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Sermon Illustrations: Guilt

A postcard shows two goldfish in a bowl. One is whistling innocently and looking outside. The other says, "Don't try to hide it. I can see the bubbles."


Like Adam, we hide from God. But it's like a child playing hide and seek and facing the wall, thinking no one can see them because they can't see anyone.


Guilt is to the spirit as pain is to the body - a warning system that something is wrong.


When I was at school I remember a teacher telling us of a boy whose nervous system took a long time to tell him of pain. He put his hands on the stove and felt nothing for a while. When he did, it was too late, his hands were stuck. Our sense of guilt is meant to warn us of danger, because sin is dangerous to our spiritual life.


A minister had sinned very badly and even though he had confessed his sin, he never felt forgiven. A lady in his church was always saying, "The Lord said to me " It wasn't that he didn't believe her, because she was usually right, but she really irked him. One day he said, "If God is speaking to you, ask Him to tell you what it was I did years ago." A few days later, she came back to him. "Well?" he demanded. "Did you ask Him?" "Yes," she replied. "And what did He say?" asked the minister. "He said He doesn't remember."


When you're zipping down the freeway at 120, and you're looking in your rear vision mirror to see if there's a police car behind you, you're probably experiencing guilt. That's the Holy Spirit speaking to you. If you ignore that, then you're ignoring the Holy Spirit. The difference between guilt and what we call condemnation is that the Holy Spirit makes us feel guilty so that we can repent and do something about our sin. But condemnation is a feeling that comes from Satan - it has no purpose but to cripple you in your Christian walk. Condemnation may be just a vague feeling of not measuring up even though you can't seem to work out what it is you've done wrong.


A man lost his wallet. A few days later he received a letter: "Sir, I found your wallet. I feel so guilty that I am returning some of your money. If guilt bothers me any more I shall send some more money."


An Ohio teenager threw a wild party while his parents were away. The damage was so great, he reckoned the only way to cover up was to burn the house down. So he did.1


Thousands of letters are addressed to God each year and sent to Jerusalem. One asked for forgiveness for stealing money from a store when he was a boy.


False guilt: I have offended God and mankind because my work didn't reach the quality it should have. Leonardo da Vinci


An apology hotline created by Jesse Jacobs has enabled people to apologise without actually talking to the person they have wronged. They log 30-50 calls each week. Says Jacobs, "The hotline offers participants a chance to alleviate their guilt and, to some degree, to own up to their misdeeds."


You can't keep blaming yourself. Just blame yourself once, then move on. Homer Simpson