A Christian who struggles with chronic feelings of guilt is a Christian who does not properly understand the Gospel.
Don’t get me wrong here…there is no question that apart from Christ, we would all be guilty ten thousand times over and utterly unworthy to stand before the Father (Romans 3:23). However, as Christians, we have the sure knowledge that our every sin has been paid for by Jesus’ blood and that the wrath of God was satisfied on Good Friday (Romans 3:24-26). In the words of John Piper, “God took the record of all your sins that made you a debtor to wrath, and instead of holding them up in front of your face and using them as the warrant to send you to hell, God put them in the palm of His Son’s hand and drove a spike through them into the cross. He canceled our debt, nailing it to the cross (Colossians 2:13b-14)…[this] is called substitution. God condemned my sin in Christ’s flesh.”
So if we’re free from the penalty of our sin, why do we still experience feelings of guilt and shame? We experience these feelings because sin is a reality, even for the regenerate, and guilt and shame are the trademark consequences of sin. However, when Christ sets us free from sin, He also frees us from guilt and shame. These feelings are only useful inasmuch as they drive us to repentance. There is no place for lingering guilt and shame in the Christian’s life. Once we’ve earnestly repented of our sins, we are free…from our sin, from our guilt, from our shame. We are not guilty.
That is not to say that we are free to sin willy-nilly though or that God cares nothing about how we conduct ourselves now. In fact, He cares more now because His Spirit dwells within us and our lives are living, breathing Gospel presentations to those we interact with. As Christians, we should forsake sin out of love for God (Psalm 119:29-32), reverent fear of Him (Hebrews 12:5-6), and in an effort to live as Christ would have us live (Matthew 5:48). Even with all of these reasons to live as sinlessly as possible though, we will still fall into sin. But there’s grace to catch us. God will never condemn our sin twice, and if we are Christians, it has already been paid for by the blood of Christ.
IT’S THE EVIL ONE’S BUSINESS TO ACCUSE
In the NASB, the Hebrew word “satan” is literally translated “accuser.” It is Satan’s business to accuse us of our sin and cause us to doubt God’s grace…you know, the “God couldn’t possibly forgive me for that again” type of doubt.
How does he do this? By sowing seeds of doubt about what God has said. This is how he’s worked since the very start. There he was in the Garden, before the fall of man, approaching Eve with the words “Did God really say…” on his deceitful tongue (Genesis 3:1). And he comes to us with those same words today. “Did God really say you’re forgiven by grace alone?” Did God really say you could get into heaven without any merit of your own? Did God really say He’d love you if you kept on sinning?”
Know your Bible, ladies. Know your Bible so you can combat Satan’s lies with Scripture as Christ did when He was tempted in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). When Satan accuses you of your sin and causes you to doubt your salvation, stand firm, knowing that God really did say that you are saved by grace alone (Ephesians 2:8), that you are given a place in heaven by no merit of your own (Ephesians 2:9), and that God does indeed love you in spite of your sin (Romans 5:8). May we echo the words of Martin Luther…“When the devil throws your sins in your face and declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this: ‘I admit that I deserve death and hell…what of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God, and where He is, there I shall be also.”
IT’S CHRIST’S BUSINESS TO ACQUIT
Jesus is the propitiation for our sins (1 John 2:2). We have freedom from the penalty of sin by grace alone, through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). As Christians, our lives should reflect this truth. We are not intended to live in paralyzing fear of the Law, for we have already been declared not guilty. Rather, we are now free to live in accordance with the Law by the power of the Holy Spirit.
As the Psalmist says, “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:10-12). Praise be to the Lamb of God, through whom the Father bestows this glorious compassion.