For a long time, I thought that one day, I would be exposed, humiliated, and shamed before everyone.
I imagined that on Judgement day, God would turn on a projector and would show my mother, dad, grandparents, and the people in our church a picture of all my sins. Every sordid, humiliating detail would be right there for all to see, exposing me as a complete fraud. This is what I thought for many years as a child.
I had not understood God. I had not understood his forgiveness.
Yet, the evil one wants to constantly remind us of our guilt and shame. At the close of a year, it is easy to become focused on the failure of the previous year (or even the previous decade). If we are not careful, we can become more focused on defeat than on Jesus who died for our sin.
Priscilla Shirer in her fine book, Fervent, writes
If I were your enemy, I’d constantly remind you of your past mistakes and poor choices. I’d want to keep you burdened by shame and guilt, in hopes you’ll feel incapacitated by your many failings and see no point in even trying again. I’d work to convince you that you’ve had your chance and blown it–that your God may be able to forgive some people for some things, but not you . . . not for this (p. 93).
The evil one is the father of lies. At first he attempts to seduce us to do what we know is wrong. However, once we yield, he turns on us like a rabid dog and attacks us with accusation and shame.
I was thinking this morning about the many conversations I have had with men and women who had difficulty moving forward because of the sin in their past. The following is just a sample of such conversation over the last three decades:
- The man who lost his temper while driving and then fired his gun at a truck in front of him.
- The young father who felt defeated by the grip of pornography.
- The middle aged man put in jail after writing another “hot” check.
- The woman in her twenties whose massive credit card debt had just been exposed to her family.
- The parents who felt as if they had failed after seeing their daughter ignore her small children while she regularly partied into the wee hours of the morning.
- The married man who had a series of affairs and then had to deal with the consequences.
Each one was a Christian who had sinned and needed forgiveness through the blood of Christ. Each one repented of their sin. After all, there is no sin that is larger than God’s capacity and willingness through Jesus to forgive. Yet, the evil one wants us to live in the past. Instead of focusing on the cross and resurrection of Jesus to give us new life, he wants us stuck in the past with our failure and defeat.
As a result, we watch mental reruns of the failures of our past. We judge ourselves (instead of focusing on what Jesus did for us on the cross) and live with a self-imposed condemnation. The evil one wants us to believe that we are sentenced to a lifetime of shame and there is no hope.
Guilt says that I did something wrong. Self-imposed shame says that not only did I do something wrong but that I am a failure and have no real hope for a future.
The truth is that no one can bring a charge to one whom God has justified (Romans 8:33). In other words, the evil one can not take sins that have been forgiven and then attempt to shame us with them. They are forgiven! Our past might have been sinful (I Corinthians 6:9-10). But we have been washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus (I Cor. 6:11). God’s forgiveness is greater than the failures of our past.
As the year ends, ask yourself, “Am I listening to the evil one who wants to fill me with shame and hopelessness? Or, am I listening to the Lord God who says I am clean and forgiven from my sins?”
Regardless of the sin, each one of us can be thankful at the close of this year that Jesus died for me. He is the only reason that any of us have hope!