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False Guilt

by | Jun 15, 2022 | Condemnation, Surrender, Temptation

“By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us … By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before Him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and He knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do what pleases Him. And this is His commandment, that we believe in the Name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as He has commanded us.” (1 John 3:16a, 19-23 ESV)

Have you ever had a problem with false guilt? False guilt is what you get when you feel guilty without good reason. You might feel guilty about something that is not actually a sin. Or you might feel guilty just because you are being tempted, even though you haven’t actually consented to the temptation, and you would give almost anything to have it go away. The guilt you feel is not correct or proper, but it exists, and it feels just as horrible as true guilt.

This is why what John wrote comforts me: “Whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and He knows everything.” The Holy Spirit is telling us in this verse that we aren’t always right when we think we’ve committed a sin and God is angry with us. It is easy for us to make mistakes. Our real situation may be very different.

What do we do when we have this problem? Exactly the same thing we do when we have to deal with true guilt: we run to Jesus for help. John tells us, “This is His commandment, that we believe in the Name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as He has commanded us.” It isn’t necessary for us to obsess over the exact details of our standing with God, or try to make some sort of accounting; whatever it was, it’s in the rear-view mirror now. False guilt or true, Jesus will take our burden from us and drop it at the cross. In return He gives us His own free, joyful, eternal life as a child of God, and fills us with His Holy Spirit—God Himself, living in us and through us. This is our comfort.

Prayer: Dear Lord, when I can’t figure out if I’m guilty or not, please take the whole mess away from me and give me Your mercy instead. Amen.

This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Kari Vo.
Reprinted with permission from Lutheran Hour Ministries

Reflection Questions:

1. Tell a story about a time when you didn’t understand your real situation in some way.
2. Have you ever had a problem with false guilt?
3. How do you “run to Jesus” when you need help and comfort?

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