Tuesday, we springboarded off a WikiHow article on "How to Forgive Yourself." I concluded with this:
But I also think some of it doesn't, at least not as directly. I think some of it comes from Christians who have sinned, who know they've sinned, and who nonetheless continue in guilt and misery. What shall we tell them, then?So, what of those situations? Since I'm not writing a book on the subject, let's just dart into some of the possible causes of a lingering, unassuaged sense of guilt:
FIRST: Given that "lingering" is a relative term, one possibility is that this is a normal part of the conviction process, part of the Holy Spirit bringing one to a full grasp of the enormity of what he's done. After David's sin with Bathsheba, the brief narrative alludes to no inner conflict within David; merely that he marries Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:27). Yet he himself gives us a window into his internal life in that period, in Psalm 32:3-4 --
For when I kept silent, my bones wasted awayI take it, then, that David was feeling the pressing weight of conviction for his unrepented sin during this period. The closeness he'd enjoyed with the Lord was gone, and he was haunted with nagging guilt and restlessness (cf. Proverbs 28:1, 17).
through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah
SECOND: injured pride. In this case, the stinging, lingering pain is not a heart aching over the affront done to God, and God's name and glory -- but the embarrassment of letting myself down. Here I'd thought of myself as such a fine Christian, and I did that. My friends so look up to me; what will they think? What will happen to my reputation? How could such a great guy/gal do such a thing?
All the worse if we've resisted rebuke for awhile, insisting that our sewage doesn't stink, that the sin we sinned wasn't sin when we sinned it. Then we feel we'd have to eat humble pie... which is exactly what we need to do. But our defense and attempted prettification of our sin didn't un-sin the sin, and if'we're Christians, we know that at some level.
In this case, Satan has successfully misdirected us. We've lost the whole focus of the situation. Sin is sin because it is an affront against God. What makes it awful is what it does to His glory, and what it cost Him to redeem us from it. There is no excuse and no buffer for it. Getting our eyes on ourselves and our own wounded dignity and majesty indicates that:
- We think far too highly of ourselves; and
- We think far too lowly of God
FIFTH, a simple lack of faith. Twenty-five years ago, I would have felt this was far too simplistic. But I've come to see that it's dead on the money.
Jesus announces that He is about to pour out His blood to establish the new covenant, with its element of the forgiveness of sins (Matthew 26:28). He does pour out His blood, forsaken by God for our sins (Matthew 27:46), and announces that "It is finished" (John 19:30). He is buried. When He rises from the tomb, He signals the Father's acceptance of His sacrifice as sufficient to bring us a righteous legal standing before Him (Romans 4:25). In His blood, through faith, we have forgiveness and a fully-righteous standing (Romans 3:25; Ephesians 1:7).
It is for this reason that John says that, when we confess our sins, He is faithful and just/righteous to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Though we need not sin and should not sin, if we do sin we have an attorney to plead our case before the Father -- Jesus Christ, the righteous.
I want to close with that though, as developed to my own great comfort and encouragement by Charles Spurgeon. It comes from his meditation for the evening of October 4, and it's worth quoting at length: