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Lesson 5: Guilt *

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 purpose?

        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 Spirit?

      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 us.")

    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 humans.)

      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.
* Copr. 2011, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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