Saturday, March 25, 2017

Living in freedom, facing the lure of slavery (Quiet Time Reflections)

These are my reflections on my time with God today. (To explain the format that follows, see here.)
Look: “I identified myself completely with him [Christ]. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that.” (Galatians 2:19-21, The Message)

“But when Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him in public, because he was clearly wrong.” (Galatians 2:11, Good News Translation)

“When I saw that they were not walking a straight path in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, ‘You are a Jew, yet you have been living like a Gentile, not like a Jew. How, then, can you try to force Gentiles to live like Jews?’” (Galatians 2:14, Good News Translation)

When you recognize that the Law can’t save you from sin and death and that salvation can only come by the grace of God given to those who believe in Jesus, you’re set free to live like Paul reports living in these verses from Galatians 2.

It’s not that God’s Law is irrelevant, of course. Jesus said: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17). The Law, enumerated in the Ten Commandments, isn’t bad. It’s from God. It’s good. As I often tell people, God’s Law identifies the markers of the blessed life, the shalom life.

But we can’t keep it. Christ could and did. And because of that, He was able to be the perfect sacrifice for my sin.

Christ’s call is for me to trust in His righteousness, to believe in Him and the power of what He accomplished on Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday for me. Jesus obediently bore my sin on the cross, destroying the power of sin and death over me. He frees me from their power to destroy me eternally.

So, I’m free.

Listen: So, why then do I so easily slide back into slave thinking?

I’m like the ancient Hebrews set free by God from their slavery in Egypt, who look back longingly on the familiar certainties of the enslaved state. “We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost--also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic,” they said [Numbers 11:15]. “If only we had died by the LORD's hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted…” [Exodus 16:3].

Today, there are people in Russia who willingly submit to the reinstitution of Tsarist, Stalinist, oligarchic ways because, despite the oppressions, the Gulags, the imprisonment, impoverishment, and murders of those who oppose the regime, the food shortages, the limited opportunities, and the culture of lies, all of that legalism was what they knew. They look back nostalgically and acquiesce like sheep to the reinstitution of their slavery.

In me, legalism is (supposed) certainty. Though I am often blind to my sin, sometimes I can see my covetousness, idolatry, and subtle thievery. I can count--like widgets in a factory--when I take God’s name in vain, when I indulge lustful thoughts, when I fail to love.

Legalism deals with the quantifiable outgrowth of my sinful nature. But it doesn’t challenge and can’t change that sinful nature itself.

“Ah,” I can say, “I just committed such and such sin. ‘God, forgive me for Jesus’ sake.’” Under legalistic thinking, repentance becomes then, less than what it’s meant to be, both heartfelt sorrow for violating the holiness of God and a joyous restoration to God through the grace of God given in Christ...and more of a business transaction, the muttering of a formula that we suppose will please God and do us good until the next time we willfully ignore His will.

Legalism also gives me the fatal luxury of thinking: “Now that I’ve paid my dues and given the Old Man in Heaven the outward obeisance He seems to want so badly, now I can judge other people from my perch of moral superiority.”

I would never express myself as baldly as I have in the previous two paragraphs. But this is what I effectively think when I approach God and my sin with a business mentality.

Legalism also can assure me that because I look good to other people, I must look good to God too.

But the Law can’t save. The Law can only show us our distance from God and our need to be saved.

There’s nothing any of us can do to be acquitted of the law’s correct condemnation of us.
And no one can keep the Law so perfectly as to warrant being right with God, forgiveness, or new life. The Law, in itself, leads only to condemnation and death.

Only the Gospel--the good news--of new life for all who believe in, trust in, follow Jesus can give us forgiveness, rightness with God, life can save or set us free.

Jesus says: “...“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:24b-25).

Jesus puts those who believe in Him in an entirely different relationship with God and the Law. Jesus sets us free, as we see Paul in these verses from Galatians was free, to live out of and speak the truth.

Jesus sets us free to be who we were made to be.

He sets us free to not worry how the world may marginalize us, pigeonhole us, or hate us.

There’s nothing that the world can do to us that will take away our freedom as people made new by the grace God gives to all who believe in Jesus.

Why then do I so often fail to live in the freedom that is my baptismal birthright as a Christian?

A short list:

(1) Fear. I often tell people that I’m not afraid of being dead; I’m afraid of dying. I’m afraid of all the ways we can “die” in this world: losing my job, losing my reputation. I love to quote Romans 8:31-39 and believe what it teaches--that nothing can separate believers from the God we know in Christ Jesus. But I still fear what this world can do to me. It can be more scary to live in the freedom that Christ offers than in the slavery of what the world will offer when I’m willing to “play ball.”

(2) Because I live here, I know this world; I only know the place Christ has prepared for me (John 14:3) by faith (Hebrews 11:1; Romans 8:24).

I can get afraid over losing out on what this world offers by betting my whole life on life in the nest world. There’s a bit of Lot’s wife in me (Genesis 19:26). I get so used to life in this world that I forget that, as a believer in Christ, I’m a refugee and stranger here (1 Peter 2:11-12; Hebrews 11:13).

(3) I forget that God has a perfect plan for me. It’s a plan that may entail long stretches of unhappiness in this world, because Christ never promised that He would make us happy in this life. This world, ticketed for destruction, will never be able to give me the joy for which I long or for which I was made. For now, I can only see “through a glass darkly” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

But when we believe in Christ, we live in the certainty of God’s presence and favor in this world, so long as we continue to trust in Him.

We also live in the certainty that a new heaven and a new earth that will fulfill our deepest longings, undistorted by our sin. “‘What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived’ -- the things God has prepared for those who love him” (Isaiah 64:4; 1 Corinthians 2:9).

(4) I want the credit. In my sinful heart, I want others to think what a terrific person I am: how together, how kind, how good. My legalistic mind figures if people say all of these good things about me, and if I’m regarded as such a great guy, it will mean that I am good and great. Like Adam and Eve, I want to “be like God.”

If I accept the truth that without You, Lord, I can do nothing good (John 15:5), that my supposed adherence to Your law, affirmed by the accolades of others who only see me on the outside, won’t make me good (in fact, only You are good, according to Mark 10:18), then receiving Your gracious gift of righteousness despite my unrighteousness is the only thing that makes sense.

But when I do that, I admit that I deserve no credit.

And that, whatever good I do is really from You, an instance of You empowering me to do what I could never do on my own: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17).

The Law allows me to live with the fatal fiction that I am my own god and that I am capable of doing things that matter for eternity on my own steam.

Grace allows me to walk in the good works You have prepared for me beforehand (Ephesians 2:8-10), works powered by, filled by, and made eternity-changing by You and my reliance on You alone.

Knowing that I belong to Christ forever can set me free to love God, love neighbor, fight for justice, share Christ, make disciples. I don’t worry about what the neighbors say. I don’t worry about whether I live or die. I don’t worry about getting the credit. I just live. The Gospel of Christ imparts such freedom.

No government, philosophy, economy, job, nor any other thing on earth can give that freedom. Only You can, Jesus!

Respond: Father, I repent, for failing to live in the freedom of the Gospel...for turning You into less than God, into a vendor with whom I can make deals...for ignoring how, by reverting to legalism, I pour contempt on Jesus’ cross and what He did for me there...for being afraid of a world You have already conquered (John 16:33)...for treating this world as my ultimate destination...for exchanging the freedom of being Your child for the certain slaveries of the finite things this world has to offer.

Today, help me to live in the freedom and boldness I see in Paul in these verses in Galatians.

Today, help me to speak Your truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).

Today, help me to keep my eyes on eternity, knowing, for one thing, that’s the only way that I can do anything worthwhile in this world. In Jesus’ name.
[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]

Friday, March 24, 2017

Called, even when I don't feel qualified (Quiet Time Reflections)

I'm a few days behind on my daily schedule for quiet time with God. So, it was especially good, in the midst of what's been a busy period, to have that time with Him this morning. You'll find an explanation of my quiet time with God includes here.

Suffice it to say that with quiet time, I stop to confess my sins and pray; look at a chapter of Scripture; listen for what God is telling me in the passage (God generally seems to draw my attention to one or two verses), some new truth, some old truth underscored, some new insight about God or my faith; and respond to what God has told me. Again, the explanation linked above will tell you a bit more.

This morning, I read Galatians 1. Here's where God led me:
Look: “I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 1:12)

In this passage, which comes early in his letter to the Galatian Christians, Paul is establishing his status as an apostle of Christ’s Church. Apostles were part of a unique and time-bound group disciples. An apostle is, considering the Greek New Testament from which the word comes to us, literally, a called out one, a disciple from among the disciples as leaders within the Church and evangelists to the world. To be an apostle, a disciple had to have experienced personal contact with Jesus (Acts 1:21-22) and to have personally seen the resurrected Jesus. Paul, earlier called Saul, came to fit this bill belatedly on the road to Damascus, where as a zealous Pharisee looking for the excommunication or death of believers in Jesus, He was encountered and called by the risen and ascended Jesus to apostleship (1 Corinthians 15:8; Acts 9:1-19).

Because of the apostles’ personal knowledge of Jesus and their call to apostleship by Jesus, buttressed by the understanding of Him they gained through their knowledge of God’s Old Testament Word, the teaching of the apostles about the life, office, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus has always been considered normative by the Church. The Holy Spirit has used the apostles to assure us of the truth of God’s Word in Christ and the truthful witness of both the Old Testament and New Testament.

So, in this verse, Paul is making an important assertion to the first century church at Galatia: Their drift toward “another gospel,” one that doesn’t conform to the revealed truth about God personally witnessed by the apostles, including Paul, and affirmed by the Old Testament (and today by the New Testament that measures up to the apostles’ teaching) puts the Galatian Christians’ salvation at risk.

To take hope in any false gospel is to follow a false god, even if those who have wandered from Jesus carelessly refer to their false deity as Jesus.

Paul is trying to get their attention: I didn’t make up the gospel you once confessed believing; it’s from Jesus, God enfleshed, Himself.

Listen: The era of the apostles is ended, of course. But the Church (and that includes me) is still called to teach the truth about Jesus.

We’re to share the gospel, the good news, that out of love for our fallen, sinful human race, God entered our world as a perfect human being, true God and true man, then, although sinless, made Himself the perfect sacrifice for our sin (Acts 1:8).

To confirm Jesus’ power over sin and death and to show that His promise of new and everlasting life for those who repent and believe in Him can be counted on, Jesus was raised by God the Father.

Jesus then spent forty days on the earth giving further instruction to the disciples, His Church.

Then, ascending to heaven, He went to the throne room of the Father, sitting at His right hand in order to intercede for those who believe in Him and offer prayers in His name and to be at the ready for the moment when the Father will say that it’s time for Jesus to return to the earth in order to consummate history.

We know all of these things, not just because we’ve heard them from preachers, theologians, Sunday School teachers, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, or friends. We know them because because of the revelation from Jesus Christ we receive when we hear and read God’s definitive Word, certified by the apostles like Paul, that we encounter in the Bible.

AND, we can point others to knowing these truths, receive salvation, and be disciples when we, like the apostle Paul, live like disciples of Jesus with a message and a way of life others need. This is urgent business because, it’s as true today as it was the day this statement was first made by the apostle Peter when speaking of Jesus: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Respond: Help me and all the disciples of Your church who seek to build our lives on the true gospel of Jesus to be bold in sharing Christ, Your Word, and making disciples (Acts 4:29).

Help me to say, believe, and live out of the truth that Paul talks about in Romans: “...I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile” (Romans 1:16).

Today, Lord, help me not to hide the light of life with You that I’m privileged to have with Jesus. Help me to shine it everywhere I go and give Your light away to everyone I can. (Luke 11:33)

Forgive me for too often slinking by in the world. Today, help me to share Your message or to position myself relationally to earn the right to share Your gospel with others. In Jesus’ name.
[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio. ]

Thursday, March 23, 2017

How can a loving God send people to hell? (AUDIO)


[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]


This was the invocation prayer for the City of Centerville Mayor's Faith Leaders Appreciation Breakfast on March 22:
Gracious God, we thank you for the gift of relationship with you. We thank you for the privilege of living in this community and working, together and individually, for the good of the people who live here. Thank you for the leaders of our city government, who respect the role of the faith community in the life of Centerville Ohio. We thank you for all city employees who keep our streets safe, respond in times of need, and ensure out safety, freedom, and opportunities for healthy living, We thank you too, for all who have prepared this meal. We thank you that you have given us the food that has been prepared. Above all we thank you, in this season of Lent, for the gift of Christ who gives us an eternity of hope for life with you and eternal freedom. In Jesus name. Amen
[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

How can a loving God send people to hell? (Tough Questions, Part 3)

Ezekiel 18:23-32
John 3:16-18

The latest Pew Research polling I’ve seen says that 72% of the American people believe that there is a heaven and 58% say that there is a hell.

Of course, it doesn’t really matter what we think. There are simply some things in life that are facts, whether we like them or not.

The Bible and Jesus Himself affirm that heaven and hell are real...and it doesn’t matter if 3 in 10 don’t believe in one or that 4 in 10 don’t believe in the other. To not believe those two things is to call Jesus a liar and a liar could hardly be a trustworthy Savior.

Nonetheless, Christians and non-Christians alike wrestle with our tough question for tonight: How can a loving God send people to hell?

As Christians, we wrestle with it, of course, because the entire record of God’s self-disclosure as found in Scripture and as seen in Jesus, supports the assertion of 1 John 4:8: “God is love.”

The creation of which you and I are a part argues that God is loving. This universe is, when you think about it, completely unnecessary. God is totally self-sufficient. He didn’t need to give life to the universe. Yet He created we human beings in His image and placed us in a creation which, though marred by our sin, still retains the marks of a Creator intent on providing us with everything we could ever need or want.

Just as husbands and wives who care for each other don’t really need children, yet choose to have children anyway in order to give fulfillment and greater expression to their love, God, Who doesn’t need us, created us to give fulfillment and expression to His love.

But we see the ultimate expression of God’s loving nature in the Person and work of God the Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus told Nicodemus: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” [John 3:16-17]

You and I deserve death and condemnation for our sin. But Jesus took the punishment we deserve so that all who turn from sin and surrender to Him will have eternal life with God. Only love can explain why an innocent Savior voluntarily bore death in order to save people who don’t deserve saving, in order to give life to those who, without Him, would be separated from God, the Source of life, for all eternity.

“Yes,” we may say, “I believe that God is loving. But what about hell? Would a loving God send anyone to hell?” This appears to be the attitude of many interviewed by Pew Research; more people are willing to believe in heaven than they are to believe in hell.

In answer to our question for tonight, I point to a few facts.

First, Jesus talked three times as much about hell as He did about heaven.

If you don’t believe me, print, say, the Gospel of Matthew, from Then, go read the gospel, with two different highlighters in hand, one yellow and the other green. Highlight every time Jesus talks about hell with one color and highlight heaven every time He talks about heaven with the other. This exercise won’t demonstrate that hell is more important than heaven. But it will show that Jesus wanted us to have a clear understanding about the eternal stakes involved in our lives and the lives of those we love when it comes to following Him or not.

Clearly, Jesus believed in the reality of a state of total, eternal separation from God, the Giver of Life.

Second, God doesn’t want anyone to be condemned or separated from Him.

In the Old Testament, God says through His prophet Ezekiel: “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?” (Ezekiel 18:23)

The whole point of God calling Israel into being was that it would be a light to the nations, pointing the whole world to a saving relationship that only the God we meet in Jesus Christ can give.

The whole point of Jesus coming to earth and dying on the cross, was to save us from separation from God, to save us for life with God.

Third, the Bible shows us that there are many nice people in this world who will choose hell over life with God, heaven.

Do you remember Jesus’ encounter with the rich young man in Matthew 19:16-22? By all appearances, this young man was a nice person. He evidently believed that God is real and kept the commandments that have to do with caring for one’s neighbor.

But Jesus said that the young man lacked something. Jesus could see that the young man’s idol, taking the place of God in his life, was money and possessions. Elsewhere, you know, Jesus says that if anything in our lives causes us to sin, we need to remove it from our lives. So, Jesus tells the man to sell everything he has, give it to the poor, and then, follow Him.

Matthew tells us that: “When the young man [that nice young man] heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.” We don’t know what happened later in that young man’s life. But we do know that as of Matthew 19:22, he had chosen hell over heaven. And Jesus didn’t stop him.

Jesus won’t stop anyone from choosing hell. Truth be known, hell is our default choice as human beings anyway. Unless the saving Word of Jesus Christ is shared with us and the Holy Spirit is unleashed in us through Baptism or the prayers of caring Christians, you and I wouldn’t even be able  to believe in the God revealed in Jesus. [1 Corinthians 12:3; Romans 10:17]

As a result, many people think that their own goodness will be “good enough.” But at the judgment, there will be no such thing as “good enough”: We will either be covered in the forgiveness of Jesus, washed clean by the blood He shed on the cross; or, we will stand naked in our sins before God. And facing God naked in our sins at the judgment, friends, won’t be good enough.

So, does a loving God send people who don’t believe in him to hell?

The answer, I think, is “Yes and no.”

God loves us and wants us to be with Him forever. But He doesn’t force heaven on us.

Just as good parents let go of their adult children, God lets us go.

As Jesus puts it in John 3:18: “Whoever believes in [God’s only Son] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”

Effectively paraphrasing Jesus, C.S. Lewis writes: “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in hell choose it.”

Like Lewis, I would love to be able to tell people that no one will go to hell. It would make me more popular. Sadly though, it wouldn’t be the truth.

But it's not because the loving God we know in Jesus Christ sends people to hell. God lets those go to hell who refuse to believe that they need saving or that they need Christ to save them.

If that seems as tragic to you as it does to me--more importantly, if it seems as tragic to you as it does to God--then it ought to give greater urgency to all of us doing the one and only job Christ has given His Church: sharing the good news of forgiven sin and everlasting life through faith in Jesus Christ alone with everyone we know, making disciples.

Let’s pray and work on that one mission together and individually, every day. Amen

[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio. This was the message for this evening's midweek Lenten service. It's the third installment of a Lenten series, Tough Questions.]

Monday, March 20, 2017

All I Know by Art Garfunkel

It was the prolific Jimmy Webb who wrote this beautiful song recorded by Art Garfunkel.

Released on the LP, Angel Clare, co-produced by Garfunkel and Roy Halee in 1973, the song was backed by the now-famous coterie of studio musicians, The Wrecking Crew.

I guess that this song is written from the perspective that the love between a woman and a man can be complicated.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

So, what's stopping us?

John 4:5-42
The fourth chapter of the gospel of John, with its account of Jesus’ encounter with a Samaritan woman and what results from it, is among my favorite places in Scripture.

I've taught on this passage many times. But, so far as I can remember, I’ve never preached about it. A thirty-eight verse lesson is a big bite to chew for preacher and congregation. Yet, the whole passage goes together as a cohesive unit and, in it, there are important things God has to tell us. So, this morning, let’s supersize, and listen to what God says to us in this meeting between Jesus--God the Son, the Word made flesh--and a woman who’d spent her entire life deep in the sins of human flesh.

[Samaritan Woman at the Well by He Qi]

Jesus has left Judea accompanied by His disciples, with whom He’s headed to their common home region of Galilee.

They have to cut through a sliver of Samaria to get there.

Now, the Samaritans could trace their lineage back to Abraham and Sarah, the ancestors of all Jews, and lived in what had once been the northern portion of Israel. They were then, partly, Hebrews or Jews by heritage. But they had formed their own separate kingdom, the northern kingdom, with its own earthly ruler and their own center of worship. This happened after the death of Solomon in Old Testament times.

The Samaritans endured the scorn of the people of Judah to the south because they had intermingled the worship of Yahweh, I AM, with the worship of other gods; had removed themselves from Jerusalem as the place they offered sacrifices; had intermarried with unbelievers; and mixed the falsehoods of other religions with the revealed truth of God. And do you know what you get when you mix the revealed truth of God and the falsehoods of other religions? Nothing but falsehood that leaves you far from God.

Samaritans were hated by the Judeans, which is one reason why Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan scandalized them; they regarded the Samaritans as low-lives.*

When Jesus and the disciples got to the outskirts of the Samaritan village of Sychar, Jesus sat down at the well because He was exhausted, and the disciples went into the village to see if they could buy some food.

Take a look at what happens next, starting in John 4:7. “When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, ‘Will you give me a drink?’”

Then verse 9: “The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?’ (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.’ ‘Sir,’ the woman said, ‘you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?’ Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.’”

Jesus starts out His conversation with this woman not by looking down on her. Jesus gives her dignity. He makes her feel that she has something to give to Him, even though His people demean Samaritans; even though He’s a man and she’s a woman living in an age in which women were to be seen but not heard; even though you and I know that He’s God in the flesh.

Sometimes, we Christians are guilty of looking down on people we think are less than us. If we reach out to them, we can be patronizing, our attitudes and words signaling the message, “Look at me being nice to you, even though you don’t deserve it.”

Jesus asked the woman if she would do something for Him. Sometimes the best act of loving service we can do for others is to let them serve us. When we do this, we give them respect.

A few weeks ago, my dad handed me a covered bowl of green beans and boiled potatoes, to take home. I could have said, “Dad, you don’t have to do that. You made that for mom and you and if I take any of it, there will be less for you.” But I thanked dad and took the green beans and boiled potatoes home with me.

I heated them up and, I have to tell you, they were delicious. I phoned my dad to tell him so. I genuinely appreciated this touch of home that I remember from my childhood at those times when dad sometimes fixed our meals.

But, I think it also made my dad feel good being able to do something for me...again.

That’s how the Samaritan woman felt.

But she was also stunned! She couldn’t believe a Jewish man was speaking to her.

Then, she gets practical: Jesus had nothing in which to hold water. And Jesus tells her that if she asked, He would give her water that would last forever.

This appealed to her because the Samaritan woman was likely even hated by her fellow Samaritans.

This is why she was at the well at the sixth hour, noon. As we’ll see, the woman was of less than sterling morals and had she gone to the well at the times when all the other women of the village were there--in the morning or at dusk--she would have been subjected to shunning or insults.

No wonder she jumped at the prospect of getting a never-ending supply of water!

How many people do we Christians alienate because we think that their morals don’t measure up?

How many people fail to drink Christ’s living water because we Christians refuse to dole it out to people whose sins we deem more odious than our own?

We can be guilty of making these kinds of judgments even though we know, to name a few examples:
  • that homosexuality is no worse a sin than pride,
  • that murder is no worse a sin than failing to love our neighbor,
  • that adultery is no worse than taking God’s name in vain.
The woman has given Jesus an opening for sharing more than a bucket of water. He, in turn, wants to give her the eternal life available to all who entrust their past and present sins, along with their whole lives, to Him in faith.

Verse 16: “He told her, ‘Go, call your husband and come back.’ ‘I have no husband,’ she replied. Jesus said to her, ‘You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.’”

By treating this woman with respect, Jesus has now earned the right to be honest with her.

earn the right to share God’s Word and God’s sometimes uncomfortable truth with our neighbors when we treat them with respect.

Jesus knows that this woman has had five husbands and that now she’s shacking up with another man without the benefit of marriage, the rite instituted by God to be the exclusive place of intimacy between a man and a woman.

But Jesus is calling attention to more than just the woman’s adultery and fornication.

In the Old Testament, God referred to Himself as the husband of His people Israel (Isaiah 54:5-6) and He compared the idol worship that characterized life in Samaria as adultery (Jeremiah 3:20).

We commit adultery against God whenever we let anything--our jobs, our families, our country, our security--anything take the place in our lives that belongs exclusively to God.

In the New Testament, Jesus is called the Bridegroom to His bride, the Church (Revelation 21:2; Revelation 19:7; Mark 2:19).

Jesus is confronting this woman for the adultery she was daily committing both with the man with whom she lived and with the false gods she worshiped along with her people.

Now, this woman understands that Jesus is more than just a Jewish man at a Samaritan well. She tells Jesus that He must be a prophet. And then, she does something secular people often do when they meet someone who professes faith: She started talking religion.

I have this happen to me all the time. I'll be on a plane having a conversation with the passenger next to me. The conversation may go on for a time when they ask me what work I do. When I tell them that I'm a pastor, suddenly they start talking religion. Often they'll come up with the weirdest combination of religious ideas you can imagine. A woman once told me, "I believe in Jesus and stuff. But I also believe in reincarnation." Oy! We had quite a little talk after that.

People do this with me all the time. When they learn that I’m a pastor, they feel the need to start talking about their own religious beliefs, trying to prove to me how righteous they are.

But you know what? My opinion of people’s righteousness is totally unimportant. The only One Whose opinion matters is God. And God says that we are only righteous when we stop trying to justify ourselves and instead, humbly surrender to Him and trust in Jesus Christ for life. When we believe in Jesus, God covers us in Jesus' righteousness, the only brand of righteousness that impresses God or gains us entrance into God's kingdom.

Jesus refuses to accept any of this woman’s religious talk. Verse 21: “...a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem,” He says. Then in verse 23, He tells her: “...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.”

At this, the woman shifts gears and starts talking about the Messiah. And it's here Jesus confronts her with the most amazing thing she will ever hear in her life. Verse 26, Jesus tells the woman:

“I, the one speaking to you—I am (Yahweh) he.”

What happens next is truly stunning.

This woman, who has been avoiding contact with anyone, runs back to the village to tell everyone: “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?”

If you remember nothing else from today’s message, remember this: The time to tell others about Jesus is now!

This woman doesn’t wait to go to seminary or attend a class or become familiar with all sixty-six books of the Bible. She has met Jesus. Now she's telling people about Jesus.

We make all sorts of excuses for not telling others about Jesus. Things like: “I’m not well enough informed.” “What if they ask me a question I can’t answer?”

The Samaritan woman was too excited about encountering Jesus to keep it to herself.

How excited are you about Jesus, our Living Water?

If you and I believe in Jesus, we have no excuses for not telling others about Him. Or, for failing to get to know Him better each day ourselves.

The woman got over herself to tell others about Jesus. We need to get over ourselves too!

In verse 39, the Samaritan woman tells the people of Sychar: “He told me everything I did.” “He knows all my sins,” she’s saying, “and He offered me the living water of forgiven sin and resurrection life through faith in Him anyway!”

The villagers come running to Jesus and say in verse 42: “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

Who could you establish a relationship with so that you could, like the woman at the well, earn the right to invite others to come and see Jesus?

Begin praying about that this week, please.

There’s a world of people like her--people running from their sins, running from others, running from life, running from God--who would come running to God if only you and I would tell them about Jesus, the living water.

So, what’s stopping us?

*Notice that after Jesus has told the parable of the Good Samaritan, the man who identified which of the three men who had encountered the wounded man on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho couldn't even bring himself to say that it was the Samaritan who had fulfilled God's law of love. The Judeans were loathe to ascribe anything positive to a Samaritan, even a fictional one. This is how bigotry can cloud the human heart.

[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio. This was the message for worship this morning.]