STUDY GUIDE: SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON 29, March 29, 2009
Transformation – the Work of the Holy Spirit
Theme Verse: “Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–which is your spiritual worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:1-2
Readings: John 7:37-39
Optional: John 4; Jeremiah 2:13; Psalm 107:33-38; Isaiah 44:3,4; Ezekiel 47; Acts 2:17-18; Acts 10:45; Luke 1:15; Acts 4:8; John 7
Memory Verse: “If a man is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” John 7:37-38 (Pre-K to grade 3)
Background. Water is a theme running through the Old and New Testaments like an underground river that comes to the surface from time to time. It sees water as a symbol for the Holy Spirit as well as literal references to water as a part of the creation and as a vehicle and symbol of ritual and spiritual cleansing. “Living water” is especially important. Literally and symbolically it refers to fresh, free flowing water that is continually renewed. In passages that refer to God’s Holy Spirit, he is often spoken of in terms of a liquid: “pour out” and “filled”. (NOTE)
Now read John 7:37-39. This takes place at the Feast of Tabernacles. The Lord Jesus wants us to believe in him and believe him for he is the source of “living water”, the Holy Spirit. We need to be thirsty for more of Jesus and his Holy Spirit!! The Lord wants to refresh us and cause his living water to flow out of us to others.
“On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:37-38 ) A word received: I want the children and the adults to examine what they believe. The first thing Jesus is asking here is for us to examine where we are with him. Do we believe in him, that he is God’s Word made flesh, the Son of God, the Savior of all who come to him? Then do we believe him, that is, trust our lives into his keeping and try to obey and follow him? Then, are we hungry and thirsty for more of him and what he longs to give us? This involves being intentional about a choice for Jesus and intentional about asking for more of his Spirit. A Word received: Pray that my people will seek all that I have to offer them. Pray that they will not stop half way. I long for my people to receive my grace and my Holy Spirit. I long for them to know my father’s love. I long for them to lay their burdens at my feet. Come to me; I AM waiting for you.
Remember the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4). At first she thought that Jesus was talking about regular water when he offered her “living water” but when he finally told her he was the Messiah she believed him and through her word the whole village found new life in Jesus, that “living water”.
Now let’s look at some of the Old Testament references to water as a symbol for the Holy Spirit and for God himself. God had rescued his people from slavery and given them a good land and a covenant with him but they were always disobeying, wandering of to be like their pagan neighbors. God tells Jeremiah that this is like choosing stale water from a cistern, sometimes even empty ones over the plenty of fresh water. (Jeremiah 2:13) “My people have forsaken me, the spring of living water and have dug their own cistern, broken cistern that cannot hold water. ” That is what God’s people do when they turn to their own way and away from God. Psalm 107:33-38 also contrasts the consequences of choices for and against God. For those who go their own way, fruitful land becomes a desert and for those who choose God, a desert will become a land of flowing springs.
What God wants for his people is expressed in Isaiah 55:1,4. “Come all you who are thirsty, come to the waters… Then he says “Seek the Lord while he may be found. Call upon him while he is near. ” Isaiah 44:3,4 “For I will pour water on the thirsty ground…I will pour out my Spirit on you offspring and my blessing on you descendents. ” But Israel, God’s people, mostly turned their backs on God in that time –so they ended up in the desert of exile. God longs to provide abundantly for his people–IF they will only turn back to him and desire him and his Holy Spirit.
We see a picture of this in Ezekiel 47 where the prophet Ezekiel sees a vision of a river of water flowing out of the Temple of God. First the water (think Holy Spirit) was ankle deep, then knee deep and finally it was a river so deep you have to take your feet off the ground and swim. Now along the river bank were lots of fruit trees , having leaves of healing. There were lot of fresh fish for people to eat because the water was fresh, running water.
In the New Testament the book of Acts uses water to represent the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:17-18 and 10:45 talk about the Holy Spirit being “poured out” and of people being “filled” with the Holy Spirit. See Luke 1:15 and Acts 4:8 )
Jesus longs to refresh our thirst and fill us to overflowing (like a spring) so the water of life, the Holy Spirit, will flow out to others. There is both a personal and a corporate side to being filled with the Holy Spirit, so that not only we, but the whole Body (the church) and thirsty people outside the church will be impacted.
A word received: I want your hearts to be transformed by my Holy Spirit. I want to flood you with my Spirit. I want my Spirit to flow out of you. I want you to be changed by my presence in your heart.
Look again at the Memory Verse. A word received: I want to refresh you. I want you to be wells of my Spirit. I want others to be able to drink deeply of my Spirit because you believe and thirst and receive.
PRAYER: Dear Lord, make us hungry and thirsty for more of you. Fill us to overflowing with your Spirit.
There is always more that God wants for us, beyond what we have already received.
Attached is an article written in 1919 that shows the impact of our choices about allowing the Holy Spirit to have free reign in our lives, on others as well as ourselves.
NOTE: “The Gospel of John uses water almost exclusively to express his theology of the Spirit, which is closely linked to the activity of the Spirit.” “The key to this understanding lies in the water libation ritual of the Feast of Booths (Feast of Tabernacles). which was accompanied by a prayer for the “latter rain” of fall which the early church believed to be the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Jesus announces that he is the source of such “living water” at this very ceremony. ” (See John 7) Page 1047-48, Eerdman’s Bible Dictionary.
A Watered Garden, by W. B. Anderson, 1919
I have a precious memory. It is the memory of a garden that I happened upon one tired midsummer’s morning, in the midst of a torrid plain in India. I was weary, and travel-stained, and thirsty, when over the drooping head of the horse, I saw a clump of trees on the far horizon. I hoped it might be a garden. It seemed ages until we should reach it. When we did arrive under the spreading branches of great mango trees, a cool zephyr, as grateful as the fanning of angels’ wings, rippled over my parched cheeks. It was still early in the day, when, swinging myself wearily from the hard seat of the springless yekka, I walked straight into the heart of the garden, down the shady aisle of mango and loquat trees. Before dawn there had been a shower of rain, and now the gardener was running the clear, cool water from the irrigating well all about among trees and shrubs. Everywhere leaves were green and flowers were bright. Parrots circled through the cloudless blue, swung upon the swaying branches, calling merrily to one another. The air was ladened with the intoxicating odors of roses and jasmine. The fountain sparkled laughingly in the shaded center of the garden. I stooped to bathe my hands and face in the cool waters of the fountain’s basin. Then, from its joyous spring I drank until satisfied. I sat for a few precious moments upon the marble edge of the fountain and reveled in the refreshment of a watered garden. The driver called, and I hurried out again across the stifling, heated plain. I had tarried for so short a time, but I was a new man. I carried away the song of the garden in my heart, and its echoes shall never die from my life.
I was making the same journey in another year. The road was more uninviting than before, the weather was hotter, and I was not only weary, but ill. But I had a memory! For hours I looked and longed for the place of the garden of refreshing. At last we came to the shade of its trees. Wearily and weakly, but eagerly, I climbed from the seat of the torturing, springless cart. With unsteady steps I entered the door of the garden. The trees were gray with dust. The flowers drooped in the heat. The little water courses were parched and dry. The fountain was stopped. My soul sank with weariness, and I turned away sick at heart to finish the torturing journey unrefreshed. At the door I met the gardener. I asked him why his garden languished so. He explained with guilty look that he had been absent attending to affairs of his own for a week. I asked him if the raja would not be vexed at the neglect of his garden. He explained that the raja had gone to the mountains for a month. Then I knew that the garden had been neglected because the master’s orders had been disobeyed. He intended that every traveler might be refreshed; but his gardener had not been faithful.
I have a precious memory. It is a memory of a friend. Sin-stricken and weary, and far from God, I was traveling one day when I came into his life. His whole life was wet with the dews of Heaven; his garments were redolent with the odors of Paradise; he just breathed the very life of God. I sat and communed with him, and from within his life there flowed into mine rivers of living water. I walked with him through lovely avenues of restful shade in his friendship, and saw heavenly vistas, and drank from life-giving springs. I went out to my life renewed and refreshed. I was a new man, and there rang through all my being a song of the memory of that blessed life. All through eternity shall the echoes of that friendship call from peak to peak for me.
In time of need and anguish I came again to that friend. I ran to meet him as a shelter from my sore distress. I found him and entered into communion with him. But the fountains of his life seemed dried up. The refreshment seemed to have vanished. His own life seemed parched and drooping. His speech was as the speech of other men. I struggled back to my own life as I came. Later he told me that the King of his life was not being obeyed, and the garden of his heart was not being watered.. The trees and the walks of his friendship were still there, but they no longer soothed and strengthened. The fountain of his friendship was still there, but its waters had been hushed. The King had intended that this garden, this life, should be kept perpetually refreshing for the souls of all who might come to it, but the King had not been obeyed, and the living water had not been kept flowing, and I went away unrefreshed.
Then I prayed, “Oh God, keep flowing into me, and within me, and from within me Thy rivers of living water for the health and joy of other men! Oh, King of life, make my life a watered garden!”