Needing the Gospel Jesus Brings

Last night we were talking to a friend who does not not see the need for God in his life. He is self-aware enough to know this fact. It made me so sad to see. He rightly saw that Jesus’ offers of life only make sense to someone who wants more than what they have. Jesus gives amazing offa such as “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink, and from within will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7)

This morning I turned in my bible reading to John chapter 4, to Jesus’ interaction with a woman who does not show a need for God in her life either, and I see Him showing this woman her own need for a savior. Jesus speaks to her of living water. She hears this as an offer to not go to the well any longer. So Jesus speaks of the relationships that have been broken, whether because she is a widow, or divorcee, or other brokenness. He shows her her need. My friend and several of my other friends and neighbors, however, seem to not have this need on the surface of their lives. In fact, many of the people around me do not seem to feel such needs at all.

Jesus’ interaction with the woman in John 4 begins with physical needs, namely water. My neighbors seem to have their physical needs taken care of. I have grown in my understanding of the Christian responsibility to take care of physical needs, and highly regard efforts to care for those who have these needs. It’s hard to listen to lessons about God when your stomach is growling and your limbs are shaking with cold.

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In addition, my neighbors and my friend last night seem to similarly have many of their relational needs taken care of. I know many of their deeper needs may be hidden, because such needs are not appropriate to openly show to the neighborhood. Nevertheless, many of their marriages seem to be going well. Not many of them seem to have kids that are rebelling, as many of them are still young. They are still experiencing the “American Dream” and do not seem to have the need for Christ to come in and heal anything there. It seems as though they do not have a gap for Jesus to fill in this area of life. I know, again, that were I able to gain access to deeper and deeper areas of their souls there may be areas of discontent, but it’s often difficult to speak to those when I’m standing around watching our kids play on the street.

It is interesting that in Jesus’ interaction with the woman, it is she that moves the conversation from the personal to the theological, the third level of need. This need comes at the level of universal need; it is often neither felt nor thought of, but is a need of deepest importance. It is a need of eternal consequence.

The way Jesus and the woman approach this need to relate to God is through the lens of worship.  Indeed, this is the first and greatest command—to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. Jesus says that we must love God in spirit and in truth (vv 24). This means we must worship God with a true sense of who He is, with correct thoughts about Him, and with correct affections for Him. We must have a correct relationship with truths, which exist externally to us, as well as a correct relationship to affections that exist within us. If either of these are incorrect, then our state of relationship with God is in a incorrect state, and we are not relating to God in the right way.

This, I believe, is what my friend needs to hear. He does not feel the need for God in his life in in regards to his physical and relational needs—those are met right now. His wife is praying that he comes to feel the need for Jesus, like she did, but I’m not sure it has to be that way. His journey may be through a different path. It may be that he realizes through thinking, through his intellect, that he has not met the appropriate conditions to be right with God, and is therefore separated from Him. Either way, my friend needs to hear that the truth is that unless he is correct in his BELIEFS and AFFECTIONS then he is not in a right relationship with the God who made him and loves him.

The trouble is, we do not have absolute control over either our beliefs or our affections. We must place ourselves in situations where our beliefs and affections for God can grow. We read the Scriptures, we participate in the activities of faith (spiritual disciplines and practices), we participate in the lives of other saints; but we do not have direct access to our own souls to flip switches in our beliefs and affections—we have only indirect means. We must consistently use those indirect means to do the best we can. We say with John the Baptizer, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given from heaven.” We must humble ourselves and say, I can’t make this happen, I need to be born from above (John 3), I can’t make this new life happen myself. I need to be born by the will of God, yet my acceptance of Christ plays some part in it as well (John 1:12-14). We all need to have the attitude, “God, save me.”

To my friend, or to someone else who may read this who is not a believer, who knows that he does not believe the right things, or who does not have the right affections for God and wants them, I say: pray. Ask God for those things. He is a giver. He is good.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” – Matthew 7:7-11

Ask God to give you the right heart and the right mind towards Him. Ask Him to draw you near to Him and help you worship Him in Spirit and in truth, for the Father is seeking worshipers such as these. He will help you become as such if that is your desire. Read the Bible—it is His testimony towards us to help us know Him.

If you already do believe, but like me, you find that your affections waver, then again, pray. Ask God to make the reality that He has saved you more real again. Pray like David: ”Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” – Psalm 51:12. Indeed, the whole Psalm is appropriate here, for if the command of God is to worship in Spirit and truth, to love God with ALL our heart, mind, soul and strength, then to do anything less is actually sin, falling short of perfection. So confession for our shortcoming is our first order of business. This is not confession in which God is looking down upon us as a disappointed judge, but where He looks on us with the eyes of a loving Father.

The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. 

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.  – Psalm 103:8-14

I pray that as these truths enter more and more deeply into my heart, and into others hearts if anyone reads this blog, that we will be able to be like Jesus, saying about ministering to others,

“But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.  Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. – John 4:32-36

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