Doubt and guilt are not strangers to most believers at some point in our journey. But these feelings can be another hindrance to gratitude, so we will look at biblical passages to encourage us and biblical characters to inspire us. And along the way, we will ask how these make a difference to our lives.
Paid in Full
Imagine the scene in the courtroom as a guilty criminal’s conviction is overturned. An innocent man has willingly, lovingly, and unconditionally accepted the penalty for the criminal’s crime. The guilty man is declared innocent and allowed to go free. How can this be? He did not earn or deserve this free gift, nor can he begin to understand it. Surely this pardoned criminal would spend the rest of his life filled with the most profound gratitude possible. Would he not wear himself out telling everyone about the one who took his place?
So we would be shocked to hear that instead of gratitude for his freedom, he dwells on the past-his life before the crime, the crime itself, his time in prison-and on his guilt for not serving his sentence. he even wakes up at night fearful that the man who took his place will change his mind and his sentence will be reinstated. He should be the most joyful man on the planet. What’s his problem?
We could ask ourselves the same question. As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we have been pardoned and the penalty for our sins has been paid in full. We have assurance of our salvation (John 10:28) and there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). It seems that gratitude should overflow from our heats such that our life before we knew Christ would not be a hindrance to thanksgiving.
Yet some believers allow guilt over their past to hover like a dark cloud.
Every Christian Has an Amazing Story to Tell
My story is one of those testimonies that some dare to call boring. Raised in a Christian home, I became a believer as a young child and the Lord has held me fast ever since. I have had no crisis of faith and was never tempted to go off the tracks. That is not to say that I am not a great sinner who serves a great Savior, to paraphrase the hymn-writer John Newton. And every day I realize my salvation is nothing short of miraculous. Only the Lord can work in our hearts and minds to turn us from his enemies into his daughters and sons (Colossians 1:21-22).
What’s your story? Is it like mine? The complete opposite? Or somewhere in between?
I have some friends who had rough lives full of shameful acts of sin before Jesus called them to himself and saved them forever. Their experiences were a long way from my childhood conversion. yet every one of us-whatever our story-is a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).
But Satan tries to convince us that we should still carry some guilt. The scars from sin resulting from one’s life before Christ can get pushed to the forefront of the mind-sexual immorality, abortion, or maybe an outright rejection of God.
It’s not wrong to experience doubt-many of us do-but it is a mistake if we fail to challenge our doubts by speaking the gospel truth to those doubt. As believers, we stand forgiven by God the Father through faith in Jesus Christ. God the Father looks at each one of us through Christ’s death on the cross such that when he sees us, it is just as if we never sinned. And this doesn’t just apply to those sins we committed before coming to faith but also to any we commit as Christians. This is wonderfully true for every one of us who is a believer. What a marvelous truth to hold onto when we doubt. How kind and loving our Father God is!
Sometimes, doubts come because we worry we cannot consistently live the holy lives we are called to. We see our failings and fear they will dim God’s love for us. This is the time to grasp hold of gospel truth with both hands. we remind ourselves that we are right before God purely because of Christ. It is Christ’s life which the Lord sees when he looks at us. Our forgiveness is certain. Our relationship with God is save. So that’s what we remind ourselves of, again and again if needed, when doubt tries to slay us…
The Big Picture
One great lesson we learn from the Bible over and over again is how God’s purpose is being worked out in the midst of seemingly hopeless circumstances. God is perfectly conforming every situation to his perfect will. And he is good all the time. We can trust him. His plan is better than anything we could imagine.
Our response to the overwhelming grace we have received should be nothing less than overwhelming gratitude. We are wise to put away all of the “would have, could have, should have” thoughts about how we might have avoided past situation. God was in every single detail that happened prior to our salvation. Guilt has got to go. Our doubt about our future is just as foolish as the prisoner’s worry that the one who took his place is going to change his mind. The priceless doxology of Jude cures paralyzing guilt. He writes,
“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority before all time and now and forever. Amen.” -Jude 24-25
He who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it (Philippians 1:6). Period.