Trapped....Now How Do I Respond?

How Do You Respond When You Feel Trapped As A Christian?

Ross Sawyers
Mar 21, 2021    1hr
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How do you respond when you're put in a position where you feel you have no options and are trapped as a Christian? People often try to trap Christians using people for their own gain, or Scripture for their own agendas, but Jesus compassionately and gracefully shows us how to respond to these entrapments. Video recorded at Grapevine, Texas.

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Ross Sawyers (00:05):
What a privilege for us to be able to worship together in joy and just to celebrate God and get our eyes on Him, His glory, His name. And then what a privilege to think about His love for us and His mercy and His grace towards us. Before we continue, I need one little side note to honor my friend, Ethan. The University of North Texas won yesterday in the NCAA basketball. For the eight of us who care, we just wanted to celebrate that with Ethan. And Abilene Christian, if we have any Abilene Christian people in the, wow, what a day if you're a basketball fan. That has nothing to do with what we're doing today. But I just wanted to do a little side note. We've been thinking about having real conversations in truth and love. And we've looked at Jesus as a model for that.

Ross Sawyers (00:56):
How do we have these kinds of dialogues with people that are so difficult to have in our culture today? And it's been a treat just to look at Jesus from this particular lens as we unpack Scripture. If you'll turn your Bibles to John chapter 7, the very last verse, verse 53, and that will propel us into chapter 8, verses 1 through 11. And as you think about that Scripture, I'd like for us to hear a story this morning to get our minds and hearts rolling towards what will happen in this particular part of the Scripture.

Lauren Rose (01:40):
Hi, my name is Lauren Rose. I am from Colleyville, Texas minus a few years living in New Orleans. I have lived here almost my entire life. I was born into a Christian home where most of my life we went to Harwood Terrace Baptist Church. In high school, I started swimming and I was a swim team captain. I was in AP classes. During that time because of the success I'd seen as a swimmer, swim meets had started becoming more of a priority, which meant that I was spending more weekends at swim meets than I was at church. There were college recruiters there. There were opportunities to advance to state. I was captain of the swim team, which was great. But my time for events that I was swimming slowly started to plateau. My friends were getting recruitment letters and I wasn't.

Lauren Rose (02:37):
And I thought, man, I really just don't fit in with any of these people. I'm not the smartest kid in the class. I'm not the fastest person on the swim team. And I was really just longing for some type of acceptance. Quite honestly, that's when everything started for me. When I went to college, I had already gotten in a habit of not going to church on Sundays and my alcohol use had already started. And I really didn't know how to say no at that point. I wanted to be accepted. I wanted to get to go to the parties. I wanted to be cool. I wanted to have those friends. Ultimately, that's what introduced me to a person, a man that I developed a very unhealthy relationship with at that time. I had only smoked pot and drank alcohol at that time, but I was quickly introduced to a world of harder substances.

Lauren Rose (03:35):
We were taking risks that we normally wouldn't have ever done, buying drugs in really scary neighborhoods. Oftentimes, we were robbed. We'd been held at gunpoint. And yet none of it was ever enough for me to stop and take a look at my life and think, what am I doing? Other consequences of things that he and I were doing was discovering that I was pregnant and knowing at that time that neither he nor I were willing or able to quit our lifestyle to go through with having the baby. It was a decision that we made instantly and quickly, and we did it without even thinking about any type of emotional consequence. We decided we were going to try and make it work. And we moved back home to Colleyville. I started going back to school and I was getting a 4.0 and made different academic awards.

Lauren Rose (04:50):
But there was a major strain between my relationship with this person. And ultimately, we decided to break up. I thought that if I numbed the pain with alcohol or drugs, that it would just go away. And I had also always used men as a way to cope too. I made the decision to move out and not have a relationship with my parents anymore. And I, at this point, was so involved with drugs that I was incredibly addicted to crystal meth, and I was involved with people who were selling it. And that was something that I essentially got involved with. There was a point in time when I went to rehab, and I started making a lot of progress there and started feeling better. My relationship with my parents was still very fractured, but they never gave up on me. And they loved me as much as they possibly could and supported me. One day when I was sitting in treatment, a very tall and handsome man walked into my life.

Lauren Rose (06:11):
And as strange as it is to say, I knew I was gonna marry that man. There's a saying in AA and NA. It's a 12-step program, but the 13th step is, hey, I have a problem, which is the first step and the 12th step is sharing it. So they say the 13th step is, hey, I have a problem. Let me share it with you. Things were bad before I went to rehab. They got even worse afterwards. And it was absolutely amazing how quickly things started spiraling totally out of control. One night, I was with two of my friends and I was supposed to go and go on a run with them but ultimately decided that I wasn't going to go. I needed to go home. I happened to turn on the news and see that my two friends had just been shot.

Lauren Rose (07:06):
I just remember being in the hospital and seeing them laying there. And one of the nurses was talking to me and she said, it's just such a shame. I have a son that's very addicted to this right now. And I looked at her last name, and I immediately knew who her son was. He was one of my friends, and I was so sad for her and ashamed. And it was like all of a sudden, all of these feelings that I'd been suppressing of guilt and shame really started to weigh in on me. And I know and I knew at that moment that I should probably stop. A couple of days after my friends were shot, I had been clean for a couple of days. And I thought, hmm, something is different with my body. And after going to buy a pregnancy test with my then boyfriend, we went to the 7/11 at Glade and 121.

Lauren Rose (08:17):
And it was in that parking lot that I found out I was pregnant with our daughter, Emma. My life immediately changed. I had already been in a mindset of I'm not going to do drugs anymore. And I remember actually thanking God that I was now pregnant with this baby that I knew was going to essentially be the reason that I was finally going to stop using drugs. After he got clean for about a year, we decided that we were ready to have another baby and get married. So again, it was these, okay, great. My life is getting better. I'm taking a step in the right direction. I'm doing normal people things. And it was shortly thereafter that we welcomed my youngest daughter, Madeline. We call her Mads. Eventually, it got to a point where I noticed that things weren't right. You could tell by looking in someone's eyes that, okay, your pupils aren't supposed to be that size or why are you disappearing all the time?

Lauren Rose (09:26):
And there were several times where he just wouldn't come home from days on end. And that ultimately led to him making poor decisions, like having extramarital affairs. And ultimately, those things are what led to our separation. On the surface, all of the needs of my children were being met and I was taking care of myself. I was a total wreck. And without really knowing what was going to happen next, I started dating other people while I was still married. It was so easy for me to justify what I was doing when essentially I was ultimately having an affair too. I was so riddled with anxiety and sleep deprivation and depression that my life was spiraling out of control. And I knew that I needed to get help.

Lauren Rose (10:24):
I remember after I would pick up my kids from daycare and get them to bed and, you know, mom, and, you know, do all my mommy things at night, I couldn't wait to get into my closet and just cry. And I remember crying there every night for a long time. And it was just my place that I could go to and I could scream into a pillow and just wonder, what in the world am I going to do? And I was talking to my psychiatrist and I said, please, you've got to put me on something stronger. You just don't understand. It's not getting better. And he looked at me and he said, there's nothing else that I can put you on. I remember in that moment being so scared and so depressed. I knew I couldn't go back to a life of drugs. That really wasn't ever an issue for me. But I just remember being so terrified and thinking that I was completely out of options.

Ross Sawyers (12:26):
In Lauren's spot, how does, when we think there are no options and feel trapped, how do we respond? How do we respond when people trap us? We see both of these things happening in this story, in John chapter 8. And I'd like force us to think about the ways that Jesus interacted in both someone trying to trap Him and then with someone that was trapped. We too might find ourselves in positions like this. And we learn from Jesus how to respond. He's in a spot where the authorities, the religious authorities are trying to trap Him because His popularity was increasing, people's desire to follow Him was increasing. It was a threat to the Pharisees and they were fearful that their power and their authority would be overtaken. I'd like for us to think about a few things. It's how I've been praying this week for us. One, that as we look through this story and think about Lauren's story, that our love for Jesus would only deepen and increase.

Ross Sawyers (13:52):
And then my prayer would be anyone today who is in some sense feeling trapped in their own sin or being someone that traps other people, that today you might find freedom in Christ. And that all of us might find wisdom in how to have these kinds of conversations with people. Let's begin with this idea in chapter 7 verse 53 through 8:2. And that is that when we think about being trapped, we need to be on the alert for unexpected times when this might occur. It's not always planned opportunities that we will be trapped or that someone tries to trap us. Oftentimes it's an unexpected time. And that's exactly what we find unfolding with Jesus. Chapter 7 verse 53, everyone went to His home, but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. The setting here we find in John chapter 7 and the Feast of Tabernacles had been taking place.

Ross Sawyers (14:51):
It was a seven-day feast to commemorate the wilderness wanderings of the people of Israel for 40 years and ultimately their freedom. This feast was the last of the Jewish feasts in their particular year. It was to be a joyous feast. It was after the crops had been harvested. And the reason it was called the Feast of the Tabernacles or the Feast of Booths is the people would stay in booths or tents, again, to think about and remember what had happened in those wilderness wanderings. The festival is over, and here we find ourselves in this setting. It's the end of the seventh day. And Jesus goes to the Mount of Olives. It seems to be a place that He frequented when he was in Jerusalem. Verse 2, early in the morning, He came again into the temple and all the people were coming to Him and He sat down and began to teach them. Keep in mind, this has been seven days.

Ross Sawyers (15:48):
It's quite a feast, quiet the eating. I don't know if there was a whole lot of sleeping. Everybody catching up, having a good time. It was a joyous occasion. And yet Jesus, we find in John 7 had been teaching during those days as well, and everybody was hanging on His words. Every word, they were hanging onto them. They couldn't get enough. And rather than heading back to work or heading back to their respective homes, it looks like a number of people stayed. And after that long week, and then an early morning, they meet Jesus, and there He is outside the temple. He sitting down. That was a position of authority for a rabbi, when a rabbi would teach. And He's teaching the people. And this is, it's just a good time sitting around the one that they are mesmerized by. And oftentimes it's these kinds of settings where we are that we don't expect any kind of interruption.

Ross Sawyers (16:48):
It might be at dinnertime, and we're just having a good time at dinner with family or with some friends. And as you're having that dinner, you're there. And then all of a sudden, someone out of nowhere has a trap question for you. It could be sitting in the stands at one of your kid's games, and someone knows you're Christian. And they've been thinking about something for a while because they'd been seeing it on social media. And they're just waiting for the right moment to try and get you. It could be at work. Maybe you're at lunch or standing in the break room, and somebody makes a comment and just trying to egg you on, trying to trap you. It's those unexpected times. So we need to be ready for those. Jesus was. And that moves us into the second part in thinking about these kinds of conversations.

Ross Sawyers (17:36):
And that is to discern when people in Scripture are being used for hypocritical agendas. In order to have conversations like this, there needs to be a discernment in us to know when people are being used. They're being exploited. And then when Scripture, even though rightfully said, is being used for a hypocritical agenda. It'll make sense as we continue on. Verse 3, the scribes and the Pharisees, they brought a woman caught in adultery and having set her in the center of the court. This is the perfect opportunity to trap Jesus in front of the very crowds that He had been teaching, in front of the crowds that were mesmerized by Him. Now they believe they've set the perfect trap. So we have Jesus. We have the crowds who are hanging on His every word. We have the scribes now who have entered in. Now the scribes, we hear about a lot in the gospels but only this one time in John. The scribes were the professional attorneys.

Ross Sawyers (18:36):
They were the ethicists, the theologians of the day. And when they were present, it would indicate a legal proceeding might be happening. And so this had the flair of a legal proceeding with the presence of the scribes. The Pharisees were the religious leaders of the day. They knew the law. They interpreted the law. They loved tradition, and they loved trusting themselves and having places of honor. And they wanted nothing to do with anyone that would threaten that place of honor being removed from them. And then we have this woman who's caught in adultery. And here she is, her sin on public display in front of the crowds and in front of these religious leaders who have no care for her. They have no concern for her. They're simply exploiting and using her.

Ross Sawyers (19:30):
Now don't miss the point in this story. We tend to think about this story as the woman caught in adultery, in her immorality. And that's correct. But let's not miss the other sin that's going on here, the self-righteousness and hatred of the religious people that is on full display for everyone to see. There's two sins going on here. The woman is being used as a pawn. The Scriptures are being manipulated for the hypocritical gain of the Pharisees. We need to be able to discern when those things are happening. These religious leaders are creating chaos. They've come into the temple, into the part where Jesus is teaching. And they're trying to put Jesus on His heels. They're trying to create an instability. They're trying to play on the fragility of the crowds. And they're doing all of this for their own good. With our preaching team the other day, we were talking about this passage. And when we think about it today in this particular setting, is it possible that the world of social media is this setting today? And it doesn't take but one little mess up to all of a sudden become the one at the center of the frenzy of the mobs. This is what mobs do. They create chaos. They create fragility. They prey on people, and they take advantage of them. And that's exactly what we're seeing happen, and things are being done for their own gain.

Ross Sawyers (21:19):
Now I want to divert here for a minute and think about the way Jesus did life. And He had a habit of hanging out with immoral women. In Luke chapter 7, we see a different kind of story. It's not a crowd, but it's in a home. The man's name is Simon, and he's a Pharisee. And he had been invited. He was the host, and he had invited Jesus into his home. Now, apparently he wasn't the most hospitable Pharisee because in comes, uninvited and unexpected, a woman who's described in the Scripture as a sinner, a woman of ill repute. She comes in and Jesus reclining at that table. She comes in behind Him. She's weeping just being in the presence of Jesus. And as she weeps, her tears fall on His feet. And with her long hair, she wipes the feet of Jesus. And then with some anointing oil, perfume, she puts that on His feet. Simon, the Pharisee, the religious person, the one who knew the law is thinking to Himself, if this man really knew who this woman was, if He really knew who she was, He wouldn't be doing this. He was really a prophet. He's calling who Jesus is into question because it doesn't appear Jesus is uncomfortable with this woman. He didn't tell her to stop. We don't get any sense that there's a discomfort on His part. My hunch is it was awfully awkward for Simon who failed to invite this lady into his home. We see Jesus in the home with this immoral woman. Now we see Him at the center of the temple court in the midst of a crowd. And here's the charge that's brought. They said to Him, teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery in the very act

Ross Sawyers (23:32):
In order to catch someone, it seems in this particular case that there was some kind of a setup, some kind of advanced setup is there had to be according to Jewish law, there had to be two witnesses. And they had to corroborate exactly what happened. That means they had to have been there, watched, and give the exact detail. And if either one of the witnesses missed the detail, then the death penalty is not given because we know according to the law, in verse 5, it says, now in the law, Moses commanded to stone such women. Well, in Deuteronomy 22:22, in that part of the law, it says that a man who's found lying with another married woman, that death is the penalty. There are consequences for the sin. And in that verse, it says, so that the evil would be purged from Israel. Now this raises an interesting question, doesn't it? The Pharisees brought a woman. They're using this woman. If they're so intent on the law, where's the man? Both the man and the woman are to be put to death for committing adultery. Slight miss here on their part. They were doing this, not because they were concerned about the law of Moses, not because of this particular woman. They were saying this, testing Him. They were putting Jesus on trial so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. They felt threatened so they put Jesus on trial right before all the people. And they're using and exploiting this young lady to do so. They were using Scripture as a weapon.

Ross Sawyers (25:28):
What was so crucial about what was about to occur here and the way He answered? This is quite the predicament, actually, that Jesus is in. If He has compassion on the woman and says, she's not to be stoned to death, then to the Jewish leaders, He's rejecting the law. If, however, He goes with what they want Him to do, Roman law did not allow for the death penalty for this particular offense. So then He would be breaking Roman law. Trapped. So they thought. The immoral is now taken out of play. And really what we have on most display in this moment is the hatred of the Pharisees. Now who out there today is trying to trap Christians? Well, we could pick any part of any day, and there'll be something new where someone is trying to create chaos, someone is trying to get us more fragile, and someone's trying to keep us on our heels. And they're doing it by using people and the Scripture. There's a term out there now. And I have to tell you, I'm about exhausted being labeled. I'm exhausted of all the labeling.

Ross Sawyers (27:07):
And there's a term out there now in a group that they're calling themselves Progressive Christians. Now there's nothing progressive about them. It's old heresies they've renamed something progressive. It's not progressive. It's backwards. Progressive Christianity says that there's not an incarnation of Christ, no crucifixion, or resurrection. And then it defines Christianity in light of the cultural sexual ethic. It's really convenient. Now that says something to us, doesn't it? About the powerful name of Jesus that people can't simply reject it. They have to try to define it a different way to make it work with the way they want to live. But yet in the social media square and other places as well, Progressive Christians are pushing their agenda, and it's a trap for those who are really followers of Jesus. I personally would just like to be called a follower of Jesus. I don't need to be called evangelical. I don't need another name in front of it. I don't need to say it's this kind of Christian or this kind of Christian or that kind of Christian. I don't see that. What I see is you're either a follower of Jesus or you're not. But there are those who want to trap those who are following after Jesus.

Ross Sawyers (28:33):
Now, how do we respond when people do this? Thoughtfully and calmly create ways for self-reflection. That's what we see Jesus do. He's thoughtful, He's calm, and He creates a path for self-reflection. The second part of verse 6, but Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. So He stoops down somehow, and He starts to write with his finger on the ground. Now there's a lot of conjecture as to what He wrote. We don't know. We're not going to guess at it. I'm not going to take a stab at it today. We have no idea. Anybody that says they do, they're guessing. That's all they're doing. It doesn't say it. We just know He stooped. Why did He do that? He's in no hurry. He knows who He is, and He's confident. He's going to let them sit in it for a minute. He's thoughtful and He's calm in his response.

Ross Sawyers (29:33):
But they persisted, which means He must've stayed there for a little bit. They were getting a little irritated. So it says in verse 7, they persisted in asking Him. And when they did, He straightened up and He said to them. Now then, I don't know what this silence was like here, the awkwardness of that silence. But I suspect it was really awkward as they felt the weight of the presence of Jesus and Him not responding. And then He stands up straight and the force of the words here that He says, He who is without sin among you, let Him be the first to throw a stone at her. It's not some merciful plea. It's not a kind something He's saying to them. He stands up and my hunch is with eyes of steel, He's looking in the face of those self-righteous, hating religious leaders. And He's looking at them saying, the one who is without sin, you be the one to throw the first stone.

Ross Sawyers (30:28):
I love that. He has shifted everything off of this young woman and He's put it all on them. Here I'll let you reflect on your self-righteous for a minute, your self-righteousness for a minute. I'll let you think about your hatred. What does it take to bring somebody and do this today? How much hatred do you have to have in your heart to do that to somebody? I'm going to let you think about the log that's in your own eye before you start looking at the speck in somebody else's eye. I personally wouldn't have been wanting to look in the eyes of Jesus in that moment. Again, He stooped down, and He wrote on the ground. There He goes again. He's writing so He's not looking up. He's letting them think about it. Letting them reflect. The one without sin, you throw it. You throw it first. And then in verse 9, we see that he patiently waits for the response. Now our tendency is to keep talking. We keep moving and we get a little bit nervous. We don't want to let somebody sit in it and we want either bail them out. We start feeling bad that we're having them self-reflect. And so we pull out. We start talking. But no, Jesus patiently waits. And then what we find in verse 9 is that when they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones.

Ross Sawyers (32:12):
And there was a great respect for elders in their culture. And they were waiting for the older ones to see would one of them be without sin and be able to throw the stone? No, the elders, they left. And then I guess it aged out all the way down until they were all gone. He just patiently waited. Let them come to their own conclusion. It reminds me of Psalm 57:6. They dug a pit in my way but they've fallen into it themselves. They dug the pit and they fell into their own pit. Jesus simply gave them something to think about. In Colossians chapter 4, verses 5 and 6, says, conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace. So seasoned with salt. So that you may know how you should respond to each person. The reason we're looking at all these conversations, there's a different way we respond to different people. This was the way Jesus responded to the ones trying to trap Him, the self-righteous, hating religious leaders. But He has a different approach towards the woman. And He's not even had a conversation with her yet. We're about to enter into that conversation.

Ross Sawyers (33:39):
In June, on June 23rd, 2013, Nik Wallenda walked across the Little Colorado River Gorge near the Grand Canyon. He was walking across a tight rope, 1,500 feet up from the canyon floor. He would walk a quarter of a mile. To give perspective, that would be like running the 400 in track. We're about in track, we're in track season. That is one of the most grueling races to run. I can't imagine what it's like to walk across a tight rope for that same distance. It took him 22 minutes. The winds got up to 30 miles an hour. He was walking with his pole. And as you can imagine, if the poll tipped too far one way or too far the other, he's done. It's a real high wire balancing act. And he was heard and they have him miked up. He was heard calling out to Jesus multiple times for help. That's what it's like to have conversations in truth and grace. If we go too far one way or too far the other way, it can be destructive.

Ross Sawyers (34:57):
So how do we balance that truth and grace depending on the particular conversation? We do it by leaning into, learning from, and calling out to Jesus Himself. Look what He did, had totally different tone as He changes His conversation with the one who is trapped in her sin. Verses 9 through 11, He offers compassionate freedom for the one that's being used. Verse 9, when they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older one. So they're gone. He's left alone now. And the woman where she was in the center of the court. Same place, here they are in the middle. Presumably the crowd is still there. But all the religious people, the scribes and Pharisees, legal proceeding's over. All that's done. And now it's just Jesus and this woman. He's not said a word to her yet. And now here He is. He's still stooped down. And then straightening up. So He's stooping down. They're gone. He's thinking, okay, they're probably gone now. And now He straightens up. This time it's not with a force and a steel look in His eyes. This time He stands up and it's with a compassion and a mercy that He looks in this woman's eyes. He values her. He dignifies her as someone made in the image of God. Yes, sexually broken, least by this descriptor. Still made in the image of God.

Ross Sawyers (36:26):
Verse 10, straightening up, Jesus said to her, woman, where are they? Where are they? Did no one condemn you? I would love and have been present in the eyes of Jesus with compassion and mercy, with a gut feel of love for her and then merciful actions towards her. Verse 11, only words we hear her say. She said, no one, Lord. Can you imagine the relief? Nobody. No one, Lord. Nobody could condemn me. Nobody had anything to say. We're seeing love on full display here. I'm sorry. My glasses broke last week. These are my readers. They're driving me nuts too. So if they are you, I feel for you. That's all I can do though. If I have them on, I can't see you. If I have them on, I can't see. Anyway. So when I've got my glasses on, if you need to do something, feel free because I can't see you when I'm doing it. So I don't condemn you. The love of God. This week, our chapter we're reading in the book we're studying with our staff is called God Himself by Tony Evans on the love of God. And we have in our culture a poor defining of love. It is a word that's thrown around quite often. I think it usually has an emotional kind of idea with it. I'm not sure that it's a biblical kind of love.

Ross Sawyers (38:38):
Matter of fact, I'm positive it's not. So we want to start with what is love? And in 1 John 4:8, Scripture says, God is love. So we start with God to know what love is. We don't start with what the cultural blowing of the wind is for the day. We start with God. God is love. And I love how Tony Evans frames it. He puts it in context with Ephesians chapter 1, in love, God predestined us for adoption as His sons. It's according to His will and it's to the praise and glory of His grace. And said, the love of God is linked to a passionate pursuit of His own will and a passionate pursuit of His glory. Therefore, when we think about love, love is tied up with being in the will of God for the glory of God. Then when we want to know what love is, we look to Scripture to know what love is and to look how it's expressed in the way that it plays out. And what we also need to know about love that our culture doesn't like is love is not accepting of everything.

Ross Sawyers (39:37):
That's actually destructive. Rather love also corrects. That's part of what it does. And Jesus loves this woman with the pure love of God. And He loves her in such a way, He's not going to leave her where she is. The question that you and I have to answer today and as our culture continues to spiral out of control in hostility towards Christians, we have to answer the question for ourselves. Am I more interested in the pure love of God or in the faulty love of humanity? Am I more interested in what God has to say about love? Or am I more interested in what humanity has to say about love? Am I more interested in the approval of God? Or am I more interested in the approval of humanity? Am I more interested in self-glory or am I more interested in glorifying and honoring God? That is a fundamental, a follower of Jesus is one who is concerned about the things of God and pleasing God. I do not condemn you either, Jesus says. Go. From now on, sin no more.

Ross Sawyers (41:05):
I told you the first part of the story of Jesus and Simon the Pharisee and the woman that came to see Him. He knew what Simon was thinking. And He tells a little story in that setting. He talks about two people who have a great debt. And one has a debt greater than the other. And he says to Simon, who do you think loves more of these two? And he said, the one who was forgiven more. He said, you're right. That's the one who loves much. The one who is forgiven more. And with a tender compassion in His eyes, He looks at that woman and says, your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you. Now go in peace. People leave different once they've been with Jesus. You can either leave in self-righteousness with your head hanging and dropping the stone and walking off. But you're changed. Or you can leave free, forgiven, at peace. That's what the woman in Luke 7, how she was able to leave. Jesus is giving the opportunity for this young lady to do the same. What was her worst day, being exploited and used has just become the very best day of her life. There's the opportunity to be free and forgiven. It didn't start so well, but it sure looks like it has potential to move through the day. Well, interestingly, at the end of chapter 8, there are some from the crowds. And we want to read context, John 7, John 8, inside of the whole gospel of John. But in the last verse of John chapter 8, it says the crowd, some from the crowds, they were just still waiting to get Him. And they picked up some stones to throw at Him.

Ross Sawyers (43:11):
Now, instead of aiming at the woman, now they're just aiming them straight at Him. But His time was not yet. Although later, He would return to the Mount of Olives, to the Garden of Gethsemane. It would not be a night where He would spend in rest, but rather it would be a night of, an intense time of prayer and surrender. It would be a surrender to the mobs who came to create chaos for Him. It would be standing before kangaroo courts of religious people. And ultimately, it would be Jesus hanging on the cross, taking on the horrors of sin, of all of humanity, the horror of self-righteousness and hatred and the horror of any kind of sexual immorality. And He would take that all on Himself, condemned so that we like this woman in John 8 could be set free. How does this fit in the bigger story of God? What we know from Scripture from beginning to end is that everything is about God. It's about His glory. And our good is when we are about His glory. If we think of this story in four chapters, we think the first one is creation. And what happens in that first chapter is God creates everything perfectly and specific to our story here, God creates male and female in His image. In the image of God, He created them. And He creates marriage between a husband and a wife and He designs sex to be inside that marriage relationship.

Ross Sawyers (44:57):
It's a beautiful gift designed in chapter 1 of God's story of creation. Now something happens. There's a second chapter to the story. And in that second chapter, we'll call it the fall. And we see the bigger beginning of that chapter in Genesis 3, and then it flows through all the Scripture. And in Genesis 3, we see sin enter into humanity. And along with that sin comes the outflow of self-righteousness and the outflow of sexual immorality. It's why we see sexual brokenness all throughout history. We're not experiencing anything new in our day. We just have it in our face 24/7 before it ever happens. That's what's different. And nothing has changed. We haven't progressed morally. So this is a chapter that's riddled with devastation and consequences. So much so, that Paul would write it this way. In 1 Corinthians chapter 6, verses 9 through 11, or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. The human heart is easily deceived. He says, do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. That's quite a list.

Ross Sawyers (46:26):
All of us find ourselves somewhere in that list. But the hope is in verse 11. But such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the spirit of our God. And that's what brings us and propels us into chapter 3 of God's big story. And Jesus Christ is the one who absorbs the sin so that we can be set free. The mob showed up and they started yelling, crucify, crucify. And I wonder if in today's culture, they would say, cancel, cancel. Jesus would be one of the first ones canceled out in today's culture. So don't think that if we stand for anything that looks like Jesus, that canceling is not what follows. They're crying crucify, cancel. And they aren't using stones to come after Him this time. They're going to nail Him to an old wooden cross. And although there's this brief fading of the light, on that Friday afternoon, on the cross, while they thought Jesus was canceled, He canceled out our sin.

Ross Sawyers (47:32):
The most stunning act of love that we could ever imagine or point to. He moved toward us in our sin in His grace and mercy. Every sinful crevice of our lives is covered by the blood of Christ for those who are in Him. There's not one uncovered. And there are riches of mercy and grace that are far greater than the specificity of the sin that dwells within us. It's almost like Jesus wrote all of our sin on the ground and on the cross. That wind came through and blew it away. It's not anymore. The only thing that's permanent is for those who've repented and believe in Jesus Christ. And that our name is imprinted on the very palm of God's hand and in the Lamb's book of life, never to be removed. It's indelibly printed. That's who we are. That's where we stand for those who have repented and believe in what Jesus Christ did for them. He restores us and He brings us to Himself. We've been part of a Bible translation, our church has this last year with the [inaudible] people. And we were part of helping translate Ruth and some of the New Testament. I want you to see a picture of a man whose life has been transformed in the [inaudible] people

Ross Sawyers (48:48):
You see, in this story, he's been written into the story now in repentance and belief, written into God's story. Samson had three wives, drinking and smoking. That's the way he described himself. But through the Bible translators and their witness and through the Scripture being put into his heart language, something he could read and understand, his wife Florence welcomed Jesus into her life. The other two wives left him, but Florence, she invited him to church with her where he could hear the Scriptures in his language. And hearing the Scriptures, he too received Jesus Christ. After receiving Jesus, he was baptized and at 75 years old, hear his Christian wedding vows to his wife Florence. See, that's what God does. He takes people who are broken and He fixes them through His work on the cross. And He restores that design that He created at the outset. Even though we break it, He restores it. It's an incredible story. And there's a fourth chapter. It's the new heavens and the new earth. And one day all the, we won't have to battle anymore because we still battle the sin. But one day we won't have to battle anymore.

Ross Sawyers (50:11):
You know what the Scripture says in the new heavens and the new earth? When we enter, there'll be a marriage supper of the lamb. He uses that kind of imagery all throughout. That's why sexual purity matters. It's God's design. And you see, He tells us something stunning in Ephesians chapter 5. He actually tells us the reason for marriage. It's so that we can be a picture of Christ and the church. It's mind boggling that He would do that. He's a God who forgives, a God who restores. And what a day, what a day it can be today for anyone that's in any sexual brokenness, anybody that's any self-righteousness to be set free. What about Lauren's story? We left her hanging a little bit. What are her options? Well, let's take a look.

Lauren Rose (51:29):
It wasn't until later at night as I was having another crying episode in my closet that God actually spoke to me. And He said, I'm, what's missing in your life. And you got to get good with me or you're going to be stuck. When I was at a concert somewhere around that same time, I was out with a single mom friend. And she asked me if I had heard about Lionheart. Upon registering her and just getting to know some of the Lionheart staff members, Tara Sanchez and I developed a relationship. And she asked me if I had ever considered going to church there. And I thought, why not? Yeah. I was just immediately greeted by people who seemed to be happy that I was there and people were actually talking to me. I didn't feel like I had on a Scarlet letter. And it wasn't like people were staring at me for being alone with two kids.

Lauren Rose (52:28):
It was, hey, can I help you get somewhere? And how are you doing today? And people were talking to me at the coffee bar. And I was making relationships with people there who made it fun for me to go. There were other people there that I met along the way too that I felt comfortable sharing my story with and there wasn't judgment. There was almost some similar experiences there or people who are just willing to listen. I joined a life group and I was the only single mom in the group. Everyone else was married couples. At first, I thought this is going to be kind of awkward. I'm clearly the odd man out. But my kids immediately fell in love with all of the other kids in the group. During that time, I learned what it meant to be a good wife. I was finally able to look at everything I had done in my relationship. And in seeing the relationships between the different people in my life group, it was so encouraging to me to see that these types of relationships do exist.

Lauren Rose (53:44):
How cool is it that 121 is a place where we talk about just the brokenness and the depravity that people experience and it's not shamed. It's look at what God has done. We're going to celebrate what God has done in our lives. And I just absolutely loved that. You can imagine how surprised I was when after sharing my story with the staff, I was asked if I wanted to have a job at 121. It was probably the biggest surprise of my life. I really thought, you just heard my entire story. Why in the world are you asking me if I want a job? Like you heard my story. So I thought, okay, sure. Let's give it a whirl. Now I have been on staff at 121 since July of 2019. And it's been a really awesome experience for me to continue to develop relationships with absolutely wonderful Christian women who love me and support me. And they love and support each other. This was things that I hadn't really seen before.

Lauren Rose (54:57):
I've always been blessed with having really amazing and supportive friends. But to have it in a Christian work setting has just been so good for me. Mads going to Lionheart was such an awesome experience for me. And the first Bible verse that she learned was Joshua 1:9. It was just a really sweet verse for her to learn. And it's just one that stuck with me for a long time. Because it says, be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid for the Lord Your God is with you wherever you go. And it was just this moment of my then three-year-old child singing this Bible verse. But it was just God speaking to me and saying, don't worry, I'm with you. And being able to look back at all of my life and seeing, wow, God really was with me the entire time was absolutely incredible. It's just one of those moments that you don't forget. I'm so thankful that my relationship with my parents has been restored in ways that I can't even begin to explain. All of the broken trust and bad decisions that I made over the years, they just forgave. And what a perfect example of Christ's love for us where we are redeemed and we are forgiven and we are loved. And the most powerful thing that my dad ever told me was, you're forgiven and I love you. And it was the most amazing feeling I'd had because he just said, you're forgiven. It's in the past. And knowing that that's how God looks at us too, and said, you're forgiven as far as from the East is from the West. It's powerful.

Ross Sawyers (57:06):
The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Ross Sawyers (58:07):
That's what God does. He moves towards us with compassion and mercy. Have you received that forgiveness? We love Lauren. We love who she is in Christ. We love who she is as a mom. We love who she is as a daughter. We love who she is as a friend. And fifthly, we love her work. And so she is here today with her parents and what a beautiful picture of grace and forgiveness. Let's pray together. And I just let it be quiet for a moment. I want us to have a chance to reflect. And I would ask a question to consider today. Who do you see yourself in this story as? Where do you find yourself? And then enjoy the real possibility of the freedom that there is in Christ today. Father, thank you for our time today and just love the strength of your Word. And then God, we love the power of story and the way you write us into your story. Father, will you help no one escape that is online, upstairs, in here who will watch this later, help no one to escape your rescue, your grace, your mercy, and your forgiveness. And Jesus, thank you for on that cross looking us in the eye with a love and a tenderness and a fierceness for us to be yours and securing that opportunity. And so we just say thank you today. In Jesus' name.


Recorded in Grapevine, Texas.
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121 Community Church
2701 Ira E Woods Ave.
Grapevine, Texas 76051
817.488.1213