Before we sin our conscience will alert us that this proposed course of action is not right. If we ignore it and proceed the conscience will then produce guilt, giving a sense of wrongdoing or emotional conflict about what we have done, because it is contrary to God’s standards, society’s or our own (Rom 3:19,23).
To be guilty is to be deserving of punishment for the breaking of a law or failure to conform to it.
Obedience is better than sinning and then making amends. Any violation against a moral or social standard should not to be ignored, but responded to, as appropriate, for unless we obtain forgiveness we create a way to punish ourselves mentally or physically, ensnaring ourselves further in bondage (1 Sam 15:22).
God and guilt
Ignorance of God’s laws is no excuse as He has put into the conscience of every human the basic rules of life; if we keep all the laws of God yet fail in just one point, we are guilty of breaking them all and so stand condemned (Lev 5:17; Rom 1:20; Jas 2:10). Speaking of the unbelievers, Jesus said that if He had not spoken to them and demonstrated His credentials by doing what no one else could they would not be guilty of the sin but because they had heard His words, seen the miracles and still refused to acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God they were guilty of contempt (Jn 15:22-25).
God is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion yet He doesn’t leave the guilty unpunished (Num 14:18). All mankind stands guilty before God, however He declares us not guilty if we trust in Jesus as our Saviour (and walk in ongoing repentance), for then we are not under condemnation because the law of life in Christ Jesus sets us free from the law of sin and death (Rom 3:19,23,24, 8:1,2).
Christ was sinless yet became a guilt offering by suffering in our place, the innocent for the guilty, taking our punishment, and freeing us from condemnation. Only God had the power to lay our sin and guilt on Jesus so we could be justified by the shedding of His blood (Isa 53:6,10).
sins. God uses guilt as a loving means to convict, correct
and conform our character to be like His when we face up
to our misdeeds. Through repentance and His consequent
Guilt has a useful purpose but is only beneficial if it leads us to repentance
forgiveness we can have a restored relationship with God because we have turned from the wrong pathway (Ps 32:5; Prov 28:13; 2 Cor 7:9,10; Phil 2:13; 1 Jn 1:7,9). Although we are released from the guilt of sin and its eternal penalty, we are not exempt from the consequences of that wrong action in this life.
Dealing with guilt
As with all negative emotions, guilt brings bondage and leads to isolation, so to be free from the torment of guilt, own up to the specific sin, ask God’s forgiveness, and accept His pardon – this is restorative action. However, instead we often have a general feeling of inadequacy or unworthiness as we evaluate our behaviour and blame others to spread the shame to make ourselves less responsible (Gen 3:12,13; 1 Sam 15:15,21). Have you experienced the sense of liberation when the burden of sin is removed?
If we misuse God’s name we will be held accountable, similarly partaking of the Lord’s Supper (Communion) without examining our heart and confessing any sin means we are guilty of sinning against the ‘body and blood of the Lord’ (Ex 20:7; 1 Cor 11:27-30). In both cases the remedy is clear, cease the one and actively pursue the other.
At the sentencing of Jesus, Pilate thought he could be free of his guilt for condemning an innocent man to death by simply washing his hands of responsibility, yet although it may have given him a false sense of peace it was not a genuine solution (Mt 27:24).
False guilt or a general feeling of humiliation comes from the judgement, suggestions, manipulation, unrealistic expectations and pressures of others (including the lies of condemnation from Satan) and should be confronted – by challenging the negative messages of accusation and shame we have received with the truth – and then forgotten (Rom 8:1). While you can empathise with another, don’t blame yourself or take the responsibility for what isn’t yours.
See also: bondage, condemn, confession, conscience, conviction, forgive/forgiveness, innocent, repentance, shame, sin/sinners.