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There Is A River

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It was an incredible sight. The trees were unlike any you have ever seen, graceful,  majestic and beautiful. The birds sang in a harmony that made the greatest of composers sound ordinary. There were lawns, garlanded with flowers and streams  babbling through the garden. It was the most beautiful sight that the earth has yet  seen. It was Eden.

It came from the heart of God. In the eternity before creation he had dreamed, planned  and designed. Out of the experience and  the fellowship of the Godhead came the  wonder of the universe, vast galaxies flung across the blackness of space. An eternity  in the preparation, the merest word of God was enough to cast star systems into their  orbits. All the wonders of the heavens were created in a moment. Barely a word from  the Almighty had sufficed for their creation.

The garden took time. The entire expanse  of the universe was just a backdrop, an  expression of divine exuberance. The  earth mattered. The garden mattered. The  garden needed serious divine attention.

And with good reason. God did not create just for the fun of it. Surprising as it may  seem, creation was not just a whim, a way to pass the time. God did not create just  because he was bored.

He had a plan, a purpose and a very clear intent. The entire universe was created for  just one reason. He created with us in mind. From the moment when the beginning  began, this was his intent. From the moment when the first atoms popped into being  the Lord was looking for a people. God himself was seeking fellowship. He was  seeking the sons of God, a people not just to rule but to fellowship with.

This has always been his desire. His entire history of the earth is focused on this one  plan. The Old and New Testament tell one story, the story of our  God and his people.  In the Old Testament it was the story of Israel and in the New Testament it is the story  of spiritual Israel. The Lord wants a people.And if much of creation is just a canvas, a background, Eden was a more intimate  setting, a place designed as the home of man upon the earth. It was created perfect for  God’s most important creation. The beauty and perfection of that garden is almost  impossible to imagine in this fallen, broken world.

Eden was the first picture, the first revelation of the Lord’s plan and of the home he  planned for men made in his image. It was beautiful beyond our imagination. It was  untouched by the fall, by pain, by hardship. It possessed beauty beyond the greatest of  human art. No poet can describe it. No artist has ever painted it. No composer has  ever captured it. The birdsong of that garden out performed the greatest of orchestras.  Its flowers put Michelangelo to shame. Shakespeare at his finest could not describe it.  Eden was the triumph of God’s creation. It was the jewel of creation.

In the garden God poured himself out. Whole galaxies had been finished in a moment  but Eden took effort, a torrent of eternal effort. Into this place would go the only creation made in God’s own image. Into the Garden of Eden went man. The entire  garden was designed to be his home, an environment for men to dwell in.

To see Eden is to see a revelation of God’s plan for us. It shows his warmth, his  abundant generosity. It was a place of peace. God filled it with food. To work there  was joy not hardship. Here was abundance of life and of his supply. Every tree bore  fruit and food. It expressed how God felt about his people. Eden is a declaration of  God’s intent and a picture of his purpose.

Eden was designed to be the home of man. It was planted in the east and men have  looked for it ever since. They will never find it. Eden was never entirely on the earth.  The word east is used for more than a point of the compass. It also refers to the eternal  realm, the heavenly realm. Eden was on earth but it also touched the heavens.
Eden was planted on earth within time but its origins were outside of time. It was not  an entirely physical place. Nor was it an entirely spiritual place. It was a hybrid, partly  earthly and partly heavenly. Not until the son of God became the Son of Man would  anything else have both characteristics. Eden foretold Christ, who is wholly God and  wholly man.

If this was to be man’s home then what does it tell us about man? Why, that God  intended man to be both physical and spiritual. The garden was designed to provide  this creature with a perfect environment, a place on the earth and in the heavens.

And in this garden there was a river. It was a vital part of the garden. Without water  there is no life. When NASA wanders round other planets they look for water. With  water there may be life. Without it there is only barren rock. In Eden there was life.

‘And out of Eden there flowed a river.’

I always assumed that the river flowed through Eden. It does not.  It begins in Eden  and flows out of Eden. In Eden there is a spring, a source and a beginning.  In this  eternal garden was the source of life, the fountainhead of a great river which gave life  to four great rivers. A spring of living water lived, yes lived in Eden. Without it there  was no Eden and no Adam, no place for God and man to walk together in the cool of  the evening. God put life at the heart of the garden. It was in Eden that the earth first  saw true living water. When man fell and eventually God removed Eden from the  earth altogether it was lost forever.

Except of course that the Lord preserved it. For the rest of human history, past present  and future Eden will not return to earth but it has not been destroyed. There will be an  Eden upon the earth again. However, it will be a changed land.
So far only one man has seen the new Eden in fullness. His name was John and he  saw Eden descending out of the heavens  onto a new earth. He  called it the New  Jerusalem. Eden existed before men fell. It existed in beauty and wonder untouched  by pain and the toil of our broken lives. The New Jerusalem was seen at a time when  the fall, sin and death have been destroyed. Eden was the beginning and the promise.  The New Jerusalem is the fulfilment.     And make no mistake, they are the same place. The garden has become a city. Once  again it will be an earthly place but as before it has a heavenly origin. From the New  Jerusalem the Son of Man will reign over earth and the Son of God will reign over the  heavens.

And in the New Jerusalem as in Eden there is a river. The same river that flowed from  Eden also flows from the New Jerusalem. It flows straight from the throne room of  Almighty God and down through the streets of the city. It is living water. It rises and  begins and has its source in the King himself. It is living water from Christ alone. He  is the fountain of life. He is living water. He is the water that will not pass away.  Those who drink the water of Christ will never thirst again. In Christ and in Christ  alone there is life undying, life eternal and unbroken and it flows from him in a  torrent.

John saw so much in the New Jerusalem that he barely knew where to look. His pen  could not keep up with the wonder before his eyes and frankly he did a poor job  describing what he saw. No one else could have done better. The vision was beyond  proper description.
However, the Lord thought the river important enough to reveal it to another man.  The prophet Ezekiel also saw the river of God. He saw the trickle, the stream that  came out of the throne room and he stood in the river as it bubbled over his toes. He  walked in the river as it washed his feet and as he waded in the river it rose to his  knees, to his waist and then to his shoulders. By now he was standing in a torrent.  Then it was too much for him to stand at all. Christ was overflowing too much for any  man to keep his feet. He could either try and escape the river or he could float and be  carried along in a torrent of Christ. Ezekiel gave up. He gave up and surrendered to  the current of Christ, trusting his Lord to take him where he would. He could neither  stand nor walk of his own volition. He was entirely in the Lord’s hands and utterly at  his mercy. He went where the Lord took him and had no other hope than Christ.

Somewhere in that flood Ezekiel also saw  the effect of that life. An abundance of  trees with healing in their leaves grew  alongside and bore fruit all year round.  Wherever the river flowed there was life,  plants, animals and fish. The river gave  them life and turned a barren land into a land flowing with milk and honey.

This is the river of God. This is what it means to swim in that river. Approach it with  caution.

There was a river in Eden and there is a river in our future, in the New Jerusalem.  Satan has rebelled. Man has  fallen. Death has entered the world and has God’s plan  changed? You must be joking. If you think something as insignificant as the rebellion  of an archangel and the fall of his creation has changed  the plan of my God by one  iota then you really need to know him better. He’s calling you to that.

All of this is beautiful but it does raise an obvious question. So what?
What if anything does all this mean? So there’s a river flowing from God. Does it  really matter on this earth? Well, I said the river had not been seen since Eden other  than in visions by a couple of men.    That wasn’t true. There was a moment when that spring broke upon the earth and the  river of God poured out of heaven and onto the earth. It came unexpectedly. It came  in a rush and it came with power. In short it came upon men who could only surrender  to the flow and go where the Lord took them. I am talking about an old Jewish festival  called Pentecost.

In a small upper room 120 men and women were together. They had followed Christ  for a little over three years and they had seem him ascend into the heavens only a few  days earlier. They had no idea what to do and so they waited and prayed and ate. And  early that morning the heavens opened and the Spirit of God fell upon them in a  torrent. The floodgates of heaven were opened and a torrent unseen since creation  poured out of heaven, straight from the throne room of God. A new revelation came  to earth and a new creation was begun.

Upon a man terrified for his life less than eight weeks earlier came boldness before  Jerusalem’s biggest crowd.  Upon men who had never travelled more than a few miles  from their homes came the tongues of distant nations. Upon an illiterate fisherman  came eloquence and fine words. The Lord poured out life upon his people and in that  torrent began the church of Jesus Christ on earth.

In the river came the fullness of God for his people. With that river came apostles,  evangelists, teachers, mercy, loving kindness, healing and interpretation of tongues,  bread, water and light. The reality is that that list will continue throughout eternity and  it will not be exhausted as long as Christ himself is not exhausted. In that river the  generosity of Almighty God was demonstrated and declared.
God who created the heavens, the infinite expanse of space with no more than a word,   held nothing back!  God who was unsatisfied with the level  of detail provided by atoms and therefore  created subatomic particles,   held nothing back!  This God, the father who spread the constellations against the  skies, who wrote his  stories in the constellations,   Held Nothing Back!  This God who took the time to create the full spectrum of colour and finding that it  was insufficient to express himself created separate spectrums in ultraviolet light,   HELD NOTHING BACK!  The eternal, immortal and absolute God took everything he had. He withheld nothing  from his son and now his son was pouring all that he was out onto his people.   HE HELD NOTHING BACK!

He did not look to see if every one of those men deserved it. He did not weigh with  care the pros and cons. He simply poured it out irrevocably upon his people. The  father declared himself well pleased with his son before his ministry had even begun  and now the son poured out  everything he had on men who had achieved nothing.  Jesus Christ opened the floodgates and his river flooded an upper room. Carried by  the torrent the disciples and apostles flooded out onto the streets.    A huge crowd watched in amazement and as the river flooded the city thousands  accepted Christ. The church in Jerusalem was born. A stone temple built with human  hands lay within sight. It had taken 70 years to build. Now there was a new and living  temple and a royal priesthood. And Christ built it in a moment.

It was a beginning but that is the river in which the church has swum ever since,  sometimes to her ankles and sometimes to her neck. That river, that outpouring is the  fullness of Christ, seen by us as through a glass darkly but unmistakeable and  unstoppable.
We all know from time to time that the Lord can help us. We come across a difficulty  or a hope and ask the Lord to intervene. ‘Lord, make this a little better.’ This is not  the gift of God. The gift of God is his fullness. He did not come to wash our feet or to  cleanse our legs. He did not come to soak us to our waist or even our necks. He most  certainly did not come to sprinkle us with his goodness. He came to immerse us, to  drown us in himself and raise us up a new creation. There was a river at the beginning  and there is a river at the end but they are one and the same. The spring is Christ and  the River is Christ. He has opened the store houses of heaven and emptied his throne  room upon us.

Jesus Christ is a river. Accept him in his fullness. He did not come to help you or get  you past some small difficulty. He came  that you might know life and know it in  abundance. Jesus Christ is our all. In every circumstance he is our life, our survival  and our victory. There is no circumstance or situation for which you are sufficient.  There is no circumstance or situation for which Christ is not sufficient.

I cannot do it and nor can you but Christ in you can and that is more than enough,  yesterday, today and forever!

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