Fear, Shame, and True Wisdom

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by Josh Howeth

Hey GBC family,

Two powerful weapons that the world uses against others are fear and shame. Creating fear can cause people to live in such a way that they are constantly thinking about what they might lose. Generating shame can cause people to live in such a way where they are focused on trying to fit in. What makes these weapons even more dangerous in our age is that they are often used under the banner of “wisdom.” 

What I mean is, people will tell you that you are wise if you fear what you are being told to fear. Or, others might say that you would be wise if you would only embrace the opinion of the crowd. Both approaches may call you a fool if you don’t react accordingly.  

We have known a lot of fear in our lives, and this year has unearthed a lot of our fears that have laid dormant for a while. We have also known a lot of shame in our lives because of our sin. But for those who know Christ, there is a deeply rooted antidote that frees us from ungodly fear and shame.

It comes from fearing Someone else, and in turn, seeing that the One you should fear the most, has lifted your deepest shame. You see, the Scriptures and the gospel itself, are the antidote for fear and shame. 

The book of Proverbs tells you out of the gate what its purpose is. In chapter 1:1–7 we learn what wisdom is and then the rest of the book serves to instill that wisdom into the lives of God’s people. We are told that true wisdom is only had by those who “fear the LORD.” In Proverbs, we learn that the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.

Do you see? If you want to be wise, you don’t fear losing something and you don’t fear the shame that could be cast upon you by the world; you fear God. You behold His glory and keep it ever before you as you go about your life. 

The problem that is raised if you fear God above all else, is that you will encounter His glorious perfection and therefore your sin. 

Thank Jesus for the gospel! We no longer sit in shameful condemnation for our sin, because we know that “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1) In turn, we run to the cross where we see God choose what is foolish in the world to shame those that think they are wise (1 Corinthians 1:27). What has God chosen as wise that the world sees as foolish? It’s the cross of Jesus. (1 Corinthians 1:18). It’s the event in history where Jesus, the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:30), bears the shame of our sin. 

The antidote for the fear and shame that the world chucks at you, is experiencing your deepest shame lifted at the cross and the One whom you should fear embracing you as His own. The antidote is still fear, but it’s fearing the One you were designed to fear. Not because God wants you to be afraid of Him, but because when you truly know Him as He is, fear is the only natural response. 

Maybe you are a Christian and you don’t perceive yourself as very wise right now. Good news: if you lack wisdom, ask God for it. His wisdom is such that He gives it generously to all without reproach (James 1:5). But remember, His wisdom won’t always appear to be wise to the world. The world may, in fact, call you a fool. 

I recognize a major problem at this point. I fear (no pun intended) that there is a chance that you are taking one of the many divisive topics that people are debating right now (whether it’s social issues, the election, the pandemic and its effects on our lives, etc) and you are immediately thinking that wisdom is found on only one side. You may have already labeled sides on every issue as godly wisdom and worldly foolishness. (That’s not to say that may not be the case depending on the issue). But the irony is, if you are reading this and already doing that, there is a high probability that another believer is reading this and labeling the exact issue the opposite of your labeling. Do you follow me? 

If you follow my concern, you may be asking: “Where do we go from here?” 

Number one, try and have charitable, Spirit-filled, conversation with other believers (off-line) around various issues. And in those moments, don’t seek to generate fear and shame upon them. Seek to understand and search the Scriptures together. 

Secondly, saturate yourself in the primary place where wisdom is found: the Bible. In light of that...I want to challenge you to join me in saturating yourself in the book of Proverbs over the course of the next month. There are 31 chapters in the book of Proverbs and so over the course of the next 31 days, I want to call us to read a chapter each day. Discuss what you are being comforted and convicted by with your friends or spouse, or with your men’s or women’s group.

Let’s ask God to make us wise in His eyes. Let’s fear Him above anything else in this world. Let’s run to Jesus and experience Him lifting our deepest shame so that we could belong in the family of God. 

I hope you will join me on the journey through the Proverbs. 

Love you guys,

Josh