“When did you start preaching about the importance of having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?”
I have been asked this question many times by members of the congregation. My answer is generally, “Oh, many years ago.” The reply I usually get is, “Strange, I never heard this message in your sermons until recently.”
One woman who asked me this question had recently had a spiritual awakening, and Christ had spoken to her through his Word in a very personal way.
These experiences remind me of the words that came from the lips of the people from a village in Samaria: “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.”
Many of you know this story recorded in John 4. Let’s review it.
Jesus and his disciples were passing through Samaria on their way from Judea to Galilee. It was about noon, and the disciples went to town for food, but Jesus sat down to rest. Jacob’s well was there.
Soon a woman came for water, and Jesus asked, “Would you give me a drink?” The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (Jews did not associate with Samaritans.)
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father, Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?”
When Jesus told her that whoever drinks the water that He gave them would never thirst, the woman got interested. “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
Now Jesus gets more personal and says, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
This was a touchy subject. The woman replied, “I have no husband.” Jesus then made it terribly uncomfortable when he said, “You are telling the truth. You have had five husbands and you are cohabitating with a man who is not your husband.”
Quite confrontational, wouldn’t you say?
At this point, the woman was anxious to change the subject when she says, “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews insist that the right place to worship is in Jerusalem.”
Now listen to Jesus speak words that should be taken seriously by people of every generation: “Woman, believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”
I believe these words speak to us in the Church today.
Perhaps Jesus is saying to us, Listen, where you worship should not have top priority. Rather, you should ask yourself, “Am I clearly hearing the Gospel Ð that God loves me and in Christ I am his? Am I being challenged to live a life that is a witness to the Lord who made me his?” Christ’s worshipers must worship him in spirit and in truth.
Back to our story. The woman made quick exit and went back to her town. She said to the people, “Come and see. I just met a man who told me everything that I ever did. Could he be the Christ? He says he is.”
The people went out to meet Jesus and asked him to spend some time with them. He accepted their invitation and was in their town for two days. The Bible tells us, “Many of the Samaritans from the town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony.” However, when Jesus had left their town, the people said to the Samaritan 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.” They had a personal experience with Jesus, and that is what can happen when you spend time with Jesus.
Somewhere along life’s way you learn about Jesus. You know about him, but where did you meet him? St. Paul learned about Jesus as he listened to the early followers witness to what the Lord had done for them. He first met Jesus and claimed him as his Savior on the road to Damascus and later in Arabia. Luther learned about Jesus in his home and parish church. However, he first met Christ in his study at the University of Wittenberg, when he heard Jesus speak through Romans 1:17 – “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written, ÔThe righteous will live by faith.'”
We meet Christ in His Word. Whoever has your time is shaping your life. Why not give Christ a few days this year in some kind of a retreat. Let Him have thirty minutes of your time each day. He will make great changes in your life. That is His promise.