Have you ever done something that you are ashamed of? If instead of our Confession of Sins on page 4 of our worship folder today we all had the opportunity to confess out loud to one another one thing we have done that we are ashamed of, it probably would have been a pretty embarrassing thing to say the least, don’t you think – to tell someone else something about myself that makes me ashamed of myself? We might very well have spent the rest of our worship service with our heads bowed, not necessarily out of reverence, but because we wouldn’t want anyone else to look at us now that they know something like that about us.
But our lesson tells us today in verse 11, “Anyone who trusts in the Lord will never be put to shame.” Trusting in Jesus means we don’t need to be ashamed, and you and I certainly trust in Jesus. But we all are still guilty of things that make us ashamed. So I have to ask, “If we who are filled with reasons for shame don’t have to have any shame, Where Is the Shame? It still must be somewhere, doesn’t it?” Well, let’s take a look for it.
Look for moment in the desert from our Gospel reading where a forty-days hungry Jesus was tempted for forty days by the prince of shame, the devil. Where is your shame, Satan? Who are you talking to? You are talking to the Son of God and asking him to prove he is the Son of God by not acting as the Son of God. You should be ashamed of yourself, Satan. Thankfully the Son of God did put Satan to shame by using his own Word – the Word of God – to put him in his place.
But do you know why Jesus put the devil in his ugly place? It was because he was taking our ugly place. He did take our place when died for our sins on the cross, but he also took our place when he lived in a way that showed he had no sins to die for himself. He never had anything to be ashamed of, because he was and is totally holy, totally righteous. And the Bible says, “In Jesus we have become the righteousness of God.” One reason that everyone who trust in Jesus will never be put to shame is because through Jesus defeating the devil, God says we have defeated the devil. We stand before God without shame as holy and righteous people – for Jesus’ sake.
That thought of Jesus doing all the work to save us and us getting all the benefit of being saved is what the apostle Paul was talking about in the verses leading up to our lesson. He was talking about what is theme of our Lenten worship, “The Way of Salvation” – the meat and potatoes of what life is all about – realizing we are going to die some day and that after we die we are going to have an eternity of shame in a forever hell or an eternity of joy in a forever heaven – and realizing that that realization is going to make every difference in the world in how much we enjoy our lives until we get to heaven, no matter whether all the days of our life are super enjoyable or not.
What St. Paul is basically saying is don’t make dealing with shame so hard by making it so hard. What I mean is this. What is our natural inclination when we think of things we have done that make us ashamed? Doesn’t that devil who had three temptation of Jesus in the desert basically have two temptations of us in our hearts when it comes to shame? Where is your shame, Satan? Isn’t temptation number one the temptation to hide what we have done so that we think no one will know it or to defend what we have done because it was totally understandable to do it under the circumstances or to compare what we have done to what we know someone else has done, because we think what someone else has done should make them ashamed of themselves, so it is good I haven’t done something like that? Have you ever thought like that? Where is your shame, Satan?
And isn’t temptation number two the totally opposite temptation to be so overwhelmed by what we have done that we cannot possibly bring ourselves to think that God could ever love a shameful person like me – that God will ever be anything but ashamed to say that I am one of his children? Have you ever thought like that? Where is your shame, Satan?
St. Paul says, “Don’t make it so hard.” In the opening verse of our lesson, he says, “What does it – what does the Word of God — say? ‘The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,’ that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming.” What God says is don’t get hung up on trying to defend your shame. It won’t work, because the holy God won’t buy it. What God is also saying is don’t get hung up on wallowing in your shame. That won’t work, either, because the loving God has bought you. That is the “word of faith” Paul is talking about – a faith that loves to confess and sing that Jesus is our Lord – a faith that in our heart believes something that is impossible to believe if God hadn’t given us that faith to believe it: that God raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. That’s why Paul says in verse 10 that salvation is so easy: “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it with you mouth that you confess and are saved.” And that’s when he says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”
Being able to live in heaven is easy in the sense that we didn’t do anything to cause it, but obviously it was not easy to accomplish. Just the opposite. The fact that we believe that God raised Jesus from the dead means that he first died. And before he died he suffered. And before he suffered he allowed himself to be born of a virgin to look like an ordinary man. That is why we so regularly confess with our mouths what we will confess with our mouths in the Apostles Creed in just a few moments after this sermon. We are confessing with our mouths what we believe in our hearts that we have been justified by the work of someone else.
Justified – definitely one of the key words of the Bible – a word that can perhaps be more easily understood by pronouncing it “just as if I died” – justified. Just as the Bible says Jesus lived perfectly for me, as he showed by defeating the devil in the desert, so the Bible says that Jesus died innocently for me, as he showed when he died on the cross. When Jesus died on that cross, it is just as if I died on that cross. It is just as if I paid the price for all I have done that should make me ashamed. It is just as if I am God’s own child, because that is exactly what God says I am by faith in his Son. And anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.
So where is the shame? It’s not where it should be, because it’s on Jesus. It’s in the desert as he lives a perfect life that we get the credit for, and it’s on the cross as he dies an innocent death that we get the benefit of. Believing that simple thing, accomplished with such great difficulty and anguish, is what life and death are all about.
Have you ever done anything you are ashamed of? Say with me if you wish what we said on page 4: Merciful Father in heaven, I am altogether sinful from birth. In countless ways I have sinned against you and do not deserve to be called your child. But trusting in Jesus, my Savior, I pray: Have mercy on me according to your unfailing love. Cleanse me from my sin, and take away my guilt.
God, our heavenly Father, has forgiven all your sins. By the perfect life and innocent death of our Lord Jesus Christ, he has removed your guilt forever. You are his own dear child. May God give you strength to live according to his will. Amen.
Let us now also confess this faith in our hearts with words from our mouths by speaking together the Apostles Creed. Please stand.