#2 in Q & A Series
Well, all of us are guilty. Feeling it and having the ability to do something about it is a gift.
There are lots of reasons why people feel guilt. Maybe you have done or said something wrong. Or maybe you have been influenced by your culture, family, or a non-New Testament religious organization that has you convinced you are not worthy. Regardless of the reason you are feeling “so much guilt,” the New Testament has the solution for you.
Guilt can be a motivation to improve our lives. In Romans 3:19, Paul writes,
. . . the law is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God.
Paul is saying that all of us need to take responsibility and not excuse our own ungodly thoughts, words, and actions. We all fall short of God’s ideal and need Christ’s righteousness for us to be in right standing with God.
Once his righteousness is in us, we experience great confidence. In I John 3:20-21, John writes,
Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if we don’t feel guilty, we can come to God with bold confidence.
Feeling guilty is our state outside Christ or in disobedience to Christ, but as we abide in His righteousness, we are cleansed and gain great confidence in him. This is easy. It is a relief.
In Matthew 11:30, Jesus said,
For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.
In II Corinthians 11:9, Paul said,
I have never been a burden to you, and I never will.
So if you are part of a local church and are enjoying your walk with the Lord, you are able to be free from guilt, have the power to do what you ought with joy, and function with a clean conscious. That is, unless your local church imposes guilt on you.
I decided early in my ministry career that I wanted my Christian service to be like Jesus’ and Paul’s in this respect. Every ministry I have ever led has been structured to be an uplift, an encouragement, a relief to people. Life is difficult enough, we don’t need Sunday worship to be a burden as well. And on Sunday mornings, when we as believers gather to celebrate the resurrection of Christ and, consequently, our own resurrections, we worship, fellowship, give, and publicly read the Word together, but we don’t impose guilt. It’s not the purpose of a church to add a burden to people’s lives. Our worship experience can be done freely, joyfully, and without pressure. That is why I am opposed to religious leaders imposing guilt in order to increase attendance, extract funds, or motivate people to action by using guilt.
Sadly, many Christians do not feel guilty because of the convicting power of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, but because of leaders who impose guilt in order to control them. These types of leaders have been in the church from the beginning, and very often they are our most popular leaders. Paul warned Timothy about them by saying,
They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that! They are the kind who work their way into people’s homes and win the confidence of vulnerable women who are burdened with the guilt of sin and controlled by various desires (II Timothy 3:3-6).
I notice these leaders scrutinize the weaknesses of others and present themselves as morally or spiritually superior. Watch out!
Our modern culture demands justice and public ridicule for some sins, while other sins are embraced. Immorality, theft, and addictions demand punishment. Judgmentalism, lovelessness, and blame, however, are lauded . When our leaders model socially acceptable sins, they appear sinless in our culture, while other sins are scorned. This duplicity makes worldly “Christian leaders” appear spiritually superior by discreetly highlighting their own self-righteousness and subtly focusing on the inferiority of others. Everything about this is contrary to the New Testament.
We all need Christ. 1 John 1:8-9 says,
If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.
New Testament Christianity is an uplift to people. It lightens our load and offers a solution for guilt. The cross sets all of us free from the need to humiliate others, even the unrepentant. It’s just not our role. We offer dignity, confidence, and joy because of the love and righteousness of Christ. Remember the fruit of God’s Spirit within us is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Because of the reality of the cross, our lives are a Sabbath rest.
I’m going to take some time in my back yard and gratefully enjoy Him. I’ve lived long enough now, that I feel no need to be an expert in anyone else’s sin. I only feel compelled to let others know the freedom they can find in Him. That’s it. And that’s not hard.
If you feel guilty, then repent. Receive your forgiveness and be transformed, renewed, filled, and healed, so your life will improve.
Now, smile a grateful smile, and rest.