Recognizing Legitimate and Illegitimate Guilt, Shame, and Regret

The last two weeks I filled the pulpit for a pastor friend of mine. Keeping up this blog took a back seat, needless to say.  I’ve known the pastor for over a decade and he is a true shepherd through and through. I have preached from pulpits from the west coast to the east coast, both as a pastor and guest speaker, ministering God’s Word. When I’ve stood in front of a local body of believers who have a biblical shepherd who cares for them and disciples them in and according to the Scriptures, there is a freedom from the pulpit and a warmth and joy poured upon you from the congregation.

I have also preached in local churches where it was more difficult to deliver the Word of God than wade through a tar pit … wearing snowshoes.

The message I brought this last Sunday was out of 2 Corinthians 7:8-12 on the subject of Guilt, Shame, and Regret (GSR).  What’s more commonly tagged: “godly sorrow.” It is clear in the OT and NT that there is both a legitimate and illegitimate GSR. One leads to repentance and produces diligence, zeal, fear, and vindication among other godly responses, whereas Illegitimate GSR goes too far and will drown you (2 Cor. 2:7), smoother you, and drive you away from Christ.

Some of the common lies from illegitimate guilt, shame, and regret are:

  • Jesus won’t forgive you. You’ve gone too far.
  • You’ve committed the unpardonable sin.
  • God won’t listen to your prayers; you’re not worthy.
  • How could God love you after what you’ve done?
  • How could God love you after what has happened to you?

If you hear these lies, go to the Gospel. Don’t wait for Sunday morning. Don’t wait for a sign. Preach the Gospel to yourself and rely on the work of Jesus Christ.

A Third Side

There is another side, another approach/view of guilt, shame, and regret that sadly is alive in our American Christian culture.  It is popularized by the “positive gospel” preachers and by a miss understanding of who we become in Christ. It goes something like:  “If you feel guilty about something, rebuke it, ignore it, and cast it down because it is not of God.” Then a person is to make a quick confession of “There is therefore now NO condemnation …” from Romans 8:1. Basically, it is taught that “GSR is an attack on your faith and who you are in Christ.”  But the truth is the opposite of that statement.

  • One writer called this “Preaching a False-Positive.”
  • This type of theology denies sin.
  • I John 1:8-2:2 rebukes the believer who says they do not sin and/or has no sin.
  • This theology denies the propitiation of Christ.
  • It denies reality.

The Legitimate Work of Guilt, Shame, and Regret

All GSR should lead us to restoration at the Cross and that is where it should stop. If you are haunted or beaten up by GSR, then it has turned from legitimate GSR into a Mr. Hyde. If this is happening, preach the Gospel to your Mr. Hyde and “cling to the old rugged cross”—to the Gospel that saves.

Remember the promise:  “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall receive comfort.”  This is speaking to the believer who mourns over his/her sin with GSR.  Sincere, heart-felt repentance includes accepting the guilt of your sin; being ashamed of your sin; and regretting your sinfulness. Faith in your repentance will bring comfort, restoration, and zeal.

“Evidence that you truly repented and sought Christ is that you are still repenting daily and seeking Christ.”

What Peace We Often Forfeit

Philippians 4:6 (NKJV) — 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 

You’ve probably heard a dozen or so sermons on this scripture, as I have.  Consider this a “reminder post” of an essential Biblical exercise of faith and love, or love and faith, if you prefer that order.

We’re told not to be anxious about anything or IN anything because we can take our cares to a heavenly Father. But wait … why? We’ve become pretty good at stressing, being anxious, and worrying, so why stop practicing something we’re good at, right? I mean, when you’re good, you ARE GOOD!

When I was in school the worst case of anxiety that I had to deal with could usually be cured by stopping by the Sunoco gas station and getting a cold Mountain Dew for ten cents.  If the anxiety was peaking, I’d ask for the latest STP decal for my bicycle. All was made good.


Today, Mountain Dew is no longer ten cents and STP stickers … ?  You can’t do the dew like ya used to.

Back to my point

 Even though we don’t have to be anxious, we practice anyway. We like to quote from the Epistle of James and say that we’re “doers of the Word” but we placed an exception to this rule because we find it too easy to practice anxiousness and worry (and fear and etc.).  What we should be doing is encouraging one another to stop practicing such faithlessness in our heavenly Father and practice Philippians 4:6-7.

My wife pointed out the verse from an old hymn. Like so many of the old hymns there is a treasure that we tend to sing right through without drinking from its well.

 What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!

Back to Scripture

We know Philippians 4:6 and can probably quote it, right? We’re told to take our anxiety somewhere specific—“to God.”  When you’re worried, anxious, and doing some old-fashioned ‘fretting’:

  • Don’t take it out on your spouse or children.
  • Don’t take it to work with you.
  • Don’t throw it in with some gossip and share your downer with others; and
  • Don’t do a Flip Wilson excuse or use Adam’s excuse that he gave to God in the Garden of Eden.

Take your anxiety; fears; hopelessness; cares; worries; and heartaches TO GOD in prayer.  Take them, all of them to God.

I’ve heard people yell at the Devil about their problems. I’ve heard people dumping their complaints on others.  When we pass the blame onto someone/something else, we are throwing off our responsibilities rather than taking them on. Even if … even if … the Devil is to blame (says Flip Wilson), the scripture tells us that we are to go to God, not to the Devil, with our problems. As far as sharing your “Debbie-Downers” with others, outside of fishing for pity you’re not going to catch much on that hook. Take your troubles to the Almighty God.

BTW: I’m not saying that your troubles will go away.  They may be in your life for a purpose, perhaps to change you rather than the circumstance. But, verse 7 does hold some good news to those who lean to live out verse 6.

Philippians 4:7 (NKJV) — 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

What A Friend We Have In Jesus

What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there.

Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised
Thou wilt all our burdens bear;
May we ever, Lord, be bringing
All to Thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright, unclouded,
There will be no need for prayer—
Rapture, praise, and endless worship
Will be our sweet portion there.

If the above didn’t help, try this rebuke from Bob Newhart:

If You Speak Against Me …

“If anyone tells you that a certain person speaks ill of you, do not make excuses about what is said of you but answer, “He was ignorant of my other faults, else he would not have mentioned these alone.” ~ Epictetus

This is the response of love as Jesus taught.

This is not the way of the worldly minded who prefer self-justification and/or revenge. The person who puts his identity and personhood in how others view him will react in a defensive mode or be wounded.

He who accepts that he is who he is only by the grace of God:

  1. Will not deny his imperfections and sinfulness, but can agree with them. I John 1:8-10 reminds us not to deceive ourselves and call God a liar by denying that we have many faults and that we do blow it. Yes, we do sin, but we have an advocate who is also our propitiation, and He is faithful and just to forgive and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
  2. Will see himself through the blood of Christ and through the opinions of others. He knows that the acceptance that actually counts in life is not from accusers, but from the Defender–Jesus Christ.  His image is found in Christ Jesus, not in whether he fits into the world or conforms to the world’s mold. The Apostle Paul wasn’t relying on the approval of man, but of God. Should we not follow in those footsteps? (Galatians 1:10)
  3. Will not be afraid of words spoken against him by man. He cares what God says about him. Such a person expects the unbelieving world to think of him as strange, as one who is of a different world or different set of values and standards. After all, are we not living according to another kingdom, under a king not of this world? (Psalm 27:1-3)
  4. Will be able to remain at peace and in joy because he has a mediator, Jesus Christ the Righteous, who has silenced the accuser before the throne of God. He knows that the righteousness of Christ Jesus has been imputed to his account and nothing can remove it, for nothing can take away what Christ has given. (Romans 831-39)
  5. Will bless and pray for those that speak against him. (Matthew 5:43-48)

If anyone tells you that you’re a no good, rotten sinner who deserves hell (probably adding some flowery adjectives mixed in the description), reply with gentleness and meekness with,

“Yes, I know. And you don’t know the half of it. But God, who is rich in mercy, forgave me of all that stuff when Jesus Christ bore my sins and their penalty when He was on the cross. And if He did it for this rotten sinner, He can do it for you. Would you like to know how?”

This video is from Shane and Shane, “Embracing Accusations.” The lyrics may even surprise you. The message is sound biblical truth to live by.

What Your Local Church Needs

New local churches seem to be popping up everywhere. It is almost the “In Thing” to do. Whoa, don’t miss understand me, I am all behind new church plants … IF they are needed where they are being planted.

There is an important part of a body that every local church should have, and new church plants are more apt not to have this–hence my opening statement about new startups. If this part is not present in the local church body it is most likely not missed, which is sad. You don’t miss what you never had, kinda thing. But when this part is present, it is evident and appreciated.

Clarification needed:  The church body doesn’t need this part to exist; we know that Jesus Christ builds His church. My point is that this part, or piece—as you may call it, is a valuable asset that makes a profound difference in the maturing of the body. It brings stability, longevity, and balance to the body.

So what is it?

I’m not talking about electric praise bands, yard sales, or screaming evangelists. Nor am I talking about coffee shops or the latest church marketing gimmick. Nope, none of that.

Every local church needs what I’ll call in this blog; elder statesmen / stateswomen of the faith. This is not a reference to the church office of an Elder.  We are NOT talking about the pastors, deacons, or any other church office. So I’m clear what it is not, right?

Who am I referring to?

I am referring to men and women within the local body of believers who know God. Who know God. As the Apostle John would put it, ‘They know that they know Him.’ These are men and women who are seasoned by the fire of life and their faith has been tried and found proven. Hence they have true godly character. They are not loud attention seekers. They never follow the latest religious/spiritual fads that American Christianity invents. And like the Apostle Paul, they know in Whom they believe and are fully persuaded that He is able to keep them.

Five traits:

  • When one of them reads the Scriptures you can hear it in his/her voice. The Word of God comes from a soul that has been pierced by the love of Christ. You hear this person and you can feel the depth of his/her relationship with the One who authored the Word. You realize that they aren’t merely reading words on a fancy published Bible, they are communicating on God’s behalf. The scripture that is being read is alive to that person’s soul. It is real to them!
  • When one of these statesmen of the faith (man or woman) prays with you, it is obvious that he/she prays as a proverbial prayer closet. His/her prayer is from an intimate relationship with the living God. It is a prayer that comes from a sincere soul and doesn’t mix words or draw attention to themselves in the prayer, but the prayer draws attention to the High Priest and Mediator between God and man. This prayer exalts in utter dependence in his/her God.
  • This person has fed on the Wisdom of Solomon and others like him. He/she can recognize the shallow so-called wisdom that comes from the unbelieving world and abhors such arrogance and vanity.
  • This person is more interested in doing what’s right rather than what works.

And I have to ask:

Where are these men and women? Or maybe the question should be: Does your pastor know who these statesmen/women are within the church? I ask because these men and women are humble,  going unnoticed, working behind the scenes in the church, and most likely filling a role and need.

Do you have spiritual statesmen/women in your local body?  This isn’t a spiritual gift that few have, like the office of a pastor. Every member of the body should attain to this role, so that we may edify one another to obtain maturity in Christ. How about you?

How Do You Know That You Know?

I John 2:4 says, “Now by this we know that we know Him, if …”

I’ll leave the rest of the scripture for you to look up. Remember to read it in its context.

In the meantime, try this video on for size. This short video has a kick and it’s worth the beating. Whether you’re familiar with Paul Washer or not, check out on Youtube what is referred to has his shocking youth message. But it’s not just for youth.