With such a simple request, Jesus began what can only be considered a Master class in person-to-person evangelism.
In a previous post, I stressed the distinction between evangelism and personal witness, the latter being your personal story of redemption from harm and godlessness. Today, I want to show how we can all gently lead a wandering soul into Christ’s flock.
1. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, assume that men and women of all walks of life are candidates for conversion to Christ.
The Samaritan woman said to him, "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?" (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) (John 4:9)
It’s easy to discriminate and make the sort of assumptions that Samuel did when he was sent to the family of Jesse to anoint a successor to the wayward King Saul.
‘When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, "Surely the LORD's anointed stands here before the LORD." 'But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."’ (1 Sam. 16:6,7) Seven of Jesse’s sons were brought to Samuel and all were rejected by God as morally unsuitable. It was the forgotten youngster, David, left outside to guard sheep, whom God recognised as being teachable enough to learn godly leadership from Him.
2. If you only knew…Demonstrate (through exceptional generosity and forbearance) the wonders of your eternal relationship with God in Jesus
Christ said, ‘No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.’ (John 6:44) Christ uses water as the metaphor of this higher, ever-enduring relationship with Him. This relationship achieves a permanence of life beyond all circumstances that only He can provide. He doesn’t offer a detailed explanation. However, He does provide a simple assurance that she would want this higher experience of life if (1) she understood the value of transcending all circumstances as God does and (2) that He as the Son of God, was capable of imparting it.
3. The unconverted mind will reduce spiritual goals to their worldly equivalents
In the absence of an immediate show of divine supernatural power, the initial response of this woman (and of many today) was to interpret Christ’s metaphors in natural worldly terms. Similarly, Nicodemus says regarding the new birth: ‘How can a man be born when he is old?"…"Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!’ (John 3: 4). The Pharisees also had the same problem with Jesus’ spiritual metaphors, claiming, ‘This is a hard saying, who can hear it?’ (John 6:60)
So, this woman’s comparison with Jacob’s well misses the significance of Christ’s metaphor by a mile.We also do the same today e.g. Christian peace (the assurance the God has ensured that all things ultimately work for our benefit) is equated to world peace. Also, divine justice (fulfilled in the cross and resurrection with its promise of eternal amnesty for the penitent) is exchanged for its earthly equivalent: working for a godless equality within a man-centred temporal framework.
4. Don’t give up too easily
She responded by accepting His offer on the basis that it would replace the constant need to visit the well. Similarly, many people simply see religion as offering a more civilised, amenable life down here. However, they abandon hope when they are hindered in their progress towards these admirable, yet temporal, goals. We must always remember the eternal goal: the reunion with the Messiah Himself at the end of time.
Many Christians would end the conversation at this point, frustrated by the constant misunderstandings. Yet, in spite of this, the Holy Spirit compassionately identified the main obstacle in her life: relationship despair.
5. Tackle the underlying spiritual obstacle/distraction by praying for and declaring God’s insight for our lives, the hidden facts behind our life choices. Depend on the miraculous intervention of the Holy Spirit.
The work of the Holy Spirit is crucially important in responding to Christ. Rather than just working for closer political cooperation between Samaritans and Jews, Jesus applied the Holy Spirit to solve her personal problems supernaturally. Beware of those who preach the gospel without reliance upon the Holy Spirit.
This woman had gone through five divorces, each a major unflattering stamp of disapproval and she had finally given up on marriage. I came to Christ in a similar state caused my belief that I was far too flawed physically and emotionally to find and maintain even a short-term relationship, far less a marriage. I assumed that all relationships would end in failure, including one with Him.
6. Realise that the natural reaction to God’s scrutiny is to resort to diversion. We fear exposure and shame, even though God only does this to cure and help us to completely understand our mistakes. Provide reassurance of this outcome.
The incisive nature of His supernatural insight caused her to evade scrutiny. As a diversion, she cited a major religious controversy of that time.
There are many who try to divert attention from their need to change by citing a major ethical controversy, e.g. women priests, the Pope, abortion, in fact, anything that avoids direct personal scrutiny. ‘Anyone that does evil hates the light, neither comes to the light lest his deeds should be reproved.’ (John 3:20)
6. Avoid diversions and focus on the core demand and the goal of the gospel: accepting that God’s Messiah should have the highest claim on your life choices, relationships and resources. Does He or doesn’t He? Where’s the biblical proof in our lives?
Jesus contrasted the political dispute over the true location of the temple with His Father’s quest for true worshippers whose genuine heartfelt reverence would transcend externalisms. In short, worship is a practical inner commitment to God’s rightful claim on our lives.
7. Present the insight of the Holy Spirit as a validation of God’s demand to end our persistence in wrong choices. As the death-conquering Messiah is the only person carrying God’s DNA, Jesus is the perfect expression of our Maker’s will. Accepting Jesus is accepting God. Will we accept or reject?
Although she acknowledged His insight as prophetic (as many do today), this was not enough to effect Her salvation. She even believed the scriptural promise that the Messiah of God would make all things plain. The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
Christ directed her belief in the Messiah’s guidance to Himself: “I who speak to you am he.”
Suddenly, it all made sense. She was able to relate His miraculous knowledge of her personal history and its problems to His metaphor of living water. The divine insight and discovering the constant reassurances of God’s care would save her from a future of relationship despair. She now knew that, by constantly trusting in the guidance of His Word, she would never find it impossible to make the right choices in life again.
This was her new-found deliverance through Jesus as the all-explaining Christ. It was confirmed by her own testimony: ‘Come see a man who told me everything I ever did, Is not this the Christ?’
And that’s how a beleaguered soul is won over by Christ!