Joel Osteen — Living Guilt Free
I want to talk to you today about "Living guilt free". We all make mistakes and do things we know we shouldn't. It's easy to go around with a heaviness, feeling bad about ourselves, but living guilty doesn't do anything productive, it doesn't help you to do better. It causes you to struggle more. Guilt drains you emotionally. Physically it will wear you out. When we're guilty, we don't pursue dreams. We don't believe to overcome challenges. We get stuck. This is why the enemy works overtime in this area. He knows guilt will keep you from your destiny, and there is nothing he would love any more than for you to go through life against yourself, focused on your failures, feeling unworthy.
He's called the accuser of the brethren. He'll remind you of everything you've done wrong for the last 30 years. Before you get out of bed in the morning, he'll replay mistakes that you made, how you weren't there for your children, how you lost your temper, how you gave in to the temptation, but here is the key. The moment you ask God to forgive you, he not only forgave you, but he doesn't remember your sins anymore. That means if someone is bringing up negative things from your past, that's not God. That's the accuser trying to deceive you into carrying the heavy load of guilt. Do yourself a favor. Say "No, thanks. I'm not perfect, but I am forgiven". You can't drag yesterday's failures into today and live in victory. Let it go. God's mercies are fresh every morning.
Don't spend another minute down on yourself, living in regrets. God has forgiven you. Why don't you forgive yourself? God is not pushing you down. Why don't you quit pushing yourself down? The scripture talks about how God has made you righteous. "Righteous" means holy, blameless, honorable. It doesn't say you're going to be righteous one day, when you perform better, when you get your temper under control. You are righteous right now. Not because of what you've done, but because of what Christ has done. You can't do anything to make you more righteous. In fact, the scripture says all of your righteousness is as filthy rags, meaning we can never measure up on our own. No matter how hard we try, how disciplined we are, there will be times that we fail.
Paul said in Romans the gift of righteousness is for all who will receive it, and if you see yourself as unworthy, not deserving, you don't measure up, the problem is you're not receiving the gift. The accuser will tell you, "You've made too many mistakes. You've failed too many times. You'll never get it right". God says, "You are my holy, righteous, blameless, honorable, anointed, amazing child". Who are you going to believe? Are you going to let the accuser deceive you into carrying the guilt, going around against yourself? No, start receiving the gift. When those voices remind you of everything you're not, one of the best things you can say is, "I am righteous. I am holy. I am blameless. I am honorable".
Everything in your mind will say, "No, you're not. You have an addiction. You keep giving in to the temptation. You made those mistakes". But when you declare, "I am righteous," you are announcing to every force that's trying to stop you, you're announcing to the accuser, to the guilt, to the heaviness, "You don't control my life. You don't determine my destiny. You can't stop my purpose. The Creator of the universe made me righteous. He made me holy. He made me blameless". What are you doing? You're receiving the gift of righteousness. Proverbs says, "The righteous are as bold as a lion". When it comes to righteousness, you have to be bold. Your own thoughts will tell you, "You're not blameless. God is not pleased with you. Look what you've done. Look at your mistakes".
Guilt and condemnation will come knocking at the door, and if you're unsure, doubtful, intimidated, guilt will take over. This is where you have to be bold. "I may not feel worthy, but I know God has made me worthy. I don't feel righteous, but, father, by faith I receive your gift. I thank you that I am righteous". "Well, Joel, I'm just an old sinner saved by grace". No, you used to be an old sinner, but when you gave your life to Christ you became a new creation. Now you're not an old sinner. You're a son, you're a daughter of the Most High God. I'm looking at holy people, righteous people, blameless people, honorable people. You may have brought guilt in here with you today. You might as well leave it at your seat. You might have brought heaviness, regrets, unworthiness. You can unload all that right now. You can make an exchange.
If you'll give up your guilt, your regrets, your unworthiness, God will give you his righteousness, but sometimes it's like we're carrying all these bags with us everywhere we go that weigh us down. Before we leave the house, "Let me get my bag of guilt. Let me load up all the mistakes I've made, everything I did wrong. Hang on. I need another bag. Doesn't fit in one bag. Let me put my regrets in there. Should have raised my children better. Should have finished school. Yelled at my co-worker yesterday. Let me fit that regret in there. I lost my temper in traffic last week, got so upset. I spoke in tongues to that driver, I need a whole new bag for that one". We go through life carrying around all these bags. We wonder why we walk with a limp. We wonder why life is a struggle, why we're tired, why we can't accomplish a dream. It's because we're carrying things we were never designed to carry.
You weren't created to live guilty, to have that nagging voice always telling you, "There is something wrong with you. You don't deserve to be happy". Those are weights that the accuser uses to try to keep you from your destiny. If he can't get you off course, he'll at least try to weigh you down so you don't go as far as you should. The scripture tells us to lay aside the weights that can easily beset us. It's easy to carry weights. Are you carrying weights of guilt, weights of shame, weights of regret? It's time to lay aside those weights, time to get rid of that baggage. Most airlines tell us two bags per customer. They have a limit. We have a very strict rule around here: no bags per customer. You may have brought some, but you can leave them where you are. This is a new day. God wants you to go out of here lighter.
The accuser has held you back long enough. Nothing you've done in the past is too much for the mercy of God, and I believe chains are being broken, strongholds are coming down. You are redeemed. You are restored. You are holy. You are blameless. Shake off the guilt. Shake off the accusing voices and receive the gift of righteousness. When our children were small, I would take them up to the toy store a lot. Didn't have to be a special occasion. I just liked to buy them things, say, "Come on, Jonathan. Come on, Alexandra. Let's go to the toy store". Never once did Jonathan say, "No, dad. I don't deserve to go. I didn't clean my room yesterday. I threw food at my baby sister". None of that came to mind. He simply said, "Yes, dad. I'm ready. Let's go".
See, children know how to receive a gift. They don't start debating whether or not they deserve it. Have they earned it? Have they been good enough? They just receive it. Like a child, you have to receive the gift of righteousness. Don't start thinking about all you did or didn't do, trying to figure out if you really deserve it, if you're good enough. You can't earn it. It's a gift. Just receive it. See, sometimes we think we have to pay God back for our mistakes by living down and discouraged, to show him that we're sorry, that we're remorseful. Yes, there should be a conviction when we do something wrong. I'm not saying just do whatever you want, never feel bad about it.
My point is once you ask for forgiveness, you don't have to pay God back. The price has already been paid, but when you live guilty you're saying, in effect, "The sacrifice Christ made wasn't enough. Let me add something to it. Let me do my part by paying some kind of penalty for this wrong that I've done". Living guilty and condemned doesn't bring any honor to God. After all Christ did to pay the price, if you want to honor God, get rid of the guilt. Quit listening to the accusing voices and move forward with your life. Isaiah said God remembers our sins no more. God is an all-knowing God. He knows everything that's going to happen, past, present, and future, yet when we ask God to forgive us, this all-powerful, all-knowing God, in a sense, stets out of character and says, "I'm going to delete that event. I'm not going to keep any record of it". He chooses not to remember. If God forgets it, why don't you forget it? If God let it go, why don't you let it go?
I know people that ask God to forgive them for the same thing year after year, something they did 20 years ago. They don't realize the first time they asked, God not only forgave them, but he doesn't remember it anymore. When you bring it up, it's as if God is saying, "What are you talking about? I don't remember that mistake. I don't remember the failure. I don't remember the time you gave in to temptation". Quit remembering what God has forgotten. Quit telling him how bad you are, how you messed up, how you lost your temper. He forgave you way back when you asked the first time. All that's doing is making you feel guilty, condemned, bad about yourself. Instead of asking for forgiveness for the same thing, start receiving God's mercy. Mercy covers our mistakes. Mercy gives you what you didn't deserve. You were guilty, it was your fault, you deserve judgment, but mercy says, "You're forgiven. You're redeemed. You're restored". When you're tempted to ask forgiveness for the same thing, just turn it around, "Father, thank you for your mercy in my life".
This is what Jonah had to do. He had just made one of the biggest mistakes of his life. God told him to go to the city of Nineveh and tell the people to repent. Jonah went the other direction and almost lost his life. He spent three days in the belly of a fish. When that fish finally spit him out on dry ground, you would think God would say, "Jonah, you need to sit on the sidelines and think about your mistake. You need to pay some kind of penalty for that wrong. Maybe one day I'll use you again. Maybe one day I'll give you another chance". No, as soon as Jonah was on dry ground, as soon as he was safe, the scripture says, "The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, 'go to Nineveh and tell them to repent.'" God was saying, in effect, "Jonah, you made a mistake. You got off course, but you repented. You asked for forgiveness. Now get back in the game. You don't have to sit around defeated a week, a month, a year. I've forgiven you. Now do what I'm asking you to do".
A lot of times we categorize our mistakes. If it's something small, we think we have to pay God back by living down and discouraged for a day or two. If it's something medium, maybe a week or two, but if it's something big, like Jonah, we really messed up, brought the trouble on ourselves, we think we have to give up our joy, our peace, our dreams for at least a year or two. After all, it was our fault, but like with Jonahm God doesn't say, "Yeah, go sit on the sidelines. Man, you blew it. You caused me a lot of trouble. I'm not going to have anything to do with you for years". That's not the way God is. Now, the accuser will work overtime, telling you, "God's not going to bless you. You can't expect his favor. You can't expect to accomplish dreams. You owe God a whole lot for that mistake". No, the price has been paid. Don't believe those lies.
I'm sure Jonah thought, "God, did I hear you right? You mean you still want me to go to Nineveh and tell them to repent? I just repented myself. I just got out of the fish. Shouldn't I sit on the sidelines for a month and show you that I'm sorry? Shouldn't I sit out at least a year and prove to you that I'll do what's right"? God said, "No, Jonah. I have something for you to do right now. I have an assignment for you, but as long as you're guilty and condemned you're of no use to me. Shake that off and go to Nineveh". In the same way God can't use you in the way he wants when you live guilty, feeling condemned, down on yourself. We're not a good witness. We don't pursue dreams. We don't take steps of faith. God needs you confident, secure, feeling good about yourself. He has an assignment for you.
Can you imagine when Jonah stood up in front of the whole city of Nineveh and told them to repent? Every voice whispered in his ear, "Jonah, you're a hypocrite. You just repented yesterday. You're no better than these people. You have no right to be up here". Jonah had to do what we all must do. He ignored the accusing voices, he shook off the guilt, and received the gift of righteousness. God was going to destroy the city of Nineveh, but because Jonah asked them to repent, because he didn't sit on the sidelines trying to pay God back for his mistake, the whole city repented. God in his mercy changed his mind and spared their lives. Are you letting a mistake you made or some way you fell convince you that God won't have anything to do with you right now? Maybe one day he'll use you. Maybe one day he'll help you accomplish a dream. No, God is saying to you what he said to Jonah, "Get back in the game. I have something for you to do right now". That mistake didn't stop your destiny. You don't have to sit on the sidelines of life. Start moving forward.
Sometimes with little children, when they're not behaving properly, the mother will give them a timeout. They have to sit by themselves for a few minutes, not play, not have any fun. We think when we make mistakes surely God must give us a timeout. Depending on how bad it was, that's how long we have to sit out. "Jonah, that was a big mistake. You caused me a lot of trouble. That's a five-year timeout. I'll see you way down the road". You didn't do what Jonah did, but you lost your temper. That's a three-week timeout. Feel guilt, condemned. "You gave in to the temptation again? That's the fourth time in one month. That's a one-year timeout". Like with Jonah, God doesn't have any timeouts. He corrects us, he gets us on the right course, and says move forward. Now, here is where you have to be bold, because those thoughts will tell you, "You knew the right thing, and you did the wrong thing. God's not going to bless you". Just say, "No, thanks. I've asked for forgiveness. I've received God's mercy. I'm not going to live condemned, down on myself. I'm going to keep moving forward. I know I have a destiny to fulfill".
In the scripture, Samson made a lot of mistakes. His birth was predicted by the prophets. An angel told his mother that she would have a son. He would be a deliverer and do great things, and Samson started off good. He had supernatural strength. He couldn't be defeated by his enemies, but he let his guard down. He started compromising. One thing led to another. This once powerful, influential man ended up captured by his enemies. They gouged out his eyes. They put him in prison. He spent his days grinding at the mill. I'm sure the accuser said to him, "Boy, Samson, you blew it big time. Even the angel said you would do something great, but look at you. You're a slave. You're in chains. You're working like an animal. You should feel guilty".
You would think with all of his poor choices God would be done with him. After all, Samson knew better. It was his fault, but God never gives up on us. That mistake doesn't have to cancel your destiny. Don't believe those lies that you've gone too far off course, you've made too many mistakes. One day, Samson's captors were having a big reception in their temple, several thousand people there. They brought Samson out to make fun of him and as he was standing there being mocked and ridiculed, he asked a young boy to place his hands on the big columns that help up the temple. The scripture says the spirit of the Lord came on Samson one more time. God gave him his strength back. He was able to push over the columns. The whole building collapsed. Samson defeated more enemies in his death than he did in all of his lifetime.
You may have made mistakes. The accuser is telling you you're all washed up. No, like with Samson, God has a one more time for you. You have not seen your greatest victories. You have not sung your best song. You have not written your best book. You have not played your best play. You wouldn't be alive unless God had something amazing in front of you. Now the question is, will you get back in the game? Will you get your fire back, your passion back, your dreams back? Life is too short to go through it against yourself. You may have made mistakes. We all have. God is saying, "You're forgiven". Since he forgives you, why don't you forgive yourself? As long as you're beating yourself up, reliving failures, dwelling on disappointments, that's going to keep you from your one more time. Shake that off. This is a new day. It's time to say goodbye to guilt, goodbye to condemnation, goodbye to heaviness. Romans 8 says, "There is no condemnation to those that are in Christ Jesus," here is the key, "Who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit".
When you make a mistake, if you're in the flesh you beat yourself up. You feel unworthy. You try to pay God back by living down and discouraged. When you do that, you'll feel guilty, you'll feel condemned. But when you walk in the spirit, you say, "Yes, I made a mistake. It was my fault, but I asked God for forgiveness, and I know he not only forgave me, but he doesn't remember it, so I'm not going to sit around beating myself up. I'm saying goodbye to guilt. I'm saying adios to condemnation. I'm dismissing the accusing voices. I'm getting ready for my one more time". That's when there is no condemnation, when you don't wallow around in defeat, when you don't believe the accuser's lies. You may have made mistakes. Like Samson, you got off course, but that is not how your story ends. If you'll shake off the guilt, God has a one more time coming your way. He has something bigger, more rewarding than you've even imagine.
I've learned just because you feel guilty doesn't mean you are guilty. You can't go by your feelings. Feelings don't always tell us the truth. I may not feel forgiven, but I know I am forgiven. I may not feel holy, I don't perform perfectly all the time, but I know I am holy, I am righteous, I am blameless, I am honorable. "Well, Joel, how can you say that"? Because you have received the gift of righteousness. The scripture tells us to resist the enemy. "Resist" means to not agree with what he's telling you. When you hear him whisper, "You're all washed up. You've failed too many times. You've made too many mistakes," the way you resist him is by saying, "No, thanks. I know my best days are still in front of me. I know God's mercy is bigger that any mistake".
Don't assist him. Resist him. He'll tell you, "You don't deserve to be blessed. Look what you've done". Instead of assisting him, "Yeah, you're right. What was I thinking"? Resist him, "I am the righteousness of God. I am forgiven. I am redeemed". "Well, you failed. You blew it. You should have done better". He always talks to you about your past. Talk to him about your future: "God's plans for me are for good. The path of the righteous, my path, keeps getting brighter and brighter. I know one more time is coming my way, until then I'm going to live guilt free". We have these chips at home that I like to eat. On the bag there is a sticker that says "Gluten-free," means they don't have any gluten. You need to have an imaginary sticker on you that says "Guilt-free, condemnation-free, heaviness-free". When the accuser tries to dump that load of guilt on you, just show him your sign. "Sorry. I'm guilt free. That's not acceptable here".
When you came in this building today, you may not realize it, but you entered a guilt-free zone. You might as well leave it outside. This is a righteous place, a holy place, an honorable place, a healing place, a hope-filled place, a one-more-time place. Are you carrying something, that's weighing you down today? Are you assisting the accuser by believing his lies? It's time to start resisting him. Believe what God says about you. We've all made mistakes, but remember you don't have to pay God back. The price has already been paid. I'm asking you to receive his forgiveness, receive his mercy. You have enough against you in life as it is. Don't be against yourself. If you'll do this, I believe and declare weights of condemnation are lifting off of you right now. You're going to live guilt-free, confident, secure, holy, blameless, righteous, honorable in Jesus's name.