Confronting Our Guilt (Article 17-1)
Aside from our salvation, the greatest gifts of grace for believers are peace and rest. With this, we find our joy in knowing that for the first time in our lives, we have found the path to true happiness – a sense of overall well-being despite the chaos and despair that we witness and experience as being part of the world. As believers and followers of Christ, we know that we are “justified” by our faith in the Works of the Cross. From this, we are broken free from the bondage of sin and the guilt that accompanies it.
The Robbing The Peace and Rest We Are To Have.
A great war still wages in our minds. This war parades its battle flag revealing the words “guilt” on it. The battle cry is “You are guilty”. In Romans 8:1, Paul talks directly to this point by telling us “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Jesus Christ.” But even though Paul made this clear, he knew that guilt is a stubborn and nagging matter with believers. It’s as if Paul himself struggled with his guilt as once being a persecutor of Christians – an advocate of having believers being dragged from their homes; thrown in prison and even executed. Perhaps he was still remembering the disciple Steven being stoned to death and his bloodied body crying out “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” (Acts 7:60). I believe Paul knew first hand all men’s struggle with guilt and the resulting low sense of self-worth it brings up us. Paul knew that even those who have trusted in Christ for their salvation often wrestle with guilt. It is for these reasons it's important to address the topic of guilt.
We Are the "Elect"
With our rebirth comes our justification and sanctification (separation and being set-aside) as the “elect”. Armed with this knowledge and truth, Paul asks in Acts 8:29-30 two questions: "Who will bring a charge against God’s elect?" And, “Who is the one condemns?”. In other words, Paul drives the point home by asking of those who accuse us “Who are you to override God’s decision to forgive us for our sins?” and “By what authority do you have to condemn us?”. The answer to both questions is “No one.”
The Intent Behind Satan's Accusations
God’s answer to our guilt is that He, and He alone, justifies His elect (chosen ones) through the works on the Cross and Christ’s prayers on our behalf. Satan continuously seeks to condemn us giving rise to our guilt. Why? Because when we are accused we focus on ourselves and with this, lose sight of Christ. Christ tells us that we cannot be double-minded. We are not able to stay focused on Him and ourselves at the same time. When we look inwardly at ourselves, as we often do when accused of our sin, we lose sight of Christ. When this happens, we are effectively cut-off from Him and the power of His Spirit. This is Satan's tactic to separate us from our Lord, making us vulnerable to the ravenous lion that patiently waits to pounce on and devour us.
Christ Commands Us to Be Vigilant
Christ tells us to be vigilant at all times and to abide in Him for our strength and protection. Despite this, we allow Satan to "bait" us out from under Christ’s protection. As the "Great Accuser" he relentlessly drives us to question our worthiness of God’s love and protection. We are driven to re-assess our worthiness and our self-worth. These lead to becoming judges of ourselves, of which we have not authority to do. Always remember too that if not kept in check, guilt will gain a stronghold in your mind. It will weaken you, luring you to let go of your hope. It can lead you to no longer want to pray or be a witness to God. You may lose your desire to serve Him. Eventually, you will be rendered useless and powerless in understanding and fulfilling God’s will. Your restless and angst will return as your peace and joy are being taken from you. Instead of being a "victor" in Christ, you become a “victim” of Satan.
Dealing with Our Own Consciences and Charges of Guilt.
We know there is nothing meritorious in us to deserve being justified. God justifies the ungodly, which is all of us. We are truly guilty and deserve to be condemned, but Jesus paid the penalty that we deserved. The cause of our faith that justified us was not because we were brilliant enough to figure it out or because we had an inclination toward God. Rather, our justification is rooted in God’s sovereign election. Because He chose us and justified us, we can answer any charges against us. Always remember that although battles still rage over our souls, for believers, the war has already been won and victory is already at hand. It is finished!
There is no security and no defense against guilt when you focus on yourself. Your focus must be on God who has chosen and justified you, and on Christ who died and was raised bodily from the dead. To further aid in your further understanding of why we should never condemn ourselves and feel guilty, we need to remember that:
God would not condemn the ones He saves. Paul’s point in Romans 8:34 is that it would be absurd for Jesus, who came to earth to be the sacrifice for the sins of God’s elect, to condemn the very ones He died for! So when the enemy accuses you, point and look to the cross. “And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb…” (Rev. 12:11).
Christ was raised from the dead for our Justification. Christ’s death satisfied God’s justice, thus providing the basis for our justification for salvation. His resurrection was God’s stamp of approval, showing that God accepted Christ’s death as payment for our sins. Paul staked everything in the Christian faith in the bodily resurrection of Jesus (1 Cor. 15:17): “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.” When you struggle with with guilt, go back to the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection. It is a solid place to stand.
Christ is now Exalted to the Right Hand of God. “The right hand of God” says that Jesus is now far above all rule and authority. He is over every power in heaven and on earth (Ps. 110:1; Eph. 1:20; 1 Pet. 3:22). This means that no one, not even Satan, can challenge Christ’s rule or His decisions, including His decision to save you in spite of your sins - no matter how many or how egregious you may see them to be.
Christ is Continuously Interceding On Our Behalf. Christ (and the Holy Spirit) continuously prays for us, thus continuously intercedes for us on our behalf. He is our supreme advocate and high priest. The temple that Christ establishes in our soul and His throne is both representatives of God's supreme and final authority. We are called to Him to find and have forgiveness.
So, if guilt has a stronghold in your mind, turn to Christ who resides in your soul. As such, be assured that He will break you away from this bondage. Go in peace and rest. "When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit." (John 19:30).