For the past couple weeks I’ve been reading The Handbook for Spiritual Warfare by Dr. Ed Murphy. It has its interesting points, but something in it the other night struck me as wrong-headed and the kind of thinking that gets Christians and even non-believers in trouble.
The author was talking about sexual sin and was focusing on the consequences of sexual sins for leaders. Dr. Murphy talks about how he avoids sexual sin and then says this, “First, I know if I were to experience a sexual fall my relationship with God would be broken. Though He would forgive me, my relationship with Him would never be the same.”
Whoa!!! No, no, no, no, no!
Let me say this right up front: If you sin and God forgives you but you believe your relationship with God is irreparably harmed due to that sin then Jesus Christ is not our savior and did nothing for us on the cross!
Unfortunately Dr. Murphy apparently buys into the theology of guilt. Even more unfortunate many Christians have been badly damaged by pastors and priests who teach and practice the theology of guilt. That is not the message Jesus has for us. Let’s look at what scripture really says.
In Romans 8:1 God tells us “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…” This is a vital piece of our Christian theology. When Jesus went to the cross, he paid our penalty as sinners, taking the world’s sins upon himself as sin offering to God. Theologically it’s call propitiation or paying the penalty. Jesus paid the penalty for us so there is no condemnation – no guilt – for those in Christ!
We see Jesus act this out in John 8:11 when Jesus asks the adulterous woman if any have condemned her after Jesus tells the crowd that the one without sin should throw the first stone. The woman says no one condemned her and Jesus replies, “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.”
There was no guilt or shame here. Jesus simply forgave her and told her to stop sinning. When he forgave her it was over!
From the Old Testament to the New God tells us that our sins are as far as the east from the west (Psalm 103:2) and that He remembers our sins no more (Hebrews 8:12) when we turn to him. God’s forgiveness of our sins is complete. When He forgives he doesn’t remember the sin and hold a grudge, He forgives and forgets as if our sins had not occurred!
Dr. Murphy believes that his relationship with God would never be the same if he fell into sexual sin. He elaborates by saying, “How could I face God knowing what I had done? My heart is too tender before Him as it is. I cannot stand for any cloud to come between God and me. A sexual fall would undermine everything my spiritual life has been built upon. How could I pray? How could I have fellowship with Him if I so terribly betrayed him?”
Do you see the problem with this type of theological logic? So if you sin bad enough (as if one sin is worse than another to God) you no longer can approach God because you are so guilty. Isn’t that what Jesus fixed on the cross? Didn’t he make it so we could approach God with confidence because we know that all our sins – past, present, and future – are forgiven and that God sees us as a holy priesthood of believers who are righteous in his eyes?
The irony here is the author is writing about spiritual warfare and he’s fallen to it himself! Satan wants you to believe that you cannot go to God if you’ve sinned egregiously. Can’t you just hear Satan saying, “How can you pray to Him after what you’ve done? How could you have fellowship with Him after you betrayed Him like that?”
LIES! It’s all Satan’s lies! If we learn anything from scripture it is we are to go directly to God when we sin, seek forgiveness, and repent! We are to ensure the sin does not disrupt our relationship with God by doing exactly what Dr. Murphy says he couldn’t do!
Our example scripturally is David. That guy was a train wreck but God called him a man after His own heart. Why? Because even though David screwed up a lot, he always came back to God and sought forgiveness by confessing his sin.
If Dr. Murphy were right and sin were a barrier to God to we as Christians not one of us – including Dr. Murphy – could come before God. Dr. Murphy says he couldn’t stand it if some cloud came between him and God. WHAT? Here’s a news flash: Dr. Murphy: You sin every day just like the rest of us. If our sins keep us from God then we’re doomed. But that’s not how it works!
Jesus was our propitiation. He paid the price and we’ve been justified (declared not guilty) and sanctified (set apart as one of God’s people) so we have no condemnation and no reason to feel guilty.
Perhaps I’m reading too much into what Dr. Murphy wrote, but I get very concerned about this theology of guilt because I’ve seen too many people believe that God doesn’t love them because of their sins. Like Dr. Murphy they know God’s forgiven them but they cannot forgive themselves due to the overwhelming guilt. This again is from Satan!
Let me make this very clear: If the God who created the heavens and the earth forgives you who are you to think you are more important than He is by not agreeing in that forgiveness and forgiving yourself? Only Satan can make you think that how you see yourself is more important than how God sees you.
If you are a victim of guilt theology, let me apologize for all of us who handle God’s word. If you still struggle with that guilt, please grab onto the life that Christ has for you and live that life abundantly. There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. Approach God boldly and seek his favor – He’s waiting for you with open arms!!