Adoniram J. Gordon, one of the founders of Gordon Divinity School, looked across a field and saw what he thought was a man pumping water. The man appeared to be pumping effortlessly, and continually. As Gordon walked closer, he discovered that what he saw was not an actual man pumping water, but rather a figure painted to look like a man. In fact, this figure wasn’t pumping water at all—it was attached to a pump mechanism and an artesian well was creating the energy to turn the mechanism.
Jesus likened the gift of the Holy Spirit to a well of living water, which He said would spring up within us and lead to eternal life. Like water to parched ground, the Holy Spirit offers refreshment and help to our weary souls. Jesus offers this water in abundance to all who are thirsty and willing to come to Him and drink.
Just read Jesus’ invitation at the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles: “On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone 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’” (John 7:37-39).
Jesus promised not merely a stream, but streams. All who drink would have their own artesian well within them. He calls with a loud voice to all who are weary of empty religion, to all who are weary of worldly pursuits.
This gift of the Spirit is given to the thirsty: “If anyone is thirsty.” Those who are spiritually thirsty know the difference between being satisfied with God and being satisfied with the empty watering holes of the world. Tragically, some think they are not thirsty because they eke out a bit of satisfaction from the stagnant streams of sensuality and personal ambition. They do not know that they were born with a raging thirst that only Jesus can satisfy.
The woman who encountered Christ at the well had been married five times and was now living with a sixth man who was not her husband. She could neither depend on a husband nor her friends for comfort and hope. But Christ offered her living water that would spring up to eternal life (John 4:14). She would have inner resources that would bring cleansing to her troubled conscience and help her cope with the pain of her failed marital relationships.
Jesus introduced the ministry of the Holy Spirit to His disciples before His death. They had come to depend on Jesus for everything, and when He announced that He was leaving them, they felt abandoned. Jesus would not be with them to answer their questions, to teach them or to offer solutions to the challenges of their daily lives. They had come to love Him deeply and His absence would be keenly felt.
Jesus gave them this reassurance: “And I will ask the Father and He will give you another Helper that He may abide with you forever … I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you” (John 14:18). The disciples would not be orphaned; in fact, thanks to the gift of the Spirit, Jesus in effect promised, “I’ll be closer to you than I’ve ever been before.” That promise was fulfilled by the gift of the Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity.
What is your need today? Is it for companionship? The Holy Spirit is with you. Is it for comfort? The Holy Spirit stands ready to help. Do you need an advocate? He is ready to plead your case. And, if your sorrow is so deep that you do not know how to pray, the Holy Spirit will intercede with groaning that is too deep for words (Romans 8:26).
Many Christians entertain false ideas about the Holy Spirit. For example, there are those who think that the Spirit indwells only some Christians but not others. Be assured that all Christians are indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9, 1 Corinthians 6:19). The indwelling Spirit seals us until the day of redemption and is a guarantee that we are God’s children, assuring us that we will be taken safely to Heaven (Ephesians 1:14, 5:30). However, we will not experience the Spirit’s life and power if we grieve Him with sin that we are neither willing to confess nor forsake.
Although all believers are indwelt by the Spirit, not all believers are filled with the Spirit. To be filled with the Spirit means that we are experiencing the Holy Spirit’s gentle guidance and control in our lives. To be filled with the Spirit means that the Spirit is reproducing His fruit within us. We should never think that the filling of the Spirit is just for those Christians who are the spiritually elite. I like to tell people that the Spirit is not just given to those who “have it all together” but to the rest of us so that we might be able to “get it all together.” The filling of the Spirit is for the most discouraged, failing Christian, but in order for us to enjoy the Spirit’s ministry, we must meet some basic conditions.
We are warned to keep our temple clean through confession of sin and submission to God (1 Corinthians 6:19). Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, and He wants the key to the hidden closets of our hearts. We must not grieve the Spirit by allowing conditions to develop in our hearts that force the Holy Spirit to coexist with unconfessed sin. No one can exaggerate the suffering the Holy Spirit experiences when living in a temple that is unclean. He is grieved because He loves us and knows the damage sin does in our lives. When He is grieved, He does not feel at home in our hearts; His ministry to us is quenched.
To experience the Spirit’s fullness we also need faith. A preacher of another era, F.B. Meyer, told how desperately he sought the filling of the Holy Spirit. He knew he was indwelt by the Spirit, but he could not seem to receive the Spirit’s help for ministry. He said he left a meeting and was walking wearily through the night praying, seeking what he lacked. He said, “Lord, if there is anyone who needs the filling of the Spirit it is I. But I am too tired, too nervously run down to agonize; too weary to tarry, and yet I need the Spirit’s refreshment so desperately.”
Then he said it was as if he heard a voice saying, “As you took forgiveness from the hand of the dying Christ, so you may take the refreshment of the Spirit from the hands of the ascended Christ.” Then in simple faith, he said, “I then took for the first time and have been taking ever since.” We receive the benefits of the cross by faith; we also receive the benefits of the ascension by faith, namely, the fullness of the Spirit.
Don’t think that the Holy Spirit needs to be coaxed to control us. He desires to control us, for that is why He indwells us! He longs to reproduce the life of God within us; He wants to create a holy dwelling place within our souls. There is no reluctance on His part, but there is reluctance on our part because of our unwillingness to part with our sin.
Years ago when archaeologists entered the pyramids, they discovered grain that was 4,000 years old. Yet, incredibly, when they planted it, it grew! The life was present during those centuries, but it did not have the proper conditions to sprout. In warm sunshine and moist soil, the hard shell softened and the life began to grow. When the water of the Spirit and the sunshine of God’s Word combine in our lives, the result is that the life of the Spirit begins to become active within us.
Today the Holy Spirit invites us, saying in effect, “I will develop a sensitive relationship with you; I will help you to walk; I will help you to cope; I will help you through your trial; I will refresh your spirit.” This invitation is for all who have come to know Christ personally. Are you willing? The Spirit is!
No one who has ever walked through a desert says, “One good drink of water is enough for the week!” No, when you are trekking through the desert you need water daily, hourly. When D.L. Moody was asked why he had to be filled with the Spirit so often he said simply, “Because I leak.”
How often do we have to drink of the Spirit? As often as we thirst; as often as we have a need; as often as we leak. Let us come to Christ, not with a cup but with a bucket—believing that He will give us the refreshment He promised.
Erwin W. Lutzer has been senior pastor of The Moody Church in Chicago since 1980; he is the featured speaker on the church’s three radio broadcasts—”Running to Win,” “Songs in the Night” and “Moody Church Hour”—and is the author of more than 20 books.