Dear Pastors, Missionaries, Chaplains and Friends,
Steve Jones here…I want to briefly talk to you about hanging on to guilt. I once read that if you swallow guilt, your stomach keeps score. My motivation comes from a conversation I had several months back with one of our Regional Directors. He had just come back from a Church Planting Conference. It had a capacity crowd of thousands and 95% of the crowd was under the age of 40. During one of the sessions the speaker spoke on the trouble with pornography and those in ministry. The novel thing about the talk, according to our Regional Director, was the approach of the message. There was an admission up front that he knew a majority of these young pastors we're regularly viewing porn. No apologies were made. He was straight up and blunt about it.
I’m not going to talk about porn involvement today except that we should not be viewing it.
However, I do want to briefly talk about the guilt associated with it. Guilt damages relationships; it destroys my confidence; it drags me into the past. Guilt causes us to get stuck in the past. We’re always looking backwards. It’s like driving a car looking in the rearview mirror all of the time. Guilt cannot change our past any more than worry can change our future.
God doesn’t want our guilt to paralyze us. And so, our Lord offers us forgiveness. The promise of 1 John 1:9 is for everyone: “If we confess our sins…He is faithful and just (The Phillips paraphrase uses the word, “reliable”) to forgive us…” To receive God’s forgiveness all I need to do is believe and confess. There is no sin, no guilt. God will not forgive. God’s character makes him utterly “faithful” and “reliable” in forgiving us.
But, there is a step that identifies the men from the boys. To overcome porn usage you will need support. The Bible tells us in James 5:16 (NLT): “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other…so that you may be healed.”
Confession to God is good, but confession to a trusted believer is essential to successfully overcome guilt. The context of James 5 is talking about physical healing. Doctors will tell you that our bottled-up guilt makes us ill. Someone has said: “We’re only as sick as our secrets”. The secrets we hold onto make us sick.
However, when we risk being honest to a trusted believer, feelings of freedom seep into our life. This is God’s method of overcoming guilt. Obviously, make sure your confidant is a mature, godly and trusted believer. I have counseled with many dear people after almost 30 years of pastoral ministry. On some occasions someone would say: “Pastor Steve, I’m about to share something with you that I’ve never told anyone else in my life”.
The moment I would heard those word I would be very excited. Not because I was going to hear something really “juicy”. No—because at that moment I knew they were finally going to experience relief from all that guilt.
The secret you want to conceal the most is the one you need to reveal the most because it’s the one that will heal you the most. Confession and accountability to a trusted friend will release us from the guilt that has gripped us for years.
Have a blessed week.
P.S. Get a spiritual boost at our Fellowship 48 this year. Our National Convention theme is “Vital Signs”. We will be challenged by healthier spiritual lives.