"And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan…. Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel. And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment."
Zechariah 3:1-4

There is a legend that has grown up around Pontius Pilate. After he allowed the Lord Jesus to be crucified, tradition says he went back to Rome to report what had happened. And even though he had washed his hands and declared his innocence in Jesus' death, he was conscience smitten. According to tradition, upon leaving Rome; he went to Switzerland. And in the anguish of guilt, he jumped off of a mountain — Mount Pilatus, allegedly named for him — and committed suicide.

Now, this is a legend, but it is a fact that many people are chased by guilt. Guilt is eating them alive, and they don't know what to do with it.

The Accuser

In the verses referenced from Zechariah we see a picture of a heavenly courtroom. Joshua, even though he is a religious man, is laden with guilt. God Almighty is the Justice sitting upon the bench, and Satan is the prosecuting attorney pointing out Joshua's sin. And he seems to have a good case because Joshua is wearing filthy garments.

And this picture represents us. We too stand guilty before God. And like Joshua, we have an adversary. He is Satan, and he works to accuse us — to point out our sins and failures. He wants to have us eaten up with guilt and to condemn us before the face of God.

Accusation or Conviction

It is very important to learn the difference between Satanic accusation and Holy Spirit conviction. Both make us aware of our sins but for very different reasons.

Satan wants us to think about our sins, but he does not want us to deal with our guilt. He tempts us to sin and then condemns us for it. He wants to cripple us and then blame us for limping. He is the one who loves to accuse us and bring us to remorse.

But while Satan is the prosecuting attorney, Jesus is the defense attorney — our Advocate (see also 1 John 2:1). Jesus will not defend our sins, but He will defend His children. And the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sins for the purpose of bringing cleansing, healing, and restoration.

We see this in verse four where Joshua's filthy robes are replaced with clean ones. Isn't that beautiful? Not only does Jesus rebuke the accuser, but He takes away our sin and cleanses us. Not only does He defend us, but He restores us.

What to Do with Guilt?

Jesus wants to take away the old filthy garment you might be wearing right now. He will give you a change of garment so you can be dressed in His righteousness. So what should you do with your guilt?

Analyze It.
Ask, "Is this guilt feeling accusation from the devil or is it conviction from the Holy Spirit?" If it's accusation, it will drive you to despair. If it's conviction, it will draw you to Jesus Christ.

Confess It.
When the Holy Spirit legitimately convicts you of sin, confess it. 1 John 1:9 says, ""If we confess our sin He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." And confess it:

  • Quickly — Don't let sin remain in your heart and in your life. Deal with it quickly.
  • Specifically — Don't just say, "Now, Lord, if I've sinned, forgive me." Call your sin by name.
  • Completely — Don't do a partial job. Don't say, "Lord, cleanse me here and here and here." You've got to be clean — totally and completely clean.
  • Confidently — Claim the promise in 1 John 1:9, and trust God to forgive you.

Live in Victory
The next time Satan tries to accuse you and remind you of your sin, just look at him and say, "My sin is under the blood of Jesus Christ and who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?" (see Romans 8:33). Your sin is forgiven, and Satan can no longer accuse you of it and burden you with guilt.