Stop Enduring Religion

Bible Book: John  7 : 37-39
Subject: Religion, True; Joy in Christ; Water of Life

Stop enduring religion. Turn with me please to John chapter seven, and I begin reading in verse thirty-seven—John chapter seven and verse thirty-seven. I love to hear the rustle of those pages. Sounds like angel wings fluttering when I hear you turning those pages. That’s wonderful. You’ll get significantly more out of any message if you’ll keep the Bible in front of you.

This is verse thirty-seven: 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—that is, out of his innermost being— shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)

Now, let me give you the background for this passage of Scripture. The Jews had many ceremonies and many feasts, but there was one that outdid them all when it came to joy in hilarity and festivity. As a matter of fact, one said, “If you have not seen the feast of tabernacles, you don’t even know what rejoicing in hilarity is.” This feast was a great feast that the Jews would perform, and in the climax of that feast, the priest would go down to the pool of Siloam. And he would fill a golden pitcher with water from the pool of Siloam, and then he would bring that water back, and the people would be following him, and they would be leaping and dancing, playing cymbals, and chanting, and praising. And the priest would come with that water from the pool of Siloam, and he would pour it out there at the altar. And as he did, all hilarity would break forth. Now, Jesus is watching this. Jesus sees this ceremony. Jesus sees their ecstasy, their joy, their hilarity. They’re leaping. They’re dancing. They’re praising, and on the last day, right in the midst of all of that, Jesus who was normally quiet—the Bible says of Him, “He shall not strive nor cry, neither shall his voice be heard in the streets”—and yet at this time, Jesus could contain himself no more. And the Bible says that He stood and He literally shouted, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.”

Now, what’s all of this about? Well, Jesus saw that ceremony. He saw them chanting from the psalms. With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation, and Jesus Christ himself was that well of salvation. Every Old Testament ceremony, every Old Testament feast, all of it, prophesied the Lord Jesus. All of it portrayed the Lord Jesus. All of it pictured the Lord Jesus. And there He was, the very water of life, right in their midst. He was right there. They’re paying no attention to Him. They didn’t even understand Him. There they were, going through their ritual. There they were going on with their religion. There they were having their feast, and in the midst of it all was the very water of life.

Now, what Jesus knew was this: if after it was over, after all that hilarity, after all that rejoicing, after all of that singing and dancing, Jesus knew that then they would go back to their homes, and all of that would be a memory. They would go back to their own, back to their old heartaches, back to their own tears, back to their own fears, back to their own faults and failures and foibles, and it would all be gone, only a memory, only a religious exercise, only a ritual that gave joy for a moment but would not last, a pitcher of water poured out on an altar. And Jesus said, “If you’re really thirsty, come to me and drink.” What Jesus was saying is, “It is time to stop enduring religion, and start enjoying salvation.”

Now, most people in America don’t need religion. We’ve got enough religion. What we need is a personal, vital relationship with Jesus Christ, the Son of God, true salvation with joy. Shall ye draw water from the wells of salvation? What a wonderful, wonderful lesson there is for us here today. Jesus says, “Come unto me and drink.”

I have an evangelist friend who was on an airplane one time, and a little stewardess came by, and said, “Sir, would you like a drink?” She was talking about alcoholic beverage. I think it’s a crying shame they serve that on an airplane. I think it’s a crying shame that young ladies and gentlemen have to serve it. But she said to him, “Do you want a drink?” His name was Mike, and I like what he said to her. Mike said to her, “No, thank you.” He said, “I had drink a number of years ago that satisfied me completely.” She said, “You did? Must have been some drink.” “Oh,” he said, “it was.” She said, “What was it?” He said, “Well, you serve all these other people, and come back, and I’ll tell you what it was.” So she served everybody else, and came, and sat down beside him, strapped herself in, and said, “Tell me about it.” And he did. That drink is the Lord Jesus, who says, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden. I will give you rest. Come unto me and drink. But Jesus is talking here about salvation, yes, but more than salvation. Because the Bible says that he was speaking of the Holy Spirit; that, when people believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, they will receive the Holy Spirit. And then there will be in them a well of water springing up unto eternal life. There will be in them rivers of revival. And Jesus said, “Out of that person will flow, out of his innermost being will flow a river of living water.”

Is that your experience? Is there in you a river bubbling up? Is there in you a satisfaction because you have drunk deeply of Jesus? But more than a satisfaction, are you being a blessing? Is your life overflowing with blessing? It’s an amazement to me how many people today are trying to find the answer.

A. Some Think the Answer Is Intellectual

Some people think that the answer is intellectual. They think if they can just learn more facts, if they can just learn more theology, if they can just learn more history, if they can just learn more of this or that. And so they go from class to class, and church to church, with their heads getting fuller, and their hearts getting emptier. They know that the answer is not intellectual.

B. Some Think the Answer Is Activity

Others think that the answer is in activity. If they can just do more, if they can just work harder, if they can just stay busy doing church work—a busy Christian is a happy Christian, so go to work. And people wear their fingers to the bone, and sometimes even ruin their domestic tranquility, by never being at home, doing this thing, and doing that thing, trudging to church every time the doors are open, but still no reality in their lives.

C. Some Think the Answer is Emotional

Others think that the answer is emotional. We’ve got this going now. There are people who are going to meetings and literally falling on the floor and laughing hysterically, or even roaring like lions, barking like dogs, writhing on the ground, lying prostrate, thinking, man, if I could have some great emotional experience, maybe that’ll be the answer. And for a while, like those people on the last day of the feast, they have an ecstasy; but tomorrow they have a memory, that’s all, trying to get back to that state of emotionalism that they were once in. And like a person on narcotics, this time it takes a little bigger dose to get as high as they were yesterday.

Is the answer intellectual? Is the answer in the activities that we do? Is the answer in emotionalism? And then, there’s the answer that the Pharisee has. He thinks that the answer to life is the way that he lives, primarily noted by what he doesn’t do. I don’t do this. I don’t do that, and I don’t this, and I don’t do that. And so the proud Pharisee, as he trims his limbs, he strengthens his root, becomes a bitter, hard Pharisee. He has religion, but he doesn’t have reality. He does not know what Jesus Christ is talking about. And there are many in America who do not know they have religion. It’s time they stopped enduring religion, and started enjoying salvation. It is time that they came to understand what the great heart of Jesus longed for. When Jesus on that last day stood up and cried, and said to them what He’s saying to you, “Are you thirsty? Come to me and drink.” And out of your innermost being will flow a river of living water.

I. The Subjects: The Thirsty

Now, there are four simple steps. I want you to see what they are. First of all, you’ve got to understand who the subjects are that He’s speaking to. To whom is He speaking? He’s not speaking to everybody. He’s speaking to thirsty people. There’s a big “if” here.

Look at it. Jesus stood and cried saying, If any man thirst. That’s all prefaced by this, “Are you thirsty?” “Well,” you say, “God knows I’m empty.” I didn’t ask if you were empty. I asked, “Are you thirsty?” My car has been empty many times, never once been thirsty. I mean, I’m talking about the gas tank. Are you thirsty or are you simply satisfied?

You see, there are not a lot of thirsty people today. There are people who come to church on Sunday morning like they’ve done God a wild favor, but they don’t come seeking God. They don’t come with a burning, blistering thirst. Oh, some might have a shallow thirst. Those who have a shallow thirst will get a shallow satisfaction. Many are not thirsty at all, because they are filled with the stagnant waters of self-love and worldliness. I’m gonna tell you this. I don’t know how much of God you have, but I’ll tell you, you have all you want. It’s not your job to persuade God to fill you. He wants to fill you. Jesus said, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled. If you don’t have any more, it’s because you don’t want any more. It’s not because God somehow has neglected you. You’ve neglected God. And, if you’re not thirsty, I would suggest that the very first thing you do is to analyze your life, and pray that God would help you to get things in order, that God would help you to see things in reality, that God would give you the big picture, that God would give to you and grant to you a burning, blistering thirst, that you would say, “I’m done with religion. I want reality. I am thirsty today for that which is real.” The subject’s the thirsty ones.

II. The Source: Jesus Christ

Something else you need to understand. You need to understand the source. Jesus said, “If you thirst, come to me.” He was talking of himself. You come to the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, folks, that’s the reason I was so blessed by Omar Hamada’s song, In Christ Alone. You don’t come to religion. You don’t come to rituals. You don’t come to rules. You don’t come to resolve. You don’t even clean up your life, and then say, “Lord, here it is. Fill me.” It’s one of the biggest mistakes we make. Sometimes we get the idea that we want more of God. We want that fullness of the Spirit. We want that Living Water. We want that reality, and we think, well, you know, if I can just clean up my life, if I can just get right, if I can just somehow discipline myself enough, pray enough, study enough, work enough, live clean enough, then I’ll be a candidate for the blessing. All that is, is a work’s righteousness, and you’ll never ever make it. You’re like a man in quicksand. The more you struggle, the deeper you sink.

If I’ve ever learned anything, and God help me not to forget it, and to keep on learning it—come up close. If you don’t hear anything else in this message, I want you to listen to this—holiness is not the way to Christ; Christ is the way to holiness. Write it on your heart right now. Holiness is not the way to Christ. You don’t work your way to the way. He is the Way. Get on it. I mean, don’t get the idea that if you could live right, God will fill you with the Holy Spirit. You can’t live right until you are filled with the Holy Spirit. I mean, if you could do all of those things in order to be filled, why do you need to be filled anyway?

Do you understand what I’m saying? It’s like the banker. Do you want to borrow money? Do you know how you can get a banker to loan you money? Just go down there and prove to him you don’t need any. Then he’ll loan you some. Well, friend, God’s not that way. I mean, it is grace. We come to Jesus—to Jesus.

Just as I am without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me. O Lamb of God, I come to thee. I come. Come ye sinners, poor and needy, weak and worn. Come to Jesus. Come to Jesus. Don’t wait till you’re better. Don’t wait till you’re stronger. Bring to Him your weakness. Bring to Him your fears. Bring to Him your failures. Bring to Him your heartaches. Bring it all to Jesus. Jesus throws open His arms to you today, and says, “Are you thirsty? Come to me. Come to me.” Oh, if we could only learn that. I’m not saying that you come clinging to your sins. I’m not saying that you come to Him with your fingers crossed behind your back. I’m not saying that you come to Him, and at the same time intend to cling to Satan and this world. Oh no. Let go of everything; but come, come to Jesus. 

III. The Secret: Come to Me and Drink

The subjects? The thirsty ones. The source? Jesus Christ himself. The secret? Come to me and drink.

Look in verse thirty-seven: In that last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. Now, what does that mean? How do you drink? You drink by faith. The next verse explains it. He that believeth on me—he that believeth on me. You drink in the Christ. You appropriate, assimilate Jesus by faith. Come and drink. Now, the problem today is this: that many will come this far with me in this message and be with me one hundred percent. But at this point, they drop out. Now, they don’t mean to drop out. They just drop out. They say, “Yes, indeed, I am thirsty. Yes, indeed, Christ is the answer.” But they never really believe that they dare take what He promises. And so, somehow, it gets in the margin of the Bible, somehow, it gets in the notebook, somehow, it gets in the head, but it never gets down in the heart. It is never appropriated. You must drink. You must appropriate that which God has for you, and you do it by faith. Drinking is not passive. It is active. There comes a time when you take the Lord Jesus Christ by faith, and say, “Yes, He is mine. I claim all that you have for me, Lord Jesus. I believe in you. I do.”

Suppose you’re on the desert. Let’s suppose you’ve been there for several days. Your body is dehydrated. Your tongue is dry. Your mouth is parched. Your lips are cracked. You’re perishing for water, and you know that you need water. Nobody has to explain to you what water is. Nobody has to tell you that you’re thirsty. You know that. And then somebody comes to you, out there in the dessert, somehow miraculously appears, and there he is with a tall glass of water. We’ll even put a couple of ice cubes in it. Put some little beads running down the side of it. Tall, cool, clear, sparkling, lifesaving, life-sustaining water—there it is. By the way, what would that man pay for that glass of water—a dollar, two, ten, fifty, one hundred, ten thousand? You name it. Price is not an object. If he has it, he’ll pay it, right? All that a man has will he give for his life. 

You see. That’s the mark of a thirsty man. You see these people who have got these side issues, and so forth. They’re not really thirsty. But when a man is truly thirsty, the price is not an object. So, thank God, this water of life is absolutely free, and it costs everything. Now that’s what we would call a paradox. I mean, you have to give everything to Jesus, and yet it is absolutely, totally free.

There it is, that glass of water. Now, suppose the bearer of that water says to this man, “I brought this for you. I want you to have it. Here it is.”

Now, suppose you were to get out your notebook, and you say, “Mmm hmm, let me get this down, and da da da da, da da da da, da da da da. It’s water. It’s necessary. You brought it for me. There it is. You want me to drink,” and so forth, and you begin to make notes, and think about it, and so forth. And, he says, “Yes, but now drink.” “Oh,” you say. “Water, that’s what I need. Boy, that sure is cool water, clear, da da da da da da. Well, drink. Well I, you know, I don’t think I’m qualified to do that. I don’t think I ought to do that.” And I’m wondering what’s wrong with this person. Why will he not by faith and obedience appropriate that which is offered to him?

People come to church on Sunday morning with no more intention of doing what the minister asks them to do than obeying what they saw portrayed on television on Saturday night. It’s sort of something they watch. It’s sort of something they just come, and sit, and watch. Folks, there comes a time when you need to—D-R-I-N-K—drink. There comes a time when you need to believe Him, and say, “My heart is thirsty for the blessing. I will receive the Lord Jesus. I take Him now. I take Him by faith. I appropriate. I assimilate. I believe. I receive. Come into my heart, Lord Jesus. I receive you. I drink into you. I do, and I do right now.”

IV. The Supply: Rivers of Living Water

Now, we’ve talked about the subjects, and the source, and the secret. Let’s talk about the supply. I love this part. Listen. Verse 38: he that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his inner most being shall flow rivers of living water. Not only will there be an income; there will be an outflow. There will be springing up in you, a river of revival, a river of blessing. Now, here’s the problem. Here’s the problem. The Bible says, “As the scripture hath said.” Jesus is quoting the Scripture. Did you know that you can get your concordance, and try to find this scripture in the Old Testament, and you can’t find it? That’s interesting. Jesus said, “As the scripture hath said, out of his belly— out of his innermost being—shall flow rivers of living water.” And yet you don’t find that verse in the Bible. Does that mean that Jesus was wrong? Of course not! He’s never wrong. What He’s referring to, I believe, is not a verse, but He’s referring to a number of verses. And that’s the sum total of them found in Ezekiel chapter 47. So just turn to Ezekiel chapter 47. Now, if you’ve got a Bible like mine, that’s page 1,101. Other than that, you have to find it for yourself - Ezekiel chapter 47. Now, I want you to turn to this, because all that Jesus is saying is based on this. “As the scripture hath said, out of his inner most being shall flow rivers of living water.” Jesus is saying that, when you are filled with the Spirit, when you are saved and filled with the Spirit, your life is going to be overflowing with joy. It’s going to be overflowing with praise. It’s going to be overflowing with testimony. It’s going to be overflowing with service.

Are you a normal Christian? I didn’t ask if you were an average Christian. The average Christian is not a normal Christian. He’s subnormal. Boy, we need to make a difference between the average and the normal. You’ll find the normal in the Bible. You’ll find the average on Sunday morning in church. Are you a normal Christian? What is a normal Christian? A normal Christian, one who’s stopped enduring religion and started to enjoy salvation, is one not only who is having his own needs met, but is able to meet the needs of others. He has not become merely a reservoir. He has become a river. Now, most folks come on Sunday, just thinking, boy, if I can just get a blessing. I mean, if I can just have my needs met, boy, how wonderful it would be if I could just have my thirst assuaged. How many of us say, “O God, I want to be a blessing. I want the outflow of my life to be a river of revival. I want out of my innermost being to flow a river of living water.”

Well, let’s see if we can learn the secret in Ezekiel chapter 47. Here’s a prophecy, I believe, of what we’re talking about. This passage is very interesting. Here’s a vision that Ezekiel saw, and I believe that Jesus was talking about here. Afterward, he brought me again to the door of the house. Now, the house that he’s talking about is the temple of God. The temple in the Old Testament was a picture and a prophecy of the believer today. The Bible says that we are temples of God. Now remember this: In the Old Testament, God had a temple for His people. In the New Testament, God has a people for His temple. That Old Testament temple just like that Old Testament feast of tabernacles; it’s a picture of things to come, and of spiritual things. 

And so, afterward, he brought me again to the door of the house, the temple; and behold, waters issued out from under the threshold of the house eastward: for the forefront of the house stood toward the east, and the waters came down from under the right side of the house at the south side of the altar.

A. The Mysterious Source of This River

Now, notice the mysterious source of this river. It’s coming out of the temple—out of the temple. There comes a mysterious river, and it flows right past the altar. It always does. It always does. The altar speaks of Christ crucified, and if you want that river of living water to flow out of you, it will always, forever, flow past the altar, past the cross. What is the cross? Is a gigantic “I” crossed out—no longer I, but Christ. And out of my innermost being, out of the house of God, which house I am; out of the temple, will flow a river. That’s the mysterious source of it.

B. The Marked Course of This River

I want you to notice the marked course of it. Look at verses two through six: Then he brought me out of the way of the gate northward, and led me by the way unto the utter gate by the way that looketh eastward; and, behold, there ran out waters on the right side. And when the man that had the line in his hand went for the eastward, he measured a thousand cubits, and he brought me through the waters; the waters were to the ankles. And he measured a thousand cubits, and brought me through the waters; the waters were to the knees. And he measured a thousand and brought me through; the waters were to the loins. Afterward he measured a thousand; and it was a river that I could not pass over: for the waters were risen, waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed over. What a mysterious river! It keeps getting wider, and deeper, and it has no tributaries. It just keeps rising up. This is the course of the river.

In 500-yard increments, first of all, the water is ankle-deep; then it’s knee-deep; then it’s waste-deep; and then it’s water that engulfs and overwhelms, water to swim in. And then the writer of this passage of Scripture says, in verse six, “Son of man, hast thou seen this—is there a river of revival flowing out of you? At first, ankle-deep, then kneedeep, then up to the waste, and then a current that picks you up, and sweeps you along. You’ll never get more of the Spirit, but He needs to get more of you. I mean some of us this morning are ankle-deep. Are you satisfied? I hope you move to knee-deep. Some are knee-deep. Are you satisfied? I hope it’ll move up to your loins. And some of you have seen this up to this far, but I pray God today there will be a river flowing out of your life that will engulf and sweep you, and all that comes with it along with it.

C. The Mighty Force of This River

There’s the mysterious source of this river. There is the marked course of this river. There is the mighty force of this river, and I wish I had more time for all of these. But I want you to see what happens when this river begins to flow. Look, if you will now, in verses seven through nine: And when I had returned, behold, at the bank of the river were very many trees on the one side and on the other. And he said unto me, These waters issue out toward the east country, and go down into the desert, and into the sea: which brought forth, which being brought forth into the sea, the waters will be healed.

Now, those of you who’ve gone with me to Israel, you’re gonna be blessed right now, because this is going to make more sense to you than anybody else. But if you were to go the temple mount, and if you were to stand and face the east—I believe I’m facing east right now—you would be looking out to the desert, and you would be on Mount Moriah, 2,700 feet above sea level. And then, the terrain would begin to drop down, down, down, down, down, down to sea level, but it would keep on dropping, down, down, down, down, down to the lowest spot on earth, 1,300 feet below sea level, the Dead Sea, with it’s dead, leaden waters.

Now, this is what he’s talking about. He said, “I saw the temple. I saw a river come up. It flowed passed the altar, and it began to go through down the desert, down through the wilderness, down, down, down, down, down to the Dead Sea. That’s what he saw. And I believe that Jesus Christ was talking about this, when He said, “As the scripture said, out of his inner most being will flow rivers of living water.”

1. There Will Be Life Where There Once Was Death

And what He is saying is this—and please listen: There will be life where there was once death, when the river begins to flow out of you.

And then, look, if you will, in verse ten. Look at it now in verse ten: And it shall come to pass that the fishers shall stand upon it from Engedi even unto Eneglaim; and they shall be a place to spread forth nets; their fish shall be according to their kinds, as the fish of the great sea, exceeding many. There’ll be as many fish in the Dead Sea as there are in the Mediterranean.

2. There Will Be Success Where There Once Was Failure

There will be life where there is death. There will be success where there’s failure. How many of us have wanted to be fishers of men. But, we’re fishing in deadened, leaden waters. And the problem is not with Dead Sea. The problem is with us, because we’ve not poured into it a river of living water.

3. There Will Be Fruitfulness Where There Once Was Barrenness

Thirdly, there’ll be fruitfulness where there was barrenness. Look, if you will, in verse 12: And by the river upon the bank thereof, on this side, and on that side, shall grow all trees for meat, whose leaf shall not fade, neither shall the fruit thereof be consumed: it shall bring forth new fruit according to his months, because their waters they issued out of the sanctuary. Is your life a fruitful life or a barren life? Galatians 5, verse 22, speaks of the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. Is there a river flowing out of you that causes fruitfulness where there was once barrenness?

4. There Will Be Health Where There Once Was Sickness

And, last of all, there will be health where there was once sickness. Look in the last part of verse 12: And the fruit thereof shall be for meat, and the leaf thereof for medicine. Boy, I’m telling you this old sick, deadly world, this barren desert, needs life. It needs the fruit of the Spirit. It needs healing.


Folks, look at your pastor now. Our world is sick. There is a Dead Sea out there, and Jesus said, “If you thirst, come to me, and drink, and you’ll be satisfied.” But more than that, there’ll be in you a river of living water. And where there was death, there’ll be life. Where there was failure, there’ll be success. And where there was barrenness, there’ll be fruit. And where there’s sickness, there’ll be health. Son of man, have you seen this?

Let’s pray.

O God, seal the message to our hearts. And I pray today that many thirsty souls will come to Jesus and drink. Amen. Look at me. Every eye here—don’t gather your books; don’t even think about it. Just look right here. Look right here. Some of you have been members of this church and have never been saved. You need to come to Jesus today, and stop enduring religion, and start enjoying salvation. Some of you have been saved, but you’ve drunk in such a shallow way. You’ve had a shallow thirst and a shallow satisfaction. You’re only ankle deep. You need to drink deep of our Lord, and let this river flow deeply out of you.

Some of you need to be saved, who are not members of this church or any church. You’ve never been, quote, religious. Maybe it’s religion that’s turned you off. Well, I’ve got good news for you. Jesus will never disappoint you. Come to Jesus today. I’m not asking you to believe in Adrian, not asking you to believe in Bellevue, not asking you to believe in the word Baptist. I’m asking you to come to Jesus Christ. Give Him you heart. Give Him your life. He died for you. I promise you, on the authority of His Word, He will forgive your every sin. He will meet the deepest longing of your heart. There’s not a sin He cannot forgive, and not a legitimate longing He’s not the answer to. Come to Jesus. When we sing in a moment, the ministers of this church are going to stand here at head of each of these aisles. And those of you who say, “Lord Jesus, I receive you now as my personal Lord and Savior, I, by faith, drink of you. I want you to leave your seat and come.

Those of you who say, “I need to go deeper. I want more. I want someone to pray with me,” you might come. Those of you who need to place your membership in Bellevue; if you’re saved, and want to be a part of the Bellevue family, you come. There’s a minister standing at the head of each of these aisles. You say, “Pastor, I don’t know what I’d say, when I go down there.” Don’t worry about that at all. The minister will help you and guide you. You just come, and express your heart, and let’s take it from there. Let’s stand together. Lord, I believe. You step out and come.