"Filled, to Overflow!"#84-40
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on June 4, 2017
By Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz, Lutheran Hour Speaker
Copyright 2017 Lutheran Hour Ministries
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This week on Action in Ministry Q&A MP3
Text: John 7:37-39
"On the last and greatest day of the festival, 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 and those who believe in him were later to receive."
Christ is risen, he is risen indeed, hallelujah! John 7:37 starts out by saying, "On the last and greatest day of the feast." See, there was a big celebration going on, people gathered together in Jerusalem to remember God's rescuing work many years before when the Lord, the God of heaven, the Savior miraculously and mightily freed the people of Israel from their bondage and their brokenness in Egypt. The group of newly liberated people were led into the desert and camped in shelters until they were brought to a new home. And so every year since that great rescue, the people celebrated the feast of shelters, the Feast of Tabernacles.
That's how the feast got its name. And on that last day of this large and celebratory festival, a grand procession took place, a golden pitcher was filled with water and was brought to the temple altar and poured out. This climactic ceremony reminded everyone that God provided water in a miraculous way to the parched people wandering in a waterless wilderness.
The advents of John 7 back in history can be compared to big celebrations like Christmas or Easter today. You wouldn't want to miss them. But then like today there was that pressing question. Ready? Allow me to ask this to you, honestly, do you ever get a little celebration burnout? Do you understand what I'm talking about? Am I speaking straight to your heart as to mine? You feel more distant from God than you used to.
Maybe you've had some bumps and bruises in your faith walk. Perhaps life is so overwhelming you just don't have time to engage with faith, a spiritual life maybe hovering somewhere in your soul, but it's really not anywhere near the surface where it really matters. That's what was happening in John 7, the feast was a harvest festival along with being a faith festival.
So the gathering became a time also for business and family and traditions. As time passed, then some spiritual numbness began to set in. People were getting complacent and feeling distant from the wonders that God had accomplished. Have you ever felt that way?
When I was young cars were a little different than today's vehicles. As you may remember driving a car with windows you had to roll down manually. There was a time when you had to put a key in a keyhole and unlock the car. If you had an AM radio with little preset buttons, you were fortunate. There were no auxiliary jacks or USB ports and the single speaker in the middle of the dashboard didn't exactly create a concert quality experience. Your first car may not have been the most pleasant vehicle to drive. The noise, the ride, the reliability, they all may have been lacking, but I bet you loved that first car.
Then life happened, you may have purchased a replacement to your first car, then another replacement. Your cars may have improved over the years, you enjoyed perks like heat during the cold winter, windshield wipers that worked and improving technology. After awhile electric windows and locks became more widespread, screens for navigation systems and whether app started to appear. Pretty soon you could make restaurant reservations by touching a button, and you could dictate text without taking your hands off the steering wheel.
And the memory of that first car, well, it was long in the past, it was gone. You are riding now in luxury. That may be the way for you right now, but is something missing? Along with a nicer car came a lot of responsibilities, you got busy, you got distracted, now you don't even think about heat or windshield wipers working, but you also don't have the excitement of your first car. The thrill is gone. You are occupied with so many things, too many things. Schedules and worries crowd your consciousness; you're driving around in a mental and emotional fog.
Do you feel like that today? Have you felt like that? Now I'm not talking about clinical depression, I'm talking about the detachment you can feel when life changes and moves forward and start to pick up momentum. I call it spiritual numbness today, not because it's a religious issue but because it has a hold on your spirit. It impacts your personal desire, your relationships, your walk with God, your enthusiasm, your imagination and your level of hope.
Have you ever felt spiritual numbness? Are you in the season of fog like that right now? Will it come your way in the future? Today Jesus words in John 7 offer a formula to combat spiritual numbness, answers for spiritual detachment. First, let's listen to Jesus in order to really understand the problem of spiritual numbness that we all have.
Jesus begins with separation. He says, if anyone thirsts. He is saying if you're separated, if you're disconnected, you see He knows we all thirst. The feast was an emotional spiritual high, if you will. Being part of a festival meant you were hearing and recalling God's miraculous works, a dialogue about God's truth and a celebration of God's presence. The people got ready to head back to their homes but they were full of joy, then it was back home, scattered again, each on their own. The conversations would end and their lives would go back to their normal routines.
Too often that would mean that they would be disconnected from the faith encouraging conversations they just enjoyed. They would've talked about God's great works and promises at the festival, but not back to the gritty aspect of their lives. They do it on their own. They go their own way, isolated, disconnected. That kind of thing is a key ingredient of spiritual numbness.
The problem is the same today, trying to do life on your own, if you will. If you become isolated, your perspective becomes inaccurate, you may drift from God's truth, your hurts may hurt even more, being outside of a community of faith, being separated from others can cause spiritual numbness to set in.
A second ingredient in the spiritual numbness formula is distraction. Jesus had to go to some effort to get everyone's attention. The people may have been getting ready to pack up and check out on that last day of this feast. They may have been totally distracted from the important message that God was giving them on this great day.
I want to tell you that atheism is not your number one obstacle to meaning in life with Jesus, distraction is. It's so easy to give your attention in so many other places, isn't it? Responsibilities, causes, desires, all of them compete for your attention. God's word and guidance can breeze by you like a conversation someone does while you are multitasking.
You have no idea what the other person just said, distraction. Distraction is a key ingredient that leads to spiritual numbness. The third ingredient is pride. And later in John 7, the Pharisees and the church leaders become completely angry with Jesus. Amazing. They were absolutely inflexible, there were no options, they were going to do things their way.
They were gonna hang onto their perfectionism and their own plan for their life. Their pride cause them to become critical, angry and spiritually numb. It can happen to you and me too. Sometimes pride separates you from God's care or your life. Separation, distraction, pride is a formula for spiritual numbness.
And those ingredients leave you saying, "I used to be happier. Life was simpler then. What happened to the peace I used to have?" Do you spot any of those ingredients in your life? I sure do in mine. Today maybe a day for you to face the fog in your own life and say, "God, please help me." Our text declares it clearly; help is already on the way. Jesus words in John 7 are very much about providing you with a formula for fighting spiritual numbness and for filling you with life that overflows to bless others.
What are those ingredients? What does Jesus have in store for you and for me? First there is shouting. Now, listen, I'm not talking about primal scream therapy, I'm not talking about losing your cool and setting everybody straight. No, I'm talking about the rousing shout of Jesus. Back in verse 28 and here in verse 37 and forward into the Ministry of Jesus, the Savior becomes a yeller, a yeller.
You see, you've seen pictures of Jesus with lambs, Jesus laughing, Jesus praying and Jesus quietly meditating, but tell me have you ever seen a framed picture of Jesus with the caption, "Jesus shouts at the top of his lungs." You haven't seen that picture, but that's exactly what Jesus did in verse 37, he cried out, "If anyone thirsts ... If anyone thirsts, come to me and drink." The water of their festival was nothing compared to the outpouring of God's grace, shouting is a key ingredient in fighting spiritual numbness because it is the aggressive reach of God into your life, it is a shout of God's grace breaking through to you.
It's the bloody and beaten son of God on the cross in your place. It is Jesus raised from the dead, it is his forgiving and life renewing hold on you when you receive Holy Communion. It's the audacity of God to take you to be His own in holy baptism, a key ingredient for fighting spiritual numbness, is the rousing shout of a merciful God who wants you so badly that he gave His life for you.
A second ingredient for fighting spiritual numbness is trusting. In verse 38 Jesus said, "Whoever believes in Me as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." Being rescued from spiritual numbness means trusting the promise of Jesus. One of God's louder shouts in your life is the call to trust Him. You may be bearing a very heavy burden today, your worries may be overflowing into a flood of stress and sadness in your life.
Today Jesus invites you to trust in Him, to follow Him and to let him carry your burdens. Today Jesus provides living water in the wilderness of your life, his grace and strength and forgiveness and hope, they make it flow. His word is pouring into your heart and soul and mind at this very moment. That's the blessing of the Holy Spirit in your life, as John explained. Jesus is coming through shouting the audacious, bold, loud, gracious word of God and the gift of trusting in Him are two key ingredients for fighting spiritual numbness.
A third ingredient then for fighting spiritual numbness is inquiry, inquiry. You seek Jesus was not yet glorified when He shouted His words. People became divided because of Him. Do you know why? Because Jesus made them think. God's word does that to you, it works in you, it stirs you up, it changes you, it leads you, it makes you ask questions, it gives you clarity, it helps you worship and pray. It challenges you.
A key ingredient for fighting spiritual numbness is attention to God's word, the word is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, the Bible says in Hebrews 4. Today there is so much debate about religion, Christianity and Jesus, but who takes time to inquire of Him? Who asks him questions and listens for His responses? The hearers in John 7 they didn't, will you? Will you listen to God? Will you be attentive to His word?
You see God's word will lead you out of spiritual numbness. Go to Him in prayer, seek Him in the Scriptures, shouting, trusting, inquiry, it's a formula to fight spiritual numbness. See those ingredients bring you back from listlessness and lethargy. It may take time, that's part of trusting, but you won't have to search for a new car or a new thrill to find a new sense of purpose and value in your life.
God brings it now through His living Word, His water fills you to overflowing and sends you to bless people who are trapped in that same fog called spiritual numbness. But can this really, really work? Can this work for your life and for mine? When you are really spiritually numb, it's hard to believe that there is any way out. That's why it's good to look at some closing case studies.
Are you ready? Later in John 7, the Pharisees and the chief priests, they met with their guards; the religious leaders scolded these paramilitary officers asking them, "Why didn't you apprehend Jesus?" But these enforcers or religious laws and tradition said to their bosses, "Nobody ever spoke like this man." The shout of Jesus, the call to trust His promise and the power of the word were rousing these guards from spiritual numbness. They were in His presence, they heard His word, their numbness began to fade.
Like so many down through the centuries, people have not only been roused from their numbness, they've rejoiced in the power of faith in their lives. How about you today? Can you be like those guards who get a glimpse of Christ's powerful love for them and know that this is for them and it's for you too? I think you can. Or take the man named Nicodemus, he appears in verses 50 and 51 of John 7.
He was a leader; he was a Pharisee who sought Jesus at night in John chapter 3. He met Jesus, he heard His promises, His word and suddenly he wanted to hear more. Spiritual numbness was fading. That can happen for you today too. Do you believe it? It can happen for you. It's nice to read about others, it does provide encouragement, the joy of possibility, but today I want to ask about a third case study.
Are you ready? I want to ask about you. Will you enter or continue the journey out of spiritual numbness? Will you reevaluate the formula that is shaping your life? Are you going through life alone being distracted by many things or being too prideful to ask God for his help? Today is the day when the word of Jesus can be your overflowing blessing and by the power of the spirit you can be His man or His woman forever. Do you hear Jesus shout of grace? Will you trust Him today? Will you listen to His word? Will you let the living water of the Savior free you from your spiritual numbness? I pray that you will in the power of His spirit, Amen.
Action in Ministry for June 4, 2017
Guest: Dr. Mark Rockenbach, Prayer - A Conversation with God
Mark Eischer: You are listening to The Lutheran Hour, this is action in ministry, it's your call to action in response to all that God has done for you in Jesus Christ.
Gregory Seltz: Mark, we can all fall into times of spiritual numbness, but one thing we know is that God is not moving away from us, He hasn't changed.
Mark Eischer: That's right. And talking with God in Prayer is one way to resolve that spiritual numbness that you talked about in today's message. We want you to have a free resource, it's a booklet titled, "Prayer: When You Don't Know What to Say." And here to talk about that with us today is Dr. Mark Rockenbach of Concordia Seminary. Dr. Rockenbach, thanks for joining us today.
Mark Rockenbach: Thanks for having me.
Gregory Seltz: Mark, most of us are no strangers to the concept of prayer, most if not all religions include prayer in their practice. We often see when tragedy strikes, prayer it abounds. But what is prayer really all about for followers of Jesus Christ, what makes it unique for them?
Mark Rockenbach: As baptize child of God, you have the opportunity to actually have a conversation with God, which is amazing that He would allow that.
Gregory Seltz: Right.
Mark Rockenbach: But you have that opportunity, and in that conversation you can thank God for things that He has done for you, for the blessings that are there. And you can also bring requests to Him as well.
Gregory Seltz: The booklet also suggests that we can and we should pray with others as well, and this makes people uncomfortable. So what can we say for them and to them?
Mark Rockenbach: Sometimes we are scared about that, but you practice it, you try it out, and the more you practice it and do it, the more comfortable you'll get at it and you'll also see how that impacts people, and how it will bring comfort to them, joy to them. It's really a way to care for people to actually not just pray for them, but also to pray with them.
Mark Eischer: And could you suggest perhaps a simple outline we could use as we are praying for others?
Mark Rockenbach: Yeah. So a simple way of doing this is kind of based upon what we call in the church, the "Collect" in the sense but there is four things. So I'll give the four things and then kind of give you an example of how it looks. So number one, you just have an introduction; number two, you are connected to God's word somehow; number three, you have the request; and number four, is the conclusion.
So let's say someone is sick, let's say his name is Jim, he is in the hospital going to get surgery, and you are going to pray with him, also for him, but with him. So you might say something like this, you say, "Dear Lord," that's introduction, "you healed the blind, those who are sick while you were walking on this earth. We also ask that according to your will that you'd also grant healing to Jim, be with the doctors and nurses in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen."
So that's very simple way of doing it, and notice how I prayed in the will of God. And that relates to what we talked about earlier with God's response that he'll ... because you don't want to demand of something of God, but you always pray according to his will or according to his purpose. So that's a simple, easy way to do it, if you keep that in mind and then practice it with someone you trust or is not going to give you a hard time, and you ...
Gregory Seltz: Positive critique.
Mark Rockenbach: That's right, you need that back. And I should do it, you'll get better at it, you'll feel more comfortable.
Gregory Seltz: Right.
Mark Rockenbach: The thing I find is when you offer, like I do this with the students at the seminary. Whatever I get done meeting with them I always say, "Well, how may I pray for you today?" And they are always shocked by that. They are not anticipating it, and so sometimes uncomfortableness comes on their part because now they have to come up with something. But as I do with them, more they get used to it and they, some of them will show up say with something in mind already because they know I'm gonna ask that question. So if you can do that and practice that, watch and see how that open-doors for you.
Gregory Seltz: It's like you are starting a conversation with them and you are lifting that conversation up before the Lord.
Mark Rockenbach: Yeah.
Gregory Seltz: And that means you got to get to know them and they've got to get to know you and you start to share information.
Mark Rockenbach: Right.
Gregory Seltz: Wonderful. There are times when we are grieving, we are depressed, we are confused, we just don't know where to start. And this booklet does help us understand prayer, why it's important, but I love it. It shows us how to begin, it shows us how to start with words, you can voice in your prayer even when you don't know what to say.
Mark Eischer: And in just a moment I'll tell how and where you can receive your free copy of this resource, "Prayer: When You Don't Know What to Say."
Mark Eischer: Dr. Mark Rockenbach, thank you so much for being with us here today.
Mark Rockenbach: It's been a joy to be here, thanks.
Mark Eischer: Our pleasure as well. And that's our action in ministry segment today, to bless, to empower and to strengthen your life in Christ for others. For your free copy of this resource, "Prayer: When You Don't Know What to Say," go to Lutheranhour.org and click on Action In Ministry or call 1855 John 316, that's 1-855-564-6316.
LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for June 4, 2017
Topic: Who is the Holy Spirit?
Announcer: Who is the Holy Spirit? That will be our question today for Pastor Gregory Seltz, I'm Mark Eischer. The Bible teaches us that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Father is our creator; the Son, Jesus, is our savior. But what about that third person of the Holy Trinity, who is the Holy Spirit?
Gregory Seltz: Mark, our listener phrased the question well. It's good to hear the question "who" is the Holy Spirit instead of "what" is the Holy Spirit because the Holy Spirit is God, and the Apostle Paul affirmed the Holy Spirit's personhood as God when he said in Second Corinthians, the Lord is the Spirit.
Announcer: And the Holy Spirit is not an afterthought or somehow less than God, He is truly and fully God, He is personal and present, but He seems mysterious. How do we relate to the Holy Spirit?
Gregory Seltz: There is some mystery to the work of the spirit, even Jesus told Nicodemus in John chapter 3 that the Spirit blows where and when He wills. He is not under our control, but Jesus was also very clear about what the Holy Spirit does and where He can be found.
Announcer: And in the gospel of John Jesus promised, the coming of the Holy Spirit.
Gregory Seltz: John chapter 14, Jesus let the disciples know that He would not leave them all alone. He anticipated His death, resurrection and ascension, and He assured His followers of God's ongoing and very present work. He says the Helper, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in My name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
Announcer: And this entire section of the gospel of John contains wonderful promises and teachings of Jesus. For example, in the next chapter he says, "When the Helper comes whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness about Me, and you also will bear witness because you've been with Me from the beginning."
Gregory Seltz: So here is some very clear teachings from Jesus about the very work of the Holy Spirit for all of us. He is called the Helper, the Holy Spirit is called the Encourager, the Comforter. He also brings to our minds the teachings of Jesus through His word. He bears testimony to Jesus and he fuels our witness of Jesus to others.
Announcer: And from this we could be impression the Holy Spirit is very active in our lives as we wait for Christ to return.
Gregory Seltz: He is very active. Jesus even lifted up our need for the Holy Spirit when He said in John 16. If I don't go away, the spirit won't come to you; but if I go I'm going to send Him to you, and when He comes He is going to convict the world concerning sin, righteousness and judgment. So this is a remarkable activity of the very present and caring spirit of God.
Announcer: And later in that same chapter Jesus gives yet another promise concerning the Holy Spirit. He said when the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak and He will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me for He will take what is mine and declare it to you.
Gregory Seltz: That's my favorite verse, Mark, Jesus' amazing promise of how active the Spirit is in our lives, so let's keep it simple. The Holy Spirit is the giver of life and the life that Jesus won for us on the cross and then the resurrection. And He is ready to bring that life to our listeners right now. In fact He is located in tangible and in assessable places so we can be certain of His presence and His help.
Announcer: In one location Jesus mentions is God's word, the Bible.
Gregory Seltz: Yeah, if you want to be connected to the work of the Spirit, read God's word, through the word the Spirit of God sanctifies us, He cleanses us, makes us holy for the forgiveness of sins. The Holy Spirit also works wherever Jesus name is, through baptism especially.
Peter says to the crowd in Acts, "Repent and be baptized," washed, "every one of you in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Spirit." So the spirit is alive, active in our lives, He comes through the gifts of God's word and sacraments to bring us Christ's blessings of forgiveness life and salvation. Now, listen, don't take my word on it to anyone listening, you can read it for yourself.
Announcer: The Holy Spirit, a person, not a thing or a force but present an active through God's word working to give us both life and faith.
Gregory Seltz: Yes.
Announcer: Thank you, Pastor Seltz, this has been a presentation of Lutheran Hour Ministries.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"Come, Holy Ghost, God and Lord" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)
"Holy Spirit, Ever Dwelling" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)