I’m currently on my surgical internship rotation. During one of the tutes, we learnt about management of shock when a person is actively bleeding. “You need to fill before you squeeze,” the surgical fellow reminded us. He was talking about a patient who had bled out so much that their total blood volume was depleted. If drugs like adrenaline or noradrenaline are given, the person’s heart could be made to work harder to pump blood to the rest of the body. However, working harder means the heart needs more oxygen and without an adequate volume of blood, the hard-working heart will soon become fatigued and give out. “Fill before you squeeze” – that’s why it would be important to give the patient a blood transfusion before using these drugs. In the last year or so, I’ve been seeing more and more parallels between the way our body works, and the way God works. As I was reading my bible that evening, I came across a couple of passages which reminded me of what it means to minister from a place of being first filled with the Spirit.
1. Dialysis – getting rid of the bad stuff
When someone has kidney failure, they lose the ability to filter particular wastes through the body. This results in an accumulation of toxins in the body which causes them to feel very ill, and can be life-threatening. In end-stage renal failure, dialysis is required. Haemodialysis involves taking the “dirty” blood from the person and passing it through a filter than removes the toxins. The “clean” blood is then redirected into the patient’s bloodstream and they are able to function again. We all have sin in our blood. The laws of sacrifice and cleansing in Leviticus reflect the need to remove sin from our lives so that we can stand holy before God. In Leviticus 4 for example, instruction is given about the sin offering, during which the priest should remove “the two kidneys and the fat that is on them by the flanks, and the fatty lobe attached to the liver above the kidneys” and to “burn them on the altar of the burnt offering.” [Leviticus 4:8-10] Interesting how it is the kidney and liver, the two organs that are responsible for filtering most wastes and drugs, which are to be removed and burnt (it was another medical trainee who first drew my attention to this).
A bit of background on the burnt offering and sin offering. Burnt offerings were to be made every day in the morning and the evening, as well as on appointed feast and festival days. They were offered in conjunction with not only the sin offering, but also the freewill, sheaf and new grain offerings, as well as any sacrifice for cleansing. The bronze altar for the burnt offering stood at the entrance of the tabernacle. In order to enter the presence of God, sin first had to be atoned for.
Bob Deffinbaugh’s article provides a good summary:
“The burnt offering was required by, and served to remind the offerer of, his depravity. The burnt offering was thus not so much to gain forgiveness for a particular sin, but to make atonement for the offerer’s sinfulness. It was not just a certain sin which required men to remain separated from God, but the individual’s sinful state. The burnt offering seems to provide a divine solution for man’s fallen condition.”
The full article can be found here: http://bible.org/seriespage/law-burnt-offerings-leviticus-11-17 .
Patients often require dialysis every three days. Those who are compliant with treatment often look healthy when they appear for their appointments. Those who miss sessions may tolerate their sickness to a certain point, but will eventually need to return for dialysis. When these patients return, they often look haggard, worn out, and ill. The dialysis improves their condition but if they refuse to attend regularly, they just continue to deteriorate. It is not enough to come into the secret place and meet with the Lord only when we are going through a tough time. God is faithful, and He is faithful ALL the time. He “restores us” [Psalm 23:3] and “daily loads us with benefits” [Psalm 68:10] – all in the present continuous tense. We have opportunities to go to God at any time, every day and be blessed by Him. Why then, should we just wait until we have no choice? Why not spend a life in communion with Him. [Psalm 55:16-17] – “As for me, I will call upon God, and the Lord shall save me. Evening and morning and at noon I will pray, and cry aloud, and He shall hear my voice.”
Dialysis takes time. Each session may last for 6-9 hours. You can’t go shopping or be out driving your car during this time. You can only sit in a comfy chair, perhaps read a book, and do some leg exercises. When we come into the rest of the Lord, it is not a time to do things but rather, a time to sit quietly at His feet. The story of Martha and Mary exemplifies this well – this is a time to be filled rather than to organise a successful ministry. In order to be filled, we need to empty ourselves out, to say to our soul – “Be still and know that He is God”. [Psalm 62:5] – “My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him.” So, what is the filter that cleanses us from sin and trades death for life? It can be none other than Jesus Christ, and a life lived in constant relationship with Him.
2. If there’s no blood, there’s no life.
Say a person has lost a lot of blood. They are volume depleted, but also blood depleted. We could give them lots of saline which would fix the volume problem. However, the oxygen carrying red blood cells would still be depleted and the person would be unable to improve further. In the same way, we need to be filled up with Christ, and not just with religious activity or works. It is by grace we have been saved, not works! [Ephesians 2:8] The focus is on God, NOT on ourselves. It is not a required step that we pray the sinner’s prayer, but it IS from a change of heart and renewed mindset that we cry out to Jesus and declare our love for Him daily.
“The harvest truly is plentiful, but the labourers are few.” [Matthew 9:37] This is a frequently quoted verse. The harvest is plentiful! People’s hearts are ready to hear God’s word! Send out the workers to harvest these souls! At the same time, I can think of many ways in which we might mistake the true meaning of this verse:
- Non-purposeful evangelism. Yes, there are many people whose hearts are prepared to seek God, but we should be attentive to God as He directs us to share the gospel. I’ve seen people in the streets achieve more havoc than harvest because they declared the gospel haphazardly, with no consideration of the who and how. BUT, I also know many people who go out to minister, first having asked God who to speak to, and even how they should speak. This kind of evangelism is much more effective because God is leading and directing it. When Moses and Aaron came before Pharaoh, they didn’t just barge in and declare God’s deliverance of Israel to all the people of Egypt. Moses and Aaron sought God’s direction and were obedient to His plans. God said, “When Pharaoh asks for a miracle, take your rod and let it become a serpent.” When Pharaoh asked, Moses and Aaron cast down their rods and they became snakes. God said, “Go to Pharaoh in the morning and speak to him these words”. Moses and Aaron met Pharaoh in the morning and spoke the Lord’s words to him. All throughout the bible, not just Exodus, we see people obedient to God’s direction. What we need is this. First, listen to God’s direction. Then, obey – go where He says go, meet who He has prepared for you to meet, and speak what He says to speak.
- Workers are missionaries. Yes, when Jesus spoke these words to His disciples, He was sending out missionaries. However, He wasn’t just sending missionaries overseas. The harvest does not only exist in third world countries. This is a harvest that is world-wide. It involves major cities, unreached villages, rich people, poor people, businessmen, homeless men, elderly people, and children. Workers are missionaries, and they are also witnesses of God’s testimony. Who are the workers? Who are the labourers? They are those who labour and endure for the coming of God’s kingdom by living lives worthy of their calling in Christ [Ephesians 4:1]. They are mothers, fathers, aid workers, doctors, shop-keepers, children, evangelists, pastors, garbage-collectors – anyone whose life is spent in communion with God and thus, declares the gospel through their testimony and His word.
- The more workers, the better. Yes, this is not untrue. However, there is something else to consider. People say “quality over quantity” and the same applies here. I’m not talking about how good a person is at public speaking, or how charismatic they are, but rather, their secret place preparation. Is your heart aligned with, and in relationship with Jesus. If more workers are sent out, great! BUT, we need also effective workers, not tired, overworked, burnt out workers. Before ministering the Word, we need to know Him and be filled by Him. It’s worth waiting to minister, even if that waiting takes year. Moses waited, John the Baptist waited, Jesus waited, the disciples waited – they all waited and were filled with the Spirit in waiting before this overflowed into their ministry.
We have an intrinsic need to be filled. This is where we find our purpose. Countless people have sat in depression with no sense of purpose as nothing they do satisfies this “hole in their heart”. There might be troubles and things they need to work through but it isn’t enough simply to be released from these things. We also need to be filled with something good. Matthew 12:43-45 tells a story of what happens when we are swept clean but remain unfilled.
“When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places seeking rest and finds none. The he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation.”
In order to fully overcome, the man needs to be free of the spirit, then fill his empty heart with purpose so that there is no room for the spirit to return. There is no point leaving his heart empty, and there is no point filling it with what he just threw out of it. Instead, he should allow for transformation of his heart so that it is made new. The old wineskin cannot hold new wine or it will break and the wine will be wasted. Instead, a new heart, like a new wineskin, will be able to hold the new wine that Christ pours into us
[Matthew 9:17]. Jesus says, “Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And let your soul delight itself in abundance.” [Isaiah 55:2]
3. Receiving a blood transfusion
Life is found in circulating blood. If someone is in shock and has lost a lot of blood, a blood transfusion may be lifesaving. We need a continuous blood transfusion from Jesus. In Leviticus, the covering of blood from the death of an animal was used to make atonement for Israel so they could continue to live in the presence of God. If this sacrifice was not made, they could not stand before the holiness of God and would be destroyed. Jesus died and his blood was poured out BUT he was raised to life and lives forevermore. His blood is alive and circulates in and through us as His body and His church. We need to be covered by the blood of the Lamb of God, and filled with His Spirit in order to be effective witnesses.
Before a blood transfusion can be given, consent must be taken. The patient needs to be fully aware of their condition, the benefits and risks of the transfusion and what to expect. They then have a choice to make – to have the transfusion or to refuse it. While it may be in the patient’s best interests to have the transfusion, you can never force it upon them. You can explain, strongly suggest and advise but in the end, the decision is theirs. In the same way, Jesus pursues us, shows us His love, explains His way to us, but never forces us to accept Him. His word has been given to us and there is no shortage of information with today’s internet culture. Are we aware of our sinfulness? Do we know the saving grace found in Christ? Do we know what to expect from a life lived following Christ? He says, “Blessed are they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” [Matthew 5:6] He says, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” [John 14:6] He says, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” [Luke 9:23]. The choice is ours. Do we desire to live a life of constant communion with Christ? [Colossians 2:6-7] – “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.”
4. Giving a blood transfusion
Nowadays blood donation receives a lot of press. The Red Cross does a good job at communicating the need for blood donors and the impact it has in saving lives. As a result, many people regularly donate blood at these centres, and many people receive this lifesaving blood. When we have the living blood of Jesus circulating in us, we can give a blood transfusion to others around us. How do we do this? We simply point others to Jesus as we share some of what He has given to us with them. Here are a few practical examples (spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:28-31):
- Testify: Share your story, your testimony of God’s grace
- Witness: Live a life worthy of your calling before God
- Prophesy: Ask the Lord how He feels about people, situations
- Teach: Study the scripture and explain revelation of the word to others
- Healing (mental, physical, spiritual): Pray in faith and allow God to work in His power
- Helpers: Encourage others in their journey with God – verbal, financial etc.
- Administration: Enable people to meet together, help with organisation
- Tongues: Intercession and revelation
- Evangelise: Proclaim the gospel of God to those who have not heard (unreached nations, in your everyday life when opportunities arise)