Sometimes believers are overwhelmed with guilt about the past. Such guilt can hinder them from sharing Christ with others. To help these believers, you must first deal with the issue of salvation. Why?
Guilt is both a fact and a feeling resulting from sin. We feel guilty because Scripture tells us we have wronged a holy God. As much as we try to deny it, even our own conscience testifies, “You have disobeyed God.”
The answer to sin and guilt is forgiveness. God wants to pardon us for everything wrong we have done. That pardon must be accepted as a free gift. Coming to God as a sinner, we must recognize that Christ died for us. He took the punishment for everything wrong we have done. His resurrection demonstrated that God the Father accepted His Son’s sin payment for our sin problem. The moment we place our trust in Christ, He pardons us for all our sins—past, present, and future—and guarantees us eternal life in His presence.
Someone may wonder, But how do I then forgive myself? I feel so awful about the terrible things I have done. First of all, we may need to seek the forgiveness of those we have wronged, even to the point of making restitution. If we do so, it is not a way to earn or keep God’s forgiveness, but it is a proper response to the grace God has freely given us.
Second, our feelings may need to be adjusted to His feelings. Our feelings are based on emotion; His feelings are based on fact—the fact that we are forgiven. That means each time the wrong comes to our mind, we have to remind ourselves of the fact that in God’s court of law we have been pardoned. If what we have done is not on His mind, then it no longer has to be on ours.
As we replace our feelings with fact, the power of those feelings decrease as the beauty of forgiveness becomes more real to us. Even if others have difficulty forgiving us the way God has, ultimately we do not stand before them, we stand before Him. When God has declared us to be pardoned, no one can “un-pardon” us.
Feelings of shame and guilt may not disappear overnight, but thinking properly will ultimately cause us to feel properly. As Romans 8:33 states, “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” We cannot undo the facts of the past, but we can deal with them as God deals with them. When we see ourselves as God sees us—forgiven, pardoned, and declared to be His children—then our feelings about ourselves will change.