In the book ‘What on Earth have we Done with the Teachings of Jesus?’ (available as a free download here), I listed the top ten teachings according to the frequency that Jesus spoke on them. In covering the top ten out of 83 different subjects, I am now looking at the 3rd most common topic which is to – Deal with our sin.
Get out of jail free card
Sin. In our politically correct world sin is a word not commonly spoke on and not commonly taught on. We don’t want to offend people or to call people out. We want to smooth things over and say ‘there, there’, especially when it comes to our own lives. By justifying, and reasoning, we try the ‘get out of jail free’ card once too often. But when it comes to intimacy with our Father in heaven, if our hearts are stained in any way, we will not be able to walk this life with Him. We must deal with our sin.
We like to do what we want to do
What is ‘sin’ – sin is anything that is contrary to God. God is Love. Jesus said the most important commands are to love God and love our neighbour. So sin is in anyway that we have been unloving to God or neighbour. It is the ‘do not’s’ of Jesus’ words, of which according to the book there are 48 different topics. Few of us like being told what to do. We like to do what we want to do. But left to our own devices we are apt to slide into the comfort zone of self-centeredness at best. Without a moral framework how can anyone know the boundaries? Even in society without the law to bring people to task it would be total chaos.
To will to act according to the right way
So Jesus came to fulfil the Old Testament law. So show us a new way. A way in which He would write His laws on our hearts by His Holy Spirit. For the Father knows we are totally incapable of meeting the requirements of the Law. We need His inner voice to tell us, ‘this is the way, walk ye in it’. But with this comes accountability. To know right from wrong, according to the Word. The will to act according to the right way and against the wrong way. To be sorrowful when we act according to the wrong way, which then leads to confession before God.
I know in my own life the difference between my slate is clean and my slate in need of cleaning. Wrong thoughts, wrong motives, wrong feelings, wrong words, wrong actions – all lead to a feeling of incompleteness. I can feel the separation between me and the Father. And the only way to restore this is to go to my room, close the door and for me with pen and paper write out in every way I know I have sinned. Sin hurts. It hurts God, it hurts others, it hurts ourselves.
Is His Word in us?
In 1 John 1 it says, If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His Word is not in us. His Word in us brings us to the understanding of our sin – those things that separate us from a relationship with the Father. When I confess my sins by writing them out and ask for forgiveness I can almost hear Him say ‘now you can destroy that piece of paper’ – because He is faithful to forgive me and instantly that intimacy is restored.
Jesus paid it all. His death on the cross paved the way for us to be forgiven. It doesn’t matter how many times a day we need to come to the foot of that cross. He is faithful to forgive and is committed to helping us change more and more into His likeness.
The woman who had been caught
In John 8 Jesus was sat teaching early one day in the Temple, when a woman was brought to Him that had been caught in the act of adultery. An act that in Jewish law required her to be stoned to death.
Henry says – All the people came to Him and perhaps many of them were returning home from the feast wanting to hear one sermon more from the mouth of Christ before they returned. Those that came to him, though He came early… They that seek him early shall find him… They brought him a woman caught in adultery. Though adultery is a work of darkness yet sometimes it is strangely brought to light… Those that promise themselves secrecy in sin deceive themselves… The Pharisees seemed to have a great zeal against the sin when it appeared afterwards that they themselves were not free from it… Note, It is common for those that are indulgent to their own sin to be severe against the sins of others.
She was caught in the act so that there was no room left to plead not guilty. Had she not been she might have gone on to another, till her heart had been perfectly hardened. But sometimes it proves a mercy to sinners to have their sin brought to light. Better our sin should shame us, than damn us. For our conviction rather than for our condemnation.
The heart of the wise studies to answer
Christ stoops to write on the ground. By this, He teaches us to be slow to speak when difficult cases are proposed to us. To pause and consider before we reply, to think twice before we speak once… The heart of the wise studies to answer… At last, He put them all to shame and silence. He lifted up Himself, as one awaking out of sleep (Ps. 78:65), and said to them, ‘he that is without sin among you, let him be first to cast a stone at her’.
Here He builds on an uncontested saying in morality. That it is very absurd for men to be zealous in punishing the offences of others, while they are as guilty themselves… Whenever we find fault with others, we ought to reflect upon ourselves and to be more severe against sin in ourselves. We ought to be favourable, though not to the sins, yet to the persons, of those that offend, and to restore them with a spirit of meekness, considering ourselves and our own corrupt nature. The Latin Aut sumus, aut fuimus, vel possumus esse quod hic est—We either are, or have been, or may be, what he is. Let this restrain us from throwing stones at our brothers and sisters, and proclaiming their faults.
Let him that is without sin begin such as this. Those that are truly humbled for their own sins will blush at it, and be glad to let it drop.
Christ showed His mercy
In this Christ attended to the great work which he came into the world for, and that was to bring sinners to repentance. To not destroy, but to save. He aimed to bring, not only the prisoner to repentance, by showing His mercy, but the prosecutors too, by showing them their sins. They sought to ensnare him. He sought to convince and convert them.
They slid away… It is folly for those that are under convictions to get away from Christ, as these here did, for He is the only one that can heal the wounds of conscience, and speak peace to us. To whom will they go?
Christ was without sin and might have cast the first stone. But there are none more severe than He against sin, for He is infinitely just and holy. There are none more compassionate than He to sinners, for He is infinitely gracious and merciful. He asks of her ‘Has no man condemned you?’ The woman said, ‘No man, Lord’. She speaks respectfully to Christ, calls him Lord. She says nothing against her accusers. If we hope to be forgiven by our Judge, we must forgive our accusers.
The prisoner is therefore discharged: ‘Neither do I condemn thee; go, and sin no more’.
Exemption emboldens wrongdoers. Those who are guilty, and yet have found means to escape the edge of the law, need to double their watch, lest Satan get advantage.
Those are truly happy whom Christ does not condemn
For Christ to say, I do not condemn you is, in effect, to say, I do forgive you. The Son of Man had power on earth to forgive sins. Those are truly happy whom Christ does not condemn, for His release is a sufficient answer. Christ will not condemn those who, though they have sinned, will go and sin no more, Ps. 85:8; Isa. 55:7. Christ’s favour to us in the remission of our sins should be a prevailing argument to go and sin no more, Rom. 6:1, 2. Will not Christ condemn you? Go then and sin no more.
Adapted from the Matthew Henry Commentary
Once Sacrifice for Sins – For Ever (Hebrew 10:12) Listen you who languish In the pit, in the grave today. One sacrifice for sins That is to say The sum total of the sins of all sinners He came to save. No one left out No more the eternal grave. One sacrifice only for everything. Blessed be His Glorious Name The completeness of His work How can anything remain the same? For those whom He came to save To share their penitential tears, He still calls and reaches out Across the lengthening years. Even if this earth should go on For ten thousand years or more, Even if you go into the outward reaches of eternity You will still see Him walking by the shore. For however much an insistent world Tries for new things to see, Only One sacrifice for sins Forever there will be. By the late Andrew Feakin (passed away 16th March 2019)
Prayer: Father, Father, Father. Thank Your precious name, that You have made a way for me to be forgiven of all my wretched sins. Help me, prompt me, to keep short accounts – that I may walk an uninterrupted walk of intimacy with You. That I may abide more fully and steer clear of all that would hinder. For Your Name’s sake. Amen.