“Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2 ESV

Guilt and shame—both awful things—are often lumped together. Although they feed off of each other, they are very different. Guilt convicts me by drawing attention to my actions: “I have done bad things.” Like a punch below the belt, Shame hits deeper, attacking our identity. Shame convinces me that “I am bad.” In my guilt, at least I can separate who I am from what I have done. In shame, that is not possible.

This past week, I read a chapter on faith in Tozer’s book “The Pursuit of God.” Defining faith from a purely practical perspective, he writes that faith is the “gaze of the soul upon a saving God.” Faith and shame both involve looking. Shame looks at one’s self whereas faith looks into the face of a saving God.

Robert Murray McCheyne, a Scottish pastor who died at the young age of 30, left us with this encouragement: “For every look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ.” Would that be my story! My shame is so strong that it feels like second nature. The messages I believe are so engrained that I feel as if they are a part of me. My shame tells me “You’re not worth it.” “You’re not enough.”

Shame is self-directed, centered on me. Faith is the gaze upward. Faith turns shame messages into questions directed at God: “Am I worth it? Am I enough? Am I love for who I am?” God answers these questions in a profoundly personal way through the gospel. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 ESV). “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1 ESV). When I read these passage, I hear God saying: “I sent Jesus while you were still a sinner to prove to you that when you are at your worst, I still love you. You are my child, I love you.”

The writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame” (Hebrews 12:2 ESV) Crucified individuals were not only “guilty” (they had done bad things) but they were looked upon with shame (they were bad people). Deuteronomy 21:22–23 and Galatians 3:10–14 state:“Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.”

When Jesus endured the shame of the cross, he shined the bright light of his love through the gospel into the darkest recesses of our lives where shame not only lives, but thrives. Shame can’t survive in the light. It needs the darkness. I have this intense fear that cause me to hide in shame from God. This is the first thing that Adam and Eve did in the Garden as well. Ashamed, I hide from God, hoping he won’t see me for who I really am. I listen to the voice that says “God doesn’t love you because you are not enough.” But God, through Christ, exposes this lie with the light of the gospel. The true message we actually hear from God is “we are more wicked than we ever dared believe but more loved and accepted in Christ than we ever dared hope” (Keller, Galatians for You, 10). Is it a wonder why this is called “good news?”

Recently, God has allowed me opportunities to share my shame with other men. Briefly for a time in Georgia, for two years in Sherwood, AR, and now with a group of men in Spring Hill, TN, God has surrounded me with a “cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1). When my faith is weak and my gaze upon a saving God drops to a gaze upon myself, I have a group of men who walk alongside of me, reminding me of the truth of the gospel. They reflect the light of Christ into my life, and I am so grateful for them. God speaks to us through His Word, but he often reminds us of his Word through other people.

Sharing our shame with God and others brings light to the darkness. Shedding light on our shame provides opportunity to live in the freedom of Christ rather than the bondage of our the lies that are whispered deep in our souls.

Jesus, I Come

Out of my bondage, sorrow and night,
Jesus, I come; Jesus I come.
Into Thy freedom, gladness and light,
Jesus, I come to Thee.
Out of my sickness into Thy health, 
Out of my wanting and into Thy wealth, 
Out of my sin and into Thyself, 
Jesus, I come to Thee.

Out of my shameful failure and loss, 
Jesus, I come; Jesus, I come. 
Into the glorious gain of Thy cross, 
Jesus, I come to Thee. 
Out of earths sorrows into Thy balm, 
Out of lifes storms and into Thy calm, 
Out of distress into jubilant psalm, 
Jesus, I come to Thee.

Out of unrest and arrogant pride, 
Jesus, I come; Jesus, I come. 
Into Thy blessed will to abide, 
Jesus, I come to Thee. 
Out of myself to dwell in Thy love, 
Out of despair into raptures above, 
Upward forever on wings like a dove, 
Jesus, I come to Thee.

Out of the fear and dread of the tomb, 
Jesus, I come; Jesus, I come. 
Into the joy and light of Thy home, 
Jesus, I come to Thee. 
Out of the depths of ruin untold, 
Into the peace of Thy sheltering fold, 
Ever Thy glorious face to behold, 
Jesus, I come to Thee.

© 2000 Greg Thompson Music.