There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1-2 NKJV)
Guilt is a very powerful feeling. I was raised in a church where guilt was regularly used to keep people under control. I've watched as whole church movements have tried to remove guilt from the picture so people will not "feel bad" and want to come to church again. As I think about guilt in relation to God, there are three things I really want to make sure I remember.
1) Some Guilt is Valid. When I sin, I am guilty. If I actually murder, steal, or lie, I am wrong. I should be caught and appropriately punished for such things. These sins are an affront to God and, often times, to the people around me as well. I should feel guilty.
2) Some Guilt is Manufactured. When I don't sin, I am not guilty. I've encountered many situations (and you probably have, too) when someone else believes I should feel guilt because of something I've said (or didn't say) or did (or didn't do). God defines right and wrong (sin and not sin), not people. His Spirit now dwelling in me prompts me for the good I should do and the evil I should avoid. His Word becomes the way I learn to recognize His Spirit from temptation. God is the final authority who states whether the guilt is valid or not. So, I need to turn to His Word often to learn when I should feel guilty.
3) Jesus Pardons Valid Guilt. When I recognize that my guilt is false and manufactured by someone - I throw it away. When I recognize that it is valid, I repent of my thoughts, words, or actions that caused the guilt in the first place. When I do this, I am reminded that there is now no longer any condemnation because of what Jesus did. I was guilty. Now I am pardoned.
I have been pardoned.
I am set free!