Now as we’re beginning a new Lenten season I am remembering a phone call I took one day during the season of Lent, many years ago. A man who wasn’t a member of my church, I didn’t know him, but he called me to ask when he could resume whatever it was that he had given up doing for the Lenten season. He was arguing with his wife about that. He thought that he could take up whatever it was he’d given up again on the afternoon of Good Friday, or at the latest, on Holy Saturday. But his wife insisted that he ought to wait until after church on Easter Sunday to resume.
So he thought as a pastor I could settle this big question of his. Well, I wasn’t ready for it. I had never really pondered that sort of thing before, so I think I agreed with his wife. And then the conversation didn’t last much beyond that. Afterwards, I was thinking that if I had been more prepared, I would have suggested that instead of giving up chocolate, or beer, or whatever it was that he ought to give up guilt for Lent.
Here’s what the psalmwriter says in Psalm 32 verse 5. He says to the Lord
I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover up my guilt. I said, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord,” and you forgave the guilt of my sin. (Psalm 32:5)
What a wonderful thing to know that God forgives the guilt of our sin. All of us, I’m sure, feel guilty from time to time. And it’s an unpleasant thing when we recall something we did, or something we didn’t do, something we might have said, something we maybe didn’t say when we should of. On the one hand that feeling of guilt is actually a healthy thing. It means that our conscience is alive and that its tender.
The opposite of that is something Peter speaks about in one of his epistles when he speaks about a man with a seared conscience. And when we leave a hamburger on the grill too long it becomes seared. We can hardly cut it with a steak knife. And when our conscience gets that way it probably means that we’ve been overruling it and ignoring it too long. And it takes a lot for our conscience then to wake up.
So it’s good for us to be aware of our sins, but then you should know this: as you experience that guilt that it really belong somewhere else. Here’s something that Martin Luther said about that subject.
He says “now we know where our sins are laid. The law lays them on our conscience and sticks them in our chest. But God takes them from us and lays them on the shoulders of the lamb. ‘I know your sins are too hard for you to bear’ God says. ‘So look I laid them on my lamb and take them away from you.’ This you should believe for when you do you are free from sin and guilt. Sin can only be in one of two places; either it is with you weighing you down, then you are doomed; or it is on Christ, then you are free and are saved.”
If you want to give up something for Lent, that’s fine. Especially if it helps you remember that our Lord Jesus gave up his own sinless holy life in paying for all of our sins and taking away our guilt. So above all trust that by his death your guilt has been taken away and that for Jesus sake God forgives you.