One characteristic of a grace awakening ministry deserves special attention: release from past failures. A ministry of grace doesn’t keep bringing up the past for the purpose of holding it over people. There is an absence of shame. Paul addresses this in 1 Timothy 1:12–14:
I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus.
You may be surprised to know that the apostle Paul had every reason to feel ashamed. He was one whose past was dreadful: “formerly a blasphemer . . . persecutor . . . violent aggressor.” Then how could the same man write, “I am not ashamed” (2 Timothy 1:12)? He gives us the answer here in 1 Timothy 1:14: Grace was more than abundant. Blasphemy had abounded in his past, but grace superabounded. Violence and brutality had abounded, but grace superabounded.
What if it read “divorcee”? What if it read “homosexual”? What if it read “addict”? I realize it reads “blasphemer, persecutor, aggressor.” But what if it read “prostitute” or “ex-con” or “financial failure” or “murderer”? In a grace-awakened ministry, none of those things in the past are allowed to hold those people in bondage. They are released, forgiven, and the believer is allowed to go on to a new life in Christ.
Grace releases people, not only from sin but from shame. Do you do that in your ministry? Or do you make a note of those things and keep reminding yourself when that particular name comes up: “Well, you know, you’d better watch her” or, “You’ve gotta watch him.” Do you give people reasons to feel greater shame? Who knows what battles of shame most folks struggle with? It is enormous.
Taken from The Grace Awakening Devotional, Charles R. Swindoll. Copyright © 2003 Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. Published by Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, Tennessee. All rights reserved. Copying or using this material without written permission from the publisher is strictly prohibited and in direct violation of copyright law. Used by permission.