“If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” (Romans 8:31b-34)

Paul’s words here offer healing and freedom for all who have felt guilt and shame over their sinful condition. Guilt and shame are not the same thing. Guilt is the feeling of having wronged God because of a specific sin. Guilt leads the believer to confess sin and find forgiveness and relief. Shame, however, is the belief that one is irreparably defective in the sight of God and man. It is composed of global guilt over non-specific sins, as well as feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy. Shame is a whip many people wield to intimidate and wound others or enforce compliance to a code of external standards. Those who believe they are hopelessly defective find their conscience punishing them for almost anything they think, say and do. A skilled spiritual abuser can exercise great power over such persons, for their conscience is an open wound that does not heal. They come to church to find healing and relief, but find only more pain as unthinking people continually irritate their inflamed conscience with rules and laws that remind them only of their defects.

But Paul tells us something different; He tells us of the Lord’s unalterable acceptance and love of those who have faith in Him. If God has acquitted a believer, who can condemn that believer? Who can shame the believer by reminding Him of sins and flaws that have been forgiven? While the believer still sins, he can repent and confess the sin, rejoicing in the knowledge that God forgives and throws the sin into the sea of His forgetfulness. The penitent may still have to accept any punishment that may result from sin, yet when one is God’s son, his status before the Father remains unchanged. God sees the elect as He sees His only begotten Son: Jesus: pure and righteous.

God does not condemn those He has justified and declared righteous. His verdict is the only one that matters and it is final. And it is written indelibly on our hearts by His Spirit. Therefore, if we feel still hopelessly defective, even after we have confessed our sins, we must realize that the devil is lying to us and he may even be using other people to do it. We must ask the Lord to help us to appropriate the truth of His unalterable verdict. We must ask the Holy Spirit to make the truth of our eternal inheritance in Christ real to us. Then, when we are able to appropriate God’s free gift of righteousness, we can move on to carry out God’s will, secure in His eternal love.