I have a proverbial, “which came first” scenario to consider this week in Jim Class. But it has nothing to do with fowl or ova. We will make a connection with our own psyche – our mind – our will. And our emotions will be put to the test as we ponder, “Which Came first?”

From the time I was a small boy my favorite cookies have been peanut butter and chocolate no-bakes. You know – the ones that mom made in a big steel pot on the stove-top – and then spooned out the chocolatey concoction onto waxed paper -which had been spread neatly over the countertop or table (hopefully both).

If I were lucky, I got to lick the spoon and clean out the pan. Better yet, you got a spoonful of the delicious gooiness as she was sliding them off the spoon, with her ungloved finger, onto the waiting parchment.

I recall a couple of incidents where I only got to lick the spoon and mom gave me strict instructions, “Don’t eat any of these until they set up!” Meaning I wouldn’t get one while it was hot and gooey. Needless to say, I had an incident or two where I didn’t wait!

One time I snuck in and took a couple from the waxed paper – in spite of my mother’s warning. It wasn’t long before I heard my full and proper name echoing from the kitchen, followed by, “You get in here right now!

As nonchalantly as a nine-year-old could pull off, I entered the kitchen and put on my best fake innocent-look. You know the one, eyes wide opened while feigning a look of confusion – arms outstretched, palms upward – while uttering a feeble, “What mom?” Trying to pull off the, “Why in the world would you interrupt the ever important Cowboy Bob cartoon program?” defense.

In all her motherly perceptiveness, she didn’t buy it. She simply stood – pointing at the two brown spots on her waxed paper – the evidence I had left. I was busted!

The next time (yes there was a next time) I tore off the wax paper where the brown spots were. My ploy failed just as miserably. From the, “James Mitchell Clayton the second” to the unconvincing act of innocence. This time it was followed by a comparison on how the blade on the waxed paper box makes a nice, neat tear and I did not.

The point is – before I heard my name being called – before I was called on the carpet (or linoleum in this case) – I knew I had done something wrong. I was feeling pangs of guilt and remorse before I heard my name. Hearing my name simply drove home the idea, “I was a bad boy!” I also knew consequences were coming (in this instance I got none of this batch).  I want to zero in on those guilt pangs this week. Which came first – the sin or the guilt?

Romans 8:1 “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (NKJV)

This is one of the verses I have read and quote often. I go to Romans 8 in an effort to reassure myself (an often overlooked benefit of time in the Bible) that the condemnation I sometimes grapple with has been taken care of by the blood of Jesus. I need convincing from time-to-time. Why do I feel this sense of guilt and remorse when I sin?

I don’t want to give you the impression that I am a rampant sinner, but there are things that I do that I know I shouldn’t from time to time (See Jim Class Period – 6). If we read further into Romans 8 we begin to get a picture of why we are conditioned to guilt as a default mode.

Romans 8:2 “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” (NKJV)

We, as humans, are prone to a sense of law and order. There are rules to follow. When we follow the rules there are rewards – pay raises – good grades – pats on the back. When we don’t follow them there are consequences – detention – loss of privileges – physical harm – guilt.  

We are inundated with this concept from an early age. They are inherent in nearly every aspect of “civilized” society. From the first time we hear, “NO-NO!” as infants, to not getting a snack in daycare for being restless during nap-time.

From childhood to our teen years – from early adulthood to old age – there are systems in place that convey the message – “Don’t mess up!” Depending on our age and the severity of the “mess up,” the penalty can go from a spanking to a grounding, or from a traffic ticket to jail time. All of these punishments can, and usually do, come with a free side-order of condemnation.

The answer to my question – which came first – the sin or the guilt, is the sin. Without sin there would be no guilt. We see this played out perfectly in The Book of Beginnings.

Genesis 3:8 “And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” (NKJV)

We don’t see Adam or Eve hiding from God prior to this. The only logical explanation is that there was no sin before this. Every translation I saw says they “hid.” 

When we know we are facing punishment, we do all we can to avoid it. Guilt causes our avoidant behavior. Guilt we would not experience had we not done something we shouldn’t have.

Romans 8:2 “For the “law” of the Spirit of life flowing through the anointing of Jesus has liberated us from the “law” of sin and death.” (TPT)

I like the way Romans 8:2 reads in The Passion Translation. There are two things that come from knowing Jesus – The Spirit and the anointing – which is the application of The Spirit.

Anointing means to, “rub or smear on,” like lotion (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, H4886). The implication in the New Testament is that, as Christians, the anointing is a feature of the New Birth.

“Therein lies the rub!” (To deliberately cash in on the pun.) What is keeping us from accessing this anointing – the use of the Holy Spirit – the intimacy that is implied?

The barrier most Christians face lies in the second half of Romans 8:2. “The law of sin and death.” Once sin entered the picture, mankind began seeking ways to escape it. Some of these means were provided by God, but not necessarily used in the manner in which He prescribed.

All it takes is two words to demonstrate the problem. The Law. We are conditioned to “The Law.” But the law we are conditioned to is, “The Law of Sin and Death.” The law that carries guilt and shame doles out condemnation and fear “like Carter does liver pills.”

We are preprogrammed to respond to sin through condemnation. It is our default mode. It has been ingrained in every society known to man, and it has been manipulated by tyrants since The Fall.

There is a new law. an alternate law. “The law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus.” And, as we see in Romans 8, it sets us free from the other law.

Why are we not accessing it the way we should?

Why are we still resorting to self-loathing and misery when we don’t have to?

Paul answers both of those questions a few chapters later.

Romans 12:2 “…do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (NKJV)

Christians are not renewing their minds with the Word of God as they should. They are not reading their Bibles as they should. Don’t let this bring more guilt – let it be freeing. Use it as a realization that there is something you can do. Go to the source – God’s Word. The answers are there – like a hot gooey cookie sitting on wax paper. It’s yours for the taking – with no guilt and no condemnation.