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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Crossing the threshold from belief to faith

If you have been around church for any time at all, chances are you have heard the story of the woman at the well.  A Samaritan woman, coming to draw water for her household, the time of day about noon, has a "chance encounter" with Jesus, the Great Teacher of the Jews.  To some this may not seem very significant, but we must understand the differences between the staunch religious Jews and the Samaritans.  The Samaritans were considered to be "pagan Jews" - not exactly respected by the religious Jews simply because they chose to worship in Bethel or Dan (two places of worship established when Jeroboam was king.  They were "replacement" cities of worship - replacing Jerusalem as the one place of worship.  Eventually, after the Jews returned from captivity, Mt. Gerizim would become the worship center for the Samaritans.  To the staunch religious Jew, this was an outrage - for God's presence dwelt within the Holy of Holies within the Temple in Jerusalem.  So, there is not a whole lot of "good will" between the two - in fact, they are living at odds with each other.  The fact Jesus would even "bother" to speak with a Samaritan, much less a woman from the Samaritan "clan", was an outrage to many.  To spend time in their towns was absolutely unheard of!  It never ceases to amaze me what Jesus did to counter the "religious" in his generation and what he still does to counter the religious in ours!


Many of the Samaritans from that village committed themselves to him because of the woman’s witness: “He knew all about the things I did. He knows me inside and out!” They asked him to stay on, so Jesus stayed two days. A lot more people entrusted their lives to him when they heard what he had to say. They said to the woman, “We’re no longer taking this on your say-so. We’ve heard it for ourselves and know it for sure. He’s the Savior of the world!” (John 4:39-42 MSG)


As the story goes, Jesus "wowed" the woman at the well when he told her he had "living water" which he would share with her and that the "living water" did not come from a man-made well.  If this wasn't enough to give her a moment to pause, she certainly would have when he announced that neither the Samaritan's Mt. Gerizim nor the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem would be the ultimate place of worship for either group of people - for the day was coming when the place of worship would not be a building, but the heart and spirit of a man or woman!  If this didn't get her tangled up in all kinds of deep thought, he exposes the truth about her "multiple marriages" and current "infidelity" without ever before meeting this woman!  So, in short - he challenged her beliefs, exposed her real self, and then reminded her that a way was made for her to enter into true relationship with God by receiving this "living water" (Jesus himself)!

Now, the story doesn't stop there, for as much as this woman could have kept this to herself, she did not - the whole town was told what she had seen, heard, and experienced at noon on that hot day in the region of Sychar.  Many believed - many received - many were transformed.  At first, this was only because of her "witness" - because she told them all these things she had experienced.  This is often the case when we first come into belief - it is based on what we see and hear from another.  We are drawn in because of their own life story - their story of change.  In that story, we find hope and we allow ourselves to believe the change is possible for us, as well.  Yet, it didn't stop with the testimony of the woman - for belief to take root, it has to move from "hearsay" into personal experience.

This is often the place where we get "hung up" in our walk with Christ.  We settle for "hearsay" - the testimony of another.  In so doing, we never move from just believing the "witness" to the place of becoming the witness.  There is a transition which occurs between belief and action - one which "cements" or "settles" the faith upon which our beliefs are based.  At first, we commit because we see the possibilities of faith - in the life of another.  In the end, Christ asks that we commit to the fruitfulness of faith because he invades our own life.  This is when transformation begins to occur - at the place of transition.  I spoke about transitions a little yesterday, but I want us to see the importance of not glossing over the importance of coming to that specific place which challenges us to "cross over".  

At the moment of movement from hearsay (what another lives and believes) into the place of action on our part, we find strongholds of unbelief and areas of unforgiveness breaking down.  The lives of these Samaritans would never be the same because one Jewish Teacher took the time to sit at the well with this one woman.  But...don't lose sight of the woman and her testimony in bringing them to the place of transition!  It was her testimony which created the interest - his presence created their hope!  This is the case in our daily walk - the testimony of another may peak our interests in transitioning from one place of belief into another - but it is his presence which brings us safely across the threshold!  Just sayin!