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.” – John 7:37-38 (NIV)
What is Jesus referring to here when He says “rivers of living water?” The Bible gives a clear answer in the very next verse:
“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.” – John 7:39 (NIV)
Jesus is referring to the Holy Spirit. I believe He also refers to this same living water in John 4, when He’s talking to the Samaritan woman at the well.
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” – John 4:10 (NIV)
So now we have two references to living water. One reference is clearly identified in Scripture to mean the Holy Spirit. In the other reference, Jesus refers to “the gift of God.” Later on in His conversation with the Samaritan woman, Jesus says this:
“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” – John 4:23-24 (NIV)
The Father is seeking worshipers to worship Him in the Spirit and in truth. Many Christians are worshiping in truth to the best of their understanding and ability, but I believe they are not yet worshiping in the Spirit, at least not in the fullness of what that term means. Why do I believe that?
Because Paul identifies for us a very important way to worship in the Spirit:
“For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding. Otherwise when you are praising God in the Spirit, how can someone else, who is now put in the position of an inquirer, say ‘Amen’ to your thanksgiving, since they do not know what you are saying? You are giving thanks well enough, but no one else is edified.” – 1 Corinthians 14:14-17 (NIV)
This little passage from 1 Corinthians makes it very clear that “praising God in the Spirit” refers to praising God in tongues. It also makes clear that praying in the spirit and singing in the spirit refers to praying and singing in tongues.
Could the phrase “worship in the Spirit” mean other things? Yes. It could. I am not insisting that worshiping God in the Spirit must refer exclusively to tongues. Romans 12:1 says that presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice is our “spiritual worship” (in the ESV).
But I think at the very least, people should consider the possibility that what Jesus is saying in John 4:23-24 is that the Father is looking for worshipers who will yield themselves completely to the Holy Spirit, be baptized in the Holy Spirit, and begin to worship Him in a personal language, or tongue, that He gives them.
Just consider it. Ask God about it. Explore what Scripture says about it.
This personal prayer language, or tongue, bypasses your intellect. It is the literal expression of your spirit praising God and thanking God, as enabled by the Holy Spirit to do so. It’s not anything to be afraid of.
It is wonderful.
It is powerful.
It is good.
It is Holy.
And the Father is seeking worshipers who will worship Him in this way.
Let the rivers of living water flow!
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