I went to confession frequently and performed the assigned penances faithfully. Nevertheless my conscience could never achieve serenity. — Martin Luther

When I counsel married couples, I’m always amazed by the Spirit-led ability to forgive one another; and yet I’m heartbroken by the human inability to forgive ourselves. Guilt and shame have a habit of squeezing tight. And because guilt stifles intimacy, it’s not uncommon to see a marriage end. 

So if you’re struggling today with guilt and shame from past sin, I want you to know a very important truth: Jesus doesn’t stop after He cancels your sin, He also desires to free you from the guilt. 

He isn’t asking for penance. He doesn’t demand a sacrifice. Both are gifts available to you through His offer of salvation. 

Hebrews 9 illustrates this truth with an Old Testament example. The author reminds us that the tabernacle was divided into two rooms—the outer Holy Place, and the inner Most Holy Place. God’s presence dwelled in the Most Holy Place. Verses 6-7 tells us: 

The priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry. But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year. 

One person—once a year—had access to the presence of God. The high priest would enter God’s presence with goat’s blood, atone for his own sin and the sins of the people, perform his priestly duties, and then exit. 

For generations this ritual was enough. And yet God sent Jesus as the final High Priest to enter the heavenly throne room of God’s presence and atone for our sin by His own blood. 

Why? Why wasn’t the old way enough to cultivate intimacy? External sacrifices don’t erase internal guilt. 

Hebrews 9:9 tells us the sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper, but the blood of Christ will “cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death …” (9:14). 

The blood of Christ cleanses our conscience; He silences the little judge that has been hijacked by the accuser. He canceled the external sacrifices and activated His internal activity—the Holy Spirit who indwells us as believers. 

Lord, reveal to me the ways I’ve attempted to pay penance for my guilt. Holy Spirit, Help me believe that when You see me, You see only innocence! Amen.