Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Rethinking Evangelism: Demonstration is the Key - Part IX

The encounter between the Samaritan woman and Jesus continues with Jesus purposefully inferring into the woman's personal life. Jesus goal is clearly to invoke an awareness of the sin that keeps the woman from partaking of the "living water." The spiritual light is coming on for the woman. She has gone from thinking of her physical need to thinking about the one same God, Jehovah, that the Jews and the Samaritans both worship but differently.

Knowledge of salvation is not the key to experiencing the living water, just as much as knowledge of God alone doesn't liberates us from our sin. We must be "born again" (see Part VII) and we must become "true worshippers." The later is where the Lord leads the woman next. 

Jesus' objective was to lead the woman to consider her own state of sinfulness - a delicate and yet penetrating way of making her see her deepest need. Jesus doesn't tell the woman she is a sinner, he allows her to reveal this fact in her own heart. Without such self awareness our evangelism will not go far, although some want Jesus for their own reasons (John 2:23-24). The Lord doesn't declare the woman a sinner, he already knows this to be true of all humanity. Instead, he does shows her that he knows her intimately, revealing the secret actions of her life and is therefore well qualified to teach her divine truth.

The woman responds, "'Sir...I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.'" (John 4:19-20) The woman establishes here religious identity, holding on to what she knows, but Jesus continues:  
"Woman, believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks." (John 4:21-23).
Many worship what they do not know (Acts 17:23), even today.  The Jews worshipped what they did know, remembering how Jehovah had worked in their history - a central part of the Story. By saying that "salvation is from the Jews," Jesus isn't saying that salvation originates with the Jews. Salvation originates with God as God's global plan through Christ foretold by the prophets, a plan for the "nations" to be brought over to a life of true worship (Isaiah 2:3, Micah 4:2) - through the Gospel for all.

Neither the Jews nor the Samaritans had their Gospel knowledge right, so Jesus pivots on the word "yet" to what he wants the woman to know, for us to understand and live out - complete reverence and total dependence on the Father. That's not simply an idea about God, nor the practice of the religion we know, have grown up with, or been indoctrinated into. Rather as "true worshippers" before the living God we worship in spirit and in truth, embracing our place in God's unfolding story. 

Today, we may have the idea that to be a worshipper means that we spend time each morning reading a devotional, studying our Bible, attending a church service and singing praise songs to the Lord. While these practices are good, and our intimacy with God is of paramount importance, that is not what Jesus is talking about. The Lord is going much deeper and wants us to go deeper with him. 

Jesus is talking about "true worshipers," as the kind the Father seeks (the word used for Worshiper in John 4:23 is a unique singular occurrence).  In the Greek,  "worshiper" can mean one who has charge of a temple, to keep and adorn it. The Father is looking for those who will worship in Spirit and in truth, to keep and adorn their lives for him, demonstrating their allegiance to the purposes of God.  This idea was so important that Jesus repeats it twice saying again, "God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth."  (verse 24).

Consider what Paul David Tripp has so eloquently elucidated...
 “Human beings by their very nature are worshipers. Worship is not something we do; it defines who we are. You cannot divide human beings into those who worship and those who don’t. Everybody worships; it’s just a matter of what, or whom, we serve.”
We are meant to live as "true worshippers" for at least two reasons. First , because we are created in the image of God and, second, to become who we are in Christ. As Tripp points out, we all worship something. Either we worship the one true and living God in the spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9) and through the spirit of truth (John 16:13), or we worship false dead idols. Jesus wants us to be "born again" so that we can experience the fullness of who we are meant be as "true worshippers." 

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “The gods we worship write their names on our faces, be sure of that. And a man will worship something —have no doubt about that, either. He may think that his tribute is paid in secret in the dark recesses of his heart—but it will out. That which dominates will determine his life and character. Therefore, it behooves us to be careful what we worship, for what we are worshipping we are becoming.”

What we are worshipping we are becoming, which is why God the Father is seeking those who will worship in spirit and truth. Greg Beale put it this way, “We resemble what we revere, either for ruin or restoration.”  When only 14% of self-identified Christians are living with the actions and attitudes of Jesus the vast majority are not "yet" worshipping in spirit and truth. We are not resembling what we claim to revere. We must become those who do the will of the Father by resembling the life of Christ, which is why demonstration is the key.

When the disciples return to Jesus after purchasing food in town, they are surprised to find him talking with this woman. They want Jesus to eat something but the Lord responds, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work." (v. 34). Not even his physical needs would keep him from his purpose - to "harvests a crop for eternal life." (v. 36) Do we live with the same passion "to finish his work?" We will be better positioned to do so when we recalibrate our understanding of what it means to be true worshippers for "eternal life." That is where we turn our attention next for living sent today. 

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