Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Many who struggle with guilt find it returns to haunt them even after they've sought forgiveness from God. The good news is that God helps us deal with sin's consequences once we reckon ourselves clean in His sight through Christ.
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 true that God will bury our sins in the depths of the deepest sea? Well, Dave, as you know, that is a figure of speech, of course, but what God is saying is He will not hold our sins against us if we trust the Lord Jesus Christ who died for sinners.
That's the good news. I'm holding in my hands a very special resource. It's entitled, Have You Considered?
Evidence Beyond Reasonable Doubt. Now, this is a book with 365 photographs, pages in color arguing in favor of creationism and the glories of God in matters such as biology, geology, cosmology, etc. For a gift of any amount, it can be yours.
Go to rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. The New Year is just around the corner. I trust that this will be a gift that will go on giving all the way to the end of 2023. Does Bob Greene deserve redemption? Or should the renowned former columnist for the Chicago Tribune sit on the bench for the rest of his days yoked by a scarlet letter?
That's the opening line in an article that appeared in USA Today. Those of you who are from Chicago know that this man who wrote for the Tribune was demoted as a result of womanizing. Today, he sits and broods alone, seldom goes out, and simply ponders his fate. Does he deserve redemption? He has two challenges ahead of him. One has to do with his relationship with God, and the second challenge has to do with his relationship with people. Those two challenges are related, but they must always also be separated because, remember, it is possible for you to have a wonderful, fulfilling relationship with God, even though you have a relationship with some people that is irreparable. And we'll be talking about that in a future message in this series. So the first issue that we always have to deal with is our relationship with God, and then we do all that we possibly can to rectify our relationship with others.
Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not. There's a second issue that needs to be distinguished, and that is that sin needs to be distinguished from guilt. And we need to distinguish it because there are many people who sin. In fact, they commit crimes, and yet they feel no guilt. They have hardened their conscience. Oh, I think that guilt does have an effect, but it's a kind of deadness.
They are not specifically in tune with the evil that they have done. On the other hand, you find that there are those who feel guilty when they shouldn't. An abused child may feel guilty even though he should not feel guilty. He feels guilty for just having been born. And then there are those who feel guilty even though their sin has been forgiven. They know that they are forgiven, but the guilt returns, and the guilt can be debilitating. And as a result of that, God comes along, as we shall see in his Word today, to bring deliverance to people just like that. You see, the problem is that there's something within us that tells us that all sin and guilt must be paid for. And as a result of that, we by nature want to pay for it in ways that come close to self-torture.
We want to self-inflict pain and misery to somehow balance the scales and to even the score. There was a young man who gambled most of his money away, and in his shame and defeat and anger and disappointment, he took a toy gun and pointed it at a policeman, and the policeman shot him dead. And in the front seat of his car, that is, the front seat of the young man's car, was a note that said, thank you for killing me. I didn't have the nerve to do it myself. The executioner was there.
The judge pronounced the sentence, and the executioner said, you must die. There's something within us that says, it's got to be handled. It's got to be atoned for. You've heard the term psychosis and neurosis. There are people who are disconnected from reality. And in that disconnect from reality, what's really happening is oftentimes it's unresolved guilt and shame. There's something within them that tells them that there's some shame and guilt that they must take care of, and they don't know how to handle it, and they don't accept God's verdict.
And as a result of that, the only way they can live is perhaps to transform themselves into something that they are not, and to pretend that they are very, very righteous, maybe even that they are Jesus Christ, and that they are so holy that they cannot be contaminated with other people. The root cause is often unresolved guilt and shame. Have you ever wondered why hell is not the same for everyone? It's not the same for everyone because everyone does not carry the same amount of guilt and shame. Imagine eternity, eternally guilty, eternity filled with shame and no possibility of finding an exit.
Well, thankfully, it does not have to be that way. Where do we turn to finally resolve this issue of guilt and shame? Where do we turn but God? Did I recently quote Nietzsche, who died in the year 1900 and paved the way for Hitler because Nietzsche declared the death of God? But he understood something, that with God dead, there was now no answer for our problem of sin and shame. Nietzsche said, regarding God, we have killed him, but now who will wipe the blood from our hands? There's no God left to forgive us.
I want you to know that the intention of this message today is that we all leave here free of guilt. But before we turn to the text, I need to remind you of two reasons why it is so hard for us to accept what I'm going to be saying. It is so hard, first of all, because the ongoing consequences of our sin make it very difficult for us to believe that we can be genuinely restored to God and forgiven because the consequences are still there. A man who has messed up his family, he can be forgiven, restored, cleansed and made whole, but the mess is still there.
Just ask King David. And so as a result of that, it is very difficult for people to really accept God's forgiveness because they say the forgiveness does not change the consequences usually, and usually that is true. But I'm talking today about your relationship with God, the whole idea of consequences we'll deal with at a subsequent time. There's a second reason why people find it so difficult, and that is it's not just because of the consequences of sin, but again, there's something within us that tells us that we deserve to feel guilty. We feel guilty because we should feel guilty. We feel miserable because we owe it to ourselves to feel miserable. Who are we that we should be free of misery, free of guilt and free of shame? We are unworthy of it. And so we are, but that is the message of grace. We read it in our scripture reading today.
He has not dealt with us after our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. Listen to me carefully and hear me today. You can be free of guilt. You can be free of guilt. For whom is this message directed? Well, first of all, it's directed toward Christians who keep confessing their same sin and then reconfessing it because they have no assurance that they have been forgiven. But it's also for those who do not know Christ as Savior.
I want you to listen carefully because you are going to discover the wonder of God's forgiveness, and I hope that by the end of the message you will be saying, this is the forgiveness that I receive at the hand of the dying yet resurrected Lord Jesus. So that's the agenda. That's the introduction. Enough of the chitchat.
Let's get down to business. What does God do with forgiven sin? Not unforgiven sin, but forgiven sin. Today, rather than expound only one passage of scripture, I'm going to be quoting a number of them. In fact, we'll have sort of a collage of scripture.
I don't know. I kind of like that word collage. It sounds sort of dignified, so that's where we're going. Thank you for joining me on the journey. First of all, we discover that he covers our sin. He covers our sin, and there are two passages that we should turn to, both in the Psalms, both written by David, both the expression of a man who had committed great sin, adultery, and murder, yet a man who also experienced great forgiveness. Psalm 32 verse 1, how blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. What does God do with forgiven sin? God covers the sin. God takes a tarp and puts it over the oil spill, but actually it's better than that. Wouldn't it be wonderful if that's all that God did, was to simply take our sin and cover it with a blanket?
But I want you to know today that that is only part of the story. Listen to what the prophet Isaiah said in chapter 61 verse 10. I will rejoice greatly in the Lord. My soul will exult in my God, for he has clothed me with garments of salvation.
Notice this. He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness. God just doesn't cover our sins with a tarp. God covers those sins with a robe of righteousness, the death of Jesus, the worth of Jesus to God. That's how carefully and completely God covers forgiven sin.
First of all, he covers it. That means that he no longer sees it. Do you have better eyes than God?
Can you see things that God has preferred not to look at? He covers the sin. Secondly, I want you to notice that he cleanses it, and now we come to the 51st chapter in the Psalms.
I'm trying to find it. I have a different Bible today, but I'll just quote it. It's there in Psalm 51 where David says, Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness, according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies. Blot out my transgressions. Verse 2. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
And how well does he wash it? Is it not there in verse 7? Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean. Wash me and I shall be made whiter than snow. God not only covers it, he cleanses it. Now we're talking about the cleansing of the conscience. Now we're speaking of the experience of not only being clean, but actually feeling clean because the condemnation has left us.
He cleanses us. The Bible says in 1 John chapter 1 verse 9, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us. Why does John separate forgiveness and cleansing? Aren't they both the same?
They happen at the same time. Yes, they're part of the same work of God, but John knew what you and I have experienced, that there are many people who have experienced the forgiveness of God, but they have never been cleansed by God. The pollution of their consciences has not been washed away. Like the woman who had an abortion and said to me, though I've confessed it many, many times, I still feel foul from the top of my head to the soles of my feet. She had been forgiven, but what she needed was cleansing. Now we're talking about the conscience. For if the blood of bulls and of goats and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling the unclean sanctifies to the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ who through the eternal spirit offered himself without spot to God purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Do you today as a Christian come to church and live tomorrow Monday morning with a purged conscience or is it always nagging, always feeling unclean? God actually purges the conscience.
I love that. You know why? Because there isn't a psychiatrist in the world. There isn't a counselor in the world.
You can take a seminar on guilt management and there's no way for you to be able to reach down to the crevices of your conscience and cleanse it. One day many years ago I was sitting in my study and I received a call and my secretary said, there's a distraught woman on the phone wants to talk to you. So I spoke with her. She had been listening to a radio program where it seemed to be that after you receive Christ as savior, if you so much as sin too many times, it shows you were never saved. And so she began to doubt her salvation. She said, I was converted at the age of 19. I've led people to Christ. And then she said, weeping.
Oh, but God knows that I have failed him so many times. And she says, where can I go to Pastor Lutzer? She says, where can I go to accept the blood of Christ?
And here's the line now, isn't this sweet? She said, I cannot take steel wool to my heart and scrub it. I must receive the blood of Christ. And you can't take steel wool to your heart and scrub it either, can you? Can you imagine going to Home Depot and you say, well, give me some steel wool and some Lysol.
Why? I have a dirty heart and it needs to be cleansed. The answer is, of course, there's no way for you to do that because there is something that tells us that we cannot get down deep into the psyche. We can't go to that deep level of consciousness to be forgiven and to be cleansed. But God cleanses us. Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.
And though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. God wants you to be free from that nagging conscience. He wants you to receive cleansing, which sometimes takes time.
It's something that you have to insist on. The devil will oppose you at this point. But David, with all of his sin, experienced the washing and the cleansing of God.
Look at how far we've come. He covers it that he doesn't see it. He cleanses it so that he doesn't regard it.
He cancels it. We sing, he breaks the power of canceled sin. You'll notice that David says, blot out my transgressions.
Isaiah 43, 25, I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions and I remember your sins no more. Well, my friend, that's the best news that you can ever possibly hear. The Good News of the Gospel. Now, I'm holding in my hands a very special book. It's entitled Have You Considered? How I Wish I Could Put It in Your Hands. You would discover 365 pages with color photographs of the beauty of God's creation and all the intricacies of how God created the worlds.
And you'd be interested in matters such as design, archaeology, geology, biology for every single day of the new year. For a gift of any amount, it can be yours. Here's what you do. Go to rtwoffer.com.
Now, perhaps you've not had an opportunity to grab a pen or a pencil, so I'll give that to you again. Go to rtwoffer.com. Of course, rtwoffer is all one word or call us at 1-888-218-9337. You're looking for a Christmas gift that will go on giving throughout the next year. Ask for Have You Considered?
rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. And may I thank you in advance for your prayers, for your support, and for enabling us to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ around the world. It's time again for another chance for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question you may have about the Bible or the Christian life. Sometimes we're bothered by unresolved issues.
We're glad to be able to offer some direction to people to help sort things out. Today's email brought us these questions from Lorenzo. I have a couple of questions about repentance that trouble me. What is the biblical definition of repentance? Do you have to repent to be saved? If you turn from your sin in order to be saved, doesn't that mean that works are a part of salvation? Lorenzo, you know that in asking this question you've kind of jumped into a hornet's nest, because there is some disagreement in the evangelical community about this.
So let me try to shed some light on it. First of all, the word repentance in its most basic form means to change your mind. Now some people say that based on that that salvation is nothing more than changing your mind about Jesus.
You receive him as your Savior. You change your mind as to who he is. But it seems to me that the word repentance is actually deeper than that. The word repentance seems more than simply changing your mind. It almost seems to be to change your direction. Somebody has defined it to turn away from as much as you know about your sin to as much as you know of God.
Well, a couple of comments. First, when you get saved, there's a sense in which you have to turn from your sin to Christ. I don't know how else to explain it, except that repentance is a change of mind whereby we are going in one direction and now we turn to Christ.
Like it says in 1 Thessalonians, the people there, they turned to Christ from idols. And in the very same way, we turn to Christ and we leave our idols behind. This becomes a very natural explanation for what repentance is. But I do need to caution that if you continue to tell people that becoming saved means that Christ has to be Lord of your life, that's where we get into some difficulty because some people may not be in a position where they can make Christ the Lord of their life. They turn from their sin in their helplessness to Christ, but some things in their life they may not at that point be able to totally give up.
When I was in Japan, this was clarified for me, a pastor there told me that if you tell some of these dear people that in order to receive Christ they have to give up all of their idols first, they'll say to themselves that's impossible because I worship these idols and I simply cannot walk away from them. So what we need to do is to present Christ, hold him up, urge people to believe on him, despite their weaknesses, despite their misgivings, to receive the free gift of salvation. Well Lorenzo, I hope that I've shed some light on this.
I hope that my comments were not confusing. So I need to simply summarize and say that repentance is turning away from sin to Christ and that is not a matter of works being smuggled into the gospel because the gospel assures us that eternal life is free, but in the process we recognize that the business of making Christ Lord of our lives, that is something that takes the rest of our life to do. Hope this helps and above all if there are those who are listening who've never trusted Christ as Savior, now's the time to do it. Thank you Dr. Lutzer and thank you Lorenzo. If you'd like to hear your question answered, go to our website. You'll find that website at rtwoffer.com. There you can click on Ask Pastor Lutzer or call us at 1-888-218-9337. That's 1-888-218-9337.
You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. After great spiritual failures we say with King David, my sin is ever before me. So how can it not be before God?
The answer lies in the concept of covering. Next time, hope for all who fear their sins on earth will never be forgotten in heaven. You'll hear more on the difference between God forgiving us and cleansing us from sin. Thanks for listening, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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