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Friday, December 21, 2012

The Supreme Vocation # 3

Now note: Daniel knew God's thoughts for His people, and he knew what was characteristic of the dispensation in which he lived. And that is where we must begin. What is the characteristic, from God's standpoint, of the dispensation in which you and I live? What is the nature, object, purpose, of this dispensation, the day in which you and I have our time on this earth? What does God mean? Daniel knew quite well what was characteristic of his dispensation, and he knew further that, until that dispensation was finally closed, that purpose of God held good.

Now, why do we say that? What is the point? It is this. There are many people today who are giving up the revealed character of the dispensation as unattainable, hopeless. But God does not change the character of any one dispensation in itself. If God has said that a given dispensation or age is to serve such-and-such a part of the eternal goings, He does not change that. He neither goes back upon it nor alters it to fit into the conditions which arise.

Listen! If what we have in the Letter to the Ephesians is the sum, the substance, the comprehensive and conclusive revelation of God's eternal purpose, and God saw it worth while to take a man away from his world-wide activities - from all his visitation of churches, all his personal contacts with believers the world over, all those affairs with which his whole life had been occupied - to take him right away and shut him up for a period where all that was cut off, and cause him to write the full revelation of His purpose as centered in this age: if it is true that the Letter to the Ephesians is the consummate presentation of Divine revelation, centering in the Church as the Body of Christ of which He is the Head, and that the securing of that, with all its heavenly nature and heavenly vocation for the ages to come, is the Divine characteristic given to this dispensation, then God will not depart from it, no matter what we find as to the state of the Church on this earth.

There are many who have despaired of there being any realization of an 'Ephesian' revelation of the Church in a practical way in this dispensation. Things seem so hopelessly confused and divided that they turn to evangelism as the only way of any effective work.

We cannot dismiss the New Testament as easily as that. The answer is not in trying - however devotedly - to realize the ideal New Testament Church, but, having the vision clearly and strongly before us, to keep the fullness of Christ as the object of all spiritual attainment and exercise, and the Cross in its fundamental and continuous power as the Holy Spirit's way of realizing the true fellowship which is the meaning of the Church. We must work from the inward, not from the outward; the spiritual, not the temporal.

Daniel knew the characteristic of his own dispensation, and he knew that, while that dispensation continued, and until it finally closed, God would not change; and that led him to pray as he did. A man never prays for a thing about which he has lost all hope, given up all expectation, sees no prospect. Certainly he does not pray like this. But because Daniel knew, because he had intelligence on this matter, he set himself to pray it through - and he prayed it through. When Paul came to the close of his great letter to the Ephesians, he concluded with: "praying at all seasons in the Spirit ... for all the saints ..." (6:18). We shall only pray like that if we have in ourselves the sum of what is in that letter, and spiritual apprehension as to its meaning.

Daniel Knew the Meaning of the Present Situation

Further, Daniel knew the meaning of the then present situation. The existing situation of the people of God was not according to God's original thought. Of course, it was obvious in his case because it was so much in the realm of temporal things. It did not need a great deal of insight and perception to recognize that Israel in Babylon was not what God intended. Nevertheless, the principle holds good. Daniel knew the difference between what was and what ought to have been, according to God's mind. That is the principle. However it works out, either in that dispensation of what was temporal, or in this dispensation of what is spiritual, the principle is this - having knowledge and understanding of the difference between what God intended and what is.

Daniel's Stand for Recovery

And that situation, so contrary to God's mind, was due to lost spiritual and heavenly position. That is another mighty principle. If things are today far from what God intended them to be, and from the condition in which He actually had them at the first, the same reasons lie behind it - firstly lost spiritual and heavenly position, and then the loss of the understanding of the nature, the essential nature, of God's heavenly kingdom. There will be no improvement, no recovery, no getting what God is after until there is a recovery of those two things, spiritual position and understanding. Daniel stood in the reality of that position. Though physically actually in Babylon, he was standing in a spiritual and heavenly position altogether out of and above Babylon. He was just not a part of it. That is a very costly place to be in.

And then the recovery of the essential nature of God's kingdom. You see, the disciples of the Lord had their own conception of the kingdom before the Cross. It was earthly, it was temporal, it was material. The Cross shattered that whole thing for them for ever. The coming of the Holy Spirit gave them an entirely new conception of the nature of God's kingdom. Oh, how evolutionary and transforming was that Holy Spirit's enlightenment as to the true and the essential nature of God's kingdom: not meat and drink (Romans 14:17) but power, heavenly power (1 Corinthians 4:20). These things have to be recovered,and that is what God is after, and that is what Daniel saw that God was after, and that is the meaning of the present situation. Take note of this, friends - God is more concerned with character than He is with systems and institutions. Israel, even in Babylon, may have been clinging to their systems, traditions and institutions, but God was transcendently more concerned about character than all that.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 4 - "The Purpose of Suffering")

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