Two years ago I spent two months in the Red Light Districts of Thailand trying to show the love of Jesus to a bunch of prostitutes who might as well have been in actual chains. Because I grew to love these women with every ounce of my heart, I became desperate for their freedom. Sometimes I wanted to shake them, yelling, “Why don’t you just leave?! You could walk out and find freedom RIGHT NOW…if you really want it!”
That was the first time I remember being truly convicted by the Holy Spirit of my own chains — my idols. You see, there were no actual chains holding the women there, but in their minds, they were stuck. There were no options of leaving. And most times, that’s what it feels like to be chained down to idols. Matt Chandler says in His book Recovering Redemption, “Whenever we feel the absence of peace — whenever our unmet longing for joy expresses itself as anxiety, or depression, or fear, or anger, or [enslavement] to any number of defeating sin patterns or addictions — the emptiness we’re feeling and trying to fill is for what our relationship with God, by His loving choice, was always meant to be.”
In John 4, we find the woman at the well. She is a Samaritan woman, and Jesus is a Jew. In that period of time, Jews and Samaritans did not interact. They were like mortal enemies. However, Jesus not only interacts with this sinful woman…He offers her eternal life. Through Jesus’ interaction with this unlovable woman, we see how He loves us in the midst of our mess, and therefore is worthy of our deepest love and praise.
Jesus Initiates With His Love
In John 4:7-9 and 16-19, we see that Jesus meets the woman at the well. He doesn’t wait for her to come to Him perfect and clean. He comes to her right where she is. He knows everything she has ever done, but He still loves her and offers her living water (or eternal life). It’s important to see here that there is no exception to God’s love. He initiates even the ones most sinful, and He comes to us where we are.
Jesus Offers His Love First
In John 4:10-15, we find it abundantly clear that Jesus offers His love to us first before we are able to love Him. At this point in the story, the woman is still not quite understanding what He is offering. She asks Jesus if He is greater than their Father Jacob because, to her, everything He is saying doesn’t really make sense. She assumes He is referring to earthly water. What in the world is “living water?” When she finally understands, she wants this water He has to offer.
Jesus Requires Our First Love
However, there is still hidden sin in her life. She has been married and divorced to five different men. She is finding her identity and belonging in a relationship with a man she is not even married to, and she is living with him. She thinks this living water sounds enticing, but she still wants to hold on to the things of this world, her idols. At this point, she probably thinks she can have what Jesus is offering and still go home to her lover and live in sin.
But because of who Jesus is, He already knows all of these things. He knows everything she has ever done, and it doesn’t matter because of His Love and forgiveness for her. Verses 20-26 is where Jesus explains to the woman that where and how she worships doesn’t really matter; He simply requires her worship. He explains that He is the Messiah they have been waiting for. He explains that true worshipers will worship in Spirit and Truth.
This is still true today. Christ alone demands our love, not the things of this world. He is greater, and He knows it is in our best interest to worship Him alone. Because He loves us so much, He helps us to love Him and entrust our lives to Him.
Jesus Inspires Us to Share With Others
This part of the story gets me every time. This woman has just had an intense realization of the love of Christ, and she could have left there and just gone home. But because of the weight of her forgiveness, she is compelled to take this news to the rest of the town. She drops her water jar — this thing that she always used to get water, and she runs into the town to proclaim of the Messiah, the living water. Every one in the town probably knows her and about her sin, so to see her as a changed woman pushes them to believe as well. “Many believed because of this woman’s testimony.” Because of how much forgiveness we have been shown, we should be ecstatic to take this good news to anyone and everyone. But we must drop the water jar, first.
Think about a magnet. Have you ever played with the really strong ones? How hard are those things to separate? There is this force you have to fight in order to pull them apart. Idols are like magnets. There is a strong force holding us to them. What if a hundred pounds of magnets suddenly separated before your eyes? You would know it was something so much stronger that pulled them in an opposite direction. Only Christ’s power can help us separate from the idols we cling to so tightly.
Sister in Christ, what is your water jar? What do you keep going back to, hoping it can somehow satisfy and quench your thirst? What do you think about night and day and stake your hope in? What do you love more than God? The Samaritan woman looked for identity, hope, security, and satisfaction in the things of this world, specifically in men. If we are seeking to be abundantly full and satisfied, the only person capable of doing that is Jesus. He meets us at our well, and He fills our water jar to the brim with His eternal water; in fact, it overflows.
I encourage you to read through this Scripture on your own. Examine your heart to find what lies inside. Take the time to sit down and write out your thoughts. Write down each thing you are you putting your hope in, each thing you think about constantly, each thing that takes your eyes from the Lord. And then give each of them to God. Ask Him how practically to surrender these things and find your answers in Scripture. It won’t be easy, but just like the woman at the well dropping her water jar, it will be worth it.
We can find freedom in the name of Jesus. When it feels like we absolutely can not get away from idols in our own strength, we can lean wholly on the One who breaks every chain. He is worthy of all of our worship.
Father, help me to rid my heart of idols and the things of this world. Help me to run to You and to love You more. I know it won’t be easy, but I also know that You are worthy because You are a good Father, and You alone can completely satisfy me.
Recovering Redemption by Matt Chandler
Gospel Treason by Brad Bigney