Sunday, November 20, 2011

Guilt, Shame, and the Uglies

Have you ever felt so ugly and contaminated that you just wanted to run away? Your thought-life can do this to you. I have an ugly thought-life, and it makes me feel ugly within. I won’t tell you the substance of my thoughts. I’m just too ashamed to do so. Ironically, they really become ugly when I’m in the place of my spiritual hopes and greatest expectations – the church. They can become so filthy that I don’t want to see anyone afterwards. I just want to run.

However, the Lord has taught me some very important principles to deal with the uglies:

They are all too natural, and they intimately adhere to us – as closely as our own body. Paul explained it this way:

• For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. (Galatians 5:17)

Therefore, don’t be surprised by the intense internal battle (1 Peter 4:12). The Lord, however, has achieved a beach-head within our lives (Romans 8:10, 23). Although the final outcome has already been guaranteed, the war will continue to rage until we are finally home with our Savior. This means that we won’t see the end of the uglies until then. If instead we expect to decisively slay them ourselves, we will be disappointed and will think that something has gone wrong.

I might not be able to get rid of them at will, but I can confess and resist them. The Lord has shown me that I need to confess them as often as they pop up. It’s like a pinball machine. Whenever the bad-guy pops up, I’ve got to shoot him down. I do this by confessing my plight and crying “help me, Lord.”

This might sound childish or ridiculous, but we are children, sometimes simple principles really work! Consequently, I no longer have to flee church. My Lord truly forgives and cleanses me as He promised (1 John 1:9). The filth is really washed away! I can face others, confident in my Lord.

This trust is really the victory that overcomes (1 John 5:4-5) the sin and shame. We tend to erroneously think that freedom from sin is our victory. Instead, it is our sinful failures that lead us back to Christ. In fact, Scripture singles out confession/repentance as the only thing that makes the angels rejoice (Luke 15). Now that’s a victory!

I no longer have to vainly try to heighten my self-esteem and give myself pep-talks to combat my ugly feelings. Yes, I do give myself a pep-talk, but it’s His pep-talk and consists of His Words – His purifying wisdom (John 15:3). If I abide in His light, the darkness eventually flies.

I have to take captive the unbiblical thoughts and replace them with the Biblical (2 Cor. 10:4-5). I can’t merely confess the sinfulness of my thinking without substituting my thoughts with God’s truth. The vacuum left when I reject the sinful thoughts must be filled by others. Besides, I need verses of Biblical wisdom to repeatedly expose the sinfulness of my thinking. They are just too seductive! I need constant reminders of how filthy they truly are and my blessedness in Christ.

I have learned to be thankful that the uglies make me feel ugly and contaminated. These feelings place a gun to my head. They leave me with a sense of desperation and humble me. They coerce me to hate my sinful thinking. They also make me return to Scripture, which works mightily within me (1 Thess. 2:13).

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