On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37–39 ESV)
This is the scripture that is the basis for our theme this year: Overflow. Jesus says that out of the hearts of those who believe in him will flow rivers of living water. We are going to examine what this means and what that looks like in this lesson as well as once each month when we touch on this theme. But before we start the lesson I want to ask you a question for you to consider now and I will ask it again at the end of the lesson. What flows out of us? What overflows from us? What flows out of our hearts? What do people see flow from us? For us to explore these ideas, we need to first understand what Jesus was teaching the crowds in John 7.
Start Point (7:37)
Jesus is in Jerusalem on one of the days of the year when all the Jewish males were required to present themselves before the Lord. They had to live in temporary shelters to remember how they were slaves in Egypt and that God delivered them from slavery to the promised land. Jesus is going to say these words to a potentially massive audience, as Jerusalem is overflowing with Jews from all over the world. You will notice that Jesus intends to draw a crowd because, in a loud voice, Jesus declared, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.”
Thirst is something every person has. All of us are thirsting for life satisfaction. All of us are seeking to have certain life goals and desires fulfilled. There is a void that is in the heart of every person that we live our lives trying to fill. The problem that the scriptures identify in many places is that we try to fill this void with all the wrong things. We try to be satisfied by things that actually do not satisfy. Listen to how God described the problem through Isaiah.
Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. (Isaiah 55:1–2 ESV)
Notice that God says that you can come to him and he will give you what satisfies. But we spend our money and time on things that do not satisfy. We work for things that will not give us the joy and lasting satisfaction that we think it will give. The prophet Jeremiah observed the same problem.
Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the LORD, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water. (Jeremiah 2:12–13 ESV)
The same problem is decried. The people have turned away from satisfying living waters that will quench thirst for essentially a pot hole that catches water and drinking that. But this is what we do. Think about how easily we do this. We are like the Snickers commercial from a few years back: “Snickers really satisfies.” I have never noticed Snickers to be so satisfying that it was a replacement for a meal. In the same way, we can refuse to stop and consider if what we are seeking after in this life really satisfies. Jesus is standing up and making an important declaration. “If anyone thirsts” means that Jesus is asking for people who realize that they are not satisfied by this life and are looking for more. They have tried to be fulfilled by sin and the world’s desires, but they are still thirsting. This is who Jesus is talking to: people who have tried lasting joy and satisfaction in this life but have not found it. Jesus is offering that you can come to him, drink, and be satisfied. Realize your emptiness and come to Jesus to drink.
Result of Belief (7:38)
As powerful as this declaration is about what Jesus has to offer, there is more in verse 38. There is more that will happen with those who believe in Jesus. Before we look at this, consider that Jesus just described what belief looks like. Belief is understanding that this world does not satisfy our life thirst and only Jesus is able to quench your thirst. Believers are people who do not go to the world for satisfaction but go to Jesus for satisfaction. We are believing that Jesus gives what no one else or nothing else can give.
Those who believe in Jesus in this way will have something else happen. Jesus says that rivers of living water will flow out of their hearts. Think about this staggering declaration. Not only will you find true life and true satisfaction, but you are going to flow those life-satisfying waters to others. We are supposed to have life-changing and life-giving waters to others. Please notice the certainty of this outcome. Those who believe in Jesus, a true faith in him and what he offers, will of necessity have living waters flowing out of their hearts to others.
This leads to a necessary question for everyone to think carefully about. What flows out of us? When people see us, spend time with us, and talk to us, what is flowing out of us? What comes out of us when engaging others? Is what comes out of us life-giving? Is what comes out of us life-changing? Is the water that comes out of us good and sweet or evil and bitter? What we have the temptation to do is to blame other people for why bitter water comes out of us. We blame other people because they do evil things to us. The reason we have anger is because someone did something to us. So it is their fault. The reason we said mean things is because they said something against us. We blame others for the bitter, foul waters that flow out of us.
But I would like to illustrate why this is flawed thinking. Imagine a full cup foul tasting water sitting on the table in front of you. As you walk by, you bump the table and the water spills out. Whose fault is it that the water spilled out? You would answer that it is your fault because you bumped the table. But it is your fault that the water is bitter and foul? Not at all! You see that we will certainly bump each other, causing what is in our hearts to spill out and overflow. But is it your fault if you bump me and anger, bitterness, malice, evil, or some other evil response comes out? No, it is my fault because that is what is within me. In the same way, if I bump you, it is not my fault if evil comes out of you. It is your fault because that is what is in your heart. We like to blame others for our ugly, sinful, evil, or poor responses because they bumped us. But the problem was not that you were bumped. The problem is that you were filled with an evil heart. We are responsible for the contents of our hearts. No one else is responsible. Those who truly believe in Jesus have rivers of living water flow from within them, not anything else. How is this going to happen so that we overflow with living waters rather than bitter waters?
Speaking About the Spirit (7:39)
The narrator comes in at verse 39 to explain what this means and how this will happen to our hearts. We are told that Jesus was speaking about the Spirit that those who believe in him would receive. What does this mean and how does it explain our hearts flowing with living waters? God made a promise to give people his Spirit so that they would be different people.
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (Ezekiel 36:25–27 ESV)
The picture is that you will come to the Lord, seeking the satisfaction that only he can give, and he will give you a new heart and put his Spirit in you so that you will desire to do his will. God is going to clean you up and change you so that you are satisfied in him and will then overflow to others. The way to have a heart that flows with living waters to others is by finding your joy and satisfaction in Jesus. If you are not satisfied in him, then there is no way for your flow living waters to others. You must see the Lord as all-satisfying so that the idols and worldly desires can truly be cleaned out of our hearts. Only then can we have the heart of stone removed and have a new spirit put in us.
Now listen to how this plays out in the scriptures. Ezekiel saw a vision of God’s temple flowing with rivers of living waters from it (Ezekiel 47). The water flows in all directions, giving life and healing everywhere it goes. Jesus arrives and declares that he is the temple (John 2). Jesus is able to stand up and tell the people in John 7 that if you come to him you are going to receive the life-giving, satisfying waters. But then something amazing is taught.
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. (1 Corinthians 3:16–17 ESV)
The “you” is plural in the above passage and is therefore referring to that local church in Corinth. Paul tells that church that they are God’s temple and the Spirit is dwelling there. What does that mean? It means what we have been looking at throughout this lesson. We, as God’s people in West Palm Beach, are to be flowing with living waters in every direction. We are to be life-giving and life-changing as a church. So we must ask ourselves if we are fulfilling our mission. Are we flowing rivers of living waters to those who enter our doors? Do they experience life and healing when they are among us and worshiping with us? That is what is supposed to happen and we must work to overflow that spiritual life and healing to all. But then another amazing statement is made a little later in the same book.
Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:18–20 ESV)
This time the apostle Paul speaks about the individual Christian. You are a temple of the Spirit and you are to glorify God in your body. To say this another way, you are to overflow with living waters to everyone, everywhere we go. We are not to overflow with wickedness but with life and holiness. Sin cannot be flowing in and out of us. The living waters of Jesus must be flowing in and out of us.
You are how people come to meet God. Are you the good news to people? Do you flow living waters from your life into the lives of others? What do your children see? What have your children seen in you? Are you life-giving rivers to God for them? What does your spouse see? What has your spouse seen in you? Are you overflowing with living waters toward them? What do your friends, co-workers, neighbors, employees, and acquaintances see? Are you overflowing with living waters toward them? What is your cup filled with: life-giving water or bitter water?
If our answers to the above questions are not godly or good, then this tells us that we are not the believers in Jesus that we think we are. Whoever believes in Jesus will have rivers of living water flow from within them. If we are not thirsty for Jesus and not finding our satisfaction in him, then we cannot overflow like Jesus said. Our theme this year is Overflow and we are going to be spending this year talking about how we can overflow with the living waters. What are you filled with? What is flowing out of you?