“The kind of regret and sorrow over sin which drives us to Christ to find mercy, grace and forgiveness is helpful. This kind of guilt becomes a goad: it pushes the Christian closer to the Gospel, to the cross, and to the truths of perichoresis. It is ‘regret not to be regretted’.”
We have taken the time to understand our new nature and position in Christ because it is fundamental to understanding what it is to live in God’s presence, and thereby come to know him and love him. The prevalence of ‘moth Christians’ may be because of Christians’ failure to understand their position in Christ and rightly deal with guilt.
Second Corinthians 7:10 teaches two kinds of sorrow over sin.
For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.
The kind of regret and sorrow over sin which drives us to Christ to find mercy, grace and forgiveness is helpful. This kind of guilt becomes a goad: it pushes the Christian closer to the Gospel, to the cross, and to the truths of perichoresis. It is ‘regret not to be regretted’.
The other kind of guilt produces death. This kind of guilt condemns us without driving us to Christ. Lacking faith, it drives us away from Christ to try to cover our own sins with excuses, comparisons or distractions. We feel dirty and unwilling to come to the only One who can clean us. It often encourages us to indulge further in sin, since we feel defiled already and try to ‘acclimatise’ our conscience to the sin in question. This sort of guilt is really unbelief in the power of the gospel. It is unbelief in the God-given position of the Christian life.
If we understand our position in Christ, how should we respond to guilt? We remember the reality of sin and its defiling nature, but then we recall our justification in Christ and our access in Him. Rather than wallowing deeper in sin, we remind ourselves that in Christ we are pleasing to God, secure and completed. Instead of hiding in the trees of the garden with the fig leaves of our excuses, we come to God, openly confess our sin and forsake it, trusting in his ongoing cleansing. Rather than breaking the cycle of communion, understanding our position can lead to a deeper knowledge of God. We can fall forward. This was the attitude of Micah in fighting against guilt:
Do not rejoice over me, my enemy; When I fall, I will arise; 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 case And executes justice for me. He will bring me forth to the light; I will see His righteousness. (Micah 7:8-9)
You cannot love God ultimately if you doubt that he loves you. You cannot live in his presence if you doubt that he wants you in his presence, or that you are qualified to be there. You cannot commune with God boldly if you are plagued by an accusing conscience. You cannot live by faith in grace if you are leaning on human merit and human works.