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How can a Christian overcome the guilt of past sins?

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Everybody sins. And an unpleasant result of sin is the feeling of guilt. On one hand, feelings of guilt are a blessing, because they push us towards God. Just like physical pain drives us to find out what's wrong, the spiritual pain of guilt causes us to seek forgiveness. God has promised to forgive anyone, no matter what the sin, when the sinner turns to Jesus Christ in faith (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Repentance (the confession that we are sinful and the desire to see God change our hearts) is part of that faith (Matthew 3:2; 4:17; Acts 3:19).

God's forgiveness, when we accept and understand it, is wonderfully liberating. First John 1:20-21 tells us that we should avoid sin, but if anyone does sin, Jesus Christ is our advocate and will speak to the Father for us in our defense. Jesus applies His own righteousness to us by His death on the cross. Now, in Christ, we cannot be condemned (Romans 8:1).

Unfortunately, the reality of our freedom from sin does not always bring freedom from guilty feelings. After sins are forgiven, the memory of them remains. And Satan, the "accuser of our brothers," does not miss an opportunity to remind us of our faults and failures (Revelation 12:10).

When we feel guilty, there are a few things we can do:

1) Confess to God, in prayer, any sin that is on your conscience. Sometimes when we feel guilty, it is simply because we are guilty, and we need to confess our sin and be relieved by a reminder of God's forgiveness (Psalm 32:3-5).

2) Ask God to help you see anything in your life that needs to be confessed and changed. Be totally honest with Him (He knows everything about you anyway!). Pray the words of Psalm 139:23-24, "Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!"

3) Remember that God has promised to forgive your sin and take away your guilt by way of the blood of Christ. Trust that promise (1 John 1:9; Psalm 85:2; 86:5; Romans 8:1).

4) When guilt still plagues you, even after you've confessed and forsaken your sins, then those feelings are false guilt. Remember that God has been true to His promise and has forgiven you. You are justified in His eyes. Meditate on Bible passages that reiterate God's promise to forgive, like Psalm 103:8-12.

5) Pray that God would make you deaf to Satan's accusations. Ask Him to restore your joy in salvation and give you freedom from guilt (Psalm 51:12; Psalm 32).

After we've dealt with the sin, we must move on. We must focus on what is true and noble and good (Philippians 4:8) and resist the temptation to dwell on our wrong actions or past failures. Believers have been made "new creatures" in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). When the Lord forgives us, those old sins are as far from us as the east is from the west. They are nailed to the cross, dead and buried and gone. If God forgives us, we should not refuse to forgive ourselves.

Related Truth:

Who are we in Christ?

How can a believer have assurance of salvation?

How can I have victory in overcoming sin?

Why should we forgive?

Does God love me?

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