"I know, O Lord, that your judgments are right,
and that you in faithfulness have afflicted me."
David in Psalm 119:75
If we do wrong, God is faithful to cause us to suffer for it, if in no other way than in causing us to suffer the heavy feeling of condemnation in our hearts. A large part of God’s work in our lives is to cause us to feel guilty when we have erred, and it is a precious gift from God to be able to feel bad for doing wrong.
There are many people on this planet who can commit great wickedness and yet suffer no pangs of guilt at all. These are the people God hates. Conviction for sin is part of the chastening of God, and God chastens only those whom He loves (Rev. 3:19). Without chastisement from God, no one can possibly repent. Man has nothing within him that causes him to feel like repenting for evil; conviction for sin comes only from the Spirit of God.
The chastening of the Lord is more precious than gold. It is an invitation from God to come be forgiven. David knew this well, and he wrote (Ps. 94:12-13), "Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O Lord, and teachest him out of thy Law, that thou mayest give him rest from the days of adversity." It made David tremble to think that God would refuse to chasten him when he needed it, but he knew God would be faithful to His people and correct them for their errors, "for the Lord will not cast off His people, neither will He forsake His inheritance" (Ps. 94:14). The man whom God will not chasten has been forsaken by God.
Jesus will work with us for years, constantly making our conscience feel guilt when we are overtaken by a fault. This is part of what being a Savior means, for by the pangs of guilt we are prodded away from the way of sin. It is then, when we turn from sin to God, and God then forgives and cleanses us from sin, that we experience "deliverance" from the guilt that burdens our heart when we have sinned.
Another Way of Deliverance
But being forgiven and washed from sin is not the only way to be delivered from feelings of guilt for sin. We can also be "delivered" from that burden if God ceases to grant us those feelings of guilt. Over the years, I have seen several cases of this. I have heard testimonies from those who have claimed to be delivered, when what had really happened is that they had provoked God for so long and had resisted His conviction so stubbornly that He finally turned them over to their own will. He stopped convicting them for sin. The relief they felt was not the relief of being forgiven and cleansed; rather, it was the relief of not feeling any more conviction from God for what they were doing wrong.
When, after long years of patient forbearance, God finally turns a person over to his own will and refuses to chasten him any longer, that sinner may feel happier and freer than he has felt in many years. And in the cases of this that I have seen, those people usually feel as if they have been released from a sort of prison. Some even assume that they have taken a step of faith into a higher realm of fellowship with God. But that is the way of God’s curse. It is a "strong delusion", as Paul said, and under such a delusion, one thinks he is traveling one way when he is, in fact, going in exactly the other.
It is possible to be delivered from sin, or to be delivered over to it. Either way, we will feel a great relief. The only question is, what kind of relief do we want? The kind that is true and real, or the illusion that makes us think we are something we are not?