Many years ago, I did a message on how guilt is like the sense of touch. I said it was kind of like when as a kid, you put your hand on a hot stove…that burning pain warned you that you were doing something that you shouldn’t. I said that guilt was the same way. It was something that God put on our conscience that taught us that doing wrong was bad for us so that we would stop doing those things.
However, I was off-base.
For example, once in high school I took a shop class on Electricity. As I was working a little soldering project, I inadvertently reached up and grabbed the wrong end of my soldering iron. After I stopped screaming and got done rinsing my burning hand under the cold water spigot, I had learned to never do that again….and I haven’t.
For another example, as a kid of about 18 years old, I had a moped; one of those old Batavus mini motorbikes that had goofy pedals sticking out of the sides. I took off on it one day and rode over to a friend’s house. I didn’t go far…only a half mile or so…and I happened to wonder if the muffler was hot after such a short ride. Now, I know that right now you’re thinking: “He couldn’t be that dumb!” Well, I WAS that dumb at eighteen years old. That’s right. I reached down and touched it. That hot, searing pain taught me to never do that again, and I never have. Lesson learned. I’m not that dumb any more.
But, guilt doesn’t seem to have that effect.
I seem to be quite capable of doing the same dumb, sinful things over and over again…feeling guilty…then feeling guilty again…without ever seeming to learn to avoid those things in the future.
I’ve finally figured out after all of these years that beating myself up and feeling all guilty…while it does serve the purpose of driving me toward repentance…does nothing with regards to preventing me from doing the same stupid things over and over again. (Of course, maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m the only one who seems to fall into the same self-imposed temptation traps over and over again. Would you tell me if I’m not?)
Anyway, guilt is simply not effective in teaching me anything useful in breaking that cycle. Guilt is really kind of like burning your hand on the soldering iron, then forgetting how much that hurts a few days later and doing it again....and again...and again.
But, I think I’ve finally found something that is effective…
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. (That’s you, me, and even that goofy kid with his pants hanging around his rear and the nose ring poking out of his nostrils.) It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, (That’s all those stupid things you, me, and that goofy kid seem to keep doing.) and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. Titus 2:11-14
Did you catch it?
The grace of God TEACHES us to say no. It’s not the guilt…it’s the grace.
I have decided that from now on, if I’m falling short….no…wait…scratch that…WHEN I fall short, it’s not that I need to feel more guilty….I don’t need to have a deeper understanding of how messed up I am.
What I need when I fall short is a better understanding of how deep, how wide, how incredibly amazing is the grace of God.
Only through a deeper knowledge of grace can I hope to LEARN to say no…and to live a godly life.
Maybe you knew that all along, but I’m just glad the light bulb finally lit up for me.