The Past, Phantom Shame, & the Right to Condemn

Did you know that most amputees experience phantom limb sensation? Pain, itching or tingling in a part of their bodies that is no longer attached?

Why, as a Christian, do I still feel guilt & shame over things done by or to me that I know God has forgiven & cleansed me of?

These are times when my heart & memory, twisted by the fall, resist the Holy Spirit and listen to Satan’s accusations. He cannot take my salvation or freedom in a frontal assault, so he makes a flanking action toward my healthy sense of shame, inflating it to be unhealthy, causing me to live like / feel like I’m not forgiven.

There are two amazing passages from the NT that address this. (I can think of more than two, actually.) The first is well-known:

Romans 8:31–34 (NIV): If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

Who has the right to condemn you? Only Jesus, who paid the price of your condemnation, and the Father, who has given everything so that you will not be condemned. (See also Rom 8.1ff.)

The second text is less well-known, but the parallels with Rom 8.31-34 are interesting:

1 John 3:19–22 (NIV): This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: 20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him.

Do you see the parallels? And do you see how John takes Paul’s teaching in a more personal direction–a more LUTHERAN direction–by focusing on how our hearts, our sometimes shame-influenced consciences, can fall prey to Satan’s lies about our identity in Christ?

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