Chapter Two -- RELIGION IS AN OVERFLOW – Charles V. Weber
We will need to change our thought patterns from the form that religion is something we “get and keep” to religion is something we “receive and share” before we’ll learn the secret of living out of the overflow.
Of course, there is a process of cleansing and endowing, which must take place in our lives if we are to be partakers of the divine nature of God. I am not talking about an experience that takes place in the air and has no foundation. Abundant life comes from God and every fundamental event, which was necessary for its accessibility, must not be ignored.
Actually, two things happen to us in the divine process of redemption. We get rid of the man-made image of sin and we put on the image of God. It is a double-action process. One is a cleansing, purging experience; the other is a divine endowment or impartation.
I think you can see that before we can be filled with the fullness of God we must be cleansed of all impurity. Suppose you should ask me to bring you a glass of water and I hold up two glasses to you--one is clean and polished, the other is dirty with grease marks and debris in it. I say to you, “Which glass shall I put the water in?”
You would answer, "The clean glass of course.” When God fills us He will choose the cleansed vessel every time. The first action in the divine process is cleansing, the emptying out of everything which is foreign to God.
But cleansing is not enough. There must be an infilling. After we are cleansed, unless we invite the person of the Holy Spirit to possess our whole being we become subjects of deception. I think I can illustrate this from the teachings of Christ in Matthew 12:43-45.
“When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry
places, seeking rest and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my
house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty,
swept and garnished. Then goeth he and taketh with himself seven other
spirits more wicked than himself and they enter in and dwell there; and
the last state of that man is worse than the first” (Emphasis added).
Here is the picture of a man who has quit his sin business and been converted. He doesn’t swear any more, he has left off his vices; he has broken loose from the old ties and associations, which ensnared him. But he doesn’t permit the full process of divine action to take place.
After a time the old spirit that has gone out of him comes back and finds him cleansed-but-empty so, he goes and gets other spirits. One spirit whispers in his ear like this: “You remember how extravagant you were in sin. You never considered the value of a dollar. You wasted your money for sinful things. Now that you’ve got religion you ought to be different. You should hold on to every dollar. Don’t spend any unless you have to.” So a covetous devil moves in and this fellow becomes miserly, covetous and stingy.
Then another spirit whispers in his ear and says; “you remember how it was when you were in sin how frivolous you were. You never had a serious moment. you joked and laughed and were always teasing. Now that you’ve got religion you ought to be different. You should be sober and serious. You should act very holy and religious.” So a self-pious devil moves in, and this fellow begins to feel very righteous, much holier even than all the rest.
Another spirit speaks to him and says: “You remember how it was when you were in sin. You patted everybody on the back and told them they were good fellows. You never saw anything wrong with anybody. Now that you’ve got religion you should be different. You should pick out the flaws and weaknesses of people. Find their weak spots. Look for everything that you thing ought to be different.” A criticizing devil moves in and this fellow begins to criticize everybody.
Still another spirit whispers in his ear and says: “When you were in sin, not only did you insist that everybody was a good fellow, but you felt it was none of your business what other people did and it was not for you to judge. Since you’ve got religion you should be different. You should not only look for the flaws in people but you should tell them about them. So a judging devil moves in and this fellow feels he is in a position to decide the right and wrong of every issue. He becomes judge of his church.
One by one these spirits take up their abode within this man until seven other spirits, more wicked than the first, has come in. The scripture says the last state is worse than the first. Why? Because in the first state the man was a lost sinner and he knew it. Now he has a profession of religion, thinks he is more righteous than all the rest, but is deceived by all these unclean spirits.
It is much worse to be lost and not know it than to be lost and know it. In one, the sins are in the conscious and we know of them, but in the other the sins are in the unconscious and we do not acknowledge them because we are unaware of them.
Every person who is cleansed from his old sins but who is not filled with all the fullness of God becomes liable to deception. We need to be filled with all the fullness of God. We are going to be filled with something, either good or evil. “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh” (Luke 6:45, emphasis added).
This whole idea of religion is built around the experience of receiving the gift of God’s righteousness, which becomes a stream or spring flowing out of our lives. We are channels of the redemptive stream of God.
This channel must not be dammed or choked. If it is the stream stops flowing and we lose the freshness of religion. Out in the Great Utah Basin is the Great Salt Lake. For centuries the melting snows in the surrounding mountains have formed rivers which have plunged down the canyons into this basin to form the lake.
There is no outlet so the water has a strong concentrate of minerals, particularly salt. The minerals are picked up in the canyons and carried in solution by the water. Evaporation keeps removing the water, and the mineral content continues to increase. It is not a fresh water lake because there is no outlet.
We cannot continue to have an experience of abundant life if the channel is closed and we have no outlet. It takes the overflow to keep the current moving and fresh supplies coming in.
Homer Rodeheaver tells the story of a union prayer meeting that he attended in Kentucky. They were having a testimony meeting. A Holiness sister stood up to speak and told about her experience. She said, “Thirty-five years ago I was saved and sanctified and God filled my cup full and running over” and jumped and shouted praises to God. “Thank God through the years he has kept me, and tonight my cup‘s full and running over.”
When she sat down a good old Methodist brother stood up and said, “Thank the Lord, thirty years ago God saved me. And like it was with the sister my cup was full and ran over. I shouted praises to God. Since then sometimes my cup has been half full and sometimes it’s been empty and I’ve been backslidden, but thank God tonight my cup’s full.” And he sat down.
A Presbyterian brother stood up and said, “The Lord saved me thirty-five years ago and when he did he filled my cup two-thirds full. It’s been two-thirds full ever since and it’s two-thirds full tonight.” And he sat down.
An old backslider in the back of the building stood up, pulled a dollar bill out of his pocket and said, “I betcha a dollar bill that cup of yours has wiggle-tails in it.”
There is one thing sure if our religious experience doesn’t have an outlet it will soon lose its freshness and there will be creeping things in our life of which we’ll be ashamed. We won’t dare look inside. We need an overflowing experience to keep the freshness and radiance of God’s presence in our lives. Some people’s experience went stale on them twenty years ago. They are sour and critical! They are also unfruitful and unhappy.
THREE KINDS OF PROFESSORS
Out in Southern California near my home is found one of the largest oil fields in the world. This great cluster of wells and derricks is situated just south of Whittier and is known as the Sante Fe Oil Fields. They tell me there are three kinds of wells there.
In some instances they drilled down several thousand feet and didn’t find a trace of oil. They pulled their machinery, capped the casing, and moved on be-cause it was what they called a “dry hole.” In other instances they drilled down several hundred feet and struck sand, which contains oil, and by the installation of pumping machinery they pumped the oil to the surface from which it was piped to the storage tank.
In still other instances they drilled down until they struck shale or stone. When they broke through the thickness of it the pressure of gas and oil was so great that it gushed up to the surface and flood-ed the ground. It was another “gusher.”
I think these kinds of wells illustrate the kinds of professors of religion that we find in the world. There are those who profess to be Christians but there cannot be found a trace of the grace of God. Their lives are empty professions.
There are others who profess to be Christians and they have some of the grace of God in their lives, but it has to be primed and pumped to be seen. Then there are others who have found a “gusher” experience. They are living out of the overflow of God’s abundance.
I am convinced that abundant living is the kind of life God has planned for us. The scriptures bear this out. The twenty-third Psalm is a picture of the “overflow life.” The Lord is My Shepherd I shall not want,” is an expression which indicates God has satisfied our needs.
“He maketh me to lie down in green pastures” indicates that the sheep ate until he was full and there was more green pasture left. “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemy’s” shows that the man of God prospers despite ill wishes of those who hate him. “My cup runneth over is a picture of overflow.”
Malachi gives us the picture also,
“Bring ye the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food
in my house, and prove me now herewith, saith Jehovah of Hosts, if I will
not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that
there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:10, emphasis added).
The indication here is that we’ll receive a blessing that there shall not be enough
(room) to receive which simply means some will spill, over the top. There will be an overflow.
Then Jesus makes it plain when he said, “He that believeth on me as the scripture saith, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water “ (John 7:38, emphasis added).
This clinches the fact. Flowing out of the heart of God and into the life of man is God’s stream of living water.
Man is the channel and the river of living water flows out to bless and bring life to others. We live out of the overflow.
We need the experience first of all for personal victory. The temptations, battles, problems of life are so great that the only way we can be sure of personal victory is through the grace of God. The way to face all of these difficulties is by the grace that God has so freely given us.’
Actually Jesus met temptation through the power of the Holy Spirit. “And Jesus, being full of the Holy Spirit, returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness” (Luke 4:1, emphasis added). There you remember Satan tempted him.
After going through a series of tests he “returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee.” The temptations could not choke the flow of power through the Spirit.
Most of us, after a series of trials like that, would murmur and complain about the terrible time we had been having. The reason is because we have not learned the secret of the overflow. Our lives are like cisterns that hold a certain measure and when that is gone we are stranded. Our lives are channels and the more we need the more we can have as long as we keep the stream flowing.
An old brother testified, saying, “I want religion like a Malley engine. A Malley engine can pull a long loaded freight train up a hard grade and still have enough steam left to blow its whistle. I want religion like that. I want to be able to go through the hardest trial and still have enough grace left after its over to shout “Praise God!”
That is what God plans to do for us. He wants to give us enough for victory and some to spare. Paul said, “That is, we have the grace to conquer but we have more grace than that. We have some to spare. The overflow life is needed for our personal victory. It guarantees sufficient grace for any need that arises.
But we need the overflow for an-other reason. It takes the overflow to win souls. Only that which we can spare will be a blessing to others. When we face a test we use a portion of God’s grace to conquer it. That portion will never do good to anyone else. It has benefited us and us alone. If that is all the grace we have we’ll never be able to help others.
It takes the overflow to provide a surplus to share with others. That is what living out of the overflow means. It means, ‘receiving the Grace of God and sharing with others.’ “Freely have ye received freely give.”
When Peter and John went to the temple to pray, they were stopped by a beggar and asked for alms. Peter didn’t have any money, but he was full of the Holy Ghost so he gave what he had and the man was made whole. Peter had an overflow.
The Malley engine that was mentioned before is a very heavy piece of machinery. I think it weighs over four hundred tons. It takes a lot of power to turn its own wheels and propel its own weight. Suppose it had steam capacity enough to move its own weight but no more.
If that were true, it wouldn’t be worth any more than its weight in scrap iron. But because it has a great surplus of power capacity, it is one of the important aids in the commerce and transportation facilities of our nation. It is the overflow that gives it value.
Religion is an overflow of the redemptive grace of God into our lives. But we must keep it flowing or we lose its benefit. Jesus speaks of going the second mile. Religion is the ability to go beyond that which is required. It is required that we live clean lives, and that we be exemplary in all our conduct. But Christ gives us grace to go beyond that. He helps us to love our enemies, pray for them who persecute us, and do good to them who despitefully treat us. That type of conduct becomes the strongest appeal of the Christian’s religious life.
God is calling us to live out of the overflow of the abundance of His love, grace, joy, and happiness. He is calling us to live an abundant life.
A STRANGE CONDITION
The surprising thing about the whole religious world is the strange absence of the abundant life. Individuals here and there have found the secret, but few groups are living it. Many churches are formal, cold, dry, lifeless, and loveless. Instead of being a place of warm nurture to develop radiant Christians who know how to live victorious lives, the average congregation is like a storage plant designed to keep life in the form of a traditional standard.
The cold. formal churches of today can neither produce nor develop life. It takes a warm incubator to produce growth and development of babies. A refrigerator is used to preserve dead things. It has to be cold to prevent them from spoiling.
This spiritual condition in the churches has cheated many fine people from living the way God planned for them to live. People have had the idea that religion is something you get and keep. They have put the most of their life into trying to keep their experience of religion. They think of it as something, which must be carefully guarded, or it may be lost. Their “grace of God” is measured out carefully lest they run out. Their religion is almost as bad as wartime rationing.
The prophet said He would turn into your hearts “the abundance of the sea.” The picture there is that of an unlimited supply coming like a roaring breaker against the beach. Most of us have lived as if we had to skimp or we would not get by. Actually, we have been just getting by and we have minimized the greatness of the grace of God.
A friend of mine, when he was a boy of twelve went with his family to the seashore in Southern California for the first time. He walked down to the water’s edge and looked across to Catalina Island. After a long minute he turned to his folks and said, “well, it’s pretty big, but it ain’t as big as I thought it was!”
A lot of us have thought of God’s grace like that. We know God is great. We know He has much power, but we are afraid it might run out before the end so we are very careful. The fact my friend overlooked was that a few miles across Catalina Island was some more of the Pacific Ocean.
You can go a thousand miles, another thousand, another thousand and another thousand and you will be getting near to the Hawaii Islands. Then you can go several thousand more and it is still ocean. The Pacific Ocean is much bigger than you might think. So is the love of God. It is an unlimited supply.
One of the sons in the story of the prodigals said, “You never gavest me a kid that I might make merry with my friends.’ A lot of our experiences are similar to this elder son. We have served the Lord many years, but we have never received the sense of son-ship. We have lived with less than God has planned for us. We have fretted against the feeling of frustration and the thought that we are being cheated of something.
We don’t need to be that way, and the answer of the Father to his son reveals why He said, “Son, - - - all that I have is thine.” He could have had a kid any time he wanted it. And we can have the fullness of God any time we want it. Through the abundance of God we can live out of the overflow.
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thankful for the abundance of overflowing grace.