I have been a Jesus-follower since 1970. I was twenty-one years old. Which makes me now...???
At the heart of my conversion was a great sense of my sin, which was manifesting itself in many ways. I felt guilt.
My guilt was different from a guilt trip laid on me by some self-righteous person. This guilt was from God. That's how I saw it. God was convicting me. I had done wrong things. I had hurt people. I was entitled and narcissistic. And then, thankfully, I began to feel a sadness about myself that would not go away. I am so thankful for this revelation of my sin!
There is a healthy guilt that is different from self-hatred. Brennan Manning writes:
"Healthy guilt adds not a single paragraph to the script for self-hatred. To the contrary, the conviction of personal sinfulness leads to realistic confrontation, ruthless honesty, and self-knowledge; it stimulates compunction, contrition, the desire for reconciliation, and inner peace." (In Faith That Matters: 365 Devotions from Classic Christian Leaders, p. 305)
In 1 John, the apostle John is writing to believers, "to assure believers of the certainty of their faith and to refute heretical doctrines teaching that Jesus was not fully human and fully divine." (Keener, NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, p. 10936)
In chapter 1 John says,
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.
Have I sinned since my conversion to Christ in 1970? Sadly, but of course. Yet when my sin has been accompanied by healthy remorse and guilt, it has often led to greater transformation of character. Of which there is surely more to come.