Summary: Shame is one of the most painful experiences in our lives - dealing with it is crucial and the key is looking toward Jesus who both bore our shame and rejected shame that he was not guilty of.
Looking to Jesus is not something natural for us. Normally we don’t look to Jesus but we look to other things. As you know we used to live in Poland. We rented a house with the most beautiful view of the mountains from our living room and bedroom. It was spectacular! But one year the field next to our house was bought by a superstore (like Target or Wal-mart). And in the weeks and months to follow we witnessed major activity and lots of noise every day. My office was located in the house (on the second floor) so as I worked and studied I could see the work going on. Often I would watch the backhoes, the bulldozers, the cement mixers …it was very interesting. But what was the cost – a lot of lost time. I wasn’t able to concentrate and work normally because my eyes were looking at something completely different. Do you ever get distracted like that? What is in front of YOUR eyes?
Most often in life, quite honestly, we look at ourselves – we may not look at a mirror. But we ask: What do I need? How do I look? What do people think about me? How do I feel? This week we saw in our small group bible studies that thinking only about ourselves will derail good communication. What happens when we look only at ourselves? We fall into traps.
A first trap we fall into is called pride.
We think to ourselves: “Look at all I’ve done and who I am. I see all the wonderful things which I’ve done for people, for family, for God. I’m a pretty good person!”
We begin to praise our self and think too much about our self. Now none of us would probably say these things but we would see ourselves on a higher level than others. Like: “We’re the GOOD Lutherans. Those who are faithful to the Scripture.” Or „We’re better Christians because we pray more.” „We’re closer to God.” „We stay faithful when others give up.” It’s so easy to fall into these types of thinking. „I don’t drink, do drugs, swear, or have any tattoos – I’m a cut above.” Now again, we’re not going to say any of this – but we WILL catch ourselves thinking these thoughts over and over again.
Pride is a very dangerous trap because it slowly blinds us and then we don’t see God but we slowly become our own god. It destroys our relationship with God. We forget that if it wasn’t for the grace of God, that person could be me. And then God’s Word must once again crush our heart, humble us, and bring us to repentance. Otherwise there is not hope. Pride is a horrible trap!
A second trap when we look at ourselves is shame.
No one likes the feeling of shame. I believe that nothing hurts us more in life that the suffering that comes from shame. When you are ashamed for some reason and do nothing about it – shame can destroy you. People would rather die than live with shame.
For example King Saul chose to kill himself rather that to be killed by the Philistines in battle. Shame can shape our lives from childhood. But if shame is a result of sin, it can lead us to repentance and then trust in God’s salvation through Christ.
You might think to yourself: „I am a hopeless case. I am without any value. Nothing good can every really come out of my life. Others around me are successful but look at me – I’m always behind. I never will be good enough. I might work day and night but it will never be enough.”
Have you ever found yourself thinking those thoughts? Even for a moment? This is the trap of shame and the result is depression, pain, self-destruction.
God’s Word gives us a solution to these two traps: „Look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.” This is the way to escape these terrible traps. When we look to Jesus we don’t see our holy lifestyle and good actions but we see the holiness of Jesus. We confess our imperfections and trust in the Lord. Our hope is not in ourselves but in Jesus who lived the life we HAVEN’T lived.
What do you see when you look to Jesus? Do you see Jesus who is angry at you and points his finger in accusation? Or do you see Jesus who comes to you with open arms ready to receive you? If you believe, if you have confessed your sins and trust in the Lord, it means that he’s not ashamed of you. He wants you to fall into his arms and receive his love. Why? Because the Lord created you and completed that which you are not able to do. He is the “perfecter” of faith.