The last two weeks I filled the pulpit for a pastor friend of mine. Keeping up this blog took a back seat, needless to say. I’ve known the pastor for over a decade and he is a true shepherd through and through. I have preached from pulpits from the west coast to the east coast, both as a pastor and guest speaker, ministering God’s Word. When I’ve stood in front of a local body of believers who have a biblical shepherd who cares for them and disciples them in and according to the Scriptures, there is a freedom from the pulpit and a warmth and joy poured upon you from the congregation.
I have also preached in local churches where it was more difficult to deliver the Word of God than wade through a tar pit … wearing snowshoes.
The message I brought this last Sunday was out of 2 Corinthians 7:8-12 on the subject of Guilt, Shame, and Regret (GSR). What’s more commonly tagged: “godly sorrow.” It is clear in the OT and NT that there is both a legitimate and illegitimate GSR. One leads to repentance and produces diligence, zeal, fear, and vindication among other godly responses, whereas Illegitimate GSR goes too far and will drown you (2 Cor. 2:7), smoother you, and drive you away from Christ.
Some of the common lies from illegitimate guilt, shame, and regret are:
- Jesus won’t forgive you. You’ve gone too far.
- You’ve committed the unpardonable sin.
- God won’t listen to your prayers; you’re not worthy.
- How could God love you after what you’ve done?
- How could God love you after what has happened to you?
If you hear these lies, go to the Gospel. Don’t wait for Sunday morning. Don’t wait for a sign. Preach the Gospel to yourself and rely on the work of Jesus Christ.
A Third Side
There is another side, another approach/view of guilt, shame, and regret that sadly is alive in our American Christian culture. It is popularized by the “positive gospel” preachers and by a miss understanding of who we become in Christ. It goes something like: “If you feel guilty about something, rebuke it, ignore it, and cast it down because it is not of God.” Then a person is to make a quick confession of “There is therefore now NO condemnation …” from Romans 8:1. Basically, it is taught that “GSR is an attack on your faith and who you are in Christ.” But the truth is the opposite of that statement.
- One writer called this “Preaching a False-Positive.”
- This type of theology denies sin.
- I John 1:8-2:2 rebukes the believer who says they do not sin and/or has no sin.
- This theology denies the propitiation of Christ.
- It denies reality.
The Legitimate Work of Guilt, Shame, and Regret
All GSR should lead us to restoration at the Cross and that is where it should stop. If you are haunted or beaten up by GSR, then it has turned from legitimate GSR into a Mr. Hyde. If this is happening, preach the Gospel to your Mr. Hyde and “cling to the old rugged cross”—to the Gospel that saves.
Remember the promise: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall receive comfort.” This is speaking to the believer who mourns over his/her sin with GSR. Sincere, heart-felt repentance includes accepting the guilt of your sin; being ashamed of your sin; and regretting your sinfulness. Faith in your repentance will bring comfort, restoration, and zeal.
“Evidence that you truly repented and sought Christ is that you are still repenting daily and seeking Christ.”