"But it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding."
Job 32:8

Monday, July 1, 2013

Stagnant Waters

Everyday, all the time, in the media or from those around us, we hear a multitude of certain proverbial sayings. These sayings which lead us ponder them for a minute or two; sayings which remain in your mind for a while. Sometimes you'll readily dismiss them thinking, "Nah, that's not in line with Scripture."... Well, assuming Scripture is your standard. Or, every now and then, regardless of the origin, a saying will come to mind that seems to be even true on a biblical level.

I want to share on one of these sayings today. One I'm sure that most of us are familiar with which goes "Too much of anything can be bad for you." When we think about it, we realise that this saying holds a great deal of truth to it with respect to food or drinks we consume or activities we partake in, and we come to realise that too much of any of this can cause a major unbalance in our lives that can lead to harmful consequences.

But what about on a biblical level? While I do not believe that too much of God or the things of God is bad for us, it would seem that allowing too much of the Spirit to flow in, without allowing Him to flow back out through us, can have serious consequences.

Jesus Himself seemed to address this during His sermon in Matthew 5:

Matthew 5:14-15, "You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house." (NIV)

When we allow the indwelling of the presence of God and when we allow ourselves to be spiritually fed, we allow the Spirit to continue to work in our lives and to work through us. What use is it to us and those around us to whom we are called to witness to if we simply allow ourselves to be spiritually fed but never allow it to manifest in our lives? 

Have you ever been near stagnant water? If you haven't, be warned. If you have, then you'll get where we're going with this. The colour no longer becomes natural, the smell changes, it no longer feels the same. No longer is it a fresh stream but a breeding ground for disease and sickness.

We know that stagnant water is generally formed when there is no flow within the body of water. Though water may enter from one source or another, if it has no outward flow, it simply stagnates.

John 7:38"Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them." (NIV)

If Scripture has said that rivers of living water will flow from within us, we arrive at several implications. One being that this isn't talking about a trickle of water or a stream, it's talking about a river. Now, when I imagine this river, I end up thinking of white water rapids, but regardless of what comes to mind, we're talking about a fairly massive body of water, spiritually, flowing from within us. It is no wonder that the likeness of Christ is intended to manifest from within us if we have a spiritual river flowing from within us. 

And then we have the second implication which should naturally arrive from the first. If a river is expected to flow from His own, then how much more of God should we be drinking from. Because we can do nothing spiritually good outside of God, it stands to reason that anything spiritually good coming from us originally came from God. Hence, if we're expecting a river to flow from within us, then we may as well go stand under a spiritual waterfall and drench ourselves. 

Now, I've never been near the Dead Sea but I have learnt about it on occasion. It receives its name from the high level of salt in the water that prevents marine life from flourishing. This high concentration of salt is caused by the lack of outflow of water. So while water flows in from the Jordan, the only means of outflow is through evaporation leading to a high level of salt in the water.

If we lead ourselves to become stagnant in our Christian walk, then is the living water that is supposed to come from within us truly "living" if we leave it to stagnate?

Earlier on Matthew 5, in the same passage where Jesus speaks of light, He also speaks of salt.

Matthew 5:13, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot." (NIV)

I've have often struggled to understand this verse but I believe it is highly relevant to this week's topic. If we, as Christians, simply become spiritually dull through a lukewarm mindset, essentially become stagnant, then what value is the light within us? What value is the salt, the Gospel and truth, that is within us? 

Later on in Scripture, James touches on this topic again:

James 2:18-19, "But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder." (NIV)

Again and again in Scripture, God calls His people to come drink from the eternal wells of life so that they will never thirst again. Scripture says that faith comes from hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17) and we know that works done through faith come as a result of faith. Faith can be seen as the inward flow while works is the outward, the manifestation of Christ in our lives.

But what of the question as to whether it is actually the Word we are filling ourselves with?

Matthew 15:11, "What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” (NIV)

If our actions lead us to become defiled, then we have need to be concerned about what we are allowing ourselves to be filled with in the first place because the very influences that we buy into are the ones that will manifest themselves in our lives. If we do not see the living rivers flowing in our lives then either we are stagnating or maybe we are simply not filling ourselves with God in the first place. 

Christian artists have spoken of being filled to be emptied again. They may not be the source of authority but the idea would seem to be biblical. God calls us to not only empty ourselves so that we may be filled by Him, but empties us as well so that we may be filled anew with His Word; never allowing it to stagnate but always sustaining the flow to us and through us.  

Don't allow the Word to stagnate in your life. 

God bless you all.

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13 NIV

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