We have spend the last couple weeks talking about what the Gospel truly is, and the way we have outlined it is by breaking it into 4 different parts. Each quarter of the Gospel has dealt with a specific need – the first quarter deals with the barrier of sin (Christ died for me); the second quarter deals with the unregenerate self (Christ died as me); and the third quarter deals with our new life in Christ (Christ lives in me). Today we are going to look at the fourth quarter of the Gospel, the part that deals with how we minister to others in our new life in Christ (Christ lives through me).
When we talked about the earlier parts of the Gospel, especially the second quarter, we talked a little about the acts of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. An example of some of the acts of the flesh are listed in Galatians 5:19-21:
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.
Jesus taught about this as well, but He gave us an idea of where these acts come from:
For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. (Matthew 15:19)
What Jesus says is that these things come from an overflow of what is in your heart. The lesson puts it this way: “What festers inside a person’s heart will eventually be expressed in some form or fasion for others to see.”** Using what we’ve learned about the earlier parts of the Gospel, we might say that the acts of the flesh come from an overflow of the Old Self.
So if an overflow of the Old Self causes the acts of the flesh to appear, you’ve probably already guessed that an overflow of the New Self causes the Fruit of the Spirit to appear in our lives. The Bible uses terms like abundance (John 10:10), and superlative terms like immeasurable (Ephesians 3:20), surpassing (2 Corinthians 3:8), and inexpressible (1 Peter 1:8) to describe the life and blessings that we have in our New Life in Christ. If this life is so abundant, to the point that it is overflowing, where does this overflow go? It goes to others! God gives us more than we need so that we can share it with others!**
A Ministry Metaphor
In John 7, it says
Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. (v. 38-39, emphasis added)
The lesson points out that the Scripture Jesus is referring to comes from the book of Isaiah:
For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. (Isaiah 44:3)
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. The burning and will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs. (Isaiah 35:5-7)
So, just as John points out, and Isaiah writes about, this river of living water is the Holy Spirit, and we are to be filled with the Spirit daily. The lesson points out:
The living water Jesus spoke about was never meant to be just for you. It was meant to become “streams of living water” flowing out from you to others. This is the nature of ministry. What you have is what you give. Out of the overflow of your experience in God, you now minister to others.**
A Broken-Ministry Metaphor
In Jeremiah 2:13, God says:
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.
A cistern is not a well or a source of water – it’s more like a storage tank for water. The water has to be moved in from somewhere else. What God is accusing them (us) of is taking blessings from Him, and then going and attempting to live in their (our) own strength and ability. But this is not how God designed it. He knows that our “cisterns” are broken – they leak! We go to church on Sunday morning, and then by later that day, or Monday at the latest, the joy, peace, comfort, hope, and love, which God lavished on us through His Spirit, has all leaked out. We have nothing to share with those around us. Instead, we should be filled anew every morning, from the spring of living water – a spring, which is a source of water, and in this case never runs dry. When we are filled, God doesn’t just give us what we need, he over-fills us so that the excess can be shared with those around us.
**Taken from Lesson 18: God of the Overflow, from The Power of the Gospel, OBC