Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Living Water

Isaiah 12:3 promises: “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”  Refreshing, life-giving water is a precious commodity in the desert. And this world can be a harsh spiritual wilderness. The Bible often uses living water as a metaphor for the Holy Spirit to help us understand that God wants us to receive restoration, renewal and spiritual sustenance through our relationship with Him. He has also provided us with 4 special privileges to help us. 

David said: O God, you are my God; early will I seek you: my soul thirsts for you, my flesh longs for you in a dry and thirsty land, where there is no water…Psalm 63:1

Psalms 42:1-2 expresses the same sentiment: As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?

Our souls are thirsty and there is an amazing picture presented in the Bible of how the Holy Spirit works like Living water in our lives. This picture is often misunderstood because people don’t understand the context. It appears in Revelation chapter 3:15-16 in the letter to the church at Laodicea:

“I know your works that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spew you out of my mouth.” –Revelation 3:15-16

This verse contains some incredibly vivid imagery IF you happen to live in Laodicea in the 1st century: Each day as you wake up and walk out of your house you can look up from the valley and see the mountains—they appear to be snow capped, but you know there isn’t any snow—those are mineral deposits from the Hot Mineral Springs there. If you are in need of a restoring spa treatment, or some medical attention, you have a daily reminder that the waters await, just a few miles away at Hieropolis. The Hot Mineral Springs have healing, restoring properties. People still go there today to immerse themselves in the Hot Mineral Water and receive the benefits. This Hot water is a metaphor for the Holy Spirit’s healing, renewing work in our lives. Jesus’ said He would immerse us with the Holy Spirit. The Greek word for that is Baptizo and it decribes the way that a piece of wool is dyed by immersing it in dye and soaking every fiber of it through. In the same way that wool is dyed, or that a person soaks in a Hot Mineral Bath, Jesus is calling us to soak in His Spirit and receive His healing, restoring, purifying work in our lives. Acts 3:19 says times of refreshing will come in the Presence of the Lord. When we are in a spiritual valley, then just like the people from Laodicea, and the Psalmist, we can lift our eyes to the mountains where our help comes from and receive the benefits of the Spirit.

Further upstream from Laodicea, along the Lycus river is Colossae. The Colossians also had something that Laodiceans needed. Colossae is built into the side of a mountain and when it rains, the water that falls on the mountain seeps into the ground and is filtered through natural limestone. It comes shooting out the sides of the mountain in fountains of perfectly pure, crystal clear, ice cold, living water. In the Ancient Near East, where fresh water can be hard to come by, Refreshing, Life-Giving, Sustaining water is a precious commodity and this Cold Water is ALSO a metaphor for the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. When Jesus says “I WILL that you were Hot or Cold,” he is saying that he earnestly desires us to take advantage of the benefits that He died to bring to us. This Cold water is a picture of salvation, AND it is also a picture of the Holy Spirit’s ongoing work in our lives.

But there’s more to this metaphor. There are 3 types of water mentioned in this passage and the 3rd is LUKEWARM. If you lived in Laodicea, much of your water was mixed together with the various warm springs and the water you had in your home would be contained in pitchers, or earthenware vessels. To help illustrate the picture that is being painted here, I once took a trip to El Dorado Springs, Missouri with a friend. With a name like El Dorado SPRINGS, you would think their water would be delicious, but you would have been wrong. The towns water stank, literally. They were known for having really bad sulfur water. And to top it all off, my boss asked me to bring some back for him. He gave me 4 thermoses, 4 vessels, to fill up with this liquid, claiming that all of the minerals in the water caused it to make really great coffee when it was hot. When we arrived, we visited a park in the middle of town that had a fresh water spring bubbling up—the water was delicious. I thought, THIS is the water to take home to my boss, fresh, clean, clear, cold—much like the water from Colossae. I filled up 2 of the containers from the spring and the other 2 vessels I filled up from the tap-using the hot water to get enough pressure—so those 2 were filled with Hot mineral water—much like that from Hieropolis.  2 days later my boss comes yelling down the stairs at me, asking if I was trying to kill him and demanding that I SMELL the water----all 4 vessels were rank—full of bitter, nasty smelling water with sediment in the bottom and pink slime floating on top……Welcome to Life at Laodicea. Water doesn’t stay fresh for long sitting in earthen vessels and the longer the vessel is away from the source—the worse it gets. 

The Laodiceans were very much dependant on the hot water from Hieropolis for their wool-dying industry and certainly jealous of the cold water enjoyed by their neighbor Colossae. These 3 cities were very much interdependant, Paul even instructed them to read each others letters. Any infrastructure such as water pipes and aquaducts had been destroyed about 30 years before this letter in an earthquake, making hot and cold water even more difficult to obtain for the Laodiceans, probably stirring up longing for the good old days, just as this letter is meant to stir up longing for an infilling of the Spirit of God. 

So here’s the problem: 2 Corinthians 4:7 says that “We possess this treasure (the Holy Spirit) in earthen vessels (our bodies) 2 Timothy 2:1 says “if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house ready for every good work.”  The primary industry at Laodicea was dying fine wool. Nothing could wash that wool cleaner than the Hot Mineral water from Hieropolis. Isaiah 1:18 says "Though your sins are as scarlett they shall be white as snow, though they are crimson, they shall be like wool." The people of Laodicea lacked good works because their vessels weren’t properly cleansed and filled up. This is why they were told in Revelation 3:18 to get white garments, representing being clothed with salvation and bringing to remembrance the bright, white, washed-clean wool. Once we receive Jesus, Ephesians 3:17 says that His Spirit lives in our hearts through faith and we know the Bible says “he will never leave us nor forsake us…no one will snatch us out of his hand and He will be faithful to complete the work he has begun in us.” Our eternal place with Jesus in heaven is secure, but by being continually open to His Spirit, we can allow him to complete the work he has begun in us so that we will be more fruitful. Laodicea also had a famous school of medicine, so the cities residents were keenly aware of the healing properties of ongoing treatment from the hot waters. In this same way, God continues working in our lives through His Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:13 says: For by one Spirit we were immersed into one body…we were all given to drink of one spirit.  This is a picture of our vessels being washed clean and filled up. Just like a water bottle or coffee cup that needs to be refreshed and refilled, we need to be refreshed and refilled. In John 20:11 Jesus’ breathed on His disciples that they might receive the Holy Spirit. In Acts chapter 2, they were immersed with the Holy Spirit and received a spiritual gift and empowerment for ministry. In Acts chapter 4, they asked to be FILLED again and they were!!! They received yet another blessing and another spiritual gift—the gift of prophecy and they were able to speak the word of God with boldness. It isn’t that the Holy Spirit ever left them, it’s that they were more open to His work and welcomed it into their lives. The word “filled,” in Greek is Pleroo, it means to be totally and completely satisfied.

Clearly, God wants to fill us up, but there’s also another aspect of cleaning up our vessels that we need to consider: Being Poured Out. Romans 5:5 says that “God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.” And Jesus said “If anyone is thirsty, 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.”  God doesn’t just want to pour into us, He wants to pour through us, keeping our vessel continually cleaned out by pouring into the lives of others.

Here are 4 practical ways, 4 spiritual privileges which can help us to be more open to cooperating with the Holy Spirit’s work in and through our lives:

1. Reading God’s Word and Teaching Others are ways that we guard our hearts and welcome the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives.

Proverbs 13:14 tells us that “Wise instruction is a fountain of life”

2 Timothy 3:16 shows us that we receive that wise instruction from God’s word: All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 2 Timothy 3:16

Proverbs 4:20-23 shows us how God’s word guards our hearts, brings physical healing to our bodies and helps us to bring those same benefits to others by letting God pour through us: “My son, pay attention to my words-incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them and health to their whole body. Guard your heart diligently for from it flow the springs of life.

2. Prayer is how we speak with God, partner with Him, build ourselves up and welcome his Kingdom on this earth. Jude 1:20 says: “But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit Ephesians 6:18 exhorts us topray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests Prayer is how we connect with God and hear from Him.

Proverbs 16:22 says that “Insight is a fountain of life to one who has it.”

John 14:26 tells us that one way of gaining insight is through the Holy Spirit. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
3. Fellowship
Proverbs 10:11 says: “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life”

The following verses show us how to keep the fountain flowing through relationships with other believers:

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.  -1Thessalonians 5:11

The one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. 1 Corinthians 14:3

The words we speak are a powerful tool that God uses to pour through us to build up, encourage and strengthen His people

4. Worship
Earlier, we talked about times of refreshing coming from the Presence of God and we heard the psalmist ask a question: My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?”

We enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise. Worship through music brings us into God’s Presence where we can meet with Him and have our thirst be satisfied. Psalm 36:8-9 speaks of this: “They drink their fill of the abundance of Your house; And You give them to drink of the river of Your delights, 
For with You is the fountain of life

Spending time in God’s Presence refreshes our souls and bodies.

In Revelation 22:7, God and all of the church issue the invitation to come into His Presence and drink: “The Spirit and the bride say “Come.” Let anyone who hears this say “Come.” Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life.”

Ephesians 5:19 shows us how to apply this principal of worship along with all 4 spiritual privileges to experience the Kingdom of Heaven, right here and now: 

Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father” 

This word “filled” is pleroo again—to be completely satisfied.

The Corporate worship in these verses shows us a picture of worshipping God in our hearts and allowing Him to pour into us, filling us up to overflowing while we teach each other, praise God, declare His word to others through music and worship and minister to Him through music. This passage is a picture of worship, the word, fellowship and prayer all flowing together. It is a picture of vessels being washed clean, filled to overflowing, closely connected to the source of our Living Water and Blessed to be a blessing to others. This is a picture of being ready to receive from God so that we can minister to others from the overflow. He will Fill Our Cup, so we can Lift Others Up. My prayer for you is this Blessing from Romans 15:13:

Now may the God of hope FILL you with all joy and peace in trusting, so you may OVERFLOW with hope in the power of the Holy Spirit.

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