A Bite of the Guilt Burger

This week I am concluding the sermon series that I’ve been preaching throughout the season of Lent---a series entitled “Walls.”  
Each week during the sermons I have been preaching, I have reiterated my belief that Christians who observe Lent have embraced a watered down version of it.  The foundation of Lent is Repentance, which is an inconvenient truth for most of us Christian-types.  When faced with the choice of truly repenting of the things that are keeping us from having a right relationship with God, or giving up coffee for forty days, we choose the coffee almost every time.  
Repentance is hard.  It’s public.  It’s an about-face that can’t be accomplished under the radar.  When you repent, the junk that you’ve been carrying around with you gets brought into the open once and for all.  And most of us Christian-types would rather that no one ever really see how broken and messed up we really are.  Which is why we build walls, using the junk we’re carrying as building material.  
Our church members were given the opportunity to identify their own building materials, the things that they use to build the walls in their own lives.  We invited them to help us build a symbolic wall at each of our worship services with bricks that were emblazoned with the names of the things that demanded their repentance. 
This is what the wall in our Sanctuary looked like: 

 I could have preached for an entire year on the bricks in this wall.  But we chose four things to focus on for the this sermon series:  Division, Gossip, Grudges and Guilt. 

This week we’re dealing with Guilt.  

Guilt is one of the great negative motivators in the pantheon of Human Emotion.  
We all feel guilty about something from time to time.  And sometimes guilt can be a good thing.  Guilt has been the impetus for more than one act of repentance over the course of human history.  

Think about some regrets that you have.  

One of my favorite movies from the 80’s is “Back to the Future.”  Sometimes I wish that resetting my mistakes was as easy as finding a Delorean car powered by a flux capacitor that could travel back in time to the very moment I messed up so that I could make it right.  

The problem that so many of us face when it comes to guilt, however, is that it often lingers.  And when guilt lingers, it can take over our lives.  It can permeate all that is pure and good about us, and can destroy peace, joy, love and hope.  

I heard a story about a troubled young man who began hanging out with a group of young men and women who were avowed Satanists.  Their hedonistic lifestyle, rituals and self-destructive behavior became a part of his way of living and being for several years.  Miraculously he found Jesus and turned his life around.  Once he was at a concert in a church with friends and the organist began to play some Bach.  He immediately became violently ill and had to run out of the church.  It seems that during the awful rituals of his Satanist days, the participants would blast certain pieces of Bach.    When he heard the music again, the young man was brought instantly back into those moments and was overcome by guilt.  The music, which had been written to the glory of God had been polluted by sin and guilt.  

Guilt pollutes goodness.

I want you to hear this.  If you are living with guilt over things that you have done...  If you are living with guilt over things that have been done to you... If you are living with guilt over mistakes or bad decisions that you have made... 
You don’t have to.  

So many of us Christian-types have the wrong idea about Christianity.  We have been made to feel guilty by other Christians, who operate under the assumption that the reason Jesus died was to expose our sin and guilt.  

Jesus didn’t die to make you feel guilty.  He died to free you from it.  

I want to tell you a story from the life of David, a man who is said to be someone “after God’s own heart”---only this isn’t one of the triumphant giant-killing stories from his life.  This is the story of how David lusted after a woman, committed adultery with her, got her pregnant, and then had her husband murdered so he could marry her.  

The story begins in 2 Samuel 11:1 which reads, “In the spring at the time when kings go off to war... David was at home.”  

David wasn’t where he was supposed to be.  He should have been off with his soldiers, but he was idling away on the rooftop of his palace surveying his kingdom and he happened to see a beautiful woman taking a bath on her rooftop.  This woman, Bathsheba, was married to one of his officers, a man named Uriah.  David decided that he wanted Bathsheba, and he had her brought to him.  He had sex with her, and then not too long after that she sends word that she is pregnant.  David summons Uriah home, hoping that he will take the opportunity for a little leave to go home and get reacquainted with Bathsheba.  He doesn’t.  He acts noble and chooses to sleep outside David’s palace since he is officially “on duty.”  Once David realizes that Uriah is too noble to comply, he plots to have him killed on the battlefield.  With Uriah out of the way, David waits a bit, and then marries Bathsheba.  

This is when God sends the prophet Nathan to confront David with his sin.  At this point David thought he’d gotten away with it.  Nathan tricks David by telling him of a rich man in his kingdom who stole the solitary lamb of a poor man in order to serve it for dinner.  David becomes incensed and demands to know the name of the rich man so he could be punished.  “You are that man!” Nathan declares to David.  And he is immediately overcome with shame and guilt.  
David is told that the son he and Bathsheba conceived will not live. The baby falls ill, and despite David’s daily fasting and praying on his face before God, he dies.  

Psalm 51 is attributed to David as the prayer that he prayed to God when he realized that what his sin had caused.  

What lengths do you go to in order to not feel guilty?

Do you beat yourself up on a daily basis?  Do you sabotage every significant relationship in your life because you feel that you are not worthy of being loved?  Do you go overboard with Christian-y behavior, living a legalistic life where there is only black and white and no grey?  

I recently read about the strange case of Sarah.  She lost her only child at five weeks old, and her husband passed away soon after that.  She inherited $20 million in the late 1800’s, which is the same as billions today.  She lost her mind.  She commissioned a house to be built, but didn’t want the construction to ever stop.  It didn’t for 38 years, 24 hours a day.  The house covered 6 acres.  It had 6 kitchens, 13 bathrooms, 40 stairways, 47 fireplaces, 52 skylights, 467 doors, 10,000 windows, 160 rooms and one bell tower.  

Sarah Winchester was the heir to the Winchester rifle fortune.  She believed that all of the terrible things in her life had been caused because of the lives that were taken through the guns her family had created.  She built the house for the ghosts of the men who had been killed by Winchester rifles.  Each night she would retreat to a room in the house and would “welcome” the ghosts, hoping to find peace.  

Read Romans 5:1-2

I love the line, “...we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Jesus doesn’t want us to live with guilt.  He came to give us life, and to give it to us in abundance.  He wants us to be filled with peace.  

When David was told that his son was dead, he cleaned himself off, stopped mourning and started living.  When people criticized him for it, he said that his son was dead and that one day he would go to him.  What he was essentially saying was, “I will see him one day, but not today.  I have some living left to do.”   David and Bathsheba would go on to have another son, and his name was Solomon.  Out of death, sin, immorality---out of guilt, God brought resurrection and life.  
It sounds good doesn’t it, but you may be asking me now, “But how can we really be free from guilt?  Those stories are great, but I’m dealing with reality here.”  
First, you need to recognize the kind of guilt that you are feeling.  Is it a conviction by the Holy Spirit or a distortion by the Enemy?  Remember, guilt pollutes goodness.  And it does it quietly and swiftly.  

Second, you need to make amends or changes sooner rather than later.  In other words Repent.  Be reconciled.  Make restitution.    I heard the story of a shoplifter who had a bit of remorse and sent the store he’d stolen from a letter.  In the letter he confessed his crime and enclosed a $100 bill.  He said that because of his guilt he was giving back some of the money.  He then went on to say, “If I feel any guiltier, I’ll give back the rest.”  Repentance, reconciliation, restitution----they don’t work like that.  

Third, accept your responsibility, but move on.  David’s example is a good one here.  You need to trust God that he will make resurrection happen.  Know that you are frail and broken and that Jesus came to set frail and broken people free.  

Fourth, learn from your mistakes.  Be your own good, bad example.  Don’t keep doing the same dumb things over and over again.  If you fell into sexual sin, don’t keep frequenting the same bars looking for the same hookups.  If you were a drunk, don’t put yourself in situations where you drink.  Live differently. 

Fifth, give yourself a break.  After all, Jesus does.  There is no one who is perfect.  Jesus always picks the wrong people to accomplish his will and great work of salvation in the world.  That way he gets the glory and we don’t.  Jesus loves that you aren’t perfect because if you were, you wouldn’t need him so badly.  Grace is not about getting what you deserve, it’s about getting what you don’t deserve.  

Listen, Jesus didn’t die to make you feel guilty.  He died to free you from it.  
If you have been led to believe that being a Christian is something that is steeped in guilty feelings, you’ve been lied to.  

Be free from guilt in the name of Jesus Christ.  He gave everything so that you would know freedom and peace.  

Tear down the walls of guilt in your life and let the world see a sinner redeemed, restored and resurrected.  
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