Pentecost 2017: Rivers of Living Water

The Bible begins and ends with rivers. In Genesis 2, a fourfold river flows out of Eden to water the world, and in Revelation 22, the river of the water of life sustains the trees whose leaves heal the nations. The theme of living water as a picture of spiritual life runs like a river throughout the whole Bible – Psalm 1, Isaiah 44, Ezekiel 47, John 4, and many more places. In Zechariah 14, the prophet said that on the day the Lord becomes king, living water will flow out of Jerusalem to the ends of the earth.

And so when Jesus stands up and declares that He is the source from which every thirst will be quenched and from whom living waters would flow, and when John tells us that Jesus was talking about the Spirit who was to come after Jesus was glorified, we see that the river of life running through the entire Bible from beginning to end is a picture of the great work of the Triune God, promised by the Father, accomplished by the Son, and spreading all over the world through the Holy Spirit.

Jesus opens His invitation to anyone who thirsts, to anyone who longs to receive life from God. There is a simple way to know if Jesus’ invitation is for you: are you thirsty? Do you long for communion with God? Are you ready for your restless wandering to be over? If yes, Jesus’ invitation is for you.

And the invitation is simple: Come to Jesus and drink. Look to Jesus to satisfy your spiritual thirst. By coming to Jesus, you acknowledge that the world doesn’t satisfy you. You have a thirst that cannot be filled any other way! Without this water, you will die of thirst. This means that you can’t appreciate Jesus from a distance. You need to come. You can’t just approve of His message; you need to respond personally with the daily “coming” of discipleship.

So what does it mean to “drink” Jesus? Jesus explains – “whoever believes in me…”. To drink of Jesus is to believe in Him, to personally commit yourself to Him in faith. Don’t just come within striking distance of Jesus; don’t just come to church and do churchy things. You need to believe that Jesus is the one who satisfies your thirst, and you need to fill your mouth with Jesus in prayer and praise, in reading and hearing His word, and in sharing in the Lord’s supper, not just as rote actions, but as acts of devotion springing from a heartfelt trust that Jesus is the source of your life.

Jesus promises that when you come and drink, out of your heart will flow rivers of living water. Jesus’ life will flow into you, but it will also overflow out of you, through your life, through your actions, and through your words. But what does that even mean, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water?” In verse 39, John clarifies for us: Jesus said this about the Holy Spirit. When you drink deeply of Jesus, He fills you with His Holy Spirit, just as He did for the disciples on the day of Pentecost, so that you are forever removed from the dry and thirsty desert of unbelief. The Spirit of God lives within you, and so there is spiritual life constantly springing up in your heart. Worry, anxiety, fear, dread, unbelief, hatred, malice, spite, bitterness – all these things dessicate and dry out your soul, but the Holy Spirit comes rushing over you like a flood, changing you from the inside out, so that instead you bear the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. When you came to Jesus, He gave you His Spirit, and your heart was transformed from a dry desert into a rushing river of grace.

What Jesus’ hearers knew as future is what we remember as we celebrate the feasts of Ascension and Pentecost. Just like Zechariah promised, when Christ Jesus arose from death and ascended into heaven to take up His throne as King, He sent His Spirit to the disciples in Jerusalem, so that through them His glory, His gospel, His Spirit would flow like a river to the ends of the earth.

This promise came true for you, too, when you believed in Jesus and received the Holy Spirit. Life welled up inside you, and rushes forth in a river of grace as you walk with the Spirit, so that through your witness, others who are thirsty are swept up into that river, to be baptized into the life of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and to receive that great Pentecost blessing: the presence of the Spirit, a river of life that never runs dry.

Posted on Wednesday, June 07, 2017 by CJ Bowen