Saturday, May 06, 2006

What To Do With Guilt?

What To Do With Guilt?


While I do not have any data, I believe that many people that are depressed live with sin and guilt that has not been dealt with. I plan on submitting a blog on depression in the next few days and before I do that I wanted to give people reading this blog, which I am aware of deal with depression, some instruction toward starting to handle sin and guilt God’s way. There is a lot I could discuss about guilt such as why some never feel it or how non Christians could be forgiven but I prefer to focus upon my Brethern that love the Lord but who have not been trained in how to deal with the guilt. I want them to know what guilt is and how to handle guilt so as to get rid of it once and for all. In doing this they will become more productive people in the kingdom of God.
So what is guilt? Well one thing it is not is a feeling. While it is true one may, and often does, sense a feeling of guilt over sin and wrong doing it is not guaranteed. If one does not feel guilty he or she has still done wrong, is guilty, and therefore liable and culpable for the sin committed. Therefore guilt is the state of having committed wrongdoing or sin. Guilt is a judicial standing. Simply put, a person is guilty no matter how one feels. For example someone that steals a fifty dollar bill and is enjoying an evening at the local pub in drink and dance may not be "feeling guilty" but he or she is guilty and culpable. They have sinned against and offended a holy God.
Guilt not gotten rid of causes people to do many strange things. For example, have you ever been driving down a major highway at 78 miles per hour and see a police officer going down a side street? What do you do? You get on the brake! Even though he or she is not coming for you you hit that brake. Know why? Your guilty! Guilty people distort reality. Reality = not being pursued therefore no real reason to hit the brake. Does this remind you of the passage found in Proverbs 28:1 The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion.

A person living with and in guilt will find many different problems in life. First as mentioned is distortion of reality. Guilty people, improperly dealing with guilt, do and tell all kinds of things in seeking to escape reality. We have heard this many times in the news from the lies of our countries President to "cover ups" and blame shifting by men and women in our local neighborhoods. Guilt, handled improperly, is one primary reason that social relationships become hindered. People who handle guilt improperly give Satan a "seat in their problematic life, "giving place to the devil" (Eph. 4:26-27).

Secondly, one that is that living with unrepentant sin and in guilt emotional and physical problems are experienced. While it is true that many illnesses are not traceable to sin in the sick person but are just a part of a cursed world because of Adam's sin. It is also true that the Bible is clear that in some instances, a sick person's illness is due to his own sin and guilt. Examples of this in the Bible include David’s experiences of pressure, restlessness, burdens, sadness, weakness, and worry. And also Paul’s instruction in the New Testament when he spoke of coming to the table of the Lord in an unworthy manner causing weakness, sickness and even in cases death. “For he that drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.” (Ps.32:1-5; 38: 1-8; I Cor. 11: 27­-32; Jas. 5:13-16 ). These things could send one to a medical doctor and potentially to a doctor of psychiatry for some wrongly dispensed medicine.

Now, perhaps you have sinned and though being guilty you are handling it wrongly. Guilt not handled properly escalates sin and puts a person in a downward spiral which causes all kinds of problems, of which some have been noted, even leading to serious depression. You may be reacting wrongly by setting up a “pity party” and getting others on your side to agree with you in what your did or are doing, Or perhaps you have running and hiding or staying busy in order to seek to hide your guilt. Perhaps you have gone so far to deny sin and even God in this area of your life. Each of these responses are wrong and will just cause further problems. For example, "getting people on your side" leads to gossip and deception; "pushing aside” or seeking to hide guilt feelings by staying busy affects the family and home life; and denying sin, God and his word is to live atheistically. Knowing this I ask if you find yourself doing sin and / or have sinned and have not handled your guilt properly: “Will you accept liability and culpability or will you distort reality by making excuses, blaming others, etc. and give Satan a beach head in your life and in the situation you find yourself in?”

In order to honor and glorify God we need to know how guilt is to be gotten rid of biblically. Our Lord wants us to live in peace and holiness and be protected from Satan in the kingdom of God. Therefore, to protect us from Satan and his devices, our gracious Lord Jesus has directed us that it is so important deal with guilt that one may even need to leave worship for awhile in order to get this taken care of - "leave your gift before the alter.... be reconciled.. come offer" (Matt. 5:23-26).

So then we how are we to specifically handle guilt and culpability from our sin and wrongdoing? One thing is for sure the Christian cannot go to the secular psychologists in order to understand how to properly handle guilt. Freud, Skinner, Mowrer, Rogers, etc. do not have the answers!. If one listens to these guys they just hear excuses which have an end result that guilt is not real but that it is a "feeling" that you have. Guilt comes from "a bad set of genes". You have "low self esteem" and need reconditioned with yourself. But God’s Word tells us what we are to do in handling our sin and guilt:
First, God’s people need to acknowledge is that God is holy. God will not “hold him guiltless” who does wrong for the wrongdoer is without excuse. (Ex. 20:7; Rom 1:20; 2:1; 2:14; 3:9-12,19,23)

Second, God’s people are to see guilt that comes from breaking the law of God as a friend since as a schoolmaster, the law calls out to us to bring us to Christ and His forgiveness. (Gal 3:24; Rom. 5:8)

Third, assume the guilt. Do not run and hide, make excuses, lie, etc. Agree with God that what you have done is against Him and his word. To continue to seek to cover the sin and wrongdoing leads to further problems. It can lead to broken relationships, distorted living, Church discipline, depression, and all the problems which that causes. Those that assume the guilt and confess find peace, forgiveness and mercy. (Prov. 28:13; 51:4; 1 Jn 1:7-9).

Fourth, confess to the appropriate people. “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” (James 5:16) Now this is so important notice what our Lord said about it in relation to worship: “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. Agree with thine adversary quickly, while thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.” (Matt. 5:23-26)

Now if the sin was public your need to confess not only to any immediate people you wronged but also you must make public confession. Be careful to take note that confession needs only be made as far as the extent of the wrong doing and its known affects. As I have explained this to my children, think of an umbrella and if the people were not under the umbrella of wrongdoing then they don’t need to hear a confession. My wife and I drilled this principle into our kids as we taught them to deal with sin, guilt, confession and forgiveness in our family and in their lives.

Fifth, make any needed restitution. I remember one instance when a child twelve years old stole some Christmas gifts from a neighbor. Asked what to do the father correctly directed the child to confess and seek forgiveness. This was swiftly done. The child then made restitution by working for the family in order to work with theor hands to better the life of the family and to make restitution. Needless to say the child learned a valuable lesson about stealing, the blessings of forgiveness and the principle of making restitution in order to help their fellow man. We see Zaccheus as an example of a person following the law of God in making restitution. And Paul wrote to the Church of Ephesus acknowledging that believers are to practice restitution: “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.” (Eph. 4:28)

Sixth, change your life in two areas: 1. your thinking and 2. your behavior.

Think differently. You do not have to “beat your breast” nor crawl across pointed sharp gravels on your knees nor walk on hot embers. Therefore you do not have to live with guilty feelings. You have repented and done the works of repentance therefore you are forgiven. Now think forgiven! Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom. 6:11) And then “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor. 6: 9-11) You therefore can renew you mind living in the presence of the God of peace (Phil 4; Rom 12).

Change your behavior (put off / put on) in order that you do not perform the wrong doing. Now this takes practice but it can be done. Notice that the Answer to change is not to stop doing something but it is to replace it with good and godly living. This is the put off/ put on principle in Gods word that you need to grasp! Paul taught the Ephesians about this in the fourth chapter of his letter to them. Eph 4:22-24 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; (23) And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; (24) And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. He gives a clear example of this in the same contextual passage in several areas:

Communication – vs. 24 – 25, 29, 31-32 : And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Wherefore putting away (put off) lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor: for we are members one of another. … Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. …. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.

Anger - vs 26 -27; 31: Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: (27) Neither give place to the devil. ……. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice.

Stealing – vs. 28 - Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.

So whatever you did wrong the Bible has the sufficient answer to it so that you may put off the sin and put on God’s way of living in order to live holy and glorify God in your life.


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