And there shall ye remember your ways, and all your doings, wherein ye have been defiled; and ye shall lothe yourselves in your own sight for all your evils that ye have committed. Ezek 20:43
There is little our society abhors and avoids more than shame and guilt. The Bible knows no problem with shame and guilt, provided that they are induced by a biblically-informed awareness of our true evil nature. Our society shuns anything that represses what it calls “natural” urges or instincts. Scripture informs us that we are absolutely and totally corrupt and depraved; therefore we have much that should be repressed. Actually repressed is the wrong word. God does not intend that our evil nature simply be untreated so long as it is repressed, i.e., not acted upon.
Biblically informed guilt is proper and healthy. Paul writes, “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.” 2 Cor. 7:10 Too often we are prone to feel sorry or repentant for the things we do, rather than for what we are.
The true believer will feel wretched when he considers the heinousness of his sins against a holy God. Whitefield told his listeners that if they had never felt as David did, saying, “For mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me,” (Psalms 38:4), then they were deceiving themselves to think that they were true Christians. John Newton immortalized this sense of sin when he wrote the line, “Amazing grace! How sweet the sound; that saved a wretch like me.” It should worry us immensely if we have never felt this.
However, the believer will not be crushed under the weight of hopelessness. Rather he seeks deliverance from the remains of the resident corruption. Paul writes, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24) He longs to rid of all the taints of the Fall and to dwell in the pure light of God’s holy presence. Reading the very next verse (Romans 7:25 – “I thank God…”) tells us something else: The believer is thankful for every victory God grants him along the way.
Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better
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