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Guilt is a killer, a killer of our joy, our peace, and our enjoyment of intimacy with God.
If Satan can use guilt (which our Lord has already taken away) to use as a wedge to separate us from God, his strategy to take us as a captive in the battle is secure.
It makes no difference to him that the guilt, separation, and captivity are imagined and not real.
This is vividly described by the popular Christian author Hal Lindsey.
"One of the most successful tactics the demons use in neutralizing their enemies (the Christians) is to get them to dwell on all of their failures.
Once they begin feeling guilty about their performance in the Christian life, they are no longer any threat to Satan's program.
"Things haven't changed much in Satan's tactics.
Why should they? He's got a winner.
"There's nothing Satan likes better than to get a believer started on a guilt trip.
"As I look back over my own life, I realize that guilt is a handle that the Devil constantly tries to grab to steer me.
One classic illustration that comes to mind happened to me my third year in seminary.
One fellow was a real close buddy of mine.
We had had three years of great times together.
Then I borrowed some money from him.
I told him I would be able to pay him back in about two weeks.
"After a week went by, I began to be concerned a little about where the money was going to come from to pay him.
But I had another week to work on it, so I wasn't too worried.
"The second week went by, and I just couldn't raise the money anywhere.
I felt kind of strained around my friend, but I didn't bring the subject up because I'd hoped he'd forgotten what the date was.
"As the days went by, it seemed as though he was looking at me with an accusing expression every time I saw him, and I did the best I could to stay out of his way.
After the deadline had passed by two weeks, I began planning my day so I wouldn't run into him.
It was awful.
I felt terrible to have lost such a good friend, but on the other hand, I couldn't see why he wasn't more understanding of my problem.
Mind you, not a word passed between us regarding the money, but I felt so guilty that I was sure he had written me off as a friend.
"Finally, one day to my horror, I saw him coming toward me in the hall.
There was no place to hide!He cornered me and said, `Okay, Hal, what's the matter with you?' "`Well, it's about that money I owe you,' I answered defensively.
"He laughed and put his big hand on my shoulder and said, `Brother, I thought that was it.
Look, Hal, I haven't changed.
I don't feel any different towards you than I did a few weeks ago.
If you had the money, I know you'd pay me.
But money doesn't mean that much to me.
You're friendship means a lot more, and I'm still your buddy.
' "For three weeks, I had been going around thinking he was condemning me.
But that wasn't true at all--he was still my best friend.
"That taught me an unforgettable lesson.
If we think someone is holding something against us, we become alienated and hostile toward them.
It's simply an inevitable reaction, a defense mechanism.
"I believe this is the number one reason why Christians fail in their relationship with God.
Because we're always aware that in many ways we fall short of what we should be as Christians, its only natural to assume that God must be displeased with our performance.
The more we let God down, the more we assume His anger, until such alienation sets into our minds that it is virtually impossible for us to enjoy a vital relationship with God.
"And the pitiful tragedy is that all this is just in our minds.
God isn't mad at us!"(Satan is Alive and Well on Planet Earth, pages 185,186).
Another illustration from Pastor Thomas Bruscha might be beneficial to help crystalize our thinking on forgiveness and our relationship with God.
"Wouldn't it be annoying to you if you told someone, `I forgive you,' and everyday afterwards for the rest of their life they came to you and asked, `Please forgive me?' "Not only would it be annoying, it would hinder the growth of your relationship.
Instead of leaving the sin behind and growing closer, it is brought up again and again, day after day, hindering both the growth and enjoyment of the relationship.
So many people, who say they believe their sins are forgiven, spend most of their prayer time begging God to forgive them.
Growth and joy are hindered all because a person refuses to believe that they have been offered complete forgiveness for all their sins.
"My sins (past--present--and future) have been put away by God forever since I believed.
Now, rather than asking forgiveness every day, I thank Him for it and move on to grow in my relationship with my Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
"If you know that you have received the salvation which is through Christ by faith alone, and you know that your sins are paid for, but yet you walk around carrying the guilt of your sins, you have not yet come to enjoy and rejoice in your salvation.
Do what Paul says in Philippians 3:13, `..
.
forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before..
..
'
"(Dictionary of the Gospel, pages 50,51, Grace Bible Church, Warren, Michigan).
Our fellowship with Jesus Christ our Lord can never be broken but our enjoyment of it certainly can, through a faulty perception.
If you as a believer in Christ are still struggling with the burden of guilt, I have good news for you.
God is for you, He is not against you, regardless of circumstances (Rom.
8:31-39).
There is nothing between you and the Lord Jesus Christ that He did not take care of at the Cross.
You are now a son of God with all the rights and privileges pertaining to it.
All our sins, failures, and shortcomings were foreseen by Him and completely answered for by His precious blood.
Now what is the response of your heart to that truth?Is it, "Let us continue in sin that grace may abound?"Or is it, "Praise God!This is the most wonderful thing I've ever heard.
Lord I believe.
Help Thou my unbelief?"Is it a heart response to His love which motivates Christian service or is it an occasion to the flesh?We need well to remember what the grace of God teaches us in the life of faith (Titus 2:11,12).
Dear unsaved friend, is your guilt seeking to weigh you down to eternal perdition?Come to the foot of the Cross and with the eyes of faith look upon the bleeding form of the One who was wounded for your transgressions and bruised for your iniquities.
If you believe in your heart that the Lord Jesus Christ died for you and rose again, the authority of God's Word guarantees that you have passed from death unto life.
As a child within the family of God you can turn your heart heavenward and sing: "My sin--O, the bliss of this glorious thought "My sin--not in part but the whole "Is nailed to the Cross and I bear it no more "Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord, O my soul!" One final question remains to be answered.
If 1 John 1:9 is not a verse for restoration to fellowship, what should believers do when they sin?We have a Pauline pattern that is much more effective in dealing with sin in the believer's life.
First of all, we need to recognize that we don't have to sin.
In each situation, spiritual power is available to overcome sin.
God has provided a total victory program over sin to each member of the Body of Christ.
Romans Chapter 6 is key in the knowledge of practical sanctification.
Note especially the words "know, reckon, and yield" verses 3,11,13.
Other "victory passages" include: Romans 8:1-11; 12:1,2; 13:8-14; 1 Corinthians 6:9-20; 9:24-27; 10:13; 13:4-7; 2 Corinthians 3:17,18; 6:14-7:1; 10:4,5; 12:21; Galatians 5:13-26; Ephesians 4:17-24; 5:1-21; 6:10-18; Philippians 2:5-11; 3:10-14; 4:5-9; Colossians 3:1-17; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 5:22,23; 1 Timothy 3:1-13; 4:11-16; 5:2; Titus 2:6-8,11-14.
If sin gets the advantage over us, the problem is with self, not because God has left us unequipped.
However, because of the infirmity of our flesh, even the most mature Christians do sin.
When this happens, the first thing to remember is our complete forgiveness in Christ Jesus.
This will prevent us from going on another guilt trip and instead produce gratitude, love, and stability.
Far from resulting in a license to sin, the proper motivation (Grace) and empowerment (the Life of Christ) will be in a position to take over.
Further, an attitude of self-judgment should characterize the repentant believer (1 Cor.
11:31).
Godly sorrow worketh repentance (2 Cor.
7:10) but the sorrow of the world worketh death (Matt.
27:5; Heb.
12:16,17).
At times, the elders of the local church can be helpful (Gal.
6:1; 2 Tim.
2:24-26).
Closely associated with self-judgment is Paul's command to "put off" the old man and "put on" the new man (Eph.
4:22-24; Col.
3:5-10; Rom.
8:13; 13:14; Gal.
5:16,25).
We say "No" to that old nature which we inherited from Adam and "Yes" to the new nature which we inherited from Christ.
Nothing complicated or mysterious here, only obedience to the command of God.
Although Paul does not speak of confession in his epistles, Luke does give us an inspired account of it in relation to his ministry (Acts 19:18).
Many of Paul's commands cannot be obeyed without self-judgment which would of necessity include a confession of sin (2 Cor.
7:1; 2 Tim.
2:21; 1 Cor.
5:2; 11:31,32).
When a Christian sins, we should agree with God's Word that it is wrong (confess) and forsake the behavior or attitude by putting off the old man and putting on the new man.
So we confess our sins, not in order to receive forgiveness, but because we wish to be properly attuned to grace and to thus glorify Him who has forgiven us all trespasses.
Sin causes a disjointedness in the Body of Christ.
When we see ourselves "in Christ," and realize that sin is contrary to our exalted position as sons of God, we can take measures to adjust our conduct to conform to the image of Christ.
Finally, separation is absolutely essential to a life pleasing to God (2 Cor.
6:14-7:1).
This involves insulation but not isolation.
We separate ourselves from unwholesome and defiling influences (including worldly religion) and cultivate friendships with believers of like precious faith who will encourage us to more godliness.
These are not to be taken as separate steps but as a part of a whole victory program over sin.
The Word of God acts as our teacher, nourisher, and disciplinarian (2 Tim.
3:16,17; 4:2).
In conclusion, 1 John 1:9 is a salvation verse which fits "hand in glove" with the Prophecy program of the Gospel of the kingdom.
It is the Ephesians 2:8 and 9 of the kingdom dispensation.
It is a gross perversion and wrong to use it to hound sincere believers all through their Christian lives over sins for which our Savior has already answered.
God is no longer forgiving sins piecemeal or in short installments.
In view of the "now time revelation" of the complete, total, and unconditional forgiveness of sins, the never ending cycle of sin, guilt, broken fellowship, confession, and forgiveness can only become a treadmill for the flesh.
It traps the person in a personal performance system (works) and dishonors the Christ of the Cross who died to deliver us from it (Gal.
3:10,13).
We are now members of a New Creation in Christ and live in a state of perpetual forgiveness.
Those who have made the transition from law to the present truth of Paul's epistles will never end a prayer by saying, "...
and forgive us our sins for Jesus' sake.
" My joy was great when I became a believer in Jesus Christ and knew that my sins could no longer separate me from God and a home in heaven.
But how much fuller my joy became as it began to dawn on me that all my sins (including those I committed as a member of God's family) were forgiven me for Jesus' sake.
Don't you think it is appropriate to bow your head at this time and praise and thank Him for His grace?And these things write we unto you that your joy may be full.
May the God of all Grace lead you from doubt and fear into the joy and peace of believing unto the praise of His glory.
Amen.
"I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before Him" (Eccl.
3:14).

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