Reflection by Pastor Shawn:
“Sometimes I feel like God is angry with me when I mess up.” I think we’ve all felt this way at some point. We feel like God is really mad when we sin, like our failures make him steam with rage against us.
We know that God takes sin very seriously. So when we feel this way, we shouldn’t say, “Sin is no big deal.” What we should say, “God’s grace is bigger than my sin.”
As Christians, God has shown us grace. Grace is ultimately about God’s attitude towards us: he is *for us*. He is for us not because we are innocent, not because we have earned it, and not because we deserve it. He is for us because of him, not us. He is for us because, even though he is not at all required to do so, he loves us. He just does. His love for us is completely free.
God’s gracious love leads him to act to save us undeserving people. In Jesus we have the fullness of God’s grace. Jesus saves us and gives us his right standing before God, so we are free from the guilt of sin. He also gives us the Holy Spirit to work in our lives.
And so, if we are in Christ, we are free from guilt. We are forgiven; God is not angry with our sin or with us. So we shouldn’t feel like God is mad at us or distant from us.
So what should we do with feelings of guilt when we sin and fail and disobey God? We know we do not stand guilty before God, but what about when we still *feel* guilty? Should we just push those feelings away? Is there any room at all for guilt in the Christian life? Yes, I think there is, but only a certain kind. We do not feel guilty because we think God hates us—in Jesus Christ, we stand in the love of God. But there is a certain type of healthy Christian guilt. Although because we are “in Christ” we are not objectively guilty in our standing before God, we should experience certain feelings of dissonance when we do not act like who we are—in that sense, “guilt.” The struggle against sin is ongoing throughout our lives, and when we sin, we are not *being ourselves*: we are not in congruence with who we actually are in Christ. As the Holy Spirit works in us, when we sin in response we should say, “this is not right, and this is not who I really am. I am in Christ and I am loved by God.”
That’s why regular repentance is important, and why we have a time of confession and a pronouncement of forgiveness every Sunday morning. We each made a fundamental turn when we first came to Christ—we turned away from sin and turned to Christ in saving faith. We reaffirm and re-enact that first repentance over and over as God works in us. In response to God’s grace, in gratitude, we make ongoing repentance part of our lives and our discipleship as we become more like Jesus. But we do this not to earn forgiveness or to make God love us more, but as a free response to what he has done for us.