Christians typically bounce off of two extremes:
- Undervaluing the work of Christ by clinging to our own merit
- Undervaluing the work of Christ by wallowing in our guilt
This is as dangerous as it is insane (and unbelieving).
Sometimes I find myself bouncing off of these opposing and perilous walls within the same day.
Typically the chariot that brings in and provokes these responses is guilt. Guilt roles in because we are sinners. We become aware of our sin. We realize our lack of conformity to God’s Word. We know of our spiritual laziness. We know of our failure to do what God requires. And so we feel the guilt.
Now, before we impugn guilt as the enemy, let’s realize what it has done. All guilt is as rationale response to sin. We become aware of our sin. This is fine. In fact, it is healthy.
But it is what we do from here that is critical.
It is spiritually deadly to assuage that guilt by quickly gathering together our own supposed merit. We become like one whose house is burning down and is scurrying to grab the valuables. So we quickly grab our morality, spiritual disciplines, and legacy of faithfulness. We then run out of the house set aflame by guilt but realize everything we are carrying is burned up. It has no value.
The other dangerous response is to stay in our guilt. It is sit and wallow in it. We are reminded that we have sinned by the gracious work of the Holy Spirit using the Word of God. The dangerous response is to sit there and give up. It is deadly to wallow in guilt. It saps joy as it eclipses Christ.
Then there is the right option. The gospel option. Listen to Hebrews 10. I was reading this today in my devotions and got a good and loving gospel-slap upside the head.
For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. (Heb 10.14)
I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more (Heb. 10.17)
Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin (Heb. 10.18)
Just let that soak in. Perfection, sanctification (holiness), atonement, sin removed, forgiveness. Do you hear that? This is such glorious news.
But it is not all.
Even in this passage we have the reminder of the basis for this acceptance and the remedy for post-conversion guilt:
Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,
“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’ ” (Heb. 10.5-7)
Do you see this? Christ Jesus came to do the Father’s will. As the sinner’s substitute Jesus came to completely obey his Father’s will. He was always doing what was pleasing to his Father (John 8.29), it was his food to do God’s will (John 4.34), his whole life was about doing the work he was called to do (John 17).
And why is this? Because you and I are sinners. We sin before conversion and we sin after.
What this passage reminds us of is the fact that through the obedience of Christ’s perfect life he has fulfilled God’s obligations for righteousness. And by the death of Christ on the cross Jesus has fulfilled the penal (penalty) requirements of not being righteous. That is, he lived for us and he died for us.
Listen Christian, by the doing and dying of Jesus you are accepted. This is not just the day of conversion but throughout your Christian life. This is good news indeed.
Therefore, when the chariot of guilt rolls in (and it will), don’t run from it and don’t take orders from it. Instead, hop aboard and give it directions. Tell it to drive on over to that hill called Calvary where Jesus put an end to all of your guilt and shame. And then sit there for awhile, smiling and singing of the glory of Christ.