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As I was reading today’s devotion by David Wilkerson “Where is the victory?” I was reminded of what I have been learning this past year about the effects of shame (motivated by and with thanks to hours and hours of lectures with Dan Allender!).

Here is what today’s devotion had to say:

Most of us know that sin is at the root of all our problems—our fear, guilt, anger, depression. We know it robs us of spiritual courage and vitality, but what we do not know is how to overcome the “sin which doth so easily beset us” (see Hebrews 12:1).

We know that victory over all our enemies comes through Jesus Christ our Lord. But how do we get the power out of his vine into our puny little branch? How does this work? I love Jesus, always have, and I know that he has all power. I also know he promises me victory, but just what does that mean and how does the victory come?

I am just beginning to see a little light on this mystery of godliness. God is asking me to do the following three things in my own search for total victory over all my besetting sin.

  1. I must learn to hunger for holiness and hate my sin. Sin pollutes me and God cannot look upon sin; he cannot condone it. The fear of God is the basis of all freedom. Don’t expect to be excused or given special privileges. My sin must be confessed and forsaken.
  2. I must be convinced that God loves me in spite of my sin! God hates my sin with a perfect hatred, while at the same time he loves me with an infinite compassion. His love will never compromise with sin, but he clings to his sinning child with one purpose in mind—to reclaim him.
  3. I must accept the loving help of my Father in resisting and overcoming. Sin is like an octopus with many tentacles trying to crush my life. Seldom do all the tentacles loosen their hold on me at once. It is one tentacle at a time, one small victory at a time. God dispatches the Holy Spirit to me with clear direction on how to fight, when to run, where to strike next. The battle against principalities and powers is his—not mine. I am just a soldier, fighting in his war. God wants me to totally believe in him. My part in this war is to believe that God will bring me out of the battle victoriously!
This is the view of traditional theology. He is representing what he believes the Word of God has to say about sin and holiness and life and the character of God. But it seems to me to remain on the surface of the deep issues of our being – it seems to me to be focused on a performance base on the part of human beings. “I must… I must… I must…”
I believe the missing piece in this view of how we are to respond to sin is how we deal with our guilt – whether we respond to the conviction of the Holy Spirit with shame or with humble repentance. When we respond with shame, we begin the blame game, the diversion game, and/or the cover-up game. We begin wiggling and squirming and making ourselves as hard as we possibly can so that the weight of our guilt cannot take hold of us and bring about genuine change. It results of layers and layers of self-protection. It results in justification of how our own sinful behaviors were warranted and how it is not our fault. It results in broken relationships and a distorted view of God, ourselves, and others. Shame produces the need for law, for hard and fast rules, for concrete definitions of what can and cannot be done in order to look “righteous” and try to create some sort of order out of our chaos. And none of us is exempt from the effects of shame.
However, on the other hand, when our response to guilt is humble repentance, a very different dynamic is engaged. We are able to see how the effects of our sin cause pain – pain in our own lives, pain in the lives of those around us, and pain in our relationship with God. We are able to grieve with God over the harm our sin causes. Our hearts are softened and the Holy Spirit is able to produce His fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). The rest of Galatians 5:23 says, “against such things there is no law” for the work of the Holy Spirit is all about grace and the very Presence of God within us. Repentance leads to redemption and restoration and therefore to holiness. Repentance opens the windows of our sight to give us a very different view of our nature, our behaviors, and the character of God. Repentance restores life and freedom and God’s purpose in creating us in the first place.
Shame equals law and bondage. Repentance equals life and freedom.
O Lord, open the eyes of my heart that I might learn more about humility and repentance! Not more facts, but more receiving and living in it!