Monday, August 31, 2020

Guilt and Forgiveness

"He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; He took it away, nailing it to the cross" (Colossians 2:13b–14)

Whether he or she admits it or not, every person has a problem with guilt. There is nobody in this world who even lives up to his own personal standards, let alone to God’s standards. Faced with the reality of guilt, people generally respond in one or both of two ways.

The first is the way of denial. The person simply denies that he has any guilt. He denies that there is any moral law, or if there is, he denies that he has broken it. It is as if a man destroys his neighbor’s new car and has to borrow $10,000 to buy him another, and then, when the bill is presented to him, boldly denies that he ever incurred the debt.

The second common way of dealing with guilt is the way of transference. The person blames someone else for his problems. We see this all the time in modern society. It is the rich who are at fault, we are told, when street gangs riot in Los Angeles. Continuing our analogy, it is as if the man who borrowed $10,000 now claims that actually it is not he but someone else who owes the money.

The problem with both these approaches is this: God has kept a record, and it is very clear who incurred the debt and who is liable to pay it. It is very clear who is guilty. Using our analogy once more, there is no way we can get around the fact that we owe the $10,000. But what if we receive in the mail the bill for $10,000 with the words PAID IN FULL written across it? This would mean that we have been forgiven our debt.

It is the law of God that shows us our guilt and our debt to God, and it is no paltry $10,000 that we owe. What we owe is an eternity in hell. But God has canceled our debts by taking the law and “nailing it to the cross.” What does this mean? It was Jesus who was nailed to the cross. Jesus took the law and condemnation of God to Himself, and God put on Him all the debts that we owe because of our guilt. 

Then God put Him under the curse by nailing Him to the tree (Galatians 3:13; Deuteronomy 21:23). In Jesus’ death on the cross, the law died and our debts died with Him. In Jesus’ resurrection, the law arises with Him, no longer as a condemnation of us, but as a gracious rule for godly life.

Have you been practicing denial or transference in dealing with some problem in your life? In your prayer today, ask God the Holy Spirit to bring to your mind any areas of true guilt that you have been refusing to deal with. Accept God’s forgiveness in Christ, and arise to make things right with anyone you have wronged.