Revive Our Hearts Podcast

A Sinful Woman's Encounter with Grace

Watch this series on video here.

Leslie Basham: Welcome to Revive Our Hearts. Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Leslie, I have such a passion for passing the baton of truth on to the next generation. Because of that, I’m always excited when I find younger women who are gifted to teach God’s Word to their peers. On today’s program we’ll be hearing from one of these younger women and have a chance to dive into God’s Word along with her.

Now, Revive Our Hearts is able to invest in future generations thanks to listeners like you who make this ministry possible with your financial support, and we especially need to hear from you right now. The month of May is the end of our fiscal year. That’s the time when we evaluate the kind of ministry that we’re able to take on in the year ahead.

So here during May, we’re asking the Lord to provide at least $435,000 in donations. Now, that may seem like a lot, but that’s the amount that will cover our existing outreaches and anything beyond that will allow us to expand the ministry to reach even more women in the days ahead.

Now, if you’ve never given to Revive Our Hearts before, your gift this month will be doubled by some generous supporters of the ministry. They know how crucial this fiscal year-end is. They've offered to double each first time gift up to a challenge amount of $70,000. And that will go toward the whole $435,000 that we’re asking the Lord to provide.

If you’re making a first-time donation, we’d like to send you my book called Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free. For all the details and to support the ministry, visit us at ReviveOurHearts.com, or you can write to us at P.O. Box 2000, Niles, MI 49120. If you wish, just give us a call at 1–800–569–5959. Thanks so much for your encouragement, your prayers, and your support.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, May 6, 2014.  

Nancy: Well, I’m so happy to welcome back to Revive Our Hearts today my friend, Erin Davis. She is the chief blogger on Lies Young Women Believe blog—a great resource for teenage women, college-aged women. We get a lot of response to that blog. We’ll tell you a little bit more about it later in this series.

But, Erin is a wife; she’s a mom; she’s got three little boys. They are darling. And she loves God’s Word. She loves to point people to Jesus. And she’s written a book that we’re making available through the broadcast this week called Beautiful Encounters. The subtitle is “The Presence of Jesus Changes Everything.” It’s a study on different women in the New Testament who encountered Jesus and what a difference He made in their lives.

In the last session we saw the woman, Anna, who encountered Jesus when He was just a baby. We saw that He is divine. He is God, and what a difference that makes. We’re going to continue in that study today. I want to say this book is a helpful resource. It’s designed for young women, but I think women of any age would benefit from this study.

So, Erin, welcome back to Revive Our Hearts. You’re the first guest teacher we’ve had in twelve, thirteen years on this broadcast. I’m so excited about how God’s using you to reach the hearts of younger women and older women as well. My own heart was stirred as I listened to that last session.

Today you’re taking us to a woman with a very difficult and different sort of background. It's a reminder that God doesn’t just love “good people” because there are no good people, right? So, take us to the Word, and thanks for being with us here at Revive Our Hearts.

Erin Davis: Thanks for having me. I don’t even know her name, but her face is burned into my memory. My husband, Jason, and I were taking our second born, Noble, home from the hospital. I was in the wheelchair, and the nurse was pushing me. I had my perfect baby boy in my lap.

We had just got to the foyer of the hospital, and this woman and I locked eyes. She looked at me, and she looked at the new baby in my lap, and she got what I believe to be the most anguished look I’ve ever seen on another woman’s face. She began to weep, and she ran in the opposite direction. I can only imagine what happened to her, to her baby. But something did.

I don’t know her name, and I don’t know if she has other children. All I know about that woman is her pain. In that moment, her pain defined her as much as in that moment the joy of my new baby boy defined me.

That story really reminds me of another woman in Scripture whose identity is boiled down to one single word. It’s not the word I would want my identity to be boiled down to. That word is “sin.” We don’t know very much about her, but we know a lot about her sin.

When people looked at her, her sin was all that they saw. We’re going to start in John 7. It’s at the very end of that chapter, verse 53. And it says, “They went each to his own house, but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.”

If you can, go ahead and look in your Bible and see what heading is above that passage. My Bible says, “The Woman Caught in Adultery.” Some Bibles might say, “The Adulterous Woman.” Now, the headings are not inspired. They’re there to kind of help us keep track of what is going on in Scripture. But as the organizers kind of summed up this story, that’s how they wanted to sum it up.

That’s the title they would give this story in Scripture—The Adulterous Woman, The Woman Caught in Adultery. That’s not the title that I would want them to give my story. So when people looked at her, that’s all they saw. That’s all they saw was her sin. We don’t know her name. We don’t know where she’s from. We don’t know her family’s situation. All we know is her mistake.

Perhaps that is why this encounter has always resonated so strongly with me. This woman’s label was “adulterous.” That’s not a label that I’ve worn. But we all wear labels. We all have something that we feel like when people look at me all they see is, and you can fill in the blank.

I don’t know what your labels are. I know that you have them. I can’t see them on you, but we all wear labels. I can tell you about a few that I have worn.

My weight has been a lifelong struggle since I was a little girl, because it was a lifelong struggle for my mama and a lifelong struggle for her mama. Mama’s listening, if it’s a struggle in your life, then you need to deal with it because it tends to be passed down through the generations.

So I’ve struggled with my weight for a really long time, and not necessarily what happens on the scale but just the way I feel about my weight. So a lot of times I feel like, When people look at me, that’s all they see. So that’s a label that I wear.

“Funny girl” is another label that I feel that I wear. I like to be funny. I like to have people laughing when I talk. But I don’t always want to be the funny girl. Sometimes when I want to be able to talk about something serious or when I want to be able to teach the Bible or hammer home a point that’s really powerful, I think, They don’t take me seriously. They think I’m the funny one. I don’t always want to be the funny one. So sometimes I think when people look at me all they see is “the funny girl.”

Another one that I’ve worn for a long time and the Lord keeps ripping it off, and I keep slapping it back on, and that is “perfect.” Now certainly, I know that I don’t look perfect. But I so desperately want to be perfect. When people look at me, I so desperately want them to see perfection.

When my husband and I were first married, I had this very odd habit of after work. I would come home, and I would sit down on the couch to watch some television. But I would keep a broom in my hand because if I would hear him coming through the door, I would jump up, turn off the television, and act like I was cleaning the house—like he cared.

He certainly didn’t care if I watched television from time to time. But that was because I was wearing this “perfect” label that I just didn’t feel like I had the freedom to sit on the couch and watch a little television or relax because I was supposed to be perfect. I was supposed to keep a perfect house.

And let me tell you, if “perfect” is a label you wear, it is a heavy and cumbersome label. You’d better let Jesus rip it off and keep it off. But I feel like sometimes when people look at me, that’s a label that I want them to see.

Labels can be good things. For a lot of us listening to this, “mom” is our label. I love this story. I have a good friend who says the only time she ever heard her mom yell was one time she slammed something down on the counter and said, “Would somebody just call me Sue?” Because Sue was her name, and all day long she heard, “Mom. Mom. Mommy. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama.” And she just wanted to hear her first name.

So for those of us, as moms, we can understand that becomes a label where it so defines us that we think when people look at us all they see is the spit-up on our shirt and the fact that our hair is in that greasy ponytail or whatever. So we wear the label “mom,” which mom’s a good thing, but not necessarily if it becomes our label.

It could even be a ministry position—something that you do for the Lord that you feel like people boil down your essence into that one thing. It can become a burden. It can be a talent. I’ll bet there are some really talented young ladies in this room. Maybe you excel at sports or at music. But you like feel that’s all people see when they look at you, and if you were to walk away from that or to fail in that area, you might not know who you are, and other people might not know who you are.

Labels can be good things or bad things, but none of us want our identity boiled down to one single thing. Often labels become a burden, especially when a label is “sin,” like the woman who we’re going to talk about in this session. She had an encounter with Jesus. She wore a really heavy label. Some of you might know what that’s like—maybe it’s divorce or abortion or some sort of chronic sin that you just struggle with.

For me, it’s my anger as a mom. We’d gathered with a bunch of friends at a pizza place recently, and I lost my temper with my five-year-old—which I have a habit of doing. I hate that I get angry at my children so often. I pray about it; I weep about it, and I have other people praying for it. It’s an ugly part of my life.

I grabbed that little five-year-old by the arm and I got right in his face, and I lost my temper with him. That was all I could remember from that night. It was a night that was supposed to be me celebrating finishing a book. As we went home, I just thought, Ahhh. When people remember that night, they are just going to remember that I am an angry mom.

So if we wear a label that is sin, we know what the adulterous woman’s story was like. We know that it was a heavy, heavy label that she wore. And we think, When people look at me, that’s all they see. That’s all they’re ever going to see. I don’t know her, and there’s not a lot about her in the Bible. But I’m sure that she had some of those same feelings.

But as we look at the adulterous woman’s encounter with Jesus, we’ll discover that God is in the business of dealing with our labels. So it’s really a beautiful story of redemption.

I’m going to read you John 8:1–6:

But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and [he] taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such [a] women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.

This woman in the story did sin. There’s no way around it. In fact, the Bible says that she was caught in the act of sinning. There was no denying that she was guilty. And according to Jewish law, the punishment she deserved was to be stoned. The religious leaders weren’t being unreasonable.

Yes, their hearts were out of whack, but they were ultimately being true to the law. She deserved punishment, but that’s not what Jesus gave her. Let’s pick up in verse 7:

And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 
She said, “No one, Lord.”
And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more’” (vv. 7–11).

This story is obviously a treasure. We could mine it for months and come up with all kinds of little gold nuggets. We could see ourselves from every angle in this story. We could be the crowd ready to throw a stone when confronted with our own sin.

I love how this passage tells us that the older ones dropped their stones first. And that’s because the older we get and the longer we know Jesus, the more aware we are that we’ve got no business throwing rocks at other sinners.

I, as a thirty-three-year-old woman, have had this wrestling match with the gospel in recent months. Some of you are teenagers, and when I was a teenager and I would have been listening to this. The gospel went down really smooth for me because I was a good girl. And that seemed like enough.

But the older I get, the more I realize there are no good girls. I’m certainly not one of them. My heart is deceitful and wicked and ugly and my behavior often is, too. So that passage is such a sweet little jewel that the older ones were the first to go. “Oh, well, I can’t condemn her because look at my own life.”

So we could see ourselves there as the ones with rocks in our fists. But we’re also the woman, caught in sin, deserving of condemnation, wrestling with shame and guilt and embarrassment. Don’t you know she just had this overwhelming urge to hide. She was probably just looking for a tree or a shrub or a person or somewhere that she could hide because she was guilty. We can all resonate with that.

So I want you just to imagine for a moment that you’re the woman in this story. Go ahead and close your eyes unless you’re driving and listening to this (then please do not close your eyes). But you’re standing there and you wonder, Who’s going to take the first shot? You brace your body for impact. You tense up your muscles. You keep your eyes tightly shut, your head down, and suddenly you notice it’s quiet.

You open your eyes and the crowd is gone, and there are stones dropped all around you, and Jesus is the only One standing there. There’s not a rock in sight—certainly not in His hands.

Let’s revisit verse 10: “Jesus stood up to her and said, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’”

This is Jesus as the teacher which I love when Jesus is the teacher. It’s like a game I play at the grocery store with my kids. “What’s this?”

“An apple.”

“What color is it?”

“Red.”

“How many is mommy putting in the bag?”

“One, two, three, four, five.”

Now, I’m no brain surgeon, but I know an apple from the banana. They’re not telling me what’s what. I can count five apples into a bag. I do know my colors. I don’t know math, but I can count to five.

What Jesus is using here with the adulterous woman is called the Socratic Method. It’s a way of figuring out the bottom line through asking questions. Now, Jesus obviously knew that they weren’t there. He’s like, “Hey, are your accusers still here?”

She’s like, “No, obviously you could see that.”

But He’s trying to teach her and help her figure out the bottom line. He’s about to teach her about grace, and He’s using questions to get there.

He hadn’t had His eyes tightly shut, I imagine. I imagine he’d watched her accusers leave one by one by one. So she opens her eyes and He says, “Where are they?” He wanted to get to the heart of the issue which is that His grace is bigger than her sin. Yes, she sinned. Yes, she deserves punishment. But Jesus was about to extend grace to her. “My grace,” Jesus says to her in this sweet moment where He’s just calm with her, “is greater than your sin.”

He didn’t ignore her sin. We don’t see Him brushing it under the rug and saying, “That’s not a big deal. It’s okay.” He doesn’t justify it in some way. He doesn’t come up with some sort of scenario like what she was doing with a man who was not her husband was okay. He says to her, “Go and don’t do that anymore. Leave your life of sin.”

But notice that the threat of punishment was not enough to motivate her to stop. She likely knew what she was doing was wrong. She likely knew that the punishment for what she was doing was death. She’d maybe even heard stories of other Jewish women who had been caught in the act of adultery and been stoned by a crowd much like the one that she encountered. So the threat of punishment didn’t make a difference. But I bet Jesus did. I bet having an encounter with Him and His grace did.

 We have to remember that as parents a lot, right? We want the rules to really shape our kids. And rules are good. We have rules at our house. But grace is a great shaper, too, for our kids and for our own lives.

The Bible doesn’t always wrap its stories up in a neat little bow with a happy ending. There’s not always a "happily ever after" at the end of these stories. We don’t know if this woman left her life of sin. It doesn’t say. But I’m sure that this woman was deeply changed by this encounter where she came to Jesus clearly a sinner and He said, “I don’t condemn you. Go on. Leave your life of sin.” And encountering grace has that kind of effect.

As I’ve said about all of the women in this series, the story is not really about them, it’s really what their story paints of Jesus. And while the title of her story is “sin,” the picture her story really paints is “grace.” Her life was the canvas that God chose to paint the story of His insane grace on, because she didn’t deserve it.

So I hope she moved on from being the adulterous woman to being the grace-filled woman or the prayerful woman or the faithful woman. I’d like to scratch out that heading on my Bible and give her a new label. Or the radical woman? That would be pretty cool. The woman who went on to tell many, many other women that God’s grace was available for them, too.

This encounter is an important one for us to understand because it reminds us of the punishment shuffle. I don’t know about you, but I need to be reminded of grace often. I needed to be reminded about grace that day I lost my temper with my five-year-old in front of all those people. I’m going to need to be reminded of grace every time I lose my temper with my children from now on, and every time I just willingly choose to sin, and every time I fall into it because I’m blinded.

Every time that happens, I need reminding, “There’s grace. There’s grace. There’s grace. I don’t condemn you. Leave your life of sin, but I don’t condemn you.” I need to be reminded of the punishment shuffle that was so beautifully demonstrated here in this passage. 

Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The punishment for sin is death. That woman deserved death. It seems unfair. We think, That crowd was crazy. No. That’s what she deserved. That’s the price for sin.

But God’s free gift is life. Instead of death Jesus offered the adulterous woman forgiveness. So did her sins go unpunished? Did He let her off the hook? After all, that’s kind of what the crowd was worried was going to happen. We don’t really like it when people get off the hook. We don’t really like it when somebody who deserves punishment goes unpunished.

That’s really what had their fists clenched so hard. That’s really what had them so angry in the moment. They thought, This isn’t fair. She’s going to get to go unpunished. She deserves to be punished.

It’s a lot like my children’s version of “fair,” right? They’re always like, “This isn’t fair.”

And I’m like, “You don’t even know what that word means. You have no concept of fair.”

I catch myself saying the thing I swore I would never say. “Life isn’t fair,” which doesn’t help the situation at all. But they get worried that what’s going on isn’t fair. That’s what was happening with the crowd. They just were anxious that she was going to go unpunished and that her sin would be glossed over.

But Jesus did not let her off the hook. He hung Himself on the hook in her place. You need to know that this was not just letting her off scot-free. He said, “You deserve punishment for this, and I’m going to take it so that you don’t have to.” The big fancy word for what Jesus offered the adulterous woman was “propitiation,” which means “full payment.” That’s what He offered her.

First John 4:10 says, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” The penalty for sin is death, and Jesus willingly paid that price because we were powerless to pay it. It's not the same as ignoring our sin. Instead, the debt for our sin is transferred from us to Jesus. He makes the payment. He is the payment.

That’s why in session one it mattered so much that we understood that Jesus was God because God was getting ready to hang Himself on the hook that we needed to be hung on. He is the payment. That’s why this encounter with this adulterous woman is so radical.

She deserved death. She deserved to be stoned by that angry mob. She deserved every one of those rocks that were in their hands. But because of Jesus’ divinity, that we discussed in the last session, He was the only One in that crowd with the authority to condemn her yet He did not. He said, “I don’t condemn you.”

Instead, He so sweetly dealt with her labels. When people looked at the woman in this story, all they saw was her sin. It became her label. I’d love for you to just take a second and think about the labels you wear. Remember your label is your thing that you feel like, “When people look at me, all they see is ___________ (fill in the blank).” It might be a sin. It might be a relationship. It might be something about your family or even an area of success that you feel defines you. Think about that label for a minute.

Then let’s go back to John 8:6: “This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.” He does it twice in this passage.

The Bible doesn’t tell us what Jesus was writing in the sand that day. But I like to think He was giving that woman new labels.

  • They saw “adulteress;” He saw “beloved.” 
  • They saw “sinner;” He saw “redeemed.” 
  • They saw “sin;” He saw “grace.” 

And I’m just using my imagination, not adding to the Bible here, but I like to imagine that He did this because He does this in our lives. He gave her a new label. It’s just a taste of what He wants to do in our lives, I believe.

Our labels can become really comfortable. We kind of like our labels, even if they’re not so nice, because they define us, and we know how it works. Sometimes we can get some attention even if they’re not very nice labels. But Jesus really does want to rip them off and replace them with the labels He gives you in His Word.

Here’s just a taste of just a few of the things I believe He would want to place on you. Romans 8:16–17 says that you are a child of God and a co-heir with Christ. That’s a label that you can wear. I’m a child of God. I’m a co-heir with Christ.

Romans 9:25 says that you have moved from "not my people" to "my people." You have moved from "not beloved" to "beloved." So if you’re wearing a label "cast out; not of God," He wants to put a label on you, "You are mine." If you’re wearing the label "not loved," He wants to put on the label "beloved."

First John 2:12 says that you are forgiven not because you’ve earned it, not because you deserve it, not because you don’t, but for Jesus’ name sake.

Are there any labels you are holding on to? Is there something that you think defines you that’s contrary to how God defines you in His Word?

Some of us have worn our labels so long that they seem stitched into the very fiber of our being. I would encourage you after you hear this to ask the Lord to reveal them to you, because they might be so woven into your heart that you don’t really know what they are.

Ask God what your labels are, and then say, “God, I want an encounter, a radical encounter with Your grace.” Search the Word for a new set of labels. I promise you; they’re there.

Nancy: Amen. As you were teaching, Erin, I’m thinking about that passage in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that says, “If any person is in Christ, he [or she] is a new creation. Old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

So let’s just pray. I want you to just say to the Lord, “Thank you,” and express to Him your gratitude that He was willing to wear the label of “the sinner,” “the unrighteous one,” that all of that sin, all of that stuff that you carry around you that’s so heavy, thank Him that He was willing to carry that for you; that He who knew no sin was willing to be made sin on our behalf. And not only that He took those labels, but that He was willing to give us the label of “His righteousness,” that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.

Oh Lord, it’s so amazing. Such grace. We might sit here and say, “I never committed adultery.” But You search our hearts, and You know all the things we have done and would have done if we’d had the chance. So, Lord, thank You for amazing grace. Thank You for Jesus. Thank You for the price He paid, the willingness to bear the label “sinner” so that we could bear the label “righteous.” Help us never to get over the wonder of all that that means. And then help us to live in light of the new labels that You’ve given us in Christ. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Well, the woman we’ve heard about today is just one in a series of eight that we’re listening to and that Erin Davis has written about in a Bible study. It’s designed for teenagers. But as I’m listening to these sessions, I think this would be good for any woman. It’s called Beautiful Encounters: The Presence of Jesus Changes Everything.

And can’t you see how that was true in this adulterous woman? I mean, could her life ever be the same after that day? And by the way, do you think she went back to her adulterous lifestyle after that encounter? I don’t think so. We don’t know. But she had every reason to go and live a new life, and so do we if we’ve encountered Jesus Christ.

We’re making this resource available to our listeners this week. We’ll send this as our way of saying “Thank you” to anyone who sends a gift of any amount to help support the ministry of Revive Our Hearts, which, by the way, God is using to help women get set free from all kinds of labels and allow them to have new labels because of who they are in Christ. Day after day we get stories of women whose lives are being transformed by the gospel, by the good news of Jesus Christ.

And perhaps you’re one of those listeners who’s been changed by Jesus, and you’d like to help support this ministry so that more women can experience that relationship with Him. So when you send a gift of any amount, our way of saying “Thank you” is to send this Bible study by Erin called Beautiful Encounters. You can give us a call at 1–800–569–5959, or if you’d rather visit us online, you can do that at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Let us know what gift you want to make to the ministry and then be sure to ask for the copy of Erin’s study called Beautiful Encounters. They’re beautiful because He’s beautiful and because He makes us beautiful when we are in Him.

Thanks so much, Erin! We’re going to be back in the next session. You won’t want to miss hearing about another woman who encountered Jesus and whose life was greatly changed.

Leslie: Thanks, Nancy. We’ll be sending you Beautiful Encounters as a thanks for a gift of any amount between now and next Wednesday, May 14. To order additional copies of Beautiful Encounters for your group or for the leader's guide, visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

You can post questions or comments for Erin at ReviveOurHearts.com today. She’ll be part of the listener blog. Visit ReviveOurHearts.com and scroll to the end of the transcript to interact with Erin and other listeners.

Well, if you’re a get-it-done kind of person, do you ever get bothered by the story of Mary and her sister, Martha? Well, Erin Davis calls herself a Type Double-A personality. She’ll take you to the heart of the Mary and Martha story tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

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