Breaking The Chains of Performance, Pride, and Shame
From the earliest stage of life, we experience the unfairness of harsh reality, the cruelty of others, and our own sinfulness. The kid who takes our lunch and gets away with it. The stupid mistakes we make and get ourselves in trouble. The friend or relative who crushes our spirit and breaks our heart. As we experience suffering and hardship — either self-induced or forced upon us — we can become jaded, disillusioned, and broken down. We all mess things up or have something done to us that makes us despise ourselves. Then the unthinkable happens. One day, we look in the mirror and no longer see reality. We only see the ugly residue, blemishes, and scars left by life’s unfairness. Life has become so overwhelming, we now only see the bad. Good doesn’t even seem to exist anymore. And if it does, we don’t believe we will ever find it again. So we become caught. Ensnared. Enslaved to regret, pain, and shame… seeing only ourselves and everything wrong with us and life. Eventually, our slavery erases our memory of what it feels like to be free, whole, and joyful. We even think we deserve to be enslaved. Even worse, we believe no one would possibly want to love us enough to set us free. And if we were free it would feel so foreign and so uncomfortable, that we might run back to our chains. In this sinful world, living in freedom doesn’t come naturally.
Even Christians sometimes choose to go back to their chains. It has been said that the Gospel is simple to understand but difficult to accept. That’s because each of us is born with a deep attachment to ourselves and this brief life we have on earth. This will be hard to hear and accept for most of us, but if we return to the slavery of our sin or continue to walk under a cloud of shame, it is because we are being self-centered. Usually, when someone is down on themselves, it appears to everyone around them that they are being humble. Many people believe if they despise themselves or punish themselves then they are committing an act of humility or even penance. They falsely believe that God would want them to feel worthless in order to pay for their wretchedness. One of Satan’s most effective and insidious lies of all time is that self-loathing is synonymous with humility and is necessary for forgiveness and restoration. When in fact, God’s hard truth is that even the most despicable, horrible person on the planet — even a murderer or child molester — is worth more than a mountain of diamonds or a palace made of gold. Even the worst among us was worth the torture and killing of the perfect, spotless Lamb of God — His only Son. And even long-term Christians forget how earth-shattering and soul-shaking that news is. This truth does two things: (1) it truly humbles every human since the dawn of time and until the end of the world, and (2) makes every believer in Jesus priceless, flawless, and utterly desirable to a perfect, pure, just, compassionate, and magnificently powerful God. No sin, no distortion, and no weakness can change God’s love for you. Therefore, any son or daughter of the King who continues to believe that he or she is not good enough to be loved, adored, and blessed is chained, or yoked, to self-induced slavery. While we have trouble seeing our slavery for what it really is, the Holy Spirit is whispering to us to let it go and believe that His sacrifice is enough. No matter what we’ve done or will do… no matter how bad we might still be… grace and freedom are offered to us in a fresh outpouring on a daily basis. As hard as it is to understand or believe, God simply doesn’t need our effort, participation, or self-punishment to make us free and flawless, forever forgiven and made royal — the son or daughter of the King of kings. He just requires our surrender. Letting go of our own self-worth for His endless value. Astoundingly, the Gospel offers the perfection of Jesus in exchange for our belief.
In his mini-book The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, Tim Keller says, “The thing we would remember from meeting a truly gospel-humble person is how much they seemed to be totally interested in us. Because the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less.” As hard to believe as it sounds, a gospel-humble person, in other words, someone who is living free under the grace and covering of Jesus, doesn’t assume or even wonder what other people think of him or her. Anyone — and the Bible really means anyone — surrendered to Jesus and willing to be taught by the Holy Spirit can learn how to live in freedom over time.
Today, right now, if you are living with chains around your life, take a step of faith and say out loud: “I have a choice to be in these chains. I am free to be flawless, desired, and loved by the only One who truly matters. And because of the royal blood that was shed, I can live cleansed, covered, and viewed with eyes of grace. There’s nothing I can do — good or bad — that can separate me from my royal birthright and the love of the King. Because of that, I can work, play, wait, suffer, eat, cry, laugh, interact, behave, and live under the mercy of God. No matter what others think of me or how they perceive me. No matter what trials and suffering come my way. No matter how I screw up, I cannot change or diminish the love of my Father or do anything that He cannot fix, comfort, sustain or overcome. Everything I do can be redeemed and used for His glory if I allow the Holy Spirit to work in my life, leading me to repentance as needed, and teaching me how to be more like Jesus. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
Scripture Meditations for this week:
Want to grow more? Check out the additional resources below:
- The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness: The Path to True Christian Joy, by Timothy Keller (It’s only $2.00!)
- Breaking Free: Discover the Victory of Total Surrender, by Beth Moore
- Shame Interrupted: How God Lifts the Pain of Worthlessness and Rejection, by Edward T. Welch, MDiv, PhD
- “Breaking the Power of Shame”, by Jon Bloom of the Desiring God blog
- Freedom in Jesus Playlist on Spotify