Thomas Boston says “a good conscience is a continual feast.” So what good comes from a guilty conscience?
“The awareness that one has done wrong leads to bad feelings” (Adams 1979, 196). A guilty conscience produces bad feelings to “warn us that something is wrong and must be dealt with” (Adams 1979, 197). Guilt is always true—it is never false. If you have bad feelings because you think you are guilty of some offense then you are truly guilty.
Conscience is the capacity for self-evaluation and self-judgment (Adams 1979, 198). Sometimes the conscience acquits and sometimes it convicts.
They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them. (Rom 2:15)
A biblically-informed conscience will convict one of sin. That evaluation will produce bad feelings that should motivate one to confess, seek forgiveness, and pursue restoration.
Guilt is not bad. Just like addressing sin head-on is not bad. “By calling sin ‘sin,’ by crushing pride, by warning of potential punishment, by calling to repentance, Jesus wishes to bring conviction that motivates a sense of sorrow over guilt and leads to change. He didn’t just smile and let it all pass by” (Adams 1979, 204; verse in mind is Rev 3:19).
8 For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. 9 As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. 10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 11 For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter (2 Cor 7:8-10).
A Christian must grow and change. Sanctification is not optional. A Christian must become in practice (sanctification) what they are declared to be (justification). Guilt is one means of God to alert the soul to where they are being sanctified. God uses guilt to bring about the good of repentance and a clear conscience—where true peace is enjoyed
10,000 Blessings in the Wonderful Counselor,
Rod and Staff Ministries
*Taken from Semester One: Principles of Biblical Counseling. 2nd Edition. Lesson 8.