Allen Jackson - Freedom From Guilt And Shame
We live in a time where the true gospel, the gospel of Jesus of Christ, that Jesus of Nazareth was the incarnate Son of God, that he was born of a virgin, that he was crucified by the Romans on a cross outside the city of Jerusalem, that he died on that cross, that he was buried, that he was raised to life again three days later, that he ascended to heaven and he's seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, and from there he'll come back to the earth to judge both the living and the dead, that he's the judge of all, it's a non-negotiable part of the gospel.
It's good news because on that cross, Jesus exhausted the curse of sin for all of humanity. He took upon himself the punishment that was due by divine justice, our godlessness and our rebellion, that we in turn might receive all the blessing that was due his perfect obedience so that through faith in Jesus of Nazareth we might be forgiven of our sins. We could be made righteous. We could have standing with God without guilt or shame. We could be justified. We could be made just as if we'd never sinned. We can be sanctified, set apart for the purposes of God. And any hold that Satan or the kingdom of darkness might assert over us has been broken through the redemptive work of Jesus. And it's available to any human being who will believe, regardless of our sex, our race, our educational status, our IQ, our income.
The ground at the foot of the cross is level. It's the good news of the gospel. There is no better news available to a human being, but it begins with the acknowledgment that we are sinners and that we need a Savior. If you won't acknowledge that we need a Savior, the gospel is irrelevant. If we think we can save ourselves, if by cooperating together, there's nothing in human history that suggests human beings are willing to cooperate for the betterment of humankind. It's just not, I mean, you can find little pockets, handfuls of people for a brief intervals that will demonstrate that, but apart from the transformation from the inside out, human history suggests quite the opposite.
So another gospel, Galatians chapter 1, and verse 6, Paul's writing to a church, to a church that he has helped birth. And he said, "I'm astonished that you're so quickly deserting the One who called you by the grace of Christ and you're turning to a different gospel". There's an entire segment of the church that doesn't even wanna have a discussion about the fact that you could turn away from the truth. I don't want you to live in fear of your salvation. That's not fruitful. But I don't want you to live so presumptively that you think because you recited a prayer and got dipped in a pool, you can live any way you want to live and say to God kinda casually, "Oh, I'm sorry," and you'll be good. You won't. It's a very destructive deception. "I'm astonished that you're so quickly deserting the One who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel, which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ".
The world hasn't changed much in two millennia. A lot of confusion and a tremendous attempt to pervert the gospel of Christ. Seem right? A different gospel, another gospel. I can tag three or four that are really prominent amongst us, amongst American Christiandom, Western Christiandom. The gospel of wealth, that if you have enough resources, you can live pretty much any way you want and then just express some generosity towards church from time to time and God will count you blessed because your accumulation of things is evidence of God's blessing upon your life and must impute to you some sort of righteousness, or holiness, or goodness.
Now, I believe God wants to bless his people. Poverty in the Scripture is very clearly a curse. There's nothing holy about being impoverished, but accumulated resources is not a declaration of faithfulness. Now, there's so much enmeshed in that and I don't want to take the time tonight, but don't believe that gospel. There's a gospel of pleasure, the pursuit of happiness. How could God be opposed to that? He created us to experience happiness. He gave us the capacity. That's true. He gave you the ability to enjoy food as well and a body to process it, but he warns you against gluttony. But there's a gospel of pleasure, that if I'm happy, it couldn't be wrong. It could be sin. It could be ungodly. There's a gospel of social justice. More than acknowledging that I'm a sinner, we go look for the sin of everybody else and we devote our lives to professing everyone else's sin and demanding that they do something different. It's another gospel.
We have a gospel of globalism, that we're all God's children, that we all look the same, and we're all gonna end up in the same place, and we don't need to get caught up in this notion about Jesus. Just soften the Jesus rhetoric a little bit and we can all get along. It's a perversion of the gospel. The result of another king or another gospel brings guilt and shame, because compromise does that. Compromise brings with it a sense of futility, of emptiness. Compromise doesn't mean you reject God. Please, we need to get this straight. Compromise doesn't mean you say, "I'm going to become a Muslim," or "I'm going to practice Buddhism," or "I'm now agnostic. Don't talk to me about God". You can do your daily Bible reading, and be in worship service regularly, and fill your life with compromise.
The audience that Jesus spoke to throughout the Gospels were not people who had rejected the covenant with Abraham. They said repeatedly, "We're Abraham's children. There's our temple. Can't you smell the aroma of the daily sacrifice? We keep the right holidays and we tithe of our ment and we tithe of our spices we buy in the marketplace. We're so scrupulous in our fastidious obedience to the law". And Jesus said, "Woe to you. You're blind guides". Then he turned to the crowd and said, "Don't follow these people. Don't listen to them". And the crowd was addled or confused. They don't know what to do. I feel like we're in one of those seasons because we're so rife with compromise.
Ecclesiasties is written from the perspective of King Solomon, David's son, this wealthy king. And the beginning of the book and the ending of the book are pretty good bookends, "The words of the Teacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem: 'Meaningless! Meaningless!' says the Teacher. 'Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.'" The older translations, King James and such, say "Vanity," but "Meaningless" is a better translation, a literal translation. It's empty. It's a chasing of the wind. It's futile. You see, sin is futile. It promises something it can't fulfill. It's why the end of addictive processes are destructive. They're progressive.
Well, if you had a little bit more, you'd be better off. If you got a little further. It doesn't matter if it's a substance, or it's money, or it's adrenaline. Whatever it is, more will be better, and it isn't better. Until finally you realize your strength is spent, or your health is broken, or you've forfeited a great deal and the answer is it's meaningless. And the book concludes with a summary statement in chapter 12 that says, "All has been heard; here's the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, it's the whole duty of man". Why would you do that? Because God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it's good or evil. Your compromise will not be effective. The things you've done in the dark will be shouted from the housetops. The things that you have hidden will be exposed. The things that you thought you could explain away will have to face the light of God's truth.
So he said the end of the matter is fear God. Serve him with your whole heart. I brought the example, I think the clearest example, if I look for a doorway for guilt and shame on the Christian Church in our nation, if I was limited to one or two, I'd probably start with abortion. It was made the law of the land in the '70s, not because it was spelled out, not because it was voted upon, because the Supreme Court fabricated illegal perspectives that made it okay. But it was really a response to the rebellion and the immorality of the '60s. It was a logical next step for the rebellion, and the ungodliness, and the immorality that was unleashed upon us in the '60s. We didn't want to be constrained any longer by biblical worldview. Primetime television used to be things like "Leave It to Beaver," "Make Room for Daddy," "Gilligan's Island". You've seen 'em on Nickelodeon. That's where... me too, alright?
Now we have "The Bachelorette". That's a whole different approach to "Gilligan's Island". You see, the outcome of guilt and shame is expressed in our lives. It's very visible. It results in silence. We don't say anything 'cause we feel guilty. You know it's true. I'm sure if you'll reflect just a moment there have been many times you've been inclined to pray for somebody, a coworker, or a neighbor, or a family member, or to invite somebody to church, or to tell them, share some point of faith, and almost immediately you're reminded of an interaction with that person that was not godly, a time they heard you say something other than, "Praise the Lord," or when you didn't have any compassion for them, or you weren't willing to listen.
And in that moment, or maybe a thought that says, "You know, if you offer to pray for them and nothing happens, they're gonna think you're foolish," or "Do you really want them to think you're one of those kind of Christians"? And so what do we do? We just stay silent. Folks, we've been silent long enough. It's immobilized us. We don't do much. We don't say much. I'm tired of seeing ungodliness and wickedness championed, and celebrated, and promoted, and lifted up, and God's people remain mute and immobile. The outcomes of guilt and shame are wrong priorities. You think you have to work it off, or you have to pretend to be more righteous, or a whole host of things.
Sometimes our response to guilt, and shame, and compromise is enthusiastic distractions. We give ourselves into more, more entertainment, more fun. I couldn't be sad or ungodly. Look at how happy I am, while we careen down a pathway that leads us further and further away from God. Sometimes we respond with anger. We're mad at the hypocrisy of others or the narrow-mindedness of some. Maybe even violent. Well, the resolution to guilt and shame was very simple scripturally. It's to repent and believe. Repent of our sins and believe that the work of the cross is sufficient.
You say, "Well, it's gotta be more complex than that. It has to be something. Don't I have to stand on one foot when the moon is full? It can't be that simple". I didn't say it was easy, but it's not complex. There's a tremendous price paid for your repentance to be effective. A tremendous price paid. It took the sinless, obedient Son of God to be tortured to death so that our repentance could bring freedom. Repentance should not be treated casually. It's not a flippant thing. It's a horrible thing to treat flippantly because it took the shed blood of our Jesus.
So when we come in repentance, we recognize the tremendous cost that's been invested. It has to emerge from a place of humility, and brokenness, and desperation. God, I've tried everything else I know and I'm empty on this one. Forgive me of my sin. I wasn't confused. I wasn't misled. I was wrong. I chose the wrong thing. I didn't have the courage, or I wasn't willing, or I was too rebellious, whatever. You can use your words, but tell the Lord the truth. Don't coat it in something else. Call it by its ugliest name. I was greedy, or immoral, or lustful, or lazy, whatever it is. God, I'm sorry. And then after you repent, you have to believe. Belief is not a passive thing. Peter got out of the boat because he believed he could walk on the water 'cause Jesus invited him too. And he began to lose his footing and Jesus said to him, "Well, why did you stop believing"? Belief is not a passive thing.
Now, I've got just a few minutes and you've got a lot of notes, but there's an application to this that I wanna walk through with you. I said on the cross there was an exchange that took place where Jesus exhausted the curse of sin, our sin, that we might have the full blessing of his obedience. And there are lots of aspects to that, but one aspect of that exchange on the cross is Jesus took the shame that we might have his glory. And glory is the manifestation of the goodness of God, the character of God. Jesus took the shame that went with our brokenness, and our sin, and our ungodliness, and our wickedness that we might have the manifestation of the goodness of God upon our lives. We don't deserve it. We didn't earn it. It's because of Jesus. It's why I'm willing to be identified with him wherever. You are one of those? Yes, I'm one of those. Don't you want to be? Well, I'm not sure. They're all hypocrites. I know, we'll squeeze one more in. C'mon, I'll scoot over.
Ephesians 2, and verse 8 says, "It's by grace you've been saved through faith". We need to understand that grace covers everything Jesus did for us on the cross. Grace by definition means it's not merit-based. We didn't earn it. We don't deserve it. There's nothing in it. It's a gift undeserved. So it's by grace you have been saved. Salvation, redemption is not because we deserve it or we earned it. It comes to us through faith. Remember, that's not a passive thing. Faith is expressed in how we live. You see, shame shuts you down. It incarcerates you. It limits your imagination. It freezes you in a space just like being in prison. You're more aware of what you're not. When does the Holy Spirit convicts you, he reminds you you're wrong in what you said, or you've done, or how you're behaving, or how you've been behaving, but with that there comes an opportunity to repent and choose a new path.
Shame simply says, "You're hopeless. You never get it right. You'll never get it right. You've always been wrong". That does not come from the Spirit of God. In Hebrews 2:10, it says, "In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting for God, for whom and through whom everything exists, that he should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering". What was the objective of Jesus's suffering? It's that first phrase: to bring many sons to glory. God's purpose is to bring many children to glory; that his glory can be made evident in our lives. For his glory. There's no room for us to boast. Are you a pastor? I can't believe it. Neither can I. It's still surprises me and I'm decades into this thing.
You know, people say, "Did you to feel called"? Not particularly. When did you realize God was gonna use your life? Well, I was talking to him about that today. It's still surprising to me. Well, it's easier for you. No, you just can't see from my side of my eyes. None of us feels just, if you feel overly holy, I'm concerned for you, 'cause we have an enemy, an adversary, who's an accuser. In fact, the instruction we're given is in Hebrews 12:2. It says, "We've gotta fix our eyes on Jesus. He's the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and he sat down at the right hand of the throne of God".
To sit down suggests biblically there's the completion that has taken place. Something's been finished, that the matter of divine justice has been satisfied. But before Jesus sat down, it says that he had to endure the cross. And to do that, he had to despise the shame. Be certain of this, that the cross was an instrument of shame. It was a point of execution for the lowest kind of criminal. You weren't banished. John was banished to the Isle of Patmos for his faith, but he wasn't crucified. Jesus suffered the greatest indignity that was available to a human being. And before he was crucified, he was beaten and mocked. The soldiers blindfolded him. You know the story. And they hit him over the head and said, "If you're the Son of God, tell us who hit you". And when he didn't answer, they hit him again and again. Jesus not only knew who hit him, he knew their parents' names, and their kids' names, and their grandparents' names, and their address, and the color of the fabric on the sofa in the living room, but he stayed silent.
If he'd have wanted to, he could've caused them to grow in a third ear out the middle of their forehead, but he stayed silent. And he was beaten to the point, he bled to the point that he didn't even have the strength to carry his cross through the streets so they could mock him. So even the other criminals had more strength than he did, and he collapsed under the weight of the burden. And finally, they get him to Golgotha and they strip him naked, nail him to a cross, and hoist it into the air. The last public view that the world had of Jesus was beaten severely, gasping for breath, hungry, and thirsty, and naked on a Roman cross. God's Son. And the author of Hebrews says he despised the shame. It won't attach itself to me. The cross was an instrument of shame.
Psalm 69:7, "I endure scorn for your sake, and shame covers my face". He took the scorn for us. He took all the expressions of shame that come to us because of our failures, because of the sin of other people. Sometimes we feel shame because of circumstances that we didn't create, family system failures, all sorts of things. Psalm 69:4, "Those who hate me without reason outnumber the hairs on my head". It's easy to say in the midst of life, "Something's wrong with me. Why would these things keep happening to me? How can I find myself"? You see, we have an enemy and an adversary that wants you to be incarcerated with shame. It's the point of the cross. You can be free.
Psalm 69, "I'm a stranger to my brothers, an alien to my own mother's sons". I don't fit in. I'm an outsider. Other people seem to fit in, but I just don't fit in quite right. Folks, this doesn't go away and it doesn't have anything to do with your orientation towards Christianity. When the church was small and we met in a tent in a cotton field on the edge of town, people said we were crazy, and handled snakes, and drank Kool-Aid. And I was embarrassed and I thought, "Well, you know, if we had a building, it'd be better. If we had a few more people, it would be better". And we got a building and a few more people and it really didn't change a lot. And the Lord brought his blessings, and the building got bigger, and there got to be a lot more people and they still talk. They just changed the language.
Now we're Six Flags Over Jesus and have an ice rink. I hope so many people come that we have to have a landing strip and a helipad. How do we receive healing from the wound of shame? Jesus told us, repent and what? Believe by faith. Thank Jesus that he bore your shame so that you might be released from it. Giving thanks is the simplest expression of faith. Some of you have carried these thoughts, and images, and pictures for years, and years, and years. And you say, "Well, you know, I prayed that little prayer, but my feelings didn't change". No kidding. We spent months and months putting on two or three pounds, and I work out once, and I want it to go away. I'm disappointed. I drove past the gym twice, I didn't lose any weight. How can that be? It may take some persistence on your part.
I want to pray with you before we go. Guilt and shame are such powerful tools of our adversary, that we need the help of the Holy Spirit and to understand who we are in Christ to live our lives free from those potent weapons. So I'm gonna ask you to repeat a prayer with me, then I want to pray with you before we go. So just repeat these lines after me:
Through the blood of Jesus, I am redeemed out of the hand of the devil. The blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, continually cleanses me from all sin. Through the blood of Jesus, I'm sanctified, made holy, set apart to God. Through the blood of Jesus, I'm justified, made righteous, just as if I'd never sinned. My body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, redeemed, cleansed by the blood of Jesus. Therefore, Satan has no place in me, no power over me, through the blood of Jesus, amen.