10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. 11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.
What are we to do with ourselves when we feel guilty? What are we to do when we hear the voice of condemnation in our hearts?
There are many major mistakes that we can make as we respond to guilt. If we act as though we are not guilty and deserving of judgment, we lie. If we act as though we have to do good to earn God’s favor, we become legalists. If we ignore our guilt with a shrug, we clearly devalue the word and the holiness of God.
In the verses above, the victorious saints conquered on the grounds of the blood of their Savior. The key for victory was not to pretend innocence, but to admit guilt while clinging to the infinite worth of the blood of the Son of God.
This thought hit me this morning while reading D.A. Carson’s new book, Scandalous. Carson does a wonderful job of spelling out for us how to respond to our true guilt.
D.A. Carson, Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 98-99.
“ The great redemptive act that freed them from their sins (1:5) and established their right to reign as priests and kings (5:9) is also what gives them authority over Satan and enables them to overcome Satan and all of his accusations (12:11). Satan accuses Christians day and night. It is not just that he will work on our conscience to make us feel as dirty, guilty, defeated, destroyed, weak, and ugly as he possibly can; it is something worse: his entire ploy in the past is to accuse us before God day and night, bringing charges against us that we know we can never answer before the majesty of God’s holiness. What can we say in response? Will our defense be, “Oh, I’m not that bad!”? You will never beat Satan that way. Never. What you must say is, “Satan, I’m even worse than you think, but God loves me anyway. He has accepted me because of the blood of the Lamb.” “
When I read this from Carson, I also thought of the words of Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress. Christian, being accused of his sin, responds with much the same answer that Carson puts forth.
From Pilgrim’s Progress, the fourth stage,
“All this is true, and much more which thou hast left out; but the Prince whom I serve and honor is merciful, and ready to forgive.“
There is no glory for God if we pretend we are not guilty. There is no glory if we pretend our sin does not matter. But God is greatly glorified if we recognize that our sin is an infinite offense to him which is covered by his glorious, infinitely holy sacrifice.