Teaching Notes are Bible studies we taught before GraceLife Ministries began publishing articles online in 1995. Some were presented as sermons, others as group studies.
Our hope is that these older studies will be a blessing to you in your life and ministry. Please use them in any way God leads you.
These teaching notes are from a series of broadcast studies about guilt.
[These notes are from a radio broadcast study taught more than 40 years ago.]
One of the biggest problems Christian counselors hear about is guilt. Many Christians have difficulty accepting forgiveness from God, others or even themselves. On today’s broadcast we are going to address the problem of guilt. We will look at the signs of guilt, how guilt can affect you physically, mentally and socially, and we will state the reasons for guilt and begin sharing concrete solutions for guilt.
There are many signs in people’s lives that show they are plagued with guilt. Some people will be withdrawn in inter-personal relationships and avoid people. They will many times become very critical of other people and try to make excuses for not being with people.
- “All people are bad”
- “They’re just a bunch of hypocrites”
In reality they are using these vague generalities to hide the fact they are filled with guilt. Many guilt-ridden people dwell on the past and will question the motives of others. All of this leads to loneliness because of their withdrawal from people.
They will cry out, “nobody loves me!” When you tell them you love them they may say, “I’ll bet! Prove it! You’re just like all the rest. All you want to do is use me.”
They may think this way because they feel guilt over their lack of love for others and how they have used people for their own advantage. This will often lead to disorientation in priorities and values. They will emphasize little things and forget or ignore the big areas of their lives. They are often self-centered and easily condemn others.
Depending on the degree of guilt they feel, they may experience everything from muscular tension to shyness to touchiness to bitterness to suicidal thoughts and actions. They may be verbally or physically violent They may become physically, emotionally or socially paralyzed. They may experience rapid weight gains or losses. They may have severe headaches, hallucinations anxiety and ulcers. Guilt can literally destroy people!
There are two basic reasons why Christians think they are guilty:
- They don’t understand what God’s Word says about forgiveness
- They need reconciliation
Many new Christians are hung up with false guilt because they don’t understand temptation. Temptation is not sin. Christians are not sinning because they are tempted, tried or tested. We are all tempted.
It’s interesting to hear a group of Christians talking about a brother or sister who is being tried or tested. “I wonder what he did? It must have been a terrible sin. The Lord must be breaking him for something he did.”
Those comments sound like something Job’s friends said to him or what Jesus’ disciples said.
Jesus was ministering one day when He and His disciples passed by a man who had been blind from birth. The disciples turned to Him and asked, “Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” Their immediate supposition upon seeing a man blind from birth was that he or his parents had sinned against God.
This was a thoroughly Jewish question and showed just how much the disciples had been affected by the evil precepts of men. It was a common Jewish view that the merits or demerits of the parents would appear in their children. Certain sins of the parents could cause or result in specific diseases in their offspring. Notice Christ’s answer –
“Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be manifest in him.” John 9:3
The Lord was not teaching that this man or his parents had never committed a sin or didn’t have a sin nature. Jesus was answering their question in the context of what they were asking.
Before we judge someone and say they are experiencing trials or testing because of some sin they’ve committed, let’s think about the answer Jesus would give.
Let me repeat: temptation is not sin. Every Christian can expect to be tempted, tried and tested and every Christian can be victorious over them, in them or through them. Study 1 Corinthians 10:13 for more insight into this precious, practical principle of God’s Word.
Guilt and Forgiveness
What does God’s Word teach about guilt and forgiveness?
Romans 3:19 tells us that the purpose of the law is to demonstrate or show that all the world is guilty before God. The word “guilty” is literally translated “under judgment.” In Classical Greek it meant “brought to trial or liable to be tried.” God is the judge and the injured party. We could render the verse, “But we know absolutely that whatever things the Law says it says to those within the sphere of the law, in order that every mouth may be closed up and the whole world may become liable to pay penalty to God.” (Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, Eerdmans, 1955) Every man, woman and child of every race or every nation is guilty before God. John 3:18 says that the unbeliever is already condemned.
I remember seeing a tract that began with a question: “What must you do to go to hell?” When you opened the tract you read this word: “Nothing.” You don’t have to do a thing to go to hell. Every person is headed in that direction from birth. We have all sinned and come short of God’s glory and presence. We are all under the condemnation of God. We have already been judged and found guilty before God. Everyone will suffer the penalty of everlasting death in hell … unless.
We read in Romans 8:1 that “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” This means that there is not even one bit of judgment lying over the heads of those who are in Christ Jesus. Praise God! We stand justified before God. He is no longer our judge. He is now our Heavenly Father. How good it is to be a child of God!
We are free because of the effectual work of Jesus Christ on the Cross for us. We aren’t justified because we did anything to get out from under the wrath of Almighty God, but because Jesus Christ took our sins and God’s judgment on those sins upon His own body. Jesus paid the price for our sins and satisfied the judgment of God. There is nothing we have to do or can do to be saved. God has done it all – through His Son – the Lord Jesus Christ.
Romans 8:1 goes on to share that a child of God will not order his or her behavior in the sphere of the flesh, but in the sphere of the Spirit. This is not a commandment to the Christian, but simply a statement of fact. A true child of God is in the process of following the Spirit and will not be in an active process of following the flesh.
Please don’t misunderstand me. A Christian will have a battle with the flesh, but will not “order” their behavior in the flesh. You cannot be comfortable in sin and still claim to be a child of God. If you are living in some known and identified sin and it doesn’t bother you, yet you claim to be a Christian, then somebody’s confused. Either God didn’t mean it when He inspired John to write that the child of God will not habitually commit sin or you are still in your sin and under the law of sin and death. 2 Corinthians teaches clearly that a child of God is in a transitionary period from the moment they are saved. They are in the process of putting away the things of the flesh and are actively walking in the Spirit.
These may sound like harsh words, but listen for a moment to the words of John the Apostle: “Hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He that saith, I know Him, and keeps not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” Very simply John is telling us that if we do not as a habit of life obey God and His Word but claim to be His child, we are lying and are not saved.
The Christian life is a changed life. A changing life is proof of a saved life. No change — no life. Notice, I didn’t say “conformity” — I said “change.” Lots of people can conform to what they know they ought to be as a Christian, but that doesn’t mean they are changed.
When I was a young person, my family took me to church every Sunday and Wednesday and special meetings during the week. It was a Gospel preaching church and I heard the Word of God thousands of times in my early years. When I was ten years old I walked the aisle of the church and told the pastor I wanted to be saved. I filled out a card, answered questions, was baptized and added to the membership roll of the church. I conformed to everything they told me to do, but I wasn’t changed. The evil, wicked sin nature was still alive in my heart and soul. I claimed to be a child of God, but was still a child of the devil.
As the years went by I was always careful to do what every good Christian teenager was expected to do. I sang in the choir, went to youth meetings and activities, won many Sword drills, and was a leader in R.A.’s. I memorized Scripture and did everything else they wanted me to do. I even went to a denominational retreat during the summer and served as a staff member. I got up in front of my church and gave a testimony to how God saved me, but I wasn’t changed. I was still lost – dead in trespasses and sins.
My dear friend — have you conformed or been changed? The Christian life is a changed life. A changing life is proof of a saved life. Is there any evidence to prove and back up your profession of salvation? Or is it only words? Are you ordering your behavior in the sphere of the Spirit or the sphere of the flesh?
Heavenly Father, I pray You will speak to each radio listener today and ask them deep questions about their relationship with you. May they know we love them and You love them — most of all that You love them. Lord, if there is any person today who has been playing church with you and has tried to live the conformed life, please point out to them their sin. Lord, show them that they are now under the condemnation and judgment of Your righteousness. Show them, Father, their need for salvation — true salvation.
[Thank you for reading these teaching notes from more than 40 years ago. My prayer is they will be a blessing to you and your ministry.]