I recently encountered God in a new and VERY unexpected way.
Every Saturday morning I cook breakfast for my family. It’s become ritual… sometimes I go all out, sometimes I get donuts, the point is that Crystal is able to not worry about it and just relax for a bit.
This past Saturday I woke up and went to Wal-Mart to get what we needed. I had no idea that God would meet me there in a way that would be powerful and life altering, not just for me but for a group of people and maybe people in the future as I share this.
As I walked past the cash registers, something strange happened… I was overwhelmed with this sense of shame, guilt, filth…. whatever you want to call it. The best way to describe it is that I felt EXACTLY like you would in a dream where you suddenly find yourself naked in public. I felt it so much so that I actually looked down to make sure I was wearing pants…. no joke I really did.
I had never felt that way before. NAKED! As if everything had been laid out for everyone to see. Over the next day and a half God began to speak to me about this and then he completed it at Sunday night worship.
What I felt was true shame, guilt, disgust… for the sin in my life. What I felt was the truth that God sees these things that I hide away in my heart and pretend that they aren’t there… well guess what, they are there and GOD DOES SEE THEM! I felt the reality of that. And I have never been so ashamed in my life. It only lasted for about 30 seconds. But within those 30 seconds I felt the shame of a lifetime. God met me in the middle of Wal-Mart and revealed to me the things that I have allowed to invade my heart.
He didn’t call these things out by name… I know what they are, he didn’t have to, as soon as they were ripped out and thrown on the ground in front of me I knew.
I knew that I was filled with Lust, Pride, Envy, Violence, Manipulation and host of other sins… I knew instantly that my heart had deceived me and buried these things deep so that they could remain hidden from plain sight… But God had another plan.
He took the safe harbor of my heart and laid it bear before me… for me to see that he sees it all. Nothing is hidden.
NOTHING AT ALL.
In John Chapter 8 there’s a strange story of a woman who has been caught in the act of adultery.
Early one morning the religious leaders bring a woman who has been caught in the act of adultery and throw her in the middle of the crowd.
I imagine this woman, maybe still fully naked from the night. She had probably gone, knowing that she was wrong, but being deceived by here heart, to her lovers house. Being in love she probably fell asleep in his arms, and the next morning when she awoke it was much later than she had anticipated. And she had been caught. A sin punishable by death. And fully naked she was dragged into the streets and laid bare before Jesus Christ, her savior.
Her heart had deceived her, led her into a place she was never meant to be.
The religious leaders then asked Jesus what they should do with this filthy woman.… they were trying to trip him up.
In usual Jesus fashion, just like a good Rabi, he responds to turn the question on them…
“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”
With this statement he rips out their sin and lays it bare before everyone. He puts EVERYONE on an equal playing field. Now everyone, including the woman are laid out for what they are… sinful… not worthy… everyone religious leaders and adulterers are on the same level.
Jesus has a strange way of doing that. He brings everything into perspective.
This is humbling, that we are all on the same level. Jesus points it out. He convicts us of our sin. Sometimes that doesn’t feel good. Sometimes it’s the most disgraceful thing we may ever feel. Sometimes it feels like we are naked in public… like we have been drug out of our bed of sin and thrown into the public eye for everyone to see.
But the story gets better. As Jesus brings everyone’s sin to the table and lays it out, the accusers start to walk away, Eventually it’s just Jesus and the woman. And Jesus says 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.”
The same person that draws that sin out and lays it out for the world to see, the same person who sees all that it done in secret, the same person who has every right in all of creation to say that we are not worthy is the same person that offers forgiveness of those things!
How could he offer forgiveness for the things in my heart, how could he forgive this woman?
BECAUSE HE TOOK ALL OF THAT GUILT. ALL OF THAT SHAME. ALL OF THAT FILTH TO THE CROSS!!!
In the moment when he turned to that woman and said, “neither do I condemn you” he nailed her sin to the cross… he put it to death!
That’s why he was able to say “go, and from now on sin no more” because he had paid the price and made it possible.
No amount of shame or guilt can draw us out of sin.
ONLY THE SCANDALOUS GRACE OF THE CROSS HAS THAT ABILITY!!!
Jesus met an adulterous woman in the street.
Jesus meets the junkie in the ally.
The porn addict at their computer.
The alcoholic in the bar.
The vain in their mirror.
He is here and now.
Jesus met me in walmart and left me with an amazing gift… the reality of his grace.