"If only I wasn't an atheist, I could get away with anything. You'd just ask for forgiveness and then you'd be forgiven. It sounds much better than having to live with guilt." Keira Knightley
That would be nice, wouldn't it? Do whatever you want, whenever you want, without fear, regret or guilt. Just ask God to forgive you and it's all erased, like it never happened. That's what it means to be saved, isn't it? Is that really what the world thinks? Is that what you think?
I am saved. I have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb and my sins are forgiven. Ms. Knightley is right that all I have to do is ask, but she is WRONG about the guilt, about getting away with anything. I get away with nothing! God is not a magic eraser that, when applied, removes all trace of my sin. Yes, He removes it on His side and I no longer have to pay for it with the death of my soul in hell, but the consequences of my sin here on earth, well, that's another story entirely.
I cannot cheat, lie, steal, hate, or kill with impunity. I may be sorry and I may repent and God may forgive me, but I still have to live with what I have done. I still have to repair relationships, regain trust, repay my theft, go to jail, pay whatever earthly consequences that exist to redress my wrongs. AND, even if I do not get caught, I feel guilt, sorrow and pain for my wrongs. I squirm beneath the weight of conscience and the knowledge that I have failed my God. I think about the next time I want to tell someone about Christ and how my behavior is going to effect my witness. I worry that people will think exactly what Ms. Knightley thinks - that Christians believe they are above the law.
King David was a man after God's own heart. He led Israel as a man of faith, loved the Lord and followed His commands. But, he was a man and, as such, subject to sin and temptation. He saw a beautiful woman taking a bath, wanted her, took her and got her pregnant. Okay he's the king, he could just take her for his wife, but she was already married. Her husband was away fighting a war - a war David had declared. David had her husband brought home from the front, hoping he would sleep with his wife and the baby could be passed off as his. Unfortunately for David, Uriah could not bring himself to sleep in comfort, to have the pleasure of his wife when others were still fighting, so David had him returned to the war, put in the front lines and killed. God sent the prophet Nathan to confront David with his sin. When faced with what he had done, in his anguish and guilt, David wrote Psalm 51 - a prayer for forgiveness. Verses 14-16 say:
Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
The God of my salvation,
And my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness.
O Lord, open my lips,
And my mouth shall show forth Your praise.
For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it;
You do not delight in burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart--
These, O God, You will not despise.
A broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart - these are not the words of a man who does not feel guilt, a man who feels no sorrow over what he has done. When the child dies not long after it is born, David accepts this as the consequences of his actions, he does not blame God for the death of the child, he knows where the blame lies. He does not go dancing off into the sunset, uncaring that his actions brought this sorrow and pain.
Christians feel guilt; they suffer the earthly consequences of their actions.
As to doing whatever we want, well, that is not true either. As the Holy Spirit begins to transform us into the image of Christ, we begin to find we want to do things that are pleasing to God and stop doing things that aren't. On this earth we will never achieve perfection which is why God's grace is a such a wonderful thing, but His grace is not a license to do whatever, whenever we choose. Paul put it perfectly in his letter to the Roman church:
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. Romans 6:1-4
We come to Christ as sinful creatures, often reveling in our sin, but He takes us, forgives us and makes us new, clean, whole, fit companions for a holy God. The longer we follow Jesus, the more we seek Him and know Him, the more abhorrent sin becomes to us and the greater our sorrow and guilt when we sin. And yes, Christians do sin. On this earth we are still subject to the flesh, to temptation, we still fall. But glory be to God, we now have a way back, through faith in Christ. We can be forgiven and made new - over and over again - as many times as we need it until we reach heaven and are released from this sinful flesh forever. But, on this earth, we still bear the scars, the consequences of our actions. Paul says in Phillipians 3:12-14
Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
or as the New Living translation puts it:
I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
We sin, we feel guilt and sorrow which leads us to repentance. We are forgiven, we press on and God gives us the strength to face our consequences until we finally receive our reward in heaven - eternal life with Him. This flesh is the jail, sin the chains, Christ, the Get Out of Jail Free Card, which He already played for us.
I believe words are a powerful tool. God's word has the power to save, restore, edify, create and convict. I have been blogging for several years and find now, more than ever the world is in need of the truth as viewed through the lens of God's holy Word.
I love teaching about the Lord in any setting. From behind the pulpit, sitting in a class or writing a blog, I find fulfillment in sharing my faith through teaching.