We're starting a new series today on how Jesus changes our lives. For the next eight weeks, we're going to be examining the eight different ways that Jesus changes our lives when we meet him. Nobody who meets Jesus is ever the same again. We're going to look at how Jesus can change our lives.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like if you actually met Jesus? I'm not talking about meeting him the way that some people talk. I'm talking about meeting him face to face. What would you say if you heard a knock on your door one night, and it was Jesus? Or if somebody told you there's a call on hold for you, and it's Jesus? Imagine what you would say to him. If he stayed in your house and visited for a while, imagine what you would feed him. Imagine how different it would feel to actually have Jesus sit at your kitchen table. What would you say to him? How would you feel?
We have to imagine, because it's never happened to us. But Jesus actually did visit some people's houses, and we don't have to imagine how they reacted. The Bible tells us. I'd like to think that I would act differently if Jesus came over to my house. But the Bible tells us that people pretty much continued acting just as they were before. If they were jerks before, they continued to be jerks. If they struggled with pride before, they struggled with pride after. The Bible is full of stories of people who had the opportunity to have their lives changed, but they missed it. They were blind to the person that was right in front of them.
This past week I met with a group of ten pastors. I did what all of us do when we get in a group with a bunch of strangers. I began to size them up. I began to peg them all. "There's an achiever. There's a nice guy. There's a joker." There was one guy who sort of sat by himself and didn't say much. I pegged him as moderately successful but without much to contribute. I thought that I could teach him a thing or two. Then I found out that he was pastor of the biggest church out of any of us. I had him pegged completely wrong. Throughout the week, he made some of the most helpful comments. I learned a lot from him.
When Jesus was on the earth, a lot of people just never got it. They pegged him wrong. But there were a few who knew did get it. They looked at Jesus and they discovered who he was. But even those people blew it. A lot of them responded poorly to Jesus. They said stupid things. They did stupid things. They worked when they should have listened. I'd like to think that if Jesus knocked on my front door, I would handle everything perfectly. But the odds aren't that good. Most people blew it. But it is possible that you can meet Jesus and respond in the right way. We're going to learn how today.
Why do I want to do this? What's so important about responding to Jesus properly? You could make a lot of stupid decisions in life. Trust me - people have. I talked to a friend this past week. His dad died right before Christmas. My friend went into his room and told me, "Darryl, there were a thousand sermons in that room. " This man had wasted his career. He had alienated his children. He lived without purpose in a flophouse. The lifestyle that he was leading literally killed him. He was only in his sixties. This was a man who had wasted his life. But the Salvation Army commander who officiated at the funeral made the saddest comment on this man's life: "I know that this man knew about Jesus, but I don't know how he responded to Jesus."
It's sad to have made all those mistakes, but the saddest mistake that man made was being introduced to Jesus Christ without allowing Jesus to change him. This man missed the only power in the universe that has the power to completely transform a person. The biggest mistake that you could make is to know about Jesus without being changed by Jesus.
You may have made a lot of mistakes in your life. It doesn't matter. If you respond to Jesus properly when you meet him, your life can be changed forever.
The response that has changed people for years now is worship. By worship I don't mean attending church. You can do that without worshiping. By worship I mean understanding who Jesus is, and responding with genuine enthusiasm. You can do this no matter what kind of a background you've had.
Today I want to look at a person whose life was just as full of mistakes as the man I just mentioned. She has socially marginalized. She belonged to an ethnic group that was hated by the majority who lived in that country. Not only that, but this woman had experienced failure in her life. She had been married five times, and at the time Jesus met her, she was living with another man. Friends, that is a lot of history. You're getting up to Elizabeth Taylor standards there. This woman had a past, and she had made a lot of mistakes. But her life was changed after only one conversation with Jesus.
I'm looking at this passage today because I'm convinced that if we meet Jesus the way that this woman did, then our lives will be changed forever. We will worship him with genuine enthusiasm. How can I become a worshiper of Jesus Christ? How can I go from whatever state I'm in today to worshiping Jesus? Four steps:
1. APPRECIATE THAT JESUS TAKES THE INITIATIVE
That's the first step to becoming a worshiper. Appreciate that Jesus takes the initiative. John 4:3-4 says, "So he left Judea to return to Galilee. He had to go through Samaria on the way." That sounds routine to us. It sounds like saying, "Ed had to go down to Sherway, so he hopped on the 427 southbound." But it's not that simple. If you wanted to go from Judea to Galilee in that day, the direct route would be to go the way Jesus did - through Samaria. But nobody went that way. Why? Because Jews hated the Samaritans. People would go out of their way to avoid the Samaritans. But Jesus didn't. In fact, verse 4 says "he had to." That doesn't mean anyone was forcing him. It means that he had made it a priority. Jesus was purposeful in what he was doing.
John 4 continues:
Eventually he came to the Samaritan village of Sychar, near the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there; and Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime. Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, "Please give me a drink." (John 4:5-7)
In that day, people came twice a day to draw water - at morning and at night. If you've ever carried a lot of water, you know that the last thing you want to do is make that job harder. You'd want to carry that water during the coolest part of the day. But this woman carried it at precisely the wrong time. Verse 6 tells us that it was about noontime. Why did this woman come then? Probably because of the stigma she faced. Any woman who had been married five times, and who had another boyfriend, had probably made a few enemies! It seems that she was trying to avoid meeting people that would look down on her.
The fact that this woman didn't realize is that Jesus had been very purposeful in coming to meet her where he normally wouldn't be, at a time that usually no one was around. Jesus purposefully ignored the social stigma, the racism, the sexism, and the woman's past, to meet with her. Jesus took the initiative in relating to this woman.
The first step to becoming a worshiper of Jesus Christ is to realize that Jesus always takes the initiative in relating to us. Jesus goes past any barriers that exist between us. He overlooks our past, our mistakes, our social standing, our backgrounds - whatever. Jesus looks past all these things and takes the initiative in relating to us.
I got thinking about this last week, and it really began to amaze me. I don't know if you've seen those robotic dogs they're selling in toy stores. They come with little bones. You can press their buttons and clap to make them jump or sing. But these dogs are completely predictable. They've been made to respond in a certain way, and the only thing that will change is if the batt eries will run out.
God could have made us that way, but he didn't. God could have made us so that we would automatically behave and respond to him, but God made us with a quality called free will. God gave us the ability to choose to disobey him, and it's an ability that every person has exercised. Realize that God made you with the ability to run away from him. But Jesus still pursues us.
I began to think of the steps that Jesus took to relate to us. Jesus knew that if he pursued us the way that he was, we would have run the other way. How do I know this? Every time God appeared to someone in the Bible, he began by saying, "Don't be afraid." It's because nobody can see even a glimpse of God without being scared out of their mind. In fact, God said, "No one may see me and live" (Exodus 33:20). So God became just like us. Jesus became a human, so that when we saw him, we wouldn't be scared. Jesus became one of us so that he could relate to us.
We also read that God is so holy that he can't even look at sin. The Bible says that God can't even look at sin. It's like us looking at something so putrid that it makes you ill. This past Christmas our son threw up while eating Christmas dinner. He was in the kids room eating with all his cousins. I've never seen a room empty so fast. None of the kids could stand the sight or the smell. That's what sin is like for God. But Jesus experienced temptation, so that when he looks at us, he understands our struggles. Hebrews 4:15 says that Jesus "understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same temptations we do, yet he did not sin." That's how much Jesus wants to relate to us. It would be like one of my nephews loving my son so much that he ignored the vomit, and in fact got dirty in the vomit to help my son. The Bible says, "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV). That's how much Jesus loved us.
I began to think of the fact that Jesus paid the ultimate price for the sins that we've committed. Titus 2:14 says, "He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing what is right." That's why Jesus died. He died to undo the damage that we had caused by our sin. He freed us from sin. He cleaned us all up. He made us his own. And he rose again to give us the power to do what is right.
You need to appreciate the lengths to which Jesus has gone to relate to you. Jesus is taking the initiative, even today, in relating to you. You're not here by accident. Your past is not an accident. You're not at this church today for no reason. Jesus is taking the initiative in forming a relationship with you. Appreciating this fact is the first step to becoming a worshiper of Jesus Christ - of having your life changed by him.
Step number two to becoming a worshiper of Jesus:
2. BEGIN JUST WHERE YOU ARE
Do you want to have your life changed by Jesus? Then just begin with where you are. Tell Jesus what you need. You don't need to pretend to be someone else. You don't need to pretend you don't have certain needs. Come to Jesus just as you are.
When Jesus met this woman, he said to her, "Please give me a drink" (John 4:7). They began a conversation on why exactly Jesus was talking to her, given the fact that she was of a different race and gender. She was actually insulting Jesus, saying, in effect, "Sure - talk to me now. People of my race are only good enough for you when you need something."
But Jesus never engaged in the argument. Jesus had a higher purpose. He said, "If you only knew the gift God has for you and who I am, you would ask me, and I would give you living water" (John 4:10). To the woman, this meant flowing water. She was amazed at how Jesus could provide her with running water, when the well was about 75 feet deep and filled with debris. It was an old well, and you can bet that a lot had fallen into that well.
But Jesus was talking about a different kind of living water. Jesus said, "People soon become thirsty again after drinking this water. But the water I give them takes away thirst altogether. It becomes a perpetual spring within them, giving them eternal life" (John 14:13-14). Jesus meant that he could satisfy her spiritual cravings. Jesus could quench the thirst in her soul. But he began by talking about her immediate need. Jesus always begins with us just where we are.
Later this year, we're going to do a series called "Why I Came to Jesus." I've found that people come to Jesus for a lot of different reasons. Some come to him for healing. Some come to him for purpose. Some people come to Jesus for friendship. Everyone has a reason for coming to Jesus. I've found that Jesus usually meets those needs, but then he gives them something much deeper than what they were looking for. Jesus satisfies their spiritual cravings as well.
Some people come to God because they don't want to go to hell. That's actually not a bad reason. Jesus says, "Okay, I'll deal with your future. I'll give you eternal life in heaven. But let's go deeper than that. Why don't I establish you in a right relationship with God - the relationship that you were created for?" Jesus meets your need, but then he goes further.
Some people come to God because their marriages are falling apart, or their kids are getting to an age that they need some spiritual grounding. Jesus says, "Okay, let's deal with that problem, but let's go deeper while we're at it." The Bible is full of instruction on how to live a better life - how to build a healthy marriage, how to experience true happiness, how to manage your finances. Every week here at Richview we look at what the Bible has to say about some area of our lives. But Jesus wants to go deeper with you. Jesus wants to satisfy your deepest longing: your longing for a spiritual relationship with the one who made you.
When you come to Jesus, you get forgiveness for your past. You get a purpose to live for in the present. And you get hope for your future. But Jesus starts just where you are. Do you want your life to change? Then appreciate that Jesus is taking the initiative in relating to you. Begin just where you are to communicate with him about your needs. He will meet your greatest needs.
Step three in worshiping Jesus - in having your life changed by him:
3. COME CLEAN ABOUT YOUR SINS
Have you ever noticed how hard it is for us to come clean about our problems? There's a technical term for this: it's called DENIAL. We spend a lot of time deluding ourselves into thinking that we don't really have a problem. You see this in the conversation that Jesus and the woman had at the well.
As the conversation progressed, the woman got excited about what Jesus was offering her. Jesus said, "Go and get your husband," and the woman answered quite honestly, "I don't have a husband" (John 4:17). Now, Jesus knew that proper etiquette in that time demanded that a woman should not talk to a man unless her husband was present. But Jesus had a deeper strategy. Jesus wanted her to realize her need. Jesus wanted her to realize that her main need wasn't water. Her primary need was to deal with her sins. She had to come clean with her true spiritual condition.
I love what happened. Jesus replied, "You're right! You don't have a husband-for you have had five husbands, and you aren't even married to the man you're living with now" (John 4:17-18). Don't you wish you could have seen her face! So the woman played the good old change the subject trick: she brought up a completely unrelated issue to divert attention away from her real need. She didn't want to deal with her sins. She was too embarrassed to come clean about them.
Here's where Jesus got to the heart of the issue. The woman's question had to do with where true worship took place. The Jews believed that worship took place in Jerusalem, but the Samaritans had their own place of worship in Samaria. But Jesus replied:
But the time is coming and is already here when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for anyone who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth. (John 4:23-24)
Jesus said it doesn't really matter where you worship. You can worship in this church as easily as you worship in another church. It doesn't matter when you worship him. You can worship God on a Sunday morning or a Thursday night. It really doesn't matter. It doesn't even matter what style of music you use, or whether you use music at all. What matters is the heart.
Jesus said, "The Father is looking for anyone who will worship him...in spirit and in truth." Jesus was saying that God is looking for people who will worship him with genuine enthusiasm. God isn't interested in performances. In fact, the Bible says that God hates it when people only pretend to worship him. He tells them, "I really wish you would have stayed home." God doesn't want you to go through the motions. God wants you to come clean about your sins, and to begin to worship him with genuine enthusiasm.
I'm amazed that when I come clean with God, he doesn't run the other way. God doesn't turn his head away in disgust when I tell him all that I've done wrong. God isn't even surprised. He already knew. We don't have to pretend with God about our spiritual condition. We don't have to come into church and pretend that we know more about the Bible than we really do. We don't have to act like we have it all together. We can come to God in spirit and in truth and worship him.
Isaiah 1 says these words:
"Come now, let us argue this out," says the LORD. "No matter how deep the stain of your sins, I can remove it. I can make you as clean as freshly fallen snow. Even if you are stained as red as crimson, I can make you as white as wool. If you will only obey me and let me help you. (Isaiah 1:18-19)
God knows how deep your sins are. If you've ever had experience in trying to remove stains from the laundry, you know that you can wreck garments trying to get them clean. I once used so much bleach on an item that it ended up in pieces. God is in the business of getting rid of your sins, no matter how deeply you've been stained. No matter how many bad things you have done. The Bible says, "I can make you as clean as freshly fallen snow."
The reason I'm talking about this today is because we're trying to picture how we would react if Jesus walked into this room - if Jesus knocked on your door at home. If Jesus were here today in bodily form, he would tell you, "I want you to worship me. I want you to be in a right relationship with me. I want you to come clean about your sins. If you come to me, I will take care of your sin problem, and you will become a new person." You can come clean with God about your sins.
How can I worship Jesus? How can he change me? Appreciate that Jesus is taking the initiative with you. Begin just where you are. Come clean about your sins. There's one more step to worshiping Jesus:
4. DELIGHT IN THE DIFFERENCE
The last step you can take in becoming a worshiper of Jesus Christ is that you can begin to delight, to enjoy the difference. When Jesus was done talking to this woman, it changed her forever. John 4:39 reads:
Many Samaritans from the village believed in Jesus because the woman had said, "He told me everything I ever did!" When they came out to see him, they begged him to stay at their village. So he stayed for two days, long enough for many of them to hear his message and believe. Then they said to the woman, "Now we believe because we have heard him ourselves, not just because of what you told us. He is indeed the Savior of the world. (John 4:39-42)
Try to imagine this woman. She used to go get her water in the middle of the day so she wouldn't have to see anyone. Suddenly she couldn't keep quiet. She went running around telling people about Jesus and the difference he had made in her life. Despite her reputation, people took her invitation and came and heard Jesus. As a result, many of them believed and received the gift of eternal life.
If you become a worshiper of Jesus Christ, you will be a changed person. You will be able to enjoy the difference. Others will see the difference. You can become a changed person today.
Jesus teaches us that worship isn't about coming to church. You can come to church all you want, but it doesn't mean you're worshiping. Worship isn't about singing the right songs or even listening to a message and then leaving. Worship is all about meeting Jesus Christ and responding to him in the right way. This woman did. Others had similar experiences and didn't, but this woman met Jesus, responded, and her life was changed forever.
It's time for you to meet Jesus today. I'm going to lead you in a prayer that will help you begin to worship God with genuine enthusiasm. The words aren't as important as what your heart is going to say to God. If you would like to become a worshiper of God, would you close your eyes this morning as we all pray.
Would you say these words in your heart:
Jesus, thank you that you know me and that you take the initiative in becoming my friend. Thank you that you let me begin just where I am - with my needs, my hang-ups, my weaknesses, and all. Thank you that I can come clean with you about my sins. Today I accept what you did for me on the cross. I believe that you died for my sins and that you rose again to give me new life. Today I give my life to you. I want to worship you in spirit and in truth. I want to worship you with genuine enthusiasm. Thank you that as I take this step, I can begin to delight in the difference you're going to make in my life. In your name I pray, Amen.