21 Sep Quarter Three Lesson Two
Overcoming and Guilt
Welcome back, friend. Today, we will discuss a topic to which everyone should be able to relate: guilt.
In the news recently, there was an account of a surfer who got caught off guard by a storm. The wind was strong and the waves were higher than his experience could handle; he was knocked off his board. He tried to swim to shore, made it over one wave, then another as he made his way in to land, but then all of a sudden a very strong riptide pulled him back out into the midst of the ferocious waves. Time after time he would make a little progress, make it over a wave or two, but then get towed right back out. After a long time of this effort he was thoroughly exhausted and unable to fight the undertow any longer. Having given up, and awaiting what he thought was certain death, he floated out and away from the riptide and was shortly thereafter rescued by a lifeguard on a boat.
Guilt is like that undertow, constantly knocking us down and dragging us back out into the ocean of sin. We might make a little progress on individual sins, but the power of guilt is such that it can easily exhaust us, injure us and might even drown us. Jesus said, “Whoever sins is a slave of sin” (John 8:34). When we sin, it is normal to have guilt. This guilt can ensnare us, make us slaves, and keep us tied to our sin struggle if it is not dealt with properly through the gospel.
There are many groups today that attempt to teach people how to overcome a particular bad habit in their life. Yet if the hidden issue of guilt is not addressed correctly these groups find that the people who come to them are hurled back into their life-dominating problem, or they exchange one problem for another. This is because the “undertow” of guilt is very powerful, even deadly (many suicides are traced to guilt), and can easily overcome superficial motivations such as a token or applause from people.
The reality is that we would really make very little progress throughout the remaining lessons of learning how to overcome if we do not deal with our guilt properly which is why we are addressing the topic today.
Question 1. What is your present understanding of guilt? What is guilt? Who has guilt? What is your understanding of how to be free from guilt?
In the Old Testament God established the use of a “Guilt Offering” for people who had sinned, in order that they might be forgiven. Let us look at this together and see how it might help free us from sin’s penalty and sin’s slavery:
“If a person sins and does what is forbidden in any of the LORD’s commands, even though he does not know it, he is guilty and will be held responsible. 18 He is to bring to the priest as a guilt offering a ram from the flock, one without defect and of the proper value. In this way the priest will make atonement for him for the wrong he has committed unintentionally, and he will be forgiven. 19 It is a guilt offering; he has been guilty of wrongdoing against the LORD.” Leviticus 5:17-19 (NIV)
Question 2. According to the above passage, what would bring guilt upon a person?
It is clear that sin brings guilt, and that when someone sinned they would be held responsible for the sin. This was true even if they did not know they were breaking a command. Sin committed in ignorance is still sin and still brings guilt. In the New Testament, James writes, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.” (James 2: 10 ESV)
It is very important to understand that guilt brings punishment. In the court system a person who is accused of a crime goes through the “trial phase” and if found guilty then goes through the “penalty (or punishment) phase”
When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: John 16:8 (NIV)
Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Romans 3:19 (KJV)
But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe. Galatians 3:22 (NIV)
We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. 1 John 5:19 (NIV)
Question 3. What do the above Bible passages all have in common? What truth are they teaching?
From the above Scriptures, we see that every person is a sinner, the whole world is a prisoner of sin and under the control of Satan. This might be difficult to comprehend, but the Bible tells us that we all inherited our sin nature from Adam, and we are all guilty before God.
And remember, guilt brings punishment. God told Adam and Eve, “the day you eat of it (the forbidden tree) you will die” (Genesis 2:17). God tells us in the New Testament, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). So every human being is guilty and has been given a death sentence as a result.
It is as if the whole world is on a conveyor belt leading to death because from childhood we rebelled against God. We did not turn to God but rather to sin to relieve stress, to combat boredom, or to find comfort. In the end, we became slaves to sin. Our sin has brought guilt upon us, and guilt means punishment.
Question 4. According to the teaching of the “Guilt Offering” in Leviticus 5:18, what did God prescribe for those who were guilty of sin?
He is to bring to the priest as a guilt offering a ram from the flock, one without defect and of the proper value. In this way the priest will make atonement for him for the wrong he has committed unintentionally, and he will be forgiven. Leviticus 5:18 (NIV)
God responded to the sin of His people by providing a solution. They could offer a substitute to receive the punishment in their place: a ram from the flock. This ram had to be “one without defect”; in other words, the people could not bring a ram that had no value, a “throwaway” ram. No, it had to be spotless, perfect in every way. It had to have “proper value.”
This is the very reason that we human beings cannot make atonement for ourselves, for we are all spotted in sin; we all have defects. God does not accept any sacrifice we make to atone for our own sins. Some religious groups beat themselves, subject themselves to fire or extreme cold, crawl for miles on their hands and knees, etc. hoping to atone for their sins. These acts of sacrifice, however, are not accepted by God, as the Guilt Offering had to be entirely without defect. A sinner cannot atone for sin.
Notice what the Bible says about Jesus:
For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 1 Peter 1:18-19 (NIV)
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin. Hebrews 4:15 (NIV)
Question 5. How do the above Bible passages show the qualification of Jesus Christ to be our “Guilt Offering”?
Jesus Christ came to this earth as a man, as God in the flesh, a human being. He was subject to all the temptations that every human being experiences, yet He lived a perfect life, never sinning one time, or even with one thought. He was perfect in every way, flawless, spotless, and holy, without sin.
Question 6. According to Leviticus 5:18 what would be the result of the Guilt Offering being accepted by the High Priest?
The High Priest would “make atonement for him…and he will be forgiven.” In context, this means that the guilty sinner would be forgiven of his sin, and that the guilt would no longer apply to him. He would be free from both sin and guilt.
This is mercy and grace to a people who did not deserve it. They had sinned, they were guilty, and they were under the death sentence. But God accepted a “perfect” sacrifice in their place, the sacrifice died for them, and they were forgiven of their sin and freed from all guilt.
Can you imagine this experience? Say a son comes to his father and says, “Father I have sinned, a lie slipped out of my mouth before I could catch it, and then I started lying to cover up the lie.”
The father then takes his son out to the field and says, “Son, look at the flock, I want you to pick out a ram without any spots or defects. Pick the best of the best.” Then together they take that ram to the priest as a Guilt Offering. The priest lifts the head of the ram and slits its throat, and the ram dies a bloody death in front of the boy.
The boy cries, “Father, what just happened? Why did that perfect lamb have to die?”
The father answers, “Son, God has told us in his law that if we disobey Him we must die. Your sin of lying made you guilty and deserving of death. But God made a way out for you, He said we could take a perfect lamb to the priest, and that the priest would offer it up as a Guilt Offering, and it would die instead of you. Son, you are now completely forgiven, you are no longer guilty. It is as if this never happened.”
Dear friend, this Guilt Offering God prescribed for those in the Old Testament is significant to us because it pointed forward to Jesus Christ, the ultimate sacrifice for sin. In the Old Testament, the Guilt Offering was merely temporary, pointing forward to the “once for all” offering of Jesus Christ (see Hebrews 9:12, 9:26 and 10:10).
Notice what God calls His Son in the following Bible passage:
Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. 11 After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light [of life] and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Isaiah 53:10-11 (NIV)
Question 7. According to Isaiah 53:10, what did God make the life of Jesus Christ?
God promised that through the New Covenant (that Jesus would bring about through His death): “I will forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more” (Hebrews 8:12).
Question 8. Considering that Jesus Christ is your Guilt Offering, what does that do for you? Please answer using the very words of Leviticus 5:18:
You, as a believer in Jesus Christ, are forgiven of all your sin, and freed from all your guilt. This is because Jesus assumed your sin, took it all on Himself, and paid the penalty of sin for you. He became your Guilt Offering, dying in punishment for your sin, thereby forgiving you of all sin, and freeing you of all guilt. Guilt was only removed for a season under the sacrificial system, but with the perfect sacrifice of Christ it was removed for all eternity.
Pause and take this truth into your heart. You are not guilty of any sin, you are forgiven and free from your past, your debt is paid, and you will never face judgment for any sin. There is no “undertow” of guilt in your life any longer.
Question 9. What does the contemplation of being free from all sin and all guilt do for you just now? In other words, what thoughts do you get from considering that Jesus is your Guilt Offering Who freed you from sin and guilt?
Finally, we want you to understand that “guilt feelings” are not the same as guilt. A person sometimes “feels guilty” about something, maybe because of their upbringing or some other reason, when there is actually no guilt.
I heard a pastor one time tell how he had obtained a big, thick medical book to reference when one of the people in his congregation got sick with something. He wanted to know and understand the illness with which the individual was coping. Over time, he started to notice that as he was reading about the illnesses, he started fearing that he might have the disease himself. He didn’t actually have the disease, he just thought he did.
Similarly, believers can have distressing guilt feelings when they are, in fact, legally not guilty. Friend, to overcome, we must learn to live in the truth of the gospel and not in the lies of our feelings. Sometimes the memory of our sin comes back to haunt us, the pictures we have in our minds can make us feel condemned. But we must let the reminders of our sin cause us to immediately remember our Guilt Offering, the Lord Jesus. We must see that He suffered on the cross for our sin, that He assumed our guilt and died under the penalty of the wrongs we committed. We are therefore forgiven and guilt free.
“In this way the priest will make atonement for him for the wrong he has committed unintentionally, and he will be forgiven.”—Leviticus 5:18
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, Romans 8:1 (NIV)
Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died–more than that, who was raised to life–is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Romans 8:33-34 (NIV)
We are studying in this quarter’s lessons how to overcome sin. The first lesson showed us that the gospel motivates us to turn from selfish living and to be controlled by the love of Christ instead. In this lesson, we learned that we wouldn’t make much progress overcoming individual sins if we are in the “undertow” of guilt.
Instead of leaving us drowning in sin God has provided a Guilt Offering for all who believe. We are now sin free and guilt free. There is no undertow of guilt in the life of a believer to drag them back out into the waves of sin, for Jesus has become our Guilt Offering.
Question 10. Why is this knowledge, of being free from guilt, so important for anyone desiring to overcome sin in their life? As you think on the teaching of this lesson, are you confident that you are entirely free from guilt?