In Christ I am God’s masterpiece

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus…” Ephesians 2:10a

Before we come to Christ in faith, we are spiritually dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephes. 2:1). That is, we do not have God’s life (eternal life) in us and therefore we do not know God on a personal level. Our lives were defined by trespasses and sins. But look how that has changed.  “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus…” (Ephes. 2:10a). I used to be in trespasses and sins – that is what defined me and drove my life. But now I am “in Christ Jesus.” I used to be dead, but now I am God’s “workmanship.”

The word “workmanship” comes from the Greek word poíēma which is where we get our English word “poem” from. A poem is a collection of words that are specially chosen and put together so that they make a powerful statement that lasts. God is saying that you are His heavenly poem – you have been specially chosen by God to make a powerful statement about His grace that endures forever.

Another word that describes this is the term “masterpiece” – like a painting that has been specially created or like a potterer carefully creating something out of clay that is unique and has his personality and stamp put on it. You are God’s Masterpiece –  something He has poured Himself into to change your life. You used to be defined by sin and shame, but now you are defined by being in Christ. And God sees in you holiness … beauty… and goodness. Everything He sees in Jesus Christ He now sees in you.

You may see yourself as this person who has failed or who lacks certain abilities. Perhaps the voices from your past have told you that you were a mistake…that you can’t do anything right. But God is now telling you that you are His masterpiece… a beautiful work of heavenly art that He is putting on display for all to see and admire just how great His grace is toward you. Take time today to look in the mirror and say to yourself, “In Christ, I am God’s masterpiece, not a mistake.” The more you see yourself as God sees you, the more you will reflect this truth in your daily living.

For example, if someone unfairly criticizes you, step back and ignore the lie that says, “You are a big mistake,” and replace it with the truth that says, “You are God’s masterpiece!” The more you see yourself through God’s eyes, the more you will live the way God made you to live.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, much of my life I have seen myself as a big mistake; as someone who cannot do anything right. I am asking you to heal these deep wounds in my life so I can begin to see myself as You see me. I am Your masterpiece, not a mistake. I am Your heavenly poem that You want to put on display for others to see just how great Your grace is toward me. Please apply this truth to my heart so I can see myself as You do and begin to live as Your wonderful masterpiece! In Jesus’ name. Amen.

I am redeemed in Christ

“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” Ephesians 1:7

When I believed in Christ, He “redeemed” or “purchased” me “through His blood.” This word for “redeemed” (apolutrōsis) is very important. At the time of the writing of the New Testament, it meant to go to the market place and buy a slave who is in trouble and then set the slave free. This is what Jesus did for us when He shed “His blood” on the cross.  He came to the market place where we have been slaves to sin.  And He paid the price or ransom for all our sins with “His blood” and set us free.

Before I placed my faith in Christ alone for salvation, I was enslaved to my sin. But the moment I believed in Jesus, I was taken off the slave market of sin so that I am now free to obey the Lord and not be enslaved to sin. The Holy Spirit, Who lives inside me, can empower me to say “no” to sin and “yes” to Christ (Romans 8:11-13). But if I do sin, the Holy Spirit will convict me so I can confess my sin to God and be restored to closeness with Him (I John 1:9).

Have you ever lost hope trying to overcome a sinful habit? You have tried and tried to break this habit, and you may be successful for a few weeks or months, but then you relapse? What God is telling us is that Christ has broken sin’s power in our lives by paying the full penalty for all our sins. Sin is no longer our master. Jesus Christ is now our Master and He wants to come alongside of us to enable us to get victory over sin.

One of the main reasons we may continue to sin in a particular area is because we believe the lie that says, “You cannot change because you are still a sinner who always sins.” But listen to the voice of truth. God says, “You can change through My Son, Jesus Christ, Who redeemed or purchased you off the slave market of sin so you are no longer enslaved to sin. You are now free to obey Me and live for Me.” Sin is no longer our master after we believe in Christ alone for salvation. Jesus is now our Master and He not only gives us the command to live holy lives, He also gives us the power to do so.

Let me illustrate the meaning of redemption. I read a story today about a father and son who worked for months to build a toy sailboat. Every night when he came home from work, the man and his boy would disappear into the garage for hours. When the boat was finished they stood back to admire the results. The wooden hull was painted bright red and it was trimmed with gleaming white sails. When it was finished the boy went to a nearby river for the boat’s trial run. The father had tied a string to its stern to keep it from sailing too far. The boat performed beautifully, but the string broke and the sailboat drifted out of sight. Attempts to find it were fruitless.

A few weeks later, as the boy was walking home from school he passed a store and was amazed to see his sailboat in the window. He ran inside to claim the boat, telling the owner he lost the boat. The store owner said, “You may have it back — for $50.” The boy was stunned at how much it would cost him to regain his boat, but since it was so precious to him he quickly set about earning the money to buy it back. Later he joyfully walked into the toy store and handed the owner $50 in exchange for his sailboat. It was the happiest day of his life. As he left the store he held the boat up to the sunlight. Its colors gleamed as though newly painted. “I made you, but I lost you,” he said. “Now I’ve bought you back.

God made you and me, but He lost us through our sin which separates us from Him. But God came to earth and bought us back by shedding His own blood on the cross. We now belong to the Lord Jesus and He is our Master. Let’s thank Him by living for Him!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for paying the full price for my sins with Your shed blood so I am now released from enslavement to sin. Because of my redemption in You, You are now my Master and I am Your slave. You not only give me the command not to sin, but You also can give me the power to obey it. Please use the Holy Spirit to apply this truth to my heart and mind so that obedience to Your Word becomes normal and natural to my Christian life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Are we what we do or what God says?

“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know you, because it did not know Him.” I John 3:1

When John uses the word “behold” (3:1a) it’s like holding up a flashing neon sign to get our attention. “Stop and take a look at this! Look with wonder at the amazing love that God has toward us in that we should be called His children.” It is an awesome privilege to be called God’s child. When we stop to ponder our new identity in Christ – that we are God’s children – it will take our breath away. When you believe in Christ, you are born of God and share in His divine nature (cf. John 1:12; I John 3:9; 5:1). At the core of your being you are God’s child no matter what you or others do, say, or think.

Many of us may believe the lie that says, “I am what I do.” We tell ourselves that what I do determines who I am. So if I sin, I must be a sinner. What Satan, the father of lies (John 8:44), tries to do is deceive us to believe this lie. So when I sin, he whispers the lie that I am a sinner so I will perceive that sin is the normal and natural outgrowth of who I truly am at the core of my being. But listen to what God says: “We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him” (I John 5:18).

Our born again self (“whoever is born of God”), John tells us, “does not sin.” Sin can never be traced back to my new identity in Christ. At the core of my being, I am now God’s dearly beloved child through faith alone in Christ alone (I John 5:1; cf. John 1:12). I am defined by what God says about me, not by what I do. Satan cannot “touch” or defeat our born again nature (I John 5:18). This is important to remember especially after being humbled by our sinful failures. The evil one would like to trick us into thinking that we are not really God’s children after we have failed, thus leading us into more failures. But if we know and embrace the truth found in I John 3:1 and 5:18, we can avoid the devil’s deception, and rise from our confession of sin to the Lord (cf. I John 1:9) knowing we are the same inwardly holy children we were before we sinned.

God is righteous and we can now share in His righteousness. This new birth has changed who we are. We are now God’s child having been begotten by Him. The world does not understand this new nature because they have not experienced the new birth (I John 3:1b). John goes on to explain that the time is coming when this new nature will be the only nature we manifest (3:2) because our sinful nature will be taken away and we will receive a new glorified body like that of the Lord Jesus at the time of His return (Phil. 3:21). The certainty that we will be completely conformed (both spiritually and physically) into the image of Christ in the future motivates us to live holy lives for the Lord now (3:3).

Since I am what God says and not what I do, I no longer need to find my worth in the things I do but in my relationship with Jesus which can never be lost. Knowing this gives me the security and motivation to live for Him who loves me unconditionally and eternally.

Prayer: Father God, please replace the lie that says, “I am what I do,” with the truth that says, “I am what You say of me.” Thank You for the amazing way You have given Your love to me by declaring that at the core of my being I am Your dearly loved child no matter what I or others say, think, or do. Since I am Your child, I have all I need (Your nature, Your Spirit, and Your Word) to manifest Your righteous and loving nature. 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

Why was I John written?

“…That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” I John 1:3

The apostle John makes it clear that his purpose for writing this epistle is so his readers “may have fellowship with” the apostles (“us”) and with God “the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1:3). He is not writing to non-Christians to tell them how to get saved. He is writing to Christians to tell them how they can have fellowship or closeness with Christ.

So instead of saying that a Christian must “walk in the light” (1:7), “confess” his sin (1:9), “keep His commandments” (2:3), “love one another” (2:10, 3:14; 4:7, 21), “practice righteousness” (3:7, 9), and avoid “idolatry” (5:21) to get to heaven or know he is going to heaven, John is saying he must do these things to have fellowship (closeness) with Christ.

For example, one way for Christians to know that they have come to know Christ more intimately is by keeping His commandments (2:3). But even if you are not obeying the Lord you can still know you have eternal life because the only condition for eternal life is believing in Christ (John 3:15-16, 36; 6:40, 47; 11:25-26; 20:31; et. al). However, you will not have assurance that you are growing closer to Christ if you are living in disobedience to His Word.

What does it mean to “walk in the light” (I John 1:7)?

But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” I John 1:7

The apostle John is writing to Christians so they may have fellowship or have closeness with God and one another (1:3-4). One of the conditions for fellowship with God is to “walk in the light as” God “is in the light” (1:7). Notice John says to walk “in” the light, not “according” to the light. Walking “according” to the light would refer to sinless perfection as a condition for fellowship with God. But the preposition “in” refers to walking in the sphere of God’s light. In other words, to have fellowship with God we must be open and honest with Him as we walk in the light with Him.

Like a man walking in the sphere of light produced by a street lamp at night where he can see any stains on his clothing, so believers are to walk in the sphere of light that God gives us through His Word and His presence. As I walk in the light in which God dwells (“as He is in the light”), His light will reveal any unconfessed sin in my life. I then have a choice to make. I can either agree with God and confess my sin (1:9) or I can disagree with God and deny my sin. Denying my sin will cast me into the darkness of broken fellowship with God. Confessing my sin will enable me to maintain close fellowship with God.

When we are open and honest with God, the Bible says we will “have fellowship with one another.” The “one another” refers to God and us in the context. How can sinful believers enjoy fellowship with a holy God? The last part of the verse explains. “And the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” Right now you and I are not aware of all the sin that is in our lives. But God knows about it. And being the gracious and merciful God that He is, He does not reveal all our sin at once. If He did, we would be so overwhelmed by all our sin it would probably kill us on the spot. But the reason we can enjoy closeness with our holy God even though we have all this unknown sin in our lives is because the blood of Christ cleanses us of “all” that sin. So no matter how badly or often we have sinned, the blood of Jesus is sufficient to cleanse us of all our sins.

It is important for Christians to understand that it is not their responsibility to uncover their own sin. They may have overly sensitive consciences and are worried that they have unconfessed sin in their lives, so they spend a lot of time examining themselves instead of focusing on the Lord. The Bible makes it clear that it is God’s responsibility to reveal our sin to us through the Holy Spirit and God’s Word (cf. John 16:8-11; 2 Timothy 3:16). But it is our responsibility to be open and honest with God when He does point out the sin that is in our lives so we can confess it to Him. The Bible promises that when we do confess our sin to the Lord, “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1:9). 

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.


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.”


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).


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.


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.


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).


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).


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!


What new things take place when we become Christians?

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

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

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

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

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

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

How are Christians to respond to those who differ with them about their Christian liberty?

“Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things.” Romans 14:1

The apostle Paul is writing to Jewish and Gentile Christians in Rome who had differing views about how God’s will was to be practiced with regard to nonessential issues (“doubtful things”) such as food, drink, and observing certain “religious” days. Jewish Christians wanted Gentile Christians to observe their Jewish customs and Gentile Christians wanted the Jews to practice their customs. These practices are not wrong in and of themselves. Examples today may include food, drink, recreation, clothing, personal grooming, birth control, schooling, holiday observances, etc., when no sin is involved.  Paul instructs believers to do the following:

1. They are to “receive” or accept one another even though they differ about what their Christian liberty permits them to do because God “receives” them in Christ (14:1-5a). For example, the stronger Christian whose faith permits him to eat all foods and observe every day the same, was not to “despise” or condemn the Christian whose faith did not permit him to exercise his Christian liberty to the same extent. Nor is the “weaker” Christian, who does not believe he has the liberty to eat all foods or view all days the same, to “judge” his more liberal Christian brother because “God has received him” (14:2-3). 

2. They are not to “judge” one another for these differing practices …

a. Because they can observe them “to the Lord” for His approval (14:5b-8). In Paul’s day, Jewish Christians observed the Sabbath and Jewish feast-days while Gentile believers did not. Paul says it does not matter what days you think are sacred, what matters is that you seek to please the Lord.

b. Because only Jesus Christ is qualified to judge them, and He will at “the judgment seat of Christ” (14:9-12; cf. 2 Corinthians 5:10).  

How does God’s mercy impact our ministry?

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” Romans 12:1

In view of the great “mercies of God” in the first eleven chapters of Romans…

– Deliverance from sin’s penalty through faith in Christ’s death 1:1-5:10a).

– Deliverance from sin’s power through faith in Christ’s life (5:10b-8:39).

– Deliverance of Israel from God’s wrath through faith in Christ’s death and life (9:1-11:36). 

…the apostle Paul challenges his readers to live a life of surrender (“present your bodies a living sacrifice”) to God (12:1) by being “transformed” from the inside out “by the renewing of” their minds through the Word of God and the Holy Spirit (12:2a; 8:9-11; 15:4) so they may please God by doing His “will” (12:2b). This spiritual transformation will enable them to serve God through the loving use of their spiritual gifts in the body of Christ (12:3-21). 

God’s mercy does not minimize service. God’s mercy maximizes service! When we understand and experience the depths of God’s mercy toward us, we will want to surrender our entires lives to Him as a way of saying, “Thank You, Lord, for being so merciful to me when You saved me from sin’s penalty the moment I believed in Your Son, Jesus Christ (Romans 1:1-5:10a; cf. Titus 3:5-7). Thank You for showing mercy to me when You gave me Your Holy Spirit Who raised You from the dead to empower me to be saved from the power of sin in my Christian life (Romans 6:1-8:39). Even though I do not understand Your wisdom and ways (Romans 9:1-11:36), I do want to surrender my entire being to You for Your use and glory (12:1). I no longer want to be conformed to this wicked world, but I want You to transform me into the likeness of Your Son as I learn to yield to the Holy Spirit and to the holy Scriptures (12:2). Use me in any way You choose to lovingly build up Your church for Your glory (12:3-21).”