Set free to be free

Over the years, I’ve appreciated the sheer brilliance of Jesus’ teaching in ways I cannot begin to adequately describe. It’s easy to be so effusive if one loves Jesus, but this isn’t an empty platitude for me. He not only reveals human nature at the deepest heart level, He’s fundamentally changed me, transforming my thoughts and perceptions, how I view myself and all my relationships.

In my devotional reading this morning, I came to John 8 once again, which is the story of the woman caught in adultery. It’s been an impactful story to me over the years and I’ve written on it before (see my post: Jesus Jujutsu: a brilliant strategy for biblical self-discovery“).

But what struck me this morning was a reminder about how Jesus proposes to bring us into real freedom. I was reading the Passion Translation (TPT), which gave me a fresh perspective on this well-known story.

First, let’s look at Jesus’ response to the religious accuser’s insistence that this woman be punished according to the Law:

Angry, they kept insisting that he answer their question, so Jesus stood up and looked at them and said, “Let’s have the man who has never had a sinful desire throw the first stone at her.” (John 8:7 TPT*)

It says “sinful desire” here. I think this is a better translation of the Greek word, anamartetos, considering Jesus’ other teaching on this subject (see Matt. 5:28). Jesus is going right to the heart of the matter. It doesn’t matter what my outward behavior looks like—whether or not I’ve been caught in a sinful act—it’s the motives of my heart that matters. This is precisely where Jesus does His most brilliant work in us.

Jesus is addressing one of the biggest blind spots in human nature. That is, we want grace for ourselves but we think it’s okay to judge others for same things we ourselves do (see Rom.2:1-4). We all have a double-standard like this lurking in us somewhere. And if we want to follow Jesus, we must drop our rocks and learn how to show the same grace toward others that we would want for ourselves. There’s no excuse for our religious hypocritical behavior (Matt.7:1-5, 12). Our job is to restore and bear one another’s burdens, not to throw people under the bus of our legalistic accusations (Gal.6:1-5).

Here’s the second passage I want to look at, which completes what Jesus is trying to teach us here:

10 Until finally, Jesus was left alone with the woman still standing there in front of him. So he stood back up and said to her, “Dear woman, where are your accusers? Is there no one here to condemn you?”

11 Looking around, she replied, “I see no one, Lord.”

Jesus said, “Then I certainly don’t condemn you either. Go, and from now on, be free from a life of sin.” (John 8:10-11 TPT*)

I would also mention this to our pointy-headed judgmental hearts: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom.8:31) Just who do we think we are contradicting Jesus by condemning those He came to free.

Let’s focus in on the phrase, “be free from a life of sin.” Now, the original Greek simply says “sin no more,” but like with a lot of translation challenges, this doesn’t really describe what Jesus is saying to us here.

The problem is, we can infer from “sin no more” that we’re supposed to stop sinning by our own willpower. And this is how a lot of devoted but frustrated Christians have practiced it. I’ll just ask you, “How’s that working for you?” I thought so!

But the phrase, “be free from a life of sin,” has an altogether different implication. This is not about willpower but identity. We’re under new management in Christ—a New Creation (2 Cor.5:17)—and as sons and daughter of our heavenly Father, we’ve been given permission and empowered to be free, as Romans 6 also implies:

12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, 13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. (Rom.6:12-14 NASB*)

Notice the highlighted words “do not let” and “shall not.” These are the empowering bookends to God’s promise of freedom that transforms those who live according to His grace.

And if we add how Paul describes God’s grace, we see something radical and wonderful.

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people. 12 It trains us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age (Titus 2:11-12 NET*)

Here’s how I see what Jesus is saying to the accused woman…and to us. First, Jesus frees us from all condemnation and guilt by forgiving and embracing us while still in our sin. Second, He invites us into His life: to discover His truth about ourselves and our new identity. And as we open our hearts to abide in His love by faith, He empowers us by His transforming grace.

20 My old identity has been co-crucified with Messiah and no longer livesfor the nails of his cross crucified me with him. And now the essence of this new life is no longer mine, for the Anointed One lives his life through mewe live in union as one! My new life is empowered by the faith of the Son of God who loves me so much that he gave himself for me, and dispenses his life into mine! (Gal.2:20 TPT*)

This invitation into Christ’s overcoming life can be quite the opposite of simply being told to stop sinning (as if we could!). Jesus is calling us up into a new identity, “a new and living way” (Heb.10:20), not according to our willpower but according to His power!

The startling truth is, you and I have been set free to be free!

32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (Rom.8:32 NASB*)

* All emphasis added.

About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 39 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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8 Responses to Set free to be free

  1. Bruce says:

    Hi Mel,

    I have some questions and observations about this post.

    It is not that I do not understand the thrust of what you are trying to illustrate in this post, it’s the scripture linkage that you use, via the TPT, to validate your thrust, that sincerely bothers me. You may think that it is not important but frankly, I think it is.

    Galatians 2:20 English Standard Version (ESV)
    20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

    20 “My old identity has been co-crucified with Messiah and no longer lives; for the nails of his cross crucified me with him. And now the essence of this new life is no longer mine, for the Anointed One lives his life through me—we live in union as one! My new life is empowered by the faith of the Son of God who loves me so much that he gave himself for me, and dispenses his life into mine! (Gal.2:20 TPT*)

    How can anyone possibly consider this a “translation” of the original Greek or Aramaic text? A more honest definition would be a “paraphrase” but that might detract from the authorized “downloads” that the author was supposedly provided with by Jesus wouldn’t it?

    10 Until finally, Jesus was left alone with the woman still standing there in front of him. So he stood back up and said to her, “Dear woman, where are your accusers? Is there no one here to condemn you?”
    11 Looking around, she replied, “I see no one, Lord.”
    Jesus said, “Then I certainly don’t condemn you either. Go, and from now on, be free from a life of sin.” (John 8:10-11 TPT*)

    John 8:10-11 English Standard Version (ESV)
    10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”]]

    Jesus didn’t say “Go, and from now on, be free from a life of sin.” He said “go, and from now on sin no more.”

    Jesus, as God, did not condemn her for her past sins. From that point on, because He had not died on the cross yet, nor had she professed faith in Christ as the Messiah, all He could give her as guidance was “from now on sin no more.” Bear in mind that we are talking about a Jewish woman who had been caught in the act of adultery who was under the Law.

    This “translation” puts words into the mouth of Jesus that He never said. How could she possibly be at that specific point in time “free from a life of sin” without Jesus having paid the price for her future sins on the cross, not to mention her not having confessed Jesus the Christ as her Lord? “Sin no more” points to not sinning under the Law. “Free from a life of sin” points to “will make you free” as you quote in Romans 8: 32 “and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” And what is that truth? That Jesus is God’s Son, that He died on the cross for our sins and our faith and trust in His sacrifice to pay for our sins frees us from the condemnation of our sin under the Law.

    Oversight on the Apostle John’s part when he wrote it under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit? I don’t think so.

    And if this is a “translation” where paraphrase liberties are taken, evidently directly authorized by Jesus, where exactly do they stop or are we just supposed to accept them all without question because Brian Simmons said so and other various Apostles within the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) like Bill Johnson have endorsed it?

    You indicated Mel, that criticism about the NAR was misinformed and unfounded. I disagree but due to the media format we are using, I will limit my questions solely to the TPT.

    http://www.spiritoferror.org/2018/06/important-facts-about-the-passion-translation/7962

    I sent you the above link previously, which in actuality is greatly abridged considering all of the mistranslations, errors and additions that have been documented within the TPT, and I haven’t seen you respond to the direct quotes, criticism or examples provided therein.

    If you would be so kind as to address the criticism in the link I would sincerely appreciate it.

    Best Regards,

    Bruce

    • Mel Wild says:

      Hi Bruce. You obviously have been convinced that the TPT is a bad translation (or paraphrase). As I told you before, I don’t agree with your assessment about the TPT or this continued demonization of the NAR. Repeating yourself here isn’t going to make it any more true.

      I also already told you I don’t use the TPT as my primary Bible. I also read it in the original Greek. And I don’t have a problem with calling it a paraphrase. Like the Message Bible, it does help in some translation areas where clarification and interpolation is needed (ALL English translations have some interpolation from the original text).

      If you actually read my post you would already have my answers to the differences in the Passion Translation (TPT) and why they are helpful to us to to better understand the context and intent. It doesn’t put words in Jesus’ mouth any more than other English translations put words in Jesus’ mouth, as long as it is providing proper context.

      “Jesus, as God, did not condemn her for her past sins. From that point on, because He had not died on the cross yet, nor had she professed faith in Christ as the Messiah, all He could give her as guidance was “from now on sin no more.”

      You see, now you’re putting words in Jesus’ mouth based on your own bias. And, apparently, Jesus doesn’t agree with you since He forgave sins before the cross (Matt.9:2-8; Luke 7:47-50).

      You seem to me to be very legalistic about these things: translations and paraphrases and the like. That’s your choice and I’m sure I won’t convince you otherwise. But it is sad to me that followers of Jesus can nitpick over these things and overlook the weightier matters (Matt.23:23).

      As I said before, I’m not interested in arguing with you over things. Blessings to you.

      • Bruce says:

        Hi Mel,
        Thank you for responding. For clarification purposes I never said that Jesus did not forgive sins before the cross. What I was discussing was the “from now on” aspect of sins that may have been committed by the woman who had committed adultery, after she had been forgiven. Hence the “from now on”.

        I won’t bother you again.

        Blessings.

        – Bruce

  2. Lily Pierce says:

    Great post, Mel. As usual, I like how you shed light on things by providing another perspective/revealing more info.

  3. Well done, Mel! “Set free to be free,” that’s a good way to put it!

    I also really appreciate the translation, “sinful desires,” because that is also how Jesus Himself described sin.”‘You shall not murder…..but I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.” He also spoke of those who only wipe the outside of the cup. That’s not good enough, that’s not the point! “I haven’t actually murdered anyone today,” while a bit funny to say, is not actually evidence of our heart being right with the Lord.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Exactly, IB. Jesus said that anyone who lusts in their heart has already committed adultery, which directly confirms the use of “sinful desires” here. I’m glad you get my point about how other translations, like the TPT, can help us with context and a fuller understanding of what is being said. Like the following from John 7 in the TPT:

      24 Stop judging based on the superficial. First you must embrace the standards of mercy and truth.” (John 7:24 TPT)

      The NASB or NKJV simply says, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment,” but the context here about righteous judgment, according to both the Old Testament and Jesus, is that God’s righteous judgment is founded in mercy and truth (Psalm 25:10; 57:3; 85:10; Matt.9:13; 12:7; 23:23). If we’re to understand righteous judgment, we need to first understand God’s righteous judgment is in mercy and truth. So, this makes John 7:24 much clearer to our modern minds in the TPT, even though it’s not the exact wording.

      To this point made by Jesus to the religious people of His day, the “superficial” can also include nitpicking over English words, which aren’t in the original language anyway. So, we don’t need to demonize Bible versions just because they use different English words than our favorite translation. I think we need to go a little deeper with our understanding than that… 🙂

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