Dealing With GuiltJanuary 20, 2021
Dealing With Guilt
If we could get rid of people’s guilt feelings, we could solve many of their other “psychological” and emotional problems. This is a true statement.
-In order to properly deal with guilt, we must understand the and how it works.
I. Basic Definitions and Functions of the Conscience
1. A God-given internal alarm system designed to lend approval/disapproval upon our thoughts, words, and actions. (Rom. 2:14-15)
2. A program which can be altered based on culture, family values, and personal practices.
- A person’s conscience cannot ultimately be his guide. It must be properly by the Word in order to function properly. (Heb 5:14)
3. The Holy Spirit uses the conscience, but He is not the conscience. (Acts 2:38; Jn 16:8; 2 Tim 3:16; Mt 18:15; Rom 9:1)
- The Holy Spirit of God uses the to convict. Just because you sense something in your conscience, does not automatically mean it’s the Holy Spirit.
II. Be Sure to Distinguish Guilt vs.
~Guilt is culpability before God & Shame is the sense of guilt.~
1. Your conscience can cause you to feel shame in an area that you are not guilty of sin or wrong before God (2 Cor 7:8).
2. On the other hand, your conscience may not feel shame in an area, and yet you are guilty of sin before God (Eph 4:19).
3. There is no such thing in the Bible as “false” guilt, but there are feelings of shame and condemnation that can have an unbiblical basis or focus (Rom 8:33-34).
4. Guilt, in a biblical context, always refers to the culpability, conviction, or condemnation a person has before God. It is a legal and objective term. In this sense, stand guilty before God.
5. If a person’s conscience is awakened by the Spirit to the truth of his guilt before God, he will experience one or more of the following in varying degrees: feelings of shame, fear, and/or sorrow.
6. Feelings of shame, when proper, are used by the Holy Spirit to needed God-ward changes. They are not bad, but should be short-lived.
- It is good for a believer to feel the weight of conviction before a loving Father Who will discipline him for his good, if he is living in some specific sin (2 Tim 3:16-17; Rev 3:19; Heb 12:5-6; 1 Cor 11:31-32).
- It is good for an unbeliever to feel the weight of condemnation before a righteous Judge Who will seek his damnation, if he will not come to Him through Christ (Jn 16:8-11; Acts 2:36-37).
The feelings of shame that result from the conscience are never to be by minimizing one’s failure to live up to a standard, even if a wrong standard (Rom 14:14). This approach wounds the conscience (1 Cor 8:9). Instead, the person in shame needs to be biblically informed by the true standard of God’s Word so that he can rightly judge himself by the law. But this person also needs to be informed of the purpose of law, which is to awaken the conscience to its need for faith in Christ (Gal 3:24; Rom 7:24-25), both justification in Christ and sanctification in Christ!
III. Beware of Conscience “De-Sensitization”
- The conscience can be “seared” – rendering his conscience insensitive in certain areas by violating it repeatedly until it is . (1 Tim 4:2)
- Key passages in helping to “re-sensitize” a “de-sensitized” conscience:
- Jn 16:18–when [the Holy Spirit] is come, he will reprove the world of sin
- Heb 4:12-13–all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of [God]
- Eph 5:11-14–all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light
- Mt 5:6–Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness
IV. Beware of the “-Sensitized” Conscience
- The conscience can be misinformed by legalistic thinking. This person must ask, “what is informing my conscience? God’s word? Feeling? Non-Bible-Based teaching?”
- It can be . This person may feel like he is sinning even if the Bible doesn’t prohibit the activity he is engaging in. (1 Cor. 8:4-8)
- It can be misinformed by over-responsible and/or perfectionistic thinking. This is usually a person who has experienced heart-wrenching circumstances that he may have had a measure of influence upon, but was not the cause.
- How to Clear an “Over-Sensitive” Conscience:
- First, never, ever minimize feelings of shame. Investigate for specific culpability before God.
- Expose the unbiblical basis of shame that you feel (i.e. personal standards, parental norms, or cultural norms with no biblical basis).
- Put on faith in Christ and faith-motivated loving deeds. the conscience using the Word of God. (Gal 3:1-3; 5:6)
V. How to Clear a Guilty Conscience
A. The goal is not to silence the conscience, but to quiet it biblically.
1. The Gospel does not remove concern over our committal of sin, but the of sin.
2. Sanctification needs the assurance of justification, or we would be paralyzed by the penalty of sin, and the focus of growth would be the fear of condemnation instead of the love of our Savior.
B. Deal with all sin biblically.
1. Unconfessed sin brings problems (Ps 32:3-4).
2. Blame-shifting will not clear the conscience/take away guilt (Gen 3:8-13).
3. Unconfessed sin can bring negative consequences into one’s life (1 Cor 5:4-5).
4. Confession, Repentance, and Restitution are the practical biblical means provided in salvation for dealing with guilt (Ps 51:1-10).
- Confession means to say or admit the same thing about your sin that God says (1 Jn 1:9).
- Repentance is to change one’s about sin. (Ps. 51:16-17)
- Restitution, where necessary, often tests the sincerity of the repentance (Ex 22:1; Lk 19:8).
C. Don’t only turn FROM something, but TO something & Someone (Christ).
- The blood of Christ provides cleansing for our conscience so that we may serve Christ with godly lives (Heb 9:14). (It is an insult to Christ’s sacrifice to feel guilty about sins which have been by His blood.)
- Confession must be accompanied by true repentance in order to experience God’s forgiveness and mercy (Prov 28:13).
- Putting off the sinful thoughts and deeds of the old nature and them with the Christ-like thoughts and deeds of the Spirit is essential to having a clear conscience (Rom 13:14, Eph 4:22-25; 28-32).
*Taken from Tim Bryant and the Low Country Biblical Counseling Center