As we come into the last week of our series on what it means to be the people of The Well, I want to recap what we’ve learned throughout this series. You may recall that we began this series back in June by studying Acts 2:42 – 47 and then we picked up again in early August by studying John 4:1 – 42.
This week is the final week of that series as we focus on the last few verses of our passage in John 4 but I thought it would be good for us to step back for a minute and summarize or highlight or catch a mountain top view of where we’ve been in this series before preaching the final message. My hope is that doing a quick summary will help to cast the broad vision for who we want the people of The Well to become as we continue planting here in Hastings. So here’s that recap…
Week 1: We learned that the early church was a gospel centered church family. But what does it mean to be a gospel centered church family? As we examined the text we learned that a gospel centered church family is full of people that are devoted wholeheartedly to the gospel; they’re awestruck by the power of the gospel; they’re united by the message of the gospel and they’re motivated by the generosity of God in the gospel to be more generous.
Week 2: We learned that the early church was a family of gospel communities. But what does it mean to be a family of gospel communities? As we examined the text we learned that a family of gospel communities is full of people who gather consistently, in large groups and small groups while praising God gladly and generously.
Week 3: We learned that the early church produced missionally engaged disciples who glorified God. But what does it mean to produce missionally engaged disciples who glorify God? As we examined the text we learned that a church family actively produces missionally engaged disciples by praising God publicly, by living peacefully with others in our community and by experiencing God’s saving power together.
Week 4: We learned that God calls us to become Christ encountering people. But what does it mean to become Christ encountering people? As we examined the text we learned that Jesus broke down the barriers of place, person, resource and thirst at the cross so that we can become people who encounter Christ in every crack and crevice of our lives.
Week 5: We learned that God calls us to become Christ worshiping people. But what does it mean to become Christ worshiping people? As we examined the text we learned that Jesus broke down the barriers of sin and false religion and false worship objects at the cross so that we can become people who worship Christ in spirit and in truth.
Week 6: (This week) We’ll learn that God calls us to become Christ sharing people.
So we want to be a gospel centered church family of gospel communities that grow missionally engaged disciples who glorify God by becoming a Christ encountering people, a Christ worshiping people and a Christ sharing people. But what does it mean to be a Christ sharing people?
Look at John 4:27 – 42…
27 Just 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?” 28 So 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?” 30 They went out of the town and were coming to him.
31 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. 35 Do 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. 36 Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
39 Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They 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.”
I can’t think of anything more satisfying than the experience of witnessing someone becoming a Christian who then turns around and gets super excited to share Jesus with other people and the result is other people become Christians who start charging the gates of hell through their own testimony of becoming Christ followers too.
It’s like that deep sense of satisfaction I get when one of my kids gets a brand new toy that they’ve always wanted and in their excitement they can’t help themselves but to share it with everyone they see and then in the process everyone else who gets invited into the experience gets all excited and they begin to share their experience with other people too. And the process goes and on until you have a house full of kids who are all excited about sharing in the new thing that everyone else is enjoying.
This is the picture of what it means to become a Christ sharing people and it’s an exciting thing to experience when it all hits on eight cylinders. But there are some experiences that aren’t so happy. Sometimes when one of my kids gets that thing they’ve always wanted they do something unexpected. They don’t share the gift they’ve received with everyone else. They don’t talk about it excitedly with everyone. They don’t invite others into their joy. It’s as if nothing has changed in them.
It’s like they’re only concerned with their own experience and they find no satisfaction in sharing it with others but instead almost appear to be more satisfied that they get to have this experience all to themselves. It’s like they actually believe that this thing they’ve always wanted is only for them to enjoy in the corner all by themselves.
Whenever I witness this I typically walk away scratching my head and wondering what happened here. And I find myself asking what’s stopping them from sharing this with their siblings and their friends. And that’s really the question I want to wrestle with today. The question is: What are the barriers that stop me from becoming a Christ sharing person? Listen, I know that if you’re a Christian then you and I both will easily experience some fear in regards to sharing Christ with other people.
And we could spend an entire series examining what the Bible says about fear but what I want to do today is look at our text and ask: What’s the thing beneath the thing? What are the roots below our indifference to sharing Christ with others? What are the barriers beneath the fear we feel when it comes to sharing Jesus with other people? What stops us from becoming Christ sharing people?
#1: The Conversion Barrier… (27 – 30)
The conversion barrier is like a brick wall that has a message painted on it that says, “you cannot give what you have not received”. If you have not received the salvation that Christ offers by grace through faith then you will not be excited to share that same gift with others. You’ll only be excited to tell other people how hard they must work to get to know Jesus. There will be no verbal confession of Christ in all of his loving grace. There will only be a verbal confession of do’s and don’ts and a lack of real change to back up your confession and you’ll lack the concern that is necessary to go the distance to see other people come to know Jesus too.
Most scholars believe that this woman who encountered Jesus at the well actually became a Christian that day. They believe she was genuinely converted from being an immoral woman who lived her life at the beck and call of the men she slept with into a woman who verbally confessed Christ as her Savior and then went on to live a radically changed life as a woman who was deeply concerned with inviting other people to come and experience the presence of Christ the same way she had.
Her verbal confession was simple. She simply said, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. I believe he is the Christ”. Her radically changed life was obvious in the fact that when she went back to town she didn’t head back to her old life of chasing relationships with men or sexual sin but instead she went back to town with a new concern. She was no longer wrapped up in just surviving the mess of sin she had been living in. Her old concern for self-preservation by avoiding people in town and coming to the well at midday when no one else would be there was now replaced by a brand new concern for other people to come and meet Jesus too. And the result was that the entire town came out to meet Jesus.
This is a really shocking scene. A prostitute who was the outcast of her city that morning becomes the evangelist who mobilizes an entire community to come meet Jesus that evening. She didn’t waste any time giving away what she had received. She didn’t go back home and contemplate things for a while. She didn’t keep her experience to herself. She didn’t see her encounter with Jesus as just being her own private encounter. There is no doubt in my mind that this woman was genuinely converted because she had a verbal confession of an encounter with Jesus that was backed up by a radically changed life that was now openly concerned with being a Christ sharing person. This woman was not stuck behind the conversion barrier.
And the questions that this provokes for me are these: In what way am I stuck behind the conversion barrier? Are there ways that I can be sharing Christ verbally with people that I’m not currently engaged in? Is there something off in my life that doesn’t back up my verbal confession? Is there some obvious sin in me that is unchecked or unchanged? Are there ways that I’m avoiding people so that I don’t have to give an account for my life? Does my lifestyle lack a deep concern to see others come to meet Jesus too? My prayer is that we would become a Christ sharing people who come out from behind the conversion barrier and walk in genuine conversion so that we can share Jesus with other people.
#2: The Satisfaction Barrier… (31 – 38)
This barrier gets at the root of why we do what we do. It gets at the root of why we share Christ with other people. Think with me about why you share your experience of watching a Husker football game or your experience of trying out a new restaurant or your experience of finding your soul mate. We share these experiences with other people because they are deeply satisfying experiences and we want to share that same sense of satisfaction with other people. We want to invite others into our satisfying experiences.
So it makes sense then that when professing Christians don’t share Christ with other people it’s because they haven’t really found satisfaction in Christ. Maybe they find satisfaction in the kind of church they are at or the kind of preacher the church has or the programs the church offers or the friends they have at church (and all of these things are good) but they aren’t sharing Christ because they haven’t found their satisfaction in Christ. They don’t love Jesus. They love the idea of Jesus maybe and the benefits that Jesus’ church affords them so they share those things instead of sharing Jesus. This is the satisfaction barrier and we all struggle with it.
In our text, Jesus destroys the satisfaction barrier. His disciples are still trying to figure out why He’s associating with the woman at the well and maybe they think he’s losing it a little because he hasn’t eaten in a while. Maybe they’re thinking that Jesus isn’t quite in his right state of mind because when he doesn’t eat he gets a little crazy like the rest of us.
And so they try to get him to eat some food to get him back on track but Jesus responds by saying (in summary) that he’s doing just fine because his satisfaction comes from living obediently to his Father’s command to seek and to save the lost. In other words, it’s eternally satisfying to work for God in the work of evangelism and Jesus even tacks on a proverb about the harvest and sowing and reaping and working hard at evangelism in the context of community when he talks about reaping from what other evangelists have sown.
And the moral of the story is that Jesus is saying that (while physical food is important and I would add deeply satisfying) it’s even more satisfying to share the gift of eternal life with people who are spiritually famished and the reason that this is so satisfying is because it’s the will of God that we do this. God desires that we become Christ sharing people and if his desires become our desires then we will be deeply satisfied.
God instructs us to seek Him with our entire being and when we do that he promises to give us the desires of our hearts which implies that as we seek him we are desiring him which means our desires become his desires and then he gives us what we desire which is himself and when God gives himself to us then we have something or better yet, someone, of eternal value to give away. This sounds deeply satisfying to me!
And the questions this evokes in me are these: Am I satisfied with God? Does my life prove that I’m growing in my satisfaction with God? Am I so satisfied with Jesus that I can’t help but to love him more and more each day? Am I so satisfied with Jesus that I can’t help but to share him with others? Am I eager to invest and labor and work alongside other brothers and sisters in the church to share Jesus with others? My prayer is that we would become a Christ sharing people who come out from behind the satisfaction barrier and find our satisfaction in Christ so that we can share Jesus with other people.
#3: The Belief Barrier… (39 – 42)
In our American culture it is engrained in us to be drawn to personality. Sadly it’s no different within the church sometimes. We are drawn to personality and therefore oftentimes the success of a church rises and falls on the personality and ability of the pastor or evangelist. Don’t hear me wrong. Leaders must lead well and the health of a church family does depend upon this vital piece being in place.
But the downfall or the barrier I am speaking to here is the uncanny and unhealthy tendency for us as believers to only believe in Jesus because so and so said so. To have a hand-me-down-faith. This kind of discipleship always leaves a wake of disaster behind it because the people attached to that ministry never develop a personal and healthy belief in Jesus that motivates them to become mature Christ followers who share Jesus with others.
In our text, John tells us that many people from the woman’s town believed because she told them about her encounter with Jesus. And these people were so excited because of the woman’s excitement that they invited Jesus to stay a few more days. And after he had stayed a few more days, John tells us that the people told the woman that “they no longer believed just because of her exciting testimony but they actually believed in Jesus as the Savior of the world because they had an encounter with Jesus where they personally heard him speak to them”.
When we are struggling to believe in Jesus it’s not because someone else didn’t do a good job of presenting Jesus in a neat and tidy or emotionally driven package of evangelistic messages where our hearts were moved by the quality of the speaker. We struggle to believe in Jesus because we get stuck behind the barrier of belief where we try to ride the coat tails of someone else’s belief and the remedy for this is getting ourselves into a position where we can hear Jesus speak to us personally.
This raises some questions for me as I think about it. I’ve been asking myself: Whose coattails am I trying to hitch a ride on? Am I more concerned with hearing Jesus throughout the week or am I more concerned with what so-and-so says about Jesus? Don’t hear me wrong. It’s important to listen to faithful teachers of the Bible as they explain what God is saying. But am I pulling away to quiet places so that Jesus can speak with me and so that he can bolster my belief and my trust in him? Or am I rushing from one commentary to the next or one blog to the next or one podcast to the next and in doing so, am I actually harming myself and stunting my growth? My prayer is that we would become a Christ sharing people who come out from behind the belief barrier and hear Jesus speak to us personally so that we can share Jesus with other people.
It’s too easy for me to fall into an unhealthy dysfunctional view of God’s mission and believe that somehow the results of missional effort rely upon my strength or ability when in reality God is the one who limitlessly and generously empowers and affects the results of his mission to seek and to save the lost. I know this from personal experience as he empowered and sent numerous people into my life to speak the truth of the gospel so that I could be saved.
And so my prayer for us is that the Lord would protect our church from the temptation to build something around me or any other person and I pray that we at The Well would continue to become a people who authentically proclaim Christ as the one who produces genuine converts who find their satisfaction in Jesus and help others to believe in Jesus.
In summary, I pray that we become a gospel centered church family of gospel communities that grow missionally engaged disciples who glorify God by becoming a Christ encountering people, a Christ worshiping people and a Christ sharing people.