A few weeks ago, my family and I attended the dinner and prayer night at our local church. One of the deacons recommended we start our night of prayer by going around the table and say a prayer of thankfulness. I thought it was a great way to start the night.
One after another, the people at our table thanked God for having the blessing and privilege of growing up in a Christian home with a Christian family. As each person prayed, the reality that I did not have that blessing brought up feelings of inadequacy, unworthiness, and guilt. In an instant shame exploded in my heart. With each passing prayer, it kept growing into a massive pile of accusatory condemnation and physiologically I began to feel warm with a pit growing heavy in my stomach.
My entire past reality began eating away at my present reality and my shoulders grew heavier and heavier with each person’s thankfulness. By the time it was my husband’s turn to pray, I felt like I no longer belonged at the table of thankful saints. All of this took place in my mind within a span of 10-15 minutes.
When my husband started praying he immediately thanked God for me and reminded himself that I was a blessing to him. WHAT????? Did he not know what was taking place in my thoughts?
As I reflect on that night, the interesting thing about that whole scenario is that my husband could not read my thoughts. He had no idea what was happening in my mind and heart, yet it was in his prayer, his reminder, his thankfulness, that shook me back to my real reality and out of the sludge of self pity that overtook me for a few minutes.
Thankfully, like a long awaited rain that swiftly envelopes a desert, Romans 8:1 came to mind.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
It’s in moments like this that help me see the importance…no…..necessity, of tucking scripture away in our minds and hearts through memorization. To be able to use God’s word in such a way to negate all guilt, all shame, all insecurities, well, just as Romans 8:1 says….its freeing.
How easy it is for us to default and believe things we ought not to believe about ourselves. I allowed the prayer and thankfulness of others to take me to a place of inadequacy and shame, and in that instant, I realized a battle was taking place in my mind. I had to be reminded of something greater than my former shame and guilt. I get those reminders from the only place that gives truth….God’s Word.
Scripture let’s us know, that for those who are in Christ, condemnation is no longer applicable. Furthermore, according to Romans 8:1, the Holy Spirit of God, called here —> the Spirit of life, has its own law…..meaning it governs and regulates our actions and thoughts.
In that governing and regulating we are set free from the power of sin, called here the law of sin and the inevitable consequences of sin….which is death. We also get more insight when scripture uses words like “has set you free“. These words let us know that an action was completed (finished or “perfected”) at some point in the past and we get to rely on that past action for our present state of being.
That action, of course, was Christ’s death for us, finished and perfected on the cross. Where our sin once had us dead, slaves to sin, Christ’s death and resurrection makes us alive, with him, free from the bondage of sin.
As if that were not enough, the liberating fruit of Christ’s perfecting death and resurrection extends also to our present circumstances….meaning that at that table, when everyone was praying words of thankfulness and I was feeling shame and condemnation, the work of Christ met me there.
But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:18)
Where sin once had complete control of our actions, motives, and thoughts, those who are in Christ, have confidence that we no longer are slaves to the law of sin. It no longer governs and regulates us. God, through the work of the Holy Spirit teaches us, either through other saints leading us in formal Bible studies, mentors guiding and encouraging us to do good, or studying God’s Word in intimate personal study. The result is that we are able to attain a standard of teaching that enables us to have the ability to obey. This ability to obey comes from a transformed and sincere heart. All of this allows us to be slaves of righteousness, no longer slaves of sin. God’s Spirit has taken up residence in us and gives us the freeing power to not sin, to not feel shame over past sins, to not feel condemnation over past regrets. We are free from all of that.
We just need to remember that. God’s Word and the power of God’s perfect Spirit, gives us those great reminders.
The book of Romans is filled with life giving words to mediate on. Romans 3-7 give us insight into how Christ frees us from condemnation. These chapters should be read as a whole so that when we get to Romans 8, we can see the beauty of the Spirit of God at work in this freedom from condemnation.
Chapter 7 specifically helps to remind us that there is sin that still resides in us, even though we are no longer enslaved to it. It’s helpful to know that our sin, which is in cahoots with our flesh, wages war with the Spirit of God that also resides in us. If we are in Christ, it is sinful to allow unwarranted shame and guilt to overtake our thoughts and possibly govern our actions because God’s Word tells us different. To believe lies that our flesh tells us is to not believe or trust what God tells us.
Nouns that no longer apply to our identity need to be informed by scripture. God’s Word alone has the power and capacity to tell us who we truly are. When literal spiritual battles take place in our thoughts, praise be to God that we have everything we need to fight those battles – perfect gifts given to us by our good Father who loves us – the Bible and the Holy Spirit that teaches and transforms, our ability to pray and be prayed for, and the local church of fellow saints.
We have been set free and in that freedom sanctification takes place – meaning we get to look progressively more like Jesus.
But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. (Romans 6:22)
While my husband was praying, I was reciting Romans 8:1 several times in my head. The act of doing this completely erased all doubts, all insecurities, all condemnation, all shame.
I am embarrassed to admit, that for a few minutes, I allowed the thankfulness of others to take me to a place that I should not have gone. However, in that awareness, I don’t have to beat myself up and wallow in shame. I have the freedom to share my struggles with others for the benefit of other saints.
The sin that still resides in us wants to take our minds captive and place on our shoulders burdens, guilt and shame that are no longer ours to carry. According to scripture, all that guilt, shame, and condemnation was crucified with Christ.
We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin (Romans 6:6)
Freedom is knowing we don’t have to allow shame and condemnation to control our thoughts. Freedom is also the ability to share our ugly moments with others without fear, rejection, or current condemnation.
It takes effort on our part to get scripture into our minds. If we are in Christ, reading/studying our Bible is something we should already be doing….but memorizing scripture will take a bit of extra effort and intentionality. When we make the effort to do it, it can be life giving. Oftentimes, when others come to us for advice, we think it would be nice to recite a certain verse or two to help them, yet we fail to realize the benefit of reciting scripture to ourselves, especially when we find ourselves in the middle of a battle with our sin and our flesh.
I admit, I don’t memorize scripture as much as I should. I definitely need to do it more.
How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.The wicked are not so,
But they are like chaff which the wind drives away.Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.For the LORD knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the wicked will perish. (Psalm 1)