Given for the Saints at Medicalodge on 4/25/04
"Leave them; they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit" (Matt. 15:14).
After reading last week's piece called "Ambassadors for the Kingdom" (See Link at end), the dear brother whom I quoted in it wrote to say, "I fully believe, Jan, that you (or the Holy Spirit) could make an effective sermon out of "Three Blind Mice!" I laughed and thought about Jesus calling the Pharisees "Blind Guides." Finding the church mouse graphic put the icing on the cake for me.
The guilt factor comes from an e-mail we received this week from a young woman we've never heard from before. In desperation over her losing battle with guilt, she had typed "guilt" into a search engine and came up with two pieces I had written several years ago. One was called, "The guilt trip" (See Link at end), and the other was "Guilt trips and shame games" (See Link at end). They have remained popular because guilt is such a prevalent condition in the world today, even among Christians. We've had people confess all sorts of things to us in e-mails, including spousal abuse, fornication, adultery, and more. This woman explained that her fear of failure caused her such anxiety and stress, that she couldn't complete her junior year as an exchange student abroad. Afraid they would send her back after Christmas break, she lied to her family and the doctor to whom they took her for help, saying she was depressed, when really she was suffering from "performance anxiety," terrified of failure. The doctor put her on meds for depression, but the guilt continues to eat her alive. Here's a part of her letter:
"On top of feeling the guilt for lying, I also feel very disappointed in myself for giving up on what was to be the experience of a lifetime. Even though I hated the courses I was taking and thought I might fail, I have since learned that I was getting A's in all of those courses. I guess I am just tired of always trying to be such a perfectionist, to the degree that I would give up on an experience like this simply because I was scared of failing. Now, I constantly belittle myself for doing things to try to be perfect.
"I was hoping you might be able to offer me some glimmer of hope, some way to move forward from all of this... I wake up every morning to what feels like a nightmare, wishing I could change the past. I'd really appreciate a response from you. Hoping you can help, Janice (not her real name)." End Quote.
The following is an edited version of my answer to her.
Dear Janice, You don't say if you have a personal relationship with Jesus or not. By that, I do NOT mean are you going to church? I mean, have you encountered the risen Lord in your life? Sad to say, nominal Christians, ones who go to church to "pay their fire insurance" often have a lot of guilt, because they have been exposed to a false concept of God.
I relate to your letter, as I am in recovery from being a perfectionist myself. It's a long journey out of that mindset. It has taken a lot of years to work through the WHY of perfectionistic behaviors, which often spring from childhood criticism.
This morning, as I reread your e-mail, I saw that your saying you are depressed is not really a lie. You insist that your family would have let you stay at home without lying about your situation, but at some level, you don't believe that, which is, in itself, very depressing. Interestingly, some of the meds they prescribe for depression also work for obsessive compulsive behavior, the need to get A's being one of those. However, deliverance from guilt never comes in a pill, but rather in a person, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Like you, I couldn't tolerate less than an "A" grade, in grammar school, high school, college, and graduate school. Once, I got a "C" in bowling in college, and cried for two days over it. I was more "brain" than "brawn," and there was no way I could excel in bowling. God meant it to me for good, as He does you with this traumatic experience. He wants us to rely on Him, rather than our own perfectionistic efforts.
For the past month, the Lord has impressed upon me to share the difference between soul power (works) and Spirit power (grace). Most of Christendom is based on soul power, i.e., what you must do for God, which is depressing and daunting if you don't know what He has already done for you in Christ.
Let me assure you that God loves you unconditionally. He is not embarrassed, ashamed, or angry about what you consider such a horrible sin. If you don't know Him, let me just say that Jesus came to seek and save the lost (which includes all of us), and He did NOT fail in His mission.
Notice these two scriptures: 1 Cor. 6:11 "And all this describes what some of you were. But now you have had every stain washed off: now you have been set apart as holy: now you have been pronounced free from guilt; in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and through the Spirit of our God."
I came to the conclusion intellectually that Christ delivered us from guilt, long before I reached it spiritually. It would have done us no good had Christ died for our sins, but left us with the guilt for them. He took all guilt and sin upon Himself and nailed it to the cross. By His stripes we were healed, of every bad thing that had accrued to us from Adam's fall from grace. It's "a done deal." There's nothing of the old that we must carry around with us anymore.
The next verse is Gal. 2:16, "know that it is not through obedience to Law that a man can be declared free from guilt, but only through faith in Jesus Christ. We have therefore believed in Christ Jesus, for the purpose of being declared free from guilt, through faith in Christ and not through obedience to Law. For through obedience to Law no human being shall be declared free from guilt" (Weymouth).
I grew up in a very Fundamentalist family, in which there were no shades of gray, only black and white. Legalism, by definition, produces guilt, because it belongs to the LAW of Moses, which no one could keep. When I was introduced to the gospel in its purity (not what most churches teach), that God in Christ was on the Cross, reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them (II Cor. 5:18-19), I understood why my perfectionism could not get me where I wanted to go.
I had received numerous years of counseling, which helped enormously to explore where the roots of this painful tendency came from (my birth family, and fundamentalist religion). Counseling was a means by which God delivered me from the need to be perfect, to accept what had gone on in my life, and to allow me to take a new direction, other than what my family had decreed for me. That brought me a long way out of the pit of despair and anger, but what put me over the top was realizing that in Christ, I don't have to try to be perfect. Wonder of wonders, oh glorious truth, I am perfect, not because of anything I have done, but because of what He has done for me and for you!
God sees me, sees you, sees everyone that way because Christ paid the price for the sins of the whole world. Paul said that when we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. This declaration is found in Romans 3:23. In verse 20, the Apostle says, "Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin." What this means is that KNOWING the right thing will not ensure that we will be able to DO the right thing. The little mouse in the graphic is preaching, "Thou shalt have no guilt," but like every other law, we cannot keep it in our own strength. In fact, Paul said to the Corinthian brothers, that "the power of sin is the law" (1 Cor 15:56). You have disappointed yourself, obviously, but the way out was laid down before the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8). He forgave the whole world of their sins on Calvary's cross, including yours and mine as well. The Apostle John wrote, "He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:2). Now, it's just a matter of our accepting what He already did for us in Christ, and He even helps us do that! (Eph. 2:8).
Get in your prayer closet (by yourself, in other words), and tell God what you have told me. He has already forgiven you, which gives you the courage and faith to come into His presence. Tell Him you want to know Him as He really is, and He will answer your prayers.
I like the Weymouth translation of Paul's comments about reconciliation. He states that God "has reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and has appointed us to serve in the ministry of reconciliation" (2 Cor. 5:18). This is a completed action. God HAS reconciled us to Himself through Christ.
Not only are we reconciled to God, who was in Christ on the cross, but our transgressions, our sins, those things which make us feel guilty, are NOT CHARGED TO OUR ACCOUNT. (Vs. 19). This scripture reveals that God delivered a death blow to guilt; if He does not hold our transgressions against us, for what are we to feel guilty? Guilt is a useless exercise of soul power. It's "the dark side of the force" to use contemporary terminology.
When the light of this glorious good news flashes across our spirit, we in turn tell others that the war between man and God is over (Vs. 20). By the way, orthodoxy has it backwards. Jesus did not have to die because God was angry with us. He died because He loves us. Having experienced this truth, we are therefore empowered to be ambassadors for Him to all mankind. Our message is that we can come home to the Father, penalty free.
Christ's death on the cross brought this glorious result: "He has made Him who knew nothing of sin to be sin for us, in order that in Him we may become the righteousness of God" (Vs. 21). Christians especially should ask themselves the question, "If I have become the righteousness of God, why should I feel guilty about anything." Those who are operating out of guilt, are still in unbelief, still depending on soul power (works) to get them out of the prison of guilt, rather than Spirit power (grace). Only the power of God can transfer us from Mount Sinai (law) to Mount Zion (grace).
Creation is locked in the bondage of decay from the consequences of sin. Guilt, depression, anger, bitterness, unforgiveness and wrath are playing unchecked on the world's stage today. Christ took care of it all for us. This is how I now spend my life, communicating with those who have been wounded and hurt by religious dogmas. God helps me to introduce people to Life in the Spirit (the antidote for religion).
God has forgiven you, and my prayer for you is that you will forgive yourself and quit beating yourself up. Self flagellation will never bring you peace. Peace is a person, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Love and grace and mercy to you, Jan Antonsson
I have heard no more from this young woman, but as the Spirit puts her on my heart, I pray for her that God will reveal Himself to her up close and personal. Only that encounter with our Father God will deliver her from the agony of soul and spirit that she is in right now.
It takes the Great Counselor to heal us of our wounds from childhood, and deliver us from Job's comforters (well meaning church friends), who are still operating in the old which has passed away, rather than in the New Creation which we are in Christ. Many Christians are in the place the Apostle Paul described this way: "I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died" (Rom. 7:9). In other words, laying law (soul power) on someone or ourselves brings suffering and death. Jesus said that if the blind lead the blind, they shall both fall into the ditch. It is the Spirit which makes alive and restores our sight, enabling us to see Him as He is.
If you'll permit a homely comparison, trying to get rid of our guilt without God's help is like trying to get a cat to take a pill. The more we try, the worse the situation becomes. The cat often outlasts and outfights us, leaving us bitten, scratched, and frustrated. Cats and guilt have sharp claws and teeth. I speak from experience.
Jeri Fox observed recently that continuing to feel guilty about confessed sin is denying the gift of forgiveness. That's it in a nutshell. The only antidote for sin and the guilt that follows is knowing our Father's love.
Father, we thank You for healing us of all our diseases of body, mind, and soul. Only You can cure guilt, a cancer of the soul. You are the answer to all the problems that confound the wise and trouble the simple. Anoint our lives with power to share Your unconditional love with the lost and dying world. Arise in us with healing in Your wings. With the comfort wherein You have comforted us, may we comfort one another. Amen. Jan Antonsson
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
"Abraham's DNA, Soul Power, II"
"Faith or works? Soul Power,III"
"Ambassadors for the Kingdom, Soul Power, IV"
"Soul Power Revisited, Soul Power VI"
"That Tree, Soul Power VII"
"The Far Country, Soul Power VIII"
"The Guilt Trip"
"Guilt Trips and Shame Games"
The Glory Road
We always enjoy hearing from you!
This page was uploaded to the web on 4/22/04
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 10/18/08.