Recently I was watching an episode of the new show by Jerry Seinfeld called Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. In the episode, Jerry picks up his friend Michael Richards (Kramer from the popular sitcom Seinfeld) to go get some coffee.
During the course of their conversation, Richards expresses to Seinfeld that he is still haunted from the guilt of an incident that occurred in a comedy club several years ago that cost him his reputation and almost his career. Seinfeld gives Richards some advice telling him that it is up to him to let the guilt go.
As I watched, I was struck with certain sadness. If it is up to Richards to forgive himself, then the guilt will remain. Richards will never ultimately be able to forgive himself. The human conscience does not allow that.
Guilt and shame may be suppressed for a certain amount of time, but it will never be gone. The only way Richards will ever get beyond the terrors that assault his conscience is by trusting in the finished work of Christ.
This is the case with all of us. Every one of us is a sinner by nature, and we are consistently sinning before a holy and just God. As a result, we know that we all deserve judgment. Because of this, we experience guilt and shame. It is only when we realize that One has borne the sin, guilt and shame for us that we will find rest, comfort and assurance.
We cannot make ourselves righteous by doing enough good deeds to cover our bad deeds. In fact, apart from union with Christ, even our “good deeds” condemn us. We need the righteousness of Christ. He is the One who lived a sinless life, took our sin and God’s righteous wrath in our place, and was raised from the dead.
When we trust in Him, God credits the righteousness of Christ to our account. 2 Corinthians 5:21 sums it up: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Jesus Christ offers Himself to us. He is, as John 1:14 says, “…full of grace and truth.” If you do not have peace with God, turn to Him. He’s the only hope we have.
The great Baptist hymn-writer John Newton knew what it meant to experience guilt and shame. Before his conversion, he was a slave trader, but the grace of God saved Newton from his sin. This man who wrote the hymn “Amazing Grace” struggled with assurance throughout his Christian life; thus, he was constantly reminding himself of the gospel.
In the hymn “Great God From Thee There’s Naught Concealed,” he penned the following words:
“Since I can hardly there forbear
What in myself I see,
How vile and dark must I appear
Most Holy God to Thee?
But since my Savior stands between
In garments dyed in blood,
Tis He instead of me is seen when I approach to God.”
This is the hope that I would point Richards to, and it is the same hope that I point you to. Believer, rest in this glorious truth, that God sees His Son who bore the penalty on your behalf and who is continually interceding for you. Unbeliever burdened with guilt, trust upon Christ and realize that Jesus is your only hope. Find rest for your soul in the One who has conquered sin.
– James Ritchey, Contributing Writer
- The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.
- “Newton, John, “Great God From Thee There’s Naught Concealed.”