Christian Fellowship 1996-12-02 - Rivers of the Heart

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God. Ps. 46:4

It is often the case that the joy of the Christian and of the Church of Christ is never greater than when in affliction, persecution, or tribulation. It is then that true faith is tested and found to be true. Zeal and persecution often go hand in hand. When the French Protestants were persecuted by the Roman Catholics, Moulin made a telling statement. He said, "When the Papists hurt us, and afflict us for reading the Scriptures, we then burn in zeal to be reading them; but when persecution is over, our Bibles are like old Almanacks".

When the people of God are most afflicted, then it seems the rivers of life flow deepest in their hearts. The Psalmist here, in the name of the church, expresses confidence in God. In verses 2 and 3 of this Psalm we read, "we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; though its waters roar foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride". These expressions speak of the commotions that are in the world and the violence and rage of those who are enemies of the church. In the words of verse 4, the Psalmist offers the one consolation of the church that, there is a river whose streams make glad the city of God. The church, which is the city of God, has great grounds of encouragement, even in the worst of times. Why is the church compared to a city?

  1. In the days of the Psalmist, the city was a place of security. I do not know about you, but I hate going into the city (Philadelphia). I live in the burbs and avoid the city as much as I am able. The city is, for me, full of crime. However, in the days of the Psalmist the city was a place of refuge from all that went on beyond the walls of the city. The crime was on the outside of the city, not in it. Cities used to have walls with watchmen on them. Well, the church is the city of God and there is no other place where the believer can flee and be save from the devil. God, Himself, is the watchman over this city and He has sworn Himself to protect it.
  2. A city is a place of society. There is mutual fellowship within the city. Sadly, "city fellowship" today means that everyone in Atlanta "feels good" when the Braves win. Sadly, when the Denver Broncos are having a great season, the workplaces in Denver are, "kinder, gentler, more friendly". This is the kind of mutual fellowship that cities now feel. Not so in the city of God. When the saints in the city of God meet there is not battle to fight, the battle has been won. When saints meet, they pray for one another, comfort one another, and show hospitality. The society of the saints is holy society.

I would like to follow this up Tuesday, but I want to ask about the river. What is this river that gives life to the city of God?

Rev. 21:1ff, "And he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. And on either side of river was the tree of life, bearing twelve fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall no longer be any curse..." This is the river of the city of God.

Soli Deo Gloria,