Religion thrives on false-guilt. It is the manipulative tool that religion uses to motivate people to try harder to reach the impossible standards of perceived perfect behavior, allegedly generated by human will-power. Often regarding the conscience as an independent regulator, guilt feelings are regarded as a sign that God is disappointed, disapproving, and angry at man’s failure to measure up to His expected behavior norms. God’s “frown of disapproval” in our conscience is alleged to evidence that God is holding us accountable and is acting punitively against us because of our failures. The preacher often berates the people for their sin, and the people in the pew masochistically delight in such chastisement and condemnation for failing to live up to the legalistic regulations, commending the preacher for another “good sermon” that “cut to the bone” of their consciousness. There is certainly no “rest” in this repetitive scheme of religion, striving to perform according to prescribed and perceived standards.
Christians have often been taught that their sins have been forgiven (Col. 2:13), and they have been “washed whiter than snow” (Ps. 51:7; Isa. 1:18). When Christians do not accept God’s forgiveness as an established attitude, they might continue to suffer restlessness from the guilt and condemnation of past sins, saying, “I believe God has forgiven me, but I just cannot forgive myself.” What audacious arrogance to think that we should hold ourselves to higher standards than God’s standards, or to suggest that God was wrong or ill-advised in forgiving us. These Christians need to quit deifying themselves, accept God’s forgiveness, forgive themselves as God has forgiven them, and enjoy His life and sufficiency.