A Reprimand or a Release?
Do you ever feel the weight of sin so heavily its like you're buried underground? You want to break free from the cycle you keep habitually falling into, but you end up in the same place again and again - trapped, stuck, bound.
While you are feeling defeated, someone comes along and preaches to you about the grace of God and how His love will cover your sin. You start to feel the weight lift a little but then that same person reminds you that you must stop sinning from now on. They tell you to try harder next time and break from the cycle.
We can try as hard as we want to break free, but we can never break free in our own strength. Without Christ, we can do nothing (John 15:5). We are literally slaves to sin (John 8:34) and it isn't until we've encountered God's grace on the cross, and have chosen to follow Christ, that we are set free and saved (Romans 6:7).
I think about the woman caught in adultery in John 8. Jesus is teaching at the temple and many have gathered around to listen to him. Some religious leaders storm in with a woman they caught cheating on her husband. They push her in front of Jesus and the entire crowd sitting there, and publicly shame her.
" "Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust. When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”, “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” " (John 8:4-11 NLT)
Many times I have heard this story explained like this: God gives us grace, He does not condemn us, but we must change and "go and sin no more". It always feels like someone is shaking their finger at me. Like they want to spread the grace of the gospel, but they have to make sure to correct my behavior as well. They may even think they are being obedient to the verse that says "speak truth in love" when really they are just adding chains to my already shackled life.
What would grace matter if it always ended with a statement requiring us to change our outward actions? Doesn't the pressure to "do better next time" squash the freedom grace brings?
We never want to abuse God's grace and forgiveness, but in our own human strength we are actually weak. Sin is not just what we do, it's who we are. We are born with a sin nature. We are slaves to sin and it is impossible for us to unlock those chains on our own.
"And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” " (John 8:11 NLT)
If we look a little closer at the word “go” we will find that the Greek word for “go” is “poreuomai” (por-yoo-om-ahee) which means “to depart from one place and go to another, to die from the original state and journey to a new one”.
What if Jesus wasn’t reprimanding the woman? What if He wasn’t shaking His finger at her for her sins, warning her not to do it again? What if, instead, He was releasing her from her old ways by His grace?
It is because of the grace of God, we are released from sin and are able to move towards a new life. It is because of the grace of God we actually can “go and sin no more”.
It is not by our own strength, and it is not because of our outward actions, that we are saved. It is by the power and strength of God in us that we are released.
"For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not from yourselves; it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9 NLT)
Lean in to God for strength and freedom. Pray for Him to release you from bondage. Walk confidently in the identity Christ has given you through His death on the cross.
Go! Be free! You have been released and will never be enslaved again.