An End to Guilt
This focuses on the unconditional love of God and how guilt can be the greatest struggle believers have. It is a transcript of a message given by Gregory Reid and is very comforting for those who have been spiritually abused by Worldwide Church of God, Philadelphia Church of God, or any related high demand offshoot.
As I was in prayer today, the message that I felt that the Lord was saying is: "Tell my people that I love them." And that's such a message that we don't ever really understand what that means. We think that's kind of a nice pat on the back from God, but it's not. I mean the love of God is the most powerful thing motivating our lives. As a matter of fact, in Hebrew 6 it talks about doctrinal foundational things and he says, "therefore let us leave the foundational doctrines of laying on of hands and of baptism and of eternal judgment and of faith. Let us leave those principles and go on." But the one thing it doesn't say to go on from is love. Why? That's the beginning, the middle and the end of everything in our Christian experience. Faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love. And we need to really get a grip on what God is saying to us about that.
God Will Never Leave You Nor Forsake You
The word that will get you through these final times is, "I will never leave you or forsake you." If we really understand that, I believe that is the foundational word that will get us through these last times. The realization that no matter how hard things get, no matter how many things come across our pathway that we have to deal with, Jesus Christ, the Lord of the universe, will never leave our side. He is always, forever, eternally with us. And that the security that this world cannot provide. It's a security we can't even provide for one another. We can't say that we're all going to be here for each other for ever. We can't say that. I've had enough relationships that have been broken or separated or through death or through problems to know that no human being can always be there. We don't have that guarantee. All flesh is as grass and as the flower fades away, so is all flesh. Gone like a vapor of smoke. But Jesus promises that, though every person leaves us, He will always be with us. Even Paul said that "everyone has forsaken me. Only the Lord has stood with me." But if you know that, and if you grasp that, and really get that in the foundation of your heart, you have the security to get through anything that comes across your path because there's that knowledge that He Who is mighty, loves us and dwells in us and walks with us every second of the day, in this life and then through eternity.
That's a very brief idea of what I want to share with you tonight. I hope you just grasp the heart of the Lord as I started to grasp it in prayer today. And in order to show you what I feel like the Lord is saying to us, I want you to understand there's the world's love and there's God's love and they are usually two diametrically opposed institutions. They have very little in common.
The Difference Between the World's Love and God's Love
I will start out talking about the world's love. The world's love is a conditional love. The world's love is: "I love you if... You do this and that and then if you don't hurt me, and if you do all the right things, and if you say all the right things, and if you're always a nice person, I love you. Well, if you do those other things, I'll have to think again." Right?
God's love is unconditional. God's love is a love, period. Not "I love you if," not even "I love you because." God's love is I love you, period. End of statement. There's no qualifications to His love for us.
Why don't I read Roman 5:6-11. (And I'm reading out of the Living Bible because it really says it well.) Try to grasp this because if you really understand this, it will just absolutely boggle your mind. "When we were utterly helpless, with no way of escape, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners, who had no use for him." That's unconditional love. How many people do you love who have no use for you? Who have hurt you? Who have injured you? Who have been bitter toward you or tried to destroy you? But while we treated God the same way when we said, "God, we don't need you. We have no use for you," it was at that point in time that Christ died for us because of God's love for us.
[Verses 7-9] "Even if we were good, we really wouldn't expect anyone to die for us, though, of course, that might be barely possible. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners." That's unconditional love. And since by his blood he did all this for us as sinners, how much more will he do for us now that he has declared us not guilty?"
The greatest struggle I think believers have is guilt.
God Has Declared You Not Guilty
I saw a poster in a magazine just recently. It was just Christ's hand with a nail going through it and the caption was, "An end to guilt." And I believe this message of love is God's attempt to put an end to guilt in our lives. Guilt is such a subtle thing. Guilt can be so spiritualized. Guilt is a thing that we can put on someone else in such a spiritual way that they think it's a conviction of the Holy Spirit, and we have to be very careful. In my particular ministry God has not given me an easy word for the body of Christ. He's given me a very difficult word. There's been many times I've just cried out and said, "God, why didn't you just give me some nice things to say, some real comforting things?" But there's a time and place for comfort and there's a time and place for exhortation. But the problem is--in a very delicate balance--not taking things that we don't like and putting guilt on people about them when it's not the conviction of the Spirit, but it's only our own personal...so maybe something we're struggling with. I know a lot of preachers that will preach just hell-fire and damnation sermons about something, and they're struggling with it themselves. So we have to be very careful, the word we hear and how it's brought about.
He has declared us not guilty. Now he will save us from all God's wrath to come [verse 9-10]. And since, when we were his enemies, we were brought back to God by the death of his Son, what blessings He must have for us now that we are His friends, and He is living within us!" The King James version uses the word, "atonement" [Romans 5:11] or "reconciliation." [II Corinthians 5:I8-19] I love that word because to be reconciled means that God is not mad at us anymore.
Do you ever get to a place where you say, "God, do you like me? Are you mad at me?" God, once for all at the cross, put an end to His wrath against us because we were in darkness. It's over with! There's no more condemnation for us. There's no more guilt. Guilt is not something that motivates people to serve God. Guilt is something that motivates people toward despair and failure. Satan is the guilty one, and so he naturally is the one that brings the guilt on the believer.
God Doesn't Condemn You
Now conviction, that's another thing. Well talk about that in a little while, but conviction and guilt are two different things. If you feel guilty about something and start to feel condemned, that's not from God. I can tell you right away that's not from God because God does not condemn His people. He doesn't. That just the truth.
Roman 8:1 says it very clearly, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." And a lot of people misread that first and they say, "Well, yeah, if you're walking after the Spirit instead of after the flesh, then there is no condemnation, but if you walk after the flesh, there's condemnation." That's not what it's saying. If you are in Christ Jesus, you are not walking after the flesh anymore. If you are in Christ you are walking after the Spirit and there is no condemnation. Not a little condemnation. None. Zero. No condemnation for those that are in Christ. That will set you free. That will set you free to serve God, not out of guilt. There's a lot of people that serve God out of guilt and out of fear. "I don't want to go to hell, so I guess I'll serve God." What a lousy reason to serve God. The only motivation to serve God should be the love that we extend back because we realize that He first loved us.
Roman 8:31: "What then shall we say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?" There's so many times when we're out in the world, facing pressures--this has been one of those pressures weeks for me, where you don't want to go to the bank because you're afraid that the president could come and bite your head off. You're afraid to get gas in your car because they're gonna tell you you're doing it wrong. You know what I'm saying? And you go home and you say, "Why are you doing this to me, God?" as if it's His fault. And it's easy when all those pressures start to happen and things start to fall apart, to just blame it on God and say, "You're not for me. You're working against me." One of the prophets said that. One of the prophets said, "You act like you're my enemy." And sometimes we come to that place. But it's clear, if God is for us, who can be against us? Nobody. And we need to have that confidence in Him. "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" [Verse 32] This is my favorite portion of Scripture, Romans 8, this particular portion. "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth." [Verse 33]
Believer, I'm going to tell you something, if you're condemning yourself, you're crossing God's will. Because if God is justifying you, who are you to say that you're not justified in the sight of God? You're sitting there saying, "Oh God, I'm so guilty." God's saying, "I'm justifying you. You're working against me. I'm trying to love you through your problems. I'm trying to deliver you from the things that are binding you and you are stopping Me from doing that because you won't let your hands off of the wounds. You make them worse with your own knife. You're just digging it in, saying, 'I'm condemned. God doesn't love me. God can't love me. I'm unlovable'." And God's saying, "No, I justified you and no one is higher than Me and if I haven't condemned you, who are you to condemn you?"
[Verse 34-37] "Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us." This part is my favorite right here: "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us." Not because the problems are absent, not because we are out of situations we'd like to get out of, but in the situation we are more than conquerors because the situation doesn't move us. The situation doesn't hinder the security that we have in Christ.
[Verse 38-39] "For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Not even my own self-condemnation can separate me from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus.
As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. ~Psalm 103:12
God Loves You For Who You Are, Not For What You Do
The world's love is based on works. You have to do things for people to get them to love you. God's love is based on grace. And this is a very important portion here. We work for people's love because we don't think that we're loveable if we don't do something. We have to do something in order to make people like us. That's just the way the system works. But this work trip that we get on comes from a feeling of being unworthy and having to prove that we deserve love from people and acceptance and being liked.
First to understanding we need to differentiate between the world's love and God's love, is that God loves us not for what we do. He doesn't love us for what we do. It's for who you are. It's for what we are. Nothing more, nothing less, because He created us and He doesn't despise anything that He creates. The works that we do in the flesh come from guilt, and I'm speaking particularly in relationship with God. I see a lot of Christians doing this and I've done it myself. I've had to be convicted of this this week. That we work for God, we want to do all the right things, say all the right things, don't hurt anybody, don't cross anybody. Thou shalt not 1 to 100. And the fact of the matter is that that actually motivates a person--here's the guilt again. We try to work for God's approval because we feel guilty for things we've done in our past that still haunt us and still make us feel like if we don't make up for it somehow, God's not going to fully approve of us. Thank God that God is not on an honor situation where, you know, a bell curve. "Let's see how they did this week. See if they deserve a few blessings." God does not work that way.
If you think that you can make yourself more worthy by doing works, you'll become proud because you'll think, "Well, if I am unworthy, but if I can work to be worthy, then I can really be worthy. And then God can't tell anything bad about me because then I'll really, really be worthy. And I'll be able to say, "God, see everything I did for You." And that turns into pride and that becomes legalism. That how you see a lot of legalistic people that tell everybody else how to live their lives, "Do this, do that. Taste not, handle not, touch not." Because they think they're better. Read through the stories of the Gospels and find so many things about the Pharisees. But you know, I learned something about the Pharisees. They're too close to my heart to be comfortable for me. I used to point to it and say, "Oh those bad Pharisees. I'm so glad I'm not like them." The Lord said, "Really?" By saying that you have proven that you're closer to their corner than you think, because anytime we start thinking I'm glad that I'm not like somebody else, then we are guilty of that same sin. I used the word "guilt." See, it's a tricky little thing, isn't it?
When we have this idea that we can earn God's grace, earning equals deserving in our minds. And when we start to earn it we think, "Well, God has to love me. Look at all those neat things I did for Him." And that's a horrible bondage to put on yourself because what happens if you can't do those things? Then you come under complete condemnation because you think, "Well, I was doing okay, but now I'm doing really bad so God must not approve of me." Or fear also drives you to work. "If I don't do the right things, God will send me to hell," or "If I don't obey all the Ten Commandments and all the laws in the prophets, then I'll be in big trouble."
What does the Scripture say? "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy mind, with all thy strength, and thy neighbor as thyself" and Jesus said, "On this hangs all of the law and the prophets." "He that loveth hath fulfilled the law." That's why this element of understanding God's love is so critically important. If you miss it, you've missed everything. If you grasp it, you've grasped everything; you've grasped the whole heart of the Gospel, the heartbeat of Almighty God toward us.
Understanding God's Grace
A person who really understand grace and grace means "unearned or undeserved favor--free gift" rests in God's love. They're not out to work; they're not out to do things for God. They're out to rest in God's love. And when you do that, then if God's got something for you to do, you're in a perfect position to do it. Otherwise, you're out there trying to alleviate your guilt by doing nice things and you're never hearing what God's really wanting to say to you. And you may be missing some very important work--God's work--not our works, but God's work that He may have laid out for us to walk in and to do. I really believe that understanding the grace of God is a deterrent to sin. See, when you think that you can either earn or un-earn God's love, then when you earn God's love and you fail, then you think you've un-earned it and it'll just make you want to sin because you think, "Well, I'll never be what God wants me to be."
The thing that caused me to walk the way God wanted me to be, even when I was in deep sin, was the fact that every time I sinned He would stand over my bed and say, "I still love you." And it would just break me up. I'd think, "How can you still love me? How can you still love me after all this?" When I started to get that deep down in my heart, I didn't want to go out and sin anymore, because if He loved me that much I knew that if I did turn and sin, it would hurt Him; that it would hurt His heart and that He would continue to love me. God's love hurt me on the inside when I was sinning, but when I turned from that sin it wasn't because "Well, I better stop doing that; God's going to punish me." It's because He wouldn't punish me. I would rather Him take the hammer down on me because then I could say, "Well, I deserved it." But it's something about the fact when somebody stands in front of you and says, "Look, no matter what you do or what you say, no matter how bad you've been, no matter what you do, I'm still going to love you." It just destroys you. There's just this complete sense of helplessness, and that's exactly where God wants us to be. That puts you in the position of receiving the grace of God and then being able to walk in that anointing of the Spirit of God that breaks the yoke of bondage. It's grace that breaks the yoke.
Christian, I'm going to tell you something. Somebody got real off base when they started preaching out of Galatians about the verse that says, "Ye have fallen from grace." And I've heard so many preachers get up and say, "You've fallen from grace because you're out there sinning, and that means you're no longer in the grace of God." And that is not what the verse is saying. Paul was talking to those that were into works. Paul was talking to those that thought they could earn their salvation. He said when you're working for God's favor you have fallen from grace. It's not talking about sins. It's talking about thinking you can do it yourself. When you do that, you cannot receive God's grace. It puts a whole different light on it, doesn't it?
Nothing You Can Do to Earn God's Love
I think guilt is the biggest motivator to sin that I know of because guilt is an unbearable burden that makes you feel like, "There's no way that I'm ever going to make it, so why don't I just go out and live it up." Let's read Romans 4:4-5: "Now to him that worketh not, is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt." In other words if you're working for your own salvation, then there's a sense of debt in your heart, either that God owes you something or you owe God something you're not able to pay. So a sense of debt.
"But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." The greatest act of faith you can perform is to believe that there's nothing that you can do to earn God's love. All you can do is walk in it. That's an act of faith because you know that you're justified not because of anything you did, or could do, ever--or are currently doing--but just because God decided to love you. Then you are righteous in His sight. You're holy because you believe that God can do that and that He has done that on Calvary.
[Reads Romans 11:6] You can't be "good enough" for God, ever. All that you need right now, you have to be justified and holy in God's sight. [The gift] isn't free when it's earned, so if you're trying to earn God's gift of grace and salvation and love, it's not free, you can't receive it as free. In your heart, there's that sense of "payback" somehow.
Ephesians 2:8-10: "For by grace are ye saved through faith: and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. Now this next verse says, "For we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." Now I want you to see a process that God is laying out for us here. Doesn't James say "faith without works is dead"? (James 2:17) Yes, it does, but the "faith" is believing that if you are in Christ and Christ is in and you are dwelling in love ("He that dwells in love, dwells in God, and God in him." - I John 4:16), then you understand what this is saying, that we were created in Christ for the purpose of good works, that we should walk in them. In other words, if you are dwelling in the love of God, right before your path will be that good work that God wants you to walk in. You are not inventing it. God is saying, "Here it is." It's not something that you are doing. It's something that you are just walking into and allowing Him to do through you because Christ is the one that's doing it through you. Do you understand that?
This whole thing that I am outlining to you brings an end to the American work ethic program. "You gotta earn your way through life." "You gotta earn your keep." "You don't ever take anything free from nobody." "No handouts." "No welfare." "No food stamps." Well, that stinks as far as God is concerned. Not on a political level. I'm not talking politics. But we think, "I'm not going to take anything from God that I can't earn or work for. I've got to be able to say that I did it myself." And that's nothing but stinking pride in the sight of God.
I'm sure you've all had this happen at Christmas. You get around the Christmas tree and you give somebody something and they say, "Oh, I can't take that. You can't... Oh no, no, you can't. You shouldn't." Anybody ever had that happen to you? You know how much that hurts when somebody does that? It really hurts when somebody does that. But there's nothing more beautiful for the person that's giving than that the person that is to receive it, receives it and just says, "Thank you. That really means a lot to me." That does not mean that you are not grateful. It means that you really understand what went into it because to receive a gift means that you care so much for the giver that you want them to get an equal joy out of being able to give it to you. And it's the same way with God. It hurts Him so much when He wants to give us of Himself and we say, "God, I don't deserve this. God, you really shouldn't." He just wants us to receive it and to bask in the light of that grace and love.
I want you to understand a principle. You may have to take it home and meditate on it, but it's very important. God cannot love you more than He does right now. He will never love you anymore than He does right now because He loves you perfectly. He'll never love you--do you hear me?--he'll never love you anymore than He does right now. Not one bit more. But--He'll never love you any less. Now think about that. Meditate on that. He will never love you any more, but He will never love you any less because He loves you perfectly. He loves you so much, He loved you before you were ever created. You were a thought in God's mind trillions of billions of trillions of years ago. He saw you trillions of years ago in his heart. You were a thought of love in His mind and He loved you just as much then as He does now and He will love you just as much 15 trillion, billion years ago as He does right now. And if you understand that, folks, you will grasp and understand that to be perfectly loved is to be perfectly accepted and to receive that is life and it's deliverance and it's freedom to walk in that love and to give that love to other people. Because if God loved us that way, we need to be able to love each other in the same way.
I'll never forget one time, I had a dear loved one of mine that I had raised in the Lord, who was very close to me, and he was in another part of the country. And someone called me long-distance to tell me some of the most hurtful, damaging, hateful rumors I'd ever heard. (Some of them had a ring of truth--it wouldn't be a very good rumor if it didn't have a ring of truth. All dirt has a speck of fool's gold in it somewhere.) And when I heard what was being said, I had to accept the reality that maybe it was true. Maybe this person really did do all these awful things, maybe I had been deceived, and I was weeping before the Lord and I said, "God, even if that were true, even if they did all the things that I was told, I would not love them any less and I would believe in them the same way I did before." And God said, "Greg, that's exactly the way I feel about you." And it just devastated me to realize that depth of love. God will never believe in me any less than He does right now. He will always believe in me and He will never--nothing I can do--can make Him not love me. And I've tested it out, folks. Not intentionally. But if anybody does not deserve to be here, I believe I can say with Paul, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief." I'm sure we could draw straws and take a vote. The reality is, we are all here because we don't deserve God's love, not because we do. Because if we deserve it, we had to get to the place where we deserved it, we'd all be back in the bars and in the world, doing our own thing, hurting people and destroying ourselves.
When you rest in God's unconditional love, there's no pride in your achievements. Did you hear that? There's no pride when you achieve something. You can't pat yourself on the back for it, but there's no guilt in failure. That's the glorious thing. There's no guilt in failure. Please understand, when you sin, God is more ready to forgive you than you are to ask. You don't have to go around for the next three months saying, "God, please forgive me, please forgive me." The minute you ask you have received that forgiveness. It's like I told you before. How many sins did you commit when Christ died? Zero, right? You weren't born yet. If that's true and He died for all the sins of the world, then that doesn't mean that you are just forgiven for the sins that you commit up until the time you get saved and then you gotta be real careful. How many sins did He die for? All sins! Every sin you could commit, past, present and future, are paid for. That is propitiation. It is paid for. It was written above the cross. That ordinance that was written against us, is paid for in full, marked out, He took the whole thing. And if you understand that, you will never, ever, ever be proud about your accomplishments again. And you will never, ever, ever feel guilt for being under condemnation because you failed. When you understand that, then you can receive forgiveness immediately and feel the restoration of fellowship with God.1 I find people that don't understand that concept are the ones that do tend to fail more. We all fail, but those that think they can earn it end up failing more than others. Those who really understand that they can't earn it, as the Scriptures say in Proverbs, they shine more and more unto the perfect day.
God's Love is Unilateral
Another aspect of the world's love that I want to touch on is what I call payback or back-scratching. ("I'll do this for you if you'll do this for me.") And we carry this on to God, "God, if you bless me, then I'll have to do something for You in return." Or, "If I do something for You, God, then You have to do this for me." It's another part of our works trip because we don't understand the reality of the love of God. God's love is not only unconditional, but it's unilateral. It's completely one-way blessing. He gives to us, not because we earn it or deserve it or manipulate or do the right things or say the right words. He does it because He wants to. And a lot of times we beg and plead and cry and groan and pound the Bible and shove it in God's face to get Him to do things for us and He's saying, "If you'll just relax, I'd be able to do something for you. As long as you're struggling, My hands are tied. As long as you are trying to force Me to do something, I can't do anything for you because it wouldn't mean anything to you. You'd think you did it yourself." Isn't that true? And if you understand this unilateral love of God and that it's not a back scratching ("You tickle my fancy, and I'll tickle yours"); it's not that at all. The reality of it is, is that God's gifts and blessings are not a sign of earning. It's not a sign of achievement when God blesses you. On the other hand, His chastisement is not--or when He withholds something--is not a sign of punishment. Because when you understand the love of God, you understand, "When I'm blessed, I'm blessed." What does the Scripture say? "The blessing of the God, it maketh rich and He addeth no sorrow to it."
How many times do we get blessed and say, "Okay, God where's the catch? I still have to struggle with that. That was a really neat blessing. I wonder how much that one is going to cost? No. When God blesses, He blesses because He wants to. And when He chastises and when He withholds blessings, or withholds something that we want, it's not because He's punishing us. It is actually an act of love. Can anyone say that you can determine what is best for you? Not me. I don't know. Somebody might quote that Scripture and say, What about the Scripture that says, "No good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly?" That's right. No good thing. Sometimes the things we think are good things are not what God thinks are good things. But if it's from His perspective, really, no good thing, truly good thing, eternal value thing, will He withhold. And if He does withhold some thing, it's because it's not best, it's not God's best thing. And His best things sometimes come in packages and we wouldn't exactly chose. Now we don't quite understand--then we're going to know. We're going to be thankful for the things we've walked out. When you understand God's desire to bless when we don't deserve it and God's chastisement not as a form of punishment, but a form of love, then that will be the full receiving of the love of God. If God just blessed us all the time and gave us everything we want, we would only know half of God's love. We wouldn't understand the full picture of God's love.
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