I’m unsettled lately! Actually, I have been unsettled for a while now. I am unsettled by the discrepancy between my life and the promises of the New Testament. Jesus promised every Christian, “Whoever believes in me, as the scripture has said ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’” (John 7:38 ESV). Rivers. Not a trickle, not a gentle stream, not one river, but RIVERS! When was the last time my heart experienced rivers of living waters flowing out of me to bless others?
I’m uncomfortable because of the distance between my experience and biblical experience. Think about this description of the Christian life. “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 5:5). Poured out! Now, I know that not every day of the Christian life is fireworks, but when was the last time I found myself revitalized under a fresh downpour of God’s love? I think I’d notice if that happened. I want that to happen.
I’m not saying I have no Christian experience. I have faith (Heb.11:1). I fight the fight of faith (1 Tim. 6:12). I see God slowly growing graces in my life like fruit ripening on a tree (Gal. 5:16). I am sure I am His, but I am unsettled by the difference between the heights of my experience and the heights of New Testament experience. I don’t want to just read about “the breadth and length and height and depth” of the love of Christ (Eph. 3:18). I want to experience it. In fact, I am desperate to experience more of the love of God. “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God” (Psalm 42:1). Do you pant like that?
So what am I doing about it? First, I am trying to obey God more carefully under the grace of the gospel. God makes it abundantly clear that obedience is the pathway to a greater knowledge of Him. He makes His home within the obedient soul. “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23). Two verses earlier, He promises the obedient soul that He will “love him” and show Himself to him “who is obedient” (John 14:21 NIV). I want to see Him, so I am seeking to root sin out of my life in order that my Lord will find every part of my soul as a place He feels at home. Don’t you long for God to feel at home with every decision you make, show you watch, and hour you spend?
Secondly, I am doing this under the grace of the gospel. I am not trying to earn God’s favor by keeping His Law perfectly. That doesn’t work. I am laboring to kill sin and live in righteousness as a sinner saved by grace. If you try to get more of the Spirit by the Law (by obeying God to get His favor) He will leave you high and dry. If you seek more of the Spirit by repenting of your sins and trusting in the gospel, you will find that God gives more than you ever desired. Paul was at pains to get the Galatians to remember this principle when he interrogated them, asking, “Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith?” (Gal. 3:5). The answer is obvious. The Spirit comes to us as we simply believe. Yes, John says, if you’re going to have more of God’s Spirit you must obey (see above). But your first point of obedience needs to be remembering the gospel. Every other point of careful obedience flows out of that first point of gospel belief.
Finally, I am praying. I am spending extra time in prayer. I am fighting for time in prayer. I am trying to pray like my soul depends on it, because it does. I am asking God to pour rivers of living waters through my soul. I am asking to know the love of God that surpasses understanding. I am pleading because God has promised to answer when we ask. Our Heavenly Father has promised to “give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him” (Luke 11:13). So I am asking, and asking again, and asking again. I hope He will give me power to wrestle with Him like Jacob who said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me” (Gen. 32:26). Are you laying hold of God in prayer? If not, what’s getting in the way? What’s laying hold of you?
Will you join me in seeking God more earnestly? Sadly, our lives can become filled with compromises. The writer to the Hebrews tells us that sin “clings so closely” (Heb. 12:1). Will you join me in a renewed effort to put off sin this summer? Our eyes can also waiver from the gospel. Will you join me in fixing our eyes on Jesus, and living by faith in the Son of God “who loved [you] and gave Himself for [you]” (Gal 2:20)? And finally, our schedules can so quickly crowd out prayer. Even though we know we can’t overcome one of the devil’s temptations on our own, and we have no power to obey on our own, we allow prayer to be crowded out of our lives. It is a tragic folly. We must pray! Will you join me in pushing back every hindrance by saying “No” to every distraction that would keep us from prayer? I pray you will, because I long to experience more of God with the whole church. To that end, I leave you with these verses that should encourage all of us to pray more together and when we are alone so that we “may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen” (Eph. 3:18-21).