Residual Guilt

This is something the Holy Spirit has been slowly pointing out to me as I could understand it. I read a phrase, over two years ago now, that has stuck in my head. The gist was, “You may be gone (from religion/the institution), but you’re still playing the game.” In a way I knew this was true for me, but I had no idea how not to play. Our society seems trapped in the idea that we need man’s approval in the way we follow Jesus.

It seems we all play even after we’ve been on a new journey for some time with Jesus. Freedom is most often a long and slow process of letting go of the past ways that bound us from seeing clearly, from being fully alive in Christ. For me, I’m still learning (or unlearning) a lot on this current journey. It seems we’re often discouraged to seek such a relationship directly and instead, taught to rely on an earth-bound, human liaison to commune with God for us—and even be our Shepard in lieu of Jesus.

This leads me to a current discussion (one of many) I’ve been in with Jesus. The residual guilt has diminished over time, but was still something that bothered me often. The majority of this guilt was applied externally. Constantly, I’d been told, especially from the pulpit, that to leave the congregation would be grounds for eternal damnation. Often, this wasn’t communicated directly, but ever so subtle with phrases like, “If you aren’t under the consistent teaching of ‘the gospel’ (as we define it), then you will fall out of favor with God.” Though I’m seeing more and more how that gospel isn’t the Gospel Jesus taught, it’s a discussion that is hard to communicate to many stuck in dogma because they don’t want to hear or see. Fear rules here—the fear of questioning what has been mandated to be believed under threat of eternal torment.

Still, there was some guilt that Father has been slowly draining away over time. I wasn’t consciously trying to hold onto this guilt, but now I realize my very thought patterns had to be changed, much to religion’s dismay and undoing much of their work, in order for that guilt to be fully released. In this way, my mind has been renewed over time.

There are many steps that this process has taken. The current one was guilt over not doing more. It seems the religious regime was always pushing for more and more investment into the institution—whether it was time, money, obligation, or blind following. This step in the process slowly came to light over the past few days after I heard a phrase and researched it a little more. I know all of this is kinda vague right now, but hopefully it makes some sense at the end.

I’d heard a statement that the common life expectancy of a 1st Century Jewish person was ~40 years. After researching this a great deal online, this seems to be the general consensus based on the historical records of the time. This, of coarse, could cause arguments as there were always exceptions to the rule with a handful living until their 70’s or 80’s, but the average life expectancy seemed to be 40 (and that’s at the distant end of the spectrum). Likewise, it seemed a generation, by the Bible’s own definition, was ~40 years, the general expectation that the majority of a new populace would be in place within that time.

But why is that important?

Jesus started his public ministry when he was 30, in a society where people weren’t expected to live until the age of 40. Jesus lived a full life before he ever entered public ministry, and then his ministry was a total of three years.

Now, there are a few factors to consider based on the canon we have today.
First, at the end of Luke 2, we catch a glimpse of Jesus at age 12 in the temple courts. It appears he already had the knowledge necessary to pursue his ministry, but he doesn’t, that we know of, until age 30.

Next, we see another glimpse of what Jesus was doing during his years prior to his public ministry. At the beginning of Mark 6, he travels to his hometown. The people there seem to know him as but a carpenter and are amazed at what he could do. It’s interesting to note that, based on their reactions, he hadn’t displayed the knowledge or ability he had, in his hometown, until this point. As he says himself at the Cana wedding, “My hour has not yet come.” (John 2:4b).

Here we see Jesus purposely holding back from what he could do likely because of the Father’s plan.

Okay, so where am I going with this?

We’re taught to devote our life to religion, yet, we see the Savior himself only spending three years of ministry at what was close to the end of his life expectancy. Perhaps he lived a full life as a human, though having the power of God, to truly know what a full life as a human was. He had already demonstrated his knowledge on the temple grounds and that he had the ability at the Cana wedding though it wasn’t his time.

Crunching a few numbers, this would be the equivalent of entering “ministry” (however that might be defined) myself at the age of 60 after 3/4th of my life expectancy had passed.

Now, my point isn’t that we should be complacent and just live our lives. My point is that we often assume that a life of religion is what Father wants when this wasn’t what Jesus’ life demonstrated.

We can live our daily lives while at the same time experiencing life in Jesus. While we could be called to do something great, we often pursue changing the world through religion instead of just living for God, trusting that his plan will unfold in our lives at his timing.

I’ve been made to feel guilty still even though I am no longer part of the institution because I wasn’t doing enough for God. It seems this is just another guilt tactic though. “Okay, so you aren’t attending a church service regularly anymore—what are you doing for God then?” These types of questions only seek to bind us back to a religion instead of freedom of relationship with God. These questions still keep us playing the religion game. Though we may be gone from attending, we’re still trying to live up to others’ standards and expectations.

Slowly, I’m learning to live for God, with God. I’m learning from Jesus little by little. He’s teaching me to let go of the guilt and shame and just trust Father’s plan even in the mundane—especially in the everyday, mundane—minutia of life.

This life isn’t about religious crusades to force Christianity on others—it’s about bringing the love of Father, through the Son, by the Holy Spirit within us—to one heart at a time as we live out our life in him. It’s that life of love that Jesus died to give us. It’s that love that overcame the confines of Sheol forever. It’s that love that sustains us daily where religion drains us. It’s for, and by, that love that we live a full, or (as the Bible states it) everlasting/eternal life.
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6 thoughts on “Residual Guilt

  1. John, first, you’ve made me feel a whole lot better about my choices and direction. I’ll be 65 next month and have been following the Spirit’s leading (instead of the church’s) for the last five years. It hasn’t been easy – there has been lots of push-pull around my stepping away from my church – but I’ve come to realize, as you have so eloquently stated, I can and have been living my life in relationship with Jesus, trust wholeheartedly in God’s plan and timing.

    Second, the only standard and opinion that matters is His. Yes, there are a few times I get caught up in the opinions of others, but for the most part, I’ve learned to let go of them. As I’ve observed over the years what it does to people, I’ve seen it’s a trap of the enemy. Opinions are simply about the person who has them, it’s never about you. It’s a reflection of whatever is going on in their lives, not yours. The enemy wants you to make those opinions more important than God’s. Don’t let yourself fall into that deep, dark hole.

    You’re right – it’s absolute “about bringing the love of Father, through the Son, by the Holy Spirit within us—to one heart at a time as we live out our life in him.” We can only do that when we allow His love for us to rule our hearts and minds. And He never, ever does that through guilt or shame. Only through boundless love, grace and compassion. ❤

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    • Yes! I remember 2.5 years ago, one of the few people that seemed to support me in pursuing this journey at that time, told me exactly what I’ve experienced—that I would feel guilt for some time as everything I’d been raised to believe was shattered by the love of Father I was finally letting in. And that it would take time, that I should just take some time, learning to know how much we all are loved by Father.

      It’s been a difficult journey but well worth it as Jesus has been right alongside.

      The guilt and shame, and even, for me, the anger and resentment, weren’t just things that faded overnight, even knowing the how and why of them being there—Those were things I had to work out through much “fear and trembling” with the Holy Spirit.

      I think that has been a major reason why God wanted me to start this blog—to get out in the open some of those things that, as an introvert, I would rather bottle up inside :).

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  2. Awesome message, John, just awesome and oh needed! I took the journey quite some time ago and have learned there are a lot of people who feel a slighted in the organized halls of our religious institutes. Now don’t get me wrong, I have learned that God does use those open to His Spirit who feel more comfortable in that setting, but I have found a freedom that I have never experienced in the “religious” setting. I have found the Bride of Christ is NOT tethered to any particular title, but is out working where the “fields are white unto harvest” and not bound by programs.

    I have nothing against “brick and mortar” churches as a whole, just the circumstances that often lead to an ingrown congregation. 2 Corinthians 3:17, “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” There is freedom for the Holy Spirit to lead, to work and to accomplish through His servants (vessels) when our hands are not tied by rules of order, regulations and ideological (denominational) constraints.

    I thought my ministry was over and our Lord was through with me when I became disabled. The church that I had been involved in and faithful in service too, didn’t have the time to see how my wife and I were doing and I truly thought that despite the Lord’s Word that “He never repents of the gifts and callings He has given” that my time of service was gone. Guess what? I found so many people that were in the same place where the organizations forgot them because of disabilities, illness, being homebound, whatever that so many were hungering, no, starving for someone to feed them the unbiased Word of God!

    I was told that online “ministry” is just a hobby and not the real thing for if you can’t see anyone, then nothing can happen! I started just before interactive forums became popular and when I learned how to use the forum media, I had people from literally ALL over the world take part in encouragement, instruction, edification, intercessional prayer and so much more!! What a time and what a learning process!!

    Guilt? Yeah, I went through it and it truly took others online and those around me who could see the hand of the Lord utilizing this growing media to finally help me through my guilt. Ultimately, it was the Holy Spirit and His Word that provided the ultimate freedom and since then, though I often take breaks due to health, I haven’t looked back and when the Holy Spirit gives me a message, exhortation, or even a word through humor, I try to be faithful to do what He has called me to do!

    When it comes down to it, that is why we are still here; to accomplish until the end of our journey just what it is the Lord has gifted us and called us to do and to do it with the goal of demonstrating true Agape Love! I have always taught that when you pray for the other person who is also using their gift for blogging, and intercede for the person you may never meet face-to-face, that you are giving a portion of your life (in time spent) that you will never recoup and therefore are fulfilling the example of Christ in giving your life for another! What better demonstration of love, knowing someone else is being built up and strengthened in Christ and His Spirit!!

    Okay, sorry I really got going, but John, you are on the path that the Lord, (Psalms 37:23, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, And He delights in his way.”) has established for you and as Samuel told Saul, “obedience is better than sacrifice.” The guilt, residual or recurring is a tool of the enemy, the counsel (convincing) of the Spirit is what you walk your walk by. That nudging or whispering of the enemy passes as you continue to do what you are called to do and remain the willing vessel that you are!!

    Love you brother and praying for you continually! Keep up the fight of faith and may our Heavenly Father bestow upon you continually Grace and Strength!!!

    Like

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