I don’t know of a Christian who at times doesn’t struggle with feelings of shame. There is a level of hypocrisy in each of us. We present ourselves to the world as who we’d like to be, but when we’re alone with our reality, the weight of what we see can be overwhelming. Our mistakes scream our unworthiness and the accuser echoes his condemnation. Before long, our relationship with God is characterized by shame and guilt for not measuring up to what we feel is the standard.
Is this the way all this is supposed to work? John writes in 1 John 3:28 that we can have confidence in our relationship with God and not be ashamed before Him. And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.
Does that describe your relationship with God? Confident and looking forward to seeing Him face to face. And is moral perfection the requirement to achieve that confidence? What would your life look like if the shame you now feel was no longer a reality in your life—that your heart could be open and frank with God and with others?
John gives us 3 qualities of Jesus in the following chapter (1 John 4) that can help us to answer those questions.
Just Jesus exposes sin.
Many times our culture tells us the best way to get past guilt or shame is to tell ourselves that there is nothing wrong with the things we’ve done in the first place. Don’t worry about it. It’s not a big deal. Everybody does this stuff. Does Jesus just sweep all of this under the rug? 1 John 4:8 sure doesn’t sound that way.
8 He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil
John writes that one of the reasons that Jesus came to this world was to destroy the works of the devil. So the first question we have to ask ourselves is what are these works of the devil.
Satan is in the business of deceit and hidden sin. That's what his mission was with Adam and Eve and that’s what he’s still doing today.
We’ve all seen it happen countless times. Lie after lie being told to cover up our sin and brokenness. Some of you are stuck right now in a complicated web of lies. You have partnered up with the devil on his mission to sin and deceive. It may have started small, but its grown. And you’re trapped. And you’re ashamed.
There is good news, and there is hard news. The good news is that Jesus came to destroy that bondage! The hard news is how. The only way to freedom and destroying bondage is through the exposure of our sin. Admission and honesty require humility and vulnerability. We’ve gone from it’s no big deal to there couldn’t be a bigger deal!
Jesus righteously came to push down your house of cards of deceit and sin. And when He does, we feel exposed, vulnerable, and once again, ashamed. Hard news, but more good is coming!
How does Jesus respond to our honesty and exposure of sin?
5a And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins;
Merciful Jesus removes sin.
Jesus responds to the exposure of our sin with the most incredible response imaginable. He takes it away! This can be so shocking to us because it is the complete opposite of how our world responds to failure!
We live in the world of the epic fail. Thousands of videos fill webpages with the sole purpose of exposing and embarrassing the failures of others. What kind of friend videos your failure and then chooses to upload your embarrassment for the rest of the world to enjoy along with them?
That is how our world works. We identify others by their shortcomings and define them by their failures. But Jesus is completely different. And Jesus isn’t blowing fairy dust on our sin saying that its all “no big deal.” Remember John just told us that sin and deceit are works of the devil!However, when we see the seriousness of our sin and expose it to God, His response is not to shame but to remove the stain and its attached guilt! How? By taking our rightful shame on Himself.
5b …and in him is no sin.
John takes just 6 words and reminds us of the process that allows the removal of our sin. He reminds us of the perfection of Christ that we are offered because of His spotless sacrifice! Jesus can remove our sin because He has none of His own!
What a beautiful reality takes place when we get honest about our shame. Do you really want to continue to hide under your fig leaves? Do you really want to persist in that web of deceit? Get honest with God. Take off the mask and find the forgiveness of Jesus.
I often heard that when we follow Christ, we get a clean slate to start over. That is true, but incomplete! The fact that Jesus removes our sin is such a powerful truth, but at times there are still lingering doubts of your relationship with Him: “Is all this too good to be true? What is the catch? Is He holding this over my head so that I owe Him something?”
For many Christians this is the depth of their faith. Jesus died on the cross for you. You’re forgiven, so get your act together! But this response doesn’t eliminate shame; it actually multiples it.
Look at the truth that John begins chapter 4 with.
1 Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. 2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. 3 And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.
Loving Jesus transforms our shame to sonship.
I didn’t receive a blank slate when I accepted Christ’s offer of forgiveness, I received Jesus’s slate. I received His righteousness.
You hand your paper of sin to Jesus and He doesn’t give you a clean slate, He gives you back a slate covered with the righteousness of Jesus and the position of Jesus. Who He is to the Father, you now are to the Father.
Who is Jesus to the Father? He’s a son. Galatians 4 tells us that we are no longer known as servants, but as sons! We have access to God as a son has access to a father!
As God’s Son, Jesus is the heir to the kingdom of God. Romans 8 teaches that when we accept Christ we are now joint-heirs with Him. Everything that is God’s, will one day be ours to enjoy with God in the kingdom of God for all eternity.
After His resurrection, Jesus’s first message to His apostles was of this adoption.
17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.
Blank slate? No way. I have received the righteousness of Jesus!
Are you experiencing shame before God? Start where John started this chapter—with the word, behold. He grabs his readers attention and points their eyes to their beautiful salvation—the wonderful message that when sinful people agree with Jesus about their sin and seek His forgiveness, Jesus not only removes the sin, but He welcomes them eternally into His family! He transforms their shame into sonship!
What manner of love is this?
When Satan tempts me to despair and tells me of the guilt within, upward I look, and see Him there who made an end of all my sin.