“I Love To Tell The Story” This is a popular hymn which has been sung by many people over the years, and they took it to heart, knowing that they were responsible for telling the “story”. We sang the hymn recently in our congregation when we were giving bibles to the third graders. As we were singing along, I realized that there is a problem with the third verse of the hymn. It goes like this:
The second line of the verse reminds me of the story of Yeshua and the woman at the well, from the Gospel of John. (John 4:4-26) Yeshua tells the woman, that “Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst…” (RSV) In the hymn, the words suggest that those who know the “story” best, thirst to hear it over, and over again. It must be that their thirst is never really quenched by hearing this “story”. If this is the case, then what makes the “story” different from the living water that Yeshua offers us? What’s wrong with this “story”?
There are two factors to consider in answering this question. The first factor is the “story” itself. What is the “story” that the hymn talks about? We can safely assume that the hymn refers to the story of Yeshua’s life; His birth, His ministry; His death on the cross, and His resurrection from the dead. The church talks about all of these parts, at various times, but all too often, the church brings us back to focus on the third part; His death on the cross. And it doesn’t stop at just remembering that He died on the cross; it regularly, and repeatedly goes to great lengths to remind us that we are sinful people, and that Yeshua’s death was necessary to atone for our sinfulness.
The problem with this approach is that it over-emphasizes our sin (which Yeshua did not do) and points to our sin as the cause of Yeshua’s death. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Yeshua Himself makes this clear when He says “No one can take my life from me.” If this is the case, then our sin must also be incapable of making us resposible for His death. Instead, He says “I lay down my life voluntarily.” (John 10:18 NLT) (For more about our guilt, or rather, our lack thereof, in relation to Yeshua's death on the cross, see Passionately Avoiding the Movie) So the reason that our thirst isn’t quenched by the churches version of the “story” about Yeshua, is because it has been spoiled and become tainted by the continued emphasis on sin.
There may be another factor to consider, as we seek to answer the question: Why the doesn’t “story” quench the thirst of those who want to hear it again, and again? In the message which I wrote for Christmas and New Years (A Message for Christmas and New Years), I touched on this second factor: the self centered tendency of guilt. In that message, I wrote “While some amount of remorse may be appropriate as a part of the confessional process; many people feel the guilt much more severely than the Father would consider necessary. These high levels of guilt can actually become a downward spiral of disability, which becomes a stumbling block”.
The “natural man” or lower self, is that part of us, from which comes our selfishness. It wants us to put our needs and wants first; to give primary focus and attention to our own self over and above all else. In those times when we succeed at overcoming the lower self, and have success at putting the needs of others above our own, we reach a point of clarity, when our previously selfish behavior becomes apparent. In these moments, we recognize the need to confess our sins; and having done so, we are free to accept the Father’s forgiveness.
It is at this point that we could feel the joy of having been forgiven, and move on in further service. But it is also at this same point, that the lower self sees an opportunity to take back some of the attention that has been taken away from it. So it throws up an emotion called guilt. It’s alright to feel bad when we realize that we have behaved selfishly, and we need to do what we can to correct the situation. Having done so, we are faced with a decision: we can accept the Father’s forgiveness and move on, or we can continue to come back to that selfish thing we did again and again, and feel guilty about it all some more. This is not the Father’s will for us, but this is exactly the way that the world operates, and the lower self also operates in this way.
This is why the lower self wants us to participate in the “thirst” to hear the “story” over and over again. It tries to get control, to make us feel bad, so that our attention will be turned from serving God and others, back to simply trying to take care of ourselves. With these feelings of guilt, we can easily begin to feel that we aren’t worthy to serve God, or do anything else; so we stop trying altogether.
But the living water which Yeshua offers us reveals the real “story”. Yeshua tells us that we are to approach the kingdom of heaven like little children. One of the ways that we can do that is to settle our accounts, or differences with our playmates, and then move on to a new game, together; and all will be good again. So it is with our sins. If you have sinned: confess your sin, do what you can to correct the situation, and then accept the Father's forgiveness and move on, knowing all is good again. This is the Father’s will, and this is the real “story”. Believe it when Yeshua declares that He laid His life down willingly. He has settled our accounts with the Father, and we can start anew, with joy, in service to the Father and His creation. It’s not only a better “story”, it’s the truth!
Grace and peace to you all,