How long should we bear our guilt?

I was reading Numbers 14 this evening, the tragic history of Israel's unbelief and failure to enter the promised land. They were condemned to spend 40 years in the wilderness. God said, "According to the number of the days in which. You spied out the land, forty days, for each day you shall bear your guilt one year, namely forty years, and you shall know My rejection." (Num 14v34).

I felt prompted to ask God a simple question, "Under the new covenant, for how long should we bear our guilt?" God gave me a simple reply, "For NO TIME AT ALL."

Many believers sadly live under mindset which means that after they have sinned, they live under a sense of condemnation and God's displeasure until enough time has passed for the sting of guilt to fade a little. I've been there! In the past, I have spent days and days after each and every failure, bearing my guilt! I need to say, that such a mindset is old covenant and, since Jesus has borne ALL our guilt for ALL our sins - we do not need to bear guilt even for a moment - even for a nanosecond!

To be brutally blunt, the mixed law/grace culture across the church grades sin, so we are used to feeling guilty for different periods depending on our sin. So if we lose our temper we might feel bad for half a day, or a day if it was a really bad blow-up. If we used bad language when we lost our temper, the guilt time might be a bit longer - two days perhaps, or a week if another Christian heard our bad language.

If we tell a little lie, then we feel bad for a day (or more if it is worse). If we gossip, we might feel bad for an hour. If we look with lust at someone, we might feel guilty for an hour or so; if we fantasise overmuch, we can feel guilty for a day or so. If we glance at porn, then the guilt is two days, if we masturbate then it's a week. Why are we wasting our time, burning ourselves out, punishing ourselves, when Jesus has already borne our guilt and our punishment?

Later on this evening, in our men's meeting, I felt the Holy Spirit whisper to my heart, "there are people who are backslidden today because they have borne their guilt for over forty years." This is tragedy, and the cause is legalism. Think about your own experience for a moment - under law when you fall, guilt comes, guilt causes you to lose sight of the Lord, you no longer feel His tangible presence. After a while the guilt does pass, and you feel you can approach God again. That was the reality for the first 18 years of my Christian life. I believe that for many, if this becomes the norm, discouragement grows, sin grows, guilt grows, and the sense of distance from God grows, and backsliding is only a matter of time. Why go to church and have guilt reinforced week by week, line by line, precept by precept?

And I believe there are many people who once were in the church and are outside now, not because they are "great sinners", but because they have borne the accumulated guilt of years of condemnation.

Every single believer needs to be able to answer this - whether you are walking actively with God today or whether it is years since you have been in His presence - how long should you bear your guilt? NEVER! NEVER! NEVER!

Why waste time carrying something that Jesus carried for you? Declare war on guilt, revel in grace, and drink deeply of His presence. God's not looking for you to jump through hoops to impress Him - He's already totally impressed and delighted with you, and will be forever.


Dan Bowen said...


Yes yes yes! Oh wow oh wow this is a "Now" word right NOW for me! :) Thank you so so much! Why do we do it!? Why do we even tolerate guilt for even a minute!? To do so is BLASPHEMY against the Cross surely!

I've been feeling guilty all week, guilty that I am not radical about grace enough, guilty that I get condemned so easily, guilty for feeling guilty! But NO! NEVER!

If we really are properly Cross-centred, in recognising it was the scene where Jesus disarmed principalities and powers BY taking away the Law, then we won't need icons to remind us to be Cross-centred!

We need a vision of the empty Cross and the empty Tomb and the filled Throne! There's someone sitting there!

Nick Cameron said...

My goodness was an awesome blog! So needed to hear this today! Thank you!
I guess that there needs to be a plan of action on how to combat the feelings of guilt or condemnation then, because inevitably we all come across them! Daily that feeling of not making the grade or not cutting it when it comes to our walk with God - such a 'freedom' call like this needs to be responded to with freedom thinking - not cos of us but because of Jesus and what He did! Liberty should flow rather than guilt over guilt..........
Thanks for this blog!

jul said...

awesome post Peter! I too have come under more condemnation in the past few weeks than I have for a long time. Yuck! How demonic and evil and terrible it feels...

Who will save me from this body of death???

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

lydia joy said...

As always, excellent to have you posting again! And a very wonderful reminder........!!

How sadly true is this "And I believe there are many people who once were in the church and are outside now, not because they are "great sinners", but because they have borne the accumulated guilt of years of condemnation."

This message needs to be heard, the truth of the Gospel, the REAL one, needs to go forth - He is not counting men's sins against them and He is in love with us and happy with us, because we are hidden in Christ!! Yahoo!!

Peter Day said...

Thanks to you all for your comments. I had a real sense this morning that the Lord is passionate to see all the prodigals return. Modern day church often talks of prodigals in terms of those who have "gone into the world". Or perhaps we have seen young people who have grown up in church and simply got bored.

But I really believe there are thousands and thousands who have simply faded because they can't take the guilt anymore. And the Lord wants them back!! I asked the Lord "how"? And I believe He said "just keep speaking about grace."

So that's what I'm going to do!

Eliazar said...

Ah I love it!
It's great to see more and more people speaking the Truth! For Grace and Truth came by Jesus Christ...
Under the Law there was no Truth.

Thank you for posting this Peter!
Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

stay blessed

Nick Cameron said...

For those who are interested Peter preached stuff from this blog on 5th April 2009 and it is now available to download from www.lansdownechurch.org and then click on sermons and talks and scroll down to 5th April......certainly worth hearing!

Eutychus said...

Good afternoon

Thank you for your thought-provoking post.
Jesus bore all of our guilt at Calvary and He cried "It is finished". Had he only borne some of our guilt then nothing would have been finished.

Notwithstanding that in any way, I do notice you fail to mention any sense of repentance or godly sorrow. The Holy Spirit ministers through conviction and you fail to mention this and I can't help but feeling this could be perceived as something of a glaring omission.

I would venture to suggest that in this omission you miss out on a great source of power. There is great strength in repentance. Missing out on great power means missing out on great fruit.
While you continue to omit this, I feel from my limited understanding that you leave your message short of true, full liberty and victory.

With kind regards

Peter Day said...

Thank you for your comments, Eutychus. Godly sorrow produces repentance. Unfortunately many in the church interpret godly sorrow to mean wallowing in condemnation. The often unsaid expectation among many believers is a feeling of needing to pay for our sins through our sorrow. So, the sorrow becomes a "work of righteousness", which is another gospel altogether.

Even repentance is often incorrectly understood as a work to perform rather than a change of mind (which is what the Greek means). Neither sorrow nor repentance can take away guilt.

Godly sorrow is an overflow of a secure relationship with God which stirs up a change of thinking, a bring our minds into alignment with God. If people wallow in guilt and sorrow becomes a work then the repentance will never be true - there will be a cycle of sin, guilt, confession, sin, guilt, confession.

A person who arises from sin, standing in the righteousness of Christ, out of love for the One who first loved them, there will be sorrow. But not a wallowing in guilt, and not a sorrow that lasts. It will be the sorrow of a lover, not the sorrow of a slave. And there will be fresh desire for ever increasing glory, transformation not by the work of human effort, but by standing freely under open heaven. Guilt will never change anyone. Grace transforms.

Eutychus John Abraham said...

Thanks for your interesting response.

I always think it is telling that the One person qualified to throw stones chose not to.
So many people who are disqualified will reach for the stones at the first opportunity.

Kind regards