Guilt, Shame, & The Gospel of Grace

God created the world in 7 days. He created the heavens and earth, sun and moon, water and land, animals, and everything in between. He spoke light over a land that was void and without hope. On the 6th day, God created mankind in his own image. Adam and Eve lived in perfect harmony with the land, each other, and their creator. It was heaven-on-earth, with no pain, no suffering, and no sin. It was complete and utter perfection…until the serpent’s temptation was too much to bear.

The serpent, also known as Satan, deceived Eve. He told her that she could be like God, and that God was withholding good from her. He minimized the consequences of her sin, and convinced her to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The moment that Eve (and then Adam) took a bite out of that first apple, sin entered into the world. They couldn’t resist the overwhelming desire to be great like God. They wanted power, they wanted control, they wanted pleasure, and they wanted wisdom. Adam and Eve wanted to be great…soon after they ate, their eyes were indeed opened. They realized the depth and depravity of the mistake that they had made…rather than running to their creator, their father, who loved them deeply, who was all-powerful, sovereign, merciful, gracious, and understanding, they decided to hide and cover themselves up with Fig leaves. They didn’t want God to see them for who they truly were: imperfect people that weren’t able to withstand the temptation of this broken world. They didn’t understand that the remedy to their sin problem was the God who created them. No matter how hard they tried, they couldn’t fix themselves, and they couldn’t wipe away their mistakes. They were filled with guilt and shame, fearful, and without hope.

What was God’s response? God is gracious, merciful, loving, and kind, but he is also perfectly just. Adam and Eve had to face consequences for their sin. They were kicked out of the Garden of Eden. Their world was no longer perfect; they had to suffer the consequences of their sin. Along with sin, pain, sickness, and suffering also entered the world. God disciplined Adam and Eve to make them aware of the devastating effects of sin. He corrected them so that they would return to the path that he set before them. He rebuked them, pointed out their sin, and didn’t let them off easy. However…when we look at Genesis 3:21, we see that God also begins to offer a solution to their sin problem. The bible says, “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wide and clothed them.”

Why did God make them garments of skin? And where did this skin come from?

God fashioned clothing for Adam and Eve from the blood of a pure, innocent, helpless animal. How do we know this? Adam and Eve were the only humans on the earth at this point. The phrase “garments of skin” implies that God sacrificed one of his precious animals (perhaps, the skin of a lamb?) so that Adam and Eve would be able to cover their sin, guilt, and shame. Adam and Eve’s fig leaves were nothing compared to the clothing that God wove together for them.


This is the Gospel: You and I were born into a world of sin; by nature, we are children of wrath. No matter how hard we may try, no person on this earth is without sin. We are all guilty before God. There isn’t a way for us to save ourselves…to put it bluntly, we are on a trajectory to hell. What are we supposed to do? How do we fix this? We can’t…but Jesus can. God sent Jesus to the world to die for you and I while we were still sinners. Out of love, God sent Jesus into the world to remedy our sin problem. Jesus lived a perfect life…yet he was constantly ridiculed and persecuted. He took the wrath of God upon himself, died for every single sin that you and I will ever commit; He paid the price for our debt when he cried out, “It is finished.” Jesus died a painful death, was buried in the grave, and after 3 days he was resurrected, and now is seated at the right hand of the father. Jesus does for us what we cannot do…We can’t save ourselves, we can’t fix ourselves, and we can’t satisfy the broken and empty places in our hearts.

Yet….in all honesty, we all have the tendency to act as Adam and Eve did in the Garden many years ago. When we sin, many times the last thing we do is run to God. We try to justify it; we blame other people; we lie, hide, and do anything to cover up and fix the mistakes we have made. We don’t want anyone to know that we are filled with guilt and shame. We try to sow our own fig leaves…and we always end up hurting ourselves, our relationship with other people, and our relationship with God. The sad thing is that it doesn’t work. All too often we spent excessive amounts of energy trying to fix something that we are unable to fix, and we end up even more frustrated than when we started. We also run other things to numb ourselves of our feelings of guilt and shame…all of which also lead us to feeling more empty and broken. We run to sex, food, alcohol, relationships, material things, our careers, school, families, friendships, children, television, pornography, drugs, religious duties, and everything in between. If we aren’t careful, our attempts to fix ourselves can actually end up destroying our lives.

It’s only Jesus that can love us completely and 100% unconditionally, despite everything that we have done and will do. It’s only Jesus who can wash away all of our guilt, shame, and condemnation. Jesus is our lamb. The blood of the innocent lamb was sacrificed so that we may have eternal life and communion with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit forever.

I have spent many years, even as a Christian, walking around in guilt and shame. I knew that I was saved and that I had a relationship with Jesus. I knew that he loved me. Yet…I also had this feeling that whenever I messed up God was just really frustrated with me and that it was my fault. I began to own my sin as my identity, and think thoughts such as, “I am the worst. I always mess up. I can’t defeat my sin. I am hopeless.” When I didn’t read my bible for a day, I was condemned. When I fell into sexual temptation, I was unlovable. When I didn’t get good grades, I was stupid. When I suffered from anxiety and depression, I was sinning because I wasn’t able to trust God. When I was diagnosed with my eating disorder, I knew that it was all my fault. I believed every accusation that came against me as truth. Why? I didn’t understand my identity in Christ. It wasn’t until a year or so ago that the knowledge in my head began to connect with my heart, and I truly began to understand what the Gospel of Grace really meant for me.

Because I am in Christ, guilt and shame are no longer define me. They aren’t who I am…I am identified with Jesus and Jesus alone. Sure, I mess up (weekly, daily, hourly). But, because of Jesus, I don’t have to waste my time beating myself up for my inability to conquer my sin. I run to Jesus, confessing my sin, asking him to cover me with his grace and mercy, and forgive me for how I have messed up. I then am able to walk in freedom, without guilt and shame, because I know that there isn’t any sin that the cross of Jesus doesn’t cover.

Jesus invites us into a relationship with him. He wants to wash away all of our guilt and shame; He wants to heal us, He wants to satisfy us; He wants to be our first love.

I’m going to leave you guys with two scriptures that I have medicated on over the past few months, asking God to remove all guilt and shame from my heart:

“Come now, let’s settle this, [says the Lord], though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are as red as crimson, they shall be like wool. ”

-Isaiah 1:18

“Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.”

-Psalm 34:5

Jesus is our lamb. He gave himself away so that we may walk in freedom and truly live without our sin weighing us down. Grace and peace to you all as you head out and start your days.

XOXO

-Em

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