To assist you in spending time each day asking God for the overflowing presence of the Holy Spirit, we will share a brief devotion several times each week for the next two weeks. They come from Nicky Gumbel, creator of the Alpha Course. If you would be interested in his daily devotional, find it here: Bible in One Year. I encourage you each day to launch from Nicky’s concluding prayer into your own time of asking the Holy Spirit to reveal to you more of Jesus, and to let His power move powerfully in your life. Today’s text begins below:
2. Be continuously filled with the Spirit
We come here to one of the passages of Scripture (vv.37–39) which deserves to be, as Bishop J.C. Ryle put it, ‘printed in gold’. Jesus anticipates what will happen on the day of Pentecost. He speaks about the transformation by the streams of living water which the Holy Spirit brings to our lives: ‘By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified’ (v.39).
It was ‘the last and greatest day of the Feast [of Tabernacles]’ (v.37). This was the day when the people anticipated that the great river prophesied in Ezekiel 47 would flow out from Jerusalem. ‘Jesus stood’ (John 7:37). The usual custom was to sit when teaching, but these words were so significant that he wanted to be seen and heard by all the people. He cried out ‘in a loud voice’ (v.37). His message was only twenty-four words in the Greek language, but it is a life-changing promise which we can still experience today.
- Who makes this promise?
The people were amazed by Jesus’ teaching. He had never even been to theological college! (v.15). He received his teaching from God (v.16). And he says, anyone who ‘chooses to do the will of God’ (v.17) will recognise this.
Jesus calls for a response. Some thought: ‘Surely this man is the Prophet’ (v.40). However, C.S. Lewis pointed out, Jesus did not leave that option open. He observed that there are really only three options. He pointed out that a man who said the sort of things Jesus said would either be insane or ‘the Devil of Hell’. The only third possibility is that, ‘this man was, and is, the Son of God’. We see this demonstrated in today’s reading:
– Some thought him ‘the Devil of Hell’: ‘You are demon-possessed’ (v.20)
– Some thought him insane: ‘He is … raving mad’ (10:19)
– But others recognised, ‘He is the Christ’ (7:41)
- To whom is the promise made?
Jesus said, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink’ (v.37). It is made to every human being. It applies to Robbie Williams. It applies to all who have never experienced the Holy Spirit. But it also applies to those of us who feel dissatisfied spiritually. Do we feel a failure in our prayer lives? Do we feel frustrated at our level of holiness? Do we long for a closer relationship with God? If we do, we are spiritually ‘thirsty’ and the promise applies to us.
- What is the promise?
Jesus says ‘Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flowing from within’ (v.38). The Feast of Tabernacles was anticipating the river that would flow out of the temple in Jerusalem as prophesied in Ezekiel 47 (which was read and enacted at the feast). Jesus tells them that this has been fulfilled, not in a place but in a Person.
The river flows out of the heart of Jesus (out of his ‘koilia’ – the pit of his stomach or his innermost being) and in a derivative way out of every Christian (John 7:38).
The river flows into us and out of us. The river will flow into the little ‘Dead Seas’ of our hearts and from our ‘innermost being’. Superficially life may not be easy, but deep down the Holy Spirit constantly flows like a ‘river of living water’.
This river does not flow once in a while. It flows continuously. It is not supposed to be blocked up. It should be constantly bubbling up and flowing out of us.
As Father Raniero Cantalamessa put it, ‘A Christian in whom the Holy Spirit dwells is not exempt from having to experience struggle, temptations, disorderly desires, rebellious feelings … [the difference is that all these things come] upon him against his will.’ They are on the surface. Yet there is a ‘peace in the depth of their hearts. That is like a deep-ocean current always flowing steadily regardless of the wind and the waves on the surface.’
- How do we receive the promise?
Jesus says let them ‘come to me and drink’ (v.37). It is a promise for ‘who[m]ever believes in me’ (vv.38–39). It can flow from every one of us who comes to him and drinks.
This is what happened on the day of Pentecost. As Pope Paul VI put it: ‘The church and the world need more than ever that the miracle of Pentecost should continue in history’.
A prayer to guide you today:
Lord, fill us again today with your Holy Spirit, with streams of living water to bring life to those we meet today.