There are differences sources of shame:
- You’ve done something bad.
- Something bad, like sexual abuse, has been done to you.
- You have a general feeling of inadequacy about yourself.
While incredibly diverse, the common thread these sources share is the general idea that if people knew me, they would reject me. I don’t want to be rejected, so I hide. Hiding takes many different forms. For many, the hiding is the front we put out there for everyone to see. It’s our performance. Our accomplishments. Our ability to make people laugh. Accomplishing goals. Having good behavior and being seen as a competent, productive member of society. Positioning ourselves to where we matter. I will get people to think I’m good so they don’t realize the truth. Or I’ll do so much good that I’ll finally be good.
Whereas for others, the hiding is in addiction. In numbing the pain of who we really are so we never have to face it. It’s in self-sabotage. It’s a subconscious pull to mess things up because we know we’ll never meet the standard that’s been set, so why try. The standard of what it would take to be accepted. To show ourselves approved by all the judges that count.
If people knew me, they would reject me. So I hide.
This mantra inevitably attaches itself to how we view God:
If God knew me, He would reject me. So I hide.
What’s ironic is Christians know the first step in receiving salvation is to admit we don’t measure up, and that we need Jesus to measure up for us. But how many Christians really believe in the full truth of the gospel?
I know I usually don’t.
In this very moment, when God the Father, the Holy Judge, looks at you, what do you think his thoughts are of you?
“Is that it?”
“You did what?”
“You’re dirty and I’m holy, stay away.”
“Do better. Try harder.”
“I died on the cross for you and this is all you do in return?”
“Who are you impacting?”
“You haven’t done enough.”
“I’m disappointed in you.”
Would you believe it if I told none of those thoughts are in God’s head? Would you believe it if I told you that when God the Father, the Holy Judge, looks at you, He says:
This is my son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.
This is my daughter, whom I love, with her I am well pleased.
Listen to those words for a moment.
Do you believe that’s what God the Father thinks when he looks at you in this moment?
This is where the fierce battle between shame and the gospel rages. Which is stronger? Which will win? Which is true?
Let’s walk through some truths from Scripture.
God the Father says to Jesus:
“This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” -Matthew 3:17
The gospel tells me I’m a co-heir with Jesus. That whatever Jesus gets, I get:
Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ -Romans 8:17
(So if Jesus got that approval from the Father, so do I. I’m a co-heir.)
The gospel tells me that when the Father looks at me, he sees me as holy (perfect), without blemish and free from accusation:
But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation -Colossians 1:22
The gospel tells me perfection has already been fully met in me:
And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law (perfection) might be fully met in us -Romans 8:3b-4
If your faith is in Jesus, when God the Father looks at you, he sees perfection. He sees holiness. He sees full acceptance. He sees worthiness. He sees that nothing more could possibly be added because it’s already fully met. He sees no blemishes. There is no accusation. He sees Jesus. Whatever Jesus gets, you get. This is your eternal, ontological, unchangeable status before him.
Compare these truths to all of the lie statements from above. None of those statements are true! Based on the gospel.
The real question we have before God isn’t, “Do you love me?” It is “Do you still love me?”
Do you still love me even though I’m an addict?
Do you still love me even though I was abused?
Do you still love me even though I abused others?
Do you still love me even though I doubt?
Do you still love me even though I fail?
Do you still love me even though I sin?
Do you still love me even after seeing me?
The truth of the gospel says yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.
This isn’t feel-good fluff. This is what Jesus bought on the cross! If you want to make an argument against this, you are saying Jesus’ death wasn’t enough. His payment wasn’t sufficient. He wasn’t strong enough. I don’t know many Christians who want to say that about the cross!
The freedom of this truth will change you forever.
Shame will tell you God’s disappointed in you because you can’t fully grasp this. Because you doubt it. Because it isn’t sinking in for you. The Father still looks at you and says,
This is my child, whom I love, and whom I am well pleased.
He is well pleased with you.
He is well pleased with me.
Oh how I need to hear that. I need to hear it over and over because it’s so hard for me to live in that. Because it’s so deeply ingrained in me that I need to perform for him to really be pleased with me. So I strive and strive and strive. And it’s never enough. And it never will be enough. And the emptiness of that just kills me.
We need to call out this anti-gospel legalism for what it is.
If your shame is fighting the truth of the gospel and you’re wondering which will win, I want to give you an invitation. I invite you to lay everything out before the Lord. Show him everything about who you are. Then ask him if He still loves you. If He’s still pleased with you. Compare it all to his purchase on the cross. Ask him if Matthew 3:17, Romans 8:3-4, 17, and Colossians 1:22 are true of you, or if they are only true for other people. He’s inviting you to this. He’s inviting you to know his love, acceptance and pleasure, all of which Jesus has indelibly tattooed all over your body and soul.
I pray that through this healing process there will then be someone in your life you can do the same thing with. Someone else who understands the truth of the gospel. Someone you can lay everything out before, and know they will still love and accept you, and more importantly will remind you that the Father still loves and accepts you.
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Kevin Butcher says
Profound stuff. I wrote a book with NavPress on this same theme. “Choose and Choose Again: the Brave Act of Returning to God’s Love.” (2016). Keep writing and preaching these realities, bro. It is the healing truth we are ALL longing to hear and receive…
Noah Filipiak says
Thanks so much Kevin. If I had to count the amount of times someone in the Lansing Area has asked me, “Do you know Kevin Butcher?”, I would run out of fingers! (Usually in regard to racial reconciliation / multi-ethnic stuff) They always speak very highly of you. I’m really encouraged to hear from you, thank you for the boost. And I am going to order your book! This is a topic I can’t hear enough of. Thanks again brother.
Pete Filipiak says
Love, love, LOVE this post Noah. Thank you. I just watched The Heart of Man again tonight, so my thoughts are already nearby to yours. How in the world have we come to believe the Gospel is a one-time thing we believe concerning “heaven”, when we need it EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I mean, is there -anyone- who doesn’t need to come to God’s throne time after time after time after time after we realize that our ways of trying to save ourselves never work?? We’re trying to save ourselves, but we eventually realize we’re really just trying to save face. And God tells us that all the pressure is off!! It’s such a hard thing to believe, buy in to, and live out of each day, so we have to keep coming back to the -every day- salvation that the Gospel offers us in Christ.
I’m gonna echo what Kevin & Pete said, a great post that’s so needed, as much in the church as in the world, maybe more. It’s a prison isn’t it, the lies we buy into, that we no longer question. It’s not even just emotions, it’s spiritual, an active crushing weight that takes away hope and courage. And somehow, trying to get out on your own always means digging deeper and shoveling out more lies. It’s only grace from God that delivers out of that, He gives faith to be free in Christ. A heart & soul abiding in Christ has no place for shame. But sometimes the hardest thing to do facing those battles is to simply believe God’s Truth is true. I still lose too many of these battles dealing with lies of the past, and use faith to explain the loss rather than act faith and be free.
I like this from Jude, it’s a heart cry on this journey: Now to You who is able to keep me from falling and make me to stand in Your glorious presence without fault in exceeding great joy, to You the only God, my Savior, thru Jesus Christ my Lord, be glory and majesty, power and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen
FYI: I haven’t seen it, but Pete’s the 2nd guy recently to mention the film, The Heart of Man. The trailer description says it talks about dealing with shame from sexual brokenness thru the story of the Prodigal Son. The trailer looks good. It’s showing on Netflix right now.
Noah Filipiak says
Heart of Man is good. Brings out the identity as a son piece really well.
Not sure if anyone has heard of breath prayers, but it’s something I learned during my Transforming Center community. I’ve been trying to just pray “I am your son, whom you love, and in who you are well pleased” throughout my day. It’s been really helpful.
That’s good, I haven’t heard of breath prayers but the practice reminds me of Brother Lawrence. With the Bible, somewhere along the way God became You more than He and His Word was to me.