Recognizing Unhealthy Guilt

Dear children, keep yourselves from idols. 1 John 5:21

The dictionary defines regret as a feeling of sorrow or remorse. Regret is experienced when one carries a sense of loss for a fault or act.

We are in danger when we get stuck in guilt carrying it as a form of penitence. Now I’m not dismissing the need to recognize our failures (sins). God recognized them. That’s why He sent Jesus, to deal with them.

Guilt becomes unhealthy when it becomes a method we use to punish ourselves for our past. This positions us as a judge, jury, prosecutor, and accuser at our own trial. Without knowing it, we’re attempting to hold a place in the trinity. As far as I can tell, all three positions are covered now and throughout eternity. The danger is this makes us responsible for cleansing ourselves of sin, which only Jesus can do. This is a form of idolatry because it is self focused. We become the source of forgiveness and cleansing which we earn through our actions. This makes us a competitor to and substitute for Calvary.  The Apostle Paul gave stern warnings against this false religion. He said this belief was a pollutant that spread disease.

Healthy guilt (brought about by the Holy Spirit, not ourselves), convicts us of sin with the intention of leading us to repentance and into forgiveness. God doesn’t want us living in guilt, He wants us living in grace.

Remember, God reveals in order to heal. Revealing is a first step of the healing process. As salvation occurs instantaneously, we should move immediately from the guilt of sin into repentance and grace. The only thing delaying us from moving out of guilt into grace is ourselves, and that’s idolatry.

Personal Response

  • Do you have any healthy guilt? Immediately repent and receive Christ’s forgiveness.
  • Do you have any unhealthy guilt that you are carrying as a penitence for your sin? Immediately stop, turn away from your idolatry, and turn to Jesus in repentance. Immediately receive His forgiveness, cleansing, and grace.
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