The Truth Test When Feeling Guilty

“Have I truly repented of my sins?” You may want to take a close look at a specific memory that is flooding you with guilt. Then put it to this test.

  1. Have I already confessed this sin?
  2. When did I confess it?
  3. Was I truly sincere?
    Have I been completely honest with God?

If the answer to all these is yes, then you can stand on the promises of 1 John 1:9, John 8:36, and Romans 8:1.

Are You Punishing Yourself with Guilt?
Do you look at problems in your life today as God’s punishment for past sins? When sickness or a financial setback comes into your life, do you see this as God’s way of making you pay. Or perhaps you have heard someone say, “God, what did I do to deserve this?”

Not all your problems are the result of your sins. When Saul (later called Paul) had his en-counter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, God sent Ananias to pray for him and give him a message from God: “I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” (Acts 9:16 NIV)

Paul could have lived with guilt for the rest of his life as he remembered the Christians he persecuted. The vivid memories of Stephen being stoned to death could have haunted him as he reminded himself that he did nothing but watch and approve of that death.

But Paul chose to look at life from a new point of view — God’s. He said, “I have learned to be content in whatever state I am in.” (Philippians 4:11-13) He recognized he had been a sinner — in fact, he described himself as the worst of sinners. (1 Timothy 1:16) But he walked in the freedom Christ provided.

Paul speaks with bold confidence that God’s power would see him through every difficult circumstance he faced.

God Does Not Use Guilt to Punish His Children
You may find it easy to pound yourself with guilt as you recall past failures or sins. But God only uses guilt to motivate us to come to Him and confess our sins.

Once those sins are forgiven, He does not use guilt to punish us, no matter how serious the sin. See Romans 8:1.


Copyright © 2000, 2006 By David Batty. Used by permission.
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So Why Do I Still Feel Guilty?

Satan wants to rob you of God’s peace and joy. He comes with false guilt, which feels exactly the same as true guilt from God.

So how can I know if I’m feeling true guilt from God or false guilt? How do I know if I’m living with guilt that doesn’t belong to me?

You must use God’s truth to evaluate your feelings of guilt. You must examine your heart and ask, “Have I truly repented of my sins?” You may want to write down the specific memory that is flooding you with guilt. Then put it to the truth test.

  1. Have I already confessed this sin?
  2. When did I confess it?
  3. Was I truly sincere?

Have I been completely honest with God?

If the answer to all these is “yes,” then you can stand on the promises of 1 John 1:9 and John 8:36. If you confess your sins, He promises to forgive and cleanse you — not 2 months from now — immediately.

If you have any doubt about the sincerity of your previous confession — confess it again and then instantly claim God’s peace and forgiveness.

When I was a teenager, I committed a sin one day. Before I went to sleep that night I prayed and confessed my sin. In the weeks and months that followed, the memory of that sin would come back, and with it, waves of guilt and condemnation.

Four or five times in the weeks that followed, I confessed that sin again. But every time the memory returned, the guilt came too.

Finally one day it dawned on me, “I have confessed this sin as sincerely as I know how. I have turned my back on this sin — I’m living in obedience to Jesus. I’ve got to accept the reality of God’s forgiveness and recognize this guilt is not from God. Then it must be from the enemy.”

Don’t Ignore the Guilt
When I came to this point of accepting God’s truth, I didn’t ignore the guilt and condemnation — I faced it. “Yes, Satan, I did sin in the past, but God has forgiven me. And I choose to live in His forgiveness and peace. So thanks for reminding me of God’s mercy in my life.”

The power of that old memory was broken. Every time it returned I didn’t try to ignore it, I repeated God’s truth in relation to it-reminding myself and the devil of God’s response to my past sin. The power of guilt was broken. Today the memory of that sin no longer robs me of God’s peace.

So why not just ignore the guilt? Because it may be from God. I need to say as David did in Psalms 51, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” (Psalm 51:1-2 NIV)

If I can identify a sin that I have not confessed, then I need to use that very moment to specifically confess that sin and make a commitment to turn from that activity and follow Jesus. I need to repeat God’s promise of 1 John 1:9 and stand on His promise to forgive me and cleanse me from all unrighteousness.

If the memory of that sin returns, and with it waves of guilt and condemnation, I need to reject those feelings-they are not from God.

A freshman in Bible college had guilt dumped on him by a friend. This difficult relationship continued for weeks. He said, “I have to keep rehearsing the facts because if I listen to my feelings, I just get confused.”

You may ask, “Why can’t I shake these feelings of guilt?” Past failures still haunt you with guilt. You’ve confessed your sins, perhaps many times, still the guilt persists. Keep repeating God’s truth-the enemy will not quit just because you win one battle — he will come again and again. He will whisper in your ear, “If your sin was truly forgiven, you wouldn’t feel any guilt today.”

You must stand on the words of Jesus, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32 NIV) False guilt loses its power when we understand God’s truth and apply it.

Not Just for Sins
Satan can pound us with guilt for things that are not even sin. I once went into a bank to cash a check and deposit part of it in my bank account. After the teller had completed the transaction, I realized I wanted a little more deposited, so I asked him to change it. He did. Driving away from the bank I felt condemnation and guilt.

Why?

The enemy doesn’t need a good or logical reason to pound us with guilt. He will use anything! Several times in the next few days the memory of that bank transaction flooded me with guilt. Finally I said to myself, “Wait a minute Dave, you did not lie, or steal, or cheat the bank. All you asked was a change in your deposit.” It took less than twenty seconds to make the change! “This guilt is not from God — recognize its source! Respond with God’s truth.”

The power of that guilt was instantly broken. Not by rebuking the guilt or Satan, but by focusing on God’s truth as it related to this specific situation.

James offers practical advice on responding to the devil’s attacks. “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.” (James 4:7-8 NIV) The most powerful way to resist the devil is to come close to God-close to His truth, His promises, His forgiveness, His peace.

We can’t change our past, but we can use our past to meditate on God’s truth. The promise of Romans 8:1 to be free from condemnation is for each child of God, not just the super saints! We have a young lady at Teen Challenge whose mom died when she was 16 years old. Since that tragedy, she has carried guilt — she felt responsible for her mom’s death. Many children feel responsible for the divorce of their parents. This guilt is not from God.

Don’t let the power of other people’s condemnation rob you of God’s peace. Fix your eyes on Jesus — He is not a condemning God.

When the woman caught in adultery was brought before Jesus (John 8) her accusers verbally pounded her with guilt. Jesus-slow to respond-said “If any of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7 NIV) When Jesus stood to face her, he asked, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She replied, “No one, sir.” Jesus responded, “Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:11 NIV) When another woman quietly reached out through a noisy crowd and touched His garment, she experienced miraculous healing. (Luke 8:42-48) “Who touched me?” Jesus asked and then repeated His question.

The woman came forward trembling, admitting that she was one. He tells her “Go in peace!” Jesus doesn’t send us away with guilt or condemnation, He sends us out in peace.

As your memory movies play uninvited scenes of horrible sins, you can respond with God’s truth and refuse to give room to condemnation. No matter how often the reruns play, you can still go in peace.

Put God’s sound track to these old reruns. “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!”

Romans 8:1 offers a simple promise for each child of God — “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” We can live free of guilt.

The only legitimate place guilt has in our life is from the moment we sin until we confess that sin. Guilt can be a very temporary part of our lives.

What can be a permanent part of our lives is God’s peace-His love, His mercy, His kindness, His loving, encouraging presence. We are not perfect, but we are forgiven.


Copyright © 2000, 2006 By David Batty. Used by permission.

Are You Living With Guilt That Doesn’t Belong To You?

Have you ever had someone say to you, “What kind of Christian are you?!? I thought Christians are supposed to help people in a crisis.” These words of condemnation can pierce the heart of one who has a desire to please God.

Sometimes parents put guilt on their children. One young girl told her mom that dad was sexually abusing her. Mother’s response, “Don’t you dare tell anyone about this! Do you want to be the one to send your daddy to prison and leave us with no food and no place to live?”

Living with guilt that doesn’t belong to us is a problem that robs Christians of the joy and freedom Jesus offers. Romans 8:1 states, “There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” But this simple promise seems like an illusive dream to those living with guilt.

Guilt from Others
Beth grew up in an alcoholic home, even the dog drank beer. Her parents gave her beer when she was only six years old. All through her teen years, alcohol was her constant companion. After high school she joined the Air Force. Then her mom met Christ, a commitment that grew deeper each year.

Beth came back home a drug addict and soon became a mother with two small boys. She used guilt to get money from her mother, “Look at the way you raised me! The way I am today is your fault!”

Guilt pierced the mother’s heart-and she often gave Beth whatever she asked for-money, assistance for the two small grandchildren, bailing her daughter out of jail.

Many times those we love the most are placing guilt on us that doesn’t belong to us. Some are experts at making you feel guilty if you don’t rescue them in their times of crisis.

Guilt from Your Past
Some of us don’t need any help from others to be flooded with feelings of guilt and condemnation. We look at our past failures and condemn ourselves. We have men and women coming to Teen Challenge who remember how they got other young people hooked on drugs. That guilt is multiplied when they see those young people die because of their addiction or become infected with the AIDS virus.

Ralph came to Teen Challenge after twenty years of drug addiction. He made several attempts to get his girlfriend into Teen Challenge. He felt tremendous guilt because he got her hooked on drugs. His newfound freedom in Christ was smothered in depression as he recalled the days of his past.

Does the guilt grow stronger the more you try to grow closer to God? You may face the repeating memory of past sins, and each time the movies play in your mind, waves of guilt and condemnation flood your heart.

But are you living with guilt that doesn’t belong to you?

You say, “Look at what I did! I deserve to feel guilty. I knew better, but I did it anyway.” So you pound yourself with guilt and condemnation. It may be guilt for recent sins or for sins of the past.

What does God say about this guilt? Romans 8:1 makes a simple declaration—“There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

So why the confusion?

Christians live with guilt that doesn’t belong to them?

We live by our feelings instead of God’s truth.

When we feel the flood of guilt, we assume God agrees with our feelings. “I deserve to carry this guilt. Look at what I did!

How terrible!”

Does God use Guilt?
Oh yes. Guilt from God is a consequence of unconfessed sin. He uses it as a loud warning signal in our heart that we have a sin problem.

The solution is simple, “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 NIV) The words of Jesus reinforce this, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36 NIV)

Once we have confessed our sin, God will no longer use guilt or condemnation to remind us of ourpast. He wants us to enter His freedom, His peace-completely free of condemnation.

The familiar and much loved promise of John 3:16 is followed by this powerful declaration. Jesus said, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned.” (John 3:17-18a NIV)

True guilt is designed to lead us to repentance which leads us to God’s peace in our hearts.


Copyright © 2000, 2006 By David Batty. Used by permission.

Tunya Adams – Making A Difference In Cynthiana, Kentucky

We are overjoyed to introduce Tunya Adams, our Living Free Ministry Award recipient for 2016. We love to highlight community servants and Tunya and her team are having much success using Living Free in her church plant and local community. We had the opportunity to speak with her about her start, her vision, and her advice on making an impact in your community.

When did you first become involved with Living Free?

Actually we began praying about getting involved with Living Free (Turning Point at that time) over 15 years ago. To become leaders, we were required to do the one day training and the Insight 10 week class. During that class I learned so much about myself and the needs of our community, but it wasn’t until 2008 that we did another training as a part of our Church Plant when we saw it take off. So we’ve been doing Living Free of Harrison County since March of 2009.

When did God begin to give you a vision for something more in your community?

When we started our Living Hope church plant in 2007, we knew we wanted to reach out to those hurting with addictions, but didn’t truly see the mission and vision until we opened up the church in the downtown area of Cynthiana. We were in the middle of it all.

God blessed our Living Free Ministry with His favor in our judicial system and community. We began to disciple and help people stuck in addiction and by 2016 we had helped over 163 individuals.

What were some of the steps you took to begin your Living Free Ministry?

We covered our efforts with prayer for many years, then our initial step was to start making contacts in the community so we could have a referral base. That’s when we started seeing God’s Favor. We met with any pastor, business or community leader that would listen to us.

What were some of the obstacles you faced?

The greatest obstacle was the spirit of religion here in our community. We have over 70 churches in our city with a population of 20,000. And that sounds great until you realize nothing has changed in most of those churches for 50+ years, so the people that attended and left those churches are just burn out on religion.

So we had to educate and demonstrate over and over that it’s about a relationship not a religion. Most churches still don’t see a need for this discipleship ministry, however the secular community has welcomed us with open arms.

What advice would you give someone who is looking to make a difference in their community?

  • Get to know your community’s needs. Don’t just assume you know them.
  • Schedule meetings with leaders, business people and religious leaders.
  • Get involved in your community before you start bringing anything to the table.
  • Prepare the people working alongside you, but go slow and prepare to stay awhile. Our community had seen many things start up and fall to the wasteside within a year or two. In order to earn the trust of the people, you have to have longevity.
  • And prepare for the success as much as you prepare for the setbacks. For example, don’t forget to celebrate the little victories out loud and to others. We sometimes can focus on just the setbacks and loose site of the ones we are truly helping. Not everyone will accept your help or care for your success in other people’s lives. But once you understand that, you won’t focus on the ones who reject your mission but on the ones we are ready to accept.

Does Media Play A Role In Addiction?

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As I worked a drug prevention program in public high schools a few years ago, I was surprised to hear the conversation [concerning the addictions] of rural area students very similar to the conversation of urban area students.

How could this be? What was the common link?

The link I found was the media. The media portrayal of illicit sex, drugs, violence, and the mockery of traditional family values is contributing much to our addictive society.

George Barna reports in his book, Absolute Confusion:

According to the American people, one of the big winners in the repositioning of influences has been the mass media. Six out of ten respondents told us that journalists and media personalities have more influence today than they did 5 years ago; only 1 out of every eight respondents said the media have less influence these days . . . Among the boomers and busters, the influence of the media was said to have increased rather than decreased by better than an 8 to 1 margin (26).

On November 27, 1995, in the Chattanooga Free Press, an Associated Press writer reported:

New York-In a virtual replay of scenes from the new movie Money Train, two men squeezed a flammable liquid into a subway token booth and ignited it, blowing it up and critically burning the clerk. ‘We know from experience that when you get movie and television depictions of criminal activity, it is often copycatted,’ Transit Authority President Alan Kiepper said after the explosion Sunday.

One of the best publications on the media’s influence is Youth and Drugs: Society’s Mixed Message published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In this publication, Todd Gitlin, Ph.D., says, “By their nature, the media reflect that culture [consumer-oriented thrill seeking] and have conditioned Americans to accept drug use as part of it” (Resnik, 31).

Other significant points in this book include: “In important ways, television, more than the other mass media, can be likened to a drug and the audience’s dependency on it to a kind of addiction. . . . For many people, television is a dulling, low-risk sort of drug. Many people, especially children, watch it in sort of a trance” (Resnik, 39).

Television can be experienced as both a stimulant and a depressant. Like ingested drugs, it is often combined with food or conversation. Viewers say it makes them feel “drowsy,” “weak,” and “passive” (Resnik, 39). People tend to turn to television when in personal difficulties and to binge on it (Resnik, 39).

Chuck Colson in his book, The Body, says, “While Scripture provided the most cohesive force in culture forty years ago, it seems that the base of common understanding and communication today is the television networks” (167). There is no question that television elevates pleasure and in doing so contributes heavily to this addictive society. It places a thirst in the individual to pursue pleasure without counting the cost. It is no surprise then that to abstain from television is to suffer withdrawal symptoms such as depression, insomnia, and chain-smoking (Resnik, 39).

Material from Understanding the Times and Knowing What to Do
Copyright © 1991, 1997 by Living Free, Inc. 
All Rights Reserved

Stages of a Life-Controlling Problem

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Vernon E. Johnson, founder and president emeritus of the Johnson Institute in Minneapolis, observed (without trying to prove any theory) literally thousands of alcoholics, their families, and other people surrounding them. He writes, “We came up with the discovery that alcoholics showed certain specific conditions with a remarkable consistency” (8).

Dr. Johnson uses a feeling chart to illustrate how alcoholism follows an emotional pattern. He identifies four phases: 1) learns mood swing; 2) seeks mood swing; 3) harmful dependency; 4) uses to feel normal. Many of the observations made by Dr. Johnson and others, including us, can also be related to other types of dependencies, although the terminology may differ.

In Living Free materials, these four stages are labeled: 1) experimentation; 2) social use; 3) daily preoccupation; and 4) using the substance or practicing the behavior just to feel normal. Not everyone progresses through all these stages, however there is no way to predict which people who begin the pattern will continue to stage four.

By the time people arrive at stage three, their developing life-controlling issues are clearly idols in their lives. They are beginning to suffer negative consequences from their involvement, but instead of slowing down in response to the pain, they involve themselves more deeply. They look to the behavior, substance, or relationship that is entrapping them for comfort or relief. Their delusion grows deeper until they no longer recognize the truth.

In the video, we looked at the stages an alcoholic typically goes through as drinking becomes a life-controlling problem. However, these stages can also apply to behavioral struggles. These are the stages people often experience with an eating disorder, a sexual addiction, and several types of emotional struggles. Although the actual name used for the phase may be different and the details may vary, what is important to know is that even though life-controlling problems take many forms, they develop along similar predictable patterns.

Adapted from Living Free Coordinator’s Guide, Jimmy Ray Lee and Dan Strickland, Turning Point, Chattanooga, TN, 1999, pp 40-42.
Used by permission