Nausea overwhelmed me last night and into the early morning, making it hard to get out of bed. While that opening might generate suspicion that I was hung over from a wild night of revelry, I confess it was just the result of a large meal at Black Bear Diner. I did not regret consuming the awesome tasty indulgence, but when my alarm went off this morning, my whole body started scolding me.
When we do stupid things, typically the inevitable shame doesn’t set in until afterward. Adam is the poster boy of shame in the Bible, relenting and eating the fruit, then, realizing his nakedness, hiding himself. Good thing God created foliage.
Our reaction is similar — we like to hide or cover up the mess we made, especially if the mess is ourselves.
How are we supposed to respond? The typical knee-jerk advice sounds like this: “You’re forgiven because Jesus died for you, but quit screwing around!” Or probably something similar. This doesn’t help on a day-to-day basis, because, although we recognize forgiveness, it means we have to start trying harder. But haven’t we already done this?
Hebrews 13 contains a good pile of instruction for us — it’s kind of a mixed bag — but it also addresses Jesus’ character and role, which could be the kind of reminder of who He really is. And it’s not so bad, so buck up.
Verse 8 is the golden ticket — check it out:
Jesus was the same yesterday (v. 8): Jesus’ love for you didn’t drop off or diminish after becoming born again. It has persisted the entire time.
Jesus is the same today (v. 8): He acknowledges your struggles, temperament, and defeats. While that might encourage further shame (which, in the case of conviction, should in some way), it’s nice to know that He understands what we’re going through currently.
Jesus will be the same forever (v. 8): We have an everlasting hope in Christ, that He will remain, even when everything else fades.
Now that we have this refreshing knowledge of who Jesus is in relation to our condition, it’s time to be proactive. Here are three simple things we can do:
1) Wear His shame. (v. 13) Strip a guy naked and whip him numerous times, smash a bunch of thorns into his head and post him up on some lumber to die, and yeah, he’s going to be pretty vulnerable. The shame Jesus endured does not compare to any that we will encounter. Remembering this is helpful when we’re having a big pity party; we’re commanded to identify with it, in fact.
2) Receive His grace. (v. 9) Preceding this very popular and helpful notion is to avoid “various and strange doctrines,” which means we should be careful and check out things for ourselves. I hope you read the verses whenever I post these — I could be making all this stuff up. Once we have a right head about the heart of God, let Him overtake your heart as well so you know how deep His love really is, and how far forgiveness goes. And we should never receive grace as a bailout plan, or worse, a loan. It’s more like a college grant — it’s designed to better yourself, not used to booze it up at the frat.
3) Become complete. (v. 21) So you know you’re off the hook, which is crazy because you’ve blown it 3472 times already. You can go for 3473, or you can heed what the Bible says and become “complete,” which alludes to being perfect, but don’t get bummed out. The longer you saturate yourself with the character of Christ, the more like Him you will become. You’ll want to do what He says — it won’t be this military thing where you have to force yourself to quit it. It’ll just happen.
This doesn’t mean you’re never going to sin again — I’d be lying if I wrote this and expected all Christians worldwide to finally achieve the pinnacle of good behavior and keep at it for the remainder of their lives on earth. As long as we remain humans, it’s actually impossible. But maybe today is the day you truly know what forgiveness and love look like, and you’ll take a small step toward being more like Jesus. I mean, I’m probably going to hit up Black Bear again someday, but maybe next time I’ll remember how I felt this morning and pace myself.