"Written Not With Ink"
by T. Austin-Sparks

Meeting 20 - Rivers of Living Water

3 March 1957, at Keelung, Taiwan.

For our consideration this morning, I am going to turn you to several passages of Scripture. Firstly, in the gospel by John in chapter 4 at verse 10, "Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that said to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water."

Verse 14: "But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life."

Now will you turn to chapter 7, from verse 37: "In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive."

Now to the last book of the Bible, the book of the Revelation, chapter 21, at verse 6: "And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely."

Chapter 22, verse 1: "He shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb." Verse 17: "And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely."

I expect that if you were asked what all those Scriptures are about, you would say that they are all about water. But that would be only half the truth, and really that is not what the Scriptures are about, although they all speak about water. It is not any kind of water that they are speaking about. If you look again you will find that in every case, it is called the water of Life. It is called Living Water. Now there is all the difference between Living Water and another kind of water.

Newness of Life

You know very well that in this country, as in many parts of the world, water can be quite fatal. It can be water which has disease and impurity in it and results in death. Therefore you are very careful about the water that you drink because there is water that is not living water that results in death.

There are other parts of the world where the water is without a living element in it. Perhaps you don't know much about that kind of water in this country, but if you went to a country where there is very much snow and the water is so often frozen, you will find the people in those countries suffering from a special kind of disease. It is a disease which affects the throat and it is because the vital element in the water has been killed. To avoid that particular disease, they have to put something into the water, because it is dead water and they have to make it alive. Now, that is what all these Scriptures are about. They are not talking about ordinary water, but they are recognizing the fact that there may be water, but not living water, so they are really speaking about Living Water.

Now we all know that water is a matter of life. We are so made that we must have water for our constitution. We can go longer without food, than we can go without water. So we must have water for life.

In a very real sense water means life for people. It is that which you live upon that makes a very great deal of difference with this people. You see, that is what the Lord Jesus was saying to this woman of Samaria. She came day by day to the well of Jacob to draw water. She had to do it every day of her life because that water never really satisfied; she did not take a drink of that water and then never thirst again. Her thirst returned again with every day and what we know about her in that chapter indicates that that was the kind of life that she had. She was a woman who had tried to find satisfaction in this world. I think it is very wonderful that the Lord Jesus came that way.

We know that the Lord Jesus was always led by the Holy Spirit in what He did and where He went, and we should be right in believing that that morning He had asked that He should be led that day. I think He would have prayed to His Father something like this: "Father, do lead Me today so that if there is anyone in need, I shall be brought where they are, or they will be brought to where I am." He had started the day like that and so He came on His journey and we are told that He had to pass through Samaria.

Fullness of Satisfaction

He was very tired and He came to a well and, being weary from His journey, He sat on the well while His disciples went into the city to buy food. And while He was sitting there, a woman came toward the well. God knew all about that woman, He knew her life, and He knew that she was all the time seeking for satisfaction and could not find it. And in His great mercy He led her to be in touch with His Son. The prayer of the Lord Jesus was answered then, and He spoke to her about Living Water and He said that this Living Water would so satisfy you that you would never again have to draw from the well. He said, "This water that I shall give will be a well inside of you. You have proved that the world never satisfies. I can give you complete and perfect satisfaction inside of your own heart."

Now, that is all very simple and I expect most of you are saying, "Well, we know all about that, all that is what our Christian life really means..." but I am saying this because I have something more in mind. You see that in our reading we passed from chapter 4 to chapter 7. Jesus had said to the woman that he that believes on Him shall have a well of water inside. There would be inside of him water that he could draw upon every day, that which would be a full supply inside of Him for all his personal need.

But when you move to chapter 7, you have another aspect of this. Jesus does not say there that whoever believes in Him will have a well of water there. He said, "He that believeth, out of him shall flow rivers of living water." Now do you see how the first leads to the second? You cannot give to others what you haven't got in yourself. If rivers of Living Water are to flow out to others, then you must have it in yourself first.

So John 4 relates to our own personal experience of the Lord and chapter 7 relates to our service for the Lord. Now I want to say this very simple thing. These are things which the Lord Jesus Himself said; He definitely said that whosoever believes on Him would have a well of water inside. It would be Living Water inside of him, he would have the Water of Life within like a well and that is a real challenge to us. We have come to the Lord Jesus. We have received the forgiveness of our sin, we have received assurance that we shall not come into judgment, we have received assurance that we shall go to heaven, but do we really know what this means, to have a well of water within?

We have seen that Jesus was speaking about the Holy Spirit, "This spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive." So that the Lord Jesus in the very first place is saying that you shall have the Holy Spirit dwelling in you and the Holy Spirit in you will be like a well and an inexhaustible source of Life. There would be Life in you. In the first place, you will be fully satisfied in your life. You will not want to go anywhere else for Life. You have got the answer to all your questions.

Life Triumphant Over Death

Now in your own heart, you know what it is to have the Holy Spirit of God dwelling within. You know this is a very great thing. You think of what this must have meant to this woman of Samaria. I take it that she was not a very young woman. Jesus told her that she had had five husbands and now she had got someone for the sixth but he was not her husband. All that indicates that she was not young in life, but that she had tried again and again and again to find satisfaction and death had robbed her of all satisfaction five times. Five times death had come into her home and taken away her husband.

You see, death had spoiled all her hope of satisfaction. This is a woman who had tried everything to find satisfaction and she was a disappointed woman and was disappointed with life. I think this must be indicating what happens at the end. You remember that after she had received the words of the Lord Jesus and had come to some understanding of her experience I think, she rushed back into the city and she said, "Come! See a man that told me all that I ever did. Is not this the Christ?" And then we read that they all ran out to see Jesus and they listened to Him and then they turned to the woman and they said, "Now we believe, not because of what you have said, but we have seen Him ourselves."

Now, it seems to Him to be quite evident that all in that city knew about this woman. They all knew what a disappointed life that was and if a woman like that could find satisfaction, well we will all go and see where she got it. If a person like that can find what she needs, then there must be something in it. You see, she had a testimony because she had the Life within. She had great influence with others, others were able to look at her and say, "Well, you have got something and you have got what we need. Do tell us where we can get it!" That is the simple beginning of the Christian life.

You see, first of all, the woman received the well of Life within and then it began to flow like rivers out of her to others and they came into Life through her. This is first of all our experience, and then it is our service. They are two sides to one thing. You see, the one side of this is: He that believeth. Jesus used those words in both cases.

"He that believes" firstly has the well within and the same person shall have rivers of Living Water flowing from within. These are not two Christians. This is the same person and we have to ask ourselves this morning, "Is this true of me? First of all, can I say that I know what you mean when you talk about the well of water within, that I know what you mean when you speak about Living Water welling from within?"

I know the great change from the dead water of this world to the Living Water inside. Every Christian ought to be able to say, "I know what you mean, and I know that that is my experience." But every Christian ought also to know the meaning of the second thing; it is not another Christian, it ought to be the same Christian that has rivers of Living Water flowing out of him so that other people are coming to find what they have found through you. These are Living Waters that should be going out from us to others. Wherever we go, we ought to leave Life behind us.

Faith in Jesus Christ's Work

Now I am going to go a little deeper into this matter. I am going to take an illustration in the Old Testament. I suppose that all of you know the story of Jericho. I will not stop to remind you of how Jericho was destroyed, but when that great city had been destroyed, a curse was pronounced upon it and this is how the curse went, "Cursed be the man who buildeth this city again." A curse was put upon that city. Now many years afterward, the city was rebuilt and then we come to the days of the prophets and we all know about the prophet Elisha.

One day the men from Jericho went to the prophet Elisha and said, "The position of this city is good, but there is something wrong with the water. We put all our work into the ground, we laboured that the trees might bear fruit and the trees grow. And the fruit begins to appear and then suddenly before the fruit gets ripe, it all falls to the ground. All our labour is in vain. We never get any ripe fruit from our trees and it is because there is something wrong with the water. The water is dead and it is not living."

Well, I need not tell you what Elisha did, but what I just said illustrates what this is. You see, there is a curse that rests upon this creation. When Adam sinned God said, "The ground will be cursed because of you." And from that day to this, there is a curse resting upon this whole creation.

How do we know that there is a curse upon this creation? Well, our woman of Samaria is an illustration. It does not matter how much you do, you never find satisfaction in this world. You spend your life, you use all your energy, you do everything, and then death comes and that is the end of it all. You never come into the full reward of all your labour. There is a curse upon everything. No one in this world ever comes to full satisfaction.

This world is like those trees of Jericho; the men put all their strength into the ground, they put all their intelligence into trying to cultivate their fruit. They saw the fruit begin to come out and they were full of hope and expectation. They said, "Now we are going to get something: the reward for our labour!" and all the fruit fell to the ground. It was good for nothing. That is this world. It does not matter what you do in this world, it all ends in disappointment. The men who have put all into this life have met in disappointment.

We look at that little hill outside of Jerusalem and we see someone hanging upon a cross. We know who it is that was crucified there and we look into our New Testament to see why He was crucified. Why was that young life of only 33 years cut off like that? You see, He was in the very prime of life. There ought to have been many years of fruitful service before Him. He had only lived for 30 years and He had been working for God for three years and now He is cut off from the land of the living. Why is this? All the hope and all the promise is suddenly brought to an end by death.

How disappointed His disciples were. They felt that all this should never have been. All their hopes and expectations and future were bound up with Him and now He was dead. What does all this mean?

We find it in the New Testament and this is what we read: "He who knew no sin was made sin for us." He was made a curse in our place. What is He doing? He is bearing the curse that rests upon this whole creation. He is taking on Himself all the meaning of that curse. The meaning of that curse is life ending before it ought to end; death coming in when death ought never to come in. He is taking the curse on Himself, the curse that rests upon us and the curse that rests upon the whole creation.

When His Father turned His face away from Him and His Son cried, "My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" it was because He was made a curse for us. In Him and by His Cross the curse is removed. Death is destroyed so He can give the Water of Life. The Living Water and the Holy Spirit can now come, for sin has been dealt with. Death has been dealt with and judgment has been dealt with and there is Life within.

Perhaps you remember how Peter began his letters, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to His abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." This is how we receive the well within. This is how the rivers of Living Water can flow from within: by faith in Jesus Christ as the One who took upon Himself the curse that was upon us.

Spiritual Health and Strength

Now, there is just one or two other things to say before I close. We have seen that this Living Water means newness of Life. We have seen that it means fullness of satisfaction. It means two other things. It means mighty energy from God in our life. When we drink of this Living Water, we feel greatly strengthened. The very energy of God comes into us and in that strength we can go on and on. We can do what we could never do before. The Apostle Paul put that in this way, "Strengthened with all might by His Spirit in the inward man." The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Life, but He is therefore the Spirit of Power, the very power of God in us.

And then this Living water is health. You remember one of the last things in the Bible gives us the picture of the rivers of the Water of Life and then it says that on this side and on that side of the river was the Tree of Life and leaves of the Tree are for the health of the nations. From this Water there is coming health for the nations. We know a little of how that is.

When this Water of Life goes out into the nations, a change comes about. This water makes us healthy. It cleanses us. It removes spiritual disease. It overcomes spiritual infirmity. It makes us spiritually healthy men and women.

Now, there is a great chapter in the New Testament and that chapter is all about this resurrection Life of the Lord Jesus. It is a very wonderful chapter that none of us understand. I have been reading that chapter for I suppose about 50 years or more, I have many times talked about it, but there is a lot in that chapter that I do not understand. I don't think I shall ever understand it in this life and I expect you are wondering what that chapter is. Well, it's the fifteenth chapter of the letter to the Corinthians.

You can read it at any time and you will see that it is very true that we can't understand it. There are things here which we shall only understand when we get to glory, but there is one thing that we can understand and that is the way in which the chapter finishes. I think we ought to take a look at it. 1 Corinthians 15:54-57, "So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."

Now this is how this wonderful chapter ends, "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord." You see, that takes us back to our Old Testament illustration. Here are these men labouring on the ground, bringing all their energy, and trying to bring forth these fruits and at the end they find it is all in vain. There is nothing for it, they have laboured in vain. Why is that? Because death was in the water.

Now 1 Corinthians 15 is the chapter of victory over death in the Lord Jesus and "Therefore," the Apostle said, "Brethren you can go on working as much as you like. You can just be always abounding in the work of the Lord and your labours will not be in vain. No death will spoil your labour because Jesus has conquered death."

Do you remember one thing that Jesus said to His disciples? He said, "You did not choose Me, but I chose you and ordained you that you should go out and bear fruit, and your fruit will remain." Your fruit will not fall to the ground until it gets ripe. The fruit of your life will go on forever. Surely it is a very encouraging thing that the labour we are giving to the Lord now will not be in vain. All this is by the Living Water within.

Now, if you have not understood what I have been saying, these are not my words, these are the words of the Lord Jesus. He Himself said that he that believes on Him shall have a well inside. Do you know that in your life? And then He said he that believes on Him out of him shall flow rivers of Living Water. Do you know that in your life? That people shall know there are rivers of Living Water flowing from you; that Life comes from you wherever you go. That is the meaning of the name "Christian" that you are called. May the Lord make that true in every one of us.


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