Last week reminded me of how important it is for God’s children to earnestly seek transformation; that is, the putting off of the “old man” and the putting on of the “new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22, 24) As I type these words, I find myself wrestling with what I know and what I believe to be true. I say this because, when I look into that “perfect law of liberty,” I don’t always see righteousness and holiness. I am, we are, truly a work in progress.
When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long. Psalm 32:3
There is an emotion which is critical to the transformation of God’s children and it is called guilt. What is guilt? One of the definitions I found reads, a painful feeling of self-reproach resulting from a belief that one has done something wrong or immoral. One person said, “Guilt is the source of sorrow, it is the fiend, the avenging fiend, which follows us behind, with whips and stings.” The Psalmist spoke of guilt’s profound ability to get our attention. As I considered this, I could not help but think of Peter. He would boldly claim his allegiance to Christ saying, “I will never be made to stumble” (Matthew 26:33) even after Jesus had said, “All of you will be made to stumble because of me this night.” (Matthew 26:31) So sure of himself, he would defend himself against the accusation Jesus then made, saying, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You.” (Matthew 26:35)
Most of us know the story; the man Peter, who so proudly postured himself as a defender of Christ, “forsook Him and fled” along with the others. (Matthew 26:56) Something caused Peter to “follow Him at a distance.” (Matthew 26:58) Why? Could it be guilt? If it wasn’t guilt then, it soon will be. As Jesus is abused and accused, Peter watches. Suddenly, what he is watching fades, and attention is on him, “You also were with Jesus of Galilee.” (Matthew 26:69) The denial begins with “I do not know what you are saying” and ends with “I do not know the Man!” (Matthew 26:70, 74) The rooster crowed and at that moment, the eyes of Jesus met with Peter’s. (Luke 22:61) Peter remembered what Jesus said and I have little doubt that he remembered his promise as well. “So Peter went out and wept bitterly.” (Luke 22:62)
I acknowledge my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden, I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” And You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Psalm 32:5
In our journey to “be imitators of God” (Ephesians 5:1), we will be faced with, all too often, our own imperfections. We can play the victim card and try to justify it. We can let sin harden our hearts toward God (Hebrews 3:13), setting the stage for even more sin. (Ephesians 4:18-19) Or, like the Psalmist says, “’I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ And You forgave the iniquity of my sin.” (Psalm 32:5) Praise be to God for His mercy!