Chapter 2 Verse 16:

When you sin what do you do to “help” the “stink” of sin wear off? Often we treat sin like a bad perfume or cologne. We believe that God is turned off by its presence on us and we want to make ourselves more presentable before we come to Him in prayer. We develop our habits or rituals to make ourselves more presentable (i.e., spending time with our kids, being nice to our spouse, withdrawing from people that make us feel guilty, giving extra to the church, reading our Bible extra, beating ourselves up repeatedly, etc…). These are activities that when we use them to make up for our sin Paul would consider “works of the law.” What habits do you have? How did they develop? How have they replaced embracing God’s grace? How have they eroded your joy in things that should be a blessing?

Chapter 2 Verses 19-21:

“Handling Ongoing Guilt”

The question is frequently raised, “How do I handle ongoing guilt?” Often it is said, “You just need to forgive yourself.” There are at least two reasons to be leery of this answer. First, our sin is against God and a violation of His will not self (Psalm 51:4). Second, there is no passage in the Bible that commands, teaches, or provides an example of self-forgiveness. If forgiving myself was essential to good mental health, the Bible would not have left it out.

There are many things a struggle with ongoing guilt can reveal. This handout does not attempt to deal with them all, but to provide a general outline.

First, we deal with guilt by accepting God’s grace by faith. Our sin is as bad (or worse) than we think it is. However, the price has been paid in full. Rehearsing forgiven sin is like trying to make payments on a car that has already been paid off.

Second, we worship and accept/correct the consequences of past sin through our acts of faith and thanksgiving. We must not believe that the forgiveness of sin means the removal of consequences. Forgiveness means the relational barrier between us and God has been removed.

If we get these two backwards we are trapped. We begin to work in order to ease our guilt and then try to muster enough faith to worship. Because working off guilt is impossible we never feel like we are in a place to worship or good enough for God.

If you struggle with ongoing guilt, at first do not do anything. Action before embracing the reality of forgiveness will inevitably result in “works of the law.” Also, do not repent over and over again. Instead, pray thanking God for his complete forgiveness with a heart of “I believe. Help my unbelief (Mark 9:24).” God is patient and more concerned that you understand the cross than His is needy (blasphemous word) for your service. Then, out of the relief and joy that emerges, love people, study God’s word, and offer the lost the hope you have found.