I, along with others, was asked this question by a good friend teaching a seminar at General Assembly this year:
“What characteristics (in anyway you want to explain them) would you list that describe a man being animated and enjoying the Gospel in contrast to a man who is living out of a religiously-moralistic understanding of Christianity?”
I share this with you because I talked yesterday in the sermon about the need to regularly focus on the Gospel – the good news of our salvation. A great treasure we have in jars of clay.
Here was my answer, which applies to men and women equally:
I got this as I was going into or just starting chemotherapy. So, take that into account, but here is the mental image that came to mind. And I don’t exactly claim originality, but other than Scripture, I don’t have a source for this imagination of mine. Here goes:
Imagine, if you will, a well in the center of an area, surrounded by a hundred other wells. That center well is the Gospel Well and it is fed by “living waters” that Christ provide. That means, when we dip and drink from the Gospel Well we find life. We also find that the water is always fresh to our need and there is never a moment when we dip into that well and find it empty. Never is there a gate-keeper saying that we have had too much or that the Owner of the well has given enough, but no more. Always, and each day, we have a need to run to that well. We find life, animation, hope, mercy, redemption, forgiveness, love, and on and on. There we have a precious foretaste of the full satisfaction that we find in Christ. As Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69). And so we must turn to Christ and come to know again Who He is. Isn’t this what the Woman at the Well learned? (John 4) She’d been drinking from the wrong wells.
But what of those other wells? You and I know them too well, unfortunately. They are the well of performance, the well of pleasure, the well of reputation, the well of self-righteousness, the well of judgment of others, the well of despair, the well of guilt, the well of addiction, the well of lies, the well of greed…and a hundred others by similar names. This is our problem: we run to those wells days after day, looking for what only the Gospel well can provide us. And yet, we continue to dip our buckets into these wells looking for life. What do we find? Stagnant pools that don’t bring us life, but instead lead us away from Christ. They effectively empty. And we pay the price – emotionally, spiritually, financially, relationally, physically – for such empty drink. We drink and still parched. We drink and are still empty inside. And why do we do this? Because we continue to drink from the Well of Lies – crafted by the father of Lies himself. We’ve drunk too deeply of the kook-aid and been pointed from one well to another.
But the Gospel Well is rich and free – all the time, anytime. There is no lie or false advertising in the Gospel, only our ever growing realization of what we need to drink. And drink deeply.
Isaiah 55 (all of it, because there is no good place to stop!)
“Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
Incline your ear, and come to me;
hear, that your soul may live;
and I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
my steadfast, sure love for David.
Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander for the peoples.
Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know,
and a nation that did not know you shall run to you,
because of the Lord your God, and of the Holy One of Israel,
for he has glorified you.
“Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
“For you shall go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall break forth into singing,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
and it shall make a name for the Lord,
an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”