I’ve touched on this topic in passing in several articles here at Miscellaneous Ramblings, but I felt this needed a more thorough treatment to establish the Scriptural foundation for my teachings on this. We’ll start with a quote from Romans:
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.
And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors–not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. — Romans 8:1-13
This passage has been misinterpreted for years to abuse and shame believers, to make things all about their own performance, rather than them looking to Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith.
Actually, Romans 8 is nowhere speaking about carnal Christians. People who teach otherwise have a lamentable tendency to blow right past verse 9 as if it wasn’t there:
But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. — Romans 8:9
As you can see, those being referred to as “in the flesh” are the unsaved, not believers.
The Antidote for Shame
For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” — Romans 10:11
So we see here that those who trust Him, will not be ashamed, so we know that the poison of shame comes from the enemy, rather than God.
Here is the antidote:
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 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 has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. — Hebrews 12:1-2
Once we take our eyes off Him and put them onto ourselves and our performance, good or bad, we are operating in man’s religion and start performing dead religious works to placate or impress an “angry God” Who is not actually angry at us.
Many ask the question, “But aren’t we supposed to feel guilt and shame when we sin?” My responses is, “Of course, whenever we sin, we indeed feel guilt, shame, and fear. That’s how it works and has always worked since Eden.”
However, once that sin is confessed and repented of — an act of faith in God’s Word which removes that sin from our account and thereby supersedes our guilt and shame with His loving forgiveness — for us to remain focused on our poor performance is an act of unbelief. Unbelief is a sin in its own right. And because we have committed another sin immediately after confessing the first one, we have just entered a vicious downward spiral of sin, guilt, and shame with no end in sight.
That is why God commands us to focus our attention on Jesus rather than on our performance — or lack thereof.
Once we submitted our lives to the lordship of Jesus Christ, we became new creatures in Christ and the righteousness of God in Him
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new…For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. — 2 Corinthians 5:17,21
We entered into in that “righteous new creature” state of existence by grace through faith:
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. — Ephesians 2:8‑10)
We also abide in that “righteous new creature” state of existence by grace through faith. Now let’s skip back a couple of chapters in Romans:
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. — Romans 6:1-18 (emphasis mine)
We are no longer sinners — slaves to sin — who have been saved by grace, but we are now the righteous who occasionally — but inevitably — sin. When we do, we then ask for and receive forgiveness. But if the Holy Spirit doesn’t convict us of anything, we’re golden unless and until He does.
Here’s the problem with remaining focused on our flesh and the sins thereof: we’re looking at a corpse! That person is dead, lifeless, expired, bereft of animation, metabolically challenged, his bucket has been well and truly kicked, he’s pushing up daisies, shuffled off this mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the choir invisible, DEAD, DEAD, DEAD! It is now an inanimate object filled with corruption, filth, rottenness, and stench. Is it any surprise why directing our attention to it causes us to feel revulsion and disgust?
And then Satan, the Accuser of the Brethren, comes along and whispers a lie in our ear, “See how you are?” No wonder many Christian walk out their salvation living in defeat, never seeing themselves as the victors they are, victors because of the blood of Jesus, the finished work of the Cross, and His resurrection from the dead.
To remain focused on our performance is also to be self-centered, the essence of original sin. From such a position, we cannot help but continue to sin because we are operating in the devil’s playground. However, once we take our eyes off of ourselves and fix them on Jesus, we have transferred playing fields from the devil’s to God’s. And in God’s there is freedom.
Only Christianity makes the astonishing statement that we overcome sin by knowing God. Every other world religion is all about keeping the rules.
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. — 1 John 1:8
This verse is not talking about focus, it’s talking about the reality of our flesh. None of us can claim a moral high ground by announcing we have arrived at a sinless state of existence. The reality of the matter is that we do sin and will continue to do so for the duration of our existence on this fallen planet.
My point is that God doesn’t view us that way. He views us through the lens of the precious blood of His Son and sees us faultless and without blemish, holy. When we see things HIS way instead of through our innate human sin-consciousness, we will sin less.
In other words, this — as with as many of God’s principles — is completely counter-intuitive. Our basic human nature + the deception of the enemy cause us to focus on our performance, thus leading to more sin. God’s way is for us to focus on His Son, thereby leading to greater practical day-to-day righteousness in our relationships with others.
God NEVER motivates by shame because shame causes us to look inward and ultimately to sin more. God ALWAYS motivates by His love, which causes us to look to Him in faith, gratitude, and worship and thereby to sin less.
And why did the children of Israel not trust and obey during the Exodus? Because they removed their vision from the One True God and placed it on themselves, looking at what they thought they lacked, rather than to their Provider. The principle remains the same for us.
I never said we didn’t have to labor. I never said we weren’t in a fight. What I said was, focusing on our performance — good or bad — in the midst of those is a trap of the devil.
I believe this is what Hebrews is referring to when it says we should labor to enter into His rest. Back when I was performance-focused, it was all about me and my efforts. When I stopped making my life about sin management and started focusing on God’s love and grace, my walk with Him got easier and easier. So, by the grace of God, I have entered His rest.
I work for His kingdom. I fight the good fight. When I sin, I repent and ask forgiveness. But I no longer have to strive because I have finally entered into His rest, knowing that my walk with God is about Him, not about me. The Christian life is FAR more than just sin management. My Christian life used to be a downer, full of defeat. Now it’s the polar opposite and I experience more joy and fulfillment than I ever did back in that day.
There’s an old saying in the counseling world that goes, “Spot it, you got it!” It means that we are always sensitized to the flaws in others that we also have or had. The greater we have/had it, the greater the sensitivity. And trust me, I can spot shame-base Christians from a mile away because I used to be one — in spades! MY sole intention is to be used of God to compassionately impart the same freedom He has given to me.
I’m of the school that the only people who lose their salvation are those mature believers who deliberately choose to walk away from Christ and spurn His love and sacrifice for them. Losing one’s salvation doesn’t happen casually or by default. (See Hebrews 6:4-6). The passage clearly describes a mature charismatic believer who willfully chooses to renounce Christ.
Some people, as I used to, think Hebrews 10:26-31 is about losing one’s salvation, but it really isn’t. It describes what a believer who flagrantly and willfully sins as a lifestyle and that God refuses to have Jesus sacrifice trampled upon or treated lightly by the likes of us. An excellent example would be a believer who commits adultery — the chastisement on that believer is not going to be pretty!
I cannot speak for others. I can speak for me. I am far more productive for the Kingdom after I received revelation about God’s love and freedom from shame than I ever was before that. People who think God’s grace is a license for sloth or an excuse for inaction have obviously missed the point entirely. God’s love and grace energize my ministry, makes me far more effective as both a believer and minister, and opens doors for my ministry to people who have had enough of the shame-based preaching of most preachers. I believe God, as part of the last days, is removing shame from His Church and from His ministry to it and the lost.
Also, the corollary of “you can’t share what you don’t have” is “you cannot help but share what you do have.” And shame-based believers cannot help but share their shame. It comes out in the very way we word things, in how we stand for and against issues that concern the Body, and how we approach the throne of grace.
It’s high time the Body of Christ started acting like the victors our Lord redeemed us to be, instead of the weak-kneed, defeated, and ashamed victims Satan would like us to be!
Thanks for reading!