John 7:38, “Rivers of living water will flow out of your innermost man” (Jn. 7:38).
Here’s the condition, though. He said, “This will only happen if you believe on Me in the way the Scripture says”. Rivers will flow. You could call it a flowing river; you could call it a fiery heart or a fiery flame; it’s the same thing. Whether it’s a flowing river on the inside, as in John 7:38, or rivers flowing in the innermost man, or fire burning on the heart, it’s an identical concept.
• Jesus said in John 7:38, “Rivers will flow.” I’m paraphrasing, but there’s a condition. People don’t read the condition, and the condition is this: “If you believe on Me in the way the Scriptures describe believing on Me.”
• If you go through the New Testament looking for it, you find the biblical definition of believing is believing that incorporates a spirit of dedication, a spirit of devotion, and a spirit of grace.
• I’ve found that many, many people approach the Word with two of the three. You have to believe on Him in the way the Scripture says. You can’t pick two out of three and then expect the rivers to flow. It’s three out of three. We have to feed our spirit on all three things. We need to have the vision to be wholehearted. There’s no substitute for the yes in your spirit, for the determination to have a hundredfold obedience. There’s absolutely no substitute for a big yes in your spirit. You may not walk it out, but it’s a fiery determination in your soul to get through those issues. The Lord says, “I see that. That’s real to me.”
• It’s not enough to be a rule keeper who says, “I’ll stay out of all the bad mud holes.” You have to have a spirit of devotion, and an “I love You” in the journey.
• That’s not enough either. Some people who have devotion and dedication, but they aren’t established in the spirit of grace. They have an “I will obey You” and “I love You,” but they say, “Lord, I know that You don’t take me seriously yet and I know that I’m still on probation. I know that I still haven’t earned the right yet to enjoy Your presence.” They don’t have the spirit of grace operating yet. They end up giving up on the miraculous power of the written Word touching the inner man. They give up on it. They say, “Well, I read the Word and it just didn’t work.” No, you didn’t believe on Him in the way the Scripture says. You believed on Him in the way your denomination taught you. You believed on him in the way your fellowship taught you. You believed on Him in the way your Bible camp taught you. That’s not enough. We need to believe on Him in the way the Scripture teaches and then, like He said in John 7:38, it flows like a river on the inside, in time. I don’t mean that night, necessarily, but over time, it flows like a river on the inside.
THE HEART IS SET ON FIRE BY FAITH IN THE WORD
• 2 Thes 2:13— It says this: the way that you enter into sanctification, the way that you enter is by faith in the Word and by the Holy Spirit. The way the heart is set on fire is when we have faith in the Word. We believe what the Word of God says, but particularly about the need for the spirit of dedication, the spirit of devotion, and the spirit of grace. You can call those three things different things if you want; you can use your own terms. You can call it a spirit of obedience instead of dedication; you can call it a spirit of “I love you” instead of devotion. You can call it what you want, but those realities need to be present in the heart.
• Let me tell you, when those things are present, the Word of God has a miraculous dimension of releasing fire, or releasing the living waters. It has a miraculous dimension of changing your emotional chemistry. It changes you for real if you do this consistently. I’ve never seen it fail, ever. I’ve seen people give up on the process and I’ve seen them approach with two of the three or, more commonly, one of those three elements. They approach reading the Word with one of those three elements, or sometimes two. Sometimes they have all three of the elements, but they give up in a month or two. At least give it a good five-year run before you conclude that the Word of God doesn’t work. Don’t give it three months; give it five years. It won’t take five years, but when those five years come and go, you’ll look back over it and say, “Oh, my heart is flowing like a river; I don’t even know when it started.”
• I absolutely assure you that there’s a miraculous dimension where the Word of God touches the human heart with these three components: the spirit of dedication, the spirit of devotion, and the spirit of grace. I find that the most difficult is the spirit of grace. I find that the easiest is the spirit of dedication. If you have 1,000 people out there at a conference, 800 will say yes to a spirit of dedication. Large numbers of people will say, “I will go all the way.” The vision to be wholehearted is a very important vision. It’s a life vision. It’s a personal vision in your heart, a determination, saying, “I will be wholehearted.” Eight hundred of them will say yes to dedication. About half of them will say yes to devotion. About half of the people standing up will go into the “I love You” dimension.” Four hundred of them will say, “I love You, and I feel the assurance that You enjoy me even in my weakness, in the process, while my love is maturing.”
• I find that saying yes to dedication is the easiest one. That’s why I don’t spend as much time cultivating that. Multitudes of preachers around the land are calling people to dedication, and I love it. If there are 10,000 preachers doing it, we need 20,000. We need twice as many doing it. I don’t mean that we have enough, but that message is emerging and it’s wonderful, it’s pleasing to God’s heart and it’s pleasing to our soul as a people. We love that kind of preaching. I don’t need to do that so much because that voice is going forth in the land, although we need more. I’m just telling you my personal journey, and I say, “Lord, I want to call the spirit of devotion; there’s not so much of that.” There’s a lot more of that going on than there was; not as much as the preaching on dedication, but it’s starting to emerge more and more.
• I tell you, the absolute, most difficult thing is to teach with clarity that God enjoys us; to impart the assurance that we’re enjoyed while in the process of maturing in our devotion and dedication. There’s assurance that we’re embraced and enjoyed while the dedication and the devotion are both maturing. That’s where, in my opinion, the Body of Christ cancels out in the process of having a heart flowing like living waters; a flowing heart, a heart flowing like a river. I love to use that phrase; I’ve used it for years: “O Lord, cause our heart to flow like a river.” I’m quoting John 7:38. Out of our innermost man will flow rivers. Our heart will flow like a river.
• I don’t claim to understand the spirit of grace fully, but I’ve been focused on it for some years now and so I have foundational understanding on it. Taking a step back, I would think that’s the one that everyone would go for. Because when you really understand it, that’s the one that always awakens the other two. But for some reason, that’s the one that’s minimized the most. Then, quite often, I hear people speaking on the spirit of grace but without a call to devotion and dedication, and that ends up being licentiousness and false grace. They’re calling people to have confidence in a life of settled carnality and compromise. That’s not the gospel of Jesus— to give people a concept of God that brings them confidence in blatantly neglecting devotion and dedication. That’s a false religion. That’s humanistic preaching, and there’s a lot of that. It’s saying, “All paths lead to God and God understands; there’s a small amount of God in everyone.” So say many versions of the “spirit of grace,” but without the dedication and devotion that are necessary. If we’re going to preach the Word of God, we have to preach all three.
• I’m talking about the spirit of grace in a very narrow sense, because the message of grace is really the whole thing, but the spirit of grace in the sense that I’m using it now means the assurance that God enjoys us, that God longs for us, that God delights in us, that God embraces us while our dedication and our devotion is maturing. That message is only real if it’s in the context of people who are saying yes to devotion and dedication. Those in our midst, our intern leaders and other Bible schoolteachers in the days to come, need to grasp these ideas. It’s very, very important to understand these. I focus my message differently depending on the people sitting in the chairs, depending on the need in the room. Sometimes people will sit under the teaching of the Word here and they’ll go out and focus on the spirit of grace wherever they go, and I say, “No, they need to be called to dedication.”
• One group is really into dedication; they’ll die for Jesus, they’ll go to the mission field, they’ll be martyrs, they’ll do everything, but they don’t have a spirit of devotion. They don’t have an “I love You” emerging in them. Deep in their spirit, they do love God; it’s real, but they’ve never developed that dimension of their walk with God.
THE SPIRIT OF GRACE IS THE HARDEST DIMENSION TO ACCEPT
• In some places I focus on the devotion. Typically I focus on one of those three. When I get those three flowing together, then I want to give the other dimension of the forerunner message, which is calling people to be prepared for the great shaking that’s coming. Some people can’t handle end-time teaching, it breaks them because they are so weak on devotion and dedication and grace, that anything else will just break them. They have no grid for it. It won’t edify them; they’ll just collapse in fear with no root system to gird them up.”
• You can’t prepare them with the knowledge that the revival will be great and the shaking will be terrifying; that by itself, in a vacuum, doesn’t help. It only helps at the end of the day if there’s a root system in those other three things. I’m really focusing on those of you who are teachers of the Word, and giving you some of the logic, the way I think it through when I’m going to speak to a group of people.
• Look at 1 John 4:16. It’s the spirit of grace; grace is the whole long. It’s this assurance, this confidence in love that’s the most difficult dimension to awaken in people who are dedicated and who are devoted. Why? Possibly because it’s the most powerful, and the one that has the most warfare resisting it. Maybe there are so many years of religious teaching that it’s like ten feet of dried cement. We need to break up that old cement and we need to pour it again. We need to have the jackhammer of our spirits break up all of those old ideas and begin afresh. I find that this is the most difficult one that people have in receiving. You’d think it would be the one that they like the most, but it’s the one that they resist the most.
“WE HAVE KNOWN AND BELIEVED THE LOVE THAT GOD HAS FOR US”
• “And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us” (1 Jn. 4:16-19).
• What a powerful four verses. Let’s break it down a little. “We have known and believed the love that God has for us.” This is an absolutely fundamental statement. This was one of John’s major goals as an apostle, to get the early church to know and believe the love that God has for us. You could take that sentence and lift it out, and that could be your preaching, teaching, and discipleship focus for years right there. John’s first premise to establish in the life of a dedicated believer was that they might know and believe the love that God has for us. Instead of the word love, put the word affection. Instead of the word affection, put “the assurance that God enjoys us.” Everyone knows that God loves us technically, though the word love, if it’s understood in its real sense, is so powerful. It’s the biblical word; it’s the best word. But it’s a word that’s over-used, in all the greeting cards and everything, so that sometimes we don’t have the fresh feel of the dynamic of the word. Put the word affection; put the phrase, “the burning desire that God has for us.” Put the phrase, “the assurance of His delight and enjoyment even in our weakness.”
• “We have known and believed.” Instead of the word known, put the word experienced. When the Bible talks about knowing something in God, it means you’ve had experience of it. It doesn’t mean intellectual data, although it starts with intellectual data. It starts with ideas that hit the mind. We take the ideas and we put some “I love You” around them when we turn them into dialogue with God. I take biblical information and I say, “Oh God, show me this. I love You. I want to know this. You love me.” I begin to speak it to God in a conversation with a spirit of devotion in it, and that biblical information becomes an experience. Then the word known is the word to use.
• “We have known,” which means we have experienced the love that God has for us. We will never outgrow this foundation. Ephesians 3:18 says that you’ll never, ever exhaust the length, the depth, and the height of God’s love. In eternity, a billion years from today, you and I will be talking and we will say, “We have believed the love that God has for us. Well, not really; there’s still more we’re discovering.” This is one of the great statements from heaven. This isn’t a guess; this is the holy, inspired word.
THE INCOMPREHENSIBLE, INEXHAUSTIBLE OCEAN OF THE LOVE OF GOD
• God is an ocean of divine love. He is love. I just picture this vast ocean of burning desire, inexhaustible, indescribable, and incomprehensible in its fullness. If the ocean was fresh water, you could drink all that you could drink in a lifetime, every single day until you burst, and I tell you, you wouldn’t even dent that ocean. If you took a million people and lined them up along the west coast before the Pacific Ocean, and the Pacific Ocean was sweet water, and they drank their whole lifetime, it wouldn’t dent the ocean. A billion years from now we still haven’t begun to experience, to exhaust the infinite ocean of His divine being. It’s His fiery desire forever and ever and ever. We wouldn’t even know this if the Holy Spirit hadn’t given it to us in the holy transcript, in the Word of God.
• The big religions of the world don’t have a God of love at their center. The whole thing is motivated by anger, hate, shame, fear, and all kinds of things. The very centerpiece of everything that we’re about is an ocean of burning desire that can never, ever be exhausted, it’s so vast. I love this! Just hook me up to an IV and never turn it off. It’s called the Holy Spirit forever filling me. The Lord says, “Do you want more?”
• I say, “Yes.”
• The Lord says, “Take the living Word and feed on it with a spirit of dedication, a spirit of devotion, and the spirit of grace, and it will combust inside your spirit; and your heart will flow like a river.”
LIVING IN THE EXPERIENCE OF FEEDING YOURSELF ON THE REALITY OF LOVE
• It’s no mystery how to shake off the spirit of slumber and the spirit of barrenness that gets hold of our soul. It gets hold of you and it gets hold of me. In one season we’re going really hot; it’s like the frog in the kettle. It’s the subtle processes, and we don’t even know how it happens. We turn around one day and the fresh fire is diminished. We don’t have to panic; we know how to get it back. We go and we fill our spirit the Word of God. It’s not enough to come and worship. Worship is fantastic; I love worship, but I want to worship with the Word. I want to read the Word and feed on the Word. I want to speak the Word back in conversation and loving dialogue. I want the Word, the Word, the Word, and the word in an atmosphere of worship, and that spontaneous combustion on the inside is the work of grace. It’s the Holy Spirit.
• God is love. Now when he says abide, let’s put the word lives: “the person who lives or experiences love.” If you drink from the ocean of love, if you drink of this doctrine, you feed your spirit on it. When it says, “Abide in love,” the word abide means live or dwell; it means living in the experience of feeding yourself on the reality of love. In my little world in a prayer room here and I’m walking back and forth; I like to walk, I like to pace, with my Bible open, and I like to read about the subject of divine love. I have my Bible open, reading the Song of Solomon. The worship is in the air and it’s a fasting day. If you throw fasting in, fasting doesn’t earn you anything; it just increases your capacity to receive more a lot faster. It enlarges your capacity to receive. Fasting food doesn’t earn you anything; fasting increases your capacity to receive.
• I’m pacing through the prayer room, reading the Song of Solomon; it’s a fasting day, and there’s an “I love You” all over. The worship is going and I’m reading, saying, “I love You, God.” That’s the initial step to abiding; living in the realm of love and feeding your spirit of love.
Sidenote -THE PROGRESSION OF THREEFOLD LOVE
• Lest you lose your way in this, when the Bible uses the word love, it normally refers to threefold love. There’s always a progression in the threefold love. The first love is the revelation that God loves us. The second is an awakening in our heart to love Him back. We call that passion for Jesus. The third is love for people. We feed ourselves on the fact that He loves us. This is what verse 19 says: that’s where it starts first. When it’s talking about living in love, it’s not limiting us to just to feeding on the fact that God loves us. It awakens love to Him and then it overflows in love to people.
• When I think of love for people, I think of three dimensions of love for people: it’s the overflow of knowing that God loves us and then having an awakened heart to love Him back. There are three dimensions of loving people. The order is critical. The first dimension is that you love yourself. You absolutely fall in love with yourself with the love of God. You love who you are in God. Then you love the Body of Christ, and then it always overflows to loving the harvest, always. You can’t separate those three things. You can’t separate the whole package here. It’s all one reality.