That`s a very familiar story – of a woman caught in the very act of adultery, and brought into the presence of Jesus for condemnation and stoning. But Jesus DIDN`T condemn her – He told her to “GO AND SIN NO MORE”.

Did you notice that the woman hadn`t said she was wrong – she hadn`t asked for forgiveness – yet, without asking her to pay in any way for what she`d done, Jesus forgave her. The last time I preached about this story two people came up to me afterwards:

“Is Jesus’ lack of condemnation to same as forgiveness?” the first one asked.

The second one said: “It`s true that Christians are forgiven even before they repent, but what about non-Christians – are they forgiven too. If so what effect does this have upon their presence in heaven?”.

Good questions, you’ll agree. Let`s have a go at them.

The Bible says it was “whilst we were still sinners that Christ died for our sins”. Before we were born, He died for our sins – before we`d even sinned He died that they and we might be forgiven. His forgiveness for our sin came before we`d even committed any sins, and certainly before we`d even thought of saying “I`m sorry”.

When Christ died on the Cross, our first sin, our last sin and all the others in between were still in the future, but when He died on the Cross they were ALL forgiven by Him, every last one…. And that`s true of all of us.

This is particularly true of Christians. Romans chapter 8 tells us “There is now NO CONDEMNATION for those who are in Christ Jesus, and the term “NO CONDEMNATION” means that we are declared “NOT GUILTY”……. We are forgiven, so yes, Jesus lack of CONDEMNATION is the same as forgiveness.

But this message of “NO CONDEMNATION” is not just for Christians – St. John tells us that “God so loved the WORLD” THAT He sent His Son into the world to save it….. and “God did not send His Son into the world to CONDEMN IT, BUT THAT THE WORLD, THROUGH Him might be saved”…………. So, yes, we are forgiven, every last one of us.

Does that mean that everyone is going to heaven? There`s another story in the Gospels which helps us to an answer to this question. A Pharisee invited Jesus to have dinner with him. As they were eating with all the other guests, a woman who lived a sinful life, entered the room carrying an alabaster box of ointment. She knelt at Jesus feet crying and wetting His feet with her tears…….. Jesus said to her “Woman, your sins are forgiven”, and that woman, whose life had been a tragedy, wept for joy and went in peace.

She had come close to Jesus, close to His purity and His goodness. As she did so she broke down, realising just how much she loathed and hated the life she was leading – how much she longed to wipe out the past and start again…….. the closer she came the more desperate she felt – and the more she realised He was the only one who could give her what she longed for – FREE FORGIVENESS.

But today many people deny that they NEED forgiveness. “All this talk about sin is old-fashioned” they say, “I never do anyone any harm. I`ve got a clear conscience. Sin`s not a part of my vocabulary”. It sounds fine – but it`s not.

A man with cancer may not know that he`s got it – but it`s there, and unless he`s willing to face it and have something done about it, he`s in trouble. So, you see, people may deny that there IS sin, but the fact is that envy, hatred, greed, malice, lust, cruelty, and many other of the dirty and dreadful things that are still loose in people`s lives today, are no less potent in our civilised and sophisticated society as they were in the “uncivilised” and “unsophistcated” days of Jesus, spoiling them and playing hell with human happiness. Yes, playing hell is the accurate phrase to use…….

Of course, you can turn your face away and pretend that the rotten side of human nature doesn`t exist, at least not in you, and the lives of your closest friends, but it catches up with you in the end. Sin doesn`t lose its power by ignoring it, or by saying it doesn`t exist. It only loses its power when it`s faced up to an operated upon.

One man was very conscious of this. You`ll know who it was when I quote him. “What a wretched person I am. Who can deal with this creeping sickness within me” (that`s a paraphrase of what he said!”. The conclusion he came to was that the only person capable of dealing with his inner sickness was Jesus.

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