Posts Tagged ‘guilt



     That has to be one of the most earth-shattering words that could ever be directed at a person – especially when it is spoken by a judge.  We can almost see the defendant slump down as his or her family break out in tears.  This is magnified all the more when the guilty verdict results in the death penalty.

     “Guilty” is the verdict that rang down on all of mankind from no less a judge than God himself.  “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”  (James 2:10)  As the footnote in the LDS edition of the Bible correctly states, “offend” means to stumble or err.  The breaking of the law in consideration is not an intentional, but an unintentional one.  It is a stumble, a mistake.  But that makes no difference.  The verdict is just as devastating.  Guilty!  “Guilty of all”.  You stumble at just one point – you break it all.  God’s commandments are a unified whole.  It only takes one pinprick to burst a balloon.  It only takes one sin to break the whole law.

     And it doesn’t make any difference how much good a person did before or after – the verdict “guilty” remains.  He could have been the model citizen before and the model prisoner afterwards but he remains guilty.

     But what makes matters even more sobering is the realization that James is talking hypothetically.  There has been no person who just erred once.  Reality is that we stumble and err regularly.  There are so many good things we fail to do – so many sinful thoughts, words, and actions that we end up doing.  No matter how hard we try, all we can do is dig ourselves into a deeper hole. This contrast: “offend in one point – guilty of all” makes for an airtight case.  If a person’s obedience isn’t perfect – if there is just one slip – he is guilty – guilty of all.

     That’s why I am so thankful that Jesus took all my guilt and became guilty in my place – and served my sentence.  That is why I am so thankful that Jesus was perfectly obedient and God credited that perfect obedience to me.  That is why, when I think of living eternally with heavenly Father the only work that I base that on is his work for me.  “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”


Guilt and Hebrews 10


     I think one of the most fascinating books of the New Testament is Hebrews.  I love the way it shows how the Old Testament pointed to Jesus.  And one of its most fascinating chapters is chapter 10 – because it vividly talks about becoming free of guilt.

     In the first four verses the writer states that the Old Testament sacrificial system could never make the worshipers perfect.  Especially interesting is verse 2.  If the Old Testament sacrifices could have done that then “the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sin.”  Or as one modern translation puts it:  they “would no longer feel guilty for their sins.”   Since those sacrifices couldn’t do that, the opposite was true as verse 3 states:  But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year.’

    The chapter then proceeds by talking about Jesus’ sacrifice.  In striking contrast to what the writer had said about the Old Testament sacrificial system in the first part of the chapter, he now says, in regard to Jesus, “for by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” (v. 14)   And again, because of Jesus, “their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.  Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.”  (v. 17-18)  Because Jesus has perfected us through his offering, God no longer remembers our sins.  Jesus offering did what the Old Testament offerings couldn’t have done.  He purged us so that we don’t have any more guilt before God.  The conclusion of verse 2 doesn’t apply to the Old Testament sacrifices, but it does apply to Jesus’ sacrifice.  His sacrifice has purged us.

     Therefore one of the best ways we give glory to Jesus is by quickly dispelling the guilt feelings that can so quickly arise in us – quickly dispelling them not by working a process of repentance but by remembering the fact of Hebrews 10 – because of Jesus’ sacrifice, God no longer remembers our sins.   That’s the best news in the whole world.


The Gift of Guilt


     A while ago, we received a lengthy email from a Mormon man who had been raised in the LDS church.  He talked about the various positions he has held in the church but mainly wrote to talk about the various struggles he has had with some of the teachings of Mormonism.  One sentence he wrote, however, stood out from the rest.  You could almost feel his anguish as he wrote: “the guilt is a gift that just keeps on giving.”

     Some have characterized guilt as a corrosive acid eating away at us.  That surely seems to have been what was happening with this man.  Guilt is something that almost everybody, to varying degrees, has experienced.  Guilt, especially when we see ourselves guilty before God, can be nothing less than paralyzing.

     But what thrills me, what gives me joy and energy, is how the Bible, from so many different angles, tells me in no uncertain terms that there is no need for me to feel guilty before God, because God has declared me “not guilty” because of Jesus.  One way it does that is with the idea of justification.  Paul wrote: “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24).  The concept of biblical justification comes from the courtroom.  It describes the judge’s verdict of “not guilty”.  (This is in contrast to today’s common usage of people trying to justify themselves and their actions.)  God, the Judge, acquits us (declares us not guilty) because of Jesus’ redemption.  In other words, because Jesus has already paid our tremendous debt to God’s justice, we are legally free, not guilty.  “There is therefore no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).  This biblical concept of justification is one that has been treasured by many Christians for centuries. 

     It is a concept, however, that is unknown to many Mormons.  Most Mormons, when I bring it up, tell me that they are unfamiliar with it.  That’s not surprising either.  It is not addressed in the LDS Bible Dictionary.  It is not listed in the indexes of either, Gospel Principles, or True to the Faith, two of the most basic manuals of Mormonism. It is not something Mormonism talks about very much.

    To get a handle on what Mormonism stands for, it is instructive to see not only what it stresses, but also what it doesn’t stress.  Its lack of stress on justification speaks volumes.  It is clear from the Bible that God does not want guilt to be a gift that keeps on giving.  Jesus came to remove the cause of guilt from us.  And that is what he did.  Because of Jesus, no longer do we need to feel guilty.  That’s not a message I hear from Mormonism.

February 2020
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