OUR ONE AND ONLY DOOR OF FAITH
I was ten or possibly eleven years of age and this was
just another Sunday school class that I found myself in that day.
There were just a few of us, maybe six or seven in the room. I
remember the subject that morning and the man who taught it to
us. The subject was sin and forgiveness. There was nothing new
about that, but there was one thing that really did scare me.
I suppose I felt confused and puzzled just as much as I felt
scared. Then there was the guilt. I often suffered from the
feeling of guilt (even though true guilt is not a feeling).
There I was that morning feeling a little scared, a
little confused and a little guilty, quite typical of any young
What was my problem, and what disturbed me that
particular morning? Our teacher quite confidently told us that
the wages of sin was death. Yes, that was quite true. I knew
that! Then he said, even the littlest sin would cause death. For
example, (and this is what I remember so clearly), if you tell a
lie and do not ask the Lord to forgive you,and if you died before
you asked for forgiveness you would go to hell. How disturbing. I
had been around church enough to know all about Romans six
where Paul tells us that all have sinned and have fallen short of
God's glory. So I knew quite well that we all sinned every day
and thus the confusion. If we sinned every day and happened to
forget one time to ask for forgiveness, did that mean I missed
heaven? And if that was the case how could I really get rid of
my ever present guilt? That is why I felt the confusion , the
guilt and the terror of hell. I had no sure sense of my destiny.
I got a picture that the Lord had a computer up there in
heaven and that He used the delete command quite often. Anyone who has a computer knows
any time you use the delete command you delete the file you don't want on your computer.
The Lord was up there busy typing in names for those who were asking to be forgiven and
then He was just as busy using the delete command to get rid of those names who did not
ask for forgiveness. Yes I know that is pushing it a little far but there is something to
my point. I was always left with the feeling of not knowing. If someone would ask me,
where I would go if I died I could never tell them for sure. My salvation and my destiny
were never certain. I did not know if I was in or if I was out.
These feelings persisted for many years but the Lord did
rescue me a few years down the road. This is the reason why
I am writing this now. I do not think that I was the only one
that grew up in the church with these feelings . I also think
that there are still many in the church who think and feel this
way who would do well to reconsider their thinking on such things.
Thus I relate to you my thoughts on the subject for you to consider. I relate to you the
story of my personal deliverance from guilt. This is the story of a young person who
finally found the peace of God, and the surety of his personal destiny. This is the truth
of Jesus Christ when believed will set anyone free of sin, guilt and confusion. It's not
complicated. It's the simple truth.
There are a few presuppositions and preliminary items that
are important to know about when talking about sin, forgiveness,
salvation and our relationship to the Lord.
One very important item is the definition of sin which I
already alluded to above. I take this definition from Romans
chapter six verse twenty three where Paul says that we have all
sinned and have come short of the glory of God. Thus the simplest definition of sin that I
know is falling short of Gods glory.
We are inherently born in sin, short of God's glory and
purpose for our lives and therefore commit sinful acts daily.
With the risk of getting too complicated let me say this.
Sin can be divided into two aspects. One is our sinful nature
which we are born with. We are born separated from God. The
second aspect of sin are those sinful acts we commit such as lying and stealing and the
like. The sinful nature comes first and thus
causes us to do sinful things. So does the unforgiven white
lie keep me out of Heaven. That sin I was so afraid about that
day in class, or is it my sinful nature that keeps me away from
God. The answer is simple. If we are really born in sin then we
are separated from the Lord before we actually commit our first
sinful act. So technically speaking our sinful nature is the
culprit and that is why Jesus went to the cross.
There is another item that is quite important to understand
and that is the difference between relationship and fellowship.
I will explain it this way, in the natural first. You have a
father and you have a son. There is a legal relationship there.
That is, the father is the father of the son and the son is the
son to that father. This came about when the son was born into
the family of this particular father. Now that son will always
be a son and that father will always be the father no matter what
happens. They will always have that legal relationship but they
may not always have fellowship one with the other within the
context of that relationship. Hurts and other things can creep
in and cause them to separate and not to talk. What I am
saying here is that one can be a son, that is have the
relationship but be out of fellowship with his father for
various reasons. Though he may be out of fellowship that does
not make him any less of a son to his father.
John in the first chapter of his gospel tells us that Jesus
gave us the authority to become sons, that is through faith in
him (John 1:12). He is talking about that legal relationship that we have once we believe
in Jesus and what He has said about His
salvation. Once we become sons we may stray from time to time
like the prodigal son. You must notice that in the story of
the prodigal son that young man is still called a son even though
he has lost all fellowship with his father and is living away
from home. This may be hard for some to believe but loss of
fellowship does not mean loss of relationship, loss of sonship. If you struggle at this
point don't give up on me but read on.
Now there is another item you might want to consider and
that is a rule concerning how you interpret scripture, especially
when you relate one verse in the Bible to another. There is
something that theologians have called the general tenor of
scripture. Now what does that mean? It means that there are
basic themes running through the Bible and if there happens to
be a verse or two that on the surface seems to run contrary to that general theme, you
interpret it in light of that theme. For
example there is a basic theme that says salvation is by
faith in the Lord and it is not of works or anything that we can
do. If there are scriptures that seem to say the opposite you
need to consider that verse in light of salvation by faith alone.
I will come back to this point later on in defense of what I want
to say. That is all that I will say about this point now.
One last item to mention is guilt. Now I stated above
that I felt guilty as a child . Actually to be precise guilt is
not a feeling. Guilt is a position in which we stand. A judge in
a court of law sits on the bench. There is a man standing before
him who has been tried for stealing a car. The judge then
pronounces him guilty of the crime. Whether he feels guilty or
not, he stands there in front of the judge as one who is guilty.
Before we put our faith in the Lord we too stand in a position of
guilt whether we feel it or not. Without faith we are guilty. It
is part of us. You may be a white male with black hair but if
you have no faith, you are a guilty white male with black hair.
Guilt is positional. Guilt is not a feeling. Guilt was also
taken care of on the cross.
We do have some feelings that are associated with guilt.
They are a result of that positional guilt. Some people feel
these feelings more than others, depending on the status of their
conscience. Paul says that some people's consciences have
been scorched and therefore no longer feel and detect wrong as
it should (1 Tim. 4:2). For the most part many do feel bad about sin, yet this is not
guilt itself. You cannot judge yourself totally on
your feelings. Some people may feel guilty when in actuality
they are not. For example, I have crossed the Canadian U.S.A.
border many times but for the first number of times I felt guilty
as I approached the border. Your car pulls up to the place where
a solemn looking man asks you many questions to see if you
are telling the truth, and of course I was but many times I felt
guilty even though I was not. It was the whole atmosphere around
the situation that made me feel that way. So it is important to
recognize our feelings, but also to put them in proper
perspective. Sometimes they are a true judge of reality and
sometimes they are not. The Bible, the Word of God is the judge of what is right or wrong,
not our consciences. Our consciences must fall in line with what the Bible teaches.
You may feel guilty when you are not. You may not feel
guilty when you are. These are two situations that if you find yourself in , you need to
correct. We need to be free from that positional guilt and its resulting feelings. We also
need to know when we do wrong and need to feel some kind of remorse for that wrong. Then
after our confession of wrong we then need to lay aside our feeling of remorse and go
ahead and live by faith and in His grace knowing we are forgiven. Then we stand before
the Lord our judge as free people. This is the Good News.
Struggling With Guilt
I do not know if you can relate to this or not but while I
was growing up I think that I spent half of my church life down
at the altar on my knees. You say, what was wrong with that?
Well there was nothing wrong with that. It was a good place to
be and most likely did me some good. On the other hand for some
reason it never changed my situation. I still had all the
feelings from my unresolved guilt.
Here is the picture. After seven verses of the hymn "Just
As I Am", I left my seat and went up to the front and knelt down at the altar. There
I prayed. There I cried, confessing my sin and
after a short time left that place feeling good because of the
blessing of the Lord. I guess every other Sunday I got saved all over again.
Come the next morning I would awake and get off to school as
usual. Sometimes that feeling from the night before would still
be lingering, and at other times it was long gone. I would come home for the evening and
before going to bed I would pray and read my Bible. Reading and praying was not my most
favourite thing but I felt compelled to do it. I read and prayed just enough to satisfy my
young evangelical conscience. I still remember the
process of reading the Bible. I would read just enough to get
by and be guilt free. That usually was one page of my very large
print Bible. One page it was. If a verse happened to carry
on to the next page, well that was too bad. My conscience was
clean after one page.
That was the way it was even after many times at the altar.
It did not seem to matter how many times I was at that altar. The
outcome was always the same. There was tears one night and
forced Bible reading the next. On and on it went until I was
nineteen years old.
I do not know why all that changed, other than the Lord saw
fit to make that change in my life. One cold dark night in
February 1970 I was watching Billy Graham on television. Oh
yes, that was something else. I always had a hard time passing
by Billy Graham on television. To watch channel eleven and the
hockey game I had to pass by channel ten. Back in those
days we did not have remotes that could skip unwanted channels.
Anyway, one night on my way to channel eleven Graham was
preaching away on channel ten. What could I possibly do. I
really wanted to watch eleven but there was a Christian program
on ten. My conscience would not allow me to watch channel
eleven, at least not right away. I would have to spend a few
minutes on channel ten at least. So there I was that night sitting on channel ten when I
wanted channel eleven. I stayed there longer than normal that night. A matter of fact I
watched the whole program and never did get to the hockey game. Graham spoke on being hot
or cold. You know the verses that come from the book of Revelation. They are pretty strong
That night as soon as the program was over I went straight to my room since it was ten
o'clock which was my usual bed time. This night was different. This night was special.
This night the Lord did something in my heart. At the time I did not realize
what He had done but He definitely must have felt enough was
enough when it came to me.
After getting undressed and into my night clothes I knelt by
my bed for no longer than ten seconds. I said to the Lord in a
very unemotional way, "Lord, if I am not forgiven please forgive
me". That was all. I then went to bed.
It was only ten seconds but something really did take place
within me, something that I did not notice until the next evening
when I went to open my Bible for my normal routine. I read my
first page and then I actually finished up that verse which was
at the bottom of the page and carried over to the next. I even
went beyond that point. I finished two pages and then three and
then where I stopped I do not remember. I do remember
I enjoyed it so much that the next day I went down to our
local Bible book store and bought a new large print Good News For Modern Man. I still have
that book today. It has given me many good times of reading ever since.
I no longer read my Bible and prayed for the sake of
appeasing my guilt. I no longer went to church and participated
solely out of duty. The difference was that I wanted to do those
things and I liked to do them.
Before that particular evening I was never really sure if I would end up in heaven or
hell. Since then I have never had one moment of doubt. Besides that I know that I do not
in a position of guilt before the Judge. Along with it my guilty feelings have disappeared
In the next few years the Lord took me on a trip through various ways and means and
showed me what it all meant. That is what His Salvation was about and how it worked in
ones life. What I learnt in those years I would like to continue to relate to you.