No Greater Love Than To Lay Down Your Life for Friends in Aurora

People gather outside the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, at the scene of the mass shooting. (Karl Gehring/Associated Press)
People gather outside the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, at the scene of the mass shooting. (Karl Gehring/Associated Press)

Every time I read about this story I can’t help but think how incredible this was. There wasn’t just one person who gave up his life for another in Aurora Colorado, but three people, who died in place of a friend. This story for some reason reminds me of the story about Arland D. Williams Jr., dubbed the “sixth passenger.” Do you remember this guy? He was one of the survivors of Air Florida Flight 90, a flight from Washington National Airport headed for Fort Lauderdale. On January 13, 1982, the Boeing 737-200 crashed into the 14th Street Bridge over the Potomac River. Williams was given the chance to take the life-line from the helicopter, and each time he passed it to the next person, all of which were saved, and then he died before they could rescue him.

I’m not sure why Williams’ story comes to mind, but perhaps because that was really the first time in my life I can recall the act of giving up your life for another. I was 12 years old, living in New Jersey at the time, and I remember going to church that Sunday, and listening to a sermon about what this man did by giving up his life for those other passengers. For some reason, that flight and Williams’ actions, have stuck in my mind since that tragic event happened 30 years ago.

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

This is what Jesus told his disciples in John 15:13, and this is exactly what, at least three people did, in Aurora Colorado last Friday night at the premiere of The Dark Night Rises. Jon Blunk, Matt McQuinn, and Alex Teves all took a bullet trying to protect their girlfriends while the horrific shooting went on in theater number nine. This is the very message of the gospel played out in horrific fashion right in front of our eyes on national television.

This is honestly something very difficult to fully comprehend. Words just can’t adequately imagine the sacrifice made by these people, yet, this is what the very basis of our faith in Christ is built around.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person — though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die — but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ~Romans 5:6-8

In these few sentences, Paul brings together words that exemplify the Christian message, and show exactly what Christ did for his followers. We look at the actions of these heroic people I listed here, like Williams, Blunk, McQuinn, and Teves, and we praise them, and honor their incredible sacrifices, and rightfully so. They died for a friend, and in Williams’ case, he died for several strangers he never even knew. But Christ, who died a horrific death, for centuries of sinners, is given no such praise by today’s culture.

What view would we have of Jesus if we truly pictured him diving in front of a bullet, dying in our place, in a crowded movie theater in a typical 21st century American town like Aurora? He did do this for you.

A Look at The Pericope Adulterae from John 7:53-8:11


I was quite troubled the first time I heard someone say, years ago at this point, that the story about Jesus and the woman caught in adultery was not inspired Scripture, and thus didn’t belong in the Bible. Of course it troubled me, but I did nothing about trying to understand why this story was in my Bible (though in brackets). Back in March 2011 Piper did a sermon on this passage (Neither Do I Condemn You), usually called in scholastic writings, The Pericope Adulterae, where the explanation started to make a little more sense.

A few weeks ago I finally got around to doing my own research on the topic, and my basic overall conclusion is listed below. To see the entire argument if you so desire just go to my Writing Section or click here for the PDF called The Pericope Adulterae: An Exegetical Examination of the Canonicity and Meaning of John 7:53-8:11.

Even though this account of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery most likely did not appear in the original writings of John’s Gospel, it does not affect any significant doctrine within the whole of Scripture.  Some teachers may wish to exclude this section from reproof because of these issues, but whether a modern day pastor or teacher chooses to include or exclude the pericope, the wisdom of Jesus can be found in other areas of Scripture to support the statements within this passage.  As such, many applications of forgiveness, judgmental attitudes, and repentance can be gleened from the pericope, much in the same way the Didascalia Apostolorum used the story to “bring repentant sinners back into the congregation.”[1]

Issues such as judgmentalism and sin on a large scale can destroy communities and nations, and on a smaller scale, can destroy “marriages, families, and churches.”[2]  We have almost countless opportunities in our post-modern culture to extend grace, especially when it comes to our marriages, families, and our churches.  How many congregations have split because of a spirit among members who are quick to judge, and slow to extend grace?  The pericope adulterae, a floating, somewhat “homeless passage,” which probably needs some grace extended to it as well, provides an additional opportunity to reiterate teachings found in many other parts of the New Testament.[3]  It may not be an original part of John’s gospel, but this story “points us to the message of the whole New Testament.”[4]  Ultimately the pericopepoints us to Jesus, who not only gives us grace beyond what we deserve, grace is given by the only One who, without sin, can actually cast the first stone, but does not.

[1] Michael W. Holmes, ed., The Apostolic Fathers in English, 3rd Edition, ed. Michael W. Holmes (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic), 304-305. This edition was translated and edited by Michael W. Holmes after the earlier version by J. B. Lightfoot and J. R. Harmer.

[2] Roberta C. Bondi, To Pray and to Love: Conversations on Prayer with the Early Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1991), 109.

[3] Frances Taylor Gench, “John 7:53-8:11,” Interpretation (Academic OneFile) 63, no. 4 (October 2009): 400.

[4] John Piper, “Neither Do I Condemn You”.

Is True Christianity Represented on CNN, Discovery, and History Channel?

CNN Belief Blog

Can we really know the true meaning of Christianity today? The answer of course, is an emphatic yes, of course we can, but the answer always seems to change depending on who you ask. Our culture is filled with blogs and news articles like the CNN “Belief Blog” and the Washington Post “On Faith” section, which constantly adjust the meaning of Christianity to suit their own needs, mostly to be politically correct. Make no mistake, these are secular institutions, writing for a single collective purpose and goal in mind, to make a monetary profit. These are businesses, and in business to make money (nothing wrong with that).

These news blogs ask good theological questions like Are Mormons Christians?, because they are hot-button topics, but they often give politically correct answers, ones rarely correct to true Christianity. The Mormon question is a great example, where the press wants to find some way for Christianity to accept Mormons as Christians. If they knew the differences between Christianity and what the Mormon’s say they believe, they would understand why this is just never going to happen (see a good article A Comparison Between Christian Doctrine and Mormon Doctrine). To a learned Christian, Mormons will never be considered “Christians,” even if the Mormon’s say they are, and that is just one small hot topic today of thousands.

I love the Discovery Channel series “Who is Jesus,” and the History Channel’s The Shroud of Turin, but taking serious Christian spiritual or doctrinal advise from these places would be like determining the true meaning of Christianity via the Discovery Channel and History Channel. Sadly, I’m guessing this is where many people in our culture today decide what true Christianity is and isn’t.

The truth of Christianity of course is only found from Scripture, period. If that’s so can a true biblical view also be presented to our culture by means of a secular for-profit company? I think Charles Schultz was one of the first to try and answer that question in our current day when he had Linus read from the book of Luke. After reading another blog post this morning asking “Can we really know the true meaning of Christianity today?”, it made me think… how quickly could you/we/me answer the question? Would the answer come from our deep seeded bias’ we all carry, or would it be a Biblical answer?

There are almost countless ways to answer that question in truth, but here are two quick ways to explain the true and real meaning of Christianity. It’s simple… we make it complex.

  • John 13:35 Jesus says :: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (something also expanded on by Paul in Romans 12:9-21)
  • Romans 10:9-10 Paul says: That is the outpouring of our decision for Christ… “because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead you will be saved”

Those are just two quick ways to answer that question, there are many more.

Look in the Rearview Mirror God is Pursuing a Relationship With You

I love this shot, it just feels like my life over the past few months, and it makes a great photo of the day today. I took this shot with my iPhone on the way to work in the rain a few weeks ago, and in a blur of motion, when I looked in the mirror this fog and bright sun filled the road behind me. It reminded me right then that God is chasing me, pursuing me to a deeper relationship with Him, not to be able to get more things checked off my to-do list. It’s a constant battle to slow down when we live in one of the fastest paced cultures in the world, but the second I took this shot that’s what I felt. Not that God couldn’t catch up with me, but that I was trying to outrun God in some way.

Thanks be to God that He is always pursuing His people, even when we are trying to run away, whether on purpose or just from being too busy. In real brief theological terms, we call this sanctification, or the process of being made into God’s likeness (see Romans 8.26-30). All throughout Scripture this is what it tells us, over and over again, God is in fast pursuit of His people. One place this is evident in particular is in John 17 in the middle of the High Priestly Prayer. Jesus is praying for us, in pursuit of us starting in verse 9 He says “I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me… keep them in your name… I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost… keep them from the evil one… sanctify them in the truth… so even as we are one, they may be one.”

How great is that, to know that Jesus actually prayed for his people, and is continuing to pursue us every day. The flip side of course is when we continue to ignore that relationship, and continue to try to outrun God’s pursuit. Still, we are assured that “the Spirit helps us in our weakness,” and intercedes for us just when we need it.

What is Maundy Thursday Other Than Communion and Feet Washing?

We hear this all the time, come to worship, or come to God being expectant or with an expectant heart, but what should we be expecting, and what exactly is Maundy Thursday? For several years now this week has been a time of the year I look forward to all throughout the year. Holy Week, and Maundy Thursday in particular, is observed in many different ways around the world, but it’s a unique night for our Cornerstone family. Personally, I do prepare for the night in advance. I bring at least one Moleskine and a pen or pencil, expecting God to be there with me as I go through the night. The last few years I have written names of people I pray for while I’m in the room along with areas of my life I want to give back to the Lord.

I just love dedicated times of Christian meditation (or reflection) since they are so few and far between for our world today. Christian meditation is the counter opposite of what we do in our culture today, so it almost makes us uncomfortable at this point. Both Joshua 1:8 and Psalm 1:2 among many others, tells us to meditate on the scriptures day and night, so one night out of the year on Maundy Thursday is a great launching point for the rest of the year.

What is Maundy Thursday?

Maundy Thursday is of course the day before Good Friday, which is the day Jesus was crucified on the cross. It is also called “Holy Thursday”, which is part of the greater week called “Holy Week” or Passion Week. The date changes according to the schedule of Easter, which changes each year. Maundy Thursday is the date that Jesus celebrated the passover, which became known as the last supper, and instituted what we know as communion. The two main events if you will that occur on Maundy Thursday are washing of feet and communion. The washing of feet was done by Jesus after supper was over (John 13:3-17) to give his disciples an example of humility and to show them a great act of love, providing all of us with an example of how we should treat others.

Scholars agree that the English word Maundy comes from mandé, from the Latin mandatum, or “command”. The first word of the phrase “Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos” (“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you”), the statement by Jesus in the John 13:34 where Jesus explained to the Apostles the significance of his action of washing their feet.

How Will We Observe Maundy Thursday

In our church specifically, Maundy Thursday is a time period from 8pm to 8am set aside as a time of meditation and reflection. Much in the same way Jesus prayed in Gethsemane on that Thursday night as described in Matthew 26:36-46 before Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion. Matthew 26:36-46 is part of a larger story of course, but a few sections earlier we see that Jesus celebrates the passover with his disciples and then institutes The Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:17-25 and Matthew 26:26-29 respectively).

Because the bible doesn’t mandate or command (or deny) the observation of Maundy Thursday specifically, observing this night is something that some churches do and some don’t. Before we came to Auburn I don’t really remember being in a church that observed Maundy Thursday night into Good Friday quite like this, but it is an experience I would hope everyone could go through.

In a world increasingly busy and full of distractions how can we ever stand still long enough to just be an awe of God and his brilliance. Maundy Thursday is that night, at least for our church. Each year I hope to pull a little more momentum from that night into the remainder of the year, trying to remember God also finds us in our silent meditation of his word.

I AM Lenten Reader, Spoils :: Lent Day 6

Day 6 :: Friday, March 15, 2011, Working for Spoils

Read John 6.25-29. What are you working for that spoils? Practice confession by writing those pursuits here.

Contemplation Over Day 6

This is such a hard question to answer, it’s like trying to come up with a list of daily sins that you committed. I think everything I work on that doesn’t glorify God or doesn’t prove to have productive roots based in scripture is a pursuit that spoils. All or many are not things that are necessarily bad, they just don’t add to furthering my understanding of scripture or bearing fruit for the kingdom of God.

I think the key word here is spoils. I can’t look at the above without saying that the pursuit of doing the laundry spoils because it doesn’t further the kingdom. Doing our normal routine of chores and duties we have to do because we are alive may seem like they spoil, but they are more like the “toil” not the spoil.

Things that i would pick that are the biggest time suckers, which keep me from further developing a relationship with God are probably TV, Internet (mindless pursuits on the Internet, there are many good pursuits to be had), and perhaps things like football season and everything that seems to be necessary with that venue, and a host of other little things that rob time from my day one little minute at a time.

In this passage today, John 6:26, Jesus used those famous words “I tell you the truth”, 4 times in the discourse just within this particular discourse (John 6:26, 32, 47, and 53) to point out the importance of what he was about to say. in 6:26, as i wrote about yesterday (see I AM Lenten Reader Review, Bread of Life :: Lent Day 5) Jesus is rebuking the disciples for their intentions for materialistic gain, and their total lack of spiritual perception. (BKC p.235)

In v.27 Jesus tells us specifically not to work for those things that spoil, but to expand our work into working for things that don’t spoil, working for the eternal, for things that won’t spoil. This is not totally new but one thing I find significant is that Jesus specifically tells us in verse 27 to work for those things that last into eternity, “[work for] the food that endures to eternal life which the Son of Man will give to you”. (v.27 ESV)

What i find significant about this verse is that is says things we work for in this life will pass to our eternal life? Most commentaries say “spiritual food leads to eternal life” (BKC p.295), which is correct, but it doesn’t examine that the spiritual food (reading, studying, praying, bearing good fruit) will pass on to the eternal life. My knowledge of movies or who won last year’s NCAA tournament is probably not the most important spiritual food that endures to eternity, but what about knowledge learned through studying of the bible?

As I read on in v.28-29 it shows that the people were thinking that their salvation came from doing good works or being a good person (cf. Romans 10:2-4), but Jesus says no, there is only one way, to believe in the One whom God has sent.

The End of the World is Not Coming May 21 2011

I couldn’t believe CNN actually did a full length article on the end of the world from a group called Family Radio (see Road Trip to the End of the World) who are using “biblical prophecy” to show the end of the world, or the Tribulation and second coming of Christ, is coming to a city near us on May 21st, 2011. Just last week I thought CNN was turning the corner when they actually “allowed” an article called “The Bible Really Does Condemn Homosexuality“, but maybe I jumped the gun. At the time of this writing “Road Trip” had over 30,000 “likes” on Facebook and on the opposite side, secular hate mongers who see anything religious as wrong, controlled the comments. Where are the people out there who know, have, and teach sound biblical doctrine about the end times?

What bothers me about this is not a teaching about the end times, which is certainly covered in scripture, but how the news covers it with the most radical groups they can find and then likens all people of faith to the Branch Davidians or Heavens Gate (see screenshots of both below). I understand I’m talking about a secular news organization, but if they wanted to do a serious journalistic article could they not have found someone, anyone, who would represent sound biblical principles? How about Charles H. Spurgeon and Eschatology: Did He Have a Discernible Millennial Position?, Spurgeon seemed to study a lot, but they probably couldn’t have interviewed him.

Even a surface reading of scripture shows that we are (1) not to become obsessed with the dates of the end times, and (2) we, not being God the Father, do NOT know the exact date of the Second Coming of Christ and all that goes along with the end times. Only God the Father does (Matthew 24:36, Mark 13:32 and many more). If Jesus Himself tells us that he doesn’t even know the timing, only the Father, why in the world would “Family Radio” know the exact date. Of course they address that themselves in a 6 page explanation, explaining away those verses (full pdf download here). Unfortunately after reading some of their literature they remind me of another group in the news lately, the idiots over at Westboro Baptist Church (though I understand they are two totally different groups).

Mark 13:32-33 But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come.

Everyone knows that the only person who really knows the actual timing of the end of the world is Tim Lahaye (and possibly Thomas Ice), and CNN never asked about their book “Charting the End Times” (which is actually very well laid out and useful, though it doesn’t always following a good reformed theological argument). Looking at the chart below you can see that the Family Radio people do drop May 21st 2011 right at the beginning of that orange square, at the Rapture and the beginning of the Tribulation, Lahaye just forgot to put in the actual date of May 21, 2011 (I’ll have to ask him why). Of course one of them did think the end was September 6, 1994, and offers infallible proof of the end of the world date here (see also full pdf download in case you want to put it on your iPad).

Not sure if I have a point here other than to show the absurdity of conclusions and predictions made without a deep long knowledgeable study of scripture. Sound doctrine and understanding comes from prayerful study and contemplation and we run the risk of becoming false prophets and teachers, actually working against the Holy Spirit. When we try to make scripture fit into pre-made conclusions it never seems to work in God’s favor, but does work for the praise of man in the way of attention from the news.

The "I AM" Lenten Reader During This Season of Lent

My last blog post, What is Ash Wednesday and the Season of Lent?, I wrote an explanation of what Ash Wednesday and the Lent season is all about, so this post I’m giving a more concrete action step of what some do to observe the season of Lent, but more specifically what our church is doing this year. We decided as a church to put together the Lenten Reader pictured above that includes a short daily reading and reflection or journal writing, which walks through the “I AM” statements in the Gospel of John.

I AM the Bread of Life.
I AM the Gate.
I AM the Light of the World.
I AM the Way, the Truth, & the Life.
I AM the Good Shepherd.
I AM the True Vine.

Each day I am going to attempt (time willing) to post the text from each day’s reading, and the response as I contemplate the message. I am not going to post every single day but will be actively posting from this Lenten Reader as the season moves ahead. I will probably include the entire Lenten Reader PDF here for download shortly but for now you can read the introduction pages, page 1 and page 2, the text is also written below.

The I AM Lenten Reader Introduction

Each week is anchored in the “I AM” statement taught on Sunday, and every week there will be challenges for confession, repentance, and worship. Some days you will be led to a blog post and asked to read and reflect upon it. Other days you will be challenged to meditate on scripture or celebrate what God has done in your own life.

Throughout this reader, you will also be challenged to journal consistently. There will be questions on some days, and other days there won’t be. We intentionally left space for you to write your own thoughts and seek what God is teaching you on a personal spiritual level.

Lent is more than a season of self-denial; it is a wake up call from our day-to-day lives to the life we have in Christ. Lent breaks us from the every day pattern and refocuses us on Christ and His sacrifice. Our hope is that the reader will break you from your patterns and draw you into a journey with Christ. Dig deep into these scriptures. Be actively present in the practices of worship, confession, meditation, fasting, and journaling.

Seek to know Christ and the power of His sacrifice.

Are There Different Degrees of Sin? The Greater Sin of John 19:11

Do you think there are varying degrees of sin? Isn’t all sin equal in God’s eyes? Lying is the same as stealing, it’s all sin to God, right? I was always under the assumption that all sin was created equal, having this drilled into my thought process for almost 40 years until I came to John 19:11. I have even argued that point in previous blog posts (see “Prop 8” article for one), but if that’s the case, what do we do with John 19:11?

Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.” John 19:11 (ESV)

On Wednesday and Friday I try to dive deeper into scripture, and it is amazing what is revealed to you from God’s Word when you read for knowledge and understanding. Today, after reading over John 19:11 it was revealed to me that clearly the answer to this question is yes, there are greater and lesser sins. But that led of course to the most natural question, why does it matter? Perhaps there are varying degrees of sin for those within Christ, and for those without Christ? If we are saved by grace, our sins are forgiven, and if we aren’t, well, they aren’t, so what difference does it make at all then?

The Greater Sin: Are There Degrees of Sin?

I would argue it matters simply because Jesus himself made the distinction, possibly as a warning to both parties. His words in John 19:11 clearly indicate if the sin of Caiaphas, the High Priest at the time (or possibly Judas Iscariot), was greater than Pilate’s sin, there must be lesser sins. The best essay I found on making the various distinctions between levels of sin came from the Reformed Theological Seminary blog titled “‘The Greater Sin’: Are There Degrees of Sin?” and it is well worth reading. It covers this topic far more in depth than I ever could here and to keep from just repeating all the text from that article I would ask the question here, why does this matter to us?

After an extensive search I found almost no sermons preached on John 19:11, so maybe it doesn’t matter, so I would not want to add emphasis to scripture where there is none. Simply put, if our salvation rests in Jesus Christ and he has called us to himself (John 15:16), our sins have been forgiven and the distinction in degree of sin makes no difference to the salvation of our souls. If we are living outside the grace and forgiveness of our sins, we are condemned already (John 3:17-18).

17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (emphasis mine)

Is it For Eternal Reward in Heaven or Punishment in Hell?

So, if we know it doesn’t make a difference to our salvation, does it make a difference to our judgement or call to bear fruit? If we examine John 3:17-18 above, we are either condemned (without eternal salvation) or not (with eternal salvation), so the difference in level or degree of sin could be associated with our eternal reward, punishment, or judgement.

This topic is sprinkled throughout scripture, and while both sides (the condemned and the saved) don’t really want to discuss it much, scripture says we are to be judged according the fruit we bear in this life. If we look at John 19:11, Jesus is referring to the punishment or judgement of Caiaphas (or Judas Iscariot) being greater than that of Pilate, because both Caiaphas and/or Judas both knew far more of the Gospel message (or light) than Pilate, but all men here were likely “condemned already”.

Scripture of course never specifically says what a greater or lesser reward looks like in heaven (and honestly, will we really care at that point), but it does specifically say there are those called greater (Matthew 5:19 and Luke 9:46) and points back to the fact that we are to live a life that produces fruit. [For other references to degree of reward or punishment see also Leviticus 4:2, 13; 5:17; Numbers 15:30; Ezekiel 8:6, 13; and Matthew 23:34.]

19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:19

For Believers, this is more a matter of bearing fruit, but it’s also a warning that God takes our sin much more seriously than those who have not received as much of the Gospel light as we have. The article by RBS puts it like this:

This is a warning to those of us who preach the gospel. Brothers, God takes our sin more seriously than the man who has received little biblical truth. We have been entrusted with much gospel light… And it is a sobering thought to know that the Lord views all of our sins in relation to the degree of light with which He has entrusted to us.

A Relavant Conclusion to Why it Matters

Studying this particular verse has actually left me with more questions than answers. Does the revelation that sin has differing levels or degrees matter? I think ultimately it does because, one, it leads to larger discussions throughout all of scripture about sin, judgement, and bearing fruit. Two, it reinforces many truths of Scripture about sin, and three, it puts more personal responsibility on those who have been given the knowledge of the Gospel message (not necessarily those who have received salvation), which should be important to all of us. Some other concluding points that come to mind are:

  • It shows that God takes the sin of the condemned and saved very seriously
  • John 19:11 is just one piece of an overall greater picture of grace and judgement
  • It shows that God has entrusted some with more revelation than others
  • There are differences of sin and judgement
  • A lesser sin does not exonerate the guilty, they are still guilty
  • Authority, even from the condemned comes from God alone

These are just some conclusions I came to, each could be expanded upon in greater detail.  What does the truth of John 19:11 reveal to you?

Do We Hide Our Testimony While the Faithless Share Their's?

I’m not sure where we modern evangelicals get the idea that our personal testimony is a “private” thing. We may not actually say that out loud, but by not sharing our personal testimony with others that is in essence what we are saying. It’s my testimony, something between me and my God. No where in scripture does it say this, so in light of hoping to be a doer of the Word and not just a reader of the Word, I went ahead and posted my own personal testimony on my blog today.

The Story of the Woman and the Well

I don’t know how many times I have read through the story in John 4:39-42 about Jesus and this “despised and immoral” woman at the well, but today, as I contemplated the reaction of the woman I thought about my own personal testimony and how many times (or I should say how few times) I have done what this woman did in verse 4:28-29. She left her water jar (her purpose for being at the well), went into town and gave her testimony to anyone who would listen.

This story is contrasted by the story of Nicodemus in chapter 3 who was a “religious” person of faith in that day, compared to the woman who was a despised by society, an immoral Samaritan. But look at the end result from the BKC chart below (click pic to see full chart), the woman was converted, she gave her personal testimony to others, and then others came to believe in Jesus Christ.

The “Faithless” in our Culture Today

Putting it in post-modern terminology we can understand, it was recently presented to me like looking at a modern church-goer (the Jew) and the homosexual or atheist (the Samaritan) of our twenty-first century society. While we evangelicals are quick to point out the sins of homosexuals and argue with the atheists who possibly represent to us the antithesis of faith and religion, it was this person who received the call of Jesus, and then proclaimed it to the world, not the church-goer.

When you look at our culture today the two groups I mentioned above probably know more about Christianity than evangelicals do, and they give their testimony loud and clear to whoever will listen. Those two minority groups in particular have educated themselves well in the arguments for their way of life, and how to oppose Christianity. Evangelicals though often stumble and fumble with what to say when asked simple questions about their own faith. Many today will not respond to apologetical arguments because they know their talking points so well they can refute all those common points of contention, but it’s hard to argue with a truly changed and transformed life. That’s the point of your personal testimony.

During part of my time in seminary it was required for us to actually write down our personal testimony. That exercise alone was an eye opener to me. I had to take a real look at what actually is my testimony, and until then, I’m not sure I was prepared defend my faith or give a proper testimony when needed.

True Faith Moves to Confrontation with Jesus Christ

Look what happened when she shared her faith with the town. “Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony”, but the key to this verse is understanding the next set of verses in 4041 where the “witness of the woman led to the Samaritans’ personal confrontation with Jesus”, giving them true and lasting faith in Jesus.[1] Jesus didn’t need the testimony of this woman (John 5:34) but because of the rejection of Israel in chapter 3 her testimony was more effective than the “religious” person.

As we move into verse 42 we see that ultimately the person coming to faith solely based on the testimony of an individual is secondary. These Samaritans proclaimed for themselves “for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this [Jesus] is indeed the Savior of the world.” Moving from the personal testimony of an individual, true faith then moves to it’s own experience and the “confrontation” with Jesus Himself.

If We Claim a Saving Faith We are Called to Share It

While this isn’t one of those traditional “share your faith” set of verses for the modern church-goer, it was a call to me to make sure we don’t just play “religion” and end up totally missing the point. This post could head in so many different directions from here but it really was meant to be a simple straight forward post. If we claim to be believers in Christ, we are called to share our faith with others.

[1] John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, , The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty, ed. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, Vol. 2, 2 vols. (Chicago, IL: David C Cook Publishers, 1983), 284-288.