“I don’t pray anymore because I feel too guilty.”
“Why would I go to church? I’ve done stuff that God would be mad about.”
These are some comments that people have recently shared with me. Ever felt this way? Ever looked at your behavior and wanted nothing to do with God because you felt guilty or ashamed? We all have. Whether we want to stay away from Him for a short time or for decades, when we feel guilty all we want to do is run.
Reminds me of when Adam and Eve hid from God because they had tasted the forbidden fruit. And yet God is not a God of condemnation. He doesn’t guide His children by condemning them. In fact, Revelation 12:10 tells us:
For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.
God is not the one who is accusing you or making you feel guilty. The source of guilt is the devil. He is the one who condemns. Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Our enemy wants us to think that our heavenly Father is like a strict schoolmaster with a critical eye, peering over our work with a long ruler in hand, just waiting to pop us when we make a mistake. This could not be further from the truth. Our Bible calls Him our Abba, which means Daddy. A loving Daddy doesn’t parent through fear.
When the Holy Spirit lives in us, He guides us. Usually it’s gentle leading, but at times a stern warning is necessary. These leadings and warnings don’t come in the form of guilt or messages that say: You’ll never get this right . . . Seriously, you’re going to do this again? . . . Why aren’t you trying harder?
Yay! So that means we can do whatever we want? Live however we feel? Nope. Romans 6:1-2 says, “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” When I live in a place of understanding that Jesus’s death on the cross has taken away my need to be perfect, then out of relationship with my loving God, I don’t want to sin against Him.
Our magnificent God who could destroy the earth in one swoop is a gentle, loving Father who guides His children from a place of love. When we are asked to make a change or decision, as His children we know His voice and His leading are never out of performance or guilt. God does not condemn, but He does correct and lead us into places of peace.
That doesn’t mean it will be comfortable to obey. I mean, just look at the people in the Bible who Jesus asked to leave their old ways of life and follow Him. From cheating tax collectors to a woman caught in adultery, He didn’t condemn them. He asked them to leave their “comfort zone” . . . their normal . . . and take a risk to obey Him. In their obedience to follow Him, they found true life. Obedience most often takes us from a comfort zone of complacency to full abandonment to Him, but never out of guilt or condemnation.
Because of Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross, it is no longer about our performance or having to fulfill the Law. You are forgiven. Hear Him whispering your name . . . “Come closer.”