By Chaplain (Col) Stephen W. Leonard, USA, Ret.
“Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” John 4:10
“Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed, and walk’?” Mark 2:9
Which is more valuable? To be healed from lifelong paralyzed legs, or to be forgiven your sins? Or, to have all your history told to you by someone you have never met, or to ask him for and receive “living water?”
In both cases, Jesus was not believed until He showed his bona fides! That is, until he displayed His power to truly show He was the Son of God, the Messiah waited for; His Word and ability to give “living water” or His power to “forgive sins” was true and can be understood.
In these instances, Jesus offered the very greatest of gifts, but He had to perform a miracle before the eyes of the unbelievers were opened to who He truly was and that He actually possessed the power to perform what He offered. His audience was more impressed by the power of healing and supernatural knowledge than the forgiveness of sin, or possessing “living water.” Jesus had to prove his bona fides before His gifts could be believed and take hold.
We can have nothing greater done for us than the forgiveness of sins, and there is nothing greater than being able to drink “living water.” Yet, Jesus had to display that this was the Son of God speaking, and that He can actually do those things: forgive sins and give “living water.” This was no joke! He is who He says He is!
So, we have the privilege of presenting the gospel to many young men at the Paul Anderson Youth Home. Some of them have never darkened the door of a church. The need and idea of a Savior is foreign to them. Forgiveness of sins and living water are strange thoughts to decipher. Nevertheless, our committed task is to present the gospel to them in word and deed during their stay here.
We are not Jesus, yet we are His emissaries. What are our bona fides? Jesus can perform miracles to prove who He is and that His word is true. Do we have any bona fides which open the minds and hearts of these young men?
We do. The Holy Spirit is our bona fide! He is the one who opens hearts and minds as we present God’s Word. The message of the Savior, who forgives sin and gifts living water, can enter the hearts of these young men through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit.
We cannot persuade with our words alone. But the Spirit is the One who makes our words come to life in these boys. Without Him, we are not understandable. With Him, true communication takes place, and transformation is made possible.
So, come, Holy Spirit, come! Open their hearts and minds. Do not let these words fall on hard ground. But bring the spark of new life.
“Amazing grace!—how sweet the sound—that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see.”
(1st verse of John Newton’s hymn, “Amazing Grace!,” 1779)