In yesterday’s post, I wrote about one of the things that can keep us from loving the people who live next door and across the street from us. As I thought about why I wrote that post, I realized that it was, in part, due to the guilt I feel in not reaching out to the people in my neighborhood. Perhaps, if you read the post, you had similar feelings.
My fear with this realization is that our guilt will lead us to the conclusion that we need to change, but then we’ll react by trying to change ourselves by ourselves. It is God’s grace to his people that he makes us feel the burden of guilt when we fail to do what he commands. In doing this he helps us understand that something is wrong, but, often, when we discover what’s wrong, we respond by simply gritting our teeth and trying harder. We respond to guilt by skipping over God.
Upon realizing that we are guilty of some sin, the correct response is to do what David did in Psalm 32:5: “I acknowledged my sin to you. and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.” In humble confession, we need to run to the One we have sinned against in confidence that he sent Jesus to pay for our guilt and will forgive us of any and all sin. The Lord will then lift the burden of that guilt from our conscience so that we will say with David, “Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” (v. 11)
This transaction with the Lord provides us with the remembrance of our freedom from guilt in Christ and the experiential relief of having God lift that guilt from our spiritual shoulders. At this point we have powerful motivation for working hard at changing, but we still need to do that by his grace, so we should, then, ask God for grace in moving toward lasting repentance.
Church, if you, like me, feel guilty about neglecting your neighbors, let us thank God for his grace in making us feel our guilt, but then, let us move from that guilt to the only One who can and has dealt with that guilt.