All of us have things in our lives we wish we’d never said or done. At one time or another we all encounter feelings of self-loathing which arise from our own inability to think and act as we know we should. Sometimes these are shameful acts-things we’d like to erase by turning back the clock. But we can’t! So we carry the guilt and shame inside. No one is exempt from such feelings of guilt and regret.
But you may be thinking to yourself, “You don’t know the horrible things I’ve done. I live every day with the haunting memories of things I’ve done. I am shamed by those memories and I can’t see how God could change that. My punishment is to suffer every day with regret. There’s really no way out of this.”
The fact is, the Bible gives us a pretty extensive list of people who received God’s forgiveness for some pretty terrible misdeeds. King David’s story in the book of 2 Samuel, chapters eleven and twelve, involves adultery and murder. Psalm 50 shows us his prayer of repentance. God fully forgave him and enabled him to be Israel’s greatest king. In Psalm 130 David sings of the forgiveness he has found in God. The New Testament record provides us with an extensive list of people who have their sordid pasts dealt with by the forgiveness of Christ. Among them are: the unnamed lady caught in the act of adultery; Levi, a “tax collector,” commonly known in the day as an extortionist; Zacchaeas-the same; Peter, a Christ-denier and blasphemer; Paul, a terrorist. All of these were forgiven by Christ and freed from the oppression of their guilt.
You see, the “good news” message of the Bible is that the punishment for our shortcomings, our misdeeds-the evil of our own hearts-was borne by Jesus Christ. There is an assuring word given us in the Old Testament book of Isaiah. “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah, chapter 53, verse 6). Earlier in that same book there is a clear statement about the issue of forgiveness. Expressed in poetic language, these are the words of God Himself: “Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18) Our responsibility is to simply confess our sins to him and he will forgive. He promises to forgive you no matter what. And he’ll give you a new heart-a heart of love to trust Him.
This really points to the very reason of Christ’s coming to earth. Everyone of us has been caught in the impossible dilemma of recognizing the guilt in our own lives yet not being able to do anything about it. Christ has come to take the penalty of our sins and to set us free. That’s called grace-the unmerited favour of God. The apostle, Paul, in his letter to the people in first century Ephesus, states the truth with great clarity: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 5: 8, 9)
All you need to do to be forgiven is to confess your sins to God. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1: 9) As you face the reality of your own guilt for past wrongs, dwell, not on the greatness of your sins, but on the greatness of Christ’s power to forgive! We cannot save ourselves, but He can. We cannot give ourselves hope, but He can. Though we are troubled by feelings of guilt, He gives us the assurance that in Him alone-the Prince of Peace-we will experience true and enduring peace.