Paul said something to the Council in Jerusalem that got my attention. Paul, as Saul, had persecuted the church. He was responsible for the imprisonment of hundreds of men and women who were guilty of nothing more than believing in Jesus. He was present when Stephen was stoned to death, even approving of the murder.
But in 23:1 he said, “Brethern, I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God up to this day.”
Seriously? Paul could say he wasn’t overcome with guilt about his past? Shouldn’t what he’d done give him sleepless nights over feelings of regret?
This week I have struggled with memories of how I treated my parents, both of whom now live with Jesus. Did mom know how much I appreciated the white suit she had made for me for homecoming? Did she forgive me for unkind words I’d said to her in my youth? Why did I choose to go to that jewelry party at my coworker’s house instead of welcoming Dad the night he drove 60 miles to surprise me? Mom had died. He was alone and lonely. And I didn’t stay. Why didn’t I hug my nephew the last time I saw him? Our eyes connected, but we didn’t hug. And he died a few days later. Did he know how much I loved him?
Friends, I have a guilty conscience. I see the faces of friends I betrayed, the looks of people who received the biting words I said, the hurt I caused. And I am sitting here weeping with regret.
I didn’t commit the sins Paul did. Yet he could say he had a perfectly good conscience before God. HOW?
I am reminded that I am forgiven. Jesus took the guilt upon Himself. I can stand before Him with a good conscience because when God looks at me He sees Jesus’ perfection. He’s forgiven me of all those things I did and didn’t do, and He’s forgotten them. I am guilt-free as far as He’s concerned.
So when I struggle with guilt, like I have these past days, I need to recognize that it’s not coming from my Savior. It’s Satan’s attempt to make me a slave to my past.
God, forgive me for falling for that. Thank you for forgiving me. I am a sinner. I am guilty of unspeakable sins. And I can feel pretty bad about them. Help me to remember that Jesus died so that those sins can be washed away, never to be remembered by You ever again. Help me to rejoice in my salvation, to never live another minute regretting what I can’t change. And give me the power to not repeat the sins I’ve committed. I don’t want to miss the joy of living with a perfectly good conscience before the God who gave it to me.