July 17th, 2012 at 11:57 am
In John 7:37-38, Jesus quoted the prophet Isaiah when he stood and shouted, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” This invitation still stands today, but I wonder if we are willing to be as bold as Jesus was when He proclaimed this to a crowd of not only traditional worshipers but also to a crowd of tradition-bound worshipers.
Jesus broke tradition in at least three ways. First, He stood. As insignificant as that may seem to us, this broke the tradition of Rabbis who sat while they taught. Sitting was the accepted norm. Nowhere in Scripture is it required or even suggested as the way of preaching or teaching that, but by example and experience, it had become part of the acceptable form of “true” worship.
Another departure from the “as usual” presentation is that Jesus shouted. It was understood at that time that one must never shout in the temple. Again, this is another man-made rule that is not found in Scripture. But, because the idea was to show reverence for God, the tradition invoked a gag order on all who entered the gates of the temple in the effort to bring about a heightened sense of worship.
The Rabbis had forgotten that true worship is not contrived but rather conceived on the inside of man. Jesus points this out as He declares that all who drink of Him will not be able to contain the rivers (plural) of living water that will flow from them. Rivers that converge together are noisy, free forms of liquid movement contained by banks that keep them moving in the right direction.
The third break from tradition is an assumption on my part, that those in the temple that day heard the voice of the Lord. I am not sure when the last time God’s voice was heard in the temple by a crowd of worshipers, but I do know the crowd heard His voice that day.
Jesus drew the crowd’s attention by standing. He took advantage of their attention by shouting the Scripture. He made it personal to each individual, regardless of their cultural standing. And He made Himself heard to the point where people began to identify Him as a prophet, the Christ or just a troublemaker who threatened the status quo.
You might be wondering what this has to do with reaching the oil field worker, his or her family and friends. My challenge to you is to ask if you are ready to break from tradition, with the ways things have always been done in order reach the lost for Christ.
I am not trying to judge you or tell you the way you are worshiping is wrong. But I am telling you that to reach the people of this oilfield culture, you must recognize the need to adapt, change, tweak, tear down and throw out. We must be willing to do whatever is right and necessary to communicate to them on an individual level that Christ Jesus loves them and wants to offer them eternal life through a personal relationship with Him.
The best part is that you as a Christ follower have been equipped to do so by the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit within you. Your “rivers of living water” can make the difference to one or many if you are willing to be obedient to Christ’s command. He has called each of us to face those who are hurting, covered in the muck and mire of this world and thirsting for love, so the real love of Christ can wash over them through you.
When I was approached about writing this article on reaching and ministering to the oilfield worker, I thought about sharing about oilfield workers’ history having a hard-living, hardworking, hard-playing lifestyle. I planned to write about how many workers mistrust the traditional church, accusing Christians of being hypocrites, just Sunday actors in a play.
Many of them feel judged and looked down upon by “Church going” folks. And others are bound by generational prejudice against Christians because a family member in the past has been “Churched” for drinking, gambling, dancing or some other event.
However, these mindsets are not just found in the oilfield workforce. They are prevalent in the minds and hearts of all non-believers. It is the barrier designed by the devil and built as well as reinforced by men, believers and non-believers alike. We recognize this, but what are we, as Christians, willing to do about it?
We must follow Christ’s example. Jesus stood up and shouted His invitation to a hurting and lost world. And we are to do the same thing. Revelation 22:17 tells us “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.”
Jesus commands us by the leading, power and authority of the Holy Spirit to echo and repeat His invitation. He didn’t sit and whisper. He was not bound by man’s tradition nor conformed to man’s opinion. But He was obedient to the Father’s will.
How can we, as His bride, do any different? God has given many of us the opportunity to share Christ with a people who appreciate standing and stretching more than sitting and who know that when there is a lot of noise, living is taking place. So shout over the noise of their life with the one thing worth shouting about – the good news that Jesus loves them just the way they are, inside and out!
By Pat Traxler, Pastor of Brush Country Cowboy Church in George West