Craig Smith - Breaking Barriers
Hey, welcome to Mission Hills, so good to have you with us today. We’re wrapping up our series called “Come Find Your Mercy” today. If you’re just joining us, let me get you caught up real quick. For the last few weeks, we’ve been talking about God’s remedy to one of our most persistent pains, and I’m talking about the pain of shame. As we defined in this series, shame is the persistent feeling that we’re unworthy of love and belonging. It’s a persistent feeling that the love and belonging just aren’t options for us. And shame is different than guilt, okay? Guilt says we’ve done wrong and we need forgiveness. That’s a good thing. Shame says we need forgiveness, but we’ll probably never get it because God doesn’t want anything to do with us. Now, shame comes from two different sources and we’ve talked about in this series. Some shame comes from things that we’ve done, it’s the sin that we’ve committed, the wrong that we’ve done.
Some shame, on the other hand, we talked about this last week, some shame comes from things that have been done to us, things we don’t really have any control over. But it doesn’t really matter where shame comes from, it does the same thing. It creates barriers. It creates barriers between us and God. It creates barriers between us and other people. It creates barriers between us and the life that God created us to be engaged in and to experience. And so shame creates barriers. And so what I thought we would do today as we wrap up the series, and we’re gonna take a look at an event from Jesus’s life that demonstrates more clearly, I think than any other part of Jesus’s life, how Jesus feels about barriers and what he wants to do about them? So, why don’t you go and grab a Bible, and start making your way to John chapter 4, we’re going to be in verse 1, starting in Chapter 4 of John today. And I think we’re gonna see two things today.
Some of us are going to see some encouragement. We’re going to see some encouragement because we’re feeling some barriers, and it’s gonna be encouraging to see how Jesus deals with them. Some of us are gonna be challenged today because we might be responsible for creating some barriers. And when we see the way Jesus dealt with barriers, we might find that we need to make some adjustments in our thinking, okay? So, John chapter 4 starting in verse 1 says this, says, “Now, Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John. Although, in fact, it was not Jesus who baptized, but it was his disciples. And so he left Judea, and he went back once more to Galilee.” I mean, basically what John’s saying is this is early in Jesus’ ministry, and he’s starting to get some attention. People are starting to pay attention to him. He’s becoming an influencer in today’s terms, right?
And the moment that he comes on to the Pharisee’s radar, the Pharisees kind of noticed him because he’s getting popular. The moment he comes into the Pharisees radar, he’s like, “Okay, I’m out of here.” And so he went from a place where there were a lot of Pharisees to a place where there weren’t very many of them. He broke off his association with them, he didn’t want them really kind of getting involved with him, which was kind of an interesting thing. And understand that I think we need to understand what the Pharisees were. And the best way to do that, I think, is to understand the big problem that the Jews were facing in the first century. In the first century, the Jews had one major problem that everybody was talking about and that major problem was they were God’s people, but they were living under Roman occupation. Does that make sense? That was the big problem. We’re God’s people, but we’re living under Roman occupation, so what do we do about it? And there are basically four kind of schools of thought about what they should do about it.
One school of thought, which involved people like the Sadducees, which was a religious group, but also people like the tax collectors. One group said, “The solution was to follow Rome.” Let’s just not rock the boat, let’s just cooperate, let’s go along with them, and could get on their good side and things will go better for us, they said, let’s follow Rome. In modern equivalents, I would say, in modern Christian equivalence, at least I would say, that was kind of like the liberal or the mainline denominations kind of going out. We’re not gonna challenge anything in the culture, we’re just going to, kind of, accommodate to the culture, okay?
Now, there’s another group of people called the Zealots, and they said, “The solution was to fight Rome, to raise arms and literally go into battle against them to fight against Rome.” And then as I was thinking, what was the modern equivalent for that? I’m gonna get in trouble for saying this. I know I am. But you remember a few weeks ago at the Capitol, people had Jesus signs, but they were storming our nation’s Capitol. That was a very zealot-like response, okay? Let’s fight.
Now, there’s a third group of people called the Essenes, and the Essenes said, “The solution is to flee. We’ll flee Rome, we’ll go off in the desert, we’ll start on little communes, and we’ll have our own little group,” so they were like homeschoolers of their day, okay? Now we homeschooled our kids, so you can’t get mad at me, okay? You can’t. I’m exempt on that one. And then there’s a fourth group of people, and they were called the Pharisees.
The Pharisees said, “The solution was faith.” They said, if we get back to faith in God, God will take care of the Roman problem for us. We don’t need to figure out how to deal with it, we just need to have faith in God. Now, here shows up Jesus, he’s gaining a following, and so the Pharisees starts to notice Jesus. And so, the question I want you to ask is this. When you think about Jesus, think about those four groups. So, we got four different sponsors, right? Let’s follow Rome, let’s fight Rome, let’s flee from Rome, and let’s get back to faith. Which group sounds more like Jesus? It’s faith, right?
And that’s precisely why the Pharisees were so interested in Jesus early on because they thought he might be one of them, he sounded like one of them in a lot of ways. And so they’re like, hey, if he sounds like one of us, and he can do miracles, we need him on the team, right? Like, that’s awesome. Let’s get him on the team. And so their interest in him was because they thought he might be one of them. And yet, in spite of some similarities, and there really were some real similarities, the moment Jesus realized he came on to their radar, what did he do? He ducked under. He left. He didn’t want that connection, he didn’t want that association. And I think that’s interesting. And I think we need to ask the question, why is that? And I think the answer is ultimately that while they had some similar beliefs, they had a very different mission. See, the Pharisee’s mission was to enforce the rules, because they said, if we can get enough people to follow enough of the rules, God’s blessing will return to Israel. Jesus said, that’s not the way to do it. Jesus’s mission was to offer a relationship. Because Jesus understood that the only way for people to really change was to be in a relationship with him. He believed that a relationship with him was the only way that people could be what the rules say that we should be.
So, they had very different missions. And it’s because of those different missions, and because for Jesus, the mission mattered most that Jesus went, I don’t want to get connected to the Pharisees, I don’t want to be associated, I don’t anybody thinking that we’re one in the same, I’m not going to do that, and so he left. And there’s something in that I think we have to pay some attention to. There’s a principle that I think sometimes Christians, and I worry a little bit that as Christians in 21st century America, we might have not paid enough attention to this principle, here’s the way I would say it. It’s that the groups that we identify with can become barriers to the people we need to reach. You hear me church? The groups that we publicly identify with can become barriers to the people we need to reach. And the reason that’s very simple, it’s because people have perceptions of groups. They perceive groups, rightly or wrongly, accurately, inaccurate. People have perceptions of groups and assumptions about everybody who identifies with those groups, especially people who are quick to go out publicly, “I’m one of those,” okay? People have perceptions of groups and they have assumptions about people who identify with those groups.
Let me give you a contemporary example, and I know I’m about to disappoint some of you. My goal as your pastor is to disappoint you at a rate that you can handle, okay? Be gracious to me, try to hear what I’m actually saying and not what you think I might be saying, okay? Here’s the thing. If a Christian announces to everybody, is really public on Facebook, Instagram, just in all their settings, if it’s really clear to everybody, they’re public identified as a Democrat, people have perceptions of the Democrats, and so they have assumptions about anybody who identifies. And one of those, again, rightly or wrongly, is irrelevant. This is the perception. One of the perceptions is okay, if you’re a Democrat, then you care a lot about the poor, but you don’t care much about the unborn. Now, if a Christian is outspoken, if they’re saying I’m a Republican, if that’s the group they’re identifying with, then the perception again, rightly or wrongly, the perception is, okay, you care a lot about the unborn, but you don’t care much about the poor.
Now, you might be going, that’s not fair, that’s not accurate. Unfortunately, it’s real. And if you don’t think that people perceive those groups that way, then you’re not talking to enough people who don’t think like you do. It’s just a fact. Those are very, very common perceptions. Now, are those assumptions fair? No, they’re not. I know, Christian Democrats… By the way, some of you just think I said an oxymoron. And that’s part of the problem, too. I didn’t. I know godly Democrats who care deeply about the unborn, and they hate the fact that the Democrat party seems to be associated with abortion rights. They hate that. And I know republicans, godly Republicans, who hate the fact that people perceive the republicans don’t care about poor people because they deeply care about them. So, are the assumptions fair? No. Are the perceptions real? They are. They are.
Here’s the thing that blows my mind. Check this out. So, Jesus, we just talked about those for groups, right? We got fight, we got follow, we got flee, we got faith, of those four groups, Jesus had a zealot who said, let’s fight and the tax collector who said let’s follow on the same team. Actually, they were part of his inner circle. Jesus had a zealot and a tax collector in his inner circle. That’s way, way harder than having a Democrat and a Republican together. How did he pull that off? How did he reach a zealot and a tax collector? How did he do that? And he answers, he refused to publicly identify with any of the groups. Doesn’t mean he didn’t have things in common with them, didn’t mean that he didn’t have some places of agreement, but he just refused to publicly identify, that’s what we see happening here. Here’s the thing, refusing to identify with any group, to publicly identify with any group, allowed Jesus to reach every group.
And I just think we need to pay some attention. Please, again, don’t mishear me. I’m not talking about how we vote. I’m not even, as we talked about, which political party you belong to. But I’m talking about how upfront and how public and how making sure everybody knows that we’re identified with that group we are. Because the reality is, the more we identify with a group, the harder it gets to be able to reach people who don’t identify with that group. And as followers of Jesus, the mission needs to come first. And so we need to at least wrestle with, and I’m not telling you what you necessarily need to do, but please wrestle with this a little bit. And by the way, if you think I’m just totally wrong, do an experiment. Go buy a Dallas Cowboys jersey, okay? And go to the Bronco Stadium on the next home game and tell me what kind of conversations it opens up. The moment we put on a jersey for one team, it affects the way people who don’t wear that jersey think about us, it just does. Again, I’m not saying how we vote, I’m not… none of that stuff. I’m talking about this public identification, I’m this. And sometimes, let’s be honest, sometimes it’s, I’m this before I’m Jesus, right? Before I’m a Jesus follower, and we just need to be careful about that.
I had somebody say to me a couple weeks ago, and I know it was intended to be a rebuke, I know it was intended to be a challenge. He said, “Pastor, I can’t tell if you’re a Democrat or a Republican.” And I was like, “Score.” And it’s not that I’m so holy, and so much like Jesus, but actually learned that from Jesus and what we see here, who seemed to be careful about that. I actually don’t publicly belong to any of those parties. I don’t. I’m not saying you need to follow my example. That’s what I do. That’s not what you need to do that. But you do need to wrestle with this principle that we see Jesus putting into practice here, he’s not going to identify with a group publicly, that’s going to limit his ability to reach people who don’t identify with that group. Now, he had to go through Samaria. To get away from the Pharisees, he had to go through Samaria, which is interesting because he didn’t actually have to go through Samaria. I mean, Samaria was in between Galilee and Judea. And so, it was the shortest route, but it was not the route that most Jewish people took, because there were huge barriers between the Jews and the Samaritans. And so they tended to avoid going through Samaria whenever possible, they would just take a roundabout route.
And those barriers were religious, they were racial, they were political. And because of that, Jews just didn’t do this. And so it’s interesting that John says, he had to go through Samaria. And I would argue, he had to go through Samaria not because of his journey, but because of his mission. He had to go through Samaria. And so he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son, Joseph. These are Jewish ancestors. Jacob’s well was there and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey sat down by the well. It was about noon. And when a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” His disciples had gone into the town to buy food. And what’s interesting is that Jesus is continuing to ignore barriers. He’s ignoring all kinds of barriers. First off, Jewish men didn’t initiate conversations with Samaritans. Jewish men didn’t even initiate conversations with Jewish women who were strangers to them. They absolutely didn’t initiate conversations with Samaritan women. And he’s asked her for a drink. And he’s not carrying a Nalgene bottle around, okay?
So, when he asked for a drink, he’s basically saying, “Can I have a sip from your bucket?” And that’s the thumping that was absolutely not done, okay? In the ancient eras, to drink from the same vessel, they call it same cup, same bucket, whatever was a sign of kinship, it was a sign of friendship. And so for Jesus to say, “Can I have a drink?” was basically, “Can I be your friend?” All kinds of barriers he’s just ignoring here. Which is precisely why I think why the woman responded the way she did. The Samaritan woman said to him, “You’re a Jew, and I’m a Samaritan woman, how can you ask me for a drink? Jews don’t associate with Samaritans.” And by the way, in most translations, that last sentence, for Jews do not associate with Samaritans is in parentheses. And the reason it’s done that is the translators have assumed that this is a note that John threw in there because he thought, well, maybe my readers don’t know that Jews don’t associate with Samaritans. I don’t think that’s right, I disagree with that. Because first off, John is almost certainly writing to a Jewish audience, and there’s almost no question they would have known that.
Now, in the original Greek, there’s no quotation marks, and so it’s entirely possible. And I think it’s actually more likely that phrase. For Jews don’t associate with Samaritans is not an explanatory note, it’s actually part of what this woman said to Jesus. What she said to Jesus was, dude, you’re a Jew, I’m a Samaritan woman. You’re gonna ask me for a drink? You guys don’t associate with us. What are you doing? And literally, actually, she says something like, “We don’t drink from the same vessels.” Which again, in the ancient eras, that was association, it was kinship, it was friendship. She said, what are you doing? This doesn’t happen. We know these conversations, we’re not friends, right? And a powerful thing to recognize what Jesus is doing it, right? Jesus extends friendship, where shame tells us to expect animosity. Because that’s what this woman is speaking from. She’s speaking from shame. She’s speaking from centuries of feeling like a second-class citizen, not a good enough Jew, even though they’ve got ancestry roots and religious roots that are very similar. For centuries, she’s felt pushed aside and never quite enough. And there’s been a heaping of shame on her, not from anything she had anything to do with, but shame she feels, a distance, a barrier that she’s felt, and what she expects from Jewish men is not friendship, which is exactly what Jesus is offering. Jesus extends friendship, where shame tells us to expect animosity.
I think that’s powerful. I think we need to pay attention to that. Because I promise you, you have some people in your life, in your sphere of influence, who expect animosity from you, because you’re a follower of Jesus. And they’ve never learned that that’s not what it means to follow Jesus, but that is what they have experienced. What does that look like for us to pay attention when Jesus says to extend friendship, where shame tells people that they ought to expect animosity? She said, “What are you doing? You guys don’t talk to us guys.” And Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water?” Well, sir… The woman said, “You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?” And Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them, will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Now, is anybody confused that he’s using a metaphor here? Yeah, he’s clearly not talking about magic water, right? He’s offering salvation, right? It’s pretty clear, right? I mean, it wells up to eternal life. Clearly, that’s not water, that’s a metaphor using water to talk about salvation. It’s really clear. It’s really obvious, who could miss that? Well, this woman misses it. The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming back here to draw water.” She completely misses it. And the thing is like, you might look at that and go, “Okay, is she just, like, not all that bright.” I don’t think that’s the problem. I think the problem is she’s continuing to look at this conversation through the lens of shame. She couldn’t believe somebody would actually offer to somebody like her anything that powerful. And here’s the reality about shame, check this out. Shame keeps us from recognizing hope even when it’s right in front of us.
Some of you are in that place right now. You’ve been listening to this series, or maybe you’re just new to us today, and maybe you’re a follower of Jesus, but you feel tremendous shame. Maybe it’s things you’ve done, maybe it’s things that have been done to you, and you desperately want to get out from under that, you desperately want to experience freedom from that, but shame won’t let you. Because shame keeps saying, “That’s not for you. Freedom, it’s not for you, true forgiveness, grace, mercy, it’s not for you. It might be for somebody else, but it’s not for you.” That’s what shame does. Or maybe you’re not a follower of Jesus, and you hear people talk about this thing we call the Gospel that God loves you so much, that his own Son died to pay for your sins, so you could be forgiven and have an eternal relationship with God. It starts now and goes forever. You’ve heard that but shame says, yeah, but not for you. Shame keeps us from recognizing hope for what it is, even when it’s right in front of us, that’s what’s going on. Jesus has made an incredible offer, but she can’t see it for what it is.
And so he told her, “Go call your husband and come back.” “I have no husband,” she replied. And Jesus said to her, “You’re right when you say that you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man that you now have is not your husband. What you’ve just said is quite true.” It’s interesting here we see the other side or the other source of shame, right? I mean, so far, we’ve definitely got a woman who’s dealing with shame, but it’s shame of things that have been done to her, I think things she had no control over. She’s born as a Samaritan woman, she has no control over that. She’s born as somebody that the Jews heaped scorn and shame on but she’s not having control over that, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t feel the shame of it. But now we find out that she’s also got some shame because of some things that she’s done. Jesus says, “You’ve had five husbands and the guy you’re living with now, he’s not your husband.” Now, five husbands is a lot of husbands, right? I don’t know what was going, I mean, it could have been five deaths, maybe which raises the question like, what was she feeding these guys, right? More likely, I think it’s actually five divorces that she initiated. And the reason I say that is a little bit later on in this conversation, she brings some people back to Jesus. And she says, “Come see the guy who told me everything I ever did.” And the way she’s owning it, she’s like, I had a significant part, I did some things that were wrong.
So, that’s what’s going on here, okay. She’s feeling some shame for some of the things that she has done, and Jesus has just pointed it out. Jesus has just raised the issue that she already feels shame about, which feels weird, right? I mean, like I thought Jesus is all about getting rid of shame, and isn’t he just kind of casting it on here? He’s talking about the rules, right? Pay attention to the sequence, because the sequence is really important. It’s the same sequence we see throughout his ministry. And it says, Jesus offered relationship before getting into the rules. You hear me church? Jesus offered a relationship before getting into the rules. It’s not that he never got into the rules, we’ve seen that throughout this series, right? Jesus always called sin what it is, Jesus always deals with it. And he says, “Turn away from it, turn back to God, repent of it, be forgiven of, but you need forgiveness,” he always does that, but that’s not where he starts, he starts with relationship every single time.
And by the way, it’s not just Jesus, that’s God. Go all the way back to Abraham, the first Jewish person, that God called. He said, “Come with me, I’m gonna take you to a country that I’m going to show you, you’re going to be my people, I’m going to be your God.” He started with the relationship. And you realize, it was literally centuries later, it was hundreds of years later before he gave Moses the Commandments, the rules. He called the Jews into relationship long before he gave them the rules. It’s not that the rules don’t matter, the rules matter. They’re God’s rules. They’re God’s Commandments. And if we want to experience life as God intended it, we have to pay attention to the rules. And when we break the rules, that’s a sin and there’s a price for it. It’s a price that Jesus himself died to pay. So, it’s not that we say the rules don’t matter, but the sequence is important. Jesus offered relationship before getting into the rules. This is a tension that we have to live in, it’s not an easy tension to live in, right? Because as I said, a few weeks ago, we’re kind of like, we’re walking on the peak of a roof. And there’s two easy ways to fall. We can fall off on the side of it’s all relationship. And we’re just going to forget about sin. We’re never going to talk about sin, we’re never gonna challenge anybody on the way that they’re living. That’s not the way God intended. The other side of the roof says, and we’re gonna make them feel it. We’re gonna make them feel their sin, and we’re gonna make them feel how filthy they are, and we’re going to condemn them, and they’re going to feel shame for it.
The problem is that that shame doesn’t create an opportunity, it creates a barrier, and we can’t do either one of those. Jesus never does either one of those. He always walks the peak. And the thing is, sometimes I think we think we have to walk the peak between those two things, like this. We don’t. That’s not how you walk the peak of a roof, you know how you walk the peak of a roof, it doesn’t look cool. This is the clip they’re gonna end up throwing up on Instagram this week, I guarantee it because I look like an idiot. If you don’t look cool… But that’s how you do it, you get both feet in both sides of it, and you keep yourself there. It’s not an easy thing. I can’t tell you, here’s the three principles of what you need to do, here’s the four things you need not to do. It’s something that as followers of Jesus we do because we’re enabled by the power of the Holy Spirit, and we are guided by the model of Jesus. Jesus offered relationship before getting into the rules. He always got into the rules but in the context of relationship. And it was in the context of relationship that they understood that he’s talking about the rules because he cares. Because he cares.
This woman didn’t quite know what to do with that. “Sir, the woman said, I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you, Jews…” and by the way, do you feel the animosity there? Do you feel the barrier, do you feel the shame? You Jews, you tell us that the place where you must worship is in Jerusalem. The problem is, of course, I’m not welcome in Jerusalem. There’s a barrier for me going to Jerusalem. So, that’s the only place I can get to God, but I’m not really allowed to go, so there’s barriers, right? And here’s the interesting thing. For years, I’ve taught this passage, in a particular way, and I’ve heard it taught a very similar way, you may have even heard this taught that way. And that is I always heard what she was saying as kind of a deflection, right? Like, Jesus just made things uncomfortable, right? He’s offered a relationship, but now he’s beginning to talk about the rules and she’s feeling uncomfortable. And so I have a theology question, can we talk about that instead? That’d be a lot of you. How about this? I’ve always had this question.
I always saw this as deflection but for the first time ever, as I was studying and praying through this passage this time, I realized this isn’t deflection, this is a genuine question. She’s asking the question she deeply wants to know the answer to. Because here’s what’s happening. She’s going, hey, the Jews keep putting up barriers. The Jews say, you got to worship in their temple, but I’m not allowed in their temple. But here’s the thing, you’re a prophet, you clearly know things you shouldn’t know, so, I believe God’s speaking to you. But if God’s speaking to you, if you’re a prophet, that also means that you speak for God, so could you tell me God’s heart on this? The Jews keep putting up barriers, is that how God feels about it too? In other words, what she’s basically asking is this. Are they right? She’s asking Jesus, are you going to reinforce the barriers or remove them? Are you going to reinforce the barriers they’ve been telling me are there or are you going to remove them?
Jesus says, “Woman, believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father, neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem, you will worship the Father.” By the way, not God, right? The Father. That’s relationship. “You will worship the Father.” In other words, no barriers. You’re gonna be able to worship God, wherever. And it’s not just her. In the Greek the you there is actually the plural. So, he’s saying all you Samaritans, really all of the world is going to worship, they’re gonna be in a relationship with the Father. It’s not about where, it’s not about when, it’s not about how, it’s not about who, who you are, it’s…Yeah, you can worship, and he wants that relationship, he’s removing the barriers. He says, “I’m not reinforcing any of the barriers, I’m removing them.” So, you Samaritans worship, but you do not know. You understand what Jesus is doing here is, he’s saying, “Listen, I’m opening doors.” Jesus opens doors, where shame tells us to expect barriers. He says you misunderstood, you don’t really know God, but if you did, here’s what you wouldn’t understand is that God opens doors where shame tells you to expect barriers.
He says, “You Samaritans worship, but you do not know. We worship what we do know for salvation is from the Jews. He’s talking about himself. The Messiah is from the Jews. He comes from the Jewish people, yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. God, his Spirit, his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth. It’s a lot there. But the bottom line is, no barriers. No barriers. No barriers. Which is radical, right? I mean, it’s radical in the modern world, even in the modern world, we don’t get that. I mean, the idea that there might not be barriers between us and God, because he’s done everything possible to remove those barriers, that’s a little bit hard, even in the modern world. In the ancient world, is absolutely unheard of. That’s not what religion is, religion is all about the barriers. It’s all about who’s in and who’s out, it’s always about barriers. So, this woman, she’s never heard anything like this, she doesn’t know how to respond to this. And so the woman said, “I know that Messiah called Christ is coming, when he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Basically, is her saying, dude, I think you might have been in the desert too long because what you’re saying doesn’t make any sense. This is not how it works; this is not how it’s done. And I never heard anything like this, that’s too confusing. I can’t wrap my head around it; I’ll tell you what, “I’m just going to wait until the Messiah shows up and he’ll clarify things.”
And then Jesus declared, “I the one speaking to you, I am he.” I’m the Messiah, I’m here to clarify. What I’ve just said is the clarity you need. What’s that clarity? Shame raises barriers, Jesus removes them, which is the Gospel, right? That we had a barrier between us and God, it’s our sin. We broke the rules, there’s a consequence to that, there’s a penalty to that, there’s a wage to it. Our sin created a barrier, we put up the barrier, not God. We put up the barrier, but there is a barrier, but God loves us so much. He sent his own Son to die to pay the price for our sin to remove the barrier. Three days later, he raised him from the dead to prove that our sin had been paid for, that the barrier was down. He offers us a relationship with him that begins to transform us from the inside out, so that we become what the rules point us towards. Not because we’re just following all the rules and regulations, but because we’re actually transformed into men and women of God. The Gospel tears down barriers, that’s what the Gospel is. Shame raises barriers, but Jesus removes them.
Which if you think about it basically means, it basically means the shame is the anti-gospel, right? Because shame replaces barriers that Jesus has removed. When we put shame on ourselves, when we put shame on other people, we’re actually re-raising barriers that Jesus literally died to remove. So, as we wrap up the series, I want to ask you to wrestle with three questions. First question is this, what barriers is shame raising in my life? Maybe you’re a follower of Jesus and shame is raising a barrier in your life because you don’t feel close to God because you don’t feel like that’s really an option for you. Maybe it’s because of what you did before you said yes to Jesus, or honestly, maybe it’s because of what you’ve done since you said yes to Jesus. We have some young people in our lives that are, kind of, new to following Jesus and sometimes we get this feeling from them. And we ask that, we confirm, yeah, that’s exactly what they’re feeling. They’re like, “Yeah, I know, Jesus died for all my sin up until the point that I said, yes, but now I screwed up. And now even though I’m a follower of Jesus, I fell short and I messed up big time.” And like, there’s not still grace, is there? There’s not still forgiveness, isn’t it? There’s not still love, isn’t it? There’s not still like, is there? We have to… Yeah, there is. That’s the voice of shame talking. Shame raises barriers, but Jesus removes them.
Or maybe you’re not a follower of Jesus, and maybe you have a hard time believing that the hope that this thing we call the Gospel talks about is actually an option for you. Maybe it’s because of what’s been done to you, maybe it’s because what you’ve been done, but shame is saying, yeah, but not for you. And you need to hear this, you need to hear this truth. Shame is speaking, not God. Shame raises barriers, Jesus removes them. Where in your life is shame raising a barrier? It’s time to step out from under them.
Another question I want you to wrestle with is this, is there anywhere in my life that I’m doing shame’s work for it? This is the challenging part. If shame raises barriers, but Jesus removes them, as followers of Jesus, we need to be following his example, right? I mean, that’s not complicated. So, are there places in our lives where we’re actually teaching people to expect animosity from Jesus because that’s what they get from the followers? Are there places where we’re raising barriers of shame, where we’re casting shame on people and creating barriers and shame doesn’t even need to do it? Maybe they’re not feeling shame yet, but we’re making sure they do eventually because we just keep adding bricks to it. Is there someone in your life that is feeling a barrier because of the way that you’ve communicated to them?
This leaves me this last question, and this is the mission question. You know at Mission Hills, we’re all about helping people become like Jesus and join him on mission. So, we take this whole shame series, what’s it look like to maybe find one thing, one big, maybe risky step of faith to trust Jesus and what he’s been teaching us through his Word over the last few weeks? Here’s the question, I think that might help us to get a handle on it. Who in my life probably expects animosity from me as a follower of Jesus and how can I surprise them with friendship? Who in your life, because of what they’ve done and maybe they’re feeling the shame of that or maybe it’s because of what other Christians have cast upon them. For whatever reason, who in your life probably expects you as a follower of Jesus to have animosity towards them? And what would it look like and what might happen if we did what Jesus does and if we surprise them with friendship? Would you pray about that with me?
God, thank you for the series, thank you for these examples from the Gospels, thank you for the example of Jesus. There’s really good news in this, Lord, because we all feel shame, we all hear its voice and we struggle not to give it the final vote in our lives, we feel the shade that it casts and we live under it. Lord, to see Jesus just consistently say to shame, shut up. We understand that shame is a liar, but it’s a loud liar. So, we thank you for these powerful examples that we’re not called to live under shame. And we ask for power through your Holy Spirit, to step out from under its cloud in our lives, to embrace all that you have for us and what it means to live for you, to be on mission with you. Lord, as followers of Jesus right now, we just asked to speak to our hearts and point us to that person. Maybe they’re close to us, maybe they’re just kind of on the periphery of our life, maybe they almost go unnoticed. But would you speak to us even right now, Holy Spirit, speak to us. Bring to mind that one person who probably expects us as followers of Jesus, friendship is not an option between them and us. And would you give us an abundance of grace and mercy and creativity and whatever it is, that we might surprise them with friendship the way that Jesus surprised this woman? Lord, it’s so hard to walk this balance. We thank you for the example of Jesus that shows us what it looks like, and we thank you for the power of the Holy Spirit that will enable us to do it, if we just listen.
If you’re a follower of Jesus, well, just take a moment right now, begin praying for the people that are listening to this message online, in person, listening to a podcast, or somewhere else, that they don’t have that relationship with Jesus. And if that’s you, I just want to speak to you for a moment. I believe there’s a very real possibility that the only reason you’re not a follower of Jesus yet is because you have a hard time believing that he wants you. There’s a barrier that’s gone up and maybe shame brought up the barrier, maybe it’s another barrier, maybe it’s an unrelated one. But there’s a barrier that you feel between you and saying yes to following Jesus, and I want you to hear this truth. Jesus removes barriers. He loves you so much that he came, he lived a perfect life, so you had no sin to pay for.
So, he died on the cross to pay for your sin, to remove that barrier. Three days later, he rose from the dead. That’s a fact of history. He did that to prove that the barrier was down, that it wasn’t in the way anymore. And Jesus is offering you forgiveness of every wrong you’ve ever done. He’s offering you freedom from sin and freedom from shame and guilt, he is offering you a relationship with God that starts now and goes on forever, eternal life. Now, all you have to do is say yes to following him. He wants you to follow him because he wants to be in a relationship with you. My challenge to you right now is whatever barrier you think is between you and him, just understand right now, it’s not there. You can begin that relationship and have everything that comes with it right here right now. Here’s how you do it. You’re just gonna have a conversation, it’s all it takes because the barriers are gone. Here’s what you’re gonna say. Just say something like this in your heart right now to God. Say:
God, I’ve done wrong, and I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for dying to pay for my sin. I believe you rose from the dead. I understand that you’re offering me forgiveness, freedom from sin and shame, a relationship with God, eternal life. I want to receive that right now, so, I’m putting my faith in you, Jesus. I’m putting my trust in you. Jesus, I’m choosing to follow you for now and forever. Amen.