There’s a difference between true guilt and false guilt—and it’s big. There’s a difference between the condemnation that comes from our own expectations for ourselves, the expectations of others and Satan’s accusations versus conviction that comes from God. Can you tell the difference?
This post is part of a series on hearing God’s voice in everyday life. Sin is one of the things God talks to us about. But, God’s not the only one talking…
More and more I’m becoming convinced that God is not interested in external controls. He’d rather not control us and our behavior. Instead he would prefer we choose righteousness, justice and peace out of love.
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.“ (1 John 4:18) Could it be possible that God does not use fear of punishment to control people to do what he wants? This is a big topic with major implications for what we believe about God and the way people operate–too big for just one blog post. But, it’s important for discerning if it’s God speaking to us about sin.
Jesus responded to different people differently. His expressions of mercy surprised (and offended) many. So did his expressions of zeal about justice and judgment when things weren’t the way God intended – i.e. some of the ways he spoke to the religious and political establishment of his day (like Matthew 23). But no matter what the tone of his voice and the words he chose, the message about sin was the same: it hurts, kills and destroys you, others and the world. I don’t ever get the sense sin, even certain sins (depending on your subculture), are no big deal. Jesus even says our righteousness is to exceed that of the Pharisees (Matt. 5). Instead God’s understanding of how to bring about change and transformation particularly in terms of decisions, words and actions (our behavior) is not as predictable as we might think.
Take verses like Jeremiah 31:31-34: “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts…”; Romans 8: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…”, “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children…”; John 15:15: “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” and Hebrews 12:4-11.
Be careful in confusing God’s conviction about sin with the ‘false’ guilt that comes from not living up to our own or others expectations for us. We need to be particularly cautious in highly achievement-oriented cultures where love, acceptance, respect and opportunity are all based on how well you have performed. The expectations and definitions of performance can vary depending on the family system, church, school, wider community or culture. But the shame and guilt that comes with not measuring up is a different voice than God’s. The same goes with the accusations of Satan, who schemes to remind us of past mistakes and sins. If you have addressed these past sins already, sought forgiveness and restoration with God and those affected, then it’s not God. Regret is from the pit of hell.
God’s conviction is always accompanied by hope, by intimacy, and a sense that he is with us. How do you view God when it comes to conviction about sin? Here’s one way to tell: Picture yourself standing on one side of a great lake of fire that is your sin. This sin is death, keeping you from experiencing fullness of life with God, others and the world around you. Where is God? Is he on the other side of the lake telling you about your sin and how to get across to him? Or is he right next to you, looking at the lake of fire, your sin, with you, ready to deal with it together? There’s a difference…and it’s big.