Are You Really A Sinner? Why There is No Place for Guilt in the Church

   

“Descent from the Cross” by Rogier Van Weyden—Women on the left

Like a constant barrage of blows to the brow and back, splitting flesh, spilling blood, and enjoying the pain, many Christians have convinced themselves that self-abuse and guilt should be the constant mindset. Proverbially sitting at the cross for their entire lives, they refuse to let Christ die and put an end to their sin, suffering, and guilt.

And while this peculiar state of mind seems strange, endless numbers of believers make a idol of their guilt and a comfort to which they cling. One need only look at the words they implement and the songs they sing. I am a “sinner.” God saved a “wretch” like me. No one is perfect. Really? Christ died so that you might be just that. We are no longer sinners. We are no longer wretches. We are perfect. However, church services, songs, and sermons spoken across the country in every kind of church consistently strive to “remind” us of how far we fall short. Pumping-up our guilt, congregants are whipped into a frenzy so that they might come forward to the crosses and “recommit” their lives to Christ.

Was this not enough the first time? Does our current guilt add anything to what Christ already accomplished on the cross? Are our “sins” so grievous that Christ did not pay for them the first time? Must we constantly re-crucify Christ to assuage our guilt?

There certainly is room for desiring a more “mirrored” and reflected life of Christ. But changing such behavior (or failing) does not bring us any closer or further from Christ. If we are truly in Him, then we are fully new creations. We do not sit at the cross in anguish, pain, and torture like the eternally frozen images of suffering popularly painted and captured at the crucifixion.

“It is finished”

These final words of Christ need to be believed and truly embraced. My sin, guilt, and punishment is finished. He has carried my burdens and payed my penalties. The veil is torn then and there. The God who was once hidden and access to Him tightly controlled due to our sin is suddenly open and accessible to all. There is no longer any sin which keeps God and man apart.

Christ spoke those final words over you and I as well. It is finished. Complete. Nothing more can be added. Guilt and condemnation no longer rest over your head. Rejoice. Praise him rather than tremble in fear and guilt.

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  • Good article. I’m glad to see you writing again. I also see a lot of unnecessary guilt in the church. Guilt can syphon people into a state of despair, like with John Bunyan, that I don’t think God ever wanted for us.

    At the same time, we don’t have the right to claim perfection based on what Jesus has done on the cross. Jesus is perfect, and we are not. Jesus’ perfection is imputed on us as our sin is imputed on him. It is only our union with Christ that gives us any right to approach God at all. And this process is not completed yet. The process of sanctification will continue to move us toward a state of perfection. As Paul says in his greetings to the Philippians, “[God,] who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” We are still creatures who are pulled by our flesh at times. We still sin and our discipline for that sin is very real.

    “In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,   ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,    and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,    because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,    and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.’ Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. ‘Make level paths for your feet,’ so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. (Hebrews 12:4-13)

  • Well said, Sir Jon.  I do agree that there is often an unnecessary weight of guilt that holds us captive and prohibits us from harnessing the true beauty of Christ’s sacrifice and the gift that he gave us all.  While I do believe that we should consistently be striving to correct and align our thoughts, words, and actions with those of Christ, I can personally say that the struggle and pain of guilt often leads me to dilute the strength and the power of Christ’s gift.  He went through hell so that our sins could be paid for in full.  In dwelling on failures and shortcomings, we are in fact doubting the power of his death and resurrection.  The way I understand it, it’s a cycle.  If we truly grasp the power and beauty of his death and resurrection, then we will naturally want nothing else than to live a life fully committed to honoring the sacrifice of Christ.

  • Jansje Prins

    Romans 8:1 therefore no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to flesh,but according to Spirirt

  • Lex

    I think this is one of the beautiful dichotomies of the kingdom of God.

    On the one hand, we absolutely cannot wallow in guilt and condemnation over our sin. To do that is to make the free gift of grace to no effect. I couldn’t agree more.

    On the other hand, we can’t lose sight of our guilt and sin either, or we make the cross unnecessary. The great apostle reminded himself, in 1 Timothy 1, that he was “chief” among sinners

    I struggled for a season about who was right in that: the holiness preachers who emphasize my sin, or the Pentecostals who emphasize my sainthood. 

    But I think both are right. Both are biblical. I don’t think it’s an either-or, but a both-and. The person that I was, was a sinner. The person that my flesh daily tries to draw me back to, is a sinner. The new creation that my spirit has become in Christ is saintly, and I am ever drawing nearer to Him so I can “die daily” and He can increase in me.

  • Dude you’ve pulled me out of hiding with this ish. How is being ‘perfect’ working out for you? Would you say that you have obtained the obedience of Christ? Have you obtained the self denial He and the apostles modeled? Have you obtained the humility of the Virgin?

    He is perfect. I can not speak for anyone else but I know I am not, but I want to be. I see sin as a sickness not a legal transaction. I am saved, being saved and will be saved.  I love you man, but let’s not lose the world perfect. I think it does a
    disservice to say that I am on the level of St Paul, Mother Teresa,
    Justin Martyr or any other hero of the faith. The hero’s stand in time showing what a soul given to God can be.  They are an encouragement to us that we keep pressing on for the things we hope for.

    The life he has called us to is not to hard for us , it is our choice though. Are we to respond to Him and choose life? Or sit back because ‘Jesus paid it all’ (Deut 30:12-20)

    “We are no longer sinners. We are no longer wretches. We are perfect.”  These are some pretty bold statements that I frankly I don’t believe you can back up as Christian beliefs. The Christian life should be more then the power of positive thinking.

    Love you bro, in the words of the great theologian Ice Cube “Check yourself before you wreck yourself.”

  • Pdmorris77

    I guess the question then is, “are you saved”? This is a good question to ask. I am also reminded that when Jesus washed the feet of the disciples, Peter said to wash his entire body. Yet Jesus reminded him that only his feet needed washed. The picture for us is that once we are saved, truly saved, we never need to be washed entirely again. For those who are saved our present and future sins as well as the past are forgiven. 

    Enter the one whose life reflects hell, yet his lips claim Jesus. I worry about this one and the book of 1 John tells us in Chpt 2 that for the saved we are fortunate to have an advocate in heaven. But for those who claim Christ, yet live like hell (I’m paraphrasing), the truth is not in them and they are liars.  

    In Matthew Jesus says that wide is the gate that leads to destruction. In our churches today there are many who claim Christ yet live like hell. This is heart breaking and grieves me greatly. Some today are too concerned with offending people by talking about hell but they will talk about happy Jesus all day. 

    I agree that we don’t need to be saved over and over, nor run to the cross. Each believer will find brokenness in this life due to their sin. The difference is that this new creation of a person can no longer tolerate the taste that no longer satisfies their changes souls.

    In conclusion, It is a human idea to continually beat ourselves up over and over again with guilt. God’s intentions towards us is good and wonderful. For us to continue to beat ourselves up over forgiven sin can become sin. Jesus’ choice of obedience to the cross and into the grave is perfect and covers us completely.

    Thanks Brother & Sisters.

    Paul

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