Psalm 51 may be the most powerful chapter in Scripture. Certainly there is an argument to be made about other chapters, but David’s words in Psalm 51 considering what he had been through that led to him penning these words are monumental.
Guilt. We might define guilt as something we feel when we have done something wrong and we are hiding it and our guilt will cause us to want to tell someone. We will have a guilty conscience. But then, there is a guilt that remains, even after the confession, even after the forgiveness. This kind of guilt will turn to shame. Guilt graduates from what we have done to being ashamed of what we are. I have set many times in prayer before the Lord angry -ANGRY- with who I am that I was able to do what I did. The fact that I sinned bothered me tremendously, but it was the fact that I was capable of doing something so heinous that really shook me to my core. I felt guilt and shame piled on high and what a burden it was to carry.
David had committed murder to cover up his adultery, yet he was a man after God’s heart. In Psalm 51, he wonders what must be in him to do such horrible things. He knows the Lord wants him to understand who He is and what He is-truth in the inmost place. Then David describes painful cleansing analogies of what it takes to get truth into the inmost place. It is painful to think of who and what we are that we would do some of the sinful things we do.
We are sinners. I am not talking about those who do not believe in Christ. I am talking about those of us who read our Bible daily, try to honor the Lord with our words and actions, love others, adopt foster children, feed the poor and the hungry, those who are in church every Sunday-we are SINNERS!!!
Of course, it is not fun to think of ourselves as sinners, but unless we embrace the fact that we are sinners, how can we say that we need a Savior. If I am not a sinner, what must I be saved from. The truth though is that we are all sinners and have fallen sort of the glory of God. I am in need of salvation. I need for someone to deal with my sin issue. And just because I have asked the Lord to come into my heart, it does not remove me from my sinful state completely. Yes, I am a new creation, but I am still tempted by sin so I don’t just need a Savior upon death. I need a Savior all day long every day, every minute of the day to save me from my sinful state.
I can’t wait to give you some good news. You need Him and He is here. He is the God who cleanses us from all of our sin and does not hold it against us. But truly it is more than this.
In the Old Testament, on the Day of Atonement, there were two goats provided to the High Priest for the ceremony. The lots were cast and one goat was to be sacrificed on the altar and the other sent away into the wilderness to die. The one led into the wilderness was called the scapegoat.
Aaron would put both hands on this goat and then pray, symbolically putting the wickedness on the head of this goat and then it was led ab by the Spirit carrying away the wickedness of the people. The goat sacrificed was for the sins committed. But the goat led into the wilderness was for the wickedness of the people. But to be wicked, a person does not have actually sin. Wickedness is not what we do. Wickedness is a state. It is who we are. It is what we are.
Wickedness is that thing in us that makes us capable of doing the very things that we hate. Wickedness produces guilt and shame. We are filled with shame because the guilt over what we have done has convinced us that we are horrible people. “How can I be a Christian if I had a divorce?” “How could I have done such a horrible thing to my son or my daughter?”
Have you ever sat with your face in your hands, dripping with tears, wanting to die wondering how in the world we were able to do such a horrible thing? When Christ died on the cross, He was our passover lamb covering over our sins, but He was also our scapegoat covering over what we are-oh PRAISE GOD!!! Not only am I forgiven for what I have done, but also for what I am-a sinner-a man attracted to what God hates. I struggle. I am weak. I do not resist sin easily, but I must fight violently to resist and sometimes, I fail and in those moments, I need to remember that even my weakness is forgiven.
We feel as if we are unworthy of God’s forgiveness. We feel as if we don’t deserve any of His blessings. Women do not feel worthy to be cherished by men so they settle with abusers. Men do not feel worthy of joy so they settle thinking that is as good as it will ever be. Why do we commit suicide? Why do we become drunks and addicts? Why do we sleep around? Is it not because of the shame and guilt we feel for what we are? How glorious then, this truth, that this part of us is also covered by the blood of Jesus Christ.
Faith in Christ brings forgiveness for what I am. I am forgiven of my wickedness. I am forgiven of my weakness to sin. I am forgiven to my lust for the flesh. I am forgiven for looking away from Him. I am forgiven for self-condemnation. I am forgiven for that part of me that leads me, urges me, drags me into dark places of sin.
It is for this reason that the New Testament teaches us that we have been cleansed of a guilty conscience by the blood of the lamb. HE IS MY SCAPEGOAT! I no longer have to carry guilt for what I have done nor for what I am. I am free from guilt. I am free from that burden laid so heavily upon me by the Accuser of the Brethren who constantly tries to shame me telling me that I am unworthy of anything that God has for me. We have to remember that the Devil cannot stop God from pursuing us, so he works to keep us from accepting God. But we are free and forgiven, forever in Him.
So…the question becomes if we have been declared innocent, why do we allow guilt to control us? Would a prisoner of war remain in the prison if the doors were unlocked and the guards wiped out? But this is what we do. The Lord has removed our sin, therefore there is no condemnation and no guilt. When people try to run us down for what we have done or for what we are, these are illegitimate charges. Jesus lifted this burden.
We don’t make things right when we have sinned against people because we owe it to them, the Lord has purchased our debt. We make things right because the Lord has promised to repay to them what we took in our sin against them. We are paying Him back because He purchased the debt of our sin. But now, I can make things right with people not from a position of guilt and shame, but from the position of God’s servant, free from the burden of my sin.
Don’t live your life by guilt! Don’t let a person condemn you to the point of crushing your spirit! It is the spirit of Lucifer who does this. Do not fall into His trap. You have been made righteous in Christ. The debt to be paid to those you offended and hurt in your sin now belongs to Jesus Christ. He will give them the love you betrayed. He will give them the honor you withheld. He will give them the respect you denied. You owe them nothing.
Ahhh! My head is hurting preacherman!!! What do you mean that we owe them nothing!?! Aren’t I supposed to make things right?!? Yes, but your position has changed. You are no longer the guilty party. Jesus was made to be sin, your sin. You go and love them. You go and be Christ to them, but not from the prison of guilt, but in the freedom of Christ. You owe it to the Lord to obey Him, but you do not have to live up to their expectation. You don’t have to please them. You don’t have to go the extra mile to make them happy. Your life is not in their hands anymore. You have been sent free and now, as you love them as Christ desires for you to do, you rest in the hands of God who has removed all guilt and all shame. May shame and guilt no longer reign in your life by the power of the Holy Spirit and the effect of the blood of Jesus Christ shed on Calvary’s cross.