Saturday, May 21, 2016

Feeling shame vs true guilt

Shame and guilt are often confused with each other. For us to advance as God desires, we must distinguish between guilty or shameful feelings and the actual guilt of not pursuing God as we were designed and called to.

For a child of God, shame is a totally useless disposition. Nothing good comes of it. It obscures the grace of God and holds us back from pursuing God sincerely and earnestly. It results in our trying to atone for our own sins (by wallowing in guilt, shame and self pity) when Christ has already done so (atoned for it) completely and fully. It is a form of self salvation and dishonoring to the work of Christ and the salvation he has already fully obtained and provided for us.

Admission of actual failure and real guilt on the other hand (in contrast to guilt feelings) is a very necessary and productive activity and disposition. It is the essence of repentance. It is not until we fully recognize and acknowledge our true faults and shortcomings that we see the importance and value of turning from them and looking to Christ. Lack of genuine admission and confession of faults and failures prevents us from pursuing God earnestly.

We usually think shame and guilt feelings is repentance when it's just the opposite. True recognition of guilt and the turning from it is repentance, not feelings of shame and guilt. 

We can be guilty without shame

God knows we're broken. When we mess up it's no surprise to him. Nor is there scorn or rejection by him. He has no expectations of our being what we are not, nor does he want us to pretend to be something we are not. Plus he does not need us to be a certain way to fulfill something lacking within himself. He owns all things, sustains all things and already has all things. He needs nothing. 

We often think if we beat ourselves up enough this will somehow reduce the fallout from our bad choices. God may be merciful but there are always real consequences for our disobedience. However consequences are not lessened by feelings of self condemnation and shame. We can not use shame to barter with God. If we are in Christ, there is nothing to barter for. Christ already did our "bartering" for us so to speak. 

If we are in Christ, we are God's child and already have his total, nonstop love and commitment to our highest good. In fact the very reason consequences are often not lessened, is so we might learn from the consequences of our disobedience i.e. for our good. Condemning ourselves does not somehow lessen the actual consequences. God allows us to experience the consequences of poor choices to get us to turn from those poor choices. 

So when we do fail what should we do? We should understand that the failure has already been atoned for and we need to move forward rejecting any and all feelings of shame and condemnation. There is no more actual condemnation for us who are in Christ and therefore neither the need to flagellate ourselves by wallowing in it.

We should move forward fully acknowledging our failure, recognizing it is a violation of our design and God's desire for us (because he loves us) and therefore harmful to us as well as dishonoring to God. This isn't an issue of God being mad at us or rejecting us; in Christ he does neither...ever! It simply means there are natural and real consequences to our poor choices that are harmful and destructive ...always! Not just to ourselves but others; as well as dishonoring to God. We should avoid them for these reasons only, never to relieve guilt and shame. And when we understand to true harm of unfaithful behavior, these are enough. 

How much of your activity ("righteous" behavior) is merely an attempt to ease guilt feelings and reduce shame? We need to identify when and where we are doing so and stop! It is dishonoring to the work of Christ and channels our energies in a non-productive direction. It is what scripture refers to as "dead works." It is a subtle means of trying to earn God's love back. Stop doing it! It's in insult to the work of Christ on your behalf and to God and his love for you in Christ. 

Instead we need to honestly and bravely look our faults and failures squarely in the face, knowing they are totally and absolutely covered by the blood of Christ while at the same time knowing  they also hinder us from drawing near to God. We must turn away from them and accept the love Christ already secured for us so our life might more fully reflect the beauty of the love and grace of God, bringing him greater honor.

"...For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate? Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good.

So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.

Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death (i.e. guilt and shame)..." - Rom 7:14-8:2

2Co 7:10  For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 

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Grace to you
Jim Deal