Haunted by the Ghost of Guilt

Zechariah 3:1-4

Adrian Rogers

Sermon Overview

Scripture Passage: Zechariah 3:1-4

Our culture has redefined sin but has not been able to get rid of sin’s shame. Until we deal with sin as it is, we’ll always be haunted by the ghost of guilt.

Zechariah 3:1-4 is a courtroom scene—there is the accused, the adversary and the advocate.

The accused, Joshua, represents us; there was a strong case against him. Verse 3 tells us he was guilty: “Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and was standing before the Angel.”

The first thing we must do with our sin is admit it. Guilt is not a feeling, it is a result of the filthiness of our sin; it can lead to depression, anxiety, sickness, and spiritual sterility.

Adrian Rogers says, “There’s one thing God will not accept for sin, and that is an alibi or an excuse; Jesus did not die for alibis or excuses.”

Guilt does not drive us to God; on the contrary, unresolved guilt drives us further from Him, resulting in bitterness.

The adversary in this passage is our accuser, Satan. He is pictured as a prosecuting attorney in verse 1: “Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to oppose him.”

There’s a difference between accusation and conviction. The Holy Spirit convicts us to lead us to repent, while the devil accuses us to make us feel hopeless. Satan wants to expose our sins for the purpose of our suffering the consequences. He intends to focus our attention on our sins rather than on Jesus.

This passage also identifies the Advocate; the Angel of the Lord represents Jesus.

“And the Lord said to Satan, ‘The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?’” (Zechariah 3:2).

We have a lawyer pleading our case: Jesus Christ, the righteous. He rebukes the accuser and restores the accused. He is never easy on sin—and even while He forgives, He may chasten—but He defends us with His redeeming grace. He takes away our dirty garments and clothes us in His righteousness and purity. “Then He answered and spoke to those who stood before Him, saying, ‘Take away the filthy garments from him.’ And to him He said, ‘See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes’” (Zechariah 3:4).

Apply it to your life

If you are haunted by the ghost of guilt, there are three steps you can take to deal with it:

  1. Consider the source: Is it a Holy Spirit conviction or a satanic accusation?
  2. Confess the sin: call the sin by its name; own it for what it is.
  3. Claim the solution: God has forgiven you of your sin and buried it in the grave of His forgetfulness.