As a reformed Baptist, it came as a shock to me today when I realized that I had recently been living out the Catholic faith. I traded what I knew to be true for the lie that I needed to be good and perfect in order to be loved and forgiven by God. My life was characterized by guilt and shame, even though I had asked for forgiveness for past sins. I knew that God had forgiven me, I knew what He had done to forgive me, and yet I still felt the need to beat myself up about what I had done. I knew that Jesus had died on the cross for my sins, He took the ultimate punishment for them, and yet I did not feel like that was enough. I felt the driving need to continually remind myself of what I had done, and that I was not deserving of God’s grace.
Of course I wasn’t deserving of God’s grace, none of us are, and yet He still freely offers it to us. We just need to repent and accept it. “But God who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by GRACE you have been saved)…For by GRACE you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” Ephesians 2:4,5,8,9 (emphasis mine). Salvation is not based upon my own works, that is one thing I grew up believing but until today I had lost sight of that belief. Salvation is a gift of grace. It has never, and will never be dependent on what I have done, but on what Christ has done. He is the One who lived a sinless life, died on the cross, bearing my sin and shame, rose again, and ascended into heaven. He is God and has the power to forgive any and every sin. I do not have that power. When I lost sight of that, that is when I started to live in the guilt and pain that I have suffered. I am not worthy of salvation. I do not deserve it, and yet it is freely given to me and offered to all. That is the beauty of salvation. Totally undeserved, given to totally unworthy sinners who are bound in the chains of sin, and yet salvation sets us free. God sets us free from all of that.
Earlier today I was bound by the chains of sin, and I was not going to let myself get away without inflicting as much shame and guilt as possible. This afternoon, I have been renewed, I have been changed and set free. Will I occasionally feel the weight of sin and shame? Yes, but Christ has paid for it, and I am set free in Him.