How often do you hear yourself or someone else saying, “ I just feel so guilty for not______________”?
Many times we fill in that blank with something we feel we should be doing but aren’t doing or some area we feel we aren’t measuring up to a standard (God’s or men’s).
Is there a difference between false guilt and true conviction of the Holy Spirit when we have sinned against our Father? I believe there is. The guideline for me is that repentance of false guilt brings no alleviation to our feelings – conviction brings reconciliation and restoration. When we are convicted of sin and confess our sins He will forgive us and cleanse us (I John 1:9) Also Romans 8:1-4
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. 3For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, 4in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (http://biblehub.com/niv/romans/8.htm)
But if you step back for a minute……ask God this question
Is it God’s will for you to continue to live in continual guilt?
Before we can move forward in dealing with our guilt we must understand that God does not intend for us to constantly be in a state of guilt. Jesus died on the cross, paying the price for our sin, bringing us to reconciliation with the Father when we receive Him. Therefore the only time we should feel guilty is if we have sinned and not confessed. Continual guilt that stems from what we think we should be doing or how we think we have failed God’s standard often has to do with a false set of standards.
It is easy to build our Christian lives on standards of involvement with church, attaining holiness and becoming a great Christian. However God’s standard is ‘Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.’ (John 15:4-5) To abide or remain is to fellowship continually with Him – to have our hearts resting in His presence – to be listening to His voice – receiving spiritual food from His Spirit (through the reading of the Word and through our personal relationship with Him)
Guilt can be a form of bondage. I say this from experience. False guilt held me in a place away from the love of God. It had to do with inner issues of insecurity, shame, lack of self-worth. All this comes when we do not know who we are in Christ and therefore do not know how to protect ourselves from the attack of the enemy when he speaks to us as the voice of guilt.
A common problem is that many (including myself at one time) never consider guilt as something that could come from the enemy but always think it is the conviction of the Holy Spirit.
The enemy comes to kill, steal and destroy (John 10:10). Guilt kills, steals and destroys our fellowship with God. And false guilt has no avenue to reconciliation because repentance of false guilt only brings further condemnation rather than restoration to fellowship. Often this false guilt has more to do with a vague sense that we should be doing better for Christ than a true conviction of sin which comes from disobeying God’s law.
Once we know the truth about guilt – that it is not God’s will for us to live in a continual state of guilt – we have a choice.
We can choose to continue to live in the condemnation of guilt which is also choosing to deny the power of the cross, through which we can be set free from this bondage. Or we can choose to go to God moment by moment, day by day, asking Him to give us the power through His Spirit to discern between false guilt and true conviction. We can diligently seek to work with Him to renew our minds with truth, counteracting the enemies’ lies with the truth of Scripture. We can read books written by godly people who will help us recognize our inner issues which may have been feeding our guilt. The choice is ours – what will we choose?