During The Gospel Gap, Pastor Boyd helped us see another gap in our understandings of the gospel: our guilt. One important thing is understanding the difference between guilt as a status and guilty feelings we all experience. Outside of Christ, we all stand guilty before God. That is a declaration of status. However, everyone deals with guilty feelings of some sort. And as a Christian, you need to know what to do with those guilty feelings. And the answer to that is not to fabricate guilt-less feelings. The answer is to face your guilt as it is, understand yourself as a sinner, and then find peace and hope by running to Jesus and believing that he has carried all your guilt. In this, Jesus provides incredible joy.
In John 8, the woman caught in adultery faced a real sentence of guilt. If we return to the law, we notice that the Pharisees' accusation of the woman and their understanding of the law was, in a strict sense, spot on. The text says that she had been caught in adultery. If you were an Israelite in the time of Moses, here's the sentence for someone caught in adultery: "If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death" (Leviticus 20:10). Of course, the Pharisees weren't bringing the woman before Jesus out of a sense of the holiness of God, but to "trap" Jesus (v. 6).
One of the reasons Jesus came was to fulfill the law by taking the guilt that the law brought. The law shows how holy God is and how far we fall short. Paul writes, "Everyone who does not continue doing everything written in the book of the law is cursed" (Galatians 3:10). You and I both know that as soon as we try to keep the law perfectly, we recognize how unable we are. And then comes the guilt of our sin. Over and over, we miss the mark of obeying God completely and wrestle with the guilt that overcomes us.
The woman caught in adultery was sitting under this guilt. But, included in the truth that Jesus came to fulfill the law is the understanding that all the law was kept by him. When he asks the Pharisees, "The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her" (v. 7), he was drawing a hard line between himself and everyone else. The only person that would be truly righteous in picking up the stones and heaving them in judgment was Jesus himself. In keeping the law, he shows himself to be the perfect Savior of the world. And, here, instead of judging her guilt, Jesus forgives the woman. And he would complete this task by taking her sin on his cross for her and rising again.
Ultimately, this is what you and I need: freedom from guilt. And this doesn't always mean freedom from guilty feelings. It means freedom from the status of "guilty." And that only comes through repentance and faith in the finished work of Jesus.
And so, here's an action step for this week: join a Missional Community. I trust this will be a place you will see the cross of Christ, and it's meaning for you, more clearly. Many people there are laying their guilt at the cross. Go and join them!