In Romans, we read: Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. — Romans 8:1-2
Jesus did not come to condemn the world, but to save it. In case you did not know this, the world is condemned already (John 3:17-18). In Christ, we live without condemnation because Jesus has set us free from the law that condemns us through His death on our behalf on the cross. That’s part of what we commemorate on Good Friday. He conquered condemnation through His resurrection. This is part of what we celebrate on Resurrection Sunday (Easter).
Repentance prepares our hearts for something more
Repentance is the start of our journey into the Kingdom of God. John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus in the hearts of His people by preaching repentance (Matthew 3:2). Jesus invites us to repent (Matthew 4:17) and the Apostles taught that a relationship with the risen Messiah begins with repentance (Acts 2:38). So, what is repentance? It is an honest recognition of our rebellion against our Savior King. It is a turning away from the destructive thoughts and actions we have engaged in and a turning toward Jesus for His healing and restoration. It is disavowing our loyalty to lesser things and aligning our allegiance with Jesus and His Kingdom, which is the cause of God on the earth. It is a conscious choice to agree with God about the state of our hearts and the trajectory of our lives.
Repentance without shame
Repentance allows us to recognize where we fall short of the Glory of God and change course. Accepting our frailty and brokenness is good. However, all too often the conviction that leads us to repentance spirals into condemnation. The Bible says that sin is a cruel taskmaster (Romans 6:16), but so is condemnation. Conviction is meant to lead us to freedom while condemnation just leaves us in bondage feeling horrible. So, it’s important that we know how to distinguish between conviction and condemnation.
Conviction leads to guilt. We realize we are off the path that leads to life. Condemnation leads to shame. We believe the lie that we cannot get back on the path that leads to life. Guilt says, “I did wrong.” Shame says, “I am wrong.” Guilt says, “I made a mistake.” Shame says, “I am a mistake.” Conviction reminds us of our identity as beloved, adopted daughters of the King. Condemnation deceives us into believing we are rejected by God and God is repulsed by us. Conviction says, “Get up and try again.” Condemnation says, “There is no use in trying again.” Conviction brings hope and acceptance, grace and gratitude. Condemnation keeps us hopeless and stuck, demoralized and despairing.
Repentance leads us to God’s grace
The story of Jesus’ death and resurrection invites us to honestly express our repentance within the context of our covenant relationship with God. Good Friday is an opportunity to meditate on our union with Christ rather than only on Christ’s suffering and death. Easter Sunday is an opportunity to celebrate the ways God has resurrected the dead parts of us, even as Jesus is the firstborn from the dead (Colossians 1:18). While we were still sinners, God’s grace came to us, creating a relationship with us in Christ in which honesty about our sin is welcome and safe. We confess our sin not to get God to forgive us but because God has already forgiven us in Christ! Repentance helps us remember God’s grace, and does not evoke shame or condemnation. We simply confess and turn from our sin in the context of God’s love shown to us through Jesus Christ.
My freedom from shame story
As I embrace this understanding of conviction and repentance and attempt to resist condemnation, I began to wonder, what does it feel like to be a kid in my home? Am I cultivating a culture of repentance without shame? Do my children feel safe confessing their sins, knowing that they will receive grace and empathy, counsel and encouragement? So, I asked my kids. I was met with blank stares, and the blunt answer was “no.” My initial response was to condemn myself for not doing a better job applying the Gospel in my children’s lives. Then I remembered that God is sovereign and His grace is greater than what I lack in my parenting, and He’s a better discipler of my children than I’ll ever be. So, I’ve simply made it my new aim to grow in grace and let that grace impact how I respond to the shortcomings in my children.
Whenever I find myself stuck in condemnation, I remember the father’s posture in Jesus’ prodigal son parable (Luke 15:11-31). The father is not resentful or retaliatory, harsh or bitter, but he welcomed his lost son home with open arms! In the same way, when I have wandered away (or run away!) from the path that leads to life, Jesus doesn’t want me to punish myself or wallow in self-pity or self-deprecation. He wants me to run home to Him!
Where do you need repentance without shame?
So, ladies, in what area of your life are you allowing shame to rule or sin to reign? Commit to studying the difference between conviction and condemnation. Learn how to repent without shame, knowing that Jesus wants you to repent so you can be free. Become accountable to others so that you can experience spiritual healing (James 5:16). Let us learn how to articulate the Gospel and apply it to every area of our own lives and the lives of those around us, noticing when they are trapped in shame and condemnation and sharing the Good News that Jesus can free them from that! And NEVER FORGET THIS PROMISE because it’s the truth: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9