Fri May 1st, 2020
Can you imagine what it will be like in a couple of decades? People will be sat reminiscing by their fires and saying “I lived through the great lockdown you know…” Sadly, some people are not living through it and also others are being damaged by it or by the behaviours that are brought out of some people. They say that domestic violence is on the rise and I am already hearing stories of relationships failing under lockdown. All of these negative aspects of lockdown are terribly sad, and it should remind us to be there by phone for friends and colleagues who might need someone to open up to.
There is nothing wrong with ringing people up and asking them how they are and repeating the question until they answer. We must also remember the awesome power of prayer!
Relationships can be difficult when times are good but right now we sometimes take out our own frustrations on the ones we love most, this is a time to learn self-control and also to learn to talk about problems before they become acute.
The Bible tells us about a God who wanted a strong relationship with people so much that he created them and put them in a perfect home environment and talked to them each day. All was well in the garden, until deception came in. Our forefathers believed a series of lies that God was keeping something from them and couldn’t be trusted, in doing so they broke the one rule that God had made for them and when it was time for their regular stroll with God in the garden, It was obvious that something was wrong.
Their lack of trust in God and their response to their own lust and desire broke their relationship with God. It might have been resolved straight away, but instead they started with a “cover-up” operation and tried to pretend that nothing was wrong. They had discovered shame – and it had been let loose like a wild animal in their house and left them devastated. They ended up leaving the perfect home and God started a plan to repair the missing relationship.
Because God is not “controlling” and doesn’t force himself on anyone, it took time for God to “line up his ducks” and implement his great plan to restore relationship, but this is where the sacrifice of Jesus came in. Jesus died to provide a way back – he offers us forgiveness for our failures (sin) and offers us right standing with the Father.
We have travelled a long road as a species…from knowing God intimately and then being deceived, led into sin and shame to the point where often we no longer recognise the genuinely great offer that God is making to us in Jesus, or indeed just how much we need him.
Just as “cheating” breaks up so many relationships so it is with God - we put almost anything ahead of him in our lives and push him to the side-lines, then when we put pleasure before commitment we find we have no interest in Him anymore.
Shame is such an issue in our society that thousands of people have counselling or therapy each week because of it, and our cultures favourite way of dealing with it is to deny that any wrong has taken place or to blame someone else for our failures. Whereas I am aware of so many people who take on the guilt and shame of others because they were abused by someone in a position of power over them and struggle with that heritage, we should reach out to these people and welcome them with Christian love and be a listening ear for them, praying for their healing. However, for most of us we feel shame because of their own mistakes – it is ourselves that I am referring to.
Shame is like a burn – we feel the pain of it to quickly move away from fire – to help us learn to not expose ourselves to that which hurts us again. Shame is very real, and we shouldn’t try to deny its existence but rather the way forward to deal with shame in our lives is to start with an admission of guilt. By recognising where we have failed we make a start on the road to forgiveness. The bible says that
If we say, "We have no sin," we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say, "We have not sinned," we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. My little children, I am writing you these things so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ the righteous One. He Himself is the propitiation (atoning sacrifice) for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world. 1 John 1:8-2:2
So confession is the pathway to forgiveness – not confession to another human being, although in some circumstances that might help (confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed - James 5:16) - but confessing to God!
God’s response to our confession is to forgive and cleanse us! Have you ever felt yourself to be made dirty after your own behaviour? Then you have felt nothing until you have felt God’s cleansing!
The next step is repentance. In a sense this may happen at the same time as confession, but it is a necessary step.
"Therefore, having overlooked the times of ignorance, God now commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has set a day on which He is going to judge the world in righteousness by the Man He has appointed. He has provided proof of this to everyone by raising Him from the dead." Acts 17:30-31
Repentance is simply the act of turning around and walking away from your sin and walking to the arms of Jesus. To put it in a simple way, repentance for being an angry drunk starts with confession and continues with pouring your booze down the sink and not buying anymore. Confession and repentance frees us up from judgement!
The way to recover from shame is to receive cleansing from Jesus! There may be times that the enemy of our souls assaults us with memories of our sin, but we are told to resist the devil and he will flee from you (James 4:7) When we have entered into peace with God and been reconciled to him, then we need not feel any shame – we are free people – and we can enjoy being in his presence.
When we are “in Christ”, then we have renewed relationship with God – righteousness is not a word that described moral perfection but one that simply means “to have right standing with God” – so when Jesus gives us His righteousness, He is not making us a goody-goody, but rather giving us access to the Godhead. That access is in reality the greatest of all gifts – we are forgiven, we are welcome and we enter into a new commitment of faithfulness – no cheating with the world, but committed, faithful love to God.
There are lots of stories of people coming to Christ in this season of lockdown. Our own Sunday services online are attracting 4 times the number that we would normally have. What matter si that you take this opportunity to make your relationship with God right – actually God has already doen everything that is necessary for that, except you have to confess and repent – these are the things that have to come from your own free will. God doesn’t force himself on anyone – he is looking for those who will freely choose to follow him. Make sure you make the most of the opportunity!
Why not pray this whilst you are alone – God will hear you!
Father God, I confess that I have failed you and bring my shame before you. I ask you to forgive me and heal me of my shame. [It’s OK to say anything extra to God that you want to….take the opportunity to have a heart to heart!]
I am sorry that I haven’t done anything about relationship building with you but I want to make a start now. Lord Jesus, I invite you into my life – I want to make a go of this, and I want to please you going forward.
Thank you for answering my prayer
Now why not contact us and let us know that you have decided to follow Jesus at firstname.lastname@example.org