Get In Over Your Head

Ezekiel was an enigmatic prophet who saw and proclaimed strange and beautiful things. In chapter 47 of his book, he records part of a powerful, hopeful vision given to him by God. In this vision he saw a river flowing from the restored temple. At first, the water of the river was only ankle-deep. But as he was led out a little bit farther, it became knee-deep. A little farther still and it was waist-deep. Beyond that, however, it grew deep enough to swim in – so deep, in fact, that no one could cross it.

Everywhere the river flowed, even in the wasteland, life sprang forth. Fruit trees grew up on either side, yielding all kinds of fruit for food and leaves for healing. The river flowed down to the Dead Sea, where it turned the salt water fresh, and fish from all over the world lived in it. Where the river flows, the prophet testified, everything will live.

Where the river flows everything will live.
Wednesday night at General Council (the biennial national conference of our denomination, the Christian & Missionary Alliance), David Hearn, president of the Alliance in Canada, preached a powerful message on this passage. His main point was this: The Spirit is the river, and it’s time to get in over your head. Too many Christians are settling for an ankle-deep experience of the Holy Spirit. We ask the Lord for a favor, but not for power. We ask Jesus to save us from our sins, but not to send us on mission. We’re not interested in discovering or using the gifts the Spirit has given us, and even when we are it’s usually for the purpose of self-fulfillment. We’re ankle-deep in a bottomless river because we’re afraid of losing control. We’re afraid of what might happen when we get in over our heads.

The wonders of the river cannot be experienced where it only runs ankle-deep. The glory of the river is found where it rushes headlong into the Dead Sea, into the place of death and darkness, where nothing can live and where no one can be refreshed. It is here, in the wasteland, that the roaring river collides with the stale and stagnant salt water in a swirling eruption of power, pushing out the foul waters, creating an environment for life. It is where the fresh water of the Spirit overcomes the salt water of the world that new life will flourish, where people are reborn, and where death and darkness are overcome. Where the river flows everything will live.

The Spirit is the river, and it’s time to get in over your head. It’s time to follow the Spirit’s course to the Dead Sea, to the spiritual wastelands of our world where he is pushing out the foul water and creating new life. You’re not supposed to be ankle-deep, knee-deep, or even waist-deep with the Spirit. You need to dive in. You need to get in over your head. You must let go of control and plunge into the depths of the Spirit. You were reborn to experience the wonders of the Spirit, to see him turn darkness to light and bring life from death. But this only happens where the river runs wild, where you lose control and yield yourself to the one who can raise the dead.

Getting in over your head means that the Spirit is filling you, empowering you, leading you.
Getting in over your head means that the Spirit is filling you, empowering you, leading you. But something important must happen first, because you and I are already full. We are filled with the things of this world – our sinful and selfish desires, wicked thoughts, dreary distractions, cynicism and apathy. We are so filled with this world that there isn’t any room left for the Spirit. The Holy Spirit has to empty us before he will fill us.

What needs to be emptied out of your heart and mind to make room for the Spirit? Is there something that is making you anxious, causing you to reach to control that which you cannot control? Let the Spirit empty the anxiety out of you. The Bible tells us to cast our cares on the Lord, for he cares for us. The Spirit longs to replace your anxiety with himself – his life-giving power and emboldening presence.

Is there sin that needs to be flushed from your system? Sin never shrinks on its own. It continues to occupy more and more space within your heart and mind, unless it is removed by the practice of repentance and the power of the Holy Spirit. Of course, this never happens by accident. We must be intentional about participating with the Spirit in the removal of sin. This intentionality is manifested in prayer. In order to be emptied so that we can be filled, we must pray a prayer like this:

Holy Spirit, I confess that I am filled with __________________ (be specific). I long to be filled, instead, by you. I long to get in over my head. Take me from the place where the water is ankle-deep, and lead me into the depths of your wonder and beauty. I repent of __________________ (again, be specific). You have permission to remove it from me; and in its place, I invite your power and presence. Holy Spirit, fill the void left by the removal of __________________, and take me to the dead places, to the wastelands, where only you can bring new life. Refresh the wasteland of my heart, that I might be one who, in your power, can refresh the hearts of others.

The Bible ends with a simple call from the Holy Spirit: “Come.” Come in deeper. Get in over your head. The Spirit has more for you: more Christlikeness, more freedom from sin, more power for mission, more depth of truth and revelation. The river that is the Spirit is deep and strong, and no man can cross it. When the river rolls, no power of darkness or evil can withstand it. Where the river flows everything will live. Let the river flow in you. Let the river flow from you.

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