Trials and Temptations

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

James 1:2-4

God often allows us to face trials and temptations. He allows these to test our faith. Not unlike how we must complete tests in school before moving on to the next semester or the next grade level, so too must we face testing before stepping into the next thing God has for us. Testing, when handled well, matures our faith and fills in areas where there may be holes. But it will take some perseverance.

When trials and temptations come our way, they don’t have to discourage us or make us feel weak and sinful. Remember that Jesus was tempted but didn’t sin (Hebrews 4:15). Just because you face trials and temptations doesn’t mean you have sinned. The enemy likes to try to guilt trip us just for being tempted, as if we’ve already sinned. But don’t believe those lies. That’s the oldest trick in the book.

Instead, we can view our trials and temptations as useful tools that may reveal vulnerable areas or immature areas of our spiritual life. If we let them, they can function as a spiritual “check engine” light that comes on in the dashboard of our life. We can find joy in them because God is using them to show us where He wants to grow us and mature us. We can laugh at our weakness and vulnerability as it reminds us just how dependent we still are on the grace of God.

We can also rejoice in knowing that tests don’t last forever. When the day of testing comes to an end, and we’ve withstood the test, graduation is imminent. God always allows testing in our life before graduating us to the next level of responsibility and/or anointing in the Kingdom. He wants to find out ahead of time if we will be able to handle the weightiness that comes with the next assignment. He doesn’t want the weightiness of it to break us, so we get tested before it comes.

Testing also acts as a refining process. Like gold in the fire, we get refined as the impurities are burned away. God removes things that don’t need to be there, and He brings life in areas that have been dry. “Not lacking anything” is His goal for us.

So what trial are you facing? What temptation is knocking at your door? Don’t be discouraged. It doesn’t mean you are a miserable sinner forever prone to sin. No! You are a new creation in Christ, the old is gone, the new is here (2 Corinthians 5:17). This trial and temptation, brought by the enemy to entangle you, can be used by God as a test to strengthen you. This test is revealing areas God want to solidify in you. And this test might be showing up in your life right now because it is right before a graduation/promotion that God wants to give you.

Sins of the father

That same night the Lord said to him, “Take the second bull from your father’s herd, the one seven years old. Tear down your father’s altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole beside it. Then build a proper kind of altar to the Lord your God on the top of this height. Using the wood of the Asherah pole that you cut down, offer the second bull as a burnt offering.”

Judges 6:25-26

Notice what the Lord asks of Gideon before He sends Gideon on his mission to fight the Midianites. Earlier, Gideon had encountered the presence of the Lord and first offered Him a personal offering. This offering functioned as a burnt offering as it was totally consumed when the “fire flared from the rock, consuming the meat and the bread” (Judges 6:21). Burnt offerings were about atonement and consecration of the person offering it.

If personal cleansing and atonement were enough, this first offering would have been sufficient. But the also Lord asks Gideon to address the sin in his family line. He was commanded to do a three-fold action to address the generational sin in his family.

First, he was to tear down the altars to the false gods. Then, he was to build a proper altar to the Lord. Finally, he was to offer a burnt offering for the generational sin of his family line.

We can’t miss this truth. I have seen this reality over and over in the people to whom I minister. We must first seek forgiveness for our own sin. That is essential. But too much of evangelical and progressive Christianity stops there. We have little understanding of how generational sin effects our lives.

In the spirit realm, everything operates by authority. Parents have authority over their children and function as a kind of umbrella of protection over them. When parents and grandparents sin and never get forgiveness and freedom from that sin, there is created a hole in the umbrella. The enemy can gain access to the family line through this open door.

God is a God of the generations, not just the individual person. We Americans struggle with this concept because of our hyper-individualism. The bible tells us that God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The generations are intentionally connected (that’s why you see those long genealogies in scripture listing the ancestors) as a means to pass blessing. The whole point of connecting the generations was so that blessing could flow from one generation to the next and increase with each generation. Satan finds ways to hijack the family line so that he can pass down cursing and sin instead of blessing and favor.

If we find patterns of sin cycling in our families down through the generations, we need to address it. We need to apply the blood of Jesus to that cycle and that sin so that we and our children can experience freedom from it. Like the doorposts on the first night of Passover in Egypt, it’s not enough just to have the blood of the lamb, we must apply the blood of the lamb. We must renounce the generational sin, break the generational curse that sin has created, and cancel any assignment of the enemy against us.

We must do what the Lord commanded Gideon to do. We must tear down the false gods, worship the true God–Jesus Christ–and submit that part of our life to Him as a living sacrifice. Because sin of the 4th generation back can still affect us, it’s helpful to start back at the 4th generation and work your way forward to the 3rd generation, your grandparents and your parents. Below is a prayer adapted from a minister named Rodney Hogue that you can pray to help with this.

BREAKING GENERATIONAL CURSES

In the name of Jesus, I declare the blood of Jesus to stand between me and the 4th generation, the 3rd generation, my grandparents, and my parents generation as a wall of separation. I cancel every assignment of darkness and remove every right of the demonic to afflict me because of the sins of those generations. I call to me my righteous inheritance and the blessings of those generations. Amen!

Rodney Hogue, Empowered Workbook

The Five-fold King

Then the five kings of the Amorites—the kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish and Eglon—joined forces. They moved up with all their troops and took up positions against Gibeon and attacked it.

Joshua 10:5

The Amorite king of Jerusalem heard what Joshua and Israel did to Jericho and Ai and that they made a treaty with Gibeon. So he gathered the five Amorite kings together in order to attack the people of Gibeon. Because of the treaty, the people of Gibeon sent word to Joshua and asked him for help. Joshua showed up with the Israelite army and defeated the armies of the five Amorite kings.

Joshua then chased down the five kings and held them in a cave until the fighting was over. Then this happened:

Then Joshua put the kings to death and exposed their bodies on five trees, and they were left hanging on the trees until evening.

At sunset Joshua gave the order and they took them down from the trees and threw them into the cave where they had been hiding. At the mouth of the cave they placed large rocks…

Joshua 10:26-27

Let that scene sink in for a second. Each king was hung on a tree, buried in a cave, and then stones were placed in mouth of the cave. This scene is a foreshadowing of Christ’s death and burial. This is a typology of Jesus. Jesus, the King of Kings, was hung on a tree, buried in a cave/tomb, and had a stone rolled in front of it.

Not only that, but these kings are put to death by Joshua. Jesus’s name in Hebrew was Joshua (Yeshua). This creates a beautiful juxtaposition with what Jesus did for us. Instead of putting to death the five kings, our Joshua (Jesus) became the five kings for us. He was hung on a tree and buried in cave for us.

When the Lord showed me this I was blown away. Then I asked the Lord, “But why five? What do the five kings represent?” The Lord spoke very clearly to me and told me to look at the five sacrifices in Leviticus. When I went back to research this, I was astounded.

The Five Offerings of Leviticus:

1. The Burnt Offering (Leviticus 1): This was the offering that was completely consumed on the fire. None of it would remain to eat. It was an offering that signaled the complete devotion of the person offering it. The purpose of the sacrifice was atonement. Jesus gave all of himself becoming our burnt offering. He made atonement for us and secured our covenant with God.

2. The Grain Offering (Leviticus 2): This was the offering of breads and cakes. It was a voluntary offering just as the burnt offering was. No yeast was allowed in the breads that were offered. Jesus is the Bread of Life, the manna from heaven, offered in our place. He is the unleavened bread–the perfectly sinless sacrifice. Part of the offering was on the altar and the other part was consumed by priests. Likewise, we consume the body of Christ and take Him into ourselves as the Holy Spirit dwells within us.

3. The Fellowship Offering/Peace Offering (Leviticus 3): This offering was either a lamb or goat and it was the fat portion of that animal. These offerings were called fellowship offerings because they were given by those who were at peace with God in order to express their gratitude. This offering was also a voluntary offering. Jesus voluntarily became the offering that made us at peace with God. He is the one who reconnected us to the Father. Romans 5:1-2 says, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.”

4. The Sin Offering (Leviticus 4): The sin offering was a offering of the fat portions of an animal in order to cover unintentinal sins or sins committed unconsciously. This offering was mandatory. This offering was meant to address our sin nature, not just particular individual sins. Jesus became our sin offering. Jesus became sin in order to set us free from our sin nature and give us a new, redeemed nature. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

5. The Guilt Offering (Leviticus 5): The guilt offering was meant to make restitution for individual wrongs done. It was mandatory like the sin offering. It was a way to sort of pay God back for the sin committed. Jesus became our guilt offering, taking all of our guilt upon himself and wiping away the guilt in our lives. Hebrews 10:22 says, “let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.”

So the death of these five Amorite kings not only reaches back to Leviticus but reaches forward to foreshadow the ways in which Jesus’s death on the cross would have at least five layers of meaning for us. Jesus became the fivefold King who gave Himself as a fivefold sacrifice. All of this so that we could enter our inheritance, our Promised Land, both now and into eternity. Thank you Jesus!

Open Doors

But the Israelites were unfaithful in regard to the devoted things; Achan son of Karmi, the son of Zimri, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of them.

…So about three thousand went up; but they were routed by the men of Ai…

…Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell facedown to the ground before the ark of the Lord, remaining there till evening. The elders of Israel did the same, and sprinkled dust on their heads. And Joshua said, “Alas, Sovereign Lord, why did you ever bring this people across the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us? 

…The Lord said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face?Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies

Joshua 7:1, 4, 6-7, 10-12

This is a truth that still applies today but so few understand. Sin in our lives is an open door for the enemy to attack us. If we choose to live in sin, we choose to be a piñata for Satan as he steals, kills and destroys (John 10:10).

One person in Israel’s army kept treasures for themselves. Then Israel went up against an enemy that should have been no match for them, and yet they lost. The Lord was not with them. The sin had separated the people from God.

In response to their defeat, they cried out to the Lord as if to say, “Why did this happen to us? How could you let this happen to us God?” Sound familiar?

God immediately corrects their assumption. The people were grieving and mourning as if they were victims. God tells Joshua, “Stand up!” They were not victims. They invited this defeat because of their own sin. God did not do this to them. Their enemy did this to them because they hadn’t yet dealt with the sin in their camp. While they were on their face grieving as victims they should have been on their face repenting of their own sin.

This applies to our lives in so many ways. We often think that if there is sin in one part of our lives, it will only affect that part of our life. Wrong. Sin in one part of our life gives the enemy access to other parts of our life, and He may bring destruction in other parts of our life that have little to do with our sin (just as the men in Israel’s army who died had little to do with Achan’s sin).

We also tend to blame God when bad things happen instead of recognizing that it was the enemy at work. God did not defeat Israel’s army, their enemy did. And the distance created between Israel and God was not something God created. It was the sin of Israel that separated the people from God’s presence.

So often we grieve as victims when we should be on our face in repentance. Self-pity has become a national past-time in America, but self-pity is demonic. It turns the focus and the blame on others and on God instead of allowing the light of conviction to shine on our own hearts.

Once we repent of our sin, the door to the enemy is shut. But so long as we pridefully refuse to admit our sin, that door is wide open. We need to allow the Holy Spirit to shine the spotlight of conviction on our hearts. And when sin is exposed, we need to be ruthless about eliminating it from our life. We need to ask for forgiveness, from God and others, and we need to eradicate that sin in all its forms.

Jesus is the one who recommended a ruthless approach to sin in our life. He said:

If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

Matthew 5:29-30

The apostle Paul said, “do not give the devil a foothold“(Ephesians 4:27).

To be sure, not every hardship we face in life is a result of sin. But we’ll never know the open doors to the enemy in our own life unless we allow the Holy Spirit to show us. Too many Christians walk around looking like Swiss cheese in the spirit rather than a fortress. Too many followers of Jesus are play toys of the enemy because their chronic unrepented sin leaves them open to all manner of attack.

Pray this simple prayer below from Psalm 139 and ask the Holy Spirit to show you where you might be unnecessarily vulnerable to the enemy’s attack. And if He shows you something, repent, ask for forgiveness and eradicated it from your life.

Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.

Psalm 139:23-24

Neither

Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”

“Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” 

Joshua 5:13-14

This is astounding. The commander of the angel armies of the Lord stood before Joshua. He was about to give Joshua the strategy for conquering Jericho. The Lord was giving the Promised Land to the Israelites. They would defeat army after army because the Lord was with them. Yet, when this angel was asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies,” the angel’s response was, “Neither.”

One would think that in light of Israel being the chosen people of God, the angel’s response would have been different. This angel is, after all, there to give Joshua the strategy on how to defeat their enemies in battle. How could the angel say “Neither” and still be telling the truth?

I believe this gives us insight into the heart of God. God is against evil, but He is not against people. If we position ourselves against God and His Kingdom, we’ll suffer the consequences. Yet, if we align ourselves with Him, regardless of who we are, regardless of which “camp” we are in, we will experience blessing.

Rahab is a great example of this truth. Though she was technically an enemy of Israel, because she aligned herself with God and His plans, she and her whole family were blessed (Joshua 6:22-23).

The apostle Paul highlights this truth in his letter to the Ephesians. He said:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 

Ephesians 6:12

God’s battle, and therefore the people of God’s battle, is not against flesh and blood but against the spiritual forces of evil. Those who align themselves with evil will become casualties of war. God’s heart is to redeem people, regardless of the evil they’ve partnered with. Our heavenly Father “wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth“(1 Timothy 2:4).

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

John 3:16-17

So, when we ask God, “Are you for us or for them?” His response is, “Neither. I gave my only Son for everyone involved. I am not against people. I am against evil. The whole point of sending my Son was to rescue people from the evil that dwells in their own heart. To the extent that a person partners with evil instead of with Me, that is the extent to which they will feel me come against them.”

Where are you partnering with sin in your own life? What would it look like to partner with God instead? He is not against you! He is for you!

Cut It Out

Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come! If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.

Matthew 18:7-9

If something in your life causes you to sin, cut it out of your life. Even if something doesn’t cause you to officially “sin” but just causes a sense of being slimed by the uncleanness of the world, remove that from your life as well. Jesus wanted all of His disciples, including us, to be serious about removing contaminations from our life.

When priests would enter the outer court of the Temple, they would sacrifice animals on the altar. The blood of the animals would temporarily cleanse them from sin. But then they went over to the bronze wash basin where they would wash with water. This action wasn’t about cleansing intentional sin but about removing “uncleanness.” This was about removing the unintentional contamination that inevitably gets on us just by living in a fallen world.

What we hear will become what we speak. What are you listening to? If what you hear from music, podcasts, talk radio, or gossipy co-workers negatively impacts your heart, stop listening to it! Cut it out of your life.

What we see will become what we think about. What are you looking at? If what you are watching on Netflix, HBO, Amazon Prime, YouTube, your computer screen, or your phone negatively impacts your spiritual health, stop watching it! Cut it out of your life. It doesn’t have to officially be labeled “sin” to fill your heart and mind with things that are not good for you. If it is junk food for your soul, then it will still have a negative impact on your life with Christ.

Jesus used severe language to tell us to remove the contamination from our life as a way to let us know how important this is. Jesus intentionally used violent and graphic imagery as a way to get our attention. Stop messing around with sin. Sin is not something to be toyed with. Treat sin as the radioactive element that it really is.

In the Kingdom of God, strength and weakness are defined differently. It’s not a sign of strength to watch something we shouldn’t be watching and then claim that it won’t affect us. That’s weakness. Real strength is when we admit that watching that or listening to that will cause our mind to go places it shouldn’t go. Watching that will cause my mind to be saturated in lust (over-sexualized shows), or fear (horror movies), or anger (news programs), or despair (sad movies), so I’d rather cut it out of my life than have to battle against those things later in my thoughts. That is real strength in the Kingdom.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4:8-9

What is God telling you that you need to cut out of your life?

Lord of All Creation

After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma temple tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?”

“Yes, he does,” he replied.

When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own children or from others?”

“From others,” Peter answered.

“Then the children are exempt,” Jesus said to him. “But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.”

Matthew 17:24-27

What’s the point of recording this interaction with Jesus? I believe there are lessons to be learned here as Jesus acts out a parable of sorts.

This isn’t just about paying taxes. This is about sonship. Jesus is the Son of God, so He is completely except from any and all taxes. When the Ultimate King is your Father, you don’t pay taxes. As for any king, the children are exempt.

Yet, I believe Jesus is pointing to a greater truth. As sons and daughters of the King of Kings, we too are exempt. But our exemption is about sin. Jesus paid the price for our sin so that we don’t have to pay the price. Jesus’s death and resurrection made us children of God. Our faith in Jesus is how we entered the family. Faith in Jesus is how we received and accepted our adoption papers. Now, as sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, we are exempt from having to pay the price of sin.

Then we learn that Jesus doesn’t pay the tax because He has to; He pays the tax because He doesn’t want to offend the tax-collector. To show the disciples and the Temple tax-collectors that Jesus is Lord of all creation, He gets creative with how He gets the money for the tax.

He sends his fisherman disciple, Peter, to catch a fish. The first fish Peter catches will have a single coin in its mouth, a shekel worth four drachma. I think it is significant that Peter doesn’t find two coins each worth two drachma. Instead, Peter finds a four-drachma coin.

The number four throughout the Bible represents God’s creation (four corners of the earth, four winds, four seasons). So, Peter finds a four-drachma coin. Jesus is saying that He is Lord of all creation even in the way He pays His Temple tax! In order to orchestrate a fish having the exact needed coin in its mouth for paying two people’s Temple tax, and to have Peter catch that exact fish, He would have to be Lord of all creation.

Creation must obey Jesus if He commands it to do something. We see this truth on display in this story and in many others–the wind and waves (Matthew 8:26-27), the fig tree (Matthew 21:19-21), the miraculous catch of fish (John 21:6), etc. This same principle also applies to every physical healing Jesus ever did. When He commands the body to be healed, it must obey.

Jesus is Lord of all creation!

Still Did Not Repent

The rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood—idols that cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.

Revelation 9:20-21

In the midst of recording all of the horrible things that come upon the earth, John notes that there are still many who will not repent. I find it interesting, out of all the things that could be listed as the main sins of humanity, John sees these five things in his vision.

First, the sin of worshiping false idols is at the top of the list. The idols themselves can’t see, hear or walk. They are just statues made of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood. They are nothing in and of themselves. But worshiping them is worshiping demons. Why? Because demonic entities always stand behind false idols.

The apostle Paul makes this same point to the Corinthians when he said, “Do I mean then that food sacrificed to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons”(1 Corinthians 10:19-20).

The bottom line is that any religion that worships anything but Jesus as God in the flesh, Son of God and Savior of the world, is worshiping a false idol. Standing behind their false religion is the worship of a demonic principality.

Next, John lists four more sins that humanity is steeped in that, while he expected humanity to repent from, they continue in without hesitation: 1)murder, 2)magic arts (occult practices), 3)sexual immorality, and 4) theft (greed). Look at any major American city that is being eroded from the inside out, and you will find these four sins rampant within its boundaries.

Where you find one if these in abundance you will also find the others in abundance. Murder rates soar; sexual immorality is the norm; people seek out psychics, palm readers, seances, reiki healing, and mediums instead of the Lord; corruption and greed define the economic climate of our day.

God’s patience and kindness with our sin is meant to lead us to repentance. The call to repentance is an invitation into freedom, freedom from all of these dark chains that can bind our life. Yet, one day will be the last day. One day God will set everything right in the world. One day He will bring judgment on the world. One day evil will be finally and ultimately dealt with. Until that day, we are called to live a lifestyle of repentance and work toward a world that looks more like the Kingdom of God and less like the kingdom of darkness.

Overcoming Shame

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. 

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

Genesis 3:7-12

Have you ever noticed that humanity swings from shame and guilt about sin to pride and blame about the same sin? We see it start all the way back in the Garden of Eden, and it is still happening today.

Here’s the pattern:

  1. We sin.
  2. We feel guilt about sin. Instead of surrendering to conviction and repentance, shame begins to tell us we are our sin. Shame makes us want to hide.
  3. Then we reach a breaking point with shame and we realize we can’t hide anymore.
  4. Instead of repenting, we pridefully embrace our sin (essentially agreeing with shame that we are our sin) Instead of hiding, we are proud of it. We stop calling it sin. We call it our identity.
  5. We blame others for making us feel ashamed in the first place.

This is the pattern we see with Adam in the Garden. As a pastor I have seen this pattern play out over and over again in every possible sin you can image. Can you see it? Let me give an example. Promiscuity:

  1. We sleep around.
  2. We feel guilt about our sin. But instead of surrendering to conviction and repentance, shame begins to tell us we are our sin. We begin to believe we are promiscuous. That is who we are. Shame makes us want to hide.
  3. Then we reach a breaking point with shame and we realize we can’t hide anymore.
  4. Instead of repenting, we pridefully embrace our sin (essentially agreeing with shame that we are our sin) Instead of hiding, we are proud of it. We stop calling it sin. We call it our identity but with a new name. We call it sexual freedom.
  5. We blame others for making us feel ashamed in the first place. We attack the purity culture and anyone that would disagree with a lifestyle of multiple sexual partners. We call them oppressive and repressive.

We see this same pattern in the LGBTQ community. We see this same pattern with those who battle addiction. I’ve seen men do this when they get caught in infidelity. Over and over again, humanity seems to do the same thing in response to shame.

But the problem is that changing the definition of sin in order to identify with it doesn’t get rid of shame; it partners with shame. Pridefully embracing our sin so as to not feel ashamed anymore is like putting a hard cast over an infected wound. We think we are throwing off the shackles of shame, but really we are just burying it under a thick layer of pride.

You see, shame and pride are both saying the same thing. They are saying, “You are your sin.” Shame calls sin what it really is whereas pride gives sin a new, friendly name. But both declare the same thing, “You are this thing and you will never be anything else.”

This is not how we throw off the shackles of shame! We were never meant to live in shame. We are not our sin! That is not who we are, it is something we’ve done. It is no longer our identity.

To truly get free from shame, we need to repent of our sin and embrace who God says that we are in Christ. We need to hear His words of love and affirmation for us even while we embrace His words of conviction about our sin. When we call sin what it really is, when we name it and reject it as a part of our identity, and when we receive our true identity in Christ, shame has no place to plant its evil roots in our life.

Paul explains it like this:

Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Embracing your sin as your identity will not get rid of shame. It simply covers it with pride. Just as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that,” the same is true of shame. Pride cannot drive out shame; only finding your identity in Christ can do that. Repentance opens us up to receive the perfect love of the Father and hear Him speak to us about who we really are in His eyes.

Holiness & Social Justice

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

James 1:27

Throughout church history there have been different streams that have all made up the river that is orthodox Christian faith. Richard Foster, in his book Streams of Living Water, names six main streams of the Christian tradition:

  1. The Contemplative Tradition: The Prayer-filled Life
  2. The Holiness Tradition: The Virtuous Life
  3. The Charismatic Tradition: The Spirit-Empowered Life
  4. The Social Justice Tradition: The Compassionate Life
  5. The Evangelical Tradition: The Word-Centered Life
  6. The Incarnational Tradition: The Sacramental Life

As denominations in the Church formed, they usually formed around one or two of these streams. We have also seen different streams wake up to the reality of the other streams and begin to try to rediscover them within their own context. Yet, there also seem to be streams that have a difficult time existing together in the same person or the same denomination.

Two streams that have often had difficulty existing together are the Holiness and Social Justice traditions. The Holiness tradition is interested in a life of purity and a life of obediently resisting temptation. God is holy, and we are to imitate Him. It is a tradition that focuses on decontaminating the life of the Christian from the sinful muck of the world.

Yet, the Social Justice tradition wants to jump straight into the muck of the world as a way of trying to bring hope and life to it. This tradition isn’t as concerned with personal sin as it is with corporate and social sin–systems of evil and injustice.

Where both of these traditions agree is that there is a line to be drawn between good and evil, they just draw them in different places. The Social Justice tradition draws the line between good and evil “out there” in the systems and structures of society. The Holiness tradition, however, draws the line between good and evil “in here,” right down the middle of our own hearts.

The Social Justice tradition says, “We are the problem,” and if it’s not healthy can end up saying, “They are the problem.” The Holiness tradition says, “I am the problem,” and if it’s not healthy can end up saying, “You are the problem.”

Yet, this passage in James 1 doesn’t let us divide these traditions. This passage demands that we hold them together in tension. We must look after orphans and widows, the forgotten and marginalized (Social Justice tradition), and we must also keep ourselves from being polluted by the world (Holiness tradition).

Jesus was a beautiful example of all six traditions flowing together. Jesus touching a person with leprosy is a good metaphor for the Holiness and Social Justice traditions flowing together. Typically this action should have made Jesus unclean, but instead we see Jesus’s own “cleanness” end up “contaminating” the leprosy and healing it. Rather than the illness making Him sick, His divine health made the sick person well.

When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy.

Matthew 8:1-3

This is what we are called to do ourselves. We are called to enter the messy muck of the world and yet not become “unclean.” The apostle Paul gives good instruction about this very thing to the Galatians:

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. 

Galatians 6:1

We are to reach out to those being trafficked and prostituted without falling into the sins of lust, manipulation, or paternalism. We are to reach out to the material poor without adopting a poverty mindset, a savior complex, or falling into the kind of materialism that only addresses the physical needs. We are to reach out to LGBTQ community with love and compassion without affirming same-sex romantic relationships. We are to seek and pray for physical healing for those who are facing physical illness and disorders of the body without sending the message that they are somehow “less than” because of the condition that they face.

These are the many tensions we face as we try to hold the Holiness and Social Justice traditions (as well as the Evangelical and Charismatic traditions) in tension together. It would certainly be easier to just pick one stream and try to do that one while ignoring the others. But scripture, and this passage in James in particular, doesn’t give us that option. Jesus embodied all the streams and so must we.