At Gateway Church in Austin, we are continuing a series called “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!”
Part of following God means not being complacent, not staying where we are in life, but instead, being willing to GO. God wants us to go love others, go show mercy, and go share the love Jesus freely gives to us. But going requires a willingness to abandon our own will and take on God’s will instead. Are you ready and willing to go where God sends you?
These discussion questions are designed for your life group or family dinner to help you apply the message to your life.
Audio of the Message I shared at Gateway South:
Here are notes from the message written by Ted Beasley:
After Jesus kneels down to your level; after he dries the tears from your cheeks; after he admits that he knows all the truth about your sin in every excruciating detail you thought you could hide; after he touches you on the shoulders and raises you to your feet and penetrates your eyes with his stare and says, “I don’t condemn you;” he sends you on your way, and encourages you with this, “Go, and sin no more.”
Have you ever read John 8, where it says that Jesus knelt and wrote in the dust and wondered, “What was he writing that made all of the accusers leave their stones and depart the scene from the oldest to the youngest?”
- Was he doodling?
- Was he maybe writing the names of all the strip joints that these hypocrites like to go on Thirsty Thursdays?
- Was he scribbling #iknowwhatyoudownloadedlastnight?
According to the rabbinical law, whenever someone was caught in adultery, both the man and the woman would be brought to the Nicanor temple gates and accused. If witnesses could be gathered to confirm that adultery had indeed been committed, there would be a judgment ritual. The priest would stoop down and write the law that had been broken, along with the names of the accused, in the dust of the floor of the temple.
- There’s no priest here.
- No witnesses.
- Jesus smells a trap.
- They’re either trying to get him to condemn her or defend her sinful action.
So Jesus becomes the priest and writes in the dust. What did he write?
I think he wrote an Old Testament verse:
Jeremiah 17:13 — Lord, you are the hope of Israel; all who forsake you will be put to shame. Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the Lord, the spring of living water.
Every year at the feast of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the High Priest would stand up in front of the crowd at the end of the festival and quote this verse.
- You are the hope – the literal Jewish word there is “Mikveh”, meaning the purifying bath.
- The priest would say, “May the Holy One (Messiah), blessed be his name, cleanse all Israel when He comes.”
- One day the Christ will come and forgive all sin.
But look at what else vs 13 says – those who turn away from you will be written in the dust (by the Messiah). Every Jewish man who had ever attended the Yom Kippur would have heard that verse every year from the age of 12. So a 50-year-old guy would have been warned about forsaking God 39 times.
So, finally, Jesus is here. He has the power to wash away this woman’s sins. And as these hypocrites pick up stones to kill her, I bet he writes Jeremiah 17 in the dust, and also begins to scrawl their names. These religious zealots are shocked to see their names in dirt, and they hear the voice of God in their conscience, the Spirit of God bringing to their remembrance all the times they heard the High Priest quote the verse — but instead of repenting, they hand on their secret sins, and turn away from Jesus (just as it was prophesied!). They leave from the eldest to the youngest, the older having heard the verse quoted more often.
Put yourself in the story. Who are you more like?
The woman who has been caught or those judging the woman?
As you come before Jesus today, I wonder what your attitude toward secret sin is?
- Are you like the woman who makes no excuses, hides nothing and goes from your encounters with God embracing the grace and forgiveness offered in Christ?
- Or are you more like the others who stay stuck in the same patterns and turn away from the true life that God has to offer?
Today we’re talking about secret sin, and how it can get in the way of the big adventure of faith we’ve been discussing in this series.
It may not be a secret sin but a sin you have taken on as if you will never get past it.
Oh the places you’ll go, but sometimes your own brokenness gets in the way. Secret sin – what a fun topic, right?
But it’s ok. We’re all sinners. Especially pastors. When I was once in pastor’s life group made up of Austin pastors. And one meeting, one of the preachers was like, “Hey, let’s go really deep. Let’s all go around the circle and confess our secret sins to one another. I’ll go first. My secret sin is I just love to gamble. When I go out of town, it’s cha-ching cha-ching, let the machines ring.” The next guy was like, “I’ve never told anyone this before. I’m lazy and I plagiarize all of my Sunday messages from Sermons.com.” Then it was my turn and I said: “”My secret sin is gossiping and, oh boy, I just can’t wait to get out of this room!”
The most important phrases in John 8 are “Neither do I condemn you,” and “Go and sin no more.”
Neither do I condemn you.
The most crucial truth about sin to cling to is that Jesus doesn’t condemn you.
Romans 8:1-2 – Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.
The old law of sin and death comes from the Garden of Eden, where God set up the rules – “The day you eat of that fruit, you will surely die. I’m a righteous God. I can’t be in relationship with anything that is sinful. So your sin will separate you from me.”
But Paul says that Jesus brings a new law. He unpacks that a bit several chapters before in Romans 3:23-26
Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ. God sacrificed Jesus on the altar of the world to clear that world of sin. Having faith in him sets us in the clear. God decided on this course of action in full view of the public—to set the world in the clear with himself through the sacrifice of Jesus, finally taking care of the sins he had so patiently endured. This is not only clear, but it’s now—this is current history! God sets things right. He also makes it possible for us to live in his rightness.
Since we’ve sinned, Jesus did something we couldn’t do for ourselves. He lived a perfect life and became the payment for our sins on the cross.
- That passage says that we’ve been put in right standing with God.
- Another translation says we are “justified” – meaning we are made “just as if” we hadn’t sinned. Anyone who confesses their need for God.
- Anyone willing to own their sins.
- Anyone who appeals to Jesus for his grace, they’re made clean now and forever more.
All other religions are about “Do” to make yourself holy.
- Be good.
- Avoid temptation.
- Do religious things.
- Christianity is not about Do, it’s about “Done.”
The work of salvation is done for you by the Savior, and what you have to do is simply receive it in faith. Every heinous sin you’ve ever committed is wiped clean in God’s eyes –
- lying, cheating, taking the Lord’s name in vain – you know, all the things you did on the golf course.
- If you’ve ever mistreated someone, if you’ve ever taken credit for something someone else did,
- If you’ve ever tossed something at a garbage can like you’re Lebron, but left it on the ground after you missed,
I know it seems like God shouldn’t be so extravagant with his forgiveness, but he says to this woman in the dirt, I don’t condemn you. And he says it to you. We all have a lowlight reel in our heads. The worst things we did, the worst ways we hurt someone; maybe even a defining moment in our lives, the thing we regret and we live with it every day. Let go of your shame for one second this morning. Jesus says, “I forgive you. If you’ll just turn your heart over to me, it’s removed from your permanent record. You’re not going to hell. And you don’t have to live through hell today because of the past.” Do you believe that?
But there’s this other phrase:
Go and Sin No More.
We like the phrase about no condemnation and mercy. Mercy takes us off the hook.
Jesus tells us the woman to go and sin no more.
- Is he telling her to go and be perfect?
- To go and try to be a good person?
- To go and rack up more good deeds than bad?
- What does he mean by “Go and sin no more”?
He’s likely talking about prostitution, or an adulterous relationship she’s been in for a while. A pattern of sin.
The Apostle John, who is the only of the four writers to include this story in his gospel, later writes in one of his letters:
If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But 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. – 1 John 6-7
You can’t live two lives.
- You can’t walk in darkness part of time, in light the rest.
- You can’t have a deep, abiding and adventurous life of faith, and at the same time repeatedly, willfully and secretly cling to something else.
- Your Monday can’t look different than your Sunday.
Here’s another verse for you, this time from Hebrews 12:
Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. – Hebrews 12:1
Notice the metaphor the writer of Hebrews is using for the Christian life? He says, “Run.” The audacious life of faith is not about meandering, it’s a run.
- If you’re like me and hate running, that’s not the best word picture.
- I always hope that when people see me outside running they think, “Wow, an athlete!” but instead it’s probably more like, “Aw, good for him.”
I like all the things about running that aren’t running.
- Eating carbs, comfortable footwear, being cheered.
- Running is great, cause you forget all your problems because you’re too busy focusing on one problem, and that’s that your whole body hurts.
Hebrews is asking you a question? “Do you want to play it safe in your spiritual life and walk? Never really taste victory. Never push yourself? Never see what you’re capable of? Or do you want to run with Jesus?
There’s an unbelievable race marked out for you, if you’ll train yourself to run. But to experience the joy of running, you’ve got to toss off the sin that entangles. The original Greek word for entangles means something that wraps around you and encircles you.
- Sin is like a lasso around your legs.
- It’s like a linebacker who has wrapped you up.
- It’s like trying to two-step with me at the Broken Spoke, you know – with me stepping all over your feet.
I’m not here today to make anyone feel ashamed because of the sin in your life. I already told you about my own track-record. This isn’t about God being disappointed with you or sending you to hell.
Remember, Jesus says, “Neither do I condemn you.”
What’s at stake here, honestly, is how fulfilled of a Christian life you lead.
- What kind of race you run.
- Not living with regrets.
- Not being bored with your faith.
- Not wondering why, “God seems to speak to other people and not to me. God appears to be using other people to do dramatic things, and not me.
- Other people have this verve, this joy, this laughter to their relationship with Jesus, and I’m sitting on the sidelines.
- My faith doesn’t make me any happier. God doesn’t even feel close most of the time.”
So if you are a Christ-follower, there’s no consequence of hell for your sin, but there are entanglement consequences. Let me quickly run through a list of the effects of sin in the life of a Christian that keep you from the life you want. You’ll have to do more study on these.
But for now, let me just give you a checklist from some Bible verses. Just sit back and listen to the magnitude of this.
- Sin makes reading the Bible seem pointless. (James 1:22-24) It doesn’t change your life.
- Sin takes away your excitement about God’s involvement in your life. (Psalm 51:12)
- Sin robs you of peace. (Psalm 32:2-4) I want to read this one for you. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit. When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long . . . my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.
- Sin wipes out your confidence in prayer. (1 John 3:19-22)
- Sin, sometimes, keeps God not to answer your prayer. (Psalm 66:18)
- Sin makes us afraid that we’re going to be exposed. (1 John 2:28)
- Sin distracts you about what is most important in life. (Mark 10:17-24)
- Sin leads to more sin (James 1:12-16) until we feel like we’re out of control (Romans 7: 17,23)
- Sin grieves God. (Ephesians 4:28-30)
- Sin interferes with us representing Christ. (Galatians 2:17)
- Sin, in some respects, determine your rewards in heaven. (1 Corinthians 3:10-15)
Let me read a piece of that to you.
It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames. – I Corinthians 3:13-15
One day all of our works, good and bad, are exposed in the piercing light of Christ. The good is rewarded. The sin gets consumed. And look at that last phrase – all Christians are saved, but some who didn’t much live out their faith, barely make it through by the hair of their chinny chin chin.
It’s a compelling list. The standard isn’t perfection. These passages are about ongoing, secret, entangling sin. And they’re not spoken to make you feel rotten about your shortcomings. They’re a question about the kind of life you want. This is the deepest of all human questions, and it’s an inquiry that Jesus often posed to people who would walk up to him in the gospels – “What can I do for you? What do you really want? What is your desire?”
See, this doesn’t start with your willpower or any promises about how you’ll act tomorrow. It comes down to what you want, because Jesus will help you with the overcoming, if you are willing. This song the band is about to sing is an expression of desire, “Help me give up control.” As you listen to it, just talk to God about anything that’s getting in the way of your race. What’s an ongoing attitude or behavior or habit that so easily entangles?”
You don’t want to be entangled, do you?
You don’t want to shuffle on in your faith. You want to run. Oh the places you’ll go. Maybe really letting go is scary. It’s intimidating to go new places.
Maybe you don’t want to go places. Maybe you’re not the adventurous type. But be honest. Some of you long for more with God. Some of you want him to feel more real. Some of you want him to work through you in powerful ways. Some of you want to taste lasting peace, authentic happiness, an unbridled joy that transcends the annoyances and pains of everyday.
Is the root cause of that unfulfilled desire an entangling sin pattern that makes something other than God the master of your life? Entanglement can start out innocently enough. Paul says this in 1 Corinthians 6:
I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. – I Corinthians 6:12
Because Jesus paid his sacrifice. We have a lot of freedom. There’s a lot of latitude. Christians don’t have to be tied down by stuffy religious regulations and rituals. You have a lot of choice in the things you do with your body and with your mind. But, Paul says, not everything is beneficial. If you’re a Christian, you cross a dangerous line of entanglement when something becomes your master. When it consumes your thoughts. When it interferes with your connection with God. When it’s something you use to check out of reality. When it gives you more pleasure than God. When you cover it up in secrecy, and in so doing, cover up your heart in secrecy. And your conscience is being tweaked. Or maybe you’re reaching the level that you’re now able to ignore your conscience. That’s being mastered. To that Jesus stoops and writes in the dust and he says, “I know, and I don’t condemn you for it. But if you want true life, come clean. Go and sin no more.”
Truthfully, knowing the struggles in my life, I wonder sometimes why God uses me at all. And I have this desire go great places in faith and do great things, which is the aspiration of this series, but the hidden parts of my heart sometimes make me turn from the way of Jesus. I don’t want to be up here today talking about secret sin!
But I do know this: God’s love for me and you is real! He warns us of the consequences of our actions to help us avoid the pain in our lives and in the lives of others!
God isn’t out to punishing us, but He will allow us to have what we want which can include the consequences of our choices.
So this morning: I told him God I want to go and sin no more.
- Not that I could muster enough willpower.
- Not that I was committing to be perfect or flawless or without relapse.
But I did say, “Lord, we have places to go. And I don’t want to be encumbered – spiritually by sin. Oh the places I want to go with you. Help me to leave behind the sin that easily entangles, and help me run with perseverance the race marked out for me.” But when I let it out to one person, it was like it lost its power over me.
After John talks in his letter about walking in the light instead of darkness, he writes:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. – 1 John 1:9
We get purified. He begins the work of getting us back in the race. And if you really want to speed up the healing, look at this from James 5:16.
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. – James 5:16
There’s something about bringing a trusted person into this, a “righteous person”, James says. All the power of the secrecy gets untangled from you when you just get real with someone. My friend prayed for me. He encouraged me. He had me share a food journal with him on Google docs for accountability. And the last two months, I’m starting to come alive again. The thrill of the adventure of faith – of what God’s going to do or how he’s going to show up today is back.
What’s Jesus writing in the dirt at your feet today?
Is their entangling sin? Several years ago here at Gateway, we did an anonymous survey on a Sunday morning about our church’s moral compass, behaviors and attitudes. We called it, “The Day Gateway Told the Truth.” We asked you to not hold back about the secret stuff that’s going on in your life, and just be honest on the survey. Boy, were you ever honest! I read through the report. It’s a good thing we say, “No perfect people allowed.” But you know, what? Statistically, accord to the Barna research group, the morality of this place is no worse than any other Christian church in America. Christians, people who claim to be followers of Jesus, sometimes get entangled.
Here were some of the biggest secret entanglements of Gateway people.
- Online Porn and Fantasy Novels – By fantasy novels, I’m not talking about Lord of the Rings. Lust and sexual sin, keep us from walking with Jesus, because, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:
Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? – 1 Corinthians 6:18-19
Lust has unique consequences, because your body and your mind are God’s temple. And for some of us, it’s something we get tempted with from time to time, but some of us, if we’re honest, we’re helplessly and utterly entangled.
- Materialism and Debt – On the survey, many Gateway folks confessed to living completely outside of their means and burying themselves into a greater hole of debt every month. Talk about entangling. Nobody on the outside would ever know you’re doing it. But it becomes consuming – the fear, the worry, the need to work more.
- Anger is another entanglement of Gateway people that destroys their communion with God. Maybe it’s someone at work. Maybe it’s an ex-friend or an ex-wife. Maybe it’s an estranged family member. John writes in another place, “If you can’t love your brother . . . if you’re consumed with anger . . . you can’t really love God.
I could go on with the some more of the encumbrances that impede the faith adventure of Gatewayers, but those were the big three. What’s your entanglement?
I still feel a lot of pride toward you. Do you know what makes me most proud about you, Gateway? You don’t hide. Some of us do. I did for months. But one of the core beliefs of this place is that you’ll never experience life in full if you are covering up the brokenness. And literally thousands of people here over the years have hit bottom, had enough, and just said, “Jesus I’m so glad you don’t condemn me. But I don’t know how to ‘Go and sin no more.’ I’m willing though, Jesus. I’ll just draw near to you. I’ll share what’s going on with my life group. I’ll walk forward at the end of the service and pray with someone. I’ll ask a friend for accountability. I come here to Gateway during the week and enroll in a Restore class.”
Countless thousands here are now running the race of faith. Because they were honest. I love that about you, Gateway. Reflect on whether or not there’s entanglement for you. Don’t beat yourself up. Jesus says, “Nobody’s here to condemn, neither do I condemn you.” Listen to the last thing he says to you. It’s a hopeful thing. It’s a glorious thing. It’s a statement about the very real possibilities in your life – “Go and sin no more.”