Links Daily Devotional

Positive Thoughts

Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” (John 8:10-11, NLT)

At my home course, the fifth hole presents probably the most demanding tee shot of any hole on the golf course. There is a pond on the left and two large bunkers and trees down the right that require you to hit a good drive off this 450-yard par 4. For years, my nemesis was a hook, and the fifth at Atlanta Country Club seemed to always bring it out of me. Even when I started fading the ball, for some reason that pond down the left still attracted many of my tee shots. I can remember getting over the tee shot and often the last thing my mind would say is, Don’t hit it in the water. And I inevitably hit it in the water!

About three years ago, I read a sports psychology book that talked about how important positive visualization is because our minds do not visualize words like “don’t.” So when my last thought was don’t hit it in that pond, my mind just visualized the “pond” as I was over the tee shot—and that was often where the shot would go. After reading this, I began to work harder on picking out good targets and trying not to think about anything but swinging toward my good target. On hole five that target now happens to be a yellow patio umbrella on the back porch of a home in the distance through the dogleg.

This phenomenon that I found true about the human psyche I believe also comes into play in our spiritual lives. Even though Jesus and the apostles taught a message of grace and righteousness through faith and not works, they also gave direction and encouragement just like the one Jesus gave the adulterous woman in today’s passage to “go and sin no more.”

Many people find conflict in the message of a grace and forgiveness and the commands to be holy, sin no more, and to be righteous. For me, it was this golf tip and analogy that really helped me understand that these are not at all in conflict.

John, Paul, James, Peter, and the other authors of the New Testament understood that we can mess up and yet there is “no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). However, the best life on earth is found in imitating Jesus’ holiness, so on him we should set our focus. This positive visualization of righteousness has been made possible through God’s grace and his sending his Son to live as a perfect and holy example for us. Thankfully, we now have the ability to visualize life without sin, obedience to God, and perfect love for others because of Jesus’ life and testimony here on earth.

So even though God’s grace is like having an ongoing mulligan every time I play the fifth at Atlanta Country Club, I do not believe God wants me to go through life thinking about needing it every time I face challenges in the areas of sin where I once struggled. God sees his children as new creations made righteous through his Son perfectly equipped by the Holy Spirit to avert all sin. We must stop reminding ourselves of who we once were with negative self-talk or continual visualization of lives of habitual sin; rather, God wants us to know that we are perfectly capable in each instance to hit our target… that yellow patio umbrella known as righteousness!

Josh Nelson

June 12, 2013

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