Having racked up more than a million miles on three airlines, I have met a lot of people on planes. Every single time, our conversations came around to how they weren’t happy in their lives. As I shared that I grew up in a religious tradition that put a lot of focus on guilt, without fail each person leaned in to hear more.
It became clear to me that we all tend to hold onto guilt. And we so desperately want to be free of it. Read on to learn the two simple steps I shared with them for doing just that!
Self-Imprisoned By Our Guilt
In my chats with my fellow travelers, I was amazed to hear that they, too, had been raised under the dark, stormy clouds of guilt and shame. They would ask me the denomination I was raised in, but I kept it hidden, for one reason: I don’t think it’s fair to blame a denomination or specific church, when it’s individuals — myself included — who chose to sin.
Instead, I told them that what mattered is that I knew how they could get rid of their guilt. For good. Of course this piqued their interest, as they were suffering from not knowing how to resolve their guilt.
Some had tried self-medication with drugs, alcohol, work, or sex. Others had tried to find an emotional salve. But no matter what they tried, their results were temporary. Some told me they heard a nagging voice continually whisper that they’d done wrong. Others heard a shouting voice that got right in their face.
So how do we get rid of this condemnation? We turn to God. He did not create us to be weighed down by guilt. Which is why He has given us two simple steps to remove it: confession and repentance. Let’s look at what these words mean, and how our two actions differ.
The first step is our confession that we have sinned. We have to name it, own it, and confess it.
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight. (Psalm 51:3-4)
At its core, sin is our thoughts and actions that are against God. God is light, love, and purity. As God is holy, our sin revolts Him. Let me use the analogy of a dirty sock. Imagine a surgeon, all sanitized, gowned, gloved, and prepped for surgery, stooping to pick a dirty sock off the ground as he heads into the operating room. It would revolt us if the surgeon then approached the patient and began the surgery without again sanitizing his hands.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
Our confession shows God that we recognize the dirtiness of our sin, and that we’re ready to repent of it so that it doesn’t stand between us and Him. We need to remember that our sin hurts God, because He is holy and incapable of sin. We feel guilt because we intuitively know that we’ve wounded Him by our sin. But, amazingly, God never turns away from us! At any point, because of Jesus’ great sacrifice, we can confess and walk free of our guilt and shame.
Our confession is our agreeing with God that we have sinned. Our repentance goes a step further: We turn from ourselves to respond to God. You and I can know that we have experienced repentance when we gain new understanding that leads to our living differently, on purpose, for Him.
Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. (Luke 3:8)
Our repentance is more than our saying we’re going to change. It’s our being intentional to actually change. Despite the pull of our sinful nature, we can commit to aligning our thoughts, words, and actions with God’s nature and His expressed will revealed in His Word. God knows this is hard for us, which is why He offers us continual grace. There are no loopholes. Jesus has provided our guarantee!
I can tell you that even when I’ve got confession and repentance down pat, I recognize there’s no guarantee that I won’t sin again. But there is great power and strength in seeing my sin in the light of the cross. This motivates me, more than anything else, to live my life in loving response to Him. Because I know how much He loves me — and how much I truly desire to please and honor Him — I stay willing to do the humbling work of confession and repentance. I encourage you to do the same!
Our ongoing process of sanctification is not enjoyable. But we can experience the JOY of being freed of our guilt as we take these two simple steps. Walk free of your guilt today!
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