“Woman, where are your accusers? Is there no one here to condemn you?”
“No one, sir.”
“Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”
— John 8:10–11
If I want to follow Jesus, shouldn’t I see what he did, hear what he said, and follow his example? I might write Jesus’ words a hundred times on my mental marking board. Then I would have to step back and wonder.
Did he really mean that? He expects me to “sin no more”? How is that even possible?
Given the fact that the Bible says “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), I might want this at the top of my list of Jesus’ most important words.
Sin may not be what we think it is.
In the first century, Christians could debate whether eating meat sacrificed to idols was a sin (1 Corinthians 8:1–4). Today we can argue whether drinking beer or watching an R-rated movie will close the doors to Heaven. In participating in such disputes, I’m judging symptoms that miss what’s most important, the condition of a person’s heart, which God sees but I cannot.
Back in simpler days when shade-tree mechanics could fix most car ailments, I sometimes misinterpreted the symptoms. After overhauling the carburetor, I realized that I needed to replace the fuel filter. As soon as I found what was really wrong, I fixed the problem and the symptoms disappeared.
The root problem with sin is the motive, not the motion.
The apostle Paul said all the permissible directions were not a good choice, but what he most needed was the one way that God was speaking to his heart (1 Corinthians 6:12). The root issue with sin is more than a matter of Law. It’s failure to do the good that we are being impressed to do (James 4:17).
More laws and harsher punishments won’t eliminate sin.
Law-breakers have already judged a greater benefit in doing what they want, so they will continue to lie, cheat, and steal, believing they won’t be caught. When speeders see a police car, they’ll hit the brakes, but not before.
The apostle Paul said the Law was given for the unrighteous, not the righteous (1 Timothy 1:9). Really? Why is that? Because our focus should be on what is most right, not on avoiding what is most definitely wrong.
So the Law is ignored by the unrighteous and isn’t needed for the righteous.
Jesus came to accomplish what the Law could never do.
The problem with the Law was its inability to change our desire to follow our self-serving ways. Isaiah predicted the day when the Law wouldn’t be needed, when the Holy Spirit would speak to our hearts, saying, “Go this way” (Isaiah 30:21), and Jesus fulfilled that promise when he sent the “comforter” to be our guide (John 16:13).
There is a problem, however, because people who don’t want to listen can close their ears and make lies be their truth, no longer having a conscience for what is right (1 Timothy 4:2).
If I’m not listening to what God is saying to my heart, then I will manipulate the Law to suit my selfish desires (1 Timothy 1:8).
Our sins belong in the past, not the present.
Growing up in a Christian home, I obeyed the Law.
When I wanted to.
Which was most of the time.
But I was a kid who really hated anyone messing with my stuff. The war began when I caught my sister playing with my toys. What did I do? The only right thing is such a situation: attack.
The first time I fought, the Law was explained to me and I was forgiven. But as I kept battling for my way, hitting my sister, forgiveness was not an option—not until I truly repented and changed my ways.
I’m bothered when Christians tell me they sin every day, and that’s okay because God loves them and they are forgiven. The apostle Paul says, if I keep doing what I now know I shouldn’t do, I can’t expect to see the Kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19–21).
When we catch ourselves doing something we know isn’t right, it’s time to repent, crying out to God, putting both the motive and the motion into the past where it can be forgiven.
If sin looks good to us, we’ve missed an important truth.
When Moses left his Egyptian heritage and joined God’s people, he rejected the pleasures of sin (Hebrews 11:24–25). Why did he choose pain above pleasure? Because he looked past the short-lived pleasure and recognized the greater eternal value of pleasing God.
If sin is ever attractive to me, it’s because my eyes of faith haven’t seen the much greater reward. But this raises the question, how can I see the value of something I haven’t seen before? If my desire isn’t what I feel it should be, transformation seems as likely as a leopard changing his spots.
Sin No More
Jesus didn’t come to forgive my sins so I would accept him. He came to change my spots, removing every blemish one after another so he could accept me (Ephesians 5:26–27).
Having tasted how good the Lord is, I can focus on the value of walking with him, and I can intensify my desire to do what is most pleasing to him.
Put aside all evil, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander. Like newborns, thirst for pure, spiritual milk that will help you grow now that you have tasted how good the Lord is. — 1 Peter 2:1–3