Tuesday, September 06, 2011

"In Spirit and in Truth"

Third Quarter 2011 Adult Sabbath School Lessons

For the week of  September 4 - 10, 2011
(PDF Link)

“To be filled you must be emptied” - this may sound like a contradiction but it is true.  The opposite is also true.  To be emptied you must be filled.  Even when a bottle is emptied of liquid, it is still full of air.  If I fill a jug with water, and close the lid tight, the water stays in and the air stays out.  The moment the lid is opened, the water can flow out, but only as long as air can flow in.  Air must displace the water in order for the water to move out of the opening.

Let us say that, for some reason, I want to fill the jug with air.  The lid must be opened to let the water out, or the air cannot come in.  This concept applies in other contexts as well.  For example, to fill a truck with boxes and furniture, the truck must first be emptied of its previous load.  Your stomach needs time to digest one meal before you fill it with another.  The concept then, is that you cannot fill something that is already full.  So it is in the spiritual realm.

St. Augustine once said "We must be emptied of that which fills us, so that we may be filled with that of which we are empty."  Many pray to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  In order for God to answer this prayer, we must be emptied of self.  But, we cannot do the job ourselves. 

“No man can empty himself of self.  We can only consent for Christ to accomplish the work.  The language of the soul will be, Lord, take my heart; for I cannot give it.  It is Thy property. Keep it pure, for I cannot keep it for Thee.  Save me in spite of myself, my weak, unchristlike self.  Mold me, fashion me, raise me into a pure and holy atmosphere, where the rich current of Thy love can flow through my soul.  It is not only at the beginning of the Christian life that this renunciation of self is to be made.  At every advance step heavenward it is to be renewed” (Ellen White, Christ’s Object Lessons, page 159, 160).

This idea of being emptied to be filled can be illustrated by the story of the Samaritan woman.  In John 4, Jesus meets her at the well, and asks her for a drink of water.  Surprised by a Jew who would ask a favor of a Samaritan, and a woman at that, she questions Him.  In response, Jesus introduces Himself and His mission by using water as a metaphor for what He has to offer.  Failing to understand, she questions Him again.  His response is in verses 13 and 14 --

“Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:
but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”

This woman was all too aware of the moral indiscretions of her past life.  She was empty, and she knew it.  When she believed Christ’s revelation of Himself, the Samaritan woman’s heart was warmed and filled.  What she thirsted for was not merely water, but a reservoir of spiritual water springing up into everlasting life.  This flowing, filling water which represents the Holy Spirit displaces all the ugliness of self.   Holy Spirit inspired truth, believed and received into the heart, dislodges self from its throne.  We want to worship God in a way that pleases Him.  In order to do this, we must worship in the Holy Spirit.  We want to be filled by Him, and emptied of self.  In His dialogue with the Samaritan woman, Jesus says that genuine believers worship the Father in both Spirit and in Truth.  Are the two things different?

Jesus states in John 14 verses 6 and 17, that both He and the Holy Spirit are truth.  In verse 17, Jesus elaborates further by saying that “the world cannot receive Him (the Spirit of Truth) because the world doesn’t see or know Him.”  Then Christ says that “we know Him; for He dwells with and in us.”  It is in this manner that Jesus equates the Holy Spirit’s character and essence with His own.

Jesus was also called, Emmanuel, God with us.  John 1:14 states that the Word (Jesus) was made flesh, and dwelt among us.  It is the Truth – the Word of God – Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit, that displaces the lies of self.

Jesus not only reassured the Samaritan woman that He was the Christ, the long awaited Messiah, but He implanted the seed of Truth and love in her heart.  This seed would later be watered by His blood, and would bear fruit in righteousness.  He made it clear that the Father wants worshippers who will worship by accepting and receiving the Holy Spirit and by believing the Truth.  He was reassuring her and the whole Samaritan nation that the Father would receive them as His children.  After seeing and understanding Christ’s death on the cross for them, the believers among them would receive the Holy Spirit as a Guide to lead them into all truth, thus displacing the corrupt self.

We can experience the fullness of the power of the Holy Spirit as long as we allow Jesus Christ, the Fountain of Life to be the One who indwells us through that Spirit.  God has promised us an abundance of spiritual water – His truth.  We may believe His promise, ask for His gift, receive and “drink” the refreshing water of life which we find in His Word.  His life then becomes our own.

In the book Desire of Ages, on page 671, Ellen White writes some powerful good news about this topic:

“The Holy Spirit was the highest of all gifts that He could solicit from His Father for the exaltation of His people. The Spirit was to be given as a regenerating agent, and without this the sacrifice of Christ would have been of no avail. The power of evil had been strengthening for centuries, and the submission of men to this satanic captivity was amazing. Sin could be resisted and overcome only through the mighty agency of the Third Person of the Godhead, who would come with no modified energy, but in the fullness of divine power. It is the Spirit that makes effectual what has been wrought out by the world's Redeemer. It is by the Spirit that the heart is made pure. Through the Spirit the believer becomes a partaker of the divine nature. Christ has given His Spirit as a divine power to overcome all hereditary and cultivated tendencies to evil, and to impress His own character upon His church.”

Let us not reject the highest gift of living water that the Father could bestow on us through Christ.  The very quenching of our thirst depends on it.
--Raul Diaz