Grace and Sin

3 And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,

4 They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.

5 Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?

6 This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.

7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

8 And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.

9 And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?

11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. Jn. 8:3-11

Grace and sin. It is like David and Goliath, David being the grace and Goliath sin. But remember, David defeated Goliath.

Grace is infinitely far more powerful than any other force as far as relationships go. That is why the Bible says that “grace and truth came by Jesus Christ”. (Jn. 1: 17) Even Moses could not bring the grace of God into the world!

When it comes to sin, we have a knee-jerk reaction to crucify the perp. It is the hardest thing to carry grace against a sinner. And it becomes doubly difficult when the said sinner has committed what in our eyes is one of the ‘unforgivable’ sins: adultery, theft, lying, etc. Such sins appear too big for us to handle!

But that is law. Such reactions are born of the law in us! But grace always has a way to deliver the sinner, whatever the sin they might have committed.

When a man in the Corinthian church was found committing a type of fornication that is unheard of even in the world, the Apostle Paul ordered that the man be thrown out of church (1 Cor. 5). But notice that Paul did so for a reason: it was

“… To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” (v.5)

Now, that is grace. That is love! Paul did not give the order out of a spirit of law, no. He did so out of love, not just for the man, but for the entire church. And in his second letter to the Corinthians, he bares his heart for the man.

“6 Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many. 7 So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. 8 Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him.” (2 Cor. 2:6-8)

In the same manner, Jesus – who did not carry a heart of law in His heart – did not condemn the woman. The scribes and Pharisees, driven by the law in their hearts, would have stoned the woman without a second thought. And they would have felt a sense of justice in doing so.

But Jesus carried grace, not law. Instead, He told her,

“Neither do I condemn thee…”

Jesus set the woman free! He freed her in her spirit. When you do not carry a heart of law, we also do not carry a heart of condemnation. And people can feel the difference. They can feel the freedom emanating from your spirit. And it makes it so much easier for them to reciprocate that love.

It was so much easier, therefore, for Jesus to tell the woman,

“… go, and sin no more.”

Notice Jesus did not say, “Neither do I condemn thee; go”. No. He said, “Go, and sin no more”.

I have a strong conviction that the woman did not sin any more. And why would she sin no more? Because she had met the grace of God. The reason we destroy people is because we do not have God’s grace in our hearts. All they can feel is this oppressive hardness or inflexibility emanating from us. We try and smile and tell them that we love them; but the spirit of a man can feel and connect to the law or grace in our hearts, whichever one we are carrying.

But what if this woman went and sinned again? Still, Jesus  would have let her go. Still, Jesus would not have condened her, even if she came to Him a thousand times. Why? The answer is simple and clear: Jesus carried grace, and not law. It was through grace alone that He could fulfill His sole responsibility, which was to set people free, not to bind them, praise the Lord!

Grace has a way of working that sets the sinner free and I am sure this woman went away free from sin.

Thank God for His grace in us. Yes, we can confront every type of sin and come out with victory, both for the sinner and for ourselves. Every time! But that is as long as we carry grace in our hearts. And this grace is our inheritance as children of God.

Where can weak sinners in church run to? It is into the arms of grace. Not the arms of law.

How can we give people victory over sin in their lives? It is by carrying grace, and not law, in our hearts. May God give us this grace, that we might be able to heal, and to revive, and not to destroy, souls.

[Grace brings spiritual freedom]

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Freedom In Christ – Part 1

13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.

14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 1 The. 4:13-14

Oh, the liberty that the gospel brings!

One of the things that money cannot buy in this world is reprieve from sorrow. And, without a doubt, one of the most painful sorrows that affects us here on earth is the loss of a loved one. Imagine the pain that death brings to those who are left behind by the passing away of a loved one. It affects us in our deepest parts. It is bad enough when it is an ordinary death but, in today’s violent and unpredictable world in particular, death sometimes is attended with terror, pain, suddenness and a host of other additional calamities that make it all the more difficult for the deceased’s relatives to bear. I cannot imagine the pain that the violence that accompanies so many deaths in a place like the U.S. city of Chicago, for example, causes to those left behind. It is estimated that every day, 12 people are shot dead in Chicago.

It is in this light that we can better appreciate the Apostle Paul’s words here. This scripture makes it clear that people ignore Christ at their own spiritual peril. It is in Christ that both the dead and the living can enjoy this liberty. What Paul says in essence here is that when we lose a brother or sister in Christ there is no sense of loss on our part! The brother or sister is simply sleeping, he says! Who would mourn a person who was only sleeping?

What a blessing, to be set free from such incredible pain! Imagine being set free from the many bondages and hurts that death brings! It is an incredible thought.

But these things, though hard to comprehend, are true in the Spirit. Remember when Jesus was told that His friend Lazarus had died. Jesus did not break out wailing. He simply told His disicples:

“Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.” (Jn. 11:11)

Jesus said this because He was the resurrection and the life. He did, in fact, raise Lazarus from the dead.

Today, Jesus is still the resurrection and the life, and He will remain so unto eternity. We may grieve for a brother or sister who has died in the Lord in the short term, but that is due to our human weakness. In truth, however, that person has gone to a far better place – to be with the Lord.

This realization affords us incredible freedom – freedom from sorrow. And sorrow is one of our greatest enemies. Sorrow can hit us where nothing else can.

The words of our Lord Jesus Christ in John 8:36 ring out true and clear when held in this perspective.

“If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”

[Below: Women mourning at a funeral in rural Singida]

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Building Spiritual Character – Part 1

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. Rom 5:1-5

The word ‘experience’ here could be substituted with the word ‘character’. In other words, we could say, “Patience builds character”, and still do justice to the above scripture. That word, ‘character’ is what I want to talk about today.

The path of a righteous man has never been easy, and it will never be. It is a costly one; and yet, it is this very costliness that gives God’s call on a man’s life its value: it makes the person to appreciate and respect God’s call upon their lives.

If you look at the lives of Saul and David in the Book of 1 Samuel, who both were kings of Israel, you notice a big difference in their characters. Saul was not a disciplined man. He lacked patience. He would, for example, not wait for the prophet Samuel to come and sacrifice as per God’s word but, unable to bear seeing his men leaving him, he went on and did the sacrifice himself.

Lacking in that inner discipline that comes from patience, Saul was also a severely temperamental man. He took badly to David’s victory against Goliath, and he allowed himself to develop a deep hatred towards David. He went on to hunt him down like an animal.

Time and time again Saul failed to obey God. He failed to respect God.

But, you know, we cannot blame Saul too much for this lack of a spiritual character in his person. Why? Because he was handed the kingdom without being prepared. He had not paid any price to receive it. He was handed it, as they say, on a silver platter. He did not know its worth or value. As a result, he failed to guard the position he was so graciously granted. In the end, God had no option but to take the Kingdom from his hands. The prophet Samuel told Saul, “The LORD hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbour of thine, that is better than thou.”1 Sam. 15:28

Notice the word ‘better’ there. You do not become ‘better’ because you have dimples on your cheeks.

When we look at David we see someone who, long before he became king, had to go through a very difficult period. In the first place, David knew and loved God. Secondly, he was humble enough to allow God to mold and shape him. Thus by the time he became king, David was ready to take his position and rule his people justly and in righteousness.

With the exception of the issue with Uriah’s wife, David was a capable and effective king who knew and taught God’s people the ways of the Lord. In many ways, David proved himself ‘better’ than Saul. He had been tested and tried.

In today’s Christian world, the virtue of character is lacking to a very great degree. There are many areas where this virtue is lacking. One area where this is clear is the area of marriage and divorce.

Even without salvation, our parents and grandparents never contemplated divorce. Poor folks, seems they were not civilized enough! Today’s generation, on the other hand, is a ‘liberated’ generation. In some countries I hear there is such ‘liberation’ that in some circles the word ‘marriage’ has been deleted from their vocabulary. It has been fossilized. Words like ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ are unknown. Instead, there are ‘partners’. In these ultra-modern settings, people live together on a contractual basis, each ‘partner’ having their ‘rights’ fully guaranteed!

For those of us who still believe in marriage, we also are not safe. Women have been to Beijing and back, and they are now fully aware of and ready to fight for their ‘rights’. Men, on the other hand, have had their manhood so undermined to the extent that they take out their frustrations on the object nearest them – which invariably happens to be their wife!

All of the above is okay if you are of the world. But in church, we must talk a different language. Marriage is such a serious issue with God that He does not allow divorce unless under the most extreme of circumstances (adultery); and even then the wronged party, if they cannot forgive, are not allowed to re-marry until their spouse dies. Marriage is literally a “till death do us part” affair!