“When the [the Holy Spirit] comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” – John 16:8
Neurotic guilt is when we feel bad or ashamed for something that is not sin and does not grieve the Holy Spirit. This type of guilt fuels a sense of shame that the enemy of our soul uses to leave us feeling condemned and separated from God.
One of the most frequently used weapons of our enemy is shame and condemnation. That is, after all, why he is called the accuser of the brethren. Satan uses shame to alienate us from God and isolate us from the body of Christ. He convinces us we must hide behind a mask as our continual struggle with sin makes us unacceptable in the Kingdom. The feeling of unworthiness causes us to disengage from Kingdom involvement. We and the Kingdom lose, while the enemy wins.
When trying to distinguish between the shame and condemnation the enemy brings and the conviction of the Holy Spirit, it is helpful to be familiar with their respective voices.
The voice of the enemy sounds like…
- You suck, and you will never be worthy.
- If your Chrisitan friends knew how you struggle with sin, they would reject you.
- God is so disappointed with you. You disgust Him.
- You can’t do this Christian life, you are just too broken.
- God’s grace is insufficient for such a habitual sinner as you.
- If you were a real Christian you would have the faith to get through this without such a struggle.
- You are a failure and you always will be.
- Why would anyone want you or love you?
The voice of the Holy Spirit sounds like (in Josh’s ears)…
- Hey, cut it out. I like you and this is going to hurt you.
- You were created for better than this and you can live up to it.
- Yes, you failed – I still love you. Let’s get up and keep going.
- Remember, I love that person you just hurt – Make it right.
- My grace is sufficient for you. You can’t fail bigger than I can fix.
- I’ll talk with them about their part, let’s talk about how you showed up.
- Remember, I’m the King, we do things my way.
- That’s not who I AM, it’s not who you are, let’s clean this up.
- I like you anyways, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
- Yes, I knew you were going to blow it like that, here’s what we do now.
- You are precious to me – NOTHING changes that.
Sufficiency of Scripture
God wants us to know what is important to Him and He has revealed Himself (doctrine of General and Special Revelation) so that we can know. Doctrine is not based on what we can or cannot imagine, our personal experience, or opinion. Sound doctrine is built on the Word of God as revealed in the Bible. The Bible can be clearly understood (doctrine of the Clarity of Scripture), it is authoritative in the life of the believer (doctrine of the Authority of Scripture), and it is sufficient for knowing everything we need to know to please God (doctrine of the Sufficiency of Scripture).
Wayne Grudem, one of my favorite theologians to geek out to, in his systematic theology says this about the sufficiency of Scripture:
Nowhere in church history outside of Scripture has God added anything that he requires us to believe, to do, or not do. Scripture is sufficient to equip us for “every good work,” and to walk in its ways is to be “blameless” in God’s sight.
With regard to living the Christian life, the sufficiency of Scripture reminds us that nothing is sin that is not forbidden by Scripture either explicitly or by implication.
From time to time there may be situations in which it would be wrong, for example, for an individual Christian to drink coffee or Coca-Cola, or to attend movie theaters, or to eat meat offered to idols (see 1 Cor. 8 -10), but unless some specific teaching or some general principle of Scripture can be shown to prohibit these (or any other activities) for all believers for all time, we must insist that these activities are not in themselves sinful and they are not in all situations prohibited by God for his people.
Furthermore, whenever we add to the list of sins that are prohibited by Scripture itself, there will be harm to the church and to the lives of individual believers. The Holy Spirit will not empower obedience to rules that do not have God’s approval from Scripture, nor will believers generally find delight in obedience to commands that do not accord with the laws of God written on their hearts.
In some cases, Christians may repeatedly and earnestly plead with God for “victory” over supposed sins that are in fact no sins at all, yet no “victory” will be given, for the attitude or action in question is in fact not a sin and is not displeasing to God. Great discouragement in prayer and frustration in the Christian life generally may be the outcome.
In other cases, continued or even increasing disobedience to these new “sins” will result, together with a false sense of guilt and a resulting alienation from God. Often there arises an increasingly uncompromising and legalistic insistence on these new rules on the part of those who do follow them, and genuine fellowship among believers in the church will fade away.
Evangelism will often be stifled, for the silent proclamation of the gospel that comes from the lives of believers will at least seem (to outsiders) to include the additional requirement that one must fit this uniform pattern of life in order to become a member of the body of Christ.
Building a “fence” around the scriptures to keep people from getting close to sinning, as the Pharisees did, is not helpful and should be avoided. Calling sin, anything that the Scriptures do not, is also not helpful.