And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb.
Heaven is a very interesting place. The average man, sadly the average christian, rarely thinks of this most unusual place. Everone will mention it when a loved one dies, dutifully repeating the often, heard phrase, “They are in a better place.” Everyone nods in agreement but no one acts like this place called heaven is relevant or even a place they are longing to go to. It is obviously better than the alternative, but no one seems excited about the prospect of going there. Could this be true because many have not discovered the true attraction of heaven? What is it that makes heaven, heaven after all?
Jonathan Edwards spoke about this very issue in his sermon “Heaven is a World of Love”. He said the attraction of heaven is not golden streets, relatives, good health, and all of the other blessings that are there. Edwards says that Jesus is the attraction of heaven and heaven is only attractive to those who have glimpsed the beauty of Christ. Listen to his words about the place he called, “the world of love”. “There in heaven, this fountain of love, this eternal three in one, is set open without any obstacle to hinder access to it. There this glorious God is manifested and shines forth in full glory, in beams of love; there the fountain overflows in streams and rivers of love and delight enough for all to drink at, and to swim in yea, so as to overflow the world as it were with a deluge of love”.
This kind of excessive love is foreign to modern man, especially in church. Church is about routine, lifestyle, relevance, friends, teaching, good works, but not too much about joy found in the presence of God. This leaves man, who has quite a capacity for pleasure, with the dilemma of finding his pleasure in other things. This River spoken of in Revelation 22 is actually the overflow of the love and joy of heaven in the person of the Holy Spirit. When we experience this incredible river of God, there is an awakening in our soul. We begin to hunger after God Himself, and our desires and understanding of heaven begins to change. Come quickly Lord Jesus, take us with you to your world of love.
We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.
What do you do with excessive joy? What am I talking about? When your cup is so full, it has to be poured out. When the sweetness of heaven is so good, and the presence of Jesus is overwhelming, what do you do?
Paul described this overflowing joy in his letter to Corinth. He was describing the joy of the Phillipian church. He said their joy overflowed in an incredibly, generous offering and a lifestyle of giving. They were insisting to be included in the relief offering being taken for the church in Jerusalem.
Many Christians have never experienced this kind of overflow. Paul described it as the work of God’s grace in our hearts. This amazing grace opens our hearts up to the unlimited spiritual resources of heaven. When we began to taste of these incredible riches we have to respond. This response comes in so many ways. It could be ministering to the hungry, or visiting the prisons. For you it could be witnessing on the streets, telling your lost friends about His love, or ministering to the sick. Many times the overflow of joy comes in simply giving offerings to the work of God. When we are tasting the incredible riches of His Grace in our own lives and see people who are hurting, our joy demands a response.
John Piper speaks often of the overflow of grace. Here is how he explains it. “Love is the overflow of joy in God that meets the needs of others. The overflow is experienced consciously as the pursuit of our joy in the joy of another. We double our delight in God as we expand it in the lives of others. If our ultimate goal was anything less than joy in God, we would be idolaters and would be no eternal help to anyone. Therefore, the pursuit of pleasure is an essential motive for every good deed. And if you abandon the pursuit of full and lasting pleasure, you cannot love people or please God.”
This is exactly what Jesus meant when He said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive”. So, if you are full, let your joy overflow, let it overflow in an act of love.
THE JOY OF A CHRISTIAN HEDONIST
They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house,
And You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures.
For with You is the fountain of life;
In Your light we see light.
I am a Christian Hedonist. If you are not familiar with that term, it simply means that my goal in life is to glorify God by enjoying Him as much as I possibly can. I believe my happiness in God brings Him glory.
When Jonathan Edwards was nineteen, he wrote his resolutions that shaped his life . One of those resolutions captures the heart of what a christian hedonist is.
“Resolved, To endeavour to obtain for myself as much happiness in the other world as I possibly can, with all the power, might, vigour, and vehemence, yea violence, I am capable of, or can bring myself to exert, in any way that can be thought of.”
This states the activity of a christian hedonist, to pursue happiness “in the other world” with as much strength and energy that one can muster. Is this some sort of modern fad or diversion in the wacky trends of modern-day charismaniac christianity? I hardly think so. Actually this is the quest of men and women of God through the ages.
This is what Augustine meant by “His sovereign joy” and what David called “his exceeding joy”. This is why Mary washed Jesus feet with her tears and why Paul “suffered the loss of all things”. This is the pleasure George Whitefield chased on his horse in the wilderness for thirty five years and why David Braneird exposed his frail body to the harsh weather to preach Christ to the Native Americans. It is what carried Jim Elliott to his death in the jungle of South America and has caused thousands of young men and women to leave family and friends to go to the nations with the message of joy found only in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I am unashamedly a Christian hedonist, my life is about pursuing joy in Christ and the joy found in ministering Christ to others. I think I will try my best to follow the resolution of young Jonathan Edwards. I will exert as much power, energy, resources, passion, and yes violence to find happiness in the other world.
You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
What is a christian hedonist? A hedonist is a person who believes the doctrine that happiness or pleasure is the highest good. A christian hedonist is one who believes that the pursuit of happiness or pleasure in God is the highest good. John Piper has popularized this terminology in the past few years, but this truth is eternal. This is how Piper says it.
“God’s pursuit of praise from us and our pursuit of pleasure in Him are in perfect harmony. For God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. ”
All of us are in the pursuit of happiness from the day we were born. Our first pleasure is at our mother’s breast, from there we advance to toys, games, friends, sports, accomplishments, boyfriends and girlfriends, schools, careers, possessions, vacations; the list is endless. Inevitably our pursuits deteriorate and we find ourselves looking for pleasure in the arena of sensual, carnal delight. We were created for pleasure, but our twisted, fallen nature, searches for fulfillment in all of the wrong places.
When we discover the satisfaction that is only available in Christ, the pursuit is not over, the focus only changes. When you come into the presence of the Lord, the place of fullness of joy, you witness the creation of a christian hedonist. From that time on addiction has set in, you have now joined the ranks of thousands who have gone before you. No longer content with the foolish, inferior joys of this world, you are now in pursuit of the highest of all pleasures. the kind only found in Christ.
Now John Piper’s words begin to be proved true in your life. “God is most glorified when I am most satisfed in Him”. Go ahead and admit it, after all its true about all of us. All our lives have been about pleasure, all we have ever wanted was to be happy. Funny how it all works out, I never thought that Jesus would be the source of my joy and satisfaction in life. When I first found myself entranced in His joy, I finally realized, this is what I had searched for all of my life.
THE FATHER’S COAT
Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age. Also he made him a tunic of many colors.
Jacob loved his son more than all his children, what a very strange statement. Actually, this is a powerful picture of the Heavenly Father’s love for His children. How much does He love us? He loves us with an infinite love. His love has no bounds. His love for us is like a bottomless ocean with no shores! This is an unlimited, eternal love the Father pours out on His children.
Just as Jacob expressed His love for Joseph with the coat of many colors, the Father expresses His love for us today with His special coat of incredible diversity. What is this coat? Why of course, this is the “mantle” of His anointing. Just as Joseph wore His father’s coat out of respect for his father, we wear this coat of anointing out of respect for our Heavenly Father.
In the life of Joseph, we can see the effect of the anointing the Lord had placed on Joseph’s life. First we see him supernaturally sustained during times of extreme difficulty. He was thrown in a pit, sold into slavery, falsely accused, thrown in prison, and separated from his family for years. In all of these conflicts, the Lord was with Joseph, sustaining and satisfying Him with His goodness. In the same way, we are faced with all sorts of difficulties in our Christian journey. How can we be sustained like Joseph? Of course by wearing our Father’s coat of love. This mantle of His Presence is His love poured out daily upon our lives to keep and sustain us in the midst of the conflicts of life.
Not only did the Lord sustain Joseph, He also used those circumstances in his life to bring about His perfect plan. He was positioned perfectly to bring deliverance and provision for his family. What an incredible God, He was directing Joseph’s steps, even in the worst of circumstances to bring about His plans. The Lord is actually doing the same thing in you. The trials in your life will ultimately prove to be in place for the furtherance of God’s kingdom.
What should I do in light of this? Simply put on the Father’s coat. He will do all the rest. Trust Him, wear the coat of His Presence proudly. Even if your
“brothers” hate you because of the coat, it doesn’t matter, His plans are sure
and His grace is sufficient.
THE HAND OF GOD
… as I sat in my house, with the elders of Judah sitting before me, the hand of the Lord God fell upon me. Then I looked, and behold, a form that had the appearance of a man. Below what appeared to be his waist was fire, and above his waist was something like the appearance of brightness, like gleaming metal. He put out the form of a hand and took me by a lock of my head, and the Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven and brought me in visions of God.
The Hand of the Lord came upon Ezekiel. What was that like? Have you ever felt the hand of the Lord upon you? In Acts 11 the Bible says that the “hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number were added to the church”. This was describing the move of the Spirit in Antiock. The phrase, “hand of the Lord” is a beautiful description of the intimate touch of the Spirit upon our lives.
In Ezekiel’s case, when the hand of the Lord would come upon him, he would be caught up into the prophetic visions of God. One of these visions speaks of the River of the Holy Spirit in graphic detail. Ezekiel describes a progressive influence of the Spirit in Ezekiel 47. He talks about wading out into the water, ankle deep, knee deep, up to his waist, and finally, waters over his head, so deep, he needed to swim. What a graphic picture of the effect of the Spirit upon our lives today!
Are you familiar with the working of the Spirit? Have you experienced the effect of the Spirit upon your life? In Ezekiel’s vision, he went on to explain the effect of the river as we begin to wade out into it’s depths. He said that everwhere the river goes, there is healing. This healing comes to every part of our lives. Maybe you are experiencing emotional pain from trials and disappointments in your life. Step out into the River, there is healing for your soul. Maybe you are suffering from physical ailments, step into the River. Move out a little deeper than before, the waters of His Spirit are filled with healing and life for your body. Like Ezekiel, you can wade deeper and deeper into the Presence of the Lord. As you do, you will have a greater sense of the Lord in your life, and He will have a greater impact upon you and your circumstances. Before you know it, you will be saying with Ezekiel, “as I sat in my house, the Hand of the Lord came upon me”.
THE MAN AFTER GOD’S HEART
13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward.
So Samuel arose and went to Ramah.
1 Sam 16:13
“Are there any more sons?” Samuel asked. “There is David, he is out watching the sheep”.
“Go get him”, Samuel demanded. As soon as David returned to the house, Samuel knew that this was him, this was the next king of Israel. He took out his oil and began to poor it on David’s head, as he did, the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David. This was the beginning of a new life for David, he began to experience the anointing of the Holy Spirit in every part of hs life. David’s life could never be the same, from this day he became the man after God’s own heart.
As he cared for the sheep, he found supernatural strength fending off the lion and the bear, and when he faced Goliath, the giant was no match for the Lord’s anointed. When he was exiled, being chased by Saul, he was hidden away by the Lord, living in caves and in the wilderness for years, sustained and satisfied by God. He found himself lost in his music, writing supernatural songs that we still sing today. When it came time to bring the ark of the covenant into Jerusalem, he was dancing before the Lord with all his might. David found an intense hunger for God’s presence expressed in his song,
1 O God, You are my God;
Early will I seek You;
My soul thirsts for You;
My flesh longs for You
In a dry and thirsty land
Where there is no water.
2 So I have looked for You in the sanctuary,
To see Your power and Your glory.
3 Because Your lovingkindness is better than life,
My lips shall praise You.
4 Thus I will bless You while I live;
I will lift up my hands in Your name.
5 My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness,
And my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips.
David had become a man consumed with a passion for God. Where did this hunger begin? It began when Samuel anointed David and the Spirit of the Lord began to move upon him. How about you? Today, the Holy Spirit can fall on you. Maybe you are facing unusual challenges in your life. Whether it is financial, family related, health or emotional challenges, the Spirit of the Lord equips you for every challenge. He is being poured out in these last days upon all mankind. As you spend time with the Lord today, ask him to fill you with a heart like David. Don’t be surprised when you begin to dance and sing with joy in the presence of the Lord.
THE ANOINTED ONE
Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
There was an excitement in the air. It was like nothing people in Israel had ever experienced in their lifetime. There was a real prophet in the land. People from all over Israel were coming to hear, and coming to see this unusual man. They were calling him “John the Baptist”. He was dressed like one of the prophets of old, and the hand of God was upon him.
“REPENT!”, his voice was like thunder in the wilderness. “The kingdom of God is at hand.” No one was quite sure what he meant, but everyone knew that a change was in the wind, you could feel it in his words. A new day had come.
And then it happened. Jesus of Nazareth came to be baptized. Some said that it thundered when Jesus came up out of the water, others felt a wind they described as the “breath of God”. But somehow the people knew, John’s purpose had been fulfilled. He was the voice crying in the wilderness, but now, the ANOINTED ONE had come.
From that day, the anointing was upon Jesus. Everywhere He went, signs and wonders followed Him. It was an amazing three years of ministry, but it was over as soon as it started. But at the end, He promised, ” I will not leave you as orphans, the Holy Spirit will come upon you. The things that I have done, will you do also”.
Shortly after His death and resurrection, the same anointing came upon His followers. They walked in the same power that He had. As a matter of fact, that same anointing is falling from heaven today. Everyone who is thirsty, can be filled with His powerful anointing today, and can begin to experience the supernatural power of God. Are you tired of just hearing about things the Lord has done in the past? Do you want to live in the anointing yourself? Jesus said it was simple to receive this powerful life. He said, ” if anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink, out of his innermost being will flow rivers of LIVING WATER.” Today, the ANOINTED ONE, is seated at the right hand of God, everyone who comes to Him steps into this powerful new kind of life.
SPRINGS OF LIVING WATER
Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”
Will never thirst, how could that possibly be? What is Jesus speaking of? He is describing a thirst for spiritual things that replaces our thirst for the things of this world. He said that if we drink the water He has to give, this water will become a perpetual fountain bubbling up inside of us. The results is not only a spiritual awakening, but a passion for the things of God. Jesus is describing an incredible spiritual revolution that flows from God Himself. Jonathan Edwards spoke of this fountain in his “Treatise on Grace”. He said, ” the sum of all good which the saints have in this world, is that spring of living water within them which we read of in John 4:10 and those rivers of living waters flowing from within them which we read of in John 7:37,38 which we are there told is the Holy Spirit. And the sum of all happiness in the other world, is that river of living water which flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb, which is the river of God’s pleasures, and is the Holy Spirit, which is often compared in sacred Scripture to water, to the rain and dew, and rivers and floods of waters”.
I love the phrase Edwards used, “the sum of all good”. He was saying all that we have of true value in life comes from the Lord. How is it that most of us value other things more than the things of God? If we are honest with ourselves, we tend to have stronger feelings for life’s plesures and expierences than for God Himself. How can our “value system” be changed. Look again at what Jesus said, “whoever drinks of this water that I have to give shall never thirst.” Did you get it? There is something in the living water itself that effects us, it actually changes our thirst, or our value system, so that we begin to agree with Edwards that this living water is ” the sum of all good which have in this world”.
We can start this new life today, all it takes is a little drink. There is so much life in this living water that just one taste can begin this new thirsting for God. As you spend time in His word or in prayer today, drink in, receive the love that He has for you. Before you know it, you will know what it means to never thirst again.
THE ENJOYMENT OF GOD
4 Then I will go to the altar of God,
To God my exceeding joy;
And on the harp I will praise You,
O God, my God.
God and joy don’t come in the same thought for most people. Spiritual matters are serious matters. We find our joy somewhere else. It may be in buying nice things, going on vacation, or just the weekly football game. All of us are on the hunt, looking for pleasure in created things. This was not the case for Jonathan Edwards. He said that God was his good and that the only joy that can satisfy a man’s heart is spiritual joy. Many years ago I read his biography, and in it I found this statement that has effected me more than any words outside of the scripture.
“The enjoyment of God is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows; but God is the substance. These are but scattered beams, but God is the sun. These are but streams, but God is the ocean.”
Those words rocked my world. Suddenly, I saw it. My life wasn’t about His gifts, it was about Him. He was the source of all happiness, the enjoyment of God Himself was the purpose that I was born to fulfill. It wasn’t about money, houses, numbers, success, or even about family. It was all about Him. He wanted to reveal His greatness to me and through me for my pleasure and His Glory. The horrible yoke of human achievement was broken from off of my neck, I was free for the pursuit of real pleasure, pleasure found only in Him. No more chasing shadows, no more worries about accomplishments, no longer needing to please man. Today, this freedom can be yours. Where can you find it? You find it by leaving behind the pursuit of “shadows” and start enjoying the substance. All of those good things in life are from Him, they are not the source of our pleasure, all they are, are signs pointing us toward God, our exceeding joy.