Do you struggle with feeling guilty about stuff, even if you’ve not done anything wrong? Does guilt motivate you to do things you would otherwise not do? Many Christians struggle with guilt. Does it have any place in the believer’s life? “Should” I feel guilty about anything? There’s a lot of subconscious feelings out there about guilt and some people feel weird if they don’t feel guilty about something, as if it’s almost a command in the life of a believer to feel guilt, even if about some small thing. I’d like to put that thought to rest!
When you are saved, your sin nature is erased because of the work Jesus did for us on the cross. It’s not possible to get un-saved. Some might disagree with once saved always saved, but my Bible tells me that what Jesus did was perfect, once for all time. If salvation hinges on my actions, that would mean that what Jesus did on the cross was somehow unfinished or imperfect. But we all sin even after becoming a Christian. Shouldn’t we feel guilty when we do acts of sin after salvation?
In Hebrews 8-10 Paul reminds us of the new covenant that God told us about through the prophet Jeremiah. Hebrews 8:12 says, “And their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” The same verse is stated again in Hebrews 10:17. Psalm 103:12 declares, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” Let me ask a question that God asked me recently: “If I have forgotten all your sin, past present and future, and actually removed them from you, then why are you bringing them up to Me again? Why are you remembering them if I have forgotten them?” That got my attention! Guilt is actually remembering our sins. Guilt can drive us to our knees to ask God for forgiveness, but once we are saved, all that sin is gone – in full! We get into trouble because we tend to regret things we’ve done in the past and that activity – ruminating over the past – brings only condemnation to our hearts. If we could do something to rid ourselves of our guilt, then we wouldn’t need Jesus’ saving work on the cross!
If you are the type of person who feels the need to go over each day and confess to God everything you did wrong, that is an affront to God. It’s like you/we are saying, “God, you need me to remind you of my sin. Jesus didn’t do a complete job on the cross so you need me to clear my own conscience. And when I feel guilty I feel like I’m helping You out, paying just a little for what I did wrong.” Now I know we don’t walk around aware of that type of thinking, but once exposed, it’s seen for the lie from the enemy that it is.
Isaiah 43:18 says, “Forget about what’s happened;
don’t keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.
It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?
There it is! I’m making a road through the desert,
rivers in the badlands.” (message translation)
This new thing is total forgiveness based on the work of another. In the same chapter vs 25 says, “But I, yes I, am the one who takes care of your sins—that’s what I do. I don’t keep a list of your sins.” The NASB says, “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins.” Jesus’ payment for our sins is why God can say this. It’s based solely on His power and His love, not on our actions. Romans 5:8 tells us, “But God shows and clearly proves His [own] love for us by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
There is no more guilt needed once you are saved. When we sin after salvation, we just confess (which means to agree with) that our sins have already been forgiven. That’s why Paul says so confidently in Romans 8:1 that “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” When and if guilt does arise in our hearts, just meet it with the truth that Jesus has paid in full for the total and complete forgiveness of my sin. Let guilt fall to the ground and dissolve in your life. It may take a while if you are someone who has struggled with guilt. And the kind of guilt that motives us to do things we really don’t want to do, well, it is also from the accuser telling you that you haven’t done enough, or that if you don’t do this or that you will be rejected. And then if you do the thing you don’t want to do, the enemy will tell you that you didn’t do it well enough! The accusation can go on and on. Just stop all that with the truth that Jesus has taken all your guilt away! It’s the only way to see our way clear and make wise choices following the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Guilt only clouds everything in life. Let it go. Jesus took all our guilt even before we were born so why bring it back into your life?
Now when we do sin, and it hurts another person, of course we are to ask them for forgiveness and if needed, make peace with that person. But if we keep on striving to make peace with God even though He has forgotten what we did wrong, God is not pleased with that. Rather He is pleased with faith (Hebrews 11:6). That means He is pleased when we stop trying on our own to get rid of sin and just rely on what Jesus has already done with our sin – nailed it to the cross and went to the grave with it, being resurrected without our sin. And it’s not wrong to ask God to forgive us, but ask Him knowing that it has already been taken care of, and then forget about it. Let it go under Jesus’ blood that took care of your sin completely. And when guilt rears its ugly head to you, just tell it to go in Jesus’ name because Jesus took all our guilt, once for all time and forever! Amen