Do you remember this verse about one of God’s promises to you?
Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works (Titus 2:14).
It occurred to me that this redemption from iniquity and the subsequent purification process isn’t immediate or complete, but takes time, and can be painful.
When I attended Violet Avenue School, in Hyde Park, New York, we sixth graders visited the Poughkeepsie Water Works. It was down on the shore of the Hudson River near Regatta Row (where major universities like Cornell had once kept their rowing shells).
We were required to write a paper about our visit, and mine was published in the Poughkeepsie New Yorker, now the Poughkeepsie Journal.
Poughkeepsie is on the east shore of the Hudson River, midway between New York City and the state capitol at Albany, about 75 miles north of The Big Apple. The city’s water supply depends on a continual flow of water down river from the north because the Atlantic tides raise and lower the water levels at Poughkeepsie, and in periods of drought the water could become tainted with salt.
Three years after I wrote the article, while a member of the Roosevelt High crew team, I would observe everything from a dead cow to human waste floating in the water, so the process by which the water was purified took on greater significance in my mind. (If I’d written that fact in my article, I doubt it would have been chosen to be published.)
We were told that the water was drawn through a three foot pipe that reached out to the center of the river–nearly a quarter mile–and lay just above the bottom of the river, I don’t remember too much about the process now, but I know that the raw river water was flushed through various beds of sand to remove particulates, then through alum, and was ultimately chlorinated to destroy bacteria.
All this is to say that, apart from distillation, it’s nearly impossible to produce pure water. (God does it continually however, simply through the process of evaporation, where water is drawn from the earth and gathered into clouds and then is returned to the earth as rain or snow. Regrettably, we have so polluted the atmosphere that the drops of rain that fall from the sky may now contain anything from acid to radioactive fallout.
Today, a city’s water purification system should be far more sophisticated today than those in 1952, but they also must strive to overcome additional problems, such as the unused drugs that people flush down their toilets, and diseases we couldn’t imagine back in my childhood. Just as important is the fact that across America there are far more people using water more liberally, so the demand is far greater today.
That’s why tens of millions of bottles of processed water are purchased each week, the waste from which further threatens our ecological future.
And that’s why my wife and I installed an under sink filter system in our home. It uses a series of filters, first to remove larger more common particulates, then a carbon filter to remove taste and odor, and finally a reverse osmosis filter, which supposedly finishes the job. The fact is that it cannot remove many dangerous chemicals that are leaching into our water supplies and is little protection against communicable diseases. But it helps!
Compare our vain attempts to secure pure water with the words of Jesus, who assured us that, “Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said: ‘Streams of living water will flow from within him.'” (John 7:38).
This is the water that he promised the woman at the well. It is not alive with impurities and filth and dangerous organisms and chemicals, but it is the pure water of life. Out of ever believer in Jesus Christ will flow a river of life, of love, of peace and of God’s grace.
Before we were saved, intentionally or otherwise, we poured out the sewage of this world. But through faith in God, we have become something like a spiritual municipal water works, pouring out the water of life.
But make no mistake. It’s a progressive matter, this pouring out of God’s grace rather than the poisons that would normally flow up within us. The Lord is doing a purifying work in us, and as we submit and exercise faith in Him, the Holy Spirit produces “living water” that flows through us. Yes, it blesses others, but it also fills our lives with joy.
So be encouraged. Perhaps you’ve only seen a trickle flow through you so far, but even that is a glorious experience for you and a blessing to others.
You may not be all you want to be, you may not produce as you one day will, but thank God you are not what you were.
For out of your belly, dear believer, will flow rivers of living water!