I had a believer friend of mine, let’s call her Audrey, ask me recently if she should still feel guilty for the sins she had committed in the past. I know Audrey. She is a Christian. But she has had a rough life. She was saved in the last couple of years and prior to that had lived a life of which, I know, she is ashamed. I asked Audrey about her guilt. I asked her if she had repented of those particular sins for which she still felt guilt. She assured me she had. Let’s turn to what the Scripture has to say about this topic:
1. Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? (Romans 8:33)
Ponder this question: who is allowed to accuse the Christian? Is it Satan? The person’s family? Their friends? Their past? No. Romans 8:33 answers that question; it says “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies.” The only one who has the right to accuse the elect is God Himself. But notice that in Romans 8:33, Paul sets forth that the One who is able to indict is the same One who justifies. Christian, our God who is the only One who can condemn us is the very God who, rather than condemning us, declares us to be righteous. This should be a great comfort.
2. Who is the one who condemns? (Romans 8:34)
While it is comforting academically to know that God does not eternally hold the sin of the believer against us, we often find ourselves asking the question: “Why do I still feel guilty?” For the Christian who has repented of a particular sin, the condemning feelings that remain are not from God; but rather they are from the flesh and from the devil. We know this because in Romans 8:34, Paul writes that we can have confidence that no one can condemn us because Jesus died, was raised, and is at this moment at the right hand of the Father making intercession for us. There is no prosecutor who can win a case against our Defense Attorney! Believer, Jesus Christ, who is God Himself, is the one who stands ready to defend you. In light of that, ponder the question: Who is the one who condemns?
3. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)
There is absolutely NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. If you are a Christian, you are in Christ. If you have truly repented, turned from your sin, and turned to God, then there is no longer any condemnation from God against you. Consequences may crop up, but you are not condemned, and those feelings of guilt and shame do not belong to you.
4. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36)
Christian, you are free. You have been set free by your loving God. While He uses guilt to convict us of our sin and drive us to repentance, once it has accomplished its purpose, we are free. If you are a Christian who has repented of past sins and still feels guilt for those sins, you should take that concern to God. Ask Him if there is any reason why you are still plagued by guilt. Look at what the Scriptures say about you being free in Christ (John 8:36), and about no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1). Remember, as it says in 2 Corinthians 7:10, “For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.” Once your guilt has served its purpose of leading you to repentance, do not allow it to become worldly sorrow that cripples you and only produces death.
5. But remember, you were dead in your sin. (Ephesians 2:1-3)
While we enjoy the reality of freedom in Christ, it is still vitally important that we remember our past and from where we came. Paul, who was writing to Christians, reminds them that they were formerly dead in their sin, living according to their flesh and were by nature enemies of God (Ephesians 2:1-3). Why does Paul bring this up? It’s not to make the Ephesians feel guilty, rather, he brings it up to remind them of the awesomeness of God. Ephesians 2:4-10 describes the glorious out-pouring of God’s mercy, kindness, and love to believers who were formerly rebels against Him. We must remember what God has saved us from, so that we never diminish the amazing miracle that is our salvation. Every Christian will tell you they never deserve to be saved, but our God is rich in mercy, and He loves us.
As I explained to Audrey, God does not hold grudges against His children. He loves us. He saved us “because of His great love with which He loved us” (Ephesians 2:4) and He saved us “so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7). Do not allow your guilt to keep you from being a useful vessel for your Savior. Live in light of the freedom that Christ has purchased with His own blood.