You’re Not the Sum of Your Past Mistakes

Jesus’ encounter in John 4 with the woman at the well is one of my favorite Gospel stories. I love how Jesus kicks cultural norms to the curb by going to the well on purpose to speak to an immoral Samaritan woman. This was not an accidental encounter. 

Jesus doesn’t do accidental encounters. 

Another thing I love is how God draws this defeated woman in. Yes, you read that right. God desired the heart of an immoral, damaged woman. God wanted her when no one else did so He met her where no one else would, to make her into someone no one else thought she could be: clean, adored, and accepted. 

But the part that gives me pause every time I read this passage is how the woman is changed by Jesus’ plain revelation that He is the Christ. 

The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things,” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” (John 4:25–26)

And with that, she left her water jug at the well and ran (not walked) back to town to tell everyone—all who rejected her and avoided her and wouldn’t speak to her—to come and see and believe. 

“Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” (John 4:29) 

The Gospel Shreds Our Shame Forever

I don’t know about you, but if a man approached me in the produce section of my favorite grocery store and began listing my sins, I’d probably run. At the very least, I’d shoosh him. I certainly don’t think I’d start inviting others over. Hey, you should hear this guy. He just listed every wrong thing I’ve ever done. 

But this woman ran to tell everyone, inviting them to come and meet the Messiah. Why? I can only guess she no longer felt ashamed. She took Jesus at His word and freedom followed. Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” This rejected Samaritan woman believed Jesus was who He said He was, and the chains fell off. 

When we, by grace through faith, embrace the truth of Christ as our Savior, there’s an immediate freeing that takes place. The shackles of shame disintegrate like wood scorched in a blazing fire until all that remains is an ash heap, not meant to wear as though we still need to mourn, but intended to blow away and scatter forever. 

The result is the ability to run (not walk) into situations that once paralyzed us, like speaking confidently to those who know all about our past. Dear sister, one of the beautiful miracles of the gospel is a permanent redefinition of who we are. In Christ, we are not the sum of our mistakes; we are the beautiful manifestation of His perfections. 

The Gospel Changes Us Forever 

How many of us seek to regather the ashes instead of celebrating the goodness of God? For some reason, it’s easier for us to accept Christ’s declarations about Himself than about us. We have no qualms with Christ’s holiness, but we have serious resignations concerning our own. 

However, to believe in the words of God is to also believe in the works of God. The truth is we are all like the Samaritan woman: sabotaged by sin, ashamed of things in our past, and broken due to our own decisions. Everyone needs an encounter with Jesus; there are no exemptions. 

When we believe that Jesus is the Christ—the Son of the living God—who died and now lives on our behalf, the result is the same for us as it was for the Samaritan woman: instantaneous redemption that shreds shame into oblivion, fills us with joy, and grants us the ability to speak (even to those who once rejected us) about Christ’s marvelous works.

Like Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 3:2–3, in Christ, we become like a letter of recommendation to the rest of the world. A letter “to be known and read by all . . . Written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” 

Rocked by the revelation that she’d just met the Messiah, the Samaritan woman instantly acted as a letter of recommendation to those in her hometown. As a result, the townspeople came and saw and listened and accepted Christ for themselves. They said to the woman in John 4:42, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”

The Gospel Frees Us to Speak 

Caught up in the moment, the Samaritan woman left her water jug at the well. The whole reason she went to the well no longer mattered in her mind. And she wasn’t embarrassed, either. She could have kept the good news of the Messiah to herself due to her unseemly reputation, but she didn’t because for the first time, perhaps in a long time, she wasn’t thinking about herself. 

That is what the gospel does for us. It offers us somewhere to land other than at our own feet. It lifts our eyes from earth to heaven, granting us purpose when we didn’t think we had any. If this woman could boldly share about the Messiah after years of fetching water by herself, we can, too. 

Inviting someone to meet Jesus isn’t like recommending a movie you enjoyed or a restaurant you found tasty. There is no margin of error when it comes to Christ. He does not disappoint. To truly experience Jesus is to discover for yourself that He is the Savior of the world. 

With Jesus, we no longer have reason to lie low. If we continue to hide from looming embarrassment over past sin, we’re merely concealing the power and permanence of Christ’s redemptive work. You are changed forever if you’ve accepted Jesus’s plain revelation that He is the Christ. You are not the sum of past mistakes; you are proof of the living God.

So don’t let your past tempt you into silence. Share your story because in doing so, you testify to the goodness of God—a God who purposely seeks after us when no one else will to make us into someone we never thought we could be. 

About the Author

Stacey Salsbery

Stacey Salsbery

Stacey Salsbery is a farmer’s wife and mother of four—or as she likes to say, “President of Home Operations.” Stacey loves teaching women the Bible and along with her family makes her home in the cornfields of Indiana. For more, … read more …

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