The living water of the Holy Spirit. John 7.37-39
Jesus is talking about the Holy Spirit
“Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive"
1. We receive the Holy Spirit when we come to Jesus, when we believe in him.
‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink’ (John 7.37)
When we come to Jesus, then he will give us a glass with this life-giving water, and if we believe him, if we trust him, we will take that glass and we will drink it.
I’ve been trying to think through what it means to come to Jesus, because Jesus says it so often – especially in John
The people he is speaking to, could literally go to him physically with their bodies. But that did not mean that they were going to him with their minds or their hearts. They could go intending to be entertained by him, laugh at him, criticise him, judge him, to condemn him. Many of them did. That is not coming to Jesus
We cannot go to him in the same way physically, but we can go to him with our minds. We can go – trusting that he is the eternal Son of God come to earth - to listen to him, to humble ourselves before him, to receive from him.
You have realised that you are thirsty: that you are spiritually dried up, weary, filthy on the inside, maybe even dead
And all Jesus here is asking us to do is to use our imagination, and to open our hearts and minds to him.
He is there where you are now. So use your imagination. He has come to you.
Perhaps picture him in your mind. If it is helpful, use an icon of Jesus, or imagine one of the gospel scenes: possibly that scene where he is speaking to the woman at the well, asking her for a drink of H2O water, and then offering her Holy Spirit water. But don’t get stuck with that image because he is far far bigger.
Imagine him coming to you. And he is inviting you to come to him. And he is offering you a glass of this Holy Spirit water.
And he says, ‘Drink it. When you drink it, you will drink me into yourself. In receiving my offer, and drinking this, you are surrendering your life to me. And you will drink my Spirit into you. Trust me.’
I guess we have a great picture of that at communion – when we’re able to do so – and we drink from the cup.
There are some great lines form CS Lewis’, The Silver Chair. Jill is thirsty. There is a stream. But guarding this stream is a huge lion – Aslan – who represents Jesus Christ.
"If I run away, it'll be after me in a moment," thought Jill. "And if I go on, I shall run straight into its mouth." Anyway, she couldn't have moved if she had tried, and she couldn't take her eyes off it. How long this lasted, she could not be sure; it seemed like hours. And the thirst became so bad that she almost felt she would not mind being eaten by the Lion if only she could be sure of getting a mouthful of water first. …"Are you not thirsty?" said the Lion."I'm dying of thirst," said Jill."Then drink," said the Lion."May I, could I and would you mind going away while I do?" said Jill.The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience. The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic."Will you promise not to do anything to me, if I do come?" said Jill."I make no promise," said the Lion.Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer. "Do you eat girls?" she said."I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms," said the Lion. It didn't say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it."I daren't come and drink," said Jill."Then you will die of thirst," said the Lion."Oh dear!" said Jill, coming another step nearer. "I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.""There is no other stream," said the Lion. It never occurred to Jill to disbelieve the Lion. No one who had seen his stern face could do that, and her mind suddenly made itself up.It was the worst thing she had ever had to do, but she went straight to the stream, knelt down, and began scooping up water in her hand. It was the coldest, most refreshing water she had ever tasted. You didn't need to drink much of it, for it quenched your thirst at once. Before she tasted it she had been intending to make a dash away from the Lion the moment she had finished. Now, she realized that this would be on the whole the most dangerous thing of all.
So we come to Jesus, we come with open hearts and minds, humble and receptive, to drink and we receive his Spirit in us.
2. The Holy Spirit is the water of life
Why? Because there is a small muddy spring. There is water. And we thirst for this water.
But in fact this H2O water is just shadow water.
There is real water, Holy Spirit water, which we need for real life.
This water gives life to us when we are almost completely dead:
We’ve been doing some gardening in the church grounds (that is a bit of a royal ‘we’: it has been mainly others!) And there are places where the soil is very dry, and there are plants that are almost dead. We water them, and the transformation is amazing. They come alive
And this Holy Spirit water refreshes those who are spiritually weary and dry.
The Psalmist writes, ‘As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.’ (Psalm 42:1)
And this Holy Spirit water cleans.
If we are to be in the presence of God then we need to be clean on the inside, we need to be forgiven.
When Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, Peter says to him, ‘You should never do this to me’. But Jesus tells him, ‘If you do not let me wash you, you can have no part in me’. So Peter then says, ‘Then not just my feet Lord, but wash all of me’. To which Jesus hurriedly replies: ‘No Peter – just doing the feet is OK!’
We think of the symbolism of baptism, when we are sprinkled, washed in water. That is on the outside, but the Holy Spirit water cleans us on the inside.
And this Holy Spirit water transforms.
He converts those barren places in our lives into places of fruitfulness.
We read of those wonderful fruits of the Spirit: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, generousity, faithfulness and self control.
This week I heard a talk in which someone was speaking about healing of the memories. She spoke about the wonderful things that God can do in healing memories, but she also said that there are for most of us some memories that will never be healed in this world, and we have to live with them.
But the Holy Spirit can transform them.
So, for instance, the person who has lost a child, or who has suffered abuse or who has been a victim of violence or has been in places and done things they now deeply regret – we have to live with the memories – but the Holy Spirit, through the word of God, can begin to transform them, so that what seemed a curse to us can become a blessing for others. I think of the former addict who goes round schools urging young people not to be led astray by the promise of drugs, or the survivor of abuse who sets up a group for other survivors of abuse.
And the Holy Spirit transforms the barren places of our lives. He takes our failures and our weaknesses, and he uses them to bless others. In fact, the Holy Spirit loves our weaknesses, because when we are weak, when we are vulnerable, we can most clearly see the power of God at work in us and through us.
3. The Holy Spirit turns us into life givers
‘Out of the believers’ heart shall flow rivers of living water’ (v38)
There are many references in the bible to the river of God which gives life. It is there in the garden of Eden. We glimpse it in Psalm 1: It speaks of the righteous who ‘are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season and their leaves do not wither’. We meet it flowing from the temple, the presence of God, in Ezekiel 47. And the last chapter of the bible begins and ends with this river of the water of life.
The river of God is life giving, and the people who have taken the glass that Jesus offers, who have drunk from Jesus, who have received Jesus, will be life givers.
The amazing thing is that we do not only drink from the river of life - we become a tributary of that river of life.
Just as we are being transformed, so we will transform
The Bible uses other ways to describe this when it says of believers in Jesus that we are light and salt in the world.
Again I heard a talk recently in which the speaker said that as Christians we are called to be rivers and not reservoirs. Reservoirs take the good water into themselves and keep it. Rivers are a channel along which that living water can flow.
So, he said, listen to this talk. Listen to it for yourself, but then think, ‘how can I share it – what the speaker has said – with others. How can I teach it to others?’
How can we be rivers?
Well, first of all, Jesus says that we will be sources of rivers – because the Spirit of God is here, in us.
Don’t try. Just allow the Holy Spirit to work in you and through you.
And we will discover the sort of ways that we can be life givers, rivers of living water: through prayer for others, through sharing Jesus, through using our gifts to bless others, through giving.
But more than that, we are life givers by becoming people in whom we see those things that Jesus speaks of to his followers: when we are poor in Spirit – aware of our dependence on God, when we start to see others of equal value – maybe greater value – than ourselves, when we seek what is right, when we are pure in heart, show mercy, work for peace and when we are prepared to be so different for Jesus that we face persecution.
Forgive me. I had a lot to say today! I love Pentecost. I love the fact that we put aside a day to celebrate the coming of the Spirit. I love it that Jesus invites us to come to him and to drink.
As Jesus says, in the fourth last verse of the bible,
‘The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come'. And let everyone who hears say, 'Come'. And let everyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift’ (Revelation 22.17)