Mary’s Story….

I had the most amazing childhood. My brother and sister and I would play and run and sing in the sunshine and the rain every day.  I knew I was blessed with  a loving family.  Both my brother and sister were older then me, and as the baby of the family I was always spoiled but even when they scolded me, I knew I was loved.  

I remember my parents telling us stories about Moses and when God used him to lead the people out of the bondage of Egypt. My parents told the stories of when the people received the tablets of stone, cut with the very finger of God on the mountain of Sinaii. 

I tried my best as I was growing up to keep all ten of the commandments but when I slipped and broke one, I always felt so much guilt. My parents and the priests would tell me how sinful I was and that God would punish me if I broke even one of them. Pretty soon in spite of wanting to keep them all, I had broken them all. I felt so condemned, that I just slipped further and further away from the teachings my parents had taught me and started living a life that was the furthest removed from a godly life. 

I don’t really know when or how my life got so off track. I thought that when I grew up I would be a housewife, have some children and work along side my husband as we tended our fields and vineyards. Perhaps my husband would be a seller of merchandise. Perhaps a great landowner with many flocks and servants, but as a young girl I dreamed of my happily ever after with my one true love.  I knew it wa a possibility I could be married to someone who I would not know initially,but I had seen many arranged marriages, and they seemed happy to me. I don’t know when that dream died, all I know is now I am sitting here now, alone, and I have sunk to the lowest of low in the eyes of everyone, men and women alike scorn me, even as the men use me; I am a prostitute.

Does that shock you? It shocks me! Every morning as people are getting up and going to work, I am finishing my work day. But as I lay my head down on my bed, I weep for the pain I suffer silently.  It still rocks me to the very core of my being that I am a prostitute. How did my happily ever after go so very wrong?

I’ve been working for years now, and have saved up quite a nice sum of money. But as I am not welcomed by polite society, I rarely spend it.  I find it difficult to go out and mix amongst the people of the town. 

All the women, the nice woman, won’t even look at me, it’s like i don’t exist. If they do look at me, it is with such disgust that I wish they would just pretend like they didn’t see me and ignore me all together.  I think they are afraid I will steal their husbands, or worse that they are secretly afraid that at some time or another, their husbands have lain with me. Their not knowing if I have slept with their husbands makes some of them down right mean when they do cross paths with me. I don’t blame them, because if I was them, like I had wanted to be a thousand years before, I would probably hate me too. 

I felt so old and so wasted.

Now the men, well that is something entirely different. I wish they wouldn’t look at me. I feel so dirty when they do. Married men come and try to touch me hoping that no one sees their advances. They brush up against me and pretend as if it was an accident, all the while the look in their eyes proves that innocent brush up to be a lie. When they are bold enough to approach me and ask me how much I will charge, I have such shame burning in my chest that I can barely whisper the amount as I take them to my place of business. 

No decent man will come near me now.. I am the bad girl of the village and every one knows about me. Oh that’s Mary, they say… she will sleep with anyone, why in fact I think she has slept with almost everyone. … nothing but darkness lies ahead for me. 

What chance will I ever have of having a happily ever after? Will I ever have a life without condemnation and same? I might as well be a leper…  If I  just stopped eating, and die, would anyone miss me? the bad girl of Bethany? That would be less painful and eventually I would be put out of my own misery. 

One day I heard that there was a man, a teacher that had come to town. I could hear people whispering about Him. They said He was the Messiah;  the prophet Isaiah had spoken about Him, and He would come to free the children of Israel. They said He would come and set up His kingdom here on earth and finally the iron fist of Rome would stop strangling us. I wonder what is so special about Him?

I slipped into the large crowd that had gathered around the teacher and listened as He spoke. 

People came from all over, from far out of the villages and I even saw some of the priests of the temple on the edges of the crowd. As He spoke with each person, He touched them, and I watched in amazement as people were healed, right before my eyes. 

I came forward and without having to say what my sickness was He looked deep into my eyes and saw the sin that was killing me slowing from the inside out. I knew in that instant that He had somehow washed me clean and I could feel again. I waked away with joy in my heart and hummed a little song as I did.

It is one thing to be forgiven of my sins by God, and something completely different to have others forget about those sins and accept me as a new woman. Not one person in town was going to let me forget who I was. No one knew the joy that had surged in my heart when He looked into my soul, and so no one thought any different of me. My joy didn’t last long very long after that encounter, and sooner than later, I was back out on the streets searching for a temporary bandaid to help numb the pain of my horrible existence. 

I went to Jesus again and again, each time He forgave me, I knew it in my heart, but each time something just made me slip back into my old habits. 

One day a man came up to me in the market. He was bold, approaching me in daylight. I didn’t think anything of it, in fact, I thought if he wanted people to think badly of him, then he was doing exactly what he could to make sure people saw him. 

He offered me more money than I had ever been offered. I led him to where I had my bed and while I undressed he turned and opened the door, allowing a stream of men to come into the room. 

I was humiliated as they dragged me out into the street, partially naked and unable to stand as they pushed and shoved me to the temple where the teacher Jesus was, He was the One who had forgiven me before. 

They threw me down at His feet, and hurled their accusations at me. Telling all my secrets, how they had found me in the very act of adultery and prostitution. In the crowd of accusers there stood the very one who had brokered my time with him. Now he was one of the loudest voices. How did he suddenly become the innocent? 

 I couldn’t look up, I was so ashamed. 

My face was flushed, my hair hung over my face. I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me whole. The crowd was loud and I was so afraid. I knew the penalty for my crime would be a death sentence. 

Then I heard Him speak in response to their harsh words.. 

His voice was so gentle and soft, yet in it I could hear authority as He responded to their cry for justice. 

He said, go ahead, and let the first one who is without sin cast the first stone. My death was imminent and I cringed even closer to the ground. Waiting for the first stone to make contact with my body. 

Through the fringe of my hair covering my face I could see him writing something in the sand. I had not idea what it was from my place cowering in the dirt, but as He continued to write, one by one the crowd thinned out.  Soon it was so quiet that it seemed like we were all alone, and so I dared look up. 

I looked around to see what the crowd was doing, why they were so silent but everyone was gone,  there was only Jesus and I  now. 

It was at that moment, when I looked up into the face of Jesus, I saw the most beautiful look of love that I had ever seen. 

He asked me where my accusers where? and I in amazement said “they are all gone.” 

He looked deep into my eyes, into the very inner part of my soul and said, “Neither do I condemn thee…GO and sin no more.” 

He didn’t say, Go and make sure you keep all ten of those commandments or all the fires of hell will consume you. He didn’t remind me that this was the 7th time I had come to him and asked for him to heal me. He just said go and sin no more!, With a look, He said he loved me, with a look He didn’t condemn me and I knew that He had spoken to the depth of my soul.

In that instant, I fell in love with him. Not like a husband and wife love, but better. I never wanted to hurt him, I never wanted to cause him pain, and I could see that me living the life I was living was causing him pain.

I knew I was loved, I knew I was forgiven and I knew that if I stayed in that love relationship with Jesus, that I would never again fall into the sin that had trapped me for so many years. I would live in a daily love relationship with Him, and to me that was so much better than following a set of rules always in fear of slipping up.

I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt, I WAS LOVED! I was loved right then, I was LOVED before, and I was LOVED forever. 

I grew up in the church with the commandments emphatically stated as the “rules we needed to follow”, and if I didn’t, and broke a commandment I was a bad child.

It was until recently how I saw the TEN COMMANDMENTS as more of a commitment  that I make to God because of Love, then it is about following the rules in fear of punishment. A commitment not based on the LIST but the LOVE

People who live by faith will conform to many rules and perform all sorts of righteous acts. But while legalism is the imposition of external behaviours, living faith springs from the Spirit. 

It may produce results that are nearly identical to the fruit of legalism. 

Our primary goal in life should be a love relationship with God. EVERYTHING ELSE is secondary. Spirituality is secondary,Holiness is secondary, Even Wholeness and Evangelism is secondary. 

You see if we try to be spiritual, try to be holy, try to be whole and try to do evangelism without a love relationship with God it just won’t work. Loving intimacy with God has profoundly transforming effects on every aspect of our life. 

The Ten Commandment document was written in the literary form of the Suzer-anty/Vassal Covenants that were made during that same time period, (the Bronze Age-and depending on the varied cultures it ranged from 3300 BC to 600 BC). It was intended to be a document that listed the things God would perform for His children and not the other way around. The Children of Israel had nothing to offer God. 

Nor do we today, in the present day.

God said, “I will make you someone who would never have any other gods before me, never take my name in vain, never worship an idol and who would love to spend 24 hours every week worshiping Me. I will make…..This is what God intended at Sinai. The Children of Israel however, when they heard God’s offer, chose instead to attempt to turn the covenant into a contract. From love to  a list. A covenant to a contract. A contract exists when two parties promise to perform something of equal or near equal value for each other.

A covenant however, is between a greater being and a lesser being. 

For example, my daughter and I, when she was a child.  I, the greater being, had a covenant relationship with my daughter Christina, the lesser being. She had nothing to offer me other than her love. 

I, however, promised to feed, house, clothe, educate, protect, and teach her moral values. I did this because I loved her and I did it in spite of the fact that  I knew she could give me nothing in return. I alone performed the terms of the covenant.

This is what God intended at Sinai.  The Children of Israel said, “All that the Lord has said, WE will DO.” They attempted to turn the covenant into a contract – something they were absolutely incapable of doing.

If we turn to a performance based religion we are guilty of doing the same thing the children of Israel did thousands of years ago. 

The Ten Commandments are  meant for God to reconcile fallen man to himself. We can’t  reconcile ourselves. Only God can do that. 

That is why it took Jesus, God in the flesh, to come here to earth to die for our sins. We couldn’t do it apart from God. 

It takes the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of us to change our behaviour and attitudes. We need to be connected to God through the inner beating of our heart, which mirrors His love and His commitment to us. 

If all we know about ourselves is the specific sins we commit, our self-understanding remains superficial and will never develop. 

Focusing on sins leads to what Dallas Willard(an American philosopher also known for his writings on Christian spiritual formation.)describes as the gospel of sin management- which in essence is a resolve on our part to avoid sin and strategies to deal with guilt when this inevitability proves unsuccessful.  

The transformation that needs to occur in us, is more radical then sin avoidance. If we shift our focus from our behaviour to our heart, we will see the authenticity in our relationship with God and grow spiritually into His likeness, which is His original plan for us. 

It takes self-lessness, humility, trust, and love for real communication to take place in any relationship.  And of course, for all of this to happen, it takes a lot of time. 

Trust takes time to develop in human relationships… But God has always been trustworthy, His promises are always reliable and sure.

Psalms 33:4 “For the word of the LORD holds true, and we can trust everything He does”.

A covenant is something that God takes much more seriously, as it involves not just the individual.  God takes our commitment seriously too. It is not just a contract we sign or a shallow promise we make. 

It is an invitation for God himself to bind two  separates into one whole. That is binding us to to Him.

The Covenant is the basis of God’s relationship with us. Never a contract. The 10 Commandments (actually the 10 Sayings of God) are in fact, the 10 promises of the covenant. He will perform these things in you as you remain in relationship with Him. 

God has intended our relationship with Him to be like this.  His love relationship with us is–unconditional and selfless, even to the point of death. He said that nothing in heaven or on earth can separate us from His love. Romans 8:31-39 says this about God’s love for us. 

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be[a] against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.[b] 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;

    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

He has made a covenant with us, and He has been taking it seriously since the beginning of time– and that will not change right throughout eternity.

Does your faith feel like an exhausting effort to keep up with an impossible beat? If so, you might be living with a legalistic mindset, forgetting the love that is meant to be at the heart of the life of your soul. The very essence of what makes you dance to the music in your heart and not try to focus so much on the steps to make the dance LOOK good.This is why the Gospel is so key to us. It is the biblical teaching of Righteousness By Faith Alone, and not by works. It is a gift from the very hand of God,  to you. 

The Ten Commandments are a fulfillment of the covenantal agreement God has made with you. Every page of the Bible is about His grace, His love, His covenant with us, and His redemption. 

Even my good works, my sanctification, is a gift from Him to me. And when we see it in the light of love, It changes everything.The psalmist entreats us: “Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music” (Psalm 98:4). 

God doesn’t want outward conformity; He wants us to be so full of His glory and goodness that we can’t keep still and in our life we reflect His great love for us all the while inviting others into this love relationship. Let God’s promises guide every decision, and path you take in life, and I promise you, you  will find that a song that you will sing in your heart, and it  will infuse you with light and love for God and for others. .

I  believe God wants you to know that Love is the most important thing.

It’s not about how much you have( gold and silver corrupts and rusts) It isn’t about how much you know, or how much you do. It is about how well you love. Because God’s love is what matters most..

It is possible we may bounce around between following Jesus and following our own path, but it is because we are trying to chase after a love, a true love that is literally out of this world.

David wrote one of the most breathtaking descriptions of this love:

“How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand…” (Psalm 139:17-18).

To tell the truth, I know what it is to be stalked and having someone’s thoughts about me outnumber the very sands in the sea would really make me nervous and I can guarantee I would have a restraining order immediately. But when you learn that this is how God’s love for me is described, it leaves me speechless. Even the endless of scrolling through my Facebook site doesn’t compare to how in-depth God is interested in the aspects of my life. Facebook may be something we are willing to share with people publicly but God sees all the other stuff too. 

To have someone think about us all the time only happens in our dreams. Maybe this is why David attaches a short but oh so critical clause at the end of verse 18:“When I awake, I am still with You.”

I never understood this part of the passage until I heard a pastor say, “when we wake up, that’s usually when we find out that reality doesn’t match up with our dreams. Like stepping on a Lego, we feel it sharply and it tells us not to hope for better things. We learn to tip toe around love.

But David breaks down how out of this world God’s love truly is, and we won’t fully engage in believing it because our inner being tells us it’s too good to be true. He follows up his powerful comparison by telling us that when he wakes up, that same out-of-this-world God with His same out-of-this-world love is still with him. Reality and dreams finally meet. David pinches himself to make sure it’s actually true, and it is. So he tells us that the rest of the world might be a mess, but our human desire for a love better than anything we can dream of finally finds fulfillment in the heart of Jehovah.

One of my favourite childhood authors, Dr. Seuss, once said: “You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.”

My prayer for you is that as we spend each day embracing the reality of God’s love, may we learn to believe it with mind and heart, and may we never fall asleep again doubting His love for us. When you know that the God of the universe loves you so much that every aspect of your life is important to Him, you can rest in His promises that you are loved! 

I hope you will be reassured that you matter! you are valuable! and most importantly of all, that no matter what path your life has taken or what you may have done in the past,