Good morning. If you have your Bibles, go ahead and grab those. John, chapter 4. We’re going to look at the first 26 verses of this chapter in the gospel of John. There’s this picture of Jesus (I think you’ve seen it) where Jesus has one hand over his heart and has his fingers in a weird thing, and he’s kind of glowing and is oddly white for a Jew. I don’t know if you’ve seen this. He has feathered white hair, and there’s something about that photo where he’s really ethereal and, if I’m honest, doesn’t look to be quite helpful.
You get this sense that he’s kind of otherworldly and too soft for the hardness of the world you and I live in. I’ve always despised the picture for multiple reasons. I probably leaked some of those in this very brief introduction. This picture of Jesus removes him, in a very real way, from the grit and grime and blood and brokenness of your life and my life and of life in a fallen world.
When Jesus is so clean and so pretty and has an ethereal glow, then we can learn some concepts about him that we don’t quite know how to put on the ground because he’s so otherworldly rather than what John is trying to teach us, which is Jesus is in the dirt and the mud and the blood. He’s on the ground, in the grime with us, which is one of the big points of the gospel of John. It’s one of the big points of the Bible: God with us, not in some ethereal, heavenly way but right in the middle of the grime with us.
I honestly believe one of the reasons we struggle so badly to comprehend grace is that we’ve never really gazed into Jesus in the grime. So what I want to try to do, what I prayed since I knew I was preaching… I just want to blow the circuits of your imagination this morning with the grace of God in Christ dwelling in the brokenness and bloodiness of human experience.
So those are my cards. I’m not hiding anything. I’m going to try to make the circuits of your imagination break, to create new constructs in tiny imaginations for the expanse of the grace and mercy of God. We should feel a little anxious about that grace. It should seem a little too easy. So I’m all in this morning. If you’re like, “You seem excited,” I preached John for this chapter. I love the whole book, but this chapter is awesome.
First, before we dive in, it’s the point of the coming of Jesus Christ that he would enter into the brokenness of his creation and begin to make things new. Not instantaneously make things new. The primary complaint about Jesus… If you’re like, “Why do you kill a guy who keeps feeding you and keeps doing miracles and is raising the dead and healing diseases?” It’s because the mission of Christ was offensive to the fundamentalist.
If I could simplify, the mission of Christ was offensive to the fundamentalists who got their sense of pride not in the power and grace of God but in their own will and ability to do better than what they perceived to be those around them. Let me highlight some of this. This is Luke, chapter 5. I know you’re sitting there in John 4. We’re about to dive in together, but in Luke 5 Jesus comes and shows compassion and mercy to Levi, who’s a tax collector.
There was nothing more despicable than a tax collector. I don’t even know how to explain its moral equivalent to us here in 2018, but I’ll tell you this: it was right, in a real way, for them to be despised by their countrymen, yet Jesus is always having dinner with them and going to their houses and spending quality time with them. The religious elite of the day could not get over this. So, Jesus extends mercy and grace to Levi, which certainly would not have been Levi’s experience in this culture. Then here’s what we have picking up in verse 30:
“And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, ’Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?’ And Jesus answered them, ’Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.’”
Then again in Luke 19:10, Jesus, trying to get across what he’s up to, what all of these miracles are about, what his coming is about, says, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Then as we covered just a few weeks ago in John 3:17… John 3:16 gets all the press, but it’s John 3:17 that should make you shout for joy. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
Today, you and I have these front-row seats to that radical grace being poured out in an unexpected place in an unexpected time to an unexpected person. With that said, let’s look at John 4. We’re going to read 26 verses. Don’t panic. We did well at the 8:30. I’ll just go my usual time. Starting in verse 1:
“Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria.” If you write in your Bible or highlight on your device, that little phrase is pretty key for where we’re going today, that he had to pass through Samaria. “So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey…”
My guess is you’ve had some thoughts about Jesus in your life. You’ve considered him. You’ve thought about him. I don’t think anybody has really thought about Jesus being wearied from travel and looking for a place to sit down. When I ask, “Hey, what’s the first image that pops into your mind about Jesus Christ?” my guess is it’s not Jesus worn out, taking deep breaths, and looking for a chair to sit in, but that’s what we just read in the text, that Jesus was wearied from the journey. Let’s keep reading.
“Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour [noon]. A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, ’Give me a drink.’ (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, ’How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?’ (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)
Jesus answered her, ’If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ”Give me a drink,“ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’ The woman said to him, ’Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.’
Jesus said to her, ’Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’ The woman said to him, ’Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.’ Jesus said to her, ’Go, call your husband, and come here.’
The woman answered him, ’I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ’You are right in saying, ”I have no husband“; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.’” Look at her perception in the next verse. “The woman said to him, ’Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.’
Jesus said to her, ’Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.’ The woman said to him, ’I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.’ Jesus said to her, ’I who speak to you am he.’”
I want to just highlight a few things about this story. Here’s the first thing. There in verse 4 you have this phrase, and the phrase in the Greek is in the imperfect tense. Here’s the phrase as it reads in the ESV: “And he had to pass through Samaria.” Because it’s in the imperfect tense, it could literally be translated, “He was having to go.”
Now, there are some problems with that little sentence. Here’s what those problems are. He wasn’t having to go through Samaria. There were a multitude of routes he could have gone. In fact, he did not go on the route that most Jews of this age would have gone, which would have helped him avoid the Samaritans whom the Jews despised. So he wasn’t having to go because there was only one path, and he wasn’t having to go because anyone made him go.
Jesus, the Spirit-filled man, being compelled by the Holy Spirit, maybe has a divine appointment. He was having to go not because it was the only route and not because someone was forcing him. He was having to go because, compelled by the Holy Spirit, he followed that compulsion. Then the next nine verses are significant. If you’ve been here through our study of John, you know John has been deconstructing the Jewish worldview of how we’re going to relate to God rightly. Here’s what he has done so far. I’ll catch you up. Nobody panic.
Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, is greater than the lambs that would continually need to be sacrificed throughout one’s life to make atonement for sin. When Jesus is “Behold, the Lamb of God that has taken away the sins of the world,” he’s removing the sacrificial system off of the human beings on earth as their means in which to relate rightly to God. “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” You don’t need those lambs anymore because the true Lamb is here.
He also brings the new wine of the kingdom over and above the Jewish laws of purification. Jesus is saying, “I am the greater than. I am the better than.” We see that Jesus shows up and begins to teach that Jesus being God with us is now not about a physical temple but the indwelling of our souls via the Holy Spirit, making the people of God the temple of God, which is why we don’t make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
If you get to go to Jerusalem, awesome, but God doesn’t love you any more because you did that. Got it? We don’t need to go on a pilgrimage, because we are the dwelling place of God in our souls, the temple of the living God, indwelt with the Holy Spirit. We saw in his interaction with Nicodemus that the new life Jesus Christ brings is not born of willpower or a family lineage but is a free gift of God’s grace to any who would hear.
Now we have living water, and he’s at Jacob’s well. Jacob’s well is huge in the story of God’s people. If you know your Old Testament well, oftentimes God is referred to as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Jacob’s well is a pretty significant moment. It’s in this general area that Abram made his first sacrifice to God. If you’ve been through the Genesis study, either men or women’s Bible study, this is right around the area.
It’s also in this area that God first gives the promise of land to his people. This area is pretty significant. Not only that but there are these other huge moments right around this well. Like Abraham’s servant met Rebekah, who would be Isaac’s future wife. Then Jacob met his future wife Rachel, and Moses met Zipporah who was his future wife. And all of our singles are like, “Where’s this well? Where’s that well at? I’m just asking. How far are we from that well?”
There were a lot of pretty stunning directional outpourings of God’s sovereign reign here at this well, and Jesus has just shown up and said, “Who cares about that water? I have living water.” He’s doing what he has done all along. He’s saying, “These other things would require you to do them over and over and over and over again, but what I want to do in you I want to do once and for all. My sacrifice is complete. The purity I bring and impute to you is complete. No penance. I am your Savior. Living water is found in me. Fullness of life is found in me.” That’s the argument being made here.
Here’s what’s stunning as you read this. She wants it. This is an easy conversion. Look at verse 15. “The woman said to him, ’Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.’” That was huge. “I have living water. Who wants this water when I have living water?” She said, “Where do I get that living water?” Play the song. Let’s do the altar call. Get her name down in the books.
Then Jesus goes to a place that it’s shocking that he would go. If you didn’t know the text and I said, “Guess what he says next,” you’re just not going to guess where he goes. I think you could probably talk about these next five verses like this: the wound and the worry.
Let’s pick it up in verse 16. “Jesus said to her, ’Go, call your husband, and come here.’ The woman answered him, ’I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ’You are right in saying, ”I have no husband“; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.’” That just got awkward, didn’t it? “Give me this living water.”
“Okay. Do you want the living water?”
“I do. I want the living water.”
“Okay. Go grab your husband.”
“Yeah, I don’t have one.”
“Yeah, you’re right when you said you don’t have one. You’ve had five, and the one you have now is actually not your husband.”
There isn’t a lot of information on the backstory here other than you can tell it’s irregular. Let me tell you what we don’t know. We don’t know if she has been widowed five times, which would explain why the sixth guy is like, “Nah, the nature of our relationship is going to be a little bit different.” Seriously. I don’t care how fine she is. If there are five dead dudes in her past who said, “I do…” I’m going to tell you what. Pastor ain’t saying, “Yes.”
There’s something back here. Or maybe she was an adulterer. There’s something about her coming to the well at noon, which is not when you go to the well. There’s some kind of shame in her life that has her hiding, going to the well at noon, not wanting to talk about this with Jesus. In fact, she’s going to try some misdirection here in a second, but you can’t really misdirect Jesus. You know what I’m saying? He stays in his lane, which is all of the lanes.
He’s not willing to accept from her some kind of easy believism that doesn’t get into the root of her hurt. In a broken and fallen world, all of us have, at one level or another, been wounded and learned to self-protect. Sometimes that wound came from some of our own stupid decisions. Sometimes it came from somebody else’s stupid decisions. Sometimes it happens just because the world is broken with sin and death. I’ll give this illustration.
On November 4, a couple of Saturday nights ago, Reid turned 13, and the way we do things in our house is 13 is a “rite of passage” year. It’s we’re going to do something to mark that and make it significant. I’m calling my daughters toward womanhood in that moment. I’m calling my son into manhood in that moment. I’m using 13 because 13 through 16, 17, 18 make a parent question a lot of things. I just want to say it early. “This is about to get awkward. I’m committed to you.”
We wired the evening where I had eight men come in. His friends came Friday night, and then it was just grown-ups on Saturday night. We each called him up and into what we saw God had placed in him as traits, not things he does but something he is. We wanted to call it out and call him up into it, and then we wanted to bless him. I added something to my speech that I wouldn’t have if I didn’t know a friend of mine did something similar to his son when his son turned 15.
I’m trying to illustrate the brokenness of the world, the power of principalities and our flesh. In a ceremony very similar to the one I had at my house for my 13-year-old son, he had a bunch of men say over his 15-year-old son, “God has his hand on your life. He’s calling you into these things. He has blessed you with these things,” and that 15-year-old boy filtered all that information through the filter of “I’m never going to be able to measure up to that. I’m never going to actually be able to embrace that.”
He actually rebelled against the Lord primarily because his well-meaning, godly, godly, godly father sought to call him up into it. This is why even if you have the most perfect parents ever you can be wounded, not because they did something but because we are broken with sin and death until Jesus saves us.
So my last speech… I closed the night with Reid, and I’m sure it was awkward for everybody, because I was like, “Here’s the thing, bro. You’re going to do some stupid stuff, and it’s going to be embarrassing, it’s going to fill you with shame, and everybody in this room knows it. Look at me. We know it. It’s going to be embarrassing. You’re going to feel like, ’If anybody ever found this out I would just die.’ You’re not going to die. You’re going to come to life.
If you’re too embarrassed to tell me, you grab one of these brothers and confess, because we aren’t meant to fight in the shadows; we’re meant to fight in the light. We’re here tonight to say we’re on your team willing to fight in the light with you. You just have to let us know when you do that embarrassing, dumb thing. You’re not going to surprise us. Do you know why? Because we’ve all done embarrassing, dumb things. You’re going to blow it. You’re going to blow it badly, and I already know it. I love you and I’m on your side, as are these men. So when you do…not if, when…let us know, and let’s fight in the light.”
I had to say that, because I knew a godly man who was like, “God loves you. He has a call on your life,” and that boy interpreted it all… “I can never do that. I’ll never measure up.” That’s what I’m talking about when we’re wounded, that we’re broken. A lot of times we’re operating out of that wound in ways we don’t even know. We’re angry all the time, and we don’t know why. Or we have to achieve. There are ways we self-defend around a wound.
If you grew up and you think you don’t matter or Mom and Dad didn’t know how to approach you or address you and you’re like, “Man, I never felt worthy of my parents’ affection, so I’m going to make something of myself…” You’re working 90-hour weeks and you can’t fail, and you have your body all chiseled like you want it, because you matter, dadgummit! When people look at you, they’re going to see that you’re successful, beautiful, all together, and amazing. “Take that, Dad!”
When we operate out of a wound and when we learn to self-protect, it’s hard for us to walk in this living water that bursts forth unto eternal life. I’ve said this before; I’m going to say it again. To be 99 percent known is to be unknown. Let me talk about how that plays itself out. If you have this little 1 percent secret over here… That’s all it is. It’s just 1 percent. I mean, you’re awesome, bro…99 percent? Dang.
You just have this 1 percent that nobody knows about. It’s shame of some kind. It’s something that happened in your past. It’s a present struggle you have. You’re just holding onto it. You’re 99 percent known, so you can be at group and you’re like, “Yeah, I’m not perfect. I have my struggles. I care too much is probably one of my deepest struggles. I can just get involved in things that don’t…” Meanwhile, this thing over here…
What happens when you’re 99 percent known is you’re unable to receive love. You’re unable to receive anyone’s affections or any words for life, because anytime somebody tries to tell you that you can easily go, “Well, if they knew this 1 percent they would never be able to say that to me. If they actually knew this little 1… All they’ve seen…”
You’ve convinced yourself that if people were to know that 1 percent their view of you, their respect for you, their love for you, their capacity to be gracious to you would evaporate in a second, so now you have to defend this 1 percent with all the willpower you can muster, because for people to find this out is death. It’s death, because you’re protecting a wound.
Here’s the difference between a wound and a scar. If someone touches a wound, you punch them in the face or you back away, but if someone touches a scar it doesn’t work that way. A wound still hurts, so you protect it and defend it. Jesus loves this woman too much to allow the wound to fester any longer. This is not cruel; it’s kind, and it’s a picture of what Jesus is after even today, when he says, “Woman, you want streams of living water to burst forth from your soul? You want joy? You want life? You want it to spill up into eternal life? Go grab your husband.”
“Well, I don’t have a husband.”
“You’re right. I know this hurts. You’ve had five, and the one you have now is not even your husband. I get it. I want you to know I’m here for that.”
It is an epic tragedy that the place Jesus wants to do his most significant work is the place you and I spend so much time trying to hide. It is crushing for people…Christian people, people in church, people out of church. There’s this spot that Jesus wants to get in there and heal, he wants to put back together, and he wants to make us right so we can experience streams of living water bursting forth unto eternal life, but when Jesus says, “Go get your husband,” we hide. We don’t want to talk.
He’s exposing a wound, and we don’t like to address the wound. She is not only going to avoid this altogether, but she’s going to try to self-defend with doctrine. She’s going to try to defend her wound with theology. Look at what happens next. “The woman said to him, ’Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.’” Can we just say that’s a little understated? If you were at coffee with someone and they just read your mail like that… “Sir, I perceive…” Well, I don’t know that you perceive. He laid it on pretty thick.
“Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” It is my growing experience… Listen to me. I am a theology nerd. If you didn’t know, I had brain surgery, and that might start to help you make sense of me. I had brain surgery about nine years ago, and after I woke up… They removed basically my right frontal lobe, so I think I’m doing pretty well.
One of the first things I wanted was Lauren to bring up Jonathan Edwards’ Religious Affections, because I wanted to see if I could read it and understand it still. That’s the kind of level of nerddom. “I love Netflix.” I’m like, “Well, yeah, Netflix has its place. I like a good show, but, man, give me some John Owen. Give me one of the Puritans. Give me something like that.” I just love it, so I would never bad-mouth doctrine, but it’s my experience that Jesus will oftentimes go after the wound and people will self-protect with doctrine.
They will self-protect with religious debate. They will self-protect by grabbing a truth and getting really rigid with that truth and then begin to grow out of grace and mercy in regard to that truth. Have you ever experienced this, where people are just so rigid and angry about the doctrine they’re in that you can’t, honestly, ever get at their heart or what’s going on in their life? This is a little bit what our woman from Samaria is trying to do right now. “Go get your husband.”
“Oh, you’re a prophet. Great. Hey, since you’re a prophet… You guys say we’re supposed to worship in Jerusalem. Our people say we should worship on this mountain.” It’s misdirection, yet her worry is a worry that exists even today. Her worry is, “Is this true or is that true? Which is true?” It’s a legitimate worry, and Jesus certainly isn’t going to just brush it off to the side, but he’s after her heart, he’s after her wound, and she throws up a hotly debated theological schism of this current day. Jesus kind of dives in.
This is the question you and I are wrestling with even today. “Is this true or that true?” It’s not overstating it to say that relativism has leaked into the church of Jesus Christ. In fact, Ligonier did a recent “state of theology in the church” study that was vast and found that 51 percent of evangelical Christians believe God accepts the worship of all religions. It’s this idea that there’s no such thing as truth, that truth is a personal preference, that truth is how you feel. Can we just praise God that that’s not true?
“I feel invincible.” Great. Try that out. Let’s see if you are. If truth is feeling and feeling is truth, jump off this building, Mr. Invincible. What we’ve done is “Whatever you feel is right and true.” Gosh, when did that kick in? Is that true for my 9-year-old right now? Because God help the entire planet if that’s true. If what she feels is ultimate reality, the western hemisphere is going to be burned to the ground. So when does it kick in as truth that your feelings are to define ultimate reality? I’m not saying feelings aren’t important. I’m just saying they oftentimes cannot be trusted.
So, “Which is true?” is her question, and Jesus is going to answer her like this. Look at verse 21. “Jesus said to her, ’Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.’” Truth matters. Jesus doesn’t shy away from the truth here. He gives her the truth as it’s understood via the Old Testament.
He just laid it out. “Hey, we worship what we know; you worship what you only have a vague notion of, because salvation is from the Jews.” Then look at verse 23, because the whole thing… Here he steps in and fulfills it. There’s something better than that mountain or Jerusalem coming. Not coming…here.
“’But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.’ The woman said to him, ’I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.’”
This is a beautiful moment in our story. It’s not the apex yet. The apex is coming, but there’s this beautiful moment where she’s trying to defend her wound, and she throws out a theological debate, and Jesus lays out what is true: it’s from the Jews out. Then he transitions into the good news of the gospel for her life and ours. “But a time is coming…no, the time is now when the true worshipers won’t worship on that mountain like the Samaritans or down in Jerusalem like the Jews, but instead, the kind of worshipers the Father is seeking…”
The irony of that sentence right there in that moment, right there at that time. “…the Father is seeking will worship him in spirit and truth.” He’s turning it back away from, “Okay, I hear your theological maneuvering, trying to keep me away from your wound, but we don’t need to worry about that, because I’m here, and because I’m here true worshipers are going to worship me not on your mountain, not in Jerusalem, but in spirit and in truth.”
Then I think the most stunning part, the apex of this whole text, is verse 26. Now she’s trapped. What do you do now? If Jesus is going after the wound and that gets uncomfortable… You’re like, “I don’t really want to deal with why I’m angry. I don’t want to deal with why I’m consumed with lust. Oh man, I don’t want to worry about why I have to achieve and I have to be viewed a success. I don’t want to worry about those things, so let’s just talk about this doctrine and let’s talk about that doctrine.”
Then Jesus steps in and goes, “Doctrine is awesome. It’s necessary, but it’s ultimately about me.” Then she tries one last Hail Mary, and not in the Catholic sense…in the football sense, and says, “Well, we can’t really know. One day Christ will be here. When Christ is here we’ll know all these things.” Here’s what is mind-blowing. Here’s where the circuits should explode. In a gospel full of “I am” statements… “I am the Bread of Life. I am the Light of the World.” The “I am” statements of the gospel of John.
The very first “I am” statement is given not to Nicodemus, who is a leader of Israel, a man of power and influence. The first “I am” statement is not given to Nicodemus. It’s not given as an initiating gift to his disciples. It’s given to this three-prone loser of a woman Samaritan of disreputable history. Jesus answers her question. Look at verse 26. “Jesus said to her, ’I who speak to you am he.’”
This statement should make it incontestable that Jesus’ living water is indeed a free gift completely independent of gender, nationality, or merit, and (listen to this) it is completely independent of one’s past or one’s present. Did you hear me? The free gift of God’s grace is not tied to the person’s past or their present. This woman has repented of nothing…yet. Next week. But this week, the free offer of living water went to…whom? This woman. Five husbands, and the one she has now, he ain’t signing on.
What’s the offer? Living water. It’s stunning. This should dissolve all of the stupidity around who Jesus is and what Jesus is actually all about. This woman, stuck in her sins, deep, rotting out from the inside with shame, is met with grace by a man from a people group that has oppressed hers, slandered hers, attacked hers, prayed that salvation wouldn’t be given to her, yet here it is: the grace of God lavished upon a Samaritan woman with a disreputable past and present.
Oftentimes, you and I have this picture in our minds of what we think Christianity is, and there’s never any dirt on it. It’s just beautiful. Everybody is like, “Hey. Everything is going great. Everybody is awesome. I’m doing great. Man, I wish you could have been in my quiet time. I think it was Gabriel. I’m not sure. There was an angel that showed up. I wasn’t even sure which one he is. I wasn’t even afraid like those suckers in the Bible. I was just like, ’What’s up, Gabe? Christmastime. You get talked about this time of year. Are you pumped?’”
Then, “Man, I wish I could confess my sins to you, but I’m just not sure what they are. Maybe humility? I don’t know.” Look at me right now. No one in the Bible but Jesus has that story. It’s men and women who love him, who are broken, who take a long time to mature. They take a long time to mature. They don’t grow up quickly. Gosh, study men and women in the Bible. Pick your guy or gal. They learn slowly. They apply far more slowly than they learn.
That should help all of us, because they get it before they ever get it. God just won’t back off his lavish grace on them. You study the life of David, and I promise you you’ll learn that God is right there in the blood and failures and falls and brokenness and foolishness and stupidity. Right there, holding together, working through, encouraging, calling back up unto repentance and confession, pleading to lay down the 1 percent so that streams of living water might burst forth unto eternal life.
I think until you can get this… The wind blows where it will. The Spirit of God has to do something in us to get this, because until you can you’ll always have some finish line in view that’s not with Jesus forever. You’ll have a finish line “If I could just stop this behavior… If I could just start this behavior…” Do you really believe that’s how Jesus’ affections for you work? “Man, if I could just be a little bit more disciplined about getting up and getting in the Word…”
That would be awesome, but the affection of God doesn’t fluctuate for you on that. How cheap is his love where he’s like, “Oh, you haven’t read the Bible in two days. No grace for you. In fact…” Really? You’re giggling, but you shouldn’t be. You just laughed, but you shouldn’t have. Many of us are operating this way. “Oh man, you’re struggling in this area. Man, your marriage isn’t a picture of Christ and the church, so God obviously has no affection for you, no mercy for you, no grace for you until you get that nonsense fixed.”
In the gospel of John he has been deconstructing every bit of that nonsense and replacing it with the freedom that is found in the saving work of Jesus Christ. He who began the good work in us will be faithful to complete it. He didn’t save you to leave you where you are, but he also did not save you so you could row toward where you should be. He saved you and will through the highs and lows of your life shape and mold, and his steadfast love is unbreakable and sealed in you with a promise. Not your promise to him…his promise to you. Did you hear that? Not your promise to him…his promise to you.
He cannot break a promise that he makes to himself and that he swears to by himself. I’m just laying before you what the gospel is, and then to plead with you that if you’re hanging onto that 1 percent because you think if anyone were to ever know that 1 percent everything about your life would change… The way I want to try to encourage you is not that it won’t change but that it might just change for the better.
Let’s do this, just as an illustration to close with. How many of you would say, “There was a season of my life where there was a percentage that I hid and I wouldn’t let anybody see or know. I just felt if anybody were to find that out my life would be… I would just die if anyone ever saw this back here. When by the grace of God he granted me the courage to open up and let people in, streams of living water burst forth in my life”?
How many would testify, “I had percentages hidden, I came into the light, and it has made all the difference”? Praise God. Keep your hands up. Look around. If you’re hiding that 1 percent, take a glance. This is us testifying we had some stuff, man, and we thought surely church people needed to be the last people to know about our stuff. Then when you come out and you experience grace…
Let’s chat for a second. Just so I can be clear, I don’t think if you have a 1 percent, a 10 percent, a 12 percent, a 40 percent… I don’t know what you have back there. This is probably not a “Dear Facebook” post. Like, coming off the end of this message you’re all hyped up and you’re like, “Dear Facebook, for the last 20 years I have…” No. Don’t, because then a tsunami of shame will hit and you’ll be like, “I trusted him!” I just want to be really clear.
One of the good graces that God, I pray, has given you is those you know who love the Lord and are for you, and they’re for you in a way that’s distinctively Christian. I think those are the spaces in which we step into the light and we come clean and we lay before in glad repentance and confession, “Here’s my 1 percent. It has been eating me up for a decade. It has been eating me up for 40 years. It has been eating me up since [whenever]. I want to step into the light. I want to let Jesus work in this wound I’ve tried so hard to hide.”
If you don’t have that, I want to just invite you further in. God’s plan for his bride, the church, is not that you would attend twice a month. That’s not what God is up to. God is knitting us together as brothers and sisters in a family of faith. It’s an awkward family. There are a lot of strange uncles in this family, but family nonetheless. He uses our imperfections and our brokenness and our gifts and our abilities to do something beautiful as we commit to one another and to his Word working itself out in the gathering and in our lives.
If you’re like, “I don’t have anybody I could trust this 1 percent to,” then I’m going to ask you to scooch in, but if you do, you need to find that space to say, “Here’s my 1 percent. I am terrified right now, but I can’t do this anymore.” If this text and a hundred others like it are any evidence of what you can expect, you can expect the grace and mercy of God to meet you where you are, because that’s the only place he ever actually meets us: where we are. Not where we’re projecting to be but where we actually are.
You could see in this story where she’s like, “Sir, give me the living water.” “Okay, grab your husband.” It was through the wound that the mercy and grace was coming. It was through the hidden, through the 1 percent, through the shame that the grace of God was going to take root. We’ll watch the story unfold next week, but my invitation is the invitation of Jesus: go grab your husband, whatever that is, so that streams of living water might burst forth unto eternal life. Let’s pray.
Father, thank you for these men and women. I know many of us are in different places in the process. I love that this story is a process. You could see the awkwardness of the beginning of the conversation. You see the discombobulation of the theological disagreement. As we’ll see next week, you can see the beauty of the invitation and the beauty of streams of living water bursting forth from this woman’s soul, transforming everything and leading her into the fullest life possible.
I pray that you would awaken souls to your goodness, awaken men and women out of their slumber, out of their hiding, that you might grant them by your Spirit’s power the courage to say in the safe place you have created for them, “Here’s my 1 percent. I’m tired of carrying it. I want to be 100 percent known. I don’t want any secrets in my life. I’m imperfect. I’m broken, just like Jesus loves me. I don’t want to pretend anymore.” Do that work here.
So many us have the testimony that when we took that step of faith (that’s what it is: a massive step of faith) you have met us, you have begun the healing process. Many of us are not even out of that process yet. You just started it. We thank you that you began it and you can be trusted to bring it unto completion. It’s for your beautiful name I pray, amen.