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Thinking of God with Larry Sheehy

God resolves guilt

    Unresolved guilt – in actuality or in the perception of the individual – has always been a tremendous problem, even - skeptics would likely say “especially” - for Christian people. One survey several years ago said that a majority of church members saw this as an issue in their spiritual life. I suspect this hasn’t changed much since. Many times people - both religious and non-religious - feel guilt as a consequence of their actions, but fail or refuse to acknowledge it. And even when we do, they may have little understanding of how to deal with it.
    Unresolved guilt is often a cause of both physical and mental disease, in addition to the spiritual difficulties it can bring.
But our question remains: how can I deal with the problem of guilt in my experience? At the risk of being too simplistic, let me make two brief suggestions.
    First, we must understand and accept that guilt cannot be resolved successfully aside from the grace of God, against whom we have sinned. It’s not an exaggeration to say that every person accountable to God has gone against his will. In language designed to convince his readers of their guilt, the apostle Paul concludes that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23. Read vs. 9-24.) Yet, he still loves and wants everyone to be saved - from both real and perceived guilt. The only way this can happen is through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. This, too, is by his love and grace. “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) But if I refuse or fail to accept the fact of my sin, or the blessing of his loving grace, my case is hopeless.
    Second, the grace of God, rightly understood, will relieve me of the notion that God requires me to live a perfect, sinless life in order to be right with him.  This should neither encourage nor excuse sin. Rather, it acknowledges the weakness of the flesh and my dependence on God’s continuing grace through Jesus Christ, whose perfect life and sacrifice does for me what I can’t do for myself. This understanding can lift a great burden from my shoulders, and allow me to live productively.
    Because of what God has done through Jesus, the Christian and non-Christian are both in position to gain relief from the burdens imposed by unresolved guilt. The child of God needs to sincerely confess his sins. Then, with confidence in the faithfulness of the Lord, he can live a life of faithfulness and joy. (1 John 1:9) Accepting that forgiveness, a better understanding of the Father’s grace will come. The person who isn’t a Christian also has access to that grace, through faith in God and his son, repentance of sin and immersion in water so those sins can be washed away in Jesus’ blood. (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:37-38; 22:16, etc.)
    Guilt is a terrible burden. But because of the love and grace of God, there is absolutely no need for any of us to continue carrying it around.
    Larry Sheehy is the preaching minister at Statesboro Church of Christ. He can be reached at (912) 764-5269 or sborococ@frontiernet.net

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