This year has been one of tremendous change for me - in fact, some days it feels like there isn't a sphere of my world that hasn't been altered in some significant way. Change tends to make me more introspective as I give myself the time and space to come to terms with my new reality. In recent weeks, I have been thinking about how far God has brought me in my faith - and yet at the same time how the same demons can seek to trip me up and keep me from pursuing the fullness of what I know God has for me.
In Galatians 5:1, Paul said:
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Some translations say, don't get tied up or entangled again in a yoke of slavery . Just the presence of the word 'again' makes me think that Paul knew all too well how easy it can be to find ourselves stuck, enslaved once again by sin to patterns of thinking and behaving that restrict and limit us.
From the very beginning of Scripture, we see one of the enemy's tactics to keep us enslaved is shame. Before the fall, Genesis tells us that Adam and Eve felt no shame - they were naked and exposed but they had nothing to fear or hide from one another. They were free to be fully present with God and with each other. But then they stuffed up, and all of a sudden they're busy sewing fig-leaves together to cover themselves up; frantically trying to hide from God. Because that's what shame does - it makes us want to hide from God and from one another; it seeks to cover up, to obscure the true us and leaves us desperately wishing we were somebody else, anybody else.
Shame lies to us; it taunts us and reminds us of every weakness, every short-coming, every wrong thing that we've ever done. It's like the remote getting stuck on replay, and it exhausts us, wears us down and robs us of our hope. It steals from us our joy and our expectation. Far too often we find ourselves tied up in shame, instead of living in the freedom that Christ intended us for.
A couple of years ago, God took me on a journey of restoring hope. At the time, we were coming out of a very long and difficult chapter of our lives - there had been a lot of disappointment, a lot of mistakes, a HUGE number of reasons for me to feel ashamed. I had given the enemy plenty of ammunition to use against me and it was a journey to learn to stand in my God-given identity; to live free. As I have meditated on some of the New Testament passages about the power of hope, God used their connections to Abraham's journey to encourage me.
If you're familiar with the story of Abraham, then you probably know these two things - that in his attempts to speed up the fulfillment of God's promise of a son, he took a second wife (his first wife's servant - messy aye!) who gave birth to Ishmael, and that God changed his name from Abram, to Abraham which means the father of nations. But have you ever pondered the sequence of these events? You might have assumed this name of incredible promise was spoken before Abraham took matters into his own hands, but in reality it was given afterwards.
In Genesis 15, God had made the promise that Abraham's heir would be a son of his own flesh and blood, by chapter 16 his wife has given up on thinking that son will come through her and so offers him her Egyptian slave as a second wife. He accepts and the slave conceives a son, Ishmael, but by now there is nothing but trouble in his household. Trying to fulfill God's promises on their own terms meant lots of mistakes; lots of reasons to be ashamed and think they'd blown it.
But I love the turn of events in Genesis 17. In the midst of all this mess, God shows up and says to him:
This is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you.
Ponder these promises for a moment and the context in which they were given - right on the heels of this rather messy scenario, God turns up and He doesn't stand there berating Abraham, heaping shame upon him. No, He says, "Do you know what I see? I see a father of nations. And not just that - you'll be the father of kings." God didn't speak condemnation, He spoke hope and gave him a new name, a new identity to live out of.
And this is the truth - we see our train-wrecks, but God sees promise, potential, a divine-given destiny and future. Shame wants to cut us off from what God is saying; it wants to make us run and hide, but God's love is relentless and He keeps pursuing us, keeps speaking truth.
No matter what regrets, what stuff-ups and mistakes litter our past, today, through Jesus, God speaks a new beginning and a new identity. He calls us chosen, loved, blessed. You are far too precious, your life filled with far too much divine potential to live stifled by shame. May His truth bring you freedom today.
Live today with purpose,
Discover more about how God's grace brings us freedom in the Set Free Devotional
One of my favourite pass-times as a kid was writing. I used to make my own books and write poetry on our old type-writer. Thankfully both my writing and technology have come a long way!
It is my prayer that these posts from both myself and guest contributors encourage you to embrace the season that you are in and to live it with purpose for God's glory.
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