We've been going through the Gospel of John. We find ourselves in the events of the Feast of Tabernacles, a very joyous feast, a feast when Jews from all over would come to Jerusalem, would set up tents or booths, and would for a week worship together, enjoy rituals together.
One of the rituals that was performed every day at the Feast of Tabernacles was for the High Priest to take a large gold-colored jug and go to the Gihon Spring and fill it full of water, bring it back into the Temple to the altar, and to pour out that water as an offering to the Lord. This drew in the idea of the days in the wilderness travels of the children of Israel when the Lord brought forth water out of a rock. They celebrate that by the pouring out of water on the rock of the altar there.
Jesus was there for those celebrations. In our text today, He is there at this final great celebration of the pouring of the water. It's interesting that when that water was poured, the choir would sing a verse out of Isaiah, talking about the Lord bringing forth water and the salvation it would provide. Of course when you think of water bringing salvation, for those living in the Middle East, it had a dual meaning because water saved the body. They lived in a very parched and dry land and water was a precious commodity. But water, of course, also as a result living in that area had that double meaning of spiritual refreshment. It was a good metaphor to use.
I like to think that those of us gathered here today, when people are gathered anywhere in worship, when people are finding themselves before the Word of God…they are either a sponge or a duck when it comes to the flow of God's blessings and the flow of the Spirit of God. A sponge it just seems is built ready to soak up the water. It's ready to soak up whatever amount of water gets poured into it until it can't hold anymore.
A duck, of course, on the other hand, has that hard shell back that reflects and repels the water. I think sometimes our hearts are one or the other. Either we're open like a sponge to receive the refreshing that the flow of God's Spirit wants to bring into our lives, or perhaps we've hardened like that duck's back, and the water just simply rolls off and never has any impact on us.
You know, the Bible speaks about times that come and bring refreshment to those who are parched, to those who are weak, to those who are depressed, who are overwhelmed with the events and the affairs of life. In many of these instances in Scripture, water comes into play as that metaphor God chooses to talk to us about the refreshing God brings.
In the King James Version, water is used repeatedly for refreshment. In fact, throughout the Bible, water is used as a metaphor of refreshment 567 times. Again, the Middle East is a dry, hot place, so it's natural that water would be a symbol of refreshment…not only physically, but spiritually. Jesus used this in John, chapter 4, didn't He, when He spoke to the woman at the well who had come to get water. He spoke to her of water that if she were to partake of, she would never thirst again.
Well when we come to John, chapter 7, in verses 37 through 39 today, we're going to see Him use this metaphor again. But keep in mind, He is using it at this great celebration at the Feast of Tabernacles. As the priest pours out that water, that offering to God…Jesus takes that metaphor, takes that picture, takes that memory of the water coming from the rock there that Moses brought forth, and uses it to teach the people.
In John 7, verse 37, it says, "On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out…" Now Jesus is there in the Temple and that crying out is that word for making a loud proclamation. Commentators feel probably that pouring water celebration had just taken place. It's not something that was prescribed, by the way, in Leviticus or in the Law of Moses, but it was a custom that had developed for hundreds of years that the Jews participated in as part of the Feast of Tabernacles.
So having done that…having seen that symbolism…Jesus uses that opportunity to cry out saying in the last part of verse 37, "'If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.' But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified." "It was not yet given," although given is a word that's been added. Literally in the Greek it says, "The Spirit was not yet, because Jesus was not yet glorified." In other words, Jesus and the Spirit are the same. Jesus is there physically. He is going to be gone physically when He is glorified, and then the role of God will become the role of the Spirit of God.
Jesus says in verse 37, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink." Jesus speaks of thirsting. He speaks of people who are in need of refreshment. What are you thirsty for today? What area in your life needs refreshment and healing that only Jesus can satisfy, only Jesus can meet? You know, whatever your answers are to these questions, there are always a few action steps you need to take in order to get the healing rain, the refreshing water, the flow of the Spirit of God to bring the refreshing and that healing you need in your life.
First of all, you must come to the Refresher, who is Jesus, and search your heart in His presence. Notice verse 37 again. "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink." In order to receive the refreshing God offers, that flow of the Spirit to take our lives and to bring satisfaction, to bring strength to our lives…we have to come into His presence first of all. We have to come to Him not only for salvation, which surely Jesus is including in His discussion, but in those times even in a believer's life when we're parched, when we're discouraged, when we're fearful, when we are in need of God's hand and God's hug in our lives, when we need to know Jesus is there, that He never leaves us or forsakes us, when we want to get into that intimate relationship and fellowship with God. Jesus says, "Come to Me."
You know, the same thing is said in Revelation 22, verse 17. In the concluding remarks of Revelation, it says, "And the Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!' And let him who hears say, 'Come!' And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely."
All these verses invite us to come if we're thirsty and to experience a time of spiritual refreshment. You have to come to Jesus in order to get that flow…in order to get the refreshment only the Spirit of God can provide.
You know, I fear that as with so many things, when other religions, other denominations, other faiths mention something, there is always a tendency to run from it. When someone talks about having a Spirit-filled life, we tend to run from that, but that is scriptural. Our lives are to be controlled by the Spirit. The Spirit of God is to flow through us. Jesus says, "Whoever believes in Me, out of his heart will come rivers of living water." This is to be the hallmark of our Christian life. When we don't have that, we need to find how can we get that back. How can we come to those times of spiritual refreshment? Repentance is part of it. You have to come to the Refresher, who is Jesus. But you also have to search your heart while you're there in His presence for repentance.
Acts tells us this in Acts, chapter 3. In verse 19, it says, "Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord…" Repentance brings about conversion. Repentance brings the forgiveness of sins, but we know from 1 John that we're to repent before God always. Notice repentance brings refreshing. When we come before God with a heart of repentance, we're going to begin to experience the flow of the Spirit and the refreshment of the Spirit of God once again in our lives.
Without repentance, we miss the refreshing blessings of God. When there is no repentance in our lives, we can't experience the quenching of our thirst, and we remain parched. That's why John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus by preaching repentance. The apostles, when they were proclaiming salvation, it included repentance. When they spoke of the need to draw closer to God, they spoke of repentance. Repentance is not something to be avoided at all costs; repentance is the first step to getting the refreshing and the joy and the fullness of the Spirit, the happiness and the joy and the strength God wants to make available to us.
The key to forgiveness is repentance. It's confessing your sin; it's turning from it. Acts talks all about that in Acts, chapter 2. When we repent, God promises not only to wipe away our sin but to bring that spiritual refreshment. First John 1:9 tells us that…that when we confess our sins, He not only forgives us of that, but He cleanses us of all unrighteousness. God not only forgives sin, but He also courses through us and cleanses us and restores that joy. But that's repentance. Repentance was not just a one-time thing. Repentance was not just something you'll do once and not have to do over and over again. Repentance is not to be just connected with, "If it gets bad enough, I'll repent." That it's the bottom. Really repentance should be the initial response of every believer.
You know, repentance is not really a religious word. It comes from a culture in the Bible of nomadic people, a people who traveled in days when there were no maps and no street signs. They went through the desert without a lot of landmarks. Sometimes as they were traveling, they would begin to notice the surroundings were not what they expected; they were not familiar. Eventually they would realize they had lost their way. They had gone the wrong direction. When that would come to their understanding, they would repent. In other words, they would tell their traveling companions they were headed in the wrong direction. They would first of all admit that, but secondly, they would take an alternative route. They would turn and go a different direction. That's what the root of the word repentance meant. It meant to turn from a direction you've discovered is the wrong direction and to go in a new direction.
Well my friends, becoming a believer does not mean every step we take on our own is always God's direction, it's always God's step. We tend to backslide. We tend to drift off the path God would have us on. But the initial response needs to be when we recognize that our surroundings are no longer familiar and we're heading in the wrong direction is to repent. We want to change. We want to draw back close to God again. We want to get back on His path for our lives. So repentance should not be something you hold back on; it should be something you're always willing to do. It's not an admission of guilt any more than all of us are guilty, but it's a recognition of the love of God for you and of His desire to flow through you His healing and His refreshing.
God requires us to do that. Isn't that interesting? The Lord has us take the step of repentance. You know, God will take nine steps toward us, but we have to take the tenth step toward God. It's true Jesus paid the price for our sin on the Cross. It's true He bore the pain of our sin; He paid the price to the full; He paved the way for our salvation. But we have to repent. He will not repent for us. It's true that once we're a child of God, we can be called the children of God. It's true that as a child of God, the Spirit of God comes to dwell in us. But it is also true that we have to acknowledge before God when we have sinned before Him and when we have drifted from Him, when we have erred in His plan for us.
The Bible talks about the Spirit being grieved in our hearts when we go off the course God would have us to go on. Though the Lord will convict and though the Lord will chastise, there comes a place where we have to take that tenth step. We have to get back in the fellowship of the Lord so we can get the refreshment Jesus is talking about when He says, "Whoever of you is thirsty, come to Me, and I will give you refreshment."
So do you need that refreshment today? Well then you need to repent in the presence of God...not just repent to your friends, not just repent in your car, you need to come to a place where you sense the presence of God and repent and get ready to receive His refreshing touch. Get ready to receive that flow, that healing, that God and only God can provide. Just take the time after repentance and soak in God's refreshing time of love. Soak in like a sponge His forgiveness. Soak in like a sponge His flow of healing He wants to bring into your life. To remove the bitterness, to remove the anxiety, to remove the fear that so controls us, we repent before God.
We say, "God, I've forgotten to trust You. I've forgotten to turn everything over to You." We repent before Him. We make a decision to go a new direction…a direction of faith and a direction of trust, whatever the situation might be. Then we soak it in, and we let God's refreshing flow of water course through us spiritually. Experience the refreshing touch of God's grace, and then let it soak in. Come to Jesus. Repent before Christ. Let that refreshing repentance encourage your life.
There is a second thing. Not only do we need to come in His presence and repent in His presence, but we also have to spend personal quiet time with Him in order to continue to be refreshed. It's so important, so necessary. You know, life is always going to come along. It's going to try to choke out those times of refreshing with Jesus. Life is always going to come along, and it's going to try to replace those moments of personal quiet time with busyness.
That's why the psalmist says in Psalm 46:10, "Be still, and know that I am God…" We all need to have those times when we are still…those personal quiet times before the Lord. If you want spiritual refreshing, if you're serious about God pouring that blessing of His Spirit through you, of letting your heart be one where the rivers of God's blessings flow out, you have to have that personal quiet time with Him.
We want Jesus to quickly take care of our problems. We want to see Jesus quickly so we can move on with what it is we want to do. Our lives are just geared that way. We want to just keep moving, to do more and more, to try to accomplish more and more. It's what they call hurry-up sickness. A lot of us suffer from it. We are always in a hurry. But we can't be that way with Jesus. We have to make time to soak in the Lord if we want to experience His refreshing.
Listen to verse 38. "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." You know, Jesus regularly soaked up refreshing time with the Father. That was a pattern He exhibited for us in His personal ministry here on the earth. He sought solitude after the news of John the Baptist's death. He went up in to the mountains to pray. Oh sure, a crowd followed and quickly found Him, but He sought that solitude.
You know, sometimes we have to deal with grief. We need to deal with that grief alone. Jesus didn't dwell on His grief. He returned to the ministry He came to perform. But He had that time of solitude with the Father. I tell you, there has to be more in our lives than just praying to God on the way to the funeral, than just praying to God on the way to lunch, than just praying to God on the way to the doctor, than just praying to God on the way to the job interview. We also have to have those times that we put God on our appointment calendar.
We need to get our Quick Books out or our manual book out or our Day-Timer out. If you need to do this, you ought to do this…that's put God down at a certain time every day and block that off for Him. When they call, say, "I have an appointment at four o'clock or at six in the morning or at five in the afternoon. I can come and see you at five-thirty or at six or whenever." Just make that appointment with God. Have that time of solitude.
Jesus did. Jesus walked on the water, but He walked on the water after being alone with God in prayer. He exhibited for all of us that to do His mighty works, you have to make room in your schedule to be alone with God, to make it a priority to soak up…not to have to sit there and pray the whole time, but to be still. Maybe to read your Bible or maybe to look at a tree. But to be still and get to know God and get to realize His presence. Make an appointment with Him and soak in like a sponge the refreshing and healing flow He wants to give you.
I know of no other better way after you come before God and confess your sins before Him…your decision to get back closer to Him. I know of nothing better than to spend that personal quiet time with Him. I don't know what may be on your heart today. There may be bitterness. There may be grieving. There may be anxiety. Whatever it might be, there is such refreshing, my friend, if you will purpose to spend time alone with God. That's away from your spouse, away from that telephone, away from your children, away from that computer screen to spend time alone with God and to let Him refresh your heart.
But there is one more thing. Not only do we need to come into His presence and repent before Him…not only do we need that personal quiet time so that the flow of God's Spirit can have a resurgence in our lives, but we also have to worship and praise Jesus both individually and corporately because it is through worship that you are refreshed and healed.
Jesus makes this announcement at the performance of a religious ritual. He is at a worship service when He directs them away from the symbol to the reality. If you'll notice when He speaks to the woman at the well, He talks to her about water that will quench her thirst forever. The next thing He talks about is worshipping God in spirit and in truth. There is a tight connection between the flow of God's Spirit in our lives and our worship of God. That is what the Spirit desires from us is that we'll live lives of worship, that we'll worship God collectively, that we'll worship God individually.
To render heartfelt worship to God means we're going to be gripped by His majesty. It means we're going to be gripped by His holiness, by His love. Otherwise our praise and adoration is nothing more than empty words. So we have to not only spend that personal quiet time, but we also have to praise Him and worship Him individually and corporately as well, because without a heart connection to Jesus, our worship becomes anemic.
If we haven't repented before Him, if we haven't felt His presence, if we haven't let Him speak to us…we're going to be anemic worshippers. We're not going to be able to worship in spirit and truth. It's going to be meaningless, and it's going to lack the power of refreshment. It's going to be a boring hour corporately and not an hour where you are stronger when you leave than when you came in.
I tell you, there are times when I crawl in here, okay? The week has been difficult. It's been long; it's been hard. But this hour is a time when I leave stronger than when I came in if I have Jesus as my focus, and I have determined to repent of my sins, to draw closer to Him, to feel His presence, to let Him speak to me, and to praise and worship from a heart that is overflowing with the rivers of living water, with the Spirit fully in control of our heart and of our lives.
Transcribed by Digital Sermon Transcription