Freedom in Christ

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I have been under shame for so long, I’m not sure I know what freedom feels like.

Let me explain.  I have not been under the bondage of a works-based theology.  I escaped that years ago.  But…my heart, my feelings, have been bound under a weight of shame.  I’ve known God’s forgiveness for a very long time, but I haven’t forgiven myself.

I have always felt the need to apologize for being me.  My whole life I have felt less than others.

Does that make sense?

Probably not.  Unless you have struggled with shame, this is probably a foreign concept to you.  But if you know what it is to see yourself as hollow, bad, unlovely…then you know what I’m talking about.  This has been my understanding for as long as I remember.

It’s necessary to know the difference between guilt and shame to fully get what I’m trying to say.  Guilt is “the developmentally mature, though painful, feeling of regret one has about behavior that has violated a personal value.”¹ We are guilty of sin.  It is good to feel that guilt, to know we’ve sinned and to seek forgiveness.  If we are in Christ we are completely forgiven. 

However, shame is not letting yourself “off the hook.”  “Shame is an inner sense of being completely diminished or insufficient as a person.  It is the self judging the self.  A moment of shame may be humiliation so painful or an indignity so profound that one feels one has been robbed of his or her dignity or exposed as basically inadequate, bad, or worthy of rejection.  A pervasive sense of shame is the ongoing premise that one is fundamentally bad, inadequate, defective, unworthy, or not fully valid as a human being.”²

That is where I was.  I’m not there anymore.  No more feelings of defectiveness.  I now get you are all as defective as ME!!  But the difference NOW…I understand God loves me too.  Not just YOU.  He loves me.  I don’t have to keep a list of rules just perfectly to stay in the love of God.  While I was a sinner, He died for me.  In my ugliness, He chose me.

So — now that I FEEL the love of God clear down to my toes — I must say, I’m feeling a bit rudderless.  I’m beginning to feel the freedom that is in Christ.  I think.  But I do NOT want to go off the deep end. 

I know I’m not in bondage to shame anymore.  I know I’m not bound by a list of rules handed to me from clergy.  I know I am in a loving relationship with the God of the Universe.  And I know God is Holy.  So…my question is…

…how free am I?

For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be subject again to the yoke of slavery.  ~Galatians 5:1

I understand this to mean, we are not bound by rules or regulations man will try to place upon us to be “right” with God.  But Paul does give a warning:

For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity to indulge your flesh, but through love serve one another.  ~Galatians 5:13

I am free to serve others.  Peter gives us the same warning, but then calls us God’s slaves:

Live as free people, not using your freedom as a pretext for evil, but as God’s slaves.*  ~1Peter 2:16

What’s up with that?  I am a slave of  God? 

Next, James tells us we will be judged, but our judgment is based upon a law of liberty:

Speak and act as those who will be judged by a law that gives freedom ~James 2:12

So, it isn’t that I am free to be me.  That’s not the point, really.  I am free.  But being ME could be wrong, I still have a sinful nature, I do still need guidance.  I still need a rudder.  I am a slave to something, just not sin anymore.

 Now you are free from sin, your old master, and you have become slaves to your new master, righteousness  ~Romans 6:18

I am a slave to righteousness…right living. But see, the kicker is, you don’t get to tell me what that looks like anymore than I get to tell you. We have a clear word that will judge us…the perfect law of liberty (that’s the scripture, people). I’m free to follow Christ as He leads me down this path. I’m free to listen to His Spirit as He guides me in the way HE would have me go.

And do you know why that’s a good thing? Have you read any of the Gospels lately? Jesus is really cool. I mean, really! He’s not going to lead me wrong.

Now you…YOU might.

But not Him!!!

……………………………………………………………………..

1.  Facing Shame: Families in Recovery,  Merle A. Fossum/Marilyn J. Mason, page 5.

2. ibid.

From the NET bible:
*Doulos is normally translated “servant,” the word does not bear the connotation of a free individual serving another….The most accurate translation is “bondservant,” in that it often indicates one who sells himself into slavery to another. But as this is archaic, few today understand its force.

Undoubtedly the background for the concept of being the Lord’s slave or servant is to be found in the Old Testament scriptures. For a Jew this concept did not connote drudgery, but honor and privilege. It was used of national Israel at times (Isa 43:10), but was especially associated with famous OT personalities, including such great men as Moses (Josh 14:7), David (Ps 89:3; cf. 2 Sam 7:5, 8 ) and Elijah (2 Kgs 10:10); all these men were “servants (or slaves) of the Lord.”

 

 

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35 responses »

  1. The beautiful thing is that we are unworthy and totally undeserving, but God who is sovereign and needs nothing chooses to save those who have rebelled, disobeyed and sinned against him. Praise the Lord that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ! 2 Corinthians 5:21 “He made him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.”

  2. I can totally relate to the feelings of shame. But when I focus on the intense love of God, when I actually for a moment am able to grasp in part how lavish this Love is towards me, my shame diminishes slightly, and I find acceptance in Him. His love overwhelms me, I cannot say that I fully understand it, but I can begin to find my worth there… As for freedom, when I get the Love, I would gladly be a slave to such pure, divine Love because there can be no wrong there. So I think you’re pretty free. In Christ:)

  3. “…as He guides me in the way HE would have me go.”

    That’s right. It’s all about God. Not what someone else says.

    Excellent post, Michelle! 😉

  4. I understand the rudderless feeling. It’s like having been so defined by the shame that the arrival of freedom removes your self image! But then we get to start redefining ourselves by going “in the way HE would have me go” – becoming an image of Him and leaving self behind. (Does that make sense?)

  5. This touches on my storm story that will be posted Jan 21st.

    To submit to God gives us the freedom to explore who he made us.

    “Continue being you after all that is who God made you”Author Known

  6. You are such a studious individual; I think that is so great!

    Thanks for your kind comment on my video. You made me smile. 🙂

  7. Welcome, Because. “Praise the Lord that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ!” Amen!! That truth is what keeps my head up. Thanks for commenting.

    “As for freedom, when I get the Love, I would gladly be a slave to such pure, divine Love because there can be no wrong there.”

    It makes such a difference, Irene. To feel the Love — Pure Divine Love — brings such amazing gratitude to the forefront. I don’t really know how to describe it. Deep devotion, maybe. But yes, I desire to bow down all the more quickly. He only desires what is best for me…and you!

    Thank you, Nor. He is the point, not us. Love you, much!

    Yes, Alan. That makes perfect sense. To have His definition of us understood, who we are in Him, helps to wash away any residual shame. You know? The list Darla had on her post of who we are in Christ…I need to keep those truths in my mind and heart. He loves us, Alan!!! So cool.

    I look forward to reading your Storm Story, Carl. It’s a great series Nor has put together. It is all about submission, isn’t it?

    Why thank you, Angie. It’s the teacher in me. Your video made me smile. I even giggled! You’re so adorable!

  8. I love your breakdown here, Michaela. “Not free to be me.” That’s so true, you know? Although I never really saw it that way. I am free to be Him … essentially. A capacity which was not at all possible under the law. Not that I’m challenging His Godhead (but I’m sure you understand that). But it is His identity I am free to emulate. Before I was bound to only repeating the mistakes of the past and following my sin nature. Now I have the complete freedom to rise above and give what I didn’t have before – Him. That’s really beautiful. I need more of this. I could still use your prayers, Michelle. I don’t know if we are under attack, or if God is leading through different valleys, but … we could use your prayers. Love you.

  9. Sweet, Michelle. I spent my life knowing I was “fundamentally flawed.” Shame was such a part of my life that separating from it, even in a small way, seemed impossible. It is interesting the way God begins to lift us up out of that pit.

    Thank you for sharing this. 🙂

  10. “not free to be me” mmmm ( thought I already commented on this but guess I just thought about it-easily distracted today)

    I am not free to be me, but I am free to be who HE intended me to be. As the creator my happiness is always in being what HE created me for. You know I am still fundamentally flawed in some peoples eyes..but in HIS eyes…looking at me through the blood of Jesus, I am free from fundamentalism, free from entanglements of sin, and free to love and adore HIM. When I find myself not free, I am holding the keys to that bondage…HE already set me free, so I am free indeed! love ya!

  11. Hey, Sparkle!!! I’ve missed you!

    I’m glad this spoke to you. I’ve been working through all of the possibilities of freedom for quite some time, not really understanding that I am. Now that I know, it moves to a whole other realm. But yeah, it really boils down to being free to be used of Him in any way He sees fit.

    I’m praying, Annie, and am available to chat whenever you want. Love you. 😉

    Hey, Heidi! I really didn’t know I wasn’t feeling His love as fully as I could, until it was pointed out to me. When the shame was explained, I was shocked at how well it defined my thinking, my wrong thinking. It really is the first marker from Phil 4:8…thinking on what is TRUE. The Truth of His love for us, His choosing us to be His, just like a groom chooses his bride. Amazing love!!!

  12. I really needed to understand that this was a stronghold for me, Darla. I wasn’t really believing all that the Word says. It was true for you, just not me. That’s what shame does. It speaks terribly defeating words into our hearts and minds. It comes from shaming systems that don’t realize what they’re doing. They think they’re helping us to see “right” when what they’re really doing is trying to get us to perform the way they see “right” to be. You know?

    I am free to be who He has made me to be…IN HIM. It’s the restored perspective from the Garden, I think. Not physically, but spiritually, in as much as we will allow His Spirit to move within us. What do you think?

    Love you, Princess! 😉

  13. Sweet, Shame has been my middle name for more of my life than I like to recall. I fully understand what you are saying. Thanking God for your freedom from that.

  14. I thought you’d understand. It’s taken me so long to get my head wrapped around it. And I learn best by writing. Thanks for being a great sounding board, Darla. 😉

  15. Crazy about you! and love your Storm Story post too! wow you are headed for some serious healing and restoration in this new year! so proud of you! Thanking God for hearing our prayers and answering them! (glad I never had to change prayer partners, I like the one I have)

  16. Hey, babe… I’ve been running slow for awhile now but have been anxious to get back here and see what you’ve been writing.

    And I open to this… talk about speaking to my heart. This is something I still fall into so easily; feeling the need to apologize for being me, falling into feeling small and of less value… shame of never being enough. Ironically it has nothing to do with being sick, having a smaller life or needing help… it’s all from way before that. I know better and work at it, but have never lost that deep inside feeling. But I’m always working on it.

    Thanks for making me look at it again.

  17. “Ironically it has nothing to do with being sick, having a smaller life or needing help… it’s all from way before that.”

    Exactly, Gitz. It’s not from what is happening at the moment, although the difficulties of now may exacerbate the feelings (which they have done in my case). With me, this sense of shame comes so early, I can’t remember ever living without it. Recognizing what it is and deliberately rethinking — cognitive therapy — has been a huge part of my moving past the shame. It’s not been an easy road. It hurt like hell. But on this side of it, I’m glad I’ve come to understand the why of it.

    The next step, the part that I feel has been the “breakthrough” is finally coming to the realization of His love for me, being greater than any I have ever experienced. And I truly have a loving husband, one who has shown me real love. But, I finally got a glimpse of His Divine Love and…wow…it is so much deeper than any human love can imitate.

    He loves us, Gitz. He loves us with an everlasting love. And He loved us before He even created us. AMAZING!!! If not for the love of God, we would not exist. He knew we were going to be unlovely and still…STILL…chose to create us…to bring us to Him. Blows my mind!!

    OK…I went off again. 😳 I guess it is my blog, I can do that!

    Love you, Gitz!!

  18. man oh man.

    i keep reading this simple statement: “I have always felt the need to apologize for being me.”

    that sums me up to a T.

  19. I understand with my head – it’s my heart that needs to learn.

    Pray for me that God will continue to teach me.

  20. I know the pain you must be feeling, Alece. It’s a feeling I wish none of us would know. But I do wonder if it is another way the Lord brings us to Him.

    I’ve never questioned being weak. I’ve always known I couldn’t do it on my own. The difference finally came with the realization, I don’t need to apologize to Him (I mean, outside of repentance of sin). I’m in Him. The whole question of my salvation has been settled, and perfection is not His expectation.

    He isn’t disappointed with me. He knows me better than I know myself. He understands my limitations and He still chose me. He cherishes me…and you. So even when I know others are disappointed, I’m not really living for them. It’s all about Him. I’ll do what He asks of me and let all the other voices fade into the background…until they finally disappear.

    Oh, Burton! If you could let it seep down into your heart, so much pain would be gone. Honestly, Burt, I have not apologized (unnecessarily) for three weeks! Do you know how remarkable that is? Well yes, you probably do. Better than anyone else reading…we do come from the same place…you and I. Love you, brother!!

    I am too, Alex. The ability to breathe has been refreshing.

  21. Hi Michelle!
    It was quite a Christmas for me. I was able to release some shame that I was carrying around during a converation with my dad. I hope this will heal how I see God. It’s a process I know. Sometimes I tend to want to rush it to feel less pain. For me this year I think I will need to not run from pain to truly live and be happy. So thank you for praying. It meant a lot to me seeing those words and that you were thinking of me.
    Much Love,
    Tracie

  22. I hope it will bring healing for you too, Tracie. Those conversations can be so difficult, but if it reaps a peaceful fruit within, it’s good. I’ve been wondering about you. Hoping all is well. More healing, less pain…true happiness…those are good things to hope for in the coming year.

    Don’t stay a stranger. Love you, too!

  23. good early morning Michelle! back to work for me today…but I will be checking for you later. Love and prayers

  24. i havent read through all the comments…sorry, so i may be repeating something here.

    “I am free. But being ME could be wrong, I still have a sinful nature, I do still need guidance. ”

    this really stuck out to me. i didnt expect to read…”But being ME could be wrong,”. thats huge! people dont see that. and you identified that and nailed it.

    would you just hurry up and gather all these posts, amazing posts, together and publish a devotional.

    k. thanks.

  25. I keep coming back and re-reading this one post. I think I keep trying to convince myself of that which I know is truth actually applies to me as well.

  26. Wow, Tam. Thanks. I’m not sure how I missed this but thanks for your kind words.

    Hey, Ric. I understand what you’re saying. I’m just beginning to get it…I’m praying you will too. 😉

  27. this part really stuck out for me- ….you don’t get to tell me what that looks like anymore than I get to tell you.

    I was sitting in a bible study and brought up something that Joy had said on “The View”. Someone in the group said to me that I shouldn’t watch that show. hmm. really? Somehow that didn’t sit well with me. I think we all often feel the need to be each other’s holy spirit. Sad. Can we not sit back and let God handle whatever it is? I don’t get it. Just don’t get it. Anyway… thanks so much for this post!!! Amen.

  28. Hello, April…and welcome. Yes, m’am. Just like your example: we “should” all over people. It’s not pretty and not at all the example we were given in Christ. Amen…the Holy Spirit is perfectly able to speak…and He does. Like a mighty wind when necessary, and a still small voice when gentleness is best. He reads us perfectly and knows exactly how to meet us in the moment.

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I appreciate it.

  29. there you go again, Michelle, writing from your life experiences, and blessing us here in cyber-land right to our toes! What an outstanding post on our freedom in Christ! YES! And… I must agree with another of your readers — that it would be lovely, indeed, for you to “step on it” (well, the other reader was much nicer, and simply suggested you “hurry”;-)) & get all of these great posts together in print (no small undertaking). But having them all in one place would be a great resource… I can easily imagine such a book would be well used and widely recommended by many who serve in “front-line” ministries to countless JESUS-followers seeking to dig out from under a lifetime of shame. Have you already got your chapter headings together, I wonder?

  30. I wish I knew how to begin such an endeavor, Grace. The whole concept of a book completely confounds me. Nevertheless, I do thank you for your kind words…they made me smile.

  31. Not just “kind words”, but t-r-u-t-h! (Flattery’s a sin…) “Speaking the truth in love” (back to that grace-and-truth thing) is my goal — though I know I fall terribly short. nevertheless, I want to encourage you, “prod” you (doesn’t it say something about “spur one another on to love and good deeds” there in Hebrews 10-ish?) to imagine how God might want to use you, far beyond even the “outer edges” of this blog [“the known universe”]! At least, would you please tuck this thought away — but not too far away? (Scripture says that “Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart…” She was a pondering kinda gal, and… I have a hunch that you may be, too. She was pondering the very private words of the angel, and not the highly-visible words of some invisible person writing visionary words on a cyber site.) Faith is “seeing” (not in a hallucinatory fashion;-)) stuff that others can’t see (for whatever reason)…

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