Soothing a Troubled Conscience
Practical Tips . . .
Admitting your guilty secret to someone is extremely therapeutic. It can greatly relieve the burden of guilt, help you see the past in it’s proper perspective, and empower you to get on with life. There are dangers, however. I draw them to your notice not to discourage you from this step but to help you make a wise choice.
If you admit to a crime, the person you reveal it to might be legally obligated to inform the police. I have no idea of the legal intricacies where you live, so if you are concerned about this you should consult a lawyer. For instance, there may be some people (such as your lawyer) who are not legally required to report confessed crimes. A lawyer will be able to advise whether in your state this privilege extends to a pastor.
Scripture says we must keep our word and obey the law. If, before revealing your secret, you make someone promise to tell no one, and the person is required by law to break that promise, you are obviously creating a real dilemma for that person.
People you confess to might not be emotionally equipped to handle what you share
They might be so shocked or hurt that they lash out at you and so increase your feeling of condemnation.
They might blab what they hear.
You might cause them serious problems. For instance, if you confessed to someone with a low self esteem that you had felt ill toward them, you could devastate them or severely tempt them to resent you.
Confessing to someone who accepts your long kept secret in a non-judgmental way can cause immense relief. This can create within you a strong emotional bond with the person you confessed to. The result could be an unhealthy emotional dependence upon the person, or what you misinterpret as romantic feelings.
Making amends by such means as paying back what we have wrongfully appropriated, or giving financial compensation for damage we have caused, is also a significant biblical principle. (Scriptures)Again there are dangers:
In the eyes of the law, such things as returning what you have stolen does not make you innocent of the original crime. You are still liable for prosecution, and your attempt to offer restitution could result in police involvement. You may well decide that it is the right thing to do, regardless of the consequences.
Restitution is not a means of gaining divine forgiveness
Just as restitution does not make you innocent in the eyes of the law, neither does it make you innocent in the eyes of God. Restitution may greatly reduce your guilt feelings, but don’t let it rob you of your gratitude to God for his forgiveness. Do not imagine your attempt to make amends makes you more deserving of forgiveness or acceptance by God. You are accepted because of the immense, undeserved love of God that moved his Son to die in your place. There can be no other reason.
What a tragedy it would be to miss out on heaven’s best! Prayer transports us into the realm where the impossible is possible. Try never to underestimate the wonders your loving Lord wants to do for you in response to believing prayer.
Literally thousands of times you have probably let satanic lies and slander go unchallenged through your mind. To undo all the damage demands equal and opposite effort. I wish I could invent a lazier method but I do not think one exists. You have a tough mental habit to break. You need equal and opposite truth to counteract every lie, and permeate your whole being until it becomes a part of your subconscious. Anyone can do it, but it takes determination.
Memorizing Scripture about forgiveness is a powerful way to let healing truths soak into the deepest part of you. Even while feeding them into your mind they can do you good, and afterward you’ll have them there like a loaded gun the moment Satan’s intruders enter your mind.
I am convinced that it is vital for your well-being to keep saying the following, preferably out loud. Even though it may feel stupid, it really helps affirm it when you hear yourself say it. It would be most helpful to carry a copy of these words around with you and re-read them whenever you can. More than this, you need to memorize them word for word. This will do you more good than almost any other conceivable thing. Just as Jesus could only defeat the devil in the wilderness by quoting the word of God, so it is the only way you can defeat the evil one in your life. No therapist, no one else's prayers, nothing will work like this. The repetition may seem silly but it is critical. It is the only way to counteract all the devil's repetition in your mind over all those years. You must fight back, and this is how you do it: by memorizing the following words. If past or present suffering haunts you, you’ll need the later verses. By all means, add Scriptures to them, but this is a good place to start. Repeat the following:
2 Corinthians 5:17 says I am a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.
The end of Romans 8 says that nothing – not even suffering or calamity or persecution – can separate me from the love of God.
Romans 8:18 ‘I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.’
In 2 Corinthians 4:17, Paul, who was frequently tortured, says my sufferings are light and momentary and are achieving for me an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
Romans 8:35-37 ‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.’
You were once enslaved by sin, says the Bible, but now you are freed, like a person released from jail. Sin was once your Master. Now you have a new and far more powerful Master – the Lord Jesus. For guilt to take you back it would first have to deal with Jesus.
That’s what God says about you over and over. Dare you deny his Word? Soak in the Scriptures that declare this, as if you were soaking in a soothing bath. Dance for joy in them. Throw a party!
‘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)
The image in this verse is of hands dripping with innocent blood. They are cleansed so that not the slightest evidence remains. It is saying you could be guilty of the vilest crimes and be made spotlessly pure. You are washed clean; cleansed of all impurities; purified. (Scriptures)
The apostle Paul, before his conversion, had devoted his entire life to doing his utmost to impress God. He lived the best life he possibly could and performed all sorts of religious duties – studying Scripture, praying, following the law to the letter and then going even further. For instance, he was the proud member of what was sometimes called the bleeding Pharisees. They got their nickname by trying so hard not to look at a woman (and so open themselves to the possibility of lust) that they bumped into things.
And yet Paul didn’t want God to remember any of the good he had done. He would no sooner display his own bodily filth than present to the holy God the very noblest things he had done. He regarded as trash all the good he had ever done – all the things that had impressed people and caused them to honor him as a man of God. (Philippians 3:4-9)
Paul had discovered that the only goodness that counts is Christ’s goodness. God’s only standard is perfection, and only Jesus is perfection.
Imagine that instead of your every real or imagined sin you had done something exceedingly noble. Suppose you had committed none of the offences, the memory of which still haunts you, but instead of each you had given everything you own to the poor, witnessed to gangs of thugs who beat you to a pulp for uplifting the name of Jesus, resisted the severest imaginable temptations, frequently devoted 40 days to prayer and fasting, read the Bible from cover to cover 100 times, and so on. Had that been your past instead of the one you remember, could it make a difference to the way God views you now? No! You have the righteousness of Christ. Nothing can add to that. Christ’s perfection is yours by virtue of your union with him.
No one can improve perfection.
If your past had, in fact, been filled with outstanding acts of devotion, you would be in spiritual danger because of the great temptation to place your faith in your own goodness, rather than in Christ’s. Remember Jesus’ story of the two men who went to the temple to pray (Luke 18:10-14). They were totally different. One was an outstanding citizen, a man renowned for his lofty moral standards and devotion to God. The other was the scum of society, someone whose lust for money drove him to collaborate with the Roman occupation force and to rip people off. The Pharisee thanked God for all the good he had done. The tax collector could do nothing but hang his head in shame, agonizing over his wickedness. There wasn’t one good thing he had done that he could ask God to consider in his defense. All he could do was beg, ‘God have mercy!’ Only one of them left with God’s approval – the one who put his faith not in his goodness, but in God’s mercy.
On another occasion Jesus said money grubbing turncoats and hookers would enter the kingdom of heaven before the good-goody Pharisees. (Scriptures)
Satan has no power over God’s children. All he can do is to try to bluff and lie his way into our minds. He has been disarmed by Jesus. All he can do is to try psychological warfare, and at present your mind is a battleground. You need to keep holding on to the truths in God’s Word, even though Satan makes his lies seem like truth and God’s truth seem like lies. Remember, for instance, 2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! I strongly urge you to memorize this Scripture. (Verse 21 is a great one to memorize as well.)
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