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prov·o·ca·tion - something that provokes, arouses, or stimulates. pant - to long eagerly; yearn. a collection of thoughts intended to provoke and inspire. these posts are hoping to encourage people to think, especially Christians, and pant even harder for the waterbrooks of the Lord. If you are not a believer in Christ Jesus, I welcome your perspective and encourage your investigation on these matters.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Blame It on the Shame

I have been thinking lately about the devastating effects of sin and shame on the Christian life. In particular, I have been thinking through some verses that speak of shame or "being ashamed" or "shrinking back". Often we are aware of the consequences of sin, but at least in my case dealing with the guilt and shame in a biblical manner has seldomly been addressed. When David prayed and finally came clean with his adultery with Bathsheba, he said, "I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, 'I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,' and you forgave the iniquity of my sin." (Psalm 32:5). Interestingly enough, some translations have used the word "guilt" where the ESV uses "iniquity" of David's sin. So what exactly is being forgiven? David's sin? Yes. But what's this "iniquity" or guilt of my sin stuff? At times where I have struggled with sin, my greatest area has been the disappointment I face with myself. I know that the Lord is compassionate to forgive and will pardon my iniquity, but the shame lingers. I think, "You have been a Christian for this long, and still you are this wretched man?!" In my pursuit of holiness, it appears that dealing with shame and disappointment have at times overwhelmed me. I cannot bear letting my Savior down or not beholding his beauty so as to treasure him above all earthly things. I do not want to be found lacking in Christ-likeness or fruitfulness. The thought of being barren as a believer is at times too much to bear. In one sense, feeling the full weight of one's sin is right in that we are to not take sin lightly or gloss over a matter so grave that it demanded utmost sacrifice. Being holy demands all of us, and if there is anything we should not take lightly or treat minimally, it is our sanctification. Yet in another sense, to dwell upon one's sin and allow shame to linger often renders one's relationship with God paralyzed and one's witness impotent. The most common Greek word used for shame is aischuno which almost always is used in the Passive Voice to mean "to have a feeling or shame which prevents a person from doing a thing." There is something going on in a state of shamefulness that is outright dangerous and counterproductive to the health and spiritual vitality of the Christian. Three verses I would like to mention here that relates to this idea of shame: Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. Philippians 1:19 For I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 2 Timothy 1:12 Which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. Clearly one can see several implications of a shame-filled predicament. First, the ability and desire to witness and share in the power of the gospel is crippled. Who wants to witness with passion and brokenness for the lost in such a state? Second, Christ will not be honored in your body or your life. Contrary to Christ being honored or magnified, he is distanced and displaced. Thirdly, suffering as a Christian while having an unwavering assurance and faith in the person of Christ cannot be a possibility when shame dominates one's thinking and behaving. When I think about these texts, I must first consider the author. Paul wrote these words, and if there was anyone in history who had more to be ashamed of, it was Paul. A blasphemer, insolent opponent, and persecutor of Christians (1 Timothy 1:13), Paul was notorious for his antipathy towards Christians and the cause of Christ. Yet he "counted everything as loss for the sake of Christ" (Philippians 3:7), yea all as dung for the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ as Lord. He was able to shake off the shame, forgetting what was behind, and esteeming the infinite worth of knowing Jesus, he was to press on to conformity to Christ, even unto death. Paul spoke very little of his shameful past; rather, he intensely focused on Jesus and set his mind's attention and heart's affection on him. Another quickening thought about shame is the second coming of Christ. Several texts speak of his coming and the believer's readiness, longing, and stewardship of his life such that he will be confident and persevering in faithfulness when Christ comes. For instance, consider these texts: Hebrews 10:37-39 For, "Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay, 38 but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him." 39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. 1 John 2:28 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. Mark 8:38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. 1Thessalonians 3:11-13 Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, 12 and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, 13 so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. It is evident that one who is lingering in shame over their sin cannot long for Christ's appearing, but only shrink back in the displeasure of the Father. We are called to be sober, diligent, faithful, good stewards, and seeking first the kingdom of God, not knowing when the day or hour will come when Christ shall return. In that day, will our hearts be blameless in holiness before God? Abiding in him that we not shrink back? Having faith and preserving our souls? Longing for his appearing? There is so much at stake in this short vapor called life. We have but a few moments until we face eternity. While the presence of sin is a constant reality, the devil would love to debilitate and cripple Christians with heavy-handed shame tactics. How many believer's have been paralyzed or even shipwrecked because of shame? How many have shrunk back into carnality and callousness? How many ashamed of the gospel so as to not speak or demonstratee it in their lives? How many unable to share in the sufferings of Christ and testify of their knowledge of him? I don't know, but I don't want to be a statistic. I want to be a workman who is not ashamed and rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15), a minister who does not shrink back from declaring the whole counsel of God's Word (Acts 20:27), and a Christian who is pressing on for the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14). He is calling us upward, and when our heads hanging down, we are missing the goal. In that great Day, we cannot blame it on the shame. Jesus is not ashamed to call us his own, in spite of our weaknesses, failures, and struggles. I, for one, want to be a Christian who refuses to be rendered impotent by shame; rather, I want to spread myself naked and unashamed before my Savior and the world on my own cross, and like Paul, and say, "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain."

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Shame is a biblical concept. An interesting study is the place of shame in Isaiah's eschatology."
-Paraphrase of Dr. Peter Gentry

KJ

10/27/2005 08:26:00 AM

 
Blogger Aaron Shafovaloff said...

Romans 6:21 seems to speak of a legitimate shame over past sins. What do you think?

10/27/2005 08:27:00 AM

 
Blogger Timmy said...

Aaron,

The rhetorical question Paul asks in Romans 6 deals with shame because of being slaves to sin and the fruitfulness of a wicked life which he says ends in death. I totally believe that we should be mindful of past sins and grieve and groan over our fallen state, as even creation groans. But I think that remembering where we have come from and the deplorable state does not have to bring shame to the point where one is demobilized in service to Christ. Paul constantly calls new believers to remember their former state (alien, hostile, children of wrath, enemies of God, etc.), but calls them onward and not to dwell in that.

I believe that Christ's atonement covers my sin and my shame. But those that mean I have no shame? God forbid! But what I am saying is that shamefulness must be viewed in light of Christ's purchase and completed work on the cross to perfect and sanctify unto glory.

KJ,

Of course, you know that I would not disagree with Gentry himself! (If only I could have a beard like that) and memorize Scottish poetry of course. No, seriously, I would like to hear some exposition on that concept of shame in Isaiah's eschatology. Maybe you could share some of yoru exegesis on come passages. Obviously, Israel had alot to be ashamed of, and their lack of shame was indicative of their rebellion and sinful condition. Maybe we can insert the godly sorrow versus worldly sorrow here (2 Corinthians 7).
What I see in Scripture is that though a righteous man falls seven times, he gets back up again. Why? I think because he has a right understanding of shame. David - a murderer, liar, and adulterer - and still pens the greatest psalms and considered a "man after God's own heart". Why? Peter - denied Christ three times and "wept bitterly" after his denial - yet preached at Pentecost and God used him to start the Church. How? Over and over again, examples in Scripture are shown of righteous folks who had every right to be shameful of what they did, yet somehow God redeemed them not only from their sin but also their shame to live a godly, fruitful life thenceforth.

I write this post today with a very premature and elementary understanding of this concept of shame and how to deal with it. You input has helped me to continue to think over this. This is great (at least for me). Hopefully, through dialogue and edifying comments, God will strengthen my understanding of this issues and know better how to deal with this important and often neglected subject.

10/27/2005 11:00:00 AM

 
Anonymous Brittney said...

Tim

I agree that dwelling on the shame of sin and allowing the shame to linger overwhelms a person with grief, guilt and other unpleasant feelings while also interfering in a person's relationship with God. However, wouldn't you agree that, perhaps, a small amount of shame (so small that it is not enough to be dwelled upon) is what encourages a person to ask for forgiveness? Do I make sense? :)

10/27/2005 12:58:00 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder how what you are saying correlates with the concept of the longing of a believer to be made perfect? "Blessed are those who mourn". Does this not mean an inner continual mourning over sin? Or the Romans 8 longing of all creation for the revelation of the sons of God? The only thing stopping that revelation is the purging and final removal of sin; the reversing of its effects. We should long to "be clothed" in this perfection and the current state of "nakedness" should be mourned over. I am sure all agree with that. My question is does this longing involve an element of "godly" shame? How much of a role does shame play in Godly sorrow producing repentance?

David

10/27/2005 03:18:00 PM

 

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