Last night a kind friend posted his story of faith. It seems I was part of how it all came about. Very humbling, a lot of grace for us both!!
Funny how God’s Word (The Bible, which so many reject in daily thought, certainly practice) is crystal-clear: “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”. “All we like sheep have gone astray”, on and on. But if one cannot wish away “sin”, wrong-doing, bad choices/decisions/actions and behavior towards God and others- what then?
Christ-followers will say it’s about Jesus Who came, lived and died for us- and forgiveness HE brings. Declaration of “not guilty” to those (me, you, all humans) who ARE guilty of “falling short”… because who but God Himself doesn’t fall short?!!
Even then people think and say “there is no God”, or “prove it” or “my mileage varied” and so forth -I get it and have heard it all my life, trust me.
For clarity, I’m not talking about shame or guilt others put on you, nor lies you believe about yourself nor actual mental illness or depression where you hang out with condemnation. I’m talking about authentic, actual shame and guilt you feel because you did or did not do X, Y or Z. Real, not imagined nor someone else coating you with their perspective and judgment.
Yes, I’m old school but also in my own understanding, my own sense of shame and guilt, God USED these to bring me to Himself which has transformed my life for the better. By “better” I really do not mean habitual, continual condemnation nor beating myself up over either conscious selfish sin (what the Bible calls sin, not what others may…) rather, a genuine sense of conviction of what I did wrong, or what I should have done. It’s a rare day in my life I’m not thinking about these. Yet: I’m truly at peace with God and utterly thankful for His forgiveness and grace.
Without those I could never shake either shame or guilt because there was not and is not a single day in my life I’m not guilty of something or other. Reality.
Nobody “guilt-tripped” me, nor really preached at me prior to my own surprising (to me!!) initial faith experience. I knew what I had done and not done that naturally earned me shame and guilt. Society didn’t make the many choices I made which about killed me and messed up those around me, I did. But there was and IS an antidote.
Loving vs. full-on rejection of a person. Forgiveness vs. grudge-holding. Jesus commands us to live these toward others… and knows what He’s talking about because it’s exactly how He treats me.
It’s about knowing and in faith believing HIS righteousness and not mine (talk about a lousy comparison!!) is what brings me peace. Not perfection (literal sinlessness) but seeking Him and spiritual growth yet knowing full well I am so often in the “wretched man that I am” state as apostle Paul wrote in Romans chapter seven.
So do I sometimes visit shame and guilt? Yes. And at times I’ve indeed earned it and know it. Nobody has to convince me because nobody knows my own thoughts besides myself and God -and He and I both know I’m often guilty so why pretend otherwise?
I do not here mean that anyone who labels you guilty is correct or righteous in their judgment. What I’m saying is that shame and guilt are not merely words, feelings or something “others always wrongly put on you”. If you’re honest, you don’t need others to tell you you’re less than perfect and sometimes a jerk!!
See I think shame and guilt are worthwhile when you know where and to Whom to take them. We either do that or basically do one of two other things: deny they exist or blame someone else for our feeling them.
Ok, if you’re this far into this blog post, I’ll finish with this- if you believe all are guilty and all will/should face real and earned shame for blowing it in whatever areas or ways, how ought you think of/treat them now that you profess God’s forgiveness for your own wrongs?
Grace in terms of maturity not only means not getting what you deserve… but not giving others what you think THEY deserve! Accepting -and- sharing His mercy. “Father, forgive them…” is so core to authentic faith in Jesus.
Ok, the true story is that I was largely confronted with the mess I’d made of my life via dope, booze, sex and SELF 101 in my own head and heart. As I’ve written and said for years, a massive reason I finally surrendered to God was in a deep acknowledgment of how many people’s lives I had messed up by sharing my own messed-up, addictions with them.
Shame and guilt were partly what brought me to saving faith in Him knowing I could NEVER BE my own Savior much less Redeemer. I knew full well working to earn salvation was impossible. I couldn’t even work myself out of addiction or sharing those addictions with others.
The upshot of all this is that most of my life has been spent trying to encourage others out of their addictions and to hopefully live such a life of love and service myself that they might see and realize God surely loves them as much as He does me!
Been consistent my entire life- I had been an evangelist for sin, death and hell and now am one for relationship with the God Who made us, loves us and has a plan incredibly better than our own for our life. Shame and guilt bring me to Jesus every time. “ALL things work together for the good… (of whom??) to those who love God (and don’t miss this last bit:) and are called according to HIS purpose.” Paul got it exactly right.
It’s not about taking. It’s about what we can give others. I cannot force faith, active trust nor love and surrender to Him, but by the strength He gives I can model it.
That is my plan for 2017. The rest is just details 🙂
As always, thanks for stopping by! -Glenn