"After I strayed, I repented; after I came to understand, I beat my breast. I was ashamed and humiliated because I bore the disgrace of my youth'" (Jer. 31:19).
Guilt, and it's Siamese twin sister shame, are the fuel which power the engine of religion, and they are the "mother's milk" of most family interactions as well. If Jewish stand up comedians are to be believed, most guilt comes from Jewish mothers, or, as I like to add, Gentile mothers who have mastered the art. I had a graphic in mind for this article, a cartoon of a woman with a determined, angry look on her face, one hand on her hips, the other one waving her rolling pin in a threatening posture. I decided, however, that it's really not fair to lay this burden totally on mothers, when really, guilt came from the law and our disobedience of same. And to the degree that we're still trying to "keep the law," laid down by our mothers or our fathers, our children, churches, temples, synagogues, or mosques, we're going to suffer guilt to one degree or another. Like many others, I have danced the dance of obedience, avoidance, and repentance, bobbing and weaving around the dance floor of my life, striving to obey the "power brokers," and thus avoid the worst repercussions of these twin demons. Though holdovers from the law, guilt, shame and condemnation continue to plague us until God turns on the light so we can see that we are free. Thankfully, the Spirit long ago, whispered to me that if Jesus paid the price for sin on Calvary, which nearly every Christian will agree that He did, then He also did away with the guilt and shame associated with our sins. "Whom the son sets free is free indeed" (Jn. 8:36).
It's no surprise, therefore, that most of the scriptures dealing with guilt and shame are in the Old Testament. In nearly all of our writings, Lenny and I have talked about the fact that the law came to show us our need for Christ. So, I'm not going to plow the same field again, to make a home spun analogy here, except to include Paul's affirmation, "So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law" (Gal. 3:24 ,35). If you really want to appreciate what Christ's death, burial and resurrection did for us, you might want to read again the books dealing with law, especially Leviticus, specifically these verses dealing with the guilt and sin offerings. Here are a few of them: (Ex. 28:43; Lev. 4:3-35; 5:15-16, 18-19; 6:5- 6; 17; 7:1-2, 5-7, 37; 10:17; 14: 12-14, 17, 21, 24-25, 28; 19: 21-22; Num. 5:15, 28; 6:12; 15:31). Regarding those sacrifices for sin, the Hebrew writer tells us, "In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" (Heb. 9:22). The law was not only stringent and unforgiving, it was very bloody. The amount of animals sacrificed for one feast alone was staggering. (See I Kings 8: 62-63, and Ezra 6:17, as examples.) The sacrifices demanded by the law were a type and shadow of the atonement of Christ, of which the writer of Hebrews wrote, "He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!" (Heb. 9:12-14).
So, the burning question on my heart today, is this: since Jesus paid the price, and washed away our sins with His own blood, and cleansed our consciences from the acts we have committed, then why do so many Christians still feel guilty, ashamed, and condemned long after they have asked forgiveness for their sin? Clearly, guilt and shame are a consequence of disobeying God. Beginning with Adam and Eve, who made for themselves clothing of fig leaves to cover their shame, human beings have always sought some sort of remedy for their guilt (Gen. 3:7). Why? Because, like them, we are ashamed to stand before God naked, unclothed, with our unrighteousness exposed. Accordingly, down through history, man has tried to cover his mistakes with good works, apologies, repentance, excuses, or whatever else seemed appropriate at the time. The law, in fact, provided a specific sacrifice for any sin you'd care to name. It also was the prime source of feeling guilty about one's sins.
The book of Ezra reveals the depths of shame that a devout servant of God felt when he realized the extent of the sin committed by the children of Israel. In this instance, the setting was the return of the exiles from Babylon back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. At that time, Cyrus, King of Persia, who had crushed Nebuchadnezzar's rule over Babylon, handed over the treasures of the Lord's temple to the Jews who were making the return trip. In spite of many trials and would be detractors, they finally reached Jerusalem, where they ultimately finished the house of God with a celebration of dedication. (Ezra 6:15-18). By this time, Artaxerxes was King of Persia, and with his authorization and blessing, Ezra came up from Babylon to Jerusalem. The scripture says about him that, "He was a teacher well versed in the Law of Moses, which the LORD, the God of Israel, had given. The king had granted him everything he asked, for the hand of the LORD his God was on him" (Ezra 7:6). He was indeed the right man for the job in this hour of the prodigals' return. He was to be a mentor for those who would try once more to serve God. The record states about him, "For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the LORD, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel." He was a "priest and teacher, a man learned in matters concerning the commands and decrees of the LORD for Israel" (Ezra 7:10).
Ezra himself found great favor in the eyes of the Persian King (See Ezra 7:12-26 for a full description), for he was given a very free hand and authority to oversee all spiritual matters back in Judea. With the Lord's hand upon him, Ezra arrived in Jerusalem safely, and began his God ordained task of teaching the people there about the law and sacrifices. It was along about here, that the leaders of the people who had remained in Jerusalem during the exile dropped their bomb shell on him: "After these things had been done, the leaders came to me and said, 'The people of Israel, including the priests and the Levites, have not kept themselves separate from the neighboring peoples with their detestable practices, like those of the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians and Amorites. They have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, and have mingled the holy race with the peoples around them. And the leaders and officials have led the way in this unfaithfulness.' When I heard this, I tore my tunic and cloak, pulled hair from my head and beard and sat down appalled" (Ezra 9:1-3). He relates that he sat there in this horrified frame of mind until the evening sacrifice, when he threw himself on his face before the Lord, and prayed, "O my God, I am too ashamed and disgraced to lift up my face to you, my God, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens" (Ezra 9:6).
As an aside, the reason Ezra freaked out at learning of this great sin, was because the sons of Abraham were to be a people holy unto the Lord. Moses said to them, "Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the Lord has chosen you to be His treasured possession" (Deut. 14:2). As such, they were strictly forbidden to intermarry with any of the surrounding nations because they would be turned away from worshipping the true God, and corrupted with the idol worship and detestable practices of those pagan neighbors. The punishment for disobedience was scary in the extreme: "the Lord's anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you" (Deut. 7:4b). Before his death, Joshua called all the leaders of Israel together, and gave them this word: "But if you turn away and ally yourselves with the survivors of these nations that remain among you and if you intermarry with them and associate with them, then you may be sure that the LORD your God will no longer drive out these nations before you. Instead, they will become snares and traps for you, whips on your backs and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land, which the LORD your God has given you. Now I am about to go the way of all the earth. You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the LORD your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed. But just as every good promise of the LORD your God has come true, so He will bring on you all the evil he has threatened, until he has destroyed you from this good land he has given you" (Josh. 23:12-15). These prophecies had all come to pass by the time of Ezra. The northern kingdom of Israel had been captured and hauled away to Assyria (II Kings 17:6-7, 18). Subsequently, Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed Jerusalem, and had taken the king, the nobles, all but the poorest of the people, and all the treasures of the Lord's temple to Babylon where they remained the full seventy years that Jeremiah had prophesied. (See II Kings 24; Jer. 25: 11-12.)
Therefore, it is easy to understand why Ezra was traumatized when he learned what the Israelites left in Judea had done. He confesses, "What has happened to us is a result of our evil deeds and our great guilt, and yet, our God, you have punished us less than our sins have deserved and have given us a remnant like this. Shall we again break your commands and intermarry with the peoples who commit such detestable practices? Would you not be angry enough with us to destroy us, leaving us no remnant or survivor? O LORD, God of Israel, you are righteous! We are left this day as a remnant. Here we are before you in our guilt, though because of it not one of us can stand in your presence" (Ezra 9:13-15). In this prayer of Ezra, we see the devastating guilt that breaking the law produces, and the fearful consequences. There was very little grace under the law. The penalty for this transgression of intermarriage with the heathen was extreme and loaded with emotional pain. They were to separate themselves from the foreign women and the children born of those unions, (Ezra 10:11,19) having nothing further to do with them.
The ones to whom Ezra had been sent were the remnant, the elect in that day, all that was left of the house of Judah, and clearly, he feared that they would be blotted out as well, so that there would be no one left of Abraham's seed to inherit the promises of God. It occurs to me that guilt still does this to us. We fear that because of our wickedness, which we know all too well, everything is ruined. Our salvation has fled; our right standing with God obliterated, our reputation in the community, the family, or the church has been besmirched. And the end result of those demonic thoughts, dear ones, is that guilt totally wipes us out, and makes us unable to function. When we wallow in guilt continually, even after having confessed it before God, not one of us can stand in His holy presence. We have separated ourselves from the one who saved us from sin. We find ourselves outside the Throne room, looking in, much like a kid standing outside a candy store, face pressed against the window, viewing the goodies from afar, without the means to get any for ourselves.
Most of us give lip service to the truth that under the New Covenant, God made provision in Jesus Christ for our sin. The Hebrew writer expresses this glorious truth so clearly, "For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need" (Heb. 4:15-16). Because of what He did, we are reconciled with God. Our sins are blotted out. We need no longer carry them around with us. But, in fact, it seems to me that a lot of folks have a chamber of horrors, a "guilt room" hidden within their psyche. They stash the memories of their sins there, and insist on visiting them and crying over them from time to time. It is necessary to grieve over our sins in our repentance, to mourn them for a season, but then, we must accept our forgiveness, bought at such a great price, get up, wash our faces, put on clean robes, and get on with the "holy calling," which God, "according to His own purpose and grace," has called us to from before the foundations of the world (II Tim. 1:9). It surely seems to me, that as, long as we insist on whining about our sins, and sniveling over our guilt, we have nullified the blood of Jesus, and are really crucifying Him afresh, putting Him to an open shame (Heb. 6:6).
I have the impression that some think that their guilty feelings indicate what "good Christians" they really are. I suppose they consider it a virtue to have a tender conscience. The Hebrew writer, however, puts that myth to rest. He states that, "the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper" (Heb. 9:9). Clearly then, the law, whether the one delivered on Mt. Sinai, or the one proclaimed from the pulpits across the land, cannot absolve us from guilt. Nevertheless, our consciences and violations of same, all belong to the carnal nature, which was all the law could deal with, by the way. Paul is adamant that, "For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law" (Gal. 3: 21). This is no doubt why, the apostle makes it clear that we must be transformed by the renewing of our minds, (Rom. 12: 2) and I don't think it does the passage a disservice to add, the renewing of our consciences as well. Clearly, a quick read through of Leviticus will show that guilt was important under the law, because it caused the sinner to repent, to do something about his sin, to offer sacrifices for his failures, and hopefully, to return again to the living God.
Under the New Covenant, however, after one has repented and after he accepted his forgiveness, guilt serves no purpose at all, other than a negative one. I have a friend who once said, "If it weren't for guilt, I would never do anything at all." Well, she might as well not do anything, because guilt is the chief weapon in the arsenal of the devil, one of the main fruits hanging from the branches of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Who is the accuser of the brethren? And how does He accuse us? It certainly is not God, our Father, nor Christ, our Savior, who uses guilt and shame against us. Of course not. The accuser of the brethren is that old liar, the Devil, "which deceiveth the whole world" (Rev. 12:9). Did you hear that? He deceives the world? How? Well one way is by continuously reminding them of their sins and of their guilt, which effectively separates them from God. That's why, when someone tries to lay a guilt trip on me, which occasionally happens, the correct response really is, "Get thee behind me, Satan." I may not say it out loud, but I certainly think it, because it is true. God does not lay guilt on us. He does not manipulate us. He does not shame us. He does not belittle us nor compare us with others. How could He? Jesus paid the price for all of that, and on the cross, He said, "It is finished" (Jn. 19:30). If Jesus said "It is finished," then we can go to the bank on it. We can believe it. It is finished!
Remember Eve, the earth mother who sold us all down the river? That old serpent got to her by saying that she would be like god, if she would only eat the fruit of that beautiful tree of the knowledge of good and evil. When we cling on to our sins, and remember our shame, after God has forgiven us, and remembers them no more, we are STILL trying to sit on the throne of our own lives. By continuously weeping and wailing over our guilt, we are playing fast and loose with the gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation, to the whole world, the Jew (the religious) and to the Greek (the pagan) (Rom. 1:16). We are, in effect, saying that our particular sins are so black, so evil, so shameful, that God can't save us from them. This, by the way, is absolute blasphemy to almighty God.
At the opposite end of the scale from ones who lament their sins continuously, is the personality type who never owns up to any wrong doing in the first place. To these folks, the residue of guilt clings to their souls like barnacles to a ship because they never truly accepted full responsibility for their actions. The law was so full of punishments and dire consequences, and some churches have administered it so fearfully and convincingly even today, that the tendency is to try to wiggle out of accepting personal accountability for anything. These people play the "blame game" and hope to avoid the consequences of their actions. It never works, of course, but maybe it will get the Pastor off your back about teaching Sunday School class or contributing to the building fund. Consider Adam. God told him that in the day he ate of the forbidden fruit, he would surely die. (Gen. 2:17). So, what did He do when God confronted him with his disobedience? He passed the buck. "The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat" (Gen. 3:11). Now, that's the human condition in a nutshell. How many of us have blamed our mothers, our fathers, our birth family, our spouses, the church, the politicians, video games, alcohol, drugs, sex, and rock and roll for our sins? If we don't accept the blame, then we can never receive our complete forgiveness. James says of this process, "Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up" (James 4:8-9).
If you have a tendency to blame others for your shortcomings, as we've all done at one time or another, let me share a truth that God showed me, which makes it totally easy to stand naked before God and accept the complete blame for our sins. The truth is that God alone bears the ultimate responsibility for all human action, including sin. Before you reach for the rocks to stone me with, consider this statement of Paul's about how all of creation got into this wretched condition where we now find ourselves: "For the creation (nature) was subjected to frailty (to futility, condemned to frustration), not because of some intentional fault on its part, but by the will of Him Who so subjected it, (yet) with the hope that nature (creation) itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and corruption (and gain an entrance) into the glorious freedom of God's children" (Rom. 8:20-21, Amplified). That verse clearly identifies God as the one responsible for the human condition and the only one who can set us free. In the book of Romans, Chapters 9, 10, and 11, Paul reveals the mystery of the gospel, hidden from the foundations of the world, as he is testifying to the power and plan of God in saving the Gentiles, (those outside the camp, without God, and without hope): "For God has consigned (penned up) all men to disobedience, only that HE MAY HAVE MERCY ON THEM ALL (ALIKE)" (Rom. 11:32, Amplified). This includes the Jew (the church) as well as the Greek (the heathen). When He opens your eyes to see these mysteries given only by the Spirit, you will rejoice that God carefully crafted the human condition to be exactly as it appears, not to make us miserable and hopeless, but in order that He can deliver us from it by His glorious power and His amazing grace. When we stand naked before God and accept the blame for our sins, therefore, God gives us the gift hidden therein: forgiveness and freedom from all guilt and shame and condemnation.
I grew up with the curse of the elder brother, (Lk. 15: 28-30) believing that I was responsible for everything. Not only in my own life was this true, I was taught, but also, I was responsible for others. It was laid on me that I had to be a "good example" for my sisters and for all my cousins, as well. And in addition to that, I learned to worry about what the neighbor's might think. What a guilt trip. What a shame game in action. If someone got mad at me, for instance, I believed that it was my fault somehow, and I was supposed to be nice enough and change my behavior in whatever way necessary to get them to like me again. Now, that may have made me "nice to be near," in theory, assuming I could pull it off, but it was a quick trip to the neurotic behavior called "people pleasing," from which I am still being delivered. I put it in the present progressive tense, because God continues to show me areas where I need to have the prison doors opened for me.
Here's a recent example. When we have new writings on the web, I have begun sending out e-mail announcements, which include the statement, "If you don't want to receive these announcements in future, please let me know." Well, I got a rather terse e-mail from a well known brother asking to be removed from the list. My face flushed. My throat constricted, and I was momentarily overcome with that old familiar feeling, shame. I thought, "What have I said that offended him?" It bothered me for a whole day until I realized that it was the "people pleasing" trap again. He has a right to feel what he feels. If he thinks what I write is not edifying for him, then why shouldn't he ask to be removed from the list, especially when I invited him to do so? The truth is that I don't resonate to what he writes either, but I haven't asked to be removed from his mailing list. Why? Well, I might hurt his feelings, of course. The fact that he cared not a fig for my feelings, hurt me and somehow shamed me as well. He wasn't playing the game called "good Christian." So what does this say about him? About me? Actually, I haven't a clue what it says about him since I'm not his judge. That's between him and God. What it says to me, is that apparently, God has just the teensiest bit more work to do in Jan. Jesus was not defensive when He was railed upon, labeled a follower of the devil, (Mt. 12:24-28) called names, criticized for doing God's will, (Mt. 12:2) and ultimately killed by those whom He refused to please. Why? Because He knew the end of the story (Is. 46:10). God haste the day when all will see the end of the story: when the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and ALL FLESH shall see it together (Is. 40:5).
[By the way, the aforementioned experience with this brother was a "gift" from God to me, to show me an area that needed the Great Physician's touch. So, if you would like to be removed from either my "snail mail" list or my e-mail announcement list, please let me know. It's OK. No problem. It's the freedom of Christ in action in all our lives.]
This brings me to the point that Jesus wasn't "nice" on many occasions. If you're shocked by that, you need to quit listening to what Christians say about Him and begin reading what the record states that He actually said and did. I reread the book of Matthew not so long ago, and I was struck again by what an "in your face" kind of person Jesus actually was. He didn't mealy mouth around, hem and haw, change the subject, or do any of the other things that otherwise "good Christians" feel perfectly justified in doing so they won't have to tell the truth or face the issue. I can just imagine that if someone wearing a tacky head dress asked him, "Do you like my hat?" He probably would have simply said, "No." As I was reading Matthew this particular time, I began to cringe toward the end as he was calling the Pharisees "whited sepulchers" (Matt. 23:27), "blind guides," or "blind fools," (23:16) "hypocrites," (23: 13,15) "a generation of vipers" (23:33). I found myself thinking, "Oh, please don't say that? They're going to hurt you," and so they did. Perhaps, our fear is that if we tell people the truth, they will hurt us as well. Be that as it may, my point is that hurt feelings, people pleasing tendencies, and the compulsion to "be nice," all belong to the carnal nature, to old Adam, who is most certainly dead.
When Paul wrote that we were buried with Christ in baptism, and rose again to walk in newness of life, he meant that we are to see everything to do with our carnal nature, the good and the bad, as dead. Lenny's last article was on baptism, "The Funeral Celebration," and in it, he talks about how the Lord showed him that the reason that baptism is a celebration is because the old man with all his flaws, sins, guilts, neurosis, warts and zits, illnesses, diseases, and all of the human afflictions you could name, is dead. He is "as dead as a door nail," as they say in these parts, never to survive again. Recently, I had occasion to attend the graveside service of a distant cousin. In fact, I'd never laid eyes on the woman before the moment I saw her in the casket. I went to be a blessing to the living, not to mourn the dead, for I never knew her. As I was standing there looking at her mortal remains, I couldn't help but think that the shell of a once vibrant human being, lying there awaiting burial, is, in fact, what most of us identify with. We identify with our outward shell, our physical body, rather than the living Christ within. I remember going to the funeral home when my beloved Grandmother Daisy died decades ago. They call it the "viewing" around here, and everyone is supposed to go to say "good bye." When I saw her lying there, I just "lost it" emotionally. I went outside and cried my eyes out, because that which they made me go to the funeral home to view was not my grandmother. It was merely a heap of clay, a few pounds of dust, gussied up in a pink dress, as I recall, with no life and no spirit anywhere about it. How could I say "good bye" to a woman who lives forever with God and who is with me still in Spirit more times than I can name?
I'm going on and on about this because I want to make it clear that guilt, shame, and condemnation belong in the casket with the dead body. They do not have anything to do with the New Creation, whom we are in Christ. (II Cor. 5:17). They belong to the law. Now, if you're going to live by law, you're going to be condemned by law, for James was very clear that if you break one law, you're guilty of breaking it all. (James 2:10). But thank God, we are dead in Christ, and it is on the basis of that death that we are free from sin and its ugly consequences, guilt and shame. "For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin, because anyone who has died has been freed from sin" (Rom. 6:6,7). I don't think it's too far a stretch to add that if we've been freed from sin, then we've also been freed from the guilt and shame of sinful behavior. Hallelujah! So, you see, if we continue in bondage to guilt, shame, and condemnation, we are still living under law. It's an inescapable conclusion. The Good News Paul delivered was this: "Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God" (Rom. 6:8,9,10). Even as Christ only died once, so do we only die once. We recently had an e-mail from a sister in Christ. Dee B. wrote, "We do not have to die, because we already were once dead in trespasses and sin, and it is appointed for man only once to die" (Heb. 9:27). She is quite correct in her conclusion. On the occasion of the death of Lazarus, Jesus said to Martha, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" (Jn. 11:25-26). I do.
You know, we would think it odd, bizarre, dangerously unhealthy and just plain weird if we didn't bury our dead. If we kept the casket open with grandma in it, displayed in the living room, probably the health department would shut us down in quick order. Yet, when people continue to bemoan their ancient sins, and allow their guilt over misdeeds committed long ago, to keep them from enjoying the presence of God now, they are doing the same thing. Stuff those sins, that guilt, shame, and condemnation into the casket; nail it shut, and lower it six feet under, is my advice. Or, as I said in another journal, wrap up your failures in a rag, and after laying the bundle at the foot of the cross, walk away into resurrection life. Actually, I see myself running and leaping and praising God, going far away from my carnal nature and sinful past. The only way to make this journey is in the New Creation. (II Cor. 5:17).
As we continue our journey deeper into the kingdom of God, we find that everything drops off except our heart's desire to know only God. In that Holy Place, we learn the truth of Paul's statement to the Galatians, "Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father" (Gal. 1:3-4). It is God's job to deliver us from this present evil world, which is loaded with guilt and shame. That relieves all of us, as well as the church, the family, the schools and even the government from the responsibility to do it. How do we know it will be done? Because, it is done "according to the will of God and our Father." John the Beloved assured us, "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have what we asked of him" (I Jn. 5:14-15). Certainly, all of us desire to be rescued from this present evil world. Since, that which is His will is done, then our prayers are being answered, in God's time, to His glory.
In this place of the ALLNESS of God, far removed from this evil world, we learn that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (Rom. 8:35, 39). Nothing can keep us from the throne of grace. (Heb. 4:16). In this Most Holy Place that Jesus sanctified with His own blood, nothing makes us feel guilty or ashamed (II Tim. 1:12), because it is His will operating in us and through us rather than our own (Eph. 1:11). There is no shame in this hallowed temple wherein God dwells, (I Cor. 6:19; II Cor. 6:16) for shame cannot exist in the presence of the Most High. There, we find only "righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost" (Rom. 14:17). I tell you these truths, dear ones, not so you will suffer condemnation if you occasionally feel guilty about something, but merely to remind you that guilt is not the truth about you. God's truth is that we are seated in heavenly places in Christ (Eph. 2:6). He sets us on high places where hinds' feet have trod (Ps. 18:33; II Sam. 22:34). Guilt and shame belong to Mt. Horeb, which burned with fire, blackness, darkness and tempest. We have left that behind and are come "unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly of the firstborn, which are written in heaven" (Heb. 12:18, 22-23). We are sons and daughters of the King (Jn. 1:12), and He is the Lord of our lives, not because of anything we did, but because God made Him Lord (Lk 2:11; Acts 2:36; 10:36; Rom. 1:4; 14:9; I Cor. 1:2; 8:6; Phil. 2:11; Jude 4; Rev. 11:15). He is the Sovereign Lord. (Lest we forget the importance of this phrase, it occurs in the Bible 288 times!)
The saddest thing to me about the topic of guilt and shame, is that the ones most plagued by it are those who give lip service to the fact that they were delivered from it. I began this journal by saying that these twin plagues are the fuel which drives the church engine. This grieves me tremendously, because it need not be so. It must not be so. In the kingdom of God, it is not so! In God's time, and I believe this is a prophecy for the church, God will open wide the prison doors and set these "good Christians" free from the bondage of the law which has held them captive for so long. (Is. 61:1; Lk. 4: 18). Too long, have God's people been oppressed by this needless misery of separation from God. The Apostle Peter wrote, "For in Scripture it says: 'See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame'" (I Pet. 2:6), and Paul echoed it in Rom. 10:11. Both are paraphrasing Isaiah 28:16. As I was reading that passage, my eye fell on the one two verses up, in which the mighty prophet of Israel foretold, "Your covenant with death will be annulled; your agreement with the grave will not stand" (Isa. 28:18).
I believe that Isaiah was foreseeing the time when the people of God will quit trafficking with death and the grave, will see the old man buried with Christ, and will rise up to walk in resurrection life through the kingdom of God. It is already happening in many places across the planet, here a little, there a little, line upon line, precept upon precept, and what is now only a trickle of living water, will soon become the river of life, flowing over the dry places, feeding the thirsty, nourishing the nations, stopping death in its tracks. At that time, all will triumphantly shout, "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" (I Cor. 15: 55). We will soon know why Jesus remarked, "Let the dead bury their dead" (Matt. 8:22; Lk. 9:60). Life begets life, and He who is the Resurrection and the Life will fill all and be in all (Jn. 11:25; Eph. 1:23; 4: 6). Lord, open our eyes to see and our ears to see that today is this wonderful day that the prophets saw in the Spirit. Today is the acceptable Day of the Lord.
Jan Austin Antonsson
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850
The Glory Road
"The Funeral Celebration
"The Guilt Trip"
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This page was uploaded to the web on 5/30/99
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister
and last edited on 10/14/08