Saturday, August 17, 2013

Guilt, Shame, Regret…and Grace Part Five

Guilt, Shame, Regret…and Grace
Part Five
Bob Rakestraw
August 5, 2013
“The Benediction Project”
(This is the fifth and final entry in a series on guilt, shame, regret and grace. The series began April 1, 2013)
Someone has wisely said, “Speak kindly to everyone you meet, for each one is probably carrying a heavy load.”
The more we move along on this journey of life the more we see the wisdom and truth in this saying. A heavy load is a burden—something difficult to carry. Whether we think of our own life or the lives of those we know well, we have all experienced and/or seen this matter of burdens. We understand burdens not only as a concept or idea; we understand them personally.
Some people carry more than one burden and some burdens are heavier than others, but we almost all (perhaps all) carry some weight around with us. I am thinking primarily of adults, but unfortunately, large numbers of teenagers and children are weighed down as well. Furthermore, I am thinking here not of burdens as physical weights, even though the material aspects of life can surely be burdensome. I am referring instead to the mental, emotional, psychological, social and/or spiritual concerns that tend to weigh on our minds, pull down on our spirits and keep us from a positive and kind attitude to others.
When two people meet or do business together, which frequently happens several times a day, each one (usually) tries to be as cordial as possible to the other. This is a good thing, and is not the same as being phony. It helps to lighten and brighten the atmosphere where we are, and makes life a little bit easier for everyone. Yet the burdens stay with us, even though they may be hidden.
Many of the burdens people carry have to do with guilt, shame or regret, or perhaps two or all three of these. In the previous postings in this series I have tried not only to explain each issue, but also to point out God’s remedy for each of these burdens. With each one, God’s remedy can be summed up in the word “grace”—the most important word in the Bible except for the names of God. (This is my personal opinion, but I believe a great many Bible-believing theologians and students of scripture would agree.)
Definitions and discussions of God’s grace usually focus on his free, unmerited favor toward us because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ on the cross. Because Christ the sinless one died willingly for us in our place, and took upon himself the burden and guilt of our sin, the Father welcomes and forgives all who come to him in repentance and faith. If we have trusted Christ as our Savior and Lord, our guilt, shame, regret and the ugliness of all our sin is now forgiven—forever. God remembers it against us no more!

The above concept of grace is totally biblical and truly liberating. It is the answer—above all other answers—for the billions of people on earth who are trying to get free from their burdens and the sufferings of this life by man-made religious systems and rituals.

However, the truth of grace as God’s “unmerited favor” is only part of the biblical teaching on grace. There is another huge aspect of grace that is so closely entwined with the nature of grace as favor that neither can properly be considered without the other. This second aspect of grace is the power or energy of God on our behalf.

Our thinking of grace as favor and grace as power offers us two perspectives—two vantage points—from which to “see” into the one deeply loving heart of God. While our vision and comprehension of God will always be incomplete, because he is infinite and we are finite, God has revealed much to us in his written word about his heart of grace.

As we read the following scriptures (all from the NIV 2011) we may be inclined to think of grace as a “substance,” especially when the text is focusing on grace as power. I have done that at times as I have tried to grasp this truly amazing and mysterious concept. Yet grace is not something tangible. It is not a substance or a thing. It is rather, the very presence of God himself living and flowing within us and allowing us to experience his face shining upon us, his mercy consoling us and his power strengthening us for each task and situation we face.

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).” The scripture writer refers to the merciful, favorable nature of God’s grace, but then puts a special emphasis on grace as the power within us to accomplish what we need. It is good to see someone’s smiling face directed toward us and to sense their merciful spirit, but without the actual strength at work on our behalf the person’s favorable attitude is not very helpful. The same writer of Hebrews adds later, “It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace… (13:9).

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me” (I Corinthians 15:10). John Wesley wrote that when the word grace is used in the Bible with the idea of power or energy, we can just as easily read the “Holy Spirit” in its place.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

“And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them” (Acts 4:33).

“But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says, ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble’” (James 4:6). This reminds me of a wonderful old hymn that includes the words, “He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater.”

To close this five-part series, I leave you with some remarkable words from the apostle Peter. Whether our burden pertains to guilt, shame, regret or some other matter that weighs heavily upon us, hear these words from “the God of all grace.”

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen” (I Peter 5:10-11).

1 comment:

anoush said...

I have a guilt. I have done something wrong with my friend unintentionally lets see i hope he will forgive me someday