Friday, October 28, 2016

The First Evangelist

The First Evangelist

Who do you think of when you hear the word evangelist? For many of us, that would be Billy Graham.

By definition, an evangelist is a person who seeks to convert others to the Christian faith, especially by public preaching. (Google search)

Likely, you’ve never wondered who the first in that field was.

Let’s take another look at the woman at the well, as recorded in John’s Gospel. As mentioned in my last post, she was a person who would be unnoticed and disregarded by any Jew—especially any upstanding Jewish man. After all she had three strikes against her: she was a Samaritan; she was a woman; she had a bad reputation. 

Yet Jesus gave her His full attention and even told her He was, in fact, the Jewish Messiah. Other than His disciples, this unqualified woman, whose name we don’t even know, was the first person to whom Jesus revealed His identity as the Christ.

According to John, it was just after Jesus said, “I am He,” that His disciples showed up with lunch. They were shocked to find Jesus having a conversation with this undesirable person. 

The woman, by this time, was full to overflowing with living water. She left her waterpot by the well and rushed back into the city of Sychar. 

John records that she went into the city and told the men, “Come, see a man who told me all things I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” (John 4:39)

Her enthusiasm must have been convincing. Can you imagine the changed countenance of this woman? She was known to the locals as tainted. She was personally insecure and guilt-ridden. But now—now—she was radiant. She had met the Messiah—the Deliverer—Who had just delivered her from her shame and her past. Now, all of a sudden, she was a change agent—an influencer in her city. 

Immediately those she told left the city and went out to see Jesus for themselves. The Gospel writer says that many people of the city believed in Jesus because of her testimony when she said, “He told me all that I ever did” (John 4:39).

The townsfolk then urged Jesus to stay with them for they were hungry for more. Like the woman, they were thirsty for the living water that only Jesus could give.

So Jesus and His disciples stayed with them in Sychar for two days, and according to John, “Many more believed because of His own word. Then they said to the woman, ‘Now, we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world’” (John 4:41-42).

So now this city of Sychar, in the outcast region of Samaria, is known as the first place where a large group of people became followers of Christ. And this outcast woman was the first recorded evangelist. She believed Jesus, then went out to tell her testimony to others and said to them, “Come and see.”

We learn much form John’s chronicled account. Our King will not hesitate to go to downcast places to reach downcast people. We also see here some principles of the Great Commission. As Jesus ascended to Heaven after His resurrection, He said, “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19a).

In obeying His command, we are to tell of our own experiences with Jesus, and invite people to come and see for themselves. We can also introduce others to Jesus, using our Bibles and by inviting them to church.

Without a pulpit or a title, we can tell others about Jesus. Eloquence is not necessary and credentials are not required. Like the woman at the well, we can each be an evangelist. We should routinely ask God to show us who to tell and invite. I know it’s not easy for most of us, but the Holy Spirit is well able to lead us. Also, He just may be preparing that person’s heart to receive what we have to say. 

There are lots of thirsty people out there and within each follower of Christ is an ever-flowing fountain of living water. We have the words of Eternal Life. Let’s tell them to, “Come and see.”

Your comments are welcome.

©Connie Wohlford 2016

Friday, October 21, 2016

Three Strikes—You’re NOT Out!

Three Strikes—You’re NOT Out!

Stee—rike! We love to hear that when our opponent is up to bat. 

Three strikes and you’re out in the game of baseball. But with Jesus—not so.

Often times we feel we’ve messed up one too many times for Jesus to pick us up and take us back again. Or perhaps we think we’ve just got too many strides against us for Him to even glance our way. 

As recorded in John’s Gospel, 4th chapter, Jesus encountered such a person beside a well in the region of Samaria. 

Weary from travel, Jesus sat down near the well. Before long, a woman came—alone—to draw water. 

The woman was taken aback when Jesus said, “Give Me a drink” (John 4:7).

First off, she was a woman and He was a Jewish man. Jewish men simply didn’t talk to women in public. On top of that, this woman was a Samaritan which assigned her to a position considered inferior to Jews—a person with whom any upstanding Jew would have no sort of dealings. So that’s two strikes against her right there.

But Jesus asked her to give Him a drink of water. That even meant He would be drinking out of her vessel—that was a big no-no!

So, here’s Jesus addressing, as well as requesting a service of, a person who He should not even acknowledge, according to societal standards.
And that’s not the end of it, He went on to engage in further conversation—unheard of! 

Jesus said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would ask Him, and He would have given you living water” (John 4:10 NKJV).

She didn’t get it. Actually, I don't think I would have either.
She pointed out that the well was deep and He had nothing with which to draw water. Besides, where would He get living water, she inquired.

Jesus explained, “Whoever drinks of this water thirsts again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (vv. 13-14).
The woman then said, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.”

By now she knew she wanted what Jesus had to give but still didn’t understand His living water. Would you understand? Would I?  

I’d like to interject here that I’m so grateful for the Holy Spirit. Jesus knew exactly what was going on in this woman’s mind and the Holy Spirit was apparently working in her spirit. Very often, believing in Jesus is a process. Jesus was bringing her along and at a point in time, she would know with whom she was talking.

Jesus changed the subject and said, “Go, call your husband, and come here” (v.16). 

She answered, “I have no husband.”

Jesus, of course, already knew that and even knew her life history, which had apparently had a few bumps in the road.

He then said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly” (vv. 17-18).

Strike THREE! This woman apparently had a bad reputation. There are several possible reasons she had gone through five husbands, but because she was at the well alone at midday, it appears the other women in her city would have nothing to do with her. 

Typically, the women of a village or city would go together to get water in the early morning and in the evening. There was safety in numbers and these excursions would serve as social outings, timed to allow them to avoid the heat of midday. 

So there she was—with three strikes against her. 

The two spoke briefly on the subject of worship (a whole other topic).

Then He did it. Jesus bestowed, on this supposed outcast, a great blessing. To her, right then and there, He revealed His identity as the Christ. Their conversation made its way to the topic of the expected Messiah and in verse 26, Jesus said to her, “I who you speak to am He.”

As best I can tell, this Samaritan woman, whose name we don’t even know, was the first person, (other than His disciples), to whom Jesus openly revealed His identity as Messiah—the long awaited One.

WOW! Three strikes against her but she was not out. Instead, Jesus elevated her to a level beyond her wildest imagination. 

What a marvelous occasion for Jesus to disclose some elements of His character. To name a few:

  • Jesus values men and women equally.
  • Jesus came to rescue people of all stations in life.
  •  Jesus is not prejudice regarding race or culture.
  • Jesus is willing to step outside culturally accepted traditions and rules to reach people. 
  •  Jesus is for the underdog.
  • Jesus loves the unlovable. 
  •  Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves.

It’s been said that the ground is level at the foot of the cross of Christ. How very true for this one, known as the woman at the well.

SO—ponder this—from what has Jesus lifted you? 
I’m pondering on that myself.

By the way—this is not the end of her story. We’ll continue next time.

Thanks for reading my post today. <> I hope it blessed you in some way. <> Type below if you to have something to say. <> Meanwhile, do have a Jesus-filled day!

©Connie Wohlford 2016

Friday, October 14, 2016

That part of that verse puzzled me.

That part of that verse puzzled me.
There are several things in the Bible that puzzle me. But I had light shed on one of those things recently during my personal study time. My quandary was located near the beginning of the nighttime conversation between Jesus and the Jewish leader, Nicodemus. 

The passage goes like this: Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:1-5 ESV).

Please re-read verse 5. Do you want to guess what in that verse had puzzled me?
Photo by Frances Gunn from Unsplash

I’ll just tell you. It’s the part about the water. I’ve always had a hard time figuring out just what water Jesus was talking about. Have you ever wondered that yourself? 

I previously knew of two possibilities, but in reading a commentary from Bible Study Fellowship International I learned of a third one. 

The three options are:
1- Some say it’s the water we come through when we’re physically born by natural means. But, to me, that has never made sense because Jesus would be saying that in order to be saved, we must be physically born. Uh-----I just don’t think that’s it because we’re all physically born and there’s water (amniotic fluid) involved. [Side note: Back in the olden days when I gave birth, that was called the bag of waters.]
2- Then there’s water baptism. This would mean that Jesus is saying that water baptism is a requirement for a person to enter the Kingdom of God. We know that’s not the case. If someone gets saved, but then dies before they can get baptized this would mean they would be condemned to Hell. NOT SO! God commands water baptism as the outward sign of the inward reality of believing and receiving Christ.
3- So thirdly, The Bible often analogizes water with the Word of God. It’s frequently a picture of God’s Word cleansing and giving life. 

When talking to His disciples, Jesus said, “You are already clean because of the word that I have spoken to you” (John 15:3 NKJV).

Speaking of Himself and His love for the church, Jesus said, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word,” (Ephesians 5:26 NKJV).

Speaking to followers of Jesus, Peter said, “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever” (1 Peter 1:22-23).

Therefore, I’m saying that the truth of God’s Word has got to wash over us, bringing us to Spiritual rebirth. According to John 3:6, flesh gives birth to flesh and Spirit gives birth to spirit. This new birth is a spiritual work that only God can do. We simply must believe in Jesus and receive Him into our hearts. Basically, we’re saying, “Yes,” to God. In doing so, we open our hands and receive His offer of Salvation/Eternal Life.

When we do this, we really do become a new person, as though we were literally born-again. We’ve turned a page and all things are made new—we have a new mindset, a new worldview, a new sense of love, peace and joy. We see the Kingdom of God and have a great sense of gratitude that God the Father, through His Son, Jesus, has rescued us and brought us into His own family.

We are indeed “born of water and the Spirit.”

If, at this moment, you are not born-again but wish to be, please do this:
Believe that Jesus is the Son of God, just as the Bible says, and decide to receive Him into your heart. Simply tell Him and invite Him in. You can pray this prayer: Lord God, I believe that Jesus is your only Son, just as the Bible says. I now invite Him into my heart and receive Him as my personal Savior. Thank you, Lord, for giving me Eternal Life. In Jesus name I pray—Amen.
If you’ve just prayed that prayer, please take these next steps: Tell someone who is a follower of Jesus; begin to read God’s Word—the Bible, every day; and hook up with a good Bible believing church fellowship. Ask God to help you find the right church and the right friends to hang out with. May God richly bless you in your new life in Him!

I’m curious to know if anyone else has ever wondered about the water Jesus spoke of in John 3:5. Am I the only one?

Your comments are welcome.

©Connie Wohlford 2016