Are You Plagued With Feelings of Guilt?

by John Coblentz

taken from the August 2001 newsletter of
Deeper Life Ministries

"And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins" (1 John 3:5).

JESUS is God's answer to the sin and guilt of mankind. And He is a fully sufficient answer! John says the atoning work of Jesus (His propitiation) is so powerful, so vast, so all-sufficient in dealing with our sins, that it is "not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:2).

Nevertheless, some Christians struggle with doubts about their sins forgiven. They are plagued with overwhelming feelings about guilt for sins they have confessed repeatedly. They fret about trivial offenses, fear they are not Christians, worry that their doubts have carried them beyond hope, struggle with thinking that minor inaccuracies in speech or carnality in motives will bar them from heaven.

These problems are fear-based problems, and the fears about our salvation vary considerably in intensity. Some Christians struggle occasionally, and others are obsessed with guilt-laden feelings. The remedy, especially for more severe problems, is seldom found simply in reading an article. Even so, the truth of God's Word is the foundation for true freedom.

So let's consider a number of helpful principles for those who have received Christ but who struggle with guilt feelings.

1. Forgiveness is based on GOD'S WORD.

"If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquity, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee" (Psalm 110:3,4).

"I write unto you little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake" (1 John 2:12).

Those are only two examples of many times God assures believers of sins forgiven. If we can believe God's Word when He says sinners are guilty, we can just as surely believe God's Word when He says those who confess their sins and trust Jesus as their Savior are forgiven. Mark it down: I can believe what God has said.

2. Forgiveness is based on JESUS' SHED BLOOD.

"In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace" (Ephesians 1:7).

"For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" (Hebrews 9:13, 14).

Nothing we are, nothing we can do, no amount we can pay, could be enough to take away our sin and guilt. But Jesus' blood is sufficient. Oh, the inexpressible rest we can have when we accept two unchangeable truths: First, our utter inability to atone for sin. Second, the complete sufficiency of the blood of Jesus to forgive ALL our sins.

3. Forgiveness is NOT based on what I can do.

We have already stated this, but the point must be driven home.

"For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:8, 9).
I must lay down my efforts to merit forgiveness. I must cease believing I can make my account any better by a better confession, by longer devotions, by extended fasting, or by any other good work. Those things are fine and good in my walk with Jesus, but they must be thrown off when by them I want to replace Jesus' work for my sins. I do not need to earn forgiveness (more accurately, I cannot earn it); I can only accept it humbly.

4. Forgiveness is NOT based on how I feel.

This is often the stickler for those who struggle with guilt feelings. (And it is often those who have experienced emotional damage that struggle with basing their forgiveness on feeling forgiven.)

"And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things" (1 John 3:19,20).
Notice in these verses that it is possible to have feelings of condemnation in our heart without actual condemnation from God. Notice also that God is greater than our hearts He knows things that over-rule the feelings of condemnation we have in our heart. And the wonderful point John is making is that we can know those things too. Forgiveness is a spiritual reality based on God's Word and on the blood of Jesus. Feeling forgiveness is a nice blessing, and John says it gives us "confidence" (v.21); but it is not an essential for the reality of forgiveness.

5. Extending forgiveness to others gives me freedom to receive forgiveness from God.

"For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you" (Matthew 6:14).
This is a healthy exercise for those who struggle with guilt feelings. Anyone in your life who has hurt you or is hurting you can become an means of restoring your own sense of forgiveness. Forgive. Forgive freely and completely "even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you" (Ephesians 4:32).

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