1 June 2024

alternate textIn one of our recent discussions, it came out that some of us are struggling with the aspect of guilt in our walk with Yahweh, and that this is holding back, and even crippling, our fulfilment and joy as believers. Feelings of guilt often go hand in hand with the experience of shame, and even remorse. Someone once tried to explain the difference between guilt and shame in a book for children. An explanation that works for children, often works for us adults, too. She said that when sin is a wall between your heart and the heart of Yahweh, feeling bad is a good thing. It is called guilt. It is a cry from Yahweh’s heart straight to yours, saying, “Sin is standing between us. It is separating your heart from Mine. Let it go so I can cover it…then we can be close again.” This guilt convicts you that you are dirty, but it gives you hope of becoming clean again.

However, if you have sincerely repented of the sin that separated your heart from the heart of Yahweh, and you still feel awful and dirty, what you are feeling now is not guilt. It feels like guilt, but it is shame. And this shame is not a message from Yahweh…it is a message from the accuser. Shame, like guilt, also makes us feel like we are dirty, but leaves us desperately hopeless. Shame is a lie from the enemy that there is no forgiveness, no hope for us. This explanation, coming from a children’s book, may be somewhat of an oversimplification of the issue at hand, but it will help us to get the basics in place. Y’shua said in John 16 that it is Yahweh, by his Spirit, who convicts people of righteousness and sin. Condemnation, on the other hand, is the speciality of Satan – his very name means: opposer and accuser. In Revelation 12:10 it is prophesied that “the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before Elohim day and night” will one day be thrown down.

What is most interesting here (and other places in the New Testament), is the Greek word that is translated with the English word “accuser”. It is the word “kategoros”, from where we get the English word “category”. But “kategoros” literally means “an attack against the assembly (of believers)” and there has been a very long debate as to why this very same word was later used to describe “types” or “subdivisions” or “categories” of almost anything one can think of. I do not claim to have the answer to this question, but I can see the connection when it comes to the aspect of guilt and forgiveness. There was a time when each one of us realized that our lives were in the grip of sin and legitimate guilt in the eyes of Yahweh, and that He had sent his Son to grant us forgiveness and take our guilt away. The relief and the joy and the freedom that we experienced when we accepted this gift out of Yahweh’s hand, was indescribable!

But the moment someone receives forgiveness and release of the feelings of guilt that had plagued his life before, the accuser intensifies his efforts and focuses on bringing back the feelings of guilt. How? By making us believe that Yahweh’s forgiveness and Yahweh’s gift were not complete. His gift did not cover every millimetre and every second and every concern of my life. There are CATEGORIES of my life which were untouched by his healing hand, and I am feeling incomplete and inferior about these areas or categories of my life. And I am unaware of the fact that the Accuser of all accusers is causing this, within my thoughts, as part of his strategy of standing against (“kata”) the assembly of believers (“agora”).

Satan is a master of manipulating thoughts. He knows that if he can control my thought life, he can easily get to my emotions and feelings. If he can make me entertain thoughts of guilt, failure, and defeat, I will not feel good about myself. I will feel physically weak and depressed and unmotivated. And in this way, my thoughts are taken captive by a stronghold that plays perfectly into the hand of the enemy. That is why 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 tells us that because of STRONGHOLDS and REASONINGS that are against the knowledge of Elohim, we should take captive every THOUGHT and make it obedient to the Messiah. When Scriptures tell us that our thoughts need to be made obedient to the Messiah, it means our thoughts need to be aligned with the gift that we have received through the Messiah. If we confess that our sins have been forgiven, and our guilt has been removed, by Yahweh’s gift through his Son, Y’shua, but we keep on entertaining feelings of guilt about various categories of our lives, then we have not made our thoughts obedient to the Messiah. There are strongholds and reasonings and thoughts that we nurture and embrace like a serpent in the bosom. We are acting against the truth and the knowledge of Elohim. And in the process we are hampering our own growth and shalom as believers.

What are the categories that the accuser uses to re-invent false guilt in our lives? Before we get to false guilt, we need to acknowledge, first of all, that there is a healthy form of guilt in all people – an essential gift of Yahweh to enable us to distinguish between wright and wrong. As someone has put it: “Guilt is sometimes a friendly internal voice reminding you that you’re messing up.” The guilt that I feel as a father or mother, after a difficult day, when I am irritated with my child, causing him or her to feel rejected, is not false guilt, or a wrong kind of guilt. It is the kind of guilt that I should take seriously and that should help me to improve my attitude and conduct. But false guilt is a reality – especially in the lives of believers, and we need to address this. Let us look at some of the areas of our lives where guilt often makes an unwelcome and unhealthy appearance, and then measure these feelings of guilt against the truth coming to us from Scriptures.

We feel guilty because our circumstances are far from perfect, and it doesn’t get better. TRUTH: Not a single believer mentioned in Scriptures, enjoyed a perfect, care-free life.

We feel guilty because the majority of believers seem to have an easier walk than what we have.
TRUTH: All those wishing to live reverently in Messiah, shall be persecuted (2 Tim 3:12).

We feel guilty because we do not keep all the commandments that are kept by others. TRUTH: We were not called to conform to others, but to discern the perfect will of Yahweh (Rom 12:2).

We feel guilty because we are not doing enough for all those who suffer in the world. TRUTH: Scriptures teach us that while we should always try to excel in the work of the Master, we should also be steadfast and immovable, knowing that our labour is not in vain (1 Cor 15:58).

We feel guilty because we fail to hear the voice of Yahweh. TRUTH: Most believers do not HEAR the voice of Yahweh. In most of the cases, when the Israelites “heard” the voice of Yahweh, it was when they heard the words, spoken by Mosheh.

We feel guilty because we feel we are not doing something important. TRUTH: We were not called to do something important; we were called to bring honour to Someone important! (1 Cor 10:31)

We feel guilty because we fail to reach the standards set by ourselves. TRUTH: Our standard is the Word of Yahweh. We are his servants, and we measure ourselves by his standard – not by the expectations of others, nor by our own self-centred ambitions.

The struggles that we experience with regards to the issues above are often closely related to a distorted view of what Scriptures really teach about prosperity. The so-called gospel of prosperity (also called the “health and wealth” gospel or the “name it and claim it” gospel) is built upon the premises that salvation through Y’shua means complete, here-and-now liberation for the believer, not only in terms of death, but also in terms of poverty, sickness and suffering. According to this distorted view of Scriptures, every true believer on earth is entitled to wealth, health and deliverance from every other earthly burden. When this is claimed, but not happening, something seriously is wrong with one’s belief, and the possibility of being “cursed” is not excluded. The obsession with prosperity is not always as explicit as in the picture that I have painted here, but one can clearly see how this can lead to all kinds of false guilt, thoughts of doubt and feelings of self-condemnation in a believer’s life – when the me-centred benefits of belief do not come out as expected. We should stay away as far as possible from this false gospel! When these prosperity seekers quote James 4:2 which says, “You have not, because you ask not”, we should refer them the next verse: “When you pray to fulfil your own passions, your prayers are not acceptable to Yahweh.” And when they quote 2 Corinthians 8:9 which says, “Through Y’shua’s poverty we became rich”, we should refer them to the rest of the same chapter – a call to all believers to follow the example of Y’shua by being willing to choose poverty, so that others may become rich – rich, not in the sense of possessing money, but in the sense of receiving the gift of favour and salvation out of Yahweh’s hand.

Joyce Meyer wrote somewhere that she was tormented with guilt for years and years. In fact, it was so bad that if she didn’t feel guilty and bad about something in her life, it didn’t feel right! Let us make a habit of asking ourselves this question, every time feelings and thoughts of guilt enter our hearts and our minds: Are these feelings based upon Yahweh’s portrayal of the truth, or are they based upon my own limited understanding of the truth? Even if I am not completely certain, I should discipline myself to let go of those thoughts, as soon as they surface, and do what we are commanded to do in Philippians 4:8-9: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is righteous, whatever is clean, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good report, if there is any uprightness and if there is any praise – think on these. And what you have learned and received and heard, practise these, and the Elohim of peace shall be with you.”