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My home town is Hannibal, Missouri, most of my family still lives there. There have been times when I visit, and I drive through town, looking at buildings and streets I remember something that I said or did in that location. Sometimes those memories are funny and sometimes they aren’t the best memories to recall…and I remember things that I wish I could take back and have a do-over! That feeling is guilt, how do you deal with guilt…that’s where we are going today.
For the past 3 weeks we have been in a series called Breaking Free. We’ve been talking about what to do with the hurts, habits and hang-ups that have been messing up your life. Each week we have been using the letters that spell out the word recovery to help us understand eight steps that God will lead us through to help us Break Free and get unstuck from the hurts that we can’t let go of, the habits that mess us up, and the hang-ups that make life difficult.
Step one was the Reality Step—Realize I’m not God, that I’m powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing and my life is unmanageable. In reality I realize that I have problems I can’t seem to control.
Step two was the Hope Step – Earnestly believe that God exists, that I matter to Him, and He has to power to help me recover. While I am powerless to control all the problems and things in life…God has the power to change me and my situation
Last week we talked about Step 3, the Commitment Step—consciously choose to commit all my life and will to Christ’s care and control. It’s not enough to know that I’ve got problems and not enough to know that God can solve them. I must make a commitment and say, “God, here is my life, the good, the bad and the ugly.” And God begins to take those problems and begins to work on them.
STEP FOUR—HOUSECLEANING STEP – It has to do with cleaning up the past, letting go of guilt, gaining a clear conscience, learning to live guilt free and the way God wants us to live. If you’ll take this step with me today you’re going to feel a whole lot better a week from today.
O STANDS FOR OPENLY EXAMINE AND CONFESS MY FAULTS TO GOD, TO MYSELF, AND TO SOMEONE I TRUST.
Why is this a part of the recovery process? If you’re going to learn how to really enjoy life, you’ve got to learn how to let go of guilt. The truth is, none of us is faultless. We all have sins, we’ve all made mistakes. We all have things we wish we could turn back the clock on and say, “I wish I would have done that differently.” As a result we carry guilt around—sometimes consciously, but most of the time unconsciously. There are a lot of ways you react in life that are caused by unconscious guilt. We may deny the guilt. We may repress the guilt. We may blame other people for our guilt. We may excuse our guilt. We may rationalize our guilt. But we still feel the effects of it. If you’re really going to recover from the hurts, and habits, and hang-ups in your life, you’ve got to learn how to let go of guilt, how to live with a clear conscious.
Listen to what David says in Psalm 32:1-5
Many people think “You just have to put your head down and bear the guilt. So in your mind you say, “Im ok…I’m good, but your heart keeps reminding you, “No…something is off, you need help.”
We need to take step four even though it is a difficult step…here is why.
- Guilt destroys your confidence.
How can you be confident when your guilt is leading you to ask, “What if somebody finds out? What if somebody really knows the truth about me?” As a result we’re afraid of other people and it destroys our confidence.
May years ago Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, writer of the Sherlock Holmes novels, was quite a prankster and one day he played a prank on five of the most prominent men in England. He sent an anonymous note to these five prominent men and it simply said this: “All is found out, flee at once.” Within twenty-four hours all five men had left the country.
Guilt robs you of confidence. It’s like a cloud hanging over your head and you’re thinking, “I just can’t get on with my life because I’m afraid somebody is going to find that skeleton in my closet, and obviously God knows about, but nobody else knows about it and it carries a heavy, heavy weight.” And it robs your confidence.
- Guilt damages your relationships.
Guilt causes me to respond to people in wrong ways. Guilt can make me impatient with other people. It can cause me to overreact in anger. Guilt can cause you to spoil people, indulge people. Parents often feel guilty and overcompensate by indulging. Guilt can cause you to avoid commitment in relationship. You get so close in the relationship but then no closer. Why won’t I do that? Why won’t I let people get close to me? One of the reasons is Guilt. So it damages my relationships, because it keeps me responding to people in ways that sometimes I don’t understand. A lot of marriage problems today are caused by things that happened prior to marriage that a spouse still feels guilty about. And it causes marriage problems today.
- Guilt disables your future.
You can’t move forward because you replay in your mind over and over the things you wish you could change but you’re never going to change. Guilt cannot change the past just like worry cannot change the future. But it just makes today miserable.
A little boy visiting his grandparents and given his first slingshot. He practiced in the woods, but he could never hit his target. As he came back to Grandma’s back yard, he spied her pet duck. On an impulse he took aim and let fly. The stone hit, and the duck fell dead. The boy panicked. Desperately he hid the dead duck in the wood pile, only to look up and see his sister watching. Sally had seen it all, but she said nothing.
After lunch that day, Grandma said, “Sally, let’s wash the dishes.” But Sally said, “Johnny told me he wanted to help in the kitchen today. Didn’t you, Johnny?” And she whispered to him, “Remember the duck!” So Johnny did the dishes.
Later Grandpa asked if the children wanted to go fishing., Grandma said, “I’m sorry, but I need Sally to help make supper.” Sally smiled and said, “That’s all taken care of. Johnny wants to do it.” Again she whispered, “Remember the duck.” Johnny stayed while Sally went fishing. After several days of Johnny doing both his chores and Sally’s, finally he couldn’t stand it. He confessed to Grandma that he’d killed the duck. “I know, Johnny,” she said, giving him a hug. “I was standing at the window and saw the whole thing. Because I love you, I forgave you. I wondered how long you would let Sally make a slave of you.”
Until we deal with guilt, guilt will disable our future.
Step 4 is the one that separates the men from the boys. This is the one that separates those who want to talk about recovery and those who really mean business saying, “I’m going to get on with my life. I want to get well.” Step 4 is all about how to get rid of guilt. So let’s get practical for a few moments.
Getting rid of guilt
These steps take a lot of courage…
- Take a personal moral inventory.
What that means is that you get alone by yourself. You get a pencil and a notepad and you sit down and say, “What is wrong with me? What have I felt guilty about? What have I regretted? What are the faults in my life that I know need changing?” And you ask God to help you out…to bring to mind those things I feel guilt over that are messing up my life, whether consciously or unconsciously. – Is this in the Bible? Yes
- Lamentations 3:40 “Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord!” God says we need to examine our lives and then we pray and ask God in this time to help us.
- Psalm 139:23–24 “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”
I want to remind you that the twelve steps were originally adapted from the Bible…the Bible has since been removed in many recovery programs…recently I have heard there’s not enough Bible in Celebrate Recovery…you know what the French would say…pooh-pooh. It is actually returning recovery back to it’s Bible roots!
Lord, I’m sitting here, I’ve got my pencil and paper, You just bring it to mind.
When you take this moral inventory, you need to take your time, don’t rush it. I’ve done a handful of times…This doesn’t work unless you are ruthlessly honest with yourself, and you write it down.
Why in writing? Because it forces you to be specific. When I don’t put it down in writing I can be pretty vague about myself…well God I blew it again…when thoughts pass through the mind down to the fingertips they can’t hid. When we get specific we have to face reality and stop denying the problems in our life.
- Accept responsibility for my faults.
Proverbs 20:27 “The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord, searching all his innermost parts.” The greatest holdup to the healing for my hang-up is me. The greatest holdup to the healing for your hang-up is you. It starts with being radically honest and saying, “I’m the problem.” I keep saying, “If I just change relationships, just change jobs, or just change towns, just change locations, then everything will be fine. The only problem is wherever I go, I’m there. And I keep messing it up.” So you accept responsibility for your faults.
- Don’t rationalize. Don’t say, “It happened a long time ago or it’s just a stage or everybody does it.”
- You don’t minimize it. You don’t say, “It’s no big deal.” If it’s no big deal how come you still remember it twenty years later?
- Don’t blame others, maybe your fault is only 10% of the issue, you need to claim that 10%…that you messed up that part.
The point is that if I really want to stop defeating myself, I’ve got to stop deceiving myself. And pretending that it’s everybody else’s fault—when the issue really is me. 1 John 1:8 “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Where is the guilt for you? Isn’t it finally time to deal with it and get on with your life? You make a moral inventory and then you look at that list and say, “Yes, that’s me. I accept responsibility for my faults.”
- Ask God for forgiveness.
1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
- Confessing isn’t begging – God wants to forgive you more than you want to ask for forgiveness, He wants our relationship to be right and good. You don’t have to beg. He is a good Father.
- Confessing isn’t bargaining – “If you will forgive me, I’ll never do this again.” If this is an area of weakness then we have no power to say that, because we will most likely return to it.
- Confessing isn’t bribing – “God if You’ll forgive me, I’ll go to church, I’ll tithe, I’ll do a bunch fo good things…”
In 1 John – Confess in the greek is homologomen. Homo means “same” logo means “word”…it means to speak the same words about your sin that God would use about your sin. Basically it means to say “God, You’re right…what I said or did, was wrong.” Confessing means that you agree with God about the wrongness of your sin.
And here is the best part…God is faithful and just…it’s His nature…He is faithful – He stays true to His promises, and He is just – He does what is right! You might think, “You don’t know what would be on my list, I could never be forgiven for some of the stuff on my list.” Two words for you, YOU’RE WRONG! Watch this…
Celebrate Recovery Newcomer Video.
We humbly come to God and we say, Ask God for forgiveness. Isaiah 1:18: ““Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” Jesus is better than any tide ad…He can wash away every sin!
- Admit my faults to another person.
God says it is absolutely essential for your recovery. James 5:16: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” How are we healed? By admitting our faults to one another. Why do I need to drag another person into this? Why can’t I just admit it to God? Because the root of our problem is relational. We lie to each other. We deceive each other. We’re dishonest with each other. We wear masks. We pretend we have it together. But we don’t. And we deny our true feelings, and we play games. It isolates us from each other and prevents intimacy. We end up living with shame and it makes us insecure. We think, “If they really knew the truth about me, they wouldn’t love me. They’d reject me.”The more you hide it, the bigger it gets, you exaggerate it internally.
But the amazing thing is, when you risk honesty with one person, all of a sudden, this feeling of freedom comes into your life. You realize that everybody has problems, and often they have the same ones you do. You admit it to one other person. You don’t need more than one, but you need at least one person in life you can be totally honest with. Why? There is something therapeutic about it. It’s God’s way of freeing us.
Don’t go and buy a megaphone and start broadcasting your sins throughout the town square, I’ve seen a lot of the people that sit in Starbucks…they like to talk! Telling the wrong person could be big trouble.
Who do you tell?
- Somebody you trust. Somebody who can keep a confidence, who is not a gossip and who has a reputation for keeping a confidence. You don’t need to tell somebody and then next week it’s all over social media.
- Somebody who understands why confessing is so important.
- Somebody who is mature enough that they are not going to be shocked.
- Somebody who knows the Lord well enough that they can reflect His forgiveness to you. That may be a pastor, a small group leader, a close trusted friend, a Christian counselor. Most genuine Christians I know would be honored to listen to your fourth step.
What do you say?
You find a safe place and take your moral inventory list and say, “I just need somebody to listen to me take my fourth step in recovery. Here’s some things I know are wrong in my life, this is what I’ve done, this is what I’ve felt. Here are the habits, the hurts, the hang-ups.” A mature believer should get excited when they hear the words, “What I’m about to share I’ve never told anyone in my life” Not because of the juicy info, but because the person who is sharing is going to experience relief like they’ve never felt before. All of a sudden the secret that’s been making you sick, stops making you sick, because you start sharing it. Remember, be specific. The secret you want to conceal the most is the one you need to reveal the most because that’s the one that will heal you, so you can experience God’s grace.
When do you do it?
As soon as possible. Don’t procrastinate. What will happen…You’re going to take this sermon home, “I’ll just think about this one for a while. I don’t know. I acted on those first three.” Maybe you’re not ready to take this step yet. That’s OK, keep coming. You just need a little more pain. Then God will get you ready and once you’re ready you’ll take this step.
- Accept God’s forgiveness and forgive myself.
Romans 3:23–24 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” Key word…All. Maybe your thinking, “John is talking right to me, he planned it for me.” No, I didn’t. All have sinned. We’re all in the same boat. Pastors need to take step 4! Elders need to take step 4. Leaders need to take step 4. We’re just a bunch of sinners. Who are we trying to kid? Nobody is perfect. We’ve all blown it. We’ve all made mistakes. It’s not like anybody is more righteous than anybody else. We’ve all got problems, just in different areas. What happens when I take this step?
- God forgives instantly. He doesn’t wait. The moment you do this, you’re forgiven. He never makes us wait, make us suffer for a while. Humans do that, but God doesn’t do that.
- He forgives freely. He freely takes away our sins. You don’t deserve it, you don’t earn it, you can’t work for it. It’s free.
- He forgives completely. He wipes it out. “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesu” Do you how great that feels, to live with no condemnation?
Apologist Gregory Koukl wrote…
Most ailments need particular antidotes. Increasing the air pressure in your tires will not fix a troubled carburetor. Aspirin will not dissolve a tumor. Cutting up credit cards will not wipe out debt that is already owed. If your water pipes are leaking, you call a plumber, not an oncologist, but a plumber will not cure a cancer. Any adequate solution must solve the problem that needs to be solved, and singular problems need singular solutions. Some antidotes are one-of-a-kind cures for one-of-a-kind ailments. Sometimes only one medicine will do the job, as much as we may like it to be otherwise. Mankind faces a singular problem. People are broken and the world is broken because our friendship with God has been broken, ruined by human rebellion. Humans, you and I—are guilty, enslaved, lost, dead. All of us. Everyone. Everywhere. The guilt must be punished, the debt must be paid. Promising better conduct in the future will not mend the crimes of the past. No, a rescuer must ransom the slaves, a kindred brother must pay the family debt, a substitute must shoulder the guilt. There is no other way of escape.
Who will deliver us from this body of death…Jesus the Son of God.