How does one remain on God's path and forget the past of evil?
Have you ever sinned, confessed your sin to God, and then later still felt guilty? I know a woman who had an abortion. Years later she not only regretted having the abortion, she felt extremely guilty over it. Guilt over a sin occurs with most believers. For some of us, the sin of anger is crushing. For others, it may be the memory of a murder. Depending upon the nature of the sin and the sensitivity of the person to sin, the guilt is worse. As a person becomes more sensitive to sin in their life as he or she draws closer to God. Are you feeling guilty about sins in your past? If so, then there are several things to think about.
First, make sure that you have honestly confessed your sins to God. That is the first step in dealing with past sins. You must start here. Listen to God speak through the Apostle John,
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (NASB) 1 John 1:9
Confession is not saying that “I feel sorry,” or that “I regret that I did this or that.” The Greek word that the Apostle uses for “confess” means “to agree” or “say the same thing.” That is, confession says I admit that I did this evil act. Any disobedience against God’s will is sin. So, if some day in the future I become angry against my neighbor and speak unkind words to him, then the first thing that I need to do is pray something like this, “Lord I admit that I have sinned against you. I was wrong by being angry with my neighbor and speaking unkindly to him. I am deeply sorry. I regret getting angry and threatening him/her. I do not want to do that again, please help me to not repeat that sin.” This is the first step. The first step is admitting that I sinned against God and honestly desiring to not do it again. God is not interested in words, but in your heart attitude. Here are King David’s comments after he committed adultery with Bathsheba. He says that God is looking for a broken heart and not just words.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. (NASB) Ps. 51:17
We confess our sins to God because doing so restores our relationship with God. God forgives the sins of every Christian at the moment you believe in Jesus Christ and submit to Him. If you have accepted Jesus Christ, then your old sins and future sins have already been forgiven.
The second step is to admit my sin to the person that I sinned against. Did you know that you can sin against both God (Deut. 20:18) and against people (1 Sam. 19:4)? First, we admit our sin to God, and then we confess our sin to the person(s) and ask for forgiveness. You will want to ask the person (s) to forgive you too! If they do not forgive, at least you tried. You cannot force anyone to forgive. You can only appeal to him or her. If his or her heart is hard, then it is over and you have done your best.
The third step is to forgive yourself. Have you forgiven yourself? The Apostle Paul calls himself the chief of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15) because he persecuted the early followers (Christians) of Jesus Christ. In Philippians 3, Paul remembered that he had persecuted the early church, and then said this later in the passage.
Brethren . . . one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (NASB) Phil. 3:13-14
Paul decided to forget his past sins. He chose to stop reviewing his past sins in his mind. Satan wants us to keep reviewing our past sins and become discouraged. That is the message in 2 Cor. 2:10-11. You have no reason to keep dwelling on the past sins. If God has forgiven us, we play God when we keep holding ourselves responsible.
We want to encourage you to press on. Follow the steps above and then refuse to dwell on the past. Blot those sins or past deeds out of your mind. Satan wants you to keep remembering the past. He wants you to become discouraged. Ask God to show you what He wants you to do. Pursue some spiritual ministry. May the Lord bless you.