About 8 or so months ago, I had the desire to explore Jesus’ teachings in a deeper way.

I very slowly went through the book of John with fresh eyes, and did a lot of research using various sources so I could re-visit the context of the original text. I hadn’t gone that deep into a book of the Bible since attending seminary over 15 years ago.

Doing so was one of a few events that caused my relationship with God to go deeper than it has been in years.

This lesson is based on a passage that really stuck out to me while going through the Book of John. 

Use it to help students go deeper in their relationship with God. 

I think they’ll really like it.

Enjoy!

Nick Diliberto, Ministry to Youth

YOUTH GROUP LESSON ON GOING DEEPER

DOWNLOAD THE PDF OF THIS LESSON

Written by Nick Diliberto

Bible: John 7:37-39; Isaiah 55:1; John 4:14; Ezekiel 47:1-7; Ezekiel 47:8-12

Bottom Line: The more we experience and interact with the Spirit of God, not only is our deepest need met but we experience “new life” within.

TEACH

SAY: Today, we’re talking about “going deeper” in your relationship with God… but what does that mean? Allow a few responses.

If you think about it, you will have relationships with hundreds, if not thousands of people, throughout your lifetime – some of those relationships will be shallow, maybe you will just know someone for a small amount of time, or you will only see them occasionally.

But you will also have deep and meaningful relationships, with people like family and close friends… those that know the “real” you and you really know them.

When we’re talking about “going deeper” with God, you have to understand that it’s not only a desire that we should have within us to experience and interact with the Spirit of God, but God also wants to interact with you… because He wants to give you something that you can’t experience outside of your relationship with Him – new life.

Let’s begin by reading John 7:37-39:

“On the last day of the festival, the great final celebration, Jesus stood up and shouted out, ‘If anybody’s thirsty, they should come to me and have a drink! Anyone who believes in me will have rivers of living water flowing out of their heart, just like the Bible says!’

He said this about the spirit, which people who believed in him were to receive. The spirt wasn’t available yet, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”

Here’s a little background on the Feast of Tabernacles.

“On the last day of the festival, the great final celebration, Jesus stood up and shouted out…”

When the Scripture mentions “the festival,” it’s referring to the Jewish festival of Tabernacles. 

In the time of Jesus, it was one of the 3 great annual pilgrimage feasts (the others being Passover and Pentecost).

It consisted of an 8-day celebration when thousands of Jewish people would come to Jerusalem from all over. 

The point was to remind the people of when their ancestors were “wandering in the wilderness, living in tents or tabernacles,” after being freed from Egypt, and before settling into the Promised Land.

The Feast of Tabernacles was a symbol of great national hope because it represented two things: the coming of the Messiah and the liberation from Rome. 

It was also an agricultural celebration, coming at the climax of harvest season. 

Lavish celebrations including – lighting of lamps, dancing by torchlights, march of priests and people around the altar carrying citrus fruit and waving palm branches. 

The climax of the Feast of Tabernacles was on the last day.

On the last day, the priests would pour out water and wine around the altar, and say various prayers.

There were two main themes among those prayers, which Jesus spoke directly about. 

Jesus directly addresses these themes when he has a big audience, and at the climax of the festival – at just the right moment, he says something about both of them. 

They were familiar concepts, but he gave them new meaning. 

Let’s look at those two things that Jesus spoke about.

Thing #1 – Water

“If anybody’s thirsty, they should come to me and have a drink!”

We’re talking about the Middle East – it’s mostly desert and mostly hot – kinda like our summer weather. 

Water is the #1 requirement.

If a town or tribe had a good water supply from a stream, spring, or well, it could thrive.

If not, it would be in trouble.

So, when Jesus talks about water and being thirsty, everyone can immediately relate. 

But Jesus’ words here were also an echo of Isaiah 55:1.nHis listeners would have made that connection because it was familiar to them. It is one of the great evangelic invitations in the entire Old Testament. 

Read Isaiah 55:1:

The Lord says, “All you who are thirsty, come and drink. Those of you who do not have money, come, buy and eat! Come buy wine and milk without money and without cost.”

Jesus is making a profound point that we’ll dive deeper into in just a moment. 

But first… just a few chapters back, in the Book of John, Jesus has a conversation with a woman at the well, and says these words:

Read John 4:14:

“But anyone who drinks the water I’ll give them won’t ever be thirsty again. No: the water I’ll give them will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

John, the writer, is telling us a story. He wants us to really get Jesus’ point. 

In fact, he’s been talking a lot about this concept in the passages leading up to this. It’s been a key theme leading up to this point. 

All of these passages of Scripture are telling us something and they’re causing us to go below the surface.

Before we dive into what Jesus is saying here, let’s put together all of the pieces of HOW he’s saying it. 

How is he saying it?

Water. Everyone is aware of their personal need for water, especially in a desert climate. 

He’s got a huge audience of thousands of people, who have been at an 8-day festival celebrating the hope the coming of the Messiah and the liberation from Rome. 

At the climax of the festival he says these words, just as the priests are pouring water and wine over the altar, saying a prayer related to rain for their crops. 

Keep in mind this is also an agricultural festival, and it’s the peak of harvest season. 

It was the perfect moment.

The context of his message brings with it a certain level of:

Depth. Meaning. Purpose. Weight. 

Jesus wanted his audience to get it. He wanted to grab their attention. He wanted to share a profound truth. He didn’t want them to take his words lightly. 

So, what is Jesus really saying? And what could this mean for you and I?

Jesus’ message was a new idea… a new concept.

Jewish spirituality in Jesus’ day was full of religion, rituals, and rules.

Jesus’ words went much deeper than that.

His point – The spirit of God satisfies the deep thirst our souls have for something “more.” 

Like water gives life to our body, the Spirit gives life to our soul. 

This “life” has a never-ending supply. Like water from a spring, it just keeps coming… because we continually need it. 

When you engage or interact with with the Spirit of God, something deep within your heart is satisfied.

When you pursue God, you are whole

These words cut through all our doubts, questions, hurts and fear we have about the Church, God, and the Bible.

He is simply saying, “Come to me as you are. With all your doubts, fears, hurts, and questions. Come to me.”

Jesus’ words go below the surface stuff of religion, rituals, and even the hustle of everyday life. 

He’s speaking to the very core of what it means to be human; to the deepest part of ourselves, and saying that an intimate, personal relationship with our Creator is what we crave.

The Spirit of God is what brings our life purpose and meaning. 

Based on personal experience, I believe this is an ongoing experience.

It’s a life-long journey.

We’ll make mistakes and mess up.

We’ll look to other things to fill that void because it’s all a part of being human… it’s a part of the process. 

Thing #2 – New Life

“Anyone who believes in me will have rivers of living water flowing out of their heart, just like the Bible says!”

What is living water? Such a strange phrase.

I thought it meant that the water was “alive.” It’s always been a bit confusing for me.

Let’s go below the surface.

Literally, “living water” is simply “running water” that comes from streams or rivers, rather than a spring or well.

Water that’s more likely to be fresh and clean, rather than stagnant. 

The basic idea here is that fresh water is “life giving” to all that it comes in contact with – the fish and all that is within it; the trees and plant life. 

Then, Jesus makes a connection that resonates with his audience.

“Rivers of living water flowing out of their heart, Just like the Bible says!”

Where? Most likely in Ezekiel 47 and the Jewish audience would have made that connection. 

In Ezekiel 47:1-7, Ezekiel was describing a man showing him a river flowing out of the Temple.

As he moved along the river, it got deeper and deeper. 

Read Ezekiel 47:8-12:

“The man said to me, “This water will flow toward the eastern areas and go down into the Jordan Valley. When it enters the Dead Sea, it will become fresh. Everywhere the river goes, there will be many fish. Wherever this water goes the Dead Sea will become fresh, and so where the river goes there will be many living things. Fishermen will stand by the Dead Sea. From En Gedi all the way to En Eglaim there will be places to spread fishing nets. There will be many kinds of fish in the Dead Sea, as many as in the Mediterranean Sea. But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they will be left for salt. All kinds of fruit trees will grow on both banks of the river, and their leaves will not dry and die. The trees will have fruit every month, because the water for them comes from the Temple. The fruit from the trees will be used for food, and their leaves for medicine.”

What did the Jewish people of Jesus’ day think that passage meant?

Here’s what I found when I did some research. I could be wrong about their interpretation – I’m not 100% sure.

And there may have been some different thoughts about it among the people in Jesus’ day.

So, this is the best I could find. 

The New Jerusalem was thought to be a literal place that was to come at some time in the future.

They believed that one day in the future, the Messiah will be anointed as the king of Israel and sit on the throne of David in Jerusalem.

He will rebuild the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

During this time, Jews believe an era of global peace and prosperity will be initiated, the world will turn toward the one God of Israel.

Whatever they actually thought was true about that passage, Jesus put a different spin on it. 

What did Jesus have to say about that passage? He is the source of “new life”!

As we pursue God, our spirit, or soul, comes alive. A change happens on the inside of us.

God moves. He speaks. He’s on the move in our lives. Then, we begin to notice an outward change. We’re more loving, compassionate, at peace, accepting, caring, and so on. 

We experience new life on the inside. Then, stuff on the outside changes. We’ll never be able to change our actions or attitudes purely by will power alone.

It’s God at work in us.

What does that mean for you & I? The more we experience and interact with the Spirit of God, not only is our deepest need met but we experience “new life” within. 

As a result, characteristics like love, peace, understanding, joy, and compassion surface in our lives.

God’s very presence in us overflows in every area of our lives. 

I think many of us can look back and see moments in our lives where we experienced “new life” for a period of time. 

(Take this opportunity to share a personal story of a time when you experienced “new life” for a period of time.)

Now, I’m an idealist. I want to believe this is an ongoing experience, but that’s simply not reality. 

What I am about to say is detouring a bit from the text, but I believe there is a lot of truth in it. 

I think the idea of “new life” points to the idea that there are “seasons” of life – periods of time that have a certain overall theme to them. 

“New life” looks different in each of those seasons. 

(Share some of the seasons of life you’ve been through and what God was doing in each of them.)

I think it’s worthwhile for us to recognize what season we’re in and what God is doing in that season. 

Even in the winter (pain, trauma, hurt, suffering, etc), God is still at work in your life – He’s doing something.

Sometimes death happens before new life… winter before spring. 

If we pay attention, we’ll see what God is doing in and around us. 

Here are some questions to reflect on: What season of life are you in right now? What kind of “new life” is God bringing forth?

WRAP UP

I’ve done a lot of talking. Thanks for hanging in there. 

As I wrap up, I’m going to read this passage one more time:

“On the last day of the festival, the great final celebration, Jesus stood up and shouted out, ‘If anybody’s thirsty, they should come to me and have a drink! Anyone who believes in me will have rivers of living water flowing out of their heart, just like the Bible says!’

And I leave you with this question…

What is it that God is speaking to you this morning?

(Pause and allow students to have a moment of reflection. Either play a soft worship song or have a minute or two of silence.)

End in Prayer.

DOWNLOAD THE PDF OF THIS LESSON

Liked this lesson? Then, you’ll also like this…

YOUTH GROUP LESSON ON DISAPPOINTMENT

Written by Nick Diliberto. Nick is the creator of Ministry to Youth, a collection of youth ministry websites (including this one). He’s married to gnarly triathlete and dad to three teenagers. 

6 thoughts on “YOUTH GROUP LESSON ON GOING DEEPER

  • August 21, 2018 at 9:09 am
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    Thanks for a great lesson!

    Reply
  • August 21, 2018 at 4:49 pm
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    Do you have your studies in a video format? Our youth ministry really responds well to that format, usually only around 15 minutes long that allows time to either have a discussion afterwards or pause through the video for mini discussions along the way. Love your content and direction here. Would love to have it available on a video to show!

    Reply
  • August 25, 2018 at 4:55 am
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    Thanks Nick! Awesome lesson. I look forward to sharing it with our 11th grade youth class soon. Keep up the good work! Tommy

    Reply
    • August 27, 2018 at 9:58 am
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      Awesome Tommy. Glad you liked the lesson!

      Reply

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