Allen Jackson - Freedom From Guilt - Part 1
It's good to be with you again. Our topic today is "Truth Be Told," and we're unpacking some components of God's truth that hold tremendous potential for freedom in our lives. In this session, we're going to talk about freedom from guilt. Guilt is a powerful weapon of our enemy. Satan accuses us, and if he can cause you to believe his accusing tone, it will diminish your faith, and diminish your boldness, and reduce us so often to being quiet and withdrawn. The purpose of the cross is to set us free from guilt. We're gonna open our Bibles, but more importantly, let's open our hearts and ask the Spirit of God for his invitations today. Before we go, we're gonna say a prayer of freedom and receive God's forgiveness so we can boldly take our place for God's purposes in this season. Enjoy the lesson.
We have begun a series under this general title of "Truth Be Told," and we're going to explore some aspects of God's truth that bring freedom to our lives. There's freedom that's far more profound than the freedom that comes to us through political circumstances. And if we don't understand the spiritual forces that are at work in our lives and around us, we will stay in places of reduced effectiveness. We can stay in places of bondage mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, physically, that God doesn't intend us to be. In this session, I hope to look with you at this notion of freedom from guilt and how we can achieve it, but the theme through the whole thing is this little phrase, "Truth Be Told".
You know, it's an idiom. It's an expression that conveys an idea. And occasionally I'll use it or I'll hear other people use it. You know, you'll be in a discussion and there'll be a lot of conversation going on, and finally somebody'll say, "Well, truth be told". It's almost as if there was a reluctance to tell the truth. There's almost a confessional nature to the phrase. You know, well, if you just asked me point blank or if I had to tell you what I really thought, I'll tell you the truth. Well, it seems like to me that we are in a season where the telling of the truth is more important than perhaps it's been in a long, long time. Truth is in short supply. Propaganda has flourished, and deception and manipulation. We've got whole new vocabularies for things other than the truth.
But in John chapter 8, in verse 32, Jesus was speaking and he said, "You'll know the truth and the truth will set you free". And I believe what he said, that God's truth will bring freedom to the lives of his people. Far more freedom than political changes will, or the leadership changes will, or economic changes will, God's truth will bring freedom to our lives. So a beginning point in our hearts is to determine that we will love the truth; that we will choose the truth; that we won't prefer a lie; that even when God's truth is uncomfortable for us, we will still embrace it emotionally, intellectually, in practice; that we will be a people yielded to God's truth.
I read a couple of sentences recently and they stuck in my heart about the value of truth. It said, "Logic can be met with logic, while illogic cannot. It confuses those who think straight. A big lie and monotonously repeated nonsense have more impact in a cold war than logic and reason. While the hearer is still searching for a reasonable counterargument to the first lie, the totalitarians can assault him with another". Sounds like the world we're living in. Never bother with the truth. We'll just continue to shout whatever deception we need to until we accomplish the objective of the moment. Well, there's a phrase that Jesus uses in the Gospels that's repeated almost 80 times. Now, it's translated a bit different from the Synoptic Gospels to the Gospel of John, but the language underlying it is very similar. Jesus would say, "I tell you the truth". I tell you the truth. And when you see that phrase or some version of it in John's Gospel, sometimes it'll just say, "Truly, truly".
What Jesus is doing is announcing that's what's coming next is so beyond the pale, that it's such a surprise that if he hadn't said to you, "I'm telling you the truth," you wouldn't believe it. So he starts the phrase with, "I'm about to tell you the truth". I mean, just good old southern vernacular, "Buckle up, buttercup". In Matthew chapter 8, and verse 8, Jesus is having an interaction with the Roman centurion. He's in Capernaum. The Romans are the occupying force. They're gentiles. They're not Jewish. They're hated. They're the oppressors. They're a constant reminder of the humiliation of being subjugated to Rome. Jesus has very little to do with the non-Jewish community, but this centurion has asked for help to heal a sick servant and Jesus has agreed to minister to him. And we're just gonna step into the middle of the narrative.
Some of you know it. "The centurion replied, 'Lord, I don't deserve to have you come under my roof, but say the word and my servant will be healed. I'm a man under authority with soldiers under me. I'll tell this one, "Go," and he'll go, and that one to come and he'll come. And if I say to my servant, "Do this," he'll do it.' When Jesus heard this, he was astonished". I don't find very many places in my Bible where Jesus was astonished. There were a lot of people astonished at Jesus, but you don't find him very often, you know, slack-jawed. Jesus, it says, is astonished. And he said to those following him, "I tell you the truth, I haven't found anyone in Israel with such great faith".
Not a priest. Not a synagogue ruler. Not a rabbi. The greatest faith I've seen in Israel is this Roman soldier. I promise you, nobody in the crowd listening to Jesus believed him, or they were having a hard time processing it. They heard the words and they understood the implication, but they're having trouble assimilating what he's saying. Are you prepared for God to realign some of the ways you see the world? If there's anything that's been consistent through this whole COVID narrative is change. How we used to do it left. Different has come to stay, which means it will be different again. I didn't say different has become normal. Different has come to stay for a while.
And I know for some of us who are routine people and we like processes, it's a disorienting, confusing, disruptive time. Yes, it is, but there are times when God's truth is disruptive and we needed disruption. We were on a destructive path. If you're going to evaluate the effectiveness of the 21st century American church, we were not getting great scores before COVID. I won't walk you back through that litany of evidence, but it is abundant, truth be told. We're responsible for our local schools and their curriculum. Not a popular idea. We've handed that assignment off. We handed it off to school boards, and teachers unions, or somebody else. We didn't imagine we were responsible until COVID revealed to us what was happening in our local schools with a clarity that we hadn't quite had before and we've been offended.
We have been. We've been distracted and allowed others, whoever others were, to establish boundaries that didn't reflect the values of our communities. And I believe the intent of the system was that the local schools would reflect the values of the local community. As one of our recent presidents reminded us, elections have consequences, and we have to be involved and aware or we'll have to give an account for our indifference. It's not just about our children. It's about the children. Now, we can withdraw those closest to us to private institution, but that doesn't absolve us of our responsibility for the children of our community. May I push it one step further? It's little personal here, but local universities, I believe, should reflect the values of the people who live in the community. That's our assignment, folks.
You know, educational theories change like fashion. Do you understand that? You know, a new wave of PhD theses or a new trend will work its way through the educational system and the training of those who worked in those systems, and the values which undergird, you know, they change like fashion. But the principles and the values that our children and young people are taught shouldn't be described by fashion changes. Our schools are our responsibility. That's the truth. Don't be mad at somebody else. Begin to quietly pray, "God, forgive us". We could've cared less. We've handed that off. We haven't even supported the good people that have served on school boards. We haven't cared enough to help those people with character that were trying to help our children. That's our assignment.
Folks, it's time for us to begin to grapple with the truth. We filed into our churches and done Bible studies while we parsed Greek verbs and we've abandoned children to all sorts of ungodly, destructive things. I believe God in his mercy will give us an opportunity to change it. One of my goals as we walk through these few weeks together under this topic is I'd like to hand you some ideas that would enable you to initiate a faith conversation. We're gonna have to talk about our Christian faith someplace other than we're in a church setting. We need to be equipped to talk about our faith, and what we believe, and what the implications are in our world beyond just a small group, or a church gathering, or a people of likeminded ideas. I'm pretty confident that if you're an Alabama fan or a UT fan, you're happy to talk about the team you support whether everybody in the conversation agrees with you or not.
You consider it's their emotional weakness if they don't understand who they should be supporting. And we've got to be equipped. I want to do anything I can to promote a faith conversation, to help you discuss your faith with others beyond just a message of salvation. We've had this notion the only thing worth talking about is, "Are you saved"? We gotta talk to one another about faith in our lives and what those implications are for our communities. Thank you for that enthusiastic response. I'll give you a little sample: science and spiritual resources. It's kind of a current debate. How many of you heard the phrase, "Follow, just follow the science"?
Well, I've heard that a few times too by some people that I don't think could follow their shadow on a bright day, but that's a different discussion. But the truth is, truth be told, it's not spiritual resources or science. It's very much both/and. We need science and spiritual awareness. Our lives are deficient without both. And in our arrogance or pride, you don't always like the science, you don't like every diagnosis you're given from a doctor, you don't like every implication of spiritual truth because often it means you're gonna have to change, but we need both.
Follow the science is not a bad idea. Science, after all, is not a thing, it's a method. It's not a textbook. Science is a method, a method of understanding our physical world. And it's very much an expanding group of ideas. It's not fixed. It's very limited. Medical science is often is not as exact or precise as we would like it to be. Outcomes vary and we're not always certain precisely why. Healing times will vary from person to person. There's unexplained complications. Now, the process of science fails completely. It unravels totally if we're not truthful and transparent. But before we point any fingers, so does our spiritual journey unravel if we're not truthful and transparent.
There's so much we don't know about the world we live in, but it doesn't diminish what we do know when we say we don't know that yet. We're learning. Don't be angry at scientists that don't have all the answers. They're learning. The unknown shouldn't diminish our determination to learn. Quite the opposite. It should make us more determined learners. There's an interesting statement Jesus made in Matthew 10, and verse 6, he said, "Go to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, preach this message". This is to his disciples. "The kingdom of heaven is near. Heal the sick. Raise the dead. Cleanse those who have leprosy. Drive out demons. Freely you've received, freely give". I read that, I feel indicted. That's not the message we've embraced. We've gone into all the world and say, "Get saved," or "Join our group".
Jesus gave them a different message. We have undervalued spiritual resources available to us. Does that feel accurate to you? So before you be agitated or angered with the scientific community, we need to look at our own hearts and our own life experiences. We have undervalued spiritual things. Spiritual forces exist in a dimension, a realm beyond our physical world. That is the church's message, that there's a reality beyond this physical world that impacts us. And it's our limited understanding of Scripture, our limited investment in Scripture, that's brought about this deficit. We have little experience or awareness with spiritual authority. In fact, it makes us a little anxious. There is significant skepticism within the church. Forget without the church, within the church we have significant skepticism. Respect for God is low amongst the people of God.
So if we're going to ask for scientific breakthroughs, we need spiritual breakthroughs. And we've got to be willing to reconcile in our own hearts that we've got to grow and change, and what we don't know doesn't diminish the reality of God any more than what we don't know in a scientific discussion diminishes the reality of what we do know. We don't have to be afraid of science, or technology, or learning, but I'm not abandoning my faith, or spiritual realities, or spiritual power. I believe what Jesus said. His people can see the sick healed, the dead raised, those who are tormented by demons delivered. That's our assignment. Well, our focus in this session is freedom from guilt, and I want to begin with the acknowledgment that it's a debilitating problem.
You see, if we don't know what to do with guilt, it greatly hampers our responses to God's invitations. And I'll give you the big picture: there are no second-class Christ followers. There's not like grade A disciples and then those we tolerate because the same sacrifice was made for all of us. There are some words we need to be familiar with. I'll introduce them to you, but we're going to look at them repeatedly. Forgiveness, justification, sanctification, and redemption. Isn't that an exciting list? Truthfully, it is. It will change your existence. Forgiveness means there's nothing held against you. Your debts have been canceled.
Can you imagine having complete forgiveness from God, nothing held against you? It's almost unbelievable, isn't it? Any indebtedness towards you because of your unfaithfulness, or your ungodliness, or your poor choices has been addressed. Justification is similar, but different. To be justified means to be made righteous. Righteousness is the ability to stand in the presence of God, which we all will, without guilt, fear, or shame. So to be justified is to be made righteous, to be absolved, to have your record expunged. There is no record of it. I know the working definition to be justified is to be just as if I'd never sinned. Sanctification, again, similar but different. To be sanctified is to be set apart for God's purposes. Sanctification carries with it the notion of separation. We're in the world, but we're not of it. We have a different purpose. We have a different assignment.
When the articles for use in the tabernacle or for service in the temple were sanctified, they were anointed and then they were set apart. They weren't for ordinary use. They weren't for doing common things. They were to be used exclusively in the worship of God. And you and I, as children of the King, have been sanctified. We're gonna look at causes and why, and then finally redemption. Again, similar but different. To be redeemed means you've been bought back, that you've been delivered. And in the biblical sense, it means you were in a condition, a state of being from which you were powerless to extricate yourself. You were trapped. You were ensnared and it was impossible through effort, diligence, resources you could acquire or I could acquire to redeem ourselves. We needed a Redeemer, and God made redemption available to us.
Now, those four words describe a future in both time and eternity that elevates every human being. Forgiveness, justification, sanctification, and redemption. Guilt can disrupt the benefits of those things. If you don't know how to address it, if you don't know how to respond to it, if you don't understand its implications, guilt can limit the benefit of those things even though God has done all he can do. Now, we need a little bit more definition. Sin is objective. That means we don't define it. God has identified sin. Sin's been determined by God. It's not open for our review. God does not have an annual review. You know, annually they review our vocabulary words and they'll add some to the dictionary based on current usage, and patterns, and language that change, so our our dictionary keeps growing year over year with these new words.
Well, God does not review his list of sins and downgrade some things and upgrade some others. Sin is objective. Guilt, on the other hand, is subjective. Guilt may be appropriate or inappropriate. Guilt may be legitimate or illegitimate. Guilt within us makes us hesitant, reluctant. Inappropriate guilt is a tool of the adversary. Now, God has made provision for you and me to be free of guilt. We do not have to lead guilt-laden lives, but neither should we lead lives that represent or demonstrate an attitude of cheap grace. There has been a tremendous price paid, a great sacrifice made that we could be forgiven, and justified, and sanctified, and to be arrogant and with tremendous hubris act as if there are no claims upon our lives in order to receive those benefits demonstrates a cheap grace that is as debilitating as guilt.
See, the Holy Spirit convicts us. The Spirit of God within us will call us to account. You'll be ill at ease. You'll be uncomfortable. You'll be aware of a word spoken, or an attitude, or behavior you've been engaged in, or something you've defended that is not pleasing to God. You'll have that awareness, at least initially. We'll look at it in more detail. When the Holy Spirit convicts you, he always makes a way of escape. The enemy, on the other hand, condemns you. That's just who you are, and you'll never change, and you'll never be any different. There's not a way of escape. It's an important distinction to have in your awareness.
You need it in your portfolio because any message that says because of the circumstances of your birth, or a set of choices you have made, or things that were done to you, evil that touched your life, injustice that washed over you and seemed to re-chart the course of your life, because of those things, there's a hopelessness that is pervasive with you that can't be changed. It's a lie from the pit of hell. The story of our faith is that through the cross of Jesus Christ, we have been set free from the power of sin, our own or someone else's. We're gonna look at the Scriptures, but if we're not aware of guilt, if we don't understand it, if we don't recognize it when we feel it, we need to recognize conviction and how to cooperate with it. We've gotta stop reading to the Spirit of God the circumstances around our conversion and act as if every other message from him is irrelevant. Stop showing him your baptismal photo and tell him you don't want to hear anymore from him. We've got to be willing to listen to the Spirit of God.
When the Holy Spirit convicts us, he always makes a pathway forward so that we have a point of release. We can be forgiven and set free. When Satan condemns us, there's not an escape hatch. We're bad, we've always been bad, and we're never gonna be any different. Learn to recognize the difference. The Spirit of God convicts you so that you'll repent and choose a new way, and we can be free from the guilt of our failures, our sins, our ungodliness, whatever it may be. Why don't you pray with me? Let's offload some stuff. We know there's no need to carry that guilt. God's made provision.
Father, I thank you that through the blood of Jesus we have been redeemed out of the hand of the devil; that the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, continually cleanses us from all sin. Today, we acknowledge those failures and those shortcomings, and we thank you for your forgiveness. In Jesus's name, amen.