What is the Christian’s view of guilt?

smoke-dGuilt is the warning sound made by the smoke detectors in our souls.  The Bible says God hardwired us with a conscience—a moral smoke alarm.  It signals us with feelings of guilt when we scorch someone with words, flare up in anger or let passions burn out of control.

King David heard the alarm when he tried to cover up his sins:  “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.  For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer” (Psalm 32:3-4).  A guilty conscience, like a ringing smoke alarm, makes life miserable.

Most people understand that guilt is a feeling.  But guilt is more than a feeling; it’s also a fact.  The Bible uses the term to describe our spiritual condition.  We’re all guilty before God because we’ve all violated his laws.  As James 2:10 says, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.”

guiltHow should we deal with guilt?  Here’s what not to do.  Don’t ignore your internal alarm.  You’ll wind up with a corrupted conscience (Titus 1:15).  And living with a damaged conscience leads to getting burned—now and forever.

The right way to deal with guilt is to let it motivate us to inspect our lives and ask for forgiveness.  That’s what King David eventually did:  “Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity . . . and you forgave the guilt of my sin” (Psalm 32:5). Because Jesus died for our sins, God offers a clean heart and a clear conscience to all who trust in him (Hebrews 10:19-22).  Through faith in Jesus, we receive grace that’s stronger than guilt.

(This article is published in That’s A Good Question Too! by Rick Reed)

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