Wesley’s sermon on freedom from guilt begins by outlining who it is that lives in union with Jesus. They have faith, have confidence in, believe in and love God and do not rely on their own righteousness but have been bought by the blood of Christ living in union which is an indescribably joyful spiritual experience.
He says at the beginning that these people no longer sin but later in the sermon he teases that out a little more. So hold that thought. When we are held in a state of dependence on the Lord we are given the strength and power to overcome sinfulness. No longer will we desire those things from our past lives but only desire to do what is pleasing to the Lord. The fruit of the Spirit are in evidence in our lives, all the time, not just in public but when we are behind closed doors, when no other human is watching. We are given the tools necessary to keep us turned to God and way from sin.
When we live in union with Jesus we have no guilt. Our past sins are gone, forgotten and so there is no need to think of them. I remember being asked to give a testimony to a group of people some time ago and when I began to collate my thoughts I found that a lot of that past life I could no longer recall. It was gone, finished. It is in the acceptance of forgiveness we truly begin to live, in the forgiving ourselves, we realise that there is no condemnation here.
We tend to be sensitive around people who are slipping or who begin to feel guilty about something again but Wesley is more pointy and tells it as it is. If you are feeling guilty you have ceased to be a believer.
Within us we have the potential for anger and sin of every kind. It is part of the struggle of Christian living that sin is so close to us. The Holy Spirit guides us away from sin but because it is so near we can choose to go have a looksee. It no longer comes easy to us we physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually have to turn toward it and it is not natural for us to do so. But I can say from experience it is possible, it is freaking painful and mocks the living God and not something that I ever have an intention of doing again.
I was in a moment, a very definite call had been put on my life and I was trying my hardest to point out to God that he really did have the wrong person, there were many more suitable people who could do what he wanted me to and I just was not able. So best way to get out of it do the opposite, do something so outrageously bad that I would be unacceptable and I could go on with my easy existence. Well no, it didn’t work out that way because God used the situation I got myself in for his glory. The full details of this situation have been fictionalised and published and can be found if you so wish. Like my past life, it is gone and finished and I learned so much from the experience, and even last week got given new tools to deal with any potential situations arising. I love my God.
Okay so Wesley said they don’t sin, but we know that we are children of God and we do sin. He outlines how for him this works. There is the sins of ignorance – when we didn’t know something or we try to help in a situation and it is made worse. These are mistakes that do not cause a separation between self and God. We often hear ourselves saying “I never meant any harm” “if you have taken offence at what I have said I apologise I didn’t mean it like that”
There are situations beyond our control, we are supposed to do something but we get sick and can’t. So there is no choice and no guilt, there can be upset at not being able to do the thing but no guilt.
My favourite phrase is the “sins of surprise.” I think these are the ones that crop up in our lives most often. Mild mannered Mr Brown suddenly loses the plot at some kids stealing his flowers after forty years of mildness. This is a surprise and the culpability depends on how much warning the person gets. So if Mrs Brown told him that the kids were coming then he should have been prepared and so his loss of temper is a bigger deal than if he had no warning at all. Our own conscience as well as the Spirit will convict us of these surprise sins.
We are also assaulted by the spiritual battle going on for our soul. Satan wants us to backslide and gives us every opportunity to do so. Our foolishness at being tempted by the devil does not cause us to be guilt ridden for we know we can throw ourselves on God’s mercy and as we are held in grace, we know, we have assurance that once we honestly and authentically ask for forgiveness, it is given.
So Wesley brings his thoughts to a conclusion with no slipping into either remorse or sin, God can conquer our sin if we let him. He is our rock, if we lean on him, keep turned to him there is no need for guilt. Because he loves us he gives us the strength to battle sin and battle Satan’s wiles. When we realise our weakness and helplessness we are made strong by the Lord, in the Lord, for the Lord.