One Tiny Sip of Living Water

Saturday, June 8 

6:50 AM They had been predicting a steady rain to begin falling yesterday and, sure enough, that’s exactly what we have. The Low Pressure System we’re currently in will be around for about a week, which means much needed rain for the farmers where I live (including yours truly). This also means that I might not be able to get in my bike ride today, but if I don’t I still plan on visiting the Y and working out and getting in some laps. My tri is in exactly 15 days and I feel like swimming is my weakest link right now.

The rain this morning reminded me of that wonderful quote by the one, the only Malcolm Muggeridge, who once edited Punch Magazine, Britain’s counterpart to the Mad Magazine I grew up with. He said:

I may, I suppose, regard myself or pass for being a relatively successful man. People occasionally stare at me in the streets – that’s fame. I can fairly easily earn enough to qualify for admission to the higher slopes of the Internal Revenue – that’s success. Furnished with money and a little fame even the elderly, if they care to, may partake of trendy diversions – that’s pleasure. It might happen once in a while that something I said or wrote was sufficiently heeded for me to persuade myself that it represented a serious impact on our time – that’s fulfillment. Yet I say to you – and I beg you to believe me – multiply these tiny triumphs by a million, add them all together, and they are nothing – less than nothing, a positive impediment – measured against one draught of that living water Christ offers to the spiritually thirsty, irrespective of who are what they are.

As an incurable Muggerophile, I attempt to question traditional concepts at every turn, but not because I’ve become soured on life. Malcolm could be acid-tongued, but he was no kill-joy. He laughed a lot, and his love of the truth never turned him into a grumpy ascetic. But he cared deeply for the truth and trounced anyone who dared to corrupt it. That was the message I read this morning as I sipped my coffee.

Bible and Coffee!

1 John 2:20-28 is clear: We believers have had the Holy Spirit poured out on us by Christ, and so all of us know the truth. And as long as His Spirit remains in us, we don’t need anyone to teach us because His Spirit teaches us about everything, and what He teaches is true. Hence John’s final exhortation:

Obey the Spirit’s teaching, then, and remain in union with Christ.

Good reader, this was exactly the message I needed to hear today. I grew up immersed in typical Christian culture: go to church, listen to sermons, give to missions, and attend prayer meeting when you could. I was rarely challenged to read the Bible (or think) for myself. We can’t simply shrug this issue off, because biblical illiteracy is rife in our churches. Postmoderns share several key values, but one of them I respect the most is their insistence that church be relevant to all of life. They expect to be able to ask hard questions without being patronized or dismissed. Let’s give them the goods. And let’s begin by giving them God’s Word. They want to grapple with theology and ecclesiology and a thousand other topics. Remember this: The best antidote to evangelical group-think is reading the Bible for ourselves. Yes, I enjoy a good sermon as much as the next person. But Muggeridge got it right: Even the greatest sermon pales when compared to one tiny sip of the living water Jesus Himself promises to anyone who is thirsty, irrespective of who or what they are. The Bible is the best Christian resource out there, so let’s lift it high. Do I read books about the Bible? Sure do. Have I written books about the Bible? Yep. But nothing, and I mean nothing, can replace drinking directly from the fountain of knowledge itself.

P.S. My ever-productive assistant has again updated the What’s New? page at our Greek Portal. Included is a link to a journal article I published many years ago on the text of 1 John 2:20, where the apostle John either says to his readers “You all know” or “You know all things.” I argue for the latter reading, in case anyone is interested.

Overlooked Stylistic Arguments Regarding 1 John 2:20

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