Introduction: One of my dear friends spent years in psychotherapy to
rid himself of guilt. Because my friend no longer had any active
Christian practice, when I saw him I would tell him that “guilt is
good,” when it comes to God troubling our hearts about our attitudes
and behavior. Ultimately, my dear friend decided that the best
course was to remove me from his life. What do you think, is guilt
good or bad? Revelation 12:10 calls Satan the accuser of the
brethren. Was I playing the role of Satan? When your conscience
bothers you, can you dismiss it as Satan’s attempts to discourage
you? Or, is it the Holy Spirit calling you to repentance? Let’s
plunge into our Bible and see what it teaches us about guilt!

  1. Guilt as Friend

    1. Read Genesis 3:5-7. Was Satan right when he said that
      eating the fruit would allow Eve to know evil?

    2. Read Genesis 3:8. Why did Adam and Eve hide from God?
      (They felt guilt.)

      1. Let’s explore this a minute. Eve wanted to know
        about evil, yet when she learned about it she felt
        guilty and hid from God. What purpose did guilt
        serve in this situation: a good purpose or a bad

        1. What purpose would guilt have served if it
          manifest itself before Eve ate the fruit?

    3. Read Genesis 3:9-11. If guilt is God confronting us about
      our sins, we have the curtains pulled back in this story
      so that we can see how this works. What is God doing to
      confront Adam with his sin? (He raises the specific sin.)

    4. Read Genesis 3:12. Has Adam repented from his sin? (He is
      blaming God and Eve!)

    5. Read Genesis 3:13. Has Eve repented from her sin?

    6. What positive purpose does guilt (God confronting us
      about our sin) fulfill? (The goal is to bring us to
      repentance and confession of sin.)

  2. Guilt as Enemy

    1. Read Genesis 4:8. When Adam and Eve heard that Cain had
      killed Abel and that Cain was banished, do you think they
      felt guilt?

      1. Should they have felt guilt?

        1. Was guilt good or bad in this situation? That
          is, would the feeling of guilt result in any
          good thing?

    2. Read Revelation 12:10. Who is the accuser of God’s
      people? (A reading of this entire chapter reveals that
      Satan is the accuser.)

      1. Where has the accuser been sent? (He has been hurled
        down to earth with the angels who followed him.)

      2. What does that suggest about Satan’s current
        activities? (That Satan and his angels are still in
        the business of accusing us of our sins.)

    3. Read Zechariah 3:1-2. What roles do we find here that God
      and Satan play in the accusing business? (Satan is
      accusing and God is defending.)

    4. Read Colossians 1:21-22. We have learned that guilt can
      help us to confess and turn from sin. We have also
      learned that guilt is a tool of Satan. What does
      Colossians tell us is the message of the gospel? (That
      accepting Jesus’ death for our sins frees us not only
      from sin, but “from accusation.”)

  3. The Conscience and Guilt

    1. Read 1 John 3:19-20. What does it mean to have your heart
      “at rest” or your heart condemning you? (“At rest” means
      no guilt, “condemning” means you feel guilty.)

      1. We learned that forgiveness of sin frees us from
        accusation, but what if our conscience still
        troubles us? Is God or Satan speaking to us?

        1. Isn’t our conscience controlled by the Holy

      2. What do you think verse 20 means when it says that
        “God is greater than our hearts?” (This suggests
        that we can have an ill-formed conscience – a
        conscience that does not reflect God’s will.

    2. Read 1 John 3:21-24. How do we acquire a properly formed
      conscience? (By the power of the Holy Spirit.)

      1. If we have a properly formed conscience, what role
        does guilt play in our life? (It is a guide. We need
        to be on full alert whenever “our hearts condemns

    3. Read 1 John 4:1-3. How do we recognize a false spirit
      speaking to us? (A false spirit does not acknowledge that
      Jesus is God who became human.)

      1. What has that to do with guilt? (Recall the gospel
        is that Jesus came to free us from sin and
        accusation! If your sin is forgiven, it is a false
        spirit accusing you.)

    4. Read 1 Timothy 4:1-2. What kind of consciences do these
      people possess? (Malformed consciences. Consciences
      formed by demons and liars.)

      1. What comes to mind when you think of a conscience
        “seared as with a hot iron?” (This is a scarred
        conscience, an injured conscience.)

    1. Read 1 Timothy 4:3-5. In what way are these consciences
      malfunctioning? Are they blind to sin? (No! These people
      call things sin which are not sin. These consciences are
      driven by demons to believe that good things are wrong.)

    2. Read Psalms 103:8-9. How long do you think our loving God
      accuses us? How long does our God bring guilt? (Until we
      confess our sins and accept His sacrifice for our sins.)

      1. Who accuses us after that? (Demons!)

    3. Read Psalms 103:10-12 and Micah 7:19. Where does God put
      our old sins? (As far away as possible!)

      1. Read Hebrews 8:12 and Hebrews 10:17. How can we be
        sure that it is the work of an evil spirit to make
        us feel guilty about confessed sins? (God doesn’t
        remember our sins! It could not be God who is
        troubling us.)

        1. Are you praising your merciful God right now?

  1. Right Confession

    1. Read Psalms 32:1-4. We have a snapshot of two pictures in
      time. When does King David feel blessed? (When his sin is
      forgiven and covered.)

      1. What does it mean to have your sins “covered?”

      2. When does King David feel badly about his sins?
        (Read Proverbs 28:13. Keeping silent about our sins,
        i.e., not confessing them creates problems.)

    2. Read Psalms 32:5. How does David go from the place where
      he feels badly to the place where he feels blessed? (He
      confesses his sin to God and God forgave him.)

    3. Read Psalms 32:6. What does David mean when he writes
      “when You may be found?” Is God not always present?
      (David suggests that we need to act promptly when it
      comes to the confession of sin.)

    4. Our first step towards a guilt-free life is to confess
      our sins. Read Psalms 51:4. My Bible has the marginal
      note that King David wrote this after he committed
      adultery with Bathsheba. How can David write that he
      sinned “only” against God?

      1. David also killed Uriah. Engaged his general in a
        conspiracy to commit murder. Undoubtedly he
        surrounded all of this with a mountain of lies. How
        is “God only” the correct term? (Sin is against God.
        Sin is forgiven by confessing to God – not to

      2. Why do so many people suggest that we need to
        confess our sins to others? (Read Numbers 5:5-7. No
        human can forgive us of sin. We confess our sins to
        God alone. However, God requires us to “make things
        right” with the person we have harmed.)

        1. Have you ever sinned and thought the person you
          sinned against punished you too harshly?
          (Accept it for God approves of a 20% penalty
          above restitution!)

    5. Read James 5:13-16. Assume that you gossiped about
      someone and they never knew it. Should you approach that
      person and say, “I’m sorry for saying terrible things
      about you?” (No. We confess to others only to “remedy”
      the sin. If a person never knew what you thought of them,
      confessing would create the very harm the commandment
      intended to avoid. It would remedy nothing. Instead, you
      should go to the person who heard you say this, and make
      it right.)

      1. Why, then, does James tell us to confess to each
        other? (Surely not to be forgiven. James describes
        how the church community helps us deal with
        problems. If we have an “accountability partner”
        (not the person who does not know of your sin
        against him or her)acknowledging our sins will help
        us to avoid them.)

    6. Friend, a properly formed conscience is God’s gift to
      help us avoid sin. If you have sinned, praise God that
      you no longer need to feel guilt over confessed sin! If
      you have unconfessed sin, why not confess it right now
      and leave the burden of guilt behind?

  2. Next week: Good Thinking.