Jim Wilson is the retired director of Community Christian Ministries in Moscow, Idaho. He will be posting regularly, so check back in soon!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Guilt and Ignorance (Great Grace)

Among church members today there are two problems which commonly make up the average spiritual/mental state. They are, simply stated, guilt and ignorance. This is very true of church members who are not Christians, but it is also true in a different way for the Christians.

A statement Paul made for the Jews applies equally well to unconverted church members today:

Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. (Romans 10:1-4 NIV)

Guilt is the reason people seek to establish their own righteousness, and ignorance is the reason they do it their own way.

Although guilt is the main problem in the non-Christian, he may be less conscious of guilt than he is of other emotional symptoms because he is partially successful in justifying, hiding, excusing, or projecting his wrong or blaming the occurrence of his sin on someone else. He then thinks his unhappiness has other causes, and his anxiety other cures. He may be less conscious of guilt because of ignorance of the moral law. Although he has an inherent moral law within him, he has spent a lifetime dulling the edge of it, and he needs a continual reminder of it “since through the law comes knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20). He is also less conscious of guilt because of systematic teaching in the churches on relative morality, new morality or situation ethics.

The church must return to teaching the moral law of God, not as a means of salvation, but for the reason it was given:

Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! But in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it produced death in me through what was good, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful. (Romans 7:13 NIV)

Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. (Romans 3:19 NIV)

Ignorance can be overcome by teaching the moral law; however, when the law is taught, very real guilt occurs. Guilt is the other problem, and unless more ignorance is overcome, a wrong solution for guilt will surface. This ignorance is overcome by teaching God’s wonderful way of providing forgiveness for sins. We could say it more succinctly: teaching the moral law causes or enhances guilt; teaching God’s grace leads to forgiveness.

In other words, a clear knowledge of the bad news is the right preparation for a presentation of the good news. People must have a great view of grace. If people are allowed to minimize sin, great grace is not needed.

This teaching is lacking in both liberal and evangelical churches. It is lacking in liberal churches probably for two reasons: an absolute morality is not held to be true; and there is no desire to make people feel guilty because guilt is considered bad. It is lacking in evangelical churches because it is falsely held to be in opposition to the good news, perhaps as some sort of works righteousness.

The two great results that happen when a person becomes a Christian are forgiveness of sins and everlasting life.

“…to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” (Acts 26:18 NIV)

Forgiven sins is a distinguishing mark of the Christian church member but not the non-Christian church member. But for the Christian, God has a provision for keeping clean. It is found in 1 John 1:7:

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. (NIV)

He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2 NIV)

Forgiveness has to do with honesty in admitting sins on our part, the blood of Christ and God’s faithfulness on His part.

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian by Jim Wilson)

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