“But what am I supposed to feel when I do something I am sorry for?” This is a good question and I believe there is an easy answer: regret.
It is natural to have regret when you have made a mistake or sinned against God or another person. We all make mistakes and it is certain that we all sin AND we should feel bad about it. This is why God gave us I John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” To me, the guilty conscience comes from a deliberate failure to obey I John 1:9. On the other hand, regret means you are sorry and do not want to repeat the same action again. Guilt is an emotion that immobilizes you. This is why guilt serves no good purpose. It will not help you in any way. Guilt is a waste of time. You cannot change what has been done by feeling guilty about it.
Do you remember the story of David? He was so wracked by guilt that in Psalm 51 he suggests that it was affecting him physically. His bones ached within him. In other words, he was immobilized and he simply acknowledged to God what God already knew. David was liberated from that point forward. Sure, he had plenty of regret, but he was no longer paralyzed by guilt.
The past is just that… passed. Gone. Slipped away. Not to be repeated again. If you need to make restitution, do it. If you messed up, apologize. If you are forgiven your mistake by the offended, give thanks and move on. If you are not forgiven for the mistake you made, then move on anyway. Forgive yourself; learn from the experience. Act differently next time. God promises not only to forgive but to cleanse. That means that you are given freedom from your past. Don’t be chained by guilt!
Eleven of the greatest men in the Bible never guessed there was a phony in their midst. They had lived with him as a brother for three years, and had even trusted him with their group’s money. He had done everything they had done: he had preached, he had cast out demons, he had healed the sick as we see in Matthew 10:1-4, “And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.“
Never once in all those activities was he “exposed.” Even at the Last Supper when the disciples were told one of them would betray Jesus; they all wondered who it was. No one knew: no one except Jesus and Judas himself.
But Judas didn’t have to remain a phony. The sop Jesus handed him at the Last Supper was a ceremonial bread reserved for the meal’s honored guest. When Judas planted the kiss of betrayal on Jesus’ cheek in the Garden of Gethsemane, the ever-loving Son of God turned to him and said, “Friend, wherefore art thou come?” Jesus never stopped loving Judas. He always left the door of repentance and salvation open. Judas himself slammed it shut by refusing to yield to Jesus as Master of his life. Oh, he had called him “Master” many times; even at the moment of betrayal, but his heart had said, “I will not have this man rule over me.”
How is it with you? Are you like Judas, saying all the right words, doing all the right things? Are you feeling empty, fearful, and guilt-ridden inside? Jesus waits to receive you, if you will only yield to Him as Savior and Master of your life.