Rivers of Living Water (Pt. 1)

Rivers Part 1[Next Sunday is Pentecost, the day that the Holy Spirit was given to the church. Christians around the world will spend the next week reflecting on this tremendous Gift as well as its implications for believers, and I felt it was only fitting to offer a few comments myself.]

“On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘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…” (John 7:37-39)

Rivers.

It’s an interesting metaphor, really.

My pastor began a series on the Holy Spirit yesterday morning. He read John 7, and as he talked about the “rivers of living water,” I was reminded of the three laws of geography my cousin taught me several years ago.

Law #1: I don’t actually remember the first law.

Law #2: Mountains want to be flat.

Law #3: Rivers want to be straight.

Rivers can tend to be quite windy, but over the course of time they gradually erode the surrounding land and straighten themselves out.

Basically, rivers shape the environment around them. They’re supposed to, anyway.

Think about that for a second. Rivers can carve their way through nature. They tear their way down mountains. They cut out valleys. They transform land, they transform cities, they transform societies, they transform the world.

And Jesus said when you allow the Holy Spirit to flow out of your life, it’s comparable to these world-changing rivers.

I bet when Jesus invented rivers ages and ages ago, He knew He’d one day preach a sermon to a group of uneducated fishermen about the incredible power of the Holy Spirit. And He probably programmed things like erosion into them to demonstrate the sheer magnitude of His intentions for the Spirit-empowered church.

We are supposed to transform society. We are supposed to change culture. We are supposed to have an impact on the world as we know it. As Jesus said, we are supposed to disciple entire nations.

And Jesus told us exactly how to do it.

His disciples were filled with the Holy Ghost, and they allowed the violent torrents of the Spirit to flow out of their hearts and turn the world upside down.

And we have been commissioned to do the same exact thing.

So get going. Let God’s words pour from your lips. Let His power gush from your hands. Let His life flow from your very being. It’ll change the world. There’s no way it won’t.

[Your Turn: What are some other cool things we can learn about the awesome power of the Holy Spirit by talking about rivers?]

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Four Important Lessons Jesus Taught Us about Judgment


judgmental_bag_grants_passIf there is one word that the church doesn’t understand, it is the word “judgmental.”  Christians are terrified of this word, and the mere mention of it causes the average believer to crumble to the floor and play dead (much like an opossum).

Ironically, most of this stems from a terrible misunderstanding of Jesus’ teachings regarding judgment.  So let’s consider the story of the woman caught in adultery (from John 8) to glean four biblical lessons regarding judgment.

1.     Jesus called her behavior “sin”

Jesus didn’t shy away from questions regarding morality.  He clearly identified her adultery as “sin” in verse 11.  And He said it right to her face.  This wasn’t the only time he voiced His opinion regarding sin, either.  In Mark 7:20-23, Jesus gives a laundry list of sins (including lying, stealing, and homosexuality), which He says “defile a man.”

There is nothing wrong with calling sinful behavior “sinful.”  Jesus did it all the time.  You don’t get people saved by telling them they aren’t really sinning.  All that does is justify their belief that they aren’t desperately in need of a Savior.

Sin is sin.  And the reality of sin in our lives is what prompts us to find the One who can deliver us from our sin.

2.     Jesus told her to stop sinning

Most people stop reading the story at verse 10.  “And all of the mean, judgmental Pharisees left, and Jesus gave the woman a big hug and said, ‘It’s all going to be okay.’”

But what does Jesus say to her in verse 11?

“Neither do I condemn thee.  Go and continue living in sin.”

Nope.

“Go and try really hard not to sin.”

That’s not it, either.

“Go and read My latest book, Ten Ways to Overcome Sin.”

No, He told her to stop sinning.

“Go and sin no more.”

We often hear people say that Jesus spent much of His spare time with sinners.  That’s only a half truth.  He spent His time converting sinners into saints.  It was time deliberately spent, and while the people He congregated with usually started off as sinners, they soon left their life of sin to follow Jesus.

We hinder someone’s relationship with God when we allow them to continue living a life of habitual sin.  Let’s not forget it was sin that separated us from God in the first place.  Grace doesn’t free us from the consequences of our sin; it frees us from sin itself.

3.     Jesus didn’t condemn her for her sin

These are the words that most of us remember from the story, and we’d do well to remember them.  “Neither do I condemn you.”

Jesus draws a line in the sand between two words that the church thinks are synonymous.  Judgment and condemnation are different things.  Jesus clearly judged her sin.  He told her right to her face that she was sinning, but He didn’t chuck a rock at that face.  He told her the truth (in love, I might add), told her to stop, and then walked away.

I’m not someone’s executioner.  I’m just a guy who is filled with God’s life and knows God’s truth.  My responsibility is to make that truth known and make that life available.  Because the truth is, we all have sinned, and therefore deserve death.  But God graciously gave us His life instead.  Shouldn’t we do the same?

4.     Jesus gave her a way to stop sinning

The big difference between judgment and condemnation is your willingness to lead someone out of sin.

Matthew 7 is where we find the oft-quoted verse, “Judge not, lest you be judged.”  Jesus follows this up with a metaphor, saying,

“How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’ when you have a plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:4)

But then He says something we often overlook.

“First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

The point in this discourse isn’t, “Don’t judge another man’s sin.”  His point is, “You both have sin in your life.  Deal with your own sin, and then help your brother deal with his.”

And Jesus called this process, “judgment.”

The point of judgment isn’t to throw rocks at someone else.  The point of judgment is to get all of the planks, specks, and sins out of our lives, so we can effectively serve God.  And if the church was more willing to deal with sin rather than avoid it, we’d be a heck of a lot stronger than we are.