FORGET NONE OF HIS BENEFITS
volume 13, number 37, September 11, 2014
Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel, Zechariah 3:3.
An estimated one in four women, and one in six men were sexually assaulted before the age of eighteen. Perhaps you were sexually molested as a child. If so, then the chances are pretty good that you battle with a deep sense of shame. If this is you, or if you know people who are victims of this wretched ordeal, then dealing with it is problematic. No one can live with shame for long. People attempt to rid themselves of it some way or another. Those who have engaged in great sin, for example, often convince themselves that God does not exist. After all, if there is no God, then there is no law; and if there is no law then there is no judgment; and if there is no judgment there is no hell; and if there no hell then there is no need for a Savior. Living without God or a sense of eternity will bring hopelessness sooner or later. Others seek to live moral lives and reach significant goals in the business world or in their family. Those victimized by the shame of sexual exploitation often live with a sense of self-loathing.
Perhaps you grew up in the church and walked with Christ for many years, but then found yourself engaged in adultery, fornication, or pornography and you have walked away from the Lord. You no longer call yourself a Christian. I bet you know people who fit this description as well. It may be that you now question the authority of Scripture, that you no longer believe you are a child of God, that you doubt God’s existence and you cannot imagine that He is interested in you or will again work in your life as He once did. You remember the times you led people to Christ, how you delighted in public worship, Bible Study and prayer. You so enjoyed Christian fellowship, but these things are long gone in your life. You just are not there any longer.
Shame is rampant in any culture. These scenarios are severe cases of it, but shame comes in a plethora of forms. I remember a friend in high school making a speech in front of the entire student body and she completely forgot her speech and stood silently before hundreds of her peers, ashamed and embarrassed.
How can we overcome shame? Marcus Warner, in his book Understanding the Wounded Heart, speaks of WLVS and how utterly devastating this can be to people. W stands for wounds. Perhaps you were sexually, physically, or verbally abused; or you were violated by your participation in a cult and you were emotionally wounded by such things. Martyn Lloyd-Jones reminds us that we are not merely a physical body. We also have a soul and we have emotions and a psyche which all work together to make us who we are. So deep trauma, as noted above, can have profound and debilitating effects on people, robbing them of their sleep, their ability to think or speak coherently, and rob them of proper emotions. When an occasion, like a funeral of a child, ought to elicit sadness, the parent, pastor, or friend may maintain a perpetual smile. Or he may never or rarely cry about anything. Or perhaps it is the opposite and he cries incessantly, in every situation. L stands for lies. The person begins to listen to the lies of the great accuser of the brethren, the serpent of old, who is called the devil and Satan (Revelation 12:10, 20:2). The lies may go like this, “I am worthless. I am damaged goods. God does not exist. God has rejected me. There is no hope for me. God could not possibly love me again.” If we keep telling ourselves lies then we sooner or later begin to believe them. The V stands for vows. “I vow to kill my brother who violated me. I will get him back if it is the last thing I do . . . I will never allow another man to touch me . . . I will never attempt another speech in my life . . . After what my husband did in humiliating me by going after that other woman, I can never trust another man . . .” And the S stands for Satanic strong holds. The Puritan Richard Baxter, in his monumental A Christian Directory, devotes numerous pages of small print on how the devil tempts us to sin and degradation. The devil comes at us through the eye gate. Eve saw the fruit and desired it (Genesis 3:6). Achan saw the things on the ban, desired them, and took them (Joshua 7:21). David saw Bathsheba bathing and desired her and lay with her (2 Samuel11:2-4). With the issue of shame the devil comes at us a bit differently. He begins to work through the imaginations. He begins to gain a strong hold in various areas of one’s life. This is Baxter’s second observation. “The sinfulness of the memory is in its retentiveness of evil, or things hurtful or prohibited . . . The affections or passions . . . are habitually prone to the carnal or fleshly.” The mind begins to play back vile wicked things done to us, or things we have done, or things we are contemplating doing, fueled by the eye gate. This leads to the passions being aroused-bitterness, wrath, anger, lust, and hatred, just to name a few illicit passions. As one continues to allow his passions to be inflamed to evil and licentiousness, the will is then affected. Man is ready now to act upon what he sees, imagines, and feels. Then his mind convinces himself that his proposed action is perfectly acceptable. “I am justified in hating that person or killing him . . . I am totally worthless and unredeemable . . .”
So how can you overcome shame? There is only one way, my friends. Regardless of what religions or psychologists say, there is only one way to get rid of shame and that is through the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. After the exile, after Yahweh had brought his people back into Israel, they continued to live with a deep sense of sin, guilt, and shame because of their idolatry and consequent judgment of God upon them. Judah was a mere shell of what she had once been. God used the prophet Zechariah to renew the hope of His covenant people by declaring to them a better day. “The Lord will possess Judah as His portion in the holy land, and will again choose Jerusalem,” (Zechariah 2:12). “I am going to bring My servant the Branch,” (Zechariah 3:8). “Behold I am going to save My people from the land of the east . . .” (Zechariah 8:7). “I will pour out on the house of David . . . the spirit of grace and supplication so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced,” (Zechariah 12:10). All of these prophecies are looking to the incarnation of the Son of God, the Lord Jesus. In Zechariah 3 the prophet has a vision of Joshua the High Priest being accused by Satan. Joshua is in the temple and ought to be clothed in pure white linen. Instead he is covered in the filth of excrement. Yahweh symbolically takes away the filthy garment and clothes him with white garments. His shame was taken away. This clearly points to our blessed, Lord Jesus Christ, the pure and undefiled Son of God, who took the filth, guilt, and shame of your excrement past upon Himself, dying in your place on the cross of Calvary.
If you are in Christ Jesus, then reckon this to be so. Dwell on it. Glory in it. Tell yourself daily that the shame of your nakedness has been removed by the white garment of Christ’s righteousness imputed to you when you repented and believed the gospel. No other religion can deliver on this score. Nor can any psychotherapist. The truth of the gospel of grace must penetrate deeply into the mind, heart, passions, and will. This may take a while, but stay at it. Glory in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, the One who took away your sin in a single day (Zechariah 3:9).
1. The Children’s Assessment Center
2. Lloyd-Jones masterfully addresses this issue in his 1974 Rendle Short Memorial Lecture in The Best of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, pages 51-84, compiled by Christopher Catherwood, Baker Books.
3. The Practical Works of Richard Baxter, Volume One, pages 80, 93. Published by Soli Deo Gloria Publications.