December 19 Advent Devotional
December 19, 2019
Scripture: John 8: 10-11: Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way and from now on do not sin again.”
Several years ago, my Bible study group picked a book to study together called Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins we Tolerate. The chapters tackled sins that form part of our everyday experience as “good” church-going Christians: selfishness, pride, greed, gossip, covetousness, unthankfulness, and idolatry, among others. A major theme was that these sins are absolutely sinful but that we often simply accept them as a fact of life, even of the Christian life. Whenever our lives, calendars, bank accounts, and sense of worth are driven by material possessions, status, security (in whatever form that might be), or being “better,” “smarter,” or “wealthier” than someone else, we are caught up in the snare of one of these “respectable” sins. What a convicting read! I saw myself on each and every page, and it was not a pretty picture.
Today’s scripture passage reminds us that through Jesus Christ, our sins are forgiven, but that in that forgiveness comes the admonition to go and sin no more. Somehow it seems easier to obey that command when it is a directed toward a sin that we may not personally experience ourselves. Okay, Jesus – no adultery? Got it. No stealing? Got that, too. No murder? No problem. But wait. How about those “respectable” sins – the ones we commit over and over and over again, often without obvious or immediate consequences? The gossip I had convinced myself was actually “concern.” The put down or criticism I tossed out like a verbal grenade to get the last word. The comparison of our home (with its electricity, plumbing, heat, air conditioning, clean water, space, furnishings, food, clothes, and abundant comfort) to the Instagram ideals. The reliance on myself instead of looking first to God’s providence. The pride in my own “rightness” that stands in the way of hearing the perspectives of those I love. Jesus also tells us to recognize these sins and not do them again.
While grace is indeed amazing and forgiveness is transformative both in our relationship with God and in our relationship with one another, making a concerted, prayerful effort to repent, to change, and to “sin no more” is neither automatic nor easy. It takes honest reflection, candid recognition, a willingness to change, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit to shift our thinking and our behaviors. Thanks be to God for his love and forgiveness and for the tools we have to understand our sin and grow closer to God in endeavoring to sin no more. What better way to prepare for His coming at Christmas than to honestly face our sinfulness and commit to making concrete changes.
Prayer: Dear God, You ask us to recognize our sin and to stop doing it, yet we so often stay in the rut of sin and half-hearted attempts to make changes in our thinking and our actions to reflect your command. By the power of the Holy Spirit, grant us the wisdom and self-knowledge to diagnose those areas where we need to change, and grant us the willingness and courage to change in ways pleasing to you.
Submitted by: Elizabeth Black