Sin, Guilt, and Repentance

“I got to thinking about the first time I ever felt guilty. It happened when I was in the first grade…My mom was a hair dresser, and every Saturday, she had me stay with Mrs. Gunner; Mrs. Gunner was…my baby sitter while Mom…worked. I loved Mrs. Gunner! She was like a second mother to me.

She had a son named Scotty…He was off to college…I used to take a nap in Scotty’s room. Scotty had a soldier’s hat, and I REALLY LOVED that hat! So, one day, I was getting ready to [go] home. It was cold; I’d worn a coat, and I took that hat (I loved it so much)…, and I put it under my coat…I took it home.

Well, it didn’t take me long to realize, once after I got home, that I couldn’t wear the hat, ’cause if I did, my mom and dad would ask me where I got the hat, and I’d have to rat myself out! So, you know what I did with that hat? I put that hat under my bed.

For the next week, I got the worst sleep of my life! All I thought about was that hat, and this thought kept coming to my mind: ‘That’s not your hat! It doesn’t belong to you! You stole it! You shouldn’t have taken it! That is NOT YOUR HAT!’ I was miserable, and I finally realized (on Friday night before the Saturday I was going to go back to see Mrs. Gunner); I finally got it! ‘I don’t have that hat! That hat has ME!’

So, the next morning, I got up, put the hat under my coat (I never told my mom, by the way, that this happened)…, and I went back. I’ll be honest with ya. I’m six years old. I don’t even know if I know what the word “guilt” really means, but I can remember it like it was yesterday. I walked into the house, and, oh, I just dreaded it so badly! I walked into the kitchen. Mrs. Gunner was in the kitchen; she was making breakfast for me. I walked in, and I took that hat from under my coat, and I put it on the table.

I said, ‘Mrs. Gunner, I stole Scotty’s hat, and I’m so sorry!’ I had tears in my eyes.

I still remember Mrs. Gunner coming over to me, and she said, ‘Well, I saw you took it.’

I said, ‘What?’

She said, ‘I saw you took it.’ She was a godly woman, and she said, ‘But I wanted God to teach you a lesson. She said, ‘How did your week go?’

I said, ‘Terrible!’

She said, ‘Good! That’s what I prayed for every single day!’

But I want to tell you, when I gave her that hat, and she said to me, ‘I knew you’d bring it back, and I forgive you,’ let me tell you what happened: 1) I had the best time playing I had all week! 2) I got the best night’s sleep I’d gotten in a week!

…You may be living with guilt today, but you don’t have to live with guilt tomorrow! There is an answer! There is a hope for you! Now, let me say up front: There is no human cure for the problem of guilt…Why? Because the cause of all guilt is sin, and only God can cure your problem! You can…get all the counseling that you want to, but guilt is the infection, and only God has the cure.

Dr. James Merritt

God used this story to impact me this week! I see sin, and I hate it! It bothers me, and I want to cure it…fix it. So, I pray that God will use me…something I say…to penetrate someone’s heart! Mrs. Gunner’s reaction jumped out at me like bold letters on a white page! In that situation, I so would’ve been chompin’ at the bit to share God’s word with Dr. Merritt’s younger self, show him why what he did was wrong, call his mom and fill her in, so she could talk through it with him and pray for him, too,…! Sigh. Did you see what he said? “Only God can cure your problem!” I’m not saying that God doesn’t use us to bring Truth into people’s lives! He does! I’m just realizing there are times when all He wants is for us to trust Him with the timing and to trust Him with the conviction and result! I think the thoughtful, trusting, prayerful approach Mrs. Gunner took in letting the Spirit of God work that week was further reaching than anything she could’ve ever said days earlier!

Dr. Merritt went on to preach a fantastic sermon about sin, which “in the eyes of God, is not a misdemeanor; it’s a felony,” guilt, and repentance, based on Psalm 51:1-5.

Sin: It is NOT a cold; it’s a cancer!

Dr. james merritt

Several words in the Bible refer to sin, but I haven’t always understood why they’re all used, like they’re different. Here’s how they’re slightly different (you’ll also see them in Psalm 51):

  • Transgressions–cross a forbidden boundary; rebel against the law
  • Iniquity–perversity (to think you can sin against an all-knowing, all-perfect, all-holy God and get away with it)
  • Sin–miss the mark (bullseye); the bullseye of your life is the will of God, which is what’s right…His best for you

Take some time this week to read Psalm 51. It’s a heart-wrenching prayer of sin, guilt, and repentance that we all can pour out to God, when He convicts us of our sin.

“The sacrifices of God [are] a broken spirit, a heart broken and bruised, O God; You do not despise.”

Psalm 51:17 LSV

To hear Dr. Merritt’s entire sermon, click on this link:

2 Comments on “Sin, Guilt, and Repentance

  1. Powerful message!! Thank you for defining the differences between Transgression, Iniquity, and Sin. I’ve read these terms so many times but never took the time to look them up to see why one was used in a verse and not the other. I thought the terms were interchangeable, meaning essentially the same thing. This showed me there’s a whole lot more to it. Thank you!


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