Pastor Matt Chandler is urging young people to run to Jesus with their wound, secret sins and addiction because that is the only way He meets people with grace.
And Jesus is not deterred by the theological walls people build around themselves in order to shield Him from addressing the root of their problems, he says.
Speaking at the Passion conference last week, Chandler, pastor of The Village Church near Dallas, spoke from the stage giving a meditation on John 4 where Jesus famously ministers to the Samaritan woman at the well. He highlighted the portion where Jesus asks about her husband. She replies that she has none and Jesus then declares that indeed she has had five previous husbands and that the man she is currently with is not her husband.
"You could call these five verses the wound and the worry," Chandler explained, noting that at first reading it seems as though Jesus is being cruel but it is actually an act of kindness, a demonstration of His love.
"The reality is, in a fallen world, wounds abound," he continued. "Not one of you is outside the scope of a broken, fallen world, which means many of us have these deep kind of soul wounds that most of the time we're not even aware of."
He recounted that when his son turned 13 that they had a sort of coming of age rite of passage party for him. A friend of his did something similar and took the opportunity to encourage his son about the great call of God on his life. While it was well-intentioned, the son found those words overwhelming and it crushed him so much so that he turned his back on God.
Chandler took a different approach with his own son.
"I got to look my son in the face and say: You're going to screw up bad. It's going to be embarrassing. You're going to feel deep, nauseous, shame,'" he recalled.
"You're going to blow it. Not you might. You're going to. You're going to want to hide. You're not going to want anybody to know. But I want you to know that we already know that it's going to happen. And you need to come and you need to let us know ... because you don't fight the devil in the dark."
"Jesus knew what He was buying on the cross; you're not surprising Him," he said, emphasizing the point that just as earthly fathers are not surprised when their children fail, neither is God the Father. And the way to experience God's grace and mercy is through our wounds, hurts and addictions.
"It's not through the strength," he stressed. "If there's nothing wrong, you don't need a doctor."
The scriptures do not detail the circumstances of the Samaritan woman's previous five husbands but they demonstrably show she is living in shame, he said.
"The great tragedy, God help us, is that we're spending a ton of energy trying to hide the very place that grace wants to break through," Chandler said, adding that people spend so much time and energy being self-protective about their wounds that when Jesus is beckoning they cannot handle it.
"[Jesus] is not asking for a better version of you," he exhorted the crowd.
Chandler recounted how the trajectory of his life was changed at a Passion conference in 1997, the first one to ever occur, where he encountered the Holy Spirit in a powerful way.
But most of the transformation one experiences in life is a slow process that happens over the course of many decades, he said.
"To be 99 percent known is to be unknown," he asserted.
If people spent energy hiding their one percent secret sin, addiction and brokenness, it will be impossible to receive love, grace from anyone, Chandler said.
"Because you will convince yourself that if they knew about this one percent they would not love you, that if they knew about this one percent they would not care for you. That if they knew about this one percent they would reject you."
Burying that one percent becomes acidic in the soul and robs victory in Christ, he went on to say.
When Jesus pointed out what was really going on in the life of the Samaritan woman, she replied that she perceived Jesus was a prophet and asked Him about worshiping in Jerusalem as opposed to worshiping on the mountain in Samaria where her ancestors worshiped.
"She's dodging the pursuit of her heart with a doctrinal question. She's using theology to protect herself from Jesus freeing her heart," Chandler explained.
While theology is important, he said, "it is not uncommon for people to self-protect with doctrine. You can find very smart, very deep, very angry Christians. And that doesn't make sense unless doctrine is being used to defend."
Christians today use theological squabbles to avoid getting at the root of their most pressing issues, he explained.
"But Jesus will not be dodged," he said.
He admitted that at age 44, he thought he would be freer and farther along in his life, done with certain struggles, but took heart that "grace is for the journey."
Young people need a revelation of God's character such that they know they can run to Him when they screw up rather than run from Him, he said.
Passion 2019 is the first year the conference was held in four different venues — two in Atlanta, Georgia, one in Dallas, Texas, and one in Washington, D.C. — simultaneously. The Passion Conference began Jan. 3 and concluded Friday.