Why is it that guilt often seems to cancel out God’s grace? We yield to the temptation of sin, agonize about it, repent, and then wallow in guilt. Even as a Christian of about 40 years, I’ve often fallen into this pattern. Guilt is not always bad. Guilt is a natural response to our having wronged God. It is like a “check engine” indicator, to let us know something is wrong. But, why after sincere repentance, we still feel that lingering sense of guilt and shame?
I did some thinking on my run this morning. Some scriptures came to mind.
“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’ They answered him, ‘We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, “You will become free”?’
“Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the Son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.'”
Jesus said in this passage that sin places us in bondage. We are a slave to its whims. But, he has called us out of the bondage of slavery into sonship. “But as many as received Him, to them he gave the power to become sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” John 1:12. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” Romans 8:14.
To those of us who believe, we have been given the position of children of God! No longer are we slaves.
We are free.
“There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Romans 8:1.
So why do we wallow in guilt?
I’m convinced that this lingering guilty stain stems from the belief in a lie. We believe that we have to suffer for our sins a little. God’s forgiveness cannot possibly be handed out so freely. We must have to pay for it somehow. So, we pay for God’s grace with our guilt. So, we wallow in it for as long as our narcissism lasts. Woe is me, God. You can’t possibly love me. Our thoughts about ourselves go beyond what God thinks towards us. We think too much of ourselves, that what WE’VE done is to too much for God’s grace. It really is pride, which is also a lie, that keeps us in guilt.
Jesus’ work on the cross is sufficient. Jesus shouted “It is finished.” John 19:30. This exclamation was not an announcement of his death. It was a shout of victory! He had accomplished all that His Father asked Him to do. His death and resurrection completed the work of our eternal salvation. Do you think your sin can undo God’s grace and Christ’s work on the cross? That is the lie that we believe when we hold on to our guilt.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9. What Jesus said he will do, HE WILL DO. “Being confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6.
God’s grace is powerful, but it won’t impose on your will. Stop believing in lies. Open the window of your soul to Him, and let His grace outshine your guilt.