A friend of mine who works in a restricted access country told me of a fascinating story that took place when he first arrived years ago. A man with a guilty conscience sewed his lips together, put a barbed wire crown on his head, strapped a large wooden cross on his back, and walked around the town he was from.
The man left a note with his wife stating he wanted to be forgiven for stealing food and supplies from merchants for his family. So he carried his cross around and through town, eventually arriving at the police station where he turned himself in. The police heard his story (later from his wife), arrested him, and fined him for community offenses.
The man simply wanted his sins to be forgiven. It was evident, my friend said, that the guilt he felt weighed heavier than the cross on his back (see John Bunyan’s “The Pilgrim’s Progress: From This World to That Which Is To Come,” published in 1678, for a great allegory about guilt and freedom). Sadly, the arrested man’s actions were not required by God for absolution. They were not part of how God dealt with human guilt.
The apostle Peter wrote in his first letter that, “Christ died for our sins once for all” (1 Peter 3:18). Jesus took the punishment for our sins and restores our relationship with God when we acknowledge and receive His gift of salvation.
The troubled thief tried to punish himself for his sins. He tried to play God. Haven’t you done the same before? I sure have. We all do the same thing, often more than once. Don’t you mentally beat yourself up over a sin that God has forgiven – a sin you’ve confessed and turned away from? Has the weight and guilt of past sins ever driven you to do “good stuff” to try and appear “better” in His eyes, and try to even the score a bit?
It’s not needed. The apostle Peter, who knew the pain of rejecting Jesus a few times, realized we can never do enough to earn God’s forgiveness. Peter had to simply (and humbly) receive it by the grace of God through faith, which the apostle Paul wrote about in Ephesians 2:8. Peter and Paul knew that through Jesus, all of our sins, past, present, and future, were nailed to the cross ONE time.
Read Colossians 2:9-15.
It should grieve us when we sin. But when we have truly repented and turned away from our sin, we must leave it on the cross of Christ, and not try and create our own cross. Keep in mind that we confess our sins to God for forgiveness (1 John 1:9) and to a trusted brother or sister for healing (James 4:16).
If your conscience is bothering you over sin(s) you’ve previously brought to the God and turned away from, that’s a cross you should not be carrying. God has forgiven you. The opportunity you have at the foot of the cross of Christ is for your conscience to experience freedom and peace. The peace of God comes from knowing the God of peace.
Serve globally. The cross of Jesus means he died for all of us – once for all – to bring us to God. With a radically clear cross-conscience, let’s go reconcile others to our Savior.
Love is a verb,
©2014 by Mike Olejarz