As you proceed from being a new Christian into one more mature and experienced, you might run into the problem of past guilt. I know as I’ve grown closer to Christ, he makes me more and more aware of my sin, and I can’t get away with things I used to. That’s not what I’m talking about, however. All of us have sin in our past, and all of us as believers have been forgiven those sins. So when those feelings of guilt come back up, how do we deal with them?
First and foremost, we need to recognize their source. Today’s passage is referring to our Enemy Satan, and this is one of his main jobs when it comes to believers: Accuser. How do we tell when a certain feeling about sin comes from Satan or the Spirit?
It’s not rocket science. 1 John 1:9 is one of my favorite promises of all time: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” And once your sin is forgiven, do you think that God will bring it up again? What would you think of a friend or parent who kept on bringing up past failures? Would that be showing love? So if this source of “guilt” is bringing up past sins which you’ve confessed, then it doesn’t come from the Holy Spirit.
Also, you can examine the purpose here. When I sin and the Spirit brings it up, what’s his purpose, his goal? It’s to restore my relationship with the Father and continue the process of molding me into the likeness of Christ. Satan’s goal is the exact opposite: He wants to wreck that relationship and stunt my spiritual growth.
This is just my personal experience, but it’s been confirmed by many sources. The Spirit always points out specific sins that I’ve committed and which still require repentance. He might say to me, “Keith, you were really rude and disrespectful of your wife with that comment last night.” Satan will come along and say “You’re a lousy husband and a lousy Christian. You might as well give up.” See the difference?
Here's an easy way to distinguish the two: The Holy Spirit convicts, while the Enemy condemns.
We’ll look at the most famous instance of Satan’s accusations next month when we look at Job, but let me leave this subject for now with one final point. When we accuse a brother in Christ, especially when we tend to think the worst of him so that we can elevate ourselves, whose example are we following?
Lord Jesus, thank you that there is no condemnation for those who are in you. When the Enemy comes to accuse me, I will send him straight to you. I don’t want to listen to his lies anymore. Please tune my ears to hear only your voice.