Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Guilty and Free

Guilt. Shame. We've all felt it and we all deal with it on a regular basis. Maybe it's something that happened a long time ago...maybe it's something that happened 5 minutes ago. Whenever it happened, whatever it was...we all know the dark cloud of guilt over our lives. As Christians, our lives are supposed to be characterized by joy and light not guilt and shame. I've been a Christian for 13 years now and it's something I still do battle with. Sometimes looking at your spiritual life and trying to grow and abide seems nearly impossible when guilt is overshadowing everything. But no matter how heavy your shame...there is hope.
2 Corinthians 5:14-17 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Before you became a Christian...whether you were a church kid or just recently met Christ...your lifestyle was characterized by sin. Maybe now that you are a Christian...or maybe now that you're thinking about becoming a Christian...you feel like you can't or shouldn't be because your past still defines you. You feel like you can't move forward because you are so aware of where and how you've failed that you don't have faith to follow God.

There is a feeling of regret towards our past sin. So much so that we become more and more aware of our past especially when surrounded by fellow Christians/ministry people. We feel like we are out of place...like everyone else is more Christ-like or a better disciple. Let me define disciple for you...a disciple is someone who used to live for themselves but now lives for Jesus. There is a transformation that takes place. You used to live for your own pleasure and gain but if you are now living for God then you have been transformed.

You might be thinking 'That's a great definition but it doesn't help me get rid of this feeling.' I get that...I understand, I really do. Even though you aren't living for yourself anymore, your past still weighs on you. When you try to approach God and abide in him...you feel like your past still haunts you. The memories, the sin, the parties, the brokenness, the sexual sin, the reputation...it all leaves you reluctant to go to Him and be used by Him. Guilt keeps people from faith...from being used.

Our guilt is the result of living selfishly. Jesus died for every single person who is guilty...he died for all of us, for our sin, for our past, and for our shame. As a result, we have all died. The penalty for our past, our sins, and our rebellion is death. Christ died for us and all those who put their trust in him have died along with him. We used to live for ourselves but because we have put our faith in Christ, we have died to ourselves...our desires and we have been transformed into a people who live our lives for God.

We were born into a sinful state. We didn't have to be taught to live for ourselves or run after the things of this world. Think about kids...you don't have to teach kids to complain...they do that naturally. Jesus came while we were still stuck in that sinful state of living for ourselves and he died so that we could live for him.
2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Jesus took our sin and bore the wrath that our sin deserved so that we could have his righteousness.
Isaiah 1:18 "Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are like crimson, they shall become like wool."
When our sins were paid for we received a new purpose for our lives. We are called to live for him. We can not continue to live selfishly if we are going to live for God. Be "others-focused", be kingdom-minded...these are places to occupy your mind to help you live for God rather than yourself.

If we are Christians, we no longer regard Christ as just a human being...he is our Savior and our King. Before we knew Jesus personally, he was just another person in a history book. We didn't feel him or know the intense weight of who he is or have a desire to live for him. When we become Christians, our view of Christ changes and out of that change, our view of the people around us changes as well.  Are your friendships and relationships all about you and what you gain from them? Your relationships should be about Christ and what the people around you do with Christ. You are to love them as Christ loves you. View the people around you as souls that will spend eternity somewhere. We are to be ambassadors for him...to tell people how we went from being self-centered to Jesus-centered because of what he did on the cross for us.

That's all well and good but it doesn't exactly deal with that gloomy cloud hanging over your head. You love God, you know God and you're trying to grow...but it doesn't find traction in your life. You don't think your life is any different other than not doing 'that stuff' anymore. You don't feel connected or like you can fulfill that purpose because you can't get over your shame and what you did.

Stop. Hold that thought. Or actually...let that thought go. Know who you are in Christ and what happened when you were saved. You have a new identity! You were transformed, your perspective is different. You are a new creation!

Do you see yourself as a new creation or do you see the old you that doesn't seem to have changed?  If you're looking for a huge change in personality to make it obvious to you then you are looking in the wrong place. It's not about a personality change (although that does happen for some people)...you are still going to be you...but you are now you in Christ rather than just you. If that makes any sense. You are a new creation, you are different...you have a clean slate...a fresh start. Your old, selfish, self-centered person is gone and you have a new heart and new life in Christ.

We take our past and guilt and assume that God looks at us as completely guilty. But when our identity is now found in Christ, he sees us as he sees Christ...righteous. He doesn't deal with you based on what you've done. Trust me. If he did that, we'd all be dead. But he is good and sent his son so that we could live a new life for him. We can come to Jesus free of guilt because his righteousness is ours. Your old life is gone...what you did is gone. Push it away...continually, in faith put on your new identity. Leave all of your old life behind...all the activities...but all of the guilt too. Trust God...trust in the power of the Holy Spirit. The old you, trying to do right is gone...the new you has a new affection and love for God and new power through the Holy Spirit.

We died when we became Christians. We were born again...just like you age physically, you also age spiritually...we have to grow into that maturity. Even though I'm 20 years old, I've only been a Christian for 13 years. Your life has now been fundamentally changed...God wants to use you. Satan will try to tell you that you are defined by your past...what you used to do, love and be...but if your faith is in Christ then you are a new creation.

Go to him based off what HE has done and who you are NOW and not what You did and who You used to be. Don't let condemnation shrink away from letting him use you. He dealt with your guilt and shame already...don't try to take it back from him. You are free because of what Jesus did on the cross. Let go of everything that you are holding onto because when you cling to him there is no room for guilt.

by Will Reagan

I lean not on my own understanding
My life is in the hands of the Maker of Heaven

I give it all to You God
Trusting that you'll make something beautiful out of me

There's nothing I hold on to
There's nothing I hold on to
There's nothing I hold on to
There's nothing I hold on to

I will cimb this mountain with my hands wide open
I will climb this mountain with my hands wide open

There's nothing I hold on to

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