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Posts Tagged ‘mission’

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.

Summary

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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1 Samuel 14, Judges 7, 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

God has a purpose that he is working in this world; a plan to overcome sin and death  and all the terrible things we experience in this fallen world, including all the terrible things we do. God has a purpose to bring salvation and new life to people and eventually to all of creation; to bring wholeness, healing and peace.

Now, I believe that our congregation, here at New Providence, has a continuing role to play in fulfilling this purpose of God in this place and time that God has put us. I believe that God has people all around us that he wants to touch and transform by his saving power,  through us so that they become a part of the people of God. I believe that God is continuing to invite us as a congregation to be a part of his movement, which won’t end until Jesus returns, when all things will be made new.

The message I have for you today is very simple and straightforward God can accomplish his purpose by many or by few, by the strong or by the weak, by those who are honored and admired or by those are looked down on and dismissed.

The phrase “by many or by few” comes from –

1 Samuel 14 and the story of Jonathan’s victory

The context here is that Israel is oppressed by the Philistines. And they have just gathered their vast army to come crush the Israelites because they had begun to fight back. And so now the Israelites are terrified. Some fled as far away as they could and some hid in holes and caves in the ground. To anyone’s eyes they were few, they were weak and they were looked down on. No one would give them a chance to accomplish anything.

And then v. 6 tells us this, “Jonathan (King Saul’s son) said to the young man who carried his armor, ‘Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised. It may be that the Lord will work for us, for nothing can hinder the Lord from saving by many or by few.’”

And so these two people stepped out in faith with great courage and the Lord did indeed act to accomplish his purpose to save Israel through them:

– In vs. 13-14 they overcame the 20 soldiers who were guarding the mountain pass.

– Right after this, v. 15 says, “And there was a panic in the (Philistine) camp, in the field, and among all the people. The garrison and even the raiders trembled, the earth quaked, and it became a very great panic.”

– v. 16 says, “and behold, the multitude (of the Philistines) was dispersing here and there.”

– v. 19 says, “the tumult in the camp of the Philistines increased more and more.”

– v. 20 tells us, “And behold, every Philistine’s sword was against his fellow, and there was very great confusion.”

And then this part of the story ends in v. 23 by saying, “So the Lord saved Israel that day.”

There were thousands and thousands of Philistines. The obstacles; the problems were off the charts, but God only needed two people to accomplish his purpose to bring salvation.

Now Jonathan knew this truth, that “nothing can hinder the Lord from saving by many or by few” because he knew who God is, and also because God had done this for Israel before.

Turn with me to –

Judges 7 and the story of Gideon’s victory

God called out Gideon to rescue Israel from the Midianites. Now the Midianites and those with them had 135,000 men (Judges 8:10). Gideon called up the Israelite troops and only had 32,000 men. Not many in comparison.

But God wanted to teach Israel a lesson. So in v. 2 God said, “the people with you are too many . . .” And he told Gideon to send home any who were afraid, and 22,000 went home, leaving Gideon with just 10,000 men.

But God said in v. 4 – “the people are still too many . . .” And he told Gideon to only take with him those who drank from the water by lapping, leaving him 300 people.

And you know the story – 300 verses 135,000. And the 300 prevailed. 22 says, “When they (the Israelites) blew the 300 trumpets, the Lord set every man’s sword against his comrade and against all the army. And the army fled. . .” And eventually they were all defeated. Against any human expectation God used the few, the weak and those looked down on, to accomplish his purpose to save.

But then also there is the lesson that God wanted to teach Israel; the reason God thinned out Gideon’s army. v. 2 says in full, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’

God can save by many or by few. But here we learn that God delights in working through the few, because this brings the glory to him: it shows that it is God who is really doing it, and not the people.

This brings us to the New Testament and –

1 Corinthians 1:26-31 and Paul’s teaching on the way God works

The Corinthian Christians were enamored by the things that the world lifts up; those who are wise, strong and knowledgeable. They were impressed by the things of the flesh; by appearance. Indeed, this was so much so that they even looked down on the apostle Paul who seemed to them weak in his bodily appearance, his lack of eloquence and his general lowliness.

And I think that many Christians today are like the Corinthians of old. We think the real action is where all the worldly markers of success are – lots of people, people who are strong and admired or even celebrities. That’s the place to be. That’s where God is doing all the work or the best work. So let’s listen as Paul calls the Corinthians back to a right perspective.

26For consider your calling, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise according to the flesh, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.

 Most of them weren’t strong or wise or noble. And they are now a part of a Christian church that is small and insignificant by worldly standards.

 27But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are . . .”

 God chooses to use those who don’t bring much of anything to the table to show those who think they are something according to the flesh, that they are nothing without God.

Why? It’s the same message as we found in Judges 7 –

29so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

Then he reminds the Corinthians –

30And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Paul is saying, You are boasting about how great you are, but it is God, through Christ, who has given you salvation – wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption; all that you have that is good. You were chosen precisely because you were not these things and the whole point is to use you to show the world that it’s not about us, but about God, so that everyone will boast about how great God is.

So we have here the same two truths that we have already seen:

1. God can fulfill his purpose by many or by few. It’s God who does the work, so it doesn’t hinge on how many people there are or whether they are strong or admired, wise or noble.

2. God loves to use the few, the weak, the looked down on. Because this makes sure everyone knows that it is God who saves, not us. So we can’t take credit but will give credit to God.

What we need to do

Be encouraged! Our hope is in God and not in numbers, or how strong we are or what others think of us. God not only can work through us, but God loves to work through folks just like us. This means that we have right now ,through God, all that we need to be used by God.

Finally, we need to act in faith. Since we know that “nothing can hinder the Lord from saving by many or by few,” and that he loves to use the few, we need to step out and be courageous, to take risks and to sacrifice. God is looking for Gideons and Jonathans today to use to fulfill his purpose of salvation. Let’s not be like those who shrink back and give  up because all we see are the problems and obstacles. Let’s step out in faith and see what God will do.

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Series on witness

By way of context and keeping the bigger picture in view, I am calling our congregation to spiritual renewal, and that in three areas:

The first has to do with our use of time and our busyness when we get caught up in too fast of a pace of life, so that we are too busy to serve the Lord and do what God has called us to do as a local congregation.

The second area has to do with becoming a more loving, caring and connected community. We want to be a congregation where resentments are dealt with, relationships are healed and our love for each other will be evident to anyone who comes in the door.

The third area has to do with being more outwardly focused so that we move from being comfortable, to where we are willing to take risks to reach out and include new people among us. And this last emphasis is where this series of messages comes from.

Today we are looking at several ways you can reach out, even if you are not gifted in this area or called to a specific ministry of outreach. We will begin today and then I plan to finish this up next Sunday before Communion.

Live a faithful Christian life

It matters how we conduct ourselves because others are watching. 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.”

We are a witness by how we live our lives. For others will “see our good works” and by this means they can come to give glory to God. This is the testimony of our deeds and it is foundational to all else. Because without this it doesn’t matter what you say.

So let people know you are a Christian, and then live it out by your integrity, your work ethic, your love for others, by how you handle conflict, and by how you go through hard times trusting in God. People are watching and if your life reflects God’s work in you it will be a witness to the truth of Jesus.

*Think for a moment: What area of weakness or failure do you have that discredits your witness? What I am saying is that it is not just a matter of faithfulness to God, but also of your witness to others.

Share what God has done for you

I told the story recently of the man who had many demons and how he was out of his mind and he lived naked in a graveyard – and how Jesus set him free. Well this is what Jesus said to him at the end of the story – 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.”

If the first was the witness of our deeds, this is the witness of our words. And we need both.

What’s your story? What has the Lord done for you? How has he had mercy on you? Every Christian has a story. This is what you share. And not just about when you first came to Christ, but how the Lord helps you and has mercy on you now. Learn how to tell your story so you can share it with others and then look for opportunities to do this.

*A story from my life in high school . . .

 Pray for the lost

The psalmist, in Psalm 67:2, prays for God to act, so “that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.” We looked at this Psalm recently. As you will remember the writer wants those who don’t know God, to come to know God. And we should pray similarly.

So you can be in your prayer closet hidden to the world and still be partaking in God’s great kingdom mission in this world through prayer.

Who is on your heart – unsaved loved ones? neighbors? coworkers? SW Chambersburg? The Gambia? Who has God put on your heart?

*Let’s pause for a moment to pray for someone who is already on your heart, or to ask God to put someone on your heart.

Pray for outreach workers

People that have spiritual gifts and talents that make them effective at this, and also those who are called to have special roles like missionaries and evangelists. Jesus tells the disciples in Matthew 9:37-38 – “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Not only are we to pray but notice, we are to pray earnestly. Do you pray regularly for this?

*Let’s pause for a moment to pray for Gary and Denise, for the outreach ministry of our congregation and for God to raise up others among us to reach out.

Now that we have prayed let me just say I hope you will be open to being the answer to your own prayers, as the disciples were, when right after Jesus spoke of the need to pray, he sent the disciple out into the harvest to work.

And then finally for today . . .

Support those that are called to reach out

That is, those who have a regular ministry in this and are gifted and called by the Lord to this – missionaries, local evangelists, pastors and other leaders.

In Luke 10:7 Jesus says this talking about those involved in ministry receiving financial support. He says, “the laborer deserves his (or her) wages.”

We need to understand that there is a mutual relationship between someone who is called to reach out and those who support them. The first is obvious – the one who ministers needs to be able to be free to do the work of the Lord, and so they need support. But also note that the one who gives shares in the reward of the work they do. (Mark 9:41; Matthew 10:41.) So that’s a good deal for you. Through your support of their work you share in the blessings that will come both now and on the final day.

And certainly those who minister need more than just financial support to do their work. They also need love, encouragement and prayers.

*This is a missionary couple . . .. Let’s take just a moment now to write a check or gather up some cash for their ministry, which you can give on your way out of church today.

William Higgins

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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

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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