Hey friends, welcome to the front porch where you are always welcomed, always loved. This is where we gather just as we are, to come alongside each other to share strength for our struggles and cheers for our victories. I am so glad you are here, kick off your slippers, grab a chair and let’s chat awhile. I got some apple cinnamon muffins in the oven and some French vanilla caramel coffee in a big cup for ya!
Can you feel that Fall chill in the air? (Well, maybe not in the Deep South yet, it is more like Flummer, lol). Have you had your fill of pumpkin yet? I am a lover of all seasons and I so enjoy seeing the handiwork of God each unique one brings. Though sometimes, I am not so keen on certain elements of the seasons. Just like in life, I do not always like what God may be using in certain seasons of my life, I do not always love the plan, but I do trust there is a purpose for all God allows in each season so the fruit to His glory can come forth. For it His desire and to His glory we bear much fruit; each season has necessary “elements” that help produce what is needed for the fruit that is to come (John 15). We can trust the Master Gardener’s hand; He knows exactly what we need. What “season” of life do you feel you are in currently? How can you see God working in your life during this time? I feel like God has me in a season of faith stretching, leaning into Him and reminding myself of His promises sometimes minute by minute. And the more I lean into Him in complete trust, the greater my peace…deeper intimacy with Him is what I want. That is what I want for you also, deeper intimacy with the God of the Universe, the Creator and Lover of your soul, the One who goes out of His way to get to you, to have all your heart. I want you to want more than anything the One who delights in you and who wants to transform your life from glory to glory as you behold Him in His beauty and holiness. I want you to be overwhelmed by His goodness and grace and filled with His fullness no matter what season you are in. Today we are going to see a season of shame turn into a season of salvation and restoration. Today we are going to see us from different sides. This blog has long been in the making, a story that has long been swirling on my heart.
Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, making her stand in the center. (John 8:3, Read the rest of the story in John 8:1-11)
I can hardly read the story in John 8:1-11 without tears coming to my eyes almost every time. It leaves me overwhelmed with gratitude and relief for the greatness of God’s holiness, mercy, and grace displayed in His Son, Jesus Christ. Because here is the deal, but it not for the Man in the middle, we could all be the woman in the center, standing condemned. Or one of those circled up in the crowd with hard hearts clenching stones, blinded from their own need of His mercy. We all could be her; we all could be them, if not for the mercy and grace of God (see Ephesians 2:4-7, 1 Peter 2:10).
Her, the unnamed woman standing in the center with Jesus, brought out and exposed in her sin and marked for death. It does not say what she was feeling or how she was behaving but if you have ever been found out, caught in the act, felt the weight of guilt and shame of your sin how would you feel? I can tell you I would feel alone, fearful, helpless, dirty, guilty, ashamed, and just wanting to disappear into the air; I have felt all those things as a result of my sin. And you know what, Jesus could have distracted those circled up in that crowd and sent that woman away, but He had a much better life transforming plan in mind. The Bible teaches us in Isaiah 53:6,
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one, to his [her] own way… (Emphasis mine)
The woman turned her own way, now face to face with God in the flesh, holiness in the flesh, mercy in the flesh, grace in the flesh, truth in the flesh. The focus here is not on the type of sin, but the sinner, recognizing her need of mercy and forgiveness and the Savior who was the only one with the power to forgive and deliver. She was not in the wrong place at the wrong time; she was exactly where she needed to be. The best place for her to be, the best place for us to be, is in the center of the circle with Jesus because that is the place where His holiness takes hold of us and His mercy and grace transform us. It is in the light of His holiness our sin is exposed and we see it for what it is; we see what we truly deserve as a result of our sin, our deep need for His mercy and forgiveness and how so undeserving we are. As painful as it can be exposure is necessary for transformation.
When Jesus stood up, He said to her, “Woman, where are they…Has no one condemned you?” “No one, Lord,” she answered. Neither do I condemn you,” said Jesus. “Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.” (John 10-11, Emphasis mine)
Exposure helps us see our sin in light of God’s holiness so we can see our need for the only One who can saves us (see Isaiah 6:1-7). God’s holiness is the light we need to lead us to repentance, transformation, to conformity to the likeness of Christ. It is His mercy that allows us to experience the weight of our sin, to see its ugliness and to see our need for mercy. A loving-kindness He so readily and lavishly and richly has given us in Christ who paid our sin debt. It is His presence, light, truth and mercy that lead us to repentance and change. Notice those four words at the end of verse 11…do not sin anymore. We cannot have transformation without repentance.
This woman was forgiven by God’s grace in Jesus Christ and it was by the same grace she was to go a different way, to turn from her sinful life to new life, a transformed life. The expectation was for her to go and live differently because of what Christ had done for her. Forgiven, saved, redeemed, restored, justified…As we receive by faith what Christ has done for us, we can stand in the center with our Savior, we can lift our heads unashamed in the face of our accuser and say, “That is not who I am, I belong to Him now, I am being made anew!” We can leave differently than how we came! That was God’s plan for this woman that day, not death, but life, new life in Christ! Those that wished to disgrace her and take her life walked her right into Grace and her freedom! Yes, exposure of our sin can be painful, consequences can be painful, but we cannot have true freedom without it. God offers us the tender compassion of a Savior and His grace to cover us as He allows those things to be used for our good and His glory. She came enslaved to sin but through forgiveness and repentance she can leave free, different, changed. Sisters, that is what grace does, and it is truly amazing. As His daughters the accuser can no longer drag us out, disgrace us, strip and expose us because we are transformed and being conformed form glory to glory, clothed with a garment of salvation and covered with His robe of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10, 2 Corinthians 3:18,5:21, Colossians 3:5-10). After coming face to face with the Savior, full of grace and truth, we get to leave differently too!
“The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her.” When they heard this, they left one by one… (John 8:7, 9).
The crowd…not caught in the act but sinners just the same. Their sin was no lesser than the woman in the center; their need for His mercy no less. The stone clenching crowd cared nothing about this woman or who she was. They just saw her as a means to use to entrap Jesus and have something to accuse Him. Their hearts were not set by mercy but hardened by hate. They were so blinded by self-righteousness they could not see their own need for Jesus. Their hardness of heart and unbelief had put great distance between themselves and God in the flesh, away from His holiness, grace, goodness, mercy, light and truth. They did not see a need only a target. The stones may have dropped from their hand but not their hearts; they still turned away from Jesus, their only Savior. Sweet friend, what “stones” are you clenching that are keeping you from experiencing the mercy, forgiveness and grace of Christ? Are you holding onto bitterness, unbelief, hate, anger, hurt, un-forgiveness, fear or jealousy? What sins do you need to repent of that are standing between you and His transforming grace? Are you so focused on casting your “stone” you are missing the forgiveness and freedom Christ wants to give you? You cannot experience His forgiveness and grace if you are unwilling to let go of your “stones”. As long as you are focused on the sin of someone else you cannot be in His light to see your own sin and your own need. Jesus’ message of forgiveness and grace is for you too, but beloved friend you have to drop the stones and turn to Him, admit your need for His mercy, ask for His forgiveness and receive His grace by faith. You too can leave differently today, He has the truth and power to free and heal you!
Awhile back ago God again brought the story in John 8:1-11 to my mind but with a different focus. We don’t know what happened to this woman after her encounter with Jesus, we simply are just not told. I like to believe she did just as Jesus said; she went and lived differently, never willingly returning to a life of sin. Just as we are to live differently after receiving Him as Savior as displays of His splendor, glory and grace to show a lost world that Christ truly does change lives!
I started imagining what the rest of her story might have been like after she left Jesus presence, so bear with me here as I share what stirred in my heart: What if a woman, maybe just a bystander watching what was happening that day, who had been quietly following Jesus, listening and hanging on to his every word, watching his example of mercy and love and knowing her own great need for what He offered…What if she caught up with that woman who was in the center of that angry crowd, she who knew something different had happened within her. She who knew she did not want to go back to where she was, who she was, but did not know quite what to do…What if the woman who was a quiet follower of Jesus caught up with her, invited her into her home, gave her fresh water to bathe in, washed her feet, gave her some clean clothes to put on…What if she prepared a meal for her, gave her a bed to rest in and then began speaking to her of all she had learned of the love of Christ and they began to grow in the grace and the knowledge of the Lord together. What if soon they invited a few more broken, sinful women to join them…What if they began to really love on these women and the other sinners all around them, doing good unto them without expectation, listening to their stories, inviting them to gather with them to share how Jesus had changed their hearts, how He had changed their lives and then their lives began being changed by the power, truth and love of Christ and the example of these two women. One no longer an adulteress and one no longer a bystander but both bold followers of Jesus Christ, daughters of the King making disciples, multiplying His love, furthering His Kingdom! What if…Y’all this is what we are called to do, the church, you and me, we are to become “living stones” (1 Peter 2:5,9-10) not casting stones. We are called to take our place in the “center of the circle” with the sinner and extended the mercy and grace of Christ because we understand how desperate we all are for Him. Sisters in Christ, we are the church! This is where we pick up, only Christ can convict, only He can forgive and save but the church carries the Gospel, this is where we pick up. We are to come alongside the broken and cast out and bring them closer to the Savior through our faithful example through obeying His truth, our humility, our love; to show them how to follow Him and love Him and live differently, to be extensions of His grace and mercy, to continue His Kingdom work until His return. We pick up here sisters, we pick each other up, and we become the hands, the feet and the message of Christ. Sometimes we are that woman in the center in need of mercy, sometimes like one in the crowd in need to let go of our stones and sometimes we are called to come alongside those, offering love, grace, direction and strength, to show them Jesus really does make a difference, so we can all go and live differently!
We all, with unveiled faces, are beholding…the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:18
Until our next visit, remember you are always welcomed, always loved in the presence of the Savior, as you are…
With much love from my porch to yours,
Copyright 2018 Rhonda Loftis