Why Living Waters?

IMG_1348The name Living Waters came very early in discerning the kind of church that God was calling us to plant, and reflects our vision to provide a place for people to encounter Jesus and be enlivened and refreshed by the living water that only He can provide.

Did you know that our bodies are almost 80% liquid? In fact, one statistic reports that by the time we are 70 years old, we will have taken in 5.5 million litres of water. If you think about it, apart from our brains, bones, and a few organs, we’re all just walking water balloons! Stop drinking and see what happens–we quickly begin to feel the effects of dehydration: we get confused and tired; our skin gets flushed and clammy, and eventually our vital organs begin to suffer. Our bodies need water–our eyes need tears to cry, our mouth needs moisture to swallow, our glands need sweat to keep our body cool, our cells need blood to carry them, and our joints need fluid to lubricate them. If we were to loose 2% of our body’s water supply, our energy would decrease by 20%, with a 10% loss in fluid, we’d be unable to walk; 20% and we’d be dead! Our body needs water–that’s why God wired us to thirst–that’s why He gave us low fluid indicators like dry mouth, achy head, low energy, weak knees. Deprive your body of the necessary fluids and it will tell you! Despite this, a large number of people in North America live their lives in a constant state of dehydration. Unfortunately, we can turn to all kinds of things to slake our thirst–soft drinks, loaded with sugar or diet drinks loaded with chemicals; sports drinks injected with synthetic vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes; and alcohol. However, these things are only substitutes. As good as a cold draft beer can taste on a hot summer day, there is nothing like a glass of ice cold water to satisfy your thirst!

Physical thirst and dehydration is horrible thing, however, spiritual thirst is even worse. I suspect that an even larger number of people are living their life in a constant state of spiritual dehydration. Like our body, when we deprive our soul of spiritual water, it lets us know. Dehydrated hearts send desperate messages: snarling tempers, waves of worry, growlings of guilt and fear, a longing we can’t define, hopelessness, sleeplessness, loneliness, resentment, and insecurity. These are all warning signs of a spiritual dryness deep within. We’ve all experienced these symptoms from time to time–we all know the pangs of spiritual thirst–the emptiness and dryness. As we read in Psalm 42:1: “As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God.  I thirst for God, the living God.” Just like when we experience physical thirst, we can turn to all kinds of things to quench our spiritual thirst and ease the longing in our hearts: passions, possessions, position, performance, place, people, and power. However, like drinking salt water, these things only provide temporary joy, peace, and satisfaction, and they often leave us thirstier and worse off than we were before. Where do we find true and lasting refreshment for our soul? How do we fix a dehydrated heart or quench our spiritual thirst? Jesus provides the answer to this in John 7:37-38: “On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’”  This passage takes place against the backdrop of the Festival of Tabernacles, or Sukkot, as it is called in Hebrew. The Feast of Tabernacles is one of seven annual festivals, or holy days, God gave to Israel in the time of the Exodus. Observed during the fall, Tabernacles was one of the annual pilgrimage festivals which required the people to journey from all over the nation of Israel to keep the feast in Jerusalem. The origins of this 7-day festival are both historical and agricultural–Leviticus 23:42 reads: “You shall live in booths seven days; all citizens shall live in booths, in order that the future generations may know that I made the Israelite people live in booths when I brought them out of Egypt.”

During the festival, the people would construct a sukkah–a small, hastily built hut or booth–in which meals were eaten. These booths were used as a memorial to remind them of the temporary dwellings their ancestors lived in during their 40 year sojourn in the desert, and to commemorate their exodus from Egypt. After Israel entered the Promised Land, Sukkot was also associated with the fall harvest, celebrating the abundance of God’s blessings in connection with the ingathering of the harvest.

Each day of the festival included a water ceremony (Simchat Beit HaShoevah) in which a procession of priests descended to the south border of the city to the Gihon Spring, which flowed into the Pool of Siloam. There a priest would fill a golden pitcher with water, as the choir chanted Isaiah 12:3: “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” The water was then carried back up the hill to the ‘Water Gate,’ followed by crowds of people waving citrus branches and singing Psalms 113–118. When the procession arrived at the temple, the priest would climb the altar steps and pour the water onto the altar while the crowd circled him and continued singing. On the seventh and last day of the festival–the ‘great day’–as John calls it, the priest gave the altar a ‘Jericho loop’–7 circles–dousing it with 7 vessels of water.

On a very practical level, this water ceremony was a plea to God for rain at a time of year when drought was a constant threat. On a much deeper level, it was symbolic of the people of Israel drawing salvation from the wells of God’s mercy and grace. It was a look back in their history that commemorated God providing them with water from the rock during their wilderness journey (Numbers 20:8, 10). It was also a look forward to the day that rivers of life-giving water would flow from the temple during the messianic age in a miraculous display of God’s blessing, as described in Ezekiel 47:1 and Zechariah 14:8.

It may have been at this moment–as the seventh water procession climbed the steep hill of South Jerusalem–that Jesus stepped out of the crowd into public view and made His stunning pronouncement. Given the spiritual importance of this ceremony, it is significant that Jesus chose this day and time. You can almost picture it. In the midst of this very emotional and sacred ritual, Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth, calls out to the crowd and  invites the people to come to Him. The silence must have been deafening, as finely frocked priests turned, surprised people starred, wide-eyed children and toothless grandparents paused. They knew this man–some had heard Him preach in the Hebrew hills, others, in the city streets–but not like this. With these words, Jesus was proclaiming to the people that it was not the ceremony–not to the animal sacrifices on the altar, nor the water poured out–that they should be looking to satisfy their thirst. Instead, they should be listening to and looking to Him to fill their heart and life! Jesus’ controversial words here contain both an invitation and a promise.

The Invitation
“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink…” If there was one thing the people would have understood it was thirst. They lived in a hot and dry land. However, Jesus wasn’t talking about physical thirst here, but something much deeper. The people needed water, not for their bodies, but for their hearts. As symbolic and powerful as this water ceremony was, it was only a ritual–it could not fully satisfy the spiritual hunger deep within them. Jesus’ words are extremely intense because He knew the intensity of the people’s thirst.

Whether we realize it or not, our souls thirst for God. Every desire, every aspiration, every longing of our nature is nothing less than a yearning for God. We were born for His love and we cannot truly live without it. He is the joy we have been searching for all our lives. Everything that we desire is found in Him–and infinitely more.  That is why God wired us this way.  As St. Augustine writes; “You have made us to be with you O, God, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.”

Of all the things that we can turn to, Jesus is the only answer to this deep thirst. What H2O can do for our body, Jesus can do for our heart. In fact, He invites us to come and drink of the Living Water that only He can provide–He invites us to quench our thirst in Him. As He says to the women of Samaria in John 4:14: “…but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty.  The water that I give will become in them a spring gushing up to eternal life.” Jesus invites us to come; however, it is up to us to respond–it is up to us to come to Him and drink.

Like the people of Israel, we live in a dry and barren land–at least spiritually–and there is nothing on this earth that can fully satisfy the spiritual hunger within us.  Try as we may, any satisfaction that we experience is only short lived and quickly fades, and our soul cries out for more. It’s a cruel reality that the very thing we thought might slake our thirst only drives us deeper into despair. There is only one answer for the thirst down in our soul.  There’s only one person who can fill the void in our heart. The answer to the thirst deep within us is found in Jesus. Only Jesus can fill that emptiness on the inside.  Only Jesus can take away the guilt and shame. Only Jesus can start us back on the road to true health and wholeness.

The Promise
For those who accept Jesus’ invitation to come and drink, He makes an astounding promise: “As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” Jesus requires each individual to make a response of faith in Him that does not just include ritualistic observance. In order to come and drink, one must believe in Jesus–believe that He can satisfy our every thirst. Jesus is the Giver of Life and the Source of Life. Just as no life on earth can survive without water, neither can any soul survive without Jesus. He fills the thirsty soul with all of the goodness and mercy of God. He overflows our lives with blessings and springs up from within our soul as a river that washes us, cleanses us, and makes us whole. He becomes a river of living water–a fountain that wells up deep inside of us.

Scripture is full of references to the blessing of the Holy Spirit in connection to water (Isaiah 44:3; 55:1; 58:11; Ezekiel 47:1ff; Joel 3:18; Zechariah 13:1; 14:8; Proverbs 4:23; 5:15.) It is not from an earthly Jerusalem that the living waters flow, but out of the dwelling-place of Christ which is in the consecrated hearts of transformed lives. When a believer comes to Jesus and drinks, they not only slake their thirst, but receive such an abundant supply that authentic rivers flow out of their inner being.

This image stresses the out-flowing nature of the Spirit-filled life. This springing-up well not only refreshes one’s own soul, but also flows out to refresh the lives of others. If you think about it, the Dead Sea is aptly named–it is so salty that it contains no fish or plant life. A great volume of water pours into the Dead Sea from the Jordan River, however, nothing flows out.  Water  inlets plus no outlets equals a dead sea! This law of nature may also be applied to the child of God, and explains why many believers are unfruitful and lack spiritual vitality. It is possible for some people to attend church, listen to religious broadcasts, study the Scriptures, and continually take in the word as it is preached from the pulpit, and yet seem lifeless and unproductive in their Christian lives. Such individuals are like the Dead Sea. They have several ‘inlets’ but no ‘outlets.’ To be vibrant and useful believers, we must not only take in all we can, but we must also give out in service to others! We must be willing to let rivers of living water flow from within us to the world around us .

If we are thirsty, we can come to the Lord Jesus and drink of Him. But if we encounter others in need, we can’t just pour out a cupful of Jesus and hand it to them. We must minister to their needs out of the powerful, refreshing, renewing spring of Christ within us. Therefore, we must keep on drinking from Him if He is going to met the needs of others through us. How do we do this? How do we drink of Christ’s life-giving Spirit? By drinking the Word of Life into our innermost being. Through the Word of Christ, His living water flows into our hearts in order to satisfy and renew us. In turn this Living Water wells up inside our heart, soul, and mind and flows from us to touch those around us. The Word flows though us not on the basis of how many Scriptures we know, but from our dwelling or living in Christ, the source of all life. Thus we must ever be opening the connection and drinking from Christ by abiding in His Word. Otherwise, we will not quench our own inner thirst, nor the thirst of others.

Many of those who heard Jesus’ words on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles refused to accept His offer. Will you? Are you thirsty? Accept Jesus’ invitation and promise and come to the well. An encounter with Jesus has the power to change one’s life forever!  We weren’t meant to live our lives with dehydrated hearts–we need to recognize our need for living water, and as the Coca-Cola slogan says, “obey our thirst,” and saturate ourselves with water that lasts–water that only Jesus can supply. Let Jesus create in your soul a river of living water. Let Jesus give you the sweet presence of His Holy Spirit. Let Jesus pour out His water on you right now, so you will never thirst again. Thankfully, no h86b0b8427c9a01f7f41760a01f953064eart is too dry for Jesus! May the Lord, by His grace, make us refreshing fountains where thirsty souls may drink. Being indwelt by the Holy Spirit, may we possess the water of life and be channels of blessing to those in need. From hearts of love, let us pour out to others what we have so willingly received for ourselves.

Jesus says: “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’”

Are you thirsty? Come!