June 3

Real Guilt vs. False Guilt, Part 2

I Corinthians 4:2-4 Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord.

False guilt has nothing to do with what’s true or what’s real, and has nothing to do with actual sin or repentance.

Symptoms include:

• Always being worried about what others think of us.

• Always being restless, never truly able to relax.

• Always looking for rules to follow and expectations to fulfill, to please people or to avoid offending them.

• Taking on more responsibilities than God wants us to.

• Feeling as if we never do enough and are always falling short.

False guilt is a harsh master, partly because of its subtlety. It’s been rightly called “fear of disapproval in disguise,” driving those who carry it with the constant threat of condemnation.

When we carry false guilt, we are sinning by judging ourselves. There are two problems here. One is that with false guilt, there is actually nothing to judge or repent of (other than the sin of self-judgment), so we are already dealing in unreality. When we are suffering from false guilt, we are bearing false witness against ourselves. It’s unforgiveness in our hearts directed toward us–for what we haven’t done! We know it’s wrong to judge others, especially when they have done nothing wrong. It’s just as wrong to judge ourselves, especially when we realize that there is no sin here, but only the feeling of falling short that we are fighting.

The other problem is addressed by Paul in the passage above. Who are we to judge ourselves? Isn’t it up to the Lord to be our Judge? If we are His, He has already judged our sin at the Cross. In terms of even trying to rightly “judge” or assess our own behavior, we only need to take a second look at I Corinthians 4:2 to realize that we are not up to the task. We don’t have the wisdom, grace, power, or authority to judge ourselves correctly. Let me repeat—we do not have the authority to judge ourselves. Our duty is to remain open to the genuine conviction of the Holy Spirit when we sin and to correct us when we are mistaken.

What keeps false guilt alive is sin, but not the sin we think or that we are being accused of internally. It’s the sin of fear of man, which lays a trap (Proverbs 29:25), plus the sin of judging ourselves, an audacious presumption of authority if we think about it. We need to exchange our fear of man for the fear of God (see what Jesus had to say about this in John 12:42-43). And we need to repent of our pride in taking over God’s place as rightful Judge in our lives.

Prayer: Father, forgive me for caring more for what others think—or might think—about me and what I do. Help me to trade out this concern for a genuine desire to please you first. And forgive me for judging myself, taking over Your role and stepping into Your shoes. I repent, and leave such actions to You.


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