Feb
16

Making Peace with Your Past, part 3

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This week I’ve devoted a lot of virtual ink to the subject of dealing with guilt and making peace with your past. Most of my energy has been diagnostic as opposed to providing tangible steps to turn the corner from regret to resolution. The Bible has a lot to say about resolving guilt issues. What the Bible has to say is fairly simple to understand. The problem is that the principles of resolution we discover in Scripture are hard to apply!

The first thing the Bible would say about dealing with guilt is that one must first come clean with God. We need to confess our buried sin to God. That sounds frightening, but let’s be honest: God already knows! Here’s the good news. No matter how marred or scarred our broken pasts may appear, the promise of God is that when we turn from our sin we run directly into the open arms of God. There is no forgiveness and healing without coming clean with God in confession. Confession means “to agree with.” If there is one verse in the Bible you need to know, its 1 John 1:9, which reads, “If we confess our sins to him, he is faith and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness” (NLT). We always need to confess our sins to God. But what about to those we have offended? Here’s what James 5:16 says, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (NLT).
Coming clean is the first step to resolving yesterday’s guilt.

Next, the Bible would say we need to accept God’s forgiveness. Accepting God’s forgiveness is one of the most difficult things we can do. I think there are a couple of reasons for that. For one, we live in a performance based culture. Our society, which is based on merit and conditional love, struggles to comprehend the grace of God and unconditional love. We feel that we have to earn or deserve forgiveness. But we cannot earn forgiveness, we can only receive it. How can God forgive? God can forgive because God is a God of love. Love is the character and essence of God that makes forgiveness possible.

The other reason it’s hard to accept God’s forgiveness is because we associate forgiveness with feelings. If we don’t feel forgiven, then we question forgiveness. God’s primary goal in forgiveness is not emotional. It’s legal. God’s forgiveness is his righteous declaration and pronouncement that we have been made right with him. Feelings may follow, but one cannot judge what God has stated as fact based solely on how we feel. Focus on the facts first. The feelings will follow.

The final thing the Bible would say about handling guilt is to become forgiving in our own spirit. There are several verses in the Bible on forgiveness that we have to acknowledge and deal with. For example, Jesus said, “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15, NLT). What do we do with that?! How about this one? “Be kind to each other, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32, NLT).

Forgiveness is a picture of releasing a debt. By refusing to forgive, we keep others emotionally indebted to us. We cannot have an open relationship with God if we hold others in debt for something that God would forgive us for.

I like music, but I really don’t know that much about it. I do know that in music a dissonant chord is one that lacks resolution. You’d know one if you heard it. A dissonant chord lingers in the air, begging for resolution. Or, better yet, closure. If you’re at a dissonant in life, resolution comes through Jesus. The only way we can make peace with our past is through him, the “Prince of Peace.”

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