13 August 2009

Punishing Guilt

Recently I have been reconnecting myself with old friends via the internet, more specifically Facebook. Many of these friends I haven't talked to in years. So many years that it brings a gushing flood of old memories every time I find someone new. The other day I found a friend that I hadn't talked to in at least eight years. This friend wasnt lost because of normal ware and tare of life, but instead because of a falling out of sorts. Once I requested this person as a friend I remembered all the undone, unfinished issues between us. I started to wonder if this would still be an issue or if maybe we could already be past this, as if a statute of limitations had expired. Then I started thinking about how many other friends that I had used and abused in my life and guilt slowly started taking hold of me and escentially it hung me out to dry.

For years I carried the guilt of all the people that I had mistreated and used in life. I would have trouble sleeping at night because of the fear that I had of the reprocussions of my choices. Then one day I met Jesus. Not the TV wimpy Jesus, the one who let everyone push Him around and pick on Him like the nose picking nerd in second grade. Not the Jesus I heard about from so many that would hold everything over my head for all eternity, or the one who was waiting for me to screw up so He could smite me (what does that mean anyway?). But instead I met the strong, loving, forgiving, and full of grace Jesus that the Bible talks about. Through my relationship with Him I learned in 2 Cor 5:17 that all the old junk in my life was gone and all this new stuff came in when I accepted Him as Lord and Savior. Man, what an awesome deal. I accept Him and He takes all my crap from me.

For awhile this took care of the guilt issue, as it should, but after some time I started thinking about it again. I realized that just because I was "born again" and just because I was a "new creation" and old things were gone didn't mean that my mind was brand new. In fact, I learned that I needed to renew my mind (Rom 12:2). I had to change the way I thought about myself and start thinking the way God thinks of me. This process is not easy, but in time I have learned to forget about the past and move toward the future (Phil 3:13). I have to constantly remind myself that Jesus paid the price for everything that I have done. He took it all upon Himself so I could live free. Free of guilt, free of regret, and free of condemnation. He took it all for me.

No matter what we've done God forgives us, but the reality is that people aren't so forgiving. If we have hurt people in our lives there are consequences that we will face. People hold onto pain and hurt much longer than God does. We justify our anger and resentment by telling ourselves we deserve to hold on. We deserve to be mad and upset, and even hurtful. This couldn't be further from the truth. Eventually we need to forgive or it will start to haunt us. I realized that those I had hurt had to come to terms with what had happened, just as I have to when I am hurt. I am not diminishing what I have done in the past, nor am I hiding behind God. I am ready and willing to take whatever consequence may exist, but now I can do it with the peace that I know Jesus gives me. I can stand up and be a man about it and ask forgiveness, knowing that if people won't forgive, Jesus does. Living with guilt and pain from the past may be a reality in your life, but it doesn't need to be. Jesus can take it and He will. Let Him deal with your past, it makes the future a whole lot brighter.

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