In 1 John 1:8-9, we are promised that if we confess our sins, God will not only forgive us but also cleanse us from all unrighteousness. I have met many women who nod their heads as if to say, “Yes, I believe that.” But when I look at their lives, they are still burdened by their sin, especially their sexual sin. They still believe they have to do something to prove to God how sorry they are for messing up so badly.
The truth is that we can confess our sins and ask God to forgive, yet still feel condemned and filled with shame because of our past sins and current struggles. I believe this is because Satan wants us to believe that we are beyond God’s forgiveness. He tells us lies that make us feel as if other people can be free, but we never can be. And we have our own list of reasons why.
Part of our confusion is rooted in not understanding the difference between guilt and shame. Because we often use these two words interchangeably, it can be difficult to tease out the difference. Guilt is rooted in something we have done. Feelings of guilt are healthy when they reflect our true state of guilt. Often our feelings of guilt don’t correspond with the reality of our guilt. For example, while some women backstab, slander, and manipulate others without losing a wink of sleep over it, others can feel tremendous guilt for events that are completely outside of their control.
While guilt is rooted in what we have done, shame is the condemnation of who we are. True guilt can lead to repentance and restoration, but shame looms like an oppressive cloud, separating us from knowing the love of Christ.
There is a reason so many Christian women hang on to the shame even though they know about God’s total forgiveness. There is someone who does not want you to be free; his name is Satan. He does not want God to have the glory shone through the miracle of forgiveness. He would much rather Christians walk in a cloud of shame instead experiencing the freedom God offers through forgiveness. When you begin to experience shame, there are three things you can do to combat it. 1) Recognize the voice, 2) Remember the cross and 3) Declare the truth. We will hit on the first of these today and pick up the other two tomorrow.
Step 1: Recognize the voice. Not only is Satan called the father of lies, he is also called the “accuser.” His job description is to make you feel guilty. Revelations 12:10 tells us that Satan accuses us before God day and night. He wants you to stay stuck in shame because this will keep you from worshiping and intimately knowing God.
A big part of knowing God’s voice is learning to discern between God’s conviction and Satan’s accusations. When you feel guilty about something, how do you know who is speaking to you? God convicts us of sin for the sake of leading us to freedom. Our enemy taunts us for the purpose of keeping us in bondage. When you discern the condemning voice of your enemy, remember that God would never cover you with shame. His voice always offers freedom. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Cor. 3:17).
Embracing God’s Forgiveness
Have you ever felt like Satan’s words of accusations feel truer than God’s words of forgiveness? Honestly, it’s often easier for me to believe that I’m beyond God’s love than to believe promises like this one is Psalm 103: “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Ps. 103:11–12).
Satan’s accusations feel powerful because in one sense, they ring true. In our sinful state, we are not worthy of fellowship with God. I don’t deserve God’s forgiveness. As the Bible says, we have sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:23). God’s gift of forgiveness is a total supernatural reality that flies in the face of my human sense of justice. I should die for my sins, yet Jesus took my sin upon Himself.
Step 2: Remember the cross. If it were not for Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we would be forever burdened with the condemnation of sin. Satan desperately wants you to forget the supernatural power of the cross. He’s happy for you to wear one around your neck or hang one in your house, as long as you don’t remember that Jesus’ death on the cross forever cancelled sin! “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1).
When Satan accuses you of your past, remind him that your sins have been forgiven by God. You are free! You are forgiven!
Step 3: Declare the truth. In God’s sight your sin no longer exists. He does not keep a record of your wrongs. Receiving forgiveness means acknowledging the reality that your sins have been paid for. God keeps no record of your wrongs, and He longs for you to tear up the mental or actual list you have of your sins. This is such an important truth, go back and underline it!
When guilt whispers condemnation, what do you do? You worship your King, who forgave you and brought you out of darkness into His glorious light. And you sing His praises loudly! When you are refusing and resisting the fiery darts of the enemy, worship is a wall of protection around your soul. So worship, declaring the truth of God’s great love for you!
DR. JULI SLATTERY is a widely known clinical psychologist, author, speaker, and broadcast media professional. Juli’s commitment to biblical principles, relatable style, and quick wit has made her a highly sought-after speaker. Juli is the cofounder with Linda Dillow of Authentic Intimacy, an international nonprofit designed to minister to women on topics concerning intimacy and sexuality. She has authored eight books, including 25 Questions You're Afraid to Ask About Love, Sex, and Intimacy; Sex and the Single Girl; Pulling Back the Shades (coauthored with Dannah Gresh); Surprised by the Healer and Passion Pursuit (both coauthored with Linda Dillow); and Finding the Hero In Your Husband.
Dr. Slattery sits on the board of trustees for Moody Bible Institute. She hosts a weekly podcast called Java with Juli, and blogs regularly at www.authenticintimacy.com. Juli and her husband, Mike, have been married for over twenty years, have three boys, and live in Colorado Springs.
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Publication date: August 25, 2017