Friday, April 6, 2012

Jesus and the Adulterous Woman

Many women seem to carry the guilt of past events, failures and emotional baggage as if they don’t understand that they can let go of them. Jesus took them upon Himself at the cross. They don’t belong to you anymore! It’s time to release the weight of these burdens instead of carrying them around with us. God wants to break all false yokes of condemnation!

What we see throughout the gospels is the ongoing theme of two worlds colliding. The kingdom of God challenged kingdoms of men. This was true in Jesus' day and it's true now, in every nation, tongue, tribe, and culture. That is why the gospel message as well as the scriptures remains just as relevant today as when they were written. It's important to understand that this is what sets the tone for the gospel accounts. It was the power struggle between the existing religious order and the message of grace as Jesus came on the scene. In almost every place or situation, power encounters and struggles for control are at the heart of many spiritual battles.

In the gospel accounts, there was a tremendous amount of tension because the old order did not want to make room for grace. Jesus knew the real matter was about power and control. With the Pharisees, it was always about who would control the people. They wanted leverage, and entrapment was the method they choose to try to fulfill their agenda. When hearts are wrong, judgments will be skewed. They weren’t interested in justice or truth, they were interested in getting rid of the anointed one (Jesus) that could see through their motives and free those under ungodly control. God gave people a living example of His grace because their belief system was rigid and unyielding. Their hearts were bound by fear and pride and grace offended them. Jesus knew their judgments were predisposed to judgment and fault finding. What is interesting is that when Jesus was in the wilderness being tested and tempted by the enemy, one of the first things Satan did was challenge His identity. In Matthew 4:6 Satan said, “If you are the Son of God...” Satan was appealing to Jesus’ humanity and trying to create doubt. Satan knew if Jesus didn’t know who He was, He would not be able to fulfill His purpose. The interesting thing is, once Jesus began His ministry, He was the one that challenged the religious crowd on their identity issues. He told them they didn’t know what spirit they were of and they didn’t know who their father was! He knew who He was, and who did not belong to His Father! Identity issues are at the heart of many problems, and it was no different in Jesus’ day. The balance of power was shifting! Prophecy was being fulfilled before their very eyes!

Jesus was always clear about the fact that He was a messenger sent to reveal a Kingdom and a different reality than what they had known.  Jesus said if a person saw Him, they saw the Father. John 1:17 says that 'grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.' The people needed someone to demonstrate the reality of the message of grace, so Jesus showed them how it was done. He gave them grace when they didn't deserve it. He didn't fight back when people wanted to kill him, mock him or spit angry words in His face. Instead, He demonstrated real concern over their welfare by speaking truth in love and showing them in practical ways how the Father really loved them. He healed them, fed them spiritually, multiplied food when they were hungry, and cast out the demons that tormented their souls with fear. He encouraged them, spoke kindly to them, and didn't condemn them for their sins. Love wants others set free, healed and restored to God. Love wants relationships restored, healthy and moving forward towards the good plans that God has for people's lives. Jesus, in His own words, proclaimed that the one that came to Him would by no means be cast out. (John 6:37) God’s heart is for restoration, not condemnation.

The Encounter with the Woman Caught in Adultery

John chapter 8 gives us the story of a woman caught in adultery who was dragged to Jesus by a mob of angry Pharisees. In perhaps one of her worst moments of shame this woman found refuge and forgiveness. The enemy only has power when his schemes are covered by the cloak of darkness, and when no one stands up to defend those he attacks. This woman found a defender and a liberator in Jesus Christ. The Pharisees wanted to test Jesus by challenging him to a duel of the law. They thought they could force him into a corner. Instead, Jesus reminded them of things that pricked their own conscience and brought such conviction that the crowd dropped their stones and walked quietly away. “He who is without sin, cast the first stone,” He said. Perhaps he wrote the 10 commandments in the sand, or perhaps he wrote things pertaining to their own sin that only God would know, but it was enough to convict their consciences and shut down the attack of the mob. Condemnation is a tool of the enemy which he uses to strip us of our real sense of identity. Legalism thrives on condemnation, finger pointing and people comparing themselves to others. Jesus knew this. This is why He never backed down and he didn’t let others control him. He stood his ground. When the accusers left, Jesus asked the woman, "Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?" She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said to her, "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more." (John 8:10,11)

The Liberator Sets a Woman FREE from Shame

Religious spirits aren’t afraid to make a public example out of others in order to exercise fear and intimidation as a means of controlling others. Jesus didn't condone the woman’s sin, but He didn't condemn her, either. The amazing thing is, He extended grace without her even asking for it. Before He went to the cross. Before she prayed a "sinner's prayer" or demonstrated repentance. Nothing speaks more of the Father's intention to extend forgiveness and grace than this verse. This woman didn't know Jesus personally, but she was about to. She met Jesus when she met Grace and Kindness. Who doesn't want to know a God like that?

God did not curse the woman. If He had cursed her, he would have to curse us all, but He sent His Son to deliver the world from condemnation and judgment. We are all guilty of being the adulterous woman. We are all guilty of elevating judgments and criticisms more than we have loved others. We are all guilty of sharing our affections with worldly lovers. We’ve loved materialism, greed, ungodly attitudes and allowed other masters to divide our loyalties to the One who came to save us. Many people have had one foot in and one foot out of God’s Kingdom, wondering why they haven’t experienced more from life. Yet, even when we were still sinners, Christ laid down His life for us. The answers we need are found in Him. The very purpose for which He was sent to this earth was to demonstrate God’s great love, mercy and kindness to a world that had no idea of their true identity as sons and daughters of the Most High God. Over and over in the scriptures we see GOD humbly taking our rejection, anger, betrayal, as He watches and waits for people to realize how much He truly loves us all. He won’t break covenant with us, but so many times we have broken our vows to Him, even when we told ourselves we would live to honor Him. When we may be tempted to judge others we must stop to remember the adulterous woman lives inside all of us. If we judge others, we reap that same judgment into our own lives according to the principle in Matthew 7:1.

 Jesus was there to liberate her, and He is here today to liberate all of us. Jesus didn’t condemn her, He consoled her. This is a wonderful example of how Jesus stepped in and became her advocate. He took the position as her defender, her attorney. This is the power of the cross of Christ and the cleansing power of His blood! This is the message of the gospel! Jesus stood between those that wanted to have her stoned and saw no value to her life, and the Father’s desire to have her experience the goodness of God. The Pharisees cared nothing about this woman’s life, her feelings or her future. They wanted to stone the woman but Jesus wanted to set her free. They looked for someone to accuse and to blame; Jesus looked for someone to forgive and exonerate. The truth is, hard heartedness blinded those that thought they could see, and the kindness of God allowed a sinful woman to experience an encounter with Divine Love. Her eyes were opened to see Him in Spirit and in Truth. The mob mentality was anger and hatred from people who weren’t interested in knowing Grace; they were only concerned about being right. A bunch of angry, offended people presented the facts, but they weren’t living in truth, at least not the truth of the scriptures they seemed to hold in such high regard. Fear is at the root of religious legalism. A religious spirit looks for ways to manipulate and control others. It withholds acceptance and approval until demands are met by those wielding control. A religious spirit is exclusive rather than inclusive, and it divides rather than unifies. A religious spirit will try to make people’s judgments sound biblical but often they are not. God always acts in mercy before He is willing to execute judgment. That is just who He is! He extended forgiveness of sin and acted in this woman’s defense. He didn’t demand brokenness from those that were already broken. He comforted them, spoke kindly and reassured them that as they came to Him, (an act of faith) - their sins were forgiven. What graciousness! What love He displays that releases peace to the lives of those that desperately need Him! The important thing for each of us to understand is that God expended His wrath upon His Son; He hasn’t held it back to unleash it upon us. The price for the sin of all mankind has already been paid in full. It wasn’t a down payment. The BLOOD of CHRIST is sufficient! We can’t earn any part of the grace that Jesus paid for with His blood. The bridge between sinful man and a Holy God has been made through a relationship of love. God’s intention is not to condemn the world but to save those in the world. If the message isn't the good news of forgiveness, grace, restoration and relationship then it's not the gospel. It's somebody else's message, but it isn't the message the Father sent by His Son.

It is the kindness of God that leads men to repentance. How often we forget! And when we forget to be kind, how can people possibly see or understand the kindness of the God that Christians profess to serve? We are messengers of a different reality, a different kingdom than what people are used to.  We are ambassadors sent from the Father, just like Jesus was sent to us.

Jesus confronted heart issues and what motivated people to exalt their judgments above the law of love. Jesus told the Pharisees in John 5:39, "You search the Scriptures for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life."  Jesus was trying to get the religious leaders to see beyond the physical aspects of teaching to the real issues, that if they believed on Him they would have eternal life. Pride blinded them to their own need for grace and so they rejected Him in the process. The law that they used to judge others became the law that was used to judge them. They exalted their knowledge of the law to the point where it completely blinded them to their own need to come to God on His terms. No one can come to God on their own terms and be justified. They must come on His.

In the story about the adulterous woman there were people that were convinced they were righteous, but weren't following God at all. They followed a god of their own understanding and clearly missed the boat entirely when it came to understanding Father’s heart. The irony of the situation is that they accused the woman of adultery but they were equally guilty of spiritual adultery. They weren’t having a relationship with God. They loved their judgments more than they loved Him. They loved their false gods of control, pride, unforgiveness, anger and hate. Jesus did not come to condemn the world. He came to judge the works of the enemy. There is a big difference. "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." John 3:17,18

This story in John 8 reminds us that no one is above being tempted by the enemy, no one is above failure. Jesus judged with righteous judgment because He did not judge by the flesh. (See Isaiah 11: 3,4) He took all things into account, including heart attitudes, motive and intent for people’s actions. Our position is not to act as judge or juror against others, but to show grace and mercy in hopes that kindness opens the door for people to be reconciled to God. Release words of life or share a testimony. Tell someone how God met you with love when you didn’t deserve it. Encourage others the way you would want someone to minister to you. It is so easy to judge someone else without having to walk in their shoes or live their life. Sometimes failure is life’s greatest teacher, and failure is the thing God uses to bring people to Himself. The God of compassion meets people at their lowest point. Even when He brings correction, He is gracious and kind.

The story about the adulterous woman carries a profoundly deeper message of hope for every person. The Book of Matthew chapter one lists the genealogy of some very notable women among the catalog of names. Four women in particular are mentioned and given extraordinary emphasis: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba. Each one was notorious for having a disreputable reputation and carried the stigma of being “unclean” or “unworthy” in every sense of the word. Even Mary, a young virgin girl who would become the mother of Jesus - handpicked by God because she said yes to His greater purposes - bore the burden of being falsely accused. She bore the reproach of a disgraceful reputation for many years. Do you think that others believed she was impregnated by the Holy Spirit? Did they even know who that was? She said yes to God but His favor meant that she had to carry the stigma of being marked by God. God is not afraid of shame or reproach on a person’s reputation. He allows it to be there for a reason. Each of these women had a strength, determination and tenacity that refused to give up. Against all odds, they overcame. They wrestled with God and man and prevailed. This is the quality that God looks for in those that will give birth to His promise.

God is not put off by people’s sin. Jesus took care of our sin issues. God Himself provided the solution for our redemption, sanctification and justification. God supplies the grace and uses the scandal, accusation and pressure to birth what He wants to release into the earth. He chooses people that the religious cast out, deem unfit and despise because it causes them to be jealous for His encounter in their lives. He loves His bride but He is jealous for the world, too. He will win them to Himself using vessels the church has rejected and cast off. “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. (1 Cor. 1:27-29) God is outrageous in the ways He chooses His servants. His ways are incomprehensible and far above the thoughts of man! What good news for all of us! There is no sin or bad reputation that is beyond God’s ability to redeem and restore. His arm is not too short to pull those who call on His name out of the deepest pit. He can lift the lowest of the low out of the ash heap, out of despair and shame, and place them in royal lineage just as He did with Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. He can use the woman that is the outcast, the rejected, and the least likely to win the spiritual Miss America pageant. What these women could probably not foresee was the bigger picture of how their life would impact generation upon generation of those that would come after them. This is the truth that we all need to understand. It’s not all about us. God’s love is so deep for mankind, He wants no one to perish. He wants all people to be saved. He is willing to go to great lengths to restore each of us because first and foremost, we belong to Him. We are His children. God uses our lives and our testimonies to reach more people, all with the intent purpose of winning them back to Himself so that others can enjoy the blessing of knowing their sins are also forgiven, and share eternal life with Christ and our Father in heaven.

The question each of us must answer is, Can God forgive so completely that the stigma of a scandalous reputation is no longer a sign of rejection?” Can people be transformed in their minds, looking at the reproach and stigma of a tainted reputation and see it in a new light? Will people stop to consider the fact that God remakes our human vessels? The very things that might offend our sense of propriety could in fact be the very mark of God that indicates an individual has received His approval and acceptance. If there is anything offendable in us, God will bring it to light. He will challenge the self-righteous attitudes in all of us. This is the decision all will come to when God chooses to work through ordinary, earthen vessels that have been redeemed, refashioned and made honorable for His purposes. Praise God that He never throws away the clay! Praise God that He sees people through eyes of faith! He knows exactly where to find something worth redeeming in us - because He put it there! Praise Him, because your life is not outside the grasp of a loving God that has good plans for your life, thoughts of peace and not of evil. His ways are not our ways; they are so much higher than what we can imagine. God’s wisdom turns the kingdoms of men upside down.

Lord Jesus,

Thank you for liberating me from shame. Thank you that even when I fail, Your love and acceptance are constant and assuring of my place in the kingdom. No one can take that from me. Thank you for standing as a shield and a protector from the voice of condemnation. I love You, Lord. Please continue to unravel the lies I have taken into my belief system so that I can be truly free. In Your name I pray, amen.

#Jesuslovestheadulterouswoman, #Jesusourliberator, #Heunderstandsourpain

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