Romans 8:1 is one of my favorite passages in Scripture: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” It reminds me, no matter how bad I flub things, I am accepted, not because of what I’ve done but because of what’s been done for me. That’s not to say God doesn’t convict me … often, but it is to say, that even when He’s unveiling my heart, I know I still rest in the palm of His hands. That’s a powerful reminder, one that allows me to move past guilt to love-driven obedience. Today Lynn Bell, author of the Gentle Savior, talks about guilt and what the Christian should do about it.
Putting Guilt in its Place by Lynn Bell
As I read a new Christian book recently, I realized that I am often selfishly concerned about my physical appearance and what people think of me. A familiar feeling of guilt rose up in my heart. Like you, I want to please God, but when I compare myself to the ideals of scripture and the sinless perfection of Jesus, it seems like I will never do enough or be enough. Since I know I’ll never get life completely right, it almost seems like it would be wrong not to experience a pervasive sense of guilt.
Sometimes I forget that God actually sent Jesus so I wouldn’t be guilty any more.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body…let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:19-22 NIV)
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus… (Romans 8:1 NIV)
Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us. (Romans 8:34 NLT)
So why do Christians still feel guilty? Guilt does have a place in a healthy relationship with God, but it’s not the role we often give it. We’re used to the way other people in our lives use guilt—that is, to manipulate us into doing what they want and to keep us doing it. Some parents do it, spouses do it, our children do it, even our spiritual leaders sometimes do it. God doesn’t use guilt that way, however.
Just as physical pain warns us that something has gone awry with our anatomy, guilt tells us that something is wrong in our relationship with God. Guilt has a healthy purpose: to produce change. It only becomes unhealthy when we ignore it.
When I became aware that I was guilty of self-centeredness, I did something about it. I repented; that is, I experienced a change of heart and determined that I didn’t like focusing on myself instead of others (II Corinthians 7:8-9). If I had hurt someone specifically, I would have apologized. If I had stolen something or destroyed someone’s property, I would have demonstrated my repentance by making restitution.
I confessed my sin to God and, in this case, to the ladies in my Bible study group (I John 1:7-9, James 5:16).
Then I laid my guilt at the foot of the cross. I accepted his forgiveness and rejoiced because I trust that he has declared me “not guilty” (Romans 4:7-8).
You can read how King David dealt with his guilt in Psalm 51, and you’ll find that even though he was guilty of adultery and murder, he followed a very similar process.
Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; (v. 4)
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. (v. 10)
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it….
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. (v. 16-17)
Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. (v. 2)
Restore to me the joy of your salvation. (v. 12)
Guilt is not a fruit of the Spirit. It was never intended to be a way of life for the people of God. God gave us guilt to keep us close to him, and he gave us Jesus to take away our guilt.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free!” (Galatians 5:1)
Lynn Bell is the author of a new Bible study, The Gentle Savior: Seeing Jesus Through the Eyes of the Women Who Met Him. She blogs at http://thegentlesavior.com
The Gentle Savior: