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April 16, 2023

Just Take the Next Step: Week 5

Freedom From Shame + Guilt

Just Take The Next Step | Week 5

I want to make sure that I don't paint with too broad of a stroke here, but I’ve found in life — this is just me and my experience — that there are two groups of people. There are obviously people in the middle, but there are two large groups of people. Animal lovers and non-animal lovers. Do you know what I'm talking about? Then in the section of animal lovers — and again, there are always the in-between — there are dog people and cat people. Amen? Yeah. And I don't want anybody fighting because we live in a divisive world. So, let's not get into that right now. Okay? Dogs and cats. Here we go.

“Local church has outbreak over dogs and cats.”

No. So, Mindy and I tend to be more on the dog side than the cat side. No, no, no. Don't clap. “Meow.” Stop. Stop.

Okay. We have two dogs, and they're the same breed. They're a cockapoo, so they're a mixture of a cocker spaniel and a poodle. I'm going somewhere. Some of you are like, “Chip never does this.”

Just follow me here. I’m going somewhere. We're going to get to the text beautifully, I'm telling you. We’re going to get there. Okay? So, because they have poodle in them, they have some pretty good intelligence. I mean, they're pretty smart dogs. The problem is that they're a smaller dog, and because they're a smaller dog — and again, I'm not saying this is the case, but it’s just my experience. It seems like a lot of the smaller dogs like to bark a lot. My dogs like to bark at imaginary things. I mean, it's like, “What are you doing? Stop.”

But what that does is it creates a little bit of an issue if somebody comes over to the house to, say, work on the dishwasher or something. They want to bark. So, they have to go to the crate. Now, they're smart because as soon as I say, “It's time to go to the crate,” everything in their world stops, and they go into slow motion. They slouch down. Choco is the smarter one. He likes to just have you look somewhere else while he just moves away into another room. You know? So, you have to get them up there. The crate is upstairs. You get them in the crate, they go in there, and you would think they were prisoners of war. I mean, they’re just like — anyway, then you go do your thing. When you come back up the stairs, they know that it is freedom time. When you come to the crate, I mean, their tails are wagging. I mean, they cannot wait. As soon as you open that crate, I mean, they go blasting out, down the stairs, and all that.

So, I said all that for this reason: So many of us — and we know this, intuitively — know that what we don't want to do in our life is live a life in the crate. We don't want to be confined. But yet, so many of us are, and we feel like, “Man, there are so many things that keep me from living that life that I want to live, or that freedom that I want to have.”

All of us want to be like Choco and Rusty. When that gate is open, when the door is open, we want to fill that rush of freedom. But so often, for many of us, that idea of freedom is out there, but it's not something that we seem to have. We seem to all, many times, be confined in that crate, hoping that life will change, or hoping that life will get a little bit better. What we know is — we know this for a fact. I can't talk about every thing because everybody's got different things that keep them in the crate, but there are two things that we know, by statistics and by surveys, that really hold people back in life. I mean, we just know this. It's what we know. In fact, LifeWay did a survey, and they asked, “What are some feelings that you do not want to feel in your life?”

These two were, basically, 70%. Just these two things were 70% of the things that people did not want to feel. When I tell you what they are, you're going to go, “Of course that's the case.”

So, LifeWay did this research on what feelings you try to avoid the most. Shame and guilt. I think all of us can relate to that. There's this idea of, “That’s the last thing I want to feel.”

Many of us — and we don't have places or venues that we can talk about it, but we carry things, and we feel this way. Many of us — and it's okay — don't really know the difference between shame and guilt. It's like, “Well, aren’t they sort of the same, or whatever?”

Well, let me try to help you out so that we can understand because we're going somewhere with this. We're getting ready to get into a biblical text, and my prayer is that when we read this text, there's going to be a lot of shame and guilt that’s just left here, on the floor, when everybody leaves.

So, the difference between guilt and shame is guilt is behavioral. It's something that you and I have done. “I did something bad,” and you feel guilty about that. Many of us have things in our lives that — I say that, and it's always reluctant, when you're a pastor, to talk about this because you know that once you open that word up, people are going to start going through the annals of their mind and think about the things that they've done in life. That’s not what I'm trying to do, but let's face it, many of us live there. Oftentimes, guilt runs right into shame. And shame is not about behavior, but shame is about self. It’s, “II am bad.”

It moves from, “I did something wrong,” to, “I am this person.”

Oftentimes, those two things sort of run together, and we have guilt, we have shame, and it’s terrible. It’s debilitating, and we know this. Psychologists and therapists — not people that just sort of talk about these things, but this is vivid research, scholarly research, done by therapists, done by counselors, done by psychologists. This is what we know. Some of you are going to go, “Well, of course we know this,” but I just want you to hear this. I want to set this up because I'm really hoping that we're going to read a couple passages of Scripture, and there's going to be such a light that goes off that it's like, “Whoa.”

That's my hope. This is what we know, though, about shame and guilt. People who live with shame and/or guilt often avoid deep relationships and community. They don't want anybody to know what's in here, what we've done, or the way we feel. So, it hinders us from having deep relationships or any community, which is not good because you can't do life alone. You need other people in your life. People who live here, it's tough. We also know that people who live with shame and/or guilt often suppress their emotions. You don't want anybody to see what's going on. I mean, I’ve done that before. I'm sure you have. We've all had those times where we just feel like, “I don't want anybody to know what's really going on. I don't want to break down and have to tell everybody what I did, what I thought, or whatever it may be.”

People who live with shame and/or guilt are more likely to revert or go back to problem behaviors. That’s really bad because the thing that you did that made you feel like you were whatever it is, the shame, you go back and do it. It just continues this cycle of guilt and shame, and nobody wants to live there. I mean, nobody wants to be in that crate. People who live with shame and/or guilt are more likely to be depressed and live with anxiety. It’s just true. I mean, many people live with depression, many people live with anxiety, and many people go to counseling. I go to counseling sometimes. So, it's not like that.

You go, “Chip, you should never say that publicly.”

Look, if you’re looking up here for the person that's got it all together, you’re looking in the wrong spot. I can tell you about the One who does, and His name is Jesus. You know? If you’ve got as many kids as I do, it’s like hand-to-hand combat. You’ve got to go talk to somebody. You know? And my dogs. They’re cockapoos, but they’re more on the poo side. So, I mean, I’ve got problems. But we live with depression and anxiety, and people who live with shame and guilt are often unable to take healthy steps forward. In life, to get ahead, sometimes you’ve got to take a little bit of a risk, a little bit of a step forward. Oftentimes, you can't because you just feel so ridden with shame and guilt.

So, I knew, coming out of Easter where we talked about the resurrection — by the way, these roses over here, there are 145 of those. Those signify the amount of hands that we could count that decided to go forward with Jesus during Easter weekend. Yeah. It’s incredible. Unbelievable. In all the Easter services that we did, physically, on campus, we had, I think, 8,516 people. Yeah. I know. Crazy. With internet watching, it was right under 12,000 people that we reached. The reason I say it's crazy is because I grew up in a town of like 6,000. I call my dad: “Dad, I spoke to more people over Easter than in Cynthiana, where I grew up.”

It's crazy. I mean, I'm telling you, God just does crazy stuff. But I knew, coming out of Easter, talking about the resurrection, people making decisions to go forward, talking about what Jesus has done, and all of that, it'd be good to just continue the series that we're in, “Taking the Next Step.”

What I want to do is I want us to try to take a step, here, with shame and guilt. To do that, we're going to go to a text. I'm going to read two verses. The two verses are where I'm going to really dig in, and the third verse that I read — it's all consecutive, but the third verse is just so cool that I needed to include it. It does deal with what's going on, but the first two verses are probably the most succinct understanding of what Jesus has done for you and I, and what the Gospel means. I really believe that if we can just get what Scripture is saying, I'm telling you, it is a shame and guilt lifter. You know as well as I do that if you could just take a step forward with some of the things that we carry, it would be better than staying where we're at. So, we're going to do that. To do that, I'm going to read out of Colossians 2. What I'm going to do is I'm going to read the three verses. I'm just going to read the three verses, and then we're going to go back and do probably more of a deep dive because I've only got a couple verses that I've got to work with. So, I can do more work in that. I'm hoping that as dig into that text, there's really going to be some light bulbs that go off. So, before I read the text, let me tell you a little bit about the Colossian letter, and who Paul's writing to, so that we're sort of all on the same page.

We know that there's stuff going on in Colossae. Paul never visited there. The church was planted by someone else, but Paul is writing to them. When he was in Ephesus is when they'd gone out and started this church. He’s writing to them. We know that — and the scholars recognize this — there's a problem in the church, and it's a doctrinal problem. It’s pretty thick and heavy, and there are a lot of things going on. We can't reconstruct exactly what we would call the “Colossian heresy.” We can only do the best that we can, and it appears that there's a lot of legalism, maybe some Judaism, mixed with some other type of religions that people are sort of pushing against the Christians on, telling them that, “Well, you’ve got to do this, and you’ve got to do that.”

A very legalistic, almost aesthetic, type of practice where the Colossians are wondering, “Is Jesus enough?” and that’s why he has to say, “In Him was the fullness of deity. Jesus is full deity.”

He says it twice in Colossians. He tells us that Christ does all these great things, and that He created the world. He's correcting this stuff. But in Colossians 2, he's dealing with — and it's a perennial problem for all of us — what does it mean to be a Christian? What does it mean to be forgiven? What does it mean? All of that stuff. What do I do? Or do I not do anything? How do my actions play into all of this stuff?

So, Paul's going to do it. I'm going to read a passage of Scripture. As I read it, if it's one of those passages that you've read — you don't have to tell anybody, you don't have to turn to your neighbor, but if you go, “Man, there's just a lot of stuff in there that I don't understand,” fantastic. That's why we read the Bible here. That's why we teach the Bible here, so that we can learn a little bit more what's going on because there are some big words and some phrases that we’re like, “What does that mean?”

So, I'm going to read it, and then we're going to do a deep dive. After I read it, I'm going to say a quick prayer for everybody because I really believe God might speak to some people, this weekend.

Paul says, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.”

Father, my prayer is one prayer, that somehow You would speak to Your people because I know that shame and guilt are things that really keep people from becoming all that You have created them to be. I pray that as we just study Your Word, what Isaiah said will happen here, right now, this weekend, that Your Word does not return void. Lord, I'm praying that You will massively speak to Your people, and we will make sure that You get all the glory. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Let's look at this passage together. He starts off with “and you.” Now, he's writing to the church at Colossae, and he's writing to a specific group of people, primarily, most of them would be Gentiles. So, he is making a little bit of a distinction of the Gentile world before faith and the Jewish world before faith. Because the Jewish people had the law, they had the covenants, and they had other stuff. They were a little bit more advantageous, in some ways, than the Gentiles were, but he'll get to us in just a minute. So, he's not letting it slide. Everybody's sort of flowing in what Jesus has done. But he's referring to the Colossians here. He's speaking to them, primarily Gentiles. He says, “You,” — again, that’s the people that he's writing to, and they are Christians that he's writing to.

He says, “And you, who were…”

This is important, here, because they're no longer this, but they may be feeling that they're that because there are people in their ear telling them, “Well, you didn't do this, and you didn't do that. Yeah. Come on, now. You can't really say that you're right with God because look at the way you’re doing all this. You're not performing enough, you're not denying yourself enough, you're not doing this enough,” or whatever. If you hang out in church long enough, somebody will get in your ear, hand you a book, and tell you all these things.

“Chip, you know, he makes it too easy. You’ve got to do all these other things, whatever else, and all of that.”

It happens in church, but he says, “You who were,” — and this is past. He’s making sure they understand.

“You were this, no question, but you're not this anymore.”

It’s really important, here, that we understand this.

He says, “And you, who were [past tense] dead in your trespasses…”

Not “somewhat alive,” “maybe alive,” “a little bit alive,” “in the water with just one nostril above,” or “almost.” No. Dead in your trespasses. This idea of “trespasses” is like falling down or missing. All of us know this. I mean, there's nobody in here who’s going to go, “Yeah, Chip, my whole life, I have done nothing ever wrong.”

Right? I would hope nobody would stand up, right now, and go, “I'm that person.”

I'd be like, “Sit down.”

So, the very fact that you just said that means that you are messed up. Anyway, we all know that we've done wrong, and we know that it's more than mistakes because you can make a mistake once, you can make a mistake twice, but some of us have made the same mistake 100 times. It's not a mistake anymore.

“I’m a mistaker.”

No. We’ve got problems here. He says, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses,” — in other words, because we had not lived up to the infinite holiness and righteousness of God, we’re dead. We’re separated. There’s a separation. He says, “You were. Not anymore, but you were dead in your trespasses. And…” — because he's writing to Gentiles — “…the uncircumcision of your flesh,”

Like, if you're honest — just be honest — you read that, and you're like, “What does he mean?” and just move on to the next thing. It's like, “That doesn't make any sense.”

Well, it’s Paul’s way — and you have to understand the way they thought. Paul was Jewish. This is a way of saying that you're outside of the people of God. You're not part of the commonwealth of Israel. You’re alienated and separated. That’s why Paul goes to great lengths in Galatians to explain who the people of God are, that the seed wasn't the seed, but it was Christ. In Ephesians, the two have become one. We like to separate, in American theology, Israel, the Church, and all of this stuff. For Paul and the New Testament Christians, there's only one group. There are not two. It’s clear. I mean, we like to bifurcate it, we like to do all this stuff, but we're reading things in. Paul could not make it clearer. He calls the Galatians church, in Galatians 6:16, the Israel of God. He calls them that. He even says, in Romans 9, that not all Israel is actually Israel. Actually, the people that are Israel are the people of faith. He couldn't be clearer. He says, “You weren't part of Israel,” and he says that to the Ephesians. He goes, “You were alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, but He’s torn down that, and now the two have become one.”

He says, “So, you were dead, and you were not the people of God. That's just what you were. That’s where it was.”

He said, “And God made alive.”

Not you, not me, not how will we performed, not how will we lived up, not how will we check the boxes. You'll see it all the time. People come in and say, “Well, you couldn't be a Christian because…”

I mean, I was on social media today, and somebody was ranting and raving.

“There's no way somebody could be a Christian if they just…”

I'm going, “That's an American issue.”

In the first century, when the Philippian jailer said, “What have I got to do to be saved?” you can't import issues from 2023 back to the first century and say the Philippian jailer didn't make it. The thief on the cross: “What have I got to do to be saved?”

“Well, this, that, and this.”

This is exactly what he's dealing with. He says, “God made alive, not you. God made alive. Together, with Him.”

Who’s the “Him?” It's God. Actually, the “Him” is pulled in from Colossians 2:12 where it talks about how we put faith in Jesus. When we put faith in Jesus and we were baptized, we came up to newness of life. What Paul is saying is crazy. He's saying that the experiences of Jesus, by faith, become the experiences of you and me. We have been raised, in this world, to newness of life, and we will be raised again stepping into eternity. Like, we're new people. We’re a new creation.

He says, “You were dead, and you were alienated. You were not the people of God, but God made alive together with him, having forgiven us.”

All of us now. Paul's like, “All of us are in this now.”

Listen, what has He forgiven us? Listen, I'm telling you, you’ve got to hear this. All our trespasses. All. Okay? This was written roughly 30 years — it depends on where Paul was in prison. There’s debate on that, but call it 30 years. Maybe 28. Maybe 31. Somewhere right in that vicinity of when Jesus died on the cross. So, if Jesus died on the cross like 30 years back, and He forgave all of their trespasses, which is 30 years forward, then listen to me: When Jesus died on the cross, He forgave all sin, past, present, and future. Do you hear me? You go, “Oh, hold on. That's risky.”

I wasn't the one who put the theological plan together. I'm just the mailman. I read you the text and tell you what it says. All our trespasses. Some of you may have grown up in churches where you had to go and do something every weekend so that you could be forgiven again. I'm not trying to be snarky, I'm not trying to push back on it, I’m just delivering the good news. What did Jesus forgive you of when you put your trust in Him? All of your trespasses. All.

You go, “Well, Chip, I did something wrong on the way here.”

I get it. Yes, you should say, “I'm sorry,” and yes, you should try to be better, but Jesus forgave you of all your trespasses — listen — by canceling — just let the text speak to you.

“…by canceling the record of debt…”

How long is your record of debt? Mine would probably stretch from here to the moon. I was in the dean's office 189 times in my sophomore year in high school. He used to look at me and say, “Charles Dalton Bennett the Third,” and I would say, “Coleman Bernard Bell Junior.”

Thank God all sins have been forgiven. Do you know what I'm saying? So, he says, “Canceling the record of debt.”

Like, all the junk, all of it, everything that we carry, the shame and the guilt, all of it canceled. The record of debt that stood against us, that said, “You are guilty. Chip, you are guilty,” — canceled.

“…by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands.”

What are the legal demands? You deserve to die.

“This he set aside,”

This is a legal setting. The record of debt is here on the docket, and the judge goes, “Clear it off. Set it aside.”

Listen: “…nailing it to the cross.”

Our record of debt was nailed, in Jesus' hands, to the cross. Canceled and set aside. And then this is — that’s just enough, right there, but this next verse is just like, “Ah.”

Do you like to cut into something, and it's juicy? I’ll try not to say what because I know people are vegetarians, and people are trying to, like — I try to be the full-service pastor here. Okay? I want you to listen. I don't want to put stuff out there that gets you mad at me.

Then he says, “He disarmed [stripped] the rulers and authorities…”

Of course, this could mean the religious people and the authorities that would tell you that you didn't do it. It obviously could include that, but in the context and in the larger understanding of Colossians and Ephesians, this is basically the enemy. And do you know what the enemy's called? The accuser of the brethren. Do you know what he does? He accuses you and reminds you of your record of debt. Paul's like, “Man, if we understood that record of debt has been canceled and set aside, and it was nailed to the cross, and when He did that, He stripped the rulers and authorities, and He put them to shame.”

Not your shame. Your shame's gone. It's back on them for accusing you of something that no longer is true of you. He uses the imagery of a first century conquering king. They didn't have Facebook, Instagram, and the news channels. If I call one of the news channels out, then people are like, “Oh, that's what he listens to.”

You're not going to get me. You're just not going to get me. You’re not going to get me. Jesus is what I preach here, every time, all the time. I’m not getting into that junk. Okay?

So, he’s got this imagery of a king. What they would do is they would go through the cities of the king that they had conquered, and drag behind the horses some of the people, the king, and some of the powerful people. So, when they're getting drug through town, everybody in the town's going, “Well, I guess they're not our king anymore.”

Paul's saying, “Jesus drug the rulers and authorities who were accusing you of the record of debt that stood against you. He's now put them to an open shame because all that stuff has been nailed to the cross.”

So, I’ve got two things. That's it. Two things I want to try to convey. First of all, taking the next step to freedom from shame and guilt, getting out of that crate, requires understanding the process. Now, the process is something I'm going to show you, but it happens simultaneously. I mean, when Jesus died on the cross, all of this happened. Boom. But Paul gives us sort of a process that we need to understand. We need to understand the process that allows our freedom.

He says, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”

Let me show you the process. First of all, you and I were made alive. How were we made alive? How does that work? I was dead in my trespasses, so how am I made alive? Paul says we are made alive because He forgave us.

You go, “Well, how did He forgive us?”

Well, He canceled the record of debt that all of us had.

“Well, how did He cancel the record?”

Well, He set it aside.

“How could He do such a thing? How could He just let it go?”

Because it was nailed to the cross. Let me give it to you the other way. Because Jesus nailed all of the things that were offenses against God to the cross, He can set aside the record of debt that says we should die, and we can be forgiven, and we can be made alive to God. That, right there, is great news. It's just the truth.

You go, “Well, sometimes I feel…”

I get it, but we don't base our life on feelings. We base our lives on the truth of God's Word, and God says the shame and guilt that we carry because of the record of debt that stands against us, that thing has been nailed to the cross, set aside, canceled, and we've been forgiven, and we've been made alive towards God.

Second, taking the next step to freedom from shame and guilt requires understanding the completeness of Christ's work. Understanding exactly what Christ has done. When we talk about the finished work of Christ, when we talk about the atonement, and all this great, big theological stuff, the bottom line is what did Jesus do when He died on the cross? How does that affect you and I? We’re told that the record of debt was nailed to the cross. That's what we're told. Let me show you another way that another writer in the New Testament talks about this. The person who wrote the epistle to the Hebrews says it this way. I want you to hear me. This is so important.

“Every priest stands daily offering repeatedly sacrifice after sacrifice after sacrifice.”

By the way, that's why the book of Hebrews was written before 70 A.D., because they wouldn't be talking about the temple standing if it had been after. He would have said, “Do you remember how it used to be in the temple?”

That's why all the books in the New Testament are written pre-70 A.D. All of them. Just take it to the bank. Nobody talks about it. John, in John 5, says, in present tense, in Jerusalem. It’s all of them. All of these scholars like to date them late so that they can make what the Bible says a retro action back instead of letting it be something that was said before it happened. All of the prophecies of the temple being destroyed are absolutely before the temple was destroyed. Jesus was right. Matthew 24, Luke 21, and Mark 13. Revelation 11 talks about the destruction of the temple. The temple is still standing. It's so important to get. This stuff matters. I don't usually get on this, but it just matters that we get these things right because they're so important to understanding our faith. Every priest. He’s saying, “You know how it is. You know they stand daily offering the same sacrifices, which can never take away your sin.”

It can't. They stand repeatedly offering. Look at the contrast. But when Christ had offered — hold on — for all time, all sin, for those of us who believed, past, present, and future. All of it, for all time. A single sacrifice. Not repeated. Not over and over again, like you’ve got to come in every Sunday and do something. No. He'd offered it for all time, a single sacrifice for sins. He sat down. He didn't keep standing. It's finished. So, when you said, “I believe that Jesus Christ died for my sins,” I want you to hear me. Every bit of the record of debt, your past, your present, and your future, all of it that could be used against you and I has been canceled, has been set aside, and has been nailed to the cross. You don't have to carry that shame and guilt again.

And so, I can summarize here: Because it's been nailed to the cross, it's been set aside. The record has been canceled, you’ve been forgiven, and you've been made alive because the story of Scripture is not how faithful Christians perform so well that they can get into heaven. The story of the Bible is how a faithful God works within faithless people to get them into His kingdom because He is the one who forgives, makes alive, cancels the debt, and nailed it to the cross.

Man, I'm excited. Can you tell? This is the beauty of the truth of what we have. So, I'm going to pray for you. God is a good God. We're going to sing a song. It's a great song. It's a poppy song. It talks about the goodness of God. He is so good. But I want to pray for you because I want to believe that somebody, this weekend, is going to open up that crate and, just like Rusty and Choco, blast out. I'm hoping somebody blasts out of here, this weekend, going, “Do you know what? Jesus canceled the record of debt. I'm sorry that I did what I did, I wish I would've never done what I did, but He doesn't hold it against me, and I'm not going to hold it against me, ever again, from this point forward, because I have been set free in Jesus’ name.

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