Beauty for Ashes
Sermon Article 26/05/2019
Reading from John 8:2-12 (NIV)
I want you to envision this story as if it were happening right in front of you.
Smell the Jerusalem air, the dust and the robes. Are you there?
There is a group of people, “the mob”, and they are confronting Jesus with this woman caught in the very act of adultery. This is probably the most humiliating thing that has ever happened in this woman’s life. Can you feel her shame? If you were in Jesus’s sandals what would you have done, compromise or condemn? For me this is one of the most beautiful passages found in scripture. After boldly challenging the sin and hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees Jesus declares over this woman “…then neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more”. Jesus is giving her the power to live a life free from the bondage of sin.
I don’t know what’s going on in your life at the moment, I don’t know how much death you have tasted neither do I know what seeds the enemy has sown into your life. I want to share with you the story of a couple in our church, lovely people, husband, wife, four children, involved in ministry and happily married, or so they thought. Before I continue, I feel it’s important that I highlight two things. Firstly, we who stand before as pastors and as church leaders every week, but our lives are not the standard, the scriptures and the life of Jesus hold the standard. If you live for the standard of your leaders then you are going to be often disappointed. Secondly we are not here to climb some church ladder, there is a lot of opportunities for you to be fruitful and impact the world around you that are not within the church. I believe that we go out of this place and that we are the church wherever we go. The highest calling is not necessarily to be a church leader, the highest calling is to be obedient to whatever God has called you to do, whatever that may be. We aspire to be obedient for “…to obey is better than sacrifice.” 1 Samuel 15:22.
This couple had been in the ministry for years as worship pastors, they had left full time ministry and started their own business and were very successful at what they did. Not so long ago they were on their way to celebrate their 10 year wedding anniversary with a weekend away. The wife noticed her husband had been uncomfortable in the car on their way to the airport since the beginning of the trip. After asking her husband several times what was wrong he eventually told her the truth about how he felt ashamed, for he knew what her worst fear was and that fear had come true. For a long time she feared that her husband would have an affair, and right there and then he broke the news to her and said, “I have been having an affair with a younger woman for one year. I am so sorry”. He started to cry and so did she – she was heartbroken.
They boarded the plane and as they sat, she prayed to the Lord. “Jesus if you can rise from the grave and defeat death in 3 days, then I can be healed from this in 3 days. Sunday when we get back I want to be healed”, she prayed. Over the next few days, the couple had many conversations about what went wrong and why it had gone wrong. They cried together, they prayed together and on Sunday when they came back home she returned with her prayer answered and her heart healed. While on their way home the wife wrote a letter to the younger woman whom her husband had been having an affair with. “What you and my husband have done does not define me and it does not define you. You do not have the power to destroy our marriage nor will you ever touch my husband again, I forgive you, we forgive you… and I want to see you on Monday”, she wrote.
On Monday this woman came to see the both of them, husband and wife. As she walked through the door the wife began to minister to her, she declared over her, “this is not who you are and you are worth more than this”. The wife sat her down, took a toy princess crown from her little daughter’s play area, placed it on the young woman’s head, anointed her, then began to pray over her. The young woman broke down in tears as all the guilt and shame that had burdened her for so long was brought into the light.
Sin is something we cannot manage, the only thing we can do with sin is to kill it. James 1:15 says “sin… gives birth to death”. Weeks later when I sat down with this couple and asked the husband how he felt during the time he was having an affair with this young woman he told me, “Gielie, it was the worst time of my life, I felt trapped, my life felt purposeless, it was filled with death, I didn’t hear God’s voice and I felt so far from God”.
That is the consequence of sin and we cannot manage it. The enemy sowed a destructive seed in this man’s heart long before he began to have an affair. Maybe the enemy has sown a seed in your heart, maybe a seed of doubt, a seed of anger or a seed of unforgiveness.
God has called us to be holy and “…without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). If we do not kill the sin, we cannot see God and we cannot experience His presence. We cannot live double lives and think we will enjoy His presence, His goodness or His mercy. One of the seeds the enemy sowed in my heart over a few years was a kind of performance approach to our church in Potchefstroom. The enemy would whisper to me “yes, maybe this can be the biggest church” and I began to be driven by success and performance. At the time God spoke to me, “Gielie, I don’t want you to run on adrenaline, I want you to be led by the anointing of the Holy Spirit”. I replied, “Yes Lord! I want to lay down all this performance, I want You and You alone.”
1 John 1:7 says that “if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin.”
If we walk in holiness we will experience intimacy in two places. Firstly, we will restore our intimacy with God and secondly, we will grow in fellowship with one another.
At the moment, we are experiencing such an amazing time of refreshing and growth in our church, and this has been largely fuelled by many people humbly confessing their sin and shame to one another. We’ve seen many bring the things that have kept them in bondage for so long into the victorious light. What is keeping you in bondage? What do you need to bring into the victorious light?
It’s a decision we all need to make. You see Jesus sees everything, all the sin, all the guilt and all the shame. Yet he wants to have fellowship with us, He wants to have a relationship with us, and that begins with us walking in the light of His truth. It may hurt at first but that’s what the truth does, it hurts us then it sets us free. David wrote, “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere…” God’s presence is worth fighting for, and we fight for it by bringing all that stands between us and God into the light. Jesus died for your shame. Jesus died to give you a new identity that would redefine you. Today choose to walk in the light by clothing yourself in His truth.