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.

Forgiveness

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There are attributes in many believers that seem unnatural to the people around them. Some people have a joy that shines out of them, some the patience that lasts forever. While all seem unnatural in this dark world, they are beautiful when they show their light to the darkness. One of the blessings given to me is my ability to forgive. I took an introspective moment to consider how to explain something so unnatural to those around me. I would like to credit the Holy Spirit. The part of me that thought of vengeance or vindication has become so quiet, its whisper has disappeared.

         Like many of the gifts the Spirit gives to believers, the beauty of them can’t be fully described to people who don’t walk in them. We all know that the Word of God calls us to forgive. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14-15) This passage means so much more to a forgiving heart. I see Jesus giving an instruction for us to do unto others as our Father has done for us in providing His Son. Even more, I see an amazing Father teaching His children to do something that is good for them even though it isn’t pleasant by nature. Like a parent telling a child to bathe regularly; the child can’t appreciate the lessons in hygiene given to them until they are older and matured. Similarly we begin to appreciate the Word of God as our faith grows and our spirit matures.

               When we refuse to forgive those who offend or harm us we change who we are. We affect the way we see others in terms of trust and kindness. The hurt we hold onto in being unforgiving causes damage and inevitably reveals itself in a way we don’t recognize, in a completely unrelated situation. I think of people who hurt others as fallen and sinful, which applies to us all. In that way we are all consistently falling short of the Glory of God. The nature of people is like gravity. We are always sinful just as gravity always pulls. When we fall do we lash out against gravity or accept what it is?

         Lacking forgiveness is like refusing to accept the nature of sin and man. Refusing to work within God’s design just makes us uncomfortable as the world continues to dwell in darkness. Forgiveness is a light to a world content with its fallenness. Show this world forgiveness with a humility that humbles a hardened heart.

         Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, (Luke 17:3) We are told here to pay attention to ourselves. That makes sense seeing that forgiveness is for our well-being over the well-being of the offender. I feel that forgiveness given, even when there has been no repentance, calms the heart of the offended and warms the heart of our Father. Christ was crucified so that we would have the choice to be forgiven. He died for those who have shown no repentance so that the option of salvation is theirs. Forgive unconditionally, break the cycle of pride so that the love of Christ can be felt through you.

But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you. (Psalm 130:4)

Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. (Psalm 32:1)

Walk on Water or Struggle to Swim

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We all know people whose fire for The Lord doesn’t burn as hot as it once did. The bright light that was such an inspiration, such a beacon for Christ, struggles to even be visible. Maybe you are that person. You remember the joy of walking so closely to your Savior and now find the world smothering your passion.

                As I sat in a bible study the Lord laid an image on my heart that was so clear it filled my mind and sparked my imagination. Living a worldly life is comparable to drowning. When we try to find our peace, joy, or purpose in earthly things we end up empty and alone. The lack of fulfillment causes us to struggle harder and to seek greater extremes to find the joy we remember. We can recall what we found in Christ but struggle to find the foothold we want to stop struggling against drowning in our sinfulness, pride, self-focus, and earthly desire. I imagine the panic and hopelessness of drowning and the inability to overcome the desperation, unable to remember what solid ground felt like. It’s kicking and fighting to stay afloat as hope sinks below the surface. We look up from under the water trying to remember what fresh air in our lungs felt like. It was this kind of feeling that caused the image the Spirit gave me to flourish in my struggling heart.

                We struggle but our Savior walks on water and commands the seas to be calm. When Peter focused on Jesus he was able to walk on water too. It’s in a Christ focused existence that we can walk on top of the turbulent seas of worldliness, and that Christ can command those waves to be calm or show us how to let the water roll off our back as He leads us by example. When we take the right hand of God and allow Him to lead again, the water we once allowed to cover us becomes a mist, noticeable but harmless.

                We are called to seek first the kingdom of God, focused on Christ, walking on the water with Him. We can be sure that even when we fall away and lose our focus on Him, His focus never leaves us. His hand is always outstretched and waiting for us to take it again. The world and all of the temporary things in it will quit on us and leave us alone and empty. We have a promise that our eternal God will never leave nor forsake us. Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5 quoting Deuteronomy 31:6)

I found the picture above, it’s the closest one to the personal picture the Spirit gave me. I hope it helps make these words more real and reignites the hope in your heart that will fuel your fire.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33)

Take Care Then How You Hear

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For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light. Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away. (Luke 8:17-18)

         The passage above is referring to God making Himself known through His children on earth. He will fill our submitted hearts and allow us to be a reflection of the light found in Jesus Christ. We are to reflect the light of Christ to this dark world. As we walk out our salvation, the ways of God will be revealed to us through His work in our hearts and in our lives. God’s purpose for us and His work in redeeming us from our sin will give us a testimony that reveals more of God’s character and sovereignty to the world. All of the testimonies combined still can’t reveal the infinite God in His entirety, but it builds up a kingdom of believers known as the church to represent Him to the lost.
        

         We should therefor take care how we hear God and how we walk with Him. We must make sure that our sinful flesh doesn’t cause us to misrepresent God to a world consumed with the darkness of sin. When we seek God with all our heart we find Him. When we ask God to lead, we receive Him. As we walk in the righteousness of the Holy Spirit our light becomes brighter because: “for the one who has, more will be given.” In turn, the people who make crooked the paths of the lost by leading with faulty revelation (the one who has not), what they think they have will be taken away. God puts to shame the wise. The wise will be put to shame; they will be dismayed and trapped. Since they have rejected the word of the LORD, what kind of wisdom do they have? (Jeremiah 8:9)

          Let God be the leader of your walk. Let the Holy Spirit guide your heart as it fills you in your submission. Let God make straight your path and be the light at your feet. Let the light given to us in our Lord Jesus Christ shine through us just as the moon lights the night using the light reflected from the sun. Take care how you hear and how you walk. Walk in His righteousness so that more will be given to you in your obedience. Be careful not to let your flesh deceive you. It is then that what you think you have will be taken away. That may sound like a punishment but that is not the case. God’s infinite love takes away the lesser version of what you think you have in order to make His fullness available to you. His mercy leads you back to the fullness of His light and the blessing of being His representation to the darkness of this world.

Holy Seed in a Calloused Heart

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“‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”
But as the terebinth and oak leave stumps when they are cut down, so the holy seed will be the stump in the land. (Isaiah 6:9-10,13)

          The first verse here, from Isaiah 6, describes those who walk blindly through the darkness of this world. They have access to the holiness of God but refuse to let it penetrate their heart and cause changes that lead to sanctification. They miss the fullness they have access to in Jesus Christ and His atoning work on the cross. The biggest hindrance is people’s refusal to submit to God bigger purpose for His people. They can’t imagine that they are not the center of His movements in this world. The thought of suffering or becoming a servant leave them seeking gratification in their own way. The constant struggle against the pull of their hearts toward their Father cause them to become calloused so that the desire for God becomes dull. They fall into the trap of putting their desires over those of God. God desires that submission to Him and a deep relationship rooted ion love would lead our desires to become His desires.
          The voice of God becomes drown out in the business associated with self-servitude and self-gratification. The calloused heart isn’t the pliable vessel where the Holy Spirit is meant to thrive and shine forth the light of God through His children. When a person wrapped in the cords of the enemy comes to the end of themselves, they are then in a position to receive the greater gifts of God. Their eyes can then see, ears can then hear, and hearts can then receive the power found in Jesus Christ through their weakness. They can then turn to the faithful Father who stands patiently waiting for His children so that none may parish.
          The second verse above talks about the holy seed of God. In this case it refers to the remnant that God uses to carry His glory through time even as the people turn away with callused hearts. I think of this as the holy seed found in every person that we refer to as a conscience. God speaks into our spirit and writes His moral code upon mankind made in His image. Even in a calloused condition the draw toward God, the empty place we look to fill with lesser things, still causes us hardship and struggle. Acknowledge the holy seed that pulls at you when God isn’t first place in your life. Never let your heart become so calloused that the Holy Spirit cannot shine through your life. Refuse to let yourself be ruled by your fleshly desires. Be restored to, submitted to and led by your Heavenly Father so that your life finds the purpose and joy for which it was created.

The steps of Walking with Christ (4 of 7)

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4) Shedding of Self
As the believer learns what it looks like to walk with Christ they see that the process involves a new heart. This new heart is made new by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit functions at full capacity in a heart made pure as sinfulness is pushed out. The darkness is replaced by the light of God. We see this in the power exercised by the only sinless heart to ever walk the earth: Jesus. He was perfectly connected to the Father and the full power of the Spirit healed and raised the dead. The same Spirit indwells in believer when they accept Christ as a sacrifice for their sin and allows that Spirit to enter their heart. It is at this point that that we have to shed ourselves, let go of our flesh and allow our spirits to grow. We have to decrease so that God’s power in us can increase. We are called to a purpose that exceeds our expectations and a joy that surpasses the best this world has to offer. The process of shedding requires humility and a trust that God must give us the strength to accomplish. Ask God to give you a new strength and ability to walk with Him. Your Heavenly Father seeks to guide you into rightly walking with Him. He sent His only Son to die so that you could be reconciled to Him, of course He’s willing to show you your purpose in your new family. Let go of what you hold on to for comfort and step into the embrace that fits you perfectly and last for eternity.
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you (Ezekiel 36:26a)
Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit (Ezekiel 18:31)
You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. (Romans 8:9)

Steps of Walking with Christ (1 of 7)

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1) Awareness
We are all aware that there is something more. It may get shoved down to a place where it can be temporarily ignored but it resurfaces when the panic arises. Our desire to fall into God is at its greatest when we are at the end of ourselves and realize that our need/ desperation just outgrew our pride. God puts eternity in the hearts of all men. Some come to the One who transcends time and is larger than eternity. Others fall into the snares of this world be trying to fill the void of their lives with things that will perish. They don’t see that only the eternal God can fill the void He made for Him to rest. How many people do you know that are lost in the darkness of this sinful world? They need the light of Jesus to brighten their life but are in too much turmoil to turn and seek the light. It’s comparable to a child who is in fighting to keep their head above water. The fear of drowning causes panic and they flail about trying anything to sooth that panic and find comfort. All of the terror of their heart keeps them from seeing that the water is only four foot deep and they can stand up at any time. The light of Jesus is always within reach. God and the Son are only a submitted prayer away. Your Heavenly Father is seeking to deliver you from the darkness. Jesus has overcome this world and He seeks for the lost to join Him. Being aware He exists and calls to you is the first step to beginning a walk that leads to things so great only God knows what He has for those you love Him.
“What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” the things God has prepared for those who love him (1 Corinthians 2:9)
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33b)