Monthly Archives: September 2019

Despising Shame

I was reminded this last week that we live in a shame-based culture in the State of Iowa. Just ask Iowa State fan Carson King. At the televised Iowa/Iowa State football game on September 14, 2019, Carson held up a beer sign to raise money for more beer. But as the money poured in, he decided to donate the money to the University of Iowa’s Children’s Hospital to help fight cancer. At the time of writing this article, Carson had raised $1.5 million to help children battling cancer. But this last week a Des Moines Register reporter thought it necessary to call our attention to some indiscreet racial tweets that Carson had made eight years ago when he was 16. That reporter is no longer with the Register because readers revealed some of his own controversial tweets. [i] Why did this reporter seek to shame Carson in the wake of this good deed that he was doing for those less fortunate than him? Perhaps he wanted to build himself up by tearing Carson down. May be he wanted to avoid his own shame by shaming Carson. Whatever his reason was, I am led to talk about despising shame.

To begin, let’s look at the perfect example of Someone who despised shame. “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

The author of the book of Hebrews is writing to Christians who are being pressured to return to Judaism and give up on their Christian faith. He compares living the Christian life to running a long distance race. He challenges them to “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (12:1b). He instructs them to run this race successfullyby “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (12:2). Until recently, I have overlooked the phrase, “despising the shame.” I have been asking the Lord to show me what this phrase means. Why did the author of Hebrews include these words when he tells us to look “unto Jesus” as the Supreme example of living a life of faith?

When he writes that Jesus “endured the cross” by “despising the shame,” does this mean that Jesus despised the shame or humiliation of crucifixion or did He despise the shame of the sin of the world that was placed upon Him as our Substitute? Or is this referring to something else? How do we apply this to our own Christian lives? To address these questions, I will first define what shame is and is not, then look at how “shame” is used in the Bible followed by focusing on what it means to “despise” shame, and conclude with ways we can apply this to our Christian lives.

SHAME VERSUS GUILT

Before we can despise shame we must identify what shame is not and what it is. Many people confuse shame with guilt. Guilt is the conviction we experience when we have violated God’s standard of holiness. In short, guilt says, “I have done wrong.” For example, when a person hates, lies, lusts, steals, or commits adultery, he or she has a sense of guilt for having done wrong (cf. Psalm 32:1-5; Romans 3:1-20; James 2:10). The Bible teaches us that sin and its subsequent guilt can lead an unsaved person to believe or trust in Christ alone as his or her Savior, resulting in cleansing and forgiveness (cf. John 16:8-11; Acts 10:43; Romans 3:20; Galatians 3:22-24). God uses our guilt to convict us of our need for Him.

The Hebrew word for “ashamed” (cf. Genesis 2:25) is בּוּשׁ (bosh), which means to fall into disgrace, to be embarrassed or humiliated. The Greek word for “shame” (Hebrews 12:2) is αἰσχύνης (aischynēs) which refers to disgrace. According to some theologians and psychologists, shame is a feeling (or belief) that we are bad, defective, flawed, and worthless. Guilt says, “I have done wrong,” but shame says, “I am wrong.” Instead of focusing on what a person has done (guilt), shame focuses on who the person is. It says that at the core of our being we are bad, inferior, and unacceptable. Satan uses shame to condemn us and isolate us from God and one another.

Let me try to illustrate the difference between guilt and shame. When I say, “I feel bad about yelling at my children when they misbehave,” that is guilt. But when I say, “I am a bad father,” this is shame.

We can feel guilt and shame at the same time. But shame is more relational. We can feel shame as a result of our own actions and the actions of others. There are two types of shame: true shame and false shame.

True shame is that feeling of disgrace or embarrassment when we have sinned. This is what Adam and Eve experienced when they disobeyed God in the garden of Eden (Genesis 3:7-8, 10).

False shame is that same feeling of disgrace or embarrassment about our personhood, not our actions. We can actually experience shame when we have done nothing wrong, but because of the actions of others we are ashamed. False shame says, “because of what was done to you, you are now bad,” or “this happened to you because you are bad.” For example, a child who was sexually abused may internalize what was done to him or her and conclude, “I must be bad for that to have happened to me.” Or “because I am bad that was done to me.”

NAKED AND UNASHAMED

When God created the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, and joined them together as husband and wife, the Bible tells us “they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed” (Genesis 2:25; cf. Mark 10:6-9). Before Adam and Eve sinned, they did not experience shame. Therefore, shame was not part of God’s original design for humankind. To be “naked” and “not ashamed” suggests something more than not wearing any clothes. These words describe Adam and Eve’s relationship with God and with one another. They were able to be completely open with the Lord and each other without holding anything back or hiding their true selves. Adam and Eve were fully known by God and each other and they were okay with this. This enabled them to experience uninhibited intimacy with God and with one another. They knew that they were totally accepted and loved by God. There was nothing to fear and nothing to hide from the Lord and each other.

Prior to the Fall, they did not experience any self-consciousness regarding the uniqueness of their personhood as man and woman. For example, Adam probably did not doubt his masculinity or his ability to impress Eve as a man. He was not concerned about his biceps being big enough or being a good enough lover for Eve. Nor did Eve wonder if her beauty was enough to attract Adam or if her ideas were as significant as his. With an unwavering assurance, both of them knew that who they were and what they offered to one another was more than just good enough – it was “very good” (Genesis 1:31).

AFRAID AND ASHAMED

But when Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16-17; 3:1-6), they experienced shame for the first time. The complete innocence and vulnerability they once had with God and one another were now lost. “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings” (Genesis 3:7). They were now self-conscious and ashamed of their nakedness before one another, so they tried to remove their shame by covering themselves with fig leaves. They went from holding nothing back from one another to hiding and covering their true selves.

When they put their own desires ahead of God’s will for their lives, they may have realized they could also put their own interests ahead of the other’s. Would Adam be able to trust Eve after she violated God’s trust? Would Eve be able to trust Adam after he did the same thing? Once transparent and vulnerable with each other, Adam and Eve now covered their physical nakedness and the nakedness of their souls with fig leaves. Instead of trusting each other, they were afraid of being hurt by one another, so they chose to protect themselves by hiding under the cover of fig leaves.

But their sin and shame also adversely affected their closeness with God. “And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (Genesis 3:8). Instead of being open and vulnerable before God, they now hid themselves from His presence when He pursued them. God is presented in this verse as pursuing His fallen children by walking in the garden in the cool of the day as if this was something He had always done to connect with them. We might assume that God came to them to punish and shame Adam and Eve for the wrong they had done, but notice that God does not seek to shame His fallen children. He seeks to restore them. “Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, ‘Where are you?’” (Genesis 3:9). Why would an all-knowing God ask Adam a question to which He already knows the answer? Because the Lord wanted a confession from Adam. “Where are you in relation to Me?” God asks. Would Adam and Eve believe He is still the same loving and merciful God that He had always been prior to their disobedience? Or would they believe the lie of the serpent who implied that God could not really be trusted (cf. Genesis 3:1-5)? The Lord did not abandon Adam and Eve when they sinned and felt ashamed. He seeks them out to restore them to fellowship with Himself.

But instead of trusting the Lord, Adam and Eve were now afraid of Him. “So he said, ‘I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself’” (Genesis 3:10). Their sin and shame now became a barrier to His loving and merciful pursuit of them. Not only were they self-conscious of their nakedness before one another, they were now self-conscious of their nakedness before God. By covering themselves with fig leaves and hiding themselves among the trees of the garden, Adam and Eve removed themselves from being able to receive God’s love, grace, and mercy which He was freely offering to them. Their faith in God had now changed to fear. Unfortunately their shame pushed them away from the Lord instead of drawing them near to Him.

MODERN-DAY FIG LEAVES

Like Adam and Eve, we also try to hide our shame from the Lord with modern-day fig leaves. We may hide behind expensive cars, motorcycles, or homes. Some of us may take refuge behind our vast theological knowledge, ministries, or positions of leadership. We may hide behind our busyness, humor, sarcasm, or superficial interactions. Others may try to cover their shame with religious efforts and rituals. Whatever fig leaves we choose to hide behind, we are going against God’s design for us by refusing to present our true selves to Him and to one another. This never leads to the abundant life God meant for us to experience.

GOD WANTS TO COVER OUR SHAME

As we already saw, God did not pursue Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden after they had sinned to shame them. He came to them in the garden to restore them to fellowship with Himself. God is full of lovingkindness in our failures. He is not looking for perfect people. He wants His children in a process that He can use to mold and train them. Failures have never hindered God – this is clear in the beginning of the Bible to the end. He seeks to restore sinful people.

Since Adam and Eve could not remove their sense of fear and shame by covering themselves with fig leaves, God graciously provided the proper covering. He “made tunics of skin” through the death of an innocent animal (Genesis 3:21). Blood must be shed. Imagine how Adam must have felt to see one of the animals he had named and cared for being killed on his account! Never had Adam and Eve known death. This was serious business and this was to be God’s way of dealing with sin and shame throughout the ages. By providing a covering with animal skins, God provided forgiveness through the “shedding of blood” (Hebrews 9:22). God later provided forgiveness through the Old Testament sacrificial system.

Those animals were shadows of the Babe who was born on that first Christmas morning. He would be called “the Lamb of God” (John 1:29). Like that first animal that was sacrificed for Adam and Eve, Jesus Christ would also be innocent and without sin because He was and is God (John 1:1, 14, 17; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 3:18). And like that first sacrificial animal, Jesus was born to die for the sins of others (John 1:29; Romans 5:8; I John 4:9), that “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Like Adam and Eve, our human efforts or works cannot remove our sin and shame (Isaiah 64:6; Romans 4:5; Ephesians 2:8-9). Religion cannot take away our sin, guilt, and shame. Only Jesus Christ can take away our sin, guilt, and shame (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Titus 3:4-7).

This is called grace. Grace is receiving what we do not deserve. We do not deserve forgiveness or everlasting life. But because of God’s grace, He offers us His forgiveness and everlasting life freely if we will believe or trust in Christ alone (John 3:16; Acts 10:43). The moment we believe in Christ, God declares us to be totally righteous before Him so there is no more guilt or shame (Romans 4:5). All our sins are removed beyond our reach as far as the east is from the west (Psalms 103:12). They are cast out of our sight into the deepest part of the sea (Micah 7:19). Nothing, including our guilt and shame, can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39)!

The voice of shame will tell us that we are defined by our sins and the sins of others. But the voice of God says when we believe in His Son, we are defined by being in Christ so that all His beauty, goodness, holiness, and righteousness are what God sees when He looks at us through Christ (cf. Romans 4:5; 10:11; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Ephesians 1:6).

God does not shame us. He did not shame Adam and Eve, but He did ask them to give an account of their actions (Genesis 3:11, 13). And He asks us to admit or confess our sins after we become Christians so He can forgive us and cleanse us of all our sins and restore us to fellowship with Him (Psalm 32:1-5; I John 1:9).

During His ministry on earth, Jesus Christ, who is God in human flesh (John 1:1, 14), did not shame broken sinful people. The Bible tells us, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17). He did not come to condemn, but to cleanse. Christ did not come to shame, but to save.

For example, when He met a despised tax collector named Zacchaeus who was shamed by his own actions and the actions of others, Jesus invited Himself over to Zacchaeus’ house to accept and love on him even though others tried to shame Jesus from doing this (Luke 19:1-7). When Jesus encountered the Samaritan woman at the well who had five failed marriages and was currently living with a man who was not her husband, Jesus lovingly offered her everlasting life as a free gift (John 4:1-18). Even though Jesus knew all about the shameful things she had done, He still loved her and disclosed His true Self to her (John 4:19-26). No one had ever treated her with such dignity. He accepted her as she was, but He also showed her need for God’s free gift of eternal life. She was so impacted by His love and grace, she invited others to come see Him (John 4:28-29). When Christ encountered a woman caught in the act of adultery, He refused to condemn and shame her by extending His forgiving grace to her (John 8:11). Instead of shaming a prostitute, He completely forgave her which led her to lavishly love on Him (Luke 7:36-50). Christ was not embarrassed by the brokenness of others. Nor did He shame them. He accepted them and forgave them.

Listen to these Scriptures which testify to the fact that God does not turn away from brokenness:

“The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite [crushed]  spirit.” Psalm 34:18

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart – these, O God, You will not  despise.” Psalm 51:17

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3

“For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, Whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” Isaiah 57:15

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted.” Isaiah 61:1

“I will seek what was lost and bring back what was driven away, bind up the broken and strengthen   what was sick.” Ezekiel 34:16

The prophet Isaiah reminds us concerning the Messiah, “A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench” (Isaiah 42:3). Jesus quoted this verse after He healed a great multitude of people who followed Him (Matthew 12:20). The Messiah did not deal harshly with those who were already hurting nor did He extinguish what little hope a broken heart possessed. He comes along side of them to strengthen them with His presence rather than step on them to advance His own plans. He wants to rekindle our love and passion for Him. Unlike the religious leaders of His day, Jesus had compassion for the weak and vulnerable. He extended gentleness and humility to the harassed and helpless (Matthew 9:36) as well as to the weary and burdened (Matthew 11:28). He used His supernatural power to heal, not to punish or shame. Jesus spent much of His ministry fighting sickness and shame, not asking “Why?” or condemning with “Who sinned?”

Christian leaders can add to the shame of the broken and bruised by being harsh and demanding. But not Jesus. Christ is always available to empathize with us and understand us when we are hurting (Hebrews 4:15). He knows exactly what to say and do when we are vulnerable so He can lift us up and set us in a broad place. He is on our side. He is not against us (cf. Psalm 118:5-9; Romans 8:31-39).

DESPISING THE SHAME

When the writer of Hebrews points out that Jesus “endured the cross” by “despising the shame,” to what was he referring? The word “despising” comes from a compound Greek word, kataphronéō, which means “against, down” (kata) and “to think” (phronéō).” Literally it means “to think against” or “to think little of.” Jesus was able to endure the embarrassment or humiliation of the cross and the sins He bore by “despising the shame” associated with them. He simply did not pay attention to that shame because it was not His. This shame was of little consequence compared to the surpassing “joy that was set before Him” when He would sit “down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). Christ endured the pain and shame of the cross because of the joy that awaited Him on the other side when He would sit down on His everlasting throne next to His heavenly Father (cf. Hebrews 1:8-9).

Hebrews 2:9-10 also sheds some light on this idea of despising the shame. 9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. 10 For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. 11 For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren.” The shame that Jesus endured to cleanse us of our own shame (2:9) was nothing compared to His great love for us (2:10; cf. Romans 5:8). Christ endured all that shame for us so He would “not be ashamed to call” us His brothers and sisters (2:11). He has replaced our shame with a place of dignity and honor in His family.

Christ endured being abandoned by His closest friends, being falsely accused, being beaten, mocked, spit upon, stripped down to His undergarments in public, and nailed to a cross like a terrible criminal to pay the penalty for all of our sins (Matthew 26:47-27:44). Worst of all, Jesus endured being rejected by His own Father in heaven when the sins of the world were placed upon Him because God is holy and righteous and cannot be around sin (Matthew 27:45-46). Did Jesus enjoy this shameful treatment associated with His crucifixion? No!!! He despised or looked down with contempt toward the shame associated with His sufferings and our sins. Jesus is showing us that just because something bad happens to you does not make you bad.

Like Jesus, we may have experienced shame by being falsely accused. During our childhood we may have been told, “You are no good.” “You cannot do anything right.” “You will never amount to anything.” Or like Jesus, some of us have been abandoned by those closest to us. Perhaps a parent abandoned you physically at an early age or they abandoned you emotionally. They lived in the same house with you, but they did not provide the emotional nurturing and support you needed. Like Jesus, you may have been beaten physically by those in authority over you. As a result, the voice of shame told you that this happened to you because you are bad. You may have been mocked and verbally mistreated and the voice of shame said you deserved this. Like Jesus, we may have experienced the humiliation of being put on display with minimal clothes on (or no clothes on) in front of others.

Or may be you have been shamed because of your commitment to follow Jesus. Perhaps you have been abandoned by those closest to you, falsely accused, beaten, mocked, or stripped naked all because of your love for Jesus. Please realize that Jesus understands how you feel because He has been through something similar (cf. Hebrews 4:15). Knowing He understands and sympathizes with us can embolden us to approach Him in prayer for His supernatural assistance. So instead of looking to our own shame whether it is based on our actions or the actions of others, we are to look to Jesus who despised the shame when He endured the cross on our behalf (Hebrew 12:2).

APPLICATION

How can I despise shame as I run the race that is set before me (Hebrews 12:2)?

Before you can run in this race called the Christian life, you much first enter this race by…

 1. Believing or trusting in Jesus to give you eternal life and remove all of your shame. If you are not in a relationship with Jesus Christ, you can begin that relationship with Him now before it is too late for you. The Bible tells us that all of us have sinned against God and deserve to be punished forever in hell (Romans 3:23; 6:23; Revelation 20:15). But God loves us so much, He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to earth to die for our sins and rise from the dead, proving that He is God (Romans 1:3-4; I Corinthians 15:3-6). Jesus wants to set us free from shame because He took on the shame (and sin) that belonged to us so we would not let our shameful past keep us from coming to Him in faith. He covers us with His own righteousness when we place our faith in Him so we do not have to live with shame any more: “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame” (Romans 10:11; cf. Romans 4:5; John 3:16). When you believed in Jesus, you were covered with His righteousness and beauty so that God sees nothing in you that is worthy of condemnation or shame (cf. Romans 4:5; 8:1a, 31-39; 2 Corinthians 5:21).

After you come to Christ in faith to save you from hell, you can…

 2. Look to Jesus instead of your shame to live the Christian life. Jesus despised or did not pay attention to the shame associated with His sufferings and our sins (Hebrews 12:2).He thought little of that shame compared to the surpassing joy He would experience when He would sit down on His everlasting throne next to His Father (cf. Hebrews 1:8-9). He did not let that shame keep Him from finishing His race successfully and nor should we let our shameful past or the shame-based lies we believe keep us from finishing the race set before us. The Bible tells us, 4 I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. 5 They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces were not ashamed” (Psalm 34:4-5). Keep your eyes on the Lord Jesus and your face will not be ashamed.

This involves ignoring the voice of shame in our Christian lives which tries to bully us from finishing the race Christ has called us to run. Shame tries to scare us by exposing our vulnerabilities and reminding us of our failures. When shame tries to intimidate us, pay little attention to it. The Bible says, “Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed; neither be disgraced, for you will not be put to shame; for you will forget the shame of your youth, and will not remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore” (Isaiah 54:4). Christ removed all our shame at the cross so you can forget that it ever was, and focus on Him.

3. Replace your shame-based lies with the truth (John 8:31-32). Try to identify which of the following shame-based lies apply to you and then ask God the Holy Spirit to replace them with the subsequent truth and apply the truth to the depths of your soul.

If you come from an ABUSIVE (emotional, physical, sexual, verbal abuse) family of origin, you may believe…

Lie: “Nobody would love me as I am.” Truth: “God loves me regardless.” Romans 5:6, 8

Lie: “I could never be forgiven.” Truth: “I am totally forgiven in Christ.” Colossians 2:13-14

Lie: “I am bad because of what happened to me.” Truth: “I am precious to Jesus because of what happened to Him.” Matthew 13:44-45; I Corinthians 6:19-20

Lie: “I am an unacceptable person.” Truth: “I am totally accepted in Christ.” Romans 8:1a; Ephesians 1:6

Lie: “I cannot get my needs met by depending on others.” Truth: “I can learn to depend on healthy people to help meet my needs.” John 13:34-35; Galatians 6:2

If you come from a CODEPENDENT family of origin, you may believe…

Lie: “I must be liked and loved by everyone.” Truth: “I am likeable and loveable, but not to everyone.” Jesus was perfect, but rejected by men – Isaiah 53:3

Lie: “I am responsible for the feelings of others.” Truth: “Every person is responsible for his or her own feelings.” Proverbs 23:7a

Lie: “Feelings of anger, anxiety, depression, and loneliness are wrong.” Truth: “Feelings are neither right or wrong, they are just feelings. How you respond to your feelings can be wrong.” Ephesians 4:26; Philippians 4:6-8

Lie: “I need everyone’s support to be healthy.” Truth: “Some of my burdens I must let God carry and some of my burdens I am to share with others. I need His wisdom to discern the difference.” Psalm 55:22; Galatians 6:2, 5;  James 1:5; I Peter 5:6-7

If you come from a PERFECTIONISTIC family of origin, you may believe…

Lie: “I am what I do.” Truth: “I am a child of God based on what Christ has done.” John 1:12; I John 3:1-2

Lie: “I can never be good enough.” Truth: “In Christ I am good enough.” 2 Corinthians 5:21; Ephesians 1:6

Lie: “I must be perfect to be accepted and loved.” Truth: “I am totally accepted and loved by God regardless of what I do.” Jeremiah 31:3; Ephesians 1:6

Lie: “I must be perfect.” Truth: “It is good enough to do my best and not be perfect.” Colossians 3:23-24

Lie: “I should never be angry, anxious, depressed, or lonely.” Truth: “Anger, anxiety, depression, and loneliness are signals to draw close to God.” Psalm 4:4-5; 42:5; 72:21-26; Philippians 4:6-8; 2 Timothy 4:16-17

Lie: “Failure is the end of the world.” Truth: “Failure is an opportunity to learn.” Luke 22:31-34; Hebrews 12:11

4. Look to the reward of ruling with Christ in the future. Christ was able to endure the cross and despise the shame by focusing on the joyful reward of ruling next to His Father afterward (Hebrews 12:2; cf. 1:8-9). Likewise, the Bible promises a great reward to those who hold fast to their Christian faith. “Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward” (Hebrews 10:35; 11:6). This great reward includes ruling with Christ in His coming Kingdom on earth if we remain faithful to Him to the end of our lives on earth (Hebrews 1:5-13; 3:1, 14; 4:1, 11; 9:15; cf. Luke 22:28-30; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:25-27; 3:21).

Like Jesus, Moses also despised the shame that can accompany faithfulness to God by looking to his future reward. 24 By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, 26 esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward” (Hebrews 11:24-26). By faith Moses despised the shame (“passing pleasures of sin”) of ruling in Egypt so he could lay hold of his future reward of ruling with Christ.

When I ran track in high school, I trained hard because I wanted to win a medal in my race. Even though I had failed to win a medal in previous races, I still prepared for the next race thinking I could win. In other words, I despised the shame of failing to win in the past by thinking little of it. Keeping the thought of winning a medal in the front of my mind as I trained and eventually competed in the race, motivated me to do my very best and not give up.

The same is true in our Christian lives. To earn the reward of ruling with Christ, we must live faithfully for Him to the end of our Christian lives. To do this, it is important to train our minds to imagine Jesus rewarding us at the Judgment Seat of Christ, saying to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord” (Matthew 25:21).

Instead of focusing on our past shame or the shame that can accompany following Christ, focus on Jesus who endured the cross, despising the shame that we deserved, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God so we could sit with Him in His future Kingdom on earth if we remain faithful to Him. The more we look to Jesus now, the less true shame we will experience when we stand before Him at the Judgment Seat of Christ after His coming for us. “And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming” (I John 2:28).

5. Fight shame with God’s grace. The Bible says, “Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more” (Romans 5:20). Whether we have spent more time in jail or in church, God’s grace is available to forgive our sins and remove all our shame. His grace includes everyone. When people start deciding who is deserving of God’s grace and who is not, they are cheapening His grace. The fact is none of us deserve His grace. We deserve God’s justice and punishment (Romans 3:23; 6:23a). So instead of pointing the finger at others, let’s give them God’s grace so they can discover that God is the God of second chance (Acts 20:24; Ephesians 4:32). His grace is in the business of forgiving and restoring guilty sinners so that all their shame is removed!


[i] https://fox61.com/2019/09/27/iowa-reporter-who-exposed-racist-tweets-no-longer-at-the-paper-after-readers-revealed-his-own/.

What new things take place when we become Christians?

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

When we believe in Christ for His gift of salvation, we become “a new creation.” The Bible says, “old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (5:17). What new things can we expect to take place in our lives when we get saved? The apostle Paul shares several new things that are given to new believers in Jesus:

– A NEW MOTIVATION. “He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again” (5:15). Instead of living for themselves after Jesus gives them eternal life, new believers are to “live… for Him who died for them and rose again.” One way to do this is to live a “thank you” life for Christ. We can thank Him for the incredible sacrifice He made for our sins by living a Christ-centered life.

– A NEW MINDSET.Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh” (5:16a). Instead of looking at outward appearances (ex. ethnicity), achievements, and the affluence of lost people, we are to see them as Jesus sees them – as someone He loves and wants to save.

– A NEW MINISTRY. “Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation… and has committed to us the word of reconciliation” (5:18-19). The moment we believe in Christ, He gives us the responsibility to preach the gospel of Christ to lost people so they may be reconciled to God the moment they believe in Jesus. Every Christian is given this ministry of reconciliation. It is not just for pastors and evangelists.

– A NEW IDENTITY. “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ” (5:20). An ambassador is a representative. In Manila of the Philippines, we have an American ambassador at the US embassy who represents the USA and the citizens of the USA in the Philippines. But as Christians, we represent Someone Who is more important and powerful than any political ambassador represents. We represent the King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus Christ! Therefore, there is no need to be afraid or ashamed to share His gospel which pleads with lost people to be reconciled to God through faith alone in Christ alone.

Comforted to Comfort

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

The apostle Paul praises God the “Father of mercies and God of all comfort.” Our Father in heaven is merciful. He withholds the condemnation and punishment we deserve as sinners. And He is the “God of all comfort.” The Greek word for “comfort” (paraklesis) pictures a person standing alongside another to encourage and support him as a friend. God is not some impersonal deity out of touch with His people. He feels their pain and offers encouragement and support to ease their distress. “All” lasting comfort comes from God. He “comforts us in all our tribulation.” There is no pain or suffering beyond the sufficient comfort of God.

God’s comforting presence in our lives equips us “to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” God never wastes our experiences, no matter how painful they may be. He wants us to pass on the comfort we have received from Him in our affliction so we may comfort others in a similar situation.

For example, who better to comfort a parent whose young child died than someone who has recovered from such a tragic loss because of God’s comfort in their lives? Who better to comfort a war veteran struggling with post traumatic stress syndrome than another veteran who has been comforted and healed by God? Who better to comfort a victim of sexual abuse than someone who has recovered from sexual abuse because of God’s comforting ministry in his or her life? Who better to minister to someone who has filed for bankruptcy than someone who has recovered from a similar financial hardship? Who better to minister to someone struggling with severe depression than someone who has walked through the valley of the shadow of death with his or her Good Shepherd?

God does not waste our experiences. He uses them to equip us to minister more effectively to others. Have you ever stopped to think that the struggle you are going through right now may be used by God to comfort others with the comfort He is going to give to you? Nothing you and I face in this life is beyond our heavenly Father’s all-sufficient comfort and compassion.

If you have not received God’s comfort before, then you will not have much to offer to someone who has been devastated by life’s difficulties. Why not begin by looking to Jesus Christ for His “everlasting consolation” (2 Thessalonians 2:16)? God wants to remove the suffering of eternity for all humanity.

Two things cause eternal suffering: sin and consequences. Sin means we have disobeyed God’s laws (I John 3:4). In one way or another we have not been good enough. Sooner or later we are unkind, dishonest or immoral. The Bible says that there are no exceptions – “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Measured by God’s standard of perfection each of us has fallen short.

Secondly, God, being holy, cannot overlook any sin. The penalty for sin is physical and spiritual “death” (Romans 6:23) – eternal separation from God in what the Bible calls the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). The Bible tells us that all people must face God as their Judge – “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Whether we have sinned once or a thousand times, sin’s consequences are eternal.

The consequences of sin, eternal suffering, can be eliminated, not because of anything that we do but by accepting what God did for us on the cross. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God’s perfect Son, Jesus Christ, died in our place. God punished Him when He should have punished us. Three days later Jesus Christ arose; proving sin and death had been conquered and His claims to be God were true. The Bible explains Jesus was “declared to be the Son of God with power… by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4). The proof that Jesus rose from the dead was that He was seen alive after His death by over five hundred eyewitnesses (I Corinthians 15:5-8). God now had a basis for pardoning us instead of punishing us.

How then does one eliminate eternal suffering? The answer is to believe in Jesus. Jesus Himself declared, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:25-26).

The word “believe” means to trust or depend upon. Trusting in Jesus is a lot like riding on a jet plane. When my wife and I flew from Manila in the Philippines to Omaha, NE, this last July, we did not have to push our jet plane to get it off the runway. Nor did we have to flap our arms to keep it in the air. We simply had to trust a person, our pilot, to fly us to our destination through no effort of our own. In the same way, Jesus now invites you to trust in Him alone through no effort of your own, to save you from an eternity separated from God and to give you everlasting life. Our good works and religious efforts will not save us because they are all like “filthy garments” in the sight of a holy God (Isaiah 64:6). We must trust in Christ alone as our only way to heaven.  The moment we do, God extends eternal life as a gift and we are His forever.

A day is coming when all those who have trusted in Jesus alone for His gift of everlasting life will be with Him in heaven where there will be no more suffering. The Bible says, “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying…” (Revelation 21:4). Those who know Christ recognize that there is suffering in this life, but take comfort in God’s promise that one day all suffering will be over. Those people will not suffer eternally.

If you have never understood and believed this, why not trust in Jesus Christ alone right now as your only way to heaven? Here is how you could tell God in prayer what you are doing.

Dear God, I come to you now as a sinner. I know my sins deserve to be punished. But I now understand that Jesus Christ died for me. He took my punishment and rose again. I now place my trust in Christ alone as my only way to heaven. Thank You for the gift of eternal life I just received. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

When you believed in Jesus, the Bible says you can “know” you have eternal life. “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life” (I John 5:13). Christ now lives inside you through His Holy Spirit (Galatians 2:20) and He is concerned about every pain and tear. He encourages us to “cast all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (I Peter 5:7). Sometimes He demonstrates His care by not removing our suffering but by comforting us in the midst of it. God will help us through whatever suffering we face, if we let Him.

How can I prepare to get a good night’s sleep?

21b Keep sound wisdom and discretion… 23 then you will walk safely in your way, and your foot will not stumble. 24 When you lie down you will not be afraid; yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet.” Proverbs 3:21b, 23-24

In 2017, Americans spent $69.5 billion in sleep aides (i.e. medicines, gadgets, etc.) and it is estimated that they will spend $101.9 billion in sleep aides by 2023. People want to have peace of mind at night when they go to bed, but it often seems to allude them.

God’s prescription for a good night’s sleep involves keeping “sound wisdom and discretion.” “Wisdom” is doing God’s will and “discretion” is knowing what is God’s will. Basically this refers to thinking and living God’s way. When you do, you will experience safety (“you will walk safely in your way”), stability (“your foot will not stumble”), and security (“when you lie down you will not be afraid”) in your life. When you think and live God’s way, He promises “you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet.”

When we don’t know and do God’s will, we often lack a good night’s sleep because we are nagged by fear and doubt. This can quickly be reversed when we turn to the Lord for His wisdom since He “gives to all liberally and without reproach” (James 1:5).  

Many of us may spend a lot of time on our cell phones or other electronic devices before going to sleep. This can also inhibit your ability to get a good night’s sleep. The blue light emitted by cell phones (or laptops, tablets, etc.) can actually reduce the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep/wake cycle. Viewing your electronic device can actually stimulate your brain rather than calm it down, especially as you interact with others on social media or read some bad news that stresses you out.

May I make a suggestion? About thirty minutes before going to sleep, lay your cell phone aside and take some deep breaths. Then take about fifteen to twenty minutes to read your Bible, listening to God’s voice of truth to impart His wisdom to you. As you meditate upon His wisdom, He promises that “your sleep will be sweet.”

Seeing ourselves through God’s eyes

“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” I Peter 2:9

In view of Israel’s rejection of Jesus Christ (2:7), the apostle Peter uses different figures to describe the church consisting of Jewish and Gentile believers (2:9). These descriptions provide a powerful description of how God views each of His children. Seeing ourselves through God’s eyes is essential for Christian growth and victory because we behave in the way we perceive ourselves to be (cf. Proverbs 23:7).

So often when someone asks us, “Who are you?” we respond by saying, “I am a teacher, a farmer, a doctor, a Hawkeye fan, a friend of…, a wife of…, a son of…, a guy who owns that fancy house or boat….” We define ourselves by what we do, possess, or by our associations with others. The problem with this is that all these people or things can change or be lost. But God wants us as Christians to see ourselves through His eyes which never changes. He has defined who we are in Christ in the Bible.

When you believed in Christ, you became a new person (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17). You are now part of a royal family – God’s family – the church (cf. John 1:12). Learning what that means takes time. You have been seeing yourself through one set of eyes for so long, that it is hard for you to believe you are a child of the King. But God now says to you, “You are MY CHILD through Jesus and that makes you royalty.” God now says, “I not only want to be in a relationship with you, but I also want to change the way you see yourself; because if I can change the way you see yourself, you will live a radically transformed life.”

You are not the same person you were before you became a Christian. You may ask, “If I am not the same person I used to be, why do I still practice the same old ways and habits?” Because Satan has deceived you into believing you are the same person you were before you came to Christ. And we act in the way we perceive ourselves to be. The Bible says, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7).

Your behavior does not determine who you are. At the very core of your being you are God’s child and God wants you to learn to start acting in a way that is consistent with who you are. The more we see ourselves as God sees us, the more we will live in the way He created us to be and live. Let’s look at God’s view of us in I Peter 2:9:

“You are a chosen generation.” God has “chosen” you , not overlooked or ignored you. To be chosen means that others want to be with us, to know us and spend time with us. As a believer in Jesus Christ, you have been chosen by God to have a special relationship with Him. Before this world was even made, God chose you to have a special relationship with Him through Jesus Christ (cf. Ephesian 1:4). So many children grow up in homes where their parents tell them, “We never wanted you. You were an accident… a big surprise.” Child of God, your heavenly  Father has always wanted to be in a relationship with you. He chose you for a purpose. He wants you to “proclaim the praises of Him” (2:9). Look in a mirror and say to yourself, “I am chosen by God.” Are you seeing yourself as God sees you? The more you believe what God says about you, the more you will feel it and live it.

– You are “a royal priesthood.” You are “royal” – a person of high status and importance. You are extremely significant because you are a member of the royal priesthood of God. In the Old Testament, there was a separate class of priests who represented the people of Israel before God, but in the New Testament, all believers are priests before God who worship, intercede, and minister (I Peter 2:5; cf. Revelation 1:6). Say to yourself, “I am a royal priest before God.”

– You are part of “a holy nation.” Originally God wanted the nation of Israel to live distinctly “holy” lives before other nations to attract them to Himself (cf. Exodus 19:5-6; Leviticus 20:26; Deuteronomy 7:6; Isaiah 42:6). But Israel failed to be a Light to the nations because she preferred to be like those nations (cf. I Samuel 8:5), so now God wants His church to be His “holy nation” to go to all the world to preach His gospel to everyone (cf. Mark 16:15) as His ambassadors (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:20). We are to “proclaim” His praises because He called us “out of darkness into His marvelous light” (I Peter 2:9). Say to yourself, “I am a holy ambassador for Christ.”

– You are “His own special people.” In Christ, we are “special” to the Lord. You are not a nobody. You are a somebody because God has declared you to be special to Him. You are greater than what is usual or common. You may not realize this, but God the Father loves you as much as He loves His own Son! Jesus prayed to His heavenly Father, “I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me” (John 17:23). Long ago Jesus prayed for you to know that the heavenly Father loves you just as much as He loves His only perfect Son! Say to yourself, “I am special to God.” Listen to the voice of truth so you can begin to see yourself through God’s eyes.

God wants us to know that we are chosen, royal, holy, and special to Him. Each of these descriptions convey our infinite value and significance to God as His children. So if a believer in Jesus comes to me and says,  “I am an alcoholic … sex addict…drug addict…workaholic…manic depressive …gambling addict…homosexual, etc,” I would respond by saying, “No, you are a child of God who is struggling with alcohol…sexual addiction….drug addiction… workaholism …manic depression… gambling or homosexuality. But your behavior does not determine who you are. At the very core of your being you are God’s child and God wants you to learn to start acting in a way that is consistent with who you are. We learn to do this through discipleship relationships.”