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Sabbath School Lessons on The Bible and Human Emotions
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Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 41 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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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!
- Guilt as Friend
- Read Genesis 3:5-7. Was Satan right when he said that
eating the fruit would allow Eve to know evil?
- Read Genesis 3:8. Why did Adam and Eve hide from God?
(They felt guilt.)
- 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
- What purpose would guilt have served if it
manifest itself before Eve ate the fruit?
- 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.)
- Read Genesis 3:12. Has Adam repented from his sin? (He is
blaming God and Eve!)
- Read Genesis 3:13. Has Eve repented from her sin?
- What positive purpose does guilt (God confronting us
about our sin) fulfill? (The goal is to bring us to
repentance and confession of sin.)
- Guilt as Enemy
- Read Genesis 4:8. When Adam and Eve heard that Cain had
killed Abel and that Cain was banished, do you think they
- Should they have felt guilt?
- Was guilt good or bad in this situation? That
is, would the feeling of guilt result in any
- Read Revelation 12:10. Who is the accuser of God's
people? (A reading of this entire chapter reveals that
Satan is the accuser.)
- Where has the accuser been sent? (He has been hurled
down to earth with the angels who followed him.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.")
- The Conscience and Guilt
- 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.)
- 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?
- Isn't our conscience controlled by the Holy
- 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.
- Read 1 John 3:21-24. How do we acquire a properly formed
conscience? (By the power of the Holy Spirit.)
- 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
- 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.)
- 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.)
- Read 1 Timothy 4:1-2. What kind of consciences do these
people possess? (Malformed consciences. Consciences
formed by demons and liars.)
- What comes to mind when you think of a conscience
"seared as with a hot iron?" (This is a scarred
conscience, an injured conscience.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- Who accuses us after that? (Demons!)
- Read Psalms 103:10-12 and Micah 7:19. Where does God put
our old sins? (As far away as possible!)
- 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
- Are you praising your merciful God right now?
- Right Confession
- 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.)
- What does it mean to have your sins "covered?"
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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?
- 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
- 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.)
- Have you ever sinned and thought the person you
sinned against punished you too harshly?
(Accept it for God approves of a 20% penalty
- 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
- 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.)
- 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?
- 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.