(Photo: In Touch Ministries)
Think about how you feel when doing something you know you shouldn't. Most likely a stinging conscience makes you realize that you feel guilty.
What is guilt? Perhaps you think of it as a nagging sense that the Lord is out to get you. Or you might feel isolated from God or others because of some dark cloud of regret. Obviously, there are different ways to interpret guilt; identifying exactly what it is will allow us to move ahead on the road to spiritual maturity.
When our behavior is in conflict with guidance from the Spirit of God residing in us, we will experience an emotional response. That's all guilt is: emotional pain caused by something we have done. Put another way, guilt describes our taking responsibility for doing wrong, whether it be a thought, action, careless word, or something else.
While it is good to have this inner alarm, we have to guard against the inclination to wallow in shame. At times we behave so badly that we're completely overcome with remorse, and we refuse to let the waves of regret pass by. We might punish ourselves by wading in those troubled waters for a while.
When these times come, we must remember that Jesus Christ has paid the debt for all our sin. This means that He has already paid the price of our wrongdoing, and we have been found "not guilty." As our sin lies dead at the cross, so does our guilt. While we must always take responsibility for our actions, we have the freedom in Christ to do so without the burden of unhealthy regret.