Jesus Clothes Nakedness.

He Covers Shame.

Shame is the fear that others will notice something we want to hide. We want to hide weakness and failure. We want to hide our unworthiness. We don’t want others to know what we have done. We don’t want others to know what has been done to us. We are ashamed, fearing what others will say, what they will think, what they will do if they know. So, when we are ashamed, we hide ourselves.

Shame can come from different directions. There are people who are ashamed because of their own sin and there are people who are ashamed because others committed sins against them. Both people have virtually identical responses. Both are afraid. Both have difficulty with vulnerability because they are ashamed and they hide themselves.

This pattern is ingrained in us … It goes back to the very beginning. When the first man betrayed the one who loved him most; more than anyone has ever been loved in the history of love. When the first man betrayed his Creator, he found himself naked and ashamed. He could not clothe himself or cover himself, so he hid.

When the Lord entered the garden, he began to search for the man and he cried out to him. And the man responded with the very first lament.

This lament is simpler and yet more profound and more important than almost any other lament. When the Lord God called the man out, the man lamented (Genesis 3.10, MEV),

I heard Your voice in the garden and was afraid because I was naked, so I hid myself.

The man was consumed with shame by his nakedness. He was terrified that God would see his shame so he hid himself. He knew he was unworthy to stand in the presence of God so he hid himself. He didn’t want God to know what he had done. He was afraid of what God would say, what God would think. He was ashamed, so he hid to cover himself.

And ever since this man Adam discovered shame, everyone has it; every person has it.

We can easily name Adam’s shame; he betrayed God. Can you…

Name Your Shame?

Naming your shame is complicated. Shame is elusive. Sometimes it masquerades in your mind as righteousness, prudence, or self-protection.

Shameful acts intertwine themselves with other shameful acts. It can be difficult to unravel all the cords of deceit and lies.

Maybe there is too much shame in your life and you sense that much of the shame is your own, and also some of the shame has been placed on you by others. But you feel it all together; you feel it all at once.  

How can you isolate the source of your shame in order to name it?

Well, shame occurs when you fall short of perceived standards.

These can be your own standards—maybe you have set unreasonable expectations for yourself. Maybe you have fallen short of that standard and you are ashamed.

Consider body shame as an example. A small group study on body shame produced the following stories:

  • Lila said that even though she had lost significant weight and went down several dress sizes, she still perceives herself as several sizes larger than she actually is and doesn’t connect someone describing ‘thin women’ as describing her.
  • Or Lauren. Lauren remembers an almost casual gesture, her mom pointing out a facial imperfection and trying to brush it away. For years she struggled with feeling imperfect—and imperfect was not OK!
  • Patty was an ‘early bloomer,’ and, although admired by others, even after decades of adulthood, she despises her physique because of the shame she felt as a child.
  • Men are equally haunted by body shame in a day when media portrays manhood idealistically as a perfectly chiseled body with a supernatural libido.

Media is marketing and magazines. But, it is also movies, television, and most the destructive media is pornography. When men fall short of the perceived standards the media values, they feel shame.

And the saddest part is that too often our cultures, communities, families, even churches mirror the values that the media portrays. 

Shame also comes from social standards. We observe patterns in the world around us and set standards for ourselves based on those patterns. This is called social shame.

Close your eyes for a moment (SERIOULY!) and imagine you are at the beach with your friends or family. You rented a small cottage for the weekend and you are sitting on the deck watching the waves while enjoying a cool glass of lemonade or whatever beverage you prefer. The day was perfect and everyone is joyous.

So you take out your phone so you can post a picture of the kids playing in the waves on Instagram. As you open the app on your phone you are immediately consumed with pictures of friends, family, and neighbors.

As you peruse pictures of your neighbor’s Caribbean vacation, you become painfully aware of how shabby your beach cottage is and how murky the California water is compared to the crystal clear waters in the Caribbean.

You notice a picture of your sister’s family—it’s perfect, they are all beautiful, and happy. You are immediately consumed with the emotion of the conflict you had with your child or spouse earlier that morning.

And finally you are crushed as you see a group of close friends at a social gathering the night before—a gathering that, although you were out of town, you were not even invited to. Apparently, you were not even considered.

Now open your eyes.

Was this a perfect weekend at the beach or wasn’t it? What changed your contentment and enjoyment to anger and frustration?

Social media—Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and so on—feed social insecurities because our friends, families, and neighbors often only post the idealistic portions of their lives.

So what happens?

When we see the perfection of others—which is a façade—we subconsciously set standards for ourselves based on that façade. We set standards for our lives that we cannot ever achieve, that no one can ever achieve. And when we don’t measure up to those unrealistic standards we feel shame.

I’m not saying here that we shouldn’t strive to achieve great things, because we can and do achieve great things, especially in Christ. But, when we have unrealistic standards of perfection that brings shame.

Sometimes shame comes from standards we set for ourselves, sometimes from standards we perceive from others, and other times shame comes from a failure to line up with legal standards, whether from the laws of God or laws people have set. 

In Psalm 4, God says through the Psalmist,

O people, how long will you turn my glory into shame? How long will you love vanity and seek after lies? (2)

Do you see the juxtaposition between God and shame?

We exchange God’s glory for human shame. We exchange love for God for love for vain, meaningless, and shameful things of the world. We exchange the truth of God for the lies of the adversary.

And this is the source of most of our shame.

Like Adam, we have willfully defied God—oh we may have been deceived, we may have said we didn’t know, or we may have felt as though we had no other option—but we willfully defied God. We broke His law (Psalm 51:4),

Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight,

We never fail to bring shame to ourselves because we are all sons and daughters of Adam. Like Adam we continually find ourselves naked and in hiding.

So we bring shame on ourselves, but other times we are actually shamed by others.

Maybe you have shame because someone has broken God’s law by hurting you in some way.

They have cast shame on you. Their sin has made you feel naked, ashamed, and sent you into hiding.

As you struggle with shame and seek freedom from it, you will need to identify shame’s origin.

Is your shame brought on by others?

Is your shame something you brought about by yourself?

Or is your shame a convoluted mess of the two? Is there shared ownership?

  • Shame can be dark and deep. It’s what a sex offender gives to his victim when he violates her. She will carry that shame forever…forever, that is, unless she can find a way to bring the shame into the light of day.

To disown the shame, she needs to name the shame as his. She needs understanding that the real shame belongs to the offender and not to herself. Listen, she is not wrong; she was wronged. That’s very different. Name the owner of the shame.

  • Shame is found in a lack of parental affection and attention that leaves a child with the unforgettable mark of ‘worthless.’ To disown this kind of shame you need to identify the owner, the one who owns the shame is the parent who neglected the child. Name the owner of the shame.
  • And as often as we can name others for our shame, shame frequently arises out of our own sin. Our sins seem to haunt us forever. We have the tendency to shift the shame onto someone else. We name someone else as the owner of our shame.

But, we need to name the owner. If you are the owner, you need to be honest and name yourself as the owner of the shame. I need to own up to my own responsibility for the shame I have brought into my own life; you need to own the responsibility for the shame you have brought into your life. We all need to do this.

Although we feel naked and exposed when we talk about our shame, we need to name our shame and bring our shame into the light. How do we do that? … We need to…

Share in Trusted Community

Notice the Lord’s exhortation to us in the Psalm (4-5):

Tremble in awe, and do not sin.

Commune with your own heart on your bed, and be still. Selah

Offer sacrifices of righteousness, and trust in the LORD.

We are called to fear God, to be awestruck by Him, to revere His ways and as a result to relinquish the hold sin has on our lives.

Why does God say this, ‘tremble in awe, and do not sin?’

He says this because he is going to ask something very difficult of us.

He asks us to 1) ‘commune with our hearts and be still.’

How many of you feel trapped, imprisoned by your shame, and yet you go through life pretending everything is fine?

You hope that one day it will just go away, but every morning when you wake up, all the shame is there. Your shame never relents.

God is asking, ‘Do you really want this?’ ‘Do you think this is the way to deal with your shame?’ ‘In your heart of hearts, do you really believe that your shame will be relieved if you continue to do nothing about it?’

God calls us to trust Him; to trust the Lord … So let’s look at God’s solution to our shame.

Paul tells us, “…do not have fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness; instead, expose them.” There’s no escaping shame while it resides in the darkness. We take our shame and we hide it, like Adam hid from God in Eden. He pretended he wasn’t naked, that he wasn’t ashamed.

When we do that, when we pretend we don’t have any shame, we keep the shame in the darkness, and consequently we have fellowship with darkness. But, like God called Adam out into the light and revealed Adam’s shame, God is calling you out of the darkness into his marvelous light.

We don’t like to be exposed, but Paul says that our shame must be exposed.

Paul says, ‘…it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done…in secret,’ and maybe your shame is of this kind. There are things you have done and things which others have done to you that are shameful to speak of and so you keep them in darkness. You keep it in secret.

But, ‘…all things are exposed when they are revealed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light.’

How do we deal with our shame? – now commune with your heart for a moment and consider, ‘Do I really want to be free from shame?’ – if the answer is yes, then trust God…

You have to bring your shame into the light. Your shame must be exposed.

But, not just exposed anywhere!

Paul says, ‘…Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.’ I don’t suggest you expose your shame by talking about it with just anyone. Secular counselors cannot help—not much. Your family and friends who don’t follow Christ will not be enough. And it certainly will not suffice to post it on Facebook.

No, Christ is the light who exposes your shame.

So, I think it’s not a stretch to suggest that you must go to Christ’s community, the church, where His light shines most brightly. That is where your shame must be exposed.

At the end of Psalm 4, the Psalmist prays (8), ‘I will both lie down in peace and sleep; for You, LORD, make me dwell safely and securely.’ The Psalmist finds his shame sufficiently dealt with from within the safety and security of the Lord … and you can too.

Let’s dig in a little deeper, as if all this talk of shame wasn’t uncomfortable enough!

Shame results in insecurity.

Shame is a fear of being judged. Fear drives us to perfectionism in all areas of our lives, so that there would be no imperfection to be noticed and judged. Then, when others fall short of our standard of perfection, instead of sympathizing with the weakness of others, we shame them.

As a side note, not everyone reacts in this way. Some identify with their shame so much that they don’t think they can be anything else. They ‘have no shame’ as the saying goes. They embrace shame and do their best to make it work in their favor.

But for most of us, our striving for perfection causes us to shame others, and when others hurt us, we go even further. When others hurt us we become bitter and refuse to forgive, hiding our shame deep inside. So our refusal to be vulnerable with others and share our shame results in exactly the opposite of what we need.

We need trusted friendships where it’s ok to be vulnerable, but instead we get bitter division and insecurity … Because of shame…

Families turn into places of angst and hurt.

Friendships turn into competition.

Churches turn into places of judgment.

Children turn into rebels, parents turn into dictators, and spouses turn into adulterers.

Why?

Because the safety and security are gone and all that remains is anger, bitterness, and regret. Shame always drives a wedge into relationships.

But, through Christ relationships are actually used to heal our shame.

Conflicts occur in relationships and shame increases because one or more people in the conflict refuse to be vulnerable…and others refuse to empathize.  

  • One person refuses to be vulnerable and to name their shame, either as their own or someone else’s. This person closes off, shuts down, or runs away from conflict.
  • The other person refuses to be compassionate and empathize with the other’s circumstances. This person is judgmental and doesn’t listen for understanding.

When you put two people like this together it creates a cycle of shaming and being shamed. If we’re honest, I bet we all relate to both sides of the conflict, so if no one will be vulnerable and no one will be empathetic, the cycle will continue to spin out of control and everyone will only feel hopeless.

If left unchecked, shame multiplies like yeast, rising in a batch of dough.

You need to name your shame and then trust others by being vulnerable enough to share it. You need to say with the Psalmist, ‘I will lie down in peace,’ and trust that ‘the Lord will make you dwell safely and securely.’ (8)

And then—if you are the person who is being trusted—don’t respond with shame; love them, be patient with them, pray for them, forgive them, encourage them, and help them in any way you can to overcome the shame that has been placed on them.

The remedy for shame is empathy and vulnerability practiced within the safety and security of Christ’s church.

Churches aren’t full of people who have lived perfect lives. Churches are full of people with real life stories that you can trust your shame to.

  • There are women who have had abortions, and women who have been sexually abused.
  • There are men who have been addicted to porn, and men who have been alcoholics.
  • There are some who have been unfaithful to their spouse or betrayed a close friend.

You are not alone. Bring your shame into the light.

If you don’t have someone you think you can talk to, write on your next step card and mark ‘Pastor’s Eyes Only’ and I will contact you about meeting with someone who has overcome their shame.

Or you can go to your Life Group leader, or one of the pastors or deacons, or any of our wives. We are all here for you. We will pray with you and encourage you because we are all sinners in need of grace as well.

But, we need to interrupt this cycle of shame and shaming. And then we need to …

Live a New Story

Many are saying, “Who will show us any good?”

Lift up the light of Your face over us.

You have placed gladness in my heart that is better than when their corn and their new wine abound. (6-7)

The Psalmist asks this rhetorical question to get us to ponder, ‘Where will I find real goodness?’ He asks, ‘Who will show us any good?’ Will you find good in the darkness? Will it be best for you to hide your shame? Or is it better to bring your shame into the light?

He writes, ‘Lift up the light of Your face over us.’ The Psalmist knows that his shame must be brought into the light and he knows that it is Christ’s light that brings goodness.

And the Psalmist has certainly found goodness. He rejoices in the gladness that God has placed in his heart, a gladness that is better than any worldly pleasure, a gladness that has come to replace his shame.

He knows that it is God who lifts us out of darkness and it is God who clothes us in light. It is God who replaces our shame with gladness—a gladness that is better than any gladness experienced on earth.

So, how does God lift us out of darkness and clothe us in His light?

We begin by understanding the difference between shame and guilt. Shame says, ‘I AM wrong.’ Guilt says, ‘I DID something wrong.’ Guilt has to do with the deed you do. Shame has to do with your soul’s identity.

Psalm 51.5 says, “I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.” What I want you to notice here is that all people feel shame.

Why?

Because all people are guilty from birth. You are guilty before God, not just because of things you have done, but because of who you are, sons and daughters of Adam. You were conceived in sin, and in sin you were born. It’s who you are. So, you experience shame in life. Everyone experiences shame in life.

But, when you are in Christ, you get a new identity. Paul says, ‘…if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature. Old things have passed away. Look, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5.17).

You know, our clothing says a lot about who we are. Business people dress in a certain way. Athletes dress in another. Well, your relationship to your shame is imaged in clothing also.

Adam’s shame was imaged by his nakedness—he didn’t even have clothes!—and he dealt with it by hiding. But, when God called Adam out into the light he did something wonderful for him. “The LORD God made garments of skins for both Adam and his wife and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21).

God clothed Adam. He forgave him and He covered his shame. Adam didn’t need to hide in the shadows anymore; his shame had been dealt with by God. You don’t need to hide in the shadows anymore; your shame has been dealt with by God.

Do you know this story?

One day a shifty merchant came into the royal city. He had a small, but beautiful and finely crafted cart he pushed through the streets. He made his way to the marketplace and opened up shop.

The people scurried to his booth to see what magnificent wears he had to offer. He told the people that he was a weaver of fine and magical cloth. He told them he had crafted a cloth that could only be seen by the noblest of souls.

 

As he opened the doors to his cart, the crowd fell silent—only for a moment, as they came to grips with their pride. You see, to the average eye, the cart was simply empty; there were no clothes to be found. But, not a soul would admit it. Not a soul would swallow his pride and confess what everyone knew.

No, their pride fashioned a great lie, ‘What magnificent clothes!’ they exclaimed. ‘What marvelous colors!’ they swooned.

It wasn’t long before the king himself made his way to the marketplace and submitting to the greatest pride in the kingdom, placed an order for some new clothes made of this finest of cloth.

And I think you can guess the rest of the story. The king entered the town with no clothes on. He had been swindled and his shame revealed, his nakedness revealed. The king became the laughing stock of the kingdom from that day forth.

You see, those without clothing are marked by shame.

Any of you who have not been vulnerable enough to bring your shame out into the light know that you are consumed and controlled by your shame. You are marked by your shame.

Like a king prancing through town in nothing but his underwear, you let on that everything is fine, everything is good, when you know—and often others know—that it’s all fake. It’s all a lie. You’ve been swindled.

You continue to fail day in and day out because you have come to believe that you simply are a failure.

But…don’t miss this… if you are in Christ, you are a new creation, and you have been given new clothes. Your shame is dealt with. You are free to live in freedom, ‘for it is for freedom that Christ has set you free.’

And yet, so many Christians are not living in freedom; they are imprisoned by shame. What’s the solution?

The remedy for shame is empathy and vulnerability practiced within the safety and security of Christ’s church.’

The shamed person needs cleansing, safe relationships, loving church community, and acceptance.

And you may say at this point that you will never be vulnerable, because you tried it. And you’ve been hurt before.

Well, I’m sure you can think of a time when you risked vulnerability, you opened up and shared the secrets that you swore to yourself you would never share, only to experience deeper rejection; you were scarred and maybe even by a fellow Christian.

And I’m sure you can also think of a time when you were empathetic. You listened for understanding and really tried to help someone out of their shame. You tried to encourage the deceptive spouse or the betrayed friend.

You pleaded with them to trust again or to tell the truth and you promised to stand firm with them through the process of reconciliation.

But, it didn’t work. They didn’t do it. They receded back into the darkness caused by shame, never to speak openly of it again.

Many of us wear our shame like a shield, trying to hide who we know ourselves to be and protect ourselves from who we fear others might be.

Into this immensely dark situation, this phenomena of the human condition; into the hopelessness of the human condition steps a Person—one who left his perfect life of empathy and vulnerability with the Father in heaven.

Jesus stepped down from the right hand of the Father, leaving the only place where shame cannot exist. He made himself utterly vulnerable by entering life as a baby and living a life as a man.

He who had experienced the fullness of love was betrayed for us by us. He who knew no sin became sin for us. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried away our sorrow.  He was completely and utterly vulnerable and likewise our example, that we might entrust ourselves to others, to broken people like us, that we might know that we are never alone.

Through Christ you no longer hide alone, but you find fellowship in community, in the church.

God uses his church to rescue us and to continually rescue us. If you’ve been hurt by being vulnerable before, let Christ’s example of complete humility give you courage to be vulnerable again. If you’ve been hurt by empathizing with another before, let Christ’s example of continual mercy give you patience to empathize again.

A note … this is a process. Many of you long to be free, but you fail to live as free because you believe a greater freedom exists in your future. You don’t have joy now, because you long for a more ultimate joy in Christ’s Eternal Kingdom.

That joy is the hallmark of one who is free from shame is troubling, because we always long for a greater joy. We know that Jesus came to bring joy, but we don’t get all joy all at once. Instead, Jesus removes your garments of shame, one by one, and replaces them with garments of joy.

In place of shame, he gives honor, beauty, joy, comfort, justice, favor, and freedom. Your heart tells you to hide your shame, but Jesus takes your shame and replaces it with what your shame could never give you.

Continually, practicing empathy and vulnerability are necessary, but they are only the beginning. Empathy and vulnerability point you down the path by allowing you to identify your shame and to see how pervasive shame is to the human experience, but they are not the remedy. Jesus is the remedy:

  • He offers honor for every dishonor.
  • He offers beauty to replace your shame.
  • He offers comfort through His church so that you won’t suffer alone.
  • He offers justice for every injustice committed against you.
  • And He offers favor to replace your constant cloud of disapproval.

We call this the Great Exchange. Jesus takes everything shameful and exchanges it for heavenly things.

So many people—maybe all people—have felt imprisoned by their shame. They cry out, desperately, ‘I want to be free.’ But so many people try to force their freedom. They try to get freedom their own way. They fight for a freedom they do not deserve and likewise only increase their shame.

  • The covetous, envious, and the greedy fight for freedom through extortion, cheating, and stealing. They increase their shame.
  • The prideful fight for freedom at the expense of other people’s freedom. They increase their shame.
  • The wrathful fight for freedom by abusing and oppressing others. They increase their shame.
  • The lustful and adulterous fight for freedom through promiscuity, pornography, and immodesty. They increase their shame.

You cannot win your freedom while you are bound with chains; it must be purchased by a free man, and that man is Jesus Christ. Submitting to the sins of the world cannot free you; only submission to Christ, faith in Christ, can free you.

No one but Christ, who bore your shame on the cross, can make you free. He took your chains and he put them on his own wrists. He stepped into prison that you might be freed.

The Lord pleads with you to come, ‘How long will you turn my glory into shame? How long will you love vanity [meaningless things] and seek after lies? Know that the Lord set apart the faithful for Himself.’

The Lord has set you apart; he has called you holy, righteous, and ‘he listens when you call to Him.’

Call back to Him with the Psalmists:

  • O my God, I trust in You; may I not be ashamed (Psalm 25.2, MEV).
  • Watch over my life, and deliver me! Let me not suffer shame, for I seek refuge in You (Psalm 25.20, MEV).
  • Do not let me be ashamed, O LORD, for I have called on You (Psalm 31.17, MEV).
  • Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my throat (Psalm 69.1, MEV).
  • Uphold me according to Your word, that I may live, and let me not be ashamed. (Psalm 119.116, MEV).

As we close, I want to remind you of this, that the Christian life is the process of becoming who you already are.

You are already holy if you are in Christ. You are already righteous if you are in Christ. You are already redeemed if you are in Christ. You are already honorable if you are in Christ. Your shame is already gone and your nakedness covered if you are in Christ.

But, you are becoming holy, called to daily live as righteous, and you are daily, more and more being redeemed. God is increasing your honor and removing your shame. So, as you are daily confronted with shame and you see your continued need for God’s grace, remember that ‘His mercies are new every morning.’