“But what about that sin last night?”
“But what about your past?”
“But you don’t look or sound like _____________. Now he (or she) is a real Christian.”
“But you still have problems. The Gospel hasn’t fixed ___________. What are you going to do about that?”
Sound familiar to any of you? Think the Gospel of Jesus’ unfathomable love, transformative grace, and body-resurrecting power can’t possibly be for somebody as lousy as you? Or do you think that rescue from the hands of Jesus of Nazareth can’t really help you with (or free you from) your money crises, work stresses, or insulting family members? Think your sins are too big or the Gospel too small?
There was a lady who ran into our Savior, one time. She thought she was getting some water. Pretty normal errand. This woman was living with a man who wasn’t her husband, by the way. She’d actually been married five times before getting with her current boyfriend. Her little life was cracked with sin and busted by all of her idolatries.
But what she really needed was some water.
What do you think the “Yeah, but…” mindset would say was essential to fixing this broken girl’s life? Self-control, maybe. Or self-esteem. She should probably leave her trashy circle of mischievous and rowdy pals and replace them with a support system of good, solid people. Maybe night school and an associate’s degree in nursing.
The “Yeah, but…” heart that springs from (a) the Satan who hates God and (b) the flesh that’s both terrified of and angry at Him says that the saving power of Jesus Christ in the Gospel is cute, but we’ve got real problems here, thank you very much. The “but…” heart denigrates Christ and exalts sins, problems, or self. It magnifies the very things Christ went to the Cross to crush and destroy (death, sin, fear, the Devil) and it downplays Him, and His power. To say “Yeah, but…” to the Gospel is to doubt the Jesus who hung, died, rose, and is returning.
I’ll never know that Samaritan lady’s name, at least not until we’re both standing on the recreated and deathless soil of the new Earth. But even though I only know of this one afternoon in her earthly life, I’m sure about what she needed.
From John chapter 4:
“Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.'”
Yeah, Jesus, but I really need water.
“The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw.'”
See, Jesus knew what she really needed. And He knows what you really need. It’s fine, good even, to ask for food and clothing as we need them, and He cares for us by giving them, along with many other sweet blessings. It’s fine to ask for guidance or deliverance through our day-to-day trials. But the deepest impoverishment we suffer from is one that only the Spiritual power of Jesus Christ’s grace can solve. We are, before we are anything else, busted sinners in need of a healing Savior.
And Jesus specializes in saving sinners. Which is good, because that’s all there are, here.
This redeeming King offers a Gospel for all people and all problems.
“Yeah, but you don’t know what I’ve done.” Well, Saul imprisoned Christians and handed them over to death. Peter deserted Jesus Christ on the night of His crucifixion right after loudly proclaiming he’d follow Him through anything. Our Samaritan sister above was committing five kinds of adultery when the Shepherd found her. You tell me about how big your sins are and I’ll tell you about how deep His mercies are. If the contest is between Christ’s blood and your treacheries, I’m betting the house on the blood.
“Yeah, but I’m going through _______________.” I get it. I sympathize with your pain, if this is you. I’ve had children have health scares and I’ve been backed into financial corners and I’ve felt like the world was crushing me under the weight of its responsibilities or my own failures. But He is the answer. He just is. The hope that flows from knowing I am secure forever in the grasp of the Messiah, that my body will be raised and my trespasses erased, that is the underpinning of good courage and joy in the midst of terrible tragedy or crippling anxiety. The Good News is where you can draw the best sort of strength.
“Yeah, but I’ve been trying to be a good Christian and it just isn’t working.” Again, I can feel your frustrations. The muscles and the heart do get tired, because we’re flawed and frail creatures. But Jesus never stops being good even when we get tired. He is just as awesome, magnificent, merciful, holy, and beautiful now as the moment when we first tasted His glories and grace. And in the exhausted moments, if you’ve truly trusted in Jesus, then keep in mind: We’re fighting and warring and sweating in a war He has won and will win. We are finishing a race of which Jesus the Christ is already victor. Your eternal destiny was never ultimately in your hands, so fight with urgency but never despair. None of us are the truly pivotal pieces in this war. And as for the demons and the sins that assail you while you fight? Just remember that the Lion of Judah will take no prisoners. Satan, sin, and death will sting us no more once they’re in the lake of His holy judgment. We have a vapor of earthly life to struggle in, and then comes neverending peace with our Father, His Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Let go of the “but”s. They’ll kill your hope and drain your joy. Instead, cling with faith to the Jesus who ransoms and cleanses murderers and cowards and adulteresses. The Jesus who makes them better as He takes them home.
You have two hands. Use both to grasp Him, and you won’t have anything left to clutch your doubts with.