A Biblical Understanding of Guilt
Guilt is generated when a person knowingly or unknowingly violates the law of God, acts badly towards another person, commits a crime, or violates their own standards or moral boundaries. The effects of guilt on an emotional level are stressful. If the person is very sensitive and/or the guilt is really pressing, it can take a toll physically (Psalm 32:3-4).
Biblical guilt is understanding that you have done wrong, but also recognize that it is sin. Biblical guilt is knowing that, as an example, if you have wronged another person, your sin not only affects that person, but you have also sinned against God. In the bible, David acknowledged his sin as being against God (Psalm 51:4). Biblical guilt, unless you harden your heart and your conscience is seared (1Timothy 4:2), does not let you rest. You must not only resolve the issue with the other person, but with God. There must be a confession of sin, acknowledgment of forgiveness in Christ, a forsaking of sin, and restitution.
False guilt is not biblical. With false guilt a person does not acknowledge that he has sinned against a holy, righteous God. False guilt only sees cause and effect on a worldly level. False guilt wants to deal with the emotional and physical ramifications, but does not want to acknowledge the spiritual, perhaps eternal consequences. False guilt may rightly motivate someone to make amends or restitution, but it is not enough.
All guilt should be dealt with according to biblical principles. Rather than focusing on the feelings of guilt, the cause of the guilt must be sought out in light of the Scriptures, and then dealt with in a biblical manner. Freedom comes when sin is acknowledged, confessed, and a change of thought and behavior occurs.