I wrote a song that I have recently rerecorded which for part of my life really rung true… I have not always been totally dedicated to the Lord, at times I have played in the shallows of the river of God, dabbled in the things of God, I have not dived deep.
The prophet Ezekiel saw a vision as he was being given a guided tour of the future millennial temple, and he saw water trickling out from beneath this temple, flowing on to become a mighty river of God.
Ezekiel 47:1-5 (ESV)
Then he brought me back to the door of the temple, and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. Then he brought me out by way of the north gate and led me around on the outside to the outer gate that faces toward the east; and behold, the water was trickling out on the south side.
Going on eastward with a measuring line in his hand, the man measured a thousand cubits, and then led me through the water, and it was ankle-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was knee-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was waist-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and it was a river that I could not pass through, for the water had risen. It was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be passed through.
THERE IS A RIVER OF GOD
Ezekiel saw in his vision the temple of God and a river flowing from it. When we see water in a prophetic vision in the Word of God, it almost always refers to the healing and life giving power of the Holy Spirit. Eg:
Zechariah 14:8 (ESV)
On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem,
The river of life Ezekiel sees here is reflective of the river of life in the New Jerusalem, the eternal city
Revelation 22:1 (ESV)
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb
This imagery of the river of God runs from the Garden of Eden to the throne of God in Revelation, it is right through Scripture.
Jesus Himself used this picture when on the last great day of a feast, while the high priest was drawing water from the pool and the choirs were singing, “with joy shall we draw forth water from the wells of salvation.” He was there in the shadows, until He couldn’t stand it any more
John 7:37-39 (ESV)
On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit,
Back to Ezekiel vision, the river flowing here, building as it flows, is the Holy Spirit. It’s another way of testifying to God’s people that God is in the house and that His blessings are flowing from Him, through His church and His people, into the entire land.
There’s a kingdom lesson here for us today, because the church is supposed to model the kingdom of God. We are supposed to be a living illustration of the flowing, deepening, and growing life that happens when the Holy Spirit manifests His growing presence in the Lord’s temple. The Lord’s temple also speaks of the community of believers, the church. As Paul referring to the church explains,
Ephesians 2:21-22 (ESV)
in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
WHY OUR NATION IS DYING
Out of His temple, His body, His church, the water of the Spirit can flow to a dry and thirsty land, because our nation needs it. We are dying!
Proverbs 14:34 (ESV)
Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.
The reason our culture is drying up in sin is that there’s no spiritual water flowing out of the sanctuary into the world. But we aren’t going to get the water flowing down the streets of our communities, bringing life where there is death, bringing hope where there is despair, until it begins to flow down the aisles of our churches. If God’s presence doesn’t show up among his people, how will He show up in our neighbourhoods, in the nation, and in the world?
Australia is not seeing this river of God flowing though it because our churches are not seeing it flow, and I believe it is time for us as God’s people to step up and step into this river of life. If my people…
THE RIVER OF God BRINGS LIFE
Everywhere this river goes, it brings with it life in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not an optional extra to the Christian experience, the Spirit is the deposit of eternal life. It’s the Spirit of God living within us.
I grew up in a conservative Baptist Church, and we use to joke about the Baptist trinity, Father, Son and Holy Scriptures. But as a new Christian, I was scared of the Holy Spirit, scared of being too crazy, too out there, too weird, too radical.
Some of you might be like that right now. Take it easy pastor, we don’t want anything weird.
In my experience since that time, I have discovered that the Holy Spirit is gentle and kind and not at all weird. Some people go weird, but that’s not necessarily the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is simply God within us, and He is the source of life, healing and hope. And the river vision shows us what the Spirit brings to us…
Ezekiel 47:7-12 (ESV)
As I went back, I saw on the bank of the river very many trees on the one side and on the other. And he said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, and enters the sea; when the water flows into the sea, the water will become fresh. And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. Fishermen will stand beside the sea. From Engedi to Eneglaim it will be a place for the spreading of nets. Its fish will be of very many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea. But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt. And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.”
This water of the Spirit flows from the temple of God and brings life to the full, healing, Miracles, fruit, food, fish. Everything around it and close to it is made alive and fresh. Apart from the Dead Sea, the swamps that yield only salt, and where nothing can live.
As I read that I believe we each have a choice, church. Do you want to be the river of life, or the salty swamp of death? Do you want to bring life to your family and your nation, or be a part of the death we see around us. Here’s a hint, the choice Moses gave Israel.
Deuteronomy 30:19 (ESV)
I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live,
As we choose to dive into the river of life, our children and their children will benefit, as will our friends, our families, our society and ultimately our nation.stick your toe is, and you might get refreshed. Dive in, and you will be transformed and blessed beyond your wildest dreams.
Ephesians 3:20 (ESV)
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power (dynamics) at work within us,
WHAT OUR NATION NEEDS RIGHT NOW
Australia right now needs life. In fact it needs the way, the truth and the life. This pandemic has spoken words of fear and death over our people, and it has to stop.
The level of fear and paranoia is extreme, and yet we have within us a river of life and healing. The problem is that many of us are reservoirs, not canals. We keep the Blessing to ourselves, and we don’t convey it. It stops with us, it doesn’t flow through us.
The river that flows from the temple of God is the life Jesus spoke of, and we should have His life yielding fruit in us. One of my favourite Psalms speaks of this…
Psalms 1:1-3 (ESV)
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
That’s our destiny, and what our nation needs to see modelled right now. People who see beyond the fear and scare tactics and words of death and speak of life and hope. We can be like those trees, planted by the stream of living water. Our roots go down deep into the soil, and the life we experience comes from the stream itself. Our nation is parched, but we have the river of life within us.
IT IS TIME TO TAKE THE PLUNGE INTO THE RIVER OF GOD
So this morning is a spiritual swimming lesson. The amount by which we experience the life of the Spirit, and our nation experiences revival, does not depend upon God. He has already given the best of heaven, giving His Son to die for us on a cruel cross. And He’s given His Holy Spirit, to live in and through us.
I have watched many underwater shows, seen coral and fish and sharks on video, but nothing, nothing replaces actually being under the water. Taking the plunge and getting my open water certificate is one of the coolest but scariest things I have done.
No, the amount of life we experience depends on us, on how we respond. For too long so many have dabbled in Christianity, watched a few documentaries or YouTube clips, got a bit involved, but we’re enticed away and and ultimately concentrate on other things. But I believe that with recent events, that you and I have been placed here in this town and in this church for this moment in time.
Esther 4:14 (ESV)
For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
I want to be part of the solution, I want to be someone who ignites and burns brightly for the Kingdom of God. And I believe God has chosen me, and this church, to be part of bringing about revival to our poor, sick, dying nation. But it depends on my response, on your response, and that’s what Ezekiel goes on to say.
1. ANKLE DEEP
Ezekiel 47:3 (ESV)
Going on eastward with a measuring line in his hand, the man measured a thousand cubits (just over half a kilometre), and then led me through the water, and it was ankle-deep.
Those living at the shoreline only ever wet their ankles, they are more into the things of this world than the things of the Spirit of God. They might show up on occasions at church, but in reality, when you are ankle deep most of your flesh is on display, and unaffected by the river.
Ankle deep living is a life lived where we are master of our own actions and reactions, at ankle depth the waters of God’s Spirit are too shallow to control us.
The other grave danger of playing in the shallow end is that this is where the muck is pushed by the tide. So an ankle deep believer lives in the mess of sin and carnality. They struggle to be pure, and keep fight with gossiping, arguing, nightclubbing, drinking, smoking, swearing, having sexual partners, porn, drugs, unforgiveness, and so on. They are in the world, and they are of it. Ankle deep by choice, by their choice, not God’s. He doesn’t want this for your life, you do.
If your ankles are wet, you can barely feel the tug of the water. It might refresh you a little from time to time, you might have an experience, but it doesn’t influence you, you’re just dabbling.
2. KNEE DEEP
Ezekiel 47:4 (ESV) a
Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was knee-deep.
Knee deep water is starting to pull a little. It’s not knocking you over, but you can sense the tug. At knee depth it is again very easy to step out of the flow of the Holy Spirit’s tide. You’re attending church, you’re involved, but to a point. Let’s not get too committed here, let’s keep our options open.
One of the things the knee deep saint takes pride in being able to look back at the ankle deep Christian and say: “I’m deeper than you!”. Some are full of spiritual pride but devoid of spirituality.
2 Timothy 3:5 (ESV)
having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.
Many Christians are here, and stay here. They attend church, they go to connect group, they show up, but they never get any more committed than that. They are committed to coming most weeks to church, but do little outside of that the for the Lord. Knee deep water refreshes you in a hot day, but it doesn’t control you. Next up,
3. WAIST DEEP
Ezekiel 47:4 (ESV). b
Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was waist-deep.
Now this is many of us, we are committed, we are involved, and we are serving. That river of God is up to our waist,
The Christian who is waist deep is more faithful, but they are still to a degree living in a comfort zone. I’ll get committed, but only so far. I feel the tug of the Spirit, but I can also resist it. These believers attend church most weeks, but their heart is still not fully sold out for God.
They feel the tug, sure, but their feet can still touch the bottom, and they are not prepared to trust God enough to risk going deeper or being fully submerged. The current drags them along, but their eye is still on the shoreline, and their friends playing in the shallows.
4. DEEP ENOUGH TO SWIM IN
Ezekiel 47:5 (ESV)
Again he measured a thousand, and it was a river that I could not pass through, for the water had risen. It was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be passed through.
The issue of the waist deep Christian is one of faith. I see myself often in this. How willing am I to become totally, utterly, completely sold out for Jesus? What sacrifices am I holding back on making, what am I afraid to give up? Even more, if I do totally yield to the Holy Spirit, what crazy thing is He going to ask me to do? Will I finish up a missionary in India, barking like a dog or worse?
To become totally submerged in the river of God takes a bowing of the knee in humility and a surrendering of our lives into God’s hands. It looks like certain death to be totally plunged into the raging river of God and totally carried along by a current we cannot influence, but this is what God requires – only those who have died to self can see His face.
Galatians 2:20 (ESV)
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
The river of the Holy Spirit of God is flowing, flowing down from the temple, the church, the people of God, and bringing life, and healing and joy to every place it touches. Our nation is dry and desolate, and our post COVID world is the stinking, putrid marsh of unbelief, but the river brings life, and life to the full, to all who are willing.
The only question that remains is for you to answer… How deep are you willing to dive? I believe God has brought you here for such a time as this. I am praying right now that God will be stirring you up to get more fully committed, because this is our moment in history to dive in deep and declare the goodness of God to a despairing world.
Have you got a dream in your heart for ministry? My job and calling as a pastor, as a leader, is not to do everything myself, but
Ephesians 4:12 (ESV)
to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
Maybe you think,I don’t have the skills, or the talent, or the time to serve in any capacity. This is where the river of life gets exciting, because when you yield yourself the power of the Holy Spirit, not your own skills and talents, He steps in. A fire hydrant is only small, but it produces a huge gush of water that continues to flow. Why? Because it doesn’t produce this in its own capacity, it is plugged in into and endless supply of high pressure water underneath.
That’s where we are at, so Please bow your heads. Ankle deep, knee deep, just playing in the shallows… God has so much more for you. Waste deep, committed to a point almost there, but God still has more for you. Are you prepared this day to bow the knee and say, Lord, whatever the cost, I’m in? If you can trust God for eternal life to the full, surely you can trust Him for life to the full now, whatever He has planned. To prosper you and not harm you.
HOW DEEP ARE YOU CURRENTLY IN THE RIVER OF GOD? BE HONEST!
WHAT MAKES YOU FEAR DIVING DEEPER INTO THE RIVER OF GOD?
WHAT CAN YOU DO THIS WEEK TO ADVANCE FURTHER INTO THE FLOW OF GOD’S HOLY SPIRIT?