Greg Laurie — Forgiven, Forgotten, and Free
We live in a time where everything is being recorded. You run a red light a camera will take the picture and the ticket will arrive in the mail. You shoplift in a store a camera is going to record that. One article said, "We may not realize it, but we are all movie stars thanks to the roughly 30 million surveillance cameras throughout the United States that capture each of us on film about 200 times daily". Then there is the government surveillance. Presently the NSA is gathering hundreds of millions of email address books breaking into private networks that leak overseas data centers of Google and yahoo. They are building a data base of trillions of location records transmitted by cell phones around the world.
No question about it, you are being watched. Just be aware of that. You are not going to get away with anything. You are going to get caught if you try to break a law. Sometimes cameras aren't even needed because some thieves or criminals are just idiots quite frankly. I hope I don't get a letter from an upset criminal for calling him an idiot. I read a true story about a bank robber that was recently caught in Colorado. The reason he was caught was because he wrote his demands on the back of his own check. His address was on the front. That is not the best part. The best part is he used a cute puppy's book of checks from the bank's bank of cuteness. The little puppies. His name. His address. And this is a hold up written on the back. They caught that guy for sure.
Also if you are going to rob a store make sure your style is current. There was a convicted bank robber who went on a crime spree just a week after being released from federal custody. The reason they caught him is he was wearing 1980s style clothing. That is what he had when he went into prison. That is what he had when he got out. He was wearing his members only jacket. Some of you are saying, "What is wrong with that? I still wear a members only jacket". My question is, "What are you a member of exactly"? People that wear bad jackets. Is that the club? He probably had one of those old cell phones that go along with it. Remember they used to call it the brick for good reason. He got caught as well. I read about a thief in Wichita, Kansas who was arrested in an airport hotel because he tried to pass counterfeit bills. The problem was they were $16.00 bills. If you are going to counterfeit, try to actually work with currency that is functional out there today.
Let me ask you a question. Have you ever been caught in the act of doing something wrong? How many of you have been caught in the act of doing something wrong? The rest of you are just pure and innocent I guess. Not even as a kid. Here is a story of a woman who was caught in the actual act of adultery. Under the law she could have been put to death by stoning. But fortunately for her she didn't get what she deserved because she was brought before Jesus. What could have been the worst day of her life and potentially I might add the last day of her life turned out to be her best. The same could be true of any of us right now. It is not a matter of if but when we are going to say or do something that we wish we had never said or done.
This story shows that we can be forgiven. Our sins can be forgotten and we can be free. We are also going to look at one of the most well-known statements of Christ which is, "He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone". I might add that is also one of the most misunderstood statements of Christ. We will look at that as well. Let's dig in. John 8 starting in verse 1. "But Jesus went to the mount of olives. Now early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came to him: and he sat down and taught them. Then the scribes and pharisees brought to him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, 'teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do you say?' This they said, testing him, that they might have something of which to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though he did not hear. So when they continued asking him, he raised Himself up and said to them, 'he who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.' And again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had raised himself up and saw no one but the woman, he said to her, 'woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?' She said, 'no one, Lord.' And Jesus said to her, 'neither do I condemn you: go and sin no more.' Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, 'I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.'"
Is this not an amazing story? This is one of the greatest stories ever told. Before we find out what Jesus did for this woman let's understand the backdrop of the story because it is significant. John 7 closes with the words, "And everyone went to his own house". John 8:1 has the statement, "But Jesus went to the mount of olives". Notice that contrast. "Everyone went to his own house, but Jesus went to the mount of olives".
There is a poignancy in that image that stirs you. Here is the Savior of the world. God in human form huddled under an olive tree sleeping alone on a cold October night on the mount of olives. Why? Because he had no home to return to. Jesus himself said, "The birds have nests. The foxes have holes, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head". What was he doing? He was communing with his Father. He leaves us an example to follow in this way. Sometimes we need to get away from the crowd and spend time in communion with our Father. Listen to this, sometimes we need to unplug. Anything with a screen on it, turn it off. If it is hanging on the wall. If it is in your back pocket. I am talking about televisions. I am talking about iPads and iPhones or whatever it is. Unplug all of that stuff and be still and know that he is God.
The pharisees had been awake all night hatching this scheme while Jesus was communing with heaven they in effect were communing with hell. It is during these times when we retreat a bit, when we get away from the crowd, you can find the resources to deal with the pressure that life can bring. Jesus said in Mark 6:31 to his disciples, "Come apart to a desert place and rest for a while". The old country preacher Vance Havner once said, "If we don't come apart, we might just plain come apart". That is a good thought. Come apart. Here they are with their plot. They want to arrest Christ. They hatched this scheme to put him on the horns of a dilemma. The lawyers had worked carefully on this. They thought there was no way Jesus could get out of this situation. They find a woman caught in the very act of adultery.
Of course the first question that comes to mind is, "Doesn't it take two to have adultery? Where is the guy"? He is not in the story. Just the woman. I suspect that one of the men condemning her was the guilty party. Much to their surprise Jesus turns the tables on them. He turns the white heat of his wrath on their sin instead of hers much to their chagrin. They thought they looked so holy spouting scripture. The law says this. What do you say? He turned it right back on them. I love this.
This is a good reminder that not everyone who quotes the Bible is necessarily a believer. Often those who quote scripture to condemn others are frequently the guiltiest of all. Those who are quick to find fault with others often have greater fault in their own lives. Isn't that interesting? The people that are so quick to come down on someone else often are guilty of far worse. This is exactly what Jesus was talking about when he said in the sermon on the mount, "Why are you trying to pick the sliver out of your brother's eye when you have a telephone pole in yours". That is just using modern language because I think the people would have done what you just did. They would have chuckled when he said that. It is an illustration. It is a humorous illustration but it makes a point. You are so quick to focus on the minutia in another person's life and yet you are guilty of overt sin. That is what he is pointing out with these guys here. The sin that stands out here is not of a woman who was unrighteous and knew it. The sin that stands out here is that of those that were self-righteous and did not know it.
Here is the thing. If we know of someone who is falling into sin our objective is to confront and restore them. Not condemn and destroy them. This woman was caught in the very act and we may know a person right now that is living in some kind of sin they are doing something they should not be doing. What do we do? We want to try to help them. Here is what the Bible says when someone falls into sin. Galatians 6:1. "Brothers, if a man is overtaken in a fault, you who are spiritual condemn them and then tell as many people as you can what they have done". Right? No. The Bible does not say that. Some of you are saying, "Is that in the Bible"? No it isn't. I made it up. But you would think it was in the Bible by the way some Christians deal with sin in other people's lives.
Here is what it actually says, "Brothers, if a man is overtaken in a fault, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of meekness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted". Again our objective to restore not destroy. Isn't it interesting that is says, "Considering "Yourself lest you also be tempted". Come meekly. Why? Because listen to this. One day it could be you. One day you could be the person that stumbles and falls. One day it could be you that makes that mistake. That commits that sin. Hopefully someone will come in graciousness and boldness to you and help you get back on your feet again. We all have the potential to fall. As the old hymn says, "Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the one I love". Yes we can fall into all kinds of sin. We have to constantly keep our guard up.
Imagine the shock of a young preacher who heard a guest speaker at his church one day utter these words. "I have spent some of the happiest moments of my life in the arms of another man's wife". Then following a pause that speaker added, "That woman was my mother". So people chuckled. The young preacher said, "I love that. I have got to use that line". A few weeks later he was speaking to a group of people and that phrase came to him. He said, "I have spent some of the happiest days of my life in the arms of another man's wife". Then his mind went blank and he couldn't remember the punch line. He muttered meekly, "And for the life of me I can't remember who she was".
We laugh of that but the issue of adultery is no joke. That is what this woman was engaged in. Think of how many lives that have been destroyed by it. How many marriages have come apart because of it? The thing with adultery is that is just part of the sin. It is not all of it as bad as it is. In every case of adultery there is always deception and betrayal.
I read an interesting article in USA Today with the headline, "Business scandals prompt look into personal lives". The article talked about those who had committed corporate fraud and in many of the cases there was also infidelity. They came to realize this. "If their life is a lie, it is not confined to their personal lives. If they are lying to their wives there is huge potential they are also lying to their colleagues, their board of directors, and their auditors". Isn't that interesting? So if there is a breakdown in one area there is usually a breakdown in another area. Committing adultery is not only the act but then you cover it up. It is a rare situation where a husband just confesses to his wife, "I am committing adultery". Or a wife does it to the husband. They usually only confess it after they have been found out and even when they have been found out they deny it as long as they can.
Six reasons why you should not commit adultery. 1. You do incredible damage to your spouse. Paul tells us that when you have a sexual relationship with someone, you may call it a one night stand, but when you have sex with someone you enter into an oneness with them. Even if it is a hooker. In fact Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6, "Don't you know if a man joins himself to a prostitute, he becomes one body with her for the scriptures say, 'the two are united into one.'" When a man and a woman come together and pledge their love one to another one of the ways they demonstrate that love is through the sexual union. The two become one. In fact, God in the book of Genesis called their name Adam. Adam and Eve became one. This is why Jesus actually gave a release clause in a marriage for unfaithfulness. It is such a gross violation.
Yes adultery is grounds for divorce. But adultery is also grounds for forgiveness. I have seen marriages where this sin has occurred and forgiveness has been extended and the marriage has survived it. Just understand that this is a serious sin. Some of you are listening and thinking, "I am not married so I am home free baby". Listen. I have a word for you. Not adultery. It is called fornication. Adultery is when you are married to someone having sex with someone besides your spouse. Fornication is when you are not married having sex with anyone. You will damage yourself when you do it. The Bible warns of the sin of fornication. Or if you live in this state Californication. I think there is a song about that.
Colossians 3 says, "So put to death the earthly things working within you. Have nothing to do with sexual sin, impurity, lust, and shameful desires, because God's terrible anger will come among those that do such things". Listen. If you are engaged in this sin you are in a backslidden state. Make no mistake about it. You may claim that you are a Christian and you may have found a way to rationalize having sex with your boyfriend or girlfriend or that sort of thing. I am just telling you that you my friend are in a backslidden state right now. The scary thing is you may not even know it. That is why you need to repent as quickly as possible. Because once you have crossed this line it is easier to cross it again and again and again. There is a vulnerability in your life.
You say, "Greg won't God forgive me". Of course he will. Listen to this. Others won't as quickly. Sadly some never will. One philosopher said, "God may forgive your sins, but your nervous system won't". There is that guilt deep down inside. Radical measures need to be taken to prevent this from happening again. You say, "I will just marry the person that I am having the fling with". In most cases that doesn't work either. One expert said, "The divorce rate among those who married their lovers was 75%". Seventy five percent divorce rate of those who married the person they had the fling with. Why the reasons for the high divorce rate include the intervention of reality, guilt, expectations, and a general distrust of marriage and a distrust of the affairee. It makes sense. We got married. Do you really trust that creep? Should he really trust you? You are building that marriage on a very faulty foundation.
3. Why should you not commit sexual sin or adultery if you are married especially? You do incredible damage to your children. Oh my. If only people would think about this. The Bible talks about the sins of the parents being visited on the children. That is not talking about some mystical generational curse that is on a family. There is no such thing. This is simply talking about repeated behavior. Little eyes are watching. Little ears are listening. Statistics bear this out that people who get divorced often come from divorced homes. People who end up as alcoholics often come from alcoholic homes. It is very simple. You just pass that sin on. Then your kids pass it on to the grandchildren and the grandchildren grow up and they pass it on. It is the cycle of sin.
We don't think about that. We just think about ourselves and our selfish desires. We don't think about the impact that it has on our own families. David sure didn't think about it. The king of Israel. He had sex with Bathsheba. God forgave him, but there were repercussions. David son's Amnon raped his half-sister Tamar. Effectively he took advantage of a woman just like David took advantage of Bathsheba. Then another of David's sons Absalom killed his brother Amnon just like David killed Bathsheba's husband Uriah.