"The Remedy for Guilt"
Do you struggle with guilt over confessed sin? I have to admit to you that sometimes it is hard for me to believe that God really has forgiven my sins. I can lie awake in bed for hours thinking back on certain situations and feel the guilt and anxiety fill my heart. In some ways, it gives me empathy for the Israelites, who would come again and again to bring their sacrifices to Jerusalem. Each year, they would visit the temple on the Day of Atonement. As they watched these offerings being made for their sins, they had to have wondered about the moral agency of the animal they brought. “How would an unwilling sheep or goat be an acceptable sacrifice for a human, for my willful misdeeds?” they might wonder. And so they probably walked home from Jerusalem with continual guilt, “for it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4 ESV).
So why did God institute such a system in the first place? The author of Hebrews tells us the Law and the sacrifices were meant to foreshadow a greater reality. The daily and yearly sacrifices offered by the priests on behalf of the people couldn’t forever cleanse them from their sins, but they pointed forward to a new day dawning, to the day when a perfect sacrifice would come on their behalf.
Hebrews 10 tells us that Christ is this perfect sacrifice offered once and for all on our behalf. The sacrifice He gave was not just through His death; the author of Hebrews quotes a Davidic Psalm to show us that Jesus not only died for our sins, but that He also lived the perfect life in our place (Hebrews 10:5–10)! His blood covers our transgressions, and when we believe in Him, we receive His righteous record, which includes a life fully conformed to the will of God.
One of the most beloved parts of the Christian liturgy to me is the confession of sin and the assurance of pardon which often takes place before the Lord’s Supper. I believe there’s something beautiful, powerful, and mysterious about confessing our sins corporately, in the reminder that we are all in this together and that we are all in need of God’s grace in Christ. And although I can read the promises of Scripture to myself found in the assurance of pardon, sometimes I need to hear them proclaimed over me by someone else.
If you are like me, perhaps it is hard to let go of your sin and trust in God’s sufficient grace. Yet Hebrews 10:1–18 gives us the perfect picture of the assurance of pardon through the image of Jesus sitting at the right hand of God. Christ isn’t like the priests who went to offer sacrifices day after day, year after year, century after century; His death on the cross was enough. Truly, it is finished! On those days when guilt wants to have the last word, proclaim to yourself the promise of the redeemed found in Hebrews 10:17: “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more” (ESV). Take comfort that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ, for the very Son of God seated at the right hand of the Father continues to intercede for you (Romans 8:34).
Hebrews 10:1-18 (ESV):
1 For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. 2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? 3 But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
5 Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,
“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
but a body have you prepared for me;
6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings
you have taken no pleasure.
7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”
8 When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), 9 then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. 10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,
16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws on their hearts,
and write them on their minds,”
17 then he adds,
“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.