What is the biggest mistake you’ve ever made in your life? What have you done that you wish you could undo — you know, push the Control-Z key and make like it never happened?
Adultery? Theft? Deceit? Pornography? Abortion?
Good people doing a bad thing in a weak moment is common to all humanity, isn’t it? How we deal with it, however, can uniquely set the trajectory for our whole life.
Caught in the Act
Maybe it’s been years since you’ve even thought of your biggest regret. Humans have a way of building emotional and psychological protections around wounds. It’s typical for us to never fully deal with the big mistakes of the past. But our souls still know. Especially if we haven’t asked for and accepted forgiveness, or if we have an incorrect belief of how God views our sin.
Jesus knows all about the sins we hide. How does He respond to them?
Remember the famous story in John chapter 8 about the woman caught in adultery? It’s set in Jerusalem. Jesus is there and He has been getting more public with His claims of being the Son of God, the Savior of the world. The religious leadership of the time, the Pharisees, are furious and want to get rid of Him.
They drag a woman to His feet and say they’ve caught her in the act of adultery. They demand Jesus say what He would do with her.
If He says “Don’t stone her,” they’ll accuse him of breaking the Mosaic Law. If He says “Stone her,” they’ll give the common people a chance to accuse Him of being uncompassionate, and they’ll set up a situation where He could get in trouble with the Romans, rulers of Israel.
But Jesus outfoxes them.
“Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When 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’.” (John 8:7)
What’s going on here?
In Grace and Truth
This is a model of how Jesus responds to the thing that, down deep in your heart, makes you feel guilty and dirty and ashamed, and you have either repressed or tried to forget or make up for.
How does Jesus respond? In grace. AND in truth.
In John 1 we’re told that God provided His law through Moses, but “grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17)
God will always greet you with grace and truth. Isn’t this how He responded to the woman?
“‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’
“‘No one, sir,’ she said.
“’Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin’.” (John 8:10-11)
Does He accept her sinful behavior? No. He acknowledges that she was living a life of sin. That’s the truth part. But there is compassion and there is forgiveness. Grace.
Coming H.O.M.E. to Jesus
But there’s more. God not only forgives, but He can completely restore and completely heal. If you let Him. I think a lot of us have a hard time believing that.
We don’t know whether the woman caught in adultery went off and lived a pure life, believing herself forgiven and righteous before God. We can hope so! But how about you? Are you still ashamed of the worst failure of your life?
We don’t need to be! Why? Because “if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from all of our iniquities.” (1 John 1:9)
If you need help believing this, then I want you to go H.O.M.E. Take these steps:
H: Be honest with yourself and God.
O: Get the truth out in the open, and be open to Him using you in the lives of others.
M: Find a mentor who knows your past and will hold you accountable.
E: Make sure you exit from sinful circumstances.
Remember, “the Lord is near to those who call upon Him, to those who call upon Him in truth.” (Psalm 145:18)
For more information on this topic, take a look at Chip’s series, “The Real God.”
Founder & Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge
Chip Ingram is the CEO and teaching pastor of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. A pastor for over thirty years, Chip has a unique ability to communicate truth and challenge people to live out their faith. He is the author of many books, including The Real God, Culture Shock and The Real Heaven. Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four grown children and twelve grandchildren and live in California.More Articles by Chip