There’s much about the life and ministry of Jesus that resonates with me, and that I appreciate and aspire toward. The Gospel of John is an incredible work that speaks volumes to the person of Jesus and his ministry importance. John, however, writes in order to inspire the faith of his readers, that’s not taken for granted. There are many ‘signs’ in John’s Gospel that allude to the identity, purpose and mission of Christ, coupled with the infamous seven “I AM” sayings. The Gospel of John unequivocally points to the deity of Jesus Christ and the calling of Christ in mission that beckons readers to not only observe, but become participant observers in God’s great mission endeavor. There’s nothing like a church fired up for mission, and nothing like individuals and families set on course for the common good of a community because of the Gospel. However, as the Gospel unfolds, there are many obstacles to transformation that present themselves that require our urgent attention.
Take a brief moment to join me in a personal, reflective journey regarding a few obstacles that you ay encounter as you seek to serve God faithfully where you’re at. Start this section by reading John chapter 4 and taking special note to anything that detracts and distracts from transformed lives. Using John 4 as a basis of discussion I would like to present a number of obstacles to Spiritual transformation below.
OBSTACLES TO SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION
OBSTACLE #1: CONFORMITY
Conformity to culture seems a norm in churches and among Christians these days, and Christians have even invented a name for this- relevance. Cultural relevance in many instances compromises the Gospel and makes culture the axis and goal instead of Christ, love and truth. Throughout his ministry, Jesus showed that he was a non-conformist when it came to the rules of men and the institutions of men that neither glorified God, nor achieved his purpose. John 4 opens with a reminder that religious folk will not always be happy with a genuine move of the Holy Spirit and growth in ministry. In verses 1, Jesus decided to travel to Galilea rather than have a confrontation with leaders who wanted to bring him down and criticize what God was doing in and through his ministry.
OBSTACLE #2: CULTURE
“Jesus had to go through Samaria”; what a statement of purpose/ intent. Truth be told, Jesus’ intent on traveling through Samaria after his first sign in Cana of Galilea and his trip to Jerusalem at the time of the Feast, was a helpful allusion to the fact that God’s Kingdom includes those who may not fit our mold, or cultural preference. Our culture, or the recipient culture may be a real stumbling block to sharing the Gospel. Much can be written on this topic, in fact much has been written on the tools to be employed in cross-cultural mission. However, the starting point, in my mind, is the equality of all cultures at the foot of the cross and our versatility and humility in bridging the gap. Jesus illustrates this point perfectly in John 4, and provides a helpful point of reference for breaking the barrier of culture in sharing the Gospel.
OBSTACLE #3: COMFORT ZONES
Leading on from the previous obstacle, each of us is socially and culturally conditioned, whether we like it or not. Part of this is our insistence that our culture is right, fitting and supreme. We’ve all become comfortable in may ways with our culture, beliefs, geography, worship etc. Our comfort zones can serve a impenetrable barriers in sharing the Gospel when we do not allow God’s kingdom to break down our natural proclivity toward our self-interests and desire to preserve our lives, along with all that comes with it. The Samaritan women became rather used to the rhymes of a life of social isolation from the other members of her community that led her to draw water in the 6th hour, in isolation from others. Truth is, God’s not too interested in our comfort as there is a bigger picture at play- one that involves removing the obstacle of our comfort for the sake of God’s greater good.
OBSTACLE #4: CONCEALMENT
Many of us struggle with living with a concealed identity like the Samaritan woman- our lives are filled with shame and guilt that oftentimes paralyze our ability to either see God at work, or join in his mission purposes. We may easily hide or mask our struggles, identity or sin from man, but nothing is hidden from God’s sight. Why have our churches become a place where we display our false sense of security and model our success before the hoards of people we feel we need to impress. God’s approval is the only one we need to seek, and in order to gain this, as well as the respect of others in God’s unfolding mission, we need to eat humble pie and allow our testimony to speak to those who know the best and worst about our lives.
OBSTACLE #5: CONTAINMENT
I greatly appreciate the scene that unfolds in John 4 where the Samaritan woman abandons her jar of water (immediate, real need) and runs to the village to share of her encounter with the Messiah who knew her heart, secrets and failures, yet did not abandon her or push her aside. Her enthusiasm for sharing her testimony is commendable, and yet is so lacking in my own life and in the lives of people that claim to be followers of Jesus. Containment of the good news is in effect denial of its effect and refusal to share is perhaps the greatest shame for those around us. All that the woman shares is what she has sees and experienced of Jesus, perhaps there’s a lesson in this; we’re not expected to have a perfect theology, or a vast knowledge with all the answers, all we need is a valid experience of Jesus that excites us to share it around.
What about you?
Which of the obstacles above best describe you personally? One aspect that I am constantly challenged about is my tendency to ‘contain’ the message and good news to the confines of the church. Throughout this year, my desire it to see my walk with God overflow into various sectors of life and see greater Gospel impact, even as a ‘leader of leaders’ within the lives of other. Feel free to share your thoughts with me and interact on this post. DH