Forgiven, Beloved, and Called to be Holy
We cannot successfully walk as a Christian unless we understand who we are in Jesus. Our identity in Christ is crucially important. Our very nature changes at the moment of salvation. We are transformed from men and women ruled by our impulses to something very different.
We are forgiven sinners first and foremost. Our old lives disappear under the overwhelming grace of God at the moment of salvation. This provides us with the humility that makes us cling to Jesus.
We are beloved children of God second. This makes us want to remain intimately close to Him.
We are called to be holy lastly. Since God made us a new creation through His grace, He charges us to walk worthy of this new nature.
Who are you in Christ? You are a forgiven sinner. You are a beloved child of God. You are charged to be holy.
This change in our identity is a miracle of God. We transform from enemies of God following after our lusts into the redeemed church of God in a moment. We become His treasured bride. It is amazing and it happens in a moment.
This change is seen clearly in the story of the adulterous woman of the Gospel of John. She is a wonderful example of the transformation into who we are in Christ.
A Very Lost Sheep
The account begins with Jesus teaching His disciples. It was a common scene in those days. A teacher would lead his disciples and teach them through daily life. The difference here is the identity of the teacher. He is God Himself teaching the truths of the Kingdom of God. Not everyone is listening. The Pharisees rudely interrupt Him in order to try to trick Him. They seek to trap Him by throwing before Him a Woman caught in the very act of adultery.
We never know her name. We don’t know anything about her other than the fact that she was committing sexual sin. She is literally defined by her sin. Even our Bibles usually headline this passage as Jesus and the Adulterous Woman. She is branded by her sin.
Do we ever feel this way? Do we feel trapped by the guilt, shame, and filth of a sin issue? Do we walk around under the weight of our great sin? Is our identity defined by sin?
The Pharisees would like nothing more than to have this be the end of the story. They would love for the sin of the adulterous woman to have victory over her. They come to destroy her. Those working against Jesus always want us defined by our sin.
Jesus says He came to set the captives free from sin and death. They want to keep the captives just where they are — in prison, dying under the weight of their sinful humanity. Seeing her die under a hail of stones would be the second-best ending of this story.
They drag her in front of Jesus as a tool to trap Him. They hope putting her before Jesus ends with the destruction – of Jesus or the woman — either outcome would be ok with them.
This is a good reminder for us. To sin, we are just a tool that is disposable and worthless. Satan is all too happy to destroy this woman through her sin.
I am Set Free
Something curious happens in response to the Pharisee’s provocation. Jesus looks at the woman and He sees her with His eyes, not those of Satan. He looks at her with love and not hate. He sees a woman who has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. She is in need of someone to save her from herself and the world that would destroy her. He sees someone who needs a Savior – HIM. The evil plans of the Pharisees just so happen to force her to stand in front of the Savior.
While the crowd is reviling her, using her and trying to destroy her, Jesus welcomes and loves her. He is one who defines her.
Jesus loves even the worst of sinners. He actively pursues sinners waiting with love for them to return to Him so heaven can rejoice. Jesus is always looking with love on sinners no matter what they are doing. He desires to save them. So that they can receive His mercy and grace.
Jesus never defines us by our sin. Jesus always looks at us and sees a lost sheep in need of a shepherd.
Jesus sees the sin of the adulterous woman. But like a shepherd with sheep caught in a thicket, His concern is freeing her and protecting her from further harm. He is the Good Shepherd.
I am the Good Shepherd
It is His words that make her accusers leave – John 8:.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
9At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.
Jesus protects her and shields her. He is her fortress and salvation, her strong tower in her time of need. She looks to Him and stands with Him. The accusers are compelled to slip away to their homes one by one.
Only Jesus is her judge, her final authority and her Lord, so she walks away free:
10Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
11“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
Jesus loves and protects her. He drives away those who want to destroy her. This allows us to live with great certainty and comfort.
Jesus does not condemn her. She is surely guilty. She is worthy of punishment. Jesus chooses mercy and grace. This is the basis for great humility in our lives.
Jesus then gives her direction. Go and sin no more. Leave your life of sin. This provides us with direction and purpose.
Who I am in Christ? I am forgiven. I am loved. I am protected. I am called to be holy.
This is all of our identities in Christ. Loved and shielded from the accusers. Forgiven and loved. Declared clean and ordered to walk worthy of our new identity.
I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Ephesians 4
Do you feel powerless? Do you feel defined by your sin? Are you adulterous or drunken or porn addicted or stealing?
Stand before Jesus, look to Him as your authority, call Him Lord and mean it and you will walk away free. This is your new identification from the ultimate authority. Do you want it?
The adulterous woman paid a huge price to reach Jesus. She was battered and ashamed when thrown at His feet. Yet, she walked away clean.