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This Quick Study Guide contains excerpts from our Keys For Living book on GUILT, to offer an immediate overview, concise answers, with biblical hope and practical help.


Living Guilt Free

“Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.’ And you forgave the guilt of my sin.”

Psalm 32:5

Are you in an emotional battle because of guilt?

Is your guilt a loving instrument of God used to convict, correct and conform your character when you go astray?

Or do you battle feelings of shame and condemnation when guilt strikes a blow to your heart?

True guilt is your friend, a godly companion who whispers truth and motivates you to repent and be free. False guilt is a relentless foe. It is the enemy within that encourages not godly and superficial sorrow that brings death!


What's the Difference Between Guilt and Shame?

Over the years we have met many people who feel guilt and shame are the same. Well, they’re not. The goal of guilt is to convict us of committing a wrong act so that we will confess it, be forgiven and then change. The outcome is positive, making us more Christlike in our attitudes and actions.

However, the goal of shame is to convince us that something is intrinsically wrong with us that can’t be fixed or forgiven. Ultimately robbing us of hope and filling us with despair.

Romans 5 says, “…we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance produces character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”  Guilt says, “I’ve done something bad.” Shame says, “I am bad.”

Realize, God gives us hope, hope in place of shame! Hope to overcome our guilt and to actually live guilt free.

In contrast to Satan’s condemning accusations, the Holy Spirit never condemns true Christians. Romans 8:1 says, 

“There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” As a conscientious Father, God sometimes allows you to experience the consequences of your sin as an encouragement to change.  He will also produce in your heart a desire to do His will." 

(Read Hebrews 12:4-11.)


“For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” 

Philippians 2:13

Meet two kinds of guilt: One is a friend who speaks truth, gently leading you to repentance and forgiveness. The other is a secret conspirator who taunts and condemns, bringing dishonor and inner shame. False guilt arises when you blame yourself even though you’ve committed no wrong or when you continue to blame yourself after you have confessed and turned from your sin. 

“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 

1 Peter 5:8

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What Is True Guilt? 

  • True guilt is the result of sinning. 

“So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord”

 (1 Corinthians 11:27). 

  • Guiltiness is the condition we are in when we sin. 

“For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it” 

(James 2:10). 

  • True guilt requires a sacrificial payment for violating God’s revealed will. 

“We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” 

(Hebrews 10:10). 


What Is False Guilt? 

  • False guilt arises when you blame yourself, even though you’ve committed no wrong or when you continue to blame yourself after you’ve confessed and turned from your sin. 
  • False guilt keeps you in bondage to three destructive weapons ... shame, fear, and anger. 
  • Ironically, confession does not resolve false guilt. Revelation 12:10 says that Satan is the “accuser of our brothers and sisters.” He loves to burden believers with false guilt and condemnation. Some of his favorite strategies are: bringing up the past, reminding you of your failures, and making you feel unforgiven and unaccepted by God. 

“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” 

(2 Corinthians 7:10)


True Guilt vs. False Guilt 

True Guilt: Based on fact 

False Guilt: Based on feelings 


True Guilt: Results in a godly sorrow over sin 

False Guilt: Results in a worldly fear of consequences 


True Guilt: Brings conviction from the Holy Spirit 

False Guilt: Brings condemnation from Satan 


True Guilt: Results in repentance 

False Guilt: Results in depression 


True Guilt: Accepts forgiveness 

False Guilt: Abides in self-pity 


True Guilt: Appropriates Christ’s finished work 

False Guilt: Achieves many personal good works 


True Guilt: Brings reconciliation with God and others 

False Guilt: Brings alienation from God and others 


“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 

(John 8:32) 


Development of False Guilt 

  • Wrong Belief:  “I don’t feel God’s love, and the only way I can have any sense of value and worth is to be loved, accepted, and admired by another person.” 


  • Right Belief: “The only way to receive God’s fulfilling love is to recognize my inner needs and look to Him for love, for acceptance, and for meaning in life.” 


“Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” 

(Romans 10:11)

True Guilt or False Accusation? 

True Guilt... speaks with conviction, reminding you that we are all guilty of sin. 

False Accusation: “I feel like a failure and not as worthy as others.” 


True Guilt... is concerned about developing your inner character. 

False Accusation: “I worry about how I look in the eyes of others.” 


True Guilt... communicates God’s love and encouragement.

False Accusation: “I feel humiliated when I do something wrong.”


True Guilt... does not make excuses for itself.

False Accusation: “I feel that I can’t be healed ... that I’m a victim of my past.”


True Guilt... allows for failure. 

False Accusation: “I feel like I’ll never measure up because of my repeated failures.” 


True Guilt... encourages your real feelings to surface. 

False Accusation: “I feel I must never become angry.” 


True Guilt... is accompanied by a desire to change. 

False Accusation: “I feel like there is no hope for me.” 


True Guilt... lifts your spirit and brings joy when you commune with God. 

False Accusation: “I feel like God doesn’t hear my prayers.” 


True Guilt... is optimistic about the future. 

False Accusation: “I feel that something bad is sure to happen to me in the future.” 


“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” 

(Jeremiah 29:11)

You Are Forgiven 

  • Find the source of your guilt. (2 Timothy 3:16) 
  • Own responsibility for your sin. (1 John 1:9) 
  • Realize that God means what He says. (Ephesians 1:7–8) 
  • Give up dwelling on the past. (Isaiah 43:18) 
  • Invest time in renewing your mind. (Ephesians 4:22–23) 
  • Verify truth when Satan accuses. (Isaiah 54:17) 
  • Exchange your life for the life of Christ. (Galatians 2:20) 
  • Notice that God brings your feelings in line with the facts when you obey Him. (Hebrews 10:36) 


“Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit.” 

(Psalm 32:1–2) 


The Holy Spirit and True Guilt 

  • The Holy Spirit is a gift from God. (Acts 2:38) 
  • The Holy Spirit makes His home in your heart. (1 Corinthians 6:19) 
  • The Holy Spirit communicates God’s love for you. (Romans 5:5) 
  • The Holy Spirit writes God’s laws on your heart. (Hebrews 10:15–16)
  • The Holy Spirit helps you understand the thoughts of God. (1 Corinthians 2:11) 
  • The Holy Spirit confirms your conscience. (Romans 9:1) 
  • The Holy Spirit brings conviction to your heart. (1 Thessalonians 1:5) 
  • The Holy Spirit fills you with hope! (Romans 15:13) 
  • The Holy Spirit gives you the power to obey God. (Acts 1:8)



Recognize the Voice of Your Enemy 

Satan tenaciously incriminates committed Christians, using guilt and fear to generate severe spiritual discouragement. Learn to discern the lies of Satan. He often communicates with a subtle use of unreasonable shoulds. 

  • “You should be smarter and more capable.” 
  • “You should be able to get over your loss much more quickly.” 
  • “You should have been more careful and conscientious.” 
  • “You should do more for the poor people around you.” 
  • “You should endure hardship and pain with dignity.” 
  • “You should never display anger or disappointment.” 
  • “You should never let anyone know your real feelings.” 
  • “You should never cry or show weakness.” 
  • “You should never tell your pastor no.” 
  • “You should be the perfect friend, mate, parent, or employee.” 


“The accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.” 

(Revelation 12:10) 


Key Verse to Learn 

“Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.’ And you forgave the guilt of my sin.” 

(Psalm 32:5) 


Key Passage to Read 

Hebrews 10:1–23 




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God desires to give you hope as you face life challenges, problems and difficult trials. The good news for us, God specializes in redemption and transformation. He takes that which was lost and restores it. He takes that which was dead and gives it life. He takes that which had no hope and rewrites its story. This is our God! As you pray today, ask God boldly to transform the thing inside you that you want to see changed forever!

Thank you for your interest and support in Women of Faith. We pray God will encourage, equip, and empower you with His life-changing truth.

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