Are you being judged? By others or even yourself? Are you innocent or guilty? Do you think that God can ever forgive you? Does it weigh you down? ◊
I was talking to a man once about Biblical faith and the forgiveness of God. He said, “But Mike, you don’t know what I’ve done.” He was right, I didn’t know. And in that context, I didn’t need to know. But I did know that he was struggling with the weight of his guilt and shame. In his view, God could never forgive what he had done. He was very aware of his sin, and it was eating away at him.
Many people today have a big problem with merely the word sin. It sounds so judgmental to them. They’ll acknowledge people’s issues or hang-ups, just don’t put any value-judgment on them like the sin word.
For some it might be easy to say “I’m okay – everybody sins. God forgives me.” Others may say “It doesn’t matter. I’m still a good person.” But many, like that man, may be crushed by guilt and feel separated from or even abandoned by God.
Where do you stand on the matter?
Are you carrying a burden to some degree or another? Does the burden weigh you down or are you so calloused that there is no remorse or heart of sorrow?
No Big Deal. Yes, It is.
There’s a common temptation these days to minimize our sins or wrong-doings or those of others. Actually, sin is a pretty big deal. The word sin is first used in the Bible in Genesis 4:7. From it’s Hebrew meaning of an offense and punishment, the Greek translation uses the word hamartia which actually means failure, being in error, or missing the mark, like a marksman misses a target.
This actually understates the significance of the word, Biblically speaking. Sin is not a mistake. It’s an obvious move of our own volition to place ourselves above God.
Sin is what separates us from God who is holy and without sin. God, as Creator, is so beyond natural categorization (Alpha, Omega, Ancient of Days, Mighty God, Consuming Fire, Most High, Everlasting, Father, I AM, Jehovah, King of Kings, Lord, Majesty, Redeemer, Trinity, Yahweh, to name a few descriptors), that any attempt to normalize, trivialize or take Him lightly is treading on very dangerous ground.
And we all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God (Romans 3:23).
If you think about it, people have 4 distinct reactions to their sin:
- Don’t care – These are people who think they’re above God or don’t acknowledge God or are so Biblically disconnected they don’t even register an opinion.
- Gloss Over – These are people that have watered down their own elementary theology into a self-justifying viewpoint that sin is glossed over by God if covered over by good-person deeds.
- Can’t Forgive – These are believers who can’t let go of their past sin(s) and believe that God can’t either. They live in guilt-ridden depression and have difficulty moving forward in forgiveness and restoration. Sadly, this is where many Christians find themselves.
- Godly Sorrow – These are healthy believers who understand the love, gift, promises, and nature of God and His accounting for our damning sin problem. They bring deep repentance and confession to God with sincere sorrow and regret in humble acceptance of God’s grace and forgiveness. They know there is no further condemnation in Christ.
Those in the Godly Sorrow category may then vow to “go and sin no more.” (John 8:11) And though they may sin in the future, they know that He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
As 19th century English theologian, J. C. Philpot, puts it:
Godly sorrow is always attended with self-loathing and self-abhorrence; with deep and unreserved confession of sin and forsaking it; with most hearty, sincere and earnest petitions to be kept from all evil; and a holy longing to live in the praise and glory of God.1
The Bible records even God-fearing people reacting to sin in confounded ways. Philpot points out that Cain, Esau, Saul, Ahab, and Judas all repented. But their repentance was the remorse of natural conscience, not the godly sorrow of a broken heart and a contrite spirit.They trembled before God as an angry Judge, but were not melted into contrition before Him as a forgiving Father.
He notes they neither hated their sins nor forsook them. They neither loved holiness nor sought it:
- Cain went out from the presence of the Lord.
- Esau plotted Jacob’s death.
- Saul consulted the witch of Endor.
- Ahab put honest Micaiah into prison.
- Judas hanged himself.
Now compare these responses to the godly sorrow of King David as captured in his beautiful prayer in Psalms 51:
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place….
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you. Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise….
In spite of David’s dark and dire sins (adultery and murder), he knew the nature, love, compassion and forgiveness of God his loving Savior and Heavenly Father.
And no matter the depths of our own sin, that’s the way we should be coming to God ourselves, as a sorrowful and contrite child may come before a loving and forgiving earthly father.
Yes, create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me!
How do you respond to sin?
Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. – 2 Corinthians 7:10-11
1 J. C. Philpot, Sorrow of the World and Godly Sorrow, https://jcphilpot.wordpress.com/2015/04/24/sorrow-of-the-world-and-godly-sorrow/