This is such an important question for Christ followers to understand in order to live the abundant life Jesus came to offer us; a life of joy and peace. You simply cannot experience that joy and peace if your heart is full of guilt or shame, yet untold believers are haunted by past failures that prevent them from experiencing their present victory in Christ. Our enemy, the devil, loves to use the weapon of guilt against the child of God. This is an area where we must know the truth so that we can be free – free from guilt and shame.
It’s important to note what Jesus said about guilt and the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. In John 16, Jesus told His disciples:
“But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.” John 16:7-11 (NIV)
In this passage, Jesus said one of the functions of the Holy Spirit was to “convict the world of guilt in regard to sin….” When the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin He alerts our conscience that we have transgressed or violated God’s design for our lives. Those feelings of guilt are not to condemn us but to correct us. Satan will use guilt to condemn us and control us so that we feel inadequate and unworthy. When we respond to the specific conviction of the Holy Spirit and repent, confessing that we have sinned in whatever way, we are assured of God’s forgiveness made possible through Jesus death, burial and resurrection. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” I like to call this the etch-a-sketch verse as God removes the sin and guilt from our lives so that we are no longer controlled or defined by it and then gives us a clean slate.
The forgiven sinner is no longer under guilt. Romans 8:1 says, “THEREFORE, [there is] now no condemnation (no adjudging guilty of wrong) for those who are in Christ Jesus, who live [and] walk not after the dictates of the flesh, but after the dictates of the Spirit.”
A great illustration of this is in the life of David who had sinned greatly in committing adultery with Bathsheba and even having her husband, Uriah, murdered on the battlefield. These were horrific sins that violated God’s laws. In Psalms 32, David said,
“There was a time when I wouldn’t admit what a sinner I was. But my dishonesty made me miserable and filled my days with frustration. All day and all night your hand was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water on a sunny day until I finally admitted all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide them. I said to myself, ‘I will confess them to the Lord.’ And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.” Psalms 32:3-5 (TLB)
The Gospel is called Good News because there is no sin for which God’s grace is not greater! Romans 5:20 says, “Where sin increased, grace increased all the more.” We simply need to turn from our sin and turn to God to experience His forgiveness. Then we must accept that forgiveness by faith.
Confession has both a negative and positive implication. When I confess my failure I’m agreeing with God that what I did or in some cases should have done but didn’t do, was wrong; but there is a positive side of confession as well. When I confess that I am forgiven of that sin, I’m agreeing with God that Jesus death and resurrection provided all that was necessary for God to forgive me as my Savior from sin. One of my favorite Christmas passages is when the Angel came to Joseph and told him to name the baby, Jesus, “for He will save His people from their sins.” Matt. 1:21.
We can live free of guilt and condemnation with our sins forgiven and a confidence from God’s Word that we are no longer under judgment! This is the inheritance of the child of God! In Acts 3:19-20, Peter put it simply like this in his second sermon:
“Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away. Then times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord, and he will again send you Jesus, your appointed Messiah.” Acts 3:19-20 (NLT)
Now there’s reason enough to repent. You will experience times of refreshment from the presence of the Lord!
//Theological Thursday: Questions are welcome. Asking them makes our faith personal and real. On Thursdays I will be answering theological questions. Enter yours in the comment box below and I will select one each week to answer on our blog.