There are times when I read a devotional that is so good I just want to pass it on. This devotional written by Ray Stedman is one such bull’s eye on the Gospel that I can’t keep to myself …
Then neither do I condemn you, Jesus declared. Go now and leave your life of sin. (John 8:11b)
In this passage, a woman caught in adultery was brought by the church leaders to Jesus. I do not know if we can accurately picture what was going on when this woman was brought before the Lord. I can see her being dragged in, red faced, her hair in disarray. She is angry, upset, rebellious, and bitter, perhaps striking out against her accusers. But when she sees how Jesus handles this crowd of judges, and feels that his sympathies are with her, somewhere the mercy and love that was in his face and voice began to touch her. She realized how wrong she was, that she had sinned, and she repented. When she did, Jesus forgave her, obviously anticipating his death upon the cross for her.
The cross is always an eternal event in the mind of God. The sins of the people who lived in Old Testament days were also forgiven on the basis of the death of Jesus on the cross. There is no other way that God can forgive sin. In anticipation of that cross, Jesus forgave her sin. The proof of it is in the words he said, Go, and do not sin again.
That is the word I would like to leave ringing in our ears. If we have acknowledged our guilt and heard God’s words of forgiveness, he is saying to us, Go, and do not sin again. He could never say that to this woman unless something had happened within her; the power of sin had been broken. We do not sin because we are temporarily overwhelmed by a strong passion of the moment. We sin because we have a nature of sin, of self-centeredness; we hunger after things that are wrong and we easily yield to sin. We cannot help ourselves at times. Man is born unto sin, the Scriptures say (Job 5:7). We all are born to share that fallen nature. Unless that power of sin is broken within us, unless God does something to free us and to give us the possibility of a new life, he never will say to us, Go, and sin no more.
But when Jesus says these words to this woman it is clear that she has the possibility of fulfilling it. He never tells anyone to do something that he does not also enable him or her to do. Faithful is He who calls you, and He will also bring it to pass. (1Thes. 5:24) Thus, he does not forgive us in order that we might go back and continue in our sins. The Apostle Paul wrote these wonderful words to his son in the faith, Titus, He gave himself for us, to redeem us from all iniquity, and to purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds, (Titus 2:14).
This beautiful story brings us to that place in which we understand that when our sins are forgiven it is to free us that we might begin to live a different lifestyle by the power of his indwelling Spirit; never to go back to the things that we have left behind. Sometimes we are weak and need again the forgiving grace of God. But forgiveness is always designed to set us free. That is why it is given. When our Lord forgave this woman that is what he did: He set her free to be a different kind of person than she ever was before.
You have set me free, Lord from bondage to sin! Help me to hear these words a new way, Neither do I condemn you; go and do not sin again.
Think about your life. Does your lifestyle reflect confidence in God’s freeing forgiveness? Do we honor the incredible price paid for our sin by trusting His power to transform our lives?