Thursday, November 12, 2009

Breaking the Warning Light

Suppose I am driving down the road and a warning light comes on on the car's dashboard. There are several things I could do. I could ignore it and keep on driving. Worse yet, I could try to find a way to break the light so it does not light up any more. Or I could take the car in to have it looked at to find what is wrong with it. The last is the only wise option. Granted, warning lights can malfunction and light without reason, it is unwise to assume this without having the car checked out.

Guilt is the warning light on the human vehicle to warn us of the existence of sin in our lives. Unfortunately, due to our being sinful people in a sinful world, there is a much higher tendency for our guilt "warning light" to malfunction than our car's warning light. How do we deal with this?

It is clear that the answer of our society to this is to break the warning light. To take the position there is no right and wrong and no reason to feel guilty. We claim everyone should accept himself and that any wrong thing we do can be blamed on how someone else has treated us.

This is not the Biblical position. The Bible says that ultimately we feel guilty because we are guilty (Romans 3:23, Isaiah 64:6; Jeremiah 17:9). But God has provided the solution in Jesus Christ. He is the one who has paid the entire price for our sins (Romans 5:8, 2 Corinthians 5:21; Isaiah 53:4-6), and we can be declared righteous before God by faith in Him (Romans 4:5, 6; 3:28; Philippians 3:9).

But what about those who have already trusted in Christ--how do we deal with guilt? We need to honestly admit our sins to God (1 John 1:9; Proverbs 28:13), trusting in His forgiveness, and then press on with God, putting our sins behind us (Philippians 3:13,14) and trusting Him to work in our life to change us (Romans 12:1, 2; 2 Corinthians 3:18) into who He wants us to be. But how do we decide if guilt is legitimate? A helpful passage on this is 2 Corinthians 7:9, 10. It is speaking of sorrow for sin (guilt) and says proper guilt leads us to come to God and admit our sins (repent) and accept His forgiveness. The wrong kind of guilt leads us to try to hide or deny our sins. Then it says this repentance should be without regret. This does not mean we do not wish we had not sinned or try to avoid the same sin in the future, but it does mean we should put it behind us and go on. Beating ourselves up over old sin already repented of is counterproductive. Guilt, therefore, is good when it drives us to Christ, who is the only mechanic who can truly fix the problem. But breaking the warning light solves nothing.

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