Do You Think Jesus Loves You?


Revelation 3:9 “I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you.”

“Do you think Jesus loves you?” The answer to that question makes all the difference in the way we perceive our lives.

“Do you think Jesus loves you?” Isn’t our inability to say “yes” the reason we find sin so appealing? The question was implied in the very first temptation when Satan told Eve, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” “God is holding out on you! He is keeping you down! He is spoiling your fun! He doesn’t love you!” As long as we aren’t sure that Jesus loves us, we will not be sure his commandments are meant for our good. We won’t be able to see the sense in sacrificing our immediate gratification for a code of conduct we find difficult to understand. People turn to alcohol and drugs because they aren’t sure Jesus loves them. People “hook up” sexually with those to whom they are not married because they aren’t sure Jesus loves them. People bail out of their marriages, rebel against their parents, and lie their way out of trouble because they aren’t sure Jesus loves them. If they were sure Jesus loves them, they would trust him when he tells them what they’re doing is hurtful and wrong.

“Do you think Jesus loves you?” Isn’t our uncertainty the reason we find our present circumstances so hard to bear? We instinctively believe that good times are a sign of God’s favor, and that hard times are evidence he doesn’t care anymore. But the Bible teaches us the opposite is often true. Experience should teach us this as well. Almost everything good God ever did for his people came out of hardship, difficulty, and suffering. Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Jonah, Daniel, Paul, and many others all learned this lesson by personal experience. They persevered because they knew Jesus loved them. When that is our conviction, then we know that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us (Romans 8:18). Then we can declare that if God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:31-32). Then we can be assured that after we have suffered a little while, the God of all grace will himself restore us and make us strong, firm, and steadfast (1 Peter 5:10).

“Do you think Jesus loves you?” Isn’t our doubt the reason we fear what the future holds? Our fear and uncertainty paralyze us. We convince ourselves we are doomed. We are afraid to move ahead. But if Jesus loves us, will he really stand idly by while our world crumbles and we are lost? Paul once confessed, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom” (2 Timothy 4:18). Not even the future can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

“Do you think Jesus loves you?” The purpose for asking is not to cast doubt on the fact. It is to remind us of a truth most of us have known for a long, long time. Yes, Jesus loves me. The Bible tells me so. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. In his death for our forgiveness we begin “to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:18). That gives us courage to live his way now, and certainty we will live in his home forever. Then, he promises, even our enemies will have to “acknowledge that I have loved you.”

Listen and Live


Deuteronomy 4:1 “Hear now, O Israel, the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you.”

Some people are worth listening to. Your doctor is generally someone worth listening to. Take ALL the medicine in the bottle until its gone, even though you feel better, and you won’t end up with a relapse twice as bad as the original illness. Take it easy for a few weeks after surgery, even though you feel no more pain, and you won’t land yourself back in the hospital with complications. Your parents–your parents are people worth listening to. How many of us had parents who told us not to jump on the bed? But how many of us banged our heads on the headboard, or on the floor, or on another brother or sister because we were jumping on the bed?

The Lord God is one person who is always worth listening to. Others may occasionally steer us wrong, even the doctor, even our parents. But when we listen to the Lord, we always come out smelling like a rose.

One reason to take God’s word seriously is that he takes it so seriously himself. It’s not so obvious in our English translation, but the word for “decrees” literally refers to something carved or etched into something solid. That makes us think of the ten commandments which were carved into stone. What was God telling us about how he felt about his commandments when he chiseled them into two sheets of rock? They could have been written on scrolls like the rest of the five books of Moses. But even after Moses broke the first set of stone tablets in the golden calf incident, the Lord insisted the commandments be carved into stone again. In stone they would not fade, they could not be erased, and they could not be changed. We still use the phrase “set in stone” today to refer to something which cannot be changed. God is serious about his word!

If there was any doubt about that among his people, look at the conditions he placed upon following his commands. First, he says follow them so that you might live. By “live” he is not talking about having an enjoyable lifestyle, a desirable standard of living. By “live” he means the difference between life and death. In essence he was giving his people a choice. “Follow my commands, and I will permit you to stay alive. Break them, and I will wipe you out and destroy you.” God means serious business!

Then the Lord conditioned their earthly happiness upon keeping his commands. He told Israel to follow them “so that you may go in and take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you.” The last time Israel had a chance to take possession of the promised land had been forty years earlier. When they disobeyed him and refused to trust him, they ended up wandering in the desert for forty years instead. Again, when God says, “Listen,” he wants to be taken seriously.

The Lord is no less serious about his commandments today. They are not suggestions or “voluntary initiatives” as one humanist has called his set of ten replacements. Choosing to break what God has commanded still invites the Lord’s anger. Those who insist on living in some sin are only adding to their own misery and making life more miserable for those around them. The Lord designed each of his commandments to take care of us in some way. Breaking them may result in short term pleasure, but it leads to long term pain.

Though we take God’s word seriously, none of us keep his commandments perfectly. All must confess their failure. For Jesus’ sake the Lord does not condemn us. For Jesus’ sake he forgives those who repent. As Paul preached to the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch: “Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:39). God’s word also teaches that he is loving and forgiving. That makes us desire to take his word all the more seriously and keep his commands. People to whom God has revealed himself as their Savior and Redeemer find in him the power to do so.

Listen, and Live!

True Glory


2 Corinthians 4:4 “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”

“The light of the gospel of the glory of Christ”–that is a long, descriptive phrase. Paul is helping us to see Christ’s most important thing, his true glory. When many people think of glory, they think especially of God’s brilliant, blinding light that shines whenever he appears. We have Jesus shining like lightning at his Transfiguration. We have Moses face shining with the reflected glory of God, the glory his face absorbed from standing in God’s presence on Mount Sinai. When many think of God’s glory, they think of God’s holiness, his power, the things that put him at a distance from us and lift him far above us.

But one’s glory is closely tied to one’s reputation, the best thing about someone. That isn’t always what we expect. Maybe you saw a children’s movie a number of years ago based on the comic book character Ritchie Rich. The plot is based around Ritchie Rich trying to make friends, and thieves trying to break into the family vault to steal the Rich-family fortune. When the thieves finally get into the vault, they find nothing but cheap family memorabilia: old baby books, and photo albums, and school awards, and baby clothes. Ritchie’s parents, who have been bound and taken hostage, explain to the thieves that these things were their true treasures. They didn’t keep money and jewels in the vault. That wasn’t nearly so valuable.

In a similar way, the most important thing about Christ, his true glory, is not found in the power by which he controls the weather, heals diseases, and feeds the thousands. It is the gospel, the story of Jesus’ self-sacrificing love to save us. Paul wrote the Corinthians in his first letter to them, “Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved….For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). That is the glory of Christ.

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing; taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place…” (Philippians 2:5-9). That is the glory of Christ.

In the halls of heaven the holy ones sing to Christ the Lamb, “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9). That is the glory of Christ.

“No one has greater love than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). That is the glory of Christ, the substance of the gospel, the light that needs to shine from every pulpit and Christian classroom.

That is why “…we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.” Jesus Christ, the Lord of love, the Lord of life, the Lord of salvation, is the substance of our message. If you do not find that gospel ringing in the preaching to which you listen, find someplace else to worship. If your children do not find that gospel shining on them in their Sunday School, find someplace else to take them on Sunday morning.

The glory of this gospel is not measured by crowd size or church growth. It can’t be proved by numbers on the church’s balance sheet. Changed hearts aren’t always as evident as we might like in visibly changed lives. But something shines, something burns in a heart that wasn’t there before. A child of God knows Jesus, and that light allows him to remain Jesus’ own forever and ever.

Let the Gospel Light Shine.

Getting Out From Under the Veil

Behind Veil

2 Corinthians 4:3 “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.”

Why is this so? Why is the gospel “veiled” to some people?

Long before God gave Moses the 10 commandments, he wrote his law on mankind’s hearts. Sometimes this understanding of God’s will becomes skewed, but all people understand right from wrong in a general way. You can’t say the same thing about the gospel, the good news about what God has done to save us. Paul asked the Romans, “How can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” And the answer is: “They can’t.”

But the veil over the gospel is more than this. It is not just ignorance. It is an inborn inability to understand. It is a default setting in the human heart to reject God’s offer of free grace. We are preprogrammed by sin to find the extreme measures our Lord took to save us unbelievable.

The veil over the gospel is so heavy that even within Christian churches it is difficult to maintain the truths it teaches. So a Christian magazine claiming to be biblical and conservative can publish statements like this: “Orthodox Christianity teaches that on the cross Jesus satisfied divine justice by paying the price for human sin….Enough of this outrageous religion which has held millions in bondage….a religion with violence at the heart of its theology…” I can multiply examples many times over.  If the Gospel is so veiled to some who claim the name Christian, little wonder that it is veiled to the rest of the world.

What happened? Paul explains, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ…” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Don’t misunderstand. “The god of this age,” is not the God of Scripture. This is “god” with a little “g,” a god in name only. This is the chief of the fallen angels, the devil, who holds the majority of this world’s inhabitants under his spell.

He has blinded the minds of unbelievers by creating thousands of competing, false religions, each with its own twist on “We make salvation the old fashioned way. We earn it.” The light of the gospel struggles to shine where faith, forgiveness, and heaven are turned into a “do-it-yourself” project.

He has blinded the minds of unbelievers by creating a class of people who believe themselves so enlightened, so educated, that they don’t need things like faith, forgiveness, or heaven anymore. A so-called “scientific” worldview sees all of that as nothing more than superstition. They follow a “Santa-Claus-Is-Coming-to-Town” theology: “So be good for goodness sake.” Any concern for morality is nothing more than a concern for making our lives here as happy as they can be.

He has blinded the minds of unbelievers by taking control of so much of what passes for entertainment. Movies, television, and music all combine to extol one great worldly virtue that rules them all–my personal pleasure. If God and faith get in the way of the new virtues of making lots of money and complete sexual freedom, then God and faith must be mocked and marginalized. The light of the gospel struggles to shine where people no longer value what it offers.

The god of this age spreads his blindness like a disease. It is catching. We need to bathe ourselves in the light of the gospel long and often. That is the antidote. You know that people who don’t get enough sunlight develop a deficiency in vitamin D, and that can lead to all kinds of other health problems. People who don’t get enough gospel light develop a faith deficiency, and that can lead to even more serious problems. In some cases, it is spiritually fatal.

But God (with a big “G”) has invested his gospel with power (Romans 1:16). He accompanies his gospel with his Spirit (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14). This gospel is more than accurate information, useful information, saving information that can be learned once and then ignored while we pursue other spiritual truths. It is God’s Spirit-filled, powerful prescription for a chronic spiritual condition. We need our dose on a regular basis. The old revival hymn sings, “I love to tell the story, for those who know it best seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest.” That story is “the old, old story of Jesus and his love,” the story of Love that carried the weight of our sins to a cross and gave up his life to dispose of them there. It is the story of Love that burst from his tomb alive and victorious and promises eternal life to all who believe.

Hear the story. Come into the light. Get out from under the veil.

Was Blind But Now I See

Bible Glasses

Ephesians 4:17 “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.”

By calling these people “Gentiles,” Paul was not just referring to their nationality or ethnicity. Most of the Ephesian Christians were Gentiles by race, too. Paul was alluding to their false religious background. This is why their way of life was wrong.

The basis for their problem can be found in “the futility of their thinking.” Living the wrong way never starts with the things people do. It goes back to the way they think and believe. The Gentile way was “futile.” It was empty, worthless, and backwards. The prophet Isaiah condemned a similar way of thinking when he said, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter.” Though he wrote 2700 years ago, the prophet could have been describing much of 21st Century American culture.

Everything is backwards here. Those things which are truly valuable are eternal and spiritual: faith and forgiveness, God and heaven, worship and prayer. The unbeliever values these things least of all. What he regards most important, what he gives the highest place, are things which are merely material, only earthly. Jesus says of food, and drink, and clothes, “The pagans run after all these things.” Even more, what the unbelieving often value most of all are those things which aren’t even necessary for earthly life: merely pleasure, merely recreation, merely luxury. These may have some small legitimate place in life, but in the long run obtaining them is only meaningless, vanity, a chasing after the wind, as the writer of Ecclesiastes would say. Thinking which enthrones earthly pleasure and ignores God is futile.

So much for how the “Gentiles” think. What does this have to do with us? We don’t have to live under the same cloud of darkness as the rest of the world. That is not because we are so smart. It is because God has been so gracious. We have been taught “in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus” (Ephesians 4:21). We know that we are more than talented animals, beings that can taste, touch, hear, smell, and see. We are more than consumers of what life has to offer, and we do not belong to ourselves.

We are responsible, moral humans, beings a loving God created for himself. Though we have rebelled against him with our sin, no less than the unbelieving Gentiles, God paid an awful price to cancel sin’s guilt and purchase us for himself again. God’s one and only Son, Jesus Christ, sacrificed his life in place of ours. He took our worldly perversions on himself. He made his perfect life of love our own. He did this so that he might present us to his Father without any sin, pure and holy. He did this to set us free from the darkness and power of sin in our lives.

Nothing gives a clearer view of what is fake and what is real, what is important and what doesn’t matter, what is helpful and what is harmful, what is right and what is wrong, than knowing Jesus Christ by faith. Only when God so corrects our vision can we see the world as it really is. And only when God so changes our hearts do we begin to want from life what is truly good: the grace of God and a holy life that serves my neighbor in love. This is how our gracious God replaces empty thinking with a heart and life that are full.

Jesus’ New Commandment

foot wash

John 13:34-35 “A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

In what sense was Jesus’ commandment to love one another new? You remember the parable of the Good Samaritan. An expert in the law was testing Jesus. He summed up God’s law: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus himself summarized the commandments this way at other times. It’s not hard to understand why. As far back as Moses, God had revealed that “love” was the heart and soul of his commandments.

“Love one another” was not a new commandment in time, but it is a commandment that constantly needs to be made new and fresh and alive for God’s people–today just as much as it did for the twelve disciples. It has a way of getting lost in our efforts to be “good” and live “moral” lives.

Sometimes we want to determine all the specific ways in which we can do God’s will in any given situation. We want to pick through the Bible in the hope that we will find some hidden command or principle to follow. Once we have found it we think, “Now I can make God happy. Now I can truly have a good relationship with him.” We end up making our own rule book, and the checklist for how to be a good Christian becomes longer and longer.

The Pharisees did much the same thing. To God’s Ten Commandments they had added over 600 applications of their own. Their additional rules were intended to make it possible to keep God’s ten. Somehow God’s desire for mercy and love got lost in the process.

Do you see the problem with this approach to doing good? We can make our checklists of rules for holy living as long as we like. But it may be possible to check off every item in the list without ever actually loving someone. God’s commandments must guide us, but we need to be reminded that love is the fulfillment of the Law. Only when we love are we truly taking our relationship with our neighbor seriously. When we sincerely seek to love one another like Jesus has loved us, we will find ourselves squarely in line with what God has commanded.

There is also a “new-in-time” feature of Jesus’ command: “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” That is a humbling command. Who can claim that our love and self-sacrifice even approaches the love that Jesus has had for us? I am reminded of the closing words of a book by James Dobson: “If only we realized how brief is our time on earth, then most of the irritants and frustrations which drive us apart would seem terribly insignificant and petty. We have but one short life to live, yet we contaminate it with bickering and insults and angry words. If we fully comprehended the brevity of life, our greatest desire would be to please God and to serve one another. Instead, the illusion of permanence leads us to scrap and claw for power and demand the best for ourselves.”

But Jesus’ words are also a very comforting reminder: How Jesus has loved us! He has so loved and forgiven us in spite of our lack of love. And the Savior who loves us so has set us free to live lives that strive to love like he has loved.

Jesus concludes, “All men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” Christian love has a way of being noticed, even by unbelievers. Julian, one of the anti-Christian emperors of Rome, had to admit, “Their master has implanted the belief in them that they are all brethren.” The importance of such recognitions is not so much the glory that it brings to us. It is the attention it brings to Jesus, whose love alone has the power to save.

Glorified By His Love

Calvary Glory

John 13:31 “When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.”

Jesus’ glory is not like the glory our world lusts for. When I was in high school, we called the quarterback, the running backs, and the receivers–the people who handled the ball–the “glory boys.” They were the ones who got their names in the papers. CEO’s of corporations, presidents and prime ministers of nations are showered with recognition and glory because of the power that they wield.

It’s not necessarily an evil thing if some of that kind of glory should happen to come our way. Prestige, power, and pleasure were experienced by some of the believers in the Bible, and they survived. But it is tempting to let that kind of glory reign as god in our lives. One man summed it up this way, “One of the saddest pages kept by the recording angel is the record of souls damned by success.”

Being surrounded by such worldly glory can alter our understanding of God’s glory. What did Jesus mean when he said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him”? God has prestige, power, and pleasures, this is true. He has more of these things than any human being who ever lived.

But is that what Jesus was seeking? During Jesus’ earthly ministry many tempted him to find his glory that way. His brothers encouraged him to go up to Jerusalem for the Jewish feast of Tabernacles to perform some miracles (John 7:3-5). They figured that he wanted to be a famous public figure. Jesus refused. Many of Jesus’ followers wanted him to become the political King of Israel. They wanted him to return it to the good old days when Israel was the envy of the world. Jesus refused. Satan even came to Jesus and offered, “Here, I will make you an instant celebrity, if you will just jump off the temple, or I will make you the King of the world, if you will just bow down and worship me.” Jesus refused.

Religious people toy with similar ideas about bringing God glory today. “If God’s people could only get control of the power, then what a paradise of safety, morality, and plenty for all we could make of this world. What glory we would bring to God.” That thinking distracts churches from centering their ministries on the gospel of forgiveness of sins. I am in favor of ending abortion, strengthening the family, defending religious freedoms, and promoting good morals. We all need to be. But too much of Christian activism is still infected by a fascination with power. If the glory of his power were God’s main concern, then all of these world problems–and they are problems–would have been taken care of long ago.

Jesus was looking for his glory in another place. “NOW is the Son of Man glorified,” we read. What was happening now? “When he was gone…” and that “he” was Judas. Now is the Son of Man glorified, when my betrayer goes to spring his trap and sets the events of my horrible suffering in motion. Now is the Son of Man glorified, as I am abandoned by my disciples, humiliated by my people, and crucified by my rulers. Now is the Son of Man glorified, as I carry the sins of the world to my cross, and give up my life, my soul, my all in the most shameful death imaginable.

Do you understand why this is his glory? It is not because Jesus did something very brave, self-less, or even hard to do. To all the world his death looked like a huge mistake. What good could he do, how could he change things, if he were dead? But “this is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16). Jesus is glorified by his death because God himself, dying to save you from your sins, is the ultimate expression of God’s love for you.

And God is glorified in him. Nowhere does God identify himself by saying “God is power.” But he does say “God is love.” It is part of his very essence. Jesus reveals this most clearly when he dies for us. Such self-sacrificing love leads our hearts back to God. We can come to this God, and glorify him, for reasons unlike the worshipers of all the other gods in the world. Such love fills us with sincere trust and heartfelt love for him who loved us, and gave himself up for us.

Children of the Resurrection


Luke 20:35-36 “Those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection.”

When I die, I don’t want that to be the end for me. And I am not alone in thinking that way. Christians historically have confessed their faith in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. But people of every culture in almost every kind of faith throughout time have longed for a life to come as well. Over 4500 years ago the ancient Egyptians built their pyramids in hope of an afterlife. Today, over 50% of people believe there is a heaven even when they have no religion at all. All of this reflects what the author of Ecclesiastes once wrote: “(God) has also set eternity in the heart of man.” We long for something more than the life we know now.

But “the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting” has always had its skeptics. We see what happens to dead bodies over time. “Living” skeletons and zombies and mummies and ghosts are fine for the horror films, but we don’t actually see the dead return to life like that, much less in perfectly restored form. It’s not hard to see why atheists, who demand more than God’s promises, would have their doubts. Nor have the skeptics always come from outside the church. Paul had to deal with people who denied the resurrection in the church of Corinth, and there are professors in Christian colleges and seminaries today who teach that there is no real resurrection of the body.

The Sadducees of Jesus’ day were a religious party whose skepticism led them to deny a resurrection of the dead. They tried to make the idea look ridiculous by confronting Jesus with a scenario in which a woman was widowed multiple times. If there is a resurrection, whose wife would she be in the next life? Surely God would not allow her to live with multiple husbands! To these men, life after death was a farce.

So Jesus explains that marriage is an institution for this life only. It doesn’t follow us to heaven. Those God considers worthy of a place in that new world will face no dilemmas regarding spouse or family.

Nor do we need to fear that heaven will somehow be inferior to our current experience, then. The absence of marriage doesn’t mean we will have something less. Jesus implies that this new life will be a huge upgrade. “Those who are considered worthy” will take part in it. Don’t misunderstand his words. It’s not that any of us actually is worthy in and of ourselves. God considers us worthy because of the value and worth of Jesus our substitute. If we listed our own qualifications on an application for heavenly membership, we would submit a blank piece of paper. The only “qualifications” we can claim are borrowed. They come directly from his own perfect life of love. And no background check can turn up any marks against us, because every sin has been permanently removed from our record by his innocent death on the cross.

That God should look at us as people worthy of heaven, then, is a powerful expression of his grace. From the externals, the difference between us and a worthy candidate for heaven is far greater than the difference between a bag lady or a homeless person and a country club member. One would expect that our presence would only spoil it for everyone else.

Then we find that God has filled heaven with others just like us, people considered worthy because they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. All of them have been cleansed, transformed, and made immortal. “They can no longer die.” In his grace God has given us the priceless privilege of participating in a new life with a new body indescribably better than anything we now know.

The resurrection is not only a certain promise we can believe. It is a beautiful promise we want to.

What Do You Say?

Woman in Adultery

John 8:4-5 “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”

No one denied that this woman was actually guilty of adultery–some form of extra-marital sex. Jesus didn’t question it. The woman herself never denied it. She wasn’t being mistreated because the Pharisees and the teachers of the law said what she did was wrong.

In this even the Pharisees and teachers of the law were wiser than so many who would like to take the commandment “You Shall Not Commit Adultery” off the books. They call it a victimless sin, at least where everyone involved has given their consent. “Sex is healthy, and it’s natural, and restricting it to marriage simply gets in the way of a beautiful thing,” is the claim. I don’t have to document that claim for you, do I? You watch TV and go to movies. You see the magazines in the checkout lane at the grocery store.

The truth is, sex is healthy and it is natural. But take it outside of marriage and it hurts everybody. It often robs children of one of their parents. It erodes our ability to form trusting, committed, lasting relationships. It spreads disease. When it leads to pregnancy it may cut short a young person’s education and employability, fostering first poverty and then crime. Without boundaries it makes us less self-disciplined and self-controlled. It moves us more and more in the direction of seeing other people as objects for our use rather than children of God for us to serve. It makes all of society less stable, less functional. The God whose main concern is that we love our neighbor was consistent with that goal when he commanded, “You shall not commit adultery.”

That doesn’t mean the woman’s accusers were taking the right course of action with her. She may have sinned, but she was a sinner mistreated. When the prophet Nathan came to David after his adultery with Bathsheba, he had a rather elaborate presentation to bring David to repent of his sin so that the Lord could restore him. It seems that there was some concern for the man’s soul.

Where is there any evidence of that kind of concern for the woman here? Where is their sense of grief and shame that a sister in the faith has fallen? Where is the seeking love, hoping to bring a lost sinner to repentance and restore her to God?

Where are we as we react to a world whose morals should make us blush? Are we too weak to resist? Are our own attitudes about sexuality coming more and more from the trash on TV or the biblically ignorant people with whom we work?

Or in our zero tolerance, one-strike-and-you’re-out world are we angry and mean and hoping to make an example out of someone? Does it matter to us how a sinner is treated, because they probably have it coming anyway?

Maybe Jesus’ final verdict unsettles us: “Neither do I condemn you.” Don’t misunderstand his words. He is not approving her sin. He does not excuse it. Those who want to remove adultery from the things condemned by the 10 commandments cannot appeal to Jesus’ words here.

These are words of forgiveness. In fact, they express perfectly what we mean when we use that five-dollar theological word “Justification.” Justification is God’s not guilty verdict. When God justifies us, he declares us not guilty of our sins. He declares us not guilty, not because we haven’t committed sin, but because he doesn’t count it against us. He counted it against Jesus instead when Jesus died on the cross.

Isn’t that what he is telling the woman here? “Neither do I condemn you.” “I declare you not guilty, though you know full well you committed the sin.” You are free from you sin. You are justified. Now you can go…and leave it.

Jesus never gives us a license to indulge our sins. He does not deny that we have committed them. But he doesn’t throw stones at us. He melts and breaks our stone cold hearts with his grace and mercy. You are forgiven. Go and sin no more.