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Friday, November 30, 2012

The Peculiar Conditions of an End-time

Luke 2:25-38; 1 Corinthians 10:11; Hebrews 8b:13, 9:26

We are being led at this time to take note of the fact that we are at an end-time, and that God does a peculiar work at such a time. Things become very strange and very difficult at an end-time; everything seems to be thrown into a state of disturbance, upheaval, intense pressure and conflict. The great conflicting forces in this universe register very terribly and intensely upon that which is of God and upon those who are of account to Him, so that there often arises the sense that this is an actual end, and a question as to what more is possible. Inwardly we feel that the way is becoming exceedingly hedged up: "frustration" is the word which seems to prevail, and outwardly everything is in a state of serious and great question as to the future. Indeed, it becomes more persistently the experience of the true people of God that they could give up and abandon everything. The ways in which this works out are numerous, but the whole effect is to paralyse and put out of commission that which will govern our consideration at this time - that we are in an end-time and that in end-times the work of God takes a particular form and is of a peculiar nature. It obviously becomes supremely important and necessary for the Lord's people to know the time in which they live, what the portents are, and what it is that God would do at such a time.

I suggest to you that that constitutes a real reason for getting together in serious and solemn conference, for it is not something that we can take just as a part of a sequence of meditations. Our consideration of it may be supremely crucial and in a peculiar way related to a time in the history of this world, and of God's work in this world, which is of tremendous importance and will not be repeated.

Now, this matter of the end-time and God's work therein is brought very fully and clearly into view by Simeon and Anna. There is no doubt that they represent firstly an end-time - an end-time dispensationally and an end-time with regard to their own age, for they were both advanced in years. And then they also represent God's service at such a time. Simeon used the word of himself - "Now lettest thou thy servant (bondservant, the word is) depart, Lord, according to thy word, in peace." "Thy servant." Anna was found continuing in the temple in fastings and supplications day and night, not leaving it, a prophetess thus occupied in the house of God; and if that is not a picture of service, what is?

Fullness of Ripe Age Carried on in Freshness of New Life

I am, in the first place, going to take up the age factor. Let me say at once that, although I am going to talk about old age, my message is mainly to young people. If that sounds hardly kind and fair to others, let me put it in this way: age is not a matter of years at all. You may be young in years and yet be far beyond your years, or you may be old in years and far behind your years. This is a spiritual matter. This age factor, as represented by Simeon and Anna, corresponds to the word in Hebrews 8, "He hath made the first old. But that which is becoming old and waxeth aged is nigh unto vanishing away"; and again, to the words of 1 Corinthians 10, "upon whom the ends of the ages are come." That makes us very old, does it not?

Well now, what have we as the picture before us? We have an aged man with a babe in his arms, at once bringing an end and a beginning together, an end handed on to a beginning, a beginning taking up all the fullness represented by the old. It is the old passing over into and giving place to the new. If we get the Divine idea, the spiritual thought, about this - an aged man with a babe in his arms - we at once see that from the Divine standpoint that is the Divine principle. Age is NOT diminution, contraction, declension, depreciation. That is not God's mind about old age. There is a passage in Isaiah which says, "The child shall die a hundred years old". There is a state, a condition, a realm in which a child shall die one hundred years old. It means there is a principle here - that there is a realm in which age has the child present, has the babe there in its arms. At one hundred years old the child has not gone, it is still the child. The Divine thought about old age is rather that of fullness, fullness unto the enrichment of what is yet to be, and which is about to come in; to provide a heritage; not to pass out and take everything with it and for that to be the end, but to have something very full and rich to be taken up and carried on and expressed in newness, freshness, youthfulness; all the values of a long history brought out in new ways. That is what is here.

You know the instances in the Bible of infancy linked with old age. How much is made of this spiritual principle in relation to Abraham and Isaac! When Abraham was old, Isaac was born. The fact is taken up to express this  - that when there is a great accumulation of history and spiritual knowledge, God will reproduce that, He will give it form again and yet again. "In Isaac shall thy seed be called" (Genesis 21:12). Or again, Jacob and Benjamin, the child of his old age; and what a lot Benjamin represents spiritually. Then we have the case of Eli, who was very old, and the child Samuel. it is not only a beautiful picture, bu it is a very significant one, that child alongside of the aged Eli. God stated there again, right in the presence of something that in itself about to pass out, but taking up all its spiritual values to reproduce them and bring out all their intrinsic worth. Here again are the ages Simeon and Anna, by certain computations we arrive at the conclusion that Anna was 106 years old at this point - these two with a babe. It is not an end with God; it is something very much more than that.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 2 - "All Former Spiritual Values now Centered in Christ")

Available Time

Psalm 31:14-24

David often talked about God's hand and the hand of the enemy. "My times are in Your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies, and from those who persecute me" (v. 15). That's a marvelous declaration of faith. And David didn't write it from a hotel suite somewhere. He was out in the Judean wilderness, where it was dark and dirty and dry. And he was being chased by Saul.

In writing "my times are in Your hand," David teaches us several lessons. First, "time" is important. If you waste time, you're wasting "eternity." If you wast time, you're wasting "opportunity". All I can give to God is my body, my ability, and my time. And if I don't give Him my time, He can't use my body or my ability. Time is valuable - don't waste it. Invest it.

Second, David reminds us how important "surrender" is. Who controls the available time we have when we're not working or doing the things that must be done to maintain life - that unregistered, undirected time? If we surrender to the Lord, He can control that time. I learned many years ago to turn my entire day over to Him at the beginning of every day. If I have interruptions, He's in control. If my plans are changed, He's in control.

Third, this leads to God's blessings for us. When our times are in His hand, we can trust Him; He has blessings especially prepared for us. "Oh, how great is Your goodness, which You have laid up for those who fear You" (v. 19). God has some wonderful blessings prepared for you today. But you are not going to enjoy them unless you truly say, "Lord, my times are in Your hand."

Time is perhaps your most basic resource. How you us God's gift of time has a profound effect not only on your life but on the lives of others. It's important that you surrender your time to His care. When you give God your time, you surrender it to His control. He will bless you for it.

~Warren W. Wiersbe~

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Basis of All

Having pointed to the inclusive goal, we cannot close without a further special emphasis upon the inclusive basis. The question that will be in most minds is, "How shall all this be made good in the Church, the churches and the individual?" There is an answer, but it will challenge us to the depth and at every point in our lives. Much - perhaps everything - will depend upon how seriously we are concerned for God's purpose, and therefore how ready we are to put aside all prejudice, superficiality, scepticism, familiarity and perhaps our traditions. It is the universal resort of the Apostles. Were things other than they should be in their days? Was there a condition in the church in Rome that demanded such a tremendous corrective as that great Letter to them? Was there a state of things in Corinth - divisions, carnalities, disorders, rivalries, dissensions, and worse, calling for such a corrective as the First Letter to the church there? Was there an incipient movement of reporbation from grace to legalism with all the entail of loss of glory in Galatia? Was there a "fly in the beautiful ointment" at Philippi? Was there a threatening of a mysticism at Colossae? Yes, all this and other things, threatening the testimony of the churches and their influence in the world. The Apostles did not excuse, condone or accept it. Their whole attitude was "These things ought not to be." How did they approach these situations? Had they one common basis and means of approach and remedy? Yes, they had! In every case it was the same.

To Rome is was: Romans 6:3-10; 12:1, 2
To Galatia: Galatians 2:20; 5:24; 6:14
To Philippi: Philippians 2:5-8
To Colossae: Colossians 2:11, 12; 3:3

Well, there it is, plain, clear and positive: the Cross of Jesus Christ brought by the Holy Spirit right to the root and foundation of the life of every believer. A foundational crisis and thereby an inworking and an outworking. "We," "Ye," "I" - all the pronouns of direct application. Christians believe in the Holy Spirit. Very many desire t know the Holy Spirit as a reality and power in their lives. But it should really be understood and recognized that the Holy Spirit is committed and wedded to the Cross. His coming awaited the work of the Cross. Only after the symbolic representation of the Cross in death, burial and resurrection with Christ in baptism - so understood - did the Holy Spirit take His place in power in the lives of the first believers. Because the tap-root of everything that the Cross was meant to deal with is the self-life, the self-principle, the New Testament word for which is "the flesh," the Holy Spirit leads those under His government into the experiences which are calculated to expose and bring to the Cross the self-life of the child of God. It is a primary and inseparable part of the Holy Spirit's business to make good and real the meaning of the Cross.

This is not popular to the flesh, but it is the gateway to spiritual fullness, and the deeper the Cross, the greater the measure of resurrection life, power and light. This touches the whole realm and range of satan's authority. Power over him is inseparable from the Cross. Therefore he will do everything possible to undercut, set aside, belittle and discredit the Cross. The Person of Christ and the Cross of Christ have been the ground of the most bitter controversy in the history of Christianity. Of course, they are really one thing. It is the Person Who gives the Cross its real meaning and value, and it is the Cross that vindicates the Person; provided that by the Cross is meant the death, burial and resurrection to glory. The Scriptures cited earlier and many others make it quite clear that the Cross of Christ is something more than an historic event of long ago. It is something that has to become very real in the experience, and not only in the doctrine, of the Christian. But who could survive the Cross in what it meant in the case of Jesus Christ? It rent, devastated and desolated Him, soul and body, heart and mind. For Him it was a going out into outer darkness and forsakenness. All the eternal agony was concentrated into a few hours and a last terrible moment. There is no other creature in God's universe who could go through that and survive. Thank God, no other creature is ever required to go all that way: He went it for us. And yet there is an aspect of that which concerns our being "united with Him by the likeness of His death" (Romans 6;5) and "always bearing about in the body the putting to death of Jesus" (2 Corinthians 4:10) and a "fellowship of His sufferings"; a drinking at the cup which He drained. This working of His death in the Church and in the believer will be progressive. The law of nature, which is only another way of speaking of the law of God, is more life, more fruit, more growth, by recurrent Winter and Spring, alternating experiences of death and life, every cycle unto increase. This is the law of the Cross (John 12;24). God is not a God Who believes in theories; He is immensely practical.

One of the greatest enemies to fullness is superficiality. This is an age of "quick returns," easy gains, least trouble, everything with as little effort, trouble and cost as possible. Depth is a lost dimension. Stamina is a minus quality. That is why God allows wars and nature's upheavals and difficulties. Heaven is only going to be entered through tribulation - tribulation is the principle of the Cross which God is sustaining before men's eyes. It will be those who share His travail who will share His reign.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(the end)

Enjoying a Bountiful Harvest

" ... bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God" (Colossians 1:10).

Your fruitfulness is directly related to your knowledge of divine truth.

Every farmer who enjoys a plentiful harvest does so only after diligent effort on his part. He must cultivate the soil, plant the seed, and then nurture it to maturity. Each step is thoughtful, disciplines, and orderly.

Similarly, bearing spiritual fruit is not an unthinking or haphazard process. It requires us to be diligent in pursuing the knowledge of God's will, which is revealed in His Word. That is Paul's prayer in Colossians 1:9, which he reiterates in verse 10.

The phrase "increasing in the knowledge of God" (v. 10 can be translated "increasing "by" the knowledge of God". Both renderings are acceptable. The first emphasizes the need to grow; the second emphasizes the role that knowledge plays in your spiritual growth.

As your knowledge of God's Word increases, the Holy Spirit renews your mind and transforms your thinking. As you gaze into the glory of the Lord as revealed in Scripture, you "are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory' (2 Corinthians 3:18). You "have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him" (Colossians 3:10).

One of satan's ploys to retard spiritual productivity is to get Christians preoccupied with humanistic philosophy and other bankrupt substitutes for God's truth. That's why he planted false teachers at Colosse to teach that knowing God's will is inadequate for true spirituality. Paul refuted that claim by affirming that Christ is the fullness of Deity in bodily form (Col. 2:9).In Him "are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Col. 2:3). He is all you need!

Scripture commands you to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). Is that characteristic of your life? Are you looking forward to a bountiful spiritual harvest?

Suggestions for Prayer: Thank God for the privilege of knowing His will and studying His Word. Prayerfully guard your mind from sinful influences. Saturate it with God's truth.

For Further Study: Read the following passages, noting the effects of God's Word: Psalm 119:9, 105; Acts 20:32; Romans 10:17; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 3:14-17; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 2:14).

~John MacArthur~

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The All-Inclusive Goal

"Till we all attain unto ... the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13)

Everything before this and after it in this Letter has its focus upon this clause. Do you ask, "What is this whole Letter about?" The answer is in four words: "The Fullness of Christ." The two usages of this word "Fullness" by the Apostle in this Letter not only sum up the whole Letter, but present the most wonderful and remarkable thing in this wonderful document, and, indeed, the most wonderful thing in the Bible. In chapter one, verse twenty-three, the astounding statement is that the Church, which is the Body of Christ, is "the fullness of Him that filleth all in all." That seems clearly to mean that Christ can no more be full as Head without His body to make Him complete: that He needs and depends upon His body for His self-realization and self-expression. Closer still: He "filleth all in all" and yet requires His body in order to fulfill His filling. The body is the fullness, the completing of Him. In chapter four, verse thirteen the finality of that truth is pushed along a line to a future climax. "Till we all attain" is linked with a vari-sided provision of functions. We are informed that, on His return to heaven - "When He ascended on high" - the Lord Jesus forthwith "gave gifts unto men." These were personal gifts, or gifts as persons, and they were men taken captive by Him. But these men were the expression of various functions: 'Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers' - different functions, each one given "grace according to the measure of their gift," but all together bound and energized by one object. The Apostle - inclusive; the other three (Pastors and Teachers being one function) making up one interrelated and interdependent ministry. These are not different "Schools" or categories working apart, but only different aspects or functions of one body. There has to be mutual recognition, mutual evaluation and mutual cooperation. The separating of these functions can only result in an unbalanced condition, and lack of balance always results in weakness and loss. To give an unbalanced emphasis to evangelism is only to have immature Christians. To give out-of-proportion weight to teaching may result in the introversion which is divorced from objective concern for men's salvation.

In a local assembly, constituted by the Holy Spirit, for its full-growth, all of these functions should be present. Those who minister should know what their particular gift, grace and anointing is; and the assembly also ought to know it. Things are thrown into confusion when there is a trying to be and do what the anointing is not meant for. What pathetic and even tragic, situations come about when men try to be that for which they are not anointed! A leader must be obviously anointed for that function, and the anointing must be accepted and acknowledged. The same must be rue of all other parts of the one ministry. But each personal gift must - and this is absolutely imperative - must keep the one inclusive goal in view, and definitely contribute to it - "The fullness of Christ," because it is a "measure of the gift of Christ." The question may arise as to knowing what our particular function is. The answer in general will, of course, be that as we seek to be a responsible member of the body, in the local church, we find that the Holy Spirit "burdens" us and exercises us in a particular way. Note: this is not official. That is, it is not by our being appointed by men, or by our assumption, but by our spontaneous and voluntary exercise in concern for Christ's interests in His body. The Lord save His body, and its ministering members, from the pathetic scene of ministries which are not the definite projecting of "He gave ..."; He gave; not man chose, appointed, or "opened the platform" to anyone who would take it. The "giving" of the ascended Lord is selective, specific and deliberate.

We must here indicate something very precious and helpful in this connection in New Testament procedure. It is indicated in First Timothy, chapter four, verse fourteen, and implicit in various other instances. "Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery." The "Presbytery" here does not necessarily mean special Apostles, but surely First Timothy, chapter five, verse seventeen - "Let the elders that rule well." True, Paul did speak of "the gift of God, which is in thee through the laying on of my hands" (2 Timothy 1:16). It would seem clear that, at some time, there was a praying over the members of Christ's body, and in the praying the Holy Spirit constrained to ask for some particular qualification by which the persons concerned would make a specific contribution to the ministry in the body. Elsewhere Paul exhorted Timothy to "do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry" (2 Timothy 4:5), and to Archippus he sent a specific message that he should "take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfill it" (Colossians 4:17). It might be a very good thing if all ministries were the result of such specific action in prayer! There would be a much greater "attaining unto the fullness of Christ," and much less of the ineffective and unprofitable "wisdom (or otherwise of men."

Our passage in Ephesians four, verse thirteen indicates that the body, whether universal or locally represented should, by the ministries, be making progress toward the ultimate fullness. The words are "the building up of the body of Christ." "Edifying" in the Authorized Version is misleading because it conveys the idea of "headifying." While it is corporate growth, it, of course, must be true of each member. While Paul mixes his metaphors, at one time speaking of a Temple and the next of the body, he eventually comes down fully on the body as "the full-grown man," and what he means by building up is seen in chapter four, verse fourteen: "no longer children." It is the transition from childhood in which the persons concerned are always having to be nursed and, like children, draw attention all the time to themselves, to becoming such as can take spiritual responsibility and care for others, with the outward looking concern for the other members of the body. It is a matter of coming into an increasing measure of Christ.

"Till ..." represents process and progress; "we all attain" is the corporate object; "the fullness of Christ" - the goal reached. From chapter four, verses ten to fifteen, we are thrown backward to the election, the calling, and vocation, to the relevant conduct and walk, and onward to the conflict and the demand for "standing." Everything relates to and focuses upon "Attaining unto the fullness of Christ."

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(next - # 1 - "The Basis of All")

Reasons to Trust God

"Trust in the Lord, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness" (Psalm 37:3)  

There are many reasons why we can trust God:

He is the one, true God 2 Samuel 7:21-22). From the beginning of time, those who seek God have found Him. No other god has revealed himself to man in this way.

He is the essence of truth (Hebrews 6:17-18). God cannot lie, and He will never lead you astray. However, He has told us that there is one who deceives us, and that is satan. Jesus called him the "father of lies" and rightly so (John 8:44).

He is absolutely faithful (Lamentations 3:23). When was the last time God let you down? He never has, and He never will. No matter what you are facing, God knows about it, and He is near to show you how to resolve your dilemma.

He has all power (Matthew 28:18). Henry Thiessen writes, "God can do what He wills to do, but He does not necessarily will to do anything ... To the Christian the omnipotence of God is a source of great comfort and hope."

He loves you unconditionally (John 15:9). God will never stop loving you. Even when you are unlovely, He loves you. And it is His love that draws you away from sin and into His arms of infinite care.

He never changes (Hebrews 13:8). God is immutable. Thiessen writes: "He is exalted above all causes and above even the possibility of change."

Dear Heavenly Father, You are the one, true God and the essence of all truth. You are faithful, You have all power, You love me unconditionally, and You never change. Thank you, and Amen!

~Charles Stanley~

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Faith to Persevere

"Because you have kept My command to persevere ..." (Revelation 3:10)

Perseverance means more than endurance - more than simply holding on until the end. A saint's life is in the hands of God like a bow and arrow in the hands of an archer. God is aiming at something the saint cannot see, but our Lord continues to stretch and strain, and every once in a while the saint says, "I can't take any more." Yet God pays no attention; He goes on stretching until His purpose is in sight, and then He lets the arrow fly. Entrust yourself to God's hands. Is there something in your life for which you need perseverance right now? Maintain your intimate relationship with Jesus Christ through the perseverance of faith. Proclaim as Job did, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him" (Job 13:15).

Faith is not some weak and pitiful emotion, but is strong and vigorous confidence built on the fact that God is holy love. And even though you cannot see Him right now and cannot understand what He is doing, you know Him. Disaster occurs in your life when you lack the mental composure that comes from establishing yourself on the eternal truth that God is holy love. Faith is the supreme effort of your life - throwing yourself with abandon and total confidence upon God.

God ventured His all in Jesus Christ to save us, and now He wants us to venture our all with total abandoned confidence in Him. There are areas in our lives where that faith has not worked in us as yet - places still untouched by the life of God. There were none of those places in Jesus Christ's life, and there are to be none in ours. Jesus prayed, "This is eternal life, that they may know You ..." (John 17:3). The real meaning of eternal life is a life that can face anything it has to face without wavering. If we will take this view, life will become one great romance - a glorious opportunity of seeing wonderful things all the time. God is disciplining us to get us into this central place of power.

~Oswald Chambers~

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Church Local # 3

The point is that if Christ and what is of Him by the Holy Spirit is the constitution of the Church, then our meeting, our fellowship, our communion must be on the ground of that which is of Christ in all believers. We are referring to the basic life of all true Christians. When it comes to the work of the Lord, there may be things which we cannot accept, while we still hold to the ground of one life. This is surely the meaning of the Lord's Table. In Ephesians Paul's sees only one Church, while he knows all about the many churches. There may be a million loaves and cups and tables in true evangelical Christianity in every nation under heaven. But the Lord only sees one loaf and one cup. Even when the local loaf is broken and "divided among yourselves," the Lord still only sees one loaf. Christ can be shared but not divided; He remains one Christ in "ten thousand times ten thousand" believers who share His life. When the Lord does something in us and thereby changes our mind about former acceptances, the temptation and battle can so easily be to become separate in spirit from those who - as yet - have not been so changed, and then the almost incorrigible inclination sets in to make a "sect" of that particular complexion or experience. While there may be real values and vital values in God's dealings with us which we strongly desire all others to know and experience, we must never make our experience a wall between us and all true children of God. The only way of hope and prospect is to shut our eyes to much that may offend our spiritual sensibilities (providing it is not sinfulness in the life) and to get on with the positive course of as much fellowship in Christ as is possible by the grace of God, always avoiding like the plague any attitude or talk which can be justifiably interpreted as spiritual superiority. Misunderstandings because of ignorance, prejudice or insufficient investigation are inevitable, but even such must not be allowed to close our hearts and turn us in on ourselves. While the wall of the New Jerusalem does mean a definite limit to and demarcation of what is "within" and what is "without" as to Christ, we must remember that it is "twelve thousand furlongs" in every direction, which symbolism is intended to signify how great Christ is and, therefore, how great His Church is.

When Paul set himself to write the First Letter to the Corinthians, he knew that he was going to deal with the partisan and sectarian spirit. He therefore opened the Letter with the true ground and range of Christian fellowship: "Sanctified in Christ Jesus, called saints, with all that call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place, their Lord and ours." In this same dimension he closed the Letter to the Ephesians: "Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in uncorruptness."

5. If it is true, as we have been trying to show, that Paul's history embodied the principles of the revelation that became his "Stewardship," one further feature of that history must be noted and taken up in the church local. That is, an overmastering apprehension of Christ. "I was apprehended by Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:12). The word "apprehended" is a strong word. It meas to be arrested, overpowered, appropriated and brought under control. It is the word used in John one, verse five regarding light and darkness: "And the darkness overcame (apprehended) it (the light) not." It is also used in relation to the power of demons in possession. As the outcome of this apprehending, Paul always spoke of himself as "the prisoner of Jesus Christ" and "the bond-slave of Jesus Christ" and as "bearing branded in his body the marks of Jesus." This experience, born of an event, meant for Paul the loss of all independence, self-direction, self-government, and the rule of the world.l It meant the absolute Lordship of Christ. Here was a man who had one overmastering concern for Jesus Christ. Not for a this or a that, but for a Person. His first ejaculation on the encounter was "Who art Thou, Lord?", and in capitulation he followed up with "What shall I do, Lord?" That Lordship was no mere doctrine to him, it was a complete mastery. Very personal; for of the many double calls in an encounter with God, such as "Abraham, Abraham!" "Jacob, Jacob!" "Moses, Moses!" "Samuel, Samuel!" "Martha, Martha!" "Simon, Simon!" - the last was by no means the least: "Saul, Saul!"  Such a real sense of being called with a purpose must be a constituent of and in any true local church. To lose the sense of vital vocation, purpose and destiny is to lose dynamic and to become an existence rather than an impact.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 1 - "The All-Inclusive Goal")

Our Position: Believing God, Defying the Devil

" ... Resist the devil and he will flee from you" (James 4:7)

It is a gracious thing to be humbled under the loving, chastening hand of God, but when the devil starts tampering with you, dare to resist him!

Brethren, God never meant for us to be kicked around like a football. I stand for believing in God and defying the devil - and our God loves that kind of courage.

It is for us to trust, to trust wholly in the Lord Jesus! This is the only way in which we can conquer fear and live in blessed victory.

I have had times in my life and ministry when the burdens and the pressures seemed to be too much. At these times it seems that even in prayer it is impossible to rise above the load. More than once, by faith that seemed to have been imparted directly from heaven, the Lord has enabled me to claim all that I needed for body, soul and spirit.

On my knees, I have been given freedom and strength to pray, "Now, Lord, I have had enough of this - I refuse to take any more of this heaviness and oppression! This does not come from God - this comes from my enemy, the devil. Lord, in Jesus' name, I will not take it any longer, through Jesus Christ I am victor!"

Will God answer?

At these times, great burdens have just melted, all at once! As the burden rolls away, He answers: "Child, I have waited long to hear you confess that Jesus is victor and in Him you overcome!"

~A. W. Tozer~

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Church Local # 2

We have earlier shown that the man behind the Letter is, in his spiritual history, identical with its message. We shall now seek to show that, in several respects, the history of the Church, universal and local, should follow that spiritual history of the Apostle.

1. The church in any locality should be born out of heaven. It is the aggregate or corporate fellowship of born-from-above believers. What, then, is to be true of every individual believer must be true of the corporate company. That goes right to the very root of the Church conception, and it will be as well if we settle it here and now that, in the Scriptures, no other such thing  is known or recognized as having a right to that name - Christian Church. That will sift our consideration down from an immense amount that takes the name but is NOT the true thing. Christendom or Christianity has become a colossus of a thing which is the home of every kind of bird in creation. To try to make a unity of such is a trick of him whose "fowls of the air" they are; naturally, some better, some worse, but far from all born again or from above (John 3:5-13). This just means that every local company of believers, right at its beginning as such, should be something done by the sovereign Holy Spirit. Inasmuch as the Church takes its character from its "Head," its "Firstborn," its "Chief Cornerstone," the "Foundation," it must in every representation have its origin in heaven and embody the life of heaven. That means that formation by man's action is ruled out.  It is not an "institution," it springs out of life. It should be possible to say of any local church - or the Church in any locality - "That was an act of God." Mark you, we are seeking to get right to the root of this matter of what the Church is, and what it is not. The former is our real concern. Study what - in the Gospels - Jesus said about Himself and about men, and you have the key to what the Church really is.

2. That leads to the next thing as to the "local church." If the Church was born of the Holy Spirit, it was born out of the travail of God's Son; then the law of travail must lie right at the origin of any true representation of both. In the New Testament the  Church universal and the churches local came out of real travail. The travail, agony, and pain of Christ gave birth to the Church at Pentecost. Those who were its nucleus were baptized into His passion. They suffered the breaking of their souls when Jesus died. [YES! - The shepherd's disciple] Hence their ecstatic joy when He rose again.  John 16:21, 22 was literally fulfilled in their case. That needs no enlarging upon. But what of the churches? Can we put our finger upon a New Testament church which was NOT born out of and into suffering? Immediately such a church was in view the battle for its very life, its very existence, began. Stonings, imprisonments, lashes,chasings, intrigues, slanders, persecutions of every lay at the emergence of every such potential representation of Christ corporately. Someone had to pay a price and the churches were the price of blood and tears. When power is lost, perhaps through neglect, foolishness, strife, division, formalism, or the loss of the sense of the value of the truth, or for any other reason, the only way of recovery will be that of a fresh baptism into sorrow, remorse, tears and travail. This is surely the right interpretation of the Second Letter to the Corinthians after the First. This also surely is the key to the situation in most of the churches in Revelation two and three. It is definitely implied in the case of Laodicea. A church which does not suffer for its life is, by all the laws of nature and grace, a weak and ineffective church.

3. Still pursuing the line of Paul's history and the Church, we have to say that a local expression of the Church - and all its members - must be the result of an encounter with God in Christ. Any corporate or personal ministry which is to be as fruitful as was Paul's, even in a more limited degree, must have such an encounter at its beginning. The Cross and the Resurrection of Christ were such for the nucleus, the representative company.  The Cross was devastating and desolating to all the self-sufficiency, self-assurance, self-confidence, pride, ambition, and presumption of man. The Resurrection was the invasion and taking over of the life of Another - Christ Jesus.  This is so clearly seen in the case of the man who, more than any other, represented that nucleus, namely Simon Peter. He was a man broken and shattered by the Cross, but reconstituted on another basis by the Resurrection. As to the great unveiling of the "Mystery" of Christ and His Body - the Church - Paul's devastation and very survival was by this encounter on the road to Damascus. Such an encounter, sooner or later, personal and collective, must lie at the foundation of a true corporate life.   It may be at the beginning or it may be later. It may be a recovery necessary after failure. Many a church, and many a servant of God, has had history cut in two by such an encounter. Before it, an ordinary limited and comparatively powerless ministry. After it, a release and enlargement, with much spiritual fruitfulness. A little book published by the Moody Press, Chicago, called "Crises Experiences in the Lives of Noted Christians" is an example of this in a number of instances.

4. If the Church universal is above all earthly differences, then the local church ought to be super-national, super-denominational, super-interdenominational, in spirit, fellowship, and outreach. We have often said that Christ cannot be confined or fitted exclusively to any category that is of this world. His temperament overlaps all the categories. His nationality, time, teaching and person suit and meet the need of all, but He cannot be the sole property of any. We have seen works of man's artistic imagination purporting to depict the great scene in Revelation five: "And the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands." In the artist's portrayal, with all the good meaning in the world, the artist painted in people of every nation, color, physique, dress, complexion, age and stature. Well, as we have said, the motive and intention was good, but who can describe resurrection bodies? "Fashioned like unto His glorious body" (Phil. 3:21); "It is raised a spiritual body" (1 Corinthians 15:44). We can be quite sure that everything that has come in as the result of man's failure, causing estrangement and what is "foreign," will be gone for ever.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 3)

The "Manifold" Grace of God

"As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another. As good stewards of the manifold grace of God" (1 Peter 4:10).

The Bible speaks of the "manifold" grace of God. What does that mean? It means we can experience God's grace in many ways.

For instance, there is singing grace. When Paul and Silas were in prison, God gave them grace to sing (see Acts 16:25). There is speaking grace. Colossians 4:6 says, "Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man." God will give you the ability to talk about your troubles with His grace.

God also gives us strengthening grace. Timothy was often sick with many infirmities. Paul told him to "be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 2:1). When you spend time in the Word of God, you too can draw from the manifold grace of God.

Read about the other "manifold" ways that God has provided for His people: Nehemiah 9:19 and 27; Psalm 104:24; Luke 18:29-30; and Ephesians 3:8-12.

~Adrian Rogers~

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Church Local

It is of considerable importance to note that, although the Letter to the Ephesians" is a majestic presentation of the Church in its entirety, ranging every dimension of the eternities and realms and ages and setting forth the profound councils of God, the Letter was sent to local churches. This fact has some very challenging and searching implications. We must remind our readers that there is such a thing as a positive and definite revelation of what the Church is and therefore of the basis of its unity. It may be something to take note of that there is such a worldwide concern for and activity in relation to the unity of Christians, and such concern should should find us in full heart sympathy with it. The big difference is between a massive effort on the one hand to solve the problem from the outside by trying to stick all the broken pieces together and in some way make them fit, and on the other hand a concern to recover the spiritual power which will make for a spontaneous coming and fitting together. The one is the organized, composite collection and assemblage, as of a machine; the other is the organic, spontaneous relationship of a corporate life. The former will come unstuck repeatedly. The latter will eventually emerge "a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing."

But what about the Church as locally represented? We must remember that when Paul wrote this Letter and sent it to the churches in localities, he was very well aware of the trends, or even the actual movements toward "departure" and breakdown in the churches. He had foretold it as to Ephesus when he left the elders of that church near the ship on his way to Jerusalem: "I know that after my departing grievous wolves shall enter in among you ... and from among your own selves shall men arise ... to draw away ... after them" (Acts 20:29-30). That was incipient division. But here from his prison in Rome he will write, "all that are in Asia turned away from me."

Two Letters will soon be written to Timothy which will deal with the beginnings of the change from primal Christianity to all that it has become now. They were intended to warn against the ecclesiasticism, clericalism, ritualism, sacramentalism, etc., which have invaded the Church and changed its primitive character. No, Paul's head was not in the clouds and his feet off the earth when he deliberately wrote this Letter as to what the Church is. No doubt his reference to the spiritual warfare was because he knew so well that the battle was on in particular relationship with this very matter, showing of how great a consequence it is to the satanic forces. It is impressive how any stand for a true expression of the Body of Christ is fraught with more conflict than anything else. If it is a congregation, that is, a number of individual Christians resorting to a given place for "Public Worship," without any corporate Church life and order; or if it is a Mission Hall mainly for preaching the Gospel to the unsaved; or, again, if it is a preaching center where people go to hear a well-known preacher - all these will go on in the quiet way with little opposition from within or without. But, let there be a movement in the direction of a real corporate expression of a Holy Spirit constituted testimony to Christ corporate, then the battle is on and nothing will be untried to break that up,discredit it, or in some way nullify that testimony.

The Book of Nehemiah is a very good illustration of this many-sided hostility. Again we point to "Ephesians" as relating vicious spiritual antagonism to the essential purpose of the Letter. In this first particular, the universal is transferred to the local, and the local takes character from the universal. A true representation of the  of the elect Body of Christ is a standing menace and ominous sign to the satanic kingdom because it is the Church which - at last - is going to dispossess and supplant the "world-rulers of this darkness" and govern with Christ. Would to God that God's people would view all their divisions and internal troubles in this light, instead of always attributing them to "second causes!" This is the first implication in Paul's passing to local churches the whole immense revelation of the mystery. There are several other features and factors in this Letter which carry such tremendous significances. There is that factor which the Apostle mentions with one of his superlatives. "The exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe, according to that working of the strength of His might which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead ..." (1:19). "And you did He quicken, when ye were dead" (2:1). The church locally represented should be and should embody the testimony to "the power of His resurrection." It should, in its history and constant experience - as more than doctrine - declare that Christ is risen.

The impression primarily given should be one of livingness. The testimony should be that, although you may be jaded, weary, too tired even to make the journey; disheartened and despondent; physically, mentally and spiritually drained - you come away renewed, refreshed, reinvigorated and lifted up. The activity of Divine life has just resulted in a spiritual uplift. Note the way in which that has been said: "the activity of Divine Life." We have not said: "the life of human activity." There is an illusion or delusion in much Christianity and in many churches that activity is essentially spiritual life. Hence, stunts, programs, attractions, "special efforts," and an endless circle of "specials". All this is too often with a view to giving the impression of life, or even creating or stimulating "life." It may be the life of works, and not the works of life. Life will work, but works are not always life. That was the indictment of the church at Ephesus: "I know thy works ... but ..." (Revelation 2:2). Divine life is spontaneous and NOT forced. The dead (spiritually) are raised, and NOT by artificial means. The Lord of the Church is the risen Lord, and His attestation is  resurrection life. So "the power of His resurrection" should be the hallmark of a truly New Testament church. So often we quote our Lord's own words, almost as a formula: "Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I." At the same time the atmosphere may be heavy, uninspiring and devoid of a ministration of Divine Life. Is this really consistent with the presence of the risen Lord?

We proceed with the implications of this Letter. If the church local is a true microcosm of the Church universal, then this Letter will show us that in the local representation there should - and can - be abundance of wholesome and upbuilding food. Our Letter has fed and stimulated believers through many centuries, and still the food-values are unexhausted. The ministry in a true local expression of the Body of Christ should be an anointed ministry, and because it is such, no hungry soul should ever go away unfed. Not just studied and "got up" addresses or discourses, but a message from heaven making it possible for people to say, "we have been truly fed today." This means that the Lord's people, being nourished, are growing in spiritual stature, capacity,and responsibility. Not just increasing in mental knowledge or doctrine, but really knowing the Lord. The criterion of a church's value is the measure of Christ Himself in His members. This is not mere idealism, it is the normal state of a truly Holy Spirit constituted church in any place. Paul's use of the word "riches" in this Letter indicates how spiritually wealthy any company of the Lord's people should be.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 2)

On the Level

Psalm 26:1-12

Integrity means that your life is whole, that your heart is not divided. Jesus said, "No one can serve two masters" (Matthew 6:24). That's integrity. "Duplicity" means trying to serve two masters. Our Lord also said that nobody can look in two directions at the same time. If your eye is single, then your body is full of light. But if your eye is double, watch out. The darkness is coming in (Matthew 6:22-23). If you look at the darkness and the light simultaneously, the darkness crowds out the light.

In Psalm 25:21 David prayed, "Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for You"; and in the first verse of today' passage, "Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have walked in my integrity." When we do business with or are ministering to someone, we want that person to have integrity.

When we have integrity, David tells us, we don't have to be afraid of sliding. "I have walked in my integrity. I have also trusted in the Lord; I shall not slip" (v. 1). He also says, "My foot stands in an even place" (v. 12). The word "even" means "a level place." David says, "I'm on the level because I have integrity. I have nothing in my heart against the Lord. I am not disobeying Him."

We also need not be afraid of testing. David writes, "Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; try my mind and my heart" (v. 2). He says, in other words, "Lord, I can go through the furnace. I can go through the X-ray. Go ahead and test me. I'm not afraid." When your life is whole before God and others, when you're practicing integrity, when you have a good conscience, you don't have to be afraid of the battle or the furnace or the X-ray or the testing. God will see you through.

When you walk with integrity, you walk on solid ground. Never try to serve two masters. Always keep your heart undivided before the Lord.

~Warren W. Wiersbe~

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Mystery Revealed # 8

Comprehensively, the Spirit of God Who "brooded upon the face of the waters" (Genesis 1:2) is now at work upon a "new creation in Christ." But with a profound and significant difference. In the old creation everything began and proceeded from the outside toward the center - Man. In the new creation everything begins and proceeds from the inside, and the "outer man", the body, is the final phase of redemption and new creation: "The redemption of our body" (Romans 8:23; 1 Cor.15, etc.).

The work of the Spirit of God has four aspects in this dispensation.

1. The securing of the new man. This is the evangelizing and apprehending of the individuals. In evangelism the ultimate purpose should ever be kept in mind, otherwise there will be weakness in the "converts" due to an inadequate motive.

2. Through the securing, the rebuilding of the new man. In the old creation God built up the man - "formed out of the dust of the earth." ("The first ... is of the earth, earthy" - 1 Corinthians 15:47). In the new creation God begins with the spirit of man, proceeds to the soul and completes with the body. Everything in the new creation is basically and essentially spiritual. See First Corinthians, chapter two. The "inward man" is renewed day by day." Here enters all the teaching on the Holy Spirit and the believer's life in the Spirit, as having been "born of the Spirit," and "is spirit" (John 3:6).

3. Then follows all the discipline, training and growth of the new man. The Spirit of God works to a Pattern - "the image of  His Son"; "until Christ be (fully) formed in you" (Galatians 4:19); "God dealeth with you as with sons" (Hebrews 12:7). It is a long and hard transition from the "old man" to the "new", but the end governs all God's dealings and ways with His own, namely the "image" or "likeness" which was the primal concept in man's creation. "Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness" (Genesis 1:26); "I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with Thy likeness" (Psalm 17:15).

4. Then, finally and fully, the Spirit of God is working to constitute the "one new man," Christ corporately expressed; "the body of Christ," "the fullness of Him"; "the measure of the stature of Christ," "the full grown man."

All this comes out at last in full and clear revelation in that Letter of finality, "Ephesians." It is the Man concept from eternity to eternity, and that concept has, like a shadow, been over all God's history with man and man's history with God. Hidden from their eyes in all the strange, inexplicable and mysterious ways of God in individual men of faith and a peculiar people and nation, it has now been revealed to the sons of men, in Christ, that:

"God having foreseen some better thing concerning us ... apart from us they should not be made perfect (complete)" (Hebrews 11:40).

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 1 - "The Church Local")

Pursuing Excellence

" ... so that you may approve the things that are excellent" (Phil. 1:10).

In a world of mediocrity and confusion, God calls you to excellence and discernment

There's a story of a pilot who came on the loudspeaker mid flight and said, "I have some good news and some bad news. The bad news is, we've lost all our instrumentation and don't know where we are. The good news is, we have a strong tailwind and are making great time." That's an accurate picture of how many people live: they have no direction in life, but they're getting there fast!

We as Christians are to be different because we have divine guidance and eternal goals. Our lives are to be marked by a confident trust in God and a pursuit of spiritual excellence.

"Excellent" in Philippians 1:10 speaks of things that are worthwhile and vital. "Approv[ing]" what is "excellent" refers to testing things as one would test a precious metal to determine its purity and value. It goes beyond knowing good from evil. It distinguishes between better and best. It involves thinking Biblically and focusing your time and energy on what really counts. It involves cultivating spiritual discipline and not being controlled by your emotions, whims, moods, or circumstances.

Many organizations and businesses have rightly adopted the motto "Commitment to Excellence" to convey their desire to provide the finest product or service possible. If secular-minded people strive for that level of achievement, how much more should Christians pursue excellence for the glory of God!

Look at your life. Is it filled with godly love, discernment, and the pursuit of excellence - or has worldly trivia crowded out those virtues?

Suggestion for Prayer: Read Isaiah 12:1-6 as a psalm of praise to the God of excellence. Ask God to give you a heart constantly set on pursuing excellence for His glory.

For Further Study: Daniel was a man who pursued excellence. Read Daniel 1:1, 2:23. What was Daniel's decision regarding the king's food and wine, and how did he handle the situation? How did Daniel and his three friends compare in wisdom and understanding to the magicians and conjurers? What principles do you see in those two chapters that apply to your life?

~John MacArthur~

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Mystery Revealed # 7

In the wonder and amazement of this unveiling we must be clear as to its exact nature and meaning. To do this we must put our finger upon key phrases which precisely embody and define it. We have found the statement which gives the ultimate and consummate issue: it is in Ephesians one, verse ten. Can we find in that same Letter a phrase which brings that end into history, that is, the operation leading to that end? I think we can. It is a fragment in the section marked as verses thirteen to twenty-two of chapter two: "one new man." That whole section is an enlargement of that fragment and it should be carefully read as such. There have been hints of this in other Letters of Paul, but here he gathers all together, and not only so but - as we should expect if his mind was ranging the "ages" and the secret hidden in them - the whole Bible is comprehended.

As to other hints, we have such classic and impressive instances as Romans five, verses twelve through nineteen. Here the two generic and racial heads are set over against one another - the "one man", Adam, and the "one man" Christ; and the context shows the significance of each. Another tremendous instance is set in that chapter of amazing enlightenment, First Corinthians fifteen. It is at verse forty-five: "The first man Adam became a living soul. The last Adam became a life-giving spirit" (see the immediate context). In Ephesians the Apostle first refers to the personal Christ, and then proceeds to the corporate "one new man." In an earlier passage both of these aspects have been mentioned: First Corinthians twelve, in verse three, "Jesus" and "Jesus is Lord" is personally mentioned; in verse twelve the phrase "so also is the Christ" (the article is in the original) makes the members and the Head identical for the practical purpose of expression): "Now ye are the body of Christ" (verse 27). The uniting is by the "One Spirit" on Head and members.

It is Ephesians that this "One new man" is revealed fully. If this is "the mystery hid from ages and generations," although existent all the time, we can now see, in the light of "the making known," how this has been the governing concept all through the Bible, that is, manhood according to Christ.

At the beginning God said, "Let us make man". The Psalmist cried, "What is man?" In the Incarnation Christ's favorite designation of Himself was "Son of Man." In redemption there is "one mediator also between God and men, Himself Man" (1 Timothy 2:5). In reconstitution there is the Pattern "Second Man" (1 Corinthians 15:47). In exaltation and glory the Psalmist's question is answered in Jesus: "What is man?" (Psalm 8:4; Hebrews 2:6). In consummation there is "One new man" - Man. There are foreshadowings in the Old Testament. Adam was "a figure of Him that was to come" (Romans 5:14). "The man Moses" (Numbers 12:3). David was "a man after God's heart" (Acts 13:22). These are only instances taken from many, and their character or function bears respectively features of Christ.

So, over all the Bible history, there is the shadow of a Man, both individually and corporately. The Divine concept of MAN governs all God's ways: in creation, Incarnation, mediation; in the Cross as setting aside one type of man to make way for another; in the resurrection as the New Man - the "firstborn from the dead" - accredited; in the exaltation of Jesus as the New Man instated; in the coming again of "The Son of Man" to remove the remnants of Christ-rejecting humanity and establishing the new order; in the Church in terms of corporate manhood, the vessel and vehicle of Christ's completeness and manifestation. All this is what Paul saw in "the face of Jesus."

The Church itself is not the "Mystery" revealed to Paul, but the Church as the Body of Christ - The One New Man - in which all distinctions other than Christ are non-existent; this was the revelation. It had to be a revelation from heaven for such a rabid, committed, fanatical Jew, with all his ancestry, descent, birth, tradition, training and "blood" to come genuinely to the place where he could say with conviction 'where there is neither Greek nor Jew, etc.; where all walls of partition are broken down; where there is neither circumcision nor uncircumcision; where there are no "children" and "dogs", but "all are one in Christ Jesus" "One person in Christ Jesus" - the gender is masculine.

How very much of the New Testament is illuminated in the light of this "New Man" concept! Indeed, it covers all of the meaning of true Christianity. It gives the real meaning  to the birth (John 3). It explains the Person and character and work of Christ. It is what the Apostle meant when he said, "If any man is in Christ, there is a new creation" (2 Corinthians 5:17). And it explains those consummate words in Romans eight and verse twenty-nine: "... foreordained to be conformed to the image of His Son;" and Ephesians one and verse five: " ...foreordained unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ." All this and much more indicates what is the specific purpose, work and nature of this present dispensation. The work in the "groaning creation" is with a view to "the manifestation of the sons of God" (Romans 8:19-23).

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 8)

The Cross We Bear Must Be Assumed Voluntarily

"For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake" (Philippians 1:29)

In the Christian faith there is a real sense in which the Cross of Christ embraces all crosses and the death of Christ encompasses all deaths: "If one died for all, then were all dead ..."

This is in the judicial working of God in redemption. The Christian as a member of the body of Christ is crucified along with his divine Head. Before God every true believer is reckoned to have died when Christ died. All subsequent experiences of personal crucifixion is based upon this identification with Christ on the Cross.

But in the practical, everyday outworking of the believer's crucifixion his own cross is brought into play. "Let him ... take up his cross." That is obviously not the cross of Christ. Rather, it is the believer's own personal cross by means of which the Cross of Christ is made effective in slaying his evil nature and setting him free from its power.

The believer's own cross is one he has assumed voluntarily. Therein lies the difference between his cross and the cross on which Roman convicts died. They went to the cross against their will; he, because he chooses to do so. No Roman officer ever pointed to a cross and said, "If any man will, let him!" Only Christ said that, and by so saying He placed the whole matter in the hands of the Christian believer. Each of us, then, should count himself dead indeed with Christ and accept willingly whatever of self-denial, repentance, humility and humble sacrifice that may be found in the path of obedient daily living.

~A. W. Tozer~

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Secret Revealed # 6

Further, the blessings of believers are now, not as under the old economy, temporal, material, sentient, but "Spiritual." "The riches of His grace"; "the riches of His inheritance"; "the riches of His glory"; "The unsearchable riches of Christ," etc. - these are all phrases in Ephesians. These blessings are for a Church and its members who have - through union with Christ in His death and resurrection - been spiritually delivered and emancipated from "this present evil world" as the sphere of their natural life, ambition and resource, and whose hearts are 'set on things above" (Col. 3:1-3). If you have really come into the good of such "riches," then you have proportionately come into the heavenlies. While we are right in mentally conceiving of "the heavenlies" as being a realm, we must not confine the idea to geography. Like "the Kingdom of Heaven," it is a sphere or realm in which spiritual factors, principles or laws and conditions obtain and take preeminence. That is why we used the word "proportionately." Geographically we are, or we are not, in a realm, a country; but spiritually we can be more or less in the nature, character and good of that realm. It is not a matter of definition of terms, but of spiritual accord, harmony, adjustment, agreement. In a time of great blessing we can just say, "It was as though we were in heaven." It is a spiritual position in oneness with spiritual realities. While it seems so difficult to explain, it is really only the fact and development of that which every truly born again believer knows without explanation; namely, that something has happened by that new birth which has changed their consciousness of belonging and gravitation,so that a break has taken place in them with one realm and what belongs to it, and a union has come about with an entirely new realm and its content. They sense that they belong somewhere else and that there is a spirit in them which gravitates there and to those things. The New Testament has all the language and words for this, but it is the inward awareness that is the ground of learning the meaning. The development of that "law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8;2) by discipline - maybe trial and error - or triumph, is the way of the "transforming by the renewing (making anew) of the mind" (Romans 12:2). It is the Church's  and the believer's normal course.

But we have not yet brought the present aspect of Paul's revelation into sufficiently clear relief. So as not to overload this chapter, we will divide it, and continue in a separate one.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 7 - "The Mystery Revealed - continued")

Faith Versus Reason

"Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God" (1 Corinthians 2:12)

The wisdom of God was to make the way of salvation easy and simple. True to His Word, He has confounded the wise. many "intellectuals" consider the Cross foolishness, but they should consider God's wisdom for a moment. If you were God, separated from the people you created because of their sin, what would be the easiest method by which you could restore them to your eternal forgiveness and fellowship?

Would it be a hard and fast list of certain physical or intellectual requirements? Wouldn't that cheapen the salvation and build no lasting covenant or meaningful relationship?

No, the simplest way was for God to send His own Son in the form of a sinless Man to serve as a sacrifice for sin. The best and simplest plan would call for man's salvation to therefore be attained in one word. Just one word. Faith.

Is it not immeasurable wisdom that forges a salvation plan so simple that even a five-year-old can grasp it? But the wisdom of the true God befuddles he wisdom of the world. He sacrificed His Son as a free gift to all who would believe in Him.

"Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God" (1 Corinthians 2:12).

Lord, the message of the gospel is so clear and so puzzling to the human mind. I embrace it in its simplicity and pray for Your wisdom that I might increase in faith. Amen

~Charles Stanley~

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Secret Revealed # 5

Paul's revelation of Christ is "there cannot be ..." Not, "All these are in the Body as what they are on this earth." Given that all are truly born again and "baptized in one Spirit into one body," there is the foundation for gathering above the very real problems of the natural. Of course, there really is no other true Church. We remind you again of the very great place that Christ holds in Paul's very being and in his letters, and, of course, this will determine everything.

How many things to which we give such importance would lose that importance and just recede from a first, or even secondary place if truly we saw the Lord! What change in manner of speech and conduct would just happen without effort if we truly saw Him in the Spirit! Costly, yes, costly. All true light costs. So the man in John nine found, but ask him whether he would exchange his new sight for the old acceptance. Read again Paul's evaluation of his revelation of Christ in Philippians three.

But let us insist and stress very strongly that, although Christ in all His fullness has been revealed and presented in the New Testament, that same New Testament makes it very clear that, through the Word and by the Holy Spirit, that objective presentation has to have a subjective counterpart in the heart - the spirit - of the believer. It will tell us that it was for this purpose that the Holy Spirit came; for this very purpose we have the indwelling Spirit. Paul earnestly prayed for already well-taught believers that they might be given a spirit of revelation in the full knowledge of Christ. This open-heaven endowment and given spiritual faculty is meant for ALL believers. But remember, the demand is for an absolutely pure and honest spirit and a preparedness to accept and go through with all that is involved. Here, the Cross, that is, Christ crucified, in its deepest application to self-interest in every form is the Rock of Offence, or the Chief Corner Stone; stumbling and falling or building and rising. Any pride, prejudice, or reserve will find us out sooner or later in that we shall have been side-tracked from the fullest intention of God in calling us. It will be a tragedy if, in the end, we are found to be in a "backwater," a cul-de-sac; perhaps snug and free from all the stresses of the battle, but - from heaven's standpoint - out! Such a possibility was an ever-present dread of Paul. "Lest, having heralded to others, I myself should be rejected;" and there is much more like that. "If by any means ...," he says.

We must return to the great matter of the "Mystery," for there are things related thereto in our Letter which need clarifying. In all his Letters Paul uses this word some twenty times:

1. The mystery of the blindness which has happened to Israel. (Romans 11:25).
2. The mystery of the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 2:7)
3. The mysteries of God (1 Cor. 4:1)
4. The mysteries in speaking in tongues (1 Cor. 14:2)
5. The mystery of the Rapture and change of body (1 Cor. 15:51)
6. The mystery of His will (Eph. 1:9)
7. The mystery made known to Paul (Eph. 3:3, 4)
8. The fellowship of the mystery (Eph. 3:9)
9. The mystery of the union between Christ and the Church ((Eph. 5:32)
10. The mystery of the Gospel (Eph. 6:19)
11. The mystery which hath been hid (Col. 1:26)
12. The mystery of Christ within or in the midst (Col. 1:27)
13. The mystery of God - Christ (Col. 2:2; 4:3)
14. The mystery of iniquity (2 Thess. 3:9)
15. The mystery of the faith (1 Tim. 3:9)
16. The mystery of Godliness (1 Timothy 3:16)
(Some of the above are duplicated elsewhere.)

It looks as though there are many mysteries, but if we look again we shall find that, at least in the majority of cases, the mystery relates - in some way - to Christ and the Church. There are very few exceptions to this, and when it comes to Paul's particular conception it is not in the plural, but "The mystery," and invariably it is connected with Christ personal and Christ corporate.

The next thing that we must take account of in this connection is Paul's particular viewpoint. It is from above. Five times in this Letter to the Ephesians he uses the phrase "in the heavenlies" (1:3, 20; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12). and in that form it is found nowhere else. This is one of the most difficult of Paul's phrases for any of us to understand. We are not altogether helped by other phrases referring to heaven, such as "every knee should bow, of things in heaven..." (Phil. 2:10). The translation "in the heavenly places" is not too fortunate. But let us look at the various references.

1. The present realm and nature of the believer's  blessings is in the heavenlies. !:3
2. Christ is now seated in the heavenlies "above all rule, and authority, and power, and dominion, and every name ..." 1:20, 21)
3. The position of Christ is said to be that also of the Church (2:6).
4. There are principalities and powers in the heavenlies which are having made known unto them, through the Church, the manifold wisdom of God (3:10)
5. The warfare of the Church is not now in the realm of flesh and blood, but in the heavenlies with principalities and powers, etc. (6:12).

Very well, then, what have we? Just this: there is a realm or sphere above and around the material, the sense and tangible realm, where spiritual interests are supreme, where rival spiritual activities go on. Great forces are at work in that realm, and they have a constitution,system or organization suitable to this purpose. It is a divided realm between celestial and demonic principalities. On the one side there is both interest in and cooperation with Christ's interests in the Church. On the other side there is not only bitter and relentless hostility to those interests, but an impact upon this world, "this darkness," which is intended to destroy both the people and the earth as the inheritance of God's Son. We know that natural elements above the earth have a powerful influence upon the physical life here. In the same way there are spiritual intelligences and forces which exert a tremendous influence upon the moral and spiritual life in this world. It is in this realm that Paul sees several things belonging to "the Mystery." One, that, admist the strife, confusion and all that seems to the contrary, God is working our a "Purpose" which, because He is absolute Lord, will not just have to contend with adverse forces, but will both show His superiority and make the adverse forces serve the furtherance of that Purpose. This is the long view and the above view of the heavenlies.

Then, because Christ risen and exalted is "seated at God's right hand," He is in that position representatively and inclusively of the Church. The Church, therefore, is "seated together with Him in the heavenlies"; that is, in the present and ultimate good of His sovereignty.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 6)

Vital Intercession

"... praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit ..." (Ephesians 6:18)

As we continue on in our intercession for others, we may find that our obedience to God in interceding is going to cost those for whom we intercede more than we ever thought. The danger in this is that we begin to intercede in sympathy with those whom God was gradually lifting up to a totally different level in direct answer to our prayers. Whenever we step back from our close identification with God's interest and concern for others and step into having emotional sympathy with them, the vital connection with God is gone. We have then put our sympathy and concern  for them in the way, and this is a deliberate rebuke to God.

It is impossible for us to have living and vital intercession unless we are perfectly and completely sure of God. And the greatest destroyer of that confident relationship to God is the key to intercession, and whenever we stop being identified with Him it is because of our sympathy with others, not because of sin. It is not likely that sin will interfere with our intercessory relationship with God, but sympathy will.It is sympathy with ourselves or with others that make us say, "I will not allow that thing to happen." And instantly we are out of that vital connection with God.

Vital intercession leaves you with neither the time nor the inclination to pray for your own "sad and pitiful self." You do not have to struggle to keep thoughts of yourself out, because they are not even there to be kept out of your thinking. You are completely and entirely identified with God's interests and concerns in other lives. God gives us discernment in the lives of others to call us to intercession for them, never so that we may find fault with them.

~Oswald Chambers~

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Secret Revealed # 4

This, then, is the tremendous situation which this Letter deals with and answers. We have already seen that this great spirit of schism had its beginning far back at some dateless point in heaven, dividing angelic hosts into two irreconcilable camps; later it involved the earth and has had a long, long history, gaining momentum in ever multiplying and intensifying wars. Then it invaded Christianity and the entail is grievous indeed. So, it is no small thing that this Letter deals with and to which it gives the answer.

We have also seen that the heart of this whole matter is reached and touched by one phrase which sums up the purpose of God at the end. That phrase is: "Unto a dispensation of the fullness of the times, to sum up (reunite) all things in Christ, the things in the heavens, and the things upon the earth; in Him, I say ..." (Ephesians 1:10). But, while we may embrace that as the end, beyond this age, our concern is for this age. Is there no way or hope for at least an approximation to that now? The Letter would surely leave us in our dilemma if it only pointed to a future age and had no answer to the present tragedy. But it has the answer. This answer is given by several means and ways. Perhaps the simplest, most direct, and most helpful way will be to let Paul himself be the answer. Seeing that the Apostle makes such strong and categorical claims as to his own personal revelation, it will be best to examine that revelation, and what it did in this man's life. We noted at the end of chapter four that the personal name of Jesus Christ is mentioned some forty times in this short letter, plus all the pronouns "He," "Him," "His", "Whom." This, in itself, is the strong clue. In his Letter to the Galatians Paul made the statement in these words: "An apostle (not from men, neither through man, but through Jesus Christ, and God the Father ...)";  "Neither did I receive it from man ... but through revelation of Jesus Christ"; "It was the good pleasure of God... to reveal His Son in me" (Gal. 1:1, 12, 15, 16).

In the Letter to the Ephesians, which is our present consideration, the Apostle makes much of revelation; indeed, he bases all the "full knowledge" upon a "spirit of wisdom and revelation." Very well, then; the answer to this great question which is before us and which is the occasion of all this feverish discussion and deliberation in Christendom is found in the revelation and apprehension of God's Son. It is wholly a question as to whether or not God's Son has been really seen by an operation of the Holy Spirit.

The kind of seeing to which we refer is an epoch, an encounter, a revelation, a crisis. There is no power on this earth which could have changed that rabid, fanatical, bigoted Saul of Tarsus, a "Pharisee of the Pharisees," into the apostle of the Gentiles" (Romans 11:13); the fierce and intolerant persecutor and destroyer of everything and everybody related to Jesus of Nazareth into His greatest friend, advocate and devotee! Argument would not have done it. Neither persuasion nor persecution nor martyrdom would have effected it. But it was done! That "conversion" stood the test of all the persecutions, sufferings, and adversities possible to man for the rest of his life. Moreover, it provided the substance of the greatest of all apostolic ministries; so intrinsic as to have extended and exhausted all efforts, through many centuries, to fathom, explain and comprehend. What did it? Paul would answer, "It pleased God ... to reveal His Son in me"; or, in other words, "I have seen Jesus Christ." 

Right at the foundation and root of this man's life was a "seeing" which split his life in two and emancipated him from the tightly bound fetters of a mighty tradition. He said, "The God of the great creative fiat Who said Let light be, and there was light, shined into my heart, and in that act and light I saw the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:6). In that face Paul saw God's eternal purpose as to man. He saw God's method of realizing His purpose. He saw the vast significance of God's Son in creation and in the universe: and he saw - in that One - the Church as His Body.

We cannot make too much of this matter of revelation, illumination, seeing. It is basic in salvation (Acts 26:18). It is essential to effective ministry (2 Corinthians 4:6) and it is indispensable to full knowledge and full growth (Ephesians 1:17). Jesus made a tremendous amount of spiritual seeing, as a reading of John's Gospel will show. "Eyes" were - in His teaching - a criterion of life or death. Indeed, a fundamental and preeminent work of the Holy Spirit has to do with spiritual enlightenment and that supremely as to the significance of God's Son, Jesus Christ. It is all in the Scriptures, but still our eyes may be holden. Let us be quite categorical in stating that we can never see the Church until we have seen the Son of God, and we cannot truly see the Son of God without seeing the Church. This is the point in the incident at Caesarea Philippi (Matthew 16:16-18). Leave all your debate of whether Peter is the Rock on which the Church is built and light on the real key to what Jesus said: "Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven." 'My Father in heaven revealed it'; revealed what? "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." What then? "Upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." Can anything built upon Peter, even converted Peter, withstand the power of hell or death? It is Who Jesus Christ is, revealed from heaven, that is foundational to the Church, and "other foundation can no man lay" (1 Corinthians 3:11).

"Ephesians" is tremendously contemporary, that is, up-to-date. In our time it is customary, practically instinctively, for Christians meeting for the first time to ask, or be asked, "what denomination, or mission, or society do you belong to?" Some such question is almost inevitable. The "Church" (?) is designated by a national, a doctrinal, a color, a "State", a "Free," a personal name (e.g. Wesley, Luther, Calvin, Mennonite, etc. etc.) title. If the Apostle Paul were to step into Christendom today and be asked such a question as to "association," membership, he would open his eyes wide and look with pained astonishment and say, "Oh, brother, I have seen Jesus, the Son of God, and in seeing Him I have seen the Church, and in that only true Church there is not this mix-up of nationalities, colors, names, social or cultural differences and distinctions." "In Christ Jesus ... there can be neither Greek nor Jew, there can be neither bond nor free, there can be no male and female; for ye are all one man in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28).  " ... where there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bondman, freeman; but Christ is ALL, and in ALL" (Col. 3:11). He would add, "there cannot be Paul, Apollos, Cephas, or any other name." The very least that such a seeing of Christ would do would be to revolutionize our phraseology, our manner of speaking.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 5)