As Christians, how do you forgive yourself for past sins and mistakes when you had lost your walk with the Lord? And how do you let go of the guilt and shame you still feel of engaging in past ungodly activities and behaviors?
Forgiveness is one of the most difficult things for Christians to have to do because we don’t have the strength and grace needed to forgive, especially ourselves. However, we know that Jesus has commanded forgiveness and He has given us grace, which is sufficient for us, and strength through the power of the Holy Spirit to do anything. Since Jesus died for us to forgive our sins, He has cleared the path to forgiveness, for others and for ourselves forever.
2 Corinthians 19:9 “My grace is sufficient for thee. For my strength is made perfect in weakness.”
Philippians 4:13 "I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me."
Confess Your Sins and Accept God’s Forgiveness
Jesus wants to forgive us when we engage in sin. He doesn’t want us to live unjustly and sinfully. And He doesn’t want us to cause spiritual death to ourselves, separating us from Him. He wants to cleanse and redeem us because He cares for our souls. Yes, He died to atone for our sins and saved us by His grace. But the Apostle Paul teaches us that, “sin should not abound,” just because we received God’s grace. He’s telling us that it is not ok to continue in sin, to abuse God’s wonderful grace, that He so lovingly and undeservedly bestowed upon us to save our souls.
Moreover, to receive God’s forgiveness, we must first confess our sins to Him and be sincere in our hearts, remorseful and repentant. Then we must accept His forgiveness. When God forgives, He removes our sins far away from us and forgets about them. He never dwells on our past sins and mistakes the way we do. He never feels ashamed or embarrassed of us because of the ungodly life we once lived. What’s important to Him is that we surrender our hearts and live under His full control. And live according to His will and purpose for us.
Psalm 103:10-13 “He has not dealt with us after our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward them that fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”
Acknowledge and Embrace Your Past Sins and Forgive Yourself
Before we forgive ourselves of our past sins and mistakes, we must first acknowledge and embrace them. By acknowledgement, we accept the sins we’ve committed. And by embracing, we own all the guilt, shame and other negative emotions that result from the sins.
It is important that we do not downplay or diminish the magnitude of the sins and mistakes we indulged in. We need to accept them as horrible as they were. Nor do we reject the negative feelings and emotions, like the guilt and shame we feel toward them, to comfort ourselves. This is taking responsibility for the acts you indulged in and dealing with the consequences maturely.
Finally, after taking responsibility for your past sins and mistakes, you should extend grace and compassion and forgive yourself. Keep in mind that Christ has already cleared the path for you to forgive yourself by forgiving you first. Let go of all the guilt and shame that you still feel and embrace how far you’ve come in the Lord. Continue to move on with Him by your side, accepting His continual grace and mercy, and wisdom and guidance in your life.
Previous Life Experiences Can Influence Our Choices and Sinful Behaviours
Our previous life experiences can influence the choices and behaviours we engage in. This is not to excuse past sinful behaviour – it is an explanation for the behaviour. Sometimes we engage in certain behaviours to numb our true feelings – hurt and pain. And to forget and distract ourselves from certain situations. And we let our emotions consume us so much, that we self-remedy and forget about the Lord’s power and control over our lives.
For example, I grew up in church, sang in the choir, took communion, and lived a clean, godly life. When I went to college, I lived on my own. I started dating, and then a few years later, I had a child out of wedlock. I had no interest in marrying him as he was not the right one. And I engaged in an ungodly lifestyle for a while. (I’ve since given my life back to the Lord and have been living for Him).
Due to family circumstances, I developed depression and anxiety and lived this way, untreated, for many years. As a result, I carried around a lot of mental and emotional pain within me and never sought therapy. For this reason, I left the church I was a member of because my family also attended it.
Anyways, to this day, I regret I had to leave the Church. Nevertheless, I was truly unhappy with the ungodly lifestyle I was living as a Christian and I developed guilt and shame. Whether it was drinking, dancing in the clubs, or trying out different things, I lived daily with the guilt and shame of it all. And I became fearless of God. It’s unfortunate, but that was my reality.
Rebuke Satan’s Reminders of Your Past Sins and Mistakes and Forgive Yourself
Despite God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness, He has bestowed upon us, that Satan likes to remind us of our past sins and mistakes and plays them like a record player in our minds constantly. Because he wants us stuck in the past and to believe that we are unworthy and that our past sins define us. He wants to prevent us from moving on in the Lord. But we must rebuke these thoughts from the outset and remind ourselves that God’s grace is sufficient for us.
On the other hand, if we are weak and don’t know who we are in Christ Jesus, and Satan gets control of our thoughts, he will have a field day with our minds. Let us believe all his lies about ourselves. That is why it’s important to seek the Lord and pray persistently for deliverance from unwanted thoughts and memories from the past. We know that greater is He that’s within us than He that’s in the world. And Satan’s evil powers are no match for our Lord’s almighty and everlasting power.
It is important that we resist Satan’s tactics and remind him of who we are, in Christ Jesus, and who he is not. Remind him who will spend eternity with the Lord and who won’t. Rebuke him in Jesus’ name with confidence when he reminds you of your past again. God has given us power through His Holy Spirit to speak in His name and rebuke evil spirits and forces. If the only living sovereign God, who has called us to serve Him, be for us, who can be against us?
2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love, and of a sound mind.”
To close, forgiving oneself of past sins and mistakes is not as easy as forgiving others who have sinned against us. Because we are unnecessarily critical of ourselves. It takes the grace of God and strength from Him to enable us to forgive. When we confess our sins to Him and have received forgiveness, it clears the path for us to forgive ourselves. No matter how great our past sins were, He has removed them far away from us and they became non-existent in His mind.
We must deal with our sins of the past by acknowledging and embracing what we’ve done and the guilt and shame that come with them. When Satan brings thoughts and memories of the past to remind us of our sins, we must rebuke him and remember who we are in Christ. We must remember that God’s grace is sufficient for us, and He loves us enough to forgive and forget our sins. And, so we must forgive ourselves too.