I can tell you this question is one that everyone asks at one time or another in their life, even pastors, ministers, and other people who work in the church. I can tell you for a fact, even for myself it was something that I struggled with for so long, and I didn't know where to turn or how to get my heart and mind clear from my past to be able to move ahead to be able to Serve God in any capacity. You see, my spirit and my mind believed belonged to God, I got saved so many years ago, and I never doubted my salvation, but my heart belonged to another, someone and somethings that I couldn't let go of for a long time. I struggled with sin, guilt and lived daily with condemnation not only from others, from my family, and from Satan, but largely from myself. I knew I was not living right, I knew my heart was not letting go and wasn't ready to give up the sin and pleasure that had been holding on to me for so long. When that sin no longer was a "pleasure" and the guilt was too much, I wanted to walk away, I wanted to give my heart to God too, but the pull on my heart was just too strong and I couldn't let go, not just yet, and though I struggled with all of this for so long, the more everyone pushed me to let it all go and let God have His way, I continued to fight, pull away and ignore pleas of help and rescue from myself.
Then one day, I just looked up, said, "it's over, I'm done." Walked away and never looked back. I fell to my knees and begged God to forgive me, to renew a right spirit in me and to renew my mind and sanctify me wholly for His service, and from Satan's snares. I knew right then and there I was forgiven. I felt new inside, in my heart and in my mind. I knew that I could stand proud as a Child of God and heir to His kingdom, and that I no longer had to be ashamed of my sins or my past, because God had brought me through, He had been working on me, and I was now HIS forever!
Satan kept bringing this sin to my mind, he kept trying to put memories in my head, kept putting people in my path to tempt me and others to condemn me and try to make me feel bad for my past. They kept asking me, "How are you SUPPOSED to serve God after all the things you did, after all the sin and everything you put your family through." For a long time, I kept thinking, "they're right, how can I be a minister, how can I work with people to save their marriages, restore the family units and show others the way to God after all I have done, after everything I have been through." They had me beat down so much, I could just feel Satan dancing around me saying, "I have you, I have you, la di da da da... hahahaha...!" I would go to the altar, I would plead, beg and ask God, "Why do you keep bringing this up to me? Why do you keep punishing me for my past" I thought we had everything taken care of so I could serve you again."
One day, a pastor friend of ours was sitting with me, we were talking about the strong desire to serve God I had, but how I keep getting set back from God's punishment on my past. He told me something very similar to what I am about to tell you now. It changed my life forever.
God tells us in the bible in Hebrews 8:12, "For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember them no more." Jesus told the woman caught in the act of adultry, "Where are those accusers were there None that accused you?" when she told Him they were gone, and none to accuse her. So He said, "Neither do I condemn thee; go, and sin no more." John 8:11
You see, God does not want you to live a life of condemnation, He wants you to live a life of abundance. (John 10:10), He loves you, and in His mercy, He forgives you of any of your sins once you have sought forgiveness for them and TRULY REPENTED of your sins. True Repentance is, "A Change of your heart, mind, soul, and life, to renew your mind and not live and do the things you did before your repentance." If you have repented, to God it is over and done with, but you need to understand something else, God does forgive you and He forgets whatever it is... But even in His great forgiveness, just like as a child, if we have sinned, God does rebuke or punish us, it is usually a punishment in love; one for us to learn from and strengthen our grip to Him. Once the punishment is over, it's over. He doesn't double punish or prolong punishments.
There is a point to make, once sin is truly dealt with, it is over, if all you did was, "I felt a little guilty and so I am gonna pray a little prayer to get rid of the guilty feeling for now, and so many think that's enough. If you ask God to forgive, He won't notice that your heart and the sin isn't truly dealt with, it is just forgiven for the moment. When you seek forgiveness and the sin was never REALLY dealt with, and then the Holy Spirit will continue to deal with you to stop and seek true repentance. You are not free from the pull of the sin and the power it has over you, until you ask God to help you with it, ask Him to remove the draw from you, help you with the temptation, and to provide the strength to walk away and turn your back on what you struggle with. Once you settle the sin in your heart, mind and soul, it is settled.
So when you feel like the sin has come back to remind you, to pull you back in, and to make you feel unworthy of God's love and grace, you need to know and understand that on one hand, God has forgiven you, but on the other hand, Satan, in His battle for your mind, will do anything and everything to destroy your walk and relationship with God. He will do anything to make you doubt your forgiveness and your restoration with the Lord. He will do anything to make you think that trials and troubles LOOK like continued punishment and condemnation from God, WHEN IT IS REALLY, Satan's Game, His guilt and condemnation in your mind, and NOT punishment from God, that looms over us when we feel like an attack is not letting up.
When you were a child, you would do something wrong, your parents would have to punish you, it is the same as a child of God. When we sin, we have to take our lickings when we do wrong, but once your punishment is complete, it is over forever. God doesn't prolong punishment, He doesn't punish you over and over again, just once for the sin you confessed, but it is Satan who tries to bring it up and make you feel like it is God bringing it back up again. God doesn't do that, so when you feel Satan's attack on your life, you have to rebuke Satan, say something like, "I settled that with my God a long time ago, and YOU are not going to keep bringing this up, because In the Name of Jesus Christ, and His shed blood, I have been set from from the Sin, the Guilt of Sin and Condemnation, and I am free from the attacks you lay on me..." Speak the name of Jesus, the Bible says, Satan can't even stand in the presence of His name, and that Demons tremble at the sound of the name of Jesus Christ.
You have the Power to overcome this fight for your mind with Satan, through the power of God, in the Name of the Lord, Jesus Christ and through the blood of the lamb. Once you have seek forgiveness and truly repent, let your sin, guilt and condemnation go, once you do, God will not continue to condemn you of your sin, so neither should you.
Ps 103:5-12 "Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's. The Lord executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed. He mad known His ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel. The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide: neither will He keep His anger for ever. He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward them that fear Him. AS FAR AS THE EAST IS FROM THE WEST, so FAR HATH HE REMOVED OUR TRANSGRESSIONS from us."