J. Gordon Duncan

Culture, Business, Fitness, Etc.

Easter Devotion – Where Does Shame Go?

Often, you hear the words “guilt” and “shame” used synonymously.  Though they share some interchangeable qualities, there is actually quite a distinction between the two.  You see, guilt is what you feel when you have done something wrong and you know it.  Guilt is the feeling of condemnation against your own actions.  If you speak a word too harshly to someone else or if you have a thought of lust or anger, then quite often you’ll feel guilty because you have done something that you know is wrong.

Now shame is like guilt in that it has an awareness of wrongdoing, but shame is much more powerful.  You see guilt is inward.  It is the personal feeling that often accompanies poor choices, poor words, and poor actions.  But shame says, “I’m guilt and everybody knows it.”  “Shame is the social consequence of guilt.”  (Ed Welch).

And the big problem with shame is that even if you confess your guilt to someone else or to God asking for forgiveness, that doesn’t necessarily take away the feelings of shame, does it?  Many of us know in our hearts that God will forgive us but we are still left with the question of what to do with our shame?  The reason these feelings remain is that most of the time, the public doesn’t care if you are forgiven or not.  You can make a mistake these days, and it can be replayed 563,000 times on youtube.  Just ask anyone who has ever fallen down around someone who had a camera phone.

Since shame seems to persist, so do our attempts of managing shame.  There are so many directions people go when feeling shameful, but for the moment, let me focus on one of two possible directions.  The first direction is giving up and purposefully pursuing sin.  The thinking is, “Well since I’m guilty and ashamed by what I’ve done, it doesn’t really matter anyway, so I’m just going to do what I want.”  I’ve seen this many times where someone feels ashamed sexually by either someone they’ve done or something that was done to them.  They can’t get rid of the shame so they just quit fighting.  The second directions folks go in pursuing a graceless Christianity.  This is one that does not rest is full acceptance of God the Father through Jesus Christ.  A person will say, “Yeah I know I’m forgiven but God is not really going to love me unless I earn a goodness or righteousness on my own.”

The problem is that both fall woefully short in terms of assuaging the feelings of shame.   So this week, in this wonderful celebration of all that Jesus has done for us, let’s ask this Big Picture Question:

Big Picture Question:  Where does shame go?

Colossians 2:13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,

Since we have plunked ourselves down in the midst of the book of Colossians, let’s take a moment to set the backdrop of Paul’s promises here.  Paul wrote this letter to the church in Colossae while he was in prison in Rome.  Paul spent 3 years in Ephesus and while he was there, one of his converts headed down to plant the church of Colossae.  It appears that in between the start of the church and this letter, leaders had risen up that deemphasized the sufficiency of Jesus.  What that means is that they began to encourage people to attempt to contact angels and the dead saints of the OT for help.  Paul would have none of that.  If Jesus isn’t sufficient to meet your needs, then nothing will be sufficient to meet your needs.  To emphasize that point, Paul gave them verse 13.

Paul talks about what had to be overcome for a person to have a relationship with God.  There were a couple of barriers.  Paul tells the Christians in Colossae (and subsequently any believers here ) that apart from Jesus Christ, you were dead in two ways:  dead in your trespasses or dead in your sins and dead in the uncircumcision of your flesh.  The first is death by rebellion, and the second is death by alienation.

Being dead in your trespasses means that our sins of word, thought, and deed make us spiritually dead.  That means that while we sometimes might choose to do the right thing outwardly in life.  For instance we might choose not to murder someone in our anger but being dead in sin means that we don’t do it because of a desire to please God.  We do it for self.  If we are not worshiping God, we are worshiping self.  Dead in sin means dead to obedience.  This rebelliousness not only condemns to death, but it also alienates from God.   Paul describes this alienation as the uncircumcision of the flesh.  You see circumcision was the sign of the Abrahamic covenant that signified a person was in a covenant relationship with God.  Being uncircumcised signified being apart from God.  Paul says this is what our sin does.  Our sin makes us dead and alienated from God our Father.

This is a hopeless circumstance.  Perhaps even like some that you have experienced in your life.  I know a few stories in here that are pretty painful and have been pretty hopeless.  Hopelessness comes when you feel like there is nothing that can be done to improve a situation.  For example, there are mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, sisters and brothers who have suffered at the betrayal of another.  Maybe that betrayal was a lie that was told to you.  Maybe that betrayal was your parents getting divorced.  Maybe that betrayal was far too frequent and painful beatings you suffered.  Maybe a spouse didn’t keep their promise to remain faithful.  I stop there because I don’t want to dredge up too many hurtful feelings.  The point is that in situations like that, we feel hopeless for any repair or improvement.  The only way those situations are going to improve is for someone to die a little and either ask for forgiveness or die a little and offer forgiveness.  In this world, those moments are pretty rare.  Well this is our situation with God except there is no dying a little that will mend our relationship.  Much more is required.

So Paul tells us that in that state of death and alienation, God made you alive again.  He resurrected you and forgave all your trespasses.  Now, how did God do that?  How did He make you alive once you were dead?  How did He forgive your trespasses?  Is He no longer just?  Does He no longer punish sin?  I mean I think it is great that God would take those who have alienated themselves from Him and brought them back, but how did He do it?  Now before I answer the question, ask yourself, “Wouldn’t you love that?  Wouldn’t you love it if you deeply offended and hurt someone and that person sought you out to fix your relationship?  Wouldn’t it cause such an affection and attitude of thankfulness if you were guilty for something, but you were offered full forgiveness and restoration?  Wouldn’t you love to be loved that way?

Look at what Paul says.  Look at how God mended your broken relationship with Him.  He did it by…

14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands.  This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

Jesus, our Savior who we celebrate this wonderful resurrection day, restored your to relationship with God, brought you back to life, and canceled the debt you owed to God.  He took all those things, your death, your alienation, and the debt you owe God, and He nailed them to the cross with Jesus.  So when Jesus died, so did your death, your alienation, and your debt.  The great theologian John Owen called this “The Death of Death in the Death of Jesus Christ”  Jesus conquered death by dying for sin.

Every legal demand, every obedience expectation from God has been met in Jesus for those who have faith in Him.  Consider that for a moment.  For some the idea that every expectation that God has for you being met in Christ sounds like heresy.  The idea that God’s affection for you is unwavering and immovable sounds like a license to live a life of guiltless sin.  Well, though the grace of Christ is just that free.  Living a life of guiltless sin is not generally the reflection of the heart transformed by Christ, but it is just that free.  You see, when Jesus lived perfectly and died on the cross, He canceled the legal demands of God for you.

That means that every single obedience that the scriptures demand of you has been met.  Christ has been truthful when you have lied.  Yet He took your punishment for lying.  Christ has been faithful when you have cheated.  Yet He took your punishment for cheating.  Christ has been honoring when you have been dishonoring.  Yet He took your punishment for being dishonorable.  Christ has worshipped when you have slept.  Yet He took your punishment for ignoring worship.  Christ has prayed when you haven’t thought about it.  Yet He took your punishment for your lack of prayer.  Christ has been compassionate when you have walked by.  Yet He took your punishment for your lack of compassion.  The entire legal obligation and demand of God in both obedience and punishment have been met by Jesus Christ for all of those who have faith in Him.  Every expectation God has for you, every punishment God has for your sin has been nailed to the cross.  Look what that did for you.  Look at verse 15.

15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

Who are these rulers and authorities?  Well, despite the fact that most don’t consider these realities, the scriptures are clear Satan seeks to defame you and accuse you.

Rev 12:10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. 11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.

Satan accuses each person daily before the throne of God and you either have an advocate there through Christ or you don’t.  Satan accuses you daily before the throne of God speaking of your sin and quite ironically, your unworthiness to be called a child of God.  But His voice is cut short when He speaks of those who have faith in Jesus because salvation and power have come through the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Verse 11 says that Jesus conquered Satan and His accusations by His own blood and by the testimony of Jesus, He says, “You cannot accuse that one.  He or she is mine.”

But that accusation of shame lingers doesn’t it.  I mean how often are you reminded of something that you have done and you become paralyzed with shame?  Despite the fact that this verse tells you that your accuser has been disarmed, shame still lingers.  And quite often we give into that voice that speaks in our head and we think with that accusation, “I am worthless.”  But what did the work of Christ do?  It did more than just enable you to be forgiven.  Christ has taken your shame, and has taken anything that seek to remind you of that shame, and has put it to shame.  If salvation comes by the death of death by the death of Jesus Christ, then this is the shaming of shame by the shaming of your shame.  Instead of being ashamed of sins in which you have been forgiven, Christ leads you in a triumph over your accusers.

2 Corinthians 2:14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.

A triumphal processesion was a Roman victory parade after an enemy has been destroyed.  The people would line the streets and the soldiers would march through the city with everything from prisoners of war to the spoils of their victories, and the people would celebrate the returning heroes.

That is what Christ has done with the shame of those who have faith in Him.  He has disarmed the power of shame and the accusations of any that stand against His children.  So much so that He throws a victory party to show you that He has triumphed over every enemy and every hint of shame in your life.  Folks, we would live such different lives if we could embrace these things.  If you have faith in Christ and have asked Him for forgiveness of yours sins, then God does not intend for you to either wallow in or be paralyzed by shame.  God through Christ has specifically disarmed shame of its power.  He publicly ridiculed your enemies and leads you in a triumphal procession of celebration.  That procession sings a song that says “My sin oh the joy of the glorious thought/my sin not in part but the whole/is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more/ praise the Lord the Lord Oh my soul/it is well/it is well/with my soul/with my soul/it is well, it is well with my soul.”

As we take this oh so brief moment to consider what Jesus’ life death and resurrection has accomplished, let me leave you with this reminder of its power in the life of those who have faith in Jesus.  It comes from Romans 6

Romans 6: 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

We are united with Jesus in His death, so His death is the necessary death for the payment of sin.  Since we are united with Jesus in His death, we are most assuredly united with Him in His resurrection.  We are promised a new life of hope today and a glorious new life of resurrection with Jesus in Heaven.  Look what else was crucified with Jesus

6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin.

The death of Christ on the cross again does more than just forgive you.  It enables you to be a new creation.  Your old self that was a slave to sin was crucified with Jesus as well.  You are now free not to sin.  You are free to live a life of gloriously, thankful obedience.

8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Folks, let’s proclaim a much bigger Jesus and a much more broad work of Jesus to our hearts and to those that we tell as well.  Through Christ, you die and come back to life.  You may live each day thinking that you are dy – ing but you whatever it is that you think is killing you  has died I Christ.  And now you live.  Death, the power of death, the fear of death has no dominion or power over you.  Its authority has been disarmed.  And to life that so many of would love to have, the life of love, faith, peace, and joy, Jesus lives to God on our behalf.  So Paul reminds us, “You must consider yourself dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”   Doubt fear and shame have been removed.  So why do you keep experiencing those feelings you might ask?  The cry of Jesus’ “It is done” signifies the end of guilt, the end of shame, the end of punishment, the end of separation between God the Father and all that have faith in Jesus Christ.

If that is the case, why do so many of you fail to experience the full joys of those secure benefits?  The work of Christ is not ineffectual in your life, so what is it that keeps you continually guilty and shame filled?  Well there are a couple of options.

Loose spiritual disciplines – Folks, you know I will never create a new law for you or a new burden of righteousness for you, but as I said last week, God promises to meet you in His word.  God promise to meet you in prayer.  Imagine the intimacy of a marriage where the conversations happened at the same rate as your time in scripture and prayer.  Oh most assuredly, God will never leave your nor forsake you.  He is with you always and is at work even as your hearts are blind to His the work of His hands.  But the one hope we have for living in the removal of guilt and shame is hearing the wonderful words of scripture applied to our hearts through our interaction with the Holy Spirit.  How much more rest would your heart find if you daily prayed this prayer from Romans 10:10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”

Unrepentant sins – Let’s be honest, everyone has sins in their lives that they turn a blind eye to or are completely blind to.  Meaning, there are sins that we either are unaware of in our lives or there are sins that we just refuse to give up on.  The first step is to walk in faith in pray Psalm 139:23 Search me, O God, and know my heart!  Try me and know my thoughts! 24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

Half-hearted repentant sins.  Half-hearted repentance is saying I’m sorry without Godly sorrow accompanying yours words.  2 Corinthians 10: 10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 11 For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.

Folks, you cannot do anything more to remove the guilt and shame associated with your guilt before God.  It is has been removed by the wonderful work of Jesus that we celebrate today.  You can however walk in a more intimate understanding and application of that removal and guilt.  It come by your drawing closer to Jesus and reading and knowing and praying the promises of scripture that are attached.  Your guilt, your shame, and any that would accuse you have been nailed to the cross with Jesus.

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April 4, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , ,

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