March 31 Esight, 2010

Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water . . . Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw.” He said to her, “Go, call your husband and come here” (John 4:10–16).Last week, we made the claim that the living water Jesus was offering to the woman at the well was actually an encounter with the other-centered, non-condemning, selfless, genuine love that only comes from God Himself (see 1 John 4:7). We gave a series of evidences for this, but the strongest evidence is that when the woman finally did ask for it, in order for Jesus to actually give it to her, He had to bring up the subject of her husband. Why does the conversation abruptly take this twist? What was Jesus up to? I think it’s quite simple and obvious if one thinks about it for just a moment.

At the end of the dialogue with this woman, she runs back to her village and states, “Come meet a man who told me everything bad I’ve ever done.” What Jesus actually told her was that she had been married five times and, to put it bluntly, the man she was living with currently was just what my folks would have called “shacking up.” I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to talk to complete strangers about their marital past before, but I would imagine the last response to be expected would be for them to get excited about it (if it was much like this woman’s) and for them to go run off to all their friends so they could come and meet you, too! It’s a very odd story, to say the least. What on earth is going on here, and what does it have to do with Jesus’ gift of living water?

John tells us that the law came through Moses, but grace and truth were realized through Jesus (John 1:17). Grace and truth. Both. Put yourself in this woman’s shoes for just a moment and imagine how you’d feel as Jesus recounts all the mistakes you’ve made in your past. But something is different. As he lists all your mistakes, His expression never changes, the look in His eyes does not drift into disappointment, He doesn’t pull away, there is no censor, only acceptance, forgiveness, compassion and pure, non-condemning love. You begin to realize that He really does know everything there is to know about you, and, yet, He still passionately loves you with all of it. This kind of love is “living water!” When I grew up, people used to tell me, “Love is blind.” And although I understand what they meant, I don’t need a love that’s blind! I need a love that knows everything there is to know about me and yet loves me nonetheless for it. A love that knows the truth about me, but the worse that reality is, the more His grace abounds. I need a love that is not just full of truth, but grace and truth. What this woman saw was the same reality Paul later encountered, too, that where “Sin abounds, Grace does much more abound” (Romans 5:20). What this woman encountered was the deeply intimate embrace of an all-enveloping love for her very soul, just the way she was. And do you know what the beauty of this kind of love is? Though it loves you just the way you are, it never leaves you quite the same as when it found you. It immediately begins to transform its object into the same exact image of itself. It becomes a fountain inside us, flowing out toward others as well. We immediately begin to want to be able to love like that! And when that takes place, then we begin to realize what “Salvation” really is. We, at that point, pass from death unto life, and enter a world of extravagant love, amazing grace, and an intimate relationship with the most beautiful Being in all the universe, a Being others before us have defined as — Love.

March 25 Esight, 2010

Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up unto eternal life.” – John 4:13, 14Recently I asked an audience a central question about this passage; what was the “living water” that Jesus mentioned? I received a myriad of answers, all of which left me wanting more. None of them fit. Maybe that’s because truth is often so simple that we miss it. We have a tendency to make things more difficult than they need to be. The most adamant of the answers I received was “eternal life!” However, I want you to notice carefully that the living water becomes a fountain inside us, a fountain that springs up and overflows from within us, leading to eternal life. The water and “eternal life” are not the same thing.

So, then, what is this living water?

Well, it has certain qualities:

1) It can only be received from God Himself.

2) Once received, it satisfies so deeply that our insatiable “thirsting,” our deep sense of need and void, is met and filled permanently.

3) It then becomes something inside of us that flows from us to others.

4) And lastly, it grows and develops into Eternity itself.

Hmmmmm. Do you know it yet? Have you guessed it?

David too found that his “soul” was “thirsty” and that nothing in this world could satisfy it (see Psalms 63:1). Later, however, he found that every desire and longing he had ever felt was fully satisfied by this same “living water” (see Psalms 145:16).

Do you know now? Compare the following verses to the qualities listed above.

1) Love is from God, and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God . . . for God is love. (1 John 4:7, 8)

2) . . . And to know the love of Christ, which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:19)

3) We love, because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19)

4) We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. (1 John 3:14)

The living water is love! Genuine, other-centered, selfless, self-sacrificing, self-abandoning love. It hopes all things, believes all things, and bears all things. It only stems from God Himself, who embodies and exemplifies this kind of Love. Once we taste it, it satisfies so deeply that we truly feel we were created to drink it. Next, it immediately springs up and flows outward, toward others, changing us into its very image. It is at that point, when we have been converted from self-centeredness to other-centeredness (see 2 Corinthians 5:14, 15), that we have passed from death unto life.

There is one more unmistakable proof that Jesus referenced God’s love when he spoke of the living water. This proof is evidenced in what Jesus said next to the dear woman at the well. However, we will save that discussion for next week. See if you can figure it out before then. Happy pondering!

I wish you God’s best this week.

March 19 Esight, 2010

” . . . and through them is my glory revealed.” —John 17:10Over and over again, Jesus sought to teach us that the way we relate to others will directly affect what others think God is like. It becomes too painfully obvious when one realizes that there are masses in the world today who want to have nothing to do with God, not because they’ve had a bad experience with some heathen but because they had a bad run-in with someone who claims to follow God. Recently, I was walking down the main street of the little town I live in, and I saw the bumper sticker that has become all too popular: “I’m not afraid of God but of those who claim to be His people.” Jesus, on the other hand, encouraged us:

“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

In the gospels, Jesus contrasted the imagery of light and darkness. Darkness is the root of all rebellion. Darkness is the lies that have been perpetrated and believed concerning the character of our Heavenly Father (the presentations for more on this.) Light, on the other hand is the truth seen in the life of Christ about the character of the heavenly Father that dispels the darkness/lies. Follow closely:

“Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life’” (John 8:12).

“I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.” (John 12:46).

“For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6).

But Jesus did make a qualification:

“While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world” (John 9:5).

Did you catch it? “While I am in the world . . .” What happened when He left? It’s quite simple. He left the work He had begun of illuminating hearts with the light of God’s character of love to be finished by those who believed in the love He was revealing—us. Again, how we act, how we treat others, will, either for the good or for the bad, directly influence what others think about God.

Jesus not only called Himself this, but He also said:

“You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14, emphasis added).

“A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Revelation 12:1, In the book of Revelation God’s people are wreathed in the familiar sources we know as light).

Whether for better or for worse, those who claim to be God’s people will always color the perceptions of others as to what God is truly like. It was for this reason that Jesus prayed for us so intently at the end of His life here: “I pray for them; I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, because they belong to you. All that is mine is yours, and what is yours is mine; and through them is my glory revealed” (John 17:9). Thoughts worthy of meditating on for sure. This next week, let’s mix things up a bit and show the world that God is love.

March 10 Esight, 2010

The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand—John 3:35.”In the light of the Saviour’s life, the hearts of all, even from the Creator to the prince of darkness, are revealed. Satan has represented God as selfish and oppressive, as claiming all, and giving nothing, as requiring the service of His creatures for His own glory, and making no sacrifice for their good. But the gift of Christ reveals the Father’s heart . . . It declares that while God’s hatred of sin is as strong as death, His love for the sinner is stronger than death. Having undertaken our redemption, He will spare nothing, however dear, which is necessary to the completion of His work. No truth essential to our salvation is withheld, no miracle of mercy is neglected, no divine agency is left unemployed. Favor is heaped upon favor, gift upon gift. The whole treasury of heaven is open to those He seeks to save. Having collected the riches of the universe, and laid open the resources of infinite power, He gives them all into the hands of Christ, and says, “All these are for man. Use these gifts to convince him that there is no love greater than Mine in earth or heaven” (White, The Desire of Ages, p. 57).

It’s been over a decade since I first read the above statement, but it still moves my heart every time. Especially that last part:

“Having collected the riches of the universe, and laid open the resources of infinite power, He gives them all into the hands of Christ, and says, “All these are for man. Use these gifts to convince him that there is no love greater than Mine in earth or heaven.”

Could it really be this simple? The primary point of the incarnation (and theologians tend to make it way more complicated) was that it was simply one giant gift for the purpose of proving to us that what was really in the heart of the Ruler of the Universe toward us was one thing and one thing only—the greatest Love ever to be in existence.

In my mind’s eye, I begin to see the Father behind the scenes of every event of Jesus’ life, enabling, devising, orchestrating—moment by moment—situations for just this purpose: to show us His love. Every act of mercy, touch of healing, or word of kindness, everything Jesus gave, had first been given to Him by the Father for us. So much so that at the end of Jesus’ life He could say with confidence, “I have made you known on the earth; I have finished the work that you have given me to do” (John 17:4).

It is said that if you really want to get to know someone, look at how they act when they think no one is watching. Actions truly reveal what is in a person’s heart toward you as nothing else can. I want to encourage you this week to take some time to go back over some of your favorite events in Jesus’ life and, instead of this time thinking of what they reveal about Jesus, let your heart wander beyond all of that to see what type of person the Father must be as well.

I wish you God’s best this week.

March 3 Esight, 2010

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” John 3.5-6Born of water and the Spirit? What’s interesting to me is that we usually associate this verse immediately with baptism, but I believe Jesus may have been trying to make a much deeper point.

Follow closely—in the first few verses of the Bible, there is some very interesting language used.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.” Genesis 1.1-5

The earth itself was born from the Spirit moving over the surface of the waters. At that moment, God cried out, “Let there be light.” Over and over, Jesus used this imagery of light shining in the darkness. The darkness is all of our darkened misapprehensions and misconceptions of God and what type of God we perceive Him to be. It’s the lies we have been told and that we have believed concerning Him and His character. The light, on the other hand, is the truth concerning God’s character of love as revealed through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, God’s Son.

Keep following:

“For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God [His Love] in the face of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4.6

It is at the moment when the Spirit is hovering once again over the “waters” of our heart, which is without form and void, that God cries out, “Let there be light.” But it’s not literal light, like we see emanating from a light bulb. It’s the revelation of God’s love for us, shining from the life and death of Jesus Himself, in contrast to the darkness of lies we have believed about Him.

When we are “born” of this experience, born of “water and Spirit”, we cease to be simply born of the flesh, conceived of human design and origin. We become born now of the Spirit, of this new revelation of God and the truth regarding His character. Naturally, we are of the flesh—very selfish, very self-centered. But to be born of the Spirit, to be born from a revelation of God and the truth of His love, radically changes us from the inside out. It transforms and converts us from being selfish to “no longer living for ourselves but for Him who died for us and rose again.” 2 Corinthians 5:14,15. Love has awakened love.

Something to ponder this week: being born again is much more than just saying a sinner’s prayer or taking a giant bath in the front of some church. It’s a radical orientation shift that comes through encountering God for who He really is.

I wish you God’s best this week. Happy pondering.