The Flow of Water
"To be filled you must be emptied" - this may sound like a contradiction but it is true. The opposite is also true. To be emptied you must be filled. Even when a bottle is emptied of liquid, it is still full of air. If I fill a jug with water, and close the lid tight, the water stays in and the air stays out. The moment the lid is opened, the water can flow out, but only as long as air can flow in. Air must displace the water in order for the water to move out through the opening.
Let us say that, for some reason, I want to fill the jug with air. The lid must be opened to let the water out, or the air cannot come in. This concept applies in other contexts as well. For example, to fill a truck with boxes and furniture, the truck must first be emptied of its previous load. Your stomach needs time to digest one meal before you fill it with another. The concept, then, is that you cannot fill something that is already full. This is also true in the spiritual realm.
St. Augustine once said "We must be emptied of that which fills us, so that we may be filled with that of which we are empty." Many pray to be filled with the Holy Spirit. In order for God to answer this prayer, we must be emptied of self. But, we cannot do the job ourselves.
"No man can empty himself of self. We can only consent for Christ to accomplish the work. The language of the soul will be, Lord, take my heart; for I cannot give it. It is Thy property. Keep it pure, for I cannot keep it for Thee. Save me in spite of myself, my weak, unchristlike self. Mold me, fashion me, raise me into a pure and holy atmosphere, where the rich current of Thy love can flow through my soul. It is not only at the beginning of the Christian life that this renunciation of self is to be made. At every advance step heavenward it is to be renewed" (Ellen White, Christ's Object Lessons, page 159, 160).
This idea of being emptied to be filled can be illustrated by the story of the Samaritan woman. In John 4, Jesus meets her at the well, and asks her for a drink of water. Surprised by a Jew who would ask a favor of a Samaritan, and a woman at that, she questions Him. In response, Jesus introduces Himself and His mission by using water as a metaphor for what He has to offer. Failing to understand, she questions Him again. His response is in verses 13 and 14 --
"Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life."
These are words that Jesus echoes in John 7: 37 – 39,
John 7:37 In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.
John 7:38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
John 7:39 (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)
This woman was all too aware of the moral indiscretions of her past life. She was full of guilt and sorrow; however, empty of love and joy, empty - and she knew it. When she believed Christ's revelation of Himself, the Samaritan woman's heart was warmed and filled with the love she much longed for. What she thirsted for was not merely water, but a reservoir of spiritual water springing up into everlasting life. This flowing, filling water which represents the Holy Spirit displaces all the ugliness of self. Holy Spirit inspired truth, believed and received into the heart, dislodges self from its throne. Once filled with the Holy Spirit, love for others also filled her heart. Self no longer lodged in the Samaritan woman's heart she left to tell those she had previously avoided what she found.
John 4:28 The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men,
John 4:29 Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?
There was no need to tell her to witness. She needed no training. She was revived and now she could speak. Witness was a natural outgrowth of her reception of the Holy Spirit. Her whole village was converted as a result. They believed whom they formerly knew as the adulterous woman. The walls of separation - that self had erected in their hearts - were brought down.
A wise author wrote that, "All self-exaltation and self-admiration are the result of ignorance of God and of Jesus Christ, whom He has sent. How quickly will self-esteem die, and pride be humbled in the dust, when we view the matchless charms of the character of Christ" (4BC 1178).
In genuine revival, our own hearts are wakened to God's goodness, compassion, forgiveness, and power. We are so charmed by His love and transformed by His grace that we cannot be silent. Genuine revival never leads to self-centeredness or, especially, to self-sufficiency or self-exaltation. Instead, it always leads to a selfless concern for others. When our hearts are renewed by God's grace, we long to bless and serve those who are in need. The purpose of revival is hearts filled with such a love for Jesus that we long to share this love with every person possible in any way possible.