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Guilt:  How are we to deal with it?

Gary Googe Aug 07

Whether they admit it or not there are people all over the world who experience guilt over their sins.  The conscience, no matter how distorted it can become, is a part of the constitution of all people.  In fact, the conscience is something that serves to bring people to a consciousness of the existence of God.  This is because anytime someone acknowledges the existence of right and wrong, they must conclude that somewhere there must be an Absolute Right.  That Absolute Right is God! This is why some people, usually professed atheists, claim there’s no such thing as Absolute Right.  They try to say everything is relative to the situation.  That’s a part of what they speak of as “situational ethics.” They know that to acknowledge absolute right and wrong would be to admit the existence of God.  And that’s not something these people want to admit because it would serve to remind them of their accountability to Him.

Romans 14:11-12

11 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.

12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. [Emphasis added]

The good news of this which is called the gospel message is that God has done something wonderful about our sin problem, as well as our sense of guilt that comes with that.  Because of His love for all mankind, He sent someone into the world who could pay the complete penalty due for all our sins.

Romans 5:8

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. [Emphasis added]

To understand and believe this is the only true way to freedom from the pain of guilt without destroying one’s conscience.  We do find in the Scriptures that continued resistance to truth “hardens” one’s heart, making us insensitive to wrongdoing.

Ephesians 4:18-19

18 Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:

19 Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. [Emphasis added]

This “greediness” represents the frantic search for happiness people go into apart from turning to God.  This “past feeling” is to do with the callousness of one’s heart that will inevitably come because of sustained sinfulness.  Apart from a change in attitude [repentance] toward God, this condition steadily worsens.  Continued resistance to the truth creates this hardness of heart.  If a person dies unsaved in this condition of continued resistance, he will be the object of God’s wrath for all eternity.

Romans 2:5-6

But after thy hardness and impenitent [AMETANOETOS = unwilling] heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;

This “wrath” is to do with God’s anger and His retribution toward all unbelievers.  The “day of wrath” is the day the unbeliever will finally face judgment and the sentence of eternal condemnation.

Who will render to every man according to his deeds: [Emphasis added]

This will occur at what is called the Great White Throne Judgment [Revelation 20:11-15].  However, for those who respond positively by accepting by faith what Christ did for us all, there’s deliverance from God’s wrath.

Romans 5:9

Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. [Emphasis added]

By faith in His blood, that is, in what Jesus Christ accomplished for us through His death, burial, and resurrection, we are then said to be justified and saved [delivered] from His wrath.  This justification means we’ve been made right [positionally completely righteous] with God.  We are then no longer short of the righteousness we needed to be eternally acceptable to God.

Romans 3:23

23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; [Emphasis added]

This “glory” we’ve all fallen short of is to do with God’s perfect attributes.  This “all” speaks of unbelievers, but also believers.  There’s no such thing as a believer who doesn’t still sin.  Never let anyone fool you about this.  However, Christ’s work in our behalf has made it possible for us to be free of all the guilt associated with that.  It enables us to truly forget those troubling memories.  We can certainly learn good lessons from our foolishness in sin, but our own temptations and sin will always be something we’ll need to address daily.  We “forget” our sins in the sense that they no longer create in us the depression of guilt.  We know we are forgiven! But we must choose to believe what He says about all this to enjoy this blessing.

Philippians 3:13

13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, [Emphasis added]

We know all our sins are completely forgiven by God.  That includes not only our past sins but our future ones as wellThey were all in the future when Christ died for them.

Ephesians 1:7

In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; [Emphasis added]

Yes, His grace made this possible.  None of us deserve it.

Colossians 2:14

14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; [Emphasis added]

In the ancient world the charges against a criminal were written out on parchment and nailed to the cross where the guilty party was crucified.  Hence, there’s a sense in which the charges of sin against us were “nailed to His cross.”  We are now free to “press on” in our thinking, seeking to do those things for which we’ll enjoy God’s reward forever.

Philippians 3:14

14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. [Emphasis added]

No matter how guilty you are of various sins, there are others who’ve done worse.  There’s no peace in knowing that alone, but we must realize that there’s no amount of sin on our part that is too great for God’s grace.  His grace is greater than any and all our sins. 

There are others who’ve sinned far worse than we have but ultimately enjoyed the blessing of God’s forgiveness.  I’m reminded of King David’s words after his sin concerning Bathsheba [adultery] and Uriah the Hittite [murder].  Although we’re now living after Christ was judged for all our sins, there are certain things about this text with which we can identify.

Psalm 32:1-5

1 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 [REMIYYAH = deceit].

The “guile,” the deceit, is gone when we acknowledge [confess] our sin.

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. Selah.

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. Selah. [Emphasis added]

The apostle Paul quotes from this text.

Romans 4:7-8

Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.

At the cross our sins weren’t just covered by blood offerings.  Christ died for them! The penalty for them has now been fully paid.

Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. [Emphasis added]

Verse eight is telling us that because God held all our sins against Christ, crediting them to Him, they will never be held or credited against us.  What a refreshing thought that is! The work Christ accomplished at the cross covers all our sins.  There’s no one who can’t get to enjoy the benefits of this.  It is available to all.  No matter what they’re guilty of doing, they just need to come to know about it and believe it. The great apostle Paul speaks of himself as having been the chief of sinners.

I Timothy 1:14-15

14 And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.

15 This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. [Emphasis added]

In his zeal and in his ignorance, the apostle Paul had a hand in the premeditated murder of Christians, but he came to enjoy the forgiveness of God as he came to know what Christ had come to provide for him and for us all.  We, too, are objects of God’s perfect love no matter what our past.  It is in knowing this and believing this that anyone can be relieved of their feelings of guilt over their own sinfulness.  But, again, they must choose to believe it.  And anyone can do this.  So, now let’s do a little review—

Question:  How many of your sins were in the future when Christ bore them on the cross? Answer:  Every one of them!  That of course includes your past sins, your present sins, and even your future sinsAll of them! They were all judged in Him.  He sacrificed His life for each of us in paying for them.  What a wonderful sense of real peace of mind believing this truth provides!

II Corinthians 5:21

21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. [Emphasis added]

This means all our sins were held against Christ and judged at the cross.  If Christ was punished for them in our behalf, why would we ever be so foolish as to think we, too, would be punished for them.  Even the natural law of double jeopardy says a person cannot be tried twice for the same crime.  It was Jesus Christ who stepped forward and took all the punishment for us at the cross of Calvary.  It is this that should cause someone to put their faith in Him as their Savior, and then also choose to live for Him.  This is why the apostle Paul exhorts us as he does with what we should now choose to do with our lives once we’ve been saved.

Romans 12:1-2

1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God [because of all the expressions of His mercy toward us], that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

This “reasonable service” is speaking of how serving Him is the only truly rational thing for us to do when we consider what He’s done for us.  We should devote our lives to living in service to Him in every way possible.

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. [Emphasis added]

This is telling us that because of all God has done for us through Christ, we should gladly dedicate our lives to His service.  Our salvation should surely mean a lot to us now, but I’m convinced that when we’re in Heaven it will mean far more to us. While we’re still here we need to equip ourselves with a thorough knowledge of His teaching so we can know “that good, acceptable, and perfect will of God.”  No one can know these things without a thorough knowledge of the Bible.  That’s why we’ve been exhorted to be diligent in our study of it.

2 Timothy 2:15

15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. [Emphasis added]

God has already solved the greatest problem we’ll ever have in all of life.  Condemnation for our sin was fully addressed at the cross of Christ.  Not one thing was overlooked.  It was all perfectly addressed.  Our sins will never be held against us.  And if you’re concerned about divine discipline in time for your sins, please read my article about it.  There, too, you’ll find some relief.  Discipline:  Does God punish Christians for their sins?

A major part of what all this is telling us is that because our sins were all held against Christ and because He took our place in suffering the wrath of God, they can never be again held against us.  Never concern yourself with feeling you’re not good enough for Heaven.  Apart from Christ, none of us are! It is upon the righteousness of Christ that we stand, not our own.  What He did at the cross completely satisfied the just demands of God for all people forever.  The unbeliever doesn’t know about this until someone tells him this good newsThen, to gain salvation, he must believe it.  It is then and only then that God will credit him with His own perfect righteousness for everlasting salvation.  Yes, this means many will die and suffer forever because they never accepted the fact that their sins were judged in Christ the same as they were for everyone.

I John 2:2

And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. [Emphasis added]

Being propitiated means He was completely satisfied with the payment Christ made.  When a person puts their faith in this accomplishment on the cross, they are saved immediately.  It is at this point that God is satisfied with that individual completely.  Their personal sins are not an obstacle to their salvation.  Jesus Christ has already paid for them all.  It is only their own unbelief that can keep them from God’s blessing.

Romans 3:24-25

24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

In other words, it was through Christ’s redemptive work that this was made possible and is free to us.

25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; [Emphasis added]

When a person expresses faith in His blood work at the cross, God is propitiated, meaning He is completely satisfied with the payment made.  The believer need not ever again believe he is unforgiven of God for anything.  It is because of all this AMAZING GRACE that has been extended to us that we should be highly motivated to serve Him every way we can.  As we’ve seen, the apostle Paul reflects on this in his letter to the Ephesians.

Ephesians 1:7 & 13

In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;

13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, [Emphasis added]

This sealing by the Holy Spirit that is performed at the time we first believe on Him permanently secures our salvation.  We are forever free of God’s condemnation.  Nothing we will ever do will affect or change that.

Romans 8:1a

1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, [Emphasis added]

[There’s a second half to this verse related to verse four that is not here in the original Greek text, so never let it concern you.]  Therefore, again, by believing what Christ did for us, we free ourselves of all reason for feelings of guilt.  Because He has completely forgiven us, we should then choose to forgive ourselves.  If we choose not to believe this, we ourselves perpetuate our feelings of guilt.  This, of course, is nothing but self-induced misery.  Here we will have chosen feelings over facts.  Regardless of how we feel about it, our sins have been completely forgiven.  We, therefore, need to forgive ourselves.  But we must personally choose to believe God’s Word for that to happen.  If you won’t do that, there is no real help for you.  This IS a choice anyone is free to make.  Believing the good news about what Christ accomplished for you at the cross is something you must choose to believe for the alleviation of your feelings of guilt.

Let me close with the words of an old but wonderful hymn.  Its words certainly speak to our subject.

Jesus Paid It ALL

Verse 1
I hear the Savior say,
“Thy strength indeed is small;
Child of weakness, watch and pray,
Find in Me thine all in all.”
Jesus paid it all, All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.

Verse 2
Lord, now indeed I find
Thy power and Thine alone,
Can change the leper’s spots
And melt the heart of stone.
Jesus paid it all, All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.

Verse 3
For nothing good have I
Whereby Thy grace to claim,
I’ll wash my garments white
In the blood of Calv’ry’s Lamb.
Jesus paid it all, All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.

Verse 4
And now complete in Him
My robe His righteousness,
I’ll rejoice with all my might,
I am now divinely blest.
Jesus paid it all, All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.

Verse 5
And when before the throne
I stand in Him complete,
“Jesus died my soul to save,”
My lips shall still repeat.
Jesus paid it all, All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.


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