Guilt Feelings among the Lost
Without question, there is a segment of the population out there—and you may know some—who long to be restored to God, but in the core of their being, they feel that something they have done is just too bad for God to ever accept them. From a biblical point of view, we may understand that several factors are at work in situations like this.
(1) The person doesn’t understand the gospel of God’s infinite grace.
(2) That person’s own guilt feelings can skew his thinking.
(3) There may be an odd kind of pride at work wherein somebody thinks more of the power of his own actions than he should and less of the power of God’s actions than he ought.
(4) Satan, who doesn’t want humans to be restored to God, may figure into the equation, as well.
When God’s Holy Spirit is at work, all of these can be overcome, so that the person’s mind, heart, thoughts, and feelings change. The gospel makes sense. And the person understands that there is no sin—no matter how huge—for which Jesus Christ did not die to pay the penalty on our behalf.
In the best case, the defeated and once-alienated sinner accepts the saving work of Jesus Christ on his behalf and comes to know pardon, peace with God, power over depression, freedom from guilt, and newfound purpose in life. But for some of us, something else can go wrong—something else that we’ll need to let Christ deal with in our lives, perhaps multiple times.
Guilt Feelings among the Saved
It’s probably a personality thing. I’ve found that some folks end up thinking like this.
When I was lost in my sin, I know that I was subject to the wrath of God and was in danger of eternal separation from Him. But I was ignorant then. I didn’t know the Bible. I never thought about just how thoroughly holy God is.
Now that I know God’s word better, maybe it’s even more of an affront to God when I sin—especially when I fall in temptation knowing what I’m about to do is wrong. But I do it anyway. Wouldn’t God say, “You should know better?” Shouldn’t His anger toward me be even greater? I’m not worthy of His grace.
So the Christian proceeds to beat up on himself and to retreat from God, rather than going to the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16) How sad, and how unnecessary that a believer in Christ should think that way!
Whether a person is just comprehending the message of God’s grace for the first time, for whether he’s going to God for the 777th time about falling into the same sin again, several truths apply.
(1) Nobody deserves grace. The very definition of grace is “unmerited or undeserved favor.” Deserved grace would be an oxymoron and tantamount to a reward for good works. (Galatians 2:16 and 2:21)
(2) Jesus loved us first (1 John 4:19), loves us as we are now (1 John 3:1), and always will love us. (Romans 8:39)
(3) Jesus is a greater Savior than we are sinners. He saves forever. (Hebrews 7:25)
(4) Jesus Christ is a great high priest who understands completely and fully what it’s like to be tempted. He was tempted by Satan himself. (Matthew 4:1-11)
(5) Jesus was tempted in the very same ways that we are—in the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and in the boastful pride of life, (1 John 2:15-16) yet without sinning. (Hebrews 4:15)
(6) Jesus Christ is willing and able (Philippians 3:21) to complete the work that He began in us when we first believed. (Philippians 1:6)
The bottom line is this. Jesus came to us (Hebrews 4:14) so that we can go to God. There was no other way (Acts 4:12), and He didn’t come to take us half way. He’s the Author and the Perfecter of our faith. (Hebrews 12:2) Take joy in Christ, and rest in Him. (Hebrews 4:9-10)