GUILT: A Devious Disturber

Jan Antonsson

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The Glory Road Blog, A Kingdom Highway

August 25, 2017

Neosho, MO

“Though you wash yourself with lye and use much soap, the stain of your guilt is still before me, declares the Lord GOD” (Jeremiah 2:22, ESV).

If there is anyone reading this who doesn’t quite get the difference between the Old and New Covenants, this topic of guilt goes to the top of the list of differences.  Under the Law, there really was no forgiveness of sins, because as the Hebrew writer explained, “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4, ESV).  Instead, once a year, their sins were rolled forward in this manner:  Aaron, the High Priest was to bring two goats to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting.  He cast lots for the two goats, one lot for the Lord and the other for the scapegoat (a substitute for the people themselves).  He sacrificed the goat whose lot fell to the Lord for a sin offering.  “But the goat chosen by lot as a scapegoat shall be presented alive before the Lord to be used for making atonement by sending it into the desert as a scapegoat” (Leviticus 16:10, NIV). I’ve read accounts that indicate the man who was to take the goat out into the wilderness, would often bring it to the edge of a high cliff and push it over so that it wouldn’t accidentally wander back into camp.

In this ritual which sounds bizarre to us, the sins of the people were carried forward for a year.  However, the guilt for their sins was ever before them, so much so that guilt offerings for sins were a part of the Law.  I’m not sure it did much good in real time, but it was there to help the people deal with their guilt.

Recall that under the Law of Moses, you basically determined your own fate by your faithfulness in keeping the commandments.  No one could keep them of course, with the result that many animals’ throats were cut by the offenders, so its blood could be sprinkled  by the priest on the altar.  When the people saw the blood pouring down the side of the altar, they were to remember the Blood Covenant God made with Abraham (Genesis 15), in which the person who failed to keep the covenant agreed to have his blood shed by the other person as payment for his failure.  God allowed them to spill a goat’s blood rather than their own. “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the lifeTherefore I have said to the people of Israel, No person among you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger who sojourns among you eat blood” (Leviticus 17:11-12, ESV).

Saving us from the consequences of the Blood Covenant is one reason Christ left the portals of glory and clothed Himself with human flesh.  The Hebrew writer explains that the “gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper” (Hebrews 9:9, NIV).  Because that was true, the people carried guilt for their sins always.  “But when the Messiah arrived, high priest of the superior things of this new covenant, he bypassed the old tent and its trappings in this created world and went straight into heaven’s “tent,” the true Holy Place, once and for all.  He also bypassed the sacrifices consisting of goat and calf blood, instead using his own blood as the price to set us free once and for all. If that animal blood and the other rituals of purification were effective in cleaning up certain matters of our religion and behavior, think how much more the blood of Christ cleans up our whole lives, inside and out (Hebrews 9:11-14, The Message). 

In other words, Christ’s blood takes away our guilt as well as our sins.  If it only removed our sins, leaving us wallowing in guilt, we wouldn’t be much better off than those under the Law of Moses because guilt is a soul killer, a cancer bringing death, not life.

Since Paul tells us that,  God was in Christ, reconciling the world (all of us) to himself through Christ (II Corinthians 5:19), this explains how God responded to the Blood Covenant He made with Abraham. He could have demanded the blood of every last one of us because we all broke the Covenant.  No one is righteous, no not one, Isaiah said and Paul repeated it.  However, instead of demanding our blood, God, our merciful, forgiving, gracious heavenly Father, said, “Here, take my blood,” which Jesus poured out on the cross, nailing our trespasses up there and the guilt as well. Realizing what God did to bridge the gap between His sinful, unlawful children and Himself brings tears to my eyes and the witness of the Holy Spirit running through my body like an electrical current. 

Here’s how our reconciliation with God was accomplished:  “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.  And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.…God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (II Corinthians 5:19-21, NIV).

This being the truth about our relationship to Father God through Christ Jesus our Lord (and if it’s not true, then there’s no hope for any of us), then why do so many Christians still feel guilty?  This is a question which has bothered me since God called us back here to the “Bible Belt.”  It seems like the more dedicated and sincere some Christians are, and there are countless like this, often the more guilty they feel.  It frankly drives me right round the twist as the Brits are wont to say.  I want to tear out my hair and run screaming into the night, asking “Why are you hanging on to guilt?  What does it buy you?”

Under the Law, guilt was a given.  It was endemic, ubiquitous, and all those words which mean, everywhere around you.  This is why they had a guilt offering available to them.  That was true then.  It is not true now!  Listen to The Message rendering of Colossians 2:13-14:  “When you were stuck in your old sin-dead life, you were incapable of responding to God. God brought you alive, right along with Christ! Think of it! All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ’s Cross.  I absolutely love that, don’t you?

I noticed a verse in Psalms, The Message translation, which made me gasp:  “Pile on the guilt, Don’t let them off the hook” (Psalm 69:27).  With all due respect, wasn’t this the way many of us were brought up?  Either parents or church leaders felt that the way to keep us on the “straight and narrow” was to pile on the guilt.

With as much loving kindness as I can muster here, let me ask, if you are holding on to guilt for some or all of your past sins, why do you do it?  Are you trying to appear righteous?  Are you trying to self flagellate with guilt to keep yourself in line, thinking that’s the only way you can achieve purity and holiness?  What nonsense is that?  It didn’t work for the pitiful sons of Jacob trying to live by Law; it didn’t work for us when we were trying a modified version of living by law.  Guilt never brings anything but death to the spirit.  It is a cancer of our souls.  And since I’m on a roll here, let me add that it is blasphemous and idolatrous as well.  How so?  If you think that by putting yourself down, you’ll raise yourself in God’s eyes, you are thumbing your nose at Christ and His blood shed for you on Golgotha.  What could you possibly add to His sacrifice?

The best advice on this subject I ever had came from my dear friend and pastor at the time, John Gavazzoni.  I shared with him some guilt issues I was having, and he advised, “Wrap your guilt up in a bundle; take it to the foot of the cross; lay it down and walk away; don’t look back and never revisit it again.”  That my friends, is what I did every time guilt tried to lay me low and bring me down.  Try it for yourself and see.  You’ll be blessing God without ceasing when you give Him your guilt.  He forgave it; He forgot it; that’s the end of it.  You’re free and clear, not due to any of your own efforts, but only and always because of what He has done for you and me, for ALL through Christ Jesus our Lord!  Paul asked, “So, then, if with Christ you’ve put all that pretentious and infantile religion behind you, why do you let yourselves be bullied by it?” (Colossians 2:20, The Message).

Someone is sure to be thinking, “But Jan, you just don’t get it.  My sin is a whopper.”  Oh, I get it all right. How?  Personal experience.  Answer me this, please.  Did Jesus die for nothing? For only the little sins?  Isn’t it hubris on your part to believe that your sin is too tough for the blood of Christ and the love and mercy of God to remove?  Are you living under the New Covenant wherein we are the New Creation in Christ, or under the old where our sins are not forgiven, just rolled forward a year?  In a sense, guilt has become our personal scapegoat, our reason for not availing ourselves of the Presence of God.  Don’t believe me.  Ask the lover of your soul. He nailed your guilt to the cross along with your sins.

Therefore, the reason I call guilt “the Devious Disturber,” is because it poses as a pious, religious response, whereas it is, in fact, right from the pit, a devious way to bring you down quickly. I wouldn’t be surprised if when we knock on the Pearly Gates, St. Peter were to say, “Leave your guilt outside and come on in sister.” 

Laying down our guilt goes against all we have learned from religion’s dictates.  The bizarre, but very good news is that it is only by sinning, by failing, by falling that we learn what it means to be loved and lifted up by God Himself. Richard Rohr ended his meditation today with this thought:   “The playing field is now utterly leveled. It is our mistakes that lead us to God. We come to divine union not by doing it right but by doing it wrong, as we all most surely do anyway.”  End Quote. My dear friend Harry Fox always said, “You just can’t lose for winning!”

Father, we thank You and Praise YOU, that it is not up to our efforts to obey the law, but only by your effort once and for all, that we are credited with righteousness, reckoned holy and blameless in Christ. Make us joy bringers and light bearers to all those still laboring under law.  “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever.” Amen. Jan Antonsson

Jan Austin Antonsson

17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail Address)

All our writings from 1997-2010 are on

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