Friday, March 7, 2008

The gift of God!

"If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him and he would have given you living water...Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

John 4:10-14

Have you ever noticed that when God reveals something to you of Himself and about Himself that the words of the Bible have new meaning and you begin to see this revelation in everything? When I first believed I saw everywhere in the Bible that God loves even His enemies because what God revealed to me first was that He is love. Once God revealed to me that Jesus is God, that is what I saw everywhere in Scripture. Well, God has done it again and I am seeing every verse and every story through the lens of the Trinity of God. Not every verse speaks directly concerning the trinity of God, but all of the Bible ultimately points to it and it is a delight to see this. I hope to show you that when Jesus speaks to the woman at the well His language is laden with a picture of the Trinity of God.

Most people would probably recognize that the water which Jesus offers this woman is the Holy Spirit - but then again, I never realized this until fairly recently, maybe a year and a half ago. My impression was always that the gospel was the water and that Jesus was speaking to her about truth, the good news, and the gospel of His death, burial and resurrection. This error in thinking is not all that uncommon in the reformed circles that I tread. If the error is not as grave as my own, at the very least most reformed saints think of the Holy Spirit as being there simply because we believe...sort of like a caboose at the end of the train. But since God revealed to me more of His triune nature through Jonathan Edwards, John Piper and Brother Lawrence and how there really is no gospel without a triune God, I have begun to see texts like this very differently. Rather than the Holy Spirit being inferential, I now understand Him to be experiential. Let me try to explain this quickly before we move on to our text.

From the time I first believed I always understood the Holy Spirit to be there because I believed. I inferred that because I believed in Jesus, I had the Holy Spirit. And though this is true, insofar as the seal of God's approval on me and the indwelling Holy Spirit which will never leave me, I fought sorely to understand why the Christian life was riddled with such struggle (with holiness) and condemnation. Those who believe in Jesus, in a saving way, are indwelt by the Holy Spirit - there is no doubt about that, for Ephesians 1:13 tells us: "In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit," and 2 Corinthians 1:22 in the same way says: "and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee." So there is little doubt that the Holy Spirit resides in those of us who have heard the word of God concerning the gospel of His Son and have believed. But it seemed like something was missing and "sticking close to Jesus" was an impossible task. Responding to God simply out of gratitude was more than my sinful flesh could handle and I consequently always ran out of steam. Even with an indwelling Holy Spirit, we cannot hope to live a life growing in the holiness of God as we ought to. And when I say holiness, I don't mean only overcoming particular sins, but the countenance and demeanor of our very souls. Most people can white-knuckle addictions and other obvious sins but to grow in the holiness of God is something else goes to very core of the root of our sins. The fruit of the Spirit is not listed as outward behavior like the works of the flesh are but rather as states of our very soul and emotions: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. So though I was certain of my own salvation and knew that God had raised this dead sinner to life, the inward sense of growing in the fruit of the Spirit was lacking and I struggled to see how I could continue living a life managing my sin.

So one evening, as I was reading through the book of Acts and seeing the profound experiences that the early church had with the Holy Spirit of God, I prayed a simple prayer. "Oh Lord, am I missing something? I know that anyone who believes on the Lord Jesus is saved but it seems as if something is different with how I experience you on a daily basis and the way these people experienced you. Will you please give me the gift of your Holy Spirit like you gave it to them?" Not long after this, I slowly started to change, and through conversations with a Pentecostal Brother I learned that being filled with the Spirit is indeed something we Christians should strive for and actually pray for in humble, reliant and expectant prayer. Pay particular attention to the expectant portion of what I jus said because it will be critical to understanding what Jesus is offering this woman and how it relates to us. I have never spoken in tongues, though I pray for this and I pursue it regularly, but I don't think that tongues is the point about being filled with the Spirit. The point is to move our faith from a place of inference to a place of experience where we know, taste, feel, sense and enjoy God's presence in our daily lives. This happened to me in the most remarkable way. I had such profound revelations of God in my life that I routinely wept and worshipped Him even in the midst of difficult situations that would normally have caused me to get angry with Him. I had the presence of God with me and I felt Him both inside me and around me. It all reminded me of being a brand new Christian because this had been my experience at first but the old cliche' of how we are supposed to "tone down" or "cool off" had made its way into my life. As a side note to this, any of you men who tell your wife that you were in love with her once but now your love is more calm, mature and steady should realize that this is not the kind of love your wife wants. She desires to be desired passionately because that is what she is designed and created to need. Yet, we hold to a foolish notion that once we have had our "in love" stage with Jesus we must learn to come down from the mountain top and get on with living out of gratitude for what Jesus has more passionate and lively feelings or desires for God, only gratitude and duty for what Jesus has done. I hope to show you that this is not what God wants for us nor is it what the Bible calls us to. Even in the valley we are called to rejoice exuberantly and praise His name as the object of our most passionate desires and we can sense His presence in our lives every day if only we learn to practice the presence of God.

Now, back to the text. Jesus offers this woman a gift of water and promises her that if she drinks of this water she will never be thirsty again. He refers to this water as "the gift of God" and tells her that this water will well up in her to a spring of water which will well up to eternal life. Let's begin with pondering what "the gift of God" means.

I find it cruious that Jesus doesn't say "the gift from God" instead, to be honest. If the gift He is referring to is that of the truth of the Gospel and the truth that He will die for unworthy sinners then He would have said that this is a gift from God instead of the gift of God. But you see, Jesus is not speaking here of the truth of His life, death, burial and resurrection...not at all. His life, death, burial and resurrection need to be understood as the thing that makes the gift of God possible and I will endeavor to try to make this clearer at the end. Jesus is telling the woman that He can give her the Holy Spirit and that this is the gift of God. The Holy Spirit is God and so Jesus is offering her God Himself. Therefore, it is not the gift from God but the gift of God. I could say more about the language here but I think it necessary to move on to seeing this truth elsewhere in the Bible.

How do we know that this water that Jesus offers the woman is indeed the Holy Spirit? First of all, in my previous post I attempted to show that when David calls us to "taste and see that the Lord is good" he meant that we should "drink" of the Holy Spirit. I showed verses from Ephesians, the Psalms and others which refer to drinking of the Holy Spirit. We can be fairly certain that Jesus is speaking of the Holy Spirit by comparing his language here to other verses that describe the Holy Spirit in this way. We can also be sure of this because of what is written in John 7:37-39: "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." Clearly, the living water that is here said directly to be the Holy Spirit is the same water Jesus is offering to the woman at the well. But there is something even more dramatic in Jesus' conversation with this woman that tip us off to the fact that He is offering her the Holy Spirit.

Notice what Jesus says at the end: "The water that I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." Lets deal with eternal life first and then we will move on to "welling up" because both of these point directly to the Holy Spirit as the gift of God. In this same gospel, Jesus tells us what "eternal life" is specifically.

"And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent." John 17:3

So eternal life is not simply that we live forever in a place without grief, disease and death. That would simply be immortality and something more like Utopia. Jesus says that eternal life is knowing both the Father and the Son. This is God's definition of eternal life. To know God intimately and be in a relationship with Him is eternal life. I have shown in other posts that this is a relationship of joy and delight, but I want you to see here that what Jesus is telling this woman is that if she would but drink of the water He can give her then she will know both the Father and the Son. Now, there is only one way to know the Father and the Son and that is by the Holy Spirit because 2 Corinthians 3:18-4:6 tells us that "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" is from the Spirit. As well, 2 Peter 1:4 links knowledge of God with being "partakers of the divine nature" which is the same as drinking, eating, or consuming of God Himself. Finally, Jesus' discourse in John 17 reveals that we know and love God by the Holy Spirit Who is God. You can refer to some of my previous posts for more elaboration on this. But to sum it up, the only way to know God is by His Holy Spirit Who is God and eternal life is knowing God the Father and Jesus Christ His Son. This, by the way, is also why 2 Corinthians 13:14 says: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all." The fellowship of the Holy Spirit is the way in which we know God intimately and not just inferentially or intellectually. It is also by the Holy Spirit that God loves Himself - the Son loves the Father and the Father loves the Son and this love of God is the Holy Spirit Himself, the third person of the Trinity.

Now, let's take a look at the "welling up" that Jesus speaks of. Jesus seems to be saying that there will be a spring of water that will gush forth this living water. This is not language that should make us think of a small drop of water or a calm lake but of a fountain that is spewing water up and around itself. This is what being filled with the Holy Spirit is like. It is quite distinct and vastly different from having the "seal" of the Spirit. Let's say that you looked into a glass and saw a drop of water at the bottom of it. You would have to look pretty closely in order to see this drop of water and from any measurable distance you would assume that the glass was totally empty. I would argue that the "seal" of the Spirit is much like this drop of water. When we stand before God on judgment day He will see this "drop of water" and will by no means cast us away, because we have been sealed with His Spirit. But Jesus is not speaking of a drop of water here but of a gushing forth and welling up of water which tells me that this is an experience that others around us can see. It wells up in us to eternal life and out of us flows rivers of living water. We know that Father and the Son intimately, which is eternal life, and living water (or the Holy Spirit) flows out of our hearts for all to see. I will not go into how a Christian can have only a drop as opposed to a gushing fountain except to say that we can quench the Spirit of God and it is a serious offense against God. Many will be saved "as one escaping through the flames" might be a good way of putting it. We are called to be filled with the Spirit of God, not simply having a seal of the Spirit.

Now, we have shown that the living water that Jesus offers the woman at the well is the Holy Spirit, God Himself and that this is why He calls it the gift of God as opposed to the gift from God. It is not that this gift is not from God but that Jesus is offering her the gift of Himself by the Holy Spirit. I promised earlier that I would elaborate a little more about how the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus ought to be seen not as the water itself, but as what actually makes this possible. I want to make clear that I am not denying that we behold the glory of God in the face of Christ and that we indeed see this more clearly in the gospel of Jesus' life, death and resurrection. I simply want you to see that Jesus died in order to give you something. He didn't just die for you to be forgiven - no, He died and rose so that you could have eternal that you could know both Him and the Father and that you could feast on His glory by the Holy Spirit.

"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." John 7:37-39

I assume you know where I will be going with this. At the end of this section of Scripture we see that the Holy Spirit had not been given in this way yet, because Jesus had not yet been glorified. What this is referring to is that Jesus had not yet died for sin and resurrected (see John 17:1). The Holy Spirit could not be given to this extent until Jesus had paid the penalty for sin and glorified the Father as He desired. The love of God, or the gift of God, could not be poured out in this way until Jesus had satisfied the wrath and fury of God the Father. I point this out because it is so common to hear a truncated gospel which simply says that we are forgiven because of what Jesus did for us. This is true, but hopefully you see that Jesus died so that you could know Him by His Holy Spirit and feast on His glory which is eternal life. Jesus didn't just die so that you could have a ticket which says "forgiven." He died so that you could have the Holy Spirit welling up in you and spewing out living water for all to see, and most importantly, to shine God's glory back to Him again. Jesus Christ died to bring you to God and not just get you out of hell. Jesus Christ died so that you could partake of God, delight in God, enjoy God, treasure God, experience the presence of God, taste God, feel God, know God, live in God - to have eternal life.

So this is the gift of God and the gift of God is God Himself. Glorious joy flows from this understanding of the Trinity of God and cannot be a reality without it.

One more thing I wanted to point out is that when we pray for the Holy Spirit as we are directed to do in Luke 11:13, it is important that we do so with three things in mind. 1. We must ask for the Holy Spirit humbly, realizing that we don't deserve Him nor can we control Him. We are naked, wretched, poor and blind 2. We must ask God in reliant prayer for the Holy Spirit because only He can give us the gift of Himself and His own love for Himself 3. We must ask for the Holy Spirit expecting that God will answer this prayer. This is not at all like word of faith, but a realization that Jesus makes a promise to us that whoever asks persistently for the Holy Spirit will indeed be given of Him by God. All of God's promises are yes in Jesus Christ and God desires for us to partake of Him and give Him glory by enjoying Him so He will most certainly give us the gift of Himself if we ask Him, but we must believe that He will do so:

"And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him." Hebrews 11:6

We must ask God for His Holy Spirit in humble reliant and expectant prayer, knowing that God will reward those who seek Him with the gift of Himself.

Blessed be the name of the Lord!

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