Slaying the Power of Sin: A Message for Those Bound by Guilt and Shame
You can’t get free and you wonder why. I want to talk about that issue in your life that keeps stabbing at you. It’s piercing and it’s painful.
This is where you privately suffer. It torments you. It keeps you up at night. It causes you grief. It makes you cry. It makes you question your worth. And it ultimately keeps you in a cycle of defeat. If you’ve done something in life that you just can’t shake, or if you’re in a pattern of sin and it’s tormenting you, this post is just for you.
NEWSFLASH: Every single human being has these issues. So you are in good company. We’ve all done wrong things in life that cause us grief and shame. We all have deep regrets. We all have struggles in overcoming sinful patterns and behaviors. We are human. Many times we don’t even understand why we do what we do. Our hearts are utterly deceitful, requiring the insight of the One who made them, and His healing power.
What I want to emphasize in this post is the compassion of Jesus Christ toward sinners. We all have sin for which we’re guilty. Not one of us are righteous, and the only hope any of us have is to come to Jesus and receive His mercy, grace and forgiveness (see Romans 3:10-28).
However, after we come to Him we can still find ourselves tangled in a web of defeat through incessant attacks of guilt and shame that are ruthless. And I’d like to show you the way out.
Guilt vs. Shame
Guilt is something we all encounter when we do something wrong and recognize it. A tender and healthy conscience toward the Lord will initially respond with guilt when confronted with wrongdoing and its consequences. However, shame is another entity entirely. Shame perpetuates a cycle of sin, and this is how it works: Shame attaches the effects of our sin to our identity. Our sin is no longer something we’ve done – it becomes who we are.
• The one who committed a robbery is now a “thief.”
• The one who committed adultery is now an “adulterer”.
• The one who talked smack is now a “gossip”.
And the list goes on.
One of the greatest enemies to Christ’s redemption is shame. It began in the garden with Adam and Eve and it’s all too alive and well among us today. Shame will never let you experience the freedom only Christ can offer. Instead it perpetuates a cycle of sin through sly deception.
When we fall prey to shame we inevitably continue to sin, because we believe what shame tells us. It whispers, “This is who I am”, (slyly speaking to us in first person), and our sin labels us. That singular attack upon our already sin-pricked conscience keeps us vulnerable to sinning again, leaving us naked. We lose our dignity, our hope, and the will to fight. Shame locks you in. It robs you of the full restoration Christ has purchased. This is where you may be forgiven – but you never get completely free – because shame ensures that you’ll do it again through harassing but convincing reminders that you are a product of your sin. And if Satan can keep you sinning through shame, He’ll trap you in a vicious cycle of recidivism that begs your defeat.
When we are guilty of wrongdoing a healthy conscience will concur, enabling us to confess our wrongdoing in agreement with God by saying, “Yes, Lord. You’re right and I’m wrong. I’m guilty of _________.” That is the purpose of guilt – to bring us to a place of confession before the Lord for our wrongdoing. Guilt simply reveals that we are guilty, enabling us to come into agreement with God. But when we step into the territory of shame, we don’t escape.
Understanding the difference between guilt and shame is vital. Guilt is part of the process of repentance, and it’s the initial sign of a healthy tender conscience. Guilt merely brings us to a place of confession, initiating the process of repentance. In contrast, shame ensnares us, regardless of our confession or desire for change. Here’s what you need to know: God does not endorse shame. Shame binds people to their sin, disabling them in overcoming it. It lies to you about who you are by equating your identity with what you’ve done. Shame has only one source: Satan.
Christ came to set you free from sin – and every destructive pattern associated with it. The salvation Christ offers is both complete and absolute.
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:8-9, KJV).
The Gift of Repentance
Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death (2 Corinthians 7:9-10, KJV).
Paul describes two types of sorrow here. One works toward repentance and salvation while the other works death. I think we can figure out which one we want to cooperate with.
When repentance is effective, the initial guilty response will progress toward “godly sorrow”. We mourn what we’ve done. We experience grief for our wrongdoing with a deep desire to bring restoration in whatever way possible. We sincerely desire change. And although we may stumble through the process, the heart shifts toward righteousness with an intense desire to walk in the ways of the Lord. When this process progresses, restoration is realized, and the steps taken are liberating. Godly sorrow produces repentance unto salvation which is initiated by guilt. In contrast, shame produces death, and is a worldly sorrow that disallows any redemption and restoration.
There is only one thing that leads us to repentance: the loving-kindness of the Lord. He always desires to cleanse us and set us free (see Romans 2:4).
We cannot repent of sin we do not see. When God reveals our sin it is for one purpose: to set us free from it. He’s ready to do business with you.
There is never an excuse to remain in sin when God has given us the gift of His Son. Just because you have done wrong, that does not mean it is who you are. Distinguishing what you do from your identity in Christ is absolutely imperative if you’re going to gain victory in battles against sin. And we all have them.
The purpose of repentance is FULL redemption and restoration.
For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter (2 Corinthians 7:11, KJV).
The Power of Forgiveness
Jesus made forgiveness so easy that even the most simple souls can grasp it and appropriate it. That is the beauty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He keeps it simple.
Christ not only commands us to forgive each other, but He gives believers the power and authority to remit sin.
Whose soever sins ye remit, the are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained (John 20:23, KJV).
When you fail to forgive someone, including yourself, you are retaining sin. The effect of that sin will always bring death. By that same standard, when you forgive someone, including yourself, you are remitting sin. That is a powerful act of grace and mercy. Have you ever been forgiven by someone and felt a weight lift off you? That is precisely what this is about. And you must learn to appropriate this for yourself as well as others.
Genuine repentance happens in the heart – not the intellect. Jesus is not just looking at what we do – He understands why we do it. He clearly sees what motivates the sin in our lives. That is the area He longs to heal. He wants to go to the root of these issues in your life. Until these areas are revealed and healed, you will be a repeat offender.
It doesn’t matter what you’ve done. Jesus Christ paid the price for you to be free. I want to encourage you to confess your sin and start moving toward repentance. If you’ve already done that, then I applaud you. You’ve taken the first step toward restoration, and I want to assure you that God has forgiven you.
But here is where shame creeps in and robs you of that precious redemption: Shame reminds you of what you’ve done in numerous ways. It may be memories or even nightmares; it may be things people say and do. It might be triggers that keep popping up, or anxiety about the effects of your sin that are still being produced through consequences upon yourself and others which are not easily remedied. That is the hard truth in this life: the consequences of our sin can outlive the sin itself, reminding us repeatedly of what we’ve done. The horror of that pain is hard to escape. This is where shame ensnares and plagues us, because it’s never just about us. Our lives affect others.
So how do we escape this cycle? It can be a nightmare. It can feel like defeat despite the forgiveness God so graciously offers us.
When we are in agreement with shame it will shackle us to our sin every time. So you’ve got to come to a place of strict disagreement with shame. You have to choose what you’re going to believe, and who you’re going to agree with. Despite how your sin plays out, you must come into agreement with truth, and the forgiveness Christ offers. As painful as the sin may be upon your life and that of others, I want to encourage you to embrace the complete cleansing and redemptive healing Christ offers through His shed blood. When we maintain a guilty conscience after being declared forgiven we stand as an opponent to Christ’s sacrifice. This insults God’s glory, denies His gift, and enslaves us to shame. In short, it exalts the power of our sin instead of Christ’s redemptive work.
Who hath believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul and offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities (Isaiah 53:1 & 4-5, 10-11, KJV).
Forgiveness slays the power of sin in an individual’s life. Forgiveness removes sin through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. This is a permanent thing. And when sin is gone – the power of it is gone as well. It can no longer cause death and destruction. That cycle is broken with forgiveness because the sin is removed. The effects of sin can only operate where they are present. This is why forgiveness is so powerful. Christ has given believers the authority and power to forgive sin. We must not only do this for others, but for ourselves as well. When we receive the forgiveness Christ offers, He washes us clean and sees us as if we had never committed the sin at all. That sin and the power thereof is GONE. However, when we fail to forgive ourselves, we stand contrary to this grace Christ offers and actually agree with the judgment that would rightly befall us. We continue in our guilt and throw open the door to shame.
Healing and Walking Free
You don’t have to live in shame anymore. And you don’t have to do repeat offenses. Your sin is not who you are. That is the lie of shame, and shame is from Satan. But the Lord says, “I see who you really are, and why you did what you did. You are worth dying for, and I love you. I choose to forgive you. I want to reveal truth, heal you, and set you free.”
Sin always brings death – not just physically, but emotionally, socially, and psychologically. It destroys people, families, and society. It can cause a great wounding in our emotions and memories that require divine healing. It’s crucial that you understand these damaging effects of sin upon your soul, because despite your repentance and cleansing, you may still carry the pain from wounds that your sin has caused. These take time to heal, and that healing is a process we must choose which requires patience and perseverance.
I want you to recognize the difference between what you’ve done and why you’ve done it. And I want you to see the difference between the damaging effects it’s had upon your emotions versus the sanctity of your personal identity and worth which are secure in Christ.
Your sin will never have the power to affect your value, worth or identity in Christ. Christ died for us while we were yet sinners (see Romans 5:8). You have enormous value and worth, or He never would have died for you.
Jesus Christ has a deep compassion for sinners. This very compassion is what moved Him from Heaven to Earth. That is precisely why He came (see Matthew 1:21). You can come to Him with the deepest darkest sin and He will forgive you, cleanse you, heal you, and set you completely free. Shame has no part in that, and it must be recognized and resisted if you’re going to graduate in the process of repentance toward full restoration (see 2 Corinthians 7:9-11).
Today I want you to forgive yourself, renounce shame, and come into full agreement with Christ Jesus. Forgiveness is what slays the power of sin. Make absolutely no provision for shame. If you have already repented, then your guilt has served its divine purpose in bringing about the godly sorrow that achieves redemption and restoration.
Embrace the complete restoration Christ has purchased for you. Move forward.
It’s time to heal and never look back.
For more on repentance and how to be free from sin please see my bible study, Effectual Repentance.
Cheers & Shalom,