The Four 'F's of the Holy Spirit
Robbie Williams once went on a shopping spree in Los Angeles. He bought seven cars, including a brand new Ferrari, a brand new Porsche and a brand new Mercedes. Within a week he wished he had not bought any of them.
I admire Robbie Williams’ openness about himself. He is ruthlessly honest about his self-obsession and addictions. In his song, Feel, he sings:
I just want to feel real love…
There’s a hole in my soul
You can see it in my face
It’s a real big place.
God implants this desire ‘to feel real love’ in humanity. This ‘hole in my soul’ is common to all human beings. It cannot be filled by cars, wealth, success or drugs. It is a God-shaped hole. It is a spiritual hunger and thirst. Jesus said that if we come to him and drink, he will satisfy this spiritual thirst by giving us the Holy Spirit to live within us (John 7:37).
1. Fruit and 2. favour
Do you want your life to make a difference? Do you realise that your life can be a source of blessing to other people every day?
‘The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life’ (11:30). As we look back at Proverbs 11, we can see this as a summary of all the different fruit of the righteous:
- Love (v.23)
- Joy (v.10)
- Peace (v.8)
- Patience (v.16)
- Kindness (v.17)
- Goodness (v.17)
- Faithfulness (v.6)
- Gentleness (v.2b, GNB)
- Self-control (v.12)
This is the fruit of the Spirit that the apostle Paul describes in Galatians 5:22, in which each of these characteristics also appears. It is the Spirit who enables and helps you to live the kind of righteous life that is described in both passages.
As you live like this, you enjoy ‘favour from the Lord’ (Proverbs 12:2). The image of a ‘tree of life’ (11:30) is a beautiful depiction of this favour. It recurs again and again in Scripture, and is also closely linked to the work of the Spirit in our lives (see Ezekiel 47:1–12; Revelation 22:1–2).
Lord, I pray for more of the fruit of the Holy Spirit in my life today: more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
We all know what it is like to be physically thirsty. Our mouths go dry, our throats are parched, our strength fades and we crave water. How satisfying it is to drink when we are thirsty.
Do you know that it is also possible to be spiritually thirsty? In this golden passage, Jesus describes how our spiritual thirst can be quenched (the hole in our soul filled) and the effect that this can have on our lives.
Jesus anticipates what will happen on the day of Pentecost. He speaks about the transformation by the streams of living water that the Holy Spirit brings to your life: ‘By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified’ (v.39).
It was ‘the last and greatest day of the Feast [of Tabernacles]’ (v.37). This was the day when the people anticipated that the great river prophesied in Ezekiel 47 would flow out from Jerusalem. ‘Jesus stood’ (John 7:37). The usual custom was to sit when teaching, but the words Jesus had to say were so significant that he wanted to be seen and heard by all the people. He cried out ‘in a loud voice’ (v.37). His message was only twenty-four words in the Greek language, but it is a life-changing promise that you can still experience today.
- Who makes this promise?
The people were amazed by Jesus’ teaching. He had never even been to Bible school or theological college! (v.15). He received his teaching from God (v.16). And he says anyone who ‘chooses to do the will of God’ (v.17) will recognise this.
Jesus calls for a response. Some thought: ‘Surely this man is the Prophet’ (v.40). However, as C. S. Lewis pointed out, Jesus did not leave that option open. There are really only three options: that someone who said the sort of things Jesus said would either be insane or ‘the Devil of Hell’. Or the only third possibility is that ‘this man was, and is, the Son of God’. We see these three options demonstrated in today’s reading:
1. Some thought him ‘the Devil of Hell’: ‘You are demon-possessed’ (v.20)
2. Some thought him insane: ‘He is... raving mad’ (10:19)
3. But others recognised, ‘He is the Christ’ (7:41)
- To whom is the promise made?
Jesus said, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink’ (v.37). It is made to every human being. It applies to Robbie Williams. It applies to all who have never experienced the Holy Spirit. But it also applies to those who feel dissatisfied spiritually. Do you feel like a failure in your prayer life? Do you sometimes feel frustrated at your level of holiness? Do you long for a closer relationship with God? If you do, you are spiritually ‘thirsty’ and the promise applies to you.
- What is the promise?
Jesus says, ‘Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flowing from within’ (v.38). The Feast of Tabernacles was anticipating the river that would flow out of the temple in Jerusalem as prophesied in Ezekiel 47 (which was read and enacted at the feast). Jesus tells them that this has been fulfilled, not in a place but in a Person.
The river flows out of the heart of Jesus (out of his ‘koilia’ – the pit of his stomach or his innermost being) and in a derivative way out of every Christian (John 7:38).
The river flows into you and out of you. The river will flow into the little ‘Dead Seas’ of our hearts and out from our ‘innermost being’. Superficially, life may not be easy, but deep down the Holy Spirit constantly flows like a ‘river of living water’.
This river does not flow once in a while. It flows continuously. It is not supposed to be blocked up. It should be constantly bubbling up and flowing out of us.
As Father Raniero Cantalamessa put it, ‘A Christian in whom the Holy Spirit dwells is not exempt from having to experience struggle, temptations, disorderly desires, rebellious feelings… [the difference is that all these things come] upon him against his will.’ They are on the surface. Yet there is a ‘peace in the depth of their hearts. That is like a deep-ocean current always flowing steadily regardless of the wind and the waves on the surface’.
- How do we receive the promise?
Jesus says let them ‘come to me and drink’ (v.37). It is a promise for ‘whoever believes in me’ (vv.38–39). It is as simple as that. It can flow from you as you come to him and drink today.
Lord, I come to you today. Fill me again today with your Holy Spirit, with streams of living water to bring life to everyone I encounter.
Are there habits in your life from which you long to break free? Are there thought patterns you need to change? Are there spiritual bondages from which you need to be released?
If anyone was ‘wild at heart’ it was Samson. He had extraordinary strength, might and ability. But his life was hardly a model. The story of Samson’s life is bizarre, extraordinary and perhaps a bit embarrassing.
However, Samson is highlighted in the New Testament as one of the heroes of faith (Hebrews 11:32). God uses all types of people. He uses us in spite of our sins and weaknesses.
In this passage we see that Samson’s strength and successes are the result of his being filled with the Holy Spirit. On three occasions in today’s passage we read that, ‘The Spirit of the Lord came upon him in power’ (Judges 14:6,19; 15:14).
It is amazing what can happen when the Spirit of the Lord comes upon people ‘in power’. As so often, what God did in the Old Testament in a physical way he did in the New Testament in a spiritual way.
On the third occasion we read that ‘the Spirit of the Lord came upon him in power. The ropes on his arms became like charred flax, and the bindings dropped from his hands’ (15:14). This can be seen as a picture of release from bondage. The power of the Holy Spirit can release us from the things that bind us.
Lord, today I need your power to break the bondages in my life, to fill me with streams of living water, to satisfy my own thirst and the thirst of others. Help me like Jesus, to demonstrate not only the power of the Spirit, but also the fruit of the Spirit in my daily life.
Samson seemed an odd hero, born with so much promise. How did he turn out to be such a wild, unpredictable man? He had so many faults and disastrous relationships, yet God raised him up to lead Israel for twenty years. He might have done better if he had followed God more wholeheartedly and not indulged his own passions.