The Great Tragedy of Resolving Guilt with False Theology

By David Servant

I’ve noticed that one thing all false-grace teachers and their disciples hold in common, and that is a history personal of plaguing guilt, guilt which they resolved by embracing their false theology. If you listen to them long enough, you will eventually hear them say something to the effect, “I tried so hard for years to live right, and my failure tormented me. I am so glad I discovered that Jesus did it all, and my salvation doesn’t depend on my performance.” Their words are a tacit admission that they believe the gospel is a license to sin. The gospel isn’t, however, a license to sin, and anyone who is honest with the New Testament knows that.

I, too, like everyone else in the world, was plagued by guilt. Generally speaking, guilt is God-given. God has given everyone a conscience:

For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus (Rom. 2:14-16).

Notice that Paul connects everyone’s God-given conscience with both “his gospel” and “future judgment.” It all fits together. Because God is going to judge everyone, He gives everyone a conscience that reveals His law to them—so they will know the standard by which they are being held accountable and by which will be judged. And the gospel solves the problem that we all have, as it offers, not just an opportunity to be forgiven of sin, but also freedom from sin—so that we will be prepared for our judgment.

It is so important to understand that part of the divine punishment for sin is enslavement to sin. God “gives people over” (Rom. 1:24, 26, 28) to their sin, and they find themselves trapped, “doing what they hate” (Rom. 7:15).

It is interesting that those who are “decent sinners” often verbally condemn those whom they deem as “great sinners,” not realizing that those “great sinners” are just more obvious examples of the slavery to sin that everyone suffers because of God’s punishment of all sinners. Note that Paul did not list only sexual perversion as a manifestation of God “giving over people to sin” in Romans 1, but many other much more common sins:

“…being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful… (Rom. 1:29-31).

All those vices are evidence that God has “given people over” so that they become slaves of sin. In effect, God says to sinners, “So you want to rebel against Me? OK, I’ll give you over to slavery to sin—as punishment.”

In some cases, God even hardens people’s hearts against the truth—as a punishment, making it more difficult (but still not impossible) for them to repent. That’s scary, and that is why it is so important not to ever harden one’s heart.

The gospel, however, graciously offers freedom from sin. There is plenty of evidence for that is the New Testament! Jesus, for example, said:

Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed (John 8:35-36).

Now there is some very good news! The way to get the sin out is to get the Son in!

The only way, however to get the Son in is to believe in Him. But don’t confuse believing in Jesus with believing a doctrine about Jesus. Jesus is Lord. If you believe in Him, He becomes Lord. For that reason, all new believers repent, and even that is not something they can do without God’s gracious help. About all sinners can really do is humble themselves, ask for mercy, and in a feeble way make Jesus their Lord. Praise God that He “gives grace to the humble,” and He helps them do what they could not do without Him.

And that is just the beginning of God’s gracious help in the hearts and lives of those who believe and repent. He causes them to be reborn spiritually, and both Father and Son come to reside in them by the Holy Spirit. Again, however, that does not occur without repentance and a resolve to follow Jesus. He Himself declared:

He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him…. If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode in him” (John 14:21-23).

Make no mistake about this. Jesus and the Father do not make their abode in the unrepentant and disobedient. It all begins by “taking Jesus’ yoke”:

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light (Matt. 11:28-30).

There’s the good news again. It is Jesus’ solution to those who are plagued by guilt, who are thus “weary and heavy-laden” and who “have no rest in their souls.” That solution is to “take Jesus’ yoke,” an obvious analogy for making Him Lord and submitting to Him. When we do that, we discover that “His yoke is easy” and His burden is light,” because He releases us from our slavery to sin (by which God was formerly punishing us) and comes to live in us to empower us to obey Him. It is wonderful good news.

God is certainly able to make it easier for us to obey Him. One interesting biblical illustration of this fact are eunuchs. The apostle Paul was one. He wrote, “I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that” (1 Cor. 7:7).

To a minority of Christians God gives the gift of celibacy. They don’t struggle, at least as much, with sexual temptation as the rest of us do. But if you don’t have that gift, it is because God didn’t give it to you. (As Paul also wrote, “It is better to marry than to burn with passion” [1 Cor. 7:9]). It should be pointed out that God-made eunuchs still have the capacity to sin sexually, but their desire is greatly diminished, if not eradicated altogether.

Similarly, all true Christians—those who are set free from sin’s slavery—find that their desires have changed dramatically, and that God has made it much easier for them not to sin. Of course, the Bible teaches that our own wills still play a part in our behavior, as God has not made us robots. We are expected by God “by the Spirit put to death the deeds of the body” (Rom. 8:13). We have a part to play, with God’s help.

And this is the great tragedy of those who resolve their guilt by embracing the theology of false-grace in its many forms, which is nothing more than an imaginary license to sin. When we tell sinners to just “accept Jesus” (an unbiblical phrase and idea), and don’t call them to repentance and a living faith that embraces Jesus as Lord, we do them a great disservice.

The true gospel is so much better than the false gospel! We should never tell sinners to “accept Jesus.” Jesus doesn’t need our acceptance. Rather, we need His acceptance! We should tell sinners that God will accept them, and He will also free them from their sin—if they will repent, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and take upon themselves His yoke. Then they will find true “rest for their souls” rather than the deceptive rest that fogs the minds of false-grace advocates.

Genuine believers know that Christ, who indwells them, has become their righteousness (see 1 Cor. 1:30), not just legally, but practically and experientially. Being born again, we have “died to sin” (Rom. 6:2) because of God’s amazing grace. How wonderful it is!

Don’t resolve your guilt by embracing the modern, deceptive, false gospel of false grace. Resolve it by making Jesus your Lord. Only then is when you actually believe in Him, and only then is when you start your journey as a “new creation in Christ.”