The Gift of FulfillmentPastor Lutzer | September 23, 2013
Jesus doesn’t offer us a recipe. He offers a relationship. He offers Himself.
Selected highlights from this sermon
What water is to the body, the Holy Spirit is to our soul. Things of this world can’t fill the emptiness we feel. We are actually seeking something beyond this world. And Jesus said that if anyone is thirsty, they should come to Him.
Through Jesus, the Living Water cleanses us, regenerates us, gives us a new nature, and empowers us. We can be at peace and have the assurance that we belong to God forever.
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H. A. Gordon, who was a Christian statesman, said that on one occasion he was walking across a field and noticed in the distance that there was a man who was pumping water. And he was amazed at how quickly and consistently he was able to pump, but as Gordon watched closer he discovered that this wasn’t really a man at all. It was actually a man-made man cut out of wood board, and the man wasn’t pumping water at all. As a matter of fact it was attached to a mechanism and instead of pumping water he, in turn, was being pumped by an artesian well. And Gordon thought to himself how wonderful it would be if within us there would be that artesian well.
Don’t you long for the power of the Spirit, the wind at your back so that it isn’t all dependent upon you, but rather it is dependent upon the leadership, the guidance, the strength and companionship of the Spirit? And before this message is over I am going to give you some rather direct instructions as to how you and I can walk in the Spirit every single day.
But before we get to the text I have to ask you a question, and that is, “How’s it going?” We’re in a series on the Holy Spirit. Last time I spoke to you about the companionship of the Holy Spirit, and in speaking to you about that I have to ask you how things have been going in terms of your relationship with another person who is in you and with you 24/7? Have you experienced this past week the companionship of the blessed Holy Spirit of God? I hope so because we are on a journey together.
Today’s text is John 7, and as we enter the text we discover that this happened during the time of The Feast of Tabernacles, or the Feast of Booths, as it is sometimes called. And Israel had seven feasts and this was one where they would take and build these booths (these tents) to live in for one week in the city of Jerusalem. And this was commanded by God so that the people would remember that there was a time when they were in the desert, and being there in the desert they had to live in some very temporary shelters. And by the way, Jewish people today still do this even here in the city of Chicago during the Feast of Booths.
Now this feast not only reminded them of the past but also looked forward to a future time when Messiah would come and things would be different, and the Jewish people would have a permanent home. But there was a tradition that grew up with this feast and the tradition was that for the seven days each day the priest would take a special golden pitcher and he would go down to the Pool of Siloam and he would fill it with water. People would accompany him. A congregation would. It might be a choir. There might be those who played the flute, and then he would go back to the temple area to what became known as the Water Gate, and he entered the temple area and he went to the big brazen altar and he poured it out. And he did this seven days in a row. On the last day of the feast there was even more pageantry as the people gathered around and sang at this wonderful festival which was then associated as the Water Festival.
The question was what Jesus thought of this. What was going through His mind? Well, as you know, Jesus loves people, and as He thought about this festival He realized something. However beautiful it was, the people who participated were going back home basically unchanged. Those who struggled with guilt in their lives still had that guilt. Those who were filled with fear because of the future still had that fear. And the people who were full of anger or jealousy or loneliness, once they got back home, this water festival did not satisfy them. So it is in that context that we read those marvelous words in John 7:37: “On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried, ‘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.”’”
Most of the time rabbis sat. Jesus sees the emptiness of the ritual, knowing that the ritual cannot satisfy, and so He cries out with a loud voice. He stands and cries out for everyone to hear, and today I am going to ask you to listen to His voice and the implications of the invitation that He gave.
Now as we look at this, Jesus is promising something that the Water Festival could not promise. And in order for us to experience what it is that Jesus is talking about, we can perhaps think in terms of three requirements that Jesus is making for us so that we can participate in this unbelievable blessing.
The first is if anyone is thirsty–and of course, He’s not talking here about physical thirst–but what water is to your body, the blessed Holy Spirit is to your soul. So He is speaking to those who are empty. In the sixteenth century a man by the name of Henry Sugall said that we are born with a raging inextinguishable thirst. And C.S. Lewis said these very interesting words. He said, “If I find in my heart a longing that can’t be satisfied with this world, it’s not that the world is a fraud. It must mean that I have a longing for another world. I have a longing for something else,” and Lewis is right.
My heart breaks when I see all the different substitutes for coming to Jesus to receive water for our soul. Some of you, God bless you, and we love you, but you are struggling with such things as substance abuse. Have you ever talked to somebody who has been into drugs or into alcohol, or something else that binds them? They will tell you they are doing it to cover the emptiness. They will tell you, “I am doing it because I can’t cope with the loneliness. I can’t cope with what is happening in my life,” and so a substitute is readily found.
Jeremiah said, “These people (speaking of the Jews) have committed two evils.” He said, “They have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and then they have hewn themselves out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.” Those cisterns were where there was no flowing water; the water became brackish and it always had a very bad aftertaste. And people today are seeking it. They are seeking something beyond this world, something to connect with, some meaning, and yet they have to confess with Mick Jagger when he says, “I can’t get no satisfaction.” And then his song goes on to talk about the different ways in which he hoped for satisfaction but couldn’t find it.
And if I could talk to him I’d say, “Mick, what are you looking for? You’ve got fame. Isn’t that supposed to be satisfaction? You’ve got money. Isn’t that supposed to be satisfaction? You’ve got as many relationships as you want. Isn’t that satisfaction?” The fact is that in the end it is empty, and sometimes it takes years for people to realize how empty it really is. Money can’t satisfy it. Fame can’t satisfy it. Success can’t. Power can’t because you were created for God. And unless you find God, the hollowness and the emptiness of your life will always be there. So Jesus is saying, “Are you thirsty?” Are some of you absolutely weary of all of the substitutes that you have put in place of the answer that Jesus gives?
There’s a second requirement and that is, Jesus says, “If you come to me–if you believe on me.” “He who believes on me,” Jesus said. And why Jesus? Well the reason it is Jesus is because He created you. He created all things. “By him were all things created, both which are in heaven and which are on earth, whether they be thrones or dominions or principalities or powers, all things created by him and for him.” So He created you with this longing. As Augustine said on the first page of his confessions, “Oh God, thou hast made us for thyself, and our hearts are restless until they find their all in thee.” So Jesus is the Creator.
It’s also true that in addition to being the Creator He is the Savior. As you’ve heard me say many times, He’s the only one who can bring us to God and bring God to us. There’s nobody else out there that’s a Savior. Forget your favorite guru or teacher or prophet. Jesus is able to save us from our sins and from ourselves (applause), and that’s why it is that the invitation is to believe on Him. And what does the word believe mean? It means trust. It means we come to trust the Lord Jesus. We entrust ourselves to him. And also it really does mean submission.
Let me say that believing on Jesus isn’t tacking Jesus onto your already busy life, hoping that He’ll be there for you so that you can get through life more easily. No, no, no! The faith that we need in Jesus is more drastic than that. It is a sense of commitment. It is a full, complete confidence that we transfer our trust to Him alone.
My heart also breaks for the many people who may be listening to me who think that they are saved because they walked an aisle or signed a card or made a dedication, prayed a prayer. No, the transformation of heart is very deep and there is such a thing as saving faith, which gives up all hope of trying to find forgiveness and satisfaction anywhere else than in Jesus.
Perhaps years ago you heard me tell the story about a legend; actually you heard me tell the story about a man walking along. He falls over a cliff and there he is. He is able to hang on to a tree stump on the way down, and an angel comes to him and says, “Do you think that I am able to save you?” and the man looks at the strong arms of the angel and says, “Yes, I think you can save me.” Then the angel says, “Do you think that I will save you?” and the man sees the kind smile on the angel’s face and says, “Yes, I believe that you will save me,” and then the angel says, “If you believe that I can save you and will save you, let go.” That’s faith. Jesus said, “Come to me and drink.”
And then there’s another requirement and that is that we actually experience the Holy Spirit. We experience Him. Now it says, “As the Scripture has said, from within him, from within his heart shall flow rivers of living water.” It’s been pointed out that there is no direct quotation that says those words in the Old Testament, but there are many other passages that relate directly to what Jesus said, and the essence is there. For example, Isaiah 12:3 says, “With joy they shall bring water from the wells of salvation.” By the way, one of the most indisputable proofs of the Holy Spirit, which we will discuss in another message, is joy. “With joy they shall bring their water, and get their water from the wells of salvation.” Isaiah 55 says, “Ho, everyone that thirsts. Come to the water. And if you have no money come and buy milk and wine without money and without price.” So throughout the Old Testament there are many references to water, and what Jesus said is that, “If you come to me, from your inner parts you will receive power and strength, and the Holy Spirit of God will not give you just a river–not just a stream, but rivers (plural) of living water.”
What happens when we come to Christ? Well, first of all this living water cleanses us. Now this is a reference to Israel in the Old Testament but it applies to us. God says, “I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you and you shall be clean from all your uncleanness and from all your idols. And I will cleanse you.”
You see, when we come to Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit regenerates us. He gives us a brand new nature. This is what Jesus referred to as the new birth. But part of that also is a cleansing of the conscience, and water is symbolic of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament. Here’s an example of how God takes us and cleanses us. Another translation says not uncleanness but our filthiness and He cleanses us. And so we come to Jesus and then He empowers us. He actually gives us power and strength in the deepest core of our being. You are at peace and you have the assurance that you belong to God forever. That’s the ministry of the Holy Spirit of God in our lives.
One day Jesus, walking along, came to a woman of Samaria sitting on Jacob’s well. It’s interesting that the text says that she came there at noon, and that wasn’t usually the time when women came to get water. That was their responsibility. They came early in the morning when it was still cool rather than at mid-day when it is hot. It’s speculation but it’s certainly possible that the reason that she was there at noon is because the other women kind of despised her. Maybe she felt so ashamed because remember she was a woman who had five husbands and was now living with a man in just a common law arrangement. So what was her reputation like in the little village? She’s there and Jesus engages her in conversation. The disciples have gone away to buy some food and Jesus said, “Give me to drink,” and then He said, “If you knew who it was who was speaking to you, you would ask of him and he’d give you living water.” And she said, “Great idea! Then I don’t have to come here and draw water.” And she misunderstood that He was speaking of the Spirit, and then Jesus said this: “Everyone who drinks this water shall thirst again, but whoever drinks the water that I shall give him shall never thirst, but the water that I shall give him shall spring up within and become a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” Wow! And the woman believed in Jesus, as the text indicates.
Now let’s be very clear. Jesus was not promising her that if you come and believe and drink, that means that from now on your live-in husband is going to love you. He didn’t say that from now on life was going to be easy; the women in the village are now going to respect you. He didn’t say that. He’s not talking about a change in the outer circumstances. He is talking about this inward transformation, the depths of the soul. This dear woman couldn’t depend upon her husband for spiritual nourishment, just like some of you. You can’t depend upon your mate to help you spiritually or to even encourage you. They may be discouraging you. They may be speaking evil of you, and actually working against you in the marriage, and so you can’t look to your mate. And this woman couldn’t look to her mate. And Jesus said, “If you look to me, I will give you water that will spring up into everlasting life.” Wow! What a gift to a woman beaten down in a culture that did not respect women.
Now what’s the bottom line in all of this? There are a couple of things. First of all, Jesus is not offering to us a recipe. Jesus actually is offering to us a relationship. You see, some of you may think religious people try to do better and they supposedly do better. Sometimes yes– sometimes not, but they try to be all that they can possibly be, but that’s not what Jesus is offering the people. He’s offering himself, and notice that the text says very clearly, “This he said of the Spirit, which they who believe on him were to receive because Jesus wasn’t glorified.” Here I’m going to give you some specific instruction in just about a moment about drinking every single day.
When Jesus died on the cross and then went to heaven, the blessed Holy Spirit of God came on the Day of Pentecost, and now, as we’ve already learned in this series so far, He indwells every single person who trusts Christ as Savior. In fact, the Bible says that if you do not have the Spirit of God you don’t belong to Christ. So Jesus has poured out now this gift of the Holy Spirit on all those who believe on Him because the Spirit came on the day of Pentecost. But notice this: Jesus had to ascend bodily into heaven before the Spirit could be poured out.
Now think this through. How do you and I drink every day and walk in the Spirit? Well, how did you get saved? You say, “I got saved by trusting in Jesus and His death and resurrection,” and it wasn’t a matter of feeling. That was something I struggled with as a boy. I asked Jesus into my heart repeatedly, and somehow I didn’t think it took until I did it by faith no matter how I felt. Then the feelings follow. That’s the way you get saved. And how do you walk in the Spirit? How do you drink? By faith!
There was a minister by the name of Myer who said one day, “Oh Lord, you know that I need the fullness of the Spirit, but I don’t know how to get the fullness of the Spirit.” He said, “I am too tired to agonize. What do I do?” And he said just like that the thought came to him: “As you receive forgiveness from the dying Christ, in the same way you should receive forgiveness and cleansing, and the power of the Spirit from the ascended Christ.”
So each day you say, “Father, I thank you today that Jesus has ascended, that He has poured forth the gift of the Holy Spirit, and today I choose to drink through the Word and in faith.”
I would say that there’s never a day that goes by in my life, though there may be one because I don’t keep track, when I don’t say to God, “Oh God, today I trust the Holy Spirit because I don’t have the wisdom that I need to do the writing that I do, I don’t have the wisdom to answer the letters that come to me and I don’t know what to say in a situation. It’s too much for me and I trust your Spirit.” Now I don’t feel different after I trust the Spirit, but then I look back at the end of the day and I say, “Wow! In ways that I could have never predicted, the Holy Spirit of God has led me.”
So remember this: The Holy Spirit has been given and what we need to do is to allow Him to be God in our lives, and everyday receive His strength and power by faith. As you receive Christ Jesus, the Lord, so walk in Him. Walking in the Spirit is something that we fail at all the time but we keep walking.
My wife and I have eight lovely grandchildren. Our oldest is Jack. He’s quite old now, but I remember when he was about a year old how many times he fell when he began to walk. And did we say, “Well this kid is never going to learn to walk. Look at that. He fell three times in five minutes. That’s it.” No! You keep walking and walking, and then you fall into sin, and then you confess your sin and you get up again and say, “I trust the Spirit of God to be the living water within me,” and you are reading the Word, and step-by-step you learn to walk in the Spirit. It’s a relationship with Jesus.
But there’s something else in the text, and that is that even though the water is free to us, it’s very costly to Jesus. Did you notice what it says here? It says, “For Jesus was not yet glorified.” John uses the word glorified to refer to Jesus Christ’s death, and so what John is saying here is that Jesus hasn’t been glorified by being crucified. You say, “Well, what kind of glorification is that of all things?” Well, you know that the glory of the cross is that God took a crime and turned it into a fountain of blessing so that the Apostle Paul could say, “God forbid that I should glory except in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ,” and God forbid that we should glory except in the wonder and the beauty of the redemption that was purchased for us on the cross.
And when Jesus was there on the cross there were seven sayings that came out of His mouth, and number five was this. He said, “I thirst.” I mean, are you serious? The creator of the rivers, the oceans, and the lakes is thirsty? He could have created water for Himself, but He didn’t and I’ll tell you why. He said, “To those of you who are sitting over there, and over there and over there, I will absorb your thirst so that you will never, never thirst again.” It says in the text of Scripture, and later on I’m going to be quoting the last verses of Revelation, but just read this if you intend to be blessed. And I actually marked it out in my Bible. It’s here. “They shall hunger no more, neither shall they thirst anymore. The sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat, for the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” That’s why Jesus could say to the woman at the well that the water within you will spring up into everlasting life. It is because of God’s grace.
Jesus said, “I will thirst for you so that you’ll never thirst again,” and for those who do not receive Christ there’s a story in the New Testament about how a man was in Hades and he looked at Abraham and said, “Abraham, send Lazarus that he may dip his finger in water and put it on my tongue because I am tormented in this flame.” And one of the most sobering things you and I could every think about is that that man still does not have his drop of water. You are condemned to an eternal thirst if you don’t trust Jesus.
Let me ask you something. Why should you leave here today feeling dirty when Jesus can cleanse you? Why should you leave here today feeling empty when Jesus can fill you? Why should you feel today in despair when Jesus can give you hope? The condition is to be “all in” with Jesus (applause), and the promise of the Old Testament is, “Ho, everyone who is thirsty. Come to the water.”
I urge you today to come to Jesus. Come even now where you are sitting, where you are listening. Open your life to Him because He’s here if you’re thirsty. He is ready.
I think it’s very significant that the New Testament ends with these words: “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come,’ and let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.” Let us drink.