How can I overcome condemnation? Part 3

“And Jesus said to her, ‘Neither do I condemn you.’” John 8:11b

How can I overcome condemnation? I can overcome condemnation when I rest under Christ’s gracious teachings (John 7:53-8:2) and redirect those who condemn me to their own sin (John 8:3-9). The third way I can overcome condemnation is to REPLACE MY GUILT WITH CHRIST’S FORGIVING GRACE (John 8:10-11b).

The woman caught in adultery could have slipped away with the rest, but she remained with Jesus. “And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman…” (John 8:9b-10a). The leaders had felt the merciless exposure by the Son of God, but the woman had felt His warmth. So she remains with Jesus. The warmth of Jesus’ love and grace draws broken people to Himself.

Jesus then asks her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” (John 8:10b). She said, “No one Lord” (John 8:11a).  The leaders condemned themselves now instead of the woman. Now that the jury is gone, the woman awaits her verdict. And the One who can condemn, does not. Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you.” (John 8:11b).

What a contrast between the religious establishment’s condemnation and the Lord Jesus’ forgiving grace. If you have been deeply wounded by religious people, please understand that they do not represent the Jesus of the Bible. He is compassionate and forgiving no matter how good or bad you have behaved. He cares far more about your heart than He does your behavior. He invites you to come and be, not come and try harder.

Jesus wants to replace our guilt with His forgiving grace. It is a gift. God doesn’t give us what we deserve, but He does give us what we need. We deserve to be condemned, but we need His cleansing forgiveness.

We have such a difficult time understanding this as humans because this is not how we treat one another. Nor is this how we treat ourselves. This is not how we live in society. You mess up, you pay for it. In the states where you deserve death, you will be put to death by lethal injection in most states where they still have the death penalty.

But not in the state of Gods’ grace. In the state of grace, the penalty for our sin is already paid for us. The courtroom was a wooden cross and the debt that was paid was suffered by Jesus Christ. When He hung on the cross it was as if He was saying to us, “You deserve to be here because of your sin, but I’m going to die in your place because I love you and I don’t want you to die eternally. I want you to have a relationship with Me so I’m going to pay for it so I can look at you and say, ‘Not guilty.’” That’s grace. And He wants to take our guilt and give us grace. All He asks is that we believe in Him alone for His gift of eternal life and forgiveness (John 3:16; Acts 10:43).

If you have already done that, but are still struggling with guilt, ask the Lord to show you if you have any unconfessed sin in your Christian life. If you do, confess it to Him, and the Bible says God “is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9). If you still have guilt, then you are probably being accused by Satan who wants to plague you with false guilt. Dismiss his lies and claim God’s truth which says you are totally forgiven in Christ (cf. Colossians 2:13-14)! This includes the forgiveness of your past, present, and future sins.

When it comes to forgiving yourself, put a dot on the line (diagram 1) to indicate where you are between these two extremes – “I always put myself down” or “I’ve learned to accept Jesus’ forgiveness.” If you are more to the left you were probably mistreated or neglected, and therefore need to experience Jesus’ forgiveness on a horizontal level with other loving believers. We tend to see ourselves the way authority figures saw us when growing up. Since we were wounded in the context of relationships, we will also need to heal in the context of relationships. We can let Christ replace our guilt with His forgiving grace as we relate to other believers who love us and care for us no matter what.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You are the only One who can replace the guilt and shame of my sin with Your forgiving grace. Forty-one years ago I came to You in faith and You forgave all my sins – past, present, and future – the moment I believed in You for Your gift of forgiveness. Since that time, I have struggled to believe I am forgiven. Other people forgive me sooner than I forgive myself. Much of my life I have been my worst critic. Thank You for showing me that it is time for me to lay down the stones I have thrown at myself. It is time for me to give You those stones to build something beautiful in my life. I need other brothers and sisters in Christ to help me in this healing process. Please lead me to them so they can help me and I can help them. In Your matchless name I pray. Amen.

How can we experience Jesus’ cleansing truth in our lives?

You may recall that in John 1:14 we saw that Jesus was “full of grace and truth.” He was the perfect balance of grace and truth. Earlier in John 2:1-11, we saw Jesus express His grace by transforming water into wine at a wedding banquet in Cana of Galilee. He replaced something old with something new. New wine replaced old water. Today we will see His truth at work replacing a dirty temple with a clean one. From this we will discover how we can experiencing Jesus’ cleansing truth in our lives. The first way is seen in 2:12-16.

“After this He went down to Capernaum, He, His mother, His brothers, and His disciples; and they did not stay there many days.” (John 2:12). Jesus spends some quiet time at Capernaum with friends – those closest to Him. As important as time with friends is, Jesus did not want to miss going up to Jerusalem to worship God during the Passover. “Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.” (John 2:13). The Passover was a Jewish festival celebrating God’s deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt, when the angel of death passed over every home where the blood of a lamb was applied to the doorposts of the home (Exodus 12-13). It also initiated the Feast of Unleavened Bread, so the entire celebration lasted over a week. Jews from all over the world came to Jerusalem to meet with God and be obedient to His commands.   

While Jesus tried to make His way into the Temple, He discovered that it had become a place of peddling instead of a place of prayer. “And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business.” (John 2:14). This temple money system was known as Annas’ Bazaar. Annas gave up his priesthood to run this temple money system. He placed his three sons in the priesthood, and God killed them. Then he placed his son in-law Caiaphas, in the priesthood so Annas could run the temple business.

Let’s say you come to Jerusalem to worship the Lord. You bring an animal to sacrifice to the Lord, because that’s the way you worshiped God then. Your children had cared for this animal for months and he had become a cherished pet – though he was about to become the family’s sacrifice. You go into the temple courtyard and there is a “booth of approval” manned by one of the strictest of the Pharisees. Before you could offer your family’s lamb for sacrifice it had to be approved. But this inspector finds defects in your lamb. “Hey, we can’t accept this animal as a sacrifice – it has too many things wrong with it. You need to go to the venders’ booth, over there. There you can buy a lamb pre-approved for sacrifice.” Think of how your kids feel. “What about our lamb? Doesn’t God care about that? How do we get to God?” So, you go over to the vendors’ booth and pay ten times the real value for a pre-approved lamb. (Just like when you go to the theater and a 50-cent bag of popcorn costs you $4.) So, you get your money out to buy one of his animals.

And he says to you, “Wait a minute. We can’t accept that currency. You need to exchange your coins for temple money over here at the money-changers’ table and that will be an extra fee.” Therefore, you go up to the moneychangers’ table and give them a silver dollar and they only give you 25 cents of temple money. Just like if you went to a pawn shop with a $1000-dollar ring and the broker would only offer you $100. Wanting to show your love for God you pay all these fees. And by the end of the day, you didn’t know if you were pleasing God or just pleasing the religious leaders. Meeting with God seemed too far beyond your reach.

This scene is what Jesus saw when He entered the temple. How does our Lord respond? “When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables.” (John 2:15). This is not the soft spoken, gentle Savior that so many of us often think Jesus was. Here we find Jesus angry and aggressive as He drives out animals, overturns tables, and creates a scene. I mean it must have been like being in one of those villages in Spain when they let the bulls run loose in the streets. Cows and sheep are running loose. People are yelling and screaming, “Help! Out of the way! The Carpenter has gone crazy!”

 Whenever Jesus sees one of the merchants, He points the finger and says. “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” (John 2:16). The temple was designed by God to be a place where people could meet with God. But it had become a place where people were abused in the name of God! The tragic truth was this had become the least likely place where you could meet with the Lord. Jesus must remove the religious pretenders before He can truly minister to those who need Him.

For many people today, this is still a reality. There are people today who long to meet with God in a place of worship, but when they go, all too often they discover a system that gives them more work to do to be “close” to God. The problem with this is they never know if they are pleasing God or the religious leaders. You say to yourself, “Something feels wrong with having to follow all of these rules – but it is God’s House. It says so on the sign.” And they get worn out or they leave and give up on God altogether.

Please understand, that if you came out of a church where you had to pay and pay and pay some more to get close to God, you have come to the right place. You have come to a place where Jesus fights for you just like He did back then. And He wants to heal your hurts and lighten your load. He wants to make it so easy for you to come (just as you are) and meet with Him. Jesus does not charge you to meet with Him. It’s free just like salvation. Jesus does not want anything at His church to make it difficult for people to worship Him …to draw closer to Him.

Jesus warns all of us who are spiritual leaders: Woe to you if you shut off the kingdom of heaven from men. We need to ask ourselves are we door-openers or door closers? Are we making it difficult for people to come to Christ or simple? Sometimes the Lord must remove religious pretenders before true worship can take place…before Jesus can truly minister His grace to those in need. I truly believe when Jesus is free to minister His grace in a church – look out! It will explode with people who need His healing touch.

So the first way to experience Jesus’ cleansing truth is to Rely On Christ To Cleanse Your Life (John 2:12-16) from sin and corruption. According to the Bible, where is the temple of God located today? The answer to this question is in 1 Corinthians 3:16. The apostle Paul is writing to Christians, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” The temple of God is no longer located in Jerusalem. It is now located in every believer in Jesus Christ. The temple is located in our bodies. In the Old Testament, God’s temple was a sacred place. It was a place where God Himself resided and where people came to worship Him. Today, God’s temple is still a sacred place where God dwells.

The truth is all of us are like those religious leaders who were robbing the people of their money. All of us are thieves. Now you may say, “Wait a minute pastor. I’m not perfect, but I am no thief.” We probably all agree that we are not perfect, but are we all thieves? Maybe we wouldn’t break into our neighbor’s home to steal his stereo, but we rob him of his reputation when we gossip about him. Maybe you’ve never stolen a woman’s virginity, but you rob her future husband of the gratification that God intended only him to have when you lust after her. You don’t have to steal money to be a thief. If Jesus came today and looked at the temple of God in you, would He have the same reaction as He did in Jerusalem with the corrupt merchants? Would He get angry at what He saw or would He be pleased with what He sees in your life? Friends, if we have pollution in God’s temple, then it’s time for us to allow Jesus to clean it out and stop trying to hide and cover up our sins.

One day a man purchased a white mouse to use as food for his pet snake. He dropped the mouse into the snake’s glass cage, where the snake was sleeping in a bed of sawdust. What did the terrified mouse do? He quickly set to work covering the snake with sawdust chips until it was completely buried. With that, the mouse apparently thought he had solved his problem. Listen, no matter how hard we try to hide or deny our sins, it’s futile. Sin will eventually awake from its sleep and shake off its cover and eat us alive.

So how do we allow Jesus to cleanse our lives from sin and corruption? If you are not a Christian, you must trust in Christ alone to forgive your sins. The Bible says: “All the prophets say it is true that all who believe in Jesus will be forgiven of their sins.” (Acts 10:43). Before we become Christians, our lives are contaminated by sin. This sin separates us from God. And since God is holy and perfect, He cannot dwell in our contaminated bodies until we trust Christ to forgive us and cleanse us of all our wrongdoings. So, the moment you put your faith in Jesus Christ for salvation, God removes the barriers of sin and comes to live inside you forever.

If you are already a Christian, the Bible instructs you to confess your sin to God: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9). To confess means to agree with God that what you did, said or thought was wrong. When you do this, God is faithful to forgive you and cleanse you from all sin, even that which you are not aware of.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, as I read the Scripture this morning, I found myself sitting in judgment over the religious leaders of Israel who had turned the temple of God into a place of peddling instead of a place of prayer. But Your Spirit convicted me that I am no better than those religious leaders. I also have stolen from others, especially from You, my Lord and my God. Instead of giving You my time, talents, and treasures, I keep them to myself, taking from You what is rightfully Yours. I have also stolen from others with my words and my thoughts. Like the religious leaders, I also have made it difficult for others to approach You in worship by being less than Christlike towards them. Oh my Lord and my God, I agree with You that I have sinned against You and others with my thoughts, my words, and my actions. Thank You for forgiving me and cleansing me of all my sins including those I am not aware of. Thank You for fighting for me so I may approach You just as I am when others have made it difficult to do so with their various regulations and rituals. Thank You for being for me and not against me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

No one can successfully condemn me

“Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.” Romans 8:34

Are you living under condemnation? Are you weighed down by guilt and anxiety about your past? Maybe you have done things which would embarrass you if they became public knowledge. You may have committed a terrible and tragic sin that was never traced back to you. You may have a criminal record or a moral charge or a domestic conflict that, to this moment, is private information. You may wrestle with a past that has been fractured and wounded by a mental or emotional breakdown. Futile attempts at suicide may add to the previous scar tissue and increase your fear of being labeled “sick” or “nervous.” It’s possible you live with memories of an immoral relationship, a financial failure, a terrible habit, a divorce or a scandalous involvement. You may be your worst critic of your past.

Or perhaps you are living under the condemnation of another person. Critical comments from a parent, a friend, an employer or a spouse have continued to haunt you. No matter what you do, you cannot seem to live up to their expectations. Nothing you do can seem to please them.  Does that describe you?

Worse yet, you may think that God will condemn you for something you have done in your past. Perhaps you have committed such a heinous sin that you are convinced that there is no possible way God could ever forgive you because He is holy and just. His justice could never overlook what you have done.

Before you surrender your situation as hopeless, please understand that if you have believed in Jesus Christ for His gift of everlasting life, God will not condemn you nor reject you. So there is no need to be paralyzed by your guilt and condemnation any longer. The assurance that no one can successfully condemn you is established in Romans 8:34.

The apostle Paul writes, “Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us” (8:34).

God is saying that no one can successfully condemn you because His Son…

“died” in your place for all your sins, taking the condemnation that you deserved so all your guilt is removed (8:34b).

“is risen” from the dead, satisfying God’s demand to punish your sins (8:34c). Jesus is alive to give life everlasting to all who believe in Him (John 11:25-26).

– “who is even at the right hand of God” defending you against all accusations (8:34).

“makes intercession for” you so that your faith won’t fail, you won’t give up, and that you can encourage others” (8:34e; cf. Luke 22:32).

How many times have we listened to Satan’s accusations or the accusations of others, all the while forgetting that God knows our sin, and has forgiven us any way!?! Jesus is sitting at God’s right hand right now defending us. When we sin and we are condemned by others, God looks to His Son Who says, “Father, I paid for that sin.”

So many of us live with negative labels. Sometimes they are not our own fault. But so many times they are of our own doing. And thus, we think that our story is one of failure and shame. But you know, it doesn’t have to be that way. Because our story can be a story of grace. For it is grace that fixes broken lives. It is grace that heals broken hearts and restores estranged sinners.

Jesus points us to what we are meant to be. We don’t have to live in our past. We don’t have to live with condemnation. We don’t have to live a life that is powerless in the face of temptation and sin. We are chosen for something more.

You know, none of us deserve to be forgiven. We haven’t earned it. Nor have we paid the price ourselves. Yet, in His grace, when Jesus forgives our sin, He forgets (Heb. 10:17). Our past ended one second ago. Once you have experienced grace, it is now time to show it to others. We are to be gracious with others as Christ has been gracious with us.

Prayer: Father God, thank You for removing all grounds for my condemnation through Jesus’ death, resurrection, ascension, and intercession so that I am totally accepted by You. I am so glad that when You forgave me, You forgot what I had done as if I had never sinned. And You are not only willing but pleased to use any vessel – just as long as it is clean today – at this moment. It may be cracked or chipped. It may be worn or it may have never been used before. But I can count on this – because of Your grace – my past ended one second ago. From this point on I can be clean and free from condemnation. Use me for Your glory, Lord. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

How can I know God is for me when all this bad stuff is happening?

As conditions worsen with regard to the coronavirus, many people are panicking. In large part, it seems to me that the media is highly responsible for a lot of fear-based decision making. God does not want His children to be driven by fear. He wants us to be driven by faith (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:7). With so many negative reports in the news today, it is challenging to maintain a life of faith. We may succumb to this bombardment of sensationalism and begin to doubt if God is really on our side. A lie that the enemy likes to whisper in a Christian’s ear when bad things are happening is, “God is against you.” Do you ever have thoughts like that? I certainly do.

The truth God has given us to combat this lie is found in Romans 8:31 where the apostle Paul writes: ““If God is for us [and He is], who can be against us” (8:31)? When we think someone is against us, God says, “Since I am for you (and no one is greater than Me), no one can successfully oppose you!” This includes the coronavirus, those in authority over us, family, friends, and even the devil and his demonic armies. As a preacher once said, “One plus God is  always a majority.” Does it always feel this way? No. But our feelings do not always tell the truth.

You may respond, “But God, how do I know You are for me?” Paul writes, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things” (8:32)? When we were enemies of God, He gave us His own Son to die in our place (Romans 5:6-8). If God gave us His best when we were at our worst, how much more will He give us now that we are His beloved children!?!

God the Holy Spirit wants to apply these truths beyond our thoughts to the depths of our soul and spirit so that even when bad and painful things happen to us, we will still know deep down inside that God is for us. He is on our side. God is our biggest fan despite what we hear from our antagonists, including our own flesh. Therefore, there is no longer any reason to live in fear.

How do we replace this lie (and others) with God’s truth? Second Corinthians 10:3-5 instructs us. First, we must rely on God’s power, not our own. This battle for our minds is not “according to the flesh” (10:3). Nothing in our own flesh will help us to live victoriously or draw us closer to the Lord. Since the weapons of our warfare are “mighty in God,” then we must rely  upon the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome Satan’s lies (10:4).

Second, recognize the erroneous thought. This battle is located in our minds because it involves “strongholds,” “arguments,” “knowledge,” and “every thought” (10:4-5). The word “strongholds” pictures a fortress with high walls and towers surrounded by a moat. God says these strongholds must be destroyed which means that God did not build them. A “stronghold” then, is a negative, destructive pattern of thinking that Satan has built in our minds through repetition, trauma, or circumstances. Satan does not put thoughts in our minds. He uses other people’s voices to insert thoughts in our mind. Ungodly thoughts come from us. Christ lives inside us and He does not give us these ungodly thoughts (Galatians 2:20). We will not get very far in this battle for our minds until we acknowledge these satanic strongholds.

Third, release the lie. “Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God” (10:5a). Dismiss the lie and say, This is not true, therefore, it is a lie and I am not going to pay attention to this. I am not going to entertain these thoughts that say God is against me.”

Fourth, reprogram your mind with the truth, “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (10:5b). How do we bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ? Jesus told us: “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). The devil is a liar by nature and he cannot handle the truth (John 6:44). This is why the devil tries to distract us from the truth so that it never gets deep down into the areas where he has a stronghold in our lives.

Persevere in this truth: “God is for me and not against me. The proof? He gave me His best on the cross when I was at my worst.” Review this truth daily. Say it out loud. Find a picture or image that represents this truth and review it throughout the day. This will help download the truth of God’s Word into your right brain where lies are attached to wounds from your past.

Neuroscience teaches us that it takes 2-5 years to develop new neurological pathways in our brain that contain the truth. So keep telling yourself the truth even when you don’t feel like it or see it so you can create and strengthen the new pathway in your brain. Our bodies create new brain cells the more we tell ourselves the truth. The more we tell ourselves the truth, the stronger the pathway becomes between brain cells. When we ignore the lie, the old pathway weakens – those brain cells containing Satan’s lies have less power and strength. You can continue to create new brain cells throughout your life by speaking the truth to yourself. When Paul said, “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:2), perhaps he not only had a spiritual transformation in mind, but a physiological transformation in mind as well.

Prayer: Father God, by Your Spirit, please heal my soul of the wound that has the lie attached to it that says, “You are against me.” I cannot heal this wound myself. No doctor, pastor, or therapist can heal me. Only You, Lord God, can heal me. I will need Your grace to replace this lie with Your truth that says, “You are for me. And since no one is greater than You, no one can successfully oppose me.” When I doubt that You are for me, please remind me of the cross that says You gave me Your best when I was at my worst. And since You gave Your best to me when I was at my worst, how much more will You give me through Your Son Jesus now that I am Your beloved child through faith in Him!?! Thank You that I no longer need to live in fear. I can awaken each morning expectant of Your best for me through the Lord Jesus Christ. In His name I pray. Amen.

I am totally forgiven in Christ

“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” Ephesians 1:7

When I believed in Christ, I received “the forgiveness of sins” (cf. Acts 10:43). I want you to think about this for a moment. When Christ died for our sins, how many of them were still future? (Pause). All of them! When Jesus died for us nearly 2,000 years ago, we were not even born yet. So all of our sins in His mind were still future. At the cross, God took every sin that you or I would ever commit and placed them all on Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus paid the penalty for all of our sins so we could be totally forgiven the moment we believed in Christ (Colossians 2:13). Forgiveness means God has removed the barrier of all our sins so we can now enjoy closeness with God.

On what basis did God forgive all our sins? The Bible says, His forgiveness was “according to the riches of His grace.” God’s “grace” refers to His undeserved kindness. The word “riches” (ploutos) refers to an abundance or wealth of grace. We can never exhaust God supply of grace towards us. None of us deserve to be forgiven by God. God did this on the basis of His grace towards us, not our goodness or religious efforts. Since His forgiveness is based on His grace, we can stop punishing ourselves or trying to earn His forgiveness when we do sin.

I can remember when I was a young Christian really struggling with guilt and shame after I sinned. I would try to pray more and read my Bible more, thinking I could some how earn God’s forgiveness. But this kind of response is insulting to God. It’s like I was saying to Jesus, “Your death on the cross was not enough to pay the full penalty for my sins. I need to help You pay for all of my sins.” As I grew in my knowledge and application of God’s Word, I began to realize that Jesus paid it all for me! There was nothing more for me to do but accept or believe His full payment for all my sins.

What this means is that we can never lose our relationship with our heavenly Father. Just as we are born into our earthly families and can never cease to be our parents’ child no matter what we do, so too, when we are born into God’s family, we can never cease to be His child no matter how we live. We can sin as God’s child without ever ceasing to be His child. But our sin will break that closeness with God just as disobeying our parents breaks our closeness with them. Thanks be to Jesus Christ that that closeness to God can be restored on the basis of our own confession of sin (I John 1:9) and the realization that Christ has paid in full the penalty for that sin which otherwise would condemn us (John 19:30).

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You so much for paying the full price for all of my sins when You died in my place on the cross so I can enjoy complete and total forgiveness for all of my sins! Because my forgiveness in Christ is complete, I no longer need to work to earn Your forgiveness. I can now rest in Your finished work on the cross to have peace with God forever! This truth is life changing for me! I now want to live for You as a way of saying, “Thank You for my total forgiveness!” In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Songs of Deliverance

“You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance.” Psalm 32:7

After confessing his double sin of adultery and murder to God (32:5), King David acknowledged that God was his “hiding place” Who would “preserve” him “from trouble” that had come upon him because of his sin (32:7a). One writer says that before confessing his sin, David was hiding “from” God (32:3-4). But now David was hiding “in” God (32:7). When believers confess their sins to the Lord it makes Him a Refuge to seek rather than a Judge to escape. The sooner we confess our sin to God the more quickly He can lessen the “trouble” our sin has brought upon us.

I was intrigued with the last part of verse 7, “You shall surround me with songs of deliverance.” One of the benefits of confessing our sin is that God encircles us with songs that proclaim the triumph of His mercy and grace. We are encompassed by “songs of deliverance” from our sin and shame, from doubts and despair, and from our enemies. To the right and to the left, above and below, the air is resounding with joyful music for the forgiven sinner! Instead of hearing songs of condemnation and accusation, the forgiven believer is surrounded by songs about God’s amazing love!!

Who is singing these “songs of deliverance”? Of course, it could be the repentant sinner whose dread has turned to joy. He breaks forth into songs of praise toward his merciful God who has replaced his guilt with His amazing grace! It is also possible that “the angels of God” are expressing their “joy… over one sinner who repents” by singing praises to the Lord (Luke 15:10). Do you ever get the sense that heaven is rejoicing when you are restored to fellowship with God after confessing your sin? Perhaps that is what is meant here. Regardless of who is singing these songs, the main point is that joy surrounds the forgiven sinner. 

How can we overcome condemnation?

Are you living under condemnation? Are you weighed down by guilt and anxiety about your past? Maybe you have done things which would embarrass you if they became public knowledge. You may have a criminal record or a moral charge or a domestic conflict that, to this moment, is private information. You may wrestle with a past that has been fractured and wounded by a mental or emotional breakdown. Futile attempts at suicide may add to the previous scar tissue and increase your fear of being labeled “sick” or “nervous.” It’s possible you live with memories of an immoral relationship, a financial failure, a terrible habit, a divorce or a scandalous involvement. You may be your worst critic of your past.

From John 7:53-8:11, we can learn how to overcome condemnation.

1. REST UNDER CHRIST’S GRACIOUS TEACHINGS (7:53-8:2). The day after the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus went into the temple and “all the people came to Him” (8:2). Why did all the people come to sit under Jesus’ teaching? Was it because He beat them up spiritually and emotionally? No. I believe these people were tired of the demands of the religious leaders, and they were drawn to the gentle and forgiving grace of Christ (cf. Matthew 11:28-30; 12:20). 

As they sat under His teaching and discovered the magnificence of His grace, they were healed from the malignancy of their guilt! How precious and broad is Christ’s love they found, yet how petty and narrow is man’s legalism (trying to keep the Law to gain God’s acceptance). How refreshing is the Lord’s grace! Yet how rigid is the legalist’s guilt! Christ’s grace was setting them free from their guilt and shame. And He wants to do the same for you. “For God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17). Christ did not come into the world to condemn you, but to cleanse you.

2. REDIRCT THOSE WHO CONDEMN US TO THEIR OWN SIN (8:3-9). Jesus’ gracious teaching was rudely interrupted by the religious leaders who caught a woman in the act of adultery during the Feast of Tabernacles when people were living in close quarters (8:3-4). For this woman to have been caught in adultery, the leaders must have set it up. They now set her in the middle of a crowd where everyone could see her and what Jesus would do with such a case. This was unlawful because they had a court to try such cases. But where was the man? The leaders set this whole thing up so the man could escape. They seemed to have a personal vendetta against this woman.

The law of Moses said to stone an adulteress and adulterer (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22-24)). But the leaders weren’t concerned with justice, but with trapping Jesus (8:5-6a). If Jesus says not to stone her, He is in conflict with the Mosaic law. If He says to stone her, He is in conflict with the Roman Law – for only the Romans had the right of capital punishment, not the Jews. Christ responded to the religious leaders’ attempt to condemn Him by stooping down and writing “on the ground with His finger” (8:6b). Much speculation has centered around what Jesus wrote. But the Bible is silent on this point! The act of writing – not what was written – is what is most important. 

The leaders thought Christ was stalling so they persistently questioned Him (8:7a). Jesus was more than a Teacher of the Law (8:4). He was also the Giver of the Law. He was the Son of God (20:31), God in human flesh (1:1, 14), the Creator of all things (1:3). The same finger that wrote the Law in the tablet of stone on Mt Sinai (Exodus 31:18), is the same finger that wrote on the ground. If Jesus was the Law-Giver (and He is), then He could forgive this woman like He had forgiven Israel at Mt. Sinai (Exodus 33:12-34:9).

Then Jesus says, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first” 8:7b). Christ is not referring to sinlessness here because in the original language it literally says, “He who is without the sin [of adultery]…” Christ is referring to a specific area of sin. Then  Jesus “stooped down and wrote on the ground” a second time (8:8). Perhaps Jesus wrote down the names of the women the Pharisees slept with. The Law required the man and woman be stoned. Where was the man? Was he one of the leaders or a friend of the leaders? There would have been ample opportunities for the leaders to commit adultery during the feast.

As the truth began to sink in, “those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last” (8:9). The older ones left first because they had more guilt since they had been committing adultery longer. Instead of focusing on the woman’s sin or on trapping Jesus, the leaders were now forced to look at their own sin. 

When people are quick to condemn us or criticize us, set a boundary with them. Ask them, “Have you ever committed a similar sin? How did you feel? Would you have wanted them to remind you of that or put you down in front of others?” When you are being attacked, it’s better to take the offensive than be defensive.

3. REPLACE OUR GUILT WITH CHRIST’S FORGIVING GRACE (8:10-11a). The woman could have slipped away with the rest, but she remained with Jesus (8:9b). The leaders had felt the merciless exposure by the Son of God, but the woman had felt His warmth. Jesus asks her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you” (8:10b). She said, “No one Lord” (8:11a).  The leaders condemned themselves now instead of the woman. Now that the jury is gone, so the woman awaits her verdict. And the One who can condemn, does not. Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you” (8:11b). Jesus wants to replace our guilt with His forgiving grace. It’s a gift. God doesn’t give us what we deserve, but He does give us what we need. We deserve to be condemned, but we need His cleansing forgiveness.

We have such a difficult time understanding this as humans because this is not how we treat one another. This is not how we live in society. You mess up, you pay for it. In the States where you deserve death, you will be put to death in many states where they still have the death penalty.

But not in the state of Gods’ grace. In the state of grace, it’s already been paid for you. The courtroom was a wooden cross and the debt that was paid was suffered by Jesus Christ. When He hung on the cross it was if He was saying, “Jeff, you deserve to be here because of your sin but I’m going to die in your place because I love you and I don’t want you to die eternally. I want you to have a relationship with Me so I’m going to pay for it so I can look at you and say, ‘Not guilty.’” That’s grace. And He wants to take our guilt and give us grace. All He asks is that we believe in Him alone for His gift of eternal life and forgiveness (John 3:16; Acts 10:43). 

If you have already done that, but are still struggling with guilt, ask the Lord to show you if you have any unconfessed sin in your Christian life. If you do, confess it to Him, and the Bible says God “is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse of from all unrighteouness” (I John 1:9). If you still have guilt, then you are probably being accused by Satan who wants to plague you with false guilt. Dismiss his lies and claim God’s truth to have completely forgiven you!

4. RELY ON CHRIST TO OVERCOME SIN (8:11c). After forgiving the woman’s adultery, Jesus said to her, “Go and sin no more” (8:11c). Is Jesus talking about sinless perfection here? No, because that would contradict other Scriptures (cf. I John 1:8, 10). He is not referring to sin in general or to sinless perfection, but He is referring specifically to the sin of adultery. Jesus forgives and forbids in the same breath. Christ did not condone, rationalize, or excuse her sin. He forgave her so she could live the way she was created to live…for God’s glory. This was probably the first man who was more interested in saving her than exploiting her, and in forgiving her than condemning her. Jesus provided the assurance and motivation she needed to live for Him now. 

And He does the same with us. Christ did not forgive you so you could continue in your sin. He forgave you so you could live for Him now (2 Corinthians 5:15). You must rely on His Spirit and Word to resist temptation and obey His commands (Matthew 4:1-11; 26:41; John 8:31-32; 16:13-14; Romans 8:11; I Corinthians 10:13; Galatians 5:16-17).

You know, none of us deserve to be forgiven. We haven’t earned it. Nor have we paid the price ourselves. Yet, in His grace, when Jesus forgives our sin, He forgets (Hebrews 10:17). Our past ended one second ago. Once you have experienced grace, it is now time to show it to others. We are to be gracious with others as Christ has been gracious with us (EpheFsians 4:32).