Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

Guilt – Conviction – Grace

An increasingly popular view among Christians is that God does not want us to feel bad about ourselves. Since by God’s grace no condemnation awaits the believer, we often conclude that any feelings of guilt or remorse are an attempt by Satan to diminish our joy and spoil our delight in the Lord. Since God builds His people up and such emotions run counter to that objective, they cannot come from Him.

But we need to be careful. While the devil indeed uses guilt to demoralize us, a danger exists when we assume that feelings of remorse and shame never have a place in a Christian’s life; that they are contrary to a healthy faith. In fact, we do ourselves a spiritual disservice when we categorically dismiss such emotions as an attempt by Satan to render us spiritually ineffective. Scripture actually informs us those feelings play a critical role in our spiritual growth and maturation.

The apostle Paul wrote the following words to the church at Corinth, after learning of their sorrow over his first epistle to them: “For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it” (2 Corinthians 7:8, NKJV). His first message had made the church uncomfortable and led to feelings of grief, yet Paul doesn’t apologize for or regret his words. How could so prominent a church leader be so insensitive to the feelings of believers? Listen to his reasoning.

Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner. What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter” (vs. 9-11, emphasis mine).

Paul informs us there are instances when sorrow and remorse are appropriate. Indeed, he clearly asserts they represent a godly response to sin. Consequently, when he learned of the Corinthian church’s sorrow he rejoiced, because that sorrow led to repentance from the sins that had ensnared them. Whenever feelings of regret or guilt lead to repentance and the accompanying forgiveness, we too ought to rejoice.

Therein lies the distinction determining whether such emotions are healthy or unhealthy. When guilt surfaces for past sin from which we have already repented and received God’s forgiveness, we know Satan lies behind the attack and hopes to discourage and neutralize us. He loves to remind Christians of our past in a futile attempt to forget about his future. In such situations we should ignore our feelings of guilt and shame and instead rejoice over God’s mercy and forgiveness.

On the other hand, if such feelings are a product of unaddressed sin we’ve allowed to flourish in our lives – and from which we’ve never repented – then we know the Holy Spirit lies behind those pricks to our conscience. One of the critical roles the Holy Spirit plays in every believer’s life is bringing to bear conviction when we sin or toy with temptation. In such instances we need to confess our iniquity and ask God’s forgiveness. If we don’t, we risk becoming desensitized to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and suffering a slow spiritual decay.

Avoiding that outcome is one reason Paul tells us not to regret godly sorrow. It leads to salvation and a healthy relationship with Christ. In contrast, the world’s sorrow always produces death because it never recognizes the spiritual component of regret and guilt, and therefore can never properly address their root cause.

Take some time to examine the source of any guilt or shame you feel. Do not allow Satan to use those emotions to steal your joy and peace in Christ. But also resist the temptation to ignore them if they reveal the existence of ongoing sin. Remember, whenever we repent God extends His forgiveness.

Understanding the Bible: You Needn’t Be a Scholar to Comprehend God’s Truth.

Many people in the world today want to understand the Bible but feel entirely unqualified to unlock its truths. They believe only pastors or those with a seminary degree possess the requisite qualifications to fully understand God’s Word and the truths it contains. As a result, they spend little time reading and studying Scripture. Instead, they embrace as truth whatever message they hear on Sunday, at a Bible study, or on Christian radio. Perhaps some readers share that perspective.

If that’s you, I’ve got great news. Irrespective of your educational background, lack of training, or absence of credentials, you can understand the Bible without having to rely on others to tell you what a particular passage means, what insight God wants you to glean, or how to apply a specific verse to your life. How is that possible?

First, we need to understand that God reveals His truth through His Spirit. At the end of His ministry Jesus told the disciples, “when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will tell you things to come” (John 16:13, NKJV). Paul reinforces that truth in his epistle to the church at Corinth, saying: “God has revealed [His mysteries] to us through His Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:10, NKJV).

Scripture leaves no ambiguity on this point. It is the Holy Spirit that guides our understanding of the Bible and equips us with the wisdom to discern the mysteries of God. God’s truths are not manifested to the carnal man, no matter how much study he dedicates to them, because they are fathomed under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Paul declares, “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14, NKJV).

Jesus reinforces this point when he chastises those who refuse to repent despite hearing His teaching and observing His miracles. “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes” (Matthew 11:25, NKJV). Men and women with considerable intellectual heft failed to understand God’s simple truths but young children comprehended them with no difficulty.

This disparity confounds the world but makes perfect sense when filtered through Christ’s words. Jesus tells us that God reveals His truths and mysteries to whom He will and withholds them from whom He will. In this instance, God revealed them to young children and withheld them from those the world considered brilliant.

So do we sit back and do nothing to learn more about God and Scripture? Absolutely not. To ensure God opens the eyes of our heart to His Word, we must surrender our lives to Christ. Only then will the Holy Spirit come upon us and reveal God’s thoughts and truths. One of the reasons so few professors, scientists, and intellectuals understand God’s Word in any substantive way is that they refuse to embrace Christ and submit to Him as Lord. Pride prevents them from committing their lives to Him and accepting the simplicity of the Gospel; as a result God withholds spiritual understanding from them.

Additionally, we should read the Bible on a regular basis. That is critically important. Jesus told His disciples, “Pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given – and you will receive even more. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken from them” (Mark 4:24-25, NLT). The same principle applies to reading God’s Word. The more we read, the more understanding God gives us. And as we understand more, we will want to read more, and God will reveal more. And a virtuous cycle begins.

In contrast, if we rarely read the Bible or study its content, then God will remove from our hearts and minds what little understanding we have. Either we are building on our foundation of biblical knowledge or it is being dismantled. The status quo never remains.

As you head into this weekend, reflect on whether you are establishing a sound foundation in the wisdom, knowledge, and insight of God’s Word under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. If not, commit to reading your Bible on a regular basis and build it into your schedule so it becomes a habit. If you live in a part of the world where you do not have access to a church or Christian teaching, rejoice that God reveals Himself and His ways to those who read and study His Word, the Bible. You need only ask His Spirit to open your eyes and your heart to the truth.