Unbelievable

This is a message about the vision of River of Life.

From time to time, I share the vision so that we continue to move toward it.

Since we are a church, we must realize that we already have a vision…that is the vision of that Jesus gave us.

Let us remember that God does not want anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

The Church is the greatest organization on earth:

  • We are international.
  • We are far-reaching.
  • We are family-focussed.
  • We are multitasking, and
  • we belong to the One True God.

Let us never sell ourselves short.

We belong to Christ, and we are His assembly.

In fact, the word, “Church” is based on two Greek words: “Kuriakos” meaning “belonging to the Lord, and “ekklesia” meaning “called out.”

We are the “Called out who belong to Jesus…”

…and therefore, we honor the Lord and His Great Commission.

Next Sunday is Missions Sunday, and we are supporting missions around the world and in this country.

As a church, we must realize that God is here, and therefore we can do great things for His glory.

We don’t need to wait for the move of God, we, in fact, ARE the MOVE of God!

We can make history!

My parents were the single greatest influence on me in my earliest years, and now that they are in their declining years, I’ve asked them to show me how to age well, and not give up.

And we are an older congregation, today,

but I believe that we will become a younger one as we continue to be the Church…

“the Called Out Who Belong to the Lord!”

We must become WELCOMERS!

The Word to the Church 2000 years ago, is the same today.

And we are to be alert and watchful.

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.

Matthew 24:42

Sometimes people remain alert and keep watch by trying to determine the time of Jesus’ return….

…And they have made fools of themselves as false prophets.

Let’s understand alertness like a soldier on guard duty…

he cannot be caught sleeping on the job.

Let us be people who remain at attention.

God has brought us into John chapter 4, literally, as a church-body, we live in John 4 right now, and we need to look to the Lord in order to move forward.

In John 4, there is the well-known story of Jesus speaking with a Samaritan woman at a well.

Let me briefly recap the story:

Jesus and his disciples were traveling on foot from Jerusalem to Lakeside (well, Galilee was beside a lake, right J )…

Instead of traveling around Samaria, as was the custom for generations, they traveled through it.

One day, at noon, Jesus stopped by a well near the town of Sychar.

While he waited there, his disciples went into town to get food.

In the interim, a Samaritan woman approached the well.

Possibly she and the disciples had passed one another.

While it was not typical for Jews to pass through Samaria, it was, also, not typical for women to gather water in the middle of the day.

Women usually did this early in the day, and they would talk and share the news of the day with each other.

This woman was coming at noon.

We know from the story that she had been married five times and was now living with a man outside of marriage.

That is probably why she came midday …to avoid the gossipers.

She was probably surprised to see Jesus by the well.

Jesus spoke to her, and throughout the conversation, He began to breakdown

  • tradition,
  • racial division,
  • he gave honor to her as a woman,
  • she felt the conviction of God in her life, and
  • he revealed to her that He was the Messiah.

This was such a life-changing event for her, that she went to the town,

to the people who had judged her,

and invited them to meet Jesus, too.

O…that we, too, would invite people to meet Jesus!

Now I want to read the Scriptures that follow:

39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers.

42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

John 4:39-42

Pray

  1. UNBELIEVABLE

For many people, it is UNBELIEVABLE to break from tradition.

It is UNBELIEVABLE to go against their own ideas.

It is UNBELIEVABLE that another idea could be correct.

It is UNBELIEVABLE that people with hardened hatred toward others would be able to get along.

When I was a kid, my friends and I used to act like we were fighting against the Germans, as though it were still WWII.

Today, we have Germans as friends, and even Vietnamese.

I remember when Clover and I first met Vietnamese refugees, and we spent hours and hours with them, week after week, helping and befriending them.

It’s hard to believe that Vietnamese were once our enemies.

I was surprised to learn that the huge movement of Christianity in South Korea came as a result of so many North Korean Christian refugees fleeing the Communist regime.

When Jesus was in Samaria in John 4, he broke with many

  • social,
  • cultural and
  • historic traditions.

When his critics heard this, they thought it WAS UNBELIEVABLE!

Jesus was indeed a REVOLUTIONARY!:

SOCIAL REVOLUTION: Men Honoring Women

It was UNBELIEVABLE that Jesus would talk with a woman, anyway.

The woman who came to the well,

-probably didn’t expect Jesus to talk to her because he was a man,

-and if he did talk with her,

then it would have been an immoral conversation…

and yet, Jesus spoke to her…

He STILL speaks to women.

Today it is NOT UNBELIEVABLE to know that Jesus speaks to women.

Praise God that Jesus reached out to women at that time.

Where would we be if it weren’t for Jesus?

Probably, still living in the Dark Ages.

In Jesus’ day, women were not educated.

In our own history, women used to not be allowed to vote.

Change, Is Good.

CULTURAL REVOLUTION: A Jew speaking with a non-Jew, and especially the worst of the non-Jews…a Samaritan

It was UNBELIEVABLE that Jesus would ask her for a drink, since Samaritans and Jews did not share the same dishes, and yet,

He did….he does life with people from all over the world.

There was a time, not long ago, when there were “Colored” restrooms and water fountains.

There were sections of restaurants only for Whites, and sections of the bus, too.

And prior to that, was an even more demonic and horrible time in our history when we enslaved humans to work for us.

I am so thankful for Change…aren’t you?

SPIRITUAL REVOLUTION: Jesus offered a non-Jewish, non-male person eternal life

It was UNBELIEVABLE that Jesus would offer the woman living water, when he didn’t even have a bucket…and yet, that is what he did…and still does.

We are His bucket…we are his instrument

I am so glad that Jesus did not follow tradition, but was a revolutionary.

SPIRITUAL REVOLUTION (2): Jesus knew this woman’s life.

It was UNBELIEVABLE that Jesus would know the personal, nitty-gritty background of this woman whom he had never met,

and yet, he did

and he still does, even today.

This woman probably didn’t expect to meet a prophet, but when she did meet a Jewish prophet,

…it was UNBELIEVABLE that He would not answer the favorite theological question between Jews and Samaritans in typical Jewish fashion….

and his answer was so different.

The Jews and Samaritans argued about where one should worship God…either on a mountain called Gerazim or in the Temple in Jerusalem.

Jesus taught her that the nature of worship is not a place, but it is SPIRIT and TRUTH.

RELIGIOUS REVOLUTION: Religious traditions are useful to draw people to God, not to block people

It was UNBELIEVABLE that true worship would

  • not be nationalistic,
  • nor bound to a location,
  • but in hearts and spirits of people.

He said of the nature of worship, that the true worshipper must do so in spirit and in truth.

True worship doesn’t happen

  • in a particular place, or
  • language or
  • style,
  • but is spiritual and full of truth.

It would have been UNBELIEVABLE for the woman to awaken that day and think,

“today, I’m going to meet the Messiah,”

but that is what happened.

So much was UNBELIEVABLE about this story, and yet, the story is about belief—Faith.

It’s about faith!

  1. BELIEVABLE

What is BELIEVABLE is that this whole story is the story of faith! Belief.

And we are called to believe.

We are called to follow!

We are called to minister with Jesus.

He does not call us to serve as we want, but as He wants.

Human nature compartmentalizes our faith, and designates that we are able to tolerate certain things, but not others.

This Samaritan woman began to believe.

She had a change in her Faith.

It was not just an expression of belief in something, but it was a change of lifestyle.

Jesus described in John 3 as being “Born Again.”

This village changed because Jesus came there.

It is BELIEVABLE to think that the disciples would have hindered his work, so he sent them away.

It is BELIEVABLE to think that the disciples would not have wanted him to talk to an unknown woman

(he might then expect them to talk with unknown women…btw, while this sermon was on my mind, I was sitting in a waiting room and began to talk with the “unknown woman” who was sitting next to me, and was able to encourage her in her belief in Jesus).

It is BELIEVABLE that His disciples would not have wanted him to drink from a foreigner’s cup.

I, too, don’t like to drink from anyone else’s cup. I know some people have no problem with that. When we moved to Kazakhstan, I was surprised at how people used to stick their spoons into the jam jar, lick them, and put them back into the jar, again.

It is BELIEVABLE to have thought that Jesus was crazy to offer water when His bucket wasn’t visible.

His disciples might have thought it UNBELIEVABLE that Jesus would offer water to the woman, when they knew he had no physical water to offer.

It is BELIEVABLE to think that His disciples might have picked up stones, or judged the woman if they knew of her immoral lifestyle.

It is BELIEVABLE to think that His disciples were not focused upon reaching the lost, as much as they were focused on taking care of their own needs;

getting out of Samaria;

getting home to Galilee.

It is BELIEVABLE that even when they were focused upon the lost, they were not willing to reach out to the Samaritans.

There was too much bad press about these Samaritans.

They could not be trusted.

They didn’t follow all of Scripture.

They were ethnically a different race…a mixed race.

They had such a bad history with the Jews, as every religion of the Middle East had been practiced there (though, every religion of Canaan had been practiced by Jews in Israel, previously, TOO).

Jesus was willing, and later, told His Disciples (and us, too) that the Gospel would be preached in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth.

Samaria was smack in the middle of Israel.

Just as smack in the middle of our changing community, we have a varied group of people.

God said we must love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

This included the Samaritans.

This includes the young and the old, it includes Democrats and Republicans, it includes Buddhists and Hindus. It includes even the Muslims.

This does not mean that by welcoming these people we are changing our belief in Jesus for our salvation.

The Gospel has not changed.

In fact, there are people who have become disgusted with the Church because we have excluded people, and not welcomed them.

I am not wanting to win any popularity contests, but I want to please God and be obedient to Him.

I will not change my theology, I will not water down the Gospel.

Jesus Christ is the ONLY way to Heaven, and these nations moving to our community Must hear this Good News!

But if we ignore the community around us, then we do it to our shame and detriment.

Our children and our neighbors will pay the price when we are gone.

Our children and our neighbors need to see us practicing the Word of God.

Many Christians want REVIVAL, well, we need that revival to begin in our hearts and churches.

Why do we want revival?

Is it for us?

For us, alone?

Or is it for those who don’t know Jesus?

My friends in Kazakhstan are facing a court case because they are sharing Bibles throughout the country.

Are we willing to get uncomfortable, like our brothers and sisters who are serving in other lands?

The disciples would not have wanted to discuss this woman’s personal life and love life, and yet, Jesus did.

I share this, today, because I am extending God’s grace to us all….let’s not think of ourselves, but let’s think of others, and reach out to others.

Let us be a church of Contributors and Not a church of consumers.

  1. From Unbelief to Belief

The progression from unbelief to belief is inspiring and incredible.

I look forward to seeing people fill these altars for prayer,

and I look forward to hearing stories of people praying to receive Jesus in homes

and in the fellowship hall…

in parks and in office lunch rooms,

at J. Sargent Reynolds and at Virginia Center Commons.

I look forward to seeing people baptized in the pool behind me.

In the story, I told you about how the woman came to faith in Jesus, but the Scripture we read showed how the people came to faith.

Let’s read it, again:

41 And because of his words many more became believers.

42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

John 4:41, 42

Because of Jesus’ Words.

Because of Jesus’ Words, you and I believe, today.

Because of Jesus’ Words, we gather here, today.

And He wants us to take His Words to the community, praying in faith, and seeing people restored, healed, delivered and received into God’s family.

God calls us to follow Jesus, to believe His Word, and to continue to learn.

We are to keep watch, like a soldier at his post…let’s not let our commander in chief find us asleep.

You may think I am being idealistic, and yes, I have much still to learn as a follower of Jesus, but it IS BELIEVABLE.

Our salvation is BELIEVABLE, too.

In fact, it is not attainable via laws, actions or ethnicity.

Our salvation is received through belief.

Belief in the work of the Son of God

And we need to see salvation preached, and people reached.

Our church should be full of people. Many have told me that they have even had visions from God that our church building would be full of people.

But, as I said at the beginning, we, as a church, are in John chapter 4.

We are either going to welcome the Samaritans and ADVANCE,

or we are not going to advance in the training that Jesus is leading us in.

I see the history of this church, and the position of this BUILDING—physically in this community, and I believe that the future of this congregation is sound.  I believe that the future of this church is beautiful.

If you are interested in making History, then participate with us.

All churches will be actively reaching out to Internationals in the future, but we are desiring this now.

Our English Club is needed. We are the only church in Northside that is offering this. We are already making history, and God is at work.

Remember “History” is “His Story.” I’m so excited to be part of God’s Story on earth. It is our privilege.

This is BELIEVABLE, and it is exciting to recognize the believability.

Let’s pray.

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