God never intended that we live under the weight of guilt. It is the great deceptive tool of the enemy to weigh the heart down with thoughts of “you’re not doing enough”, “you have failed too much to be favored by God”, “you owe God more”, and “you can’t be blessed until you clean up your life.” Sadly, many Christians carry around this weight assuming it is right and actually from God.
The cross of Jesus Christ stands forever as the clearest picture that God never intends for us to live with guilt. Today, we take a look at 8 dangers of carrying the weight of guilt in our life.
1. Guilt will cause you to live in continual awareness of your failures
Guilt focuses on failure. It is not concerned with love, acceptance, or forgiveness. It points at a standard, then points at how we missed it. Guilt turns our focus to what we’ve done wrong, what we should not have done, what we should have done, what we need to make sure we don’t do today, what we need to make sure we do today, etc.
This is not the kind of life that Jesus died for! The Law of God revealed the ultimate standard. When we see the Law we see our inability and failure. We see our sin and we experience guilt.
The beauty of the story of God is that Jesus came to fulfill the Law and take our guilt upon Himself! Those who think they have to continually do something to pay for, sacrifice for, or make themselves feel bad enough about their sin live in a constant awareness of failure and as a result, guilt. Jesus’ death was final payment. No more sacrifices are needed. No more payment has to be made. We can believe and receive that we are cleansed for all time! We no longer have to carry and experience guilt!
The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. Hebrews 10:1-2
2. Guilt will make you think you have to pay for your failures
Guilt is a heart and mind conclusion that says something must be done to pay for our failure. Most people don’t have to be convinced that they have failed. Where people struggle is in believing that their failures have been paid for by Jesus and that God is no longer angry with them. When we don’t believe in Jesus’ payment for our sin, then we feel like we must somehow make ourselves pay. People go about this in many different ways: self-put-downs, extreme treatment of their bodies (exercise for example), binge eating, cutting, and for some suicide.
God never intended that we would have to carry the weight and responsibility for our sin. We are incapable of relieving ourselves of that burden. The wonder of Jesus is that He took all of our sins upon Himself so that we would not have to pay for them.
But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. 1 John 3:5a
3. Guilt will make you selfish
Guilt draws my attention to me. Guilt makes me obsess over what I need to do, should not have done, had better not do, etc. Guilt makes me focus on me. When I am focused on what I “ought” to do and “ought not to do”, I have no ability to see the needs of others, be patient, be gentle, be loving, be sacrificial, or serve others.
My best actions toward others are out of obligation, requirement, responsibility, and duty. I do because of my guilt.
The beauty of the New Testament message is that God has shown us His full favor (grace) and that we can experience it by believing it is ours (by faith). He has caused the requirements and standards of perfection to be met in us! When we believe, we no longer have to carry the weight of guilt or the demands to have to be righteous enough to have His favor!
For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us Romans 8:3-4a
When it becomes a personal reality in us, it completely inverts our heart! It frees us from the obsession over our faults and creates a new obsession with what Jesus has done for us! It ignites love within us for God and others! Guilt ignites selfishness. Faith ignites love!
4. Guilt will cause you to miss the wonder of Jesus
Guilt blinds. Because it is focused on failure and what I must do to get rid of my guilt, I become blind to the wonder of what Jesus accomplished on the cross. The cross happened so that we might see it when we sin. Not that we would see it and feel greater shame, guilt, or need to have to repay. The cross happened so that with every sin we might by humbled and overwhelmed at the lavishness of forgiveness that happened there.
Jesus’ message was that sinners could know forgiveness, acceptance, and the gift of righteousness. His message was freedom from guilt, performance, the need to make our own righteousness, the need to have to live under the weight of our failures, the need to have to beat ourselves up for our sin.
Many Christians spend their entire lives unable to believe in the fullness of the cross. They live under the weight of trying to do better. They think greater blessing awaits them on the other side of their ability to not sin again. They believe God is withholding from them, is out to teach them a lesson, and is continually disappointed with them.
They live blind.
Peter, a man acquainted with the feelings of guilt and failure writes in the New Testament about the joy of knowing the fullness of Jesus’ forgiveness and righteousness. He says that those who live believing in His lavish gift will experience even greater wonders in knowing Him. Those who don’t however will live blind and in guilt.
Because they feel it is their responsibility to beat themselves up over their sin and make themselves do better, they live blinded by guilt.
For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins. 2 Peter 1:8-9
Live believing today! Live humbled by the overwhelming gift you have been given! Listen carefully to the voices that speak to you in your heart! The One that speaks love, forgiveness, acceptance, and intimacy is God! The one that accuses, condemns, and points at your failure is not!
Tomorrow we continue with the remaining 5 dangers of living with guilt!