Am I Accepted? Lent 3 Video and Manuscript

We all hunger for inclusion, belonging, that feeling that comes when we know we have a place and are accepted. But our foibles, flaws, and failures often leave us believing that we are unacceptable and excluded from the life and love of God

This post contains the sermon preaching on February 28, 2016, at The Patterson Avenue Baptist Church.  The sermon is titled:  “Am I Accepted?” and is based on John 8:1-11.  This is the third in a Lenten series of sermons titled:  “Life’s Essential Questions”

You can see the video read the manuscript below.

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Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.


At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.


But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.


At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”


“No one, sir,” she said.


“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”


Last Sunday, following worship, Jeana and I discussed the title for today’s sermon, which was included in last Sunday’s worship bulletin.


“Your sermon is titled:  ‘Am I accepted?” Jeana said:  “So, what are you going to say?  YES, and then sit down.


To be honest, the thought had crossed my mind.


I thought I’d get you to ask yourself the question:  “Am I accepted?” Then I would answer it:  “YES!” and sit down.


Be honest, some of you would love it.  You’d be seated for lunch at your favorite restaurant before your Methodist or Presbyterian friends had even heard their benediction.  “Am I accepted?”


That title reflects the classical definition of a rhetorical question.  A rhetorical question is a figure of speech that comes in the form of a question.  It is asked to make a point rather than elicit an answer.  With a rhetorical question, the answered is knows in advance.


“Am I accepted?”


We know the answer.  If we reflect on the character of God and the nature of the gospel, the answer is YES.  We ARE accepted.  Our acceptance is not based on what we have said or done.  It is based on the nature of God’s grace.  That grace always reaches out, redeems, offers inclusion, and expresses kindness.  Of course, repentance and faith are important, even necessary.  But the nature of the Gospel is always that grace comes first.  We are accepted by God so that we can repent.  We are accepted to that we can have faith.  Grace always comes first.


So, there you have it.  The character of God and the content of the grace message inform us that we are accepted.


I wish we could all just say “Amen!” to that and walked away feeling convinced that it is so, but I know better.  As true as such a proclamation might be, many of us simply do not believe it.


We want too. We hunger for inclusion, belonging, and that feeling that comes when we know we have a place. We all long to be accepted. But there are so many things at play that cause us to question whether God really loves us, whether grace is genuine, and whether God’s acceptance is a reality.


We do battle with those feeling of shame, guilt, and embarrassment.  Those feelings flood our thoughts when we realize that we have messed up – and mess up badly.  We think our foibles, flaws, and failures leave us feeling unacceptable and excluded. We have a hard time believe that God could ever accept us because we do not accept ourselves.


We also do battle with those self-righteous, finger wagging religious type folks, who are preoccupied pointing with derision at all that’s wrong about us.


This month I have talked with two friends who’d love and come worship with us, but they are scared.  They are scared of attending any church.  You’ve met folks like that, too.  They are scared because they have known some churches to be exclusionary, judgmental, and spiritually abusive.


But we’d never be like that, would we?


There’s a third battleground.  It some ways, it is a backdrop for the other two.  We do battle with inaccurate understandings of God.


You’ve seen that bumper sticker:  “Jesus is coming back soon…and boy is he (angry)!”


That’s one of those inaccurate understanding of God.  We walk around on eggshells thinking that  God he must be sorely angry toward us.


That’s not the picture Jesus paints of his Father. It is not the character of God whom Jesus reveals in human flash. But we think it’s how God is…and it scares us.


Here is our ultimate fear.  It’s the idea that there is something so wrong about us that somehow our wrongness overpowers the goodness and love of God.  That fear produces the belief (which we codify into dogma) that God does not accept us.


We hear a message about the grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness of God and we say, “Amen!” but in the back of our minds there is the “Yeah, but look at all the bad things that I have done in my life. God really can’t love me.”


We hear a bible verse that speaks of the intimate and powerful love of God whom the scripture we are privileged to know as Abba – and we say, “Amen!” but in the background we are fearful that such acceptance is simply a theological pipe dream.


We hear the good news proclaimed that you are like, loved, accepted, included, and adopted by our heavenly Father, but we are fearul that something we have said or done might actually leave you un-liked, unloved, unacceptable, excluded, and not wanted.


We let that sort of fear define our understanding of God, but that perspective is more about our blindness than God’s light, it’s more about our brokenness then His healing; it’s more about what we have done wrong than what God has done right.

We live imagining that if there really is a God, he must be disgusted with us.


We see all these battles engaged in the scripture story for today.


A woman shamed and embarrassed after having been caught in the act of adultery.


Religious people who catch her in the act and condemn her.  (Where they peaking through somebody’s window?)  Seriously,  we wonder if was some sort of religious entrapment.  I do not know if you know how adultery works, but it usually takes (at least) two people.  Notice that the religious crowd did not bring the man.  He got a pass.  But they bring the woman.


They bring the woman to Jesus, expecting him (as a representative of God) to declare a verdict – and it’d better be harsh.  They grabbed her, drag her to Jesus, and toss her on the ground in front of him, demanding he pass judgment.


They thought Jesus might be a representative of God, but they didn’t realized how exact a representative he was.

Jesus was the Word become flesh.


Jesus was the embodiment of God in human form.


Jesus was the incarnation of the Father.


Jesus had fed the multitudes, silenced the storm, heal the sick, restored sight to the blind, and gave life to those who had died.


Jesus was the way, the truth, and the life.


Jesus and the Father were ONE.


The religious crowd caught a woman in the act of adultery, dragged her through the streets in shame and embarrassment, tossed her to the ground in front of Jesus, and said: pass judgment.


They expected him to cast the first stone.  But he didn’t.


Jesus was such an exact representation of the Father that he challenged all their preconceived, views about God.


Jesus refused to engaged in their games of religious showmanship.  He knelt down on the ground and began to scribble in the dirt.


Basically, Jesus ignored their attempts to recruit him in any attitude or actions that might further shame, exclude, or condemn this woman.


He knelt down and began scribbling in the dirt.


That only served to further aggravate the religious crowd even more.  So they kept on poking, prodding, and pestering him.  Finally, Jesus had enough.  So, he stood tall and said:


“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (Then) Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.


Then an amazing thing happened.  The religious folks began hoisting on themselves the shame and embarrassment they’d been trying to heap on the woman.  Cut with the awareness of their own sinfulness, they began to disperse, from the eldest to the youngest.


That’s really sad, too.  If they’d stuck around, they would have discovered that there is also grace for those whose primary sin an over-confident self-righteousness. 


But they each silently slipped away while Jesus knelt and drew pictures in the dirt.


Finally, there were only two left, Jesus and the woman.  Jesus stood tall, looked her in the eye, and asked:


“Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”


“No one, sir,” she said.


“Neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”


Understand that Jesus did pass judgment.  But the judgment was not condemnation, but salvation.  Jesus knew that sin had ruined her life.  That’s what sin does.  It’s wages lead to death.  But she did not get the death sentence.  Jesus’ verdict was grace.  God’s grace leads to eternal life.  Jesus did not exclude her, he accepted her.  She was loved, forgiven, and redeemed.  Jesus gave her the same gift he gives to us all: salvation.


Jesus was fulfilling his Father’s mission.  Perhaps you remember these words from Jesus from earlier in John’s gospel.


“For God sent not his son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world, through him, might be saved.”


Jesus was doing his Father’s work.  Jesus was bringing the assurance of God’s acceptance.  He was declaring the wonderful richness of the Father’s salvation.


Jesus said:  “The one without sin should cast the first stone!”  I wonder what the woman thought, laying there half dressed and disheveled, knowing that she’d been caught in the act.


Did she imagine that some of those men would think themselves innocent of wrong-doing? 


Had she resigned herself to her fat, believing God was present in Christ and ready to condemn?  


That’s how lots of us feel when we feel caught up in our own brokenness and sin!  We feel judged and condemn, excluded and unacceptable.


But our feelings do not speak the truth.  They hardly ever do.  God’s truth come from the lips of Jesus, who said: neither do I condemn you.


Think about it.  She was guilty. She was caught. Everything was out in the open.  And she receives the God’s verdict.  And the verdict was this:  I do not condemn you.


That’s the verdict Jesus brings to each of us today.  We are affirmed as forgiven.  We are declared accepted.  Jesus says:  I do not condemn you.


But there is one more message from Jesus.  It is a call to live life differently.  It is an invitation to discipleship.  It is a call toward repentance and faith.  Jesus says, “Go now and leave your life of sin.”


Sometimes we put the cart before the horse.  We believe that we have to do something to save ourselves.  We think we have to repent, say we are sorry, get our life in order, turn over a new leaf, and confess a certain doctrines or dogmas.  We think that once we have done those things, we have earned, achieved, or obtained God’s grace.


But that’s not the message of the gospel.  The gospel is that God’s declares us acceptable.  God acts to redeem.  And because of all that, we are enabled to turn from the darkness to the light.  We are enable by God’s acceptance of us to repent and believe.  Jesus declares God’s grace. “I do not condemn.”


Because of that grace, we are equipped to repent, and have faith.   And today is your day to hear Jesus invitation.  You are a sinner.  So am I.  That’s not a startling revelation.  We know it is true.  We’ve been caught in the act.


We’ve passed judgment on ourselves.  We’ve heard the disapproval of the religious types. And we stand before Christ believing condemnation is headed our way.


Then Jesus speaks: “I do not condemn you.”


“I’ve come that you might have life in all its abundance.”


“I’ve come to let you know my Father accepts you.”


“I’ve come that you might know salvation.” “If you believe that,” Jesus says:  ‘Then repent, turn away from your sin and follow me!”


Beyond an Angry God: You Can’t Imagine How Much He Loves You
by: Steve McVey
publisher: Harvest House Publishers, published: 2014-08-01
ASIN: 0736959823
EAN: 9780736959827
sales rank: 273086
price: $4.29 (new), $3.01 (used)

How would your life change if you really believed and could even feel that God is absolutely crazy about you?

Steve McVey’s penetrating new look at the transforming power of God’s grace leads you to that change. Steve unpacks the biblical revelation of the Trinity as a loving relationship, and he highlights the goal of history: God intends to include us in that circle of love! Steve answers troubling questions that can keep you from fully sensing God’s love, acceptance, and forgiveness, such as…

  • Why does God look like a bad cop in the Old Testament and a good cop in the New Testament?
  • At Calvary, was the Father angry at the Son? Is He ever angry with me?
  • Why do I sometimes feel separated from God, abandoned, guilty, and ashamed?

Theologians have described the Trinity as perichoresis?a dance. Are you ready to be swept into the Father’s embrace?



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