38. And So?

The Truth about Guilt Meditations: 38. And So

Acts 12:11 Then Peter came to himself and said, ‘Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me

Ezek 22:30 ‘I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so that I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one.

Reality or Dream? When the angel delivered Peter from prison, it took a while for Peter to realise that what was happening was real and not a dream. So often we can meander through life and it is more like a dream than a reality and because of that we can live with things in our lives about which, in the cold light of reality and if everyone else knew about them, we would feel ashamed. I am moved by the above word from Ezekiel because there was a situation that needed an intercessor but as God looked around, He found none. No one seemed aware of the need of the hour, no one caught God’s heart for the day.

And So?  As we come to the end of this series, my fear is that we will just treat these pages as ‘nice little studies’ instead of being moved in heart by them.  So can we recap where we’ve been to try an avoid that error.

In Part 1: In the first part (19 studies),

– we considered what Guilt was, how it is always guilt before God, how we step over boundaries that God has created, so it is always an issue with God.

– We went on to observe various misconceptions, about how we seek to offload guilt by offloading blame to others, or how we think short term pleasure can mean we ignore future consequences, about the error of assessing guilt in others, or being conned into feeling guilty by others when we are not guilty.

– But then we went on to consider dealing with guilt through repentance, and when we see guilt in others how we should deal with it gently, graciously and always looking for and hoping for the best outcome.

– We went on to observe how religiosity can fail to understand God’s grace, seen in Jephthah and Eli, but went on to see how grace worked in Hezekiah and Manasseh.

– We concluded the first part with looking at the consequences that follow failure, God’s discipline built into life that brings negative outcomes whenever we cross those God-set boundaries, outcomes that so often are brought through other people, and we concluded by seeing how that worked out in the wisest man in the world who went off the rails, Solomon.

To summarise: The reality of guilt, misconceptions of guilt, dealing with guilt, God’s grace there to deal with guilt, and the consequences that follow when we fail to reach for that grace.

In Part 2: In this second Part,

– we started by recognising that guilt is still guilt even though we were unaware of doing wrong.

– Guilt can occur in the way we think, in our desires and our emotions.

– But then we opened up the whole concept of guilt through the ‘way we see’: lust, wrong perceptions. wrong assessments.

– But then we saw the other side of the coin of ‘seeing’, when we fail to see when we should, i.e. blindness, and we considered how we fail to appreciate the glory of God, the wonder of history, the wonder of our salvation, the sin of the world as individuals and corporately, of ungratefulness, of the needs of the world around us, of Jesus’ call on our lives, of being too taken up with life to catch his vision, and of failing to see the potential of the church and what we could be doing to reach that potential.

To summarise: Guilt in mind, emotions and deeds, guilt in our responses to what we see, guilt by what we fail to see. As the Anglican Book of Prayer puts it, “We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, And we have done those things which we ought not to have done.”   

And So? How easy it is to get it wrong, but merely because it is easy to sin that should not mean we are casual about it. Accountability stands in the wings waiting to bring consequences but God has provided the blueprint for dealing with our guilt: confession, repentance, cleansing and forgiving through the blood of Christ. He doesn’t want us caught up in guilt – immobilized, powerless by shame and inferiority in light of past failures, or the indifference or chiding of the world – He wants us delivered from it so we can walk with head held high as the redeemed, cleansed and restored children of God.

And More: We’ve got to stop somewhere and this feels the right place. We could have considered the guilt of leading another into error – see Gen 20:9 Abimelek and Abraham. We could have considered the guilt of negligence – see Deut 22:8, caring for others. We could have considered the massive subject of injustice – try Deut 24:15, but we’ll leave those for you to work on. Many of us live with guilt from the past. Deal with it by confession and let Him cleanse you and restore you. Some of us suffer from the guilt of ongoing shame; do the same. Some of us are locked into wrong behaviors. Do the same, but also share it with a loyal friend or leader and let them deliver you in the power of His Spirit. Let’s walk free together. Amen.

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