The well known playwright, Noel Coward, sent an identical anonymous letter to 10 notable men in London, England. The note read, “We know what you have done. If you don’t want to be exposed, leave town.” Within 6 months all 10 recipients of the letter moved! While that was a terrible prank, it does show the incredible power of guilt.
Guilt is that horrible feeling you get in your gut when you violate a standard of right and wrong. The standard could be something you have set for yourself, or something someone else has set for you, or something that has been set by God. Since it can come from a number of different sources, guilt can be either positive or negative.
Negative guilt is guilt that binds you, keeps you in prison, and makes you continually suffer for past mistakes. Negative guilt is not from God, and can prevent you from fulfilling your potential as a child of God.
Have you ever done something wrong and then asked God to forgive you, only to still feel guilty about it over the next few days? Rest assured, when that happens, it is negative guilt. The Bible says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). If you have humbly come to God and confessed your sins, you have been forgiven. That is the end of the matter as far as God is concerned.
Positive guilt comes from God and leads to repentance and freedom. The Bible says, “God’s kindness leads you toward repentance” (Romans 2:4). The Spirit of God tugs at your conscience to warn you that you are headed for trouble. The purpose of the Spirit’s convicting is not to mess up your life, ruin your fun, give you a complex, or leave you in bondage. His purpose is repentance.
No matter who you are, or where you are, or what you have done, if you give your regrets, and your sins, to Jesus Christ, you will find grace and forgiveness. The Bible says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). If you want to live a guilt free life, there are 3 things you have to do.
1. Ask for forgiveness.
This sounds so simple, and it is. Jesus died on the cross for your sins. Your sins can be forgiven, but you have to humble yourself and ask God to forgive you. Asking God for forgiveness involves both confession and repentance. It involves admitting what you did, and admitting that what you did was wrong.
2. Receive forgiveness.
There needs to come a point in your life when you quit beating yourself up over past mistakes. What’s done is done. Accept God’s love and forgiveness, and move on. There may be some horrible sins in your history, but they have absolutely no power over your present or your future; except the power you give them. The Bible says, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:11-12).
Have you ever heard of Chuck Colson? He was a powerful aide in the Nixon administration, who got caught up in the Watergate scandal and was found guilty of obstructing justice. While he was awaiting his sentence, an old friend shared the gospel with him.
Colson was sentenced to prison for 3 years. He thought being in prison was going to be unbearable, but God was with him. When he got out, he was so grateful that he decided to devote the rest of his life to helping prisoners come to know the Lord. He started an organization called Prison Fellowship, which now has 50,000 prison ministries in 88 countries, and is the largest ministry of its kind in the world. That’s what it means to live out your forgiveness!
Right now, God is offering you a way out of your sin; a way out of your shame and guilt. You can either accept it, or reject it. You can either continue carrying the weight of your guilt, or you can lay them at the foot of the cross. The choice is yours.