I’ve been thinking about guilt this week. What do you think causes us to feel guilty about something. A man I once went to church with brought up the subject and asked me about our conscience. He wanted to know if our conscience was really molded by the Holy Spirit or by outside influences that we respected.
It is an interesting question. To further clarify what I’m talking about, consider someone who is unsaved and belongs to a street gang. This man may not be a moral person (according to God’s Word) but he may actually have standards of right and wrong. His gang may believe that they should uphold every member and never do harm to one of them. He may believe that it is wrong to steal from another member. No doubt, this man has some type of conscience that is based on rules he learned.
This week I was driving down a country road when I came upon a construction zone. The traffic was bottle-necked down to one lane and I had to wait for the flagman to wave me through before I could proceed. Before he would do that, he waited for the pilot-vehicle to show up. This vehicle appeared momentarily with a train of traffic behind. After it delivered the chain of cars it turned around and the flagman waved me through. The unusual part about this story is that we advanced over to the left lane and drove for about a mile. If there is anyone reading this that lives in a country where that is the normal lane to drive in you may not understand. But, in our country we use the right lane to drive on and it startled me to be over there!
I know it sounds silly but I’ve been driving for thirty-nine years now and have always used the right lane unless I was briefly passing a car. As we drove we went up and down hills and around curves that I could not see past. Except for the pilot vehicle in front of me, there was no traffic. As we drove through the section where the paving was taking place I realized that there were many side roads and driveways that someone might have come out of by mistake and could have met us head on. I started thinking about doing things that go against what we know is the right thing to do and it got really deep!
We all were given instruction as to the rules of the road when we learned to drive. There was an action that we learned to take when we saw a red sign saying STOP. We learned what YIELD means and we understand what a solid-yellow line in the middle of the road is for. These rules were given as standards and we know that violating them is dangerous.
What about moral rules? What determines what is right and wrong? I have had some interesting discussions through the years with un-saved people that believed morality is not an absolute. They believed in situation-ethics which means what is wrong for you may not be wrong for the rest of us. For example, I may state that stealing is absolutely wrong in any situation. You may determine that it’s ok to steal if the person is already rich and can afford it. Some people believe that cheating on their taxes isn’t really stealing because they feel the tax is unfair and the government can afford it anyway. Jesus had another opinion on that subject in Matthew 22:21. The rules we live by as Christians come from God. They are in His wonderful law. That law is the basis for our government and all moral societies.
I understand the unsaved and how they won’t see the moral law that God has given us. They don’t respect the authority of the Bible or Jesus as Son of God. After all, I was once unsaved and so were you. What I don’t understand are people who claim Jesus as Lord and don’t follow His rules. There should be a feeling of guilt if we step outside the boundaries of His moral code. I know that goes against what many people believe. There is a passage in Romans 8:1 that states that there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. Some people interpret that to mean that once we are saved we have no more guilt and can do anything we want since our sins are covered.
Let us examine that verse a little more closely. First, I believe we need to understand the word “condemnation”. If I stated that a building was condemned you would understand that it had been pronounced unusable or to be destroyed since it was unfit for habitation. If we look on the term condemnation in that understanding we can realize that when we are in Christ we will not have a pronouncement of being unfit or a declaration to be destroyed. The second thing we need to understand about this verse is that most people don’t finish reading it. Look again at Romans 8:1.
The people who don’t have this condemnation are those who don’t walk after the flesh but follow after the Spirit. Following your flesh is simply doing what you feel like doing or even what seems right. It is doing what you would do according to your own natural desires. This is where the unsaved get their moral code. They may not harm anyone unless it benefits them. Going back to the example of stealing from those who can afford it-it is simply following what seems right to them at the time.
The difference has to be following after the Spirit of God. If we are following after the Holy Spirit, God’s Counselor to us, we will have an unchanging standard that is God’s best for God’s people. If we do live this way we will certainly have no condemnation! How do you think we know these rules to live by? In what manner does a person have the Holy Spirit tell them what to do and which way to go? Oh, how I wished that the Church could understand this. We become alive in Christ when we first invite Him into our hearts as Lord and Master. We give Him complete control in this act and in doing so we give Him the reigns of our lives. Then, we must begin to read our Bibles and learn what God said is right and wrong. The Holy Spirit will absolutely never lead us into something that goes against God’s Word. Absolutely not! According to the verse we are looking at today it tells us that when we are lead by the Holy Spirit we will never be condemned.
If, however, we follow our flesh and do not go the way of the Spirit we will have the guilt and condemnation that we deserve. I was using a story today about driving in the left lane to help us all think about intentionally doing what we know is wrong. Maybe you think it’s just that you’ve been conditioned to driving on the right side of the road and that if you drive on the left it wouldn’t bother you. You would be just like me in doing it in that you would wonder what was just over the hill. Driving in the left lane leaves one in fear of disaster! Disobeying God and not following the leading of the Holy Spirit leaves you in just one place. In Hebrews 10:26-27 we find that living in intentional sin after we have the truth of right and wrong will put you in the place of judgment.
What does all of this boil down to today? We have been given the Holy Spirit to make us alive in Christ. He is known as the Comforter and Counselor. He helps us to understand the Bible. In fact, you won’t understand it without Him. I mentioned above that it confuses me when people who profess Jesus as Savior still live like the world, following their own flesh. I can tell you that there has to be a difference in your life from before and after you are saved. Otherwise, you don’t have life in you. The things that you relished before salvation should take on a new perspective after you are born again.
A young person who has never had driving instruction may drive in either lane (probably both). However, when he learns to drive and he can see traffic in the proper lanes he will not drive in the left lane without fear of a wreck. Consequently, before we are saved we did what we wanted to without any worry. But, when we are given new life there will absolutely be knowledge of moral foundations that we know to be for our good and a path for life.
Those who are lost have no idea why you cringe at their driving in the left lane or passing on a curve. You have the Holy Spirit in you similar to a driving instructor who always rides along side and reminds of unsafe acts.
Do you sense when you do something sinful? Is there life in you to know when you’ve done something wrong? I remember getting sick at my stomach trying to go against God’s will after I was saved. Before that point in my life I did exactly the same thing with no sense of wrong. But once I was saved I was in sin and I knew it. This comes from much more than a conscience that is only shaped by a man’s ideas. This is from the new life in Christ alone.
Do you know when you’ve done wrong? Is there a sense of guilt from breaking God’s law? If you attempt to sin and it makes you feel wrong don’t ignore the feeling. That is nothing more than the Holy Spirit giving you the warning. Perhaps you don’t know what I’m speaking of today. Maybe you don’t have any guilt for sinful acts. If this is you then you need to be saved today. Only new life in Christ can give you a moral compass to know what is a right or wrong act according to God’s rules.
Maybe you are tired of living the way that you have been and you truly feel lost. Jesus is the answer today. He brings life, direction and purpose to us. He alone can do this for you. Listen to His voice. Get out of the left lane to the place you need to be.
Prayer-Father, thank You for the Holy Spirit in our lives. Help us to heed the warning when He reminds us of what is right and wrong. When we make decisions in life we know that He is there. I pray for all who will read this message and don’t have that life in them. May that have a real revelation today of what new life in Christ is. Then, may they pursue that life in Jesus.
In Jesus’ Name-Amen
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