One thing followers of Jesus have been discovering about the Master Teacher ever since He came is that you never know exactly what to expect. He almost never announces ahead of time what subject He’s going to teach, what curriculum He’ll use, or exactly when class is scheduled to begin. Some of us have probably had the awkward experience of discovering that a lesson was sometimes half over before we ever realized that class was already in session. That occurred for me again recently in the midst of a conversation with my daughter about a plumbing issue she was having. It wasn’t until later that I realized that class had been in session, and I wasn’t paying attention. There was a spiritual principle involved that I didn’t see at first, but thankfully, the Lord replayed the incident later and gave me another shot at it.
Not Spiritually Compelling ~
In my defense, though, plumbing wasn’t a topic I would have expected Jesus to weigh in on. After all, in decades of hosting Bible studies of one kind or another, I can’t recall a single time when someone said, “Hey, here’s a hot topic. Let’s talk about the spiritual implications of plumbing.” Though all of us depend on some aspect of it every day, plumbing doesn’t tend to captivate our interest unless there’s a problem with it. Even then, we’re not likely to think of it in spiritual terms. Revisiting my daughter’s issue piqued my interest, brought back some memories, and shifted my perspective on plumbing.
During a visit a few years ago to the site of the Biblical city of Ephesus, I had an unexpected occasion to think about plumbing. In the course of exploring the many historical and doctrinal issues connected to the significant New Testament church located there, a wide variety of topics emerged. As you might expect, how they handled their plumbing challenges wasn’t one of them, so I was astounded to discover that the folks living in Ephesus in Paul’s day actually had hot and cold running water. Water was collected in large pools at the highest point of the city, and gravity distributed it through clay pipes. Small pipes carried hot water, and cold water was carried through larger ones. If there were any spiritual lessons connected to our exposure to ancient Ephesian plumbing practices, none of us on the tour recognized them at the time. But there were principles involved back then that still apply today.
A Plumber to the Rescue ~
Now, to bring us back to the here and now, my daughter called recently to talk about her plumbing problem. “Dad,” she said, “I’ve got water backing up in my sink and in one of the showers. It’s late, and the plumber can’t come until tomorrow or the next day. What do you think I should do?” She lives a day’s travel away, so popping in at her house to help wasn’t an option. “You probably have a clog in the line,” I said. Then I suggested that she get some liquid drain cleaner and follow the instructions. To fast forward to the end of the story, her efforts with the drain cleaner didn’t work, but the plumber did eventually arrive and was able to resolve the problem.
My diagnosis may not have earned me a five-star review from the plumbing world, but, nonetheless, it was correct. The problem was, indeed, a clogged drain, but it was too much for the chemical cleaner to break up. The plumber cleared out the drain mechanically, and in very little time, the water was flowing freely again — problem solved; crisis averted; normality restored. The change in her household was immediate, unmistakeable, and positive. So I learned from this that there’s a principle involved that applies to a different kind of plumbing and a spiritual takeaway that is crying out for our attention.
A Vital Characteristic ~
Obviously, water is a primary element in the situation described above. It is often used to illustrate doctrinal truth in the Word of God and has profound spiritual significance. Water has some amazing qualities, and one of its simple, but vital, characteristics provides a basis for a lesson worth considering. That is, water flows. Water moves in ways that no other natural element does. Dirt doesn’t flow. Vegetation doesn’t flow. Rocks don’t flow. The fact that water is able to flow from one location to another makes life possible. That characteristic is fundamental to any plumbing apparatus, whether in ancient Ephesus or the house we live in. When a clog developed in my daughter’s household system, water couldn’t flow the way it was designed to, and it brought everything to a halt. The plumber’s parting comment highlights the point we want to make . . .
As he was leaving, the serviceman left this admonition. “That clog,” he said, “didn’t develop overnight. It grew a little at a time because of the things you put into it.” The problem resulted because grease, fat, and other things that stick and cling together had been allowed into the system a little at a time. They gradually accumulated until they shut down the whole system. There’s a spiritual connection between that process and the problems we face as a nation, and it’s based on a very significant statement that Jesus made.
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.” (John 7:37–38 NKJV)
Impeding the Flow ~
We who consider ourselves to be “believers” must not ignore what that means for us. It might sound strange, but we’re part of a spiritual plumbing apparatus. Water is used here and in other places as a metaphor for the Spirit of God and the Word of God (Acts 11:16; Ephesians 5:26). The Word of God and the Spirit of God are supposed to be flowing through us to sustain life in a thirsty, spiritual desert. The problem is that the flow has been gradually choked off. The grace, love, and transformational truth that God pours into us isn’t making it out into the morally contaminated culture surrounding us.
We fallen human beings have a tendency to consider some sins to be minor, insignificant, or allowable because they’re popular. Those acceptable sins have been multiplying and building up for generations. Words that would never be spoken in public in my younger days are now openly published in every digital format imaginable. Images that would never be made openly available, especially to our families and our children, are transmitted everywhere. Behaviors and attitudes that God considered to be repulsive, disgusting, and socially toxic are promoted as desirable. Hatred, violence, deceit, and every form of lawlessness are commonplace.
No Flaw in the Design ~
The water isn’t flowing, and it appears that God’s design isn’t working very well, but it’s not because the design is flawed. The sins we keep clinging to have been building up and gradually shutting off the flow of the Spirit of God. There are two procedures the plumber suggested to keep things flowing. First, stop putting things in the system that don’t belong and that can clog it up. Then, use a good drain cleaner regularly. Otherwise, you’re left with the hard, physically challenging, and financially painful alternative.
The culture we live in will continue to shove behaviors and lifestyles at us that God forbids. They might feel good and look appealing, but they clog the flow that God’s system depends on, and they impede His work in our lives. We can counter their effects with regular ingestion of the Word of God, coupled with intimate conversation with the Father through His Spirit. Finally, an application of confession and repentance will keep the system clean and allow the love and joy of God to flow through us unimpeded.
Water is an amazing thing. God says it can turn deserts into gardens. If enough of us get God’s living water flowing freely in our own lives, maybe we’ll see some roses beginning to sprout in the parched earth around us.
“TWEETABLES” ~ Click to tweet and share from the pull quotes below. Each one links directly back to this article through Twitter . . .
- “Water flows. Water moves in ways that no other natural element does. Dirt doesn’t flow. Vegetation doesn’t flow. Rocks don’t flow. The fact that water is able to flow from one location to another makes life possible.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “We fallen human beings have a tendency to consider some sins to be minor, insignificant, or allowable because they’re popular. Those acceptable sins have been multiplying and building up for generations.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “The culture we live in will continue to shove behaviors and lifestyles at us that God forbids. They might feel good and look appealing, but they clog the flow that God’s system depends on, and they impede His work in our lives.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Water is an amazing thing. God says it can turn deserts into gardens. If enough of us get the water flowing freely in our own lives, maybe we’ll see some roses beginning to sprout in the parched earth around us.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
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