The Power of Secrets in Your Life

  • What is the destructive power of secret sins in your life?
  • How can you find the way out of secret sins in your life?
  • Who needs to know about your secret sins of the past?

What place do secrets have in your life?

What disaster would explode in your life if certain secrets of your past were revealed? Some secrets have powerful feelings of fear or shame connected to them. Others generate great curiosity.

What are the secrets Tiger Woods has learned to become such a great golf player? What is the secret to success that enabled Bill Gates to become the richest man in the world?

In your life, what are the secrets that seem to elude you-that keep you guessing, searching?

If you could have a face to face conversation with Jesus, what questions would you ask Him? Or are you driven by a different power-the fear of exposure? Does this fear drive you to strategize how you can keep a secret?

The Power of Secrets
One teen told me how much pain his family experienced when his 24 year old brother committed suicide. His brother never told anyone about the secret struggles he was having- so no one was able to help him. But the tragedy went beyond the suicide. His younger brother struggled with deep pain and bitterness toward God for years-wondering why God would allow his brother to commit suicide.

Some secrets bring much greater destruction into our lives than if they were revealed.

Did your childhood include times when you were blackmailed by your brother or sister?

Their threat of "I'm going to tell Mom what you did," forced you to negotiate the terms to keep this secret from Mom. Their secret had power over you, so you paid them off, whatever they demanded.

More than one enterprising child enhanced their weekly allowance with this kind of blackmail. One child who had done wrong, went and confessed it to her mom. Later that day her younger brother threatened to tell Mom if she didn't pay him off. She responded, "Go ahead and tell Mom. I don't care- because I already told Mom!"

The power of the secret was broken because she had already confessed it to Mom.

The Destructive Power of Secret Sins
Other children have faced a far more destructive kind of secret- when they have been sexually abused by an older person. They have been manipulated to keep this a secret-"If you tell anyone, I will kill you."

One daughter told her mom that her dad was sexually abusing her, and her mom said, "Don't you dare tell anyone! If you do, the police will take your dad to prison, and then we won't have anywhere to live." So the secret was kept, and the abuse continued.

Some who have experienced the tragedy of sexual abuse have kept this a secret for many years. The shame of their past ruled the present. What they failed to realize is that the longer this secret remained hidden, the more damage it caused in their life.

The Fearful Path Out of Secret Sins
Revealing this kind of secret can be a painful and fearful experience. However, it opens up new opportunities to experience God's healing.

Brian had supported his drug addiction through stealing. His criminal activities finally landed him in front of a judge, facing charges that could send him to prison for 3-5 years, or more. Through the help of a Christian, Brian was allowed to enter Teen Challenge. The judge suspended his sentence and placed him on probation.

While in the Bible classes at Teen Challenge, Brian learned about the importance of living out the teachings of Jesus in his daily experiences. The Holy Spirit convicted him about the time he had stolen money from an ATM machine.

He talked to one of the leaders who encouraged him to make plans to save up the money and return it to the bank. After Brian graduated from the program he joined the re-entry program where he got a job.

The thought of going to the bank and returning the money made Brian fearful. “I considered sending the cash in the mail with a note explaining that I was returning the money I had stolen,” shared Brian. “But the Holy Spirit said, ‘No.’”

With the money saved up, he called the bank and asked to make an appointment with the president. When the secretary asked why, Brian explained that he wanted to return the money he had stolen. She quickly set up the appointment for him.

Thirty minutes later she called back to say that they couldn't just accept the stolen money-they also had to report it to the police. Now Brian was even more fearful. Since he was already on probation, this admission of stealing money would be a violation of his probation. Not only would he be facing the original 3-5 years in prison, but also additional time for this bank robbery.

But Brian followed through with what God had told him to do. On the day of the appointment with the bank president, the director of his re-entry program went with him. As soon as Brian handed him the money, the president asked him, "Why are you doing this?" He assumed that Brian was trying to stay one step ahead of the police.

Brian explained that as a student in Teen Challenge he had given his life to Jesus, and now wanted to make restitution for the money he had stolen.

What Brian thought would be a quick 3 minute appointment with the president turned into a 45 minute meeting. The bank president had all kinds of questions for Brian.

"When I walked out of that office, it felt like a 400 pound weight was lifted off my back," shared Brian.

That day Brian learned the power of revealing secret sins. As he obeyed God, he saw God use his honesty to bring a whole new dimension of freedom into his life. Had Brian simply mailed the cash back with an anonymous note, he would have missed the opportunity to be a witness to that bank president.

And for the rest of his life, Brian will have the wonderful memory of seeing God at work in his life. Satan will never be able to use that secret sin to hold him in bondage any more. One more thing-the police chose not to press charges against Brian for this bank robbery, so his probation was not violated.

Many others have allowed fear and shame to hold them back from taking the path Brian took. Revealing his secret sin took courage. But God's incredible rewards await those who are willing to take the hard steps to live in open honesty.

When Secrets are Culturally Acceptable
Our culture today sends mixed messages about acceptable secrets. "It's OK to run the red light. There aren't any police watching." As long as you can get away with it and don't get caught, our culture says, "It's OK."

If Brian had listened to many in our culture today, they would have told him, "You don't need to return that money. Just forget about it."

But ignoring sin is never the solution. We cannot allow ourselves to be deceived into thinking that we can sin "safely."

And then there is the "street code of ethics." Never rat on your friends! The local culture may have different slang words to describe this, but the message is the same-don't reveal the sins of your friends.

Even among Christians it can be a real struggle to find the balance in when to keep a secret and when to reveal a secret sin-whether it is your sin, or your friend's sin.

It gets even more complicated for some Christians. Even if you have confessed your sins to Jesus, which sins should you reveal to others?

One young man who had been married for about a year revealed to his wife that he had been struggling with pornography. He thought this honesty would help their marriage. But his wife was so devastated by this admission, that her distrust of him grew to the point that she divorced him.

So should he have kept this secret from his wife? Would they still be married if he had said nothing to her? There are no simple answers to these complex questions.

God clearly reveals what lies in our future. "For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open." (Luke 8:17 NIV) We can't hide our sins forever.

You may want to seek the counsel of a mature, godly leader regarding what secret sins of your past should be revealed to those closest to you. The most important thing is that you not live in denial that it's OK to hide secret sins.

When you make yourself accountable to a mature Christian, you open the opportunity to learn from your failures of the past.

Not All Secrets are Sin
The power of shame can cause us to give far too much power to our failures of the past. You can begin to believe the lie that "if others know about my failures, they won't like me. They won't trust me." So we put up walls to hide our secrets, and live in fear of what will happen if others really know the truth about me.

Jesus states clearly that His arms are wide open for you. He said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28 NIV)

You can't keep any secrets from God. No matter what you have done, He still loves you. Learning to live in the light of His truth will put you on the path to healthy living and peace in your heart.

Brian discovered unexpected blessings as he took God's path out of his secret sins of the past. You too can experience God's surprises as you walk in openness and the truth. Instead of hiding your secret sins, you need to focus on discovering God's secrets to successful living- living in His freedom.

Secret Grudges
Have you ever given someone the "silent treatment?" Even if they asked you, "What's wrong?" you simply shrugged your shoulders and said, "Nothing."

When we hold a secret grudge against someone, we prevent a quick resolution to the problem that created the hurt.

As you feed on the silent hurt, the perception of the wrong often grows. You keep adding to the pain, and the wound grows deeper.

This secret not only increases the damage in you, but it also causes damage in your relationship with the other person.

The Bible tells us, "don't use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don't stay angry. Don't go to bed angry. Don't give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life." (Ephesians 4:26-27 The Message)

When you are faced with how to respond to someone who has hurt you, the path of the secret grudge may appear to offer the best way of getting back at that person, but it only brings more damage.

Facing that person and explaining how they hurt you is rarely easy, but it offers the best path to healing and restoration and change for the better.

When God Keeps You in the Dark
Our culture today is obsessed with knowing the future. The palm readers, astrology readings, your horoscope, and a variety of other voices all claim to give you a window into your future.

God specifically warns us to stay away from all these. See Leviticus 19:26, 31, Leviticus 20:6 and Deuteronomy 18:9-14.

Instead, God calls on us to trust Him with our future. In Hebrews 12:1-2 we are told to follow the path He has marked out for us.

The problem comes when we seem to be left in the dark. God often does not give us His 5 year plan for our future. He wants us to learn what it means to walk by faith-taking one step at a time, and putting our trust in Him that He knows what is best.

This faith walk goes against our natural desire to be in control. Surrendering control makes us feel vulnerable.

When we allow God to be in control, we open the door to a new level of freedom in our lives. You can have the confidence that He has your best as His top priority.

Since only God knows all the future, it's a great choice to give Him full control of your future.

Copyright © 2006 by David Batty. Used by permission.

Are You Living with Guilt that Doesn't Belong to You?

  • Why do so many Christians live with guilt?
  • How do you determine whether the guilt you are feeling is from God, the devil, or yourself?
  • What are God's conditions to living without guilt?
  • If I am still feeling guilt after I have confessed my sin, is that sign from God that my confession was not sincere?

Have you ever had someone say to you-"What kind of Christian are you?!? I thought Christians are supposed to help people in a crisis." These words of condemnation can pierce the heart of one who has a desire to please God.

Sometimes parents put guilt on their children. One young girl told her mom that dad was sexually abusing her. Mother's response- "Don't you dare tell anyone about this! Do you want to be the one to send your daddy to prison and leave us with no food and no place to live?"

Living with guilt that doesn't belong to us is a problem that robs Christians of the joy and freedom Jesus offers. Romans 8:1 states - "There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus." But this simple promise seems like an illusive dream to those living with guilt.

Guilt from Others
Beth grew up in an alcoholic home-even the dog drank beer. Her parents gave her beer when she was only six years old. All through her teen years, alcohol was her constant companion. After high school she joined the Air Force. Then, her mom met Christ-a commitment that grew deeper each year.

Beth came back home a drug addict, and soon became a mother with two small boys. She used guilt to get money from her mother- "Look at the way you raised me! The way I am today is your fault!"

Guilt pierced the mother's heart-and she often gave Beth whatever she asked for-money, assistance for the two small grandchildren, bailing her daughter out of jail.

Many times those we love the most are placing guilt on us that doesn't belong to us. Some are experts at making you feel guilty if you don't rescue them in their times of crisis.

Guilt from Your Past
Some of us don't need any help from others to be flooded with feelings of guilt and condemnation. We look at our past failures and condemn ourselves. We have men and women coming to Teen Challenge who remember how they got other young people hooked on drugs. That guilt is multiplied when they see those young people die because of their addiction or become infected with the AIDS virus.

Ralph came to Teen Challenge after twenty years of drug addiction. He made several attempts to get his girlfriend into Teen Challenge. He felt tremendous guilt because he got her hooked on drugs. His newfound freedom in Christ was smothered in depression as he recalled the days of his past.

Does the guilt grow stronger the more you try to grow closer to God? You may face the repeating memory of past sins, and each time the movies play in your mind, waves of guilt and condemnation flood your heart.

But are you living with guilt that doesn't belong to you?

You say, "Look at what I did! I deserve to feel guilty. I knew better, but I did it anyway." So you pound yourself with guilt and condemnation. It may be guilt for recent sins or for sins of the past.

What does God say about this guilt? Romans 8:1 makes a simple declaration—“There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

So why the confusion?

Christians live with guilt that doesn't belong to them?

We live by our feelings instead of God's truth.

When we feel the flood of guilt, we assume God agrees with our feelings. "I deserve to carry this guilt. Look at what I did!

How terrible!"

Does God use Guilt?
Oh yes. Guilt from God is a consequence of unconfessed sin. He uses it as a loud warning signal in our heart that we have a sin problem.

The solution is simple-"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9 NIV) The words of Jesus reinforce this, "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." (John 8:36 NIV)

Once we have confessed our sin, God will no longer use guilt or condemnation to remind us of ourpast. He wants us to enter His freedom, His peace-completely free of condemnation.

The familiar and much loved promise of John 3:16 is followed by this powerful declaration. Jesus said, "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned." (John 3:17-18a NIV)

True guilt is designed to lead us to repentance which leads us to God's peace in our hearts.

So why do I Still Feel Guilty?
The enemy-Satan-wants to rob you of God's peace and joy. He comes with false guilt, which feels exactly the same as true guilt from God.

So how can I know if I'm feeling true guilt from God or false guilt? How do I know if I'm living with guilt that doesn't belong to me?

You must use God's truth to evaluate your feelings of guilt. You must examine your heart and ask, "Have I truly repented of my sins?" You may want to write down the specific memory that is flooding you with guilt. Then put it to the truth test.

  1. Have I already confessed this sin?
  2. When did I confess it?
  3. Was I truly sincere?

Have I been completely honest with God?

If the answer to all these is "yes," then you can stand on the promises of 1 John 1:9 and John 8:36. If you confess your sins, He promises to forgive and cleanse you-not 2 months from now-immediately.

If you have any doubt about the sincerity of your previous confession-confess it again and then instantly claim God's peace and forgiveness.

When I was a teenager, I committed a sin one day. Before I went to sleep that night I prayed and confessed my sin. In the weeks and months that followed, the memory of that sin would come back, and with it, waves of guilt and condemnation.

Four or five times in the weeks that followed, I confessed that sin again. But every time the memory returned, the guilt came too.

Finally one day it dawned on me, "I have confessed this sin as sincerely as I know how. I have turned my back on this sin-I'm living in obedience to Jesus. I've got to accept the reality of God's forgiveness and recognize this guilt is not from God. Then it must be from the enemy."

Don't Ignore the Guilt
When I came to this point of accepting God's truth, I didn't ignore the guilt and condemnation-I faced it. "Yes, Satan, I did sin in the past, but God has forgiven me. And I choose to live in His forgiveness and peace. So thanks for reminding me of God's mercy in my life."

The power of that old memory was broken. Every time it returned I didn't try to ignore it, I repeated God's truth in relation to it-reminding myself and the devil of God's response to my past sin. The power of guilt was broken. Today the memory of that sin no longer robs me of God's peace.

So why not just ignore the guilt? Because it may be from God. I need to say as David did in Psalms 51, "Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin." (Psalm 51:1-2 NIV)

If I can identify a sin that I have not confessed, then I need to use that very moment to specifically confess that sin and make a commitment to turn from that activity and follow Jesus. I need to repeat God's promise of 1 John 1:9 and stand on His promise to forgive me and cleanse me from all unrighteousness.

If the memory of that sin returns, and with it waves of guilt and condemnation, I need to reject those feelings-they are not from God.

A freshman in Bible college had guilt dumped on him by a friend. This difficult relationship continued for weeks. He said, "I have to keep rehearsing the facts because if I listen to my feelings, I just get confused."

You may ask-"Why can't I shake these feelings of guilt?" Past failures still haunt you with guilt. You've confessed your sins, perhaps many times, still the guilt persists. Keep repeating God's truth-the enemy will not quit just because you win one battle-he will come again and again. He will whisper in your ear - "If your sin was truly forgiven, you wouldn't feel any guilt today."

You must stand on the words of Jesus, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:31-32 NIV) False guilt loses its power when we understand God's truth and apply it.

Not Just for Sins
Satan can pound us with guilt for things that are not even sin. I once went into a bank to cash a check and deposit part of it in my bank account. After the teller had completed the transaction, I realized I wanted a little more deposited, so I asked him to change it. He did. Driving away from the bank I felt condemnation and guilt.


The enemy doesn't need a good or logical reason to pound us with guilt. He will use anything! Several times in the next few days the memory of that bank transaction flooded me with guilt. Finally I said to myself, "Wait a minute Dave, you did not lie, or steal, or cheat the bank. All you asked was a change in your deposit." It took less than twenty seconds to make the change! "This guilt is not from God-recognize its source! Respond with God's truth."

The power of that guilt was instantly broken. Not by rebuking the guilt or Satan, but by focusing on God's truth as it related to this specific situation.

James offers practical advice on responding to the devil's attacks. "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you." (James 4:7-8 NIV) The most powerful way to resist the devil is to come close to God-close to His truth, His promises, His forgiveness, His peace.

We can't change our past, but we can use our past to meditate on God's truth. The promise of Romans 8:1 to be free from condemnation is for each child of God, not just the super saints! We have a young lady at Teen Challenge whose mom died when she was 16 years old. Since that tragedy, she has carried guilt-she felt responsible for her mom's death. Many children feel responsible for the divorce of their parents. This guilt is not from God.

Don't let the power of other people's condemnation rob you of God's peace. Fix your eyes on Jesus-He is not a condemning God.

When the woman caught in adultery was brought before Jesus (John 8) her accusers verbally pounded her with guilt. Jesus-slow to respond-said "If any of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." (John 8:7 NIV) When Jesus stood to face her, he asked, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" She replied, "No one, sir." Jesus responded, "Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin." (John 8:11 NIV) When another woman quietly reached out through a noisy crowd and touched His garment, she experienced miraculous healing. (Luke 8:42-48) "Who touched me?" Jesus asked and then repeated His question.

The woman came forward trembling, admitting that she was one. He tells her "Go in peace!" Jesus doesn't send us away with guilt or condemnation, He sends us out in peace.

As your memory movies play uninvited scenes of horrible sins, you can respond with God's truth and refuse to give room to condemnation. No matter how often the reruns play, you can still go in peace.

Put God's sound track to these old reruns. "There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." "You will know the truth and the truth will set you free." "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!"

Romans 8:1 offers a simple promise for each child of God- "There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." We can live free of guilt.

The only legitimate place guilt has in our life is from the moment we sin until we confess that sin. Guilt can be a very temporary part of our lives.

What can be a permanent part of our lives is God's peace-His love, His mercy, His kindness, His loving, encouraging presence. We are not perfect, but we are forgiven.

The Truth Test for Guilt Feelings
"Have I truly repented of my sins?" You may want to take a close look at a specific memory that is flooding you with guilt. Then put it to this test.

  1. Have I already confessed this sin?
  2. When did I confess it?
  3. Was I truly sincere?
    Have I been completely honest with God?

If the answer to all these is yes, then you can stand on the promises of 1 John 1:9, John 8:36, and Romans 8:1.

Are You Punishing Yourself with Guilt?
Do you look at problems in your life today as God's punish-ment for past sins? When sickness or a financial setback comes into your life, do you see this as God's way of making you pay. Or perhaps you have heard someone say, "God, what did I do to deserve this?"

Not all your problems are the result of your sins. When Saul (later called Paul) had his en-counter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, God sent Ananias to pray for him and give him a message from God: "I will show him how much he must suffer for my name." (Acts 9:16 NIV)

Paul could have lived with guilt for the rest of his life as he remembered the Christians he persecuted. The vivid memories of Stephen being stoned to death could have haunted him as he reminded himself that he did nothing but watch and approve of that death.

But Paul chose to look at life from a new point of view-God's. He said, "I have learned to be content in whatever state I am in." (Philippians 4:11-13) He recognized he had been a sin-ner-in fact, he described him-self as the worst of sinners. (1 Timothy 1:16) But he walked in the freedom Christ provided.

Paul speaks with bold confidence that God's power would see him through every difficult circumstance he faced.

God Does Not Use Guilt to Punish His Children
You may find it easy to pound yourself with guilt as you recall past failures or sins. But God only uses guilt to motivate us to come to Him and confess our sins.

Once those sins are forgiven, He does not use guilt to punish us, no matter how serious the sin. See Romans 8:1.

Copyright © 2000, 2006 By David Batty. Used by permission.

Overcoming the trap of Delusion, Denial, Deception

Delusion, Denial, Deception-three words that speak of going down similar paths of false beliefs.

"For 17 years I denied what others saw so clearly," one wife told me. "I refused to admit that my husband was an alcoholic. I told myself my husband drank too much. Finally after 17 years I accepted the truth, and began to respond to the truth."

Jennie, a high school teen wrote, "I'm glad all the students at Teen Challenge are off drugs-but drugs help me. If it wasn't for drugs, I couldn't cope with life." She's in delusion-caught in a false belief that's taking her into more pain and destruction.

Alex grew up in a very average middle class suburban home with hard working parents. As a senior in high school, he bought a brand new sports car-paid cash for it. His parents never asked him, "Son, where did you get the money to buy that car." Alex had been running a drug selling operation out of his bedroom all through high school, and yet his parents knew nothing of this.

Alex deceived his parents, hiding from them his illegal business venture. But his parents also deceived themselves, ignoring some major signals that all was not well with Alex-refusing to believe their son could be involved in selling drugs. The truth came crashing down on the family when Alex was arrested and charged with selling drugs.

Jesus warned us, "Watch out that no one deceives you." (Matthew 24:4 NIV) But who deceives you the most? It's probably not the person you dislike the most. Look closer to home. Those who are closest to us are more likely to deceive us.

But by far the most common form of deception is self-deception. We deceive ourselves and end up on a path of false beliefs.

Deception is often a lie wrapped in the truth. The oldest example is seen in the Garden of Eden, when Eve listened to Satan, accepting his version of the truth-which was part of the truth, mixed with a lie-yet it all sounded so good.

People don't set as their goal in life-"I want to live in delusion." Yet it happens all the time. Proverbs 14:12 NIV says, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death."

A young mother, abandoned by her husband, cried out to God, "I want to know you, please help me- send someone to tell me about you."

The next day two people knocked at the door of her house, and came to tell her about Jesus, and invited her to church. Diane was overjoyed at the new friends she discovered and how much they cared for her and her young children.

Weeks later some of her relatives tried to convince her that her new found friends at the Mormon church were taking her down a path of false beliefs- away from the one true God. She was not convinced-"How could something that feels so good be so wrong?" was her reply.

Deception makes one vulnerable to attacks by their enemies. World War II provides many powerful examples of deception-and its role in helping to win the war. The Allies created an elaborate hoax to deceive the Germans on where they were planning to invade France. They leaked "secrets" to the Germans to convince them the attack would be near one city, while all the time planning for the real attack to take place at Normandy.

On the day of the attack, Germany had many of their troops waiting for the attack in the wrong place.

Cultural Deception
Our culture bombards us with many false messages. Businesses spend billions every year on commercials-hoping we will believe their messages and be motivated to buy their products. You may remember a few years ago a TV commercial by a shampoo company. A handsome young man approaches a beautiful young lady. He's looking at her, smiling-but then he sees dandruff on her shoulder! He turns abruptly and walks away without a word. She stands there devastated by the rejection.

The message the shampoo company wants you to believe is- "young lady you have a problem. Your dandruff caused you to be rejected by this incredible man."

But I want to shout out, "Wait a minute-young lady-stop the camera! Let's take a closer look at this man. If he rejected you when he saw dandruff on your shoulder-can you imagine what he will do when he sees a real problem in your life? Count your blessings! Let him go. The guy is a jerk!"

But all too often we jump to the conclusion-the wrong conclusion. And we rush off to buy a new product, hoping it will solve our problems and bring happiness and fulfillment to our lives. But when we believe a lie, and chase after a false belief, it always disappoints us.

Deception by Our Families
In the name of love, we often help our family members continue down a path of delusion. Our heart of compassion goes out to those we love the most. The warning signals are there-but we are the eternal optimists. Things will get better! So we minimize the problems-ignoring the truth.

Many parents have faithfully served God, and raised their children with love. When the police came knocking at the door of one home, the parents refused to believe it was their child who had been arrested. They told the police, "You must have mixed us up with another family in our city with a teen who has the same name as our son."

Parents and family are often trapped in delusion by offering the wrong kind of help to their loved ones in trouble. One elderly mother is still rescuing her son who is now in his forties. She gives him cash whenever he comes with a new crisis.

What started in his teen years continues today-the mother fails to see that her "help" is simply feeding the irresponsible behavior of her son. When we rescue our loved one, we often feed their delusion.

Why is it we find it so easy to believe a lie? Why are we so often confused about what really is the truth-especially when it relates to ourselves?

Many of the lies we believe have been taught us from our earliest years-by our family, our friends, our culture. Just because millions of people believe a lie doesn't make it the truth.

How we Deceive Ourselves
God gives three examples of how we deceive ourselves. Each contains a lie wrapped in the truth.

1. Failing to apply God's truth - "Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." James 1:22 NIV. All too often Christians slip into the false belief that it is OK to just listen to God's truth.

We go to church on Sunday morning and listen to the sermon. Then come home and face the responsibilities of the week, and go back next Sunday to hear another sermon. God makes it very clear-we must put His truth into action in our lives. If we fail to do this we are deceiving ourselves. Knowing God's truth is not enough. Personal response is absolutely essential!

The Bible is full of God's truth that affects our daily living-how we spend our money, how we should show love to others, the need for compassion, kindness, forgiveness, integrity, faithfulness, patience, keeping our thoughts pure, and so much more. Daily reading of God's word is important-but it's not enough. We must consistently do the much more difficult task of personally applying these teachings to the problems and situations we face in our daily living.

2. Failing to control our tongue - "If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless." James 1:26 NIV.

"Worthless!" This is God's assessment of a very faithful, religious person who fails to exercise self control in his or her speech. The first 3 verses of 1 Corinthians chapter 13 give a similar assessment of the worthlessness of wonderful spiritual expressions if they are not accompanied by love.

God is making the same point here. The lack of self control is another way of saying the person is in delusion. Anger is often the door we open that leads us to talking our way into trouble. But gossip, jealousy, fear, discourage-ment, and pain can also easily take us down the paths where our speech gets us in trouble. Each of these expressions demonstrate the need for us to learn how to see God's truth in times of trouble, and see how it applies to our problems, and how we can respond in a godly way.

Instead of cursing at our problems, we need to speak God's truth into the problem, and say, "God, how do you want me to respond to this situation? What do you want me to learn from this problem?"

If we ignore God's truth in a situation, we are deceived. The sooner we acknowledge this, the faster we can get to God's truth.

3. Failing to see the only source of good gifts - "Do not be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." James 1:16-17 NIV.

This expression of deception may be the most difficult for many of us to accept. God makes it very clear that everything that is good for us comes from Him. But we find it so easy to believe the messages that come at us from a thousand other sources.

… we frequently hear students say, "As a teen, I went looking for love in all the wrong places." They go on to describe the destruction and pain that came into their lives as they headed down these paths of false beliefs.

God says any sex outside of marriage is destructive. Instead we often choose to believe the messages seen on TV every day, that sexual intimacy can be a beautiful expression of love outside of marriage.

The message of James 1:16-17 is simple-God knows what is best for you. If you want what is good in your life-if you want what is perfect for you-then let God bring it into your life in His time. Don't go seeking after it in what the world offers.

The world may label it as harmless-but God says it is destructive. Pornography often carries with it the promise of a beautiful expression of sexual fulfillment-a safe way without the risk of being rejected. But in reality it is a path of false intimacy-one that never brings true fulfillment. True intimacy will only be experienced in the context of a loving relationship with another person-inside God's boundaries.

So What Breaks Delusion?
Whether it is self-delusion, or delusion by another person, there are two options we face in breaking the power of these false beliefs.

The Easy Way
The easy way to break down delusion is to listen to God's truth, and act on it. We need to tell ourselves the truth. We need to be honest with others-especially about our weaknesses and problems.

We need to give permission to at least one trusted person to hold us accountable, and confront us when they see us living with a false belief. We need to carefully read the Bible and discover God's truth, and see how it relates to the problems we are facing today.

When Jesus was here on earth, He often would begin His teachings by saying, "I tell you the truth." Then He would go on to speak the truth. It seems He had to inform people that what He was about to communicate was truth. Do people know how to distinguish between truth and a lie?

Every day we receive calls at Teen Challenge from families with a loved one trapped in addiction. "Can you help my loved one?" they ask. Our first questions are, "Does your loved one want help? Do they recognize the need to change their way of living?"

All too often the family sees the problem, but the one who is addicted has believed the lies so long that they are trapped not only in the addiction to drugs, but also trapped in the delusion of false beliefs.

So how do we help our loved one come to the place where they see the truth and are willing to change? "Speak the truth in love!" Not just once, but over and over.

If they refuse to listen to you, pray that God will send others into their lives to speak the truth. Then offer up this prayer-"God, do whatever it takes to break through the delusion in the life of my loved one."

The easy way to break down a false belief is to see the truth, accept the truth, and say, "I will hold on to this truth, and begin to make it a part of my thoughts and actions. I will begin to live by this truth."

Unfortunately, many of us do not choose the easy path out of delusion. Instead we stubbornly hold on to our false beliefs- ignore the truth-and set ourselves on the hard path to discovering truth.

The Hard Path to Breaking Delusion
When we choose to ignore God's truth, we send ourselves down the paths of delusion and experience the painful consequences of those choices. The longer we live with delusion, the more pain we will experience. Pain can become the power that helps break the delusion. The truth is-pain is our friend, and it can break through our false beliefs, and bring us face to face with the truth.

But our culture tells us-pain is bad. Take our pill and you don't need to feel any pain. So when we feel pain, we often say to ourselves, "Pain is bad. I need to get away from this pain."

We need to use pain as an alarm clock-jarring us out of our sleep-out of our delusion-out of our false beliefs.

What is needed is a radically new thought towards pain-I need to carefully look at what is causing the pain and ask, "What part of God's truth am I missing?" I need to look at the long term consequences of my actions and measure my life against God's truth-not against my delusions.

Delusion does not have to be intentional. If you are cooking a meal and unintentionally put your hand too close to the fire, you will feel pain instantly! The pain is the natural consequence of your delusion. You falsely believed that it was safe to move your hand in a certain way as you were cooking.

Even as you were doing a task of importance, your false belief led to an action that brought pain into your life in an instant.

Many false beliefs do not lead to instant pain. When we fail to experience any negative consequences, it can easily reinforce the false belief and make it even stronger in our lives.

Many teens have heard their parents say, "Don't use drugs- they will fry your brain and destroy your life." Yet they go to school every day and see other teens using drugs, and going through school with lots of friends.

At Teen Challenge, every young person here can tell you a story of tragedy, how drugs brought great destruction into their lives, often affecting their family as well.

Tracey, a mother with two young boys, was on a path filled with drugs and self-delusion. Her father always came to her rescue when she ended up in jail. Finally he stopped rescuing her-and she spent the next 7 months in jail.

"Jail was good for me," Tracey told me. "I finally got the drugs out of my system. As my head cleared, I began to see how much damage I was causing in the lives of my two sons, and as well as in my own life.

"Jail was also where I first learned about Jesus and how He could change my life. Two Christian ladies came every week for a Bible study and helped me to discover God's truth for my life. They also introduced me to Teen Challenge where I learned more of God's truth."

Delusion can strike in any area of our life. But God's truth relates to every problem we face. God's truth speaks to every false belief. The path to real life is not down fantasy lane. Real life is when we face God's truth, and begin to apply it in our daily living. The task of exposing our false beliefs may be a life long task. God's truth will light the path to real life.

Copyright © 2002, 2005 By David Batty. Used by permission.

How to Respond When People Hurt You

What comes to your mind in response to the questions, "Who has hurt you? Who has offended you? Who has lied about you? Who has betrayed you?"

How quickly can you make a short list of people who have caused you pain? And who were these people who hurt you? Family members? Your wife? Your husband? One of your parents? Your children? Or was it a person at work? Or a friend from church- perhaps better labeled "a former friend."

How many friendships have been shattered because their cruel words or actions left you feeling betrayed?

Hollywood makes blockbuster movies with a simple story line-the hero of the movie is hurt or a victim of injustice, and throughout the movie seeks to recover what is rightfully his or hers. And when they finally get to the end, we cheer the hero's revenge, "All right, go for it, that evil person deserves it!"

But how does God want us to respond to people who hurt us? Whether that person is a family member or an enemy, how should we react?

The Bible speaks quite plainly to the issue of revenge: "Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord." (Romans 12:19 NIV) Just in case there is any confusion-God does not need you to tell Him when or how to get revenge.

So how does God want me to respond to those who hurt me? Luke 6:27-3 6 speaks to this issue with great detail. In some areas of the Christian life we struggle to find out how God wants us to respond. That is not the case here. God's instructions are detailed.

Jesus said, "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you." (Luke 6:27-28 NIV) In the following verses Jesus gives several specific examples of how to treat those who have hurt you, and He concludes with, "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful." (vs. 36 NIV) Talk about an impossible standard!

Let's take a look at each of these instructions Jesus gave us, but let me warn you in advance-they are not logical from a human perspective.

Love Your Enemies
So who are your enemies? We look at other parts of the world where war is raging, and we see this on TV-the Arabs and Jews in a cycle of violence, hatred, and death. But who fits the label of "enemy" in your life?

Many of those who come to Teen Challenge for help are from a background of violence and anger. A huge percentage of them have been deeply damaged as children. Juan's mother gave him away to an uncle because she didn't want him. The uncle raised Juan, but cruelly abused him.

Eventually Juan ended up in a series of foster homes and jail before coming to Teen Challenge. So who were the enemies in Juan's life?

Rita came into a home with a mom who didn't want her. She too was given away and ended up in foster homes. One foster mother would discipline her by putting a plastic bag over her head and hold it tight until Rita passed out. Sexual abuse was also part of her childhood experiences.

So how long is Rita's list of enemies?

For many of us the definition of an enemy is "a former friend." You were in a relationship with someone that should have been a positive friendship-but they betrayed you.

And Jesus says, here is how I want you to respond to that enemy today-love them! "This does not make sense!" you say. Why should I love them? Look at all the damage this person caused in my life, and now you just want me to love that person? If this enemy has come to beg for my forgiveness-if they have really changed-I still find it hard to forgive and love them.

But what about the enemy who has not changed-they are still the same evil person that hurt me so deeply.

Or maybe your "enemy" is a Christian, perhaps even a pastor, or some other church leader who hurt you. "Why should I love this hypocrite? They should know better-they are a leader. They should have been showing me love- instead they betrayed me!"

In response to all your "whys" Jesus simply says, "Love your enemies."

How Can I Love My Enemies?
But how? How does Jesus want me to show love to my enemies? I simply do not have any love in my heart for that person. Are you saying that I should have "warm fuzzy feelings" in my heart for this person?

God knows our weaknesses, and He has promised to provide the power we need when we do not have the strength to do what He asks us to do. So the good news is that if you don't know how to love this enemy, God will help you.

The promise of 2 Timothy 1:7 offers great hope to you: "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline." (NIV) God will give you the power to love your enemies the way He wants you to love them.

The best place to start is the list of love characteristics given in 1 Corinthians chapter 13. Over 15 different expressions of love are listed here, and not one of them talks about romantic warm feelings for the other person.

The first love trait relates well to enemies-"love is patient." How can I express patience in relating to this enemy? Let's look at it from the other end-when you show patience toward this person, you are expressing God's love. So does this mean I let this person keep on abusing me-and I respond by showing patience as they abuse me? Not at all!

As much as it is in our power, we need to put in place boundaries that keep us safe from the damage our enemies try to bring into our lives. We need to seek help from others who can assist in providing this safety.

The wife who is being beaten by her husband should call the police. To simply stay in that place of abuse, and say, "I'm just being patient, doing what God says," this is not God's way to express love to that abuser.

Patience can be expressed toward our enemies by what we think and what we say. It is "normal" and easy to lash out with our words, or at least in our thoughts, toward the one who has hurt us. Love can be shown by not going down the path of revenge-even in our thoughts.

The second expression of love in 1 Corinthians 13 states, "love is kind." Perhaps the most important prayer you need to say is, "God, how do You want me to show kindness to this person? God give me the power to show kindness to this person, because in my own heart, I simply do not have the desire or the power to do this." Look in the life of Jesus at how He showed kindness to those who mistreated Him.

The list in 1 Corinthians 13 goes on, each trait very specific and practical in providing appropriate expressions of love toward our enemies. And there are many other scriptures that speak to love.

But with all this scripture, you may still be saying, "I just do not want to love this person. They had no right doing what they did to me."

You cannot change your enemy-but you can change your response to this person. That is what God is concerned about for you- what is your response?

God will give you the power to change if you are willing to change.

Do Good to Those Who Hate You
This second response from Luke 6:27 calls us to action-to "do good to those who hate you." This response cannot be fulfilled with kind thoughts alone-action is required.

God created us to do good works. "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:10 NIV) What an incredible promise for us to stand on!

We were created for a purpose-our life has a mission-a mission planned by God Himself! Our whole reason for being on earth is to do the good works that God Himself prepared in advance for us to do!

Luke 6:27 makes it quite clear that the good works He has planned for us are not to be restricted to those who love us and do good things to us. God has a bigger plan.

Not only does God want us to do good works, He also equips us for these works. "May the God of peace . . . equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." (Hebrews 13:20-2 1 NIV)

"His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires." (2 Peter 1:3- 4 NIV)

So how do I know what are the good works that God wants me to do for the one who hates me? We need God's help in making that decision.

Don Swartzlander, the director of Teen Challenge in Buffalo, NY, recently told me of an experience with a lady who hated their ministry. She was a well-known "advocate" for anyone who had a complaint in their city. She had been protesting Teen Challenge's move to a new location where they could expand their ministry.

One day Don was at a community meeting, and saw this lady come limping into the meeting. "God spoke to my heart and told me to pray for her," stated Don. "So I bowed my head and breathed a prayer to God for her. Instantly in my heart God responded-'No, you go pray for her!'

"So at the end of the meeting I went up to where she was seated and asked if I could pray for her. She was willing, so I placed my hand on her shoulder and prayed a very simple prayer for her."

A few weeks later Don saw this same woman at another community meeting. "When she entered the room, she loudly called out-'I love you!' " Don stated, "I was not paying much attention to her, since she was always talking loud. But she repeated this, and came right up to me, threw her arms around me and gave me a great big grandma hug!"

"God had touched her-not only had she experienced God's healing physically, but God had touched her heart," shared Don. "From that day on she was a friend and advocate for Teen Challenge in any issue that related to our ministry."

When God calls us to do good to those who hate us, it rarely seems logical. But God has a plan bigger than we can see. I cannot guarantee that your act of doing good will bring results as quickly as Don experienced.

God wants us to do good works whether or not the other person changes. Your job is not to change your enemy. Your job is to follow Jesus, and do what He directs you to do. Jesus made the point that even when we give a cup of cold water to someone in need, God sees this and will reward us. (Matthew 10:42)

Jesus also illustrated clearly that whatever we do to others, we are really doing it to God. (Matthew 25:31-46) So however we treat our enemies is really how we are treating God. If you don't know what to do for that person, then pray, "God I am willing to do whatever you want me to do to express kindness to this person."

Bless Those Who Curse You
The third response God calls us to do toward those who have hurt us is "bless those who curse you." (Luke 6:28) Why should I bless someone who is cursing me? Human logic says the opposite. How do people curse you? Let's broaden the definition beyond those who swear at you. When others show you disrespect-that qualifies as "cursing you." Let's also include when they say hateful things, or lie about you, or do hurtful things toward you, or betray you.

God says bless them-not after they have repented, but bless them even if they continue with that hurtful behavior. Why would God want you to bless someone who is treating you so badly? Blessing others is a powerful protection to keep you from becoming bitter, hateful, and bent on revenge.

The normal response to someone who curses you is to curse them back. When we do that we fall into the same sinful gutter the other person is already in. We stoop to their level.

God has a better plan for you- He has created you to do good works-not to curse others. Your actions need to be determined-not by the response of the other person-but in focused obedience on what God wants you to do. When you bless those who curse you, you show you are not a slave to that other person's behavior.

God gave a powerful promise to Abraham in the Old Testament. "I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse." (Genesis 12:3 NIV) God says, I will stand back and watch how other people treat you-and their response will determine My response.

God says my way of treating people determines how He will treat me. When you bring this powerful truth into the picture, it begins to make more sense why you should bless those who curse you. When you bless others you bring God's blessing on your life!

And God's blessing is far more important than the curses from other people.

So the greatest benefit from following God's instructions to bless those who curse you-the greatest benefit comes to you. God will bless you. The one who is cursing you may continue to treat you badly. But God has a better plan for you!

So how do you bless someone who is cursing you? Instead of planning revenge, offer a simple prayer, "God, please bless this person." Every time this person comes to your mind, use those thoughts to trigger this simple prayer. You may find yourself praying this prayer a hundred times a day-keep doing it!

What does this prayer accomplish? First it frees you from thinking curses back on this person. It also fits closely with God's view of forgiveness-you release to God the full responsibility to punish their sin. This prayer of blessing enables you to be at peace in your heart even though the relationship may not have changed.

Blessing those who curse you also speaks to how you talk about this person who has cursed you. Instead of speaking to others about the hurt and how wrong the other person is, you can choose to only speak in a positive way about that person. Do not repeat the curses of this person so the whole world can know how wrong they are; instead choose to speak kind words.

If you can't say anything else, tell others you are praying that God will bless this person who has hurt you.

Pray for Those Who Mistreat You
God's fourth assignment for you is to "pray for those who mistreat you." (Luke 6:28) Many times we are not in a position to force the other person to stop their hurtful behavior. Rarely do we have the power to change them, but we do have the power to change our response to this person. God simply says, pray for them. So what should I pray about? Pray that God will help you to love this person. Pray that God will help you to see what are the good things God wants you to do for this person. Pray that God will bless this person.

What do these prayers do? They focus your attention on God. Instead of being consumed with the hurt, you focus on God the one who can heal the hurt, and give you the power to respond in a radically new way.

I remember seeing a young child run to his mother with a sad face, and as soon as he was in the arms of his mother he burst out crying, and eventually told her why he was so sad. I remember being so amused by this child because he had waited until he got to his mother before he started crying.

But what a beautiful picture of how God wants us to respond! Instead of sitting down in the midst of the one who has hurt us, and crying to ourselves about the hurt, we need to keep our mouth shut, and run to Jesus, and pour out our heart to Him.

King David demonstrates this many times in the Psalms he wrote, speaking of the betrayal by friends and enemies- calling on God to punish them. What is interesting to note is that David did not cry out to his generals to go kill those who were treating him this way.

When David was fleeing for his life because his son Absalom was leading a rebellion, a man named Shimei came out and cursed David and threw stones at him. When one of David's generals asked permission to take off his head, David responded-leave Shimei alone, perhaps God has told him to curse me. (See 2 Samuel 16:5-14.)

What an incredible response in such a difficult time! David protects himself from sinning by trusting God, and assuming that God's plan is beyond his own understanding.

How can we pray for those who mistreat us? King David's response gives a powerful example. God may want to use the hurtful behavior of others to help you grow.

The example of Christ sends the same message. Those who crucified Jesus did it with the intention of getting rid of Him. But God used their evil actions as His path to provide for the salvation of the whole world.

When people say and do hurtful things, God has a plan for our response. These four steps in Luke 6:27-28 are only the beginning of what God says in the Bible, but they will provide most of us with a fulltime challenge of putting them into practice.

These four responses God calls us to use do not in any way send the message that God endorses the hurtful things others do to you. God sends the message to you that He has a plan for your response, and His plan will take you beyond the hurt to a place of healing and growth. Then, just like Joseph you will be able to look back on that hurtful experience and say, "You intended to harm me, but God used it for good to accomplish His plan in my life."

Joseph-A Lifetime of Hurtful Things Done by Those Around Him
Joseph was cruelly sold by his brothers into slavery, as a way to make money off him rather than just killing him.

As a young man in Egypt, he had plenty of reasons to harbor anger toward his brothers for their evil actions.

But it's clear that Joseph put his trust in God, and chose to have a positive attitude toward his circumstances. Soon he was the leader in Potiphar's house.

Then betrayal came crashing on him again, when Potiphar's wife falsely accused him of raping her. This time he ends up in prison-probably spending many of the best years of his young adult life behind bars.

Even in prison Joseph continues to put God first in his life, and God blesses him. Joseph had no way of knowing what the future held for him. Yet he harbors no bitterness toward Potiphar.

Finally God opens the prison doors and in one day Joseph goes from prisoner to leader of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh.

God uses him to prepare the nation for the coming famine.

When the famine finally affects Joseph's brothers and father, they come to Egypt looking for food.

Joseph could have planned revenge and killed his brothers, but instead he loves them, and brings them all to Egypt to live with his blessing.

When his father dies many years later, the brothers come pleading for mercy because of their past actions.

Joseph still responds with love and forgiveness, showing in his answer how he sees this past painful experience: "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." (Genesis 50:20 NIV)

Copyright © 2003, 2006 By David Batty. Used by permission.

How do I know if it is from God?

  • What causes people to be confused about how God wants them to respond to shame?
  • When is shame a delusion?
  • What triggers your shame?
  • How can you get out of the shame trap?

“I remember being at the police station, being finger-printed, and having my picture taken,” shared Yvonne. “I remember the handcuffs and leg shackles put on me. I felt so ashamed when I had to call my pastor and family and tell them about my hidden addiction.”

“But mostly I struggle with being 42 years old, having been arrested, and now having a record,” states Yvonne. “I feel shame for having nothing to show for all those wasted years.”

Shame is a powerful force in the lives of many teens. Some struggle with issues related to their home life—especially if their parents are alcoholics or drug addicts.

One mom shared about her troubled past, “I was so wrapped up in my addiction that I failed to properly care for my children. My 15 year old daughter was taking care of my children due to my addiction. My daughter also had her first child when she was only 15.”

The power of shame can be rooted in memories of childhood experiences, like what Harvey experienced when he was only 5 years old. “One day we were going somewhere and my dad was in a hurry. I wasn’t getting into the car fast enough, so my dad became very angry and kicked me. The physical pain was not what hurt—it was the shame of what he did to me,” states Harvey. “This abuse was repeated all during my childhood. I grew up hating my father and myself.”

The Path to Shame
So what takes a person down the path to shame? There is more than one path to the bondage of shame.

For some, this sense of shame was instilled by their parents who taught the difference between right and wrong, and would say, “Shame on you!” to the child who behaved badly. The disappointment in the parental tone of voice burned those words deep into the heart and soul of the child.

Others grew up in quite different settings, around adults who had little time for God. Without a moral compass, they saw little reason to feel ashamed of their sinful actions.

“I used to self mutilate,” states Lisa. “I now have scars on my arms that remind me of my past sin. I was ashamed of the scars. I never knew it was a sin to cut and burn myself until I came to Teen Challenge and learned about God.”

Some with a Christian background have painful memories as they reflect on their failures. “After being a Christian for 5 years I had an affair with another woman,” confessed Juan. “Even now, 16 years later, I still struggle with the guilt and shame of hurting my wife, my work, my church, myself, and God. Every time I see my ex-wife, I feel pain and shame.”

Meeting Christ on the Road to Shame
At the age of 32, Tina met Christ in a personal way. Though she had been to church as a child, she had never developed a personal relationship with Christ. Now for the first time at age 32, she began to understand what it meant to follow Jesus.

She began to understand the conviction of the Holy Spirit as He pointed out the sins in her life. This motivated her to change her way of living, and begin to walk in obedience to Christ.

The more she studied the Bible, and attended church, the more she understood God’s view of truth. She gained a new awareness of her past actions. “In my addictions, my mind was in such a fog that I failed to see how destructive my lifestyle had been—deeply damaging my own life, as well as affecting my family.”

Another new Christian states, “Shame became a bigger issue in my life after I became a Christian. But I have learned to work through this, and release this feeling to God every day.”

The Shame Delusion
With a greater desire to serve God, many Christians develop a growing sensitivity to the conviction of the Holy Spirit. And here is where many fall into the trap of shame. We miss God’s truth by focusing on our feelings instead of God’s truth. We fail to distinguish the difference between the genuine conviction of the Holy Spirit and the lies of the devil.

God says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9 (NIV)

When a Christian confesses a sin, rarely does the memory of that experience instantly disappear. In a few days, or weeks, or even years later, the memory of that sinful action will flood your memory. And with the memory comes a tidal wave of shame.

Reflecting on that memory, you can’t help but feel the shame. It feels so much like the conviction of the Holy Spirit that you can easily jump to the conclusion, “It’s the Holy Spirit.” You find yourself embracing the condemnation, telling yourself how big a failure you are.

But here is the trap—we have allowed our feelings to lead us to a conclusion, rather than using God’s truth. “It must be God, because I feel so much shame about my past sins,” we tell ourselves.

Satan comes as an angel of light pretending to be the Holy Spirit. He floods us with feelings of shame—not just once—but over and over—daily, weekly, monthly. We assume, “If I still feel so bad about this, it must be the Holy Spirit showing me how miserably I have failed Him.”

Satan wants to destroy your freedom in Christ. If he can get you to believe a lie, it can rob you of the peace and power Christ wants you to experience in your life each day.

How to Get Out of the Shame Trap
To get out of the shame trap we must focus on God’s truth—not our feelings. Ask yourself, “Have I already confessed this sin to Jesus?” If so, God is not sending new shame into your life for a sin He has already forgiven.

You must take hold of this truth, not because you feel it, but because you choose to believe what God says in 1 John 1:9. Plus there are so many other promises of God that help us combat the lies of the devil.


Romans 8:1-2 says, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 2For the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you through Christ Jesus from the power of sin that leads to death.” (New Living Translation)

God is not always going to change your feelings or sound a clanging alarm in your heart saying, “Don’t believe those feelings of shame—they are a trick of the devil.” We have to learn how to stand on God’s truth even when our feelings seem to contradict that truth.

It’s so easy to believe, “If I feel so bad inside, I must be wrong.” When we embrace the feeling without first submitting it to the test of God’s truth, we easily walk into Satan’s trap.

Do we need to be sensitive to our feelings as a Christian? Yes— because the Holy Spirit will convict us when we sin or fall short of His standard for our daily living. But we also must become sensitive to God’s truth—and that sensitivity is not to a feeling of truth, but to an understanding of truth—based on the facts in the Bible.

If you are going to correctly respond to the genuine conviction of the Holy Spirit, and also correctly identify the tricks of the devil, you must study God’s truth. “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15 NIV

What Triggers Your Shame?
Every time shame floods your heart, you need to ask yourself—what has triggered this feeling of shame? For Debra it was the memories of the many times she neglected her young children when she was living in her addiction. “Shame always sets in when I think of all the times I reverted back to alcohol. Guilt, shame and condemnation haunt me when I think of what I’ve done to my three children, and my mother.”

But it doesn’t just have to be memories of huge sins of the past. It can be the sins of others that have damaged you. For Miriam, it was the painful memory of how she was sexually abused by her father and brothers when she was a child. The memory comes back over and over, with powerful feelings of shame each time.

Or shame can be triggered by little memories that were not even sin. It may be the memory of a recent conversation with a friend, and as you reflect on it, you hear a voice in your head saying, “You really blew that big time”—when all you remember is a comment that may have been less than perfect.

Small incidents of the past can carry with them great waves of shame just as much as big failures of the past. Satan doesn’t really care how big your sins of the past are. All he cares about is seeing if you will fall for his deceptions.

So what triggers your shame? Have you already confessed this sin—if it is a sin? If you have, then this shame is not from God. You need to respond appropriately to this feeling of shame attached to this memory— speak God’s truth to it.

You need to tell yourself, “These shameful feelings are not from God. Therefore I reject them, and give them no place in my heart. I do not deny my past or ignore it. I accept responsibility for all my actions (not the sins of others), and I commit myself to following Jesus today.”

You must stand on God’s promise of Romans 8:1 that there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.

It’s a choice—you can choose to embrace the feelings of shame, and the condemnation that comes with it, or you can choose to embrace God’s truth, and walk in it. You must speak God’s truth to the memory of the past. You must speak God’s truth to the present feelings of shame.

Jesus said, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36 NIV) You must choose to walk in His freedom on a moment by moment basis. The feelings of shame may keep flooding your heart. But you have to stand in the truth—God’s truth—not the “truth” of your feelings.

Does this mean I just ignore the feelings of shame in my life? Yes— some of the time—especially when the devil comes with the same old memories of past sins you have already confessed.

Why do I Still Feel Shame?
So why do I still feel shame? The devil doesn’t give up just because you say “No” one time. He keeps coming back with the same feelings with the same old movies of your past failures. He may give you a rest for a few days, or weeks, or even months, then he starts in again.

Why does the devil keep coming back with the same old memories? He wants to destroy your joy and peace today. He’s hoping that you will believe your feelings instead of standing on God’s truth

The key to your victory over shame is not some huge spiritual battle with Satan, with demons flying all over the place. Our victory is realized in fixing our heart on following Jesus, one day after another.

If you cannot remember confessing that sin before, then do it now—very specifically ask Jesus to forgive you and cleanse you. Then stand on the promise of God in 1 John 1:9 that He has forgiven you.

Feeling Shame for What Others Have Done to You?
For those who have been sexually abused, shame is many times a huge issue in their lives. This shame often causes the person to feel like they are “damaged goods.”

In 1 John 1:9 God promises that when we confess our sins, He will forgive us, and purify us from all unrighteousness—including the sins that others have committed against us. We do not need to live in shame for what others have done to us— God sees us as pure—and He loves us.

Copyright © 2004 By David Batty

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