Guilt Free

November 19, 2023 | Jess Rainer

Passage: Hebrews 9:1-14

Opening Illustration: Stealing the slip-n-slide in PreK. My slip-n-slide had a hole in it. They were both put into plastic bags, but I saw which one was which. When I left, I picked up the one without the hole in it. I remember that drive home feeling so guilty. I knew I had done wrong. I believe that I never pulled that slip-n-slide back out of the bag. Do you know what’s crazy about me telling you that story? As an adult, I can still feel that guilt I felt as a kid. Even as I speak, some of you may be remembering those moments you had as a kid. Guilt is powerful. 

We all have some kind of relationship with guilt. When we do something wrong, we become guilty – our status has changed. When we become guilty, that creates a feeling of guilt – or shame. I just wrote down some of the ways that I see people deal with guilt:

  • Perpetual Guilt – A constant feeling of shame
  • Temporary Guilt – A remorse over something you did wrong
  • Suppressed Guilt – You know there is something wrong, but you don’t want to let it to the surface and deal with it
  • Embraced Guilt – “Since I’m guilty, I might as well live like it”
  • Inducing Guilt (on others) – You choose to push your guilt on to other people

But none of these are the ways that God wants you to live. Now before some of you start feeling guilty for feeling guilty, let me give you the encouragement from our pass today: God wants you to live guilt-free.  [1] God wants to change your status to guilt-free so that you can live in the power of a clean conscious. Today, the writer of Hebrews takes us back into the old testament, the old covenant, and the old sacrificial system to show us how God deals with guilt. Open up your Bibles to Hebrews 9. As a church, we are working our way through the book of Hebrews with our current Sermon Series: Hebrews: The Complete Work of Christ. For the first several weeks, we learned two major truths: 1) Jesus is better than anything else; 2) Stay close to Jesus. In the past few weeks, we’ve learned God created a new system that enables us to personally relate to Him. Let’s read our passage today with expectancy. This is God speaking to us. Read Hebrews 9:1-14. Pray. 

Do you remember where we left off last week in the book of Hebrews? We saw the difference between the old covenant and the new covenant. God made a new covenant or promise with His people that is written on our hearts and minds. God took what was external worship in the Old Testament and made it internal. And because of that, we can personally relate to God. Today, in our passage, the writer of Hebrews dives into a specific part of the old covenant that was about worship and guilt. Here’s where we start: Guilt has been a problem for a long time. 

 [1] This sermon influenced by

1) Guilt has been a problem for a long time. (vs. 1-7) Both the old covenant and the new covenant are set up to deal with our guilt. But each covenant deals with guilt in different ways. Within the old covenant, the temple or the Tabernacle was set up to deal with our guilt. The writer of Hebrews gives us a heads up in verse 1 that he’s going to walk down this path for a minute. But he is not going to go too far down this path. Look at what he writes in verse 5: “But we cannot explain these things in detail now.”  The recipients of this letter were Greek Jews who became followers of Christ. They would have known all about temple and worship requirements. But since it’s not a topic we talk about too often, let’s walk down the path a little bit. I’m about to give a lot of historical information, so take an extra sip of that coffee…

He starts off in verse 1 by saying there were regulations of how the temple operated: That first covenant between God and Israel had regulations for worship and a place of worship here on earth. The tabernacle was the place where the priests would perform the necessary sacrifices on behalf of the people of Israel. In verse two, we start to get the visual picture of the Tabernacle: There were two rooms in that Tabernacle. In the first room were a lampstand, a table, and sacred loaves of bread on the table. This room was called the Holy Place. As much as I know you all love my drawing skills, I found a simple drawing of the Tabernacle online. Show Picture. There are two inner rooms of the temple. In the first room, the Holy Place, there were items. The lampstand was always to be lit. It represented God’s continual presence with them. The table of bread that represented God’s provision. The table or altar of incense, which was in front of the Holy of Holies, represented their prayers that were always going before God. In verse 3, there was curtain that separated the first room from the second room: Then there was a curtain, and behind the curtain was the second room called the Most Holy Place. This curtain was 4 inches thick – layers of overlapping material. For those of you that like blackout curtains, imagine having 4 inch thick curtains. This curtain was to show the clear separation between God and man.

And then in verse 4 and 5, we see what’s inside the Holy of Holies: In that room were a gold incense altar and a wooden chest called the Ark of the Covenant, which was covered with gold on all sides. Inside the Ark were a gold jar containing manna, Aaron’s staff that sprouted leaves, and the stone tablets of the covenant. Above the Ark were the cherubim of divine glory, whose wings stretched out over the Ark’s cover, the place of atonement. But we cannot explain these things in detail now.  Inside the Ark were 3 items that were designed to remind God’s people of what He has done for them. On top of the Ark, there was a cover with two angels with wings over the cover. And this place where the wings covered, was called the Mercy Seat or the place of atonement. This is the place where the High Priest would offer the yearly sacrifice for the atonement of sins.

In verses 6 and 7, we see that the priests and high priest used these rooms for worship: When these things were all in place, the priests regularly entered the first room as they performed their religious duties. But only the high priest ever entered the Most Holy Place, and only once a year. And he always offered blood for his own sins and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. I want to take a minute and go to that day when the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies. It was called the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur. What we don’t see in this passage is the preparation that took place for the High Priest. One week before – put in seclusion so he wouldn’t accidently touch anything unclean. Night before – wouldn’t sleep so he could pray and prepare his heart. One the day: He bathed head to toe and dressed in pure, unstained white linen. Went into the holy of Holies and offered a sacrifice for his sin. Came out bathed and dressed again. Went in a second time to atone for the sins of the priest. Came out and bathed a third time and dressed again. Finally, went in to atone for the sins of the people. And all of this was done in public. The people would watch the High Priest to make sure everything was done exactly right. Why? It was their guilt and sin that hung in the balance. They were so dependent not only on the high priest himself, but on every action of the high priest. The status of their guilt was dependent on another human. So, they were holding their breath in anticipation. It wasn’t until he walked out of that curtain and finished the ceremony, that they could breathe again. Illustration: My almost one-year-old son had surgery. I have a picture of him sitting on the hospital bed before he was wheeled off into surgery. That picture reminds me of how helpless I was. I was completely dependent on everyone in that room that I didn’t have access to for my son’s well being. I remember the moment walking back and seeing him after the surgery, that I just released all that emotion I was holding onto.

So many people hold onto guilt in this way. We can look back on the Old Testament and the old covenant and say, “That all just seems so foreign to me.” But we can look back and know that feeling of guilt and wanting that feeling of guilt to be resolved. When we put ourselves in the shoes of those people, that feeling is anything but foreign. The problem of guilt has been around for a long time. It’s been around a long time for humanity. It’s also been around a long time for you. But praise the Lord our passage doesn’t end there! Look at what we see next: Guilt has had a solution for a long time.  

2) Guilt has had a solution for a long time. (vs. 8-12) In my Community Group this past week, the question was asked, “Why did God create the old covenant knowing the new covenant was needed?” Now, there is a mystery to God’s plans that we won’t know fully. But as a group, we talked about the need for God’s glory. God created the old covenant which pointed to the need for a new covenant and a Savior for His glory. God created the grand plan of redemption from the very beginning. Don’t miss that. God had a solution for sin and guilt from the very beginning. It’s not like Jesus went to God and said, “Hey, I think we have a problem with this covenant we made. It’s not working like we hoped it would.” The old covenant was a part of the big plan God has for us. Beginning in verse 8, the writer of Hebrews begins to point to the solution we all need. Verses 8 through 10 show us two major inadequacies the old covenant: By these regulations the Holy Spirit revealed that the entrance to the Most Holy Place was not freely open as long as the Tabernacle and the system it represented were still in use.  The first inadequacy is that access to God was not for everyone. As hard as someone could try to follow all the laws in the OT, they could never get to the point where they could just freely walk in and out of the Holy of Holies. 

And then we see the second inadequacy and the main point of these verses: This is an illustration pointing to the present time. For the gifts and sacrifices that the priests offer are not able to cleanse the consciences of the people who bring them. 10 For that old system deals only with food and drink and various cleansing ceremonies—physical regulations that were in effect only until a better system could be established. The old covenant only offered partial cleansings. The old covenant took care of the external, but the internal guilt was not satisfied. The sacrifices brought ceremonial cleanliness. But it wouldn’t last long and they were left needing more sacrifices and left with the same guilt feeling. It was an endless cycle. Illustration: Think of it like car wash. What’s the most frustrating part of the car wash? Getting it dirty on the way home. If you want your car clean, then you just need to keep going through the car wash over and over again. Some of you are like, “Yeah, that’s why I buy the monthly pass! I just roll through often as I like.” But therein lies the problem, you always need to get cleaned again. That’s how it was with the old covenant. They didn’t sell monthly pass monthly for the sacrifices. The problem was their hearts could never get fully clean. The problem wasn’t the curtain. The problem wasn’t the sacrifices. The problem is the sinful heart.

And then, in verses 11 and 12, we get the solution! 11 So Christ has now become the High Priest over all the good things that have come. He has entered that greater, more perfect Tabernacle in heaven, which was not made by human hands and is not part of this created world. 12 With his own blood—not the blood of goats and calves—he entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever. The new covenant was made with the sacrifice of Jesus that would last for all time. The way to eternal redemption, eternal forgiveness, and eternal cleanliness is through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. The way to resolving your guilt is through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Some of you need to stop trying to resolve your guilt like a car wash. If you think you can run your soul through church on Sunday morning, then it will resolve the internal conflict of guilt that been nagging at you for so long.

Some of you have been doing this for a long time. And over time, you realize it isn’t working. You can only rationalize that the church you’re attending – that spiritual car wash – is broken and isn’t working. So, you jump over to another church to get their soul washing. You even decide to get the deluxe package at that church, so you start serving, giving, and even share the sermon on social media. In the end, you walk away from church because you are still in the same stop you started. If that’s what you’ve been doing, you’re living in a system that will never resolve the guilt in your heart. What you need is internal transformation. What you need is a purity that transforms your soul. What you need is power that only comes from Jesus. And that’s exactly what the final two verses in this passage tell us to do: Live in the power of the purity of Jesus. 

3) Live in the power of the purity of Jesus. (vs. 13-14) Look at what verse 13 says: 13 Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer could cleanse people’s bodies from ceremonial impurity. The old covenant only fixed the outside. But, oh, look at verse 14: 14 Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. Can we read that verse again? 14 Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. Those of you who have been living in the status of guilty, need verse 14. You need to let what Jesus Christ has done for you transform your heart. Jesus died on the cross for you. Jesus took on your status of guilty before God and tossed it away forever. All you have to do is surrender your life to Jesus. GOSPEL PRESENTATION. When you status before God changes, you no longer dread God. You will now begin to long for God.

And then there are some of you that know your status of guilt has been changed, but you still live in shame. To be clear, I’m not talking about the temporary guilt you feel when you sin. When we do wrong, even as followers of Christ, God uses temporary guilt to draw us back into right relationship with Him through forgiveness. I’m talking about those that perpetual guilt and shame about who you used to be. It’s those say, “I know God has forgiven me, but I can’t forgive myself.” Let me remind you what 2 Corinthians 5:17 says:  This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 

For those that choose to live in guilt even after forgiveness, you have to change the standard of how you view yourself. You might say, “Jess, that sounds like some advice that I might hear on a podcast.” I’m sure there is a podcast for that…I get that, but let me share the fundamental difference:

  1. You are not seeing yourself as a better version of yourself
    • You are seeing yourself as God sees you
    • When you choose to see yourself in shame and guilt when God doesn’t see you that way, then you are telling God that your opinion of yourself is greater than His opinion of you.
    • God’s opinion of you should be greater than your opinion of yourself.
  2. The other reason you need to change your view of yourself is that the purpose is different
    • It’s not so that you can achieve more happiness, it’s so that you worship and serve God more fully
    • You are called to live in the power of the purity of Jesus. 

Let me close with a story I heard from another pastor. Remember the Duck. The story is about a little boy who killed his grandmother's pet duck. He accidentally hit the duck with a rock from his slingshot. The boy didn't think anybody saw the foul deed, so he buried the duck in the backyard and didn't tell a soul. Later, the boy found out that his sister had seen it all. Not only that, she now had the leverage of his secret and used it. Whenever it was the sister's turn to wash the dishes, take out the garbage or wash the car, she would whisper in his ear, "Remember the duck." And then the little boy would do what his sister should have done. We all know there is a limit to that sort of thing. Finally, he couldn't take it anymore–he'd had it! The boy went to his grandmother and, with great fear, confessed what he had done. To his surprise, she hugged him and thanked him. She said, "I was standing at the kitchen sink and saw the whole thing. I forgave you then. I was just wondering when you were going to get tired of your sister's blackmail and come to me." If God already saw and forgave you, don't let anybody say to you, "Remember the duck."

Guilt has been a problem for a long time. Guilt has a had a solution for long time. Take hold of the Solution so that you can live in the power of Jesus’ purity. See yourself as God sees you.  And don’t let Satan tell you otherwise. Don’t let Satan continue to say to you, “Remember the duck.” There is so much power in a man or a woman who knows their identity in Christ, who knows their status in Christ, and lives in guilt-free place because of what Jesus did. There is power in a settled soul. Let me say that again: There is power in a settled soul. Jesus settled the debt of your soul, so let your soul settle in Him. And live guilt-free, as God designed.

Let’s pray. 

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Series Information

Sin causes us to experience shame, rejection, and pain.  This series highlights the supremacy and sufficiency of Christ in the Book of Hebrews—offering hope to all of those struggling with self-doubt and seclusion. By exploring the passages that connect Jesus' ministry to the fulfillment of the Law, this guide will help you not only better understand the Old Testament, but also how Jesus completes the story of God’s redemption. This is a great series to remind others of God’s love for them, as well as the sacrifice He made to bring them back to God.

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