Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Many people carry a paralyzing burden of guilt for past sins. Beset by a crushing load of self-blame, they face each new day with yesterday's emotional baggage. Today you'll hear God's way out of having to bear guilt for the rest of your life.
Stay with us. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, is it possible to run so far away from God that you no longer feel guilt at all? Dave, I'm sure that there are some people who have sinned so repeatedly and hardened their hearts that they have come to that point. But to everyone who is listening, if you have the slightest desire to return to God, the slightest desire to be rid of your guilt, come to God.
Receive his mercy through Jesus Christ. Welcome home. Well, today is the last day we are making available to you a very special resource, especially as we think about Christmas. It is Handel's Messiah. Now, I have to say that of all the pieces of music that have been written, there's none that probably emphasizes as much the fact that the baby who was born in Bethlehem went to the cross, but there is a future, the New Jerusalem. What a piece of music.
What an opportunity to worship. For a gift of any amount, it can be yours. Here's what you do. Go to rtwoffer.com. You can do that right now. You can do that right now.
rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Well, tell me man to man. Is there a way out or isn't there?
If there is, I want to know about it. If not, I'm going to blow my brains out. Those are the words of a man, a bisexual who had just given his wife AIDS. She wasn't about to forgive him because of his lies and his deceptions and his dishonesty, and now he wondered what the future held.
Is there a way out or is there not? As you know, this is a series of messages titled After You've Blown It, Reconnecting with God and Others. Today we're speaking about reconnecting with God, and we will do that for a few more messages in this series, and then we'll talk about the reconnection with other people. How do you live when others might not forgive you? How do you untangle messes for which you are responsible? But today we speak about the topic of guilt and our relationship with God, because guilt is the most universal of all human emotions, feelings, and experiences. Guilt tells me that I have done something wrong.
There is an ought to which I have not responded and I've not lived up to the ought that I know I really should do. There is such a thing as false guilt. Sometimes children who are abused feel guilty simply because they were born. They feel guilty because their parents heap guilt upon them. But there is also something that we can call real guilt. It is objective guilt. It is us in the presence of God, the consciousness that we are out of sorts with the Almighty, and within our consciences there is something within us that tells us we must pay. Pay up, our conscience tells us. Now society has no answer to the problem of guilt, none whatever. Society basically says that if we lower the standards and simply say that everyone does it, why then indeed we'll be able to leave people of guilt.
Maybe they can unlearn the feeling, but still even after all of that there's something within us that says you still owe. You must pay. Pay more. Or society tells us that if we blame other people it's society's fault.
It's the society that created an atmosphere in which I have to lie, I have to cheat, I have to steal, and I'm immoral because this is what society dictates. And yet at the end of the day all of us know that despite all those rationalizations, there's still that voice within us that says you've still not paid enough. Pay more. And so what do we do? We try to rationalize the voice away. We say to ourselves if I can find somebody who is worse than I am, and generally that's not too difficult to do, someone who's a greater sinner, why then indeed I will feel better because I'm not so bad after all.
But it does not silence the voice. And then there are those who think that they can even the score by being good. I have a friend who said that when he came home from school and mowed the lawn without being told, his mother used to say, well what have you been up to now? She simply assumed that the boy was trying to cover for something. They're young people who've gone into drugs and immorality and then they've gone into social work and they have said, look at I'm devoting my life to the poor.
I'm working in social work. And what they don't realize is they're trying to even the score. They're trying to say, okay I've done this over here, but here's something I can do to prove I'm really not all that bad, am I? But down deep in the middle of the but down deep inside the voice still says, pay more, pay more.
And so what happens in today's world especially is people choose a method of payment that only increases the intensity of the voice. They go into drugs and alcohol. A chaplain said to a young man in a hospital, a brilliant young man, why are you killing yourself with heroin? And he said, chaplain you ought to know the answer to that question.
I should not have to tell you why. He said, I feel so badly about things that I've done and I don't have enough guts to blow my brains out so I am dying slowly by using heroin. I'm dying on the installment plan. So people choose a way to silence the voice, to make the payment that only increases the intensity of the voice and increases the intensity and the need for a payment. And so people pay up, but they pay with their lives and their hearts. In a book on guilt, William Justice wrote, for every failure to live up to some ought there is the tendency to punish oneself in such a manner so as to produce another failure. And every failure produces the response, I ought not to have failed. Having failed I punish myself in such a manner as to produce a further sense of failure. My cycle is complete only to begin again. I have failed to live up to some ought for which I feel guilty. Convicted of guilt I feel the need to pay. To pay I choose a method that will leave me with a sense of having failed. On and on the cycle rolls downward.
It may be compared to a snowball rolling down a hill adding to its momentum with each revolution. He calls it the cycle of the damned. What else is hell but an awakened conscience with no ability to pay forever. I've known people who have married badly, married unwisely, married against all reason and have not taken into account admonitions. And they have married that way because there was something within them that says I don't deserve to be happy so I'm going to marry somebody who is going to make me as miserable as I deserve to be. And so they are working out their guilt because of that little voice that says you're a wretch, you're dirty, you're dirty and you have to pay for your dirt.
Guilt is a god-sized problem but thankfully it has a god-sized solution. In the Old Testament there is a remarkable story. It's found in the book of Zechariah. Zechariah is one of the prophets that comes close to the Old Testament ending. If you take your Bible and find the division between the Old Testament and the New Testament and then you just go back a piece, you'll find the prophet Zechariah. And in this passage of scripture he has a vision in which there are three participants and thankfully the vision helps us understand the nature of guilt and it has within it the potential to teach us how to be free of the guilt that continues to say pay up.
Your debt can be paid up. You'll notice that there are three participants as I mentioned and the first one is Joshua. Now Joshua, this Joshua is to be distinguished from the Joshua who was alive during the time of Moses.
This is an entirely different time period. Zechariah chapter 3 verse 1. Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord and satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. The Lord just said to satan the Lord rebuke you satan the Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you. Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire? Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel.
Let's stop there for a moment. The first participant is Joshua the high priest. If you were to compare men among men I'm sure that he would be one of the more righteous men of his era and of his community. When it says that he was standing before the Lord the really the Hebrew text means that he was doing his priestly duties in the presence of the Lord. And yet I want you to notice that he is dressed in filthy garments. The Hebrew text here is very explicit. It refers to excrement. It means that that Joshua is exceedingly dirty and filthy. That's a good word filthy and he's standing before the Lord. Sin in the Bible is often represented as a disease.
Oftentimes it is also represented as uncleanness. So here he stands in the presence of the Lord. What do you think he would like to do in the presence of the Lord? Well of course what he would really want to do is to flee to get out of there to get to get away from the presence of the Lord God.
All of his desires would have wanted that as he stood there burning with shame. I don't know about you but sometimes we are so conscious of the way in which we dress. One time I was invited to an event. My wife and I were invited and I really dressed down. I thought it was going to be casual and everyone that was there was formal and all evening I kind of I kind of felt that everybody was looking at me.
I felt very self-conscious. Imagine walking into an environment like that dressed with filthy filthy garments. Imagine because what we really have here is Joshua's heart exposed visually. How would you like it if everyone who came to church this morning was dressed in garments and on those garments were written for all to see every thought that you have had about other people this week totally exposed.
I think our attendance would be down on that particular Sunday. It'd be difficult to find anyone maybe no one even here on the platform or behind the pulpit. And this is Joshua now standing there and and it's all visible and I know it's a graphic picture filthy garments but there are some of you listening to this who if you were honest and you looked into my eye and you and I were having a cup of tea together you would say Pastor Lutzer I feel dirty. I feel dirty.
That's the way I feel. That's Joshua. There's a second person in this vision that Zachariah has and the second person is the Lord the angel of the Lord. The angel of the Lord. Not an angel of the Lord but the angel but the angel of the Lord. And who is this angel of the Lord? Well scholars for centuries have correctly noted that this indeed must be a reference to Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ before his incarnation it's called a pre-incarnate manifestation of Jesus.
Why? Because the angel of the Lord clearly is the Lord. It says in verse 2 the Lord is said to Satan the Lord rebuke you Satan. So he is the Lord. He's the Lord and yet he distinguishes himself also from the Lord and this would be a reference to the Trinity. Jesus Christ now is here and Jesus is the Holy One. I know that when Jesus was on earth if we had met him we might not have known anything very specific about him because he perhaps looked very ordinary but beneath that ordinariness was of course the beauty and the holiness of God as was seen on the mount of transfiguration. Here you have the angel and and the angel is not veiled in flesh the angel represents the holiness of God which only accentuates Joshua's sin. He is standing in the presence of a holy God and it is a holy God before whom we are judged and evaluated and adjudicated.
It's not among it's not among ourselves. Many people are like that little boy who said I'm eight feet tall oh yes I'm eight feet tall. Turns out he was eight feet tall according to the ruler that he himself had made. We judge ourselves by ourselves the standard is the holiness of God but I want you to notice that Jesus was not only holy notice what Jesus does and I'm picking it up now in verse 4. The angels said to those who were standing before him take off his filthy clothes then he said to Joshua see I have taken away your sin and will put rich garments on you.
Isn't that beautiful? The angel is speaking to the other angels that are there and they're saying take Joshua's garments away and you know that would have been sufficient if he had just gotten rid of his dirty garments but God does more than that. God actually says I'm going to give you something in exchange. I want you to know today that a Christian is not a sinner minus his sins.
That's only half the story. A Christian is a sinner clothed in the righteousness of Christ standing in rich garments it says here. The idea actually is festal robes, beautiful garments, holy garments, acceptable garments to the angel of the Lord, garments that are completely acceptable to God. The Jesus who would die on the cross centuries later would purchase for Joshua these garments. You say well how could this be already in Old Testament times? Well the Old Testament saints were were saved on credit.
You know what it's like to buy something on credit. Some of you who know something about what it's like to buy an item of furniture on credit you wish you never heard of the practice but that's the way it was because Jesus was looking through the corridors of time and knowing that he would die he says I'm redeeming people already based on the payment that I will make and so Joshua come here I clothe you in pure garments so that you can stand before me without embarrassment without any sense of humiliation and without wanting to run away. The garments that I have given you not just your old garments made clean but brand new ones and now the issue wasn't really the the how dirty Joshua's garments are because I'm sure that there were people in his day whose garments would have been dirtier than his but that was not really the issue.
The issue is the beauty and the wonder and the completeness of the garments that he received as a gift from the angel of the Lord from Jesus himself. Now there's a third participant in this vision and that of course is Satan the adversary. Let me reread part of verse one. Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. Follow carefully what it's supposed to be portrayed as reconciliation between a sinner and God. Satan now interjects something else and and he tries to divide God and the sinner through his accusations and so he's standing there at his right hand to accuse to accuse.
We have to pause here let's not hurry over this. Who is it that's making the accusations? The accusations are they being made by someone who himself is very pure and therefore has a right to talk?
Not quite. We're talking about someone who is the embodiment of evil. Someone who loves evil. If Joshua is filthy Satan is filthier still. If Joshua is unclean Satan is more unclean. He is the essence of uncleanness. There is no righteousness in him at all and he's the one he's the one who's making the accusations. It's not just that he's unclean. But also he's the one who instigates sin. He's the one who leads us into temptation and after we have been led into temptation and we have sinned he's the one there to accuse us and to tell us what big sinners we are and why we should run from God rather than toward him. He's there doing that. He's like a firebug that is also a firefighter so he's constantly being sent to his own fires that he begins and when he's there he's there to accuse. Look at that you sinner.
What is he saying? Well from other passages of the bible we can put it together. So far as to us he is speaking and he speaks through feelings and not just words.
Remember that. He speaks through feelings and not just words and he says this to us. So you're a believer. Look at what you've done. Don't you see how filthy you really are? If you really understood the full import of how filthy you were you would know that there's no way for God to really forgive you and you say that you have garments of righteousness but just look at your heart.
Do you remember what you did in the past? And if you don't remember I'll help you to remember because you have to be locked into your sin. Don't you ever think your conscience can be free. When your conscience tells you to pay up there is no way for you to do it. Run from God because he's mad at you. That's what he's saying to us. My friend today the devil is a liar and the father of lies.
Say no to that lie and run to Jesus Christ. Well we're about to enter the very special Christmas season and this is your last opportunity to receive this resource from us. Handel's Messiah the complete work. You want to hear the Hallelujah Course. Worthy is the Lamb.
Get ready for heaven by singing on earth because in heaven we're going to sing. For a gift of any amount this resource can be yours. Go to rtwoffer.com. Of course rtwoffer is all one word or call us at 1-888-218-9337.
Now since this is the last day I'm going to be giving you that contact info again. Go to rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Ask for Handel's Messiah. No piece of music ever written enables us to worship like Handel's Messiah. It's time once again for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question you may have about the Bible or the Christian life.
Dr. Lutzer today's question comes to us from Robert who lives in Pennsylvania. He says, I'm bothered by applause after music and worship services not because the music isn't superb but because we're applauding ourselves at a moment when all attention devotion and thought should be given only to God. Robert I really do think that you have a point and yet at the same time I personally cannot tell a congregation don't applaud because I believe that if they are properly instructed they are not applauding simply because the music was great though there is always that temptation. I would like to think that they are applauding for God. Their hearts have been so blessed the words of the song have come so mightily and consistently into their hearts that they are simply saying by their applause we love you Lord thank you very very much. I hope that that's what's happening when people applaud and when they do it that way the enthusiasm that is in a service I think is very appropriate. We ought to be excited for God.
We ought to be excited for his glory. So the bottom line is I think proper instruction is what congregations need if they are going to applaud. Thank you Dr. Lutzer. If you'd like to hear your question answered go to our website at rtwoffer.com and click on Ask Pastor Lutzer or you can call us at 1-888-218-9337. That's 1-888-218-9337.
You can write to us at running to win 1632 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard Chicago Illinois 60614. Maybe you've stolen money had an affair or even gotten away with a serious felony. Life is closing in on you no peace no happiness no future hope. Next time more from Zechariah chapter 3. We'll find the key to freedom from guilt and forgiveness from the God who can bestow it as a gift. Thanks for listening. For Dr. Erwin Lutzer this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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