Guilt and Shame

“”Guilt and shame is false humility, and it introduces you to an insulation to breakthrough… .” —Bill Johnson

How are guilt and shame a form of false humility?

Does God employ guilt and shame as means of discipline and/or motivation?

Did Jesus?

Scriptural examples?

What is “false humility”? It is a form of underliving. How so? There is a tendency in Christendom to downplay our successes so as to protect others from feeling bad about themselves. Also, it can be a means of flying under the radar so as to deflect scrutiny. It is a means of appearing “acceptable” to others… good, but not great; never perfect, but good. False humility is all about how I project to others. False humility is religion in action. True humility is a gift.

How is false humility related to guilt and shame? To the extent that I am willing to entertain guilt and shame I denigrate the work of the cross by seeking to atone for my sins by my own emotional suffering. I punish myself for a while so that I can feel good again. It is not only a false sense of humility, it’s a slap in the face of the Savior. And, of course, if I allow the guilt and shame to take root in me such that my very identity, my sense of being someone, is denigrated I might find myself in a state of despair, hopelessness that can lead to suicide, the perfect will of the evil one.

Guilt: feelings of deserving blame especially for imagined offenses or from a sense of inadequacy : SELF-REPROACH. “Wracked by guilt, he confessed his affairs.”—Merriam-Webster

What then is the remedy for guilt?

“For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins?” —Heb. 10:2 (NASB)

The word rendered “consciousness” simply means “a persisting notion.” The implication, the reasonable inference, from Hebrews 10:1-2 is staggering. If the law was able to cleanse, make perfect those who drew near then there would no longer be a need to offer sacrifices year after year and those who draw near, those for whom the sacrifice was offered, would have no consciousness of sin! No awareness or persistent notion of being a sinner. Not only was the law unable to cleanse once and for all, it actually served as a reminder of their sinful state because they had to come back to the priest repeatedly. The writer of Hebrews consistently compares and contrasts the law and the work of Messiah Jesus. In this case, what the law could not do, Jesus did once for all! He does cleanse and make perfect those who draw near. Consequently, there should be no consciousness, no persistent notion of sin for believers. We are truly free from guilt, both as a judicial determination and as an emotional state.

Therefore there is now no condemnation (penal servitude, penalty) for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”—Romans 8:1-4 (NASB)

The tenses of the verbs are significant… “is now no condemnation”; “has set you free”; “He condemned sin in the flesh”. All of the benefits of the atoning blood are ours in the here and now. Jesus already accomplished it all. It is ours for the taking now, not just in the hereafter. Guilt has been defanged, disempowered, gutted, by the atoning blood of Jesus.

Shame: disgrace, dishonor. Literally, without grace / without honor.

“It is just as the Scripture says: “Anyone who believes in Him will never be put to shame.” —Romans 10:11 (BSB)

“For it stands in Scripture: “See, I lay in Zion a stone, a chosen and precious cornerstone; and the one who believes in Him will never be put to shame.” — I Peter 2:6 (BSB)

“Behold, I am going to deal at that time With all your oppressors, I will save the lame and gather the outcast, And I will turn their shame into praise and renown in all the earth.” —Zephaniah 3:19 (NASB)

Inasmuch as the promise of God for those who believe in Him is that they “will never be put to shame”, we can surmise that this is God’s will for all believers. Never means never. God even limits Himself by this promise. How then could He ever use shame to motivate or discipline us? He doesn’t. Consider 1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. The one who fears has not been perfected in love.” Likewise, guilt and shame have to do with punishment, there is an element of fear involved. One who believes that God is making them feel guilty or ashamed has not been “perfected in love”, they are not mature in the sense of properly understanding the love of God. Can you think of even one instance where Jesus used guilt and/or shame to motivate someone?

What of the “guilt/shame” we feel when we sin? Paul spoke to this very issue…

“For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.”— II Corinthians 7:10 (NASB)

There it is. Godly sorrow is healthy, it produces repentance leading to a life without regret. It is not an emotion, it is rather a state of being in violation of the will of God. Worldly sorrow is deadly. It is the tool of the evil one. He takes that which is God ordained, our conscience, and perverts it so as to not just accuse of bad acts, but of being bad people. The “accuser of the brethren” comes to “steal, to kill and to destroy” and he does it primarily via accusation. He even accuses God, mocks God and impersonates God. When we agree with his accusations, whether of ourselves or others, we partner with the evil one and become a tool in his hands.

God, on the other hand, does not accuse. He does not demean. He does not shame. The Holy Spirit convicts, in a judicial sense, bringing to our consciousness our violation of His precepts only so that we would confess, repent and be reconciled to God and/or our brothers and sisters. The purpose of this conviction is to protect us, not to shame us.

One of the great manifestations of God’s grace is His ability to take that which was intended for evil and turn it for our good. So consider, once properly understood guilt and shame are disarmed and if they should rear their ugly head they become a sign. A “stop” sign. We must stop and consider the source. They are an indicator that I am listening to the wrong voice. One more moment spent in guilt or shame is a waste of time and energy. They are not God’s will for my life. Paul says it best…

“It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.”—Galations 5:1

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