October 9, 2010

To Live is Christ — His burdens are light

Anything major at the dentist usually means having a shot to “freeze” my mouth. Before the numbness wears off, I have to be careful. I cannot feel anything so it is easy to bite the inside of my cheeks.

I’ve heard that diseases like leprosy are terrible because the sick person cannot feel pain either. As a result, they are continually taking chunks out of their extremities. That means pain is actually a good thing. It lets us know when something is wrong. Without it, we would be oblivious to physical danger.

Guilt is similar. It is the impression on my conscience when I have violated ethical and moral codes. It can be false guilt in that my codes are faulty, but most of the time, it is a signal to me that I have done something wrong and need to deal with it.

The title of my devotional reading for today is, “God doesn’t book guilt trips.” I don’t agree. How else does He let us know when we have violated spiritual principles? How else would we know that we have committed any sin?

That being said, just like pain often requires seeing a doctor and getting some medication, guilt also requires action. God might have booked the trip, but He wants it to be a short one. Instead of wallowing in “Poor me” or “I’ve done it again,” He wants to treat our guilt so we do not carry it around like a heavy weight.

Jesus has been called the Great Physician. He was noted for healing the sick, but He is also a healer of guilty souls. Instead of thinking that “God is out to get me” for the sins and disobedience in my life, I must always remember this truth:

For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. (John 3:17)
He could have condemned us. We are all guilty, from the greatest of sinners to the sweetest saint, because the Bible is clear: “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” (James 2:10)

One sin, one small thing can make us guilty before God, even if we don’t feel guilty. However, for those who realize that they have sinned and are sinners and are guilty, Jesus offers forgiveness of sin (all of it) and freedom from all guilt.

He cures the guilt problem the same way a good doctor cures pain – not by giving painkillers but by getting to the root of the problem. Guilt is caused by sin and sin will destroy us. So Doctor Jesus bore that destruction in our place. At the same time, He removes guilt by forgiving and cleansing those who put their faith in Him.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
Without a guilt trip, I would never have known my need for the Great Physician. Had I insisted on mere pain killers, the guilt would still be there and real. But in my numbness, I would continue to bite and destroy myself, oblivious to what I was doing.

Yes, guilt is painful. Admitting sin is painful too, but hiding it or ignoring it means that the cause of it will go unchecked. Should that happen, the end will be destruction. If I could choose the carefreeness of no guilt at all (isn’t that a psychopath?) or having the burden of a very tender conscience, I’d pick the burden. It is a light one now, not because I’ve conquered the cause of it, but because I have a Friend who carries both its cause and its consequences — for me.

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