Monday, July 30, 2012

The True Worshippers



"The woman saith unto Him, Sir, I perceive that Thou art a prophet. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and Ye say,
that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. 
Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe Me, the hour cometh,
when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. 
God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth." 
John 4:19-24

The same word translated Lord (Kurios) is often translated Sir throughout the New Testament. In this, the woman is using a term of respect. "...I perceive that Thou art a prophet." What an understatement! He is The Prophet spoken of in Deuteronomy 18:15-19, "The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto Him ye shall hearken; according to all that thou desiredst of the LORD thy God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not. And the LORD said unto me, They have well spoken that which they have spoken. I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put My words in His mouth; and He shall speak unto them all that I shall command Him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto My words which He shall speak in My name, I will require it of him." God had said many centuries earlier that all who would not hearken to the words of The Prophet would be judged, and so it is. The Pharisees rejected His words and faced the wrath of God. This woman, ignorant of many things, was more spiritually perceptive than many of the religious leaders of her day. A soft heart is a precious thing in God's eyes.

"Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and Ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship." It doesn't matter what you are just so long as the place of worship is correct. No, this is the mindset of men but not of God. The Samaritans, rejected by the Jews and having their own pride, had a place for worship separate from the temple in Jerusalem. The Lord then redirects her thinking to the heart of worship rather than the form. If the heart is right, the correct place and form will follow as long as Bible principle is obeyed. Christ says, "Woman, believe Me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews." True worship begins in the heart when the heart responds to "Seek ye My face" with "my heart said unto Thee, Thy face LORD will I seek." At the same time, the Lord does not put down the Law of God when it commanded that Israel all worship in the place that the LORD their God would choose, and He also upholds God's plan by saying, "We know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews." The Samaritans worshipped aimlessly with no clear understanding but Christ and His disciples knew Whom they worshipped, for salvation springs from Jewish roots (Christ coming from the tribe of Judah). Salvation comes through the Jewish nation, and they were to be seeking the lost but had failed miserably. It is interesting to note that Christ was not at all ashamed of God's plan coming through the Jewish nation even though He spoke with a woman who came from a people who were basically enemies to the Jews. Truth is truth and cannot be covered over.

The Lord then makes it very plain concerning what God desires of the true worshipper. "But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth." The form of worship existed there in Samaria and Jerusalem but the heart was absent, and so it is today. Church buildings are on every corner. Some are extremely conservative in their approach and others are as vile as the world in their music and dress and talk, but a common denominator exists in most of them, they are without a changed heart. This woman's heart needed changed by the redemptive work of the Messiah and Christ makes that very plain by these statements. Notice that Jesus said, "...they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth." He gives guidance as to how God is to be worshipped. The spiritual aspect is important but it is wedded to truth. Many "worship" in the spirit and their "worship" is characterized by fleshliness and lust and self-focus. The problem is, they are not worshipping according to Bible truth. The Bible is man's authority and gives man's fault-ridden spirit the proper guidelines for correct, reverent worship.

So, herein lies the key to true worship of God, giving Him your heart in faith. Abraham believed God and God accounted it to him for righteousness long before the Law was given on Mount Sinai. The woman was focused on the place of worship but Jesus redirected her to her heart. If the heart is made right, the rest will follow.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Convicting Command



"Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. 
The woman answered and said, I have no husband. 
Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: 
for thou hast had five husbands;
and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband:
in that saidst thou truly." 
John 4:16-18

Men are often content to skirt around the heart issue of a matter so as not to create differences or cause controversy, but the fact of the matter is, Individual sin and God's holiness are controversial issues that must be addressed if people are to find true help and healing. The LORD Most Holy will go to great lengths to enable people to see the root cause of all their needs, the needs of the heart. Here, we find Christ giving this woman a command that she cannot fulfill in order to cause her to see her sinful condition. He is indeed the Fountain of Living Water from which all may freely drink, but none can drink who do not sense their thirst, and so He says, "Go, and call thy husband, and come hither." In His omniscience He knows that she has no husband, and therefore cannot truly fulfill this demand. She, knowing the immoral state in which she is living says, "I have no husband." She is being honest with herself and God and so Christ commends her honesty by saying, "Thou hast well said, I have no husband...." He does not end the teaching here but goes on to uphold God's Law and says, "...for thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband...." True love points out sin. True love is not failing to provide the proper and biblical rebuke, but rather, to correctly administer it. In God's eyes, a proper marriage is one in which a man and woman are brought together and separated only by death (Matt. 19:1-6, Rom. 7:1-3). This woman had multiple husbands/live-ins and could not truthfully say that she had a husband to call. It is interesting to note that the definite article is left off from the word husband in the sentence, he whom thou now hast is not thy husband. By leaving off the definite article, Christ is emphasizing that the relationship she now has does not meet the characteristics or demands of a husband and wife relationship because that was lost after the first man, and now, could never be regained.

All these things are driving the woman to see how far she is from meeting God's standard of holiness. Such realizations are intended to drive her to repentance and humble faith in Christ.

If a person will not be honest with themselves and God, they cannot be helped. If in the disaster of their spiritual condition they are not willing to say truly, then little hope remains. The Lord uses questions and commands to enlighten, and His disciples can do the same. A little bit of knowledge about a person can be tenderly used to their benefit. The demands of God's Law, when presented in the love of God, are jewels of conviction. Commands and questions can be posed to drive others to the feet of Christ.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Fountain of Living Water



"Jesus answered and said unto her,
Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:
but whosoever drinketh of the water
that I shall give him shall never thirst;
but the water that I shall give him shall be in him
a well of water springing up into everlasting life. 
The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water,
that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw."
John 4:13-15

The Lord is patient and longsuffering, especially with the ignorant. He begins now to describe the satisfaction of the spiritual life which He offers. Concerning the well which the woman has just mentioned, He says, "Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again...." This physical water that the woman was focused on could provide only temporary relief, and that, only to the physical body. Man's religion and belief system is much the same way. Bible truth and principle offers full relief and cleansing but men would rather flee to their own wells of unbelief.

He then describes the spiritual life which is found only in Him, "...but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." In strong contrast to this physical well of water that cannot minister to the needs of the soul, Christ is the living water that quenches the thirst of man, the thirst that has been brought on by sin. He says concerning the one who trust in Him that "he shall never thirst." A literal translation would be "he shall never by any means thirst forever." It is the strongest statement that Christ could make concerning the relief of the water that He has to offer. True salvation is indeed forever. It cannot be given up or forfeited by either some outside entity or by the believer himself. Salvation is not of man, but of God. It is very important to note at this point that the word which Christ uses for well here is the word for a fountain or spring. It is translated predominantly as fountain in the New Testament. Christ describes the water of eternal life as a fountain which is constantly springing up cool, clear, and pure water. In the middle east, many of their wells were simply holes in the ground which collected rain water; they were called cisterns. The water that collected in these was not pure or fresh. It was stagnant and dirty. In fact, God uses the analogy of a fountain versus a cistern to describe man's religion versus God's truth, "For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water (Jer. 2:13)." The life which is found in Christ is no stagnant cistern, but rather a fountain of pure and refreshing water that is constantly springing up into eternal life. The self-righteousness and pride of men is a stagnant and dirty well, but God's way of salvation by faith in the shed blood of Christ is a fountain of living water. Many people today are saved, but they have forgotten that Christ is their fountain and they flee to the stagnant wells of their own understanding. The Holy Spirit of God dwells within the believer, ever springing up the pure water of Biblical truth, but often the believer will turn from this pure fountain and run to the wells of emotionalism, self-righteousness, and human reasoning which are all centered in pride and lust. The wells of emotionalism and feelings are deep, dangerous and dry. The fountain of Bible truth is ever their, easily accessed, refreshing, cleansing and healing, but it is forsaken because it goes against what we want or think or feel. The life offered by Jesus is unending. Let us not flee from this fountain of living waters but come daily to it and find the thirst quenching power of Bible truth, and let us submit to that truth regardless of its demands.

Christ wants this dear soul to see that she has a spiritual thirst that can be satisfied only by His living water. He offers her, and all who believe in Him, unending, soul healing water, but she replies, "Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw." She may have understood to some degree that He was discussing her spiritual need or she may not have understood at all, but regardless, Jesus will begin in the next versus to directly focus her attention on her sin and need.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Marriage: A Picture of Christ and His Church


"For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the Head of the Church: and he is the savior of the body." 
Ephesians 5:23


   It is preached, and rightly so, that marriage is a picture of Christ and His Church, the husband of course picturing the Head, which is Christ (Col. 1:18), and the wife picturing the body, which is the Church.  If we, as men, truly believed and lived this, it would change our marriages.  As one meditates upon this principle, a marriage is to reflect the spiritual relationship of Christ and His body of believers, the following are just a few principles that can be deduced, principles on which a man can build his marriage.

   First, Christ is the Protector of the Body.  He would never fail to provide for His Church, either in the physical or in the spiritual sense.  Jesus tells us to ask for the things that we need to serve Him.  A wife should be able to rely upon her husband to be the provider.  She should never feel as though the responsibility rests upon her because of an unwillingness on the part of her husband.

   Second, Christ is the Protector of the Body.  He delivers His people from physical and spiritual terror.  He has given the believer power to have victory over spiritual attack.  We can call unto Him for protection of every kind.  The husband should value his wife the same way.  The wife is of the bone and flesh of her husband just as the Church is of His flesh and of His bones.  A man who cannot be relied upon to protect his family is of little worth; however, this protection is not limited to purely the physical.  Each and every husband must be consumed with ensuring that his family is armed against the spiritual enemy by teaching them the Word of God.  This will be done primarily by example, as are most things in leadership.  He will show his family the worth of the Word by being consumed with the Word himself.

   Thirdly,  Christ cannot be separated from His Body.  As a child of God, I am of His flesh and of His bones.  I am in the hand of Christ and the Father's hand is around us both.  He has said, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."  If I, as one who has been baptized (by the Spirit) into Christ, cannot be separated from Christ, how could I ever consider divorce as a viable option?  The answer is, I cannot, not if I believe that marriage is to reflect in every way the relationship of Christ to His Church.  Only death can part a man and his wife (Rom. 7), and should she leave, the man has but two options: be reconciled to his wife, or remain unmarried (I Cor. 7).  Christ does not even desire to be apart from me as His child and bride. 

   This passage in Ephesians and other passages can teach us many more things, but may these few thoughts be something on which we can think.  Would Christ ever cut up His Church with foul words?  Would Christ ever take a vacation from His Church?  Would Christ ever stop loving and providing for His Church regardless of how far the Church strayed?  The answer to all these questions is, No.

   Christ loves His Church with transcendant and sacrificial love.  His love is without condition.  It is not dependant upon cooperation, submission, or reciprocation.  Yes, He does correct and seek to guide His Church, but the main point is, He will never cease to love us, His Church.  We are of His flesh and of His bones, Praise God!  Let each of us as husbands so love our wives, Amen.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Patience with the Ignorant

 "Jesus answered and said unto her,
If thou knewest the gift of God,
and Who it is that saith to thee, Give Me to drink;
thou wouldest have asked of Him,
and He would have given thee living water. 
The woman saith unto Him,
Sir, Thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep:
from whence then hast Thou that living water? 
Art Thou greater than our father Jacob,
which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself,
and his children, and his cattle?" 
John 4:10-12

     It is hard to imagine the spiritually ignorant and volatile environment in which this woman was brought up in.  She was hated and shunned by her fully Jewish countrymen.  She was involved in immorality, and probably various other vices found in her city, and spiritual truth and application was not something with which she was greatly familiar.  Yet, in spite of all this, we see the patience and longsuffering of our Lord in helping her understand her need, though, throughout this text, her answers are far less than adequate.  As Jehovah passed by Moses in the wilderness, and Moses beheld the back of God, the LORD proclaimed before Himself certain attributes that He possesses.  This text found in Exodus reads as follows, "And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth...."  Jesus demonstrates these attributes as He patiently deals with this ignorant woman.

     Jesus replies to the woman, "If thou knewest the gift of God, and Who it is that saith to thee, Give Me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water."  The grammatical setup of this statement is such that it declares something that is contrary to the facts at hand.  The fact is, she did not know Who He was and she did not ask Him for life-giving water.  But (as the grammar bears witness), it is contrary to fact only up to a certain point, because she would soon come to the conviction that He is indeed the Messiah.  Jesus said, "If thou knewest the gift of God...."  Salvation is a free gift.  It cannot be bought by works (Eph. 2:8-9).  It cannot be earned in any way.  Each and every person is helpless to obtain the standards of God's holiness.  That standard must be freely imparted to the wretched sinner by the cleansing blood of Christ.  O, the Gift of God!  If only mankind could see and know and understand what a Gift He is!  People walk carelessly on after receiving a gospel tract and toss it in the trash without once thinking of the gift of God and what has been done for the redemption of mankind.  Christ says, "He would have given thee...."  This is not a trite statement.  Christ is making a certain and sure prediction of what He would have done immediately had the woman understood enough to ask.  The Lord is waiting to give spiritual life to all who will ask in child-like faith.  For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."  But asking requires admitting that one is a sinner and that sin displeases a holy God.  This woman does not understand at this point, and has not willingly and spitefully rejected Him; therefore, He patiently moves forward in His witness.

     The woman replies to Christ, "Sir, Thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast Thou that living water?  Art Thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?"  She still sees the conversation as purely physical.  "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God...." therefore, it will be necessary to exercise great patience in dealing with people.  Her second statement is not so much a question as it is a statement of, what is in her mind, the facts.  She is expecting a no answer to her question of whether He is greater than Jacob.  This is brought out by not only the context but also the grammar.  At this point, she sees Jesus as simply a man and a lesser man than Jacob.  If she only knew, that here sits the Man in Whom all the families of the earth would be blessed, the One Who would begin to bring to pass the promises declared to Jacob hundreds of years prior.  Christ knows that there is hope for this woman, she is ignorant, but tender, and so He moves on, thus declaring Himself to be "merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy." 


Sunday, July 8, 2012

An Unlikely Conversation

 "There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water:
Jesus saith unto her, Give Me to drink.
(For His disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.) 
Then saith the woman of Samaria unto Him,
How is it that Thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me,
which am a woman of Samaria?
for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans." 
John 4:7-9

     At this point, the Scripture enters a narrative type state and begins with a verb tense that describes to the readers an event as though it is occurring in the here and now.  This style is frequently found in the gospels.  God's choosing to lay it out in such a manner gives to you and I a very strong mental picture of what is happening.  The Bible says, "There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water...."  This woman was coming at the usual time of day to accomplish a routine task that she had probably accomplished thousands of times in her life.  She was coming at noon time to draw water from Jacob's well, but she would soon draw life-giving water from the Giver of Life, the Messiah.  God seeks people.  Were it not for God seeking and working in the hearts of men, no one would come to Him.  This does not negate man's free will to respond, but it does reflect upon the truth taught in Romans, "...the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance."  Christ came to seek and to save that which is lost.  The sheep are too foolish to seek the Shepherd.  The Shepherd takes the merciful initiative to seek the sheep.  Christ's divine love is focused upon this lost, sinful woman, and He is bound and determined to give her life-giving truth.

     "...Jesus saith unto her, Give Me to drink.  (For His disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.)"  Christ uses a very common event as an opportunity to witness God's truth.  As man (though He is God), He is thirsty, a witness to His condescending love, and He asks for water; thus opening the door to discuss the life-giving water that He has.  Daily, most Christians experience multitudes of opportunities to witness, but pass them by. 

     This woman is quite taken back by Jesus' introduction and says in response to His command/request, "Then saith the woman of Samaria unto Him, How is it that Thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans."  In the middle-eastern culture of the day (and even today), conversation between the genders would not have flowed as easily as one might be used to in western modern society; therefore, this would have perhaps been somewhat against the usual, but regardless of that, in this woman's thinking, the prejudice of the Jews against the Samaritan half-breeds would have been enough to consider such a conversation unthinkable.  The last half of this verse is quite sad.  It says, "For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans."  Though God always intended for His people to be separate from the world, He never intended for them to exclude the world from the choice of partaking in His salvation.  A Jew's holiness was to attract a searching heathen, not exclude him from all hope (Deut. 4:5-8).  Though God demands and desires absolute holiness in the lives of His people, He intends for that holiness to stand separate as a beacon which will draw people from the darkness of sin and into the Light of God.  The Jews had become so prideful in their separation and self-righteousness that they excluded others from the love of God and viewed them as dogs rather than souls needing help.  The heart of God has always been open to those who will seek Him whether they be Jew or Gentile.  Consider the following verses from Isaiah, "Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve Him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be His servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of My covenant; even them will I bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon Mine altar; for Mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people."  God does not allow anyone to come as they please, but He does allow any to come who are willing to come in the humble way of faith and repentance that He mandates.  

     As Israel failed to be a light to a dark world and separated themselves in pride and self-righteousness, so do many Christians today.  Let none forget that God is a Lover of souls.  He knows that there are people in every nation who will humble themselves and accept His truth; thus, "...He must needs go through Samaria."

Sunday, July 1, 2012

A Driving Need


"And He must needs go through Samaria. 
Then cometh He to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar,
near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. 
Now Jacob's well was there.
Jesus therefore, being wearied with His journey,
sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour." 
John 4:4-6

Much of chapter 4 is consumed with the familiar account of Jesus and the "women at the well." This Scripture clearly displays the love that God has toward people, all people. The passage begins first with the need of Jesus to pass through Samaria, "And He must needs go through Samaria." To the average Jew, passing through Samaria to enter or leave Judea was very undesirable since the Samaritan was looked down on for being a half-breed, one whose blood had been mixed between Jewish and heathen, undoubtedly a result of the settling of strangers in Northern Israel by the Assyrian kings of antiquity.

This, however, does not deter Christ. He has a need, and this need is to take the truth of salvation to ears that will hear.

"Then cometh He to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with His journey, sat thus on the well...." What a clear testimony to Christ's humanity! The Son of God takes upon Himself human flesh and experiences weariness from His long trek from Judea. As Hebrews puts it, "For we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with feeling of our infirmities...." The Lord knows what it is to be weary. Here, the Sacrifice for the sins of man purposefully makes His way through "forbidden territory" to seek and to save that which is lost. The fact that He comes to a well of Jacob's is no mere coincidence. This well will serve as a perfect illustration of the life-giving water that Christ offers to the humble believer. It also reminds us of God's promise to Jacob hundreds of years prior. In Genesis chapter 28, we read of Jacob's flight to Padanaram. As he makes his journey northward, he comes to a place just south of the city here in the text, and in a dream the LORD makes this promise to Jacob, "...I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; and thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of." Just a few miles south of this well where Jesus sat, God told Jacob that all the families of the earth would be blessed through him. This happened in the person of Jesus Christ. Christ is of the seed of Jacob and all families of the earth are blessed (and will be blessed) through Him because of the salvation that He freely offers to all who will believe. This entire scene is a reminder of God's faithfulness and love for humanity. Here sits the eternal Son of God, weary in the human body that He took to Himself, sitting as physical evidence of a promise made many centuries earlier, and preparing to offer deliverance to a human soul in need of Light and Truth.

"...and it was about the sixth hour." This is noon time in our thinking, the time when women would come out of the city for the purpose of drawing water. Christ, being in perfect harmony with the will of the Father, takes an undesirable route to keep a Divine appointment, the same type of appointment that many of God's people could experience were they not so consumed with self. May each of us sense the need to "go through Samaria" and bring the Light to souls sitting in darkness.