As Christians, we are aware of sin. We have sinned, we are sinning and we will continue to sin. These are realities of life, inescapable and undeniable. We all know that Jesus came to earth to overcome the burden of sin for all humans, but as believers, we often end up in a position where we feel guilt because of the sin we continually commit.

1 John 1:8 (AMP) – If we say we have no sin [refusing to admit that we are sinners], we delude ourselves and the truth is not in us. [His word does not live in our hearts.]

Romans 6:6 (AMP) – We know that our old self [our human nature without the Holy Spirit] was nailed to the cross with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin.

So how then should we, as Christians, interpret guilt? What is it meant for? Why did God create this emotion into us? What guidance does the Bible provide in dealing with guilt?

As a wholly inspired transcript of the Word of God, the Bible provides answers to these questions and provides multiple examples of how we can deal with guilt.

Where does guilt come from?

According to an article titled “The Definitive Guide to Guilt” in Psychology Today (Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D.), psychologists hold two views with regards to the origin of guilt – psychodynamic view (Freud) where guild acts as a defense mechanism to protect us from ourselves (if we knew just how awful our awful desires really were), wherein the cognitive perspective guilt is an emotion that people experience because they’re convinced they’ve caused harm. In the cognitive perspective, an emotional response follows on the intellectual “decision/conclusion” that we caused harm.

According to this article guilt can be observed as belonging to one of the following five groups:

Something you did.
Something you didn’t do but want to.
Something you think you did.
You didn’t do enough to help someone.
You’re doing better than someone else.

If this is the measure, then we can observe guilt very early on in the Bible.

Genesis 3:8 (AMP) – And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool [afternoon breeze] of the day, so the man and his wife hid and kept themselves hidden from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

It is important that we notice that this emotion existed before God punished Adam and Eve. It was therefore “built in” from the start and was part of the “original design”.

This would explain why like fear, anger, sadness, joy, disgust, surprise, and trust we experience guilt on a very deep level. The intensity to which we experience guilt as humans are therefore immense and we can “hold on” to guilt for extraordinarily long periods of time.

What is guilt meant for, and why did God create this emotion for us?

In its purest form guilt allows us to:

Develop compassion for others – taking the focus off ourselves
Identifies our wrongful actions
Drives us away from the behavior that causes feelings of guilt

Recognition that we did wrong, acknowledgment of wrongdoing, and then compulsively trying to avoid doing things that would end up making us feel guilty is fundamental to our social, environmental and even survival construct. This negative emotion drives every human into a position where they become “better” humans, Christian or not.

Guilt allows us to identify wrongdoing (sin) and then guides us to confession and repentance. This concept is central to all forms of Christianity. Details with regards to the process are interpreted differently by the various denominations, but in essence, all Christians have to face God and openly “discuss” their wrongdoings to obtain forgiveness (absolution). There are numerous Biblical texts that refer to the need to confess, repent and its benefits.

James 5:16 (AMP) – Therefore, confess your sins to one another [your false steps, your offenses], and pray for one another, that you may be healed and restored. The heartfelt and persistent prayer of a righteous man (believer) can accomplish much [when put into action and made effective by God—it is dynamic and can have tremendous power].

Sin and guilt – before salvation

The consequence of sin is exclusion from God’s presence. This reality is the death referred to (sometimes) interchangeably with the physical death incurred by humans as punishment as a result of Adam and Eve’s original sin. The reality and finality of both these consequences to sin represent unspeakable horror to everybody.

Throughout the Old Testament, God instructs persons to repent. It is important enough to be included in the laws of Moses and formalized. Note the use of – guilt offering.

Leviticus 5:5-6 (AMP) – So it shall be when a person is guilty in one of these, that he shall confess the sin he has committed. He shall bring his guilt offering to the Lord for the sin which he has committed, a female from the flock, a lamb or a goat as a sin offering. So the priest shall make atonement on his behalf for his sin.

Nehemiah 9:2-3 (AMP) – The descendants of Israel (Jacob) separated themselves from all foreigners, and stood and confessed their sins and the wrongdoings of their fathers. While they stood in their places, they read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God for a fourth of the day and for another fourth [of it] they confessed [their sins] and worshiped the Lord their God.

Even before Jesus started preaching John the Baptist said:

Matthew 3:2 (AMP) – “Repent [change your inner self—your old way of thinking, regret past sins, live your life in a way that proves repentance; seek God’s purpose for your life], for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

This makes the confession/repentance process one of the earliest themes of Jesus’ teachings and it remains a cornerstone message throughout the New Testament.

Sin and guilt after salvation?

Jesus commands an adulterous woman.

John 8:11 (AMP) – She answered, “No one, Lord!” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you either. Go. From now on sin no more.”]

Sin no more….

And to all Christians.

Luke 9:23 (AMP) – And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to follow Me [as My disciple], he must deny himself [set aside selfish interests], and take up his cross daily [expressing a willingness to endure whatever may come] and follow Me [believing in Me, conforming to My example in living and, if need be, suffering or perhaps dying because of faith in Me].

Must deny himself… Conforming to My example…

How are we – mere mortals – supposed to obey these commands? Irrespective of how hard we try, we cannot achieve this command.

Unless we understand that with the help of the Holy Spirit we can resist urges, desires, and thoughts that would lead us to sin and death.

Honestly, this is easier said than done…

And if you fail? Fail repeatedly?

What if I asked you to realize that your sin contributed to the pain, suffering, and misery that Jesus had to endure? Let’s say that it added one-millionth of a second…

Does that hit you in the guilt spot?

The guilt drove me crazy…

And then…

Guilt, sin, and Jesus

Revelation 1:8 (AMP) – “I am the Alpha and the Omega [the Beginning and the End],” says the Lord God, “Who is [existing forever] and Who was [continually existing in the past] and Who is to come, the Almighty [the Omnipotent, the Ruler of all].”

John 3:16 (AMP) – “For God so [greatly] loved and dearly prized the world, that He [even] gave His [One and] only begotten Son, so that whoever believes and trusts in Him [as Savior] shall not perish, but have eternal life.

Two very different concepts here, that combine to provide an astonishing insight.

Answer these questions and you will understand:

Are you human?
Was Jesus human?
Does He know what it is like being human?
Did He face temptation?
Did He willingly sacrifice His life to pay for our sin?
Did this sacrifice include you?
Do you believe that God selected you before you were even born?
Do you believe that Jesus was present during creation?
Do you believe that Jesus was present during your conception?
Do you believe that Jesus was present during your birth?
Do you believe that Jesus was there when you chose Him as your savior?
Do you believe that Jesus was, is and is to come?
If Jesus is timeless, does He know about all the sins you have already committed?
If Jesus is timeless, is He present when you commit sin now?
If Jesus is timeless, does He know of all the sins that you are still going to commit?
If Jesus is timeless, did He knowingly accept all your sin (past, present, and future) onto Him?

Please find the word continually in the passage below.

1 John 1:9 (AMP) – If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just [true to His own nature and promises], and will forgive our sins and cleanse us continually from all unrighteousness [our wrongdoing, everything not in conformity with His will and purpose].

Please find the “gift of God” in the passage below.

Ephesians 2:8-9 (AMP) – For it is by grace [God’s remarkable compassion and favor drawing you to Christ] that you have been saved [actually delivered from judgment and given eternal life] through faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [not through your own effort], but it is the [undeserved, gracious] gift of God; not as a result of [your] works [nor your attempts to keep the Law], so that no one will [be able to] boast or take credit in any way [for his salvation].

If you experience temptation, resist it with everything you have.

If you sin, you have to approach God, confess your sin, repent, and receive God’s mercy and do everything in your power to rectify the effects of your wrong-doing.

Psalm 51:12 (AMP) – Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit.

Guilt from “not doing/being enough”

Paul says.

1 Corinthians 4:4 (AMP) – I am aware of nothing against myself and I feel blameless, but I am not by this acquitted [before God]. It is the Lord who judges me.

This does not mean that Paul stopped sinning and it does not mean that he was blameless, that he felt that he “did enough” that he believed that he was “good enough”.

It simply means that he understood the love of God.

Romans 3:23 (AMP) – since all have sinned and continually fall short of the glory of God,

1 John 2:1 (AMP) – My little children (believers, dear ones), I am writing you these things so that you will not sin and violate God’s law. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate [who will intercede for us] with the Father: Jesus Christ the righteous [the upright, the just One, who conforms to the Father’s will in every way—purpose, thought, and action].

May the love, grace, and mercy of God fill you and guide your footsteps.

Originally posted on -

Author's Bio: 

Anton van den Berg is a normal person. I have no specialized theological training but I have led a life of hard and tough lessons. Like silver, I had to be taken to the furnace to get rid of a lot of impurities. In that process, I have learned to let certain things go, and to attach to other values. These posts represent some of the pivotal growth-moments in that journey. I hope that it would assist you on your journey in some way. May God Almighty, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit be with you.