The Encarta dictionary describes guilt as “the knowledge that you have done something wrong or committed a crime, followed by feelings of remorse and regret.” As we begin our study on the crippling sins that prohibit us from being overcomers in Christ, we cannot do without a sermon of guilt.
When all else is quiet, it is the restlessness in you that says, “I wish I had never done it.” “I wish I could do it differently.”
Older men may feel guilty about deliberately not being present in their children’s lives at a young age. Women sometimes have it for its role in early pregnancies. Teammates feel guilty about missing the catch or not winning the shot.
Life has no undo button, but we want our shame to go away. So we need a better alternative than just not thinking about it; avoiding people and places that remind us of guilt, to some degree mitigate our feelings of guilt, or to be so busy that we don’t have time to think about guilty thoughts. We’re hardwired by nature to feel guilty for doing any wrong. Some remorse can be healthy, while some guilt feelings can be negative. Either way, we know the agony of shame and how easy it is to become a slave. There is no way that a believer under the captivity of guilt, whether good or bad, can fully see and experience the liberating blessings promised in Christ.
So what exactly produces guilt? Why does God use guilt? How does the devil use guilt? What different types of guilt can we experience? How are we expected to deal with the guilt we face? How can we conquer shame in our life?
As I mentioned earlier, guilt is a reaction we get when we’ve done something that we know is wrong. The degree and duration of the guilt are often proportional to the gravity of our actions. For example, a white lie is less than adultery. So if we look at a portion of Psalm 32, we will read about the guilt that King David experienced. Many believe that he wrote this psalm soon after he had his affair with Bathsheba.
Every time we break God’s law, we bring misery to ourselves. Sin brings all kinds of pain. The more we commit sin, the more we think about the consequences of sin
That is why God says to us: “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye. Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.” (vs 8 & 9)
God has made a merciful decision to show us his ways because he loves his creation. We find his ways written in the Bible. If we obey the Bible, we are fine. If we don’t obey the Bible, we are guaranteed a lot of consequences: social consequences, physical consequences, emotional consequences. And one of the emotional consequences we face every time we sin is guilt. I know you’ve felt this before. And I know that you know how badly and painfully guilt weighs down your soul.
WHY DOES GOD MAKE US FEEL THE BURDEN OF GUILT WHEN WE COMMIT ANY WRONGDOING?
We give our children instructions for their physical safety. Likewise, our Heavenly Father gives us instructions for our spiritual security. But like ignorant and careless children, we sometimes ignore his teaching. We sometimes want to do things on our own terms, different from the way the Scripture advises. If we do this, God in His mercy makes us feel pain. Guilt is God’s gift which makes us vulnerable to sin.
When we’re faced with the severity of positive guilt, we all know how uncomfortable it can be. “When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer.” (Psalm 32: 3-4)
Apart from masochists, nobody likes being in a state of pain. So finding a way out of it is a natural human response. Unfortunately, many try to get rid of their guilt in the wrong and useless ways.
Some choose the intellectual route. For instance: “The only reason I feel guilty about sleeping with my girlfriend before getting married is that I was taught to believe in a Christian standard of ethics. I need to get rid of this outdated culture and convince myself that there is nothing wrong with my actions. And when I believe that there is nothing wrong with my actions (even better when I can say to myself that my actions are good), the guilt will go away. “
Therefore, people indulge in sin and then rationalize and justify it. This is why we are taught in our society to take biblical verses and proclaim them as virtues. I can give you many examples, but sexual sins, greed, and self-worth clearly prove my point. The goal is to eliminate guilt.
Many chose physical routes to eliminate remorse. For instance, “I have this abysmal guilt, but the way I deal with life is to cushion its effects. I treat myself. I use drugs and alcohol. I often keep the TV on all day and at full volume to avoid these tormenting waves of guilt. “
Some have also mistakenly chosen the religious route to eliminate guilt. For example: “I know that my guilt is the result of violating God’s expectations. I sinned against him, so I need to appease him in order to return to his good graces. Sometimes I deny myself of privileges that avail themselves to me. Sometimes I sure spent a lot of time in church. Sometimes I do good charity works that outweigh the bad things I’ve done to God.”
Listen, dearly beloved, there is a reason God allows all humans to experience guilt; that is; to look to Him for real healing, redemption. Guilt is a sign of recovery. That healing is Jesus Christ. You see, guilt comes from sin against God. Hence, the moment we can get God to forgive our sins is the moment guilt disappears. The first and last step to overcoming guilt is the gospel.
David said, ” Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.”(Psalm 32:1)
While we sin against humanity, any sin we commit is an offense against God. In Psalm 51, David’s psalm after his affair with Bathsheba, he said, ” Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight” (Psalm 51:4). Our iniquities are against God. But how can God not impose justice when He is a holy God who, according to his righteous nature, must punish sin?
The answer is in the gospel. In Romans 3:23, we read: ” For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” We feel guilty because we violate God’s law. James 2:10 says: ” For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” Everyone deserves God’s righteous condemnation in hell. God, in His infinite love and mercy, has sent us a savior who took our sins upon Himself. He sent us Jesus Christ. And after taking our sins upon Himself, the Father turned out his anger on him. He received the penalty for all of our sins.
Hence, with the penalty of sin now removed for those in Christ, we can receive full forgiveness for our sins. In Romans 5: 1, 8-9: Paul said ” Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.”
The means to overcome guilt is to understand that we have sinned and are still sinning against God. But thanks to calvary, all of these sins have been paid for, and we are no longer vulnerable to their punishment or the loss of God’s favor. Our debt has been eliminated!
Romans 8: 1-2, 34: ” There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.
Unbelievers seem to lead carefree lives, but only Christians can lead lives without feeling guilty. Only through the gospel, by receiving Jesus Christ in faith and the grace He gives for free; since we do not rest in our works to appease God but in the finished work of Christ; is the only way to be freed the power of guilt. The one who justifies us from all of our iniquity before the Father takes away all of our guilt.
In theory, as Christians, we can all agree with what I just said, but very often, Christians struggle with guilt because we are still struggling with sin. However, because we come to Christ does not mean we stop sinning. And when we sin, we continue to feel guilty. Then what should we do?
Let me briefly point out some of the wrong ways I have heard Christians deal with their guilt.
First, they cannot accept that Jesus actually died for all of their sins. They see some sins as unforgivable. It seems humble but very proud to conclude that Christ’s sacrifice did not fully get the job done.
Second, they think and say: “even though Christ died for my sin, I must somehow punish myself to be perfectly clean. In other words, I have to do something to regain God’s favor. Although God has forgiven me, I cannot forgive myself. ”
That statement can be another form of pride masquerading as false humility. God, the judge, and the arbiter in the highest courtroom declare you ‘not guilty’ for what Christ did for you on the cross. But when, if If you make this statement, you act as judge and arbiter in a much lower court and overturn the decision of the higher court. This shows the contempt for God’s stature as a chief judge
The third is the belief that God is punishing us for our sins. Beloved, you can face inevitable consequences due to your sin, but this isn’t the punishment of God. God always commands his children in love, but here too, he is not punishing his children. Jesus received all the punishments you deserved.
I think you may agree with the experience that all of these proven guilt removal tactics lead Christians to failure. The bottom line is that we don’t fully understand the greatness of God’s grace or are too proud to accept or not understand it.
So the purpose of the Christian life is not to sin. 1 John 2:1-2, “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”
Therefore, we feel remorse when we sin as Christians. We feel the guilt that our Heavenly Father is frustrated. We ‘re shattered and contrite. The Lord wants us to feel sad when we offend Him. We confess our sins, repent of them, and experience the blessings of his forgiveness. 1 John 1: 8-9: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
That is how David put it in Psalm 32:5 “I acknowledge my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.”
This issue of guilt follows us on our Christian journey. And as we grow in Christ, we learn the importance of getting it right and how dangerous it is to get it wrong. We learn that though God has forgiven us, we can feel it when it is not God, but Satan “the accuser” (Revelation 12:10) tries to remind us of our mistakes.
We learn to take part in a spiritual battle to prevent this false guilt from having dominion over our life. We learn not to trust our feelings about guilt, but to receive the promises of God’s Word fully. We learn to allow what makes us guilty only what goes against God’s Word. We are discovering the difference between real remorse and overactive consciousness. We know the need to keep shining in Christ, but we refuse to spiritually grow the conviction and turn into constant self-loathing that we are not doing enough for Jesus. We learn to recognize our sinfulness better and yet the incredible promise that we can always ” … come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16).
Guilt is a universal experience for all people. God, in His mercy, has made us all guilty if we sin against him. No matter how much our society ignores or explains God’s law; violations of the law generally lead to feelings of guilt.
When you’re not a Christian, there is nothing you can do to dispose of your guilt properly. You have offended God, and you need His forgiveness. You need Jesus’ cleansing blood. Will you come to Jesus Christ today in faith and be free from your guilt? Jesus said: ” Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” (Mt 11: 28-29). Do you feel the overwhelming sense of fear that you have offended the living God? Do you need to recover from the constant guilt that is crushing your life? While you still breathe, there is hope that you will experience forgiveness, liberation, and rest found in Christ Jesus.
For those of us in Christ Jesus, remember that Jesus Christ promised us abundant life (John 10:10). Like the other life-dominating sins, such as fear, bitterness, addiction, and cynicism, guilt has a tremendous ability to steal your joy and peace. Know the worth of guilt to get you into the Savior’s arms, but know the greatness of your Savior to eliminate guilt in its totality.
Hear David wrap up Psalm 32 in verses 10-11. “Many sorrows shall be to the wicked: but he that trusteth in the Lord, mercy shall compass him about. Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart.