One of my favourite hymns begins with these amazing words.
"I stand amazed in the presence
Of Jesus the Nazarene,
And wonder how He could love me;
A sinner, condemned, unclean”
So often I screw my eyes shut, clench my fists and sing out those lines with head-shaking, open-mouthed wonder. I do it because I am a failure. We all are. We have all failed to live perfectly. And yet, as Christians, we are in a perfect relationship with a perfect God. How can it be?
Every day of my life is littered with evidence of my shortcomings. Unkind words, ugly thoughts and ungodly desires reveal my failure to be what God has created and called me to be. In the face of this failure my head falls and my shoulders sink under the weight of guilt’s heavy burden.
This prompting by the Holy Spirit to repent is ultimately restorative, but if I sit in shame instead of running to Jesus, I am denying the completeness of His work on the cross.
My standing with God has never been based on my righteous performance but on Jesus' perfect obedience. He willingly hung on a cross so that I never have to bear the consequences of my guilt. There is no requirement for me to carry anything! Because I am in Him, I am counted righteous by God. There is nothing I can do to make God love me any more, and nothing I can do to make Him love me any less. Although I may often feel His convicting flash across my heart, I don't ever need to stoop in fear of a punishing crack across my back.
We are called to live holy lives, but the way we live is not the basis of our standing with God. Positioning our lives around Him through obedience to His word is not about earning anything, but rather, it is a response to Him first loving us. We can confess our failure to Him on our knees knowing that we will receive grace instead of punishment because Jesus has already been punished instead of us.
If God has willingly cancelled out the thing that guilt is making you hold on to, you are free to let it go as well! You don’t need to keep punishing yourself for debts that God has already cancelled. Your acceptance before God has been purchased and doesn’t need to be purchased again. There is nothing you can do to be more accepted - you are accepted. Your acceptance is as secure on your very best day as it was on your very worst and it means that you and I will never see the back of God’s head.
God has no interest in seeing you bullied by guilt out of embracing the new identity He gave you. Stop letting it get in the way of who you are supposed to be. Drop this burden that you are no longer required to carry, believe that you are a new creation, centre your life on Jesus the Nazarene with thankful amazement and go and tell the world about Him.
You are free.
Believe it. Believe it. Believe it.