Paused. Can’t move past: She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.” (John 8:11) Is Our Lord commanding, suggesting, hoping that the forgiven ‘stop sinning’?
I get this sort of question a lot, most simply: “If I’m forgiven, why should I obey God?” This will require a little heavy theological lifting.
When God did that crazy miracle for us called forgiveness and covered all our brokenness with His grace — He also tells us about a better life.
God not only absolutely loves you, but He wants to lead you. Because after all, He made you and He knows how you work. His commands are an eternal vision for your whole life.
When you hear the word “command,” immediately most of us think of restrictions or “you-should/you-have-to” or nonsensical demands. But God’s Law is ultimately for our good (Romans 7:12) and to give you joy. There is no command that God gives which does not ultimately lead us into His Glory.
In case you never heard that in church before, here are the words of Jesus:
10 If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. — John 15:10-11
God does not merely aim for you to be forgiven — though that’s a huge awesome act in itself — but He also wants to set you free to experience His fullness. It’s for you to walk in the Fully Forgiven Life.
When Jesus told the adulteress, “Go and sin no more,” we can miss the subtlety of this exchange. Think of this woman’s mind right now: she was about to be stoned to death naked in the middle of the street, and her life has literally just been saved. This man Jesus, claiming to be the Son of God, rescues her out of a very bad situation.
Do you think she would crawl back into her adultery? I doubt it. Because of her gratitude towards Jesus, she would not only follow the Savior, but the Master. Jesus has now become Lord. This woman has been forgiven but also beckoned to the true purpose of her life: to love Jesus and love others.
Maybe she stumbled a bit in the beginning, like we all do. Maybe her past came to haunt her sometimes. There was probably all kinds of talk in the town for as long as she lived. But I don’t think she cared. She never got over the moment that Jesus interrupted her life with grace, and even when it got hard, she knew better to keep pursuing him. Not out of human obligation, but a thankful, tenderized, captivated heart.
There are days though when it’s difficult to feel God’s love, and when I’m beat up by life and I want to act out and retaliate and go nuts, sometimes all I have are those simple Bible commands keeping me together. In my head I know God gave me commands for my good, so I follow them even (especially) when I don’t feel like it.
I don’t think that’s legalistic at all. We’re human beings, susceptible to moods and persuasion and quick changes, and God gave us an entire arsenal to live out this daily struggle. God’s Love should always be the foundation, but sometimes just obeying Him despite ourselves gets us back to the place where we remember: God is good.
I’m sure some days that spiritual warfare and emotions and public pressure were too much, and the adulterous woman wanted to cave into her old lifestyle. In those lowest moments, probably all she had were those commands. It’s okay to just obey sometimes without feeling it. It’s not great to make that a regular habit, but the Christian life isn’t always so “feel-able” in our day-to-day walk.
When it’s toughest, it’s cool to lean completely in on God’s grace and tell Him, “I just don’t feel this today. I know you’re good, I know your ways are best, but this is insanely hard.” You’ll find that the power to do what God commands also comes from God. He really is that good.