What are we feeling when we experience guilt? We have a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, or wrong. This offense, crime or wrong can be real or imagined.
In the context of the Bible, people may feel guilty when they have sinned.
What is sin?
The entire plan of God revolves around the concept of obedience.
Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? Romans Ch.6:16 NIV
For the believer in God, obedience is critical. God loves obedience but hates sin. So what does God mean by “sin”? Sin means to be disobedient to God. If a person is sinful then he is full of disobedience.
Why does God hate sin? Because if we make a decision to disobey him then we reject all the things he stands for – truth, love, patience, justice, faithfulness, mercy and so on. When we sin we reject God himself.
The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. Romans Ch.8:6-8 NIV
You are so proud of knowing the law, but you dishonor God by breaking it. Romans Ch.2:23 New Living Translation
God hates sin so much that he has stated that all sin will lead to death.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans Ch.6:23 NIV
God wants each one of us to replace sin with obedience. We need to learn to hate sin like God does.
Guilt and sin
The Bible shows us that our sins distance us from our God. This can happen when we may feel guilty because we have problems overcoming certain sins. We may find it difficult even to want to overcome some sins. We feel we cannot face God like this. Yet whatever form that sin takes, the Good Shepherd knows all his sheep by name, and he is, even now, seeking every last one of us.
I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd. John Ch.10:14-16
If we have not made enough time for God’s word in our busy lives, our love for God’s ways can weaken first—before we actually fall into a sin. If we allow that love and respect to cool, we lay ourselves wide open to temptation. The more we desire sin, the further we are distanced from God. When at last we realise it, we find we are miles away from Him.
Sometimes we realise only slowly how far we have distanced ourselves from our God, as little by little sin eats away at our hope. Sometimes the feeling of distance from God is brought home to us suddenly and sharply. Nothing will bring that distance home to us more deeply than the subject of death: the stark illustration of the wages of sin—the difference between light and darkness, life and no life. In the face of death, we cannot deceive ourselves into thinking we can serve two masters! I choose God and life, or sin and death. The choice is entirely my own.
If we do feel trapped in a state of mind that desires sin, the beginning of turning back to God is to be honest with ourselves, and admit to that desire—that is better than being blind to the fact, deceiving ourselves! Sin is deceitful—it does not appear to us in its true form. It deceives us into thinking we can serve two masters. “How long halt ye between two opinions?” asked Elijah. At any time we are either serving our own desires or serving God. Both thought patterns cannot be in charge at the same time. When our mind has been open to wrong dependencies or thought patterns without resistance, we have been closing our mind to God’s word and its guidance. We have to reverse this process, shutting our mind to the sinful desires and opening it to God’s word. The body knows what it likes—our mind of the flesh knows what it wants, and it will try “every trick in the book” to get it. Thankfully, God has given us His Book .
The Bible Our Sword
While the body knows what it likes , God’s word shows us what we need . The battle is an inward one, the arena is our mind, the Bible is our sword. If we allow God’s word into our mind, it does not leave us as it finds us: we must make a choice. Either we harden our hearts further, or we turn back to Him. We can remain distanced, without hope; or we can try hard to draw closer to Him, determined to try to respect His ways and appreciate the wisdom of them.
How can we regain our lost ground? How can we find our way back?
And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. Jeremiah Ch.29:13
We must show our Father in heaven that we want to find our way back to Him and His ways, that we will persevere, that we will never give up.
But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Hebrews Ch.11:6
It is not easy to turn back: we can feel so entrenched. We may try to justify or excuse our sins, we may even miss them! We may not be able to find in ourselves any desire for the right ways— all we feel is a longing for the wrong ways. We must strengthen our love and respect for God’s wisdom, through effectively reading God’s word. Nothing can help us more—yet straight away we hit a problem!
Difficulty Reading or Praying
When at last we admit that we have been turning a deaf ear to God’s warnings in His word, it can feel as if, now that we want to, we cannot hear Him. As if He were saying, “Right then, so you didn’t want to listen to me—well, for a time you won’t be able to”. We do not here suggest our Father would have that attitude, but to us at the time, in a turmoil of mixed emotions, it may seem like it. How can we make our way forward?
Consider the parable of the Lost Sheep.
So He spoke this parable to them, saying: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance. Luke Ch.15:3-7
That hundredth sheep had got itself into a position where it could not get itself home—it could only admit that it was lost and cry for help. At that point the Good Shepherd came looking for it and carried it home rejoicing. In our need for help, we must keep trying to pray, faltering as we may be.
The Good Shepherd comes to us through God’s word. Keep trying to glean any help we can from reading our Bible—our daily readings, a book of the Bible, a chapter, a verse—filling up with the spiritual food we must have been lacking.
I know, O LORD, that a man's life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps. Jeremiah Ch.10:23
We don’t have it naturally in us to think as God teaches us. We constantly have to input God’s wisdom by reading His word. Nothing else can fight sin. We shall begin to accept the way the Bible describes our sins and stop trying to justify them. This can be a frightening time.
We may feel such a great heaviness that we did not love God’s ways as we thought we did. We may feel guilty that we have let God down. We can pass through many or all of these feelings and later they may leave us with another guilt to contend with on top of our initial problem! Keep going back to the Shepherd, crying out to him, reading his answers in the word. The answers are there!
Our difficulties are compounded because thoughts and feelings can be so mixed. Sin deceives, and one of the ways it deceives is by presenting evil along with good. While our heart deceives us, God knows the heart of man.
Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. Matthew Ch.10:16
When we continue to pray and read God’s word, we not only gain strength in resisting sin, we also become more aware of sin.
Sin deceives us by pandering to our short-term satisfaction. Satisfying our own wants above obedience to God is false security, numbing our minds to our far greater long-term needs.
Desire for God’s ways can be so weak; the desire to sin so strong. But Jesus suffered long and terribly out of his and the Father’s love for us. That was done, not for the you and me who are being obedient, but for the you and me who have walked along dangerous paths, who have placed ourselves where we should not be. It is then that God still loves us and pleads with us to turn back, as a sheep to its shepherd, as a child to its Father—because He first loved us while we were yet sinners.
God is not asking us to show Him that we have suddenly become immune to sin—He asks us to show Him that we genuinely want to turn from sin, terribly hard though this can be for us in our sinfulness. As God’s word changes our minds, and we learn the right paths, slowly, surely, the warmth and closeness of hope and trust can begin to come back. Day by day we can show our Father that we want to understand and respect His ways, and that we are never going to give up.
On our Guard against Sin
We must be on our guard constantly—our mind so easily slips into wrong thought patterns, and these are so strong. Certain things make it far harder for us: the company we keep, the music we listen to, the words we sing along to, clothes we wear, films we watch, things we read, being too busy or too tired to remember God’s ways in our day: any of these can encourage our wants and fan the flames so that we want more. We must try to avoid situations which make it harder for us, not because we are so righteous, but because we are so weak!
All that Jesus passed through to open the way to our forgiveness can mean more to us than it has ever done, and can move us very much. When we confess our sins, and try hard to turn from them, to pass from sin to repentance, God is just to forgive us our sins.
How much it means to us to know that the Lord Jesus took all our griefs and all our sorrows, and died that we might live! We know that,
“The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy . . . He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.” Psalm 103:8 , 10–13
Let us turn to God in our need and ask Him to forgive us and to help us through His word to find our way back to Him.
We may have committed some great sin that makes us feel unworthy and guilt ridden, so that we feel ashamed to come before God in prayer. We may conceal our sins from mortal eyes, but before God’s holiness, we feel exposed and condemned.
The Bible position is very clear in this matter. However grievous our sins, though they be as scarlet, God will always forgive, if we repent and reform our ways.
Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. Revelation Ch.3:3