How can I overcome my sinful addictions – Part 5

“Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me?” John 8:46

The third reason why we are hindered from overcoming our addictions is because of our STUBBORN UNBELIEF (John 8: 45-47). Like their father, the devil, these unbelieving Jews lived in a world of lies and falsehood. Jesus said to them, “But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me.” (John 8:45). These men would rather believe a lie, rather than the truth that Jesus spoke. They had believed the devil’s lies so long that when Jesus tells them the truth, they did not believe Him because His teaching did not line up with their belief system. Here lies the battle: truth versus lies. The only way you can begin to overcome your addictions is to start believing the truth – about Christ, yourself, and your bondage to sin.

Jesus asks them, “Which of you convicts Me of sin?” (John 8:46a). “If you can find anything that I have done wrong, anything in all my thirty-three years on earth; if there is one of you who can stand up and say, ‘You cheated me, you stole from me, you lied to me, you deceived me, you lived for your own self, you took away what belonged to another,’ that would utterly demolish My claim to have come from God.” He pauses for an answer, but no one says anything. Their silence implied that Jesus was sinless. 

So Christ asks, “And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me?” (John 8:46b). “If you can find no sin in Me, then I must be speaking the truth, so why do you refuse to believe in Me? A sinless Man should be believed!” Jesus has stripped away the veil that has hidden their hearts from themselves. He has revealed them, not as good and decent men who were free before God, but as slaves, bound with habits they could not break, slaves to sin, desperately needing the work of a Redeemer. Yet they stubbornly refuse to believe in Christ.

So He states the case plainly. “He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.” (John 8:47). They rejected Christ’s message because they have no relationship with God.

This reminds me of some of the victims of hurricane Katrina, one of the deadliest hurricanes to ever hit the United States back in August of 2005. When rescuers came to their flooded homes, they shot at them instead of trusting them to save them from drowning. They refused their help. Are we any different? We can be so entrapped by sin, unable to break those sinful habits, yet when Christ offers us His help to overcome them, we shoot at Him as if we would rather die in our sin than be saved by someone else.

This brings us back to what Jesus said in John 8:31b-32: “31b If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” That is the only way out. To all victims of Satan’s lies Jesus offers the priceless gift of freedom. Only Jesus Christ can deliver us from bondage to sin. We do not have the power in ourselves to overcome sin. Only Christ can free us from sin’s control. Will we think, believe and act on the truth or will we think, believe, and act on a lie? The choice is ours. Choosing the truth will lead to freedom from bondage to sin and an abundant life. Choosing a lie will lead to more bondage and destruction.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we come to You as prisoners of our own making. All of us are slaves to sin. It may be anger, lust, worry, alcohol, drugs, self-abuse, gossip, pornography, cell phones, or work. You know our addictions and only You can set us free. Empower us to know, believe, and act on Your truth so that we may be all that You intended us to be for Your glory. In Your name I pray. Amen.

How can I overcome my sinful addictions? – Part 3

“Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” John 8:36

The truth is many of us are not experiencing this kind of freedom from sin that we looked at in the first two articles. Why? What prevents us from overcoming our addictions?

SELF-SUFFICIENT PRIDE (John 8:33-36). This is what hindered Jesus’ audience. Keep in mind that Jesus’ audience was comprised of believers (“many believed in Him… those Jews who believed Him” – John 8:30b-31a) and unbelievers (“you do not believe Me… why do you not believe Me?” – John 8:44-45). When Christ spoke to the Jews who believed in Him (John 8:30-32), many of the unbelieving Jews listened in and were offended by Christ’s words. Then “they answered Him, ‘We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?’ ” (John 8:33). Now this is a strange thing for them to say in light of the fact that they were currently in bondage to the Roman government. But that’s not what they mean. They are boasting of the fact that they are part of the Jewish ethnicity. They were convinced that God accepted them because they were descendants of Abraham.

This reminds me of when we lived in Dallas, Texas, in the 1980s and we would drive past Texas Stadium, where the Dallas Cowboys played. That was a unique stadium. It is not like the Kingdome or the Superdome and other great stadia where football is played, because it is not completely roofed over. It has a big hole in the roof right over the football field. Spectators are protected but the players are exposed to the elements. When I asked why I was told, So God can watch His favorite team!” That is the way the Cowboys feel about themselves: “God’s Favorite Team!” That is what these Jews felt, too: “We are God’s favorite people; God’s chosen race.”

This is the real problem. This is what most often keeps people from coming to Christ and finding the path to freedom: They assume that because they are born into a religious or Christian family, they will go to heaven when they die. After all they live in a Christian nation or their parents were devoted Christians, so that must mean they are Christians and therefore they feel they are already free. And they ignore their hurt and heartache.

This reminds me that when people take their sin lightly, they often take their need for the Savior lightly as well. Evangelist Billy Graham once said, “To you, sin may be a small thing; to God it is a great and awful thing. It is the second largest thing in the world; only the love of God is greater.” (Billy Graham – Angels: God’s Secret Agents).

But Jesus cuts through all that self-sufficient pride and says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.” (John 8:34). Like many people in the world, these Jews were in spiritual bondage to sin and they did not even know it. When I preached this message in the provincial jail in the Philippines, I took some thread and began to wrap it around my forefinger and middle finger.

As I did this, I said, “At first, sin seems harmless. We feel guilty, but we tell ourselves, ‘everybody else does it,’ and so we justify our sin and we do it again and again. Plus, it’s fun. Sin feels good at first, doesn’t it? I’m not just talking about drinking and sex, but other pleasures such as telling somebody off when he was wrong or indulging in gossip that ruins somebody’s reputation. Those too are pleasurable sins. But what happens when we keep repeating those same sins?” I wrapped more thread around my two fingers. “They form habits within us that finally become unbreakable. No matter how hard we try, we cannot stop the sin.” I then tried to separate my fingers without success. “You finally decide to quit but you cannot. This is what happened to these Jews.”

Maybe it has happened to you and you have lost all hope of overcoming the addiction that has mastered you. Jesus says, “And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever.” (John 8:35). These unbelieving Jews thought they were “sons” of God’s household forever because they were descendants of Abraham, but Jesus implies that they are only “a slave,” not a member of God’s household.

On the other hand, “a son,” a believer in Christ (cf. John 12:36), “abides forever” in God’s household and is set free from sin in his position (John 8:35b). “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36). Only by believing or trusting in Christ alone as our Savior can Jesus set us free from the bondage of our sin. Christ is inviting these unbelievers to believe in Him so they can be set free from bondage to sin positionally through His atoning death on the cross! Once they have Christ in their lives through faith in Jesus alone, they can begin to experience freedom from slavery to sin experientially as they learn to “abide” in Christ’s word (cf. John 8:31-32).

When I said this at the jail, I cut the thread wrapped around my fingers. These Jews (and all unsaved people) must make a personal decision to believe or trust in Christ alone because only Christ can set them free from bondage to sin in their position. God does not have grandchildren, only children who receive Him by faith alone in Christ alone (John 1:12). When you believe in Jesus, He makes you what He is – a son who remains in the house of God forever. And in God’s family, you can enjoy unspeakable pleasures and privileges for eternity!

In January 1863 the Emancipation Proclamation was declared. This legal document said that all slaves were now free. But in the state of Texas, someone kept it a secret. They didn’t tell the people of Texas that they were free. So for a couple of years after the Emancipation Proclamation, they were still living like slaves. Texans were acting like slaves because no one had told them they were free. In fact, they were so glad that someone finally told them, they made that date a holiday, and African Americans celebrate Juneteenth every year. Thank God, someone told them! If no one had ever shared the good news, then they would have stayed in slavery much longer.

Over two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ, signed our Emancipation Proclamation. He declared that we are free positionally from bondage to sin, but Satan is trying to keep it a secret from us. He is trying to keep us from coming to the realization that we do not have to stay enslaved to sin. We do not have to say, “Yes, sir,” to the devil’s control of our lives any longer. We can take the freedom that Christ has provided for us at the cross, and act on it. We can start living in the freedom that we have because we have now been made free in Christ. That is who we are, but we must choose to live like it.  

Prayer: My Lord and my God, I was once ignorant of my sin and my need for a Savior. Like Jesus’ unbelieving audience, I thought I would go to heaven because of my association with a Christian church and family. But neither my church nor my family could set me free from my bondage to sin. Only You could set me free from my sins positionally so I could become a member of Your household forever! Thank You for revealing this to me through Your Word and Your servants who shared it with me. Thank You that I am a permanent member of Your household by virtue of believing in Jesus alone, and now I have access to all the pleasures and privileges that come with it. Please help me abide in Christ’s Word so I may know the truth and be set free from the lies that enslave me to a lifestyle of sin. Please help me to see myself as You do – free from bondage to sin through Jesus’ atoning death – so I may act on this truth and experience the freedom it gives in my daily life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

How can I overcome my sinful addictions? – Part 2

31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’ ” John 8:31-32

Addictions are often fueled by shame-based lies that are inserted into the limbic system of our (right) brains when trauma takes place in our lives. The limbic system is usually programmed by the time we are six years old. Our prefrontal cortex (our moral and impulse control system) of the (left) brain is not developed until we are twenty-five years of age. Over ninety-eight percent of the decisions we make in life are done subconsciously in the limbic system. So much of our lives are directed by patterns of the past.

Also, the limbic system is programmed to help us cope and survive, and coping behavior is at the core of addictive behavior. When we take sinful coping mechanisms and make them a lifestyle, we experience bondage.

Most addicts have wounds that were caused during childhood or adolescence that fuel their addictions as adults. For example, when a six-year old boy is brutally raped and then threatened by his rapist, Satan can easily insert a lie associated with that intense trauma that says, “This happened to me because I am bad.” That little boy grows up believing this lie. At the core of his being he believes he is flawed and that no one could possibly love him if they knew him. The shame from this lie leads him to turn to sexual addiction as an adult to numb the pain from his unresolved trauma.

Trauma comes in many forms and it can be experienced as a child and as an adult. High intensity trauma such as military combat, a natural disaster, physical or sexual abuse, the death of a family member, or divorce can leave deep wounds within one’s soul. But one does not have to experience intense trauma to struggle with shame-based lies and addictions. You may have experienced low intensity trauma that takes place frequently such as neglect, verbal rejection, minimal affection, teasing by a stepbrother, having few friends, etc. The cumulative effect of low intensity trauma can be just as damaging as high intensity trauma.  

However, not everyone who has an addiction has major wounds or trauma. Some people turn to addictions when they feel stressed to medicate their pain. In other words they have developed unhealthy coping mechanisms or sinful addictions to deal with their stress.

Our sinful addictions do not stop with believing in Christ for His gift of everlasting life. That is only the beginning. I must also CONTINUE IN CHRIST’S WORD (John 8:31-32). The Bible says, 31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’ ” (John 8:31-32). To “abide” (menō) in Christ’s Word means “to continue or remain” in Jesus’ teaching – literally, “to make one’s home at.” Where we make our home is where we spend our time. The Jews knew a lot of Scripture, but they did not know the Author of the Scriptures. “Knowing the truth” means knowing Christ who is the truth (John 14:6; cf. 8:32, 36).

How do I abide in Christ’s Word? Early in my Christian life I learned a method of abiding in Christ’s Word that was primarily for my left brain, not my right brain or limbic system. That method basically focused on downloading biblical data into my left brain through reading, studying, and memorizing Scripture. But keep in mind that most of our decision making takes place in the right brain, albeit at an unconscious level. So if all I am doing is downloading Scripture into my left brain, I am going to experience little transformation. In the last year I have learned a new method of abiding in Christ’s Word that is for both the left and right parts of the brain. This method involves an acrostic, S.W.O.R.D., from Seven Pillars of Freedom by Dr. Ted Roberts:

S – Scripture. For over twenty years, I have read through the entire Bible each year. I was so busy reading through my required passages to get through the Bible in a year, that it became another hurried thing I did in my busy schedule. But now, I approach God’s Word meditatively – not to analyze or criticize the Word, but to be analyzed and challenged by God’s Word. So first, I write God’s Word down on paper. Writing it down will help your thoughts to slow down and focus on the truth of the Scripture.

W – Wait. Read the Scripture again on your knees if possible. Read it aloud slowly and attentively. Then pause to let the passage sink in. Read the Scripture again, this time asking yourself the following questions, “What do I see? What do I hear? What do I feel? Where am I in this passage?” Finally read the passage again noticing what word or words grab your attention. Focus on those words. Chew on them for a few minutes. We have a tendency to intellectualize Scripture instead of experience God’s Word. During the waiting, we want to involve multiple senses – sight, hearing, feelings, touch, etc., to come to our observation about God, ourselves, and others.

O – Observe. Take a seat and write down what you observed in the Scripture. When we journal the Scriptures, we retain sixty percent more of what we learn. What truth do you discover in these verses? How does God see me and how do I see God and me? This will clarify your thought processes and involve another whole section of your brain.

R – Request that the Holy Spirit help you see how all of this applies to your life. This is not an academic process but a process of the heart. You are specifically asking the Word to analyze you instead of you analyzing the Word. This often triggers a neurochemical cascade of new understanding where your mind is being renewed.

D – Dedicate. What helps us from being just touched by God to being transformed is the commitment of our heart and will. Trying harder will not get us headed in the right direction when it comes to freedom from our addictions. But once the Holy Spirit gets us headed in the right direction, dedicating ourselves to that direction in life will transform us.

We may avoid applying biblical truth because it is painful or difficult. Jesus said if you abide in His Word, “you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32). But at first the truth may make you miserable! What is the opposite of truth? It is error or lies. God’s Word exposes the lies we believe that keep us enslaved to sin. The truth reveals our motives, points out our faults, rebukes our sin, and expects us to change. It is human nature to resist change, so applying God’s Word is hard work.

That’s why I cannot stress enough the importance of being a part of a discipleship relationship with other believers. In fact, notice what Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.” (John 8:31b). The path to freedom from our addictions is discipleship. We were wounded in the context of relationships, and we are healed in the context of relationships – healthy relationships. We always learn from others truths we would never learn on our own. Other people will help you see insights you would miss and help you apply God’s truth in a practical way. They can also help hold you accountable and I know I need that, don’t you?

Before I conclude this article, I want to give you an assignment to do. I want you to make a chart (see above) consisting of four columns and ten rows under each column’s heading. The first column is entitled “Worst Moments.” In this column, write down your ten worst or most painful moments in your life. The second column is entitled, “Limbic Lies.” In this column, write down the lie or lies attached to your worst moments. The third column is entitled “Scripture/Truth.” In this column, ask the Holy Spirit to help you identify the truth He wants you to apply to that painful moment in place of the lie you already identified. Write out the Bible verse and truth about yourself that it communicates. The fourth column is entitled “Destiny.” In this column, write down what that verse says about your destiny. Spend time this week speaking these truths when you find yourself thinking or speaking their corresponding lies.

Let me give you an example of this exercise. I will relate it to the six-year old boy I mentioned earlier. In the “Worst Moments” column, you would write, “When I was six years old, I was brutally raped.” In the “Limbic Lies” column, you might write, “I am bad because of what happened to me.” In the “Scripture/Truth” column, you could write, “I am precious to Jesus because of what happened to Him.” (Matthew 13:45-46; I Corinthians 6:19-20). In the “Destiny” column, you could write, “Because my worth is based on what Jesus has done and not what was done to me, I no longer need to try to prove my value through what I do.”

The more we abide in Christ’s Word, the more we shall know the truth which can set us free from the lies that fuel our sinful addictions. You may have been through some terrible trauma that has left you deeply wounded. Your life may be driven by shame-based lies that drive your sinful addictions. You may have asked yourself, “Where was Jesus when this happened to me?” I want to encourage you, if you are a believer in Jesus, to invite Him to walk with you through that trauma. And as you do this, ask the Holy Spirit to help you answer the following questions:

Where was Jesus when this happened to me?

What look do I see on His face?

And what truth would He say to me soon after this happened?

Christ cares for those who struggle with addictions. I believe the more we encounter the radical love of Jesus Christ amidst our trauma, the deeper His healing will be of our wounds. Healing that is based upon His truth. Getting the truth down into our souls is what brings change and freedom from sinful addictions. Knowing the truth is not just a point of head knowledge; it is relational, it is intimate, and it is expressed through action.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, You have taught me so much about what drives my sinful addictions. The primary fuel that has driven them are the wounds from unresolved trauma in my life and the lies attached to them. Lord Jesus, since You are God, You are able to walk with me through those wounds and the trauma that caused them. Thank You so much for speaking Your truth to me when You have walked with me through them. Some of my trauma is because of my own choices while some of my trauma is caused by the choices of others. Regardless of the cause, I pray the Holy Spirit will reveal any deception in my life that has caused me to remain in bondage. Please shed light on the dark places of my life, areas that no one else can seem to reach, not even those who love me the most. Cleanse me and soften my heart and help me renew my mind so that You can use me. Regardless of how painful this process may be or how long it takes, I commit myself into Your loving hands. I am so grateful to have a Father like You. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

How can I overcome my sinful addictions? – Part 1

“As He spoke these words, many believed in Him. Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him…” John 8:30-31a

Jill was sixteen and was experiencing some troubles at home. She got involved on the internet and met this seemingly neat guy in a chat room. She left home, moved in with this guy in Toronto and was provided with drugs that made her feel so good. He turned out to be a pimp and soon she was selling her body on the busy street corners of Canada’s largest city. Parents and friends pleaded for her to come back home so they could all make a new start. But, she shot back, “look, this is a free country — I can do what I want.” Was she really free or had she become a slave to a pimp and to drugs?

Barry was a forty-year old guy — married for seventeen years with three kids. He found a secretary in the office who really understood him. She was young, vivacious and seemed to be so interested in his jokes, ideas, and activities. You probably know the rest of the story — he left his wife to move in with the new love of his life. Among many others, the pastor and the district elder tried to talk some sense into him. His response was, “Look, I am free to do what I want.” Was he really free or had he become a slave to lust, to being pampered? Was he exercising his freedom or his bondage?

This is relevant to all of us because all of us are enslaved to sin to some degree. We all have sinful addictions… patterns in our lives. Jesus does not use the word “addiction,” but He describes it when He says, “Whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.” (John 8:34b). A sinful addiction is a repeated yielding to sinful behaviors over a period of time. Slavery is being so controlled by something that you view it as your master. This applies to all of us, doesn’t it? All of us can have patterns of thought, speech, feelings, and behaviors that are so dominant that we see them as our master.

For example, we may have patterns of thinking that are not pleasing to the Lord and we know it – but we continually go there with our minds. God has a certain way He wants us to think about trials, our enemies, our possessions, future, and our lives, but we keep drifting away from the way God wants us to think to a more self-destructive way of thinking.

As you read this article, your mind may be swirling down into distress. You are so used to doing it that you find yourself doing it even though you don’t want to do it. You may be enslaved to anger, bitterness, worry, despair, or even self-abuse where you continually beat yourself up for being human. Your life may be swallowed up in self-pity or lust, pornography, worry, and you may not be able to sleep at night because you are so consumed with fear and worry. You are enslaved to these things.

The true definition of freedom is, “being able to be all that God meant for you to be.” Don’t you long for that? To feel fulfilled, to be able to do all that is possible for you to do and be in Christ – that is freedom. That is what we will explore in this part of the gospel of John. We are going to discover how to overcome our sinful addictions; how to experience true freedom in Christ.

The first way I can overcome my sinful addictions is when I am CONVINCED THAT JESUS ALONE CAN SAVE ME (John 8:30-31a). At the end of the Feast of Tabernacles many Jews believed in Jesus. 30 As He spoke these words, many believed in Him. 31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him…” (John 8:30-31a). The first step to overcoming our addictions is coming to know Jesus Christ as our Savior.

You will never find lasting freedom from your addictions until you examine the evidence that Jesus is who He claims to be. You must believe Him first, and that means examining the evidence. Hundreds of thousands of people reject Jesus without ever examining the evidence for who He is. That is why the gospel of John was written. “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31). The only condition for eternal life is simply believing in Christ alone for it. Obviously, then if you want to be free from addictions, to be all God wants you to be, you must trust in Christ alone as your only way to heaven. Not trust in Christ plus your good works to get you to heaven. But trust in Christ alone.

And the moment you do, the eternal Son of God comes to live inside of you through His Holy Spirit (John 7:38-39; Galatians 2:20). If you don’t have Jesus Christ in your life, the only changes in your life will be superficial. You may read your Bible, pray, and go to church or counseling, but you are not going to experience lasting freedom from your addictions without Christ in your life! Only Christ has the power to defeat sin in your life. Next time, we will learn more about the road to freedom from our addictions.

Prayer: Father God, my life was once dominated by sin. Over and over again, I promised myself I would never go to those dark places again, but I did. I thought I could overcome sinful patterns in my life by trying harder. But I could not. I felt so guilty and ashamed. I tried to keep it a secret. But that only made things worse. Thank You for revealing Yourself to me through Your Son, Jesus Christ. When Jesus came into my life the moment I believed in Him for His gift of everlasting life, I had hope for the first time that I could find freedom from the very things that enslaved me. Thank You, my Lord and my God, for that hope which provided the foundation for my road to freedom. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

How can I overcome condemnation? Part 2

“And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. ” John 8:8b-9

The second way I can overcome condemnation is when I… REDIRECT THOSE WHO CONDEMN ME TO THEIR OWN SIN (John 8:3-9). This is what Jesus did when His gracious teaching was rudely interrupted by the religious leaders. Satan loves to keep people from hearing God’s grace. 3 Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, 4 they said to Him, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act.’ ” (John 8:3-4). During the feast of Tabernacles many people lived in close quarters. The religious leaders caught a woman in the act of adultery.

Have you ever been caught in the act? I love Bill Cosby’s story of his son and the cookie jar. He tells of the time his son was caught up on a stool with his hand in the cookie jar. Bill, said, “Did I not tell you that you could not have a cookie?” “Yes”, his little son replies, “but I was getting the cookie for you”. “I don’t want a cookie” Bill tells him. “Well, can I have it then?” his son asks. That was a very smart answer when your hand is caught in the cookie jar.

Have you ever been caught red-handed? You were guilty and everyone knew it. Like your humming along on the highway, and a policeman gets behind you and puts on his lights. I mean, isn’t that a wonderful feeling? And you have nothing to say, because you know that you were going way too fast. Whenever you are caught in the act, there is no point in arguing. The guilt is yours, and you must deal with the consequences. This woman was caught in the act. She was guilty of the crime. Her accusers were right. She didn’t put up any defense. This woman had just committed the act of adultery. The sin that she committed was a serious crime. It was one of many crimes that carried with it the death penalty. It was ranked right along with murder, kidnapping, witchcraft, and offering human sacrifice.

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 leaders then say, “’ 5 Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?’ 6 This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him.” (John 8:5-6a). 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. 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. So Christ is confronted with a situation in which He could offer no acceptable response.

Why did these men want to throw stones? The same reason that we want to throw them. We throw stones because we… harbor hatred, hold on to bitterness, are entangled in anger, want to have revenge, will not let go of the things that upset us or because it is easier to throw stones at others rather than ourselves.

Stones can be valuable as well, for you use stones to build something. You can use stones to cover something up or you can even decorate with stones. When you hold a stone in your hand, what do you feel? There is a hardness. There is a heaviness. There is a coarseness. There is sometimes a feeling that you just want to throw that stone, isn’t there?

Although we would never think of actually throwing stones at other people, far too often we throw emotional or spiritual stones at others, don’t we? Hurtful comments, generalizations, gossip, judgmental statements, or harshness with the truth. What is it that makes people want to throw stones?

Frustration: When we become frustrated it distorts our ability to see things clearly.

Fatigue: Everything always looks worse when we are tired.

Failure: When others fail, we are quick to judge their actions. When we fail others, we are quick to justify our actions.

False Assumptions: When we get only bits and pieces of the truth, we create assumptions based on faulty logic.

Feelings: If we make the choice to follow our feelings we make the choice to be shallow.

How does Jesus respond to this attempt to condemn Him? “But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.” (John 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. When Jesus is tested about the Law of Moses, He writes on the ground “with His finger.” The two times in the Bible when God is mentioned writing with His finger are here and on Mount Sinai.  

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

“So when they continued asking Him…” (John 8:7a). The leaders thought Christ was stalling so they persistently questioned Him. “He raised Himself up and said to them, ‘He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.’ ” (John 8:7b). Is Jesus referring to sinlessness when He says,“He who is without sin among you”? No. In the original language, this verse literally says, “He who is without the sin [of adultery] …”  Christ is referring to a specific area of sin.

As the truth began to sink in, we read, “And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.” (John 8:8). The fact that Jesus wrote on the ground twice reminds us that God also wrote on the tablets of stone two times on Mount Sinai. Moses broke the first tablets when he came down from the mountain and saw the golden calf and the revelry of the people (Exodus 32:19; cf. 31;18; 32:15-16). So God wrote them a second time with His finger (Exodus 34:1).

Some writers have suggested that Jesus may have wrote on the ground the names of the women whom 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.

“Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.” (John 8:9). As the sun was rising, the leaders were leaving. 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 you or criticize you, set a boundary with them. Ask them, “Have you ever committed a similar sin? How did you feel? Would you have wanted others to remind you of that or put you down in front of other people?” When you are being attacked, it is better to take the offensive rather than be defensive. This is what Jesus did with those who sought to accuse Him at the expense of a broken woman. He defended this woman, and her accusers retreated when faced with their own sin.

I believe many Christians remain silent in their shame because they are afraid of condemnation from other believers in the church. Some of my most hurtful moments have come from misunderstandings with other Christians or shame-based preaching and teaching. Those were situations where I felt condemnation not compassion. Sure, I was taught that God loved me, but I was still a worthless sinner who needed to try harder.

God is showing me that people who are hurting often hurt other people. Instead of facing our own pain, we have a tendency to act out our pain with others. It is much easier to focus on the shortcomings of another person than to face our own.

If you are afraid to seek help from other Christians, please understand that Jesus Christ is not in the business of condemnation. The Bible says, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:17). Christ wants to cleanse you, not condemn you. It is important for you to ask Jesus to lead you to believers who will love and care for you regardless of your past or present problems. A Christian cannot offer you the compassion of Christ as you deal with your brokenness, if he or she has not walked through their own brokenness with the Lord.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I needed to hear this message this morning. Much of my life I have lived under self-condemnation simply because of who I am. I did not love myself growing up. I perceived myself to be unlovable and worthless. But as I listen to Your Word, Your truth is helping me to see that You are a kind and gentle Savior Who loves me and wants to set me free from condemnation and shame. Lord, please teach me to see myself as You do – as a lovable child of God whose primary purpose is to be, not do. My value comes from what You say, not what I do or what other people think, say, or do. Please show me how to respond to broken people who want to tear me down rather than build me up. Just as You set boundaries with the woman’s accusers to protect her, please teach me how to do the same with my accusers so that Your truth protects me from the lies of the enemy. Help me dismiss the lies that keep me under condemnation and replace them with the truth that empowers me to live a life filled with Your purpose and hope. As I heal and become the man You created me to be, please help me pay it forward to other sons and daughters of Yours who are living under condemnation. In Your name I pray. Amen.

How can I overcome condemnation? Part 1

“Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them.” John 8:2

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.

Many of us are driven by shame. We believe we are flawed at the core of our being. Yes, we hear preachers say that God loves sinners, yet we are convinced that we are still worthless and unloved. We live under condemnation whether it be of our own doing or the doings of others, including the master of condemnation – Satan himself (Rev. 12:9-10).

How can I overcome this condemnation that keeps me buried under a load of guilt and shame? For the next few days, Lord willing, we will look at John 7:53-8:11 to discover God’s remedy for the condemnation that often plagues us.

The first way I can overcome condemnation is to REST UNDER CHRIST’S GRACIOUS TEACHINGS (John 7:53-8:2). After Jesus had freely offered eternal satisfaction to the people gathered at the feast of Tabernacles (John 7:37-39), John tells us, “And everyone went to his own house.” (John 7:53). The religious leaders had criticized Nicodemus after His attempt to defend Jesus’ right to be heard. They didn’t believe a prophet would arise from Galilee. More than a prophet would arise from Galilee, however, and offer everlasting hope to that region. “But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.” (John 8:1). The religious leaders slept comfortably and late, but Jesus spent the night on the Mount of Olives. Jesus had no place to lay His head in Jerusalem.

“Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them.” (John 8:2). The day after the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus went into the temple and all the people came to Him. Why did all the people come to sit under Jesus’ teaching? Was it because He beat them up spiritually and emotionally and people love to be put down? 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).

Notice that the Bible says Jesus “sat down and taught them.” Although sitting down was a normal rabbinic practice, I think it is very significant that John tells us this. Jesus did not stand like He did the day before in the temple (John 7:37). He “sat” among them to teach them. He was on the same level as His audience. He longs to connect with people so they can begin to see themselves as He sees them – someone who is infinitely loved and valued by God.

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 us. He came into the world to cleanse. He did not come to rub our sin in. He came to rub our sin out.

We can be free from the plague of condemnation and shame by coming out from under shame-based religious systems. These systems may preach the love of God and that Christ died for our sins, but at the core of their teaching they believe: “You are bad, God is good, so try harder.”

As Christians we need to be under the grace and truth of Jesus Christ which teaches: “God is good, you are being restored, so come and be.” As we place ourselves under His teaching, we will begin to see the weight of condemnation lifted and the wellspring of Jesus’ grace settle into our hearts and minds so we can focus on being and not working to earn His love and grace.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I am learning so much from You about who I am in the sight of God. I used to see myself as a worthless sinner who is saved by grace. But You are helping me to see I am a child of God who is infinitely loved and valued by You and my Father in heaven. Lord, my heart is deeply concerned about the millions of people who are under religious teachings that condemn and oppress broken people in need of Your healing grace. They have no hope of freedom from condemnation and shame. They need You Lord Jesus. Please show them how good and gracious You are. Help them to come to know Your saving grace that makes them a new person on the inside who is free from condemnation and shame. In Your name I pray. Amen.