THE GOSPEL BLESSING OF GUILT
By: Dr. Harry Reeder
November 21, 2014 11:21 AM
Gospel? Blessing? Guilt? Is it not a contradiction to put those words together in a title? How can “guilt” possibly be a “blessing” much less a “Gospel Blessing?” The answer is no. The title is not a contradiction. There is a guilt which is a Gospel blessing and by the way there is also a guilt that is an anti-Gospel curse. But I will acknowledge the title is counter-cultural in much of today’s contemporary grace preaching which treats guilt as the unwanted stranger to a Gospel-driven Christian life. So let’s briefly examine guilt as a Gospel blessing. We can start by first describing the onset of a guilt moment in a Christian’s life.
A Lord’s Day has arrived. Somehow you have navigated getting everyone in the family up, fed, dressed, out the door, into the car and headed to church. Beyond that, amazingly the entire family is in a reasonable state of relational neutrality as the brief trip to the Lord’s Day morning worship service is achieved in record time. In fact, this Sunday you have arrived in time to actually look at the worship folder, prayerfully peruse the printed meditation while the prelude wonderfully provides an environment for worship preparation. Starting with the Call to Worship you are guided with focused simplicity throughout the worship service upon both the majesty of God and the blessings of the Gospel by Confessions, Psalms, Hymns, Songs and Scripture Readings along with various prayers of intercession, thanksgiving, illumination and consecration.
Then came the preaching of God’s Word and by God’s grace came also the convicting and convincing work of the Holy Spirit. God’s Word owned by God’s Spirit had exposed both your sin and God’s solution in Christ to both forgive you of its guilt and free you from its power. In those moments the bittersweet Gospel work of grace arrived in the depths of your heart and soul. Bitter was the reality of how you had sinned and assassinated God’s glory in your disobedience to His glorious Law. Yet sweet was the patience and power of His grace reminding you of the gifts of forgiveness and of the power that enables you to assassinate besetting sins. All of these redeeming and life-changing promised blessings of grace had begun to flow experientially at the moment the Gospel gift of guilt arrived in the preaching of God’s Word and the convicting work of the Holy Spirit. And when the Gospel blessing of guilt arrives there are five Biblical affirmations identifying it as a Gospel blessing.
The first affirmation of the Gospel blessing of guilt over personal sin is the fact of its felt presence. Not everyone who “feels guilt” over the reality of personal sin is saved by grace but no one who is saved by grace can develop a lifestyle that dismisses guilt and sign ongoing peace treaties with sin in their lives. In contrast there are those who are lost in their sin and rebellion and are so calloused in their sin that they “feel no guilt.”
The second affirmation of the Gospel blessing of guilt over personal sin in the life of an authentic Christian is that while bitter is its taste at the point of conviction it sends us to the sweetness of the patient and powerful Savior who has promised that His grace to forgive us is greater than our sin. And His Word declares “if we confess our sin He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Thirdly, the Gospel blessing of guilt over personal sin in the life of an authentic Christian awakens within us a heart-hatred of sin and at the same time a heart-gratefulness for salvation. Why? Because the Gospel promises not only an unfailing forgiveness united to the gift of His righteousness but also the power and desire to kill sin and pursue holiness in and for Christ.
Fourthly, the Gospel blessing of guilt over personal sin in the life of an authentic Christian is an awakened and renewed awareness of the majesty, patience, power and undeserved blessings of God’s love for us to save us from the persuasion, power, penalty, position, practice and one day presence of sin for His glory and our joy.
Fifthly and finally, at least for this blog is the Gospel blessing of guilt that is differentiated from “false guilt”. Specifically the false guilt that is produced because I think that I am not doing enough to enable God to save me or assist God to save me or the false guilt that is produced by not measuring up to the “traditions” of men. Traditions have their beneficial place in life but they are not the standard to define sin. Sin is defined only as the transgression of God’s Law by omission or commission in thought, word and deed. The Gospel blessing of guilt is used to remind us that God’s grace is greater than either sin’s penalty or power when by faith and repentance we flee to Christ alone for salvation.
In summation, the Gospel blessing of guilt is experienced in two contexts. First, it is experienced in the conversion of the elect as the preaching of the Gospel exposes our sin by the power of the Holy Spirit and exalts Christ as our Savior to whom we flee as He removes sin’s guilt and shame. Secondly, it is experienced in the sanctification of the elect by the convicting work of the Holy Spirit as the Lord exposes our sin to remind us of not only our positional blessings in Christ but also our relational blessings with Christ as we grow by grace to “put off the old man” and to “put on the new man” in order “to walk in a manner worthy of our calling.”
While false guilt is to be abhorred, guilt itself in the life of a Christian is not necessarily a false guilt nor should it be avoided. On the contrary, true guilt should be welcomed as a Gospel blessing as the Lord uses it to bring us to Christ, remind us of the joy of our salvation and grow us to become more like our Savior and increasing consistency in exalting our Savior.