Jentezen Franklin - Stay Connected To The River
In 1763, on the Mississippi River, there was a town that was founded and established by French settlers. They called it the Little Gulf. The reason they called it the Little Gulf, G-U-L-F, is because it was the little sister of the big gulf city, which was known as New Orleans. And it became a very prosperous and prominent city. It was 32 miles northeast of Natchez, Mississippi on the Mississippi River.
And sometime later, a few years later, a man by the name of Thomas Calvit bought the city and he had a dear friend and mentor in his life that had really impacted him and he wanted to honor him, so he named this, renamed the city... I guess if you buy a city you can do whatever you want to with it, and he renamed the city from Little Gulf to Rodney, Mississippi 'cause the man's name that had been such a great mentor in his life was a guy named Rodney. And so he named it Rodney, Mississippi and it became a very, very prosperous city in America.
As a matter of fact, by the mid 1800s, it had discovered the industry of cotton and was responsible from bringing much of that agricultural prosperity to the south. It all started there. And so much so that Rodney became one of the busiest ports in America. For example, by the late 1700s, they had factories, again, the late 1700s - they had factories, they had schools, they had hotels, they had restaurants, they had beautiful homes, thousands of people living in this little town that became a large town called Rodney, Mississippi. As a matter of fact, it only missed becoming the capital of the state of Mississippi by three votes. That's how prominent this place was. And of course, it was beat out by Jackson, Mississippi.
But something happened, something that nobody could foresee. The Mississippi River, over a number of years, began to change courses. And little by little, not suddenly but over the course of years, the current and the river began to go in a different direction. And by the early 1900s, Rodney, Mississippi was over three miles off of the river. It was built, it's whole commerce and prosperity was built from the commerce and the boats coming in with the products and all the activity from the river. But when the river went the opposite direction and there was a three mile distance, then suddenly no longer there was access to the river and the commerce and all of the wealth that it provided dried up.
The town slowly began to wither and die, and if you Google it, it will talk about one of the most prominent cities that America ever had in its early history became "a ghost town". You talk about a ghost town, that is exactly what happened to Rodney, Mississippi. As a matter of fact, you can go there now and there's only one road in and one road out. And all that's left of that prosperous, prominent city is an old decayed Presbyterian church that's caving in on itself. There's no business activity. There's nothing but silent structures with crumbling echoes of what used to be. There's a hollow shell of a town. There are no inhabitants. There are no people. There are no families. There are no children. There is no prosperity. There's no booming businesses. There's no rustling and bustling in the streets with prosperity. All of it left when the river left.
It's a silent testimony that screams a powerful message to you and I today. No matter how many great things you have going for you, if the river ever leaves you, you die. John 7:37, "In the last days, Jesus said, If any man thirsts, let him come unto Me and out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water, and this spake He of the Spirit". The Holy Spirit is a life-giving river. The presence of Jesus is a river of living water. And just like that little town in Mississippi, when it lost the river, when the river went a different course, it dried up, it withered up, it lost its prosperity, it lost its life, and people began to leave in groves and abandon everything.
The same is true for our life. There's no difference between us and that little city. If we don't have the flow, if we don't have the river that gives life, if the Spirit is not leading us, if the Spirit is not directing us, if we're not in the current of the Spirit that brings all of the blessings of God, all of the success of God, all of the victories of God, it comes through the river. If the river ever shifts and leaves your life, then everything that you know and have can dry up and be joyless and lifeless. No matter what else we have going for us, if the river ever leaves us, everything else will die.
My message this morning is "Stay Connected to the River". We have to have the river. The river leads us. The river constrains us. The river guides us. Have you ever stood in a river? It has a current. If it's a real river, you don't just get in the river and do what you want. The current constrains you. The current pulls you. And that's how the river of the Spirit is. Even if you start to go in a direction that God is not wanting you to go in and go after things of the flesh, here's how you know you're saved, because there is a restraining. The Spirit, you have to go against the current. Everything in you will say, "Don't do that. Don't do that. Don't do that". And even if you do it, something in you will pull you back to quickly repent and get right with God and go in the right direction.
That's the power of the Spirit. And if that conviction ever leaves you, if that constraining force of the Holy Spirit that keeps you back from things that you know are not right in your life, if you ever silence that, if you ever just ignore that and the river ever goes a different course, then you will die spiritually. You know, we say to people all the time when they have loved ones at funerals, "the real her", "the real him is not here". Well, the real me is the spirit me. I am a spirit that lives in a fleshly body. I am not a fleshly body that happens to have the spirit. In Romans 8:5 said, "For those that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh", notice the words after, "and they that are after the spirit do mind the things of the spirit", meaning this, "O God, I want to be a person who is after the spirit".
I don't want to be after the flesh. I don't want to be in a direction, moving in a direction of the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, the pride of life. But we need to be people after the spirit. I want to be a preacher after the spirit. I want to be a man, a father, a husband that is after the spirit. And I want to pastor a church that is after the Spirit. Stay after the Spirit. Follow where the current and the flow and the Spirit takes you. We need to be like Moses. He was so spiritually governed that he said, "I want my words, I want my attitudes, I want my actions to be after You Lord", so much so that in Exodus 33:15, he said, "If Your presence doesn't go with me, I will not go up". Exodus 33:15 is God saying, "If your spirit doesn't go with me, I won't go".
In other words, where the direction of the spirit is, not the flesh. I don't want to follow the flesh. I don't want to follow my desires, my attitudes, my actions, my fits, my carnality. I want to get in the flow of the spirit that restrains me in the right direction. And even if I start to say something I shouldn't, the current will pull on my soul. Even if I start to look at something I shouldn't, the current of the spirit... That means being after the spirit. Oh, I don't want to lose that in my life. I don't want to do what His Spirit can't bless. Deliver us from fleshly pursuits.
In Romans 8, it says this, "Therefore brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if you, through the Spirit, do mortify the deeds of the flesh and put to death the deeds of the flesh, you will live for as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God". One translation is powerful; said this, "The proof of sonship is being led by the Spirit, not the flesh".
The proof that you're a son or a daughter of God is that you allow the Spirit and its current and flow to guide you and lead you and not your flesh. So your actions, your attitudes, your words, your disposition, your desires, all of those things are in the river and the Spirit leads you in the direction that He wants to go. Proof of sonship is being led by the Spirit, not the flesh. Galatians 3:3 says it like this, "Have you become so foolish having begun in the Spirit, you are now made perfect in the flesh"?
In other words, he's saying, "There was a time when you were in the river. There was a time when you were in the flow. There was a time when the Spirit could adjust you and turn you and change you and move in you in the direction God wanted you to go, and you were in the Spirit. You started in the Spirit. You were tender to His voice. You were tender to His, and sensitive to His desires and His convictions". But He said, "Having begun in the Spirit, are you now made perfect in the flesh"?
And I think about this church. You know, we started in the Spirit. We didn't have these screens. We didn't have these cameras. We didn't have this big, beautiful room. We didn't have those cushioned seats. We didn't have all this stuff that we have. We had the Spirit of God. We started in the Spirit. Now can we do it in the flesh is what Galatians 3:3 says. I'm not for going back. I don't want to do without air conditions and I don't want to do without all this nice and great stuff but I do want to go back to always needing the Spirit, leaning on the Spirit, needing the guidance, needing the anointing. And you need it too. It's not just for a preacher. It's for you.
And if the river ever leaves you, your prosperity dies. If the river ever leaves you, your life and your marriage, your home, your family, it withers up and the houses become empty and lifeless. You're living in a shell. You have an outward appearance of a home but there's no life there. Same is true for a marriage. Don't let the river leave you. Someone may ask, "Well, what can make a river change its location? How could that happen to the city of Rodney, Mississippi? How does a river that's running by a city, prospering it, bringing life to it, how does it change direction"?
This is what they studied and the engineer said. I'm not making this up. It was a buildup of debris. Over time, so much silt, so much debris filled in and began to obstruct the flow of the river. It didn't happen overnight. It was just a little thing, just a little pile, a little bit of obstruction, a little bit of debris, a little silt. And you don't allow the river to wash it away. And they said, "Sometimes you need to get out there and dig that stuff up so that the river has a continual, easy flow".
But at some point, the river begins to decide "it's a whole lot easier for me to go in another course and direction than it is for me to try to break through", because one little pile becomes another pile and another pile of debris and silt and another and another, and before you know it, the river is being forced away and it's not just a little few feet. Now, it's a half a mile, it's two miles, it's three miles. And that describes so many people, so many people who started in the Spirit, so many people who were full of the Holy Spirit, so many people who were into the word, so many people who we so... Oh, your joy was not stuff. Your joy was Jesus. But little by little, the river starts changing course and you're dying. You're dying on the inside. You're dying. There's nothing that can take the place of Jesus. I don't care how prosperous you get. I don't care how much money you make. I don't care how many houses and boats and car and jet skis. You better never lose the river because if the river lives - you die.
The more silt and gravel that piled up over time, more and more and more, and finally the current changed. It started going somewhere else that wasn't resistant. The water no longer flowed to that city. The debris had closed it off. The river has to flow. It has to flow. If you find yourself... This is the amazing thing. They said if you go to Rodney, Mississippi, oh, there's water there, but it's stale, stagnant water. And if you take a blade of grass and throw it on top of the water, what you will see is it sits on top, still. It doesn't float. There is no flow. And therefore, there is no life.
And so, in other words, if you looked on the outside, it looks like that that city has a water supply and that describes many Christians. On the outside, they look like they have life, but is there a flow? Are you being led by the Spirit? Has the Spirit's restraining power on you so forceful that you don't just do things and you lose your convictions and your consecrations? And I know this is old-fashioned preaching, but folks, we're either after the Spirit or after the flesh. We don't need to be deceived in this hour.
I still believe that when the Spirit has control of our lives, He takes us in a direction. And if we don't allow the river to wash away the debris, wash away the pain and the hurt, wash away the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, the pride of life, wash away bitterness and unforgiveness, wash away evil speaking, wash away bad attitudes and ugly spirits, that stuff begins to dam up the river and causes it to go a different course. And suddenly, you wake up like Samson and wish not the Spirit had departed.
Your life, your success, everything that you need is connected. Out of your belly will flow rivers of living water. And your prosperity and your joy and your marriage and your family, it's not between you and your husband or you and your employees; it's the river flowing through, washing everything clean, getting out habits and things that try to destroy our lives. And I'm praying today that while I preach, the Spirit will begin to control again, the Spirit will begin... You're either going after the flesh or the Spirit.
And I thank God for the Holy Spirit that will constrain you. And it shows up in sensitive ways. The Spirit will wash the debris. The Spirit will wash the silt. The Spirit will wash all of the piles of things that try to, the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, the pride of life - it'll wash it clean. Oh, we need that. We need the river to flush and remove all resistance to being led by the Spirit. I remember when the current moved me. I remember times in my life where the current...
And here's the next and final part of this message. When that river started going the other direction, those people had to make a choice. We can stay here and die or we can go with the river and live. And I guess what I'm saying to some of you is you can't live in the past. And if God is moving on, If the river changes courses, change direction and go with it or die.
That's what I'm telling you. Stay on fire. If the river leaves you... that's why church is so important. It can't ever become something if we get time, we don't have nothing else to do and there's no more fun things going on this weekend. I'm not saying this 'cause look the place is full; I'm saying it because it's the truth. The church and the kingdom is the river that brings life to your relationships between you and your children, your wife, your marriage, your husband. It's all desperately needing the river. And if the river ever leaves you, you're going to die. Your marriage is going to die. Your family joy is going to die. You'll be a shell of a family and a home and a life.
How many of you would be honest? I tell you, that line got me, "...after the Spirit". Am I after the flesh or after the Spirit? Flesh stuff or Spirit? Out of your belly will flow rivers of living water. How many of you would love for a Holy Ghost gully washer? Y'all know what a gully washer is? It's when the streams overflow and all of a sudden coming down the ridge of the mountain, there's a gully washer and any debris and any silt that has built up. Anything in our heart that's not pleasing to God, any attitudes, any actions toward anyone, anything any little compromise, little dirty words and little cruel words...
You get in the river and the river will take you in the right direction, and direction is more important than location. If you're moving in the right direction, you're going to get there. How many of you would love for the river of life to remove all the debris from your soul this morning? Let me see your hand. From your mind? Wash your eyes clean? Wash your ears clean? Wash your heart clean? Wash your soul clean? Wash your emotions clean? Wash your memory? Get the debris out; the bitterness, the unforgiveness. Let the river, listen, quit letting that stuff have a foot hold because the way the river changes is if you don't remove it, knock it down...
Don't let it keep piling up and piling up and piling up because sooner or later, the Spirit will say, "You're not going to change. I'm going to go find someone who will". Don't get comfortable with that addiction. Don't get comfortable with that sin. Don't get comfortable with that compromise. But let the river hit it and wash it away this morning. All over this room, I'm going to ask you to stand to your feet. No one moving, please; just stand to your feet. For the next 30 seconds, I want you to lift your hands high and I want you to see a gully washer coming. I want you to see it cascading. I want you to see it like a flash flood and it's coming to your soul.
It's coming to your heart. It's coming to your mind. It's coming to was your eyes and your ears and your thoughts and your heart and your soul. It's coming to wash away bitterness and pain and hurt from yesterday. It's ready to wash it away.
Now just begin to open your mouth and begin to cry out to God. I don't care what anybody thinks this morning. Lord, I need You to wash me with the river of life. I don't want to have resistance. I don't want to start in the Spirit and now lean on the flesh. I need You, Lord. I want to get in the current. I want to feel the resistance. I want to feel the constraint of the Holy Spirit in areas that I'm compromising. I want to yield to the river. Ezekiel got in it and it went up to his knees and his ankles and his waist, and then he said, "I couldn't resist it. It was water. I had to just go with the current". That's where victory is. That's where victory is. Are you led by the Spirit?