There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. [Romans 8: 1-2]
Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. [Hebrews 10:22]
My son Isaac (almost 6 years old) has some qualities I envy. He is very, very honest. But not the kind of “kid honesty” that demoralizes people- like many kids have. “Dad, you look and smell funny.” Not that kind of honesty.
This kid is honest about himself. About his own failures. He admits his faults. When he and his brothers do something he knows is wrong, he actually comes to me and lets me know. Meanwhile, my other boys are running for their lives, jumping fences into neighbors’ yards, trying to camouflage themselves with sticks, mud & debris.
But Isaac? I don’t even have to stumble upon the mess he has made. He comes to me.
This trait of his definitely benefits me. It keeps me from losing my temper. But even more, this trait of his benefits him. His admission of guilt magnifies my love for him and keeps him from shame (but not discipline- that’s another blog post).
Here is what God is teaching me through my boy He has entrusted to me: God deeply desire us to come to Him with our failures. Too often we wait until we’ve been “found out.”
We are guilty, but we need not be ashamed.
You see, shame is not the same as guilt. Guilt says, “What you did was bad.” Shame says, “What you did was bad, so you must be a bad person.”
Shame is not the same as regret. Regret says, “If I could go back and do things differently, I’d do this … or that.” Shame says, “I’ll never get it right. I’m a failure.”
Guilt is connected to our behavior, while shame is connected to our identity. While guilt draws us toward God, shame sends us away from God.
God cares about what you do. He does. But remember this: what you do doesn’t determine who you are. Who you are determines what you do. And God is at war for your heart first, because therein lies who you are.
You are not defined by your feelings. You are not defined by the opinions of others. You are not defined by your circumstances. You are not defined by your successes. You are not defined by the car you drive, or the money you make, or the house you own.
And you most definitely aren’t defined by your failures. You are defined by our Father who is rich in mercy and slow to anger. You are defined by Jesus and everything He’s done for you. You are defined by the powerful Holy Spirit that lives in you.
So, child of God, run to Him with your guilt. Don’t run away from Him in shame. Don’t run from the church in shame. He is faithful and just to forgive you. He will remind you who you are. And only then can you do what He desires for you to do.