Overcoming Guilt

Ade was a secondary school student, who was well brought up in the way of the Lord. Earlier in his life, his mother had led him to accept Jesus Christ as his saviour. Nevertheless, Ade was a very curious boy who always wanted to know about everything that came his way.

On a particular day, one of his friends approached him and said: “Let’s see if we can produce semen”. Out of curiosity he determined to go to the verge of the discovery, not minding his background. In the long run, he ended up in masturbation.

Days after this, his conscience began to trouble him. He fasted and prayed in his attempt to make his ways right with God. However, every effort he made was always met and frustrated with a huge sense of guilt. He could not seem to make headway in his walk with God. So, out of frustration, he simply resorted to masturbation over and over again.

Soon Ade became a victim of fear, more so when he remembered the portion of Scripture which says: “If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.”  (1 Corinthians 3:17, NIV). He met with several people for counselling, but it seemed to him that none of them understood the gravity of what he had done. “God has not forgiven me,” was his usual response.

Apparently, his walk with God was no longer as cordial as he desired. He felt helpless and constantly asked himself: “Will God ever forgive me?”

Probably Ade’s story sounds like yours. Or maybe yours is a little different; you are constantly weighed down because you repeated something you promised you would never do again. Whatever the case, the feeling of guilt has adversely affected your faith. Then let us take a look at what guilt is all about.

Chambers Dictionary defines guilt as “the state of having done wrong or sin or the state of having broken a law which results to a penalty.” However, our concern in this write-up will be more on the feelings that result from such an act; that is the feeling of guilt.

There are two edges to moral consciousness, which include:

*A heart seared with hot rod

* The feeling of guilt

The first edge is an extreme in which one does not have any feeling of remorse, even after doing something wrong. These set of people do not care about anything bad. Such people can be said to be ‘morally insane’. They seem not to have human feelings. If such people were Ade’s shoes, they would have seen no big deal.

The second edge involves those who feel seriously bad about anything they do wrong. They feel ashamed of themselves and often ask: “Can God ever forgive me?” or “How could I have done such a thing?” These thoughts fill their heart and they often refuse to forgive themselves, even when God has forgiven them.

It is true that God has given us a conscience that puts us to check whenever we are wrong. As such, a little sense of ‘guilt’ could be healthy for your Christian life because it helps you to check and possibly stay away from such wrong actions. However, if you dwell so much on it that you feel dejected and unworthy, or even discouraged in your spiritual life; then you had better be careful. This could at times result from self-righteousness, in which you depend on your own good works to make you right with God or that you feel that you can’t do anything wrong.

The feeling of guilt, if unchecked, could have hazardous effects on your Christian life. Here are some of such effects:

(1) It could make you feel unworthy to approach God in prayer. Hence you become weak in your prayer life. When the devil attacks your prayer life you become powerless, even to resist the temptations that led to guilt in the first place. So you become trapped: you have sinned, you feel guilty, the guilt drives you away from God and you go on into yet another sin.

(2) It makes you to lose your grip of the Word of God (which is the sword of the Spirit) Eph 6:17. The truth of the Word of God is a weapon which should be used in times of temptation to cut in pieces the snares of the enemy. It is upon these truths that you must stand, even when you are weighed down with guilt. If you then lose your grip of the Word, where will your weapon be?

(3) It makes you feel unworthy to serve God.

(4) You lose the confidence of who you are in Christ. You could become a ‘slave’ to Satan when you are actually a son of the King?

In summary, guilt can hinder your spiritual growth. It makes it difficult for you to relate with God, who alone is your source of strength. This is the strategy of the enemy to make you go off track. Please don’t accept it. Get up and find your track. The following truths about God and your position through Jesus Christ will help you in handling feelings of guilt.

God’s Mercy

The Bible describes God as being full of mercy and compassion (Exodus 34:6, Deuteronomy 4:31, Nehemiah 9:31, Micah 7:18, Luke 6:36, Ephesians 2:4). Throughout the Bible, we see records of God relenting in His anger on His people because He showed them mercy. In the real sense, mercy means ‘kindness and forgiveness, especially when given to a person who doesn’t deserve it.’ (Dictionary - Concordance, NIV Devotional Study Bible). Many times, we feel we don’t deserve God’s forgiveness and acceptance. Well, that is why it is called mercy. If you deserved it, then it is no longer mercy. We can only be grateful to God for showing us the kindness that we neither deserved nor merited.

Often times in Scriptures, God is referred to as a compassionate Father (see Psalms 103:8-15). We will help ourselves if we relate with Him as such. (See our article titled ‘Understanding God As Your Father’). We approach our earthly fathers for forgiveness when we sin against them. If they can forgive us, how much more will our Righteous Heavenly Father forgive us? (Matthew 7:11). So let us approach Him with boldness. The height of God’s mercy towards us was demonstrated when He gave Jesus to die for our sins. Through Jesus, we have come to receive the fullness of God’s mercies (Ephesians 2:4-7). “God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful kindness became more abundant. So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful kindness rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom5: 20-21, NLT)

While we know that it is not God’s will for us to sin, we must also not lose sight of the fact that God (who knows us better than we know ourselves) has made provision for us, in case we do sin. ‘My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if you do sin, there is someone to plead for you before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who pleases God completely. He is the sacrifice for our sins. He takes away not only our sins but also the sins of the world’. (1 John 2:1&2, NLT). 

You need to remember that God accepts you not because of your righteousness, but because of what Christ did in dying for your sins. ‘For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.’ (2 Corinthians 5:21, NLT). ‘Therefore since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Christ did. Christ has brought us into this place of highest privilege where we now stand and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.’ (Romans 5:1&2, NLT)

It is something you don’t deserve - MERCY. The mercy of God is always there for you. So even when you think you have totally blown it, you can and should come back to God, trusting His ‘unfailing love’. ‘The unfailing love of the Lord never ends! By His mercies we have been kept from complete destruction. Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each day’. (Lamentations 3:22&23, NLT).

Access To God’s Presence

We have absolute confidence and access to God because all sins which separated us from Him have been removed by the blood of Jesus. In the Old Testament days, only the high priest was permitted to enter the ‘holy of holies.’ Even he entered just once a year and not without proper atonement. Now we have FREE and DIRECT access to God through the blood of Jesus. This is not dependent on you or me, but on the merit of Jesus’ death for us. We are invited to come in our time of need (This includes times when we are weighed down with feelings of guilt.)

“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16, KJV).

We are to come boldly (draw near), even when we have sinned, to the throne of grace to obtain mercy (pardon or forgiveness). It is unmerited favour, yet we are to come with great assurance that we will obtain it. This is the throne from which ALL grace proceeds. In Israel, it was the mercy- seat or covering for the ark between the two cherubim. The high priest could approach this only once a year, as earlier said. Yet his approach was with fear and trembling. The new covenant believers (Christians) can come boldly to God’s throne without fear and trembling. This can be done daily and at anytime of the day, it is an unlimited access. This is the confidence and liberty of approach we have been given through Jesus Christ, our great High Priest.

“And so dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s most Holy place (the presence of God) because of the blood of Jesus. This is the new life giving way that Christ has opened up for us through the sacred curtain, by means of His death for us. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s people, let us go right into the presence of God with true (sincere) heart fully trusting Him. For our evil consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean and our bodies have been washed with pure water”. (Hebrews 10:19-22, NLT).

“So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus…. having chosen them (you), He called them (you) to come to Himself and He gave them right standing (the state of not being guilty) with Himself and promised them His glory” (Rom 8:1&30, NLT)

Since there is no condemnation for you from God, then why condemn yourself? Even if your heart condemns you, you can be sure that ‘God is greater than our hearts’ (1 John 3:20). He has not condemned you (see John 3:17 and John8:11). Remember: “Those who look up to Him are radiant and their faces are never covered with shame”. (Psalms 34:5, NIV)

So instead of allowing the guilt of your sins to keep you from His presence, why not come boldly to Him because of the blood of Jesus. After all, where else do you expect to ‘obtain mercy and find grace to help’ you. (See our write-ups on ‘Handling Temptations’ and ‘Your Identity In Christ’)

Tips To Help In Overcoming Guilt

(1) Acknowledge (confess) your sins. This simply means admitting to God that you have sinned when you are convinced that you have. There is no point pretending before God. He knows you perfectly. So whenever the Holy Spirit convicts us of our wrong, we should admit it and agree with Him. The Bible says that when we do this, God is ‘faithful’ and ‘just’ to forgive us and cleanse us from every wrong. (See1 John 1:9) “Faithful’ because he will keep His promise to forgive and ‘just’ because He is not simply overlooking sin but has paid for it through Jesus Christ. So feel free to admit and talk to God over your shortcomings and thank Him because you know He has forgiven you. This is of course because Jesus has paid for your sins. To doubt His forgiveness is to doubt His faithfulness.  

(2) Remember that your righteousness is not of yourself, but by the virtue of what Christ did on the cross for you. (Galatians 2:20)

(3) Recognize the place of meeting with God and the place of prayers - the throne of grace. Remember always that your approach should be boldly. This reflects the faith you have in God’s acceptance of you because of the work of Jesus Christ.

(4) Quote relevant Scriptures when the devil attacks you of your forgiven sins. Scriptures like Romans 8:1, John 1:29. This is your weapon against the accusations of the enemy- the accuser of the brethren.(Rev 12:10, Zechariah 3:1-5)

(5) Approach a mature, Spirit-filled Christian that you can trust for counselling when necessary.

Don’t allow devil to cheat you of your confidence

Don’t accept his accusations

Always remember that the Spirit of God bears witness with your spirit that you are a child of God. You can always call Him ‘Abba, Father’. (Romans 8:15&16)

In conclusion, it will help you if you realize that being weighed down with guilt will be of no advantage to you in any way. Not only so, there is no reason to be so dejected. For one thing, Jesus has already paid the price required for even the ‘greatest of sins’. The important thing is that we receive His free gift of salvation. Our God is also a merciful Father, who not only understands our frailty, but also pardons our sins when we come to Him, acknowledging our sins (1 John 1:9). He does this freely because Christ has paid for our sins and also leaves to intercede for us (Hebrews 7:25, 1John 2:1). So come boldly to Him at the throne of grace because He has made the way for you. There, you will not only receive mercy for sin, but also grace to help you in time of need. There is no point staying away. An ill or injured person is never too ill to see a doctor, no matter how ill he is. If he is ashamed of seeing a doctor, he might of die of his illness.

Let’s end by quoting the words of Don Moen in the prelude to his song, ‘No Condemnation’. He said something like this: ‘What a wonderful privilege we have to enter God’s presence tonight. I really believe that many will healed, many will be saved and some of you will be set free to worship God like never before. But you know the enemy will like to keep us from entering into God’s presence. One of the ways he’ll do that is by guilt. He’ll remind you of something you’ve done and tell you that you have no right to enter into God’s presence. But you know what? You do have a right. The blood of Jesus has made a way for you and for me to come boldly into God’s presence. Ephesians 5 talks about the washing of the water by the Word. Romans 8:1 says ‘there is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.’

Instead of allowing guilt to keep you from God’s presence and paralyse your relationship with Him, why not make the most of the access that you’ve been granted into His presence through the blood of Jesus? Why allow the devil to draw you back or make your walk with God stagnant? God Himself desires a more intimate relationship with you and wants to draw you closer Himself. You can indeed experience more of God, so draw near and drink freely from the river of life (Revelations 22:17).

We look forward to reading from you. Stay connected! 

Ariyo Ige

For ‘Pens For Christ’