I will never forget the feeling I felt when I was 9 years old and discovered porn for the first time. It was a feeling like I had never felt before. Without anyone telling me, I instantly knew I needed to hide. I felt so much guilt. And I swore to myself, right then and there, that I would never do that again. I was insistent to myself that it was behind me, and that I wouldn’t have to feel that guilt ever again…
Until I looked for it again just a week later…
What followed from that was over a decade-long battle that consumed my mind, my heart, and my soul. It was awful and disgusting. But it was also discouraging and overwhelming. I wanted out…but I didn’t. I wanted to be free, but I kept going back.
And so I thought that if I just beat myself up enough – if I just punished myself – every time I acted out, I would eventually convince myself to stop and, in the process, right my wrongs. I wouldn’t have to feel as bad about confessing, knowing I had already begun to atone for what I had done.
My repeated – and intense – experiences with sin, guilt, and shame reminded me a lot of a character in the Bible. I was drawn to a particular character in the Easter story who I resonated with a lot. And I hate how much I resonated with him.
It was one of Jesus’ disciples named Judas.
Judas, the one who embezzled money from the disciples’ offering.
Judas, the one who found an economic opportunity at the expense of his best friends.
Judas, the one who led the Roman army to the Garden to arrest Jesus.
I resonated with Judas, the one who betrayed the sinless Son of God. But I related with him primarily because of how he dealt with the overwhelming guilt of his sin, after he did it.
Check out this scene from Matthew 27:
“When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death.And they bound him and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate the governor. Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders,saying, ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.’ They said, ‘What is that to us? See to it yourself.’ And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself.
But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, ‘It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since it is blood money.’ So they took counsel and bought with them the potter’s field as a burial place for strangers.Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day.“
It’s so terribly ironic that in an attempt to atone for his own sins – sins for which he was neither capable nor worthy of atoning – Judas hanged himself and died merely hours after Jesus hung and died…FOR THE VERY SAME THING! And this is what I had been trying to every time I beat myself up for my own sins.
Just like Judas, I attempted to pay for the very same sins that Jesus had just paid for. Judas beat himself up over the very same guilt Jesus was whipped, beaten, and mocked for. Judas tried to do what Jesus HAD ALREADY DONE!
But you know what’s sadder still?
Every day, people are still destroying themselves because they think that their mess is to heavy to handle…when there is a Savior who is literally stretching out his arms to eternally handle it, once and for all. And the irony is that in an attempt to atone for our sins, we are neither capable nor worthy of paying back an infinite debt, the true consequence of our sins.
But all the while, Jesus is right there saying, “I already took care of that! There’s a better way. Trust me with your mess. Give me your brokenness. Watch me atone and redeem every part of you.” But because we don’t want to trust God and give over the control of our lives, we hang ourselves on our own pride and fear.
This is so unnecessary. There is a Savior.
When I began to allow his perfect grace to cover everything I’ve ever done, I found a new freedom and confidence that blew me away. It wasn’t connected to my performance, but to Jesus’ payment. It was an enthusiasm that oozed out of the grace that began to have center-stage in my heart and in my mind. And because of that, I now walk with an astonishing confidence.
I don’t walk with confidence in life because I have lived in perfection. I don’t possess a childlike enthusiasm because I’ve atoned for my own sin and shame. I walk in total confidence and freedom because Jesus did what I could never do. I carry a freedom and enthusiasm because my life has been atoned for by the blood of Jesus, and because of that, my relationship with God has been restored! I have joy, not because of my astonishing success, but because of Jesus atoning sacrifice.
Trust him today with your mess. Trust him today with your fear. Let him cover your sin. Let him remove your shame.
And then live. Really live. Live with total joy!