Monthly Archives: February 2010

Streams

John 7:37-39 (NIV)
37 On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.  38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”  39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

I think a lot of the time we misunderstand what it really means to be filled with the Spirit.  When people try to explain the concept, it is usually presented like a jar or a bottle.  We take off the cap and ask God to fill the whole bottle full.  Then, when we have been filled, we put the cap back on, and screw it on really tight so none of the Spirit will leak out.  Then, as we go through our day, or our week, or job is to try to hold on to as much of that Spirit as we possibly can.  But, despite our best efforts, the Holy Spirit tends to leak away, and we get emptier, and emptier, until our spiritual fuel gauge reads “E”.  Then we ask the Lord to fill us anew, and the whole process starts over again.

What a difference between that and the picture that Jesus paints of being filled with the Holy Spirit in John 7!  Jesus talks about the Holy Spirit being like streams of living water that will flow from with His people.  This is the same imagery that He used when He was talking to the Samaritan woman in John 4:13-14:  Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”   And it is the same imagery used by John in Revelation 22:1-2a, where he says, “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city.” 

NONE of these depict the Holy Spirit as something that can be held inside a person to “fill them up.”  Instead, the imagery is of “living water”, water that is active and rapidly flowing, full of life and oxygen and energy.  It can’t be contained or it will lose its essential qualities.  When we try to hold on to the Holy Spirit, locked up inside us, of course He leaks out!  He must flow out of us!

In addition to this,when we try to “cap off” the Holy Spirit to keep Him in, we actually block off His flow through our lives.  Not only does He leak away (usually a lot quicker than we would believe possible!), but He can’t automatically keep us full, since we have also cut off the influx.

A better picture of being full of the Spirit is probably a garden hose.  It is full only as long as the water is flowing through it on its way out the other end.  It would be ridiculous to try to fill a hose by plugging up the outflow, turning on the water, and then disconnecting the hose and blocking off the inflow.  You might end up with a hose full of water, but what good is it!

But if you turn on the water full force, the hose is full of water, and the outflow brings moisture and life to whatever it flows onto.  In the same way, our lives can be best and most continually filled with the Holy Spirit when we stay connected continually to the Lord, and let His Spirit flow THROUGH us and out into the world, where it can bring life, light and peace to everything it touches!

 

 

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The Job

Colossians 1:24-29 (NIV)
        24 Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.  25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness–26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
        28 We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. 29 To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.

Paul was a remarkable person.  I don’t really know anybody who has done research into his life that doesn’t think so.  He carried the gospel to numbers of people that, in pre-television days, no one can come near to.  He went on purpose to places where the gospel had never been heard, opening up one mission field after another.  He didn’t spend his whole life in one place, but kept moving on to new locations, setting up the necessary structures before he left.  He suffered persecution over and over again, being whipped and beaten and stoned.  But none of that stopped him.  (In fact, each time just seems to have heightened his resolve!)  At the end of his life, he could look back at a job well done, and at the end of his life he could write, I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day–and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing
.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8 NIV)

But if we were to sit and talk with Paul, I think he would be shocked at our modern conception that he and his faith were remarkable.  That he was something special.  It really does appear that, while he understood that he had a specific job to do, that he would consider that the life that he lived was to be more the norm than the exception.  In his letters he is constantly urging the people to live full out for the Lord; to endure persecutions; to not be intimidated, but to be encouraged when people opposed them.

I think these days we as Christians tend to live lives far below what God wants to be the norm.   We tend to spend way too much time without hearing from God, or understanding where He is leading us.  We experience powerlessness in ways that seem totally unbiblical.  We let ourselves get intimidated and frightened by what other people will think of us if we talk too freely about Jesus.  We shy away from opportunities to share our faith, or to pray with someone in need.  As a consequence, most of us do avoid any kind of persecution, but we also avoid the real joy, and peace, and growth that are supposed to be the norm of the Christian life.  And, because of our normal reticence, we also are unfruitful, with much of a ripe harvest rotting on the vine due to lack of harvest workers!

Paul talks about himself as a “servant” (the Greek word is “slave”) of the body of Christ, the Church, in order to present to them the word of God in all its fullness.  To present to them the mystery that God had finally revealed in the gospel:  “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”  Take a few minutes and let those seven words just roll around in your heart.

He then finishes the first chapter of Colossians with his calling and commission.  How would it change your life if you heard these closing verses as God’s direct commission to YOU?  If you heard God tell you:  “Your job, like Paul’s, is to proclaim Jesus, the Messiah, and to admonish and teach everyone with all of the wisdom that I will give you.  Your goal in all this is to present everyone perfect in Christ.  To this end I expect you to labor and to struggle with all of MY energy, which I will so powerfully work within you.”  If you received this commission from the Lord (and I am convinced that it is the commission of EVERY Christian!) would your life be able to just go on as usual?  Would you spend your time tomorrow doing the same exact things that you did today?  Would your focus be the same?  Would you see people the same way?  Would your conversations be unchanged?  What would be your first thought upon opening your eyes in the morning?  How would you evaluate your day when you laid down at night?

I am convinced that Paul’s job is OUR job.  It is THE job for Christians everywhere and at all times. 

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HowBearing Fruit

Colossians 1:6b-8 (NIV)
All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth. You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit. It really is amazing that all that really has to happen for the gospel to bear fruit is for people to hear it and to understand God’s grace in all its truth.

These days we are so used to “programs” and “procedures” that I think we believe that the results of everything are totally up to us and our degree of cleverness. But I know in my own case, my salvation and the life change that was instantly wrought in my heart had nothing to do with my cleverness, or even on any program or procedure. Instead, as I read the book “There’s a New World Coming” by Hal Lindsey, I suddenly realized that:

     a. I was hopelessly separated from God because of my having chosen to go my own way.

     b. Despite that fact that I had for years made the decision to be my own god, I wasn’t a very good god at all, and had only gotten myself totally lost and alienated from the real God.

     c. Because of the many, MANY decisions that I had made, sins I had committed, I was headed to the final destination that I had earned – hell.

     d. I didn’t want to go to hell, but I was helpless to change the destination, because I couldn’t undo the past and all of the wrong decisions that had separated me from God.

     e. Jesus said that He had come to earth to die, a sacrifice that would pay the penalty for the sins of everyone on the face of the earth (including mine).

     f. If I admitted that I was a hopeless sinner, separated from God because I had chosen to go my own way; if I honestly repented, changed my direction away from my life of sin and toward God; if I received Jesus as my Lord and Savior, allowing His death to be for MY sins; and if I was willing to live the rest of my life for Him out of love and gratefulness; then He would save me.

When I realized all of this, I prayed the shortest “sinner’s prayer” in history: “Lord, save me!” And He did!!!!

None of this, as I said, was due to my cleverness or intelligence, or some kind of program or process. It was just having the truth clearly communicated to me, believing it, and acting on it. Simple. But the results were profound! God totally reworked me inside, which resulted in a reworked outside as well. He changed me in three totally amazing ways:

     a. He completely expunged my record of sins, making me just as if I had never sinned even once (because he paid for all of my sins Himself). The theological term for this is “justification.”

     b. He made my dead spirit alive again, breathing into me His own life. I had been physically born many years before, but had been spiritually dead. But now I was “born again.” The theological term for this is “regeneration.”

     c. He adopted me as a child of God. John 1:12-13 says “Yet to all who received (Jesus), to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God–children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”

These three things all happening at the same instant literally made me into a different person in an instant. From that moment on, I have lived my life for Him, and have never regretted it! He gave me a whole new life, a whole new destination, and a whole new forever. Hallelujah!!!

And all of that happened simply from clearly hearing the gospel, and understanding God’s grace in all its truth.  The gospel did the work – all I did was believe it and act on it.  A miracle!

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