Sermon Preached at Grace Community Church (EPC)
Sun City Grand, Surprise, AZ
Sunday, June 21, 2015
by the Reverend Cooper McWhirter
The Doctrine of Assurance: “To Have and Have Not” [Part Four]
In Scripture it speaks about the thirsty believer who can draw from the purifying water that the Lord offers from His wellspring of eternal life. ‘Life-giving’ water where one will thirst no more!
This brings to mind when Jesus and His disciples had departed from Judea on their way to Galilee. But instead of bypassing Samaria, which no self-respecting Jew would ever do, Jesus deliberately came to the city of Sychar.
At noontime, while the disciples went into the city to buy food, Jesus struck up a conversation with a nameless Samaritan woman who came to draw water from Jacob’s well. This was near the plot of land Jacob had bequeathed to his son, Joseph.
During their exchange, Jesus said, “Give Me a drink.” Startled by this, she replied: “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” 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 have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” Jesus explained what He meant by this: “Whoever drinks from this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. The water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”
Jesus then revealed this woman’s “checkered past”. Taken back by this, she perceived this Man to be a prophet! They then spoke about the differences as to their religious beliefs where Jesus said: “You worship what you do not know; but we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.” The woman replied: “I know that Messiah is coming who is called ‘Christ’. And when He comes, He will tell us all things.” Whereupon Jesus exclaimed: “I who speak to you am He” [John 4:1-26]. And she believed!
In spite of being a social outcast, ostracized by her own people, she told the men of that city about this mysterious Man whom she had encountered.
Undoubtedly, in the annals of redemptive history this nameless woman would be counted among “the have’s”; for no longer would she remain…nameless!
One thing that’s so amazing about this encounter was the fact that this was the only time Jesus ever revealed His true identity to an ‘outsider’! And although Jesus performed no miracles in her presence; yet, she believed! How ironic, given the fact that Jesus performed countless miracles among His own people; and yet there were those who refused to believe what their eyes could see and what their ears could hear!
In this passage, Jesus reveals yet again: who HE was, why HE came, and what HE offers to those who place their faith in Him! The first thing that validates Jesus’ true identity was the fact that: MY WORKS BEAR WITNESS OF ME (repeat).
In this sermon series, you’ll recall my having said that in Old Testament times in order to resolve a dispute fairly and impartially, the law required at least two or three witnesses to verify the truth.
This particular encounter occurred while Jesus was attending the annual Feast of Dedication. And because it was winter, to avoid the cold, Jesus walked along the eastern side of the temple in Jerusalem in a sheltered area known as Solomon’s portico.
And a crowd gathered around Him and asked: “How long will You keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” There is nothing to suggest that this question was posed either by the scribes or Pharisees, although they might have been present there that day. Thus, we can assume these were not the Jewish religious leaders, or temple officials, but practicing Jews.
So why were these commoners raising such a question? In verses 31-39, it becomes obvious that they had their own devious agenda. The last thing they were seeking was the truth! They were hoping Jesus would publicly profess that He was the Messiah, so that they might seize Him and stone Him to death! But we read that He alluded their grasp. These Jews were nothing more than heinous jackals! Thus, they were to be counted among “the have nots”!
However, rather than falling prey to their entrapment, Jesus responded to their query by saying: “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s Name bear witness about Me, but you do not believe because you are not among My sheep.” Previously in this chapter, Jesus identified Himself as the “Good Shepherd”; the One who lays down His life for His sheep!
In John, chapter 10, Jesus reveals not only His true identity as the “Good Shepherd”, but He clearly identifies who are the sheep of His fold…as well as those who are not. Jesus minces no words here! Knowing the hearts of all men, He was acutely aware that His words were falling on ‘deaf ears’ for this was not a receptive audience!
With respect to receptiveness, A. W. Tozer wrote: “Receptiveness is not a single thing but a blending of several elements…It is an affinity for, a bent
towards, a sympathetic response to, a desire to have that which the world cannot give…It may be increased by exercise, or destroyed by neglect…for as with any God-given gift it must be cultivated.”
I can truthfully tell you, without reservation, that I am one of “the have’s”. This is not because of anything I used to have, or thought I had, or what one day I might have. It comes down to what I have right now…in the here and now! I can neither explain it, nor can I possibly justify it. Nevertheless, I know that I know, I know, that I am a child of the living God!
In March of 1972, at age twenty-seven, on an otherwise bright, sunny Friday afternoon, I asked Christ Jesus to come into my life. Unbeknownst to me, for two years missionaries at the Stonecroft Headquarters had been fervently praying for my salvation. Suddenly, in the twinkling of an eye, tears began streaming down my face; these were hot tears, cleansing tears!
I suppose one might say this was an anointing from on high. I distinctly remember experiencing absolute relief; as if a huge boulder had been lifted from off my shoulders. But the emotions that went racing through my mind that day were not merely experiential. After all, human emotions can be deceiving! No, there was a resounding rush from within the depths of my soul! I sometimes give pause as I gratefully reflect upon the events of that day; for not only was it a ‘life-changing’ moment, but more so, my life has changed every moment since!
Jesus continued to identify Himself as the ‘Good Shepherd’ where He explains: I KNOW MY SHEEP AND MY SHEEP KNOW ME (repeat).
It’s rather curious that Jesus compares Himself to that of a lowly shepherd. For like that woman at the well, Jews viewed shepherds contemptuously, for they were among the very dregs of society. And yet, the prophet Isaiah clearly identifies that the Jewish Messiah would be a type of shepherd where he writes: “We all like sheep have gone astray, each has turned to his own way; but the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” [Isaiah 53:6].
In some respects people are like sheep. We possess a ‘herdsman mentality’. And by that I mean we like to “go with the flow”! We find comfort and a sense of belonging among those who share our same values, thoughts and opinions. But there’s another side to us as well. We have a penchant towards roaming; we venture off on our own so as to draw attention to ourselves and to gain stature.
Yes, it takes a Good Shepherd to know each woolly lamb in His flock! Each having its own identifying marks. And when one lamb strays from the herd, the Good Shepherd leaves the ninety and nine to retrieve the one that is lost. I especially like the proverb that says: “Know well the condition of your flocks, and pay attention to your herds” [Proverbs 27:23].
On this occasion, Jesus might have scanned the audience; surmising their lack of spiritual discernment. He said to them: “…but you do not believe because you are not among My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.”
At dusk, when the Good Shepherd gathers the flock inside the sheep pen, they huddle around Him. As the darkness overshadows them there’s a sense of tranquility and peace. And that’s because they know His voice. His soothing voice which resonates throughout the herd as He calls out to each one by name.
To the Good Shepherd these are not ‘nameless creatures’; any more than people are nameless. The Good Shepherd calls each of us by name; for we, too, have identifying marks. These marks might be scars received from an ill-fated past. Instead of having been prayed for, some among us have been preyed upon! Only the Good Shepherd can soothe such painful hurts.
Assuming, of course, we belong to His flock!
But regardless of our past, no matter how checkered it might be, we can find solace in this certainty where the Lord says: I GIVE THEM ETERNAL LIFE (repeat).
Jesus continues His discourse where He says: “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
This is one of the greatest assurance passages in all of Scripture! It leaves no nagging doubts, for if you are among His sheep, you have a name, and you have a place in His heavenly kingdom. A kingdom where you will find rest unto your souls! Conversely, if you are not counted among His sheep, you, too, will live eternally…or should I say you will exist eternally; separated from the love of God!
It did not escape my notice, nor yours, when Jesus ends His discourse by saying: “I and the Father are One.” In essence, Jesus was publicly pronouncing that He is of God, is God, and that He shall always be God! There is no mistaking what the Lord meant by this!
Allow me to close with this thought in mind. “When you believe God as He is revealed in Christ Jesus, you believe all His promises. Confidence in the
Person involves confidence in all that He speaks: hence we accept all the promises of God as being sure and certain.”
Dearly beloved, don’t remain nameless; don’t be one of the “have not’s”. Instead, while you are in ‘the living years’, make a name for yourself; so that you, too, may be counted among those who “have”…both now and forevermore!
Let us pray…