Note to Leaders:
The fall semester ends on December 10, and the spring semester will run January 29-April 29. During the break we will not be writing sermon discussion guides. However, if your group has been using them and is meeting during the break, here are a couple of short studies you can use in the interim.
All of us at some point experience regret. There are things that we’ve done that we wish we hadn’t. And sometimes those past failures begin to define us. Maybe we got a DUI, cheated on our spouse, got fired, went to jail, abused drugs, or became addicted to pornography. And those past failures can come to define our present reality. We allow them to define who we are.
Think back to when you were a kid. What was one occasion in which your parents caught you doing something you weren’t supposed to be doing? What happened as a result of that?
Have a volunteer read John 8:1-6
What sticks out to you the most about this story?
What do you think the Pharisee’s true motives were?
It’s a pretty vivid picture: a woman, caught in the act of adultery, humiliated and condemned by those who caught her. What’s more, these people brought her before Jesus in order to use her for their own ends—to trap Him.
Like the Sex-traffickers of our day, they have no concern for this woman. She’s only a means to their end, so they catch her in the act and drag her through the streets with probably nothing on but a sheet she grabbed in desperation on her way out.
Put yourself in this woman’s shoes. What would you have thought? How would you have felt?
In what ways do you identify with the woman in this passage?
All of us are guilty of using others for our own ends at times. What are some of the ways you do that in your life, and what can you do to begin to change that?
Have a volunteer read John 8:7-12.
At first, Jesus won’t answer the Pharisees’ question about what to do with the woman. He just sort of ignores them and goes on writing in the dirt. But they keep pressing, so finally He says, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Of course, none of them can. None of them are without sin. Even the self-righteous Pharisees recognize that they are not perfect.
Why do you think we are so quick to condemn others when we ourselves are just as guilty?
Jesus was the only one in that crowd, the only one in history, who could have thrown a stone at that woman. He was the only one who could honestly say, “Actually, I have done it all right every time.” But what does he do?
Full of grace and truth he says, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
He doesn’t condemn her. He doesn’t punish her. He doesn’t make her feel bad. He gives her grace.
But at the same time, he doesn’t excuse her behavior. He doesn’t say, “What you did, the way you’re living, it’s okay, just keep right on doing it.”
Jesus knew that the woman needed grace. She needed forgiveness. But he also knew that she needed to change because there was something better for her out there. She no longer needed to go looking for love in all the wrong places, to try to fill her brokenness with a man who didn’t truly love her. Instead, she could heal that brokenness through the love of a God who would forgive her and reach down and pick her up and shield her from those who didn’t care and sought to do her harm.
Jesus did not condemn this woman. He gave her grace. But he also loved her enough to tell her the truth about how her life could be so much happier and more fulfilled.
What do you think was going through that woman’s mind as she walked away?
How can we be people who don’t condemn people or ignore their sin but rather who give grace freely and speak the truth in love?
How can we accept this grace in our own lives?
You may not have time to get to this section, but if you’re looking to discuss this topic further, continue on.
Have a volunteer read Romans 8:1-2.
Paul echoes the lesson we learn in John 8, reminding us that because Jesus has died and paid the full penalty for our sin, we no longer have to be in bondage to shame and condemnation. We are free to live in the full acceptance of God. Amazingly, Jesus, who is the Light of the world who sees and exposes our sin, also died on our behalf for the same sin He exposes.
How does our relationship with God change when we truly believe that we have been accepted and not condemned?
How does that knowledge change the way we should interact with each other?
What practically is keeping you from believing that you are free from condemnation?
Are you tempted to live inside of the shame of your past? Why? What do you think Jesus would say to you right now about your past?