The Cross Deals With Our… Guilt
by Jay Parsons
The Cross Deals With Our Guilt
One of the 5 things we care about as a church is the Cross of Jesus Christ. On the blog for the next few weeks, we will be running a series of posts showing how the cross deals with our grief, shame, worth, regrets, fear, and grief…
he cross is glorious. The cross of Jesus Christ is God’s wonderful means of salvation for human beings. It is the place of atonement for sins, where the righteous wrath of God against us in our rebellion, is poured out on Jesus instead, as he dies as a willing substitute in our place. As we believe in what Jesus did at the cross, we find our sins forgiven and enter into relationship with God and eternal life. It is here too, that Satan is defeated, that his evil plans are overturned and that the powerful grip of darkness, sin and death on human beings is broken. The cross is glorious because it reveals the awesome power of God to rescue sinners from all these terrible things and bring us into the wonderful blessings of his Kingdom.
These great truths are the beating heart of the Christian faith. But this is not all the cross achieves for us. As Christian people, the cross goes to work on our inner being too. As we gaze at the glorious cross, as we gain a deeper understanding of the cross, our inner brokenness begins to be healed. We discover that what Jesus did there deals with all sorts of things in our hearts. There are many different areas, but there are six that we will focus on. The cross deals with our guilt, our shame, our sense of worth, regrets from our past, our fear and our grief. This article will focus on guilt.
1. The Cross Deals With Our... Guilt
ohn Stott said that before we can begin to see the cross as something done for us, we have to see it as something done by us. We are guilty of terrible sin in God’s sight, indeed, such sin and rebellion that the Son of God died at our hands. Guilt is a legal term, first of all, and in the court of God, we are legally guilty of rebellion against the king. God, as a good Judge, has rightly sentenced us to death for this cosmic treason. Yet there is such great news for us in the gospel. Jesus, the only truly righteous one, has at the cross, willingly stepped in to receive this punishment on our behalf. He takes the guilty verdict and sentence of death we deserve, so that we don’t have to. But, that is not all. The author Jerry Bridges says this: “To be justified means more than to be declared “not guilty.” It actually means to be declared righteous before God. It means God has imputed or charged the guilt of our sin to His Son, Jesus Christ, and has imputed or credited Christ’s righteousness to us.” This great exchange is the reason why the Apostle Paul can say in Romans 8v1 that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”. Legally speaking, for Christians, our guilt has been removed by Christ at the cross, and so we have been declared right with God.
However, it is often the experience of a Christian, that we feel guilty. Guilt is also an emotion. At times, it is a good emotion. We feel it when we sin, rightly so, our conscience immediately rings with guilt when we know we are doing something wrong. It is God’s built in alarm bell to stop us from doing further damage to ourselves and is supposed to bring us to repentance. In that sense, feeling guilty is a good thing – as long as it leads us back to the cross to confess our sins and recognise the forgiveness we have received. But there is also bad guilt for the Christian, or rather misplaced guilt.
We can know in our heads the objective reality that Christ has removed the sentence that once hung over us, but we struggle to move this truth from our head to our hearts. We might feel guilty because of what we consider a ‘big one-off’ sin in our past: maybe an abortion we once had, or a crime we once committed, or a spouse we once betrayed. Or rather than a ‘one-off’, it could be that we feel guilty for a past pattern of sin, like an addiction to alcohol, or pornography, or a problem with anger. These patterns may have had disastrous consequences in our lives and in our relationships that we are still living with. All these things, and others, can seem so large in our rear view mirror that we struggle to believe that Christ has truly paid for it. We have repented of them, and we know that Jesus died for these sins, but we still feel that the guilt remains for us. We still feel like an executioners axe hangs over our heads, ready to fall whenever we slip up again. We expect bad things to happen for us, for God to punish us for what we did – “It’s only what we deserve after all” – we think. We still feel like the charge is still against us and that we should pay for our sins.
This kind of guilt is misplaced guilt because we have placed our guilt back on ourselves, when God has already placed it on Christ. We do not believe that our sin is truly dealt with by the cross when God says that it is. Those of us who feel like this need to listen again and again to these great words from Romans 8v32-34: 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.
Who will bring a charge against us? God has justified us through Christ. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Not God, not Satan, not another human being, not even you yourself. The Christian who feels guilty for sins they have repented of needs to accept that the cross has cancelled the charge against them. They don’t deserve it, but nonetheless it is the truth because God says it’s true. Who then are we to contradict him? The cross deals with our guilt, which is such great news, and is such a relief to our hearts if only we will accept it.