In his autobiography, Just As I Am, Billy Graham tells about a conversation he had with John F. Kennedy shortly after his election:
“On the way back to the Kennedy house, the president-elect stopped the car and turned to me. ‘Do you believe in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ?’ he asked.
“‘I most certainly do.’
“‘Well, does my church believe it?’
“‘They have it in their creeds.’
“‘They don’t preach it’ he said. ‘They don’t tell us much about it. I’d like to know what you think.’
“I explained what the Bible said about Christ coming the first time, dying on the Cross, rising from the dead, and then promising that he would come back again. ‘Only then,’ I said, ‘are we going to have permanent world peace.’
“‘Very interesting,’ he said, looking away. ‘We’ll have to talk more about that someday.’ And he drove on.”
Several years later, the two met again, at the 1963 National Prayer Breakfast.
“I had the flu,” Graham remembers. “After I gave my short talk, and he gave his, we walked out of the hotel to his car together, as was always our custom. At the curb, he turned to me.
“‘Billy, could you ride back to the White House with me? I’d like to see you for a minute.’
“‘Mr. President, I’ve got a fever,’ I protested. ‘Not only am I weak, but I don’t want to give you this thing. Couldn’t we wait and talk some other time?’
“It was a cold, snowy day, and I was freezing as I stood there without my overcoat.
“‘Of course,’ he said graciously.”
But the two would never meet again. Later that year, Kennedy was shot dead. Graham comments, “His hesitation at the car door, and his request, haunt me still. What was on his mind? Should I have gone with him? It was an irrecoverable moment” (GF 1170).
Are there moments in our life when we find ourselves at a crossroads and the decision made at that moment changes us forever? I believe the answer is yes. I believe there are moments in our life which are pivotal and extremely important. I believe that there are decisions made during those moments which forever alter our destiny and the destiny of our family and friends and church. I believe that there are opportunities that lie before us and when we miss the opportunity, it is gone forever. There are irrecoverable moments which stand before us. In the life of every man, woman, boy and girl, comes irrecoverable moments.
The disciples had learned that Jesus lived by the heart of God, not by the traditions of men. It is also interesting that however staggered the disciples might have been, they did not question Jesus about it. They had learned that while sometimes Jesus did surprising things and those things were not to be questions. The disciples had learned that Jesus lived by the heart of God, not by the traditions of men. While that is a sermon in itself, let us look at the message in this story of the Samaritan woman in John 4:1-42.
Salvation has implications for the past.
She was confronted by Christ and she found out that He knew all about her. Her past came flooding forth. While it hurt to hear it, the way Jesus spoke was not like the others. When others dredged up her past, there was condemnation. With Jesus, there was understanding. She was forced to see herself as she really was. Look at vv. 17-18. The same thing happened to Peter. When he saw the power of Christ, all that he could say was, “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” (Luke 5:8).
When we are confronted by Christ, we see ourselves as we really are. All of the pretenses, excuses, outward appearances, all of them are invisible to Him. He compels us to take an honest look at ourselves, for He is truth. It may hurt badly, but it is necessary for change to occur. Our natural tendency is to run from any pain. Sometimes, it is the only way to wholeness.
How is it that we as modern day Christians have become so adept at avoiding the realization of what is truly happening in our hearts and lives? I believe one of the greatest avoidance techniques is by relying on a substitute righteousness such as that which is found in cultural Christianity 101. As long as we can delude ourselves and convince ourselves into thinking that we are spiritually OK because we are meeting the demands of cultural Christianity, then we can avoid looking at the truth. Specifically, as long as we do what our culture says we should do to be a “good Christian” then we do not have to look into the deep spiritual recesses of our heart. Keep things shallow, keep things on the surface, and don’t dare look deep inside yourself. Come to church, dress up nice, play the Baptist game, but do not look to see what your true spiritual condition is. This is cultural Christianity at its best and at the same time at its worst. It is used as a substitute for substance. It is a grave into which many have fallen.
When the quickening power of God’s Holy Spirit begins to speak to your heart, if you are devoted to cultural Christianity, then you know how to deal with it. Rationalization immediately begins in which you tell yourself that you are just as good as anyone else. That rationalization and comparison convince you that there is no need to listen to that still, small voice. Avoidance also comes by the nourishment of negative thoughts which keep you from dealing with the true inadequacies of your own life. Where do you think this tendency for rationalization and avoidance comes from? This Samaritan woman was in awe of the power of Christ. For He compelled her to see herself as she really was. Painful, though it may be, if personal revival is to occur, it must begin with honesty.
Salvation has implications for the present.
The Samaritan woman was overwhelmed by Christ’s ability to see into her heart. Not only did Christ make her see herself as she was, but He was able to look unhindered into her heart. Earlier in the chapter, we see that Jesus knew her life, but more important, He saw in her heart an emptiness caused by worshiping other gods. Yes, He saw into her heart and she was amazed.
It is told that once a small girl heard a sermon by C. H. Spurgeon, and whispered to her mother at the end of it, ”Mother, how does he know what goes on in our house?” Have you ever felt that?
It is the power of Christ Jesus to see into the depths of the human heart. Not only does He see the evil of it, but also the person that you can become. He is like the surgeon who sees the diseased part, but who also sees the health which will follow when the diseased part is removed.
This Samaritan woman was in dialogue with the Son of God. This dialogue is truly one of the most fascinating one could ever read. This woman begins with protesting Jesus’ request for water. It is interesting to note that he totally ignores the silliness of her comment. I am convinced that we waste much time in our churches and Christian circles by discussing things that really are silly to the heart. Her pointing out racial or ethnic division was not even responded to by Christ.
However, look at the ensuing discussion of living water. In this powerful text, Jesus explains and offers living water to this woman. I find it fascinating that He taught her doctrine at this point. He teaches her that living water is eternal water. In other words, He teaches the doctrine of eternal security of the believer. He teaches that when one drinks from the “Jesus fountain,” one never has to drink again. It becomes a well of water springing up to eternal life.
Then the woman engages Christ in a discussion about the appropriateness of where to worship. Jesus teaches her that the appropriate understanding is not where to worship, but who and how to worship. In fact, in His discussion with her, He points out that someday worship will occur neither on Mount Gerizim nor in Jerusalem. What matters is that persons who worship must worship the Father in spirit and in truth. In fact, He says it twice for emphasis’ sake.
It is fascinating that many people still argue about worship styles in this country. God does not really care about our opinion of worship style. What He cares about is that we worship Him and that we do so “in spirit and in truth.” I believe this means we are to worship spiritually and honestly. Is that how you came before the Lord today?
Then look what happens as the conversation comes to a powerful point in verses 25 and 26. While the scripture does not tell all of what happened in her heart, I believe her transformation occurred as Jesus spoke to her in verse 26. After a fascinating time of repartee, Christ gets to the heart of the matter. He relates to the struggling, hurting, sinful human being that he is the one who can bring meaning and order to her life. I believe that it is at this point that he beautifully revealed himself to her and she accepted him as King of her life. He sees us as we truly are, but fortunately He is able to see past the hurt, the sin, and the failure and to see the person that we can become. What does He see in you now?
Salvation has implications for the future.
The first instinct of the Samaritan woman was to share her discovery. Having discovered this amazing man, she was compelled to share her discovery with the others. She was so excited that she even left her water pot. She had found “living water.” See that exciting story in vv. 28-30. Now look with me down to see the results of this sharing in vv. 29-42. Isn’t that exciting? This woman who had been the talk of the town now encouraged the town to talk…about Jesus. This woman who had been the source of moral failure for some now becomes the source of spiritual good news for many. This woman who had been a tribute to wrong living now pointed people to right living.
Isn’t it amazing that this transformation occurred so quickly? Isn’t it wonderful that a person whose life was headed in the exact wrong direction can change in just a short time to become an evangelist for the Lord?
Have you felt God’s redeeming touch upon your life? Have you had a meeting with the Savior like this woman did?
First to find, then to tell are two of the great imperatives of the Christian life.
Christ can make you see yourself as He sees you–as you are. Have you discovered this miracle? Have you found Christ as this woman did? Have you made the discovery complete by sharing of your faith, in word and deed? The best way to put the past in its place is to fill up your present with a ministry of testimony and witness.
Frank S. Page is president and CEO of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention.