Overwhelmed with Shame & Condemnation?

by | Nov 20, 2017

While recently talking to a young man, it came to light that a significant reason for his instability is that he is living in a ‘state of shame’. He senses that because he is still getting things wrong in his life, God is just standing by until this young man gets everything right. I urged him to understand God’s love for him in such a way that he wouldn’t live under this cloud of shame! I am not here to offer individuals a false sense of security, nor am I trying to gloss over issues and behavioral patterns which need change. I lived in a mindset of perceived disapproval by God for about nine years and I know what living in shame is like. It controls ones entire thinking process and dictates ones actions, usually culminating in actions that are unhealthy and/or bad. How can I (we) bring encouragement to someone living in this state of shame without condoning or approving of their behavior?

This young man has made a profession of faith in Christ, therefore, when a professing believer comes to me for help I, almost always, direct them to read Ephesians chapter 1. I believe this chapter covers what it means to be a Christian.

There are some key words and phrases in Paul’s letter to the Ephesian believers that are designed to give us (and bolster our) hope.

  • ‘chose us in Him’
  • ‘that we should be holy and blameless’
  • ‘adopted us as sons through Jesus Christ’
  • ‘redemption’
  • ‘forgiveness’
  • ‘sealed with the promised Holy Spirit’

The Bible teaches us that due to the sin of Adam, we are born in rebellion toward God meaning we don’t have to do wrong to be condemned, we are born into it. God’s love for us would not leave us abandoned in our rebellion, He made a way for us to be reconciled to Him through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ.

I like to use the analogy that we are born into an orphanage (separated from God)… God enters into that place and offers the orphan an opportunity to leave the orphanage with Him and walk to His eternal home. This home is recognizable because God gave us Jesus Christ to show us how to get there! When we ‘accept’ that offer, we walk into the new home and are officially adopted into God’s family.

The bullet points, above, are what has now been applied to our lives. While we still may have a lot to learn in this new home, the orphanage is no longer our dwelling place. The only reason we ever go back there is to tell those still there about this new place that they might accept the ‘offer’ when God comes for them!

Romans 8:1 says ‘There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus’ (ESV- emphasis added)

The ‘therefore’ refers to, as well, the bullet points above. Since we have been ‘chosen (God reached out to me)’, I am now seen as ‘holy (set apart) and blameless (not responsible to pay for my sin)’, ‘adopted (a new creation- see 2 Corinthians 5:17)’, ‘redeemed (bought with a price)’, ‘forgiven (eternally)’, ‘sealed (I won’t ever be an orphan again).

‘Condemnation’ has been defined as the opposite of ‘Justification’. Justification is covered by the above bullet points. If I have been justified, I have been given all the (above) points mentioned. This also means that I am not, and will never again be, condemned!

A Pastor friend of mine recently sent me this verse:

Romans 5:5: ‘and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.’ (ESV- emphasis added)

It reminded me that I have a ‘hope’ that is real, based on what I have learned is true about my acceptance of that offer God gave to me, 20+ years ago. It is my hope that the reader, who has accepted that offer as well, would walk with their heads held high looking to the One who has redeemed them and the reader who is still in the orphanage would watch for that offer, from God, to leave and walk with Christ to their new adopted home.

John Burghauser