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Guilt and forgiveness
Dear Father Paul: I am a man in my late 50s who has lived a selfish, sinful life. To be honest, I have broken almost all of the Ten Commandments. I have recently been diagnosed with a very serious, life threatening, disease and have tried to turn over a new leaf, but I find that I am still overwhelmed with guilt. Can you help me? — No Name.
Dear No Name: Thank you for your honesty. All too many people go to their graves beaten down by regret and guilt for wrong choices without ever discovering the truths that are in God’s word, the Bible. Unfortunately, simply turning over a new leaf will not take away the heavy guilt you feel. You need to first be forgiven by God. The “new leaf” will then happen automatically.
One of the most awesome verses in the entire Bible was written specifically for people just like you. It is II Corinthians 5:19 in the New Testament, and it says this, “For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not counting people’s sins against them….”
The all important words in this verse are, “ ... not counting people’s sins against them.”
Here is a truth that Satan has hidden from you and millions of others on planet earth for eons. Listen, this is powerful. According to the Bible, God has already forgiven you. Indeed, God’s work of forgiveness is done, finished, complete. In short, you are (present tense) already forgiven by God. Sound hard to believe? Read on.
The Bible records that Jesus himself uttered the words that prove this fact as he hung on the cross … “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do,” And … “it is finished.” Jesus asked his father God to forgive all of mankind, and God always says “yes” to his son. Jesus then pronounced the forgiveness of mankind a “finished” matter. Meditate on II Corinthians 5:19 carefully.
The truth that Satan doesn’t want anybody to know is that Jesus’s blood sacrifice and substitutionary death on the cross have already paid the required penalties of guilt, death and eternal separation from God for the sins of every single person on planet earth … finally, totally and completely. This forgiveness is a free gift from God.
“What’s the ‘catch’ you ask?”
There is no catch. But there are a couple of simple requirements. Just as when we ourselves are offered a free gift from somebody, there are a couple of things, a couple of requirements that are incumbent on us, before the gift becomes ours. The free gifts of eternal salvation and forgiveness from God work the same way.
Say someone offers to “give” me a new Corvette. (Wow! I’d like a red one please.) Before the car can become mine, I must do two things. First, I must “believe” that the giver actually paid for the car and thus has the legal authority and ability to give it to me. Secondly, I must then simply reach out and take or “receive” the car’s keys and the title with my name on it. Once I have done these two simple things, I own the car, it’s mine.
In the same way, Jesus, by his death on the cross, paid (not for us a new Corvette) but paid the price due for our sins and our forgiveness. In short, Jesus by his death, purchased “ownership” of forgiveness and the legal right to forgive. The fact that God then raised Jesus from the dead placed God’s legal stamp of approval on what Jesus did on the cross. All then that remains for us to actually “have” or “possess” God’s free gift of forgiveness, that is, freedom from our guilt and eternal life with God, is for us to ourselves do two things. First, believe by faith that God and Jesus are who they say they are, and that Jesus has paid the price for the gift he now offers us. And, Secondly, we must reach out, also by faith, and “receive” or take his free gift of forgiveness.
Romans 10:9 explains, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (forgiven and reconciled to God)” That’s it. That’s all it takes for us to have a new guilt free life, now … today, and be assured of eternal life with God when we die. Listen, God is not mad at you. He has already forgiven you. Trust in him today.
[Father Paul Massey is Pastor Emeritus of Church of the Holy Cross in Fayetteville, Georgia. Visit www.holycrosschurch.wordpress.com for more information.]