Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and He knows everything. 1 John 3:20 (NLT)
John must have known what it was like to live with a sensitive conscience. Perhaps, he felt the stinging regret Peter endured when he denied the Lord. John may not have verbally denied Christ like Peter did but, according to Matthew’s account of Jesus’ arrest, John deserted Jesus and fled with all the other disciples. He must have remembered the words of Jesus’ prediction.
“This very night you will all fall away on account of Me, for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.'” Matthew 26:31 (NIV)
In the heat of the moment when the soldiers came to arrest Jesus, all the disciples did just what He said they would do. They all deserted Him and fled. Each disciple must have recalled his own failure to stand with Christ when He needed them most. Each one had to live with his own sense of regret. Failures and regrets like that can haunt your conscience and leave you with a “condemning heart” that will rob you of peace.
Have you ever felt the guilt of an accusing conscience? Initially, God will use that kind of guilt to convict us of sin and lead us to repentance and forgiveness so that our conscience may be cleansed. Once you confess your sin and it is forgiven, you should not allow it to accuse you anymore. The problem comes when we continue to feel guilty. This is a false guilt that the enemy of our souls, Satan, will use against us. It is a tactical weapon in his arsenal against the child of God! Beware! In Revelation 12:10, John calls Satan, the Accuser of our brothers and sisters.
“Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens, ‘It has come at last— salvation and power and the Kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down to earth— the one who accuses them before our God day and night.’”
Like a celestial tattletale, Satan comes before God to accuse us day and night. Not only does he accuse us before God, but he will accuse you before others and haunt you with an accusing conscience to rob you of your peace and joy! Jesus called him a thief who comes to steal, kill and destroy the abundant life that Christ came to give us. Sometimes, your heart will accuse you wrongly. It is a false guilt because, once Jesus has forgiven us, we are no longer under condemnation! The Bible assures us in Romans 8:1,
“So now, those who are in Christ Jesus are not judged guilty.”
John recognizes that, because our hearts are deceitful and we have an accuser who reminds us of our failures, we may feel guilty. But, God is greater than our feelings! He knows our hearts better than we do! Many sincere Christ followers have accused themselves falsely, or have been harder on themselves than necessary; but, God will never make that mistake. Never treat sin lightly, but don’t be harder on yourself than God is. That kind of morbid self-examination and self-condemnation is not from God. Once Peter was forgiven and restored, he was able to face his fellow Jews who had denied Christ with a message of hope and healing because his heart no longer condemned him!
Let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting Him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:22 (NLT)