Few Christians would ever say that Christianity is a burden, but many live that way. Consider how many non-believers think that Christianity is nothing more than keeping a list of rules by a group of people who are judgmental and unhappy. Maybe the reason they think that is there are so many Christians who are guilt-ridden, and live under the power of shame. The Bible is very clear that we can’t earn our salvation, Jesus paid for it and offers it as a gift. But many Christians live as if the way to spiritual maturity is through their good works, as if their “goodness” earns them a gold star with God. The Bible teaches that this kind of living is “a ministry of death.” You get into a spiral of failure because you try to do your best, but you fail often. As a result, you do not experience the joy and freedom that Christ offers through his grace. Christianity then becomes guilt-driven and shame-driven.
Guilt and shame have a purpose – to bring us to God. Before you are saved, you are guilty. Your sin covers you with shame. But when you receive Christ, He removes the shame and guilt and covers them through his finished work on the cross. God promises that he “will remember your sins no more!” You are no longer guilty because you have been justified and declared not guilty. This is central to the gospel. It is fair? No, but Jesus paid the price for us! It is beautiful!
Living in shame affects your attitude, your outlook, and your behavior. It stifles your creativity and impedes your progress in the Christian life. Shame can be so subtle. Yet it has great power in our lives if we do not embrace our freedom in Christ. I remember when Kim and I started Avalon Church, we had to overcome feelings of shame because of how we were trained in church. The churches we went to all had Sunday night and Wednesday night services. We could not have those for several reasons, including that we had no place to meet. We felt guilty because we had never done church that way before. If something so simple, benign, and innocent as that can make you feel guilt, then what about the sins and failures of your past? Many people in bondage to guilt over simple things that are not even sinful.
Does this mean that we are free to sin? No, it does not. Paul wrote, “How shall we who are dead to sin live any longer therein?” God’s grace frees you from shame AND the power of sin.” Paul also wrote, “Sin no longer has any power over me!”
I love this passage in Romans because it teaches us how to overcome the power of shame and receive the blessings that God has for us through Jesus Christ.
Romans 5:15-18 But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ. And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins. For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph (reign in life) over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ. Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. (NLT)
It can be difficult to receive this because of the power that shame has over us. But when you begin to believe and receive these promises given to us through Christ, then Christian living is no longer a burden. We begin to reign in life and in triumph. Christin living becomes a person, not a process or a list of rules. You experience freedom. Christianity then becomes the greatest blessing imaginable!
Pray this prayer: Dear Jesus, I believe that your sacrifice on the cross was for me. I receive your grace today. I ask you to help me believe it every day. Help me to see that you are sufficient for me. Because of You, I am the righteousness of God and I trust in your grace.