I had to preach on Sunday about the cross. And as I was praying about the talk, I felt Jesus say three simple words about himself: “I am enough.”
His cross is enough. His passion is enough.
We all get things wrong and make mistakes, and because of the cross of Jesus we can know we are forgiven and our guilt is taken away. But why do we rarely actually feel forgiven?
A number of years ago a friend from church came to our house to set up our internet connection. As a teen who had had experience of emails and websites at school (and thinking I knew better than everyone), I became quite frustrated at the way he was explaining things to my parents. So when he’d gone, I wrote an email to my sister who was at uni, telling her how annoying it had been. But then something went wrong with the computer and a couple of days later he was back. He checked the emails were working and to my horror, there was a short reply from my sister, and my whole email pinged up on the screen for both my mum and the man to read.
Now in terms of guilt and sin, this is a pretty minor incident. But whenever I think of this man, my insides curl up and I feel utterly ashamed. There are several reasons for my shame, I think. Firstly, he was a kind and gentle soul, and incredibly generous to our family. He didn’t need to see my criticism. Secondly, my mum was right there, reading over his shoulder and I felt ashamed for my family. Finally, my email to my sister was private and the things that are done in secret squirm away from the light.
But why does shame linger so much? I’ve asked for forgiveness from God, I know I am forgiven, and it was so long ago, it should be long forgotten. Shame is insidious and hard to shift.
And shame doesn’t just cling to issues of guilt and forgiveness: a child is abandoned, a woman is raped, people are emotionally abused and bullied. The victims have done nothing wrong but still they feel shame – shame at the violation, shame at the loss of purity, shame at feeling like they can never be enough.
We all suffer from shame in different ways. We carry shame in different parts of our bodies that have maybe suffered disgrace or been criticised by others. We carry shame in our minds for having intrusive thoughts and unhealthy addictions. We carry shame in our hearts where we have felt rejection or hold onto regrets. We carry shame over different periods of our past.
But I want to put to you that the cross doesn’t just take away our guilt – it can take away our shame too. The cross is enough – for absolutely everyone and everything. No exceptions. As Jesus whispered to me earlier, ‘I am enough.’ My cross is enough.
“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
No longer will they teach their neighbour,
or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the Lord.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.”
This wonderful prophecy about the new covenant in Jesus concludes, ‘For I will forgive their wickedness and I will remember their sins no more.’ You are forgiven, and even more than that, your sin is forgotten. God looks at you, and instead of seeing someone in filthy stained rags, he sees Jesus. Your guilt is taken away and your shame need not linger.
In John 12:31-32 passage Jesus says, ‘Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ Shame is one of the minions of the prince of this world – and as followers of Jesus we have authority to drive it out. So when we find ourselves bowed in shame, unable to accept that the cross has power for us, we tell shame to go away because Jesus has done it – Satan, death, shame, and all the powers of darkness have been swallowed up in his victory, and Jesus is drawing all people to himself. All people. Even those bound up in shame. He is enough. His cross has power, even for you. Even for me.
One of the greatest joys of being a Christian is being able to release forgiveness. Seeing someone accept the forgiveness of God and apply it to their lives is incredible. To watch the release of peace that brings healing, hope and joy is a complete privilege.
So don’t put it off. Let’s pray together.
Holy Spirit, is there something I keep asking forgiveness for but never quite feel free?
I choose not to partner with shame any more. I declare that Jesus’ death and resurrection means I am forgiven and my sin, or those done to me, are completely removed by his blood.
In the name of Jesus, I bind and I banish shame over this part of myself. I receive forgiveness and peace into my heart and mind.