Opposite to popular thought, guilt is actually a good thing. It makes us aware of the fact that a certain action or habit is causing us to be separated from God, and should drive us to repentance.
But if we don’t view guilt in a biblical way, it can drive us away from God. It can cause us to want to run and hide and try to ignore the feelings of guilt that are actually good for us. When we try to dismiss or shift the blame in order to lessen our feeling of guilt, it actually shows how prideful we are. Blameshifting (to a person, circumstance, or thing), for example, attempts to lower the feeling of guilt in us by making us shift the blame to someone or something else. We see this in Genesis 3 when God asks Adam and Eve if they ate of the tree which He had commanded them not to eat from. Adam blames Eve, Eve blames the serpent because their new-found pride (their sin) causes them to think that they aren’t actually THAT guilty for what they have done because someone had caused them to do it. In reality, we know that their relationship with God has been severed because of their OWN actions, which is how we have come to how we are today–broken, sinful, people.
Our pride tries to get us to feel that we aren’t actually at fault for the thing(s) we did. So we overcompensate–we read our Bible more, we volunteer more, we donate to charity more…but all of these things are just bandaids to a more deeply rooted problem. Because of our sin, a wedge is placed between us and God. Our relationship feels cold and almost nonexistent.
The fact is this: we are accountable for what we have said or done whether we feel like it or not. How we feel doesn’t change the fact of our guilt before God. But we aren’t alone in this problem.
Guilt is a problem that every man, woman, boy, and girl face. Romans 3:23 says, “for ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…(emphasis added.” Each one of us, because of Adam and Eve’s failure to obey God’s commands, is guilty in the eyes of God, because of OUR failure to obey His commands.
But there is hope. Hope in One man who lived a guiltless life simply to take on the guilt and shame of us all. Romans 5:19 says, “For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous.”
From Genesis 3:15 onward, the Bible tells of redemption that will be brought through the Messiah. Every prophet, priest, and king in their imperfect nature pointed forward to the One who would be the perfect Prophet, Priest, and King, who would save them (and us) from their sin. This person is Jesus Christ. By trusting in Him, all of our guilt and shame is washed away. 2 Corinthians 5:17-19 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.”
Once we are in Christ, the sanctification process begins. We will still struggle with sin until we die or Jesus returns. There will still remain feelings of guilt when we sin, but instead of fearing, we must let those feelings of guilt draw us to the throne of grace, confessing our sin to God, and turning from them. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
It is not until our minds are renewed that we will be able to understand what God’s will is for our lives. It is in reading God’s Word, by the help of the Holy Spirit, that our consciences will be softened towards sin, making us hate it even more, therefore causing us to be transformed into God’s image and grow into His will for our lives–Christlikeness. If we are in Christ we have hope for freedom from guilt, but if you do not know the Lord, then this closing section is for you.
Apart from Christ, you are guilty (as we saw earlier in Romans 3:23). You have a consistent wedge between you and God, one that you may not totally feel. Living in this state of rebellion will one day have its consequences if you do not come to trust in the saving power of Jesus Christ, and that consequence is eternal separation from God in hell. Each and every one of us is required to make a decision at one point or another in our lives, and this decision is very legitimately life or death. The Bible calls us to choose this day whom we will serve (see Joshua 24:15) because we aren’t promised tomorrow. We aren’t promised another breath. If you died tonight, where would your soul be? The feeling of guilt, or shame, or whatever you want to call it is a tool to drive you to the foot of the cross where Jesus died to take every weight of sin and guilt off of your shoulders. Submit your life to Him, be set free in Him. “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed (John 8:36).”
If you would like to talk more about this, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “Further Discussion: Guilt.” We’d love to hear your thoughts and questions!