Meanderings

WATER: The Life-Giving Power of the Spirit

Revelation_27_water_cwWater is the source and sustainer … the stuff of life.

  • Water – liquid of rain and rivers: the clear liquid, essential for all plant and animal life, that occurs as rain, snow, and ice, and forms rivers, lakes, and seas. Pure water is odorless, colorless, and tasteless. Naturally occurring water picks up color and taste from substances in its environment. H2O (Encarta® World English Dictionary [North American Edition] © & (P)2005 Microsoft Corporation).
  • Water is the basic element of human existence.  In a detailed article you may not want to read, English scientist Shawn Huston quotes Felix Franks as saying, "Biochemistry is primarily the chemistry of water."
  • Not having plentiful water shapes our souls differently according to Gretel Erlich: "Dryness is the common denominator in Wyoming. We’re drenched more often in dust than in water; it is the scalpel and the suit of armor that makes westerners what they are" (The Solace of Open Spaces, 1985, "On Water").
  • The womb’s gift of intelligent life.
  • Faith’s gift of abundant life: "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.’ " Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified" (John 7:37-39).
  • Jesus’ gift of new life: "At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven‘" (Matthew 18:1-3).

Jesus and the Holy Spirit are linked forever.

  • The Spirit brings God’s gift of life in Mary: "The angel
    said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the
    Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be
    holy; he will be called Son of God
    ‘" (Luke 1:35).
  • The Spirit brings Jesus’ ministry into being: "And when Jesus
    had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the
    heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like
    a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my
    Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased
    ‘" (Matthew 3:16-17).
  • With the linkage of Jesus and Spirit in Scripture, the impersonal
    Spirit disappears and we come to depend on the third person of the
    Trinity personally:   

    • "Jesus said, "If you love me, you will
      keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you
      another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth,
      whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows
      him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you
      " (John 14:15-17).    
    • Jesus said, "The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will
      send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that
      I have said to you
      " (John 14:26).

When Jesus told his disciples that it would be good that he was
going away, they were devastated.  Yet the promise offered by Jesus is
that they would need an Advocate to faithfully persevere. (In fact, in
John’s gospel when Jesus went away they went … fishing.  Jesus had to
come after them. see John 21:1-14).

I did not
say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you.
But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, ‘Where
are you going?’  But because I have said these things to you, sorrow
has filled your hearts.  Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is
to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate
will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you
.  And
when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and
righteousness and judgment: about sin, because they do not believe in
me;  about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will
see me no longer; about judgment, because the ruler of this world has
been condemned.

I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When
the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he
will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he
will declare to you the things that are to come.  He will glorify me,
because he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you
(John 16:4-15).

The early church wrestled with living into the reality of the Spirit leading us to understand Jesus.

  • Paul stated his apostleship was to preach "the gospel
    concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh
    and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of
    holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans
    1:3-4).
  • Again, Jesus’ ministry was confirmed by the Spirit: "And just as he
    was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the
    Spirit descending like a dove on him" (Mark 1:10).
  • Again, Jesus’ birth was confirmed by the Spirit (see Luke 1:35 above).

Augustine suggested that we wrongly say Pentecost was the birth of
the Spirit. The Spirit was present throughout God’s history with
humankind (as was the Son) as God’s confirmation to selective persons
for particular occasions.  With Jesus’ promise of the Spirit a new
relationship is forged with believers.  Len Sweet says it this way:

The
body of Jesus never left Palestine; the Spirit of Jesus spread
throughout the world, as the early church, through the power of the
Holy Spirit, preached Jesus — whose life revealed faith, who death
revealed love, and whose resurrection revealed hope (Sweet, p. 27).

Here’s what we’re saying, the Spirit’s work is to point us toward Jesus:

  • God was made incarnate (real) in Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • Jesus is made incarnate (real) in the church by the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • The first "Spirit-filled Sermon" was on the resurrection of Jesus Christ (see Acts 2:14-36).

Later when Paul encountered believers in Ephesus who had not
received the Spirit; he first preached Jesus, then laid hands on them
to invite the Spirit (see Acts 19:1-7). Without Jesus the Spirit’s
inspiration might be confused with our imagination and subjectivity.
With Jesus the Spirit points us to the Way, the Truth, and the Abundant
Life.

"The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very
easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming
swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know
very well that the minute we understand we are obliged to act
accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything
except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I
do that my whole life will be ruined. Herein lies the real place of
Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church’s prodigious
invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can
continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close.
Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes, it is
even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament" (Soren Kierkegaard).

There
we have it … we will follow Jesus’ lead as the Spirit gives us
guidance, or will we live as "scheming swindlers" who seek our way, our
truth, and an empty life.  Which way, truth, and life do you seek? Or better yet, do you seek the One who is the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE.