Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
I have a friend who used to joke about the way he felt in church. He would say that the preacher did a good job making him feel worthless like “a worm, the scum of the earth.” In recent years there has been a trend in churches to avoid such hard preaching opting for a softer and gentler approach to proclaiming God’s word. I believe that we are obligated to preach “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) which means that there are merits to both the old and the new. In the bible we find condemnation and inspiration, desperation and hope, bondage and freedom, defeat and victory, guilt and a clear conscience, sin and forgiveness, etc.
Someone told me recently that the reason she loved the pastor of our church was because he never yelled. I also recall a lady telling me that the reason she didn’t join my church was because I didn’t scream when I preached. Certainly, style has its place in communicating God’s message but nothing is more important than bible-based content and the work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said that the role of the Spirit was to “convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.”(John 16:8)
The Spirit personalizes God’s word in such a way as to motivate us to want to conform to God’s plan and purpose for our lives. So, when God’s word is particularly condemning — don’t blame the preacher. If you are feeling guilt, it has been brought upon you by the presence of God’s Spirit. If you are experiencing guilt then remember that this is not the end but an opportunity for you to grow in the faith. God has something better for you.
A good example of how we can view scripture can be found in today’s focus verse. First, it can be seen in a very positive and uplifting way. You are “chosen” by God and you are “holy” and “dearly loved.” It is indeed wonderful to know that God sees us in such a special way. But then we are told that since we are “chosen,” “holy,” and “dearly loved” that we have a responsibility to “clothe” ourselves “with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” These words can be uplifting but they can also produce guilt depending upon where we are in our walk with God.
Are you compassionate? Are you kind toward others? Do you humble yourself before God and others? Are you gentle in your treatment of others? Are you patient with others and in waiting on God? As you consider these questions the Holy Spirit then brings to mind examples of your behavior, ways in which you have failed to live up to God’s expectations. As the Holy Spirit guides you in self-examination, you may then experience feelings of guilt that result in a prayer for forgiveness and a desire to change your behavior, which is precisely what God wants.
There are some lyrics from beloved hymns that express the way we were before Christ. “I once was lost in sin but Jesus took me in.” “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.”
I’ve never really thought of myself as a wretch, but that’s exactly what I was before I gave my life to Christ. Paul declared, “O wretched man that I am!” (Romans 7:24) Just for the record a wretch is a base, despicable, or vile person. It is a word that still has relevance for those who are without Christ. “There is none righteous, no, not one.” (Romans 3:10) “There is none who does good.” (Romans 3:12)
Nobody wants to be thought of in such a bad way but it is a reality that must be confronted in order to take hold of the abundant life available through Jesus Christ. Thankfully, I am no longer a wretch, but I do have some rough places in my life that need to be straightened out. That requires honesty before God.
God wants us to look closely with the help of the Holy Spirit and to examine our standing with God. When you go before God it’s like going to the doctor for a physical from which he makes recommendations on his findings. He will recommend things like more exercise, eating better and making healthier choices. Occasionally the doctor might say, “Just keep doing what you are doing.” Likewise, when you go before God, out of your desire for better spiritual health, you must be willing to accept His diagnosis and prescription for change. Most often, God will have something for you to work on.
In the past, whenever I was “chosen” for anything, there were always high expectations that came along with it. “Chosen” for a baseball team, “chosen” to play in a band, “chosen” for a job, and “chosen” for marriage. Somebody singled me out and it made me feel special, but every single time there were greater responsibilities that came with being chosen. So it is with God. You were “chosen” to be “holy” and you are “dearly loved.” To be so special in the eyes of the God of all creation is the greatest of all honors but the standard of expectation for such a high position comes with great responsibility.
Jesus said, “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required.”(Luke 12:48) So, the next time you start feeling guilty for not living up to God’s requirements don’t blame it on the preacher. The God by whom you are “dearly loved” is working in you to grow you and to complete His good work in you.
Guilt can be a healthy thing when you use it for what God has intended. It is a powerful motivator toward doing right and keeping you headed in the right direction. If you are a child of God you should be and will be subject to feelings of guilt over ungodly behavior. When guilt happens then confess your sins, resolve to change your behavior by God’s help, and then move on. Jesus is always faithful to forgive.
Guilt wasn’t given to beat you down but to build you up. It is sign that you are saved. If you have no remorse for sinning against God then you are not His child. When you use guilt wisely as God intends, you will grow in Christ.
For more on this topic, check out this article: Battling Depression God’s Way
Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 1 (January – March) Get your copy here: Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.