How often do you commit a sin, and then fail to find a way to move past the regret and shame you feel? Most people wrestle with guilt from time to time.
The dictionary defines guilt as 1.) “the fact or state of having committed an offense, crime, violation, or wrong, esp. against moral or penal law” and 2.) “a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined.” In other words, guilt has two components—the actual offense and the feelings that accompany it. (Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1) Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006.) Note: This study focuses on how to overcome genuine guilt. False guilt is a feeling of remorse over an imagined offense. If your “offense” doesn’t violate a law of the land, the rules of your workplace or church, or the principles of Scripture, your guilt is false.
Handling our Guilt
Once we start to feel remorseful about our wrongdoing, we often fail to respond to our guilt in a healthy manner.
How does the Bible characterize guilt?
"My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear."
(Psalm 38:4, NIV)
"A man who is laden with the guilt of human blood
Will be a fugitive until death; let no one support him."
(Proverbs 28:17, NASB)
How do you typically handle feelings of guilt?
The Purpose of Guilt
Guilt is actually a God-given emotion. It has at least three functions: to prompt us to ask for forgiveness from those we hurt; to motivate us to make restitution whenever we can; and to draw us back to the Lord. In terms of our relationship with the Lord, the solution to guilty feelings is simple.
Read David’s experience with guilt:
"Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him
and in whose spirit is no deceit.
When I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD "—
and you forgave the guilt of my sin.
Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you while you may be found;
surely when the mighty waters rise, they will not reach him."
(Psalm 32:1-6, NIV)
What did he know about how to handle it?
According to this same passage, how does God respond when we confess our sin and ask Him to remove our guilt?
Many believers are unable to receive God’s forgiveness due to the emotional programming they’ve received from their upbringing, their church, or their culture. For instance, their parents might have expected them to be perfect, so they have a difficult time accepting themselves when they make moral mistakes. Or, other authority figures may have emphasized what horrible and shameful children they were when they did anything wrong and refused to comfort the children after disciplining them.
In your experience, when you ask for forgiveness from sin—whether from God or another person—do you typically feel free of guilt?
Why or why not?
How can you escape these negative patterns of dealing with guilt? The secret is to train your mind to believe God’s truth—found in His Word—instead of your feelings.
What do the following two verses say about God’s willingness to forgive?:
"You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you." (Psalm 86:5, NIV)
"Iniquities and much varied guilt prevail against me; [yet] as for our transgressions, You forgive and purge them away [make atonement for them and cover them out of Your sight]!" (Psalm 65:3, Amplified Bible)
"To Him all the prophets testify (bear witness) that everyone who believes in Him [who adheres to, trusts in, and relies on Him, giving himself up to Him] receives forgiveness of sins through His name." (Acts 10:43, Amplified Bible)
Acts 10:43 says everyone who believes in Christ receives forgiveness for his or her sins.
How many of a born-again Christian's sins are forgiven, according to the following verse?:
"When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins." (Colossians 2:13, NIV)
If you feel guilty after confessing your sins, you know your feelings are not lining up with God’s truth. Find Scriptures that talk about God’s forgiveness and your righteousness in Christ, such as the following:
"Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation." (Colossians 1:21-22, NIV)
Write them down in a list or on note cards. Then, read through the encouraging verses and dwell on what they mean. Your emotions will eventually follow your thoughts, and you will be free from feeling guilty.
Christ’s death made a way for you to be completely free from the guilt of sin — not only the offense but also the feelings that accompany it. Admit your guilt to God and those you offended, make restitution when you can, and return to living in a manner that pleases the Lord.
(The above article is from In Touch Ministries)