How do you explain feeling guilt as a Christian and accepting God’s forgiveness?
We can understand mentally the teaching of Jesus concerning forgiveness. After all, this is the same Jesus who teaches forgiveness to all of his disciples. We can know all sorts of verses about forgiveness and guilt.
Before we begin to follow Jesus, forgiveness is something we do and ask for to make society run better. But it becomes something wholly different when we become disciples of Christ. The opening volley of our relationship with God begins with receiving Christ’s forgiveness.
It’s an amazing and life-changing thing to experience the forgiveness of God as we enter into relationship with him. But what if we sin again? What’s the process for that? What are we after when we ask forgiveness more than once?
For most Christians that have spoken to me throughout my ministry, they believe they feel guilt every time they miss God’s mark. It shouldn’t be often that we sin against the Lord as we walk with him. First John 1 outlines our relationship and fellowship with the Lord.
The first thing we must realize is that we do not need to feel guilty if we sin against God. When Jesus died on the cross, he died in our place as a sin offering. The sin offering was also the guilt offering. In other words, Jesus takes away all of our guilt at the cross.
So what do we feel? The best way I can describe it is the silence of the separation from God. Sin still separates us from others and from God. When we understand that Jesus died on the cross as our guilt offering, we don’t need to feel guilt.
But we will feel the separation from God. When Jesus was on the cross, he took on the sin of the whole world. That moment he cried out from Psalm 22:1, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken (abandoned) me?”
Yes, this is a reference to Psalm 22, showing the image of Jesus on the cross and what he did for us there. When you read Psalm 22 you can’t help but notice the parallels to the gospel accounts of Jesus on the cross. But he must have also felt the separation from the Father. God is everywhere, and the Father did not leave him or abandon him when he was on the cross.
But he did have to turn his back. For all of eternity past, Jesus had never felt this before. So he cries out in that moment of silence and emptiness. Sin separates. When he became the sin of the world, he suffered the silence of God the Father for just that moment.
So the guilt we feel is actually the separation. Until we deal with any sin in our lives, we will feel that silence and that separation. It’s not to say that every time we feel silence from God or don’t hear him speaking to us that we have sinned.
Sometimes God hides his face for different reasons. But if sin is involved, we will feel that separation.. To deal with our sin is to go before God and ask his forgiveness. We repent and commit to walking with him again.
If we don’t deal with that sin, it will grow in our hearts, and they would begin to become calloused against him. This only leads down the road of apostasy and eventually loss of our relationship with him and salvation. We must deal with any sin in our lives before it grows.
The best part is that when we ask for God’s forgiveness, he readily gives it. After all, he gave it the first time. And he gives it every time. All we need to do is ask. You may not feel that you are forgiven, and you may try to beat yourself up for what you did. But God forgives and that is still part of the gospel even after we have heard and accepted it the first time.