Guilt can be a tricky thing. Have you ever been driving at night, minding your own business, and following the speed limit and discover that the bright, flashing blue and red lights are for you? “What could I possibly have done? I wasn’t speeding. I know I stopped at that sign. Not Guilty!” Then the officer asks, “Did you know you had a headlight out?” Even if the answer is “no,” you are still guilty, for the law forbids driving at night without both headlights on. It was your responsibility to know. Even though you may not have felt an ounce of guilt (subjective guilt), in actual fact, you were guilty (objective guilt).
In a small way, this illustrates our standing before God the Law Giver and Judge. The Bible says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom 3:23) Whether we feel guilty or not does not change the fact that we are guilty. We have broken God’s law and rebelled against His rule. We may feel free. We may feel good. But, we are guilty.
Guilt can be a tricky thing. Have you ever had a circumstance wherein something went wrong and you knew it was your fault? You felt horrible about it. You were ashamed of your irresponsibility and did not want to look the others in the eye. You were feeling down right guilty. So, you muster up enough courage to admit your wrong, only to discover that no one else was blaming you, because, as it turns out, it wasn’t your fault. You had misunderstood. You felt guilty (subjective guilt), but in actual fact, you weren’t guilty (objective guilt).
The glory of the gospel is that in Christ Jesus, God has provided the answer to the fact of our guilt and our felt guilt, or, if you like, our objective and subjective guilt. In an act of incomprehensible love, God sent forth His Son to bear the guilt of sinners in His sacrifice upon the cross. Any and all who repent of their sins and believe upon the risen Lord Jesus are justified. Our Law Giver and Judge declares, “Forgiven! Not Guilty!” That verdict from Heaven’s Court cannot be overturned or reversed. It is forever true of those in Christ.
But as time goes by, the enemy of our souls begins to accuse us and remind us of our sins and unworthiness. We begin to feel guilty all over again. In that moment we must look afresh to Christ crucified and remember that He took away our guilt. In Christ we are not guilty no matter how we feel. As we feed our faith with what God says is true of us, our souls are nourished and our hearts gain peace.
Let us continually look to Christ crucified for our sins and raised for our justification. (Rom 4:25)
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
Chuck Cook is the pastor of Grace Bible Church - Rolla.