Moving now from shame to guilt, let’s review. Guilt is, “I have done something wrong.” Shame is, “I am something wrong.” Shame is never who we are after our conversion to Christ. Guilty, on the other hand, is who we are when we sin. Or are we?
Understanding guilt is an important piece of understanding our salvation. Prior to accepting Christ, we were are all guilty. We were sinners in Adam and we were sinners in our actions. We were guilty on both counts. But Christ took our guilt upon Himself when He died on a cross in our place. The concept of substitution – Christ dying in our place – is at the heart of the gospel’s message of redemption. Christ died for our sins.
The beauty of the love, grace, and mercy of God is that all the guilt related to our sins goes away when we embrace the gospel message of Jesus Christ. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1). “Having forgiven us all our transgressions, having cancelled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Col 2:13-14).
Your sins are forgiven; past, present, and future. Does that mean that there is no guilt for the sins we commit today? After all, believers do sin. Believers are still tempted. And, at times, we give in to the temptations of our enemies of the flesh and the devil and we sin. But sin is not compatible with our new identity in Christ, not fitting with the Holy Spirit who lives inside. So our spirit, in union with the God’s Spirit, recognizes when we go astray.
When we do sin, the Holy Spirit prompts us, and we change our mind about that action. We change our mind about the righteousness of that action. When we sin, we agree with God’s word and direction that it is sin. And we believe that by the covenant of God made to us through Christ Jesus (the New Covenant), that sin is forgiven. Your guilt has been removed.
When we fail to believe God’s promise that our sins are completely forgiven, we are under the chain of guilt. When we aren’t really sure if God’s forgiveness is complete, we play these bizarre scenarios in our head, “Am I still paying the price for attending a séance as a teenager or for wishing my classmate dead when they cheated me out of my first place award or ___?” … you fill in the blank from your past. These sound crazy, but trust me, when we fail to believe and embrace and live into all of God’s promises regarding our forgiven guilt, we can be hamstrung by some crazy ideas. Let the chain of guilt go. Move on in the grace, freedom, and joy of who you are in Christ. There is no more “paying for your sins” to be done. By God’s grace, by His free gift, you are forgiven.