Let’s start the story with the apostle Peter. He said in 1 Peter 1:12:
1 Peter 1:12 – It was revealed to them – that would be the prophets, in context here – that they were serving not themselves, but you in the things that have now been announced – things into which angels long to look.
So, in this scripture, Peter tells us that in olden times the prophets wondered about the prophesied plan of salvation through Jesus Christ. And he’s telling us here that now, in our time, that salvation plan has been announced and explained for a long time. And yet, there are still things into which angels long to look – things that are still mysterious to angels. Why? He’s already explained it. What are they wondering about? Well, here’s what I think. Angels work with human beings every day. It’s what they do. That’s their job. So they know what we’re like. It’s like Elron said, “Men are weak.” They know that. They see God is up there and we’re down here. They look at us. They look at God. They look at us. They look at God. And they wonder how He’s going to move us from down here to where He is up there, because the gulf is so great! Of course, we all know God says He’s going to do it, but then, in everyday life, it’s not so clear.
Peter said that humans, after having been washed in Christ’s blood, tend to go back to wallowing, like pigs in mire. I don’t know much about pigs. I’ve never lived on a farm, never been around them too much. But when I lived in Jonesboro, Arkansas, years ago, I used to go to the county fair every year, where we were running The Plain Truth booth – where we would try to engage people in discussion about the truth of God. In my free time, while I was there, I’d walk around and look at the various exhibits, and there was this pig every year – it was a black and white pig, as I remember – it was in a stall on a bed of nice clean straw, had a pink ribbon around its neck. It was all washed up and prettied up, and it would lie there. It was just massive – this huge pig. And every year it would win the first place ribbon. Not long after I started encountering this pig every year, I learned that this pig was owned by the husband of one of our members in our local congregation. He didn’t attend church, but his wife and daughter did. One day they invited us out to their house for Sunday dinner. It was summertime. It was hot. There was a little time before dinner, so the man of the house – he was out in the equipment shed – so I wandered my way out there. On the way, I encountered that same pig in a stall. But it didn’t look the way it looked before. It was lying in its own filth in a big bog of mud and excrement. It was covered with it. There flies everywhere. The smell was unbearable. And just as I was taking in the spectacle of this pig, I heard the door at the house slam – the screen door. And out comes the ten-year-old daughter – I believe she was ten at the time – of the farmer. I knew her well. She went to church every week with us. She comes chomping out and she climbs up on the lower rung of the stall so she could her elbows up over the top rung, like I did, and there we were, side by side, just staring at this spectacle of this massive pig and the terrible smell on the fly. And all of a sudden, she burst out, “Boy, I couldn’t live like that!” But the fact is, in God’s sight, we do – even in the face of the promise Jesus makes to us.
Let’s read this scripture. It shows us how God’s going to pull this off – how He’s going to move us from down there to up here – John 14:16:
John 14:16 – And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper to be with you forever. …for He dwells with you and will be in you.
So God is going to do something different now. The rules have changed just a little bit. Something new is happening here. The relationship between God and those He wants is going to ramp way up now. Now we have a Helper. In old times, it was with us, now it’s in us.
So, do you see that word Helper there? Loaded with meaning! The Greek word is parakletos – I hope there are no Greeks listening – one who helps by consoling, encouraging or mediating on behalf of. Helper, encourager, or mediator are synonyms. That’s from the Louw & Nida Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, based on semantic domain. “The one who helps by consoling, encouraging or mediating on behalf of” – isn’t that great? That’s what we have.
How does this Holy Spirit – the Helper – do these things? Well, the answer comes from understanding what the Holy Spirit is. Notice this: The Father is holy. Would anybody argue with me about that? So the Father is holy. We can all agree on that. And how about this one? Jesus is holy. Can you buy that too? Well, it is biblical. How about this one then? The Father is spirit. So we know God the Father is spirit – not mortal, right? He’s a spirit. Jesus, also, is spirit. Right? So there you have it. This leaves us with Jesus and the Father as holy and Jesus and the Father as spirit. So they are Holy Spirit. Right? And now they’re living in you. Their Spirit interfaces with the spirit they’ve given you. You were created as a vessel for the Holy Spirit. There’s a place in you for it. It was made there by God so that it could interface with your spirit. That’s how the miracle is going to happen – not by our pitifully weak efforts, not by our wallowing in the mire and being discouraged, giving up, sinning and all the things that we do that are so weak.
Do you think you can make it on your own, if you’re just good enough? Come on now! Let’s get real here. Every one of us here sins every day and we don’t even know it. For example, God says we ought not speak out against our leaders – not speak evil of them. Have you ever said anything defamatory about any one of our national leaders in the past year? Come on now, tell the truth. See, none of us has a chance on our own. We’re dead meat. We’re cooked goose. Without God, we’re all as good as dead – except for one thing. Look at this with me – Romans 8:11.
Romans 8:11 – If the Spirit of Him, who raised Jesus from the dead – who is the Him there? Who raised Jesus from the dead? Whose Spirit would that be? Well, yes, it would be the Father’s Spirit, wouldn’t it? If the Spirit of Him, who raised Jesus from the dead, dwells in you – God the Father raised Jesus from the dead and His Spirit dwells in you! Then, notice this: If the Spirit of Him, who raised Jesus from the dead, dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies. God the Father will give life to our mortal bodies. He did it once and He can do it again. Right? You know, we think this is such a miracle. And it is. I’ve never raised anybody from the dead. Have you? But for God, it’s easy. How did He give life to Adam? Well, it says He breathed it into him. For Him, resurrecting a person is as easy as breathing. But how easy it is aside, I hope you absorb this: He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give eternal life to your mortal body. That’s what He’s after. That’s His goal. That’s what He’s going to do. Now, how is He going to do that? Well, God the Father gives life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. Now, don’t worry about the who thing. It’s a thing the Greeks did with gender and pronouns. It’s not a big deal. The way He’s going to raise you back to life is by His Spirit. That’s why it’s in you! God put His Spirit in you because He’s planning to resurrect you. The Holy Spirit is not only our connection to God. It’s our connection to resurrection. Can you feel it? If you can’t, it might be time for a trip back to the well for a refueling.
Now, if this was all we knew about the Holy Spirit, wouldn’t that be the most encouraging thing you could ever hope to imagine? God has purposefully entered into you for the express purpose of resurrecting you to eternal life, no matter how weak you have been in this life. Wow! That’s the mystery! And that is the miracle. The resurrecting is easy for Him. It’s the character issue that we all wonder about. How’s He going to change us? Well, He’s going to do that by His Spirit at work in you.
Paul had a special way of talking about this issue of the Spirit in us. Let’s read 2 Corinthians 13:5:
2 Corinthians 13:5 – Examine yourself to see whether you’re in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourself – that Jesus Christ is in you?
So, in this scripture, he’s saying to the Corinthian church, “What is wrong with you people? You live like you’ve never heard of the real God. It’s as though all His promises, all His encouragement, all His support goes in one ear and out the other. You need to examine yourselves to see if you’re even in the faith! I mean, don’t you know that Christ Jesus is in you?” You see, knowing that should make a difference. Let’s ask ourselves – in my case – “Does it?” In your case, “Does it?” And don’t worry if you can’t find it. It’s still there. The Holy Spirit is still in you. You just need a trip to the well. If you have the Spirit in you, it wills you that direction.
So, here’s another scripture. It’s 1 Corinthians 3:16.
1 Corinthians 3:16 – Do you not know that you are God’s temple and God’s Spirit dwells in you? Don’t you know that? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy and you are that temple.
“You know, the way you guys are acting, it makes me wonder. Don’t you know that you’re God’s temple and God’s Spirit dwells in you? Then stop worrying! Stop making excuses! Stop dragging your feet! Start acting like you have the Spirit. God will not let anyone destroy you anymore that He would let anyone destroy His spiritual temple in heaven, because you are that temple! You belong to God. “
You belong to God. What does that mean – you belong to God? Well, let’s explain it this way. I once saw a film of a small black bear in a national park campground at night. People were beating on pots and pans in an attempt to run it off. The noise seemed to have some effect – the bear was rather tentative, right up until it got its claws around one of their food bags. Then all the skittishness stopped. The bag was suddenly his! Attempts to retrieve the bag would have met with ferocious and possibly fatal results. In the video, one guy tried to approach the bear and it let out a growl that sounded like a rumble from the depths of hell. I saw that and heard that and I decided I didn’t want anything to do with taking food away from bears ever again.
But here’s the point: bears don’t share well. They don’t share food. They don’t share cubs. And that’s how God feels about you. Protective would be an understatement. You are His! But isn’t it disrespectful to liken God to a selfish bear? Well, it would be, except for one thing. In Hosea 13:8, God says:
Hosea 13:8 – I will fall upon them like a bear robbed of her cubs.
So God Himself tells us that He’s like a she-bear robbed of her cubs. When it comes to what’s His, He does not share. And you are His! Nobody better try to get in between you and God, because you belong to God. You’re His temple. He’s going to protect you ferociously.
I read a book about grizzly bears once. The author witnessed a mama grizzly chastising a cub. He said the cuffing she gave it would have killed a human. So, if you start to spiritually weaken yourself – diminish your temple – you can expect God to step in and vigorously protect you, even from yourself! Oh yeah, you get to call your own shots, but if God doesn’t like what you’re doing, you’re going to get cuffed around, because you belong to Him now. That’s why there are so many Psalms asking God to be gentle with us. David, who lived among sheep and lived outdoors a good part of his young life, was very well aware of how bears act and of God’s bearish tendencies.
Cuffing aside, isn’t all this at least faintly optimistic – perhaps even encouraging – to you – to know that God loves you this much? That you have the Spirit of the Father and of the Son in you, creating a spiritual connection? The purpose of that connection – the reason They’re in you – is to resurrect you to eternal life – a connection that God will ferociously defend. No one is going to take you out of God’s hands. You’re His! He cherishes you.
Well, that should be all we have to say, but knowing this crowd – out of which I’m a part – I know it’s not enough. So, let’s dig deeper. Here’s another scripture – 2 Corinthians 5:17.
2 Corinthians 5:17 – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come.
In you – by His Spirit – God has begun a new creation. Remember “up here, down there, up here, down there?” God is changing you now from what you are into what He wants you to be. His Spirit is how He’s doing it. You’re not doing it. He is. So, if He’s doing all that, what are we to do? What’s our part? Well, our part is to show up.
Have you ever wondered what you’re supposed to learn from any given trial? Maybe nothing. Maybe just going through it makes you different – without any effort on your part. Maybe He just wants you to learn to stop feeling sorry for yourself.
Besides showing up, we also have to “man up” to go through the trials He sends us. So, no whining. No riding Job’s horse. No side-stepping trials. Just show up and man up and He’ll do the rest.
Here’s something really cool. Did you know that, as a new creation, God has given you, by His Spirit, powers that you don’t even know about yet? I was talking to an orthodox monk once, and I asked him how the Orthodox Church immediately sprang back to life once the Soviet Union crumbled. And he said, “The church was always there. In the Orthodox Church, we believe that every person contains the entire church within him or herself. They would have to kill every last member to wipe it out.” And I said, “You mean because of the Holy Spirit?” And he said, “Yes.”
What other kind of DNA would we have? The spiritual DNA of God is in you, too. Can you find it? It’s right there – right there – as close as your next thought. And, if you were in the same situation that those Orthodox Christians were in, you would know what to do. You might say, “No, no I wouldn’t – not a clue.” But it only feels that way because you’re not in their situation now. If you were, you would know what to do. It’s who you are now. You’re God’s. Trials bring out the best in you. The old is out and you’re brand new.
Want more proof? Let’s look at this passage – 1 Corinthians 2:16.
1 Corinthians 2:16 – For who has understood the mind of the Lord, so as to instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.
I have a neighbor. His name is Robert. He has a big Ford pickup, and on the bumper is a sticker that says, “What would Robert do?” Well, that’s okay for Robert, I think, because I suspect Robert is all Robert has. But we have the mind of Christ. It’s in there. We do not have to go it alone. The Father and Jesus are in us to show us the way. Do you believe that? Do you act like you believe that? They show us the way to behave differently, how to solve problems their way. They provide solutions that are way better than anything we can come up with.
Let me ask you this: Have you ever been so discouraged, fed up, angry, exhausted spiritually that it feels like you can’t stand it anymore? You know, you’re mind is racing, full of bad thoughts, your bed is full of rocks, you can’t sleep, moods are cycling rapidly, attitude spirals down as tensions rise? Ever been there? Feel the urge to go thermonuclear on a few people, maybe – completely confused about what to do next? Can God help us when we are in these extreme modes? Well, read this with me in Psalms 23:1:
Psalms 23:1 – The LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
When we are really in deep trouble, doesn’t this sound awesome, calming, peaceful? That’s what this psalm is about. David knew what that was like because he was a shepherd, and he knew to lie down in a green pasture where his sheep could graze and beside still water so that they could drink easily. He knew that that was calming to them and to him.
God is going to take care of all your needs. How does He do this? Well, He does it by His Spirit in us. Think about this: God has never been afraid. He always knows what to do. And He’s in you.
Have you ever been really thirsty – we are talking about water today, right? – I mean, really thirsty?
A number of years ago, I was hiking with friends in California on the John Muir trail. On day six, we came to a block of granite nearly a mile high with switchbacks cut into it all the way to the top. They called it the Golden Staircase. It’s nearly a mile high, as I said. I have no idea how long the trail was because there were switchbacks back and forth. Though it was called the Golden Staircase, there was nothing golden about it – just a barren granite rock, with a few scrubby plants clinging on for dear life. I think they called it the Golden Staircase out of a sadistic knowledge that, if you climbed it in the day, as we did, the golden sun would bake you dry! I learned that day what it meant to be thirsty climbing that thing. When I got to the top, it was 6 pm. I’d been out of water for a long time. I might have even stopped sweating I was so dehydrated. But there it was, as I arrived at the top, the beautiful Lower Palisades Lake – way above timberline, fed by snow water. I filtered some icy cold water and drank slowly, until the headache started to dim. Some ways out into the lake, it changed color. The center was a deep blue and icy cold from the snow runoff. But closer to the shore, the water was green and shallow – so much so that I was only knee-deep fifty feet out from the shore. Since this was still water and shallow, the sun had warmed it so that it was just a refreshing dip. And I laid down in this warmer shallow water on the nice soft sandy bottom with my clothes and boots on, using a large smooth stone for a pillow. I wasn’t beside still water. I was in it! Have you ever put a dry sponge in water? It felt like that – like I was sucking water in through my pores. What a refreshing relief! After a bit, my friends arrived in the same shape I’d been in – walking prune. I had filtered water waiting for them. It was Friday evening. Sunset was coming. We pitched our tents in the only and tiniest, soft, grassy spot available. So we spent an awesome Sabbath at Lower Palisades Lake, where we observed that we were led beside still waters and made to lie down in green pastures. The most refreshing Sabbath I ever spent!
Now there are two possible reactions from all of you at this point. Some will say, “Well, isn’t that nice.” Or, the other will say, “Well, whoopty-do! So you got a little thirsty. Some trial. You want to see a trial? Dude, come to my house.” Okay, I get that. But getting thirsty really wasn’t the trial. The next day, after the Sabbath, one in our party broke her foot 37 miles from any help. That was the trial.
Later, in the same psalm that we just read, it says – verse 4:
V-4 – Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for your rod and your staff, they comfort me. I will fear no evil, for Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
In real life, there is still water and there is the valley of the shadow of death. And both of them come from God. In our case, the woman with the broken foot walked off Mather Pass five miles carrying her pack. That’s the valley of the shadow of death. Haven’t you ever tried walking on a broken foot? Two days later, her children – a sixteen-year-old girl and a fourteen-year-old boy – hiked 32 miles over a high pass in a day and four hours to get help. That’s some world-class hiking at those 10-12,000 foot altitudes. By 11 am of the second day, they had a ranger looking for her, and by 3 pm she was headed home. The lady with the broken foot? Well, her still water was the first sound of that in-bound helicopter. We can show up for God, because He shows up for us. By the say, that sixteen-year-old girl? She’s proof that girls can “man-up.”
Let’s look at this scripture again.
Psalms 23:1 – The LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
How does God lead us and make us do these things? Well, through His own mind in us. It’s a personal connection. He doesn’t put handcuffs around us and drag us around. He motivates us. It’s a personal connection. It’s how He knows what we need and how He leads us to it. But wait a minute. Don’t we know what we need? Well, it seems, most of the time, like I do, but how about you? Look at this scripture:
Romans 8:26 – Likewise – Paul said in Romans 8:26 – the Spirit helps us in our weaknesses. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought. But the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
From this, I get the sense that we’re all hopelessly lost in the woods when it comes to any of the things of God. We sin and don’t even know it. We’re clueless about God’s plan, except He shows it to us. We don’t know what to pray for even. We don’t pray properly or enough or for the right things. And yet, exactly when we need help the most, Holy Spirit to the rescue – working, moving us toward help and help toward us. Has anyone here ever been given a much needed blessing that you didn’t even think to pray for? Well, there you go. Do you think that just happened? I believe in time and chance. I know that can happen sometimes, but I can just tell you, living my life, that “just happens” too many time.
So, this scripture is telling us that you have a loving Spirit in you that’s totally oriented toward your eternal life, even when you don’t know what to do, even when you strayed way off track, even when you’ve lost focus and given up. The Father and Jesus in us work to draw us back to the well of His Spirit. So, if you show up at the well, there will be water to drink – lively and free-flowing to refresh and replenish you spiritually.
Now, these are good and encouraging things to know about the Holy Spirit. Right? Are they not? But actually, the best is yet to come.
When I start working with a new client in my counseling practice, I know that things will get worse before they get better, because they’re going to have to encounter feelings they’ve tried to hide from themselves all their lives. So I give them some tools to use to calm themselves when they get to that place.
The first one I teach them is to breathe in while thinking, “In.” And then breathe out while thinking, “Out.” Breathe in, breathe out. The Spirit of God is like this, too. It comes in, and then, it’s to flow out. Jesus illustrates this for us.
One day He sat down by a well in Samaria, dry from His hot walk, and asked a woman there for a drink. And then He told her that He had water too, but not the kind of water she had. He said, “Everybody who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever of the water that I give him will never thirst again. The water that I will give him will become a spring of water, welling up into eternal life.” This water is what we’re all looking for. We were designed to look for it. When we don’t have it, there’s a gap in us – an empty spot. “Drink this water” – you know what it is – “that you’re soul has been searching for. Drink this water and it will well up in you toward eternal life.” See, He just couldn’t hold it back. He had to let it flow out. God’s salvation plan poured out of Him at every opportunity. And for Jesus, every situation was an opportunity. We can do this, too, because we have His mind. He lives in us.
Let’s look at something Paul said – Romans 10:9.
Romans 10:9 – Because, if you confess with your mouth, that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. God’s Spirit is in us now – in our hearts and in our mouths. And, if we believe in our hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead, then we are able to tell others with our mouths that they can be raised too. And, if we do that, people will learn where the true water is, and when we share with them, it will be like someone who has been dying of thirst stumbling upon a stream in the desert. They will know that living water in found in Jesus Christ alone. We don’t just drink it in. It’s to pour out of our hearts through our mouths to other people.
So far today, I’ve been talking to those who have been to the well, but, maybe, need to revisit it – people who are dry, whose canteens have gone empty about noon and now it’s 6 pm. But I also hope to speak to those who, as yet, have not been there at all. You may be new to Christianity. Or you may be young, or afraid, or maybe just really stubborn. These are all good reasons – all of us have been in all four of those stages before, I think. But whatever your situation, it’s here for you whenever you’re ready. If you’re searching for something, and you can’t find it, it’s here for you. Right here. If you’re thirsty, it’s here for you.
Whatever is holding you back, you can just leave it all behind – all those distractions, all those temporary pleasures, all the rejection, all the addiction, all the guilt that weighs you down. The Father and Jesus have something for you that’s much better than that. You can leave the troubles behind and come to God’s well. Listen to the words. “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, you will be saved. It’s not impossible. For God, it’s easy.
If you feel a tugging at your heart strings, there is no time like the present. There are people here today to help you – right now – to pray for you already. It might be your family, or your church family, or the ministers here. What was it Jesus Himself said at the Feast? “Come to me and drink!” What better time than now? It would be sad to come all this way to His well, and stay here this long, and go home thirsty. Just a question.
Okay, moving forward. Now here’s another of the reasons I believe Jesus preached this at the Feast: Did you know that the prophet Ezekiel, in Ezekiel 47, records a vision of the millennial reign of Christ. And he was shown a small stream coming out a temple that gets bigger and bigger as it flows, until it’s too wide to cross. Remember that? Everywhere this river flows, the land and the waters that touch it, and all who drink it are healed. Have you ever thought about which temple that might be? Well, yes, of course, it’s God’s temple when Christ returns. That’s the context, if you read the rest of it. And are we not called the temple of the Holy Spirit from which it is to flow? It’s not just that Jesus has living water. It’s that He has given it to us also, and the joy of it is to flow out of us in this life. Yes, of course. And when His Kingdom on earth begins, we can be vessels that God will use to saturate every mind and every corner of the globe, with His hopeful, joyful, healing Spirit. People will be told then to draw water out of the well of salvation. That’s a scripture, right? It’s way bigger than your life or mine in the life here and now. Look out and see it. Get ready for it, because it’s coming.
So while we are to come to God and drink in, the Spirit is also to flow out of us now and in the world tomorrow – the Millennium, which we have pictured all through this Feast. It’s as natural as breathing. I suppose someone, who is not allowing the Spirit to flow out, is like one who holds his or her breath – very unnatural and uncomfortable just after a short while.
So how do feel? Are you all bottled up and don’t know what’s wrong? Lost your joy – no gas in the tank? Exhausted from the good fight? Maybe you should just start breathing. Spirit in, Spirit out. I know that’s not very specific, but that’s as good as I can do. The Father and the Son in you know what they want you to do, and They know what you need, because you’re theirs. Ask them. They’ll take care of you.
So, you see, we come to the Feast every year to celebrate God’s salvation plan and our part in it. All this is driven by the Father and the Son – the Holy Spirit in us – but there’s even more. God keeps telescoping things out. Check this out. This is about the new heaven and the new earth. In Revelation 22:1, it says:
Revelation 22:1 – The angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb.
Now we know that Christ’s reign on earth…that after that, the entire creation down to its essential elements will melt away. It’s then that we will inherit and inhabit a new Jerusalem – a spirit city. It says in this chapter that there will be no night there, because it will be lit by the radiant glory of the Father and the Son. How’s that for different? But even then, in that spirit city that’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen, where everything is completely new and different, there will still be a river of water of life welling up from God and Christ and all God’s children forever. On the same day, at the Feast, spoken 2,000 years ago, Jesus’ words leap off the pages of the Bible to confirm to us that God lives in us! Listen to His words: “If anyone comes and drinks, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” It’s in you.
So when Jesus stood up at the Feast and offered all God’s children living water, He was saying to us that, if we drink, he will never leave us. He’s all in. He was saying, if we grow weak, or get lost or discouraged, He will faithfully draw us back to the well of His Spirit. He was saying that, when He gives us great things to do for Him, He will equip us to do what He asks of us. And was saying that He will resurrect us to eternal life, according to His plan for us, because we are His now! But most encouraging of all, this will happen not because of our pitiful efforts, but because God the Father and Jesus the Son have decided they’re going to make it happen for each of us.
So, brothers and sisters, as we prepare to leave this place and return to our homes, let us contemplate these things in the Spirit and let each of us consider how we might not only drink it in, but also how out of us we might let it flow.