I received an interesting message several weeks ago. Rather than try to explain it, probably best to give an excerpt from it.
“…do you not think your posts about cocaine and your past sounds self-righteous? People do worse – alcohol in my opinion is worse. Nothing irritates me more than people who post about, a) being vegan, b) how they found God. In my opinion God works most through people on the ground than the people on the alter.”
Unfortunately, due to being in A&E at the time, I was unable to respond with as much clarity as I would have liked.
With regards to the point about people on the ground doing great things, I tend to agree with her. When one considers the awesome work that homeless shelters and food banks do for the homeless and poor, one dare not argue otherwise.
Hence, let’s dwell on the matter of ‘self-righteousness’.
One thing I still find to be a huge turn-off regarding Christianity is self-righteousness. And by that I mean those who love nothing better than to promote a perception of holiness, perfection, and right-standing with God – not for the sake of others, but for their own status, glory, and satisfaction; rather like the pharisees.
Grace, which is what healed me, is nothing to do with personal will-power or self-promotion, but wholly about God’s decision to love you and I unconditionally and unfailingly, despite our short-comings. The very nature of grace demands we focus on the reality of God’s insurmountable and unfailing love for us. In other words, shifting focus from our problems to God’s love for us. It is his love that heals, not our so-called ‘righteousness’ or works.
The story of the woman caught in adultery isn’t simply a reference to the misgivings of extra-marital relations, but one that relates to all things pertaining to desires of the flesh, be-they lust, anger, drugs, stealing, greed, lying, pride, arrogance, jealousy, vindictiveness, gossiping, judging others, or anything else.
The key to understanding how grace works lies in the order of what Jesus said to her.
1. Where are your accusers?
This is God’s way of letting us know that absolutely no-one is free from temptation or sin. Not one of us can claim to have never done wrong, not erring in the present, or certain to never fail in the future. We did, we do, and we most certainly will. Therefore, the first lesson is that you should never think you are the only person struggling with a failing. One of Satan’s most effective weapons is his ability to make one feel as though he or she is the only person experiencing a particular challenge. And the more one believes this lie, the more one focuses on one’s challenge, resulting in a constant fear of what might happen next, which inevitably leads to fall after fall.
The first part of her healing process was the realisation that she was not the only person with challenges and failings.
2. Neither do I condemn you
One of the most common reasons for a continuous spiral into the heinous grip of destructive addictions and failings is the belief that God is angry. Yes, he is angry – but with the pain your challenge is causing you, not you.
He is not angry with you. Rather, he wants you and I to know he will never condemn us. The knowledge of ‘no condemnation’ enables us to focus less on our problems and more on the reality of God’s unconditional love.
There are few verses that bring such relief and joy than the words, ‘neither do I condemn you’. Those words not only give us hope, but also encourage us to embrace God’s love, as against constantly dwelling on how bad we are.
3. Go, and sin no more
Since this message began with a reference to my past, I think it appropriate to use the example of a personal experience to explain how this stage of the healing process works.
So, there I was on a Friday night, at the start of what would most likely be a typical 24/48-hour cocaine and sex session, several years ago, reveling in the multiple highs the substance was giving me, when all of a sudden, I thought to myself, ‘can’t believe I’m doing this again. I’m going to be so angry and depressed when this is over’. I should point out that this particular thought usually popped into my head within the first two / three hours, and as a result, I would continue to get high for as long as possible in futile attempt to prevent the downer that inevitably followed. But on this occasion the words, “I love you, and I’ve already forgiven you” filtered through my mind.
What happened next was rather surreal. Within ten minutes, I stopped doing what I was doing, told the lady I was with I no longer wanted to continue, and went to bed – without fear or condemnation.
It is the knowledge that one is not condemned that breaks the stranglehold of failings and sets one free. By the time Jesus said ‘go, and sin no more’ he had already laid the foundation for the woman’s healing.
The knowledge of God’s love empowers us to overcome.
Did she err again? Who knows, probably. I know I certainly did. But with God’s love comes an inner desire to be better.
This leads to my final point.
Does God’s unconditional love for you and I mean we can do whatever we like? In truth, yes. But when we accept his unconditional love, we also partake in an overwhelming desire to do good, as against doing things that are inherently detrimental to both ours and others’ well-being. The hope we have lies not in our ability or will to do right, but in God’s unconditional and unfailing love.
The more we focus on his love, the greater our desire to do good, and the stronger the foundation to ‘live’ right becomes. It is not of our doing, but by his love. This is why we can never boast about anything other than his Love, Grace, and Mercy.
Whatever you’re going through right now, be-it as a result of your own failings or the cruelty of chance, rest in and focus on these three truths.
1. God loves you and will never stop loving you.
2. He sees your desire to overcome and wants you to simply focus on his love for you, leaving him to do the rest.
3. If Jesus died for you before you even knew him, imagine how much more he’ll do for you now that you are in him and he in you!
Compare whatever it is you’re going through to the fact that he died for you and you’ll quite rightly come to the conclusion that the battle is a hopelessly unfair mismatch.
His love has already won.
“Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
“No Lord,” she said.
“Then neither do I. Go, and sin no more.”
John 8 vs 10 – 11
“Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? No, despite these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loves us.”
Romans 8 vs 35 – 37
“For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his son”
Romans 5 vs 10