Summary: Questions about forgiveness and growth in grace are answered.
(As I begin this morning, I am letting you know that I will be making an invitation to come forward to the altar at the conclusion of the sermon.)
In our text for this morning, many people are in a desperate place and only Jesus can truly save them.
The woman who is dragged before Jesus and accused of adultery is in need of Jesus’ help. Her actions, like ours, have consequences that have affected her relationships with others and with God. Her sin has brought her to the point of physical death not to mention the relational death that has taken place as well in which she has alienated others by her actions.
Then there are the Pharisees who hate sin with a passion and their actions show it! They are intensely loyal to their faith and the practices of their faith. For years, the Pharisees have been portrayed as the Bible’s “Holy Bad Guys.” I remember reading somewhere that they were really admired by many in their day and age for their moral uprightness and wisdom.
Yet a veneer of legalism has insulated them from experiencing God’s grace and the deeper freedom from sin that it brings. They are in a desperate place as well and only Jesus can save them.
Another group that is in a desperate place is the crowd of people who become by-standers to this unfolding drama. They are desperate because they can see themselves in the woman’s place. They both admire and fear the teachers and leaders that stand face-to-face with Jesus and they have sin in their lives just like the woman before them whose life is hangs in the balance. They wonder if forgiveness is possible and look to Jesus for the answer.
Then there are the Disciples. (As you read the gospels, I would remind you that the disciples are a part of the story, sometimes in the foreground or at the center of the story and sometimes in the background. Nevertheless, they are always there.)
This episode seems to take place early in Jesus’ ministry. Yet so far the Twelve have seen him (among other things) turn water into wine, deal with a Samaritan woman, feed five thousand, walk on water, and see fellow followers walk away because the demands of following Jesus are too hard. Now they encounter a situation about forgiveness, and un-forgiveness, and the challenge of legalism verse grace.
“What is He going to do?” whispers Andrew to Peter. “I don’t know,” says Peter, “But I sure would like to teach those teachers a thing or two!”
“Quiet!” says John quietly. “Let’s see what happens.” A smirk comes across Judas’ face.
Among the questions that I was given in response to the question, “If you could ask God one question, what would it be?” were the following questions related to the very important issue of forgiveness.
"How do I accept forgiveness? I mean I know Jesus died for my sins, but how do I let go of my sins and give them to God and live in his forgiveness without guilt and shame?
If I can’t let go does that mean I’m not accepting Christ’s forgiveness?
How can you forgive me, Lord, if I cannot forgive myself?"
Then a question that deals with the place and purpose of the Holy Spirit has also been asked by someone: “Do we have an infilling of the Holy Spirit at the time of our conversion or do we have to wait longer to receive it?”
These were very real questions for the woman at the center of our text this morning. They are very real questions for us as well because all of us, every human being across history, are in a desperate place because of sin and the need to experience the forgiveness of God and because we will always do battle with sin and temptation until we die or the Lord returns.
How do we accept forgiveness…how do you and I let go of our sins and give them to God and live in his forgiveness without guilt and shame?
Paul wrote in Romans 10:9-11: “For if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.
A key word in this issue of forgiveness is confession. To confess something is to say openly, “I believe” and “I admit” to one’s spiritual condition and to belief in Jesus Christ.
A recent article by John Ortberg on spiritual growth highlights the value of confession. He writes, “We need someone with whom we can be honest— someone whose spirituality we respect, who can keep things confidential, offer unconditional acceptance, and be utterly truthful.”