GOD TENDS TO OVERFLOW
Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.”
Jn.4:14 The Message
This is one of the classic stories in the ministry of Jesus. He is talking to a disillusioned Samaritan woman, a woman disillusioned with life because of a long series of disappointments. Like women from every generation, she thought her happiness in life was somehow connected to finding the right guy, her knight in shining armor would come and make all her dreams come true. She had been through five marriages and her current man was not her husband, she had been disillusioned for a very long time. When Jesus began to minister to her she immediately went into her religious defense syndrome, “this is the way we do it in Samaria”, but it seems her religion had let her down along with all of the men from her past. Jesus words were different from any words she had heard before, somehow these words were full of life, and, against her better judgement, she found herself listening to the words of this compelling stranger from Galilee. Instead of religion He was talking about satisfaction and joy and something He called Living Water, somehow she felt strangely attracted to this man. He told her she could drink from these Living Waters and they would overflow in her life. Jonathan Edwards often spoke of the overflowing nature of God, here is something He said about God’s tendency to overflow.
“God is absolutely independent of us; that we have nothing of our own, no stock from whence we can give to God; and that no part of his happiness originates from man.
From what has been said, it appears, that the pleasure God hath in those things which have been mentioned, is rather a pleasure in diffusing and communicating to, than in receiving from, the creature. Surely, it is no argument of indigence in God that he is inclined to communicate of his infinite fullness. It is no argument of the emptiness or deficiency of a fountain, that it is inclined to overflow.”
I love that, God has a tendency to overflow. The heavens cannot contain Him, surely we cannot benefit Him or add to Him by anything we have to offer, He loves to help us by revealing His goodness to us, as we receive from Him then, and then only, is our life complete. The woman from Samaria found a different water at the fountain that day, she found the only man that could make a real difference in her life, you never know, maybe this is the day you will be captured by this overflowing nature of God.
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.
The body of Christ is very diverse. Each member is important, each member has a different role to play. The common denominator in the whole mix is the supernatural nature of the body of Christ. The Lord distributes His gifts as He wills, to display His glory and to fulfill His purposes. Zodhiates’ word book brings out some of the meaning of these “activities” of the Spirit. The gifts are not only different in each of us, they are also active.
energēma; an effect: – operation, working. In the NT used only in 1 Corinthians 12:6; the results of the energy of God in the believer, but actually it is the results energized by God’s grace.
The gifts of the Spirit are the manifestation of the life of God in us and through us. These gifts were displayed in the life of Jesus after His baptism in the Jordan River. He was said to move in the power of the Spirit from that day on. That is another way of saying that the gifts of the Spirit were being activated.
In the same way the spiritual gifts can be activated in your life today. The gifts are part of the normal Christian experience and flow out of the intimate life the Lord is calling each of us to enjoy. How can these gifts be activated in our lives today? It is really quite simple. As we see in Paul’s teaching in
1Corinthians, the gifts are associated with the life that flows through the local church. Your relationship to the church is critical.
Three things are important, first, we need to be connected to a church that welcomes and embraces the spiritual gifts. Secondly, we need to be constantly filled with the Holy Spirit. The gifts can be seen as the overflow of our relationship with the Lord. Only when our cup is full will the gifts begin to manifest in our lives. Finally, put yourself in a position for the gifts to be released. What do I mean by that? Reach out to hurting people, that is what Jesus did and that is the place you will find the gifts of the Spirit being activated.
THE CREATIVITY OF THE SPIRIT
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
One of the amazing effects the Holy Spirit has upon our lives is the release of His incredible creativity. In today’s verse Paul uses the word poiema, translated workmanship in English. This is the word we get the English word poem from. It describes the supernatural creativity of the work of God. We are God’s creative work of art. When someone stays under the influence of the anointing for extended periods of time the result is a release of God’s creativity. In 1999 we started a production in our church called “Beyond the Grave”. All of the actors for this play have been from our congregation, most of them have been teenagers. We have been asked more than once if these were hired professionals. Nothing could be further from the truth. This cast has always been made up of amateurs, but not just any amateurs, these teenagers have been soaking in the outpouring of the Spirit in our church for many years. The effect of the Holy Spirit upon their lives has been quite stunning, they have clearly displayed God’s handiwork. You could say that “Beyond the Grave” has been God’s work of art.
Another effect the Holy Spirit has had in this production is an unusual effect upon the audiences who have come for over eleven years. We have seen over 60,000 individuals answer altar calls at BTG. The play has been performed approximately three hundred times with an estimated attendance of 250,000 people. Thousands have been convicted of their sins, many have been born again, and several thousand have been baptized in water. No one could have predicted these results because there is no natural explanation. All we can say is that we have been witnesses of one of the Lord’s masterpieces, we have watched His handiwork unfold before our eyes.
The beauty of the anointing is that the Lord will use anyone. It seems He delights in using the least likely, not the smartest or the most talented, but the most unexpected are often his vessels. Why would He do something so unusual? He refuses to share the Glory for his artwork. We get the joy of being used by God, and He gets the glory, not a bad deal.
EYES OF OUR HEART
I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened.
Paul had a life changing experience on the Road to Damascus. His eyes were opened when Christ revealed Himself to Paul, it was something that carried Paul the rest of his life. What actually happened to Paul? I guess it can be described many ways, but one of the things that happened to Paul is that he got a sense of the reality of God, it could be said that the eyes of his heart were opened. The puritans spoke of having a spiritual “sense” of spiritual things. They often spoke of an experiential Christianity. Have you experienced Christ for yourself? This is how Jonathan Edwards describes this experiential Christian life.
“Thus there is a difference between having an opinion, that God is holy and gracious, and having a sense of the loveliness and beauty of that holiness and grace. There is a difference between having a rational judgment that honey is sweet, and having a sense of its sweetness. A man may have the former that knows not how honey tastes; but a man cannot have the latter unless he has an idea of the taste of honey in his mind. So there is a difference between believing that a person is beautiful, and having a sense of his beauty. The former may be obtained by hearsay, but the latter only by seeing the countenance. When the heart is sensible of the beauty and amiableness of a thing, it necessarily feels pleasure in the apprehension. It is implied in a person’s being heartily sensible of the loveliness of a thing, that the idea of it is pleasant to his soul; which is a far different thing from having a rational opinion that it is excellent.”
When Christ comes into your life there is an awakening of your soul. Your spiritual senses are energized, the spiritual world becomes alive to you, there is literally an awakening of your inner man. Your faith is made alive, and you begin to taste for yourself the reality of God. Honey is sweet but can never be fully explained what the taste is like. How do you know that honey is good? You have to have a taste for yourself.
Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.
It was 1994, and I was laughing.That might not sound so unusual at first but I was laughing in my sleep. This was very unusual behavior. It is one thing to laugh at jokes or when something good had happened, but in your sleep? When was the last time you laughed in your sleep? I was experiencing something I never knew existed, I was being touched by the joy of the Lord. Heaven’s joy was falling on me night after night, this was a sign to my wife that what I was experiencing was beyond human effort, it was supernatural in nature, the joy of heaven was filling my soul. This experience is what Peter talked about in today’s verse, joy unspeakable was sustaining Peter in the worst trials imaginable. This was a glorified joy that insulated Peter from the daily trials that he was facing. This joy was poured out In Jonathan Edward’s Church in 1734. His congregation and his wife Sarah were effected powerfully by this supernatural joy. Here are some of Edwards’ observations from his book “Religious Affections”.
”Their joy was full of glory. Although the joy was unspeakable, and no words were sufficient to describe it; yet something might be said of it, and no words more fit to represent its excellency than these, that it was full of glory; or, as it is in the original, glorified joy. In rejoicing with this joy, their minds were filled, as it were, with a glorious brightness, and their natures exalted and perfected. It was a most worthy, noble rejoicing, that did not corrupt and debase the mind, as many carnal joys do; but did greatly beautify and dignify it. It was a pre-libation of the joy of heaven, that raised their minds to a degree of heavenly blessedness; it filled their minds with the light of God’s glory, and made themselves to shine with some communication of that glory.”
I love that, a pre-libation of the joy of heaven. This is one of the evidences of God’s outpourings. It is a taste of what heaven is going to be like. Heaven is a place of incredible ever increasing joy that has no bounds. It will increase in it’s power throughout eternity, that is to say there is no end of it. This joy is our strength in our earthly journey, no need to wait for heaven, let the joy begin.
WORDS THAT CANNOT BE SPOKEN
And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter.
Have you ever been speechless? No, I mean really speechless. The kind of speechless that cannot speak. I have seen God touch people in such a pro-found way that they were temporarily rendered speechless (remember Zacharias, John the Baptist’s father). I will never forget the Baptist pastor prayed for in our church that could not speak English for twenty-four hours (he tried to order hamburgers at McDonalds in other tongues). Who could ever forget the prophetic guest speaker who could not say anything for another twenty-four hour period, the flight attendant thought he was a deaf mute. There was also the pastor from Manila that could not speak for another twenty-four hours, sometimes unspeakable is good. Here is what Albert Barnes had to say about God’s unspeakable words.
“And I heard unspeakable words – The word which is rendered here as “unspeakable” ( arremay either mean what cannot be spoken, or what ought not to be spoken. The word means unutterable, ineffable; and whichever idea we attach to it, Paul meant to say that he could not attempt by words to do justice to what he saw and heard. The use of the word “words” here would seem to imply that he heard the language of exalted praise; or that there were truths imparted to his mind which he could not hope to convey in any language spoken by people.”
You might think, “What is the point?” Maybe the point is this, some things are just too good or too big for words. There is something about the Lord that is indescribable, sometimes words cannot do justice to His beauty or His power. I will never forget the service in Bulgaria in 1996, the Lord came down during worship in one of those unspeakable moments, I can remember having nothing to say, He was there in an unmistakeable way, anything that I could say would only cheapen the moment. Sometimes it is better to be still and know that He is God.
HOLINESS IS NOT A BAD WORD!
“So roll up your sleeves, put your mind in gear, be totally ready to receive the gift that is coming when Jesus arrives. Don’t lazily slip back into those old grooves of evil, doing just what you feel like doing. You didn’t know any better then; you do now. As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God’s life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness.”
I Peter 1:13-15 The Message
I must admit I love working at the Mary’s Song Restoration Center. It is purely selfish and completely, definitely all about me. This is where I see God working in a micro-second with the girls, after 30 years of working with people, I would like to think you could understand where I am coming from.
I just finished an appointment with one of the girls that recently graduated and came in to say hello, she began to tell me how much this year has meant to her, she has found Jesus Christ and that is all that matters. Her friends tell her that she is weird and she told them “good”. In fact she plans to go back and tell the judge who reluctantly sent her to the “faith based “ program that it worked out well.
Holiness is not only the activity of the Holy Spirit to set man apart unto salvation but also enables him to be holy even as God is holy. Are you lazily slipping back into those old grooves of evil or letting God pull you into a life shaped by God’s life, energetic and blazing with holiness! Even this Mary’s Song graduate told me how she had to shut her door and turn on worship music the week she came home in order to get into his presence. She is learning to put on the Lord Jesus and make no provision for the flesh. So many times people have criticized Frank and I about our stand on absolutely no alcohol, no casual socializing with the opposite sex, no secular music, vain jesting and etc. In fact I will never forget a conversation I had with a pastor that said he drinks a beer at barbecue’s to make people feel comfortable about him! And what about spirit -filled denominations serving alcohol at their minister’s conferences. What is that? It’s not what we get by with that measures our Christian walk. Holiness is his gift to us. God gives us grace to look away entirely, evermore, from ourselves, and to depend entirely upon Him.
God’s gift of holiness is available to all of us. Does it take work? Yes, a total surrender on our part. Coming to God as a beggar who is in need of everything. He becomes “altogether lovely” in our eyes, and we no longer worry whether we are accepted or not, married or single, rich or poor. We are Christ’s and Christ is God’s. I just read a quote about this uneducated man who said, “I fell flat on da promises and dat was dat!”
ABOVE AND BEYOND
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.
This powerful supernatural energy of God is working in us and through us for His Glory. The part that is so amazing is the infinite, unlimited nature of His power. This glorious power not only saved us but is now working in us and through us for the purposes of God. Adam Clarke has some awesome thoughts about these verses.
“That is able to do exceeding abundantly. It is impossible to
express the full meaning of these words, God is omnipotent,
therefore he is able to do all things, and able to do,
superabundantly above the greatest abundance. And who
can doubt this, who has any rational or Scriptural views of his
power or his love?
According to the power that worketh in us. All that he can do,
and all that he has promised to do, will be done according to what
he has done, by that power of the Holy Ghost,
which worketh strongly in us-acts with energy in our hearts,
expelling evil, purifying and refining the affections and desires,
and implanting good.”
So the Lord first exerts His powerful energy in us to make us more and more like Himself, the beautiful qualities of the Lord actually begin to be seen in us.
Then He begins to pray His prayers through us, these prayers are powerful and will always be answered. As our desires and affections become more and more like His, the overflow begins to take place. After all, the Lord’s nature is a nature of overflow. This overflowing quality is where “the far more abundantly than all we can ask or think” comes in. This overflow touches our families, our friends, our circumstances, our physical bodies, it effects every part of us. “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be Glory in the church.”
THE POWER OF GOD
But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
What changed in the life of Jesus that caused Him to leave the safety of the carpenter’s shop in Nazareth, and start in the path of His controversial ministry of signs and wonders? It all started that day when John the Baptist laid his hands on Jesus and baptized Him in the Jordan River. From that day forward there was no going back. The Holy Spirit came upon Jesus and He began to experience the power of God upon His life. It had been years since anything like this had happened in Israel, but now miracles began to flow from this new anointing Jesus had begun to experience. This is the same power that came upon the disciples as they prayed in the upper room on the day of Pentecost, several years later. Like Jesus, they too began to experience this power for miracles beginning to flow through their lives. This word power is one of the most important words in the New Testament. It is the greek word dunamis. Here are Strong’s and Thayer’s definition of this powerful word.
dunamis -doo’-nam-is – force (literally or figuratively); specifically miraculous power (usually by implication a miracle itself)
1) strength power, ability
1a) inherent power, power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature, or which a person or thing exerts and puts forth
1b) power for performing miracles
1c) moral power and excellence of soul
This dunamis is a game changer. Everything changed for Jesus and for His followers after they experienced the “dunamis” of God. In the same way today, the power of God will change your life significantly. The verse of scripture for today’s devotion is a direct word from Jesus Himself. He told His disciples not to leave Jerusalem on their charge of world evangelism until they were clothed with power from above. In the same way, in our dark, secular world, we are in great need of the power of God. His power on our life will give us the ability to live this Christian life and lead us into the supernatural life that the early church enjoyed, without this power, we are sadly left to our own inept attempts to change our lives.
FORM OF GODLINESS
But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power, from such people turn away!
Does this passage strike a note with you? Does it possibly resemble modern trends in the christian world? Do you think Paul would be comfortable in the seeker friendly atmosphere of today’s “relevant church” movement. I hardly think so. Throughout history, church leaders have tried to “protect” people from the supernatural element of Christianity. The trend has always been to stay current with society so the crowds will be welcome. This practise goes by different names, in the 1940’s and 1950’s it was called “modernism”. In the 1990’s it was called “seeker sensitive”, today it is called “relevant”. I think Paul would call it a form of godliness without the power of God.
What separates Christianity from the other religions of the world is not our programs, slogans, or our professional presentations. What separates us is the power of God that is related to the message of the cross and the power of Pentecost. Nothing that man can generate can ever replace the power of God related to our message and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
Does the supernatural power of God make some people uncomfortable? Of course it does. Is that a good reason to go in a different direction? Absolutely not. As much as the world has changed, human needs have remained the same. Our basic need is an encounter with the Living God. Christian empowerment slogans may sound good, but can never replace our need for an encounter with God Himself. Man needs more than a formula or a philosophy, we need God Himself, nothing less can ever satisfy our heart.
The question that I always think of is this, “will the Christian experience that you currently walk in sustain you in the day of trouble?”
Several years ago, we experienced a tragedy called Katrina in the New Orleans area. I was so grateful, during that season, for the unusual grace that had fallen in our church. The powerful presence of God sustained us in that season. If the unthinkable happens in the days ahead, “relevant” will suddenly become “irrelevant”. Slick presentations and slogans don’t do much when trouble is banging on your door. Evaluate where you are in your experience with God, don’t use current trends for your measuring stick, look to God’s Word to see if what you have is valid.