Holding onto Guilt

Most Christians would readily confess that their sins are totally forgiven thanks to the atoning death of Christ, but most Christians I know still feel very guilty. Women in Weight of Grace small groups “confess” their many, many ongoing sins, such as eating eight cookies all at one time, buying ice cream that isn’t sugar-free, and failing to get enough exercise. They’re guilty about gluttony, lack of self-control, and not keeping the “temple of God” slim and trim.

And they think their guilt will help them change. But it doesn’t. The behaviors persist and the guilt piles up and up and up. Because guilt does not motivate change; grace, truth, and love do.

…do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? (Romans 2:4, ESV)

For the grace of God…teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness…and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives… (Titus 2:11-12, NIV)

…be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Romans 12:2)

Guilt may lead to repentance (2 Corinthians 7:8), but true repentance involves a changing of one’s mind. When Paul heard that the Corinthians were engaging in gross sexual immorality, he confronted them with the truth that their bodies were the temple of the living God (1 Corinthians 6:12-20). He knew this information would influence their behavior—knowing their exalted position in Christ would motivate them to live “a life worthy of the calling” (Ephesians 4:1). Wrong beliefs lead to bad behavior, and beliefs based on God’s truth lead to godly behaviors.

You may think your guilt will motivate you to stop unwanted behavior, but as long as your beliefs about food rules, exercise, dieting, and thinness are not lined up with God’s revealed truth, you will not change. The blood of Christ has cleansed you of guilt, so you can concentrate on the truth and love that will set you free.

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