So what is the way into this union with God? "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.' But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified" (John 7:37-39). In this statement by Jesus I believe we have the essential elements God is looking for in our lives that are necessary to bring us into this union with God: thirst, come, and drink--and all of these must be done with a believing heart that is focused on Jesus as our only hope.
First of all, the call is to those who are thirsty. If we are not thirsty for more than we have now, I do not believe we will go any farther. If we are satisfied where we are, why would we want more? Here is what Jesus said to the woman at the well: "Jesus answered and said to her, 'If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, "Give Me a drink," you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.' The woman said to Him, 'Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?' Jesus answered and said to her, 'Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life'" (John 4:10-14).
Are we defensive or thirsty? Are we justifying our position before God, or hungry for the rivers of living water? Do we know the gift of God and who gives it? Jesus told a story about two men who came before God in prayer: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank You that I am not like other men--extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.' And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted" (Luke 18:10-14).
This parable may not seem to apply to the subject at hand, but I see an attitude here that we must always maintain if we are going on in God. An attitude of self-justification in comparison to others is always wrong and leaves us in a place of stagnation. Faith is always hungry and thirsty for more of God and works out in humility before Him. Are we satisfied with Jesus? Absolutely! But should we be satisfied with only what we have experienced of Him to this point? Never! Here is what Paul said near the end of his life: "Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind" (Phil. 3:12-16).
Regardless of where we are in our relationship with God, there is always more to experience. So often our minds get in the way and we come before God to tell Him where we are instead of letting Him reveal where we are. Only God can search us out and know us. "For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one's praise will come from God" (I Cor. 4:4-5). Let us be hungry and thirsty and stay before God in a place of humility where God can work.
Secondly, we must come to Jesus. He is the only one who can meet the needs of our life. He is the only one who can forgive sin. He is the only one who can baptize us with the Holy Spirit. We will stand before Him one day and give an account. There is only one mediator between God and man, and that is Jesus our Lord. We must do business with Jesus.
So often we find ourselves going to another source when we have a need. We often go to another person, to a book, to our own ideas, or just don't go any place. But to come to Jesus, we must forsake all others and come directly to Him. He says that He is there to meet us, but He does not chase after us. We find many accounts in the scripture of men and women who came to Him, determined not to be denied. There were crowds, religious leaders, physical problems, and a host of other things that could deter them. But those who were determined to press past all the barriers got to Jesus and received what they desired.
A closely related mistake is to think that by coming to the scriptures (the Bible), we have come to Jesus. We do need to use the scriptures for what they were given for--"doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness" according to (II Tim. 3:16)--but if that is where we stop, we stop short of life. "You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life" (John 5:39-40). We cannot get life from the Bible. We can only get life from Jesus. The scriptures point the way to Jesus and Jesus gives us life. Have we come to Jesus?
"And He said to them, 'Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, "Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him"; and he will answer from within and say, "Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you"? I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs. So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!'" (Luke 11:5-13)
Thirdly, we must drink. What does it mean to drink? When we lift a glass of water to our lips to drink, we let down all reserve and receive it into our body. What does this mean in spiritual terms? Do we not receive without reserve what Jesus offers us? We must take it within us so that our thirst may be satisfied. "Then Jesus said to them, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven--not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever'" (John 6:53-58).
This cannot be understood by the natural mind, can it? We cannot "figure that out" and explain it to everybody. When Jesus first spoke these words, many said it was "a hard saying," and "from that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more" (John 6:66). Is this not a place where we must let down our reserves, lay aside our understanding, and come to Jesus and receive what He offers? Our natural tendency is to avoid this place. We like to stay in control, going only as far as we can understand. But if we are going to experience more of God, I believe we must allow the Holy Spirit to lead us where we do not understand. "But as it is written: 'Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.' But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God" (I Cor. 2:9-12).
Finally, Jesus says: "He who believes in Me..." We must thirst, come, and drink believing in Jesus. What does it mean to believe in Jesus? Do we know? He is the Way into God. To believe in a doctrine (even about Jesus) is one thing, but to believe in the person of Jesus is quite another thing. He did not say that He would show us the way; He said that He is the way. The phrase "believe in Jesus" is so common to us that we can easily pass it by, assuming we know what it means. But if we search the scriptures, we find that when men have done this, something happened. The account of Cornelius in Acts 10 is an example. Faith is the way God has chosen for us to enter into the things of God, and Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith. "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Heb. 11:6).
We may think we have believed in Jesus, but nothing happened. Beloved, we must not accuse God. God is faithful, and Jesus said that if we would believe, rivers of living water would flow from within. If the rivers are not flowing, our place is to stay before God until they do. We may not know why they are not flowing, but God does. There is no other way. Jesus is faithful. God may need to deal with us and prepare us, and we may not know what is lacking. Will He reveal? I believe He will. Will He give? He has promised to do so. Let us not pull back in unbelief, but rather draw near until we receive what we desire from God and God desires to give: Himself.