I've been reading a lot lately about biblical counseling, and doing a lot of thinking about the nature of sin, guilt and legalism. I'm putting some of these thoughts together, and seeking to determine their relationship with one another.
- Humans are created for worship. Worship is the supreme enjoyment of it's object which overflows in verbal praise and acts of service. The foundation for worship is the experience of joy. Worship goes awry when anything besides God is treasured and praised. This type of worship ends in slavery and death. Worship directed toward God ends in endless joy (Ps. 16:11) and life (Jn. 17:3) God has saved us "so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus."
- Christians have been justified in the cross. Jerry Bridges said, "God wants us to find our primary joy in our objectively declared justification, not in our subjectively perceived sanctification." (Jerry Bridges, 'The Discomfort of the Justified Life) Josh shared last week that Satan's primary strategy in the life of a believer is to make them feel guilty, in spite of the fact that God has declared them innocent.
- The Guilty, Joyless, Legalistic Christian. I short-circuit God's gift of joy and peace when I allow my sin to drive me into a pit of guilty despair. Somehow, I feel that I must punish myself because of my sin. I must reject the gifts God is giving me (beauty, family, fellowship, laughter and a thousand other blessings) to wallow in shame.
- God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. I cannot be satisfied in God when I am punishing myself for my sin. I am denying the cross and seeking to make up whatever difference there is between my performance and God's perfection. The subtle shift here is that while God has removed my sin as far as the east is from the west, I am placing it at the center of the relationship and am unable to get past it and delight in God through Christ.
- "Put to death therefore what is earthly in you." "...if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live." "Abhor what is evil, hold fast to what is good." Part of putting sin to death requires you to orient your heart around God's heart. Because God hates sin and is offended by it, so must I. The root of idolatry and the pleasure of sin must be severed in order to delight in God. "Till sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet."
- The degree to which I hate my sin is the degree to which I am able to cherish Christ. As this chart shows, only as I see the cross with accuracy, placing a higher view on God's holiness and and a right understanding of my sin's offensiveness. I need seek the grace of godly sorrow, which is able to produce true repentance. Instead of feeling the weight of sin and letting the cross be the punishment for it, I bypass my sin and find some other punishment (usually wallowing in guilt and self-condemnation) that seems to fit the crime.