Where to Find True Freedom for Your Soul Part 1: The Sinner
This is Part 1 of a Two-part Series. Today we will look at the Sinner. Part 2 addresses "the Saint."
An urban legend exists about a groom who humiliates his cheating bride. The story goes something like this: the groom finds out his fiancée is cheating and hires a private investigator to take photos. Instead of ending their relationship, he plots the ultimate revenge. He goes through with the expensive wedding, making her parents pay for all of it. At the reception, he tells everyone to take out the manila envelope hidden under their chair. As each guest opens their envelope, they are shocked with a photo of the bride having sex with the best man.
We desperately want this urban legend to be true because something in it reaches to our core. The ultimate hurt requires the ultimate revenge. We blame this fictional bride, clutch our pearls, and call her a whore. The villain gets the justice she deserves. All the while, we are doing the same thing to God as this bride did to her groom.
For a moment, let’s put ourselves in the shoes of the bride. What would drive someone to such betrayal? What drives any of our actions? As humans, we are either constantly seeking to find our worth or covering our pain by fulfilling our desires. Maybe this bride was trying to fill a void of love by sleeping with multiple men? She didn’t think about the consequence of her actions because her drive to feel worthy was stronger than her moral compass.
When we look for worth and a fulfillment apart from God, we will find ourselves in an act of betrayal. John Calvin describes our hearts as perpetual idol-making factories. We take good gifts from God and we make them ultimate over God.
The places we look to for worth and fulfillment are deeply rooted in our hearts: relationships, the perfect grade, material possessions, food, sex, or our own sense of righteousness. For me, it is the approval of others. Whatever it is, it may seem to work for a little while, but in the end it never fulfills, it always disappoints, and it always enslaves.
A thriving relationship with Jesus is the only thing that can fully satisfy our souls and give us worth. Our relationship with Jesus thrives when we realize and believe that He didn’t come to condemn us for our idols and vices, but he came to save us from them.
John 8:2-11 tells an account of a woman who was seeking to fulfill her desires and find worth apart from Christ. When the woman encountered Jesus, she was changed.
This woman wasn’t merely suspected of adultery, but she was caught in the act, much like the bride in the urban legend. She is singled out (notice the man she was committing adultery with gets off scot-free as he’s nowhere to be seen in this story.) She’s dragged to the temple before hundreds of people and her sin is announced for all to hear. Can you imagine the utter shame and humiliation she felt in that moment? Can you imagine the terror- these men were calling for her to be stoned to death!
This woman is not very different from you and me. She disobeyed the commandments of God because she believed that she could be fulfilled and find meaning in a sexual relationship. She believed her sexual relationship with this man would make her feel more loved than God could make her feel. We can fill that last sentence in with whatever we are looking to for fulfillment apart from God. The woman caught in people-pleasing doesn’t have the same ring to it, but it certainly does the same damage to our souls.
Jesus’ answer to her accusers is surprising. He says, “Let anyone among you who is sinless cast the first stone.” It must have been an agonizing few minutes as she waited to see if anyone would actually throw a stone at her. She sat in her fear and shame as each man walked away.
Jesus didn’t let things play out this way to be cruel-because He is not a cruel God. He was driving home the point that He alone was the only one present who had a right to stone the woman. He alone was sinless. He alone had every right to condemn her-but He didn’t. Jesus does not condemn sinners, but instead he offers us freedom from sin.
John 3:17 says, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
This is conjecture, but I imagine this woman knew she deserved condemnation. She knew she deserved to be stoned to death. It is why she never protested. She was ashamed and deserving of death and then she hears the sweet words of Jesus, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and leave your life of sin.”
Notice how Jesus doesn’t merely offer her forgiveness. He offers her salvation and freedom from her shame and her sin. He tells her to leave her life of sin-to leave behind seeking meaning and fulfillment in the embrace of a lesser idol and to instead find the only true fulfillment in knowing Him, Jesus Christ.
He offers the same to you.
Those of us who already trust Jesus as our Savior sometimes believe the lie that Jesus isn’t enough. We look back to our idols even though we’ve already been rescued from them. Jesus’ offer never changes-he is still offering you freedom again and again and again.
Will you accept his offer of no condemnation and true freedom for your soul?
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