June 2

Real Guilt vs. False Guilt, Part 1

Romans 3:23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

I John 2:1b [I]f anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

There is a significant problem with mankind and the issue of guilt. There is too little acknowledgement of real guilt and far too much receiving of false guilt.

False guilt is a problem partly because we know in our hearts that true guilt is real. As much as modern psychology sometimes views real guilt as a pathological problem, we know instinctively, in addition to what God’s word tells us, that sinning brings guilt, because we have broken the law of God.

We will begin talking about false guilt tomorrow. But let’s not let the reality of false guilt rob us of experiencing the power and benefits of real guilt. And let’s not let the fear of false guilt keep us from the conviction of God.

David beautifully describes the effects of guilt in Psalm 32:3-5:

“When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long.
For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was turned into the drought of summer.
I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and You forgave the iniquity of my sin.”

David opens this psalm with his feelings of joy when he let his guilt lead him to the Lord: “Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity. And in whose spirit there is no deceit.”

Guilt is like pain. It shows us where the problem is. And like pain, we can either live with it, or go get help. David gave us the example when he “acknowledged [his] sin and … did not cover [his] iniquity.” As he did so before the Lord, “[his} transgression is forgiven.”

In a world that tells us that the feelings of guilt are the real problem, we know that sin is the problem. We also know that true guilt leads us to stop covering our iniquity and acknowledge our sins, leading us to the Forgiver and forgiveness. When we’ve sinned, feeling guilty is a gift from God whose purpose is to lead us to the gift of repentance.

The next time you struggle with real guilt, thank God that your conscience has not been seared (I Timothy 4:2), and that you are being led to the source of cleansing and forgiveness. Since He loves us, He doesn’t leave us in our sin. Glory to God!

Prayer: Lord, thank You for the pain of guilt that leads me back to You. By Your grace, let me stay sensitive to the working of Your hand that leads me to forgiveness and deliverance.


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