Keeping the “Good News” good news

I’ve been looking at Loving our “Samaritans“—those “evil” people who are on the other side, who we think are our enemies, and may actually be. We could be absolutely right about all of that…yet be on the opposite side of Jesus (see Luke 9:53-55). In this installment, I want to look at what the Samaritan woman discovered in her encounter with Jesus, and what we can learn from this.

I’ve been pondering something for a long time. It seems to me that we have not communicated the gospel effectively—which is the good news that brings great joy. Bill Vanderbush said it best: our gospel invitation is more like a timeshare presentation. Sounds really good on the front end, but once you’re committed you’re stuck with all kinds of hidden maintanence fees!

My question is, what if we just did what Jesus offered instead?

And what is that offer, you ask? Well, it’s actually multi-layered. On the surface, it’s freedom from shame and condemnation. I would say “sin,” but that word is so generic it doesn’t really touch people’s felt needs. And while biblical, it’s become a religious buzzword.

The Samaritan woman was freed from the shame of her failed relationships by encountering Jesus’ acceptance and grace. The result was she convinced a whole city to come and see the One who had freed her!

That’s awesome, but now that I’m freed, how am I to live every day thereafter? How we’ve traditionally answered that question gets us into the “hidden timeshare maintenance fees” that can turn the good news that brings great joy into a religious drudgery.

To go deeper, we need to look at the woman’s religious question to Jesus:

20 So tell me this: Why do our fathers worship God on this nearby mountain, but your people teach that Jerusalem is the place where we must worship. Who is right?” (John 4:20 TPT)

She might as well have asked, “Which church/denomination has it right?  Catholics, Orhodox, Protestants, Evangelicals….?” But notice Jesus’ answer to her question:

Jesus responded, 21 “Believe me, dear woman, the time has come when you will worship the Father neither on a mountain nor in Jerusalem, but in your heart. 22 Your people don’t really know the One they worship, but we Jews worship out of our experience, for it’s from the Jews that salvation is available. 23–24 From now on, worshiping the Father will not be a matter of the right place but with a right heart. For God is a Spirit, and he longs to have sincere worshipers who adore him in the realm of the Spirit and in truth.” (John 4:21-24 TPT*)

Notice that Jesus didn’t talk about theology or a lot of other things we focus on. He’s talking about how we worship God, not where. Arguments about “where” are for people who don’t experientially know God. And while theology is important, what’s most important are matters of the heart, for it’s with the heart that we believe (Rom.10:10) and how we enter into and maintain a vibrant relationship with God.

And when our priorities are heart-first, then our mind will be able to discover the truth that makes us free, because it’s only found in a Person (John 14:6).

You see, if we attempt to have a relationship with God through just our mind, it’s like reading the menu of the finest restaurant. We may know everything about what’s offered, but we still haven’t actually eaten anything. As I said in “Dining with Jesus,” the Samaritan woman understood something Jesus’ disciples still hadn’t because she ate the “food” that Jesus offered.

Once we activate our heart to Jesus, then our mind can be renewed to the things that cannot be comprehend by natural means.

13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. 14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.  (1 Cor.2:13-14 NIV*)

So, with an open heart, we don’t simply “read the Bible.” That’s what religious people do. We receive the Living Word that’s able to divide the soul and spirit and go beyond the echo of our own thoughts, revealing motives hidden even from us (Heb.4:12). This is how we renew our mind, which gives us greater capacity to receive spiritual truth, which is how we grow in the grace and knowledge of God and are led by the Spirit.

14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.” (Rom.8:14 NIV*)

You really need to read all of Romans 8 in this context. It’s full of stunning revelation about our identity and life of absolute freedom and fullness in Christ! But my point is, we won’t get there through our head; it must first come through our receptive heart. Our renewed mind will make sense of it afterward.

Think about it. You got saved when you had an encounter with Jesus, not when you figured Him out. It wasn’t a head thing; it was a heart thing. So, all I’m saying is what Paul said.

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him (Col.2:6 NIV*)

What this woman encountered, what turns the world upside-down, is not a great argument. It’s the “living water,” which is the Spirit’s endless life continually flooding our soul (John 4:13-14).

The Good News is the same good news from the first day you believed until the last. So continue the same way you came to Him—with an open heart.

And when you do this, the Good News will always bring you great joy.

* All emphasis added.

About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 42 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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4 Responses to Keeping the “Good News” good news

  1. Ahh, good one, Mel! I really like how you said, ”The Samaritan woman was freed from the shame of her failed relationships by encountering Jesus’ acceptance and grace.” That is soul care! The care of our souls. Being seen, known, and recognized. Relationship, connection, intimacy. Growth, healing, fellowship. Hospitality! It is so, so powerful.

    I’ve just come from chatting with some people here in the 9th circuit of hell who are watching their churches collapse under the weight of covid fears, politics, and basically, ”religion.” It’s really heartbreaking to watch, but I’ve given a lot of thought to what is the glue that holds us together, why do we go to church, what is the difference between just warming a pew and growing in Christ? The answers to those question really are lurking in the tale of the Samaritan woman.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Yes, the co-morbidities of religion and politics and fear make the church very susceptible to Covid. 🙂 One of the best things that happened to the church from the lockdown is that it made us take off our masks and look at why we worship.

      I was at a leader’s conference last year, before Covid hit, where Traci Vanderbush (Bill Vanderbush‘s wife) where she got up and declared that the church was getting her “implants” removed. We didn’t know what that meant at the time, but now, after the lockdown, we know that was a God word! 🙂

      They were at a conference I was at this week and Traci explained the word further. The bride of Christ has been trying to augment her appearence (implants) and it’s been making her sick (like natural implants do). But when women get them removed, the surgeon has to take fat from other parts of the body, which leaves her weakened and scarred. But that’s not the end of the story for us. Now, the Bride of Christ can rise up in the authentic beauty that God created her to be! She is healing up and learning how to walk as Christ’s beloved. It’s a glorious thing to behold! Yay God!

      • LOL! Implants, yes, that really is a fabulous analogy. Those things can leak, poison your whole body, and make you really sick. I know that sometimes as individuals when we lose everything, it can become the best thing that ever happened to us. I need to keep that picture in my mind when it comes to the church overall.

        • Mel Wild says:

          I really like that picture of the church, too. It helps me to understand what’s going on and have some compassion for ourselves as we’re healing up from our implants. 😊

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