So, this has been amazing. I re-committed this blog to what the Lord was doing in my life at any given moment, to the point of being painfully honest. Because that level of transparency and realness is what reaches people.
It’s what reached me four years ago, and it led me to say “I want to know THAT God.” So, yeah, the last few things I’ve shared have almost hurt my heart to share, and I had to let go of a lot embarrassment and fear to share them, but they have led me to some amazing conversations since I published them.
Two such conversations actually revolved around the comparison thing we do from time to time which really steals our joy. And the subject of guilt came up.
We know that we have such an amazing life, especially those of us here in Western Christianity. We assume persecution when the world acts like the world, yet our brothers and sisters in China and India and Africa and the Middle East are fighting to the point of death just to proclaim the name of Christ. We don’t know that kind of persecution here, really. But we have our woes, first world problems or not. And we have things that make us ungrateful and prevent us from giving thanks to God for what we actually ARE blessed with.
Once we realize how silly and entitled we’re being, and we realize that God is worth our praise just for every breath we take, it’s easy to feel guilty for ever having been so self absorbed and ungrateful in the first place.
Here’s the thing: that feeling of guilt is NOT from God.
Before I continue, I want to distinguish something quickly: actual guilt, as a noun, is different from being of feeling guilty, which is a verb:
· Guilt, noun: the fact of having committed a specified or implied offense or crime.
· Guilt, verb: make (someone) feel guilty, especially in order to induce them to do something.
In Revelation 12:10, Satan is referred to as the defeated “accuser” in almost every translation. He is the one who hurls guilt and shame onto us in order to hold us in bondage and keep us from the blessing and favor of God.
God does not use condemnation, guilt, or shame to turn us to repentance when we’ve done something wrong or sinned against Him.
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that everyone who believes in Hmi shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16-17 NIV)
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1 NIV)
The Apostle Paul makes it quite clear in Romans 2:4 that “God’s kindness is intended to lead [us] to repentance” (NIV). When Christ was dealing directly with the woman caught in adultery in John 8, after everyone had dropped their stones and left, He said to her, “Then neither do I condemn you… Go now and sin no more” (v.1 NIV).
I see this thing happening around the crucifixion of Christ in the Bible that I think perfectly illustrates the difference in results from guilt and actually conviction from the Holy Spirit that leads to repentance. Two big players, Judas and Peter, betray Christ but the feeling that overtakes them and drives them to what happens next is totally different, and I really think it determines the outcome of their stories.
In Luke 22, we read of their betrayals of Jesus. I’m sure you know the story, but in case you don’t, Judas basically sells Jesus out to the religious elite of the time (v. 1-6) that wanted Him arrested (v. 47-54) and killed – which eventually happened (23:26-49). Peter, on the other hand, when Jesus was in custody and being questioned and beaten, denied knowing Christ (v.54-60), after having sworn to follow Christ to prison or death just hours before (v.33).
What happened after this is incredibly telling to what each of them felt after realizing their mistakes.
In Matthew 27, when Judas realized what he had done, “he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver” (v.3). He knew he had sinned and was SEIZED with remorse, aka: guilt, as in he was unable to move forward from it. And I’m convinced it came directly from Satan, because in John 13:27, the Word even tells us that when Judas took the bread from Jesus at the last supper, before rushing off to turn him over to the Pharisees, “Satan entered into him.” I assume Satan left Judas afterwards because he knew that he had sinned in Matthew 27, and I’m not totally positive he would’ve been aware of his sin had he still been occupied by the devil, but the feeling of guilt just consumed him – even if under the influence of Satan – to the point of death.
Rather than focusing on the promises Christ made to him when he was His disciple, he could only think of what he had done to betray Him. He was so overcome with guilt from what he had done that he immediately left the temple that day and hanged himself.
Peter reacted a little differently. Jesus had predicted his denial just hours before it happened, also. He said, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know Me.” (Luke 22:34 NIV). I can picture Peter’s face after that third denial, when just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed and Christ’s prediction came flooding back and he and the Lord locked eyes (v. 60-61). It certainly hurt him to know what he had done because in verse 62, we’re told that, “he went outside and wept bitterly.” He had to have been so mad at himself for what he had done. I imagine he felt like such a hypocrite. But Peter was filled with something other than guilt, and I think it’s safe to call it: conviction.
According to the Dictionary of Theology: “Conviction is the work of the Holy Spirit where a person is able to see himself as God sees him: guilty [noun], defiled, and totally unable to save himself (John 16:8)… conviction in the believer brings and awareness of sin and results in repentance, confession, and cleansing. Theologically, conviction is produced by the Holy Spirit (John 16:8), the Gospel (Acts 2:37), conscience (Romans 2:15), and the Law (James 2:9). Conviction of sin brings man to the Cross and shows need for forgiveness.”
Peter was convicted of his own sin and remembered His need for Christ, and I imagine, what Christ had promised to do in dying for the sins of the world. For Peter, as an individual, I can imagine what Jesus said to him in Matthew 16:18 echoed in his mind, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (ESV). Knowing that, and trusting in the work of the Cross, Peter would eventually go on to share the first sermon at Pentecost after receiving the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:14:41, where 3000 souls were saved. He knew no guilt for what he had done because he knew the grace of God through Jesus, and he went on to be a major instrument of God in the salvation of MANY. To this day, people are able to read his words as they are accounted in the Bible and are changed by the power of the Holy Spirit into new creations as they come into faith in Christ. Like, whoa.
Whereas Judas sinned and felt guilty to the point of taking his own life, hopelessly and completely forsaking the promises Christ had made, Peter was convicted of his sins, but remembered what the Lord had assured them of and walked in the fullness of life until he was eventually martyred for Christ’s sake and joined Him in glory.
I imagine Peter knew what John would eventually pen in Revelation 12:10-11: “Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: ‘Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of the Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them day and night, has been hurdled down. They have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony; and they do not love their lives so as to shy away from death.” (NIV). The blood of the Lamb, who is Jesus, and the words of our testimonies of God’s goodness and faithfulness, conquers Satan, the accuser. When we are feeling down and tempted to feel guilty of something we have done, we must – I repeat, we MUST – cling to the blood of Jesus, the Cross, and the Word of God, and the gift that is our counselor, the Holy Spirit, that each so beautifully illustrate His love for us even in our sin (Romans 5:8), to convict us and lead us to repentance, so that we may “sin no more,” as Christ said to the woman in John 8.
If you’re feeling guilty, and maybe shameful even, about something you’ve done, or are still doing, please know that it is not of God. It is the enemy trying to keep you locked in that sin so that you wont find life. He is only out to lie, kill, and destroy. But God, His love is so perfect, it casts out fear (1 John 4:18), and He lovingly convicts us into confession and repentance. Seek the Lord, cling to the Cross, and receive His love.
For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more. (Hebrews 8:12 NIV)
I – yes, I alone – will blot out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again. (Isaiah 43:25 NLT)
I will cleanse them from all the sin they have committed against me and will forgive all their sins of rebellion against me. (Jeremiah 33:8 NIV)
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 NIV)