There are many differences between man-made religions and Christianity, but perhaps the chief one is this: only Christianity offers the believer a relationship with God. All religions devised by man are, at their core, variations on the same theme, which is man trying to reach God. Christianity, by contrast, is the story of God reaching down to man and offering a relationship with Himself.
In its essence, Christianity is a relationship with Christ. When Christ called the first disciples to come and follow Him, He was calling them into a relationship with Him. The same is true of all who follow Him today. Through the miracle of new birth into the family of God, we enter into a new relationship. The Christian life is an unfolding, a widening, and a deepening of that relationship. Everything concerning Christian growth has its foundation in this relationship. Therefore, the filling of the Holy Spirit grows out of our relationship with Jesus.
John 7:37-39 emphasizes the connection between the filling of the Spirit and our relationship with Christ.
On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If a man is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” 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. John 7:37-39
Verse 39 indicates that Jesus was preparing believers for the time after his death when the Holy Spirit would come and continue His ministry. When Jesus talks about a relationship with Himself, He is also talking about the filling of the Holy Spirit. Jesus invites believers to be filled with the Holy Spirit by relating to Him as indicated by the three action verbs recorded in John 7:37-39 (highlighted above). These actions are discussed below.
“Come to Me”
Thirst is a gift from the creator. Just as physical thirst is a signal that our body needs refreshment, so our spiritual thirst points out a need. Becoming aware of our spiritual thirst motivates us to come to Jesus. However, many go through life dissatisfied, discouraged, and despondent, but totally unaware of their thirst. It was no different in Jesus’ day. In his book Inside Out, noted Christian counselor and author Larry Crabb describes the scene in John 7 this way: “Our Lord Jesus walked into a group of people whose ritualistic practice of religion had so numbed their souls that they no longer were conscious of unsatisfied desires. To move them from lifeless ceremony toward the vitality of knowing God, He stood up and shouted, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.’ There was no thought that perhaps some were thirsty and others were not. Every fallen person created to enjoy God is thirsty. But many, perhaps most, of the people Jesus invited were unaware of their thirst. Perhaps they had given up hope of ever finding satisfaction and had successfully turned their attention away from that ache inside. By focusing on other matters, thirsty people can sometimes become oblivious to their parched souls.”
In the fourth chapter of his gospel, the apostle John relates the story of a meeting Jesus had with a Samaritan woman at the city well in Sychar. This woman had already been married five times and was now living with her current lover. She apparently came to the well in the heat of the day to avoid the stares and disdain of the other women of that village. The line to a country music song that says “looking for love in all the wrong places” pretty much describes this woman. In His conversation with her, Jesus was not interested in heaping shame on the woman or in offering simplistic answers to the obvious hurts in her life. Rather He was interested in helping her to identify her spiritual need⎜her thirst. As recorded in John 4:10 Jesus said to the woman, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.” Those who know their thirst can then turn to the source of satisfaction. Consider the following words of King David: “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1). Is it any wonder that David enjoyed such an intimate, personal relationship with God? He knew deep thirst; he found deep fulfillment. Thus he could affirm the testimony offered in Psalm 107:8-9: “Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for men, for He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.”
In order to quench this deep thirst of our souls, we must come to Jesus. Nothing else and no one else can satisfy. The verb “come” used by Jesus in the present progressive tense means we are to come to Him again and again. Thus, spiritual thirst, like physical thirst, must be satisfied repeatedly. This truth reminds us that spiritual thirst is present both before and after salvation. Although Christians enjoy a relationship with God, this relationship is still hampered by our sinfulness and existence in a fallen world.
Note that Jesus invites us to come, but He does not coerce us. He does not force His way into our lives but rather offers us the opportunity to come enjoy His life. This stance is true to His nature and true to His design in creating us as moral beings. However, we should not misunderstand His approach to believe that He is disinterested in whether or not we come. He pursues us passionately and yearns for us to respond to Him. The “inviting” nature of God is woven throughout Scripture.
“Drink of Me ”
After coming to Jesus, we must “drink” of Him. This verb is also in the present progressive tense indicating an often-repeated action, a frequent or continual coming to Him to drink. Jesus’ choice of words emphasizes the force of His offer. Such is the function of His use of figurative language. Take, for example, the language a parent might use to motivate his child to learn. He might say, “I want you to learn all you can.” Or he could say, “Drink deeply of the fountain of knowledge.” The richness of the poetic language conveys a strength of conviction that goes beyond simply stating a desire. So it is with the invitation from Jesus to drink of Him. He earnestly desires that we come to Him for satisfaction, and He wants us to drink deeply from the fountain of His love.
We drink of Jesus by engaging in relational activities such as the following:
• Communing with Him⎜that is, simply dwelling in His presence and spending time with Him
• Worshipping Him⎜telling God how wonderful He is, reflecting on His marvelous deeds, expressing appreciation for who He is and all that He has done for us
• Listening to Him⎜reading His Word, being quiet before Him, trying to discern the leading of His Spirit
• Casting our cares on Him⎜being open and honest before God about our needs, our hurts, and our desires, baring our soul to Him, telling Him everything we are concerned about
• Allowing Him to minister to us⎜letting His Spirit minister to our spirit, letting Him calm our fears, salve our wounds, and encourage our hearts
As we spend time with Jesus in these ways and enjoy our relationship with Him, we find that He quenches our spiritual thirst.
“Trust [believe] in Me”
The third verb⎜believe⎜is also in the present progressive tense, which expresses an action repeated over and over. We come to Jesus initially to trust Him to save us from our sins and to restore our relationship with God, which is our greatest need. Day by day, as we enjoy that restored relationship, Jesus invites us to choose to trust Him⎜to depend on Him to meet our needs.
Trust is a relational verb. As humans, we do business primarily through contracts, either oral or written. Essentially, every time we enter a contract, we are acknowledging that we do not fully trust the other person to hold up his end of the bargain. However, contracts should be unnecessary between close friends who share a healthy relationship because trust takes their place. In the same way, the more we grow in our relationship with God, the better we are able to trust Him, and the more we trust Him the more we grow and enjoy our relationship.
When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we experience and exhibit the fruit of the Spirit, as described in Galatians 5:22-23. This fruit includes love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Not surprisingly, this fruit is described largely in relational terms. The result of coming to Jesus, drinking of Him and trusting in Him, is that we will be filled to overflowing. The overflow can be seen in the impact on others that is the result of our filling. We will be more patient with others, more gentle with others, and so on. Therefore, the result of our relationship with God is that we also enjoy healthier relationships with others as the ministry of the Spirit overflows in our lives.
Several thousand years ago God, speaking through His prophet Jeremiah, charged the people of Israel as follows: “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water” (Jeremiah 2:13). The same charge can be leveled against us today if we seek to satisfy the thirst of our souls in any other way than through allowing the Holy Spirit to minister the love of God to us and through us. We need to keep coming, keep drinking, and keep trusting and thus find in Jesus the life that is truly Life.
• Read Psalm 116. How does the Psalmist relate to God? How does he commune, cast his cares, listen, worship and allow God to minister to him?
• In your devotional time this week, concentrate on doing one or more the following:
Communing with Him
Casting your cares on Him
Listening to Him
Allowing Him to minister to you.