALL our guilt for ALL our sins - we do not need to bear guilt even for a moment - even for a nanosecond!

To be brutally blunt, the mixed law/grace culture across the church grades sin, so we are used to feeling guilty for different periods depending on our sin. So if we lose our temper we might feel bad for half a day, or a day if it was a really bad blow-up. If we used bad language when we lost our temper, the guilt time might be a bit longer - two days perhaps, or a week if another Christian heard our bad language.

If we tell a little lie, then we feel bad for a day (or more if it is worse). If we gossip, we might feel bad for an hour. If we look with lust at someone, we might feel guilty for an hour or so; if we fantasise overmuch, we can feel guilty for a day or so. If we glance at porn, then the guilt is two days, if we masturbate then it's a week. Why are we wasting our time, burning ourselves out, punishing ourselves, when Jesus has already borne our guilt and our punishment?

Later on this evening, in our men's meeting, I felt the Holy Spirit whisper to my heart, "there are people who are backslidden today because they have borne their guilt for over forty years." This is tragedy, and the cause is legalism. Think about your own experience for a moment - under law when you fall, guilt comes, guilt causes you to lose sight of the Lord, you no longer feel His tangible presence. After a while the guilt does pass, and you feel you can approach God again. That was the reality for the first 18 years of my Christian life. I believe that for many, if this becomes the norm, discouragement grows, sin grows, guilt grows, and the sense of distance from God grows, and backsliding is only a matter of time. Why go to church and have guilt reinforced week by week, line by line, precept by precept?

And I believe there are many people who once were in the church and are outside now, not because they are "great sinners", but because they have borne the accumulated guilt of years of condemnation.

Every single believer needs to be able to answer this - whether you are walking actively with God today or whether it is years since you have been in His presence - how long should you bear your guilt? NEVER! NEVER! NEVER!

Why waste time carrying something that Jesus carried for you? Declare war on guilt, revel in grace, and drink deeply of His presence. God's not looking for you to jump through hoops to impress Him - He's already totally impressed and delighted with you, and will be forever.