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« When We All Get to Heaven | Main | The Worship Effect »

What Are You Going to Do About Your Problem?

Matthew 27:1-10 (KJV)

1 When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death:
2 And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor.
3 Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,
4 Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that.
5 And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.
6 And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood.
7 And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter’s field, to bury strangers in.
8 Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day.
9 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value;
10 And gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord appointed me.

I know this is not the season to address the passion of Christ, but it is always the season to look at the condition of the human heart.  The particular man who is the focal point of this passage has been history’s villain.  The traitor.  The betrayer.  Satan personified.  Few people have ever looked on Judas with anything other than disdain and disgust.

Actually, from a purely human standpoint, Judas was a more tragic figure than anything else.  He made a profoundly wrong judgment about Jesus Christ.  He then acted on his flawed assumption by telling the enemies of Jesus where they could find him.  In the process, he made a little money on the side. 

But, something happened between the time Judas betrayed Christ and the outcome of the trial.  Judas was not prepared for the emotional and psychological shock that hit him like a tsunami.  The front door of sin is always appealing; the back door is always revolting.  You can walk in with the greatest of ease and confidence; once entered, you are no longer in charge.  It will chew you up and throw you out the back door. 

Judas said it himself.  “I have sinned.”

David said in the fifty-first Psalm, “Against thee and thee only have I sinned.”  It is not the doing of the sin that is so difficult.  That is just chapter one.  Chapter two is dealing with the sin. 

Now, Judas was forced to deal with what he had done.  What did he do?  He realized his mistake.  He repented, not to God, but to himself.  He came back to the High Priest and offered to give the money back.  This is where the story enters the crucial point.

Some other translations of the Bible put this in very interesting terms. 

Matthew 27:3-5 (MSG)
3 Judas, the one who betrayed him, realized that Jesus was doomed. Overcome with remorse, he gave back the thirty silver coins to the high priests, 4 saying, “I’ve sinned. I’ve betrayed an innocent man.” They said, “What do we care? That’s your problem!” 5 Judas threw the silver coins into the Temple and left. Then he went out and hung himself.

Matthew 27:3-5 (NIV)
3 When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders.
4 “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.” “What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.” 5 So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.

So, now we have the true assessment of the aftermath.  There was no sympathy to be found in the voice of the priests.  They couldn’t have cared less about Judas as a person.  In fact, he didn’t really matter to them at all.  Judas was an underling, dispensable.  In their eyes, he was only the means to an end.  He was only a pawn to help them attack Jesus.  Satan does not care about anyone as a person.  He only uses people as throw-away weapons to launch his attack against God.  Satan is no one’s shepherd.  “The Lord is my Shepherd.”

These were the words of the enemies of Christ.  “That’s your problem.”  “That’s your responsibility.”

The question swirling around in the mind of Judas now takes on a different hue altogether.  He wasn’t prepared for this.  He didn’t know that his ambition was leading him to destruction.  He had no clue that his opportunity for advancement, for recognition, for material gain was going to turn into a nightmare.  When the full load of guilt and shame for what he had done descended upon him, the people who schemed to get him into this situation mocked him.  They had neither the desire nor the inclination to get him out of it.

It’s your problem.  Your responsibility.

These are heavy words.  In fact, the reason that this is the crucial point on the story is that the High Priest convinced Judas that it was indeed his problem and his responsibility. 

I submit to you this morning, that the moment Judas saw his sin as his problem and his responsibility, he ended his life.  He had a problem with no solution, a disease with no cure, a dilemma from which there was no escape.  Fear without hope turns into despair.

The truth was that it was not Judas problem.  It was not his responsibility.  That was a lie from Satan.  This was not the point of despair, but the point of faith.  Grace intervenes at the moment you think there is no alternative to your guilt.

Satan may get you to commit the sin.  That’s where you need to stop listening to him.  He knows about sin, but he doesn’t know—or at least he’s not telling—about salvation.  Salvation is not your problem.  Salvation is not your responsibility. 

Romans 5:6-9 (KJV)
6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.
8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.

The guilt that so many people wrestle with today is a problem you can’t solve.  You feel responsible for something that has no human solution.  If you continue to think of it as your problem and your responsibility, you are going to act in a way that will destroy your soul.


Sarah was rich. She had inherited twenty million dollars. Plus she had an additional income of one thousand dollars a day. That’s a lot of money any day, but it was immense in the late 1800s.

Sarah was rich. Well known. Powerful. And miserable.

Her only daughter had died at five weeks of age. Then her husband had passed away. She was left alone with her name, her money, her memories, … and her guilt.

It was her guilt that caused her to move west. A passion for penance drove her to San Jose, California. Her yesterdays imprisoned her todays, and she yearned for freedom.

She bought an eight-room farmhouse plus one hundred sixty adjoining acres. She hired sixteen carpenters and put them to work. For the next thirty-eight years, craftsmen labored every day, twenty-four hours a day, to build a mansion.

Sarah’s instructions were more than eccentric … they were eerie. The design had a macabre touch. Each window was to have thirteen panes, each wall thirteen panels, each closet thirteen hooks, and each chandelier thirteen globes.

The floor plan was ghoulish. Corridors snaked randomly, some leading nowhere. One door opened to a blank wall, another to a fifty-foot drop. One set of stairs led to a ceiling that had no door. Trap doors. Secret passageways. Tunnels. This was no retirement home for Sarah’s future; it was a castle for her past. The making of this mysterious mansion only ended when Sarah died. The completed estate sprawled over six acres and had six kitchens, thirteen bathrooms, forty stairways, forty-seven fireplaces, fifty-two skylights, four hundred sixty-seven doors, ten thousand windows, one hundred sixty rooms, and a bell tower.

Why did Sarah want such a castle? Didn’t she live alone? “Well, sort of,” those acquainted with her story might answer. “There were the visitors…” And the visitors came each night. Legend has it that every evening at midnight, a servant would pass through the secret labyrinth that led to the bell tower. He would ring the bell…to summon the spirits. Sarah would then enter the “blue room,” a room reserved for her and her nocturnal guests. Together they would linger until 2:00 a.m., when the bell would be rung again. Sarah would return to her quarters; the ghosts would return to their graves.

Who comprised this legion of phantoms? Indians and soldiers killed on the U.S. frontier. They had all been killed by bullets from the most popular rifle in America — the Winchester. What had brought millions of dollars to Sarah Winchester had brought death to them. So she spent her remaining years in a castle of regret, providing a home for the dead. You can see this poltergeist palace in San Jose, if you wish. You can tour its halls and see its remains.

But to see what unresolved guilt can do to a human being, you don’t have to go to the Winchester mansion. Lives imprisoned by yesterday’s guilt are in your own city. Hearts haunted by failure are in your own neighborhood. People plagued by pitfalls are just down the street .. or just down the hall. How many Sarah Winchesters do you know? How far do you have to go to find a soul haunted by ghosts of the past? Maybe not very far.  Maybe Sarah’s story is your story.

[Max Lucado, In the Eye of the Storm, Word Publishing, 1991, pp. 193-195]

1. Guilt and Regret

I counseled a young woman who had an affair, then had a baby, and adopted it out - and has ever since had a compulsive habit of looking into mothers’ strollers and later into the faces of other children - to see if she could recognize the child she gave away. The guilt drove her to attempt suicide several times…

Another woman - a missionary - flew from another country to talk about something she’d done - a sexual adventure - before she married. She’s told the story publicly since, but I’ll spare you the details. The terrible guilt caused her to have several ‘nervous breakdowns’. But in our therapy she decided to ‘come clean’. She wrote it down - plus lots of other junk in her life, read it aloud through her tears, then we burned it up and flushed it down the toilet, while hearing God’s word about casting our sins into the depths of the sea!

1.  Guilt is the collision between transgression and a prepared conscience at the intersection of temptation.

Conscience:  A knowledge of right and wrong ingrained within the mind.

Morals:  Standards of proper human behavior which respect man’s dignity.

Sin:  The violation of the laws of God.

Condemnation:  The judgement of God upon the offender.  (The offender is married to the offense.  The act cannot be separated from the perpetrator.)

Retribution:  Punishment that God gives the offender.

Guilt:  Punishment the offender gives himself.

Romans 1:21-32

21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,

23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:

25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:

27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;

29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,

30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,

31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:

32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

Rom 3:9-20.

Guilt is the full awareness that sin has been committed—-actually, physically, unalterably—-and it has been entered into the eternal record.

Jeremiah 17:1  The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond: it is graven upon the table of their heart, and upon the horns of your altars;

Modern thinking has forbidden (repressed, illegitimized, debunked) guilt feelings.  In so doing, it has neutered the act of transgression and scorned the prepared conscience. 

We now have a guiltless society in which people are no longer responsible for their actions.

“Guilt occurs when a person’s actions clash with their value systems; which, in turn, tells them that they have done something which is VERY wrong.  This sounds like a long winded definition for “conscience;” but, it really goes much deeper than that. 

Everyone has a concept of who they are and who they want to be; and, severe guilt can wreak havoc with that self concept.  Sometimes the values have changed for the better, either over time or as the result of some life changing event; other times, due to negligence or a moral lapse, people fail to live up to what are reasonable expectations of him or herself.  When real harm has occurred as the result of this person’s decisions and actions, that they are perfectly justified in feeling that it would be even more wrong to be able to just shrug off what they’ve done. 

       Whether they “should” be able to is a mute point — if they could have, they would have…  Many of the people who contact me have attempted to do exactly that through years of psychotherapy; and, it hasn’t worked for them.  Instead, the personality facet which I refer to as “The Judge” tends to view progress as a form of evidence of a lack of remorse, resulting in a “one step forward, two steps back” situation.”

Value of Guilt

Without guilt, there is no conviction of sin.

Without conviction, there is no repentance.

Without repentance, there is no salvation.


This is where the Acts 2:38 message is so powerful.  (Romans 1:16)

Rom 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

The best and healthiest statement a sinner will ever make is, “I am guilty!”

Psalm 51

2.          The “disease” model of sin means

“I have committed no wrong.”

“I am being unjustly criticized.”

“Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic.  (Bondage of fear.)


The word “disease” means simply “not at ease.”

This leads people to believe that they just need whatever will stop their pain, even for awhile.

Blame shift : “I did it, but they made me do it.”

Rationalize : “I did it, but it wasn’t what you think.”

Sanctify it : “I did it, but God understands and knows I couldn’t really help myself.”

Deny it : “It’s so horrible it must not have happened.”

Grade themselves on the curve : “I did it, but everyone else did too.”


Of course, there are even more active and sometimes violent ways that people try to rid themselves of guilt.  Alcohol, drugs, suicide, nervous breakdowns.


3.          That’s why this has been called the prozac society.  I believe it is because people are trying to handle the problem of guilt without the cross of Jesus Christ.


  • It leads to depression


4.          Take your guilt by the hand and lead it to Calvary.


Isa 53:4-10 from the NIV

4     Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.

5     But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.

6     We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

10   Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.  (NIV)


       The most significant phrase in this passage is “guilt offering.”  When we say that Jesus died for our sins, we cite the legal, moral and theological positions, but not the emotional one.  We must also understand that Jesus was our “guilt offering” as well.


       This is extremely important to us today.  Converts today come from guilt-laden backgrounds.  They carry the baggage of abortion, adopting out children, self-induced damage from alcohol and drug abuse, divorce, negligent or abusive parenting and other interpersonal relationship dysfunctions.  Many of them linger in the shadows of their wrongdoing long after conversion.  They must see Jesus as the sacrifice who absorbs their guilt feelings as well as their literal transgressions. 


Understand it. 

Accept it. 

Believe it. 

Claim it. 

Rejoice in it. 

Profess it.


5.          Go forward from Calvary.


The Cross is not a wall that we should stop and turn back.

The Cross is a gateway through which we pass to new freedoms!



Phil 3:13-14  Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.


John 8:32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.


I Jn 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

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