Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Grace on a Thursday: My gripe with the Christian talk show host

I often have my car radio set to a Christian station during the day (I even did this VLOG about it while actually sitting in my car). I'm almost never in the car at night, so last night when I got in the car to go to a meeting (one which could have been entitled "Two Hours Where We State the Obvious," but I digress) I found myself listening to a call-in program I'd never heard before. There were about three hosts answering questions of a theological nature. I caught one young lady caller asking what to do about her deep guilt over a habitual sin in her life. There was no question what she kept doing was wrong. She stated she didn't want to, but would return to the sin over and over again. She said, "Like 100 times I've messed up again." And the guilt was eating her up.

One host started off addressing her issue by saying, "Well, guilt is a good thing..." And I am gonna stop right there. Because this is Grace on a Thursday, I will try my best to give this chap grace, and presume he didn't actually mean what he said. Because I could not disagree more. Guilt is never a good thing. Never. And honestly, I've heard that said so many times that I knew it needed to be my topic this week.

Conviction is the good thing. Conviction points us to improvement, and comes directly from the Lord who is at work in our hearts. Guilt is condemning and shameful, seeks to hold us down, and comes from the pit of hell.

Here's my little test. When I make a mistake, what goes through my head?

Guilt says, "I can't believe I did that! How could I have lost it AGAIN? I'm such a _______."
Conviction says, "UGH that was so wrong. I'm so sorry. Thank goodness God will give me another chance."

Guilt says, "That just proves I really am a mess."
Conviction says, "I need Jesus to remind me who I really am."

Guilt says, "I'll never get it right. This is a lost cause."
Conviction says, "I am so needy. Lord grant me forgiveness and fill me with truth because I am lost without you."

Guilt says, "Seems like all I do is hurt that person."
Conviction says, "I made a bad choice, and with the Holy Spirit, I can choose better next time."

Guilt is a dead end. I feel that guilt has an insatiable quality. In other words, you can never feel enough guilt. And it comes with a very personal despair. Conviction, on the other hand, is first a grieving for one's mistake, and then is an arrow pointing to growth and change. There is a HUGE difference.

One is graceless. One is grace-FULL.

I will say this, though. This work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, this continual pruning and grace-covering, is only offered to those who allow Jesus to be in charge of their lives. All of the above is defined by whether or not a person has been redeemed - and is ultimately guiltless - by Jesus' death and resurrection. If a person doesn't believe their sin has been paid for once and for all by Jesus and the cross, then they remain guilty before a holy and perfect God.

The big, giant "However" is that if a person has believed, has confessed he or she is in need of a savior, and is walking with God, there is no need to tolerate guilt or condemnation. A guilty Christian is not a Biblical concept, and it cheapens what Jesus has done for us. His tremendous sacrifice was enough. He took off my garments of guilt and has clothed me in HIS righteousness. It's not because of anything I've done or earned. It's in spite of what I've done and earned. And for me to feel guilty for my sin is to go backwards and buy into lies about who I am.

And yet I do it all the time. I go down the road of tolerating - heck, fully agreeing with - the accusations against me when I make mistakes. They seem so darn logical and deserved. You know I have all that shame nonsense spinning in my head.

But God generously offers me grace, always picking me up once again. Washing off my guilt and shame, encouraging me to try just one more time to make the better choice. And because of His great, great care, sometimes I manage to get it right.

The Bible says it's God's kindness that brings us to repentance. (Romans 2:4)

Guilt never brings us anywhere but down.

{if you struggle with guilt or shame, like I tend to, here's a post I wrote about something I learned not long ago that meant a lot to me.}



  1. Thanks SO much for sharing your thoughts on this. I really needed to hear it today. <3

  2. thank you for this, leslie. i have a feeling i'll need to read this again sometime in the future. just 'bookmarked' it! : )

  3. Very good points Leslie. Conviction= Good. Gulit= not so much!

  4. wonderful. reminds me of this song:

  5. I never thought of guilt that way before. You are so right. It is conviction that is good and useful.

  6. This was a great a great post, I needed this. I will be passing this along to my friends this morning. Thank you!

  7. This is great, Leslie. Such a huge difference, yet one that I'd never been able to articulate before. Hopefully this post will be a blessing to many others. :)

  8. When you write a book, make sure this makes it in... :)

  9. Leslie, I think I've told you already...but I am so happy to have found your blog. You're a gem!! Such a great post!

  10. I've never thought about the comparison between guilt and conviction before. I can see how conviction leads to grace. So much to think about. Thank you. :)