Grace is God’s free and priceless gift

Pastor Jeff Struecker

If you’ve been with us, we’ve been studying through the book of John. Today we’re going to keep on tracking and I’m going to tell you why Christmas is all about Christ, it is not about gifts.

I can’t help but talk about perhaps one of the greatest gifts. Let us say, it is the greatest gift that I’ve ever been given in my lifetime. It was so lavish. It was so expensive. That frankly it caught me off guard a little bit and I was speechless when somebody offered this gift to me.

I was embarrassed because of how generous this gift was and I had to say, hey, would you give me some time to think about this? Would you give me some time to pray about because I want to make sure that my heart is right before I say yes to this gift. I’m certain that they didn’t expect me to say I need to pray before I even accept a gift this generous.

Now it would have been an incredible offense to these folks if I would have said. “Hey, I’m going to accept your gift. Thank you so much for your gift and here’s what I want to do, pay you back for that gift” because the very fact that it’s a gift means that it cannot be paid back.

What we’re going to read about in the Bible is God’s gift, the greatest gift God has ever given. We’re going to see about God’s grace.

 

Now, when we start to talk about a gift, it cannot be earned, if it’s earned, it’s not a gift, you already know that. But sometimes when we think of a free gift and the grace of God, it is something that none of us could earn in 10 lifetimes. When you think about a gift as free, if you’re not careful, it will make you also associated with cheap.

Grace is God’s free and priceless gift.

The gift of God’s Grace is totally free, but it is not cheap. And here’s really what I want you to hear from the bible. Today, God’s gift of Grace is free, but it is also priceless. And during this advent season, we’re going to continue to study through the book of John.

I’m going to tell you why we’re going to keep studying through the book of John because we’re going to encounter a story of a woman who experienced the greatest gift of a lifetime. The gift of Mercy. God’s grace poured out on her and she knows she doesn’t deserve it and I hope you associate yourself with this woman, I hope you can think back to a moment where you did wrong.

You knew in your heart what you were doing was wrong and you did it anyway and you got caught in the very act of doing wrong because that’s what we’re going to hear about in the Bible today.

 

We all desperately need God’s grace gift.

Let me tell you why we’re going to cruise right through the book of john and keep right on going where we left off. Because virtually every passage in the Bible is a Christmas past, virtually every story in the bible somehow relates to good Friday. It somehow connects to Easter Sunday. It all ties back to Christmas because without Christmas, without good Friday without Easter, we are lost and hopeless in our sin.

 

We’re going to run into a woman who experiences the Grace of God today and it profoundly changes her. I believe Jesus’ grace is so generous that it stuns the crowd when they see how he deals with a woman caught in the very act of sin.

John 7: 53 [Then each one went to his house.

 

This story is found for us beginning at the last verse, john chapter seven, there’s three things that I want you to notice about the Grace of God. All of this today is us, talking about this free gift of Grace.

Please don’t ever mistake, free would cheap. This priceless free gift of God’s Grace. First thing is that you and I should be able to say “I need God’s Grace as much as this woman that we’re reading about in the bible today.” And if you don’t feel like you need it as much as she needed it, there’s something wrong inside your soul.

 

So here’s what we learn about this desperate need for the gift of God’s Grace. It starts in the last verse of John which is chapter seven verse 53. It says, “then each one went to his house”

 

If you look in the footnote of your bible or perhaps your bible has a bracket just like we put on the screens and in the mobile app, chances are the footnote in your bible around this bracket.

 

This story that we’re reading about today does not say who wrote the story, but we know it wasn’t John. Let me give you a little bit of background today on one of the most well-known passages in the bible and often one of the most confusing and misunderstood.

 

The story that we will read today happens during a crowd that gathers in Jerusalem while Jesus is in Jerusalem. When we study how this passage is written and we compare it to the rest of the book of John. We start to realize it definitely wasn’t written by john. The way that this story is written does not sound like John.

 

I’ve spent all week long researching this passage and here’s what I want you to hear this passage in much older translations of the Bible will sometimes show up at the end of the Book of john, sometimes it will actually show up at the end of the book of Luke.

We don’t know exactly who wrote this, but I don’t want you to misunderstand me. We absolutely are convinced this really happened, that Jesus really did this, we just don’t know who recorded.

 

I had the privilege when I was going through school too, learned from one of the world’s greatest scholars on the book of John. Dr. Gerald Morton and Borchard, said this passage definitely doesn’t belong here in the book of John, it’s probably not John writing this passage. In fact, Borchard believes that Luke actually wrote this story and that it probably belongs in the book of Luke, but somehow it got left out of the book of Luke.

 

When the people that were putting the Bible into print came across this story, they were like, I’m not sure exactly where it goes, but Jesus is in Jerusalem at this point, Jesus has a crowd of people around him at this point. This story happens in Jerusalem with Jesus and a crowd of people, let’s put it at the end of Chapter seven and the beginning of Chapter eight, I need you to understand something about this passage today.

 

What we’re reading in the bible today definitely happened. It is absolutely part of the Bible. We’re just not exactly sure who wrote it or when this happened and when Bible scholars were putting the Bible translation together in front of you, they assumed this is probably the best place to put it because this story doesn’t naturally fit or doesn’t find itself in any other part of the bible. So I need you to hear what you’re learning today from the book of john probably in Jeff’s opinion, written by Luke and just didn’t get included into Luke’s book. So it gets added to John’s book.

 

There’s a crowd that meets together and Jesus is talking to and teaching the crowd and at the end of teaching, they all go home. I need you to know my personal opinions about the scriptures.

 

This is important for you because I’ve spent my adult life, my entire adult life studying the scriptures at the highest and the most rigorous level. And I am absolutely 100% convinced that what you’re reading in the Bible is accurate and without air, I need you to know that you can take the Bible to the bank and you can take this story to the bank. But I also need you to understand something about the bible.

 

Genesis Chapter one, God creates the heavens and the earth genesis. Chapter two, God creates human beings. In genesis chapter three, God gives human beings divine authority and enters into a perfect relationship with them and then we rebel against our creator and we reject our own god from the second half of genesis three. All the way to the end of Revelation 22, you have one story played out over and over and over again in the Bible.

 

It is God the father pursuing rebellious children because He loves us, wants to shower His grace on us and wants to be in a relationship with us. And this may be one of the most beautiful examples of that found anywhere in the bible today. We all desperately need God’s grace like this woman that we’re going to read about because all of us in this room needs second chances. And if you deserve or need a second chance, just go ahead and raise your hand.

 

Grace gives you a second chance.

For the folks that didn’t raise your hand. I’m afraid you may have found the wrong church because all of us in this room mess up and need God to give us a second chance.

 

John 8: 1-6 But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At dawn he went to the temple again, and all the people were coming to him. He sat down and began to teach them. Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, making her stand in the center. “Teacher,” they said to him, “this woman was caught in the act of committing adultery. In the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” They asked this to trap him, in order that they might have evidence to accuse him.

 

Listen to this story of this woman who were introduced to in john chapter eight, starting in verse one, but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives and at dawn He went to the temple again. This is in Jerusalem. And all of the people were coming to Jesus and He sat down and he began to teach them.

The scribes and Pharisees brought a woman caught in the act of adultery, making her stand in the center of the crowd. Now these religious leaders are so threatened by Jesus and by His teachings that they will do anything to discredit this traveling rabbi.

They’re going to try to trap Him with their old testament law teacher, they said to Him, this woman was caught in the act of committing adult and in the law Moses commands us to stone such a woman.

 

They asked this to trap Jesus in order that they may have evidence to accuse Him. This whole thing is a trap set from the very beginning. They are using this woman as a chance to discredit Jesus and to make the crowds ignore Him.

 

We’re talking about the grace of God. Today, one of the greatest theologians of the last century, a German theologian, by the name of Karl Barth said, look, the Grace of God, it has to make a difference in your life tomorrow. If you just read about it in the Bible and it doesn’t make any difference in your life tomorrow, then it’s not really grace.

This woman is caught in the very act of adultery. They grab her and forcefully bring her in front of Jesus and in front of the whole crowd.

 

Just picture in your mind for a second, how ashamed this woman, just picture in your heart for a moment, how embarrassed she is, how guilty she is because nobody in the crowd needs to condemn her right now. She knows exactly what she did was wrong.

 

The Bible uses the kind of language that says they grabbed her and dragged her. That’s the kind of language that it’s using in front of the crowd and they threw her down at Jesus feet and they’re all pointing the finger at her and they’re telling Jesus, “Hey, the old testament is very specific.”

 

We know what Leviticus chapter 20 and Deuteronomy 22 says about somebody caught in the act of adultery. Listen, wherever you are in the world, maybe the society that you live in, they treat adultery like it’s no big deal.

 

In Bible times, in God’s eyes, to this day, adultery is a capital offense, Leviticus 20 and Deuteronomy 22 say you take the people in an adulterous relationship outside the camp and you kill them. It is a capital offense against a Holy God.

 

There are some scholars that believe that this woman kind of was known for this. And so they were waiting for the moment, caught her in the act, dragged her in front of Jesus and the crowd. Others believe that she has done this before and that her husband wants to get rid of her. So he tips off the religious leaders and they find her right in the act of adultery.

 

If there is ever a woman anywhere, if there’s ever a person anywhere in the Bible that needs a second chance right now, I need you to remember that your sin, even the smallest little sin even if it’s seemingly insignificant, that sin is a capital offense.

 

All sin is ultimately breaking the law of God and according to the bible, it is only punishable by death can be no forgiveness of sin.

 

The Book of Hebrews said, without the shedding of blood, you can’t pray hard enough, you can’t give money, you can’t go on a mission trip. You can’t read your bible enough to make the sins of the past go away. Somebody’s going to have to die for that sin.

 

That’s what Leviticus and Deuteronomy or teaching when they find this woman and caught her in the very act. But at this point I got to ask a question, where’s the man? You got her, if you caught her in the act, certainly there should be two people at Jesus feet right now. It is interesting to me that there’s only one and it just happens to be the notorious center in town that you caught and threw down at the feet of Jesus.

 

When preachers talk about this passage from the bible, they always focus on her and I think they’re missing it. You see this passage is not about her, it is about Jesus, and about how Jesus is going to respond to this circumstance.

 

Let’s just be honest, they have Jesus over a barrel right now, because Leviticus and Deuteronomy don’t give Jesus an out here.

But the problem is, in Jesus’ day, Jerusalem was an occupied city governed by the Roman government and only the Roman government had the authority to pronounce a capital offense.

 

And so Jesus, if you let her off the hook, you’re violating old testament law. If you criticize and condemn her and if she is murdered right there were killed right there in the streets, you’re breaking Roman law, he’s trapped right now and there’s no way out of this trap and they know they’ve got Jesus over a barrel.

 

I can’t help but think of people that are in this church better feeling trapped right now, the circumstances of life, you didn’t do anything wrong. It is not your fault, but maybe you find yourself in a business, invent a business adventure that just went south and it’s not your fault and your it’s all falling apart around you, maybe you find yourself in a marriage and you’ve given everything and you’ve done your part, but your spouse has and it’s falling apart and you’re hurting and you need help.

 

I want you to know that God is not far away from people that are struggling and people that are hurting and feel trapped by the circumstances of life. And when you and I do wrong and what we know we’re doing is wrong and we do it anyway and we feel trapped in our own sin. We need God more than anything else.

 

The problem is our hearts will sometimes cause us to pull away from him because we’re embarrassed because we’re ashamed. It’s the worst thing that you could do at that moment is to run away from Jesus when you know you’ve done wrong.

 

Instead of running to Jesus, this woman needs a second chance. Just like I need a second chance, just like you need a second, a third of five, two hundred chances. Just like I do, just like she did because there’s only one perfect man on the planet. Only one guy who’s ever lived who has never committed a sin, never done wrong. And he’s the one they throw this woman at his feet.

 

Grace provides the power to change.

Jesus handled this religious conundrum that he just found himself in, no fault of his own. He changes this woman’s life. Not only does he change her life, he gives her the power to live a changed life.

 

Here’s the bottom line, the Bible calls all of us to perfect holiness. Never, ever do anything wrong in the eyes of a perfect God, but all of us know that’s impossible. I can’t ever live up to a standard like that. And God knows it’s impossible because of our broken sinful nature, that we can’t live up to that perfect standard.

 

God sends His son, Jesus, to clean us up, to make the sin go away, to purchase us backed by his blood and to make us pure and perfect in his life. And for that we all ought to be able to shout hallelujah. But he doesn’t just stop there. He not only cleans us up and rescues us, but then Jesus gives us power to live that pure and that purpose and that holy life for the rest of our lives, to keep running back to him, keep desperately looking to him and his power to change our life so that we don’t get cleaned up.

 

Once we get cleaned up again and again, not by our own strength, certainly not by our religious efforts, but only by the grace of God poured out for us, on the blood on the cross, by the blood of Jesus Christ.

 

They throw this woman, you got a picture in your mind. She’s probably naked and ashamed in this crowd at Jesus feet and Jesus stoops down and he starts to write on the ground.

John 8: 6-11 Jesus stooped down and started writing on the ground with his finger. When they persisted in questioning him, he stood up and said to them, “The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her.” Then he stooped down again and continued writing on the ground. When they heard this, they left one by one, starting with the older men. Only he was left, with the woman in the center. When Jesus stood up, he said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, Lord,” she answered. “Neither do I condemn you,” said Jesus. “Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.”]

 

Some people tend to believe that he’s starting to write out Exodus chapter 23 verse 12 and 3 that command God’s people, don’t get caught up in a crowd mentality and the mob that wants to criticize and condemn somebody. Don’t be a voice that starts to shout. Somebody else is saying, don’t be the kind of Christian that points out the speck in your brother’s eye and you can’t see the log in your own eye.

 

Some people believe that’s what Jesus is writing in the ground here, he stoops down and he starts to ride in the ground on the ground with his finger and I want you to see they have Jesus over a barrel and they know it and they’re not going to let him off easy because they persist in questioning him.

 

“Hey Jesus, you know what the law says, what are you going to do, teacher?” And He stood up, He said to them, “the one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her.” Then he stood down and then he stooped down again, he continued writing in the ground and when they heard this they started to drop their stones and when they heard what Jesus said, it penetrated their heart, they started to walk away one by one.

 

Notice the old men who walked away first and then the young hotheads, when they saw all of the old wise men walking away, dropped their stones and they started to walk away too and I got to wonder why is it the old men walking away first?

 

Maybe it’s because they’re acutely aware of their mistakes and their failures again and again and again and they recognize how much they deserve to be where she is.

 

And when Jesus says this, they dropped their stones and they turn around, they start to walk away and eventually everyone walks away and now only Jesus was left with the woman in the center and when Jesus stood up, He said to her woman, “where are they, has no one condemned you.”

 

The only perfect man who’s ever lived who should have thrown a stone, could have thrown a stone. She says no one lord. And then Jesus says, “neither do I condemn you now.”

 

I need you to remember that, Jesus does not act like this is no big deal, He does not dismiss her sin, like it is not an offen