Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Donald Hilliard's new book, After the Fall: Resurrecting Your Life from Shame, Disgrace, and Guilt, (Destiny Image Publishers, 2007).
Shame is like a weight that pulls you down every time you try to rise toward your God-given destiny. No matter what has caused your shame – filing for bankruptcy, struggling with an addiction to alcohol or pornography, losing your job because of a mistake you made, or anything else – God wants to help you overcome shame so you can fulfill His purposes for your life.
· Make a crucial choice. Decide whether you want to continue to allow shame to fill you with the poison of bitterness and rob your confidence and energy, or whether you want to do what it takes to turn your life around from shame and toward God. If you decide that you're tired of wasting time living in shame, choose to embrace God's mercy and invite Him to lead you through the healing process.
· Surrender your fears to God. Consider what tragedies plague you and your family and cause you shame – such as a legacy of divorces, financial ruin, drug addiction, or mental illness. Be honest with God about how these scare you and make you feel as if you're not worthy enough to live a healthy life. Consider how your fears have led you to make mistakes of your own, that have led to more shame. Then surrender all of these situations to God, realizing that He is able to redeem your past and guide you into a better future. Trust God to help you overcome anything when you rely on His unlimited power.
· Take responsibility. Stop making excuses for your own sins and the sins of those close to you. Take personal responsibility for the mistakes you've made, acknowledge that you were wrong, and realize that you don't have to be a victim of anyone else's choices.
· Let the bad move you toward the good. Realize that even though shame is bad to wallow in, it can be a powerful tool to move you toward something good – repentance. Repent by changing the direction of your life to move away from sin and toward God. Stop doing the things you were doing to produce shame. If you can't break free of a particular behavior that has caused you shame, ask God to kill that behavior before it kills you. Pray for God's help to end the affair, break the addiction, or remove whatever other stumbling block is standing in the way of your spiritual progress.
· Renounce everything in your life that doesn't please God. Don't just feel sorry that you did something you know doesn't please God. Go a step beyond that by deciding that you'll have absolutely nothing more to do with that behavior anymore, for any reason. Beware if you catch yourself twisting Scripture to try to justify wrong behavior, or explaining your wrong behavior to other people in the hope that they'll understand you and condone your actions. Don't be deceived; pray regularly for the Holy Spirit to renew your mind so you can embrace biblical truth. Every time a persistent sin tries to pop up in your life, forbid it from entering and contaminating your life by renouncing it in prayer. Understand that by renouncing everything that is not like God, you free yourself to embrace everything that is like God so you can start living a life that pleases Him and is free of shame.
Resist Satan. Recognize that you have a powerful enemy – Satan – who is determined to do everything possible to keep you enslaved to shame. Ask God to help you discern Satan's strategies and realize what's going on when he attacks you. Be alert and aggressive in resisting Satan, knowing that if you resist him, he will flee from you. Use the spiritual power that Jesus has given you to defend yourself against evil.
· Renew your vows to Jesus. Know that God will meet you where you are when you decide to pursue Him with your whole heart. Admit your weaknesses and proclaim your complete dependence on God. Place all your hope in Jesus' death on the cross for your sins. Thank Jesus that because of His sacrifice, you can enjoy God's mercy and grace. Freely confess your sins, repent of them, and accept God's forgiveness with gratitude that renews your passion for Jesus.
· Rehearse your future. Don't just wish you might someday enjoy a future free of shame; believe that you absolutely will, with God's help. Ask God to give you a vision of what He wants your future to be like. Then move into that future with confidence and a vibrant faith. Incorporate prayer into your life every day instead of just on Sundays. Rather than praying on the run, pray until God's done with whatever situation you're going through. Embrace your true identity as God's beloved child, and learn more about it by reading, meditating on, and studying the Bible daily. Don't settle for reading just one verse a day; work your way up to reading at least one chapter of Scripture each day. Pack God's wisdom into your mind so it will transform you into someone who grows in the obedience that leads to holiness. Use the Bible as a spiritual mirror to learn to see yourself as God sees you. Ask God to humble you and be honest about all of your sins and your ongoing need for Him. Apply biblical principles to your life in every situation. Don't compromise the truth when you face temptation, such as to date a non-Christian or cheat on your taxes. Stake your future on God's Word, trusting Him to lead you into a future that's free of shame and full of promise.
· Let God reposition you. Realize that, because of your relationship with Jesus, the old you has passed away and the new you has arrived. Understand that shame no longer has to hold you back; you're free to move to the next level in your relationship with God. Answer God's call to service and invite Him to use you to contribute to His work on Earth in powerful ways. Don't allow other people to use your past against you; remember that your destiny has changed. Associate with people who support and encourage you as you walk in your newfound confidence. Ask God to constantly remind you of His vision for your life, and give your all to pursue it.
Adapted from After the Fall: Resurrecting Your Life from Shame, Disgrace, and Guilt , copyright 2007 by Donald Hilliard. Published by Destiny Image Publishers, Inc., Shippensburg, Pa., www.destinyimage.com .
Dr. Donald Hilliard, Jr. is the senior pastor of The Cathedral International in Perth Amboy, Asbury Park, and Plainfield, New Jersey – one church in three locations. His ministry is distinguished by cutting-edge leadership, community development and a strong emphasis on family and fatherhood. Dr. Hilliard and his wife Phyllis have three lovely daughters: Leah, Charisma, and Destiny.