God has made the way for us to change - He's given us forgiveness. We don't have to be chained to the past. We can overcome – even though we are corrupt at our very heart and core – through the sacrifice of Christ. There is a way. Don't look to past faults and past sins and dredge those things back up, but be truly repentant. God will forgive us, and gives us the means to forgive ourselves.
[Steve Myers] As I thought about the sermon today, I began to think about a serious problem that many of us have – maybe most of us have it at some time or another. And it seems that at this time of the year, it seems to be more prevalent than maybe other times. Maybe it becomes more evident at this time of the year. It’s one of those things that can be a serious stressor – one that can trigger all kinds of other things – things to get our mind working in ways that aren’t very positive. In fact, this problem can start to get to us. It can start to puff us up, in a way, like leaven – so much so, and in the wrong way, that some even think about ending their life. It can be that serious. And I think it’s one of those things that Satan consistently and constantly tries to put at the forefront of our thinking – to try to put a barrier between God and us. It seems all too often he does succeed. At one time they called it the great tormentor to the soul. What is the problem? It is guilt – guilt – the kind of guilt that can weigh us down, keep us out, put us to shame, discouragement, and cause us to just want to give up. Now, sometimes it takes the form – “Well, I know that God forgives me, but, I just can’t forgive myself.” I don’t know if you’ve ever felt that way. I think some of us have struggled with that kind of thinking at one time or another – maybe most of us have. And I’ve often wondered, “Well, why do some of us suffer from, maybe, slight tinges of guilt over past sins – past forgiven sins even – and for others, it’s almost overwhelming feelings – feelings of worthlessness, feelings that I just can’t measure up, feelings that derail us and take us in directions that we certainly should never go.” How do we deal with that? Where do these feelings come from, and how do we deal with the difficulty of guilt, especially when we know that God’s forgiven us, or we feel that He has – it seems that He has – but we just can’t quite seem to forgive ourselves? Now, let’s look at a couple of reasons, and maybe ways that we can begin to put things in a different perspective, so we can start the battle of overcoming, and hopefully, create a little bit of peace of mind in our lives today. Now I think when we say, “I can’t forgive myself,” what exactly are we saying? I think, in some ways, we’re really getting to the point of thinking that, “Well, because my sins are bad – they are so bad, in fact – I knew better, and yet I did that terrible thing – that I don’t know if God really will forgive me.” Now I don’t know if you’ve ever felt that way, but have we done something that was so terrible – maybe we knew better – that we really feel unforgiven? Well, God says we can begin the process of coming out of that frame of mind by fully accepting forgiveness. I think that’s the first step – that, if we’re going to overcome guilt from sin that we’ve already repented of, we’ve got to take a different perspective of forgiveness. And we’ve got to fully accept what God has offered to us – in fact, what He’s given to us. He’s given us forgiveness. And yet, oftentimes, we don’t feel like He’s given it to us. We feel like, “Well, I, it was really bad. There was no way I should have been doing that. And I fell into it. I did it. I might even have known about it and I did it anyway. So why should He forgive me?” And sometimes we go through that way of thinking, and it leads us down the wrong path, and we begin to recognize that, “Ah, I am forgiven, but it sure doesn’t feel like it.” Yet, do we really fully accept what God has offered to us? Now, don’t think you’re in, you know, company that isn’t familiar to people in the Bible. David was one of those who felt this way. And in fact, he felt this way quite often. In Psalm 40 – you don’t have to turn there – it got so bad for David at times – he talked about his enemies that surrounded him. And yes, Saul was chasing him with armies and things like that, but more often than not, it wasn’t the physical armies that were coming after him. He talked about innumerable evil that surrounded him. He was talking about his own sins. He talked about his iniquities, his shortcomings, his lawlessness. In fact, he talked about the fact that it was so bad at times, he couldn’t even look up. He held his head down – could not look at people, could not see somebody straight in the eye – because after all, he was supposed to be God’s chosen. But he saw himself as having so many evils that it was “more than the hairs on his head” – is the way that he put it. And sometimes we can feel the same way. Now David knew that God was with him – look at some of these other amazing, miraculous experiences that he had. You know, you don’t defeat a Goliath without God on your side – knowing that God is there – having that kind of a faith! And yet, even when he understood that sin was forgiven, he often saw himself in that kind of a state. And boy, does our adversary start to work on us when we go there! When we head down that path, that sin pulls us right in, and we feel that burden. We feel that weight. We sinned and we knew better, or we sinned and it was the same thing. “I asked for forgiveness, and I know God forgives me, but it doesn’t feel like He should.” And then it’s compounded, I think, when shame is added to it – “I shouldn’t have done that. I’m ashamed to go before God because I don’t measure up.” Then of course, if we let that go, we become like David. We can’t look somebody straight in the eye. We isolate ourselves and we isolate ourselves from God. And the longer we go without contact with God and His people, the more spiritually isolated we become. We can’t help but get discouraged when that happens. And so the difficulties just compound more and more and more, and we feel then, “Well, God isn’t with us any longer.” We’ve sunk so far down in the depths, that it doesn’t seem like we can get any help. And then, it’s not too far a step just to say, “Well, what’s the point? What’s the use? I might as well give up, because I’m kind of doomed anyway.” And oftentimes, if we don’t see our way out, that pattern can develop. And boy, that’s the kind of fatalism that Satan would love to set our mind to. But, I think we can begin to get a handle on it if we really understand God. Do we really understand His forgiveness? Because, it’s God’s nature to want to forgive sin. Now, I don’t know if we’ve ever thought about it that way. God, in His very character, wants to forgive our sins. And I think because we didn’t recognize His character, maybe we don’t fully grasp who God is and what He is like. If we don’t hang onto that, and we don’t understand His very nature, how can we fully accept forgiveness? How is that possible to do that very thing? We may find it difficult if we don’t understand what God’s perspective is when it comes to repentance and sin. We get a little bit of insight in Psalm 103. I will turn there. In Psalm 103, we see some of God’s perspective here when it comes to forgiven sin. In fact, Psalm 103 is one of the songs in our hymnal that is based on Psalm 103 – you probably recognize it in verse 1 – Bless the Lord Eternal, O My Soul – that’s Psalm 103. That’s how it starts: Psalms 103:1 Psalms 103:1Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.
American King James Version×– …bless God, bless Him with…all that is within me, bless His holy name! But sometimes when it comes to the weight, we don’t quite get to verse 2. We don’t quite get here. Bless the Lord, O my soul, And…don’t…forget…His benefits. Don’t forget who God is! Don’t forget what He’s like. Don’t forget His character. Don’t forget His attitude toward us and His attitude toward forgiveness. What is He like? What are the benefits? Well, He says He forgives – not a couple or one or two – but He says, all of our iniquities. He forgives all of them. It’s His nature to love us and to care for us, and to have concern for us, and want to forgive us. He wants a right relationship with us. He doesn’t want to zap us with a bolt of lightning. That’s not where God’s at. He’s loving, He’s caring; in fact, look down to verse 8: V-8-9 – The Lord is merciful and gracious, Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. He will not always strive with us, Nor will He keep His anger forever. That’s an interesting phrase there. Sometimes we, as human beings, we have trouble with people, because “they did that, and I remember what they did, and I can’t forget the way they acted or the way they treated me.” And I remember what that was all about. Well, we’re not supposed to be like that, because God set the example. When you look up this phrase: Nor will He keep His anger forever – that means He doesn’t nurse His anger. He doesn’t keep that in mind. He doesn’t hang onto that anger continually. I mean, there is no doubt, God hates sin. It is unacceptable. We must repent of sin. It violates God’s very character itself. He set a standard for us. So there is a law, there is a way, there is a standard that we find in our Savior, Jesus Christ. But, when we violate that standard, we come before God, we truly, rightfully repent, it is in His nature – His very nature is mercy, His very nature is grace, His very nature is forgiveness and love – and that sin that separates us is gone – when we repent and we change – because He loves us, and He has that desire to forgive us and fix that relationship – repair that relationship that’s been scarred. It says in verse 11: Psalms 103:11-12 Psalms 103:11-12 11 For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. 12 As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
American King James Version×– For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him….Now, I don’t know how high that is, but it’s higher than I can figure out, so that must be pretty high. That’s what God’s character is like. He loves us. That’s how much mercy He has on us. In fact, He says, As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. So how high is the sky? It’s high! How far is east from west? I don’t know. You start walking and you never get there! You never get there. You just keep going around the globe, and you never get there. That’s how far it’s gone. When we truly repent, God totally removes it. I think it’s in Micah, where He says that’s part of His nature. He delights in being merciful. So we should never get caught up in this concept that somehow God is this mean, harsh overlord that cannot wait to punish us. Yes, He hates sin. Yes, that is unacceptable in His sight, but He can’t wait to forgive us. He can’t wait to love us and show that mercy. I mean, He loves us anyway. He loves us even as sinners, but He hates that sin. And so He extends mercy when we truly do repent. In fact, we’re even shown here in verse 13 – He’s like a father that pities his children. V-13-14 – And so the Lord pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust…and so He compares that love that parents have for their children. And even in that kind of immature physical kind of a way, God is so much greater than that. In fact, the way that He expresses that love is unique. I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about it, but, what is the expression of God’s love? How does He really show us that He cares for us? How can I take it to the bank that He is merciful and that He is gracious and that He will forgive me, or that He has forgiven me? Well, we have Christ, our Passover. We have the Lamb. Like a loving parent, God has sacrificed His own Son. The ultimate expression of God’s love is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. And so, if we’re going to grasp what it’s like for God and how much He desires to forgive us, then we have to understand what His purpose is and to what extent He was willing to put His own relationship with Jesus Christ on the line. He was willing to give it all. And so, as that law that He gave us expresses His character, there was only one thing that could pay that penalty for violating the law. And it was the death penalty. We all deserve the death penalty. We have a sinful nature, and so He made a way, through His love, that sin can be forgiven. We can be bought back out of sin, and it’s through the life, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. That’s how we can receive total forgiveness. That’s how our sins can be removed as far as east is from west. That’s how we can get cleaned up. That’s how we can come to this kind of state of mind to say, “Our God is awesome! Let’s praise Him. Let’s worship Him. Let’s honor Him, bless Him, because He is so amazing, that when we repent, He does forget it. He does forgive us. And He went so far, that I can get a better understanding of how fully He’s forgiven me, because He went all the way with His Son. His Son died and gave His life for me.” And sometimes we fall into this idea that well: “I know that God loves the world.” Right? We know John 3:16 John 3:16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
American King James Version×: God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever should believe in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. We know that, but sometimes we put it out there. That’s for them. That’s for people. But you know, that’s for us. That’s for me, personally. And we need to think of it in those terms, that God so loved you – He loved you – that He gave His Son. In fact, there’s passage after passage that should help us to deeply understand how forgiving our God is. Philippians 1:6 Philippians 1:6Being confident of this very thing, that he which has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:
American King James Version×says He started a work in you. God called you, He opened your mind to the truth. Now, what does He say, good luck? You mess up and you’re out of here. He doesn’t say that at all. Philippians 1:6 Philippians 1:6Being confident of this very thing, that he which has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:
American King James Version×says He started a good work in you, and He will see it to completion. That’s what He says. He’s not willing to let go. Now, you can make a decision and walk away, but God’s attitude, His nature, is to want to forgive us. He wants that relationship with us, and He put His Son’s life on the line – His relationship with His Son – forever on the line. And in fact, I think we – when we understand that relationship, and what that sacrifice was all about – that should help us to more fully understand what forgiveness is all about, and how we can begin to more fully accept it. We can find that example over in Hebrews. Look at Hebrews chapter 9. In Hebrews 9:11 Hebrews 9:11But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;
American King James Version×, we have a description of Jesus Christ and what He accomplished. We see this expression of God’s character that demanded a death penalty, and how He could make a way that that death didn’t have to be physically yours and mine. Hebrews, chapter 9, verse 11 says: Hebrews 9:11-14 Hebrews 9:11-14 11 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; 12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. 13 For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies to the purifying of the flesh: 14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
American King James Version×– Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation…it wasn’t a physical tabernacle, it wasn’t a physical temple. Look how He points the way – it wasn’t with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh…in other words, there was some value in the goats and the bulls, but it wasn’t really what it was all about. There was something more, something much more significant in Jesus Christ. Well, if that purified and covered that sin for a year at Atonement, verse 14 says – how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? Do we have to be weighted down with guilt? When we’ve repented, and God has extended that forgiveness, when He’s removed that sin as far as east is west, does that weight still bear down on us? Or can our conscience be cleansed? Can that guilt be removed? Can those dead works that were forgotten by God – but sometimes crop up in our thinking – can they be totally removed? Can we fully accept the forgiveness of God? Paul says, “Absolutely, because we understand the sacrifice.” We can understand that that past sin or sins, that crop up in our mind, can be fully and completely removed when we feel that way, when we suffer from guilt, when we feel like, “I just can’t forgive myself. You see, when we recognize the character of God and we really grasp His very nature – how He gave everything so we could be forgiven. Would He withhold forgiveness from us? Not at all. There is no way that He would – when we are repentant. He’s not going to. He wants that very forgiveness extended to us, and for us to accept it. And so, He gives us this example of His Son, so that when we feel that weight, we can do something about it. We can go to Him and understand what His plan is all about. I think if we’re going to overcome – if we’re fully going to accept forgiveness – what do we do? I think that first step to healing is the fact that we can ask God to extend that mercy to us. And we have to do that. Don’t forget to do that. Ask God to reveal that nature of His to us. I mean, we might be told about it, but can He reveal it to us? Can He show it to us? David was constantly asking about that. You know, if we want to have a different perspective on God’s character, read through the Psalms. Just take some time and do a personal Bible study. Read through the various Psalms. I mean, we talked a little bit about that one that was in Psalm 40. There are so many that will point to the very fact that God is willing and able, and it’s His desire, to forgive us. And it comes up over and over and over again. Because He knows how we are. He knows how we are, that well, we might not quite believe it unless we see more than one example of it. So, over and over and over again, we’re told that very thing. And I was just thinking about Psalm 85. It says that He has forgiven the iniquity of His people – not just one person, but everybody – it says He’s covered their sin. The sacrifice covers that sin. And, oftentimes, it points to how willing and how able and how ready God is to forgive. I think it might even be the very next Psalm – Psalm 86 – talks about how God is ready to forgive. He’s waiting for our repentance. He can’t wait to extend mercy. And so, reading the Psalms I think, is certainly a way that we can cement in our thinking, “That’s what God is like.” God is a great God of mercy and love and forgiveness. And sometimes I think, at this time of the year when we examine ourselves, we put ourselves under this burden of guilt that God would never want us to be under. He doesn’t want to rehash old things – it shouldn’t be that way. But sometimes those things come into our mind, and we need to kick those things out as soon as possible. We can renew the appreciation that we have for the sacrifice of Christ. It should be a reminder of that, because the focus for Passover is not our sins. Does that sound kind of weird? Because we examine ourselves and we see all this sin – and that’s terrible and “I’ve got to, yeah, I’ve got to see that. I need to examine that.” But that shouldn’t be the focus. But what would be the focus of Passover then? The solution to sin. What is the solution to sin? It’s the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. It is our Passover. Yes, we examine ourselves. Yes, we see our sin. If we need to repent about that, yes, we must absolutely repent. Those things are required, no doubt. We don’t want to take the Passover in a way that wouldn’t be right. But the focus is, where do we find help? Where is the solution? I can’t come up with the solution. God’s given us the solution in Jesus Christ. And so when we see that, it puts a whole different perspective on it. And so, part of the process as we come to the Holy Days, is to really renew that love and respect and appreciation we have for our Savior. And we can ask God to continue to apply that sacrifice to us. And we can ask Him that He would continually apply that sacrifice to me personally, so that we can have a right relationship, and so I can have a deeper understanding of His character, and I can truly understand that I am forgiven. And I can put it behind me, because that’s a whole different focus, isn’t it? In fact, I heard a story that kind of relates to this. It’s a story about a beggar. He’s on the side of the street, trying to come up with some money so he could just survive. And as he was, you know, entreating people as they’re walking along, this lawyer walks by – walked right by him – and then, a few steps later, he stopped. Something started turning in his mind a little bit. He walked back to the beggar and he said, “Don’t I know you?” They got to talking a little bit and, “Yeah, we used to go to school together. Yeah, we did.” And they started talking and they started reminiscing about some of the things in the past, and it was like, “Well, what happened? What happened?” The lawyer couldn’t believe that his friend had gone to that depth. And he was moved to such compassion for his old friend, he pulled out his checkbook, and he wrote a $5,000 check, and gave it to the beggar. He told him, “Cash this.” He said, “I don’t care what’s happened in the past. I don’t need to know.” He says, “It’s the future that counts. I want to help you get a fresh start. I want to help you to find a new path.” He handed him a $5,000 check and had to go on his way. The beggar looked at that check – tears – he got a little choked up about, you know, somebody willing to help him out – and he started walking toward the bank. He got to the door and looked through the window. He could see the nicely-dressed tellers behind the counter – the bankers with their pretty dresses on and everything – and he looked down at himself. He was dirty. His clothes were a mess. He thought, “They’re not going to cash this check for me. There’s no way they’re going to. They’re going to look at me…they’re going to think I forged this thing. There’s absolutely no way that they’re going to cash this thing for me.” So as he looked at them, he looked at himself, he got so discouraged he just walked away. He totally convinced himself there would be no way. The next day, the lawyer comes by again and sees him there. He’s surprised. “Well, what are you doing here? You know, I wanted to help you. I wanted to get you a new start you know, and here you are again.” He said, “What happened?” He said, “What did you do? Did you blow it all? Did you go to the casino and blow the whole thing? Did you gamble it away? Did you drink it away? What did you do with the check?” The beggar said, “Nah, I’ve got it right here – got it right here.” The lawyer said, “Well, why didn’t you cash it? You needed to cash that check.” He said, “Well, they wouldn’t believe me. They wouldn’t think it was good.” The lawyer said, “Do you know what makes that check good?” He said, “What validates that check is not your clothes. It’s not your appearance. It’s my signature on the dotted line that makes that check good. Go cash it.” You see, sometimes I think we fall into the same category as that beggar. You know, who signed on the dotted line for us? And yet, sometimes we look in the mirror, and all we can see is the dirty clothes – the mess that our life has become – and don’t realize we’ve been given something much more valuable than a $5,000 check. And we understand then, who’s signature is on the line. The Father allowed His Son to sign with His life on our behalf. Do you think that check is good? That check is good. And so we can cash that check, when we really understand what God’s nature is all about, what His sacrifice was. Is that going to give us some means to cash that check – get that guilt off of our back and finally have some relief? That’s what God wants. And in fact, it doesn’t stop there though. You see, once that burden is removed – what Hebrews says – once that conscience is cleansed, that heavy weight of dead works of past sins – that wants to keep rearing its ugly head come up – when that’s finally behind us – Hebrews said that we can be cleansed so that we can serve the living God. So it’s not just that the guilt is gone, but now, I’ve got to do something. Now I’ve got to become a servant. And so when we fully grasp His character and want to fully have that sacrifice, and accept that forgiveness, we’ve got to get to action. We’ve got to become a servant. We’ve got to have an attitude of service like Christ had. Because after all, Christianity is not just resisting sin, is it? It’s not all about just resisting sin. There’s more. There’s so much more to it. Now sometimes, it’s maybe not that we haven’t fully accepted forgiveness, but have you ever felt like, I just can’t get away from that thing that I did? That somehow we’re locked into it, or we’re chained to the past. Have you ever felt that way? That there’s some kind of invisible ball and chain that just hold us down. We feel that way. And it’s hard then, to forgive ourselves, because we can’t get rid of that connection, it seems. God doesn’t want us to feel that way. In fact, I think in one way, He gave us the story of Adam and Eve to kind of make a point in that regard. I think we’re pretty familiar with the story of that first man and woman. They were curious – you know, “What is this thing all about? What is life all about?” Well, we know curiosity isn’t an evil, but it can go that way if we’re not careful though, because as soon as Satan got on the scene and introduced Eve to the – to even the possibility of disobeying God – we could say – she started to bite on that deception, didn’t she? She realized she had free will. She had a choice. She had a choice on what to do, and she began, I think maybe, to develop a conscience in a way, right? I mean, initially, how do we react to good and evil? She, it seems, started to question God’s instructions. Adam did the same thing. Perhaps they thought God was holding back on them. You know, it’s hard to say, but maybe they thought they could become like God without God? But eventually, they took things into their own hands, and they sinned. They disobeyed God. It’s interesting to see…what was their first reaction to that sin? Remember what they did when God was walking through the garden? They said, “Here we are. We’re over here.” No, they were hiding, weren’t they? They were guilty. They felt guilty. They hid themselves. Instead of coming to God, this is what we did: “We’re sorry.” They repented. No, they didn’t ask for God’s forgiveness. They didn’t see. What did they start to do? They let that guilt come out in blaming others. They blamed each other. They blamed Satan. “Well, yeah, that serpent – I think it was his fault, wasn’t it?” And they even went as far as to blame God. They actually blamed God! Didn’t Adam do that when he said…well, he blamed both the woman and God at the same time, I guess. “It was that woman You gave me. It’s Your fault. You gave me that woman. It wasn’t my fault that – being the man I was – I followed right along.” But, what’s interesting about that story – and I think what ties in with this whole concept – is that they hid, and they knew it. It seems to point me in the direction of, it’s really not in our nature to live that way. You know, did God design us to live in a state of guilt? Does God want us to have those kinds of feelings? Are we supposed to have a guilt-filled frame of mind? I think what we begin to see in that story is the guilt or burden – they’re going to destroy us, they’re going to bring us down, they’re going to short-circuit our relationship with God. God wants a healthy spiritual relationship with us, and when we accept forgiveness, He removes that sin, and then can begin to heal us. He can heal the damage that was a result of the sin, and He can restore a right relationship with Him. And that’s exactly what we see play out over and over and over again throughout the Bible, when we follow some of the examples that are here. There’s an example of David again over in Psalm 32. Let’s turn over there for just a moment. Talk about traumatic guilt. David certainly felt it here in Psalm 32. In fact, this is another one of the hymns in our songbook – take the lyrics from here. Psalm 32: He is blessed who is forgiven, in whom God imputes no sin – that’s the beginning of this Psalm. Now what’s interesting about this – what was David’s perspective as he penned those words? It says: Psalms 32:1 Psalms 32:1Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
American King James Version×– Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit… “But that’s not me.” Could that be his frame of mind here? “Well, look at them. They’ve got it together, they’re spiritual. They’ve got a relationship. I don’t. I’m not good enough to have a relationship. I don’t measure up to what God wants. They’re blessed, but I’m not. I’m not in the same category as them. They’re spiritual and they’re forgiven. I’m not.” I wonder if that might have been where he was at – under this weight - because in verse 3, he says, I kept silent – I was like Adam and Eve. I was hiding. I was hiding out – …my bones grew old – talk about a heavy burden – my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was turned into the drought of summer. Yeah, that’s traumatic. And yet, we can’t stay there. Where’s that going to take you? It’s going to take you down the road of shame and discouragement, and go in a very bad place. We can lose our life if we continue to think that way. But David didn’t stay there and we don’t have to either. We don’t have to. Verse 5: I acknowledged my sin to You – a change of perspective. When he hid his sin, he was, in a way, refusing to accept God’s forgiveness. He knew about God’s forgiveness – “I could see it in those people over there. They’re blessed who are forgiven. But I’m not forgiven. But when I poured out my heart to God, when I repented…” Verse 5: I acknowledged my sin, my iniquity – when I didn’t hide it anymore – I said, I will confess my transgressions to the Lord – what was the character of God, immediately? – and You forgave the iniquity of my sin – no hesitation. Upon David’s true repentance, God was instantly there with forgiveness. And so, when we feel chained, we’ve got to turn to God. When we experience God’s forgiveness, it changes the whole picture. It lifts the weight. It produces a total change of perspective. So when David confessed his sin, that peace of mind that God could give him, came. And so it changed everything for him. And so, we’ve got to be sure to do that. If we haven’t truly abandoned those sins, I think we’ve got to watch out for that as well. If we feel chained to sins, it may be because we haven’t petitioned God and truly experienced His forgiveness. But, there’s also a sense that, well, is it possible that we really haven’t abandoned it? Have we truly abandoned past sins? That’s a question I think we need to ask ourselves. Have you ever thought about the past? Maybe you’ve heard somebody else describe, maybe, their past life – wild, rowdy, got into a lot of trouble. I’ve heard some people describe some of those things – maybe even with a tinge of pride? Maybe a tinge of, hum, kind of proud of that. “Yeah, I got into a lot of stuff, and I have to tell you some of the details.” I wonder, sometimes, if it’s really gone? How far is it removed? Sometimes that kind of thinking can rekindle very bad desires if you relive past things like that. God says, “Get that out.” Don’t be…you’ve got to fully and completely abandon that kind of thinking. And that can be a lot of different things. Yeah, it could be illicit things, but it could be bitterness. It could be gossip. It could be backbiting and anger. You name it, those things can pop up. If we haven’t truly and fully abandoned it, I think we fall into what the Proverbs talk about. We’re like that dog that goes off and then turns right around – you know what they do – what does the Proverbs say? Proverbs 26 or something like that? He turns around right to his own vomit. And so, are we truly petitioning God and totally and fully abandoning it, because it’s more than just changing our behavior, isn’t it? It’s even more than that. It’s not only recognizing the sin, it’s not only accepting God’s forgiveness, it’s more than even changing our behavior. Philippians 2 tells us it’s about having the mind of Christ – having the mind of Christ. And so, if we find ourselves in that position, I think there’s one thing we have to recognize. Can we make up for our past sin? Is there something that we could do ourselves to make up for it? You know, sometimes we say that to people when we’ve – maybe we’ve hurt them or we didn’t complete a responsibility that we were supposed to – you know, what do we tell them? I’ll make up for it. But you know what? When it comes to this, when it comes to sin, we can’t make it right. There’s nothing we can do to make up for our sin. There’s nothing. We can’t suffer enough. We can’t punish ourselves enough. We can’t remove it. We can’t get rid of it. Only God can do that. God is the only One that can make it right by applying the sacrifice of Christ – that can remove our sins. Hiding from God? That doesn’t work. We’ve got to confess, and we’ve got to come before Him, and we’ve got to admit it. Maybe we’ve got to go into great detail to God about this issue, and truly repent – down on our knees in sorrow – in a Godly sorrow – seek Him out and accept His forgiveness. Of course, if that hurt and that sin has damaged others – it’s been toward others – we better seek them out. We better seek their forgiveness. We better make that right, because that’s part of the expectation God has on us – that we can certainly pray that God would allow us to be guided by His Spirit. We have God’s Spirit. We have the power over sin. Isn’t that an amazing thought? God has given us His Spirit, and we have power over sin, because of the sacrifice of Christ. So we can overcome. We can be led by God’s Spirit. We can respond to that Spirit. We can move to those nudges. We can be guided by God through that Spirit. And so, we can ask God to help us to respond in a right way to Him and His Spirit in us. And then we go and we do it, and we act on that right motivation that God wants us to have. Now, I think there’s a third thing that can come into play when we, well, we either feel guilt, or maybe we feel something else. Maybe we’re in that mode that, “I know God’s forgiven me, but I can’t quite forgive myself?” I think there’s another aspect that can come into play, and that may be that we don’t see ourselves as we really – truly are. I mean, if we had to describe what we are like…. I know in the women’s weekend, they had to draw some pictures to describe themselves in one of their exercises. We don’t think of it in that way, but at this time of the year, maybe we ought to. How does God describe us as our human nature? What is that like? We’re depraved, aren’t we? Do we see ourselves as degenerate? “Wait, I’m pretty successful; I’m not wicked, am I? I’m not corrupt. I’m not, I couldn’t be evil, could I?” But that’s the way God describes our human nature. You know, at our human core, we are depraved. And we can let guilt override us, and we don’t see it sometimes. Do we really, fully understand that? Sometimes we, maybe we see our sins, but here’s the catch – do we really see those sins – those actions – as a result of who we are? Sometimes I say, “Well yeah, I blew it. I’m sorry, God.” And we can be on that end of the spectrum. Yeah, there’s this end of the spectrum we’ve been talking about today – about being weighted down with guilt, and overburdened. But, there’s also a self-righteousness that has to be dealt with in some of us as well. And it comes down to the same thing, I believe – that we don’t see ourselves; we don’t see that we are depraved, that our human nature is degenerate, and it is evil, and it is wicked. And if we don’t come to terms with that, we’re going to miss it, because our actions are an expression of our nature. And if that doesn’t change, we are doomed. Boy, did the apostle Paul come to see it. He describes that frame of mind. Maybe we should look there for a moment. Romans, chapter 7 – Romans chapter 7. I wonder if Paul felt that way sometimes. After reading through his innermost thoughts, yeah, I bet there were probably times he saw those sins, and maybe even thought, “I can’t believe I did something that bad. That was horrible. That was awful.” I wonder if he ever felt that way. Maybe we have felt that way. I see that sin, but is it really that bad? Was it, am I really that awful? But, that’s what Paul came to see. He came to accept the fact that his human nature was evil. Look at chapter 7, verse 14. He says: Romans 7:14-21 Romans 7:14-21 14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. 16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent to the law that it is good. 17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwells in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwells no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. 19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. 20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwells in me. 21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.
American King James Version×– For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate…he says, that’s what…I do. He says: If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good…the law is the standard. That is God’s standard for righteousness. Boy, does it show me that I don’t measure up. He says: But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. He says: For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells. “Well, I’m a pretty nice guy. I’m not…am I that bad?” Humanly, it’s easy to kind of look beyond some of those depraved, evil things we think and we do. Paul saw it. He wants us to see it as well. Here’s the guy that wrote most of the New Testament – the apostle of God who went to the Gentiles – just an amazing…and what did he come to terms with? Nothing good dwelt in him. He says, the will is present, but, how to do it – I can’t. I can’t do it. Verse 19: For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. It dwells in Paul. It dwells in us. He says: when evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good – that’s human nature. That’s what we’re about. In fact, he gets right down to the point – in verse 5 of chapter 8. He says: Romans 8:5 Romans 8:5For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
American King James Version×– For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the – physical things, the fleshly things, the carnal things. That’s where we’re at. For to be carnally minded is death…why? Verse 7: the carnal mind is enmity against God. Now, that’s not just, “we’re enemies of God.” That’s not what that means. That means our mind is absolutely opposed to God – absolutely opposed to Him. There isn’t a connection there unless God begins to open it up. Our normal, everyday human nature is evil. It is absolutely degenerate. That’s what Paul came to see. He came to grips with that very fact – not “just this one sin I did, or this one problem that I had, or oops, I slipped up over here” – no, that those sins are an expression of my human nature, my evil nature. That’s what that is. And so we read through this and yeah, we can get kind of depressed about that. It sounds kind of overwhelming. And the fact is, whether we’re overburdened with guilt, or whether we think we’re not that bad, we think we’re not that bad – we get a sense of, “I’m not too bad overall” – we miss the whole point and we’re just as bad as shape as someone that lets guilt take them off track. We think we’ve got it all together spiritually, and it’s just this little thing or that little thing over here…. We’re in trouble. We’re in trouble. We’re in trouble. Paul came to see that he had a tendency to think totally in opposition to God. Now the fact is, we don’t have to stay there, though. There is good news. There is good news, even among this overwhelming dilemma that Paul talked about here. He does come to the solution of Passover. There is a solution. Look at the end of chapter 7 – chapter 7, verse 24: Romans 7:24-25 Romans 7:24-25 24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? 25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.
American King James Version×– O wretched man that I am…shall I just pack it in, throw it away – it’s over and done? No, he says: Who’s going to deliver me from this body of death? There is a solution. I thank God – through Jesus Christ our Lord! – through our Passover. Our Passover has been sacrificed for us. There is a solution for sin. He says in chapter 8: Romans 8:1-2 Romans 8:1-2 1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.
American King James Version×– There is…no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. So my nature, my thinking, my attitudes, are totally depraved and totally off base. I need to have that thinking, that direction, that guidance, from Jesus Christ – through His Spirit, because I don’t want to walk according to the flesh. He says:, I want to walk according to the Spirit. He says in verse 2: For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus – if that’s in us – that’s made us free from the law of sin and death. V-5 – That second half that we skipped over: those who live according to the Spirit – he said: we.live – and he says, and we think about – the things of the Spirit. V-9 – We don’t have to be in that carnal nature. We don’t have to be left to our own human desires. He says: we are not in the flesh but in the Spirit if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. And if you don’t have the Spirit of Christ, well, you’re not His. If Christ is in you – we can put to death the body. He says: the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. And so he says there is hope. There is an answer. When we see how depraved we really are, we know where the solution is. The solution is in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. And we don’t have to be in debt to guilt. We don’t have to be chained to self-righteousness. He says we don’t have to be a debtor, if we live according to the Spirit. Look at verse 13: V-13 – For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. That’s what it’s about. That’s what it’s about – living – not being enslaved to sin. Yes, we’re going to sin, because we do have this human side to us, but it can be overcome. He says: by the Spirit. We can overcome guilt. We can overcome sin. We can overcome self-righteousness – if we put to death that way of thinking – are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. And so, that’s the path that God’s put us on – to be His sons and daughters – not to be weighted down by guilt, not to be overburdened with sin – but to put it in its proper perspective through the sacrifice of Christ. If we feel this way – if we feel, “Well, I’m not that bad, I’m pretty good” – read through Romans 6, Romans 7, Romans 8. If we feel overburdened by guilt, we can do the same thing – take notes on it. Read about the apostle and his perspective of what we are as human beings. And certainly, find the hope that he found – that he taught – God’s solution to sin and guilt. Maybe we could read through Psalm 51. Psalm 51 is awesome, because David talks about what it’s like to be under that burden of sin and the solution and how it applies to it. He even talks about the guilt. He talks about the guilt of bloodshed. And you know what he says about God? God can remove that. We can pray to God and ask Him specifically to remove the guilt. And we have such an awesome God that, not only does He forgive sin, but He can remove guilt as well. And so, that is an amazing God that we have. And you could even go through II Corinthians, chapter 7. It deals with, yeah, not only being sorry for our sins, but having the right perspective on sorrow – having a Godly sorrow, having a Godly repentance – and how that should motivate us to zeal, to desire. And those are wonderful things. And that’s what God wants us to do. So especially as we look at our lives at this time of the year, hopefully it will motivate us in a way – maybe to encapsulate what we’ve talked about today – to do three things. Three really simple things that encapsulates all we’ve talked about. We’ve got to admit that we’re guilty – we are guilty – and, if I have guilt, and if I haven’t let it go, I’ve got to talk to God about it – admit it. Secondly, change. God has made the way so we can change. And, as we begin to do that, and our conscience is cleared, throw it away. Throw guilt away. In fact, you put those letters together – admit our guilt, change, throw it away – the first three letters are A-C-T. Do something about it. Don’t let it overburden you. Don’t let sin overwhelm you. Act on it. Admit it. Look to God, change, and let Him throw it away for us. And never dredge it back up again, because that’s what God does. And so as we realize that God has made that way, He’s given us forgiveness. We don’t have to be chained to the past. We can overcome – even though we are corrupt at our very heart and core – through the sacrifice of Christ. There is a way. So let’s not look back to the past. Let’s not look to past faults and past sins, and dredge those things back up, but let’s be truly repentant, because God will forgive us, and gives us the means to forgive ourselves. And as we do that, we can truly quit harboring guilt.