The disciples were so shocked by some of the things Jesus said that one time they exclaimed, “Then who in the world can be saved?”
The religious leaders were so shocked by some of the things Jesus said that they wanted to kill him. Are you shocked by some of the things Jesus said?
The shock for the disciples was Matthew 19:25, where Jesus announced that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”
In 1 Peter 1 we are told, quoting Leviticus, “You must be holy in everything.”
Jesus says in Matthew 5:48, “You are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
Don’t you sometimes feel like shouting, “Then who in the world can be saved?” Perhaps you felt like this last week after hearing how easy it is to be destroyed by God because of immorality or idols in our lives.
In Exodus 19, God is talking directly to Moses. God tells Moses he will come down on Mount Sinai to meet with Moses, and tells Moses to keep everyone away or else he will kill them.
God tells Moses to warn the people, “Do not go up on the mountain or even touch its boundaries. Anyone who touches the mountain will certainly be put to death.”
God starts to look really scary. God looks like he is ready to kill anyone who comes near him unless they are holy or perfect. Is that the God you believe in? It’s in the Bible.
Joel 2:32 says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Isaiah 1:18 says, “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.”
That’s better isn’t it. Anyone can be saved. It doesn’t matter how evil you are, what wicked things you have done. That’s a nicer picture of God. It’s in the Bible.
Which image of God do you see in the story we just read of Jesus and the Samaritan woman beside the well?
“The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans.” The popular view at that time was a God who had put up a barrier. Religious Jews would have nothing to do with anything or anyone that might make them less holy or ceremonially unclean. Remember the story Jesus told of the Good Samaritan?
Jesus broke the stereotype. In these and other verses, the clear implication is that, even though we are sinners, God desires us to come to him as we are so that he can cleanse us.
It seems we have to accept both of those views of God as biblical. We have to dig a little deeper to learn how they can both be true. To find out how they are not contradictory.
Take for example the Hebrews, who were banned from touching the mountain while God was on it. They had already been rescued from slavery. God had sent Moses to get them, and God had performed many mighty miracles to set them free. The issue of touching the mountain came later and wasn’t a condition for them to be saved.
In our Scripture reading today, Jesus talks to the woman first. He tells her that there is a way to be set free of that evil and have eternal life. She has to come to him and accept from him the gift of ‘living water’.
Jesus explains that “those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”
First he offers salvation.
Then he tells her about her own sins. He shows her the evil in her life. She wants to know more so Jesus “stayed for two days, long enough for many more to hear his message and believe.”
There are some people who want to leave out the second part. They like the bit where God comes to them and gives them living water. They want to stop at that point.
‘Come as you are’ is sometimes misunderstood and misapplied. There are sometimes people who take the grace of God and turn it into licentiousness by teaching that it makes no difference how you live, as long as you believe.
If you are living an immoral life when you come to Christ, like the woman at the well, they say Christ will accept you just as you are and sanctify that relationship. If you come to Christ as someone who enjoys the night life, you can continue those things, and use them to “reach others for Christ.”
They say to people, come to Jesus are you are and stay as you are. You are the way you are, because God made you that way. This may be a popular message, but it directly contradicts Scripture. Scripture clearly says that the way you are is sinful. Scripture clearly says you are so sinful that if you so much as touch the mountain that God is on you will die instantly.
Scripture says we should all come as we are, and then be changed. Turn with me to Ephesians 4:21 and see what it says there.
“Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.”
Here is the answer to the startled question of the disciples.
“Then who in the world can be saved?”
All those who let the Holy Spirit change them inside, that is who can be saved.
We can all be saved. But we must be changed. We come to Jesus just as we are, dirty with sin and despicable. Jesus remakes us and we have to put on that new self.
Were you living an immoral life when you met Jesus? That is no problem. Did you have immoral desires and lusts when you met Jesus? That is no problem. Did you have idols when you met Jesus? No problem. Did you worship your gadgets, your clothes, your clever mind. No problem.
There is no sin that is too big. But you cannot keep hold of these sins. We have to let go of them in order to enter in to the kingdom. How many of the Hebrew slaves that left Egypt actually arrived in the Promised Land, and how many died in the desert? God rescued them, but they wouldn’t let go of the old life and they died on the way.
We don’t need to feel bad that we come to God with sin. We don’t need to feel ashamed and hide from Jesus. Every single human being born on this planet has had sin since Adam and Eve, except only for Jesus.
He came because we have sin. He came because we are not OK. He says to us today, I know you are not OK. Jesus says, I know you are immoral and an idolater. Come to me anyway. Come to me and I will give you a new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.
God is amazing, gracious, loving, and forgiving, so he calls us to salvation, even though we don’t deserve it. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us, making it possible for us to receive forgiveness. He requires us to confess and forsake our sins when we come to him, but he receives us just as we are.
God then begins to change us as we submit to him in obedience. Not once, but every day. This becomes our new way of life as disciples of Jesus.