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CHURCH CORNER: No matter what you’ve done, God forgives
By Dean Smith
Live to Forgive Ministries
I did some really bad things. I smoked and drank, and did a lot of drugs. I cheated. I stole. I lied. Then, I got out of bed and started my day.
I’m writing this article to let you know that no matter what you’ve done or where you’ve been, there is a God who loves you, forgives you and wants to bless you.
I grew up in a strong Christian family but when I got to college all hell broke loose. Literally. For the next 10 years I lived a regrettably fast and sinful life. When I returned to church and rededicated my life to Christ, I found myself with a heart full of guilt and a mind riddled with shame. I conceded to the fact I’d have to feel at least a little guilty for the rest of my life. Many Christians feel this way today. We feel we will never really be able to totally forgive ourselves for all of our mistakes. This is one of the greatest lies of all time.
In 2005, I felt God prompting me to step into the ministry. I prayed to God and said, “Um, uh God, don’t you remember all those horrible things I did?” I waited for an answer but it was almost like he didn’t remember. I knew God wasn’t stupid, but I wondered how in the world he could effectively utilize someone who had committed so many sins. Then I started reading the Bible to see what it said about this issue. Evidently, God throws our sins into the sea of forgetfulness.
I tried for years to make up for my sins. I read the Bible more. I went to church more. I was nice more often than not. I was attempting to be in right standing with God by doing good works. God wanted me to know and now wants you to know it is exclusively by our faith in Jesus that puts us in right standing with God (Romans 3:21-22). He didn’t want me to do more stuff. He wanted me to have more faith in him. Then, I found myself doing more good works for God out of a love for him, not because of a guilty conscience.
Are you feeling guilty as a parent for making mistakes with your children? Do you feel tormented by your downfalls as a spouse or former spouse? Is there a friend who may never forgive you for the problems you caused?
God wants you to know that you don’t have to feel guilty about your sins once you have confessed and turned from them (1 John 1:9). If you sin and feel guilty, it may just be God convicting you in hopes of leading you to repentance. That’s called good guilt because it is intended to lead you back to an intimate relationship with God (John 16:8-10). If you feel guilty over a sin you’ve already confessed and turned from, then you are experiencing ghost guilt. It may seem really scary and make you fearful and shameful, but it’s not based on the reality of God’s promises. It’s based on your experience on this earth.
We feel guilty after repentance because we put our faith in our feelings and not in Jesus. It’s time for Christians around the world to stop allowing our ghost guilt to have power in our life. Those who have accepted Christ as their savior should no longer live with self-condemnation (Romans 8:1). Ghost guilt could be the very thing that’s hindering you from prospering in God. It could be the barrier that keeps you from an intimate relationship with Jesus, with others, and with yourself.
When I started putting my full faith in Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross it allowed me to live free from guilt, which empowered me to be utilized for his glory. I contacted the man who murdered my mom and helped him to receive freedom through Christ for his agonizing guilt. Now, through our ministry about forgiveness, we’ve had the opportunity to inspire thousands of people around the world to do the same. If you’re living with ghost guilt, I encourage you to pray right now that God will help you surrender it to him. When you are free from ghost guilt, you will be able to receive more of God’s love and accomplish more for his will. This will lead you to a better life of joy and peace.
Dean Smith is the director of Live To Forgive Ministries and teaches about forgiveness and love in churches around the world. He attends The Vine Christian Ministries in Seattle with his wife Molly and daughter Ava. Learn more at: www.livetoforgive.com.