But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” –Genesis 3:9-10
The tragedy of the human condition is our tendency to run away from God rather than sprint towards Him. When we hide from God, we lose intimacy with God, and when we lose intimacy with God, we lose ourselves.
Guilt, shame, and fear are three unholy things that prevent us from experiencing a healthy relationship with God. The Good News is that God does not want us to live in guilt, fear, or shame, but wants to cover us with His grace.
Guilt is feeling remorse over a past misdeed. Whenever we do something we should not have done and whenever we fail to do something we should have done, we become scarred with guilt. The reality is we are all guilty of sin. To believe otherwise is to lie to ourselves. As a pastor, my intention is not to impose guilt on people, but to help people realize the guilt that has already stained their souls.
What are we doing with our guilt? Are we hiding our sin from God or acknowledging what God already knows about us? Are we confessing our sin or pretending that it does not exist?
The Good News is that Jesus Christ is our guilt offering. In Jesus Christ, there is forgiveness! Our past is redeemed, our future is secured! We do not need to live in guilt but can live in the freedom that Jesus Christ brings to all who trust in Him. Jesus Christ is our savior, our redeemer, and friend, who washes away our guilt.
Shame is the painful feeling of humiliation in the present; it means that you are not happy with who you are or how you are perceived by others. Shame can come from evils by which we were victimized. It can also be caused by something evil we have done ourselves. While it comes in many forms and sources, shame indicates that we are not comfortable in our own skin.
The question is what are we doing with shame? Are we hiding our own nakedness before God or are we asking God to cover us with His righteousness?
The Good News is that the Holy Spirit is with us and gives us our true identity. Because of Jesus Christ’s death, burial, resurrection, and ascension, we have access to God the Holy Spirit. All we need to do is pray and ask God our Heavenly Father for the Holy Spirit’s help. The Holy Spirit is our guide who can give us peace, joy, love, and self-control. The Holy Spirit can make us comfortable in our own skin and transform us into who we are meant to be.
Fear is feeling dread about the future. We get overwhelmed with a future outcome that may or may not happen. Fear can prevent us from doing the right thing. When we become afraid, we can enter into flight mode and run away from our problems, or we can enter into fight mode, and overreact, doing something irrational. Sometimes fear can produce a third reaction, the freeze mode, in which we are paralyzed. Fear holds us hostage and makes us anxious.
What are we doing with our fears? When fear creeps up, do we enter into fight, flight, or freeze mode? Or do we enter into faith mode, trusting that God will be with us to help us overcome our fears?
The Good News is we have a loving Heavenly Father who reminds His children to not be afraid. In fact, “fear not” is the number one command throughout the entire Bible. It is a command that is almost always followed by a sentiment of “I am with you.” Even when confronted with death itself, we have no reasons to fear. As our Risen King says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Take heart, church! Fear not! God loves you!
Guilt, shame, and fear are enemies opposed to the love of God. Instead of hiding our guilt, shame, and fears from God, we need to process them and renounce them. We need to hand them over to God. We need to be honest with our Heavenly Father rather than hide from Him. We need to run towards Jesus Christ rather than run away from Him. We need to trust the Holy Spirit rather than doubt the unchanging love He shares with all his children.