Unlayering the Guilt You Feel

Posted by on Apr 1, 2013 in Blog Post | Comments Off on Unlayering the Guilt You Feel

While pastors become guides to helping others wrestle with and release their own guilt, rarely do pastors engage their own feelings of guilt in a healthy way. This affects our lives and ministries. If we want to help others find freedom from unhealthy guilt, and understand how God sees what we’ve done wrong, we have to walk this path in our own journey. We have to deal with our guilt in a healthier, God-honoring way.

split heart

<strong>Guilt emerges when we’ve done something that we perceive to be wrong toward God or someone else.</strong> And as human beings, whenever we wrong someone else, nothing less than paying that debt will relieve our guilty conscience. Part of the journey for every Christ-follower is to monitor more deeply the unhealthy and unnecessary guilt that we harbor and ruminate over. Too often, we allow shame to get lodged in our heart, and shame is never productive. We lose sight of Jesus’ sacrifice to redeem us, and that it’s more than just a ticket to get to heaven, although that’s a remarkable and eternal gift. God invites us into a journey of the deepest kind of forgiveness that ultimately leads us to freedom in this life and the next. It is our responsibility to engage that quest toward forgiveness and freedom, by rooting out the shame and guilt that gets embedded inside.

<a href=”http://www.stevesaccone.com/?attachment_id=1100″ rel=”attachment wp-att-1100″><img src=”http://www.stevesaccone.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/split-heart-300×200.jpg” alt=”split heart” width=”300″ height=”200″ class=”alignleft size-medium wp-image-1100″ /></a>

<strong>When it comes to getting relief from our guilt through Christ,</strong> the practice of confession is one spiritual discipline that can guide and accelerate our pursuit. However, when confession remains at a surface level, or a simple cognitive exchange between us and God, it falls short of doing what God ultimately intended it to do. My way of confession for years happened simply by quoting 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” In essence, I thought, “If I sin, I simply need to admit it and remember that God forgives me. Then I can move on.” Seems simple enough.

<strong>But when I followed the trail of this thinking,</strong> I found that my tendency was right before I was tempted to sin, I’d think to myself, “I’m aware that what I’m about to do is wrong, but if I do it, I’ll just confess it to God and I’ll be forgiven and all will be good between us.” In my own life, this became a Bible verse that I distorted to use for my own selfish advantage, to support my own sinful habits. Truth is, this way of confessing isn’t focused around change. It’s primarily about relieving guilt and feeling better.

<strong>When the Scriptures use the word confession,</strong> it’s directly associated with change. And, the idea of confession leading to change is interconnected with the biblical concept of repentance. Simply put, repentance is about recognizing the error of our ways and turning around to go in the opposite direction. Confession is not intended to take the place of repentance; rather it is to be the first step toward repentance, toward true change in Christ. In addition, confession isn’t a singular moment, but must become an ongoing pattern in our lives if we want to continually live in the grace and forgiveness of Christ.
To take confession and repentance one step further, the Scriptures reveal the human tendency for us to hide our most shameful sins. That’s partly why James tells us to practice communal confession: “confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:15-16). When we keep sinful secrets from others and refuse to surrender them before God, our guilt doesn’t go away. We may find ways to ignore or temporarily numb our guilt, but it’s still there. If we choose this path, we’ll never know freedom.

<strong>Unfortunately there are far too many of us who live bound up with guilt and shame. </strong>That’s why if you consider yourself someone who desires to lead the church forward into a better future, I plead with you to get this right—to implement the practices of confession, communal confession, and true repentance that lead you to real change and authentic freedom. The health of our churches, ministries, and our very lives will be determined in large part by the health of our own heart.