She loaded each child into the car. Her husband buckled their infant son in. She helped her two daughters fasten their seat belts. It was Sunday. The family of five were headed to church. This is the day the Lord has made and she will rejoice and be glad in it. Isn’t that how the song goes? She had learned it so many years ago as she sat while a little girl in Sunday school classes and learned the bible stories and the Sunday school songs. She had loved going to church and hearing the adventures of all the bible heroes. So what had happened? Where was her rejoicing? Why wasn’t she glad anymore to go to church and sing three verses to the familiar hymns? Why did her mind drift and thoughts wander to consider her duties of wife and motherhood for the rest of the week? She would often find herself nodding off during the sermons. What was wrong with her? This faith she was practicing or more like posing felt like a noose around her neck. It was a rout habit. Six days of doing the same things over and over then waking and getting ready for Sunday. She was practicing religious habits; habits that did nothing to fill her true needs. They pulled into the church parking lot. She helped her children out of the car. She quietly pleaded, “Lord if this is all there is to Christianity, what’s the use? Am I drifting simply to live a moral life and wait for eternity? What about the abundant life you speak about in your word?”
Does her story sound familiar to you? It does to me because at one point in my life that was my testimony. I had lived many years as a Christian. My faith was in name only. I had accepted Jesus as my Savior. I knew I had inherited a life eternal. This body would one day fade away, but I had the assurance that I would live forever with Jesus in heaven. That was the extent of my religion. My everyday life was lived by my striving and my own self-efforts and I was living for my own selfish desires. There was no life lived abundantly. The joy and happiness was self produced and had no roots that went down deep into my spirit to help me in times of despair and feelings of failure; failure at being a wife and failure at being a mom. There had to be more to Christianity and way down deep in the quietness of my soul God was gently whispering to me, “There was!” There is an abundant life for each of us who are called by His name. We are called His Children. We have been adopted as sons and daughters of the Most High God, but I was choosing not to live like a Child of God. I couldn’t see the royalty of my true identity. I am a chosen people. I am part of a royal priesthood. I am a daughter of the Great I Am! And I have been given an abundant life. That is my inheritance!
That is the story of the water turned to wine. The stone water jars were used for Jewish religious practices of cleansing. They held water for external washing but they couldn’t cleanse inside the soul. The religious habits couldn’t cleanse the heart and bring about everlasting joy. Neither could my religious habit of making sure I was in church every Sunday. The truth is religious habits are deficient for bringing about true life and experiencing the forgiveness of our sins.
“Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.” John 2:7
The stone water jars were empty; just like practicing a religion leaves you empty and depleted. The water in these jars had been depleted by the religious activity of trying to cleanse ourselves, but Jesus says, “Fill them with water.” Only Jesus can fill our emptiness. Only Jesus can turn water and religion into true joy. Only Jesus can truly cleanse and bring forgiveness and take our sins as far as the east is from the west. Jesus brought fullness where there was emptiness, and joy where there was disappointment.
There was a problem at this wedding. They had run out of wine. The shortage of wine was relieved by Jesus’ intervention. The wine is symbolic for joy. The wedding celebration was about to be halted because the joy the world offered had run out, but Jesus created something better.
“And the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” John 2:9-10
The joys of this world come to an end. They have no lasting value. There is no residual to what the world offers us. Shopping sprees, overeating, worldly wealth, self-indulgence, and religious practices, all these things leave us depleted. They have no power to bring true lasting joy and abundant living. Trust me I know. I have witnessed this depletion in my own life and in the lives of others. This principal is lived out on reality TV series every week on primetime television. The people who seem to have the world at their fingertips are some of the saddest emptiest people I can think of. But it can all change in the blink of an eye.
Jesus is the answer. Only Jesus can fill us with true wine, the best wine, the joy of the Lord type wine. The world offers the best at first and then, once you are hooked, things start to get worse. The life of abundance Jesus offers is continual. God wants what is best for us; we just have to train our thoughts to believe that. God wants us to enjoy the finest blessings, but there is a key to unlock these blessings.
Jesus was invited to the wedding. You have to invite Jesus before You can be filled with the miracle. Before the guests at the wedding tasted the new wine, Jesus had to have been invited. There would have been no new wine if the Wine Producer had not shown up.
Jesus says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” Revelation 3:20
For me to begin living the abundant overflowing best life God had for me, I had to invite Jesus into my everyday ordinary life. The religion of Christian practices could not bring the sustenance my starving soul needed. I had to put away practices and exchange them for a vital animated relationship with the Wine Producer, so I cried out, “God I need more of You.”