News from SCA May 2016
Is Guilt from God? by Doug Feil

As a full time counselor, I encounter many people who struggle with guilt and shame. I often find this a challenging issue for people. Because I see Christians struggling with guilt in my counseling work, I decided to explore Biblical teaching on the topic of guilt, so that I could have an accurate "theology of guilt." This is a summary of what I discovered.

Guilt in the Old Testament was a result of the law. When people did not fulfill the law, they were then guilty. God developed the sacrifice system led by the priests to "satisfy" the people's guilt and cleanse them (until the next time!), There were even guilt offerings to pay for the sins committed under the law.

I didn't see that model as relevant to my clients since we live under grace rather than the law, so I dedicated my study to the New Testament. What is the role of guilt in the age of grace?

According to the Strong's Concordance, which uses the King James Version, there are only seven references to guilt in the entire New Testament:

  • Matthew 26:66 - Caiaphas declared Jesus guilty of death for blasphemy.
  • Mark 14:64 - Same incident as in Matthew 26: The high priest declares Jesus guilty and worthy of death.
  • Luke 23:4, 14, 22 - Pilate tells the high priest that he sees no guilt in Jesus – he says this three times!
  • Matthew 23:18 - Jesus said that if you swear by the animal sacrifice you are guilty to that - this is clearly tied to the Old Testament,
  • Romans 3:19 - The law judges all guilty before God,
  • James 2:10 - If you don't keep the whole law, you are then guilty of all of it.
  • 1 Corinthians 11:27 - Paul confronts the Corinthians for abusing communion.

The first three references describe the “trial” of Jesus leading to his crucifixion. The high priest declared him guilty, and Pilate said he had no guilt. We already know Jesus was and is holy and blameless, which makes these judgments irrelevant both to Jesus and to us.

The next three references have to do with the law: If you try to live by the law, the law will judge you guilty. We already know this from reading the Old Testament. The only point for us in these verses is that we must not try to be good enough through our human efforts, because we will fail!

This leaves only one New Testament reference to guilt that does apply to us: 1 Corinthians 11:27. Jesus commanded us to observe communion until he returns. Rather than treating communion with the reverence it deserves, the Corinthians were getting drunk on the wine and eating the bread to satisfy their hunger! Have you ever seen communion done this way?

Paul says that because of this abuse of communion God judged the people guilty. He does not mention whether the Corinthians felt their guilt, though some were sick and some even died as a result of God’s judgment (verses 30-32).

Because this is the entire New Testament teaching on guilt, I can only draw the conclusion that under grace, God does not use guilt.

So why do so many Christians struggle with guilt if God does not want us to feel guilty? Perhaps it’s because Satan does want us to feel guilty – so much that he accuses us directly to God (Revelation 12:10). Perhaps we are listening to his accusations! Other causes of guilt feelings include experiences with parents and churches who use guilt to direct and even manipulate those in their care.

Well, if God doesn't use guilt, what does He use under grace? Conviction. The Greek word used for “conviction” appears numerous times in the New Testament. According to John 16:8-11, the Holy Spirit convicts the world. Why then does God use conviction rather than guilt? Do a side-by-side comparison:

1. How long does it last?

  • Guilt: Forever
  • Conviction: Until we take care of the sin in our life

2. What steps do we need to take?

  • Guilt: Who knows?
  • Conviction: Confess our sins, repent (turn 180° away) and if necessary make restitution

3. What is the result of it?

  • Guilt: Makes us miserable
  • Conviction: Restores us into a right relationship with the Lord
    There are no doubt times when believers who are being convicted of sin do feel guilty. There may be other times when we feel convicted and know we need to obey the Lord, yet feel no guilt!

My conclusions are:

  • Under grace, God does not use guilt.
  • We feel guilty when we listen to Satan's accusations; try to make ourselves good enough by living by the law; or perhaps are under some kind of conviction.
  • Conviction is used by God because it frees us and restores us into right relationship with Him - it leads to peace.
  • Guilt is not used because it enslaves, does not lead to fruit of the Spirit and holds us forever in bondage.
  • Many people struggle with guilt because they were raised by adults who used guilt to control them growing up.
  • Christians should never use guilt to motivate others because that is not how God leads!
  • A Christian who feels guilty needs first to pray and ask God to reveal any sin for which (s)he may be under conviction. If God reveals such a sin, let the believer follow the three steps God outlines for our restoration: confess, repent and, if necessary, make restitution. If there is no indication of sin from the Lord, then the believer can know the guilt feelings are not from God, and turn from them to seek communion with the Lord.

Doug Feil, MS, LPC
Clinical staff member, Southwest Counseling Associates

Questions and Answers
Question
Why, then, do so many “good” Christian people struggle with guilt?

Answer
Factors include:

  • Upbringing where guilt was used by adults (i.e. how could you treat me this way? Don’t you care?)
  • People who come to Christ in a church or religious system that uses guilt to manipulate or control others (after all, often guilty people are negatively motivated!)
  • Some people use guilt in their self-talk under the belief that beating themselves up will help them remember and try harder to do better next time (“the beatings will continue until morale improves”)
  • Spiritual warfare – Satan uses the accusations of us being “bad Christians” to discourage and dishearten us to take us out of the battle!

Question
How can we help people who struggle with guilt?

Answer
First, let them understand clearly what scripture actually does teach about guilt. Secondly, when they feel guilty, ask them to seek the Lord to see if they are actually being convicted of sin. If so, then encourage them to make it right with the Lord. If not, encourage them to identify it as an attack of the enemy regardless of the actual cause (i.e. childhood, self-talk, etc.). Then encourage them to ask the Lord for relief from these feelings (since they are a lie) and rather focus on something constructive they need to do. Also, encourage them to thank God that He doesn’t use guilt since He loves us so much!

New Staff at SCA

As part of our commitment to keep providing more services to more people, SCA is always searching for gifted, godly people to build our staff. We want to introduce you to three of our latest additions:

Kelly Poag, MA, LSW

Kelly is a licensed Social Worker in the state of Colorado. She earned her Master's degree at Roberts Wesleyan College (Rochester, NY) where she studied Social Work, with an emphasis in Child and Family Services. Kelly also earned her Bachelor degree in Social Work at Roberts Wesleyan College.

Kelly has worked in a variety of settings and has a deep understanding for the value therapeutic services can have in enhancing a person's wellbeing. She has had direct experience working alongside children with various life challenges, women and families impacted by trauma and domestic violence, college students, and at-risk adolescent populations. Most recently, Kelly has had experience working with older adults in the healthcare setting dealing with co-occurring medical and mental illness. These experiences have given Kelly a desire to help people achieve a fulfilling life despite the challenging circumstances that may be present.

During Kelly's professional career she has provided therapeutic treatment for a variety of conditions including trauma, intimate partner violence, anxiety disorders, depression, mood disorders, grief/loss, divorce adjustment, caregiver stress, women's issues, and sexual identity. Kelly utilizes a strengths based approach to treatment, partnering with clients to help them achieve their goals and develop a greater understanding of themselves throughout the process. Kelly has also completed EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) basic training and is currently pursuing certification in this therapeutic modality by receiving regular consultation through the EMDR Institute of the Rockies.

Hannah Reutter, MA, LPC

Hannah is a licensed professional counselor in the state of Colorado. She received her Bachelors in psychology from Trinity International University and her Masters in counseling from Denver Seminary. Hannah has experience counseling children, adolescents and adults individually, as families and in groups. She works with a wide range of issues including anxiety, depression, trauma, abuse, communication and relationship issues, grief and loss, self-esteem, third culture kids, missionary care and other life transitions. Hannah has also received training in EMDR therapy.

Hannah enjoys missions. She spent a couple years in Brazil during high school and speaks Portuguese fluently. Hannah has also spent some time in Japan and the Middle East. She enjoys art and sees it as a powerful tool to process and express emotions. As a counselor, Hannah desires to provide a space for her clients to feel comfortable to be themselves and share their stories. Her hope is to provide support and the tools needed to help her clients walk through the healing process.

Leanne DeRemer, MA

Leanne DeRemer is a psychotherapist, and has recently joined the staff at Southwest Counseling Associates. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from University of Colorado at Boulder, and her Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Denver Seminary. She has nine years of Christian ministry and missions experience including college ministry, homeless ministry, and also serving as a missionary in SE Asia.

Leanne has training in individual and premarital/marital therapy and primary populations include college students, adult women, and those living and working overseas. She specializes in depression, anxiety, women’s issues, spirituality, identity formation, grief and loss, phase of life transitions, career, and missionary and ministry leadership care.

Leanne has been married to her husband, Chris, for eight years and they live in NE Denver with their son. As a family they love to be outdoors biking, hiking, camping, running, and skiing. They also will take any opportunity to travel, and always enjoy trying and cooking new recipes.

Ministry Minute is a quarterly publication of Southwest Counseling Associates. If you know of someone who would benefit from this newsletter, please ask them to contact Doug Feil at:

Southwest Counseling Associates
141 West Davies Avenue, Littleton, CO 80120
Phone: 303-730-1717 | Fax: 303-730-1531
sca@southwestcounseling.org | www.southwestcounseling.org

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