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We’re going to read from the Bible which is always a very good place to start you’ve come to church, right? We’re going to read from John chapter eight verses three to eleven and it says, the teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery.

John 8:3-11 NKJV
Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.
So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”

In the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now, what do you say? They were using this question as a trap in order to have a basis for accusing him but Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on question him. He straightened up and said to them, let anyone of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her. Again, he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time. The older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.

Jesus straightened up and asked her, woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you? No one, sir, she said. Then neither do I condemn you, Jesus declared, go now and leave your life sin. So, here we have Jesus teaching in the temple courts and this kind of messy, complicated situation just kind of gets thrust upon him and as we read in that scripture right there and we kind of surmise ourselves, this whole thing is a trap.

This whole thing is a way to get Jesus caught between a rock and a hard place and see what he does because on the one hand, if he said, let her go, he would be kind of breaking Moses law but on the other hand, if he executes her, he’d be breaking Roman law because he wasn’t actually allowed to do that under the Roman occupation. So, he was in this kind of awkward thing of what do you do? Who is so thankful we are not Jesus? You know, that Jesus has these situations, right?

Also, the whole thing as we said, was this huge trap and so the thing that happened was back in those days, if you had been committing adultery, caught in the act of adultery, there was a very high bar to clear in order for that to hold water. For that to hold weight. And so what would happen is basically you couldn’t just bring people forward where you’ve like I’ve seen these two lurking about in the background. I know they’re up to it. We need to stone them. That wouldn’t count.

You would actually have to catch them in the act of adultery. So over the witnesses were that brought them forward would have caught them in the act so to speak. So what happened then? Another thing is usually the person was put in custody and the case was brought forth to someone like Jesus. It wasn’t really dealt with then and there. This was a weird place and a weird time to do it.

While this dilemma rages on there is this woman who is listening to all these people debate over her. And she’s so worried about what her future is. She’s so worried if there is such a thing as a future for her. Because at any moment she could be executed and that’s her life over. And she sees the tussle and she sees the wrestle. But then Jesus puts it to them that if anyone’s so virtuous or anyone so infallible they can cast the first stone. 

And usually, in these circumstances, the witnesses were the ones to first cast the stone. They were the ones to throw it. So it’s almost like Jesus threw it back on them to draw out the witnesses in a way. It says in the midst of this you know he’s bending down and he’s riding on the ground. Which means that bending down is an identification with the victim. With the person.

I’ve been a part of many sermons where I’ve sat down and I’ve listened to many people really try and say this is what I think Jesus was writing on the ground which I’m always like that’s dangerous territory okay? Someone was so confident they’re like I believe this is what he wrote and I’m like oh so we don’t know what that is neither should we care the fact is that Jesus was dealing with that circumstance right then and there and he invites them to two ways of life one is to just walk away from this blood lust this revenge this whole thing that is happening from the people there and we learn later in the chapter that the culture didn’t really turn around.

As a result of this, Jesus was they attempted to stone him later on but he invites them to freedom. He invites them to a new way. And we sit with this beautiful picture of this other person who’s deeply affected by forgiveness. This woman caught in adultery. Who seemly had no way forward. But Jesus made a way forward for her and he said go and sin no more.

You know in Isaiah fifty-four we see God deliver a message through Isaiah about the restoration of Jerusalem after the destruction of the Babylonians. And he says the words no weapon formed against you shall prosper. Now we know in that story that her sin, what she had done had really armed all the people around her. They really felt like they had a say or authority if they had the word go to take her out. Because of her actions.

But also I believe us as Christians sometimes we arm the enemy with weapons that he didn’t fashion himself. Sometimes we do that. There are two things in this where I see where the people were kind of held in place where were the accusers and her were held in place because of almost weapons that they had fashioned and put in the hands of the enemy. It’s like sometimes we have fight like a fight with the enemy and it’s like he’s got a gun and we pass him a bullet and we say let’s fight. You know we don’t want to arm the enemy. We don’t want it to prosper. Amen.

I want to talk this morning about two things. Two things. Um because I believe that sometimes we as Christians can get held in position. We can get held in position to some things that rob us of freedom. That is Jesus says go and sin no more. I’m inviting you to a new way of life. We’re still standing there. We’re still standing in position. And I want to call this message holding patterns. I hope this brings freedom to some people this morning. I hope this provides you with a way forward. So, the first one is and it’s only two. So, it’s easy to remember. I’m not going to give you an eight-point sermon this morning with an ABC dash next to it, okay?

Two things to remember. The first one is to release others. Release others. There’s a famous story that happened in Spain that relates to this. The young man named Paco and he was having this out-of-control fight with his dad and words were said, the kind of words you say you can’t ever come back from. And eventually, the fight became so tenuous and awful that the dad threw Paco out of the house and told him never to come back.

But after a little bit of time the mum and the dad were really struggling with the absence of their son. And they were really struggling with it. And so the dad eventually decided I’m going to go out into the streets and I’m going to find him because I’m so worried that he’s not doing well. And so he looked everywhere and he couldn’t find him and eventually, he’s thought I’m going to have to get with this. So, in Spain, he took out a full-page ad in the local newspaper in the hopes that Paco would see it and said this, dear Paco, meet me in front of the newspaper office at noon on Saturday, all is forgiven, I love you, your father.

At noon on Saturday in front of the newspaper office, 800 men named Paco turned up, all seeking the forgiveness of their father. That’s sad and funny at the same time, right? I feel like that dad is going to have to just on behalf of all the fathers, forgive 800 men. But it’s sad because forgiveness is something we so desperately want and crave sometimes.

It’s something we so need in our lives and we know that as Christians, we’re so grateful for the give forgiveness that Jesus gives us and we see in that story, the original story in the Bible, the unforgiveness in that room was palpable. It was like everyone was armed ready. Everyone wanted in on this. It was a rallying cry. However, the Bible has quite a bit to say about this. You know, in Ephesians four verse thirty-one, it says, 

Ephesians 4:31-32 NKJV

Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.

Matthew five verse forty-three says, 

Matthew 5:43-48 NKJV

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

You know, I had a season of life. It was roughly about 4 years where I was working for someone and that employer just made my life absolutely awful. Like awful. Every week I would go in every day. I would go into work and I’d come back from work and I’d have all of these stories to share with Jess. Poor Jess my wife. That she had to listen to all of this. I come home and say he said this. And he did that. And I just felt so depleted, so destroyed by this person that eventually I decided if he’s not going to quit, I’m going to quit. I’m responsible my actions not for his. So I I’m not going to stay around anymore. I’m going to go.

And thankfully before I even had the chance to put in my notice he actually resigned from his position. But just before he left I got put in charge of his farewell. So the whole like getting everyone together and doing the oh we’re so sorry to see you go. It’s so sad. We’re going to miss you. And I was the person who had to be one of the key speakers to get up. And talk out him. And now if you don’t know much about me, I’m a terrible liar. I just as Jess says, if I play a ball game with you or a card game like anything like that, I can’t lie very well. I can’t do that. She reads through it straight away. That’s why I don’t like playing with Jess.

So, I was thinking, how am I going to do this speech and stand up in front of everyone and deliver this convincingly and so I had to pick a whole bunch of stuff from my time to be like, oh, I did learn this from him and I did learn that from him. So, that’s good and so I formed together some kind of speech and delivered it and he left and he moved on and I remember after that season, I still carried this like bitterness and hurt within me. So, anytime his name came up, there was just this in my spirit. 

You know, and sometimes you get caught if someone else kind of knew what they were like, you get caught in this little thing conversation where you just rehashing everything and oh do you remember when he said this and oh, do you remember when he did that? And it just went nowhere and I began to realize, this has moved on with his life. And I’m still here dealing with it. Yeah. He’s moved on. He probably doesn’t even know that he’s affected me that much. Yet I’m still carrying the weight of this. I’m still wrestling with this even though he’s long gone.

For some of us in this room you have family members who deeply hurt you. You’ve had friends that have hurt you. There have maybe been significant serious things that happens. Maybe there’s been abuse in your background. Maybe there’s been a marriage breakdown and your partner has actually been awful to you. There’s so many things that we could pinpoint where it’s almost like we say I’m entitled to that hurt. I’m entitled to my unforgiveness. I’m entitled to not forgive them. And you know what? If you tell me your reasons I’d probably be like fair enough. Fair enough. That sounds pretty bad.

But the interesting thing is the Bible talks about forgiveness and it’s not something that is outside of our control. Sometimes we think forgiveness is outside of our control that if they forgive first if they say sorry first then I’ll say sorry. If they do the right thing first then I’ll forgive them. If they do this or do that then that resolves the issue. And we treat forgiveness like it’s out of our hands. Like I can’t possibly do it. They’re not coming to the party. They’re not coming to the table. And we put forgiveness. The power of forgiveness in their hands not our own.

We wait on them to do the right thing. But the Bible puts pressure on us and says forgiveness actually has nothing to do with them. Absolutely nothing to do with them. It has everything to do with you. Yeah. Everything do with you. Don’t palm this off. It’s yours. It’s yours. Jesus forgave even in our ignorance. Even when we were messed up. Even when we were doing the wrong thing. He still forgave us. And God wants to heal the hurt that it was is within you. That’s God’s role. God’s role is to heal the hurt. The other person is not going to heal the hurt. That’s not their role. Forgiveness is something different than that.

Because I think we sometimes get confused, forgiveness, and reconciliation. We think reconciliation that I have to be reconciled to this person. But reconciliation takes two people. Forgiveness takes one. You know we think we have to be reconciled that almost if we reconcile with them like because we see forgiveness through that lens. We think that we are forgiving what they’ve done. That what they did was alright. Or okay. That we’re absolving them of it and we can’t let that go. We had that in our spirit. I just can’t release it. But can I tell you right now forgiveness is something different. Forgiveness is something different.

In Romans twelve verse seventeen it says, do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written, it is mine to avenge, I will repay, says the Lord. On the contrary, if your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he’s thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, he will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:17-21 NKJV
Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

There’s a couple of things passage I really like a few things. One is He’s the one who avenges. He’s the one who brings justice. Sometimes we’re waiting for justice to bring healing to a situation. But actually we’re not the judge. We’re not the judge. And also the power of healing and the power of justice is not in their hands either. It’s in God’s hands. God’s saying as far as it depends on you. Oh. Oh. Doesn’t that one sting? As far as it depends on you I want you to live at peace with everyone.

They may not live at peace with you but you’ve made peace with the situation. Because I know that God is the one who judges. God is the one who will deal with it. God is the one who will carry the weight of that. Not me. Are you with me church? Yeah? And also it says, in doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. Now, when we read that, for those of us who feel that mm we’ll be like, yeah, that sounds good. Keep burning coals on the head. Yeah, that’s good.

But actually, we read that with western eyes because actually what it refers to was back in those days, you would have to keep a fire going for warmth and for food and if it went out, what you would do is you would go over to your neighbour and ask them for some hot coals and so you’d have some kind of container, some or something. They would give you the coals and you would go back and you would get your fire going. So, it kind of said, the one injured would be returning kindness for injury is what it’s referring to basically. So, it’s not our little get out of jail-free car where it says, oh but you can, you know, kind of get it. I’m a little bit, a little bit.

No, we actually to repay kindness. Repay kindness. And I don’t know what you have gone through. I don’t know what has been on your life, the situation you’ve had to walk through. But can I tell you now, unforgiveness not somewhere you want to be. It gets in. It seeps in and it causes us to become bitter and twisted and you’re actually called to freedom. You’re called to freedom. From every situation. From every scenario you can possibly go through. It is possible that you could still walk through the fire of your circumstances of unforgiveness. But be free. But be free from it.

Eventually I learnt that if I ran into this guy that I worked for. If I ran into him at the shops one day. I wanted to feel like there wouldn’t be that mm in my spirit. That actually there’d be nothing I need to say because I don’t need anything from him. I don’t need him to apologise. I don’t need him to make things right. I’m good. I’m good. I’ve moved on. And for some of us in this room we need to come to that place of unforgiveness because you know what? It’s like we’re arming the enemy.

We’re arming the enemy. We’re saying here’s the bullet. And he’ll gladly take it. That’s not where we want to be. We want to move on from this holding pattern because you know what? There could be unforgiveness in your world from like 2012. From 10 years ago. And it’s almost like we still stuck in that same hurt and that same place. But it’s 2022. It’s a new year. We’re almost in 2023. If you want to make a new year’s resolution resolve to let that go. Because you need to exist in the present. Not in the past. 

Maybe it’s happened a month ago, a year ago, a decade ago, whatever it is. It’s time to live today. God doesn’t want you looking back. He wants you looking forward. So we need to release others. That’s how we’re not going to be held in pattern, held in place. Are you with me church? The next one is release yourself. Release yourself. A while back at church we were having this Mother’s Day panel not here at King’s Church. It was a different church. We decided for the preaching we would get a few mums up. Sit them in a row. We’d interview them.

It’d be nice. You know they’d obviously talk about some mum stuff like you know changing nappies and I’m trying not to be stereotypically and my wife is folding her arms already. Um you know ah like helping your children grow in the ways of God. All these type of things. and so we thought it would be a really innocuous, nice panel with the few wisdom things and it’d be a nice Mother’s Day service and so, we got the three ladies up and they were starting and answering these questions so wonderfully and then it got to the third one who was on the panel and I don’t know how we got onto this topic but they asked her a question and this woman was someone who I’d when I first started going to that church, I thought she was just like the the stereotypical Christian.

You know, like she’s can quote the word of God. She’s like so lovely, so friendly, like just so Christian. That’s a weird way to put it. But you get what I’m saying. And so she started talking and she’s a mum and she opened up about the fact that when she was really young she was actually a call girl. And that also she was in an abusive relationship at the time too and she was stuck in this awful scenario. And as she said that like the room was dead silent. You could hear like a pin drop. And I think I was the only one who said anything in the room and I was like wow.

I felt I felt like I needed to go apologize to her afterwards to be like, oh, I meant that in a good way. I was just, I was taken it back by this woman who I just thought was like the typical Christian had this past that I would have never put these two people together and when she was saying her story, it was almost like she was talking about someone else and as she relayed her story and it went on, eventually, she the abuse was happening and she ended up in a cupboard, a closet and she found her Bible and she opened it up and she read it and suddenly she decided no I need to make my life right with God.

I can’t do this anymore. And she reconciled with her mother. And afterwards after the service was finished I went up to her and I just thanked her. Because the whole like the Mother’s Day panel clearly got derailed okay? Because like you follow the lead. The interesting story just took over. And so we kind of followed it and just preached into that. But afterwards I was like this is amazing. Like thank you so much for your honesty and bringing it forward the beautiful thing was it felt like she doesn’t identify with that anymore. That’s not who she is. She’s not ashamed of it. She’s not hiding it. She knows it’s a part of her past and that’s fine. And she really owned that and I thought it was beautiful.

You know with the story in John eight you can imagine the tension in the room as people peeled off one by one and there she is standing in front of Jesus just wondering what is he going to do? Because she’s not off the hook completely yet. He asks where are her accusers and she said there’s none. And then she thinks, is he, is he going to do it? Is he, what, what’s he going to say? And there’s still one more person which is Jesus waiting for her, but he says, neither do I condemn you, go now and leave your life of sin. And that must have been such a release. And we’re left with that moment of not really knowing immediately what she did.

There’s not a follow-up verse to say that she said, yippee and skipped out of there, you know, like, it just leaves us in that moment. And the thing that her there was guilt and shame. That’s what kept her there. But then after Jesus released her from it the only thing that would keep her there now is shame. Cuz potentially she could feel great shame over what she did and could feel like she needs to stay in place. And I think we need to kind of differentiate guilt and shame because guilt I’ve heard it put this way really well. Which is guilt is I failed. Shame is I’m a failure. Suddenly we start identifying with our guilt.

It starts getting in there. There are countless things in our world that we could be going through where it’s like I feel like I’m a failure as a parent. I have this screw-up from my past. I can’t do anything right. I’m not good. I’m not pretty enough. I’m not this. I’m not that. And it’s this thing where unforgiveness sometimes wears itself on the outside. But Shane is something internalised. And it’s something we hide from people. A great quote put it this way. Shame is an intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging. Something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do that makes us unworthy of connection.

You know, the enemy wants to keep us in place and sometimes there are people that accuse us, right? But in that story, we saw all the accusers peel off. Sometimes, for some of us, all of your accusers are gone and now we’re just accusing ourselves. We’re doing the dirty work of the enemy. And actually, Jesus says to us go now and leave your life of sin. Sin no more. You’ve got freedom. You can go and then we turn it inward and accuse ourselves. Are you with me church? Everyone falls short. Nobody is perfect. If you have ever felt like you could never come to this church because of something you’ve done or something in your past.

I want you to rid that of your mind right now. I don’t care. I’ve had people try and call me on behalf of congregation members. Not at this church. To say oh do you know what this person has done? Do you know what this person got into and I’m like unless they murdered someone, I don’t really care because they no longer identify with their shame. They no longer identify with their sin. They identify with Christ. Shame is not an identity. And we make it our identity. We allow it to seep in and become a part of our character and who we are. But actually when we are made new in Jesus, he is our identity. Christ is our identity. I no longer identify with the old life. And the ways that the enemy wants to pull me back to it and hold me place. I am free indeed. Amen?

You know, I even watched this illusionist thing on Disney Plus one time where they had people come in, this audience come in to see this illusionist and on their way in was this wall and on it with these little tags which had things that said, I am beautiful, right? I’m strong, right? I am powerful or I am all these kind of adjectives, verbs, whatever you want to call it. The teachers in here know the right way. Anyway, So, people were encouraged that they needed to grab one before they entered in and they’d hold onto it until the end of the night and so, at the very end of it, he got every single person in the room to stand up and he said, I’m going to guess what each of you picked before you came in the show and so, one by one, he’s saying, I am this.

I am that, all of them and eventually, he gets to midway through the audience and there’s a guy standing there and you can know he’s like sweating because of what he chose and the illusion guy starts tearing up and getting emotional because he knows what he’s about to say. And he almost doesn’t want to say it. And then he looks at the guy and says I’m nothing. I’m nobody. And the guy just starts weeping. And just sobs and sits down with his head in his hands. And then he moves on.

And I just think how awful must it be to exist in that kind of life. To think you’re nothing. To think you’re nobody. To have such great shame. Or internalised thinking that is robbing us and keeping us in place. That is awful. You know Romans eight verse one it says therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. If you are in Christ Jesus, there is no condemnation. None. There’s no accusers. I’m not accusing you. No one in this room is accusing you. Jesus isn’t accusing you. So, go. Go from this place of hurt. Go from this place. We identify with Jesus.

Romans 8:1 NKJV
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
Ps Sean Casey

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