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Many of us can remember growing up and constantly being reminded of everything we did wrong. All of our mistakes were thrown into our faces on a weekly basis, until it seemed like they were seared into our consciousness and we were always aware of them. If this sounds like the normal church experience to you, you’re right. It’s tragic that this happens so often, but the good news is that God tells us we don’t have to be burdened by guilt and shame any longer.
The traditional religious approach focuses continually on sin and, after a while, we’d rather stay away from church than face negativism from the pulpit. The truth is that Jesus Christ died to take away all the guilt over our sins and the shame resulting from them. “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus knows how painful these emotions are and how they can paralyze us from moving forward with our lives, and He did this to free us from them.
Guilt is the awareness of something we’ve done wrong, and it says, “I made a mistake;” shame is guilt turned inward, and it says, “I am a mistake.” Jesus was sinless and perfect in every way, but He chose to become sin so that we wouldn’t have to suffer self-condemnation from our past mistakes. “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Even though we don’t feel righteous when we make a mistake, what Christ did for us can’t be changed.
The devil is loose in this world, and he doesn’t want us to benefit from all that God has to offer. He hides behind religion and uses our past sins as weapons against us to make us feel guilty. We defeat the enemy when we believe in the power of Jesus’ blood that He shed for us. “Having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it” (Colossians 2:14, 15, NKJV).
Sin-consciousness hurts, but God doesn’t want us to suffer. Sin has been dealt with permanently, and it loses its ability to trap us in guilt and condemnation when we trust in what Jesus did to defeat it. Focusing on sin causes mental distress, but focusing on Jesus calms our minds. “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee” (Isaiah 26:3).
We are human beings who make mistakes, but we can forgive ourselves because Jesus has already forgiven us. “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28, NIV). Through faith in Him, self-condemnation can be gone from our lives forever. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1, NIV). The knowledge of this forgiveness frees us from focusing on our sorrows and regrets so we can focus on God’s mercy and love for us, instead.
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