Rivers of Living Water

On the last day of the feast Jesus stood up and proclaimed, if anyone thirst let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water. Now this he said about the spirit which those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the spirit had not been given because Jesus had not yet been glorified.                                                                    John 7:37-39

The life of faith began for most of us, when one day we woke up and realized that God was speaking to us directly. Not just to the world in general, but to me!  He was speaking to me.  He was answering the cry of my heart!

The living God drained guilt from your heart and flooded you with a knowledge that you were forgiven.  The risen Lord Jesus became real to you as never before.  You stepped into a new life with God. 

It was like a spiritual honeymoon.   The sky seemed bluer and the grass greener.  Life was awesome.

Then one day, through some disappointment, or an unexpected rebuke, or perhaps for no reason at all, the joy of heaven disappeared.  Your confidence in God withered.  Jesus’ presence seemed to fade.

 "Well, I guess the honeymoon is over," you say to yourself, "now I will be like all the rest of those Christians, who keep plodding through life with low expectations. I’ll try to make it through somehow."   Our honeymoon with God begins to sink into boredom.

This "spiritual deflation" also brings with it a lowering of all expectations from God.  We no longer expect the Spirit to empower us to bear fruit.

Perhaps we still wish we could touch those lives with God’s power and set the captives free.   But after that first rush of enthusiasm passed we began to turn our eyes inward and content ourselves with just "making it" somehow ourselves.

So instead of looking to God for all this abundance, and reaching out to the needy ones---people crying for healing and help--- we just look away and turn inward.   We’re busy taking our spiritual pulse, preoccupied with our own spiritual life.

And, of course, we’re drying up spiritually.  We’re empty inside.  No wonder no one invites us to their barbecues!  We’re wet blankets, we’re boring.  And we’re lonely.   "Here I am in this lonely valley. I guess that’s how it will be until the end of the journey."

There is the loneliness of self-pity, and the loneliness of the cross.   The loneliness of self-pity isolates us from people.  The loneliness of the cross draws us to people.

The loneliness of the cross means that we are with the Lord Jesus "outside the city, bearing his reproach."  But we are not isolated from people.  If we abide in our Lord, and he abides in us, we cannot help but connect with people the way he does.  We cannot help but pray for people the way he does.  We cannot help but bear fruit.

"If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you.   By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples."                                                                              John 15

Jesus is talking to ordinary people like you and me, who are seeking to follow him.  Each of us is to be a fountainhead of divine mercy constantly flowing out to the world. A river of forgiveness and grace and healing that never stops. The same Spirit that continually flowed out from our Lord and touched people’s lives, is now meant to be flowing out from us in the same way.

Now for a few moments let’s turn aside from the fact that we have fallen short, and let’s just look at what it is the Lord Jesus promises us when he tells us that rivers of living water will flow forth from us.

The first river of living water that flows out from those that abide in Jesus is a river of prayer that goes forth to God. Before we minister to anybody else, we minister to God. In our Lord’s life we see prayer not as some "duty" He has to perform every day. Prayer was His life and it was a river of prayer constantly flowing up to the Father, joyfully and expectantly that caused him to be a fountainhead of healing..

Every word He spoke and every deed he performed was the overflow of a river of prayer going up to the Father. What a difference it makes in us when prayer is no longer "Uh oh, I forgot my prayers today." "Oh, yeah, I’ve got to get that half hour in." But our life, our joy!   Something we desire to do, can’t do enough of.  We want to pray. Until it becomes the most natural thing in the world to go to our Father and talk to Him and lay our anxieties at his feet.  Be certain of this: nothing eternal will ever come from our lives until that river of prayer is flowing to God. Forget about trying to minister to the world until you first learn to minister to the Father in prayer.

The second river of living water that is to flow forth from those that abide in Jesus, is the river of the spoken word of God.  Of course, we all know how to quote scripture and we know our Lord quoted scripture.  But when Jesus quoted scripture it was life.  He knew the Bible, and quoted it frequently.  But never as a weapon in an argument.  

The Scribes and Pharisees knew their Bibles too.  But so often when they quoted scripture, the words fell out of their mouths like stones.  Dead words.  The difference was that when Jesus quoted it, it wasn’t dead letter, it was living Spirit. "My words are spirit and they are life."

 From our hearts, too, is to flow a river of words.  Words that are in accord with scripture but burning with life.  When they come forth from our mouths, the lives that are touched by these words are not defeated, discouraged and condemned, even when the words are hard, but set free, given hope.  They are to hear life-giving words coming from us as naturally as the birds sing.

Lord grant thy servants to speak thy word with all boldness, while thou stretchest forth thy hand to heal and signs and wonders are performed in the name of thy servant Jesus.                       And as they prayed, the place where they were gathered was shaken and they were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the Word of God with boldness.

                                                            Acts 4

The spoken Word of God is not eloquence. The Roman world of that day was loaded with orators. They didn’t have TV, they didn’t have radio, but there was an abundance of gifted speakers.  But with the Apostles it was not orating that did the job.  Peter , John, and Paul  were not gifted speakers, they did not have silver tongues.  And yet the words they spoke brought life.

City after city of the ancient world was stirred by the spoken word coming forth from ordinary people. It was not professional evangelists, it was not trained preachers, it was plain down to earth human beings whose mouths were the fountainheads of life-giving words, causing awesome things to happen.

The third river that is to flow forth from us as we abide in Jesus is a river of healing water. Lives are to be healed as we touch them. There are people in the Body of Christ who are gifted for healing; they have a special gift. But the healing touch of the Lord Jesus is not limited to those with the "gift." The Master’s healing touch goes wherever his word goes. Just as surely as the Word of God goes forth from our mouths it is to be followed by a stream of healing. Wherever Jesus is, his healing life flows out.  If Jesus dwells in us, he will bring healing to the lives we touch.

 And it should be as natural as eating and sleeping, that we leave behind us a trail of healed families, healed bodies, healed minds, healed spirits, healed places.

"On the last day of the feast, on the great day, Jesus stood up and proclaimed, "If anyone thirst, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as scripture has said, out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water".

If there is going to be an outflow of life, first there has to be an inflow. If there is going to be a river flowing out, you first have to drink the river that flows in. Jesus says, "Come to me and drink, you are thirsty." That’s what faith is, faith is to drink, to take it in, to swallow it.

For instance, we need to drink Jesus’ forgiveness. Many of us know all about forgiveness and we are telling everyone else about forgiveness, but the one thing we fail to do it to swallow it ourselves. There are people reading these words, who are weighed down with a burden of guilt on their hearts. It’s been there a long time.  The Lord wants to forgive them.  They see it, they hear it, they understand, but the one thing they won’t do is swallow it. Drink it up! 

If He points to the cross and says, "My child, your sins are forgiven" that means that forgiveness has flowed right up to the door of your heart. Now all you have to do is open that door, and you will experience peace.

Some of us don’t have to look back years. There have been things in the past week that have disappointed us, we’ve blown it, and we are disgusted with ourselves.  We need the forgiveness of the Lord that is available to us as we read these words.  It’s here, but we are not swallowing it, we are not drinking it.

If the Lord says, "Your sins are forgiven" it won’t do us a bit of good until we drink it in. Keep drinking it in until you begin to experience the peace and you absolutely will if you come to Him and drink forgiveness.

We need also to drink Jesus’ promise of life. "I have come that they may have life.  I haven’t come to bum you out, I haven’t come to grind you down with condemnation."  Yes, there is misery on earth.  And there is a Hell beyond this world.  But Jesus’ purpose is to save us from both by offering us life. 

Salvation from God has to do with the present as well as the future, needs in our life that He wants to meet. He cares if we are broke, He cares if you don’t have a job, He cares if you are lonely, He cares if you are having trouble in your home, He cares if you are worried about your child.  He offers help, if we will but come to Him and drink. There is not a thing in your life, not a trouble, not a burden, not a worry that he doesn’t care about, if you will come to Him and drink.

Finally, we need to drink from Jesus his word of correction, and that is the last thing we want to swallow. But it’s excellent medicine.  Don’t try to take all the goodies and forget God’s correction. There may be an attitude in our life, an attitude that has really taken us down the wrong track. There may be a way in which we have begun to cut corners, "Oh, God won’t mind, I’ll just slip around this one." Or a way in which we are being deceptive. We are deceiving ourselves and other people, and we pretend that it isn’t there, until finally in His love and mercy, God comes and puts his finger on it. The reason He puts his finger on this thing is that that attitude is going to destroy us, that cutting of corners is going to ruin us if it goes on, so he hits it, out of love for our own good.

 We’re inclined to defend ourselves and justify ourselves and give all kinds of good reasons why we do what we do or don’t do what we should. Many of us have gone on for years justifying the fact that we won’t forgive or that we are compromising the area of what we know if not pleasing to Him.  But when we finally drink that correction, we have peace. Suddenly the war is over, I am no longer busy trying to justify myself, I admit it, Lord you are right, thank you for not letting me get away with that. Thank you for helping me, bringing me to the end of myself.

"Thou hast dealt well with thy servant, O Lord, according to Thy Word. Teach me good judgment and knowledge for I have believed thy commandments. Before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now I have kept Thy Word. Thou art good and what you do is good, teach me thy statutes. It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn thy statutes. The law from Thy mouth is better for me than thousands of gold or silver".                                                                        Psalm 119

Thank you Lord for showing me that thing and not giving me any peace until I swallow your correction. It is when we swallow the correction, whatever it is, that the river of living water begins to well up inside our heart overflowing.

"If anyone thirst, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as scripture has said, out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.

That River of life will flow into you, if you will but come and drink.

That River will flow out of you if you will but believe and obey.