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Faith vs. Shame

(Further thoughts on my short video: faith vs. shame)

 

Too many people in our culture today misunderstand faith and too many Christians have been influenced by that cultural misunderstanding. The common cultural thought seems to be that faith – particularly religious faith - is a nice sentiment, a comforting idea that some people hold but other more enlightened or science-minded folks do not. It is a condescending view. The thought seems to be that weaker, less intellectual, or damaged people need the comfort of faith but people who have their brains tuned to the right scientific, social, or politically correct frequency can do without it. The truth is, however, that faith is common to the human condition because faith is not a mystical emotional mindset – it simply means “trust” and based on the correct definition, the issue is not “who has faith – the strong or the weak?” but rather “what is your faith in?”

 

I point out this contrast in another blog and note that everyone has faith! Everyone makes decisions based on faith every single day. We have faith that a green light means “go” and a red light means “stop.” We have faith that the sun will come up in the morning even though we’ve never been to the future! However, our common uses of faith should be evaluated by the credibility of our sources. We believe that a green light means “go” because of the credibility of our common experience. We believe in the credibility of the pharmacist when buying medicine (perhaps because of a known college degree or license) and that faith means we do not have to check every bottle of medicine with our private chemistry set every time we buy aspirin.

 

So, faith is having trust in someone based on credibility. Where Christians get tied up is not thinking that through when emotions take over. We get tied up in guilt and shame. We get the first step in our recovery from a sin-addicted life – and that is recognizing that we are sinners in the first place. We get it. We can see what we have done and said and thought that offends the living God. We get messed up because while we mean it when we say to God, “I’m sorry” and we WANT to turn away from a sin-dominated life - but we still fall back into our habits and hang-ups so often we wonder where is the “better” in being a believer? Far too many believers do not enjoy freedom from the burden of our past or the weight of our present weakness either, but that is because we don’t fully understand what “having faith in Jesus” really means. We do not realize that living powerless in guilt is really a lack of faith.

 

To see why this is so, we need to review the basics: As believers, our hope is that our sins are forgiven because of the purity, perfection, and sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. His resurrection provides the ultimate credibility – and we put our trust in Him because He rose from the dead. According to the Scriptures, Jesus died FOR our sins, as a substitute for us because the penalty of sin is death, but His resurrection is the credibility that death could not be permanent for Him. His resurrection is proof that He has conquered the penalty of sin (death) and can therefore apply His sacrifice to anyone who trusts in Him. It is a powerful credibility too. There is more evidence to show that Jesus rose from the dead than there is for any other event in ancient history. The eyewitnesses of His resurrection were willing to be tortured to death, reviled in society, and gained absolutely nothing of physical value in their lifetimes (no money, no fame etc) because of their testimony that they had seen Him alive. They were willing to endure all of that, and there is no evidence any of them recanted because it was true. Jesus rose from the dead and they saw it. That is monumental credibility.

 

But we Christians forget that guilt or shame should be recognition not a state of life! God wants us to respond to guilt by trusting Him. Shame should drive us to repentance, not emotional or physical impotence. We are not called to wallow in guilt, as if our sins are forever attached to our resume so we must mope about like contaminated lepers crying “unclean” whenever regular folks get too close.

 

Sure – I get it. I can hear the “sin-sniffers” bleating about “cheap grace” already. No – I’m not saying that believing what Jesus did by dying and rising from the dead should give us a “get out of responsibility for our actions” card. I agree - faith in Jesus is not a license to do whatever you want to do. But turning around in repentance when you fall short, as a believer in Jesus, should be a turning point – not a cul-de-sac where you circle around in powerless shame, getting nowhere. Still – how do we make repentance real and yet not let an “I’m sorry” feeling overtake us? How can we demonstrate a real determination to “not do that anymore” without the fuel of “feeling bad.”

 

Well – it’s an issue of faith.

 

Think about it. Does Jesus, in your estimation, have enough credibility? I mean – enough credibility where you would be willing to have a full-on, take-off-the-gloves, duke-it-out fight with your feelings based on what HE says regardless of what YOU feel? After all, it is HIS Word that says – very, very, very clearly…

 

1 John 1: 8 – 9 (NLT)

If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. 9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.   

 

Yes – we are sinners. We miss the mark. We won’t fool ourselves about that…but we take our faults to Him. We tell Him. We own up to the junk and lay it on Him.

 

And we believe…

 

Our sins are forgiven because HE is faithful – not because we are faithful. Our wickedness is cleansed because He is the one who can justify us if we trust Him…we have faith in Him, not our performance.

 

And if we think about this faith deeply – it should be so amazing, so monumental, so incredible that God (through Jesus) would do such a beautiful thing for us that it should drive us to be in awe of Him. To worship Him. To want to live to please Him.

 

So – honestly, moping around because we are monumental mess-ups is insulting to Him. He did all of this – based on His goodness, His faithfulness – His CREDIBILITY. Accepting constant guilt and shame means you don’t believe that what Jesus did is enough. You somehow think you must punish yourself to prove you’re really sorry, really repentant.

 

But that’s a lie…He took it ALL…read that AGAIN…He took ALL your guilt, your shame, your faithlessness, your wickedness, your weakness…all of it…He took it all…

 

So, if you truly trust Him – why are you so downcast? Choose freedom by trusting Him. Choose release from the burden of a past you no longer live in by having faith in Jesus.

 

Well…


Just so you know…


I believe in Him. I will NOT mope around in guilt and shame. I have faith in Jesus, so I reject guilt and fear and shame based on the credibility of my God and King. I have put my trust in Him. I hope you will too… 

 

Just something to think about… 

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2 Comments


Angie
Angie
5 days ago

Thank you so much. I really needed to hear this today!

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"Shame should drive us to repentance, not emotional or physical impotence." Well said!!! Having a healthy dose of shame is a virtue, it keeps us in check and humble. A complete lack of shame is exactly what's wrong with the world today...there's very little shame left in people. Hardly anything, no matter how disgusting, degrading, violent, immoral, or unethical brings us to shame...the world has turned a virtue into a weakness and whenever those shame feelings come up, instead of causing us to repent, the actions that cause the shame are ignored, justified or even celebrated. Shame isn't something to be pushed away, it helps us realize when we've gone wrong and prompts us to restore the relationship tha…


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