Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions. (Airing daily on Hope 103.2 and Inspire Digital at 9 am)
In this Part 2, I continue talking about a subject not everyone is comfortable about—guilt.
The Guinness Book of Records has an entry for Ffyona Campbell, from the United Kingdom—the first woman to walk around the world. She was walking 40 kilometres a day. Problem is, she sometimes cheated by riding on the back-up truck and walked into towns where people could see her. In the end, she couldn’t live with her feelings of guilt and went to her sponsor to confess. At her own request, the entry in the record book was removed. She said, “I should not be remembered as the first woman to walk around the world when I cheated”. Her feelings of guilt were too much to bear.
Is there an answer to this kind of guilt? Yes—it may take time. But owning up to our wrongdoing is the first step. Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Living each day with faith in God and Jesus as Saviour helps to keep you free from guilt. We have a built-in system called the ‘conscience’ which tells us when we are doing something wrong. Sometimes we feel the urge to punish ourselves or escape the punishment we feel we deserve.
The Good News of Grace
God made a world that he wanted to be perfect. But people chose to go their own way and run their lives the way they wanted. The Bible tells us the world ignored its Creator and we were born into sin. But only a loving God could make a way around this problem by coming into this world with a human face that we could recognise. His name was Jesus, God-made man who never sinned. A prophet named Isaiah, hundreds of years before Jesus was born, said: “All of us like sheep have gone the wrong way. Each of us has turned to his own way. And the Lord has put on Him the sin of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).
And that’s the good news. Our guilt and shame have been paid for by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. The Apostle Paul said: “Everyone has sinned and is far away from God’s saving presence. But by the free gift of God’s grace, all are put right with him through Jesus Christ, who sets them free” (Romans 3:23-24). In New Testament times, when a person was sent to prison, guards posted a ledger outside the cell door declaring his guilt. When his sentence was completed, a certificate was then written and signed Paid in full. This was the proof that the debt had been paid.
It’s a bit like the man who bought a car from a garage. Things began to go wrong, like noises, gearbox trouble, and leaking oil. He couldn’t afford to put them right, so he struggled on for months. Then someone told him the garage had given him a total guarantee, and that all the problems with the car would be fixed free of charge. His problem was not the car, or the garage, but knowing what had already been done for him. We can be free from guilt and shame if we do it God’s way. It’s like coming out of the shadow into the sunlight.
We Can Deal with Guilt
Some notable people from the Bible, like David, knew what it was like to have a guilty conscience. He was Israel’s greatest king who conquered enemies, and established Jerusalem as the capital. He was a great person, and yet a series of shameful acts nearly ruined his life. He had sexual relations with Bathsheba, a married woman, and she fell pregnant. He tried to cover up his sin and shift the responsibility to someone else, and arranged for the woman’s husband to be killed in battle as a way of covering up his immorality. He desperately wanted to hide his sin, and then married Bathsheba himself without telling the truth of what had happened.
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But he forgot that God knew the whole story. God sent Nathan to expose his wrongdoing and we read David eventually said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:13a). He was courageous and bold enough to own up and confess to what he had done. God showed grace and mercy and David showed genuine repentance. He blamed nobody else except himself. In Psalm 51 he wrote: “God, please have pity on me. Please wipe away my sins. Wash me clean from all my sin and guilt. I know about my sins, and I can’t forget my terrible guilt. You are really the one I have sinned against”.
So guilt is there—it’s something we can deal with. We are not very helped by ignoring it or blaming other people or saying Well, I’m a failure and even if there’s been some past failure. That’s what Jesus Christ is all about. He can undo the errors of our past, for Romans 8:1 says, “There is no condemnation now for those who live in union with Christ Jesus”. Psalm 103:12 says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us”. We don’t have to be a prisoner to the past.
Heavenly Father, today we thank you for your love and acceptance which enables us to lay aside our feelings of guilt and self-condemnation, and choose by faith to receive the forgiveness of our Saviour Jesus Christ. May you continue to help us live as children of God with a clear conscience and clean heart. Amen.