Softened Heart of Conviction

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Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher (Master), this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test (tempt) him, that they might have some charge to bring against (accuse) him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him (He) who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, (being convicted by their own conscience) they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” John 8:2-11

                The stirring behind this post started when my pastor mentioned these verses in church and then grew to many things as I saw how many lessons Jesus had for us in one interaction. Read the passage above. I have added the King James wording in parenthesis into the ESV translation. The use of multiple translations adds so much depth and character to these moments.

                I see the concept of conviction brought up and the way Jesus not only handles the situation but also the example our Savior gives us. He shows how we are to face our society, which is strikingly similar to this situation. We live in a world that is more concerned with finger pointing than solutions. We are surrounded by people that build up their own position by taring down the position of their neighbor. Conviction is a tricky concept. Self-conviction is exponentially more powerful and heart changing than conviction from others. Self-conviction also includes the work of the Holy Spirit on a heart that has wandered from God’s path. People get so caught up in driving a point deeper, trying to hurt the person doing wrong or build a higher personal position from the mis-step, that the concept of reconciliation and healing have no place to develop. People get so caught up in personal vindication and gain from the pain and wrong doing of others that relationships suffer. Not only the relationship between the people involved but their relationships with everyone else who sees the situation.

                If you read carefully, we see men using the sin of a woman to try and “test (tempt)” Jesus into walking into their planned “accusation.” The men did not care about what she had done as much as they wanted to build up their positions held in Old Testament Law. Their position/ power was held in people’s reliance on the Law. They are attacking the connection to God through His Son, founded on love, forgiveness, sacrifice, and kindness. Also see Fruits of the Spirit. Sit for a moment and recognize the motive here. They even call Jesus “teacher (master)” to give him a platform that they can kick out from under Him.

                Of course, Jesus shows us exactly what the heart of God looks like. He allows the conviction in the woman’s heart to grow as her accusers attack Him. He then offers to allow the men to escalate the situation and expose their motive. If you look at the KJV version of verse 8 you will see “(He)”, let that soak in. “Let him (He) who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Think about who has the authority to cast the stone, the only stone. Capital ‘h’ – He – “who is without sin” = Jesus himself.

                Now that we see that Jesus is the only one who has the authority to cast the stone of conviction, and we see the conviction of the scribes and Pharisees drives them away empty handed in terms of bringing accusation against Jesus; we look for the lesson Jesus has for His followers. A single conviction softens a heart, a repeated conviction hardens that same heart. He could have scolded her with metaphorical stones. He could have explained her sin to her. There was no need. Her conviction was the heart softening kind. The kind of conviction that, when exposed to love and forgiveness, adds one more ray of light to this dark world.

            How many parents take a child who admits fault and scolds them again to prove a point or establish superiority? They falsely believe that their position is held by the ability to point out, correct and punish. They wonder why the child drifts from them and hardens their heart toward them. Why hearts drift from God when attacked by self-righteous Christians. Once convicted, the heart of any person is left vulnerable to any heart that will accept and love it in its brokenness. That’s what our Savior does, and that is what we are called to do; as Christians and parents. Conviction is not yours to provide as a Christian, that’s the Holy Spirit. Conviction is not yours to amplify as a parent. Your place is to love that brokenness and don’t use that instant to define them, even for a moment. A smile and a hug given to a convicted heart wins hearts for Jesus. It wins the hearts of our children. This concept will not fit into the dynamic of this fallen world, but we are not called to conform. We are called to shine in the darkness, to reflect the light of God. To magnify and learn from the light we see in Jesus.

Saved By More Than Words

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If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. (Romans 10:9-10)
       To justify is to declare righteous, to make one right with God. Justification is God’s declaring those who receive Christ to be righteous, based on Christ’s righteousness being imputed to the accounts of those who receive Christ.
       You are saved in the profession of your heart and justified in the righteousness received in Christ. Justification and salvation come from your heart. Being saved is much more than words spoken when prompted. Salvation is evident from a changed heart and the love that grows from it. People can say anything, but the condition of their heart is what speaks to the Father. Their heart is what has to receive Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:21-23) The will of the Father is to love Him with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself. It is the love of a changed heart that truly allows a believer to walk in the salvation of Jesus Christ. The knowledge of Jesus has to fall from your head to your heart where is can grow and blossom into spiritual fruit.
       Let your faith come from more than words. Ask God to let His grace and mercy fill your heart. Let the indwelling of the Spirit which comes through receiving Jesus change your heart in a way that magnifies God through you. Let the words of your mouth reflect the condition of your changed heart and not the content of your mind. The deceiver looks to plant seeds into your mind, but your heart belongs to your Savior. Your heart is the source of your salvation and relationship with God.

Avoid Self-Purification

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                As Christians we are called to live our life in obedience to Christ our Savior. A life lived in submission to Jesus produces spiritual fruit in the believer. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23a) Many believers know that a genuine walk with the Lord shows through in that person’s life. They’ve seen people who know the Lord and know what that looks like as it contrasts with the fallen world.

                Many people fall into a cycle of trying to rid themselves of the fallenness in their hearts hoping that cleaning up their life will produce Christian maturity. The problem is they are using their flesh to control their flesh. That is contradictory to God’s design. Trying to control a spiritual process leads to self-reliance and pride. We must remember that the acceptance of Christ comes with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. That indwelling gives us the ability to mature in the truth given by God’s Word and displayed in Jesus Christ.  But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (John 14:26) Indwelling of God’s Spirit creates an inward change in our hearts which develops into an outward manifestation in our lives. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26)

                What we must be sure to understand is: simply trying to correct sin in our lives is futile. What good is there in attacking our sinful nature with a flesh that is also sinful? We must allow the sinfulness in our hearts to be replaced by the Holy Spirit of God. We must allow the darkness of sin to be forced out by the light of God. Just like cold is the absence of heat and darkness is the absence of light; sin is the absence of submission to God’s presence in us. The only way to drive air out of a cup is to fill it with water. In this case it is the living water found through Jesus Christ. Focus in being filled with the Holy Spirit and submitting. This will give you the ability to live a life where sin and its penalty (death) have no hold over you.

                The verse below talks about sin returning to a heart it has been removed from. When that heart isn’t filled with the good of God the sin has a place to return to. Think of addictions. When good habits aren’t developed the bad ones have a foothold to reoccur. The same is true with sin in our lives. Let the Holy Spirit dwell in your heart and leave no room for the deceiver to pull you away from the Father.

“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.” (Matthew 12:43-45)

Life without Law

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In a genuine walk with Christ it is inevitable that we will come across those who take a legalistic view of God. They focus on the rules that must be followed to be in relation with/ accepted by God. The Old Testament consisted of rules that were meant to keep God’s people focused on Him as well as show the generations to come how impossible a perfect adherence to the law was. In God’s wisdom He fulfilled the law by becoming a perfect/ sinless human and allowing Himself to be offered as a sacrificial lamb for the sins of all who are willing to accept the sacrifice. Not only was the law fulfilled by Jesus Christ but the Ten Commandments given to Moses/ laws of the Prophets were covered in the Two Commandments of Jesus (Matthew 22:37-40). Living in a manner commanded by the Savior leaves a believer in a redeemed state where the focus isn’t law but grace. In the Holy Spirit and its fruit there is no law (Galatians 5:23). A person redeemed through Jesus has the law written on their heart, the fulfilment of law through love is in their new nature. Don’t lose sight of the redemptive work of Jesus. Allowing OT law to rule your life and take your focus away from Christ isn’t God’s desire. If we are meant to fulfill OT laws then Jesus died for nothing, His forgiveness isn’t the only way to redemption, and He was lying in (John 14:6).

Walking in the truth of God will make clear that Jesus is our way, He fulfilled the law, and was truthful in being the way to true reconciliation. I refuse to make my savior and God’s plan obsolete by looking past Jesus to a law that created a need for my Savior. Know God, know Jesus, and know that a heart that belongs to God does not require written laws!

Heart Your Mind To Life

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(James 1:22-24)  But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror.  For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.

Trying to change your actions and your character by being mindful is pointless. Your mind changes and forgets things continuously. We must instead focus on changing our heart which drives our character and never forgets. The heart is consistent as our minds wander. Allowing the Holy Spirit to live in our heart gives us the ability to mature into the nature of God through sanctification and bypass the wandering and forgetfulness of our sinful minds. Our minds are emotionally variable, making them potential tools of the deceiver. If he can convince us to stay convicted only in thought then we will destroy our connection to God and His ability to work through the Spirit in our heart. The content of our heart is what people really see in us. Trying to cover up a sinful heart with mindful action inevitably fails. Having a heart filled with the Spirit of God allows our faith to be alive and clear through our works, making us a source of God’s light in this dark world.

(James 2:26) For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

Just as your heart without the Spirit is dead.