The Power of Guilt
The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all. — Acts 3:13-16
This is just about everything they tell you not to do in preaching school. Peter repeatedly uses pointed language using the personal pronoun "you." "You delivered." "You denied." "And you killed the Author of life." It's a trilogy of indictments on some pretty excited people who are worked up about a miracle that just took place. But Peter was not about to soften the guilt of the injustice done to God and Jesus.
I imagine it this way. Peter stretched out his hand, raise this man. And suddenly, a massive crowd forms, and Peter says something of this nature.
"Why are you celebrating this miracle right now when 50 days ago you murdered the man who makes these miracles possible. Don't you remember that? You conspired against and sentenced the miracle worker. A man who even a pagan Roman official considered innocent. This lame man walks today because he had faith in that man."
That's some heavy guilt he lays on this crowd.
You know, sometimes we don't like guilt. But guilt plays an important role in guiding us back to righteousness. It can help us correct our course. But we need to differentiate between guilt for wrongdoing and feelings of guilt. They are not the same thing. Sometimes people are guilty of wrongdoing and feel no guilt. And sometimes, people have feelings of guilt when they are guilty of no wrongdoing. The biggest difference between the two is objectivity and subjectivity. Guilt for wrongdoing is an objective matter. Meaning that when you do wrong, you should feel guilt. This is healthy and guides our moral activity. Feelings of guilt are a subjective matter. Sometimes there is no evidence for them. Thus, we can feel guilt without evidence of wrongdoing.
So Peter wants these spectators to know that they are guilty. That they have objectively done wrong and should feel the subjective guilt associated with this. And I think Peter takes the opportunity to point it out because he perceives that they have not made the connection between the two. Thus they don't see their guilt, so they don't feel their guilt.
This is always the challenge of leading people to the Gospel. It's helping people to connect the bad news to the Good News. For if people fail to objectively understand the connection between the bad news of their sin in the event of the death of Jesus Christ, then we are not leading them to Jesus Christ. We are only leading them to our sugar-coated version of the gospel, and this is no gospel at all. So don't soften the message of guilt for wrongdoing nor the feelings of guilt associated with human sin. For the guilt of the bad news leads people to the grace of the best news — A God who redeems guilty humanity from sin and shame.
ASK THIS: Do you feel the guilt of your sin?
DO THIS: Ask God for his grace by praying the prayer below. (If you need additional prayer, let us know in the comments below).
PRAY THIS: God, I feel the burden of my sin and my offenses against you. Please forgive me. I ask your Spirit to come into my life and direct me in your ways of righteousness from this day forward. Wipe out the guilt and shame of my sin by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for me. I choose to live every day from here forward with you. Amen.
PLAY THIS: Forgiven.
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