Today's message isn't about how to get over guilt or about how guilt will destroy your emotional well-being. Today's message is Biblical, so it is counter-intuitive from what we get from our pop psychology driven culture. Today's message is about how to live with gutsy guilt. Intrigued? I hope so.
Here's what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 7:10:
Distress that drives us to God does that. It turns us around. It gets us back in the way of salvation. We never regret that kind of pain. But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets.
Another year has ended, and no doubt, we all have regrets. We give thanks for another year, but we can't help but have regrets. I have regrets over things done and things not done. I have regrets for things I've said or the way I said them. Some regrets are big and some are small. Regrets are real because we are sinners. We don't like sinning, so we regret sinning.
That's why most everyone has regrets.
As a side note, I think New Year's Resolutions play into regrets in two diametrically different ways. Their intention is to cut down on regrets, but they are also the source of many regrets. Am I right? Here are a few takes on resolutions, and by association, regrets:
Notice Paul says there are two kinds of regrets:
The Killing Kind.
The Saving Kind.
You feel sad…broken…bad, so you repent. You turn - that's what repentance means, a turning from sin. You turn from your sin, you find forgiveness in Christ, and you move on without letting it drag you down. That's the saving kind of regret.
The other kind…the killing kind, as Paul describes it, is the remorse brought about by losing the world's approval. It's not the kind of regret that drives you to the foot of the cross in repentance. It's about not getting what we believe to be our fair share of pleasure or lust or material things or losing out on how the world defines meaning or success. Kind of like, "I regret all those loves I've lost." The killing kind is the regret that drives you back to seek more of the world's approval. It's a doubling down on receiving the world's approval.
But there's one little caveat we need to understand. There is a kind of regret, of feeling bad, that is paralyzing, killing, defeating, ruining of a person's soul. Neurotic guilt and excessive shame are not part of the equation. That's not what we're talking about here. Instead we're going to look at Micah 7 and what one man calls the foundation for gutsy guilt:
Gutsy guilt is looking in the mirror, seeing what you don't like, and being bold in spite of it for the sake of righteousness.
So how on earth can you do that? How can you know you're guilty, know you're a sinner, know you've failed and walk into a new year ready to live with righteousness? How can you do that?
If I were a betting man, I'd say right now, there are people on tip-toe, hoping not to get caught up in the temptations and traps of our fallen world. I'd also wager there are some hanging on by their fingernails to God's grace and guiding hand. Some families feel cursed. Some families seem to get more than their share of heartache. We know pain is never divided up evenly. There is disproportion, or so it seems. Sometimes it comes in clusters. You have times of calm, quiet joy, and then there is upheaval. Blessing and then curse. Have you ever had those times when things seem to be going along well, but in the back of your mind, you're waiting for the other shoe to drop? Famous people die in threes, right?
What do you do when you feel like your life is jinxed? Where do you go when you know you've really blown it this time?
Listen to Micah 7:7-9:
But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me. I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against him, until he pleads my cause and executes judgment for me. He will bring me out to the light; I shall look upon his vindication.
We can break this wonderful passage down into ten pieces.
1. When I fall.
He has fallen. We can't name the fall. It may be that Micah is speaking here corporately, and they have fallen into the hands of their Babylonian enemy because of their idolatry. You can read it individually or corporately. Either way, it has meaning for us. A fall has happened.
2. Because I have sinned against Him.
We know his fall is a sin. He didn't stumble innocently and fall and blame it on somebody. He sinned. We have a fall, and the fall is sin.
3. Rejoice not over me, O my enemy.
We know that enemies are looking on. They're seeing the fall and the sin, and they're gloating. That's a great fear of mine. When I sin, I want it hidden, because I know there are people who don't like me and would be more than happy to gloat. Like Micah, I want to say, don't rejoice over my fall.
4. I will bear the indignation of the Lord.
He's under God's anger. He's a person of God, a people of God, and he's bearing indignation from the Lord. And here's a huge thing we can learn from him. It's honesty about our sin. He says, "I'll bear it. I sinned. I fell. People are laughing, and I'm going to bear it because God is rightfully angry at me. I shamed His name."
5. My God will hear me.
The indignation of the Lord is on him, he has sinned, and people are gloating. But he prays and he's confident God will hear. Now things are starting to get gutsy. If you lacked confidence, you'd say "I hope God hears. I'm not sure if God listens to the prayers of sinners. I don't think He'll hear." If you're not gutsy, you'll talk like that. But here's where gutsy guilt slides in - "My God will hear me."
Time for a side note. Guilt isn't a bad thing. Here's something you might want to write down:
Guilt originates in the conscience. To deny guilt is to marginalize the conscience.
Appropriate and proportional guilt is never a bad thing.
6. I will wait for the God of my salvation.
The discipline of the Lord doesn't come with any prescribed limits. Will I be disciplined for an hour? A year? What will I have to bear and for how long? Micah says, "I will bear the indignation of the Lord. Enemy, don't you gloat over me. I'm crying out to him. He'll hear me and I'll wait." As Psalm 40:1-3 says:
I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.
How long did he wait? It says he waited patiently. I doesn't say for how long. That's a good thing. How long did Simeon wait to see the birth of the Messiah? How long did Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, wait
before she conceived? Where are you in your waiting?
7. When I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me.
When I cry out to Him, even in His indignation over my sin, God hears me. And so I wait. You wait. We wait. It's dark. It's dark because sin is dark. God is light in the darkness. Our circumstances are bleak. God's wrath over sin is real. It's not what He created us for. It's not how God wants our lives to be. The one light in this darkness is the Lord.
"When I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me."
8. Until He pleads my cause.
To feel the weight and wonder of this,
let's return to the beginning of verse 9: "I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against him." And how long will I bear this? How long will I live under this dark cloud? "Until he pleads my cause." That's really strange. God is the One who's anger burns against me. The dark cloud is coming from Him. It's His anger against me, and rightfully so because of my sin. And I'm staying here until He pleads my cause. What does that sound like to you? Does that sound like the cross of Jesus Christ? We were under the penalty for sin until God sent a Savior, One who pleads our cause and covers our sin. As Lauren Daigle so beautifully sings:
I am guilty Ashamed of what I've done,
what I've become These hands are dirty I dare not lift them up to the Holy one
You plead my cause You right my wrongs You break my chains You overcome You gave Your life To give me mine You say that I am free How can it be How can it be
That is gutsy guilt. We are guilty yet it is the aggrieved who advocates for us. Can you handle that?
Make no mistake. The emotional life of the Christian is strange. We live within the tensions of knowing how angry God is because we sin terribly, but while angry, He is going to plead our cause. How can it be? Only God can eternally deliver us from His anger.
9. And execute judgment for me.
But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me. I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against him, until he pleads my cause and executes judgment for me. He will bring me out to the light;I shall look upon his vindication.t is what happened in Jesus Christ. Everything here in Micah was pointing to Jesus. At the cross, the judgment that should have fallen on us and crushed us instead fell on Jesus, our Advocate.
10. He will bring me out to the light.
I will not hide. I will not stay in the darkness. In Jesus Christ, we have seen the light. Here's what that means. Here's what Micah 7:9 means - we know God will advocate for our cause…we know judgment will come…and now, as it comes, we are walking out into the light and seeing God's vindication and our deliverance. And so here we are. In the light. It's okay now. We've learned to live in gutsy guilt.
I thank God for my family as we enter a new year. I love them so much. I thank God that you are here and we're able to walk with Jesus Christ together. I love this church so much. As I look back on my failings in 2019, and my regrets, and the sins I've committed, I thank God that in Jesus Christ He calls me out of the darkness and into the light. How can it be!