“As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:13.
I am curious about how many of us live in a polarity of this verse. What I am suggesting is that some of us are guilt-driven (unable to forgive ourselves long after God has forgiven us), and some use this verse to receive quick forgiveness: saying a prayer, accepting the forgiveness, only to use it again when the desire to step out of God’s will becomes another temptation.
Let’s look at the first. Guilt. I am definitely guilt-driven, so I can relate to this one. If someone is hurting or a mistake has been made, I may end up exploring myself to see if I in any way contributed to it. And even if I did not, I may carry worry and guilt that I could’ve done something to help. This is something I have definitely had to work on.
Being guilt-driven takes away the power of Christ’s sacrifice. Once we repent, we do not live in God’s wrath. Being guilt-driven often comes from our families and our upbringing. It takes thoughtful intent to overcome, and sometimes pastoral or professional help.
The bottom line is, if you really had no part in it, there is no legitimate reason for guilt. You can feel compassion, sympathy, even empathy, but no need for guilt. If you did contribute and you repented and walked the other way, you also have no punishment upon you.
Take this verse at face value. God means it. Psychologically, guilt is very unhealthy. We cannot erase circumstances that have already occurred. We will make ourselves sick fretting over them.
But seeking forgiveness, ceasing negative behaviors that we may have added to events and walking in the freedom forgiveness offers can free us from the burden of guilt.
And guilt inhibits all fruit in our lives. This affects our personal health, our families, work performance and friendships. Spiritually and psychologically, guilt destroys. Repent, clean up your habits or personal characteristics that lead to bad behaviors and choices and accept the gift of forgiveness. Go and sin no more.
And if you were innocent and inappropriately feeling guilt, contemplate what this guilt complex is all about and get the help you need, because guilt can destroy your emotional health.
What about those individuals that sin believing they can say a simple prayer, be forgiven, and then live in freedom until the next temptation or opportunity for bad behavior arises? That’s the sin of entitlement. It leads to countless consequences.
The verse may read that one is forgiven, but let’s take the Bible in context and as a whole. Hebrews 10:17b-18 tells us, “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more. And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer sacrifice for sin.”
Yes, sin is completely forgiven and no further sacrifice is required, but look at Hebrews 10:26: “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left.”
We cannot keep sinning if we have the knowledge of the truth — the truth that something is a sin. It is apparent in verse 29 what this means: “How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant and insulted the spirit of grace.”
Hebrews 6 and James 1 elaborate even more, if you are interested in further research. But we can suffice it to say this: we do not need to live in guilt if we did not participate in sin or we genuinely asked for forgiveness, ceasing the behavior.
But if we keep deliberately sinning, this is a different issue. And if you have a relationship with God, it will cause distress, spiritually and psychologically. Guilt is a powerful thing.
Guilt is pervasive. It can torment our emotional lives even if we did not sin. It can also be God’s way of getting our attention if we did sin. Either way, it is a warning sign that something needs to be addressed.
The good news? There is complete forgiveness and the certainty that we do not need to feel guilt if we have truly remained innocent or repented. Which means every human has the equal opportunity to live guilt-free, with the appropriate actions. Now that is what I call grace.
The Rev. KIMBERLIE ZAKARIAN can be reached by email at Kimberlie@kimberliezakariantherapy.com or by mail at Kimberlie Zakarian Therapy, Inc. 2233 Honolulu Ave. Ste 310, Montrose, CA 91020.