Flash Flood of the Spirit
Like the rising flood waters of Noah’s time, water rises again and again as a prominent character in the epic biblical tale.
The Role of Water
In the beginning, the Spirit of God hovered over the waters, the water teemed with living creatures, streams came and watered the ground and the garden. Later, water swallows the Egyptians as liquid walls rush into a torrent of destruction, saving the Hebrew people. Then, water gushes from a rock when Moses strikes it in anger. Elijah’s jars of water, poured out in the legendary contest between the Lord and Baal, prepared the way for the Spirit’s fire, a prophetic act. Naaman’s leprosy was cleansed by the wet hand of the Jordan.
In these instances, we see water involved in creation, destruction, preparation, and restoration.
Flood Waters in the New Testament
The New Testament opens with a Hebrew hippie bursting onto the scene, eating organic bugs with a side of honey and sporting leather-belted camelhair. This second Elijah baptizes with water and prepares the way for the Lord. Then Jesus opens his ministry with a little water to wine transformation. In the background of these scenes we see the Jordan river, the Sea of Galilee, the Pool of Bethesda, and more.
The action comes to a climax when Jesus offers access to the highest water feature of all—living water that wells up to eternal life, vanquishing death like a haughty Egyptian and quenching thirst forevermore:
On the last and most important day of the festival, Jesus stood up and cried out,
“If anyone is thirsty, he should come to Me and drink! The one who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him.” He said this about the Spirit. Those who believed in Jesus were going to receive the Spirit, for the Spirit had not yet been received because Jesus had not yet been glorified. (John 7:37-39)
Intimate Acquaintance with Water
While some have experiences with more exotic bodies of water such as the Amazon or the Nile, my most intimate acquaintance with water is a charming neighborhood pond within sight of our home. This unobtrusive little pond is framed by tall families of cottonwood trees hung with oriole nests, while gossiping cattails fuss over bullfrog tadpoles and adorable turtle hatchlings. Baby ducks paddle close to their mothers, peeping their tender dependence, while turtles crawl onto floating tree branches to fully stretch legs and necks in the buttery warmth of the sun. This is living water.
Holy Power of Water
Earlier this year, Oklahoma’s spring storms highlighted the trinitarian nature of water, from the moody clouds and torrential rain, to the misshapen globes of hail.
A shallow creek flows into our duck pond, but when heavy rains come, we witness the vigorous power and intense energy of water. What is benign in a drop, and refreshing in a shower, suddenly has the power to completely reconstruct a landscape when it grows to violent rapids. We witnessed a heavy railroad tie that had been grounded for several seasons in a muddy marsh be lifted with ease by the deluge and go sailing off to distant lands unknown.*
And this is what water does when it moves. It transforms with ease what is arduous or impossible with human strength.
A Cleansing Flash Flood of the Spirit
Without the cleansing rains, however, pools of water can become stagnant, rank and putrid, emitting noxious odors and growing harmful microorganisms.
Similarly, without the cleansing of the Spirit, people can become toxic bogs, filled with such parasitic organisms as jealousy and resentment, or contaminants such as hidden sins, shame, fear, or even unrelenting sorrow. Whether it is willful sins or innocent wounds, long-standing, death-filled pools cannot be flushed clean with a drop of water here or a touch on the tongue there. Water’s strength to transform is found in vigorous torrents. We need a flash flood of the Spirit to lift dead material from the depths of our souls.
The Power of “Living Water”
Jesus said that those who believed in him would have, “streams of living water flow from deep within him.” And deep within is just where we need these streams to flow, in order to reach those places that may be obscured even from our own eyes, but are dripping with pernicious poisons, nonetheless.
Jesus also clarified his figurative language, explaining that the streams of living water were the Spirit, which Jesus later poured out at Pentecost (Acts 2:33). Peter then preached that those who repent and are baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins would receive the Holy Spirit. Later, the apostle Paul said that we were redeemed through Jesus so we might receive by faith the promise of the Spirit (Galatians 3:14).
Although our repentant faith in Jesus results in immediate forgiveness of sin, the work of cleansing and transformation is an ongoing work of the Spirit.
Unfortunately, many of us, even having received the Spirit through faith and baptism, still build dams and close the floodgates. We receive the Spirit, but we are still thirsty.
Apparently, the Spirit’s flow is released like a spigot, and we are not supposed to turn off the faucet. As Paul admonished, “Do not quench the Spirit,” (1Thes. 5:19) and “be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).
The process that removes the sludge of the soul seems simple.
The outpouring of the Spirit is a natural consequence of faith, repentance, and baptism, but the continued flowing of the Spirit is a matter of choosing to turn on the faucet, or if we really want to move some gunk out of our souls, then opening the floodgates.
Ultimately, God honors our choices. We can choose either to quench the Spirit or to be filled with the Spirit.
This much is certain: no soil is richer than that deposited by floodwaters, and once the Spirit has flooded the soul, it leaves rich, fertile soil—ideal for planting the seed of the Spirit. The resulting fruit of the Spirit is recognizable and sweet: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23.)
*This was written before we saw whole houses swept away on the Cimarron River. That’s the power of water!
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