If God forgives sexual sin, why do I not feel forgiven? I want to wipe the slate clean, but I can’t. What can I do to make things right again and make the guilt go away? I know that this type of sin in particular has consequences I cannot get away from, but how does one move on if we’re truly sorry?
There are two distinct but related questions you have asked here. One has to do with what forgiveness is, and the other has to do with how you should respond to guilt (from sin).
Let’s address the first question by first clarifying a misconception.
Sometimes we believe in the rightness of a doctrine depending on our feelings. But our feelings can deceive us. Our feelings do not determine whether a biblical teaching is right or wrong.
For example, it is possible that sometimes we don’t feel loved by God. But the Bible teaches us that love is not a feeling — it is a commitment (Romans 8:32, Philippians 1:6, 1 Thessalonians 5:24). Whether we “feel” loved or not, God loves us in Christ (Romans 5). I can be sure that God loves me even when I don’t feel it because the Bible (God) says so. Similarly, I can be sure of God’s forgiveness because the Bible says that “If we confess our sins, He (God) is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). God’s forgiveness means He “covers” our sins and does not “count them against us” (Psalm 32:1-2). He does not count them against us because He put our sins on Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:21) and punished Him. And since Jesus was punished for your (sexual) sin, you will be forgiven when you look to God for mercy (Ephesians 1:7).
The Bible teaches us that love is not a feeling — it is a commitment. We can be sure that God loves us even when we don’t feel it because the Bible says so
Because of Jesus, you will have a clean slate before God. In Jesus, God sees you as righteous. So, here’s the good news: if you have looked to God for mercy, you are forgiven — whether you feel it or not.
But having said that, can we still feel the guilt of our sin? That is the second part of your question. Guilt is a terrible thing. We are reminded of what we did and such reminders fill us with regrets and “if onlys”. All of us have experienced guilt. Guilt hurts us, and we don’t like it.
But guilt is a good thing. It is God’s way of reminding us that we have a problem in us and the problem is sin. It is God’s way of caring for us. The uncomfortable feeling is God’s way of helping us see that our thoughts and actions have been against God. Therefore, guilt is not our enemy. The problem is that we don’t know how to process guilt.
So, how do you deal with guilt? In his book, Freedom from Guilt, Timothy Lane writes, “There are many wrong ways to deal with your guilt.” He cites a few:
Have you noticed that none of the ways mentioned above end in God? They are all self-focused. God does not want guilt to manipulate us, but to motivate us. Guilt is God’s way of motivating us to come to Him. And that is the right way to deal with guilt — to approach God in faith.
Guilt is not our enemy. The problem is that we don’t know how to process guilt
The answer to our guilt is not in our plans or our works; it is in Jesus Christ. Because Jesus died in our (the guilty ones) place, there is no condemnation (Romans 8:1). Jesus’ death alone frees us from guilt before God. The right way is to approach God’s throne of grace (not judgment) with confidence (not doubt or fear), so that we may receive mercy and find grace (not rejection or condemnation) to help us (Hebrews 4:16). The gospel is God’s answer to your guilt.
What I’d like to do is offer you a few questions that may be of help to you in your fight against guilt:
Sin loves secrecy. Reach out (expose your sin) to a mature Christian who will help you
I hope these questions will help you.
You also asked about the consequences of our sin. There can be many consequences to our sin (something that sin does not tell us when it lures us). What we need to accept is that we have no control over the consequences of our sin. And God does not call us to control those consequences. God calls us to trust Him (Psalm 32:10b). However, these consequences are helpful for the repentant Christian in three ways:
So, how will you move on? There are two options — either trust in your own efforts, or trust in God. The first option is a foolish option. David will tell you that (Psalm 32). The second option is what God commends (Luke 18:9-14). To trust in God means you believe Christ was punished for you and you therefore need not work yourself toward God. It also means that you wait on God. As your Father, let His faithful love surround you, no matter what path lies ahead of you.
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