These past three weeks the young writer ministry ‘Press Service International’ (PSI) has been celebrating three accolades from the 2019 Australasian Religious Press Association conference in Christchurch.
First, Press Service International (the young writer ministry) was awarded ARPA’s premier award, The Gutenberg. Second, Sophia Sinclair a former young writer and PSI chief editor was elected the new President of ARPA and third, Kiwi young writer Matthew Thornton (Auckland) was awarded a ‘Bronze’ in the ‘New Best Writer’ category.
Last week it seemed fitting therefore to highlight the only other ARPA Category winner – that was an ARPA 2015 GOLD for Auckland’s Casey Murray – her title “Because I’m happy …kind of”.
Today we’re celebrating Matthew Thornton and his 2019 ARPA ‘New Best Writer’ Bronze article titled - “Overcoming Shame: More of You, less of me”“
“Overcoming Shame: More of You, less of me”
Matthew Thornton, Kiwi young writer, ARPA Bronze
God’s grace and mercy has been on my mind a lot lately.
Now these certainly aren’t concepts I’ve only just learnt; I’ve known about them since the start of my Christian journey. But lately it seems as if I’ve gained a higher understanding and appreciation for how truly life changing they are.
I’m going to be honest here, God hasn’t been my priority these last few months. University has been extremely busy but that isn’t really an excuse; you make time for those things you prioritize. In one of the busiest times of my life, instead of drawing closer to Jesus and relying on His strength and vigour, I’ve allowed myself to drift.
And, I guess, I have been feeling quite guilty about it; maybe that’s why grace and mercy have been on my mind.
You see, as I processed my guilt and began to think of my actions, I was reminded of the term ‘shame’.
I’m sure we’ve all gone through periods of our lives when the gravity of our sin seems to hit us hardest. I think it’s fair to say that we’re all sinful people and, normally, if my experiences are anything to go by, we don’t feel too down about it. However, there are times, when we feel like an utter failure because of it.
Shame: “a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour”.
Shame is one of the most powerful tools the enemy has at his disposal for distancing us from God. Shame convinces us that, because we do bad, we are bad. It paralyzes us by consuming our self-worth, imprisoning our joy, and robbing us of our ability to love others.
Mark chapter 2, verse 17: “Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners’”.
You see, in times of shame, we become consumed in our sickness and forget who our Healer is. We lose sight of the truth and, although we may have heard about God’s love a thousand times, we no longer believe it.
That is why, during these times, we need to defeat the lies with His truth.
You are more
If you haven’t realised it yet, Tenth Avenue North are one of my favourite bands. And, with lyrics such as in “You Are More”, I puzzled as to why they aren’t more people’s favourites as well:
“I’m crippled by the fear
That I’ve fallen too far to love
But don’t you know who you are
What’s been done for you?
Yeah don’t you know who you are?
You are more than the choices that you’ve made,
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes,
You are more than the problems you create,
You’ve been remade”.
What we tend to forget is that Jesus died for the broken us. He didn’t die for who we were meant to be, or who we will be in the future. He died for us as we are. In all our sin, weaknesses and shortcomings ((Un)qualified, Steven Furtick).
Healing us of our brokenness and sin is the very reason Jesus died. So, when we run from Him in times of shame, we are negating the cross. Therefore, instead of running from Him, we should be drawing closer to Him.
The page turner
If Christianity isn’t a destination, but a journey, then His mercy is what allows us to take the next step in that journey. Mercy allows us to turn the page and begin a new chapter, allowing God’s grace to transform the plot of our doomed story into one of hope.
Jesus loves us so much that He died for our sins. We don’t have to feel ashamed, instead, we can “approach God’s throne of grace with CONFIDENCE, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews chapter 4, verse 16).
What an incredible God we serve.
He’s in the business of transformation
Yet, times of shame, although not from God, can serve as great reminders of our continual need for Jesus in our lives. If we are to be healed of our sickness, then we need to medicate ourselves with His Spirit. We need to allow His living water to flow through the landscapes of our hearts, bringing life and beauty to our barrenness. For it is only if we remain in Him, that we will bear good fruit (John chapter 15, verse 5).
As I write, I’m realizing that this post is really different to what I usually post. It isn’t so much a comment piece, rather a reflection. A reflection of God’s incredible and unbounding mercy and grace.
More than that, it’s a realisation. A realisation that I need to remind myself of His truth when the enemy lays siege on my heart and tries to consume me in shame.
But, above all, it’s a realisation that I need to keep seeking His Spirit through it all. For it is only through Him that we can become the people He envisioned us to be.
More of You, less of me.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand. Dr Mark Tronson’s Press Service International in 2019 was awarded the Australasian Religious Press Association’s premier award, The Gutenberg.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html