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.

How can we overcome spiritual paralysis? Part 3

“Jesus said to him, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk.’” John 5:8

Another way to overcome spiritual paralysis is seen in verse 8. Jesus ignored the excuse of the lame man and gave him some strong medicine. Jesus said to him, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk.’” (John 5:8). First, He asks an impossible thing; secondly, He removes all possibility of a relapse; and thirdly, He expects continued success. All these are involved in the words: “Rise, take up your bed and walk.”

From these words, we discover the third way to overcome spiritual paralysis. RELY ON CHRIST ALONE FOR HEALING (John 5:8). Notice that the first thing Jesus says to do is what the man could not do for thirty-eight years – “Rise.” On what basis does Jesus say these words to him? It’s important to see this. Perhaps the lame man was thinking, “If this Man tells me to rise (and I cannot rise), it must mean that He intends to do something to make it possible.” Thus, his faith is transferred from his own efforts to Jesus: “He must do it. I can’t.” The man must also have reasoned somewhat along these lines, “If this Man is going to help me then I have got to decide to do what He tells me to do.”

Many people and churches miss this when they are looking for help from Christ. There is always something Jesus tells us to believe, and do. This is a word of action. Jesus does not say, “Try to build up faith in your mind. Pray for months first. Form a committee.” He tells them to do something: “Rise! Stand up!” Obviously, it was Jesus’ will that this man should do what He told him to do, and the moment the man’s will agreed with the Lord’s will, the power was there. I don’t know whether he felt anything or not. All I know is that strength came into his bones and into his muscles and he could stand. He knew he could stand, and he did.  

Jesus may ask us to do things as a Christian that we have never attempted before. It may not make sense to us. It may seem impossible to us. But instead of trying to figure everything out, we just need to do it! Over analysis leads to paralysis.

What does the Lord say next? The Lord did not merely say, “Rise,” He said, “take up your bed.” Why did He say that? I like the way G. Campbell Morgan has put it, “In order to make no provision for a relapse.  The man might have said to himself, “I’m healed, but I had better leave my bed here; I may need it tomorrow.” If he had said that he would have been back in it the next day. But he did not. Jesus said, “Take up your bed. Get rid of it; don’t leave it there. Don’t stay stuck.”

Christ is saying something very important to people and churches who need to be healed: do not make any provision to go back on what you have done. If you do go back, the consequences will be worse than the first time. That’s why Jesus says to the man – “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.” (John 5:14).  This man’s paralysis was due to personal sin. This is not always the case with physical ailments, but sometimes it is. And when Jesus enables us to overcome that sin, He says not to make provision for a relapse. Many people fail right here. 

If Christ has enabled you to stop drinking, go home and pour out the alcohol! If you’re off drugs, go home and get rid of the drugs! If you have stopped looking at porn, stay offline or at the very least, get an internet filter. Burn your bridges behind you. Say “No” to the friends you used to drink with or do drugs with or had sex with. You will probably find that some of them will come with you. Burn your bridges. Cut off any possibility of going back. Let somebody know the new stand you have taken so that he or she will help hold you to it. Join an accountability group. Get involved with discipleship. Burn your bridges, is what Jesus is saying. If you have forgiven someone, don’t rehearse the hurtful things they did to you. Let go and move on – burn your bridges. If you have been paralyzed by fear, cling to the promises of God and don’t rehearse those fearful “what ifs.” This is so important. Our Lord knows what He is talking about –“take up your bed.” Remove all possibility of a relapse.

The third thing Jesus said is, “walk.” Don’t expect to be carried – walk. Many people want to be carried after they are healed. They expect everybody to gather around them and keep them going – a common area of failure. But if Jesus gives you the power to rise, Jesus is the One who can give you the power to walk every day, to keep going. That is an important thing to see – you and the Lord. Your eyes are not on your friends, your pastor or on yourself; your eyes are to be on Him now. “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2). That is how this man kept going. It is how you as a person can keep going in your Christian life.

It is important to see God’s part and our part in the healing process. Who healed the man at the pool? Jesus. Who had to walk? The man. Who saves us from our sins? Jesus. Who must believe? We must. Who makes us more like Christ and gives us the power to live above sin? Jesus. Who must decide day by day to follow Him and do what is right? We must. Who gives us the vision for our church and the power to carry it out? Jesus. Who must decide to follow that vision and implement changes necessary to complete that vision? We must.

If we are going to overcome spiritual paralysis, we must resolve to get well, refuse to blame others, and rely on Christ alone for healing. Then and only then, will we begin to walk closely with God.

Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus, thank You for this strong dose of medicine this morning. You are asking me to do something I have never done, and that is scary. But it also comforts me to know that You would never command me to do something without giving me the power to do it. I have been clinging to secrets far too long that have kept me from walking more closely with You. As I make this decision to rise up out of the mire of my own sin and shame, help me to make no provision for going back to my old thought patterns and behaviors that I used to medicate my pain, especially when I am stressed or lonely. Thank You for providing people in my life who love me and support my commitment to walk more closely with You and experience Your deeper healing in my life. My eyes are fixed on You, Lord Jesus, to bring deeper healing in my soul and lead me to new heights of victory and faithfulness. 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/.