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Springs of Living Water

March 26, 2023

Springs of Living Water

Passage: John 4:1-24
Service Type:


John 4:1-24


It is good again to be with you this morning for Vision Sunday. So Vision Sunday is something we do twice a year – one in the Spring, the last Sunday of March, and one in the Fall, the weekend after Labor Day.


Our Spring Vision Sunday every year marks the beginning of River City Church, so it is today that we can praise God for the fact that River City is now 4 years old! 


We said it again at our Leadership Team meeting this week – we’re so thankful for God’s patience and his grace as we’ve learned what it means to follow him, to listen for his voice, and to help others. We’re so thankful for all of you, as well, who have been patient and gracious with us as we’ve learned on the fly. 


Most importantly, I praise God that the gospel of Jesus is still front and center here. By his grace, he has kept us from falling or going off the rails, he’s continued to provide a facility for us, continued to give us favor in the community, continued to call more and more of you into informal and formal ministry and leadership.


God has really, really, been good and faithful to River City, and we are grateful. 


So let’s just go to our Heavenly Father in a prayer of gratitude right now, for all that he’s done and all that he will do, and then I’ll dismiss the children to KidCity. 






My wife Jodi is gifted by God to be a dreamer. Her brain never shuts off coming up with new ideas, plans, and possibilities for everything under the sun. How many of you can identify with that – you are a dreamer, the artist, the risk-taker. The world is an enchanted forest to you. You know things can go wrong, you just don’t want to think about it. 


How many of you are the realists? Logical thinkers. It’s not that you aren’t creative you just prefer straight lines and angles that have been thought through. Right? 


That’s me. But, while I’m not a dreamer, I have had this picture in my head for about 6 months now of what kind of church I imagine River City to be as we go into the future, and I do want to share that with you by way of the story Angie just read from John chapter 4. 


The situation is that Jesus has been traveling quite a bit, and he finds himself tired enough to want to take a break, so he sits down at a well near a town called Sychar. That part in itself is not entirely unusual. 


What is a bit unusual is that he sent all of his disciples to town to get food, leaving him there by himself.  They were not about to feed 5000 people, so there’s no reason all 12+ disciples were needed to go grab food. It almost leaves you thinking maybe he anticipated the conversation that was about to happen… almost like it he planned to be there at that well alone at exactly that time of day. 


Sure enough, a woman soon shows up by herself. She’s coming to get water in the middle of the day, precisely because no one else is. Something about this woman’s story has made her life a lonely one. Obviously we’ll read in a minute that she had 5 husbands, so most people assume that must mean she has a lust for pleasure and just hops from relationship to relationship. It could also mean the men in her life have just tossed her to the side like a used napkin after she becomes a disappointment to them. 


Maybe it was something else entirely. Whatever it was, it was easier to go to the well alone than to go when other women were there.


She doesn’t expect this man at the well to give her much trouble, since she’s a Samaritan – unclean, to a Jew like him. Jews didn’t interact with Samaritans, and men didn’t speak privately to women they weren’t planning to pursue. This shouldn’t take long. 


She’s just trying to get her water bucket attached to the rope and lower it, when Jesus asks for a drink. Her reply is almost snarky. “I thought you don’t talk to people like me.” 


Well, Jesus says in verse 10, if you knew who I was, and what a gift of God this is for you that I’m sitting here today, you would be asking me for a drink. And the kind of water I would give you is living water. She’s heard that term before. Living water is how people spoke of a spring of water. So, she misses the point and responds a bit dismissively.


11 “Sir,” said the woman, [a] “you don’t even have a bucket, and [b] the well is deep. So where do you get this ‘living water’? This well has been here for several thousand years. Why would we go somewhere else? It’s reliable. Predictable. Unchanging. 


And Jesus replies like this, Yeah, well,: [13] …"Everyone who drinks from this water will get thirsty again. [14] But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again. In fact, the water I will give him will become a well of water springing up in him for eternal life." 


Here’s where I want to camp out for a minute, because every one of us in this room is thirsty. Everyone of us in this room, everyone in this city, everyone across the globe is thirsty, looking to something or someone to satisfy their thirst. Everyone of us has a longing for something that we think will give us life, and naturally, thirsty people look for water. So we look for wells that will satisfy our thirst – people or places or things or experiences that will give us some sense of worth, or value, or happiness, or fullness.


Most often, the places and people we look to are good things, even gifts of God.  That’s what makes it so tempting to think that we’ll find what we’re looking for there. 


    1. The well of work – God established work as one of the reasons he created human beings. The nature of work changed when humans chose to rebel, but work was God’s idea for the good and the flourishing of the whole world long before sin entered the picture. This is an easy one to run to, even for people who stay at home with the kids all day. We’re tempted to think that doing more, earning more, accomplishing more, being more productive, we’ll find some sense of worth and fulfillment. Drinking from this well, we’re tempted to think that a day is wasted if we haven’t been productive. 
      1. Work is good, but it will never satisfy your soul. 
      2. Productivity is good, accomplishment is good, income is good, but it can never give you what only Jesus can give you.
  • The well of relationships – The Father, Son, and Spirit have always existed in perfect relationship, always delighting and rejoicing in each other’s company. So of course, relationships are good. The nature of relationships changed when sin entered the world as well, and now we’re tempted to think that relationships give us our identity. We aren’t complete until we’re with someone. When we drink from this well, our focus isn’t “How can I serve this person? How can I lay down my life for her?” Instead the focus is, “I love the way I feel when I’m with you.” Or, “I love who I am when I’m with you.” That puts so much pressure on that person to perform just to your liking, and it’s a well that dries up pretty quickly.
      1. Relationships are good, but they will never satisfy your soul. 
      2. Sex and romance is a good gift of God for human flourishing and enjoyment, but it can never give you what only Jesus can give you. 
  • The well of religion – The well of religion is filled with the water of “should.” You should pray more. You should read more. You should swear less. You shouldn’t drink alcohol. You shouldn’t act like that. It’s based on law and judgment and condemnation. It’s laced with fear and browbeating and punishment. Sometimes, though, people drink deeply from this well, filling up on the shoulds and shouldn'ts, hoping it will give them life. Hoping that if they can look right, sound right, behave right, it will earn the righteousness they are told they should be aiming for – afterall, it’s what God expects of you. 
  • Religion is good - especially, as James 1:27 says, religion that cares for orphans and widows in their distress. But religious activity itself will never satisfy your soul. 
  • Because shoulds and shouldn’ts cannot give you what only Jesus can give you. 


We obviously could go on and on. I haven’t touched the well of entertainment. I haven’t touched the well of popularity or influence or reputation. I haven’t touched food or alcohol or wealth. The well of personal appearance, the well of rest and vacation, or even the well of ministry. 


The reality is, we’re all the woman at the well in one way or another. We’re all guilty of trying to avoid certain pain in our life by drinking from wells that won’t actually quench our thirst, or fill in what’s missing in our lives. According to Yahweh himself, in Jeremiah chapter 2, this a double evil. He says the first evil is that you have rejected me, the fountain of living water. That’s evil number 1. Evil number 2 is that you keep digging your own wells that are cracked and can’t hold water. 


Again… all those wells I mentioned are good things in and of themselves. Designed by God for human flourishing and good in the world. They just make terrible wells. The book of Ecclesiastes spells that all out in detail. 


But here’s the good news: In the gospel, as in this story, Jesus has gone out of his way to come to your specific region, to your specific city, to your specific sin. He rolls up uninvited to the exact well you drink from and sits down, and waits for you to show up thirsty. He doesn’t bring all the other disciples to judge you. He doesn’t bring your pastor or community group to point out all of your sins. He doesn’t bring your whole family to expose you in front of them all and make a fool of you. 


John 3:17 is that he didn’t come to the world to condemn it, but to save it. If you think you have to have your life perfectly in order before Jesus will want to save you, read this story again. Jesus came to her. Jesus found her when she wasn’t even looking for him. He was not invited – he came because he wanted to give her water.  Romans 5:8 says God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. 


Look at the picture Jesus uses to meet her in that moment. She is drawing water from a well. Wells can dry up. Wells can be filled in with dirt by conquering armies. Wells have to be dug by someone or something. Jesus invites her to come to him for the kind of water that becomes a spring inside of her. A spring is not man made. You don’t go pick a spot to dig a spring. You discover a spring. You don’t fill in or stop up a spring. Try as you might to plug it up, it’ll just find another way out. 


Jesus isn’t just offering her a new way of life, her own personal well that will keep her satisfied until heaven – he is offering her an abundance of life that will spill out of her and onto others. If we’d keep reading down to verse 39, you’ll see that’s exactly what happens as many of the people in her city end up believing in Jesus because of her testimony. 


What is this spring Jesus is talking about? What is the living water that is unstoppable, unhideable, that will fill and satisfy anyone who comes to Jesus for life? What is this water that springs up out of a person, bringing her eternal life and affecting everyone nearby? 


What else could this spring be but all the benefits of the gospel of grace, and the power of the Holy Spirit – Jesus himself, filling and strengthening, and giving life, through his Spirit, indwelling and saturating anyone who abandons all other wells to receive the spring of life! As soon as she sees Jesus as the Messiah in verse 26, she drops the water jar and sprints into town…already filled to overflowing by the gospel of grace and the Spirit of Jesus. 


And church, this picture that I’ve had in my mind for a couple months now is that of a spring bubbling up out of this school, pouring out over the walls and running down Schnoebelen Street, and over onto Kleopfer, down Highway 22 and into every home along the way, reaching main street and even further. That when we gather together on Sundays, the springs in many of you and the spring in me all join together into one fountain that saturates this city with the gospel of Jesus, until every man, woman, and child in Riverside and the surrounding communities is unable to go a full day without running into someone who is a kingdom-minded ambassador for the glory of God. 


That is to say, when God fills not just a person, but an entire church with his Holy Spirit, it’s something that won’t be contained by one meeting for an hour and a half on Sunday mornings. It is something that spills out of us no matter where we are and no matter what day of the week it is. 


This spring of water inside of us, the Spirit of Christ, is the power of God to help us be what the church really can be. If the church is the body of Christ, the Holy Spirit is the breath of God that helps that body live and move and have it’s being.