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I want to thank one of my best friends, Greg Grooms, of Hill House Austin for tonight’s study on John 7:37-39, “On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'" Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”

The ‘feast’ is the Feast of Tabernacles or Feast of Booths, which remembers the 40 years wandering in the wilderness. One of the daily rituals during the feast is the priest would take a golden pitcher from the temple, lead a procession to the Pool of Siloam, fill it with water and proceed back to the temple where he would pour it over the altar. This ritual remembered the event in Exodus 17 where the people called out for water, so God had Moses strike a rock and water came forth. After watching this ritual commemoration, Jesus stands up in the assembly, calling out that HE is the source of living water. It is a claim of divinity, because in Exodus 17, God’s presence is hovering over the rock when Moses strikes it. Paul even declares that the Exodus rock was in fact Christ Himself. (I Cor 10:1-4)

There are several questions that arise from the passage, that echo the question of the woman by the well in John 4, “What must I do to get this living water?” From Jesus’ words, we see that 1) we must realize our thirst and 2) drink.

Our thirst is for relief from our fallen existence, relief from the attitude that we must do all things from our own strength, and relief from our false sense of sovereignty and the burdens it puts on us—we can’t be perfect on our own, we aren’t the rightful sovereign of our destiny, we aren’t, in short, God. The first step is to realize how trying to be our own God has dried us up and we thirst.

But how do we know if we’ve drunk from Him? He says that whoever believes in Him has drunk. But what does that look like? How do we know if our belief is real and sufficient? We have the rivers of living water coming from our hearts. That really helps. We don’t see too many people spewing from their chests like mobile fire hydrants. John goes on to explain that the Holy Spirit in our hearts is the living water. But does that really get us farther in our understanding? It all sounds like spiritual mumbo jumbo talk.

It is in times like these that knowing much of Scripture helps because it cross-references itself all the time through both direct reference and through allusion. The more familiar you are with the full text, the more of the allusions come clear and a framework appears that helps us see how the Bible answers and explains itself.

Galatians 5:22 describes the fruits of the Spirit, or the natural outworkings of the Spirit in our lives:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. In I Corinthians 3:9-15, it says, “For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”

From these and other passages, we glean that our daily lives, our moment by moment activities, as long as they aren’t sin, God will use to conform both us and the world as a whole to His image and to His glory. There is no secular/sacred divide, that our faithfulness in our daily work, helping the world turn, is a demonstration of living water. What we build with our lives is really built in partnership with God, His Spirit giving life and permanence and significance to what we do. In short, He imbues our lives and the fruits of our lives with worth. Whether we share the Gospel with 10 people or clean the toilets, it has lasting value. That takes a lot of pressure off, that we should be ‘doing more,’ doing ‘different,’ ‘doing significant.’

In short, how we live testifies to God’s presence and work in our lives. As St Francis says in what has become, in effect, my life’s motto, “Always share your faith. If necessary, use words.” Paul says as much in I Corinthians 3:1-3, “Are we like others, who need to bring you letters of recommendation, or who ask you to write such letters on their behalf? Surely not! The only letter of recommendation we need is you yourselves. Your lives are a letter written in our hearts; everyone can read it and recognize our good work among you. Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you. This “letter” is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts.”

This should be a source of comfort to us in academia, where we minister in the name of Christ through our teaching, research, and service. If we are given the chance to speak or even proclaim His Name as the underscore of our efforts, all the better. But even when we don’t or our courage fails us, He redeems, magnifies and glorifies, because His Spirit is life and the fruits of that Spirit are living. As C. S. Lewis says in the Narnia saga, a thing must act in accordance with its nature.

But, as you read this, you may ask in your heart, as I did, “but I know so many who are far from Christ who are more effective, loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, disciplined, talented, etc, than I am. How can my meager acts be greater than theirs?”

Scripture says that apart from Christ, we can do nothing, and that our most righteous, our highest and most noble deeds are like filthy rags (the connotation is literally, ‘used feminine products,’ seriously!). We are created in His image, so among our traits are the ability to create and do great works, for that is our nature. But, our nature is also fallen, so it does not rest on the solid foundation of Christ, and anything built on a poor foundation cannot stand for long and will fall eventually. It is only the work of those redeemed that is built on an eternal foundation and so stands the earthquakes and tsunamis of eternity. {This is NOT a reflection on the spiritual condition of Japan or any country. It is an analogy effective because of the timeliness of current events, meant to help realize that our best efforts fail because there are greater forces than us. Believing otherwise is hubris.}

Keep in mind that as hard as it is for our modern, materialistic minds to grasp, there is a whole realm of the spirit concurrent and concentric with our daily visible world. They are tied together and interact intimately. So when one talks about spiritual truths, they are just as real and significant as worldly truths, and will reflect in the world to greater or lesser extents. Just as we are currently seated with Christ in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 2:6), somehow, a redeemed soul mopping a floor has more lasting impact on eternity than a non-redeemed king building a great monument or leading an army to a great victory.

It is a mystery. Yet it is also true.

Have you drunk of the living water?

Drink deep, and let the river flow out of you. Cast anxiety upon the current, that peace may flood your spirit.

In Christ, the mundane duties, faithfully performed, have an impact for hope and change far out of proportion to their appearance.

For drinking redeems mere effort into lasting, incomparable worth.


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