On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and proclaimed, “If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, which those who believed in him were to receive; for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified (John 7:37-39, RSV).
The Feast of Tabernacles was one of the three major celebrations on the Jewish calendar of worship. It was a harvest festival during which the people gave thanks for the gathered crops.
Jesus knew that he would be the chief topic of conversation at this popular feast, so he urged his unbelieving brothers to go ahead to the feast in Jerusalem; he would come later, alone. When he arrived, he began teaching in the temple, attracting great crowds. He was not spouting dogmas, but declaring convicting truths. The chief priest and Pharisees sent officers out to arrest him. They returned empty-handed with only one exclamation: “No man ever spoke like this man!” (John 7:46).
On the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, and during the featured ritual—the pouring of the water from the golden pitcher on the base of the altar, a commemoration of the flowing water from the smitten rock in the wilderness—there was a holy interruption: Jesus stood and proclaimed, “If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water’” (John 7:37-38).
The Beloved Apostle John makes sure that his readers know the meaning of Jesus’ words. He explained, “Now this he said about the Spirit, which those who believed in him were to receive; for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:39).
Following Jesus’ death on the cross, willingly offered in atonement for our sins, and after his entombment and resurrection came his ascension and glorification.
Then came the Feast of Pentecost and the fulfillment of the promise of Jesus to give the Holy Spirit to believers. Luke reports, “When the day of Pentecost had come, they (believers) were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:1-4, RSV).
“And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit,” said Luke. The word filled denotes abundance (bountiful, plentiful). “I came,” said Jesus, “that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10, RSV).
In his teachings, Jesus stressed that the secret of a victorious life for his followers would be in their relationship with the Holy Spirit, who would be given to each of them at the new birth experience. The apostle Peter took Jesus seriously, so that after the Spirit had been given at the Feast of Pentecost, he promised those who would “repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins … you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38, RSV).
All who are born again have the gift of the Holy Spirit. Yet, many believers who have the gift of eternal life do not have abundant life. They live in a vacuum—empty, bored, unhappy, restless, frustrated, powerless. Why is this? Because they ignore what Jesus taught concerning our relationship with the Holy Spirit. He is called “The Spirit of life.” At Pentecost, the sound from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind was the breath of God pouring into the hearts and lives of true believers. The apostle Paul would later speak of the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, claiming that those who live by this principle are free from the law of sin and death, and that those who live according to the Spirit experience life and peace (Romans 8:2-6, RSV).
Why have so many Christian believers failed to move from their initial new-birth experiences into the abundant life promised by Jesus? Is it because they assumed that being born again was all there is to the Christian life? Was merely getting saved and then going back to their same old life their intention? Were they not under deep conviction of their sin and need of a Savior who would forgive, transform, and give them a new heart, a new Spirit, a new power, a new joy, a new destiny, and a new hope?
It might make an amazingly interesting hour for any number of Christians to gather and discuss with humility and honesty the reasons why they are not living the same kind of lives exemplified in the book of Acts by those who had been filled with the Spirit.
And then how glorious it would be if they all got on their knees and repented before God for their bondage to the world and the flesh, their unbelief, and their spiritual pride. Such a group would be apt to experience an outpouring of the Spirit in cleansing, filling, and revival, just as happened in the book of Acts!
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8, RSV). The same Spirit of power who had anointed Jesus for his earthly mission is here promised to all who will ask for the same anointing that Jesus knew to enable him in his humanity for the following purposes: prayer, preaching, training apostles, healing the sick, casting out demons, and fulfilling his main purpose of atoning for the sins of mankind by giving his life on Calvary’s cross. As he prepared them for his ascension to the Father, he solemnly warned his apostles to return to Jerusalem and wait (in prayer) for the promise of the Father; stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high (Luke 24:49, RSV).
Since the Incarnate Son of God, Jesus Christ, had divested himself of his divine attributes, he knew that in his humanity he must be anointed of the Holy Spirit for the work the Father had called him to do. In Luke’s Gospel we read, “Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form, as a dove, and a voice came from heaven, ‘Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased’” (Luke 3:21-22, RSV).
Before Jesus began his mighty works—the showdown with Satan in the Wilderness of Temptation; the appointment of his Twelve Disciples; and the miracles of turning water into wine, walking on the water, casting out demons, healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, and raising the dead—he humbly and hungrily submitted himself in his humanity to be anointed by the Spirit of power. In Luke 4:18-19 (RSV), he explained his secret of authority and power to perform the supernatural: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor … to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
In preparing his disciples to succeed him in the great work of proclaiming his Gospel to the world, and in preparing them for the same anointing in the coming of the Holy Spirit upon them, he said: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son; if you ask anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:12-14, RSV).
The same anointing that rested upon Jesus for His ministry was promised to everyone “who believes in me …” Oh, that we might believe! Oh, that we might tarry for the promise—the anointing of the Holy Spirit. He is given at our moment of the New Birth, but we must seek His cleansing in order to be ready for the Spirit’s filling, the Spirit’s empowerment, the Spirit’s anointing.
The apostle John writes to believers in his first epistle about this anointing. After lamenting the departure of backsliders and apostates, he says to those in whom he has confidence, “But you have been anointed by the Holy One … and you know the truth”
(I John 2:20-21, NRSV). You hold a sacred appointment, you have been given an unction (ANT).
My dear fellow believers, haven’t we defaulted on our great assignment long enough? If Jesus did not endeavor to complete his mission in his human strength and wisdom alone, how can we finish the Great Commission without the same anointing that enabled him to finish his course in glorious victory! The term “anointing” means unction (a spiritual force; a mysterious, invisible power), an enabling authority, a holy boldness, an audacious faith.
Let us not be satisfied with merely the Holy Spirit’s indwelling us; we must allow him to “cleanse us from all unrighteousness” and pour out on us in fullness, setting us aflame with his passion for the kind of revival that will resurrect the “dry bones” in the church and redeem the lost all around!
Continuing Responses to ESTELLE
We are humbly grateful to the Lord for the way He is using our latest book! We had prayed throughout the time of writing and publishing that the Holy Spirit would use the life of our dear mother, who surrendered to God for a “sacrificial prayer life of intercession” to save her family and bring revival to her community.
Billy Graham responded a few weeks ago, rejoicing that having heard me relate the story of the Arkansas County Revival of 1946 and urging that I write a book on it, that what he had urged in 1975 had finally come to pass. He was grateful for the complimentary copy I had sent and was pleased to have it in his library.
Most of the 76 people who have written or called with positive responses have testified to being “convicted by the Spirit” to deepen their prayer life.” Several have been thankful that reading ESTELLE brought birth of a new hope that believers can still expect to see revival—that “dry bones can live again!” From the reports, we can say that a few congregations where the book has had good circulation are experiencing signs of revival already. To God be the glory!