There is no greater or more consistent accuser than a guilt-ridden conscience. The problem with this accuser is that it is your own self. How do you escape the accusations of your own mind, when you realize that not only is the accuser justified in fingering your flaws of character and misdeeds, but also that you are justly condemned?
The Hebrews have had for centuries a day of atonement, Yom Kippur, where the sins of the past year were confessed and laid on the head of a goat, called a “scape-goat.” This goat was led away into the wilderness and by some traditions was hurled over a cliff so as not to return the community’s sins. Another goat was slain. That sacrificial system ended about 2000 years ago when the Temple was destroyed by the Romans. However, the sins that were forgiven were only those unintentional sins like covetousness, crimes of passion, anger, etc. (Leviticus 4:2, Hebrews 9:7) For sins done with intent, with a “high-hand,” there was no sacrifice.
Confession, it is said, is good for the soul, and does bring some measure of relief to the mind. It is a good starting point, for it means at least you are honest with yourself. However, it does not by itself relieve the mind of the constant nagging guilt, doubt, and condemnation. Saying your sorry to one you have hurt, may also help, but may not be enough; especially if they do not forgive your sin.
What then is the remedy for a guilty conscience? There is only one I know. That is going to the One who can cleanse both the conscience and the mind by the Spirit of the Living God. That is going to Jesus, who died “for the sins of the whole world.” He is able to remove guilt and condemnation from within your heart and mind, and renew your image of yourself. For when God declares your sins forgiven, it makes a difference in your life.
A sample prayer:
Jesus, I have done this and this____ and I know I am wrong and have sinned against You and others. I hate my thoughts and deeds. But You were put to death for my misdeeds and raised from death by the Father. You paid the price for my sins. Please forgive me of my sins and cleanse me in thought, word, and deed, so that I may be thankful and grateful in life.
Hebrews 10 (ESV) For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. 2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? 3 But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins…
11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,
16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws on their hearts,
and write them on their minds,”
17 then he adds,
“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.