Helping you grow closer to God
Download the Chip Ingram App
Discover Your True Self Resources on sale now.
About this series
Discover Your True Self
How to Silence the Lies of Your Past and Actually Experience Who God Says You Are
Who are you? Who says so? You? Your family? Your friends? From the first two chapters of the book of Ephesians, Chip helps you discover who God says you are as a believer in Christ. Understanding your position, the freedom, and the power you possess as a child of the Most-High God, enables you to move beyond the struggles and the uncertainty we all experience to living an amazing life of peace and assurance. It equips you to serve others with humility and patience and it empowers you to forgive and share with lavish generosity. People will wonder what your story is and with the help of this series, you'll be able to answer with confidence.More from this series
It is hard for us to believe, but I would just remind you, that if you’re a genuine follower of Christ, you have received Him as your Savior, He is your Lord, that when God sees you at this moment, you are wanted. You are chosen. You are valuable. You are secure. You are competent.
And it feels a little weird for at least some of us men: you are beautiful. It doesn’t mean you’re pretty, guys. You’re beautiful in God’s eyes. There is something attractive when He sees you, your inner character, your life, what He is transforming and every aspect of you, you are beautiful.
But if there is one thing that can mar that lens and make us men and women feel dirty and ugly and unworthy and unlovable, it’s guilt.
If you’ll pull out your teaching notes, we are going to talk about guilt. I have seen guilt torture people’s lives. Someone has rightly said, “Guilt is perhaps the most destructive of all emotions.” I lived with a dad who had overwhelming guilt. At seventeen, eighteen, he was on Iwo Jima and Guam. By his recollection, he killed thousands and thousands of people.
After being wounded, he was pulled out and all of his company died but him. He had the guilt of things he did and he had guilt for surviving. Alcohol was the least of his problems. Outbursts of anger were the least of his problems. Guilt was the core. But he had no idea how to deal with it.
As we walk through this message together, I would ask you to whisper a prayer and ask God to give you the courage to be honest with yourself and honest with Him, because He wants to help you.
So much of what you deal with, we deal with; so many of the relational issues, the struggles, and the challenges, their root cause is guilt.
But guilt is tricky. There is true guilt; false guilt. There are guilt feelings. There is theological guilt: what is true of all of us. So, on the front of your notes, let’s define guilt before we get to the solution.
The literal meaning is it’s a state – circle the word state – of having committed an offense. In other words, guilt in and of itself is you actually did something wrong. You violated a standard.
In more common usage today, the psychological definition of guilt is an emotional response to the perception that we have broken a prohibition or fallen short of a standard – circle the word emotional. Underline the word perception.
Dr. Becca Johnson writes, “Thus, guilt can be both a fact and a feeling, and the two aren’t necessarily related.” You can not feel guilty at all and be very guilty. Sociopaths kill people and feel zero remorse. Some of us violate the law of the land and the law of Scripture and we internally feel no remorse because we don’t agree with it.
By contrast, the opposite is true. Some people have guilty feelings and they are not really guilty. Those of you in this room or those watching that have been abused feel guilty. It’s a bizarre thing that the victims feel guilty. You are not guilty, and yet, you deal with that guilt. You need to learn to discern between true guilt and false guilt and we are going to address that and you’ll learn at the end of this why and how.
Theologically, guilt is the moral and legal condition of all people prior to salvation. It’s our personal accountability and the just condemnation for sin and transgressions against God’s law. God is holy and perfect and to have relationship with a holy God, you must be holy and perfect and all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We are all guilty before God. Prior to receiving Christ and Him taking on our sin and us receiving His forgiveness, all mankind is guilty.
After we have received Christ, God took our guilt, placed it on Christ, and He obliterated guilt. If you’re a genuine follower of Christ, you have no guilt before God. Some of you are thinking, Then why do I feel so guilty? And we are going to talk about what that is and how you deal with it.
So, the last question is: how do you cope with guilt? What are the things that make you feel guilty – true or false? Again, in this little book, she is a friend – Good Guilt, Bad Guilt by Dr. Becca Johnson. If this is an area or an issue, I encourage you to read the book.
She says, “We feel guilty about some things, but we feel guilty because of others.” Listen and just let me ask you to lean back, okay, you’ve got those notes. I feel them moving. That’s good. It means you’re tracking. But I want you to lean back for a minute. Which one of these do you identify – things that you feel guilty about? What you should eat or not eat? Wasting time? Not being a good parent? Being lazy or undisciplined? Forgetting to call your mom or email your boss or get back with people who have given you a message?
Do you feel guilty about habits like smoking or biting your nails or not exercising or too much time in front of the TV or the net? Or maybe you feel guilty about not praying often enough or long enough or Bible study.
And then she says, “We not only feel guilty about certain things, but we feel guilty because of certain things.” Like not liking one of your children. Or having an abortion. Or being in an affair. Or struggling with lust or pornography or masturbation or fantasies. Or not saying anything, but not feeling or treating your mate, because you don’t feel any love for them. Or stealing from work. Or lying. Or being a private, compulsive gambler.
The list could go on, right? Most of us, with our guilt, in unhealthy ways, we do exactly what our first parents do. Number one, we hide it. Number two, we deny and excuse. And then number three, we usually blame other people. “I’m like this because of my parents.” “Well, I wouldn’t steal except for they don’t pay me a good salary anyway.” And pretty soon it’s, “I wouldn’t be on the Internet if my wife was more affectionate.”
We all have a drug of choice to cover our guilt when we don’t follow God’s way. My drug of choice is work. I was challenged with being a workaholic year after year after year after year, denial, denial, excuse, excuse, blame, blame, on and on and on until I walked into a bookstore and I just saw a title. I didn’t even read the book.
The title said, I Feel Guilty When I Relax, and I thought, “That’s me!” And I realized that my workaholism and my desperate attempts to cover what I was feeling inside wasn’t anything but guilt. And I went on a journey and it was painful. It was a journey how I was trying to cover up and appear okay and to please people all because I had some unresolved guilt – some that was true and some that was false.
So, just before we go on, what’s yours? What is your drug of choice? Is it shopping? Is it food? Is it an addiction? Is it work, like me? What is your drug of choice when you have that restlessness over little things or big things – we just bury them. And if you bury big things like in your past, they just brew and I have been on the front seat of that watching it brew in a man’s life until it nearly destroyed him and his family and everyone around him.
Now, let’s get to the solution side. God does not want you living with guilt. God has taken care of our guilt. And He has an antidote to guilt. He wants you to know that guilt is a formidable and complex foe.
He wants you to know the difference between true guilt and false guilt. He wants you to understand the danger that sometimes you feel guilty when you shouldn’t. And the even greater danger, sometimes, you don’t feel guilty and you really should.
And so, here is examining the universal problem. Ephesians 2, verses 1 through 3, “As for you,” Paul writes to the Gentiles, inspired by the Holy Spirit, “you were dead in your transgressions and sins in which you used to live when you walked in the ways of the world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us,” the reference – Jew, Gentile, all people, all mankind – “lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings,” the word is lust, our passions, “in our sinful nature, following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest we were by nature objects of wrath.”
Now, you’ll notice I have put some things in bold. I would like you to circle the word dead, circle the word disobedient, and circle the word objects of wrath. The word dead here literally means separated. Scripture says in that day when you sin, you’ll surely die.
Adam died. He was separated from God, but he still was physically alive and had activity. But sin separates us from God. There is nothing we can do to get reconnected to Him.
And then he says: Why? Your transgressions, that means you drift off the path or you come to a crossroads: this is right; this is wrong. And you choose wrong. And we all do and we all have. Sins is a word that means missed the mark. It was used for someone throwing a spear or shooting an arrow and it falls short. It doesn’t hit the target, but it hits other things.
It says, “Because we have all done that, you are alienated from God,” and then he says, “You’re in this lifestyle,” there’s a world, there’s a culture. And this culture, there is a ruler of the air, Satan, and there’s a way that people treat one another, have been treating people in disobedience to God. And they manipulate and they kill and they destroy and they hurt and they abuse.
And we have seen it. It’s easy to see on the macro, right? The Bosnias, the Sudans, the ISIS, the Hitlers, the Mussolinis, the Stalins, the sixty or seventy million unborn babies that are killed in America through abortion, the murders that happen both with words and with guns and with knives, the accusations, the racism.
In other words, he’s just saying, “Mankind has lived in disobedience to God and there is fallout and there are consequences.” He says, “This passion,” this craving, this nature that we have inherited from Adam, “makes you the object of God’s wrath.” Literally, that God hates evil and because He is both holy and just, He has to punish evil.
And so, the summary is we are guilty and we are members of a condemned, dysfunctional family.
G.K. Chesterton was a British writer, journalist actually, but a great theologian informally. He had a huge impact on C.S. Lewis. And someone asked him, “What’s wrong with the world?” Now, he lived through World War 1 and World War 2 and his answer was great. “What’s wrong with the world? I am.” What? “I am.” It’s not the government, it’s not this group or that group, it’s me. It’s in me. There is sin in me and in every other human being.
The theologians call this total depravity. See, there’s a fundamental issue and most of us academically, at least, if we have been in the secular, public arena – we have been told and told and told that man is basically good. We are all basically good. And with enough education or the right environment, there is a utopia out there somewhere, somehow.
Or, through technology or through “we are going to get more food.” When people come into power, even if they have a just cause, you just go through history and what you will find is the same, same pattern: corruption, greed, immorality, and the haves and the have-nots.
And we have a life history of wars over stuff, over power, and, at times, over sex. The source is Romans chapter 5, verse 12. “Therefore, just as through one man, Adam, sin entered the world and death through sin and so death spread to all men because all sin.”
In other words, when kids are born, they are born sinners. David would say, “From my birth.” You don’t have to teach one and two-year-olds to be selfish. They just get it down all the way on their own. And then we get more sophisticated how to look not selfish and be selfish.
Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all else and desperately wicked. Who can understand it?” Here is my question: do you believe that?
See, I think we live in a day where, “I just need a little help. I just need a little repair.” I will tell you, my father’s guilt ate at his life. And that guilt, the only way he could drown it was through alcohol; first a little, then more and more and more and more and more. But you’re guilt and sin is never isolated. It always impacts other people. There is no such thing as a private sin.
So, in an alcoholic family, there is usually a scapegoat. My oldest sister, who was not loved and not treated well, rebelled. My next sister, there is usually a compliant one. “I want to keep the peace,” and they feel invisible. So, she cooks meals and helps out with everything and has an eating disorder and by the time she was a senior, just skin and bones.
And in an alcoholic family, there is a usually a rescuer. That’s where I show up. And so, as my father would sit and drink all day on Saturday, when he got up, I would take and pour it down the drain, thinking I was helping him.
My mom was the enabler. The most amazing person in the world, emotionally intelligent, no boundaries, no convictions, until it went from a couple beers after work to missing supper to not getting home until eleven, and then my mom did something that every person in that situation needs to do that turned our family around.
Here’s what I want you to know. The result is death. Until you face the problems, until we see we are separated from God, that’s our past. In the present, we live disobedient lives apart from Christ. And then end is destruction. There is judgment because God is fair. In His mercy and His love – notice, though, what He does. Understanding God’s solution.
The next word, look at your text, verse 4, “But,” in the Greek language, there is not a single word he could use. It’s like blaring red flashing lights, “But, yes, all that negative is true, but God, because of His great love for us,” in parentheses, “He is rich in mercy.” He intervened. He made us alive with Christ, even when we were dead in our transgressions.
And then Paul gets excited and He wants to jump to his next spot. It’s called a paraphrastic phrase. And put in brackets, “For by grace we are saved.” He just goes, “Ooh, this is so exciting.” But then he goes on with this thought, “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” – why? “in order that in the coming ages,” this is the word for eons and eons and eons, “that He might show the incomparable riches of His grace that He expressed in His kindness to us” – how? “through Jesus Christ.”
With your pen, second line, would you underline with Christ? Skip a line, go down, next, underline with Christ. The next line, underline in Christ Jesus. Last line, write in Christ Jesus. Does anyone make an observation? Is there anything about what you just underlined that tells you the solution? Yes, we were dead apart from Christ. Yes, disobedient. And, yes, we deserve the righteous condemnation of God. But in Christ, in Christ, in Christ, in Christ.
Notice, he flipped every one of them. Instead of dead, He made us alive. The word is quicken. The moment you received Christ and you were joined with Him, you were dead spiritually, boom! You were made alive and reconnected to God the Father.
Second, He raised you up. You were co-resurrected. Jot down Romans 6:4. Instead of walking in disobedience, he says that we died with Him and since we died with Him, we also were raised with Him in order that we might walk in newness of life. New power. Sin doesn’t have power over you anymore as a follower. Death no longer stings. Satan, defeated. You walk in newness of life.
And then finally, instead of destruction, you were seated with Him in the heavenly places. Literally, a better word is you are enthroned. The disobedience of this world, there is a ruler and there is a power, the enemy. And he is orchestrating it through people’s flesh and desires and passions and selfishness and anger and violence.
And he goes, “No, no, no. You’re out from under that dominion, and now you have been enthroned with Christ. You are a brand-new person.” That’s why God sees you differently as wanted and secure and valuable and competent. And, guys, even beautiful.
Jesus’ intervention rescued us from condemnation and into His family. Rescued! Notice, from and into. The answer is Christ. It’s the only answer for personal peace. He is the only answer for peace in the world.
My mom did something pretty brave when she realized, after many, many, many, many, many years that she was the enabler, when she saw what was happening to our family. She was a counselor. And, finally, she set up a boundary and here’s the intervention. And some of you have been there and you have gotten some good friends and some good psychological help and some counselors and, right? You all get together and the key to an intervention is it’s a safe environment and we all sit around and we tell this person that,
“We love you, we are for you, but your behavior is going to destroy you and you’re destroying others. And we are for you and you need help.” I remember that moment.
And I remember my mom holding up a bottle of beer and you talk about reality therapy. “You can have this bottle and continue in that, or me and the kids. You just can’t have both. And you’ve got forty-eight hours.” My dad was a math teacher; he did the math. And he was a Marine. He quit. He just quit.
In fact, he though, I drink beer all day and I smoke three and a half packs of cigarettes. Might as well quit them both. So, he quits them both! About three months later, I wanted to say, “Dad, please drink a beer.” He didn’t deal with any issues, he didn’t understand his guilt, but he just made us nuts. But then what he realized was, you know what he realized? I can’t solve this.
See, for many of you, the symptom isn’t shopping, it’s not money, it’s not pornography, it’s not alcohol, it’s not your relationships, it’s not one of your kids, it’s not whether they got into a school. The issue is guilt. Some real and some perceived. And you finally realize that was the problem.
In fact, look at this text. The motive, verse 4, jot down: God’s love. God didn’t rescue you because you’re special or wonderful or nice. He rescued you because He loves you. God is good to you, not because you’re good. It’s because He is good.
Beyond His motive, His action – what? Instead of death, He made you alive. Instead of disobedience, He raised you to walk in newness and power. Instead of future destruction, there is future hope. And His purpose is to demonstrate and reveal.
Did you realize this? You’re this trophy. You’re this fallen, hurting person who has done things wrong like I have. Some have received abuse and difficulty and pain. We all have this stuff. But God wants to transform you. And it is a journey and it’s a process and it’s often painful. And that’s why I ask you to pray. Could you be honest? Could you just quit pushing and pushing and pushing and settling for substitutes and sedating your pain? And ask yourself, Why do I do what I do?
For years and years I tried hard, I’ll change my schedule. I promised Theresa, “I won’t work so many hours.” But it wasn’t until I dealt with the “why” behind it, the guilt, that change occurred.