How to deal with Guilt and have a Blameless Conscience

There are those specific moments in your life when you’ve done something wrong. You know it and you feel something tugging somewhere in you – perhaps in your soul. People call it guilt. Most of the time, we don’t want to face it. So how do we deal with guilt? More importantly, how do we achieve a blameless conscience?

Heavy heartThis entry is derived from and was inspired by the preaching of pastor Peter Tan-chi on October 2, 2011

Blessed is the one
   whose transgressions are forgiven,
   whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the one
   whose sin the LORD does not count against them
   and in whose spirit is no deceit.

When I kept silent,
   my bones wasted away
   through my groaning all day long.

For day and night
   your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped
   as in the heat of summer.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you
   and did not cover up my iniquity.

I said, “I will confess
   my transgressions to the LORD.”
And you forgave
   the guilt of my sin.

Therefore let all the faithful pray to you
   while you may be found;
surely the rising of the mighty waters
   will not reach them.

You are my hiding place;
   you will protect me from trouble
   and surround me with songs of deliverance.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
   I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.

Do not be like the horse or the mule,
   which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle
   or they will not come to you.
Many are the woes of the wicked,
   but the LORD’s unfailing love
   surrounds the one who trusts in him.

Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous;
   sing, all you who are upright in heart!

- Psalm 32 of King David of Israel

In this chapter, we see king David telling his story of how it felt to be burdened with guilt. You see, guilt varies on its heaviness  depending on the weight of the sin you have decided to do. Guilt crept on to David as he committed adultery with a married woman, Bathsheba, planned the death of her husband Uriah, and took her to be one of his many wives. Did David love her? Yes he did. But that doesn’t justify anything. Love never justifies sin. Only death does – that’s why Christ had to die for our stead.

“…holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith.” - 1 Timothy 1:19

A shipwreck is usually attributed as something disastrous amounting to a huge loss. It says in this verse that if you do not hold on to faith and a good conscience, you will shipwreck your faith. Can conscience turn bad? No, but conscience can become calloused – numb. If you don’t deal with your conscience, you will experience spiritual shipwreck.

Conscience is the inner voice of the soul that tells you what is right or what is wrong according to what you know and believe in.

Conscience is not always accurate

“To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.” - Titus 1:15-16

Conscience can be defiled. It can be corrupted. There are so-called believers who go to churches but have pre-marital sex, there are so-called believers who pray and hold small groups at their homes but have extra-marital affairs which destroys his own family and another one, there are so-called believers who struggle with pornography and masturbation. Then they justify by telling themselves “There’s nothing wrong with what I did”, “It didn’t hurt nobody as long as no one knows”, “I deserve to be happy” – but something feels wrong inside.

To your mind, you can reason and debate. But it is very hard to debate with your conscience.

The problem with conscience is that it can become calloused – the first sin is different the second time. Pretty soon what used to be sin, looks and feels different. The callousness has imprisoned you and weighed you down – it has enslaved you.

How long will you let the dead duck enslave you?

There’s a story about Johnny and his grandmother’s duck and it goes like this:

Johnny had a slingshot which he was practicing with. Then he saw grandmother’s duck and thought that he would try to hit it with his slingshot. He pulled and let go WHACK! It hit the duck dead-on. Nice shot. Now the duck is dead. That was grandma’s beloved duck.

Johnny’s sister, Sally, saw everything.

Later that day when Johnny went in the house, grandma was there and so was Sally. “Sally, go do the dishes already – as you’ve promised.” Grandma motioned for Sally to go to the kitchen sink. “But grandma, Johnny volunteered to do it for me.” Sally pointed to Johnny.

“What? I didn’t volunteer to wash the dishes today!” Johnny was startled.

“Remember the duck.” Whispered Sally to Johnny’s ear.

“Okay grandma, I’ll wash the dishes.”

The week after, grandpa wanted to go fishing and wanted everyone to go. “Except for Sally. She promised to clean the house today.” Said grandma.

“But Grandma, dear Johnny volunteered to clean the house today for me.” Sally went over to Johnny’s side and put her hand over her brother.

“Is that true, Johnny?” Grandma looked at Johnny.

“What? No! I want to go fishing!” Johnny knew what was coming.

“Remember the duck.” Sally whispered to Johnny’s ear.

“Okay grandma, I’ll clean the house today.” Johnny’s face was downcast.

The week after, they were going camping. Johnny knew that Sally would use grandma’s dead duck to make Johnny do things for her again. So fearfully, he went to grandma thinking “I can’t take it no more. I do the dishes everyday and I missed fishing with grandpa… This time I’d rather tell grandma what happened than miss camping.”

Johnny opened the door to grandma’s room – and she was there on her rocking chair. She looked at him “Yes Johnny?”

He sheepishly stepped inside grandma’s room – his face down as he was looking on the floor, “Grandma, I’ve got something to tell you…”

“What is it?”

“Grandma, I killed your duck while I was practicing my slingshot.”

“Yes I know. I saw everything.”

Johnny looked up to grandma, his eyes wide in surprise. He didn’t know what to say.

Grandma looked directly at him without smiling, “I was just waiting on how long you’re gonna let Sally, through the dead duck, enslave you.”

We are given a conscience

Heavy guilty heartThat’s a fact. God has given each and every man a conscience. It is up to us to shape it, to calibrate it’s direction, and to align its sensitivity to the Holy Spirit – which is done through renewing our minds to God’s Word.

“So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.” - Acts 24:16

To have a clear conscience means you have a guiltless mind too. It is a freedom that only people who have once been guilty knows. And oh, how precious that feeling of freedom is. Have you ever felt it?

The Holy Spirit speaks to and through our conscience. He uses the mind to reinforce that truth in your conscience.

King David

David was at his best when he could manage his emotions. He was at his worst when he did not. He knew what was right and wrong. He was named a man after God’s own heart. He was put in kingship by God’s anointing. He did not lay a hand on Saul and taken matters into his own hands. Why did he commit adultery, treachery and murder? David violated his conscience.

David knew how to be guilty, and as he shares in his psalm, he also learned how to be free from guilt through experience. Experience will teach you – but experience is painful.

David also knew how to be free from guilt and a heavy conscience. He felt how it is in his psalm to be ‘Blesssed’.

The Solution

When I kept silent,
   my bones wasted away
   through my groaning all day long.

For day and night
   your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped
   as in the heat of summer.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you
   and did not cover up my iniquity.

I said, “I will confess
   my transgressions to the LORD.”
And you forgave
   the guilt of my sin.

God wants to forgive us and free us. He doesn’t want us to have a guilt-laden and heavy heart. But we don’t want to confess. We don’t want to be really forgiven. Because that means we have to face and know the gravity of our sin and face the consequences.

“If anyone sins and is unfaithful to the Lord by deceiving his neighbor about something entrusted to him or left in his care or stolen, or if he cheats him, or if he finds lost property and lies about it, or if he swears falsely, or if he commits any such sin that people may do— when he thus sins and becomes guilty, he must return what he has stolen or taken by extortion, or what was entrusted to him, or the lost property he found, or whatever it was he swore falsely about. He must make restitution in full, add a fifth of the value to it and give it all to the owner on the day he presents his guilt offering. “ - Leviticus 6:2-5

Being sorry and having a repentant heart means you are willing to accept the consequences. In this passage, the offender must make restitution to show that he admits his sin and accepts the consequences.

But unless you confess your sins and realize the gravity and horror of your sin, you will keep repeating it. Repentance is turning away from sin COMPLETELY and turning to God. Yes you might keep on sinning BUT your heart is set on God and not on sin anymore. There is a difference.

A guilt-laden heart and heavy conscience blocks your intimacy and relationship with God. As a Christian, this is a serious problem.

When God bothers you

Usually when we feel our conscience bothering us because the Holy Spirit wants us to realize something, we withdraw. We don’t go to church, small groups, we don’t want to meet other Christian friends. We withdraw from God. We want to keep the sin instead of going to God for help. If you have guilt that is bothering you, worshiping God and ministry suddenly becomes a chore. The joy has been sapped out of it – because you have become disconnected to its real purpose.

What happens when you listen to God?

The end result of a guilt free life is thankfulness.

“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” - Hebrews 8:12

“Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.” - Romans 4:7-8

It is our birthright and inheritance as Sons and Daughters of God to live a guilt-free life.

That is what Christ died for.

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