“The Well Is Deep”
(Hope Well Mission Project)
John 7:37-38

Last week Karen introduced us to a challenge initiated by our Mission’s Team to raise $2500 to provide a clean water well among a people group where it’s desperately needed through a partnership with IDES – International Disaster Emergency Services.  In many of the world’s poorest places, families have to walk miles every day to get water that is often dirty and unsafe for consumption.  Through our combined efforts we can provide a source of fresh clean water in the name of Jesus to satisfy the physical thirst of a group of individuals, and at the same time pave the way for an open door to share the Good News of the Gospel with people who may be thirsting just as much or more spiritually.  Jesus Christ is the living water.

As a basis for today’s message, I want us to use the word “well,” W-E-L-L, as an acrostic.  We’re going to look at those four letters and what they mean to those who are thirsting spiritually.

Every one of us this morning is acquainted with physical thirst.  Every one of us at one point or another in our life have been thirsty.  Did you know that 80% of your body is made up of fluids?  Apart from brains, bones, and a few organs, we’re simply walking water balloons!  Our bodies need water like tires need air.  And God has wired us as human beings with a physical “low-fluid indicator.”  There are many indicators, such as dry mouth, thick tongue (which I have all the time), headaches, weak knees, and other things.  

But we also have a low fluid indicator spiritually.  And if you have a snarling temper this morning, if you worry a lot, if you’re dealing with guilt, or if you harbor fear, hopelessness, sleeplessness, loneliness, resentment – all of these things can be symptoms of a dryness deep within.  Pains in your heart are indicators spiritually that you need spiritual water.  And this morning we need to come, like we do every day, and take a good swallow of water, God’s well, to flood our souls. 

So, we ask the question, “Where can we find water for our souls?”  Well, Jesus gave an answer one October day in Jerusalem.  People had packed the streets for their annual reenactment of God giving water through a rock out in a desert, as Moses struck that rock and water flowed forth.  And so, in honor of that miracle, people would come together every year and they would actually sleep in tents.  And each morning a priest would fill up a golden pitcher with water from a spring and that water would be passed down a people-lined path to the temple.  And this would be announced by trumpets while he would do this every day for seven days.   And then on the last day, which is referred to in Scripture in John 7:37 as “the greatest day of the feast,” the priest would walk around the altar and douse the altar with seven vessels of water.  It was most likely at this point that Jesus stood up and He said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” (John 7:37-38). 

Around that crowd were finely frocked priests and surprised people at the voice of Jesus.  There were wide-eyed children as they heard this person shouting, and grandparents who probably paused.  Many had heard Jesus speak before, but never in this tone of voice.  Not in such an intense tone of voice.  The New Living Translation says that He “stood and shouted” (NLT).  And this was not the traditional rabbinic method of teaching, which was sitting and speaking softly.  But Jesus stood and He shouted.  It’s as though God was pounding on the gavel of heaven to get people’s attention that day in the midst of this great feast.  Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was demanding people’s attention.

And we say, “Why?”  Because time was short.  You see, within six months Jesus would be hanging on a cross, dying for the sins of the world.  And He saw all the people – the myriads of people who were thirsty in their spiritual lives – and that they needed water, not for their throats, but for their hearts.  And so, Jesus invites them to move away from all the symbolism that they were celebrating and find the real item – Jesus.

And I want you to take note of who Jesus is speaking to here.  These are not prostitutes.  These are not troublemakers.  These are not moral reprobates.  They are at a religious convention, a feast.  There were religious symbols in every direction as Jesus is speaking.  Jesus could have pointed to any one of those symbols as a source of drink, but He doesn’t do that.  For these were symbols only.  Jesus pointed to himself, the one to whom the symbols pointed and in whom they were fulfilled.  You see, religion pacifies, but it never satisfies.  Church activities might hide a thirst in our lives, but only Jesus quenches the thirst.  And so Jesus says, “Drink of me.”

Now we also need to see that the verb used in the original language of the Bible suggests repeated swallows – literally.  “Let him come to me and drink – and keep drinking, and keep drinking, and keep drinking.”  Regularly sipping satisfies the thirsty soul.  Ceaseless communion satisfies thirsty souls.  And Jesus is saying, “Come to the well that never runs dry!”  All we need to do is to go to the well of God’s provision and there our hearts receive everything we need in Him.  This well is the prescription for quenching our dry, dry, dry hearts.

And so, this morning let’s go to the well and let’s see what God is doing for us, and what he wants to do for all those thirsty souls who would seek him. 

W = GOD’S WORK.

            We start with the letter W, which stands for God’s Work.

Let’s consider, first of all, what God has done for us and what he continues to do for us. 

In October of 1347 a fleet of ships returned from the Black Sea, carrying in its cargo the death sentence for the continent of Europe.  By the time the ships landed in Italy most of the sailors were dead.  The few that survived were racked with fever and their skin was covered with festering boils. 

Well, when the authorities heard that these ships were filled with disease, they ordered them to leave the harbor.  But it was not soon enough, because the fleas … the fleas had found their way down the ropes.  These rats that were infected with fleas scampered down the ropes into the village and the Bubonic Plague had begun its ruthless march across the continent.  And within five years – only five years – twenty-five million people, one third of Europe’s population, were blotted out by the plague. 

Three centuries later it still raged.  As late as 1665 a hundred thousand people in London died from this plague – until a cold winter came and killed all the fleas.  And when we make a list of history’s worst plagues, the Black Plague ranks near the top of all of them. 

But the Bible, the Word of God, ranks the worst plague as the plague of sin.  No culture avoids this plague.  No nation escapes.  No person sidesteps the infection of sin.  For Paul tells us in Romans 3:23, that “all have sinned” – every human being sins – “and fall short of the glory of God.”  And this sinful nature that you and I possess, and that the human race posses … this sinful mind wants to dismiss God, get rid of God.  And we leave God’s path to follow our own paths.  The lack of this God-centeredness leads to self-centeredness and we realize that this plague of sin celebrates its middle letter “I.”  “It’s my life!” 

God says and God commands us to love, yet we choose to hate.  God instructs us to forgive others, but we opt to get even.  God calls for self-control, but we promote self-indulgence.  And so we pay a high price for this self-obsession and it causes chaos in our own personal lives, and our families, in our communities, and in our states, and in our whole world.  When you do what you want and I do what I want, and no one gives a lick as to what God wants, humanity just kind of explodes.  Because everyone is infected with this plague and there is no hope because we’re so infected – and also thirsty.  We cannot save ourselves.

So God opens the floodgates of heaven and He sends to us Jesus, to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.  Listen to what Paul writes in Ephesians chapter 2 to describe this floodgate.  “But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so very much, that even while we were dead because of our sins (that plague), he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead.  …[And] God saved you by his special favor when you believed.  And you can’t take credit for this,” says Paul, “it is a gift from God.  Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it” (vv. 4-5, 8-9, NLT). 

This is called God’s grace.  We are the object of God’s grace.  Even though we’re infected thoroughly by this plague of sin, we’re the object of God’s grace.  And He has poured it upon us in the person of His Son, Jesus.  And this morning you are defined, not because of who you are and what you are by nature, you are defined by God’s grace when you trust in Jesus.  It is who you are in God, that you are defined by His grace – that in God’s hand God takes a mistake and He makes a masterpiece.  And you hang as God’s work of art, a testimony of His gallery of grace.  And God draws together people from all over this planet – just disjointed blotches of sin in our lives – and renders us an expression of His love.  And we become pictures, as Paul says in Ephesians chapter 2 – examples of the incredible wealth of His favor and kindness toward us.

We sinners need to drink deeply from this well of grace.  Because, you see, Paul says we are saved by grace.  And our deeds don’t bring us into God’s kingdom and our deeds don’t keep us in God’s kingdom.  But grace does.  As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:10, “But by the grace of God I am what I am.”  And so it is for us because of God’s grace, God’s work.

 

E = GOD’S ENERGY.

            Well, let’s look at the letter E – W.E. – God’s energy.

Not only does God saves us – not only does He do the work for us to bring us into His kingdom – but He wants to also provide His energy to be all that He intends for us to be. 

The apostle Paul writes in Colossians chapter 2 that as you, as a Christian – if you know Jesus, if you “received Christ Jesus as Lord” – then he says, “[So] continue to live in him…” (v. 6).  Continue to live in Him the same way that you received Him.

Well, how does one receive Christ?  By coming thirsty and drinking deeply of God’s grace in Christ.  How does one then live in Christ?  By coming thirsty and drinking deeply.  Jesus said, “Come to me.”  He didn’t say come to church to find life, although you can find life in a church if it’s preaching the gospel faithfully and it’s presenting Jesus.  But He said, “Don’t come to church thinking you can find life in church.  Come to me.”  “Don’t come to a system, but come to me.  Come to me and drink.”  Thirsty throats gulp water when they’re thirsty.  And Jesus says, “Keep coming to me.  Keep drinking of me.”  Annual fill-ups don’t work!  Monthly ingestions won’t do.  We are hiking through this death valley of life and we need to drink deeply of Christ or we will not make it.  There needs to be a continuous filling in a daily walk with Christ.

The apostle Paul says in Galatians 3 … he’s talking to the Galatians, and he says, “You foolish Galatians!  You began your life in Christ by the Spirit.  The Spirit of God gave you new life, raised you from the dead.  Now you’re trying to make it complete by your own power.  How foolish!  This is foolish,” says Paul.  “Who has bewitched you?” (vv. 1-3).  Paul is trying to say, “Is God nothing more than a jumper cable to get you started?  Is God nothing more than just good for start ups?”  “No,” Paul says.  “That’s foolishness!”

Paul, writing to the Corinthians church, says in 1 Corinthians chapter 3, “There’s jealousy amongst you as a church.  There’s strife among you.  That should not be because you’re acting just like mere men, like people in the world who don’t know Christ” (v. 3).  Because when you try to live the Christian life in your own power, guess what folks, you act just like the world.  And how foolish that is.  It’s like trying to push a 2-ton Hummer up the hill every day.  That’s what the Christian life is like living in your own power.  It becomes work.  Lots of work!  Heavy work!  It’s a picture of thirsty souls. 

And if that’s where you are in your personal life and relationship to Christ – if your relationship with Jesus is nothing but work – you’re a thirsty soul that needs to come and drink.  You need to be filled with the power of Christ.  We need the river of God’s Spirit to well up within us to give us the power.  But you know, we rush off, trying to do it in our own power.  Many of you this morning would rather do something than to wait upon God.

As you go back in the early church, just before Jesus ascended into heaven He said to the disciples, “Don’t leave Jerusalem.  Don’t go.  I know you’re eager to go,” He said, “but wait here for the Father to give you the Holy Spirit, just as I told you He has promised to do.  Wait,” he says.  “Wait.  Before you go, stand still.  Prior to stepping forth,” He says, “sit down.  Stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven.”  (See Acts 1)

Now the disciples … all these disciples had plenty of reasons to leave.  There were probably some who wanted to get out and start working.  There were those who wanted to leave the city of Jerusalem because all these soldiers were walking around looking for all the followers of Jesus.  I believe there were other men and women who had a business to run, and they said, “We need to get home and take care of our business.”  The disciples had ample reasons to leave, but they don’t.  They obey God.  They stay and they stay together.  And when you read in the first chapter of Acts that as many as 120 souls huddle into an upper room in a house…. 

Now folks, if we took all of you right now, all who are in the building, which is probably around 60, and we doubled that number, and we huddled you into a room about the size of this area from the front row of pews to the east wall behind me and from the south wall to the north wall, and God said to you, “Now I want you to stay here until the power of God comes upon you,” can you imagine the potential for conflict? 

First of all, just to get you there would be chore.  It’s almost impossible to get Christians just to come and sit in these front pews.  I’ve often said to other ministers that if every church sanctuary had row of plush overstuffed recliners making up the first row, then maybe churches would be able to fill their pews with people from the front to back instead of from the back to the front!  So it would be hard to get you to come up front and sit in this little area.  I mean, 120 of you?  Think of the potential conflict.

But here are 120 men, women, who have gathered in this house.  And one day goes by.  Two days go by.  Three days go by!  How many of you will even come and pray on a night for one hour, let alone for one day?  Or two days, five days, ten days!  Can you imagine Peter and Nathaniel, and Nathaniel looking at Peter and saying, “Peter, you betrayed Jesus!”  And I’m sure Peter looked around at the other disciples and said, “You guys ran off and left me all by myself!”  And they’re there for 10 days, huddled together, praying.  And then Acts chapter 2 comes and God’s Spirit comes upon them. 

Now I want you to think about this.  They were obedient.  They were obedient, even though they were reluctant to do what they did.  Who has time to wait?  We groan at such a thought – of waiting, of praying.  But waiting doesn’t mean inactivity, it means “Him” activity.  You see, when I wait for a bus, I look for and expect the bus to come.  And you see, when God says wait, “wait for me,” it means watching for Jesus in all of life.  And so every day as I’m waiting on Him, I’m watching for Him, I’m looking for Him. 

In Isaiah chapter 40 we read, “But those who wait on the LORD will find new strength.  They will soar high on wings like eagles.  They will run and not grow weary.  They will walk and not faint” (v. 31, NLT). 

You see, the upper room was occupied by 120 Christians.  Now listen folks, at that time there were probably four million people in the whole land of Palestine.  This means fewer than 1 in 30 were Christians.  Yet, look at the fruit of their work.  Because of 120 disciples the world was turned upside down at that point.  Do you ever wonder what would happen today in a group like this if we only waited upon the Lord, and looked for Him, and saw Him, and what He would do in our midst? 

 God’s work, God’s energy…

 L = GOD’S LORDSHIP.

            God’s Lordship.

Now Lordship is a big word.  But simply, it just means that God is sovereign and we can trust His perspective and His purposes.  To embrace God’s sovereignty is to drink from the well of His lordship – that He is our captain and He knows what is best. 

It says in Psalm 115, verse 3, “Our God is in the heavens, and he does as he wishes” (NLT).      

Isaiah 43 says, “From eternity to eternity I am God.  No one can oppose what I do.  No one can reverse my actions” (v. 13, NLT).

Ephesians 1: “He chose us from the beginning and all things happen just as he decided long ago” (v. 4).

Lamentations chapter 3: “Can anything happen without the Lord’s permission?” (v. 37, NLT).

You see, there’s no leaf that falls without God knowing it.  There’s no dolphin that gives birth without His permission.  There’s no wave that crashes on the shore apart from His calculation.  God has never been surprised by anything that happened.  The problem is not the strength or kindness of God, the problem is the agenda of the human race.  Because, you see, our priority as a human race is WE!  It’s ME!  And every so often in life we find ourselves standing before God’s counter of life and thinking that we know the itinerary.

You know, our itinerary is good health, a good job promotion, and good retirement.  Many times God checks the itinerary He’s created and He says, “Yeah, that’s for you.”  But there are times when God says, “No, that’s not for you.  That isn’t the journey I planned for you.  I have routed you through the city of struggle.”  And we can stamp our feet and we can shake our fist at God, or we can rest in the knowledge that God knows what He’s doing.

I wish we could sit down and just interview Joseph from the Old Testament this morning.  His brothers abused him – they sold him into slavery, hoping that he would be killed.  Was God watching that?  Yes, He was watching that.  And our sovereign God used their rebellious hearts to save a nation from famine and the family of the Messiah from extinction.  As Joseph told them years later, “God turned into good what you meant for evil” (Genesis 50:20, NLT).  That’s the sovereignty of God.

I wish we could talk to Jesus.  He cried out to God in the Garden of Gethsemane that He wanted a different itinerary.  Remember?  He says, “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me” (Luke 22:42, NLT).  “I want plan B!,” He says.  “I don’t want nails in my hands.  I don’t want to take the sin of the whole world upon my body!”  But then He says to his Father, “Yet I want your will, not mine” (v. 42).  And then there’s an important phrase.  Notice what it says there: “Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him” (v. 43). 

You see, folks, we may not go down the road that we want to go, but God takes us down the road.  And when He takes us down the road of struggle, or whatever it might be, He comes and He strengthens us for what would happen.  And then God’s grace was manifested on the cross and His power was deployed.

You see, are you called to endure a Gethsemane?  You may be.  Have you been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him but also to suffer for His sake?  If so, then come thirsty.  Don’t sit and mope about it but come to the well and drink deeply under His Lordship.  Because He can take what is disaster in our eyes and make it a beautiful masterpiece – displaying His grace, and His power, and His majesty, and His Lordship.

It says in Isaiah 43, “When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you.  When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown!  When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you” (v. 2, NLT).  Now that’s horrible when we think about it, but God says, “No, it won’t burn you.”  “For I am the LORD, your God..” (v. 3).  You see, nothing comes our way that has not been first passed through the filter of God’s love.

Margaret Clarkston, in her book titled Grace Knows Best In Winter, wrote, “The sovereignty of God is the one rock to which the suffering human heart must flee.  The circumstances surrounding our lives are no accident.  They may be the work of evil, but that evil is held firmly within the mighty hand of our sovereign God.  All evil is subject to Him, and evil cannot touch His children unless He permits it.  God is the Lord of human history, of every member of His redeemed family.”

Now God’s ways are always right, folks.  They may not make sense to us.  They may be mysterious to us, difficult to us, and even painful to us, but they are always right.  And so we need to come and drink deeply in the midst of them so God can strengthen us.

God’s work, God’s energy, God’s Lordship…

LGOD’S LOVE.

            And finally, God’s love.

Pipin Ferreras wants to go deep, deeper than any person has ever gone.  He’s a Cuban diver who has descended into 531 feet of water, armed with nothing but flippers, a wetsuit, deep resolve, and one breath of air. 

Now he doesn’t look like much, does he?  He looks kind of like a fish out of water!  Can you imagine what would happen if I jumped in the ocean?  I’d set a new depth record, that’s for sure!  Straight to the bottom, just like a rock, because I’m so big!

Pipin Ferreras’ round trip lasted 3 minutes and 12 seconds.  To prepare for such a dive he loads his lungs with 8.2 liters of air – nearly twice the capacity of a normal human being – inhaling and exhaling for several minutes, his windpipe sounding like a bicycle pump.  He then wraps his knees around the crossbar of an aluminum sled that lowers him to the sea bottom.  No free diver has gone farther.  “Still,” Pipin says, “I want to go deeper!”  The mystery of the deep calls him and he wants to go deeper.

Folks, God’s love for us is immeasurable, more vast than any of us can understand.  He loved us before we knew Him.  How deep is God’s love?  It says in Ephesians, “May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love.  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love really is.  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it.  Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God” (3:17-19, NLT). 

Envision Pipin down in the ocean the equivalent of 50 stories, where he can turn and not see anything but water.  His whole world at that point is just water.  To his left, to his right, beneath him and above him, it’s all water.  Water defines his dives, dictates his direction.  His world is water! 

Can God bring us to the place that we go so deep into His love that all we see and all we know is God’s love?  Grab hold of this little verse in 1 John 4:16, “God is love.”  You see, God’s love has nothing to do with you, folks.  Others love you because of who you are, you know.  They love me because of my personality, because I’m so handsome, and because of my figure!  And they love me because of my smile, and my baldness, and my charms!  But not God.  You know?  He loves you and He loves me because God is God.

It says in Deuteronomy chapter 7, “The LORD did not choose you and lavish his love on you because you were larger or greater than other nations (speaking of Israel), for you were the smallest of all nations!  It was simply because the LORD loves you…” (vv. 7-8, NLT).  Because He loves you. 

You see, you can’t influence God’s love.  If we could, John would have written, “God is occasional love.”  Or sporadic love, or fair-weather love.  If our actions altered His love, then God would not be love.  Don’t we need a fountain of love that will not run dry?  When you feel unloved, I invite you to go to the hillside outside of Jerusalem where Jesus hangs bleeding, tortured, cross-nailed, thorn crowned, eyes beaten shut, shoulders as raw as ground beef, lips bloodied and split, fists full of hair yanked from His beard, gasping for air.  And as you peer into that crimson face of the heavenlies, remember this: “God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8, NLT).  Still sinners!

Please, don’t trust any other yardstick of love.  The sight of the healthy or successful prompts many people to say, “Well God really must love that person because they’re so successful!”  “Look at them.  They’re healthy!  They don’t have any problems, so God must really love them!”  Or the other extreme is that we see a lonely, frail body in a hospital bed, and we immediately deduce, “Well God must not love them.”  Or this person has cancer, or that person has all kinds of problems, and we say, “God must not love them.  Look at them!”  You see, success doesn’t signal God’s love and struggles don’t indicate the lack of God’s love.  The gauge is not a good day or a bad day.  The gauge is the dying hours of Jesus on the cross for you and me.  That’s the gauge.

Would you accept Jesus’ invitation today?  As it says in John chapter 15, “Would you abide in my love?” (v. 9).  God invites us to come and abide in His love.

Now folks, when you abide someplace, what does that mean?  It means you live there; you take up residence there.  And God, the Son of God, comes to us and He says, “Will you come and live in my love?”  Most of us don’t do it, though.  We have not done what God has asked us to do, invited us to do.  He’s not inviting us to come to some roadside park, or some hotel room that we visit occasionally, as our preferred dwelling.  He says, “Come and abide in my love.”  Rest in Him, eat in Him.  And when the thunder claps, step beneath his roof.  His fireplace warms you from the winters of life.  You abandon the old house of false love, and you move into His real love.

Adapting to a new home, doesn’t it take time?  When you move into a new home you have to find out what’s all there, what’s in every room and how everything functions.  And the same is true of God’s love – we’re not used to it.  You think God is going to cut you like the coach cut you on the basketball team years ago, or abandoned you like your father abandoned you, or judge you like a religion judged you, or curse you like your friend cursed you.  God won’t do that.  But it takes time to convince us of that.  And for that reason, He says, “Abide.”

In John 15, what’s that chapter about?  It’s about the vine and the branches.  And so He says, “If you’re going to abide in my love then you need to abide as a branch and a vine.”  Abide with each other.  Hang on to Christ the same way a branch clutches the vine.  Does a branch ever release a vine?  Does a branch ever stop eating?  If branches ever headed up seminars, do you know what the topic would be?  It would probably be, “Get A Grip: Secrets of Vine Grabbing.” 

How well do we pass the vine test today?  Do you release yourself from Christ’s love?  Do you go unnourished?  Do you ever stop drinking from His love?  If you do, as a result you become dry, parched, loveless people.  And when people hurt you, or when you hurt people, or when you say things that are critical – folks, that’s an indication that your heart is dry, that you’re not abiding in Christ’s love.  You’re not where you should be.  You’ve separated yourself from His love.

In Jeremiah 31:3, God says, “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love” (NLT).

God’s love cannot be legislated, but it can be chosen.  Will you choose it for the sake of your heart today?  Would you choose it?  For the sake of your soul would you choose it today?”  For the sake of your family would you choose to live in His love?  Would you choose it for the sake of your church?  For the sake of Jesus?  Would you choose it for the sake of those people around the world whom you can impact for Jesus by giving of your prayers and resources, such as helping to provide clean life-giving water through a new well?

Let me just read one passage of Scripture as we close.  It’s a powerful passage found in the book of Romans, the 8th chapter, where the apostle Paul says, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (v. 37).  Who loved us!  And out of that love, Paul says, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (vv. 38-39). 

The only one who can separate you from the love of God is you!  Will you choose it today?

 

David Hall
First Church of Christ
September 12, 2021