The Hunger of the Soul

We’ve been doing a series beginning back in August where I spoke on what’s called in some circles, apologetics. It’s defending Christianity and the Christian faith and in August I spoke on the Bible, “Is it Truth or is it Fiction?” And in that meeting, what I did was laid out the evidence of why Christians believe that God has chosen to communicate and reveal Himself in a permanent written document. And we closed that time by pointing out that very clearly Jesus, Who claimed to be the Son of God, declared, and confirmed that this was the primary means that God has chosen to speak to us through the ages, through the written word. And as we closed that session, the point that I made was that really the question shifts from is the Bible the word of God to is Jesus Who He claimed to be. Was He the Son of God? Is He the Son of God? Because if you think about it, God and only God has the authority to speak on the legitimacy of the Bible. I don’t have the authority to tell you that, but Jesus does, assuming He is the Son of God.

Last month in September, we took almost 50 minutes and laying out the evidence that points to Christ being divine. And I must say, I think those of you who were here would say that the evidence is very compelling. And of course, the real question is, are people really willing to examine the evidence that’s there and because often the answer is no. But that’s really the extent of the review, and so, where we are this morning, and what I would like to do is pose a question to you that is if the Bible is the Word of God, and if Jesus is the Son of God, how is that relevant to my life today? What does He have to say to me, in other words, that would be of value to me, a man that lives in a frenetic world, a complex world? We’re all busy. We all have a lot going on. What does He have to say to me that would be of value?

You know, in the Bible there’s a real interesting incident in the New Testament and you read about it in Matthew 17, where Jesus takes Peter, James, and John, and He takes them to a high mountain top.

There’s nobody else within miles. And while they’re there, it says a bright cloud overshadows them and it says, Peter, James, and John are terrified. They fall on their faces. And then they hear the words of God, the Father, a huge event in history. I mean, rarely in the New Testament that you see God, the Father speaks. And here are three men that are obviously going to be very important in the forming of the early church and you’d think He might have a lot to say to them and He utters only one sentence. And this is what He says, “This is my beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him, listen to Him.” That’s all He says. And then they look up and they’re just all standing there by themselves.

You know, I believe this is what God would say to you and I today, if God the Father came and spoke and we found ourselves on our faces on the floor. I think He would tell us, listen to the words of Jesus. Listen to what He has to say to you and to your life where you are. And of course, we live in a generation that says, well, why should I? It’s kind of like a guy that I know one of you invited to come to one of these breakfasts and his response was “I get enough of that on Sunday. I don’t need any more of that. I’m a busy man.”

So why should we listen to Him? What does He have to say to me? What does He have to say that’s relevant to my life? I’m going to share just three quick reasons and then I’ll launch into what I want to share this morning from His words. The first reason is that His words are true. In Matthew 24:35 and Mark 13:31, He says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away.”

In other words, what he’s saying is they have everlasting application to a man’s life. Whether you lived a thousand years ago, or whether you live a thousand years from now, or whether you live today, My words will have an everlasting application to your life. A second good reason, and I was talking to Drayton about the series, and he pointed this out and this hadn’t dawned on me, but in John 12:48-49, he says, “My words that I declare to you are from God, the Father.” And he says, one day your life will be judged by My words. And I don’t know about you, but that gets my attention. One day, our lives will be judged by His words.

And the final thought on this is that in Mark chapter four, Jesus warns us. He says, be very careful, be very careful to who and what you listen to. I think it’s very clear what He’s saying, the reason why, is our lives are shaped by so many things, by so many influences. Have you ever stopped to think about what has shaped my ideas about life, about God, about religion and about all the other essential issues of life that govern my existence? Have you ever thought about that? Where did I get the ideas that I have? Where did I get the beliefs that I have? Where did I get the perspective that I bring to my life? And furthermore, what if the influences that have shaped my life, what if they’re wrong? What if I’ve been misguided? I couldn’t help but think about, this is a number of years ago, talking to a guy whose ideas about God had been shaped by the rock group, Jethro Tull.

You know, now you think about it, not necessarily a good source, maybe a good source for music, but not a good source for ideas and thoughts about God. And this is why I really contend that we all need One who serves as a true compass to lead us to what is true, to what is accurate, to what is wise. And I contend that Jesus is that compass. Because as the Son of God, He has the authority to tell us both about living and about dying. And if you read the four Gospels, you realize He has much to say to each one of us. He talks about love and relationships. He has a lot to say about money and wealth. He talks about the storms of life that we’ll face one day, He talks about fear and anxiety and dealing with that. He talks about arrogance and humility, hypocrisy. He lays out all different types of principles for life through the parables. And probably most importantly, He talks very clearly and very often about death. He talks extensively about the Kingdom of God. He talks about the judgment. He talks a lot about hell.

You know, shouldn’t, if you think about it, when you consider all of these issues, shouldn’t we be listening? Shouldn’t we be listening to His voice, to His words? Because ultimately, if you think about it, Jesus addresses life’s most substantive issues regarding our existence and yet we so often find no play place for His words in our lives.

This is an interesting book that I have that’s been sitting on my bookshelf for years and I’ve just kind of gotten around to start reading. And it’s called Making Sense of it All, by Thomas Morris, and Morris is a philosophy professor at Notre Dame and the book, so much of it is on Blaise Pascal, kind of critiquing his work. And he makes an interesting statement at the beginning of the chapter, “The Folly of Indifference”, about how people are so indifferent about the ultimate issues of life. And it says in this paragraph, “If a person gets utterly lost in the woods, it’s most unfortunate, but to be absolutely unconcerned about it is unreasonable. Yet so many people who spend weeks mastering a new video game, months learning a tennis serve, or years perfecting a golf swing will not invest a few days or even a matter of hours in the effort to understand better some of the deeper questions about life. The words of Christ, God Himself; what could be more important?”

And so, this morning I want to take for say the next 25 minutes or so, a couple of Jesus’ statements in the New Testament and maybe expound on them for a few minutes, because I think they have significant application to each of our lives. Every single one of us and Drayton will pick up on the same theme next month when we meet.

And I want to start by reading just two different passages from the book of John.  In John chapter six Verse 35 (John 6:35), Jesus says, “I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to Me shall not hunger. And he believes in Me, shall never thirst.”

And then in the next chapter, chapter seven (John 7:37-38), He says something very similar. “Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out saying, if any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me as the Scripture said from his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.”

You know, in these two different passages, Christ is talking about a hunger and a thirst within each of us that only He can satisfy. I mean, that’s a pretty bold statement. I mean, in one sense, it’s radical to say, I am the Bread of Life and I’m the One that’ll satisfy the hunger in your life. He obviously wasn’t talking about the hunger of the body, the stomach. He was clearly talking about the soul because in John seven, where I just read from, He talks about the innermost being of a man or a woman’s life. He’s referring to the soul. Now the soul is something we don’t think about too often. We may use it sometimes in our vocabulary. You know, we’re soulmates. You know, we talk about something from the bottom of my soul, but if you were asked, what is the soul, “what is the human soul?” I would venture to say, none of us could really define it real clearly.

Let me read to you what a guy by the name of Dallas Willard, how he describes the soul. And as I read this, ask yourself this question, how important is my soul? How important is the care of my soul? What role does the soul play in my life and in my existence? Willard was the head of philosophy at Southern California for years. He has recently retired, and he says this, “What is running your life at any given moment is your soul. Not external circumstances or your thoughts or your intentions, or even your feelings, but your soul. The soul is that aspect of your whole being that correlates, integrates, and enlivens everything going on in the various dimensions of the self.” And then listen to this. It says, “It is the life center of the human being. It regulates whatever’s occurring in each of those dimensions and how they interact with each other and respond to the surrounding events and the overall governance of your life.” And then listen to this, last sentence. “And the soul is deep in the sense of being basic or foundational and also in the sense that it lies almost totally beyond conscious awareness.” Think about that. He’s saying our souls lie almost totally beyond our conscious awareness.

Let me ask you this question. What is the driving force in your life? What really drives you? Have you ever thought about what causes us to yearn for the things that we yearn for and why we desire to achieve the things that we desire to achieve?

This got me interested yesterday. I was talking to a guy, a friend, very driven person, very successful guy. And he says, well, what are you going to talk on tomorrow and I told him, and he said, let me tell you something you ought to talk about. He said, why are our desires so insatiable? He says here, you know, I live in a big, beautiful home in Mountain Brook. I have everything I want in life. He said, but I want more. He says, there’s something within me, that’s insatiable. He says, you need to talk about that. And I said, well, I’m probably going to touch on it tomorrow, but I said, that’s a good, good question. It’s a good issue. You know, I contend that if we could all peel back the layers of our lives and get to really the inner chamber of our hearts and souls that we would all find and all discover that we are attempting to satisfy this hunger and thirst of the soul that Christ speaks of.

I just finished reading a book, an outstanding book, called Soul Survivor, by Philip Yancey. And the subtitle is, “How My Faith Survived the Church.” And he talks a lot about how he struggled so much with Christianity and the hypocrisy of the church. And then he points to ten or so different individuals that kept him hanging in there. A lot of them were people that were dead like Tolstoy, G.K. Chesterton. He even speaks of Gandhi.

But one of the more fascinating ones is a guy by the name of Henri Nouwen, a Catholic priest. And Nouwen who spent most of his life caring for the outcast in society, for instance, men dying of AIDS who had been abandoned by their families. He spends a lot of his life in the homes for the mentally challenged and the mentally retarded, just a very Godly, compassionate man. And in reading about Nouwen, and as I read him and Yancey’s words, they point out something very significant. They say it really doesn’t matter whatever your lifestyle is, and you know, we look around our culture, our society, we see people with all different types of lifestyles and values. He says, but whatever your lifestyle or your life or the life that you’ve been driven to pursue, they both say very clearly, whatever it is, we’re all motivated by this thirst of the soul.

And of course, we don’t necessarily recognize it because I think Willard is correct. The soul lies almost totally beyond conscious awareness, but we do all know this. There’s something that drives me. There’s something that pushes me forward in this life. There’s something that drives me down the path of life that I am currently on. Augustine called it a restlessness of the soul. And you know where you see this probably most clearly, and I think it probably disturbs a number of us, where you really see this, this restlessness, this drive, is in the lives of our teenagers. And I know you as parents will understand this, but what is it that really makes them tick, that causes them to live the way they’re living, to pursue the pursuing? I contend it’s the thirst of the soul.

Now I’m going to go off in some different directions here, but I promise you I’ll bring all this back together. A couple years ago, I did a study on the book of Psalms in the Bible. The Bible has 150 Psalms. Some of them are rather lengthy. And the one thing that struck me in reading the Psalms was that God’s desire for our lives is that we would have a life of rejoicing, a life of gladness, a life that overflows with joy. And yet, I have to admit that as I look around in the culture that we live in, as I talk to men regularly, I don’t see that at all. In fact, I almost see just the opposite out there. I see a lot of despair. I see a lot of fear. I see a lot of insecurity and boredom and loneliness. A lot of depression, basically a lot of pain. What strikes me is that the soul of modern man seems to be very troubled.

And I want to share with you a couple of examples of what the media tells us is going on in our culture. Just a couple of examples. The first one, fascinating Wall Street Journal, June 7th, 2002, one of the lead articles talks about you know what one of the nation’s newest and biggest health concerns is? Insomnia. Men can’t sleep. Some people call it an epidemic, says John Shepherd, president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine in Rochester, Minnesota. And he says, everyone agrees. It’s getting worse. I wonder how many of you suffer from that.

It talks about we live such troubled lives. A lot of fear, a lot of anxiety, a lack of peace, a restlessness. Can you relate to that? Forbes magazine’s most recent edition about why our kids are going so bad. It says, “What Makes Your Children Self-destruct”. And it goes on to talk about all of these new businesses that are being formed to help troubled kids, troubled teenagers. It says, “if you want to get on the next wave of a good investment, invest in these new institutions.” I’m not saying that they’re bad. Just pointing out that they’re there.

You probably saw the most recent edition of Newsweek, “Teen Depression: What’s Going on in the Lives of our Teenagers?” Why is this such an epidemic?

But the two, my most two favorites, this one really kind of tickles me a little bit is a four-page article in the September 16th edition of Newsweek. It was called “The Science of Happiness.” This is the subtitle: “We’ve tried health. We’ve tried wealth. We’ve tried Prozac, but still, we’re not content.” It goes on to say health, wealth, good looks, and status have astonishingly little effect on what the researchers call subjective well-being. See they don’t call it happiness. These researchers, don’t you love it. They call it subjective well-being. You know, what do you want out of life, subjective well-being. And then they go on to say, “In America notes, Hope College psychologist, David Meyers, real income has doubled since 1960. We’re twice as likely to own cars, air conditioner, and clothes dryers, twice as likely to eat out on any given night, yet our divorce rate is doubled, teen suicide has tripled, and depression has increased tenfold. Somehow, we’re not cut out for the ease that comes with wealth.”

And what this article really does is, and indicates, is that science is trying to figure out how to make us happy. It’s become a scientific problem, or not necessarily happy, but how to bring this subjective well-being into our lives.

The final quote I want to read to you comes from a book by two psychiatrists, Frank Minirth, and Paul Meier. You may have heard of the Minirth Meier clinic out in Dallas. Now there’s over 31 of their clinics. They help people that are struggling with their emotional problems and depression. This is a quote from one of their books.

“As a further point of clarification, Dr. Minirth and I,” they write together, “are convinced that many people do choose happiness, but still do not obtain it. The reason for this is that even though they choose to be happy, they seek for inner peace and joy in the wrong places. They seek for happiness and materialism and don’t find it. They seek for joy and sexual prowess but end up with fleeting pleasures and bitter long-term disappointments. They seek inner fulfillment by attaining positions of power in corporations and government, or even in their own families but they remain unfulfilled. I have had millionaire businessmen come to my office and tell me they have big houses, yachts, condominiums, and Colorados, nice children, a beautiful mistress, an unsuspecting wife, secure corporate positions, yet they live with suicidal tendencies. They have everything this world has to offer except one thing, inner peace, and joy. They come to my office as a last resort, begging me to help them to conquer the urge to kill themselves. Why? The answers are not simple. The human mind and emotions are a very complex dynamic system. But what strikes me is what he talks about. Two words, peace, and joy. It seems to be lacking. We can’t seem to find it.”

You know, what strikes me and causes me to be perplexed is why is it, I read this recently, that our society has produced more freedom and more prosperity than any in the history of mankind and yet we also lead the world in so many categories of social pathology, starting with suicide. Why is that? You know, one thing that strikes me is I read all of these articles and I have a big stack of them. Why is it that no one seems to know how to produce this subjective well-being that scientists call it, or that inner joy or that inner peace and joy? Why is it? And reading that article from Newsweek it’s as if they’re trying to come up with a pill, we can all take so that we’ll always be happy. And yet it seems to be elusive.

So, what I want to do as I close this time is attempted to bring some light to this. Maybe to help you understand yourself, maybe to help you understand your teenager, maybe to help you understand us or understand our world, our culture.

Let me ask you a question. I want you to think about this. When somebody asks you, what do you think of when you think of God? What is your first thought? What is your first reaction? What do you think of God? What does He like? Do you think of Him as some kind loving, grandfatherly figure? Or do you see Him the way I saw Him for so many years, a serious strict taskmaster, kind of like a drill Sergeant. You see Him as somebody who was very demanding of life, or as some people who’ve shared with me recently, they see Him as somebody that really doesn’t care. He’s uncaring and indifferent towards me and my life. You know, the Bible teaches a great deal about the nature of God and what He is like. And there’s one characteristic that whenever I ask this, nobody ever thinks that God would be like this, which makes me realize that we have a distorted view of God. But you know what the Bible tells us one of God’s characteristics that you would never think of Him. The Bible says that God is a joyful God. You may be thinking ‘no way’.

There is no way for joy and holiness to coexist, but the Bible is very clear. God is a joyful God. In the book of Nehemiah. It says chapter eight, verse 10 (Nehemiah 8:10) “for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” One six (Nehemiah 1:6) speaks of the “Joy of the Holy Spirit” the third person of the Trinity. Psalm 16:11 says, “In the presence of God, there is fullness of joy.” And then, most significantly, Jesus tells us in John 15, He says, “I desire to give you My joy and that your joy would be made full, complete, overflowing.” Isn’t that interesting?

He says My desire is to give you My joy. Christ there is telling us guys that I am the source of joy and I desire to give it to you so that overflows out of your life. Remember that verse we read back when we started in John seven, “from your innermost being will flow of rivers of living water”. That’s His desire for us. But the question is, is we don’t seem to find it. Let me ask you this. What is your life experience today? If you had to describe the last year of your life, what would you describe it?

Does it overflow with joy? Do you have that inner peace that Christ speaks of?

You know, in the book of Job, he makes an interesting statement? He says this, and this I think explains why we struggle so much with life, he says, “The joy of the godless is momentary.” In other words, what he’s saying there is that there is a joy in this life that can found apart from God. And I think we’ve come to believe that that’s true.

I’ve been reading an interesting book on how our culture has become so hedonistic, fascinating book, I haven’t finished it, but almost half of the book is on a Greek philosopher by the name of Epicurus. I don’t know if you’re familiar with him, Epicureanism. And he was the one that conceived of the idea that pleasure is humanity’s chief good. And what’s interesting is that the guy that wrote this book contends that the train of thought set in motion by Epicurus has had a major impact on Western culture. And Epicurus’ primary belief, one of his primary beliefs was this: pleasure and the good life consists in freedom from disturbance. And for Epicurus, the great disturber in life is God. He believed that God is the great disturbance that keeps us from the good life. God is incompatible with pleasure. And that’s why he said, you need to dispense of God if you’re going to experience a full life. And I think many of us subscribe to this philosophy today. It’s okay to believe in Him, but let’s don’t let Him interfere with the way I live my life.

Back in May of 2001, I spoke on “Purpose in Life,” that was the topic and many of you weren’t there, because there was only about 50 people there but I talked about something that I think really pulls all this together. I think it helps us understand who we are and what drives us. You know, we come into this life with a physical dimension and also a spiritual dimension. We have a body, and we have a soul, and we have certain natural physical desires that must be met. You think about the basic physical desires of your life. When you enter this world, you’re hungry, you get thirsty, and you get tired, and that’s it. And then you hit puberty and a fourth desire kicks in, your sexuality.

Those are the four basic desires of the body. But guys, think about how the Western world has elevated these four desires so that the desire of the body, the central side of life, has become the center of our existence. We’ve elevated them to that point. Think about that. Think about eating. We are covered up with advertisements. We’re bombarded with things on eating. There’s a restaurant on every corner. Life is about eating and drinking, whether it’s Pepsi or Coke or Budweiser or Coors or the finest wines or the finest whiskeys, think about how so much of our life is focused on eating and drinking and then resting or sleeping or pampering ourselves. I mean, don’t we all yearn just to be able to kick back and relax? Isn’t that why we love to go to the beach? I mean, that’s what the good life is about. Resting our tired bodies. And then sex. I mean, what more can, I mean, what do you say about sex? We live in a society that is just saturated with it. We’re bombarded with it, and I’d be quick to point out, there’s nothing wrong with the pleasures of life. I mean, they were God’s idea, and they can be very delightful in their proper place. The problem is we elevate them to the point that they become the center of our very existence.

And what has happened for many people is that pleasure and sensuality provide the basic reason for being alive. It’s like B.F. Skinner. I don’t know if you know of B.F. Skinner, he’s one of the forefathers of modern psychology. He was a godless man, and this was his view. He says the object of life is to gratify yourself without getting arrested. Think about that. That’s the object of life to gratify yourself without getting arrested. Guys, what we fail to remember is that we’re not just a body that has desires. We have a soul that has desires as well. What is it the soul desires? Joy, Inner peace, Love, contentment. You know, when you ask somebody, what do you want out of life? They don’t say to eat, to have sex. They talk about issues of the soul. That’s what we really yearn for. That’s what drives us. We think the path that we’re on will get us there. If only I had more of this, if only I had more of that, but it just never arrives. When you get right down to it, what has happened, and hopefully you see it, is that we attempt to satisfy the spiritual yearnings of the soul with the physical pleasures of life. And it doesn’t work. It can’t work.

In fact, C.S. Lewis says, it’s impossible. The body cannot satisfy the soul. Conversely, if you’re starving to death and you come to me, I don’t tell you, go pray. I tell you, go eat. The body needs food. The soul needs God.

I want to share with you one final illustration that really will pull all this together. It’s a story I tell a lot and I’m almost finished. It’s probably been over 10 years ago. I had a meeting in Atlanta, Georgia on a Monday morning at eight o’clock. As you know, they’re on Eastern time, so, for me to make that meeting, I needed to go over Sunday night and spend the night. So, I went over Sunday night, checked in the hotel about 8:30 and I hadn’t eaten, and I said, I need to go get something to eat. As you know, on a Sunday night in Birmingham, it’s very difficult to find a place other than fast food, but right down the street from my hotel was a Houston’s. It’s kind of a chain that you may be familiar with, kind of like a Fridays. So, I get a magazine, I think I can go and eat dinner and you know, quiet dinner, and read my magazine.

Well, it’s a little before nine, I pull up to Houston’s and it’s jam-packed, jam-packed. And I go in there thinking, you know, how long is it going to take me to get a table? And the hostess says, it’ll take you a while, but there’s a seat up there at the bar, if you want to go eat up there, you can. So, I say, that’s great. That suits me. So, I go down, go up, sit down, order, open my magazine and am reading and I can’t help but notice right next to me, there are two very boisterous, excited, laughing women who were very beautiful. They were beautiful women. And you know, I’m sitting here reading my magazine and they’re just laughing and having fun. And I’m having a hard time concentrating and I’m sitting there trying to listen to what they’re saying. And finally, one of them makes a remark to me, I mean, they felt sorry for me. And we ended up getting into a conversation and what’s interesting is that these two women worked at strip clubs there in Atlanta. I assume you’re familiar with that term, strip club.

And we get into this conversation, and I’m sitting there eating my meal, talking to them, and you know, what I find out is that they had, you know, they’d been working till six o’clock in the morning and then they’d slept all day and around six o’clock had shown a up at Houston’s and had been there for three hours. But as we talked, the conversation got more serious, and we talked about their lives. And I thought, you know, these two, these two people, they’re carefree. And then I asked them a question and they were dead silent. I asked this question, if you could rate your life on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the highest and one being the lowest, how would you rate it? Because we were talking about what they were going to do with their lives, and they got really silent. And the first girl said a three, and then the second girl and just, this it’s really, it pains me even to think, she said, almost crying, negative 10. And I was dumbfounded. And I remember looking around the restaurant and looking and next time you’re at dinner and notice people laughing and having a good time and carrying on, just like these two girls, I wonder how many people are like these two girls and faking it? That’s what they were doing.

What I’ve come to realize is that you can be having the time of your life and yet be dying on the inside. You can be having the time of your life and yet be empty. Do we fake it? Do we live with this pretense as we go through life, live this pretense in front of the watching world, in front of our peers, in front of our business associates? That’s the one thing that struck me. There was a second thing that struck me and, you know, these women, who initially seemed to be so happy to me, what struck me, the reason they were happy is they’d been drinking for three hours. And I share that because if you think about it, we depend on so much outside stimulus for our lives to experience what we think will provide the joy and the peace that we want. It could be anything, whether it’s something you eat or drink or a sporting event, a round of golf, we need something outside of us to stimulate us, to make us happy. Of course, as soon as it’s over, you’ve got to go find something else. It’s great while it’s happening, but then, what’s next. And I share that because that’s a very important point to understand because the joy that Jesus speaks of does not depend on any kind of outside influence because it comes from the depths of the heart and the soul. It comes from within. It’s spiritual, and that’s why Jesus says in John chapter six, it is the Spirit that gives life, the flesh and pleasing the flesh, profits nothing. It’s okay, but it’s of no real value. It is the Spirit that gives life. And then what He says after that is, and the words, there again, there’s Jesus’ words, the words that I have spoken to you, that I have given to you are both Spirit and are life.

One of my favorite incidents in the New Testament, and I’ll wrap this up really quickly is when Jesus encounters the Samaritan woman at the well. Now, I don’t know if you know that the Samaritans and Jews can’t stand each other. It’s kind of like the Palestinians and the Jews today. And here, Jesus encounters, a woman who obviously had led a troubled life. She’d been married five times and the man that she was living with wasn’t her husband. And she she’s sitting there getting water from the well, and Jesus says, would you give Me some water? And she says, well, I’m surprised that You’d speak to me. You being a Jew and me being a Samaritan. He said, if you knew Who you were talking to, I could give you Living water. Living water, she says, well, bring it on. Give me some of it. You know, fill me up. And of course, she’s thinking He’s going to give her something to drink, to put in her body. Kind of the way we think. Something outside of her that was going to make her feel better. But listen to Jesus’ words to her, when she says, give me some of this water. He says, “Everyone who drinks of this water here in this well shall thirst again. But whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst. But the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”

Guys, one of the things you’ll notice in the Bible is that water is often used as a metaphor representing the spirit of God and it’s so critical to understand that the mark of a Christian is that the Spirit of God resides in the innermost being of your life. That is the primary mark of a legitimate true Christian.

You know, we easily slip into thinking that a Christian is merely a person who believes in Jesus up here, but the Bible is clear. He must reside here. And that’s why it says, as we receive Christ Jesus, the Lord, He comes into our lives. He gives us a new heart. He gives us a new spirit, and this is the clearly the mark of what it means to be a Christian.

And the problem is, and you read even in the New Testament that people didn’t understand that. Listen to what Paul says to the church of Corinth in II Corinthians chapter 13. I believe he could say this easily to the people of the churches of Birmingham, Alabama. He says, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith.” Examine yourselves, are you really in the faith? “Or you do not recognize this about yourself. That Jesus Christ is in you, unless indeed you fail the test.”

He goes on in Romans to say the very exact same thing when he says, Paul says, “However, you’re not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you, but if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.”

Do we pass the test? Do we belong to Him? This is something we’ll be talking about as we pursue this series. And I’m sure Drayton will touch on this when we meet in November.

I want to close with one final illustration and a verse and then we’ll be finished. You know that Newsweek article that I read to you, “The Science of Happiness”? They made an interesting comment. They said the research indicates that when people win the lottery, they have this huge surge of euphoria in their lives and then they say though, after six months, these same people return to the same level of satisfaction they experienced before their sudden change in fortune. I wonder why that is. I’m sure some of you are thinking, ‘that wouldn’t happen to me if I won the lottery’. And I guess the point that I would leave you with here, and I hope as we leave this morning, that we all realize that money can’t purchase what is of real value in this life. Now I’m not in any way denigrating wealth, because there’s so many who do use it for good, but I think it’s so important that we leave here realizing it can’t buy what really matters. It can’t purchase me a good marriage, a meaningful family life, solid friendship, wisdom and understanding, most significantly, it can’t satisfy the soul. These are things that cannot be bought.

It’s kind of interesting, everything I’ve said this morning can be pretty much summarized in one sentence in the Old Testament. And I’ll leave you with this. “For my people,” this is God talking, you’re not talking about the Philistines, “My people have committed two evils. Number one, they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters. And number two, they have made for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water.”

We as humans struggle in life so much because we forsake the fountain of living water and in the process, we construct a strategy for life that we hope will capture joy and inner peace. Only to find that we have constructed vessels that are broken and cannot hold water. And thus, we have this continual thirst that drives our lives. Remember Jesus’ words. I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall not hunger and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.

Let us close in prayer. Father, we thank You that You are the fountain of life and that You, as Jesus says, desire to give us Your joy, to make us full and complete, overflowing with that living water that You offer the spiritually thirsty. Father, I thank You for these men and their lives, their friendship, this time together. I pray that You would use this to challenge us of where are we in our relationship with You. How do we stand with God? Where is my soul? Father, we acknowledge just our need for You. And we’re again grateful for the lives that You’ve given us, our families, our friends, and all the blessings of this life. It’s in Christ’s name we pray, Amen.

I’ll see y’all on the 22nd of November. Thank you.


Add grace and understanding to your day with words from Richard E. Simmons III in your inbox. Sign-up for weekly email with the latest blog post, podcast, and quote.

Fill out the form to receive wisdom in your inbox from Richard E. Simmons III.