“The cries of the mob suddenly changed to screams of excitement and exultation. Trembling from weakness, Caleb stood and took a few steps so he could see what was happening. Water gushed from a rock in the side of the mountain, forming a stream that raced down and pooled. Thousands sank to their knees and fell forward onto their hands to thrust their faces into the water and drink like animals. Another miracle! Another, just when they needed it most. Stumbling, Caleb made his way down the rocky slope. Pressing his way through the celebrants, his gaze never leaving the rock that flowed water, he squatted, cupped his hands, and drank. The rock itself was the well of life-giving water. The stream flowed straight from the stone, fresh and clear and cool. As Caleb drank deeply, he felt his body renewed, strengthened, revitalized. Closing his eyes, he held the precious water and washed his face, longing to immerse himself in it.” – Francine Rivers, “The Warrior”
(The above section comes from Francine Rivers series of books called the Sons of Encouragement, a re-telling of the Biblical accounts of Aaron, Caleb, David, Amos, and Silas)
Israelites, recently freed from slavery, were stumbling along thirsty and in need of fluids to replenish their body. They complain to Moses, then the rock is struck and water flows.
We are likewise stumbling along, thirsty and perishing for life-giving water. There was also a Rock that was struck for us and life-giving water flowed for all men. But how many will choose to keep on stumbling along, dying of dehydration because they don’t see the water, or they don’t like the source from whence it comes? Or how many will not realize their thirst until it’s too late?
Once you are made aware of the flowing stream and you realize your dehydration, you need to know that dehydration cannot be cured just by dipping your toes in the water or taking one drop of water once or twice a week.
“This is my endlessly recurrent temptation; to go down to that Sea (I think St. John of the Cross called God a sea) and there neither dive nor swim or float, but only dabble and splash, careful not to get out of my depth and holding on to the lifeline which connects me with my things temporal.” – Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis
Because we are afraid of what full acquiescence to this sea will require of us and we are not willing to give up the temporal lives and amenities we have now, we don’t want to commit to being fully hydrated and the responsibilities that come with that. C.S. Lewis goes on to say,
“It is different from the temptations that met us at the beginning of the Christian life. Then we fought (at least I fought) against admitting against the claims of the eternal at all. And when we had fought, and been beaten, and surrendered, we supposed that all would be fairly plain sailing. This temptation comes later. It is addressed to those who have already admitted the claim in principle and are even making some sort of effort to meet it. Our temptation is to look eagerly for the minimum that will be accepted. We are in fact very like honest but reluctant tax payers. We approve of an income tax in principle. We make our returns truthfully. But we dread a rise in tax. We are very careful to pay no more than is necessary. And we hope – we very ardently hope – that after we have paid it there will still be enough left to live on.”
After we have admitted that we need the eternal life-giving stream and are making an effort to replenish our starving body, then comes the temptation to get as little as possible while still holding on to the temporal and our wants and wishes.
But we misunderstand what God is asking of us. We think He requests our time and attention. While this is something we must use in the service of our Lord, it is not what He will be satisfied with.
“For it is not so much of our time and so much of our attention that God demands; it is not even all our time and all our attention; it is ourselves. He will be infinitely merciful to our repeated failures; I know no promise that He will accept a deliberate compromise. For He has, in the last resort, nothing to give us but Himself; and He can give that only insofar as our self-affirming will retires and makes room for Him in our souls. Let us make up our minds to do it; there will be nothing ‘of our own’ left over to live on, no ordinary life.
What cannot be admitted – what must exist only as an undefeated but daily resisted enemy – is the idea of something that is “our own”, some area in which we are to be “out of school”, on which God has no claim. For He claims all, because He is love and must bless. He cannot bless us unless He has us. When we try to keep within us an area that is our own, we try to keep an area of death.”
God wants our all. What is your all? Following Jesus demands certain steps must be made. When Jesus called His disciples the first step was to cut the disciples off from their previous existences. Peter, Andrew, James and John left their boats immediately. (Matthew 4:18-22) Matthew left his tax booth at Jesus’ words without a backwards glance. (Matthew 9:9) We see in Luke 9 that the men who told him that they must either bury their father or say farewell to those at home were not worthy to be followers of Christ. They tried to keep their lifeline still attached to the shore. It’s not something we can do all on our own. Otherwise we would have something of which we can boast. We would be able to point to our own righteousness in obtaining holiness.
“Mortification of our earthly desires and temptations and the old man must be done by the strength and under the direction of the Holy Spirit. But though mortification must be done by the strength and under the direction of the Holy Spirit, it is nevertheless a work we must do. Without the Holy Spirit’s strength there will be no mortification, but without our working in His strength there will also be no mortification. The crucial question is, “How do we destroy the strength and vitality of sin?” If we are to work at this difficult task, we must first have conviction. We must be persuaded that a holy life of God’s will for every Christian is important. We must believe that the pursuit of holiness is worth the effort and pain required to mortify the misdeeds of the body. We must be convinced that without holiness no one will see the Lord.” – Deitrich Bonheoffer
When you aren’t used to drinking the appropriate amount of water and you subconsciously train your body to ignore the signals of thirst, you don’t realize how dehydrated you are. Once you begin to drink more water, you become more thirsty, more quickly. Immersion in the Word is the same way. If you start to force yourself to drink more water, your body realizes it’s need. If you begin to form habits about reading the Scripture, you will realize your great need for Jesus and His life-giving spiritual water. This cannot happen if we try to keep a lifeline to shore and never fully immerse ourselves in the sea. As everyone knows, the longer you stay in water, the more raisin-like your skin gets. Our body more resembles the wrinkled bodies of the elderly.
2 Corinthians 4:16 “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.”
The longer we stay in the life-giving water the younger our spiritual bodies grow, regardless of how our outer bodies decay. But it all depends on making that choice. Without being immersed in the water, both our spiritual bodies and our physical bodies will be decaying and will end up cast in the lake of fire for eternity. It would be so remiss of me to be talking about water and using it metaphorically to explain our relationship with God and not mention baptism. Just as C.S. Lewis used water as a metaphor for becoming one with God, so Jesus shows us it is one of the steps we must take to have our sins washed away, by following Him in a death, burial, and resurrection.
- 1 Peter 3:21 “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
- Romans 6:4 “We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
Baptism is not an offer made by man to God, but an offer made by Christ to man. It is grounded solely on the will of Jesus Christ, as expressed in his gracious call. Baptism is essentially passive – being baptized, suffering the call of Christ. In baptism man becomes Christ’s own possession… From that moment he belongs to Jesus Christ. He is wrested from the dominion of the world, and passes into the ownership of Christ. Baptism therefore betokens a breach. Christ invades the realm of Satan, lays hands on his own, and creates for himself his Church. By this act past and present are rent asunder. The old order is passed away, and all things have become new. This breach is not effected by man’s tearing off his own chains through some unquenchable longing for a new life of freedom. The breach has been effected by Christ long since, and in baptism it is effected in our own lives. We are now deprived of our direct relationship with all God-given realities of life. Christ the mediator has stepped in between us and them. The baptized Christian has ceased to belong to the world and is no longer its slave. He belongs to Christ alone, and his relationship with the world is mediated through him. The breach with the world is complete. It demands and produces the death of the old man. In baptism a man dies together with his old world. This death, no less than baptism itself, is a passive event. It is not as though a man must achieve his own death through various kinds of renunciation and mortification. That would never be the death of the old man which Christ demands. The old man cannot will his own death or kill himself. He can only die in, through and with Christ. Christ is his death. For the sake of fellowship with Christ, and in that fellowship alone a man dies. In fellowship with Christ and through the grace of baptism he receives his death as a gift. This death is a gift of grace: a man can never accomplish it by himself. The old man and his sin are judged and condemned but out of this judgment a new man arises, who has died to the world and to sin. Thus this death is not the act of an angry Creator finally rejecting his creation in his wrath, but the gracious death which has been won for us by the death of Christ; the gracious assumption of the creature by his creator. It is death in the power and fellowship of the Christ of Christ. He who becomes Christ’s own possession must submit to his cross and suffer and die with him. He who is granted fellowship with Jesus must die the baptismal death which is the fountain of grace, for the sake of the cross which Christ lays upon his disciples. The cross and death of Christ were cruel and hard but the yoke of our cross is easy and light because of our fellowship with him. The cross of Christ is the death which we undergo once and for all in our baptism, and it is a death full of grace. The cross to which we are called is a daily dying in the power of the death which Christ died once and for all. In this way baptism means sharing in the cross of Christ. Baptismal death means justification from sin. The sinner must die that he may be delivered from his sin. If a man dies he is justified from sin. Sin has no further claim on him, for death’s demand has been met, and its account settled. Justification from sin can only happen through death. Forgiveness of sin does not mean that the sin is overlooked and forgotten, it means a real death on the part of the sinner and his separation from sin. But the only reason why the sinner’s death can bring justification and not condemnation is that this death is sharing of the death of Christ. It is the baptism into the death of Christ which effects the forgiveness of sin and justification, and completes our separation from sin.
When he called men to follow him, Jesus was summoning them to a visible act of obedience. To follow Jesus was a public act. Baptism is similarly a public event, for it is the means whereby a member is grafted on to the visible body of Christ.
Finally, one last quote from C.S. Lewis.
“Thomas More said… later, in his richer, Behmenite period, ‘If you have not chosen the Kingdom of God, it will make in the end no difference what you have chosen instead.’ … We shall have missed the end for which we are formed and rejected the only thing that satisfies. Does it matter to a man dying in a desert by which choice of route he missed the only well. It is a remarkable fact that on this subject Heaven and Hell speak with one voice. The tempter tells me, “Take care. Think how much this good resolve, the acceptance of this Grace, is going to cost.” But our Lord equally tells us to count the cost. Even in human affairs great importance is attached to the agreement of those whose testimony hardly ever agrees. I do not think any efforts of my own will can end once and for all this craving for limited liabilities, this fatal reservation. Only God can. The process of doing it will appear to me (and not falsely) to be the daily or hourly repeated exercises of my own will in renouncing this attitude, especially each morning… We may never, on this side of death, drive the invader out of our territory, but we must be in the Resistance, not in the Vichy government.”