Exit and Support Network

An End to Guilt

Pt. 1 | Pt. 2

God's Love is a Walk, not a Work

I think the "faith by works" thing is really an enemy of God's love and grace. If you think you can pump up your faith; if you can manipulate. Faith is a gifts, folks. It is a gift. And it is a fruit of the Spirit. I never saw a tree that struggled to grow apples. So if you are trying to work up some kind of faith ("If I just believe God enough, it will happen."), that's not faith, that's witchcraft. But the thing is, faith is something that God implants in your heart. God puts it in here. When I have walked in faith and believed God for something, it has not been an effort. It has not been a struggle. It hasn't been that kind of thing where I say, "I believe God, I believe God, I believe God," and in my heart I'm saying, "Boy, I better say it right, or God's not gonna answer my prayer." I'm thankful God's not like that, because that's a plain and simple works trip of condemnation. Because what happens if you don't have enough faith? "Boy, I've really failed." And then what happens? Condemnation. Many of us have been through that. It doesn't work that way. Faith is a gift of the Spirit. And faith is a fruit of the Spirit that comes as we walk in love. What does faith work by? Love. It is faith that works by love. Why? Because when you understand and receive the love of God, it's not a work. It's a walk.

Understand the difference. God implants the faith. God gives you the object of faith to believe for and then God grants the grace to believe for it and to receive the actuality of it. It has nothing to do with anything you can do. God is not playing games with the hearts of His children. God is not a big heavy trip on you and saying, "Well, if you would just have good enough faith, then I just might be inclined to listen to you. But if you don't, well, I just haven't got time. I've got to go tend to these people who have faith." That is so far from the concept and actuality of the love of God. I just can't even impress upon you enough. When you rest in love, then faith is no longer a work of the flesh that we pump up. There again, it's trying to get God's approval. "I just want God to approve of my life, so I'll do all the right things, because if I don't, He'll bring down the hammer or He'll take everything away, just like He did with Job." That's nonsense and I hurt for Christians who have been brought under this bondage. Just receive God's love and then you'll know.

I've been going through this thing this week. That's why I'm speaking this way about it. I've been asking God in prayer for something and it's a pretty big thing I'm asking for. I mean it's way over my head. And I'm saying, "God, I know you're big enough" and I catch myself every morning when I get up, saying, "Now, did I remind God enough that I really want this?" What do the Scriptures say? He knows before we even ask, what the petitions of our heart are. And we can rest in that. I think we are really afraid if we don't do this. That kind of faith is motivated from fear. "If I don't do the right things, I'm afraid God won't answer my prayers." But if our earthly fathers know how to give us good gifts, how much more will our Heavenly Father give of His Spirit to His children? All you have to do is ask. It's real important that we understand that because I want condemnation to be off of us. And anything that speaks of a "work" in that respect concerning faith is condemnation. It is not receiving of the love of God.

This kind of back-scratching, "Okay, God, I will give a hundred dollars if you will give me a thousand dollars." Or, "I'll go out and save somebody if you'll save my grandmother," if that happens, then that back-scratching, that payback that we have with God, leads to demanding from God. "God, You promised that You would do this and that." I can't think of anything that would hurt a father more than to want to give his child something and to have his child come up to him and say, "You promised you would give it to me, Dad, now give it to me." Can you imagine how much that would hurt a father? Well, that is how much it hurts God and even more. He wants to bless us! And we stop Him because we demand like little, impetuous children. He just wants us to love Him and to be at His feet and to ask and to receive and to know that when we've prayed--prayer is so simple, when we've asked anything, in accordance with His will, He will do it. And if we pray and say, "God, I don't have the judgment on this. If You want me to have this; if you want this to happen, thank you, in advance it will happen. And if you don't, I'm going to bless You and praise you anyway." Then you can rest. That's security. You don't have to worry to get God to answer you. He's so willing. That's what I want you to see. He's closer to us than we can even imagine in our hearts, in that willingness to give to us of His Spirit and of His love.

The World's Indulging Love

The world's love is an indulging love. It's a kind of love that accepts any behavior as long as it doesn't hurt you or inconvenience you and as long as the person keeps on liking you or loving you. And we do that with a lot of people. We say, "Well, I'm just trying to accept the person." What we are really thinking is, "Well, if I draw the line with him..." Particularly when it's dealing with believers that may be caught up in one sin or another, when we know because the Scriptures say if we see somebody that's in sin and we don't warn them, it's a very serious thing. And a lot of people approach others on the avenue of, well, we want to be accepting, and at the same time we are accepting the behavior, which is really not love. We always accept the person, but we should never accept sinful behavior in our lives or anyone else's. We don't condemn the person, but we don't accept that behavior. There's a big difference. And the world's indulging love says, "Just do whatever you want, just as long as you don't hurt anybody."

Well, you can't do that. Somebody always gets hurt when you do your own thing. Always. And other reason we do that, even as Christians, when we see somebody that is doing something sinful and we don't say anything--and, of course, that's a very careful area, we have to be very careful with, because we can't just go around pointing out people's sins. Because every time you point one finger at somebody else, you have three fingers pointing back at you. We should be motivated to help people away from sin because we see that they are being hurt, not because it's a pet peeve. But when that happens, that's true love. And a lot of times we won't point out a sin that we see or we won't try and exhort a person on it because we are harboring our own sins that we feel guilty about and we think, "Well, if I point out their sin, then God's gonna start really coming down on me." And here's that element of guilt again. I've done it myself. I've seen somebody that's doing something and I say, "I gotta say something," and then I think, "I better not because if I start telling that person what's wrong with then, God is going to come down and really take me to task." Guilt. Rotten, stinking guilt.

You all know the Scripture, so I'm not going to read it, but it's Hebrews 12:5-11: "Those that God loves He chastises and scourges every son that He receives." If you are not being chastised, then that is a good indication that you are probably not in the family of God. That's God's Word. That's definitely not my word, that's the Word of the Lord. And in Revelation 3:19, Jesus said to the church, "Those that I love, I rebuke and chastise." Now God's love is a disciplining love. A no good father is a father that lets his children do anything they want, take over the house.

I think Dr. Spock did more damage to child rearing than anybody in the last five million years. "Let your children express themselves." I have an aunt and uncle that are in show business. We went over there one time and the little boy was just scribbling all over their bedroom wall with lipstick and ink and my Aunt Jane was just going, "Isn't he just cute?" Lady, you have mental struggles. I can tell right now that you really need help, to let somebody do that. That's not love. And a lot of this is an area that I particularly think that mothers have to be careful with because a lot of times if they are insecure in their hearts, then they allow the child to go to great lengths without stopping them because they're afraid of rejection themselves. And it's so important that you don't judge your child rearing on the basis of, "What will they do? Will they still like me? Will they still love me?" It's something you do because you know they don't know better and if you let them run wild, then they will take it as far as you will let them. And I believe that rebellion in children is a cry for boundaries. Did you catch that? And God's love for us brings discipline, because He knows that if we just go our own way--God's just "Santa Claus" to us--then we'll destroy ourselves. We'll be spiritual imps and infants in the life to come. And God loves us too much to allow us to do that.

The World's Weakening Love

The world's love is a weakening love. The world's love is the kind of love that it's sloppy agape, as they call it. It's an emotional thing. But God's love is deeper than that. God's love is a strengthening thing. The world's love is a sheltering love. If I've had to learn one thing as a spiritual father, it's been this, do not shelter those you love from hard things. Press them right out into the cold, because that is where they will get the strength they need to survive. As I shared with you before, what good parent would keep their child home from school until they were thirty, because they are afraid of them getting hurt? That's a weakening love and Amy Carmichael wrote one of my favorite poems. This verse has been going through my head for several weeks now and I can't get rid of it. It says:

From love that seeks, that I may be
Sheltered from the storms that beat on Thee
Oh Lamb of God, deliver me

And God would not want that we should be sheltered from the storms that beat on His own Son, because as He is, so are we in this world, and we will walk in that path. I don't want to be sheltered anymore. There was a time when I did. "God, why can't I have all my warm fuzzies? It seems like every time I turn away, you are taking something away from me." Yeah, I've had a few pacifiers taken away, but if I didn't, I doubt if I would still be walking with the Lord today. I thank God that He did not shelter me from the storms that beat on His own Son. That's a strengthening love.

The world's love is an outward love. The world's love is based on behavior, status, money, the kinds of friends you have, popularity, beauty, how witty you are, how clever you are, what kind of skills and abilities you have, and the tragic thing is, my friends, is that this goes right into the realm of church circles. If you ever want to go to a beauty pageant, just show up on church Sunday morning. Everybody is dressed to kill--for the Lord, of course. They kind of flash in the front door, praising the Lord, and hoping everybody is going to notice their new high heel shoes, or whatever. Let's face it, what is the church circle that we know most commonly based on? Success. How successful are you? Wealth. We put the people that got the most money on the front pews. Just like James said not to do. Popularity. The people that are the most popular in the church remain the most popular. It's the loners that still sit there and hurt, service after service after service.

Like I've told you before, the most tragic thing for me is to preach at a service and the people that make it up to the front first for prayer or to talk are the people that need it the least usually. They're the ones that want to come up and say, "Oh, I love your preaching. You're so cute." Not really, but you know what I'm saying. But it's the people that need it the most who hang on the back of the building hurting, desperate, lonely. But the successful ones made it to the front first. The people that are rich and full and fat and spiritually lazy, that need it the least, that consume the time that could be spent on those that are hurting the most. The church is no different than the world, almost everywhere I go. It runs on the same stinking immoral values and it's got to change. It's based on beauty; it's based on outward nice things. There's no room for outcasts; there's no room for losers. How many people want to have a church full of losers? I mean if you asked all the pastors in the world, "How many of you want a church full of losers?" Not many. I want a church full of losers. If I was ever to be a pastor, give me the ones that are struggling, give me the ones that are hurting, because those are the ones that God wants.

You've heard Jesus' story how the man called out for the banquet, said go out and call the people. And one man says, "Well, I can't come, I have to tend to my wife." Another one says, "I can't come, I have to take care of my cow." The other one says, "Well, I can't come because I have a field I have to take care of." And the master says, "Fine, they don't want to come, let 'em go. They will never get into this banquet. Go out to the highways and byways and the hedges and compel them to come. Tell them the door is still open. Get the lame and the blind and the halt and the crippled and the ruined and the broken and invite them to come." Those are the ones God's heart seeks after. I'm going to tell you something. Those often that have the outward beauty are the most miserable and ugly people inside. Not always. But many times, those that think, "Boy, I'm really something special." You get down on the inside of them; they're a big fat zero. And they know it, and that's why they have to spend so much time on themselves, because they don't think of anything in their own hearts, they don't think they're anything. That's right. The more time you spend on your personal appearance, folks, that's a real strong indication of how little you think of yourself on the inside.

Hurting People Need to Be Accepted

I really believe that we as a church, that we reject the handicapped and the sick a lot of times for two reasons: out of guilt and fear. It's one thing to want to see people healed because we have compassion. It's another thing to want to do it because they embarrass us and God help us if we have that kind of a heart, if we feel guilty. "How come I'm healed and they're not? So I better pray for them, because they better get healed; otherwise I'm going to feel guilty because I'm not sick, I'm not crippled, I don't have problems like them."

The other motivation is fear. I've seen this so many times; at Bible school it used to drive me crazy. My friend was deaf and I learned sign language specifically because I wanted to befriend him because I saw so many people going up to him and praying for him. "Brother, the Lord told me He's gonna heal you." And they'd turn to me and say, "Interpret that for him." And this happened time and time again, and there was no healing. And finally my friend just said, "Tell them not to pray for me anymore, because I'm tired of them doing it because they're embarrassed by me." We had a deaf ministry at that school that the administration wouldn't even acknowledge, because deaf people are supposed to be healed. So they ignored those hurting people. We want people to come up to our level. Folks, it's time for the church of Jesus Christ to go down to the level of the people where they are at. Don't seek for a deaf person to be healed. Love him and communicate with him first. You say you love him enough to be healed? Love him enough to know how to talk to them. You say you want a person that's blind to be healed? Learn him enough to know his needs as a blind person, to know what's happening on the inside of him. Then you can say that you love that person and not until.

But there's that fear. Why? Because we see someone that has a physical malady or problem or handicap and we think, "I really want them to be healed, because what if God does that to me? What if all of a sudden, I wake up that way?" And it makes us uncomfortable because the ways of God are not our ways. What did Jesus say? He says, "You think you are any more holy that the people that the tower of Siloam fell on?" Jesus' whole point was, the tower fell because it fell, not because they were sinners and you didn't get out of getting killed by the tower because you're righteous. So many times we see a tragedy and we think, "Well, they did something to deserve that," or "They must have really sinned." Folks, let me tell you something. Some times things just happen. And we don't need to look at world events and make some kind of spiritual judgment. That's what Jesus was saying. He says that the tower of Siloam fell because it fell. Period. And people are handicapped because they're handicapped.

The disciples went through this. I think the disciples went to some of our Bible schools. "Lord, who sinned? This man or his parents?" He was born blind. "It had to be somebody's fault. We have to be able to explain this. Jesus said, "Neither did this man or his parents sin, but that God might be glorified in him." It didn't have anything to do with who sinned and who didn't. The fact is, here he is now, blind, and God is going to work through his circumstance. He's a God that works through our present circumstances. If it's healing, it's healing. If it is continuing in the distress, we continue, that God is glorified and magnified no matter what. And I really believe that it's time for the church to understand that God's love is different than that kind of outward flashy, showy, set-up that we've set before us. God is concerned with what's in your heart, not what you look like, not what you smell like, not how you're dressed, not how much money you've got, not how successful you are, not any of that stuff. But with who you are in your heart.

Many outwardly successful people are miserable failures. I have to point to this. A dear brother in the Lord, outwardly successful man that committed suicide this week. On the outside he was successful, enormously successful his whole life, but something on the inside was so failing, so hurting that it had to end this way for him. We can't go by what's on the outward anymore. We need to be able to recognize the signs of people like that who are hurting. No matter how many smiles they put on, no matter how many good impressions they are going to make, we need to pray for God's eyes and look right to the heart and see what's in there, just as Jesus did.

[I Corinthians 1:26] "You see your calling brethren how that not many wise after the flesh, not many noble are called, but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. The things that are weak to confound those things that are strong." So you want to know the truth? Whether you are successful or not successful, whether you are pretty or ugly or whatever, we're all a bunch of losers (not for Christ). God picked a pretty motley bunch with us and He knew exactly what He was doing. Right?

I think it is important we see this because we as the church, if we only accept those who are acceptable and love those who are loveable, we are missing out on so many blessings. I have a friend that probably the world would reject. He's got a lot of problems. But he's been such a blessing to me just in sharing and relating. Just because I took the time, I saw something deep inside of him. And this is the way we need to see each other and ourselves, not for what we are, but for what we're to become. For the end result of that dream. Now we can struggle through the immediate problems. We can say there are problems right now, but praise the Lord, like the sign, "God isn't finished with me yet." He's not. But we can know that He that has begun a good work in us shall complete that work [Phil. 1:6] and we can see what we are to become and rest in what we presently are.

Gifts From Those That Were Outwardly Unsuccessful

Some of the greatest gifts that have been given to the world in the church are people that we wouldn't have accepted.

Helen Keller, deaf, blind. It's one thing to be blind or deaf, but to be both? Can you imagine the darkness? That woman could see, she could hear because someone took the time to care.

Amy Carmichael. I keep referring to her because I just happen to think her writings are some of the most profound things I've read. At the dawn of her mission in India for pretty close to 55 years, before she died [she] spent 20 years unable to get out of bed, unable to move out of bed, and she wrote her deepest, spiritual works during that period.

Fanny Crosby. "Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine, Oh what a foretaste of glory divine." [hymn] Blind. Would she have written those things had she not been able to see? Not with these eyes. It was something more. I'm not saying to be blind is a blessing, but I'm saying living with the reality of things can be if you can learn. For the child of God there are no handicaps.

Abraham Lincoln. I'm sure you've heard the story. He must have lost twenty races for different things, for the senate, congressman, failed in his first business, had so many failures. Then all of a sudden, one day, he was the President, and probably I would have to say the most beloved President the United States has ever had, even in the world.

Biblical characters:

Joseph we would have considered a failure his first few years of life. He ended up going into prison for years.

Jesus. We would have considered him a failure if we looked at the outward. He was the Son of God. He ended up a criminal on a cross as far as the world was concerned, rejected, despised.

Paul. We would have considered him a failure. We have 2/3 of the New Testament because Paul was a failure in the eyes of the world, but a great success in the eyes of God.

Understand that and see that for yourself, will you? No matter what you think your handicaps are, no matter what you think your own personal problems are, that if you are walking in the Spirit of Christ, you are a success in God's eyes.

Understanding God's Love Brings An End to Guilt

The world's love is a changing love. The world's love is an insecure love. You never can count on it. Even as believers we can't always count on each other. If that was true, we wouldn't need God. God's love is unchanging. He is the same yesterday, today, forever. [Heb. 13:8] That is security. What did Jesus say? "Lo, I am with you alway, even to the end of the age." [Matt. 28:20] How many believe that we are at the end of the age, or real close? I believe that. If that's the truth, then He's going to fulfill His promises in a way that we've never experienced before. What does this all mean for us? What am I trying to say to you? I'm trying to say that really understanding the love of God brings an end to guilt in our lives.

Guilt and conviction are two entirely different things. When conviction comes, it's a gentle voice of love that may say you're wrong, or you need to repent, or this is a sin in your life, but it's not the kind of devil-oriented stuff of "You idiot, you've really blown it. You're a jerk. What's wrong with you? You're a loser. You'll never make it. God doesn't love you anymore. You've got a big wart on your nose." You know what I'm saying? Anything that even sounds like that is not God. We are not appointed unto wrath, but unto eternal life. And if that's true, we know His voice and it's a voice that, folks, even in its sternest is the most love-filled voice I've ever heard.

There is No Fear in Love

Guilt brings fear and that brings disaster because fear is a magnetic attraction to disaster. And, as I've said before, I think there's more to the verse that says, "The thing that I've feared has come upon me" than we realize. When fear is a motivational drive in your life, you will attract the things that fear you. I find this happening to me. I had an experience this week with my apartment manager. I had to give notice after three months and I had a six-month lease. "Oh, she's gonna kill me." And from the day I met the lady I was kind of, "Don't hurt me." She just a very hard-lined businesswoman and I knew I had to break my lease. So I went in and I said, "I think I'm gonna have to break my lease." She said, "What? Speak up!" "I'm gonna have to break my lease." She said, "Well, Okay, are you going to be able to stay thirty days?" I said, "Well, I'll try...." I got through that ordeal, went home and collapsed for a couple of hours. And that night I was praying through most of the night and the next morning I woke up and the Lord made it very clear to me that I was only to stay until the 15th. I said, "Come on, I have to go back into her office and tell her that?" But there was a sense of faith and a sense of confidence. I said, "God, I'm not even going to listen to the fear," and I walked right into her office, gave her the papers and said, "I'm sorry, I can only stay 'till the 15th." She goes, "Oh, well, that's Okay, just as long as you can pay that much rent. That's fine." Just as sweet as molasses.

And I learned something through that. And this is not any kind of reproach on my manager, please understand this, Okay? One thing I know about animals, particularly dogs, the thing that will make a dog attack a human is fear. When that animal knows that you are afraid of him, he'll attack you. Now, as we were children of this world, living among those who are children of darkness, operating on animalistic instinct, when they sense that you are afraid or guilty or intimidated, they're gonna move right in on you and run you over. But when we know who is our defense and our life and our stronghold, I shall not be afraid of any man. I will not be afraid of what a man shall do unto me. The fear of man brings a snare. And that kind of guilt and fear--folks, don't apologize for being alive, I know you've all had those kinds of days. You know, you get up in the morning and say, "Pardon me for living." "Okay, but don't let it happen again." God doesn't want us to have that operating in our life. He wants us to walk in confidence and when you understand the full range of grace and love and forgiveness, you can walk in confidence and that will bring favor in your every endeavor as you walk through this life.

God's Deep Love For Us

Finally, a couple of Scriptures that will put the cap on what I've been trying to say to you. I John 4:10, and I love this verse. It's got to be one of my favorites in the Bible, if not my very favorite. "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." We didn't love Him, but real love is indicated by the fact that when we didn't love Him, He loved us and paid the price for our sins anyway. Verse 18 says, "There is no fear in love. But perfect love casts out fear because fear has torment." Fear carries with it the element of punishment. And if you walk, thinking that God is going to punish you, you're not walking in love. "He that feareth is not made perfect in love." Verse 19: "We love him, because he first loved us.

Jeremiah 31:3: "The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying,--[and write this on your heart]--Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee." Our Father is a loving, gentle Father. He does not want to hurt us. Even the times when we think we are being hurt by God, it is only because He loves us and He is drawing us to Himself in lovingkindness.

Zephaniah 3:17. I love this verse. "The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will--[this will do wonders for your self-image]--he will rejoice over you with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over you with singing." I used to imagine myself as little baby, being lullabied to sleep by God Himself.

Hosea 14:4. This is perhaps a word for some of you maybe who have sinned or done something that you're ashamed of, or from God this is special word for you. "I will heal their backsliding. I will love them freely." God is saying to you tonight, whoever you are that this is speaking to. No matter what you've done, God is going to heal that backsliding and love you freely and openly. He's not ashamed of his love for you. He's not ashamed to call you His own.

John 15:13: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." I may have told you this story before; I don't even know if it's a true story, but please indulge me if you have heard it. The man who was kind of the manager of the train trestle that went over a river and the boats would come up and he would lift the train trestle and the boat would go through; train would come over and he would lower the trestle and the train would go over. Well, one day while his son was down playing underneath the train trestle and the train trestle was up, a train was coming by that was unexpected. And his son was underneath the train trestle. And he had a choice. He could either lower the train trestle and kill his son or rescue his son and see hundreds of people on this train killed. And in that split decision he decided to lower the train trestle and kill his own son, so that all those people that didn't even know whose blood was shed under that train trestle could go and be free from death.

Some of you say, "God, prove you love me." Take a look at the cross. That's the proof. All that God ever loves you or ever will, you'll find at Calvary. That is God's love statement. Jesus said, "I love you this much."

By Gregory Reid

[Transcribed by AJW, Exit & Support Network™]

Pt. 1 | Pt. 2

Related Articles:

The Love of God

Because God Loves Me

Footnote by ESN:

1 Christians are not "in fellowship" and then "out of fellowship.' When Christ Jesus died, He died for all our sins, past, present and future; therefore, He does not hold them against us anymore. The sin question is now over. Listen to: Atonement and Propitiation (clear explanation of the two) [offsite link] Also read: The Sin Question.

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