Guilt and Grace in the New Year
Normally I’d tell you what text to turn to, because we like to go through expositional passages of the Bible. Or at least scripturally, we go though sections of scripture together. Today, for the end this New Year, we’re going to do this a little bit differently. I’m going to end this year by just focusing on some theme ideas related to scripture, to help us with a fresh outlook to next year.
So we’re going to look at, this morning, topically as it relates to the new year. When we say we’re starting a new year 2019, I know some of you never thought that you would see this year. You just say the year 2019, all of a sudden your bones feel just old. 2019, I am so angry, I was supposed to be coming to church on at least a hover board if not a flying car already, all right? That Marty McFly lied to me. 2019? When you say that, you like, can we just stop and wait.
Then others look at 2018, and you’re like nope, and I want to get rid of last year. There’s a lot of emotions that come with a new year, and some people like to take this time of year and think of resolutions. Some people are not big on resolutions. Either way, a new year is a time for a fresh start. Sort of a year to set a reset for your life, and to think about some things you would like to see happen next year, so you can crush it. Right?
2019 and all that it represents, whether vacations, bucket lists, habits you want to break, personal goals for your life. I was reading through some of the things people put on internet for this year. If you’re looking for some ideas, here’s a few. One person wanted to get ahead of the game, with their new hair growth I guess. So they’re more interested in maintaining trimming their nose and ear hair. That’s a pretty good one. Or one person, on the next thing they purchase, they want to actually read the manual before they put it together. Good idea.
Or, consider taking up a new hobby, such as procrastination. Or, maybe later. That’s a good one. Or realize this year that God loves you, and embrace the fact that chocolate is the proof. I’ve been doing that my whole life. I like this one. Loose enough weight that my gut doesn’t jiggle when I brush my teeth. That was a good … Yes. Or, here’s one. Stop hanging out with people that ask me about my New Years resolution. You don’t need a resolution when you’re already perfect. That’s good.
Or, here’s the last one. One guys resolution was to quit all of his bad habits, but then he realized that nobody likes a quitter. Yes. Maybe you’re not big into resolutions, or looking at the New Year that way. But, no one starts a new year thinking of all the ways they could fail. Truth is, you don’t need a new year to start something new, but a new year does give you a place to think about change.
And as you look at 2019, and all that it might hold for you, I think it’s good for us to pause as God’s people and consider, what does God want? When you think about 2019, as it relates to your relationship with God, what might God want for your life? Or have you even stopped to consider how God fits into all that?
I think we all have great personal goals, like maybe you want to fit into your college jeans again. Or maybe control your spending, or get a new job. But I think by far, one of the most important questions we consider in life is just to simply ask, why am I here? And, what does God want for my life? Especially when you think about the beginnings of a new year, and I don’t want this to sound fluffy, but I do want us to consider this.
When it comes to God, He is a God that likes to do things new. And, when you look throughout scripture, there are so many passages that reflect that idea as it relates to God. And I think that’s important for God’s people, because it gives us hope. Right? If God wasn’t a God that was about making things new, I would have given up a long time ago.
But the book if Isaiah, chapter 43, verse 18 says it like this. God in this passage, He’s really reflecting in this section of scripture. One on the exodus, which we talked about last week, and I want to dive into that again. But, He’s also thinking about how He desires to make things new, because life today isn’t that way God intended it to.
When God, He created the Garden of Eden, in perfection in relationship with Him. And, scripture tells the story of God wanting to make things new again, and God is moving that way. In Isaiah 43:18 says this, talking to Israel says, “Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder the things of the past. Behold I will do something new. Now it will spring forth. Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert. The beast of the field will glorify me. The jackals and the ostriches, because I have given waters in the wilderness and desert, to give drink to my chosen people. The people whom I formed for myself, will declare my praise”.
God desires to make things new. You know I even think, as Christians if you walked with Jesus for sometime, sometimes you get accustomed to that. But I think it’s important to not only recognize that God wants to make things new, but as a believer if you’re feeling a little stale or maybe you’re just on the shelf not being used for the Lord, God not only likes to make things new but He’s also a God that likes to renew.
When you read through scripture, David says this in Psalm 51:10. He says, his prayer was, create in me a new heart oh God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Romans 12, Paul encouraged us, do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Or even 2 Corinthians, chapter 4, I love this verse. It says this, therefore we do not lose heart. I love that beginning statement, because it’s acknowledging that life is hard, but there is hope. Right?
So therefore, we do not lose heart. But though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. God’s not only in the business of making things new, but He’s in the business of taking those things and continuing to renew them. So to do something new, or renew, this also means for us, that something has to be different.
I would say it like this, in a very simplistic way, God made you to be different. This world, this versus acknowledging, there is some adversity in this world. There’s some challenges to this world, but because God is a God that makes things new, and God calls you to belong to Him. In belonging to Him, God desires for you to be made new.
And in order to be made new, that means therefore, that we are to be different. To leave behind, as Isaiah said, the things of the past and to grab hold of the things God calls us to in Him. God wants to create a change within you. One of my favorite verses as it relates to this, is 2 Corinthians just a little bit before that section, that verse we just read. It says this, when you think about what is God’s goal for my life in 2019. I could tell you it’s the same goal as 2018.
And really the same goal for your whole life. It says this in 2 Corinthians 3:18, “But we all with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed in the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord the Spirit”.
What he’s saying in this passage is that God’s goal for your life, is really to conform you to the image of Christ. To make you new in this way. And the way it describes it in this passage is, moment by moment. What God is doing in you, in pursuing Jesus, He’s using moment by moment to conform you into His image. I love the way Philippians chapter one, verse six says, that He that began a good work in you will bring it to completion.
Like God knows that you’re not there yet, and God doesn’t give up on you. But God desires to do that work in you, to make it new and to renew it on a daily basis. Because we understand in this world there’s a conflict, there is a struggle. But God wants to make things new.
I often, the moment we recognize that God wants to make things new, or if you’ve been a believer following after Jesus and you’re familiar with that thought, we can get skeptical, sometimes we can doubt. We can even feel guilty. I mean, in order to make things new, it also requires that things aren’t the way they should be. Like in my own life.
God wants to renew in me, and the reason He wants to renew in me is because there’s a struggle within in me, that I hold on to things that aren’t about what He wants to do. They’re contrary to Him. And in seeing my own heart in conflict with God, the guilt of that, right?
There can be a struggle in my inner man, I see the way that You write these verses and all the optimism that comes with that, and that’s good for everyone else, but is there really hope for me? I’m tired of failing. I’m tired of not being who I know you’ve called me to be.
When you think about 2019 and those struggles, I think sometimes we don’t like to think about that reset or those thing of being made new. Honestly, because we get a little jaded about how things have gone. We struggle. So how do you find freedom from that guilt? To look forward to a successful new year?
We can handle guilt as people, in so many unhealthy ways, that conflict with the renewing idea that God represents in scripture for us. And I’ve thought about some of those this week, when you think about the beginning of the new year. One is, I think sometimes as people, we recognize as people that we’re often guilty. And one of the things we tend to do in that, is we deny our guilt. And the reason, I think, we deny guilt, is sometimes we don’t know exactly what to do with it. So we ignore it, pretend like it doesn’t exist. We sweep it under the rug, right?
Or, we pretend like guilt is not real, because we’ve abused by some sort of religious legalistic system. One of the things I’ve noticed in life, there’s a lot of people that might claim to be atheists in this world, especially in American context. But you know, when you talk to people that hold that claim, often times I have found with having conversation with them, they’re not really rejecting God. What they really reject is the idea of this God that they’ve concocted in their mind.
And because they’ve seen God taught in their religious oppressive system, they often think that God is that way. He’s a God that brings a lot of guilt, but no grace. And in their mind they reject the idea of that God. They’re not really rejecting God, they’re rejecting the idea of that God. And when we talk to people about the rejection of that God, often times we can come to them. Like people that claim that there is no God and they’re rejecting God, we find out why they reject God, because they’ve created this monster image of who God is.
Like when we talk to them, we can affirm if that was who God was, I would not follow that God either. Right? But you know, one of the ironies of rejecting a God because you don’t like a certain system that places this guilt on you, like a religious system. I don’t think religion is the answer. But you know, one of the ironies of people that reject God because they don’t like the guilt that represents maybe in religion and the God that it demonstrates, is that rejecting that God, they’re honestly proving the existence of God.
And here’s the reason why, is that, anytime in life you recognize things aren’t as they should be, and then you hold to a moral ought that they should be a different way than that, and you don’t like it because they’re not that way. Anytime you hold to a moral ought, as if it should be universal, you’re acknowledging a universal law giver. Someone has dictated what is right or wrong. And so anytime we disagree with something because it’s not as it should be, we’re acknowledging a universal law giver.
It’s therefore, in rejecting the idea of guilt because we don’t like it, we’re actually acknowledging the existence of a moral law giver or God, because there is someone that has dictated it. So rejecting guilt isn’t an answer, in fact it compounds the problem. But we tend to sometimes, we deny the fact that guilt exists. Or we attempt to conquer our guilt, by trying to be better people, which works for like five minutes.
But what happens when you fail again? Or we deflect our guilt by comparing ourselves to others. We don’t really know how to handle it with God, so we just compare ourselves to others to make ourselves feel better. I yell at my kids but at least I don’t hit my kids. Or, I may cheat on my taxes, but at least I didn’t kill anybody. Right?
We try to justify ourselves by comparing ourselves to others. And when you study scripture, that story’s as old as the Garden of Eden. Adam did that with Eve. Like Adam sins and he says to God, it was the woman that you gave me, right? She’s more messed up than I am. And then he was like, it was the serpent. He’s more messed up than I am. We do that as people.
We compare ourselves to avoid guilt. But the truth is that that really heaps more guilt, because it identifies pride within us, or it brings us to despair. We look down on those that don’t do what we do. We get angry with those that don’t do what we would recommend that should do, because we think we’re better. We get bitter at those that act better, or that are different than us.
So we compare ourselves to work through our guilt, or maybe this last one that I’ll say, we just get obsessed with it. Like we just fail and we don’t know what to do about it. Obsessing over your failures leads to depression and despair. Changing because of guilt is a horrible motivator, that will last temporarily. But when you look in the Psalms, David writes it like this in Psalm 32:3, he says, “When I kept silent my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For a day and a night, your hand was very heavy upon me. My strength was sapped as in the heat of the summer”.
You know what that’s like, right? You blow it and the guilt, just on your shoulders, what do you do with it? Obsess over it? Become depressed by it? You don’t even want to get up. You know, if you feel guilty about past failures in life, I want you to know you’re in good company. I mean, David walked that path. It’s normal. I think it’s normal to go through those experiences, but it’s what you do with guilt that determines your health.
God wants to do something new in you. Conform you into the image of His Son. You can’t be what everyone else wants you to be. But you can be who God has called you to be in Him. Yet, even when you try to move who God has called you to be, you’re not going to be perfect. I’m not a perfect pastor. But you know the truth is, being a pastor is not who I am. It’s just what I do.
Who I am is a child of a King. And in my failure, Jesus makes me whole. Guilt is something we all have to learn to deal with, in a healthy way, so we can be who God has called us to be. So when you think about a new year like the one that’s coming, you could answer the question, what does God want?
You consider in scripture, let me just give you four thoughts to think, when you approach this new year, four thoughts I think helps us to move out of the idea of guilt, not to be a prisoner there. But to move into what God calls making things new or being renewed in Him.
The first thing that I think is important for us to do is, we’ve got to go to God in our guilt. In a sense, let God have it. Hebrews chapter 4:12, says it like this, “For the Word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two edged sword. And piercing as far as the division of the soul and of the spirit, and of both joint and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight. But all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do”.
So here’s the truth of the matter when it comes to guilt. God already sees your heart. You aren’t fooling Him by avoiding Him. But when you read a verse like this, this verse is a fairly scary verse, just a couple of verses, if we just end it here, because this is a God that has exposed you where you’re at. And He’s really, I just said to you, go to God in your guilt. He’s going to call you in this passage to Him.
And when you read a verse like this you’re like, so what could happen? So He could see the wickedness of what’s in there and really just do me in? Like, does He know what He’s asking here, when he exposes my heart, and that’s laid bare? But this isn’t a religious trick just to guilt you. But it is to be aware of the reality, that even in our guilt, it’s not hidden from God.
God is completely aware. He knows every failure of 2018. Which is why the author then gives these next verses. He says this verse 14, “Therefore, since we have a great high priest, who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God. Let us hold fast our confession”. Look at that guys, it says … When you go through guilt in life, the tendency is to run away from God, because of the guilt. But he’s saying in this instance, rather than run away, go fast to this confession.
He is a great high priest. Verse 15, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weakness, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore, let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may find and receive mercy, and find grace to help in the time of need”.
Why is coming to God in guilt a healthy step? Verse 14 to 16 tell you. So verse 12 to 13, you are laid bare, there is no hiding. In verses 14 to 16 then explains to you why then, it calls you into God in this way. And the response in these verses tell you a few things about God. That He is very aware of your sinful condition, and on top of that He is sympathetic toward your sinful condition.
And in the midst of the struggle in our own heart, God is for you. That God cares. That God wants you to go straight to Him in confession. I love that. There are no hoops to jump, there is no process, there are no religious leaders between you and God, it’s you and God. And the access that you’re granted because of what Jesus has done for you, is directly before His presence.
God knows. God knows and that’s why He died. So God calls you in the midst of your own struggles into His presence, because of what He has done for you. And what it’s saying in this passage, is that you get to come back to God and start a new year every day. That’s what renewing is. Every day is this start over, and when you’re open to God about your sins, guess what you get? Gracious, patient, and loving.
That’s what these verses say. That God is for you. So go to God in your guilt, and then I would say, by renewed in Jesus. He makes things new. First John, chapter two, I love first John, it’s a … One of the things that people get confused with over this chapter, or over this book I should say, is who John is addressing. I think it’s important for you to know, Christian, is who John is addressing is the Christian.
And when you get to this book, you turn to 1 John 1:9 it says, “if we confess our sins, He’s faithful and just to cleanse us of our sins and all our unrighteousness”. And in chapter 2:1 he says this, “My little children, I’m writing these things to you”. Notice he calls you little children here, okay?
“My little children, I’m writing these things to you so you may not sin. And if anyone sins we have an advocate in Jesus Christ the righteous. He himself is the propitiation for our sins”. This means He satisfies God’s wrath, the word propitiation, he satisfies God’s wrath and makes us right with the Lord. And so He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.
This is why this is important to know that he’s writing to believers. To say this, look if you belong to Jesus, you belong to Jesus. There’s nothing that can separate you. Romans 8 says this, “shall heights, shall depth, shall angels and principalities, and powers. What can separate me from Christ”? Nothing. That’s the answer in Romans 8, that’s what the author comes to. Nothing can separate you.
You belong to Jesus, the Bible tells us in Ephesians chapter 1, He seals you in His spirit. And that sealing is important. In Jesus’ day, kings would seal documents. And it was considered official. And the only one that could break the seal was someone more powerful than the king. So when the king put something into law, it was in law and it couldn’t be broken.
But when you think about that same sealing, when it relates to God’s people, when God seals you in Him, what can break that? Shall height, shall depth, shall principalities and powers? No nothing can separate you from the love in Christ Jesus. Nothing can. Nothing can separate you from belonging to Jesus. When Jesus paid for you, He paid it all.
But here’s what happens in life. In a family, like I have a few boys and they get wild. Like for Christmas, it was nothing but testosterone in every gift that they got. And they’ve used those to beat each other up so far. And then they get in trouble, right? And while I’ll always love my kids, there are difficulties that we go through that will often strain our relationship. Not drastic, I mean they’re little.
But every time there’s sin present in relationship, it creates distance. And the goal of God is always reconciliation. I mean, that’s what the cross is, God’s reconciliation to you. He wants you with Him, that is the best place you can be. Same thing with my kids. I am their father, I love them and I think about the maturity of them becoming young men. And when I can walk life with them close, the more I can influence, and the more I can help them be person that God has called them to be.
But when sin’s present, there’s distance. And that’s what 1 John 2 is saying. That you belong to Him, but sometimes in life sin’s present in your relationship with God. Often in life, sin is present in your relationship with God. What do you do with that? Go to Him in your guilt, and you’ll be renewed. God loves you, and God is for you.
That’s what 1 John 2 says, look we don’t want you to sin, but if you do sin, look at this. God is for you. What God desires to do in you, is to make you new. He may not be for what you do, but He is for you. I love, Romans 8:31, if God is for us, who can be against us? In Romans 8:37, we are more than conquerors in Christ. I like Lamentations 3:22 he says this, “His compassion never fails. They are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness”.
Because if I didn’t believe those verses, I would have quit in my walk with God, a long time ago. I probably would have quit on life. But God is God that renews. Go to God in your guilt, be renewed in Jesus. And here’s one you don’t do. Don’t create double jeopardy. Rather, live in His promises.
You guys know what jeopardy is? Don’t confuse that with Jeopardy Daily Double, okay? It’s not the Daily Double in Jeopardy. But, double jeopardy, right? That means when someone pays for a crime, and then someone else comes and pays for that same crime.
Here’s what the Bible says in Romans 8, “Therefore there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”. Like sometimes we sin in our lives, and we feel like we’ve got to add something to what Jesus has already done for us. Jesus has paid for the crime. It tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “He became sin who knew no sin, that we may become the righteousness of God in Him”. Jesus already paid for my sin. There is no double jeopardy.
Rather, walking in the promises. Jesus is enough. The truth is guys, when we think about being renewed in Jesus, guilt can often be the enemy of my sanctification. By the word sanctification, what we’re acknowledging in 2 Corinthians 3:18 is, day by day God wants to conform you into the image of His Son. God’s doing a work in me.
My sanctification, there’s a process in sanctification. It all belongs to God, it doesn’t involve me in my strength. But guilt becomes the enemy of sanctification when I don’t accept the sufficiency of Jesus for what He’s already done on my behalf. Double jeopardy.
Guilt is the enemy of my sanctification, and the reason it works in the hand of the enemy is that, Satan wants your past and your present. Jesus wants your presence, and he wants your present free from your past. Romans 8 means this for us, you don’t have to be afraid to approach God, rather run to Him. To give up on self, there’s nothing that you can pay, He’s already paid it. To give up on self and to give in to Jesus.
And the last I would say is this. Let the peace of God rule in your hearts. Romans 5:1 says this, “Therefore, having been justified”, that literally means being made right. Having been made right by faith. We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. You have peace with God.
Instead of denying guilt, instead of making resolutions due to guilt, instead of looking down on others to feel better about yourself, or obsessing over guilt, the process in scripture is this. Acknowledge your guilt and go to Jesus. Accept His love and forgiveness, as you’re renewed in Him, not double jeopardy, and walk in the newness of that peace.
Let the peace of God rule your heart. Jesus is enough. Jesus paid for it all, because He wanted to do something new in you. And He wanted to continue to renew you. Every new year presents another opportunity to grow in Christ. By one, agreeing with God in my failures. Turning it over to Him because of the cross, and saying to Him, not my will buy Yours be done. I think it’s how we experience peace in our soul and freedom from guilt, because Jesus is enough.
And God knows that you’re not perfect, and you won’t be perfect. That’s why He gave you the verses that we read today. These verses were born out of the adversity and struggle of humanity. However, at the same time God wants to give you an incredible future, by the sufficiency of Christ, and the promises of the cross on behalf of your life.
So here’s the encouragement. Some years can be real rear end kickers. I want to encourage you, don’t quit fighting. Don’t quit fighting your battle to die to self and be made new in Jesus. Let God’s grace renew you every day this year. His grace is available to you at any moment. If we would by faith, as this verse says, be justified in Him. Go to God, be renewed in Christ because of the cross, let His cross be sufficient, not double jeopardy, and walk in the peace of a God who’s for you.