Posts Tagged ‘God’s mission’

Some of what I will share with you today will be familiar. And that for two reasons:

  • Back in July I taught on this topic of joining in God’s mission.
  • And since then, I have refocused the teaching and have been putting it up on the screen before our services for the last several months.

I want to share it in this form, this morning as we relaunch, as it were, our efforts to connect with our neighbors and others.

I am taking a cue from Peter when he says in, 2 Peter 1:12 – “I intend always to remind you of these (things), though you know them and are established in the truth that you have.” And so I am here this morning reminding you of some things.

God’s mission

As we read the Bible we come to understand that God is on a mission, stretching all the way back to Abraham, through Moses, Israel, the prophets and culminating in the coming of Jesus. God’s mission is that every single person will be transformed and made whole through Jesus; that each person will become a part of his people and serve him, and eventually will be raised from the dead when Jesus returns and rules on this earth in righteousness and peace; when he makes all things new. And God’s mission is to be our mission, for we are his people; it’s to be our priority.

The title says, “disciplines” of joining in God’s mission. And that’s because –

It takes work!

– to accomplish God’s mission. Turn with me to 1 Corinthians 3:6-9. Here Paul is talking about how he and Apollos are both working together on the same team, fulfilling God’s mission to the world. And notice the language that’s used. Paul speaks of “planting” and “watering;” that is, farming language. He says in v. 6 – “I planted, Apollos watered.” This continues in vs. 7 and 8. And then in v. 9 he says of himself and Apollos that they are “God’s fellow workers.” Being a part of God’s mission is real labor and it is hard work and toil.

And so what I am sharing with you are seven disciplines for joining in God’s mission. These are practices that we have to work at for sure, but they allow us to be used by God to accomplish his mission in this world.

1. Let your life be a witness to others

Jesus said, “You are the light of the world, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:14, 16

And who wants to hear people ‘go on’ about a topic when you know full well that they don’t put those things into practice themselves? The way you live your life is foundational. No Christian is perfect, but we must be about the business of living the Christian life ourselves, to join in God’s mission. And then if you fail, be a model for others about how to confess, repent and get back on your feet.

Our lives are our most basic witness to what we believe about God and the saving work that he is doing through his Son, Jesus. Let your life be a light to this. Be disciplined in your walk with God.

2. Build relationships with the lost

Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners – Luke 15:1-2. He engaged those who needed God’s love and grace. As he said in Matthew 9:12 – “those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.”

And we must also relate to those who need God’s saving grace, and not just fellow believers. But this takes time to invest in people’s lives. It means making room for them in your life – beyond your family and current friends to love them and to serve their needs.

And everyone is so busy today! Will we make the effort? Will we make the time? This takes concerted effort.

3. Regularly ask God to give you compassion for the lost

“When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” – Matthew 9:36.

We need Jesus’ compassion in our hearts. This should be our true motivation. We should not be motivated by just getting people to come to our church. Who knows where they might end up? This church won’t be right for everyone we relate to.  The point is that we care and love those we relate to and seek what is best for them.

We also need Jesus’ compassion because we easily fall into self-righteousness. Some people’s struggles and failure we judge and then we hold them at a distance. But Jesus has compassion on each of us no matter what our struggle; and we have all failed God terribly.

This will stretch us; but it’s the same grace that allowed us to be saved and to be a part of his people. And so we must give it to all.

4. Regularly pray for someone who is lost

Pray for God’s will, who “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” – 1 Timothy 2:4.

Ask God to bring about his will that all people be saved. This is what prayer is all about. As Jesus says in the Lord’s prayer, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Prayer brings about God’s heavenly purpose here on earth.

Ask God to put someone, or several people on your heart. Who does God want you praying for regularly?

5. Be alert for opportunities to share

“Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.” – Colossians 4:5-6

 God is working all around us, and we need to open our eyes so we can join in and contribute to God’s work in the lives of others. God wants to work through us. So we need to hear and be led by the Spirit.

Ask God to show you even this week, someone to get to know; someone to share with.

6. Invite people to be a part of the kingdom

Jesus said, “Go out to the highways and hedges and urge people to come in, that my house may be filled” – Luke 14:23

I recently gave a whole message on this passage. So let me share with you a short video on inviting people, focused on Easter.


Who can you invite???

 7. Welcome with love all who come

“Don’t forget to welcome outsiders. By doing that, some people have welcomed angels without knowing it.” – Hebrews 13:2. To be hospitable means to be warm and friendly, to make room for someone, to include someone among us.

Let me share this with you again: According to the experts a person decides if they like a church and will come back within their first 11 minutes, which may well mean even before the service starts.

So we need to be a warm and welcoming church. And we need to be proactive about this.

Again I say This is work! It can be hard to make sure your own life is right, to relate to new people, to be stretched to act with compassion, to pray regularly, to keep alert during the day for opportunities to share, to invite and to welcome. That’s why I am using the language of “disciplines.” These are things we do that are good, but don’t necessarily come naturally to us.

We have these kinds of disciplines in many areas of our lives. So, for instance, if you are in school you need to do things like attend class, study and finish your assignments, if you want to be a good student.

And with all disciplines, the point is that they become second nature, so that we don’t even think about it. They just become a part of who we are. We become people who are compassionate toward those who don’t know Jesus. We just regularly pray for those who are lost. We become inviters and welcomers and so forth. This is the goal.

Let me end by saying – 

It is God who gives life

Let’s go back to 1 Corinthians 3:6-9, because it also makes the point that, even with all our work, in the end it is God who counts, for God gives the growth.

6I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.”

God is the key. Nothing we do apart from him will yield any results; nothing of eternal value. But God does ask us to do our part because he wants to work through us to bring new life and growth.

So during this year that we have set aside to focus on connecting with neighbors and others let’s each one join in God’s mission and work hard at it. And let’s each pray that God will move among us to bring new life and growth.

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The literary structure of Luke 14:15-24

Our Scripture today is sometimes called the parable of the great banquet. It’s part of a larger set of material in Luke 14 where Jesus is at a banquet or fancy meal in a Pharisee’s home.

And there is some tension. Have you ever been at a meal where there was tension? Jesus has just healed someone on the Sabbath right in front of them, which we know would make them unhappy. Then he went on to criticize how they all wanted the best seats at the banquet. And then we come to our passage, where the tension increases even more.

The parable of the great banquet

Eating bread in the kingdom.

15When one of those who reclined at table with Jesus heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!”


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God’s on a mission, stretching all the way back to Abraham, through Moses, Israel, the prophets and culminating in the coming of Jesus. God’s mission is that every single person will come to know him, be transformed and made whole through Jesus, become a part of his people and serve him. And eventually will be raised from the dead when Jesus returns and rule on this earth in righteousness and peace.

Let me say just two things at the beginning here about this. The way God chooses to accomplish his mission is through us; the church. That is, God doesn’t just do it himself, even though God is all powerful. No, God’s foreordained, predestined plan is to use his people to accomplish his mission.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:27-28, talking about the church, “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are . . .”

God doesn’t use a powerful country, or an empire or any other kind of strength according to the flesh. God has chosen to use the church, weak and lowly as we are, but empowered by the Spirit, to bring to pass his purposes.

Second, speaking of God’s mission, God wants to use all of his people, not just some. A common misunderstanding of some church members goes like this, “We support the pastor who does this for us.” Pastors and leaders are to be involved in God’s mission, yes. But so is everyone in the church.

The proper understanding of this relationship comes out clearly in Ephesians 4:11-12 – “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry . . ..” Here we see that Pastors and leaders are to equip you, the whole body, to do this work of ministry. And then notice the phrase a few verses down in v. 16, “when each part is working properly, (it) makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. This is the picture of a healthy church that is working at God’s mission, and God is working through them, enabling them.

What I am saying is that it takes a whole church to do what God is calling us to do here at New Providence. Are you ready to do your part?

Now, let’s look at –

Five key personal practices

– that will help us to be a part of God’s mission. These are practices or habits that put us into the flow of what God is doing around us. God is working all the time to complete his mission and we need to get in tune with what God is doing and join inAs we put these into practice, the goal is that they become second nature to us; just a part of how we live our lives.

1. Live your life in a way that glorifies God.

Jesus said in Matthew 5:14-16 – “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

God has already placed you in just the right place to be a light and a witness. You are involved in multiple networks of family, friends, coworkers, schoolmates and neighbors. God doesn’t need to send a missionary to these people, because he already has you there.

And the first task is to let your light shine, by the choices you make and actions that you take. Let them reflect Jesus – his way and his teaching. This is what people need the most, to see Jesus in us.

People aren’t very interested in talk, at least not without action. If we talk about our faith but don’t live it, we turn people away. But let me say just as quickly that you don’t have to be perfect to be a witness. It just means that when we do fail, we are to be humble, and make things right. This is also a witness of a different way of living.

Live your life in a way that glorifies God, or simply practice your Christian faith.

2. Regularly ask God to give you compassion for the lost.

This is how Jesus operated. Matthew 9:36 says, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Jesus was not like the Pharisees, who looked down on the lost with scorn and judgment. He had genuine love for them. This is why he came, as he said in Luke 19:10, “to seek and to save the lost.” Those whose lives are not together, who are overcome by sins of various kinds.

Jesus was motivated by compassion. And we need to be careful of our motives. We don’t join in God’s mission to try to make a big church; or to focus on numbers; or to have success that can be quantified in worldly term. We reach out because our love for others compels us to; because we share God’s heart of love for the lost. And in the end, that is the only thing that will lead us to give, serve and take the kind of risks that we will have to, to be a part of God’s mission.

We also need to guard our hearts against condescending, judgmental attitudes. We can’t be Pharisees and join in God’s mission. The very people you don’t like, judge and look down on might be who God wants you to reach out to. So, pray for God to give you a heart of love and concern for the lost around you. That God will transform your heart so that you can reach out in love to all that God brings across your path. We need to pray  this often because of the human heart which easily falls into self-righteous, judgmental attitudes.

Regularly ask God to give you compassion for the lost.

3. Regularly pray for someone who is lost.

In Psalm 67:2, the writer prays for God to act, so “that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.” The nations here, are all those outside the people of God, who have no relationship with God. This is an example of praying for those who don’t know God yet, or God’s saving power – that they will come to know and experience this.

But we can also pray for specific people that we know, who don’t know the Lord. Ask God to put someone on your heart, someone even beyond an unsaved loved one, that you can pray for regularly. If you ask, and listen, God will give you someone to pray for. And then pray, “God make yourself known, work in their lives, draw them to yourself, open their eyes, speak to them, work in their heart.”

Regularly pray for someone who is lost.

4. Build relationships with the lost.

Luke 15:1-2 says, “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear Jesus. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.’” Jesus interacted with lost, and while he was with them in genuine relationship with them, he engaged them with the gospel.

Are we open to make space for new people in our lives? To reach out to the lost in our networks of relationships, or to venture into new networks that are beyond our comfort zones?

  • Some of us only build relationships with other believers. We become insulated. But as Jesus said, “those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” – Matthew 9:12.
  • Some of us might feel our relationship capacity is full with our current family and friends. We feel we don’t have time for others. But God is calling us to make space for others, especially unbelievers.

Build genuine relationships with the lost. Love them and serve them.

5. Keep your eyes open for opportunities to share.

Colossians 4:5-6 says, “Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.” (NLT)

Again, God is at work all around us. And we need to have eyes to see what is going on, so that we can join in.

You may say, Pastor, “I don’t have all the answers.” Well, welcome to the club! No one has all the answers. All God asks you to do is to share what he has done in your life. Like Jesus said to the man that he cast a legion of demons out of in Mark 5:19, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”

Ask God to show you an opportunity to share this very week. And then keep your eyes open for it.


So these are five key practices:

  1. Live a life that glorifies God
  2. Regularly ask God to give you compassion for the lost
  3. Regularly pray for someone who is lost
  4. Build relationships with the lost
  5. Keep your eyes open for opportunities to share

These are all ways that you can join in God’s mission  in your personal life; in all the places that God has put you with all the people that you connect with.

I like the sign over the door, You are now entering the mission field. And if we at New Providence are going to accomplish God’s mission, each one of us needs to do our part. And it starts in our personal lives.

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Series: Jesus and the Samaritan Woman

We’ve been looking at the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman and the conversation they had, recorded for us in John 4

It moves from the depths (Jacob’s well) to the heights (Mt. Gerizim). It is certainly spirited at times, especially in relation to the differences between Jews and Samaritans. She challenged Jesus with several questions: Why would you, a Jew, ask me to give you water? Are you better than Jacob? Which is the right mountain to worship on? And she raised these divisive issues knowing that they could cut off the conversation.

Although Jesus for his part is clear that the Jews are right on the old issues that divided them,  he invites her to be a part of the new thing that God is doing through him, which transcends the old arguments between Jews and Samaritans.

The conversation also is operating on different levels at points:

• She was focused on which was the better source of water – Jacob’s well or this new well that Jesus seems to be talking about. But Jesus was talking about the living water of the Holy Spirit.

• She was focused on which was the right mountain to worship on – Gerizim or Zion. But Jesus was talking about worshiping in the Holy Spirit and truth.

The conversation also turns on veiled and unveiled identities. For her part, she tried to hide her identity, at least when it came to her personal life. She told Jesus, “I have no husband.” But Jesus revealed her personal story; she has had five husbands and the one she now lives with is not her husband.

For Jesus’ part, his identity is veiled to her at the beginning of the conversation. He says, if you knew who I was you would ask me for living water. But by the end of the conversation, Jesus unveils his identity to her. He says to her in the clearest way possible that he is the Messiah or Christ.

And this is where we pick up the story today in –

John 4:28-42

“28So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, 29‘Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?’ 30They went out of the town and were coming to him.”

The woman is so captivated with Jesus and the revelation of his identity that she sets aside the whole reason she had come to the well in the first place – in order to tell others about Jesus.

She invites those in her city to “come and see.” This is the same phrase that Philip used in chapter 1 when he spoke to Nathaniel. She is taking up the part of a disciple and a sower of the gospel.

When she talks about Jesus as the one “who told me all that I ever did,” well, this is an overstatement. Her whole life was not her various relationships with men. But you can understand her amazement. This was miraculous.

She asks somewhat cautiously, “Can this be the Christ?” The hesitancy isn’t due to unbelief, but because of her lack of standing in the community. She is not exactly an ideal witness given her moral life. So she invites them to evaluate the issue for themselves – Can he be the Christ? As we will see at the end (vs. 39, 42), the people take her words as a positive testimony to her faith in Jesus.

What happens next is that this scene in Sychar moves to the background, and Jesus’ conversation with his disciples at the well moves to the foreground. Jesus is preparing them for the Samaritans that are coming to him. As it says in v. 30 – “they were coming to him.”

Delmar and Harold will cover this material. As you can see from your handout, there are two parts to it, and Delmar will now teach us about the first part.

[Delmar Lehman] Vs. 31-34 say, “Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.”

Let’s take a look at some of the significant points of these verses. In v. 31 the disciples want Jesus their teacher to eat. This may seem a little strange to us, but it was the job of the followers of the teacher to take care of the food and lodging of their teacher. They were really just doing their duty. They knew Jesus was tired and probably hungry from travel (v. 6). He has sent them into town to get food. We also know that he was thirsty because he asked the woman at the well for a drink.

In v. 32 Jesus suddenly announces that he is refusing the food they have brought and states that he already has food. Teachers at this time used food as metaphor for spiritual food. We see this in a couple of places. When Ezekiel was called to be a prophet, he is told to eat a scroll. And Jeremiah 15:16 says, “Your words were found and I ate them, and Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; for I have been called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts.” This metaphor was a common thing.

In v. 33 the disciples are obviously perplexed. Like the woman a couple verses earlier, they immediately respond in the natural thinking of literal food. They question where Jesus could have gotten food from (this was their job). I believe Jesus was a normal guy. He was not always going around quoting Scripture. While they were walking they were probably talking about the basketball games from the night before. Just when they think they are ready to eat, Jesus says he’s full. (In fact, we never hear that Jesus ever gets anything to eat or drink.) But Jesus is setting the stage for a teaching moment for his disciples. This is one of the only times in the first part of the book of John where he does this.

In v. 34 Jesus begins the real teaching; the real point. There are several things that I see as important. First Jesus uses the metaphor that food is required for work. In physics, work from energy is measured in calories. That’s why when you look at the back of a box or a bag you look for what? How many calories are in it. So food is required for work – the question is the kind of food.

Next we see that Jesus is performing the will of the sender. Jesus is saying I get filled by doing what God has for me to do. Jesus knows his mission; the Samaritans are on their way. Notice that he doesn’t say God’s will or the Father’s will but the Sender’s will. He says this in other places: John 5:30 – “I can do nothing on My own initiative…., because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” And also in John 6:38 – “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” Jesus makes it very clear that he was sent for a purpose and it has nothing to do with him, but it has to do with the will from the Sender.

And we see here Jesus’ devotion to God’s work. What is God’s work? God’s work is creation, sustaining creation, and ultimately redeeming creation. If God’s work needs done eating (natural food) will have to wait. This is referred to in Deuteronomy 8:3 – “He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.” If you remember, this is the same passage Jesus used when being tempted in the wilderness. So when Jesus is hungry, the Sender’s will become more important than eating. His hunger turns into spreading the good news. His work is the harvest.

Harold is going to come now to talk more about the harvest.

[Harold Metz] “35Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. 36Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

Let’s take these verses one at a time. Two things from v. 35. First, Jesus is quoting a Jewish proverb ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’. He quotes this to contrast it with the current situation that he and the disciples are in. Normally you invest time in sowing and then there is a delay before the harvest.

Second, when he says, “the fields are white for harvest” – white can be interpreted as ripe; and barley looks white when it’s ready to be harvested. Another interesting thing is that modern day Samaritans are known for wearing white, and it’s possible this was also the case in Jesus’ day, so that literally a crowd dressed in white is coming toward him and the disciples. This is not a certainty but it is possible.

In v. 36 I would point out that the use of the present tense and the word “already” might be a bit confusing. Who is right now reaping and receiving wages? Jesus seems to be using “already” and the present tense as hyperbole to emphasize the fact that the Samaritans are almost here. It’s like when the pizza guy is coming up the sidewalk but is still not at the door, but you say, “he’s here” – but he’s not literally at the door yet. The disciples are right on the cusp of what is about to happen; its already going on. There’s no time to eat the food the disciples brought.

Also in v. 36, who are the sowers and who are the reapers? Sowing has to do with the initial investment of sharing the gospel with someone. Jesus has sown the word to the Samaritan woman and the Samaritan woman has sown her testimony to the other Samaritans. The reapers are the disciples (see v. 38).

And then, what are the wages and fruit? Gathering fruit refers to bringing the Samaritans into God’s kingdom. The wages have to do with the blessings from God for doing His work.

We will take vs. 37-38 together because they have one basic idea. Jesus quotes another Jewish proverb, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ This proverb is similar to the situation that Jesus and the disciples are in, whereas the first proverb pointed out a contrast. Often, to accomplish God’s work multiple people are involved. This is a reoccurring pattern in the Bible. See Hebrews 11:13. For instance Moses brought Israel out of Egypt but he didn’t take them into the promised land. Joshua did this; this was his role. We all have different roles, and no one person can accomplish everything.

Finally, the past tense in verse 38 has a similar affect to the use of the present tense in verse 36. When Jesus says, “I sent you” and “you have entered into” the labor of others, he means that this is about to happen and it is so close that he can speak of it in the past tense.

Next, the background comes to the foreground as the Samaritans come to Jesus and they are all together. William will talk about this.

“39Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me all that I ever did.’ 40So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days.”

They are impressed by her testimony of a miracle,  his knowledge of her life, and believe. And as was customary in that day they sought to provide hospitality for Jesus and his disciples. So Jesus stayed there with them for two days.

“41And many more believed because of his word. 42They said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.’”

When they say to the woman it’s no longer because of you that we believe – it’s not a put down. It’s just a comment on the importance of Jesus and meeting him for themselves. Their faith has moved from her testimony about a miracle to a direct encounter with Jesus, which confirmed her testimony as true. And everyone at some point has to move from someone’s testimony about Jesus to encountering Jesus in person for themselves. This is a part of the Christian journey.

The title, “Savior of the world” was used for Roman emperors. In fact, this whole scene is quite similar to how a city would welcome an emperor. They come out of the town to meet him, escort him back into town and then host him for a time.

This title also emphasizes that though “salvation is from the Jews” (v. 22) it is for everyone (v. 42). He saves Jews, but also Samaritans, and also women, and also those whose lives are messed up and burdened with failures. He saves people like you and like me.

Let’s end with –

Some lessons on being a part of God’s mission

– that we learn from this passage

1. The Father sent Jesus, and Jesus sends us. In v. 34 Jesus speaks of “him who sent me,” referring to the Father. Jesus is very conscious of being sent by the Father and talks about it a lot, and he is very focused on completing God’s mission and work in this world. But Jesus will go away back to the Father.

And this is why he also sends us. In v. 38 he says to the disciples “I sent you.” We now fill the role of Jesus; we represent him, just as he represented the Father. And it is now our job to complete the mission and work of the Father in this world. That is the purpose of the church and God has given each one of us roles to fulfill personally to make this happen. Do you know what your role is? How are you doing?

2. The priority of God’s mission. We see Jesus’ absolute devotion to God and his will in this passage. Although weary, thirsty and hungry, he sets aside his personal needs in order to do God’s work.

Now, this was a bit of an unusual situation. Here there is not time between sowing and reaping, but the point is that he was willing to do this because his true food is doing God’s will and completing his mission.

What priority does God’s mission have in your life? What is your level of devotion to doing God’s will and accomplishing his mission? Is your food to do God’s will? Jesus is our example here.

3. You too can share about your encounter with Jesus. The woman simply shared her experience with Jesus. And if you have been touched by Jesus you are fully qualified to share as well; to sow seeds into the lives of others.

You don’t need to have a set of arguments lined up. You don’t need to have all the answers. All you need to do is share your experience with Jesus. This is your testimony, and others can listen or not listen.

4. It’s a team effort. In this case, Jesus and the woman did the sowing, and now the disciples are involved in the reaping.

We are all working on a team and we all, as Jesus said, enter into the labor of others.

• This is true personally in that we have different gifts and roles in the work of God.

• And it is true between churches. For sometimes others sow seeds and then people come here and are harvested. And sometimes we sow seeds and people go somewhere else and are harvested.

But we are all a part of the work of God and God uses all of us to fulfill his mission.

5. Be alert to the opportunities around you

Jesus said in v. 35, “lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.” Now he is talking about a specific situation here. This won’t always be the case, but yet there they were concerned about food and were unaware of what was happening around them.

And we too can be caught up in the normal routines of life, unaware that there are those around us who are ready for harvest. And so we need to “lift up our eyes, and see.”

Along these lines, how did this week go for you? Did you have any divine appointments? What would you share this morning with the congregation?

William Higgins, Delmar Lehman, Harold Metz


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Series: Jesus and the Samaritan Woman

Last week we began looking at the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman. We saw how Jesus crossed the social boundaries of gender, morality and religion/culture to speak to her about the living water he gives – that is, the Holy Spirit who brings eternal life. This is why he “had to pass through Samaria” as it says in John 4:4; it was the Father’s purpose.

Today we look at the middle portion of our story  and our focus in on worshiping the Father in Spirit and truth.

John 4:16-27

“16Jesus said to her, ‘Go, call your husband, and come here.’ 17The woman answered him, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.’”

So they’ve been talking and Jesus turns the conversation toward her. He wants to get at a core issue in her life. Although she was bold before when she was questioning Jesus, here she becomes evasive. In fact, she wants to hide something from Jesus.

She tells Jesus, “I have no husband.” Now the word that is used here by both Jesus and the woman can mean “husband” or simply “a man.” She uses it to mean that she is not married, making her sound like she is not in a relationship.

But Jesus knows her heart and her story, just as he knows all about each of our lives. As John 2:24 says, “Jesus knew all people . . . for he himself knew what was in a person.”

He knows that she has been married five times. It’s not clear to us why, but there were almost certainly some divorces involved here. By the standards of the day (at least in Judaism) only 3 legal marriages were acceptable. So she has been in and out of a number of relationships, which would have reflected badly on her.

But more importantly, Jesus knows that she is in a sixth relationship. She is in a non-marital sexual union; as we say today, she is living with someone.

Jesus also employs the double meaning of the word husband/man and thereby takes her statement “I have no husband” as a confession of her sin. He emphasizes how true her words are, despite her intention to mislead him. He is saying, ‘Yes, you are right, you don’t have a “husband.” You are living in sexual immorality with “a man” who is not your husband.’

“19The woman said to him, ‘Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.’”

She’s impressed by what he knows and comes to the conclusion that he’s a prophet. So she has a theological question for him about the right way to worship. She asks which mountain is the right place to worship, Mt. Gerizim or Mt. Zion in Jerusalem.

Again division raises its head. She says that “our fathers” worshiped on this mountain, most likely referring to Abraham (Genesis 12:7) and Jacob (Genesis 33:10) who worshiped at Mt. Gerizim. And since Samaritans didn’t accept any Scriptures except the Law of Moses – the first five book of the Bible – and these don’t talk about a temple in Jerusalem, the Samaritans argued that true worship should take place on Mt. Gerizim (Some of their case: Jacob’s dream took place here, where he said, “God is in this place – Genesis 28:16, and he built an altar here in 33:19-20; Deuteronomy 27:3-5).

But Jews, of course, based on further Old Testament teaching, built the temple in Jerusalem.

mt Gerizim

If you will remember they are talking at Jacob’s well. This is a picture of Mt. Gerizim near Jacob’s well. The Samaritans did build a temple here in 400 BC. But it was destroyed by a group of Jews in 128 BC. Well, the ruins of this temple would have been in sight from Jacob’s well,
 as they were talking.

“21Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.’”

With the coming of Jesus things are changing. And his coming transcends the divisions between Jews and Samaritans. From now on neither mountain is key.

Although, for the record, Jesus confirms that prior to his coming the Jews were right about Jerusalem and right about what true worship is. He also acknowledges that “salvation if from the Jews,” both as a matter of God’s historical working through them, and specifically in that he, Jesus is Jewish. (Jesus clearly here affirms that he is a Jew. Most often in John “Jew” is used negatively for Judeans who oppose Jesus.)

“23But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth . . .”

Again, things are changing and Samaritans can be a part of this. True worshipers will not be marked by which mountain they worship on, they will be marked by two things. They will worship:

In Spirit – this is worship that is inspired and empowered by the Spirit. (Jesus has just taught her about living waters that refer to the Spirit and so we should take this to be a reference to the Holy Spirit, as in almost every other case of the word Spirit in John).

In truth – this is worship that is in accord with what Jesus teaches; which is the full revelation of God’s truth.

What he is doing here is teaching her one part of this, that true worship is not exclusive to a central shrine or temple but is Spirit inspired. If the current worship of Samaritans is not fully true (you worship what you do not know – v. 22 ) they can offer true worship if they worship in accord with what Jesus says.

“ . . . for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth.”

This is an amazing statement. God is on a mission. God doesn’t sit back a wait for people. He actively seeks out people to know and honor him. And this includes this Samaritan woman. God wants her and all people to worship him in Spirit and truth.

When Jesus says, “God is spirit” he means that God is not physical; he is not just found in one place. He can be worshiped anywhere.

Notice that we worship the Father, in accord with what the Son teaches, empowered by the Holy Spirit.

“25The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.’”

Having heard Jesus’ answer, she isn’t fully committed. She speaks of the coming Messiah who will “tell us all things,” that is, settle this dispute and others. The Samaritans had a different idea of the Messiah. They spoke of the Taheb or restorer based on Deuteronomy 18:15-19 where Moses speaks of God raising up a prophet like him, to whom all should listen. They saw the Messiah as more of a teacher. She is saying, ‘when he comes he will sort out the differences between Jews and Samaritans.’

“26Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am he.’”

At the beginning of their conversation Jesus notes that she doesn’t know who he is. “If you knew who it is that is speaking to you . . .” you would ask him for living water. But now he has clearly told her. This is an amazing revelation of Jesus to her, ‘I am the Messiah.’ It is very unusual for Jesus to be so clear. She is certainly blessed to have him speak this way to her.

Specifically, he is saying that he is the one Moses spoke of and he has just settled the dispute between the Jews and Samaritans as he spoke to her.

“27Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, ‘What do you seek?’ or, ‘Why are you talking with her?’”

So we end today where we began last week, with Jesus crossing the social boundary of gender, and the disciples are duly shocked, but don’t say anything.

Once again I have two questions from the passage that should challenge us:

Do you worship in Spirit and truth?

To use the language of Jesus in v. 23, are you a “true” worshiper of God?

It is not about coming to this building each Sunday, so that you think you have worshipped because you have come to a certain place and sat through a service. Perhaps you are here but you are really distracted about your week to come and all that you have to do, or you are still trying to figure out how to deal with the problems of last week. Or maybe you are here but you are busy talking or texting to others. Or maybe your coming here is more about a weekly ritual than true worship.

True worship is about the Spirit of God opening up your heart to receive from God – as we gather to sing and pray and hear God’s word, or as you do these things during the week wherever you are at. We have to allow the Spirit to move within us and among us so that we connect to God. This is true worship.

And again, as last week, I ask –

Are you a part of God’s mission?

It is so clear in this passage, God is seeking people to worship him truly. God wants them to know him and honor him and to be made whole be recognizing our true King.

Are you a part of this? Do you let God work through you in your everyday lives to fulfill his mission? Being a part of God’s mission includes several things. We saw last week:

1. It includes divine appointments. This is why Jesus “had to pass through Samaria.” God wants this woman, with all of her brokenness and failures to worship him truly.

2. It includes crossing social boundaries. In our part of the story today all three boundaries are dealt with – gender, morality and the differences between Jews and Samaritans.

3. It includes a focus on Jesus. When possible division came as she asked which mountain is correct for worship, Jesus focused on how his coming transcends these differences.

And then we also see today two more aspects of God’s mission:

4. It includes dealing with issues:

– her sexual immorality – v. 16. Jesus didn’t shy away from this. It needed to be dealt with.
– her misunderstandings – v. 22. The Samarian errors about worship.

5. It includes leading people to true worship. This is the point of God’s mission. Once we have come alive to God by drinking of the living waters, the Spirit leads us to be in relationship with God through worship.

William Higgins


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Series: Jesus and the Samaritan Woman

We’re back into our series on the Gospel of John. And I would like for us to focus on the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman for the next few weeks, and really dig in and see what it can teach us.

Last we saw, Jesus he was in Jerusalem talking with Nicodemus. From there he went into the Judean countryside where his disciples were baptizing people who responded to Jesus’ preaching. Then he decided to go up to Galilee, but he went through Samaria to get there. And he ended up staying in the village of Sychar in Samaria for a few days.

Let’s look at –

John 4:4-15

“4And he (Jesus) had to pass through Samaria. 5So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6Jacob’s well was there . . .” Although some Jews avoided going through Samaria, many used it as a path between Jerusalem and Galilee because it was faster. However, when John tells us that “he had to pass through Samaria” it isn’t because Jesus was in a hurry. In fact he stayed there for a while. The “had to” points to the Father’s leading.

As you will remember, the “Samaritans” came from the remnants of the northern tribes of Israel from the time of the Assyrian conquest centuries before (721 BC) who intermarried with those settled in the region by the Assyrians (2 Kings 17:24-41).

At this time Sychar, modern day Askar, was probably the main Samaritan town (because Shechem had been destroyed). Jacob’s well was a ½ mile or so from Sychar. The land that Jacob gave to Joseph is mentioned in the Old Testament, but not the well itself (Genesis 48:21-22; 33:18-20; Joshua 24:32).

Jacob's well now covered by a church building

Jacob’s well now covered by a church building

“ . . . so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.” So it’s 12:00 noon which means it’s really hot. And we get a good picture of Jesus’ humanity here – he is tired and, as we will see, he is thirsty.

“7A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink.’ 8(For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) 9The 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.)”

It was the role of the disciple to take care of the teacher. So the disciples have gone to get food. And they would have gotten him water if they were still there. But Jesus asks her for water.

In doing this, we need to recognize that he is crossing several social boundaries:

1. The first has to do with gender. It was not generally acceptable in this day for a man to talk to a woman in private that he didn’t already know. John highlights this by noting that Jesus’ disciples were absent. There were a number of Old Testament stories about men talking with women at wells, but these ended with marriage. (Genesis 24:11-28; 29:4-18; and Exodus 2:16-22; but see 1 Kings 17:8-16). That this was unusual is apparent when the disciples come back in v. 27. John tells us that “they marveled that he was talking with a woman.” According to the framework of his day Jesus is stretching things here.

2.The second has to do with morality. Women usually came in groups to draw water in the morning or evening when it wasn’t so hot. Since this woman came alone, in the heat of the day it indicates that she was likely not accepted by the other women of the village. As we learn later, but Jesus already knows, she is sexually immoral. So just as in the first three Gospels, Jesus is relating here to an outcast and someone who would be labeled a notorious or public sinner.

3. The third has to do with religion/culture. Jews considered Samaritans to be a breakoff group that opposed Judaism with their similar but at times quite different faith and practice. They were considered unclean. The woman herself, aware of this boundary, questions Jesus – ‘Why would you ask me for a drink?’ She comes across to me all throughout this story as feisty; she is not afraid to question or challenge Jesus and he is fine with this.

John adds the explanatory comment “Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.” That is, in general they didn’t interact. Indeed, there was a lot of hostility between the two groups. (This assumption is a part of the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10).

“10Jesus 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.’” She has challenged Jesus, ‘Don’t you know who I am – a Samaritan – and you want me to give you, a Jew, water?’ Jesus turns it around, ‘If you knew who I am, a Jew, yes, but much more, you could ask me for a much better kind of water.’ He defuses any animosity between them by noting that he is willing to give her much more than what he asks of her.

Here we learn about Jesus’ identity. Jesus is the one who gives “the gift of God” also called “living water.” Living water has a double meaning here. It can mean running or fresh water as opposed to stagnant water, or it can also represent the Spirit. For instance in John 7 Jesus talks about being thirsty and drinking and he talks about how he will give forth rivers of living water. And then John tells us that “this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive . . ..” – v. 39. So living water refers to the Spirit. And this is “the gift of God” that Jesus gives to those who ask him for it.

“11The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.’” She misunderstands Jesus in an overly literal way thinking of running water. She observes that he can’t get it from Jacob’s well because it’s deep, in fact, it’s a 100 ft deep still today – and he has no rope and vessel.

She refers to Jacob or Israel, the father of the 12 tribes, the common ancestor of Jews and Samaritans. Notice she says, “our” father, finding commonality. She is saying, ‘Jacob gave us good water. It was good enough for him, his sons and his animals! Do you have a better water supply than what Jacob knew of? Are you greater than Jacob?’

“13Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14but 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.’”

Jesus makes the contrast:
• Jacob gave water to the 12 tribes, that doesn’t quench true thirst.
• Jesus gives water, not just to Jews, but also Samaritans and thus the 12 tribes, that cures true thirst. (There is almost certainly a reunification of Israel theme here.)

Jesus’ water is better. But it is a spiritual water that quenches a spiritual thirst. He gives the living water of the Spirit. And as he said, “The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’” As Jesus also said in John 6:63 – “it is the Spirit who gives life.” The Spirit is like a spring of water within us that results in “eternal life.”

And the presence of the Spirit and eternal life within us fully satisfies and fulfills us spiritually. We will thirst no more. So, in answer to her question – yes, Jesus is greater than Jacob.

“15The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.’” Again, she takes him overly literally. She wants to drink this mysterious water that will relieve her physical thirst. She doesn’t fully understand, and we will have to wait until next time to see the progress she makes. But she is open to what Jesus has to say. She is asking for the water Jesus gives.

As I worked with this first part of our story this week, two questions came to mind by way of challenge to us:

Have you asked Jesus for living water?

As Jesus said to the woman in our story, ‘If you knew who I am, you would ask me for living water.’ Well, we know who Jesus is. As we have just learned he is the one who gives the Spirit who brings new life to us. And as he said to her, if you asked “he would have given you living water.”

In the same way if you ask Jesus for living water, he will give it to you. Let me say it again, if you ask Jesus for living water, he will give it to you – the presence of the Spirit within you who brings forth eternal life and fully satisfies any spiritual thirst that you might have. If you ask, he will give this to you. Ask him today! Why would you wait? Ask him right now!

Finally –

Are you a part of God’s mission?

God is always reaching out seeking people that they might come to him. Are you a part of this activity of God? As we learn in this story this includes several things:

1. Divine appointments. Why did Jesus “have to go through Samaria”? Because there was a woman that the Father wanted him to talk to. And Jesus was always in tune with the Father and did just what he wanted.

So when I ask are you a part of God’s mission I’m not talking about going on a mission trip, I am talking about your everyday life. Are you looking for divine appointments? Are you in tune with what God wants you to do? Are you open to this? This week? This is my challenge to you – look for these this week. I will be praying for you that God will work through you.

2. Crossing social boundaries. In our story this had to do with gender, morality and culture/religion. Don’t let these stand in the way. One of you shared last week about the young man with an offensive tattoo – well, God wants to reach all kinds of people no matter how different they are than us. Don’t just be shocked, look for the opportunity to relate even if it stretches you. God wants all people to come to know him and worship him. And so we should expect to come across people that are different than us, some so different that it blows our minds. But God loves them just as much as us and wants them to be blessed with the gift of God.

3. A focus on Jesus. When the Samaritan woman raised the divide between Jews and Samaritans – which was meant to kill the conversation, Jesus focused on the living water that he gives to all; that supersedes the divide. In like manner, we are to keep things focused on Jesus as we are a part of God’s mission. When division come up because of differences speak of the gift that Jesus has for all of us.

My challenge is be open to how God wants to work through you this week as he seeks people to know and love him. Be open to this; get tuned in. Let God fulfill his mission to the world through you. And I will give you a chance to share next week what God has done.

William Higgins

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