“The past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it, or learn from it.”
Yes, I just quoted The Lion King, but it is true all the same. We hear a lot about the past, and how it’s in the past, and yet it still haunts us on a daily basis. Guilt over past sins can destroy your future. It can cripple God’s plans, and it the bottom line is that it will be our own fault if we allow it. How do we truly overcome our past sins?
1. Ask God for forgiveness.
Are you sorry? Good. Tell God. Let your sorrow bring you to your knees and back to the arms of the God who loves you. Guilt is a good thing. Just like pain, it tells us that something is not right. The Holy Spirit loves you too much to leave you to your own devices if you are a child of God. David asked many times for God to search his heart and show him any wicked thing that had yet to be confessed. After he sinned with Bathsheba, he wrote many Psalms about his guilt.
When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. Psalm 32:3
Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-34
You are not alone. We all sin. We all have done things we are not proud of. Everyone of us is fallen.
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23
Now, the choice is yours to either hide the guilt and shame and sin or to confess it to your Heavenly Father, and ask for forgiveness. For only then, can your relationship be restored.
If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me. Psalm 66:18
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
2. Receive Forgiveness.
I think this may be the hardest part for some people for two reasons.
First, we have become defined by our past sins. In our society, “brokenness” is a badge of honor. People think if we have done terrible things in our past, then others can relate to us better so we use our sin as a “selling point.” Sinners might find the gospel less offensive if we tell them all the horrible things that we have done, and admit we are just like them. Well, we are all born sinners this is true. We all have a sin nature, and we all have had to come to the foot of the cross to allow our burden to be taken away. However, once we get up, once we receive forgiveness, we are not broken any longer. We have been freely given Christ’s eternal power over sin and death.
…We are more than conquerors through him that loved us. Romans 8:37
But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. Isaiah 53:5
For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. 2 Corinthians 5:21
Jesus Christ was broken, he took the wrath of God upon himself, stole our sin away, and made us whole. We are now defined with his righteousness- not by our sin or by our brokenness or by anything about US at all. We are defined in Jesus Christ as a Child of the King. It is not about us at all or our sin. It is about Jesus Christ and His power over sin.
Secondly, people don’t accept forgiveness because they don’t trust in God. You were saved by GRACE- by Jesus Christ alone. Nothing else has taken your sin and given you eternal life apart from his death on the cross. His death covered our past sins, our present sins, and our future sins. (They were all future sins when He died for them.) Why would we think that receiving forgiveness after salvation is any different? His death covered it all, and faith in him alone takes every sin away. If we had the faith to believe that Jesus’ blood could save us from hell then we can have the faith to believe that his blood can cover the guilt and shame that any past sin could hold over us.
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. Ephesians 2:8
3. Learn from your mistakes and help others learn too.
There are so many important lessons we can learn by making mistakes. The biggest one being- God is always right. If we listened to God in the first place we would not have to make mistakes, but sometimes we are a little slow to learn. Remember your mistakes only to remember the lessons they taught you. You can not change the past, but you can learn from it. You can thank God every day that you have the power to never repeat those mistakes. You can thank God that He has the power to forgive. You can help others to not make the same mistakes that you did. One of my favorite quotes is by Jon Acuff,
“The scars you share become lighthouses for other people who are headed to the same rocks you hit.”
You don’t have to pretend you have never sinned. You don’t have to pretend you are perfect, but you are not defined by your weakness or your brokenness or your mistakes. You are defined by Christ’s love, forgiveness, and power over sin. Do not dwell on the past or you will miss out on your future. God never meant for us to be weighed down by guilt and shame. He has died and rose again for us to be free from every chain so that we can serve him in his power proclaiming the true gospel of Jesus Christ.
Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14