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Series Contents
Series Theme:  Spiritual Warfare

Title: 8. Clearing the Past: a) Guilt




In these four pages of "Clearing the Past" we consider Guilt, Fear & Anxiety, Rejection, and Unresolved Conflict, as four areas where things from the past impinge on the present.


On this page we consider "Guilt", how it arises, and then dealing with true and false guilt.


However, before we proceed to look at the subject of guilt we need to emphasise why we are doing this.


The reason is that if you have unresolved guilt in your life, it will be something that the enemy can play upon to pull you down.


There are also a number of other aspects, such as "false guilt" that we should be aware of, so that we can also deal with those things that masquerade as guilt but which are simply red herrings to distract us.


What follows is in basic note form, but we trust they will be sufficient to bring you understanding.




1. The Fact of Guilt


  •  It happened, we did do wrong!   We always need to face the truth about our lives.
  •  We may have problems thinking about a part of our past life, because we still feel guilty about it.
  •  We may be embarrassed or feel awkward by a part of life today because of being reminded of our past failure.
  •  We may have a fear of it being revealed and our being exposed.


In such a case, the fact is we transgressed a law; there is:

  •  Legal guilt - violating society's laws - where we are answerable to the State.
  •  Theological guilt - violating God's laws - where we are answerable to God.
  •  Personal guilt - transgressing own standards or conscience (self-imposed laws).
  •  Social guilt - breaking an unwritten but socially accepted rule (society's 'laws').


The first two are genuine guilt, bringing real repercussions that need dealing with.

The latter two are guilt of a lesser degree, but may still have repercussions.

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2. Guilt - a feeling

        Guilt is both a feeling and a state.


  •  We may not be genuinely guilty, but yet feel we are.
  •  We may be genuinely guilty, but not feel it.
  •  We may be genuinely guilty and feel we are.


Associated Feelings are:

“Shame” - which is a self conscious embarrassment at your failure.
“Remorse” - which is shame at having been found out or of being guilty.

“Godly sorrow” (2 Cor 7:10) - which is a conviction from the Holy Spirit leading to repentance. 


Then there is “ Repentance ” - which is the act of turning about and

      •  turning from wrong to right
      •   turning from self to God.


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3. Dealing with False Guilt


In the first instance above, we noted that it is possible not to be genuinely guilty (because you have actually NOT done something wrong), yet still feel guilty.


3.1  What is False Guilt?

       False guilt is a feeling of guilt laid upon us when we are not genuinely guilty. It


  •  by Satan - a lie, to pull us down.
  •  by others - by their words or beliefs, not the Law of the country, nor God's laws.
  •  by ourselves - from expectations that were too high or unreal.  


3.2  How do we deal with False Guilt?

  •  Bring the truth to bear. Face the truth about what happened honestly. It wasn't a real wrong!
  •  Reveal the origin of it for what it is.  Recognise wrong origins. You were dumped upon!
  •  Declare the truth.  Speak out what the truth about it really is. "I'm NOT guilty!"
  •  Refuse to accept any longer that untruth. Reject it and don't let it affect you.


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4. Dealing with True Guilt


4.1  Legal Guilt

Where there is real legal guilt (because you have broken the laws of the country and are answerable to the police and the courts), there is need to:

  •  face the guilt
  •  go to the authorities and confess the guilt
    •  with a willingness to pay the penalty, whatever the State requires
    •  and a willingness to perhaps make restitution.


        Failure to do this means you will have:

  •  An ongoing sense of underlying guilt (unless you sear your conscience).
  •  An ongoing fear of being found out.


4.2  Theological Guilt

        This is against God and there is a need to:

  •  pray and acknowledge it, confess and repent (turn away from it completely).
  •  receive forgiveness & cleansing from God ( 1 Jn 1:9 )


It may also be against others, in which case there is a need to:

  •  confess to them and seek forgiveness (see the pages on "Forgiveness" in the "What it means to be a Christian" area).
  •  have a willingness to make restitution if necessary.


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5. Clarifying the Issues


So often we FEEL something of guilt but it is not clear if it is real.   The following are such instances:


5.1  Unrealistic expectations

A feeling of guilt because we didn't live up to certain standards, e.g.,

  •  very rigid family rules (which may be harsh and unrealistic)
  •  churches that preach perfection (and set goals too high to achieve)
  •  unreal success & prosperity teaching ("If you are good, God will make you rich.")
  •  parental role model where the parent was a workaholic or demanding perfection.


In each case we need to adopt realistic standards, and reject these wrong ones.


5.2  Inferiority & Social Pressure

Inferiority is often perceived as guilt, e.g.

    •  an inability to live up to social expectations
    •  a sense of inferiority which is often formed by criticism#
    •  a dogmatic statement of erroneous views about classes or ethnic groups.


In each case we need to recognise the wrongness of them and get a sense of who we are and not what others have said about us.


5.3  Faulty Conscience Development

        Conscience is often moulded by early life teaching, i.e. it may be in the family or in church


5.3.1  The activity of the conscience:

        The Bible teaches that conscience does the following good things:

  •  makes us aware of our sins (Heb 10:2)
  •  confirms the law of God (Rom 2:15)
  •  can be reinforced by the Holy Spirit (Rom 9:1)
  •  confirms our good behaviour (2 Cor 1:12)
  •  makes us abide by the law (Rom 13:5)


5.3.2  Types of conscience

        The Bible also teaches that the conscience may be:

  •  weak (1 Cor 8:7) - not strong enough to resist evil
  •  seared (1 Tim 4:2) - muted by frequent resistance
  •  corrupted (Tit 1:1) - contaminated or polluted by wrong beliefs
  •  guilty (Heb 10:22) - aware of the wrong
  •  clear (Acts 24:16) - have been fully responded to
  •  good (1 Tim 1:5) - linked with a pure heart


5.3.3  How a conscience is formed

  •  A child's conscience is largely formed by parental teaching
  •  A Christian's conscience is to be formed by Biblical teaching
  •  A Christian's conscience is reinforced by the Holy Spirit


5.3.4  Weakening and Restoring the Conscience

A conscience can we weakened (see above)

  •  by the world's pluralistic teaching
  •  by constant rejection of the truth


We may need to re-establish the conscience with truth.   Failure to do so may mean false guilt


5.4 Spiritual blindness

  •  All people are guilty of Sin
  •  Sin creates a spiritual blindness or a deadness to the sense of guilt.
  •  This is only removed by a working of the Holy Spirit.
  •  We still have the choice of how we then respond to Him.
  •  Spiritual blindness can allow us to carry on doing wrong without being aware of it.


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6. The Effects of Guilt


       If not dealt with correctly, guilt will produce:

  • self defensiveness
    •  with a distortion of reality as we deny wrong doing.
  •  condemnation
    •  with a feeling of loss of self worth
  •  tension
    •  with accompanying physical reactions
  • emotional pain
    •  from sense of moral failure
  •  breakdown in relationship with God
    • with sense of isolation or distance from Him.


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7. Genuine Repentance


7.1  What is genuine repentance?

  •  It is NOT merely a sense of wanting to be rid of feeling of guilt.
  •  It IS a desire to completely change
    •  to turn away from the old wrong
    •  to turn to the new right
  •  It must involve giving forgiveness where necessary ( Mt 6:14,15 / 18:21 )


7.2  What does genuine repentance bring about?

  •  Receiving forgiveness & cleansing
  •  Releasing from wrong past behaviour
  •  Removal of sense of guilt
  •  Release into new behaviour
  •  Release into sense of freedom, wholeness and goodness
  •  A new start with a restored relationship with God and perhaps with others


7.3  Why can God do that?

  •  Because Jesus has taken our sin ( 2 Cor 5:21 )
    •  which has paid the legal requirement
      •  so that mercy can be extended to us
  •  Because we have repented
    •  which is the requirement on us, the one thing we can do.


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Guilt can be:

a) Real

  •  for having broken the laws of the country
  •  for having offended God
  •  for having offended another person


b) False

        Imposed by:

  •  Satan & others
  •  faulty upbringing
  •  wrong teaching


Real guilt is dealt with by:

  •  confession (& perhaps restitution where a person has been harmed)

False guilt is dealt with by:

  •  bringing the truth to bear and holding onto it. 


Real repentance opens the way for God to:

  •  forgive & cleanse
  •  set free from the past
  •  release into a new future


If you have been troubled by guilt, perhaps you need to go back to the top of the page and gradually work through it again, asking the Lord to make real to you the truths that are here.


Once that has happened, you can then come to Him and deal with the past in the right way, and be released into a new future, free from that which has been blighting your life.


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