Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God.
Guilt is one of the most debilitating emotions anyone can ever experience. Guilt wreaks havoc in our lives, in our relationships with other people, and in our relationship with God. Now, certainly some of the guilt we feel is misplaced guilt–that is, we feel guilty for the wrong reasons. We feel guilty when we don’t keep some unrealistic standard that society or even the Christian community has imposed. For example, we hear people say that you can’t have an effective prayer life unless you spend two or three hours praying every day, so we feel guilty about our prayer life. Or we hear people say that Christians should never go into debt for any reason, so we feel guilty when we go into debt. Often there is an unrealistic standard causing us to feel guilty.
But the main reason we feel guilty is because in fact we are guilty. The story is told of a London playwright who as a joke sent anonymous notes to 20 of London’s most famous citizens. The notes said the same thing: “All has been discovered. Leave town immediately.” The result: all 20 citizens left London immediately. We all have things in our lives that we feel guilty about.
What’s the problem with that kind of guilt? It certainly hurts us. I heard a psychiatrist say that 70 percent of today’s patients in mental wards could be released if they knew how to find forgiveness. Forgiveness is a debilitating personal emotion. But the main problem with guilt is what it does in our relationships. Guilt destroys our relationships with other people. Have you ever had this experience? You are in a circle with some friends gossiping about another person when suddenly that person appears. You stop your conversation, but how likely are you to invite that person to be a part of the group? Or how likely are you to attend a family gathering when you owe money to one of your relatives? Or how likely are you to call a friend with whom you have just had an argument? Guilt separates us from other people.
Guilt also destroys our relationship with God. Guilt causes us to run away from God. That is why Isaiah said, “Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God” (59:2). Many people use this verse when talking to non-Christians, and it is true for non-Christians. But Isaiah was not talking to unbelievers in this passage; he was talking to God’s redeemed. He was saying, “Even though you are the covenant children of God, your continued sin has produced a separation between you and your God.”
Are you suffering from a guilty conscience? Is there something in your life right now or something in your past that is causing you to keep your distance from God? Maybe you are uncomfortable in the presence of God, so you have been keeping your distance from God. If so, here is the good news: forgiveness is possible.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Receiving God’s Gift of Forgiveness” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2015.
Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.