Are you familiar with the Bible story of the woman caught in adultery? You and I may or may not have ever been in shoes like hers, but nonetheless, in our own mind, our sin is just as hard to bear. So despite her obvious guilt (and ours), let’s look at this story not just as a picture of initial salvation, but instead as a true depiction of God’s continuing love, understanding, and instruction:
Early in the morning (at dawn), He came back into the temple [court], and the people came to Him in crowds. He sat down and was teaching them when the scribes and Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery. They made her stand in the middle of the court and put the case before Him. ”Teacher,” they said, “This woman has been caught in the very act of adultery. Now Moses in the Law commanded us that such [women—offenders] shall be stoned to death. But what do You say [to do with her—what is Your sentence]?”
This they said to try (and test) Him, hoping they might find a charge on which to accuse Him.
But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger. However, when they persisted with their question, He raised Himself up and said, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” Then He bent down and went on writing on the ground with His finger. They listened to Him, and then they began going out, conscience-stricken, one by one, from the oldest down to the last one of them, till Jesus was left alone, with the woman standing there before Him in the center of the court.
When Jesus raised Himself up, He said to her, “Woman, where are your accusers? Has no man condemned you?” She answered, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you either. Go on your way and from now on sin no more” (John 8:2-11).
Did you hear Him correctly?
Do you realize this is still what the Lord is saying today? “Go and sin no more.”
When the devil, our own conscience, or anyone else, brings an accusation against us, do you realize God’s first reaction to us is the same as Jesus had with this woman? “Go and sin no more.” She was guilty but Jesus showed compassion. He didn’t condone her sin by understanding it; He simply revealed the nature and heart of God by not condemning her.
Many theologians believe when Jesus was writing in the dirt with his finger that He was identifying the sins of those in the crowd. As their conscience was pricked, they left one by one. Because the truth is, when we find ourselves guilty of sin, we should be bruised with sorrow over it. In other words, just because God offers grace doesn’t mean we should take it lightly.
But at the same time, we need to understand the heart of God is compassionate (and holy) and His desire is to teach us, because unfortunately we will fail again. But He also knows we have been engrafted with His nature, and patience is required. The fruit of righteousness will show up eventually.
What Jesus said to the woman is what He is still saying to us today, “Go and sin no more.” This is our instruction. It means, “Learn your lesson. Receive forgiveness. Don’t do it again.”
Many times I have had to go to God in prayer and express my sincere remorse for failing again at something I felt I knew better. Failing again for the same thing didn’t necessarily mean I was taking forgiveness for granted. On the contrary, it meant I was growing. The danger would be if I committed the same sin again (and again) but I wasn’t grieved by it. Just as a child learning to walk, stumbles and picks themselves back up only to stumble again as their legs grow stronger, we sometimes fail because our spiritual legs are weak too.
God understands this and it is why He says again (and again), “Go and sin no more.”
Our response should be, “Yes, Lord.” And then our actions should match our words. When sin is revealed in our lives, we should repent. The word repent is defined in the Greek as meaning to think differently. Therefore, repentance isn’t just an action—it’s also a mental decision.
It insinuates we must first recognize the wrong in our life before we can change it. The Apostle Paul said, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:2).
We can’t change our past. But despite the remorse, guilt, and temptations of our flesh, we can be changed.
“For we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16b), and therefore, we are infused with His nature and His righteousness.
[Facing the Mirror, pages 144-149]