Sitting in the worship service with my church yesterday, I had a realization. It was during the pastor’s sermon. He was making a point about how no matter what sin or error a believer has committed, we have a Savior who understand, advocates, made provision, and gives grace. This is the passage he quoted, from Hebrews 4…
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens—Jesus the Son of God—let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin. Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16, CSB)
An Old Perspective:
Reading through the passage, there are lots of reasons for Christians to find hope. And while that’s true, as we were reading through the passage together, there was one more phrase that stood out to me. When I noticed it, it took me back to a long season in my life, when I lived in active sexual addiction, secrecy, and sin. It reminded me of the perspective through which – for years – I read Scripture and related to God. The phrase was…
“…yet without sin.”
When addiction affected my perspective on Scripture, this is how it did it. Despite all the amazing, encouraging, life-giving truths found in those three verses in Hebrews, here’s what I heard when I read the phrase, “…yet without sin.”
“That’s right, loser. Jesus was tempted just like you were. But unlike you, a complete failure who can never get it right, Jesus was without sin. You’re such a screw-up, and you will never be like Jesus. You suck.”
You might wonder how anyone can laser in on three words (“…yet without sin”) and get so sidetracked. But that is the nature of addiction. It changes a person’s perspective, and there’s one word that tells us how it does it.
When I was in active addiction, I had no idea how much shame controlled my perspective on most everything. While I was definitely guilty of all the sin I was committing and hiding, what I felt most of the time wasn’t guilt. It was shame.
You may have heard before the difference between guilt and shame. Guilt is about what you did. Shame is about who you are. Shame is what happens when I look at what I’ve done, and make it a reflection of who I am.
It’s the difference between “I screwed up” and “I’m a screw-up.”
A New Perspective:
Sitting in the service yesterday, I was almost twelve years post the time when my sin and addiction were exposed. I was in a place where, for almost twelve years, I have experienced grace, the gospel, Scripture, and my relationship with God from a place of freedom and recovery. I realized that this freedom has given me a new perspective.
Jesus “has been tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin.” He didn’t screw up like we screw up. He didn’t fail where we fail. But instead of taking this and feeling more shameful about myself, here was my realization…
From his position of perfection, Jesus doesn’t take the difference between his holiness and my sinfulness and use it to keep me at a distance. He doesn’t shake his head or fold his arms in disappointment of how many times I get it wrong. He doesn’t ever tell me I ought to be ashamed of myself.
Jesus doesn’t use his perfection to rub my face in my imperfection.
Here’s what he does do. He sympathizes with what it’s like to be weak (like we are). He understands what we go through, because he’s been there. He sits at the right hand of God the Father, and when our enemy shows up to accuse us (truthfully) of all the horrible things we’ve done, Jesus defends us to the Father as righteous. Because we are righteous. Because of what he did on the cross, and by rising from the dead. From his exalted position, he gives us mercy (holding back the punishment we deserve) and grace (giving us blessings we don’t deserve) when we need it (which is every day).
He can do all these things because he was (and is) “without sin.” And he reminds me that if I will surrender to him, he will daily, gradually, progressively make me more like him. I won’t ever be “without sin” in this life, but I can definitely see and experience progress as he changes me and brings me closer to the life where I will be without sin.
My old perspective caused me to focus only on myself, my isolation, and my inevitable continuing failure. My new perspective lets me see Jesus as he really is…without sin, but with love, understanding, acceptance, generosity, and an abundance of absolutely everything I will ever need.
May you live with that perspective today!
Awaken is a Birmingham, AL based ministry walking with individuals, couples, and ministry leaders who have been impacted by sexual brokenness & addiction. Our goal is to help people experience hope, connection, and healing through the gospel and the recovery process. For info on how to join our meetings (in person or virtual), contact us at email@example.com!