What Is Well-Placed Shame?

When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. (Romans 6:20–21)

When a Christian’s eyes are opened to the God-dishonoring evil of his former behavior, he rightly feels ashamed. Paul says to the Roman church, “When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death” (Romans 6:20–21).

There is a proper place for looking back and feeling the twinge of pain that we once lived in a way that was so belittling to God. We will see in a moment that we are not to be paralyzed by dwelling on this. But a sensitive Christian heart cannot think back on the follies of youth and not feel echoes of the shame, even if we have settled it all with the Lord.

Well-placed shame can be very healthy and redemptive. Paul said to the Thessalonians, “If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed” (2 Thessalonians 3:14). This means that shame is a proper and redemptive step in conversion and in a believer’s repentance from a season of spiritual coldness and sin. Shame is not something to be avoided at all costs. There is a place for it in God’s good dealings with his people.

We can conclude that the biblical criterion for misplaced shame and for well-placed shame is radically God-centered.

The biblical criterion for misplaced shame says, Don’t feel shame for something that honors God, no matter how weak or foolish or wrong it makes you look in the eyes of other people. And don’t take on to yourself the shamefulness of a truly shameful situation unless you are in some way truly woven into the evil.

The biblical criterion for well-placed shame says, Do feel shame for having a hand in anything that dishonors God, no matter how strong or wise or right it makes you look in the eyes of others.



Righteous by Belief

Today’s Bible ReadingGenesis 14:11–1615:1–6

Recommended ReadingRomans 4:9–25Ephesians 2:8–10Hebrews 11

“Force of 318 Men Defeats Armies of Four Nations!”

What a headline! Imagine how the 24-hour cable news channels would cover such an event. Imbedded reporters, live video and dazzling graphics—not to mention all kinds of experts analyzing how such a small group of soldiers could defeat forces numbering in the thousands. A year or so later, this story would find its way to the silver screen in the form of an epic film with Hollywood’s brightest stars and biggest directors.

As unbelievable as it sounds, this is just what Abram (Abraham) accomplished. He and his men defeated four kings and their armies and rescued his nephew, Lot. With this unbelievable victory as a backdrop, it seems odd that the Lord would urge Abram not to be afraid (15:1). Why would Abram, a great and successful warrior, not to mention a wealthy and wise man, experience fear?

Simple. He was worried about his legacy. Although God had promised Abram that his offspring would be as numerous as the dust, this aging man was still without an heir. Now, having just endured a life-and-death struggle, the fact of his childlessness weighed more heavily than ever on his mind.

Of course, God knew Abram’s heart and thoughts. He addressed Abram’s concerns by showing him the vast expanse of a clear desert sky studded with stars in every direction. “So shall your offspring be,” God promised Abram.

In that moment, when Abram simply believed God’s promise, his belief was translated into righteousness in God’s eyes. And simple belief is what God was really after. Abram’s wealth, wisdom and might didn’t mean much in the context of God’s grander plan for humanity. But in simply believing, Abram opened his life to God’s control, which God perceived as a righteous act.

Abram was a great man, but he was only a man. He had flaws just as we all do. Scripture records his great deeds. But it doesn’t gloss over his great mistakes. Yet his simple act of childlike faith—taking God at his word—gave Abram the greatest reward any man could desire: a legacy of faith that has inspired billions of people throughout human history.

To Take Away

  • What does it mean to “believe” in God?
  • What impact might your belief have on the way you live?
  • Pray for the kind of faith that takes God at his word, despite seemingly impossible obstacles.

In Other Words

“The individual who has to justify his existence by his own efforts is in eternal bondage to himself.”—Eric Hoffer

Copyright © 2006 by Zondervan.


The God Who Invites Us to Dream

Ezekiel 44–48

God’s Story

The bronze-looking man continues taking Ezekiel on a tour of the new temple. At the north gate, Ezekiel sees that God’s glory is filling the temple. God has returned. Ezekiel falls face down in awe.

God encourages him to take note of all that he is seeing so that he can relay every detail to the exiles.

Since the Levites were accomplices in Israel’s idol worship, they are to do the more menial tasks around the temple. The descendants of Zadok, who were faithful, are to serve God in the Most Holy Place. God gives instructions for the priests, offerings, festivals and holy days.

The man takes Ezekiel back to the temple entrance, where a river flows out from under the temple, east to the Dead Sea. The river brings life to everything it touches—even the Dead Sea! And the trees on its banks grow all sorts of fruit every month.

God shares that there are to be new tribal allocations of the land. Jerusalem, its capital, is a perfect square. And from this point on, the name of the city is to be “THE Lord IS THERE.”

The King’s Heart

Ezekiel spent most of his ministry speaking about Jerusalem’s destruction. In a tender gesture, the God of restoration lets Ezekiel walk through the reconstructed city in all of its beauty.

The plans for the new city must have breathed life into the exiles. They must have pored over the plans—every detail, a marvel. In exile, with no temple to celebrate, festival dates came and went. They must have wondered if their children would ever know the joy of a Passover, a Festival of Tabernacles or a burnt offering.

In the design and the details, God was doing more than just saying, “I have a plan for you,” he was walking his people through the plans. He was giving them pictures to hang their hearts on, inviting them to dream—to hope. And it wasn’t just wishful thinking. If God said it, it would come true.

In an earlier vision, God had left his temple (see Ezekiel 9:310:4–51911:23). Now he was coming home. For good. God’s desire for goodness for his people overruled their ability to lose it. He would bring them back home to him.


God describes this new Jerusalem as a square surrounded by 12 gates, one for each of the 12 tribes (48:1630–35). In Revelation, the new Jerusalem also is described as a square with 12 gates, one for each of the 12 tribes (see Revelation 21:12-1316). We too can look forward to seeing this city.

Copyright © 2014 by Walk Thru the Bible Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved.