In our Sunday preaching, we have been focused on the river of life, and recently I pointed out that it is in the very nature of this river to overflow. The life that we receive from Jesus, and through the Holy Spirit, is an abundant life (John 10:10). It brims over, it overflows, it breaks its banks. It is a river and not a canal. A canal is generally controlled in terms of the quantity of water it contains, but it is in the nature of the river to overflow as more water flows into it.
One of the practical expressions of this, I suggested, is that the life we enjoy in Christ cannot be contained in buildings, meetings or in obviously spiritual activities like reading our Bibles, praying or serving in the church. Good though these things are. The river breaks through the divide of sacred and secular so that everything that we do is spiritual. That way, things that we really enjoy doing, those times when we feel fully alive, the things in which we find the favour of God and ‘feel his pleasure’, are all expressions of this life – cooking a meal, reading a book, riding a bike, enjoying our families. All are the overflow of the life of God within, and all can be expressions of worship. It also means that this river can flow in our everyday worlds and is not limited to ‘spiritual’ times and places: we can do our jobs as expressions of his life and love. To be spiritual is simply to express the life of God wherever we are. ‘The glory of God is a human being fully alive’ (attributed to Irenaeus).
But then I delivered a simple warning. Although these expressions, or overflows, of life are totally spiritual, they are not the source of our life. I say this because, whenever we are feeling distressed, disappointed or disillusioned, especially with church life, we can try to retreat into these things that we enjoy doing, that we get such satisfaction from. We try to get our sustenance from them. But we have only one source – Jesus Christ, who is our life (Phil.1:21). And the overflow can never be our source. Much as I love reading as an overflow of the life of God within me, I can never get my life from books. When we try to treat the overflow as if it is the source, eventually the river within us will dry up. Then, even the things that did once make us feel alive will come to seem barren and empty. Because what was overflow has become a means of escape.
Sometimes, bruised and aching from the challenges of trying to build true family life – which, let’s face it, can be very difficult – we retreat into those things we enjoy doing, and which are legitimate. But we are trying to make the overflow into our source. And it doesn’t work. We might try and kid ourselves that we are still connected to the source, Jesus, and it is just the church we are disconnecting from. But you can’t have the head without the body. We can’t decapitate Christ. To stay connected to our source, Jesus, means to stay connected to his people, the church. If we love Jesus, we will work at loving one another, no matter how difficult it is at times.
So, enjoy the overflow of the river but stay connected to the source – Jesus: and he comes with a body!
To hear the message go here.