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.

The One That Turns Back

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       Today I attended a sermon where the pastor referenced Luke 17:11-19 and looked at the gratitude of the 1 of 10 lepers who turned back and fell at the feet of Jesus, praising God. While this is a great example of thankfulness and gratitude, it speaks to a much larger concept in my spirit.

       When this verse was read aloud I felt a stirring that pointed to something more. I see 10 lepers sent to the priests and were healed along the way. The customs of the Hebrews were focused on the priest as their link to God as the priests explained the laws of the Old Testament. Then when they are all healed, the Samaritan or “the foreigner” as Jesus says, turns back and falls at the feet of Christ. Jesus inquires where the others are. Some people may see one grateful man and nine that are not as grateful. I on the other hand, see nine Hebrew men caught up in the customs of the law and one outsider who sees Christ as the source and returns to Him in gratitude. He recognized Jesus as the ‘great High Priest’ of the book of Hebrews. Many Christians get caught up in religion, in man’s attempt to reach and/or please God. What I see in this short excerpt from Luke is God reaching down to His people through His Son and our Savior Jesus; and Jesus recognizing that the one who returned to give thanks to God at the feet of the Messiah was the one who’s faith made him well.

       Don’t look to religion, look to Christ Himself. Find your healing at the foot of the cross in personal relationship with your Savior. Your faith makes you well.

Since then we have a high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)

Walk of Faith

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                I was listening to a lecture from a professor of theological studies and he made a point that resonated with me. It’s always amusing when a side note gets your attention. He was talking about the faithful characters in the Bible and how even in their failures God was pleased with their faithfulness. He reminded the audience that salvation comes through faith, not through success or results. We can thank Jeremiah for that example. Poor guy professed God for a lifetime and was repaid with rejection and failure, if you measure through results. The professors example was of two Christ following people who disagreed about the meaning of a piece of scripture. He explained that their faith in what the derived from the scripture was pleasing to God. This is a good example of the failure of Christian legalism in growing spiritual maturity and a stronger relationship with Jesus.

                I thought of an analogy that made me smile so I wanted to share. God gives us direction through His Word and even an example in His Son, but we fail continuously. Many people get discouraged, but that should not be the case. Imagine as a parent you tell your child to get dressed. They run off and come back mismatched, different shoes and buttons done out of order. Are you angry at the lack of perfection or happy that they followed your direction the best they could? It’s probably a proud moment that they put so much effort into following your instruction and trying to make you happy. I feel God has a similar mindset for His children at times. He doesn’t give exact direction for all situations but allows you to honor Him in your actions and decisions. Then just like the parent of the mismatched child, He is more than willing to help add correctness and completeness to your faithfulness. Your Heavenly Father will rebutton the shirt and find the other shoe. Follow His Word and stay in communication with Him. God never asks for perfection, He only ask for your heart.

               David made many mistakes and the Lord still blessed Him and allowed his line to bring about the Savior of the world. He was a man after God’s own heart even though he was far from perfect. We can also look at Joseph who was amazing in his faith because he was guided by a God honoring heart as opposed to directions from God. He trusted in God and honored him with his actions and the Lord prospered him and his family. A follower’s walk in faith is more loved by God than a perfection we can never achieve.

                God has already given victory and completeness to His children through their faith. He sent Jesus to make a way for us to reach Him. We should never count on our ability to do everything right. We should be thankful that the grace and mercy of God are ours as His children through our faith in His Son.

Grace gives us what we don’t deserve, Mercy doesn’t give us what we do.

Obedience Over Effort

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“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you from being king.” – Samuel (1 Samuel 15:22-23)

                The religious actions of people will never take the place of God’s desire for obedience. People think that they can please God by doing things that they feel serve Him. God desires your service for His kingdom but He desires to lead you in your service. Samuel says in the scripture above that divination (prediction) can be considered rebellion and presumption (assumption) is considered to be on par with immorality and self-reliance. We can’t walk a path that we have designed for ourselves and then be disappointed when God won’t honor our misguided decisions in how we should follow Him. In the case above, Saul was told to kill all of the people and the livestock of the people God had chosen. He instead kept their king alive and brought back all of the good livestock to sacrifice it to the Lord. He directly disobeyed God’s order to kill everything. His intentions might have been good but God was looking to be obeyed. What use does God have with the things He created being sacrificed to Him? The intention of sacrifice was submission and obedience in its implementation. Bypassing what God has called you to do and trying to serve Him in your best efforts will not please Him. Don’t fall victim to self-reliance in how you want to be part of God’s kingdom. Let the Spirit He gave you through your faith in Jesus as your Savior guide you into your service for Him. Recognize Him as Lord and let obedience through love be what drive you into relationship with your Creator.