Lasting Lessons from the Last Day in Jesus’ Life – Part 7

“Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments and made four parts, to each soldier a part, and also the tunic. Now the tunic was without seam, woven from the top in one piece.” John 19:23

We are discovering lasting lessons from the last day in Jesus’ life before His dead body is sealed in a tomb. Thus far we have learned the following:

Like Pilate, we can avoid doing the right thing because of the cost involved (John 19:4-7).

– No one has power in this world except what is given to them by God (John 19:8-12).

– The closer we get to the cross, the more clearly we see who people really are, including ourselves (John 19:13-16).

– The cross is the total expression of God’s grace to us in Christ (John 17-18a).

– The two crosses teach that God gives each of us the freedom to choose (John 19:18b).

– There is no person or language God will not use to proclaim who Jesus is (John 19:19-22).

Today we discover in the seventh picture the apostle John presents to us, that JESUS’ GARMENTS WERE REMOVED SO WE COULD WEAR THE GARMENTS OF SALVATION (John 19:23-24). The words “when they had crucified Jesus” (John 19:23b) refer to the time when they nailed Jesus to the crossbeam and set the cross in place. 1  While Jesus is writhing in pain on the cross, John informs us, “Then the soldiers… took His garments and made four parts, to each soldier a part, and also the tunic. Now the tunic was without seam, woven from the top in one piece.” (John 19:23a, c).

Four Romans soldiers under the leadership of a centurion were assigned to each person being executed. “It would be the privilege of the soldiers conducting the execution by crucifixion to divide the personal property of the crucified among themselves. In keeping with custom therefore, the four soldiers took Jesus’ garments and divided them into four parts among themselves.” 2

It is significant to note that the Greek word for “garments” (hamatia) is plural. “When this word occurs in the singular it refers to the outer robe that most Jews wore. Here, because he used the plural, John evidently had in mind all of Jesus’ ‘outer garments,’ including His robe, sandals, belt, and head covering.” 3

The “tunic” (chitṓn) that was also removed from Jesus “was a garment worn next to the skin, but it was not what we would think of as underwear. It was more like a long shirt.” 4  The Jewish historian, Josephus, used this word to describe the high priest’s tunic that was woven in one piece (Antiquities 3.161). 5 This undergarment “was without seam, woven from the top in one piece,” and therefore, was more valuable. Not wanting to tear this expensive article of clothing, the soldiers “said therefore among themselves, ‘Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be.’ ” (John 19:24a). What a contrast between the innocent Lamb of God who was nearly stripped naked before a watching world to bear the shame of all our sin while Roman soldiers ignore Him because they were more concerned about accumulating wealth.

The Bible often describes our behavior as the clothes we wear. For example, Peter encourages us to be “clothed with humility” (I Peter 5:5). King David writes of the wicked person, “As he clothed himself with cursing as with his garment.” (Psalm 109:18). Garments represent character, and like His tunic, Jesus’ character “was without seam, woven from the top in one piece.” (John 19:23a, c). Christ’s life was like His tunic: “uninterrupted perfection.” 6

When John says Jesus’ tunic was “woven from the top,” Lucado suggests it means  “Jesus wasn’t led by his own mind; he was led by the mind of his Father. Listen to his words: ‘The Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise’ (John 5:19 NRSV).

“’I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge’ (John 5:30 NRSV).

“The character of Jesus was a seamless fabric woven from heaven to earth… from God’s thoughts to Jesus’ actions. From God’s tears to Jesus’ compassion. From God’s word to Jesus’ response. All one piece. All a picture of the character of Jesus.” 7

But when the Roman soldiers nailed Jesus to the cross, Christ took off His tunic of seamless perfection and put on a tunic of shame. Imagine what it was like for Jesus to be stripped down to a loin cloth in front of His own mother and loved ones. He was shamed before His family.

Jesus was also shamed before His accusers. While Jesus hung on the cross for a few hours, it seemed as though the religious leaders were the winners, and Christ was the Loser.

Worst of all, Jesus wore the shame of sin. Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree.” (I Peter 2:24a). He not only was shamed before His family and before His accusers, He was shamed before heaven. Although Jesus had never murdered anyone or committed adultery, He felt the shame of the murderer and adulterer. Though He never lied or gossiped about anyone, He experienced the disgrace of the liar and the gossiper. Though He never lost control of His anger, He experienced the embarrassment of those who do. Though He never had any pride or selfishness, He felt the shame of the proud and the selfish. Because He became our Substitute, He felt “the collective shame of the world.” 8

Jesus experienced the shame of all our sin while hanging on that cross in our place. Why? So we can wear the garments of salvation. His garments were removed so we can wear the robe of His righteousness. Only those who believe in Jesus alone for His gift of eternal life can say, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, My soul shall be joyful in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” (Isaiah 61:10).

The Bible tells us,But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.” (Romans 4:5). God clothes with His righteousness the person “who does not work.” Getting right with God is not based upon our works. It is based upon the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. If our works could gain us the robe of God’s righteousness, then there was no need for Jesus to remove His garments and die in our place.

God puts His robe of righteousness on the person who “believes on Him who justifies the ungodly.” Getting right with God is not based upon behaving, but upon believing in Jesus Christ “who justifies the ungodly.” It does not matter how well you have behaved, you are still “ungodly” before a holy God. You may say, “Well, I’m not as bad as him or her.” You need to understand that God is not comparing your life to other sinful people. He is comparing your life to the only perfect Person who has ever lived on earth – Jesus Christ. And the Bible says, we  “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). We all fall short of the seamless perfection of Jesus Christ.

The fact is that all people are “ungodly” sinners who deserve to be separated from God forever in a terrible place called the “lake of fire” (Romans. 3:9-23; Revelation 20:15). But the moment you believe in Jesus Christ alone, God gives you a right standing before Him as “your faith is accounted for righteousness.” He clothes you with His righteousness so that when He looks at your life, He sees the seamless perfection of His Son.

Even though it seemed like Jesus Christ had been defeated by wicked men as He suffered on the cross, John then reminds us that God is still in control when he writes, “that the Scripture might be fulfilled which says: ‘They divided My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.’ Therefore the soldiers did these things.” (John 19:24b). The soldiers’ dividing of Jesus’ garments and casting lots for His inner tunic fulfilled the Messianic prophecy in Psalm 22:18. Satan has not won a victory here. God used the wicked actions of wicked people to provide for our salvation. 9

Even though Jesus was shamed before His family, His accusers, and before heaven, He did not let this shame keep Him from finishing His work on the cross. Hebrews 12:2 tells us, “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.” Jesus “endured the cross” by “despising the shame.” The word “despising” comes from a compound Greek word, kataphronéō, which means “against, down” (kata) and “to think” (phronéō).” 10  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 and it was contrary to God’s original design for humanity (cf. Genesis 2:25). 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).

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; John 19:1-24). 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).

Prayer: PreciousLord Jesus, thank You for loving us so much that You were willing to have your garments removed so our shame could be replaced with the garments of salvation the moment we believe in You. Thank You for enduring the cross by despising the shame associated with it and the sins You bore, so we could be clothed with Your robe of righteousness. Knowing that You understand how we feel when we are abandoned by those closest to us or falsely accused, beaten, mocked, or stripped naked all because of our love for You, emboldens us to approach You in prayer for Your supernatural assistance to keep running the race You have set before us. We love You our Lord and our God. In Your matchless name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 560.

2. J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words & Works of Jesus Christ, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), pg. 482.

3. Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 354 cites Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Vol. 1 (New York: Longmans, Green, 1912), pg. 625.

4. Ibid.

5. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 347.

6. Max Lucado, He Chose The Nails (Nashville: Word Publishing, 2000), pg. 73.

7. Ibid.

8. Adapted from Max Lucado’s He Chose The Nails, pg. 74.

9. Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary, pg. 347.

10. https://biblehub.com/greek/2706.htm.

Lasting Lessons from the Last Day in Jesus’ Life – Part 4

17 And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, 18 where they crucified Him…” John 19:17-18a

We are learning from John 19:4-42 that what happened to Jesus on the last day of His life also applies to us today. The apostle John has several images he wants to make sure that we see in the life of Jesus Christ. So far we have discovered that…

Like Pilate, we can avoid doing the right thing because of the cost involved (John 19:4-7).

– No one has power in this world except what is given to them by God (John 19:8-12).

– The closer we get to the cross, the more clearly we see who people really are, including ourselves (John 19:13-16).

The fourth lasting lesson we learn from Jesus’ last day is that THE CROSS IS THE TOTAL EXPRESSION OF GOD’S GRACE TO US IN CHRIST (JOHN 17-18a). Before we look at today’s verses, let’s review what has happened to Jesus so far on His last day before His dead body is sealed in a tomb. Prior to His crucifixion, Jesus had already suffered a great deal. In Gethsemane, He was under such emotional distress that tiny capillaries in His sweat glands broke and mixed blood with His sweat (Luke 22:44). After He was arrested and bound, He was unjustly tried before civil and religious authorities (Matthew 26:57-68; 27:1-2; Luke 23:6-12; John 18:12-14, 19-23, 28-40). During these trials Christ was falsely accused, insulted, rejected, and physically abused. Pilate then had Jesus scourged or beaten with a short whip made of braided leather thongs to which were attached small iron balls and sharp pieces of bone (John 19:1). This scourging left Jesus’ body tattered and torn. Christ was then beaten and mocked by Roman soldiers who placed a crown of thorns on His head and a purple robe on His severely wounded back (John 19:2-3; cf. Matthew 27:27-30).

This brings us to the next image the apostle John presents to us. “And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha.”  (John 19:17). Before the soldiers had Jesus carry His cross, they removed the purple robe from Christ (Matthew 27:31) which had become adhered to the clots of blood and serum in His wounds. This would have been very painful, much like carelessly removing a surgical bandage.

When John tells us that Jesus was “bearing His cross,” we see the fulfillment of “two Old Testament symbols or types. Isaac carried his own wood for the sacrifice (Gen. 22:1-6) and the sin offering used to be taken outside the camp or city (cf. Heb. 13:11-13).” 1  So the sin of the world was placed on the innocent Lamb of God (John 1:29).

The reference to Jesus “bearing His cross” refers to the crossbeam that prisoners had to carry to their place of execution. The upright part of the cross would have been out at the place of crucifixion. This crossbeam strapped to Jesus’ back would have weighed 100-150 pounds. This weight would have been similar to a couple of sacks of cement.

It was a very heavy load especially for Jesus who had lost so much blood from the beating and flogging. Since Christ was very weak and faint, He could not carry this load all the way out to the place of execution. John does not tell us this because He is wanting to stress Jesus’ deity, but Luke informs us that “Simon a Cyrenian,” carried Jesus’ crossbeam for Him (Luke 23:26). 

The place where Jesus would be crucified was “called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha.” It was most likely called this because the hill’s rock formations looked like a skull. 5

John continues to describe his eyewitness picture of this when he writes, “where they crucified Him…” (John 19:18a). To help us understand the significance of John’s words, it would be beneficial for us to look at the history of crucifixion. 6

The Romans did not invent crucifixion. It was probably invented by the Phoenicians.  The Phoenicians invented the cross for a very particular reason. They had a god that they served who was a god of the earth. They felt that for someone to die on the earth it would defile their god. So they ingeniously came up with a way to execute their prisoners lifted up off the earth so that they would not defile the earth. That is where it is believed crucifixion began. 

Jesus made reference to His crucifixion when He said, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” (John 12:32). The interesting thing is when you look at the real cross of Christ, the God of the universe was lifted up on a cross (John 1:1-3), not the god of the earth. Jesus did not defile or condemn the earth. He came to save the world (John 3:17). That is what actually took place.

The Romans looked at the cross in a different way. Through the Egyptians and then the Romans, this idea of a cross came. The Romans saw the cross as a tool. They expertly used it as a tool of torture and punishment. They also used it as a tool to tell people if you rebel against Rome, you are going to face the cross and be put out in front for the world to see. Their suffering and their pain would endure for a long time so that when they punished their prisoners, many people would be brought under their control. That is what the Romans saw it as. 

The Jewish people saw the cross as the most disgusting form of death because Deuteronomy 21:22-23 says, “If a man has committed a sin deserving of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, 23 his body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you do not defile the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance; for he who is hanged is accursed of God.” When God put these verses in the Bible, He knew that Jesus would be cursed for our sins on the cross.

So to the Phoenician, the cross was a means of death that satisfied their belief in a god of the earth. To the Romans, the cross became an expertly used instrument of torture and control. To the Jewish people, crucifixion represented the most disgusting form of death. But to the God of the Bible, the cross reveals the glory of Christ. To the Christian, the cross reveals Jesus’ glory, especially His amazing grace and love.

When the Bible talks about Jesus dying, it simply says, “they crucified Him.” (John 18:18a). John doesn’t go into great detail. The reason for that is he did not need to because everyone in his day understood what crucifixion was all about. If I told you that somebody died by lethal injection, you would probably understand what that means. You can visualize the table and the room and the witnesses because you may have seen it on television or in an online video. We have also heard news reports about it. In John’s day, everyone would know the truth of what the cross was all about.

The Romans had refined crucifixion to such an art, we can know what happened. 7 They had executioners whose sole job it was to carry out crucifixion time after time. So as Jesus was brought up to that hill, to the place where that standing post was, the executioner would lay the cross beam behind the victim and would jerk them to the ground across the beam. The executioners wore leather aprons. And in these leather aprons there were pouches with five-inch nails and a hammer off to the side. These were the tools of their trade.

The executioner would kneel first on the right arm of the victim of the one who would be crucified. His knee would rest on the inside of the elbow. His hand would be placed on the arm of the victim so it was flat against the cross. He would feel for the hollow spot in the wrist between the bones so that no bones would be broken or arteries broken so the prisoner would be tortured as long as possible. Then he would take one of those five-inch nails and place it against that hollow place and in one sharp blow drive it into the wood through the flesh.

They would do the left hand in the same way. Then two soldiers on each side would grab the two ends of the cross beam and on the signal, raise it up and place it into the notch of the upright post. When that crossbeam was set firmly, the executioner would reach up and set the sign that described the crime this person had committed. This was very important to the Romans because they wanted to discourage others from rebelling against Rome. 

Then the executioner would kneel before the cross and take the right foot of the criminal and place it over the left foot, bending it slightly upwards and nail the feet to the cross.  Remember, Romans were experts at this. They had devised a means to know the exact angle at which to put the feet so the prisoner could live the longest possible time so they could endure the greatest possible agony as an example to the watching world of why not to commit this crime. 

As Jesus’ feet were nailed on the cross, we become aware of two sources of pain. First, the pain in His shoulders, His arms, and His forearms of being in a “V” position. If you tried to do this for any length of time your arms would begin to cramp. This pain would begin to be greater than the pain of the nails that were in His hands and in His feet. Then the pain of the pectoral muscles – the muscles in His chest – beginning to constrict so He could breathe in but not breathe out.

John was there. He was an eyewitness. He saw what they did to Jesus Christ. But there is something that John (and other eyewitnesses) did not see. Something, however, that Jesus did see. Max Lucado shares this insight as the soldiers were nailing Jesus’ arms to the crossbeam. “Jesus turns his face toward the nail just as the soldier lifts the hammer to strike it….

“Couldn’t Jesus have stopped him? With a flex of the biceps, with a clench of the fist, he could have resisted. Is this not the same hand that stilled the sea? Cleansed the Temple? Summoned the dead?

“But the fist doesn’t clench… and the moment isn’t aborted. The mallet rings and skin rips and the blood begins to drip, then rush. Then the questions follow. Why? Why didn’t Jesus resist?

“’Because he loved us,’ we reply. That is true, wonderfully true, but – forgive me – only partially true. There is more to his reason. He saw something that made him stay. As the soldier pressed his arm, Jesus rolled his head to the side, and with his cheek resting on the wood he saw … between his hand and the wood there was a list. A long list. A list of our mistakes: our lusts and lies and greedy moments and prodigal years. A list of our sins.8

The Bible tells us, 13 God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; He has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-14 NIV).

Lucado continues, “The list God has made, however, cannot be read. The words can’t be deciphered. The mistakes are covered. The sins are hidden. Those at the top are hidden by his hand; those down the list are covered by his blood. Your sins are ‘blotted out’ by Jesus (KJV)…

“This is why he refused to close his fist. He saw the list! What kept him from resisting? This warrant, this tabulation of your failures. He knew the price of those sins was death. He knew the source of those sins was you, and since he couldn’t bear the thought of eternity without you, he chose the nails.” 9

Out of love for you and me, Jesus chose the nails that not only attached Him to that wooden crossbeam, but also the list of all our sins. The word “canceled” (eksaleíphō) in Colossians 2:14, was a technical term in the apostle Paul’s day when he penned this. It refers to washing a piece of parchment clean for reuse. 10  Not only was the parchment clean enough to be written on again, it showed no evidence of ever having been written on in the first place.

Jesus’ blood washed away any record of our past, present, or future sins and charges against us. This is called positional forgiveness which we receive the moment we believe in Jesus for it (Acts 10:43). That is why the cross of Christ is the total expression of God’s grace. It is through the cross that “Jesus destroyed the foundation of Satan’s strategies… 11  Satan’s methodology is one of accusation, always to increase our sense of shame which increases his control over us.” 12

The truth is, no one can successfully accuse us of wrongdoing in God’s courtroom because Jesus Christ finished paying our sin debt in full when He died in our place on that cross (John 19:30; Romans 8:31-34). When we believe in Jesus, God justifies us or declared us totally righteous in His courtroom (Romans 8:33). If God pronounced that we are not guilty, then no one – not the devil, an ex-spouse, or an unforgiving boss – can reverse His verdict. No one can successfully accuse any Christian of wrongdoing in God’s courtroom because God does not even accuse us. He justifies us the moment we believe in Jesus alone (Romans 3:28, 30; 4:5; 5:1). This is what sets us free from the shame Satan wants to control us with.

As you read this, you may be thinking, “But you don’t know how badly I have sinned or how often I have sinned.” You are correct, but Jesus Christ does. Before Jesus hung on that cross, all of your sins were yet future. At the cross, God took every sin that you would ever commit and placed them all on Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus paid the penalty for all of your sins so you could be totally forgiven the moment you believed in Christ. Forgiveness means God has removed the barrier of all your sins so you can now enjoy closeness with God.

What this means is that you can never lose your relationship with your heavenly Father. Just as you are born into your earthly family and can never cease to be your parents’ child no matter what you do, so too, when you are born into God’s family through faith in Jesus alone (John 1:12), you can never cease to be His child no matter how you live. You can sin as God’s child without ever ceasing to be His child. But your sin will break that closeness with God just as disobeying your parents breaks your closeness with them. When you sin (and we all do), you must daily confess your sins in order to maintain fellowship or closeness with Christ (I John 1:9).

Knowing that all of your sins are positionally forgiven “in Christ” is essential for experiencing victory over the devil and the world (I John 2:12-14). A good soldier cannot do his best with the fear that a mistake or two would take him off the front lines. Satan tries to get believers to focus on their past sins or worry about their future sins to weaken them when facing the world’s temptations. By focusing on Christ’s complete positional forgiveness, a believer is able to focus on knowing Christ more intimately by abiding in His Word and experiencing victory over the devil and the world (I John 2:12-14).

Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus, there is no greater expression of Your grace than the cross. When you spread your arms out on that crossbeam, You were showing the world how wide Your love truly is (John 3:16). It is wide enough for the worst of sinners and the best of sinners to be totally forgiven forever. Your love is wide enough for the whole world which includes every one of us. Sadly, others may exclude us but You never will if we come to You on Your terms (John 6:37). Thank You for demonstrating how much You loved us when You stretched one hand to the right and the other to the left and permitted the soldiers to nail them in that position so we would know that You died loving us. Thank You for canceling the list of all our sins which was between Your hands and the wooden crossbeam through the shedding of Your blood. Please use us now to proclaim Your forgiving love and grace to a lost and dying world. In Your matchless name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), pg. 690.

2. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 345; Tom Constable, Notes on John, 2017 Edition, pg. 351, cited Darrell L. Bock, Jesus according to Scripture: Restoring the Portrait from the Gospels (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House; and Leicester, England: Apollos, 2002), pg. 535.

3. Tom Holladay’s July 24, 1996 message entitled, “A Day in the Life of…  Jesus Christ.”

4. Tom Constable, Notes on John, pg. 351.

5. Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 559; cf. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Gospels, pg. 690.

6. Adapted from Tom Holladay’s discussion in his July 24, 1996 message entitled, “A Day in the Life of…  Jesus Christ.”

7. Ibid.

8. Max Lucado, He Chose The Nails (Nashville: Word Publishing, 2000), pp. 33-34.

9. Ibid., pg. 34.

10. A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. IV (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1931), pg. 494.  

11. Ted Roberts, Seven Pillars of Freedom Workbook (Gresham, OR: Pure Desire Ministries International, 2014), pg. 72.

12. Ted Roberts, Pure Desire (Bloomington, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1999), pg. 83.

How can we overcome the fear of abandonment? Part 1

“And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever.” John 14:16

A few years ago I watched the movie “Spotlight” which is based on a true story of how the Boston Globe newspaper’s spotlight team uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese. The many victims of abuse had been ignored by the Catholic Church and the Boston community. Near the end of the movie, many victims called in to the Spotlight department after they ran an article entitled, “Church ignores abuse by priests for years.” For years victims of sexual abuse were abandoned by people who knew about the abuse but turned the other way.

We might think, “Well, that is just the Catholic Church. That would not happen among true born-again Christians.” Evangelical churches would not ignore the victims of such abuse, right!?! Mission agencies would not tolerate such horrific treatment of their own people. Right?! Wrong! These assumptions are one of many factors that has hindered evangelicals and Bible-believing mission agencies from dealing with sexual abuse among their own people.

Former gymnast, Rachael Denhollander, says she was fifteen-years old when US Olympic team doctor, Larry Nassar, started sexually abusing her. In an interview with Christianity Today, she says, Church is one of the least safe places to acknowledge abuse because the way it is counseled is, more often than not, damaging to the victim. There is an abhorrent lack of knowledge for the damage and devastation that sexual assault brings. It is with deep regret that I say the church is one of the worst places to go for help. That’s a hard thing to say, because I am a very conservative evangelical, but that is the truth. There are very, very few who have ever found true help in the church… 1

Mission agencies that once denied the possibility of sexual abuse among their missionary families have had to come to grips with the harsh reality that such abuse has and does take place among conservative evangelical missionary families. In fact, I was told by one mission agency leader in the Philippines, that sexual abuse takes place in every culture and subculture, Christian or non-Christian. All people are fallen and broken because of sin.

Sexual abuse victims are often isolated and left alone to deal with their pain and shame. Those who are abused within the church are wanting to know, “Where is God in all of this? Has God abandoned me? Why did He permit this to happen to me?”

The feeling of being left alone, not only haunts victims of sexual abuse, it also haunts the “divorcee in that apartment… or the one who just buried his or her life’s companion… or the couple whose arms ache for the child recently taken… the young nurse in 1967 who, after a shattered romance and broken engagement, went back to the Midwest to start over… like the disillusioned teenaged girl, away from home and heavy with child – wondering, ‘How can I face tomorrow?’” 2  Because of COVID-19, many people are experiencing abandonment by family, friends, colleagues, and churches. Some of you reading this article may be feeling as though God has left you or abandoned you.

The disciples of Jesus may have asked that question, “How can I face tomorrow?” After Jesus announced His departure to His disciples, they became troubled (John 13:33-14:12). They were afraid to be left alone without Jesus present. They did not want to fight battles and face issues alone.

Like Jesus’ disciples, we may struggle with the fear of abandonment. A word, a tone of voice, or gesture or lack of it can drive us to act in ways that we think will prevent someone from leaving us. But we do not have to yield to our fear of abandonment because Jesus has provided a Helper to encourage us during His absence.

In John 14:12-14, Jesus had promised His disciples that if they trusted Him, they would do greater works than He had done because He would go to the Father. Even though Jesus was leaving them, they were to continue His ministry of revealing the Father. Christ’s disciples would reveal His Father to a greater extent than He had done while He was on earth if they had faith in Him to work through them. The power to reveal the Father would be obtained through prayer in Jesus’ name.

For the next few days, we will learn how we can overcome the fear of abandonment. We can overcome the fear of abandonment by focusing on… THE PROMISE OF ANOTHER HELPER (John 14:15-16). Jesus said to His eleven believing disciples,“If you love me, you will obey my commandments.” (John 14:15). While Jesus was gone, the disciples would have an opportunity to show Christ just how much they loved Him. Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” The present tense of the first verb, “love,” (agapate) could be translated, “If you keep on loving Me…” 3 They could reveal their love for the Lord through their ongoing obedience to Him.

Notice that Jesus did not say, “If you fear Me, keep My commandments.” The fear of Jesus is not the motivation for obedience to Him. Instead, Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” Love for Jesus is the strongest motivation for obeying Him. Our obedience to Christ is the outgrowth of our love relationship with Him. First John 4:18-19 say, 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 19 We love Him because He first loved us.”The more I experience the unconditional love and acceptance of Jesus Christ, the more my love toward Him will increase and express itself by obeying Him.

Some people may claim to love Christ while living in disobedience to Him. They may misconstrue that their love for the Lord is a feeling. But Christ makes it clear that our love for Him is revealed through our actions. Jesus taught His disciples that answered prayer is dependent upon obedience to Him (John 14:13-14; cf. 15:7). John writes in his epistle, “And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.”(I John 3:22). We can say we love the Lord, but what truly communicates our love for Him is obedience to His Word (cf. I John 3:18).

Think about this for a moment. If Jesus just told us with His mouth that He loved us and never took action, we would still be dead in our sins. God’s love involves the commitment to do what is best for others. Our love for Jesus is expressed through our obedience to Him.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever.” (John 14:16). Jesus recognized the weaknesses of His disciples and their inability to fulfill the ministry of revealing the Father through their obedience to His commands, so He promises that the Father will send “another Helper.” The word “Helper”(paraklétos) literally means, “One who is called alongside to help.” 4 The disciples had been sent out to minister while Jesus was here on earth. But now they were being sent out to be His witnesses during His absence from the earth. Jesus had been their Helper while He was with them. In His absence, He would send “another Helper.”

This verse has much to say about the Trinity. Laney observes that “it is noteworthy that in vv. 13-14 Jesus commands His disciples to ‘ask’ (aiteō), the word used of an inferior asking a superior. But here Jesus uses the word erotaō (‘ask’), a word used of a request made to an equal. This has significant implications in terms of Jesus’ deity. Although submissive to the Father, Jesus regarded Himself as an equal (cf. 10:30; 14:9)5 to the Father.

Christ also considers the Holy Spirit to be equal to Himself by using the word “another” (allon) which means “another of the same kind.” 6 Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as “another just like Myself.” According to Christ, there is equality among the Godhead (see diagram below). The Son is equal to the Father, and the Holy Spirit is equal to the Son. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equal in every way as God, yet distinct in their tasks and relations to humanity.

Christ is saying in this verse that the Holy Spirit will do for them all that He had done for them while He was with them. So they would not be abandoned or left alone to their own wisdom and strength. This Helper would be with them “forever.” There would never be a time when this coming Helper would be taken away from them in the way Christ was now being taken from them through His death and eventual ascension to heaven. 

You may ask, “If God the Holy Spirit is with me, why do I still feel all alone?” Because the Holy Spirit is not a feeling, He is a Person without a physical body. Rather than focus on our feelings to determine if we are alone and abandoned, we are to focus on what the Bible says about the Holy Spirit. Jesus said that this “Helper” will “abide with you forever.” The word “forever” is the English translation of three words in the original language and literally means “to the age” (eis ton aiōna). Jesus is saying that the Holy Spirit will continue with them (and us) until “the end of the world or time” itself to provide constant comfort, guidance, leading, power, protection, provision, and teaching. Unlike Christ who spent three and a half years with His disciples and then left them, Jesus now promises another equal Helper Who will never depart from them.

Think about this: how long is “forever?” It is permanent, isn’t it? It never ends. Even though you may feel alone, the truth is there will never be a time when the Holy Spirit is not “with you.” Feelings can lie to us. We may conclude, “I am alone because I feel alone.” That is a lie. We must not give our feelings more authority than God’s Word. Will we focus on a lie or on the unchanging truth of God’s Word? The choice is ours. If we feel alone it is because we are focusing on thoughts or feelings of loneliness which are contrary to the truth of Jesus. We need to follow the example of the Psalmist when he prayed to the Lord, “Remove from me the way of lying, and grant me Your law graciously.” (Psalm 119:29).  We can ask the Lord to remove this lie from our thinking and to graciously renew our mind with this truth that God the Holy Spirit is always with us to provide constant assistance and strength whether we feel this way or not.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You so much for sending God the Holy Spirit to supply our needs in Your absence. I must admit that I have given my feelings more authority than Your Word when I believe I am all alone. Thank You for reminding me that I am never alone, Lord Jesus. Your Holy Spirit abides with me forever! Holy Spirit, I want to give You everyone and everything in my life right now. Please restore my union with You and guide me into a deeper connection with You, the Father, and Jesus. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. http://www.christianitytoday. com/ct/2018/january-web-only/rachael-denhollander-larry-nassar-forgiveness-gospel.html.

2. Adapted from Chuck Swindoll’s Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), pp. 164-165.

3. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pp. 260-261.

4. J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words & Works of Jesus Christ, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), pg. 438.

5. Laney, pg. 261.

6. A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. V., Gospel of John, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1932), pg. 252.

Overcoming Satan’s Accusations

“If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31

One of Satan’s primary weapons against Christians is his accusations (Revelation 12:10). Satan delights in accusing believers of wrongdoing because this is the way he achieves victory over sinners. He knows these accusations can increase our sense of shame which increases his control over us. He uses these accusations to keep us from drawing near to God and trusting in Him. Accusations that say, “God could never love you in light of what you have done. You have done too many wrong things for God to ever forgive you. God is against you. You are worthless and unwanted in the sight of God. Serving God does not pay. God will not keep His promises to you because He only cares about Himself.” Do you ever have thoughts like these? I certainly do.

An important truth God has given us to combat these accusations is found in Romans 8:31 where the apostle Paul writes: “If God is for us [and He is], who can be against us” (8:31)? When we think God or someone else is against us, God says, “Since I am for you (and no one is greater than Me), no one can successfully oppose or accuse you!” This includes those in authority over us, family, friends, and even the devil and his demonic armies. As a preacher once said, “One plus God is always a majority.” Does it always feel this way? No. But our feelings do not always tell the truth.

You may respond, “But God, how do I know You are for me?” Paul writes, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). When we were enemies of God, He gave us His only perfect Son to die in our place (Romans 5:6-8). If God gave us His best when we were at our worst, how much more will He give us now that we are His beloved children!?!

The Cross of Jesus Christ guarantees the enemy’s defeat because Satan achieves victory through accusing sinners. But through the Cross, Jesus would deal with sin once and for all. 13And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the Cross. 15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.” (Colossians 2:13-15).

We can never fully comprehend all that Jesus accomplished for us on the Cross. The Cross is infinite in its depth, because it is the total expression of God’s grace to us in Jesus. Before we became Christians, we were “dead in” in our “trespasses,” but God “has made us alive together with” Jesus. How? “Having forgiven” us “all trespasses” (Colossians 2:13). Think about this for a moment. God says “all” our sins are “forgiven” through Jesus’ death on the Cross.When Jesus died in our place nearly 2,000 years ago, we were not even born yet. So all of our sins were yet future in the mind of Christ when He hung on that Cross. The forgiveness Jesus provides for believers includes our past, present, and future sins. But that is not all.

The Bible tells us that Jesus’ death “wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the Cross” (Colossians 2:14). The word translated “wiped out” (eksaleíphō) means “to completely erase, obliterate, remove, or wipe away.” It refers to the process of washing a piece of parchment clean for reuse. 1  Not only was the parchment clean enough to be written on again, it showed no evidence of ever having been written on in the first place.

When a person was executed under Roman law, the sentence was attached to the accused’s Cross (see John 19:19). But Jesus took our sentence away, effectively nailing our certificates of debt to His Cross. He paid our penalty in full; He died for our guilt. 2  God “made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Jesus’ blood washed away any record of our previous sins and accusations against us. This is why the Cross of Jesus Christ is the only answer to the shame that lies at the core of our being. All of our sin and shame was dumped on Jesus as hell unleashed its deepest fury upon Him while He hung on that Cross. Satan can no longer refer to the list of charges against us because it was nailed to the Cross forever! So what Satan does is make up his own accusations which are lies from the pit of hell.

Jesus’ death on the Cross “disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it” (Colossians 2:15). The First Coming of Christ accomplished a spiritual victory over Satan and his kingdom. A fallen angel is no match for the Son of God, who took away Satan’s rulership. Satan is actually the transliteration of a Hebrew word meaning ‘adversary’ or ‘accuser.’ He is ‘the accuser of our brothers and sisters’ whom he ‘accuses . . . before our God day and night’ (Rev 12:10). He accused Job (see Job 1:9-11; 2:4-5) and Joshua the high priest (see Zech 3:1). But in light of the atoning sacrifice of Christ, Satan’s accusations are empty.

“If somebody has a gun pointed at you, whether or not it’s loaded is a huge deal. The devil doesn’t want you to know that his gun has been emptied by the Cross of Christ. Now, if you don’t know that, you’re still going to cower and run, living in fear and shame. But you don’t have to listen to him. Though he is right about your sin, your debt has been paid by Christ. You are free to live for God. Satan still has power, but he no longer possesses final authority in history.” 3

The Cross of Christ is the only answer to the accusations of Satan and the shame that accompanies them. The death of Jesus is the only thing that can set us free. It has for all time declared our infinite value. We truly do matter to God!

Unfortunately, churches can shame people for struggling with sin and shame. When they do that, they are becoming Pharisees of further condemnation instead of priests of hope. We can deepen the shame of believers with the bony finger of a critical god, instead of revealing the open arms of the crucified Savior. We may think we have to defend God’s purity even though Christ took the filth of our sins upon Himself.

I am not suggesting that churches accept the world’s standards of behavior. But in our efforts to keep the church pure, we have beaten up the souls of broken men and women who are crying to be free from the shackles of shame. We have become modern-day Pharisees and we do not even realize it. God’s most powerful weapon is grace; but it has been cast aside in our efforts to be spiritually pure. The irony of this is that the modern-day Pharisee is just as obsessed with sin as the one who is consumed by it – one to avoid it, the other to live in it. Both need to come back to the Cross to find lasting freedom.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I am eternally gratefully for the Cross. For it was at the Cross that You proved that God is for me and not against me. It was there that You declared my infinite value. It was there that the list of accusations against me was nailed and rendered powerless. It was at the Cross that Satan was defeated and sentenced to die forever in the lake of fire. It was there that Your love for me was clearly displayed. And it was at the Cross where freedom from sin and shame was achieved forever!!! Thank You, my Lord and my God, for the Cross which is the basis for victory in my Christian life. To You, Lord Jesus, be all the glory both now and forever! Amen.  

ENDNOTE:

1. A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. IV (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1931), pg. 494.

2. Tony Evans, Evans, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, (B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition), pg. 2148.

3. Ibid.

How can I overcome condemnation? Part 1

“Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them.” John 8:2

Are you living under condemnation? Are you weighed down by guilt and anxiety about your past? Maybe you have done things which would embarrass you if they became public knowledge. You may have a criminal record or a moral charge or a domestic conflict that, to this moment, is private information. You may wrestle with a past that has been fractured and wounded by a mental or emotional breakdown. Futile attempts at suicide may add to the previous scar tissue and increase your fear of being labeled “sick” or “nervous.” It’s possible you live with memories of an immoral relationship, a financial failure, a terrible habit, a divorce or a scandalous involvement. You may be your worst critic of your past.

Many of us are driven by shame. We believe we are flawed at the core of our being. Yes, we hear preachers say that God loves sinners, yet we are convinced that we are still worthless and unloved. We live under condemnation whether it be of our own doing or the doings of others, including the master of condemnation – Satan himself (Rev. 12:9-10).

How can I overcome this condemnation that keeps me buried under a load of guilt and shame? For the next few days, Lord willing, we will look at John 7:53-8:11 to discover God’s remedy for the condemnation that often plagues us.

The first way I can overcome condemnation is to REST UNDER CHRIST’S GRACIOUS TEACHINGS (John 7:53-8:2). After Jesus had freely offered eternal satisfaction to the people gathered at the feast of Tabernacles (John 7:37-39), John tells us, “And everyone went to his own house.” (John 7:53). The religious leaders had criticized Nicodemus after His attempt to defend Jesus’ right to be heard. They didn’t believe a prophet would arise from Galilee. More than a prophet would arise from Galilee, however, and offer everlasting hope to that region. “But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.” (John 8:1). The religious leaders slept comfortably and late, but Jesus spent the night on the Mount of Olives. Jesus had no place to lay His head in Jerusalem.

“Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them.” (John 8:2). The day after the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus went into the temple and all the people came to Him. Why did all the people come to sit under Jesus’ teaching? Was it because He beat them up spiritually and emotionally and people love to be put down? No. I believe these people were tired of the demands of the religious leaders, and they were drawn to the gentle and forgiving grace of Christ (cf. Matthew 11:28-30; 12:20).

Notice that the Bible says Jesus “sat down and taught them.” Although sitting down was a normal rabbinic practice, I think it is very significant that John tells us this. Jesus did not stand like He did the day before in the temple (John 7:37). He “sat” among them to teach them. He was on the same level as His audience. He longs to connect with people so they can begin to see themselves as He sees them – someone who is infinitely loved and valued by God.

As they sat under His teaching and discovered the magnificence of His grace, they were healed from the malignancy of their guilt! How precious and broad is Christ’s love they found, yet how petty and narrow is man’s legalism (trying to keep the Law to gain God’s acceptance). How refreshing is the Lord’s grace! Yet how rigid is the legalist’s guilt! Christ’s grace was setting them free from their guilt and shame. And He wants to do the same for you. “For God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17). Christ did not come into the world to condemn us. He came into the world to cleanse. He did not come to rub our sin in. He came to rub our sin out.

We can be free from the plague of condemnation and shame by coming out from under shame-based religious systems. These systems may preach the love of God and that Christ died for our sins, but at the core of their teaching they believe: “You are bad, God is good, so try harder.”

As Christians we need to be under the grace and truth of Jesus Christ which teaches: “God is good, you are being restored, so come and be.” As we place ourselves under His teaching, we will begin to see the weight of condemnation lifted and the wellspring of Jesus’ grace settle into our hearts and minds so we can focus on being and not working to earn His love and grace.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I am learning so much from You about who I am in the sight of God. I used to see myself as a worthless sinner who is saved by grace. But You are helping me to see I am a child of God who is infinitely loved and valued by You and my Father in heaven. Lord, my heart is deeply concerned about the millions of people who are under religious teachings that condemn and oppress broken people in need of Your healing grace. They have no hope of freedom from condemnation and shame. They need You Lord Jesus. Please show them how good and gracious You are. Help them to come to know Your saving grace that makes them a new person on the inside who is free from condemnation and shame. In Your name I pray. Amen.

Transformed from a tree of shame to a tree of splendor

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” Luke 4:18

After Jesus had been tempted in the wilderness by Satan and ministered in Galilee (Luke 4:1-15), “He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. As His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read” (4:16). Christ then read verses taken from Isaiah 61:1-2 which describe the promised Messiah’s ministry on earth hundreds of years prior. His gospel is for everyone, including “the poor” (4:18a). His gospel heals, not hurts “the brokenhearted” and “proclaims liberty,” not labor to those who are “captives” or in bondage (4:18b). When Jesus said, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (4:21), He was saying that He was the promised Messiah Whose gospel would bring blessing to those who are broken.

There is a progression in Isaiah’s description of the Messiah’s gospel preaching ministry that is relevant to those who are struggling with shame and the bondage it creates. All people have hidden wounds in their lives. They may be in the form of hurtful memories such as a mean word on the playground or abuse in the home. We try to medicate these wounds with behaviors, substances, or emotions. But Jesus came to “heal the brokenhearted,” resulting in “liberty” from that which we could not break free (4:18a). Shame imprisons us, but the Savior liberates us. His gospel grants spiritual “sight” to us so we can begin to see ourselves through His eyes and no longer be “oppressed” by shame-based lies (4:18b).

The biblical text does not tell us if Jesus read verse 3 of Isaiah 61, but this verse is a continuation of the Messiah’s ministry on earth. His healing grace will “console [not condemn] those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty [not a beating] for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise [not punishment] for the spirit of heaviness;  that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified” (Isaiah 61:3). Our brokenness brought great sadness to us, but Christ’s grace will “console” us, changing our sadness and the “heaviness” of shame into “joy” and “praise.” This inward transformation will make us a blessing to others, like oak “trees” flourishing in “righteousness” because of the outrageous love and grace of God.

The word translated “trees” is the Hebrew word אַיִל (ayil) which refers to a terebinth tree – a prominent, lofty tree much like an oak tree (Isaiah 1:29; 57:5). We may not think much of Isaiah’s reference to an oak tree, but in ancient times, people sacrificed to and worshipped their pagan gods in groves of oak trees. The use of the word “trees” (ayil) in Isaiah 1:29 and 57:5 is revealing.

29 For they shall be ashamed of the terebinth trees (ayil) which you have desired; and you shall be embarrassed because of the gardens which you have chosen. 30 For you shall be as a terebinth whose leaf fades, and as a garden that has no water. 31 The strong shall be as tinder, and the work of it as a spark; both will burn together, and no one shall quench them” (Isaiah 1:29-31). God would judge those who had forsaken Him to meet secretly among “the terebinth [oak] trees” to worship the false gods of the people around them. The reason they would be “ashamed” is because those who worshipped these pagan gods were required to participate in a wide variety of sexual practices, including orgies, adultery, prostitution, and the bloody sacrifices of children.

In Isaiah 57, Israel’s rebellion against God among the groves of oak trees included adultery and idolatry. 3But come here, you sons of the sorceress, you offspring of the adulterer and the harlot! 4 Whom do you ridicule? Against whom do you make a wide mouth and stick out the tongue? Are you not children of the transgression, offspring of falsehood, 5 inflaming yourselves with gods under every green tree (ayil), slaying the children in the valleys, under the clefts of the rocks? 6 Among the smooth stones of the stream is your portion; they, they are your lot! Even to them you have poured a drink offering, you have offered a grain offering. Should I receive comfort in these? 7 On a lofty and high mountain you have set your bed; even there you went up to offer sacrifices” (Isaiah 57:3-7). God summons the idolatrous Israelites who were acting as though their father was an “adulterer” and their mother a “sorceress” and a prostitute (57:3). They were mocking the righteous minority among them (57:4) and they burned (“inflamed”) in their lust for the “gods under every green tree” (57:5). Pagan gods were strewn among these oak trees. God’s people worshipped “the smooth stones” in the stream beds and offered sacrifices to the gods “on a high and lofty mountain” (57:6-7).

Then Isaiah says, “Also behind the doors and their posts you have set up your remembrance; for you have uncovered yourself to those other than Me, and have gone up to them; you have enlarged your bed and made a covenant with them; you have loved their bed where you saw their nudity” (Isaiah 57:8). The Israelites deliberately turned their back on the Lord and placed symbols of these pagan gods “behind the doors and their posts” to remind them of the gods they worshipped.

You may wonder what these symbols looked like? They were often highly sexual. For example, the goddess Asherah was the goddess of fertility. The symbol identifying her was a phallus. When God’s people are described in the Old Testament as meeting at the Asherah “poles,” it is talking about them gathering around a tall tower or temple built in the shape of a man’s genitalia.

What God is telling us in the book of Isaiah is that the “oak trees” were common places of unrighteousness – especially sexual sin and immorality. So when Jesus offers to heal broken hearts, free those in bondage, and transform them into “trees of righteousness” who will display His glory (Luke 4:18-19; cf. Isaiah 61:1-3), we come to a new and profound understanding. In the very place where the Israelites engaged in sinful, shameful, and degrading practices, He promises to make them oak trees of righteousness. And He promises to do the same with us.

God wants to meet us in the hidden places of our greatest shame and struggle to help us heal. He is not uptight about our sin and shame. His grace is far greater than either (cf. Romans 5:20). But most men and women who are struggling with shameful and degrading practices want to hide themselves from God and have lost hope. They have settled for the ongoing cycles of defeat and shame. But Jesus wants to transform them from a tree of shame to a tree of splendor. And He does this through His love. His perfect love casts out fear and shame (I John 4:18).

“The Lord your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17). After defeating all His enemies at the end of the Tribulation (3:15), King Jesus will be in Israel’s “midst” like a “Mighty” Warrior to “save” them from harm (3:17a). Like a Bridegroom, King Jesus “will rejoice over” His people, Israel, “with gladness” and “He will quiet” them in the security of “His love” for them as His bride (3:17b). King Jesus “will rejoice over” His bride “with singing.”

God wants to celebrate who we are! “He will rejoice over you with singing,” not condemn us or shame us. He wants to heal and quiet us with His love. He wants to transform our tree of shame into a tree of splendor so He is glorified. Will you place yourself in a position for Him to do that?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, even though I am afraid and ashamed, I invite You to do what You were sent to do. Please heal my brokenness deep inside of my heart, liberate me from bondage, open the door where others have locked me up and thrown away the key, comfort and console me in my grief, grant me beauty instead of the ashes of humiliation, the oil of joy in place of mourning, the garment of praise instead of punishment for my spirit of heaviness, that I may be called a flourishing oak tree of righteousness that is a blessing to others and magnifies Your name. In Your name. Amen.

Overcoming the weight of shame

27 Make me understand the way of Your precepts; so shall I meditate on Your wonderful works. 28 My soul melts from heaviness; strengthen me according to Your word. 29 Remove from me the way of lying, and grant me Your law graciously.” Psalm 119:27-29

The Lord has been teaching me a lot about shame the past few months. Having grown up with shame-based lies in America and having served as a missionary in a shame-based country for several years, this issue of shame has weighed heavily on my soul. In this devotion I will address shame in a Christian’s life.

It is important to understand that shame is not from God. When God made the first man and woman, they were naked and unashamed before the Lord and one another (Gen. 2:25). Even after Adam and Eve sinned, God did not come to condemn them with shame, He came to cover their sin and shame (Gen. 3:9-21). For example, when Adam told God, “I was afraid because I was naked” (3:10). God replied, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat” (3:11)? God never told Adam and Eve they were naked. This was the natural consequence of their sin. Satan also reveals our shame to us when we sin (true shame) or don’t sin (false shame). His accusations against believers produce shame in their lives. The Devil uses shame to isolate Christians from God and one another. Like a roaring lion who focuses on those who are isolated and weak, Satan focuses on believers who are alone and weak (cf. I Peter 5:8).

Guilt says, “You did something wrong.” Shame says, “You are wrong.” Satan uses shame to condemn us and keep us from drawing near to God and one another.

In my devotions in Psalm 119 this morning, the Holy Spirit showed me some truths that I can apply to my battle with shame. The Psalmist writes, “Make me understand the way of Your precepts; so shall I meditate on Your wonderful works” (119:27). We need God to help us “understand” or discern the pattern (“way”) of His commands (“precepts”). Take time to invite God to help you understand how to apply His Word to your deep struggle with shame. The Lord wants us to focus (“meditate”) on the “wonderful works” He is doing deep inside of us rather than on our sin and shame. Shame tends to focus on behavior and external reformation. God’s grace and truth focus on the heart and inward transformation.

As God leads me to deal more deeply with my shame, I discover that my “soul melts from heaviness” (119:28a). The word “melts” (dalaph) means “to drip or leak because cracks are not mended.” The idea is that our soul is broken and unable to retain what God gives us. Shame keeps us from believing the truth about God’s love and acceptance of us. As a result, our soul is broken and weighed down with the “heaviness” of sadness and shame. And a cycle of shame develops whereby we mess up, confess our sins, and then try harder, only to repeat the same sin because we continue to believe the shame-based lies that fuel our shame. And we stay bound to this cycle of shame. We cannot break this shame cycle until we deal with the wounds that the shame-based lies are attached to. It takes God’s Spirit to heal these wounds to our souls.  

Few things are more unbearable than the heaviness of shame. It is a burden that God never intended for people to bear. Yet Satan will use shame to keep us from becoming the people God intended us to be. What is God’s remedy for this weight of shame in a Christian’s life?

“Strengthen me according to Your word” (119:28b). We do not have the strength to overcome this weight of shame on our own. Only God has the power necessary to win this battle. The word “strengthen” (qum) means “to arise or stand up.” In the context, this refers to God giving us the ability to arise from the depths of our sadness and shame by means of His “word.” The strength we need to overcome shame comes from the truth of God’s Word. If we do not make our home in God’s Word, we will not win this battle with shame. No amount of willpower or “trying harder” will overcome the weight of shame. We must invite God’s Word to do that for us. How?

“Remove from me the way of lying, and grant me Your law graciously” (119:29). Shame is based on lies the enemy has attached to past wounds in our lives. Lies that say:

“I am bad or unworthy.”

• “No one could love me as I am.”

• “I cannot depend on others to help me.”

• “I am defined by my sin and shame.”

We must ask the Lord to expose and remove the pattern (“way”) of lies that keep us enslaved to the weight of shame. And then ask Him to “grant me Your law graciously,” not harshly. Ask the Lord to gently replace the shame-based lies in your soul with His liberating truth. Truths that say:

“I am loved and cherished by God.” Psalm 27:10

“I am totally loved by Jesus just as I am.” Romans 5:6, 8

“I can depend on others to help me through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

“I am defined by the Light and Love of Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:2, 8

Prayer: Precious Father God, please give me the understanding and discernment to permit Your Word to speak to my deep struggle with shame. Help me focus on the wonderful work You are doing inside of me rather than on my failings and shortcomings. I confess that my soul melts from the heaviness of my sadness and shame. Please strengthen me as only You can with Your Word so I may arise out of this pit of shame. I pray Your Holy Spirit will expose and remove the shame-based lies that keep me bound to this cycle of shame and replace them graciously with Your liberating truths from Your Word so I may become the person You created me to be. Replace my false identity that is based upon shame-based lies with my new identity in Christ that is based upon Your Word. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Coming clean with God

“So He said to him, ‘What is your name?’ He said, ‘Jacob.’” Genesis 32:27

I learned something significant this morning during my devotions. When Jacob was wrestling with the Angel of the Lord (Hosea 12:4) before going to meet his brother Esau, the Angel of the Lord said to him, “Let Me go, for the day breaks” (Genesis 32:26a). But Jacob said to Him, “I will not let You go unless You bless me” (Genesis 32:26b). The Lord then said to him, “What is your name” (Genesis 32:27a)? Why did God ask Jacob this?

Earlier Jacob had sought his brother Esau’s blessing from his earthly father, Isaac. When he entered his father’s presence, Isaac asked him, “Who are you, my son” (Genesis 27:18b)? Jacob deceived his father and said, “I am Esau your firstborn” (Genesis 27:19a).

Now Jacob is wrestling with God and God dislocates his hip (Genesis 32:25). And when God asks him for his name, he comes clean with his heavenly Father and says his name is “Jacob” (Genesis 32:27b). Up to this time, Jacob had been a manipulator. At birth he grasped his twin brother Esau’s heel and was given the name “Jacob” which means “heel-holder” (Genesis 25:26). Later Jacob deceived his father, Isaac, into giving him Esau’s blessing, and Jacob’s name came to mean “supplanter”“one who takes the place of another by trickery.” His name took on the meaning of a “cheater, deceiver, schemer.” So when he told God his name, Jacob was being honest with God about his character flaws. He is saying to God, “I am a cheater and a schemer.” It’s like Jacob is saying, “Lord, I don’t want to pretend any more. I want to present my true self to You. Here I am. Take me.”

Aren’t all of us like Jacob? Because of the hurt and shame in our lives, we deceive ourselves and others to protect ourselves or to get our way. So God has to dismantle these layers of self- protection. Like He did with Jacob, He may have to dislocate our hip to bring us to the end of ourselves. Or He may bring about a different type of crisis. It may be the loss of a job, our spouse, our children, or even our own health. Whatever it takes to bring us to the end of ourselves. God does not do this because He is cruel. He does this because He loves us and He wants to liberate us from the layers and layers of shame and self-deception.

When Jacob came clean with God, the Lord changed his name to “Israel” which means “God’s fighter” (Genesis 32:28). After all, Jacob fought with God and men, and prevailed not by trickery, but by persistent faith. God knew Jacob’s potential; He saw beneath his self-sufficient, crafty exterior. God said, “That’s not the real you, Jacob. You are actually an Israel. You are My fighter.” God saw the fighter in Jacob, and the former cheater began to become the man whom the entire nation of Israel was named after.

The good news is when you believe in Jesus Christ for eternal life, God gives you a new identity. Beneath all those things you know about yourself that you don’t like, God sees an Israel. He sees “His fighter.” He sees what you can become. He sees potential because He gave you God the Holy Spirit to empower you to live a victorious Christian life. “The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, He will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.” Romans 8:11 [NLT] God the Holy Spirit in you gives you the desire and power to do what is right, “As the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like Him.” 2 Corinthians 3:18 [LB] You are now God’s fighter, “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Romans 8:37 [NKJV]. You now have the potential through Him who loved you to live above your circumstances instead of underneath them.

Prayer: Father God, forgive me for pretending to be someone I am not, for hiding behind layers and layers of lies and manipulation. You know everything about me and still love and accept me. Because of Your amazing love for me, I come to You as I am. Help me to see myself through Your eyes now. I am Your fighter or conqueror through Jesus who loved me. Thank You for giving me the Holy Spirit to empower me to live for You above my circumstances instead of underneath them. In Jesus’ name. Amen

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/.