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Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Cross and the Holy Spirit # 4

4. The Meaning of Grace

There is yet another theme in this letter which would repay our study: it is the meaning of grace. That is a great thing in the Letter to the Galatians. Grace puts us on to an entirely new basis. All the ritual, all the forms, all the demands of the law, only served to accentuate the evil conscience. Paul makes that so clear. As we know, this Letter to the Galatians was written before the Letter to the Romans: probably Paul, when he had written to the Galatians, said to himself, 'I must write something more about this,' and so took the opportunity of enlarging upon it when writing to the Romans. But the point is that the whole thing related to this matter of conscience. "I had not known sin ... except the law had said, Thou shalt not ..." (Romans 7:7). "The very saying of that thing only gave me a bad conscience: this whole system was only keeping my conscience alive - it was not saving me from an evil conscience . But grace has done that; grace has put me on to an altogether new and different basis, where the evil conscience is dealt with.' Yes, grace deals with the conscience. It is a wonderful word over against a bad conscience: "The Grace of God."

5. The Meaning of the Holy Spirit

Lastly, Paul discovered the meaning of the Holy Spirit. What does Paul say preeminently about the Holy Spirit here? "Because ye are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, 'Abba, Father' " (Galatians 4:6). "Ye received the Spirit of sonship, whereby we cry, 'Abba, Father' " (Romans 8:15). Paul sets that over against servanthood. And there he gets right to the heart of the matter. For if we recognize, as it is easy to do, the difference between a servant and a son, we have the secret of everything.

A servant is one who simply has to do what he is told: he is told that he must or he must not, and whether he like it or not, whether he agrees with it or not, it is for him to obey, that is all. Whatever may be his own reactions, he cannot help himself: he is merely a servant. Inwardly he may be in positive revolt against the whole thing, but he can do nothing about it. I am speaking, of course, about a servant of those days. A servant of the present day would just give up his job and go - that is how it is in our time. But you could not do it there in the Roman Empire in Paul's day. A bondslave had no power of choice whatever; he could not say" 'I am resigning; I am gong to find another master' - he just could not do it. He was bought, body, soul and spirit; and, though he might be in revolt with every fiber of his being, there was nothing he could do about it. He just was the bond slave of this law.

The Spirit of Sonship

That is a servant, a slave. What is a son? Well, if he is a son in the true meaning of Christian sonship, his service is a delight to him. There is in him the dynamic of love: he delights to do those things that please his Father, and hat love gives him the incentive and the power to do them. He has another spirit, the Spirit of Sonship, working in him, making it possible for him to respond to every requirement: for that is the meaning of the Holy Spirit - an inward power, and that of love, which makes everything possible. As we all know, if we have a mighty love for something, nothing is impossible! Would that we had more of this love - the love that does not irk, that does not wait to have things pointed out, to have its attention drawn to them, but is all the time on the alert, anxious and keen, watching to see what needs to be done. We need that spirit, do we not?

That is something that is so impressive in certain companies know to us in the Far East. It is referred to here by way of condemnation or criticism of others. One great meeting hall, for instance, with its internal capacity of 1,600, and provision all the way around for up to 3,000 more, and with its 1,000 panes of glass, needs, as you can guess, a lot of looking after - what with the cleaning, the care of all the electrical installations, the amplifiers, and so on. There is so much connected with even one center like that. After every meeting you see an army of men and women, prepared, and getting down to it, sweeping and cleaning and mopping up, adjusting and seeing to things, so that everything i clean and wholesome and in its place, for the next meeting. As you look at these people doing these jobs, perhaps you ask about someone, busily working away in his old clothes: 'Who is that brother?' 'Oh, that is Major-General So-and-So!' You see another younger man getting down to it, really getting down to a dirty job: 'Who is that young brother?' 'He's the Managing Director of the biggest textile factory on this island!' And so you go on - General, Colonel, Director - but they are all 'going to it.' One of these high officers has made it his business to clean those one-thousand panes of glass once every week!

How do they go about it? Well, before they start on their work, they all meet together and pray and sing. They pray altogether, this great army of workers; then they have a good sing; and then they get down to the work. It is all done in a spirit of joy like that. That is the spirit of sonship! That is not bond-slavery; it is the true spirit of sonship. We need far more of that! That is the meaning of the Holy Spirit. You are not surprised that these people are radiant, and you are not surprised that the question is answered in their case: "To whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?" It is indeed revealed there. Suffer the illustration; it is very wholesome to have seen these thing really working. They can work; they really can work.

This, then, is the meaning of the Spirit, the meaning of Christ: the real spirit of sonship. That is what Paul is saying here. satan just hates that. He will try to break it up; he will try to spoil it, at all costs. That was the battle that Paul was in. He was not just contending with the Judaizers, but with the direct antagonism of the great enemy against a testimony of that kind - against the real fruit of the Cross.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 5 - "Freedom From Law Means Government By The Spirit")

Proclaiming God's Preeminence





We were predestined "to the end that we who were the 

first to hope in Christ should be to the praise of His

 glory" (Eph. 1:12).


Preeminence implies supreme standing, picturing one who 

excels over all others in a particular quality or achievement.

 There is no one more preeminent than God.

Ephesians 1:12 underscores that truth. You were redeemed 

and granted an eternal inheritance that God might be glorified

 Certainly you benefit greatly from salvation, but God's glory is 

the primary issue.

Our man-centered culture doesn't share that perspective. 

Sadly, its self-seeking and self-glorifying mentality has crept

 into the church, and even the gospel itself has been subjected

 to its influence. For example sin is often defined by how it 

affects man, not how it dishonors God. Salvation is often 

presented as a means of receiving what Christ offers, not a 

mandate to obey what He commands. Many modern-day 

evangelists have reduced the gospel to little more than a 

formula by which people can live a happy and more fulfilling 

life. The focus has shifted from God's glory to man's benefit.

Such a convoluted gospel fuels the fire of self-love and self-

exaltation.

As believers we know better than that. We know that the 

purpose of life is to glorify God. That means living to His glory 

is to govern everything we do.

What higher or more noble purpose could life afford? 

"Forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies 

ahead," Paul said he pressed "on toward the goal for the prize

 of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:13-14). Keep

 that goal clearly in mind in all you do today. By doing so your

 day will be to the praise of God's glory!

Suggestions for Prayer:
  • Praise God for His preeminence in all things.

  • Pray for opportunities to speak of His preeminence to 

  • others, remembering that they will see Him in your 

  • actions as well as your words.
For Further Study:

Read Job 38:42:6
  • How did God convince Job of His surpassing knowledge

  •  and power?

  • What was Job's response?

~John MacArthur~

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Cross and the Holy Spirit # 3

Paul's Weapons Against the Debasing of Christianity

1. His Personal History

Well, first of all - and this is a very powerful weapon, as you will notice from this letter - he brings in the weapon of his own history and his own experience. There are few places in all his writings - perhaps only Second Corinthians - where he refers to himself more than he does in this letter. He brings his own history and his own experience right forward; it is one of his masterstrokes. And he was the man to do it! Just look at Saul of Tarsus [Paul]: look at his history - what he tells us about himself. Was there ever a man who had put this whole Jewish system more thoroughly to the test than he had? He had committed himself to the observances, to the performance of every part of the Jewish ritual, right up to the hilt; indeed, he tells us that he was far more zealous in this matter than many of his own age. "I advanced in the Jews' religion beyond many of mine own age ... being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers" (Galatians 1:14). This man had gone all the way with this system, with its ceremonies and rites, its types and figures, its symbols and forms, he had gone the whole way.

What did it do for him? Where did it land him? He had exhausted it most thoroughly, most conscientiously, most sincerely: because one thing that we have to say about Saul of Tarsus is that he was a man who did not believe in half measures - he was a man who meant business, and he was a man who was sincere in what he did. He tells us: "I verily thought ... that I ought to do" - "many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth" (Acts 26:9). It was a matter of conscience with this brilliant young Pharisee, who had climbed so high on the ladder of Judaism. But, where did it land him? We have his own exclamation; he says: "This is where it landed me!" - "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me out of the body of this death?" (Romans 7:24). You could not get very much lower than that, could you? That is the last word in anything. In his own experience, in his own history, the whole thing had failed. In effect, he says: "That is where it landed me; that is all it did for me. And it is not going to do anything better for anybody else, however devoted they may be to it."

2. The Meaning of the Cross

But then, having come to that end, to that ignominious end, crying for deliverance - 'O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me? Nothing and nobody, over all this long history, has proved a deliverer for me! - then he found the Lord Jesus; and the Lord Jesus did for him all that this tremendous sum of things had entirely failed to do. He found the Cross, and he said: "I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live; and yet no longer I, but Christ liveth in me" (Galatians 2:20). You notice the change from the thought of 'death' to the thought of 'life.' He is a dead man made alive, come to life. He is a man who has known an altogether new beginning, a new history, a new experience, which has sprung out of the Cross of the Lord Jesus.

Moreover, he found the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit did for him what this vast system of Judaism, to which he had given himself so utterly, could never do. That is why he gives such a large place to the Holy Spirit in this letter. That is why the Cross and the Holy Spirit are here brought together as the ruling lines of this whole testimony. The Holy Spirit, on the ground of the Cross, has reversed the whole experience, changed the whole situation.

3. The Meaning of Christ

And then - here we could go through the letter with another ruling line - he discovered the real meaning of Christ. The name of Christ occurs forty-three times in this little letter, which can be read in ten minutes or a quarter of an hour. That itself is significant; indeed, it just shouts at us as to what it is all about. Paul is really seeking to show here what is the true meaning of Christ. What is the true meaning of Christ? Just this: that all that system has been - in law and all its ordinances has been fulfilled in and by Christ, in the Cross; all righteousness has been fulfilled. As He came to His baptism in the Jordan, typifying His death on the Cross, Jesus had said: "Suffer it now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness" (Matthew 3:15). That was the question at issue, and it was all fulfilled in the Cross of the Lord Jesus; Christ crucified has fulfilled it all. The Old Testament is fulfilled in Christ. That is what we have been saying about Isaiah; and what is true of Isaiah is true of all the Old Testament. We cannot attempt to show here how the Old Testament is fulfilled in Christ, but that is what Paul is saying. 'I have been crucified with Christ: and so I am united with Him in that writing of, that fulfillment, of all the requirements of God; and, by the Spirit, I come into the good of all that Jesus is.'

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 4 - "The Meaning of Grace")

Lists of Life




This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the 

lust of the flesh.


For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against 

the flesh: and 

these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do

 the things that ye would.

-Galatians 5:16-17 (King James Version)

If you've watched, or listened to, any of our live Internet Bible study 

broadcasts, you've heard me say "You can't live as a Christian 

on Sunday, and 

as a sinner on Monday." But the fact remains that many professing Christians 



live in this way. There is a war, a battle going on in each one of 

us. What will win? 



Paul says, in Galatians 5:16, "This I say then, Walk in the

 Spirit, and ye shall 

not fulfill the lusts of the flesh." If we "Walk in the Spirit"

 we will keep away 

from sin. If we allow God to have His way in our lives, we will 

keep away from 

sin, from the lust of the flesh. In verses 19-21, Paul reveals 

the lusts of the 

flesh, "Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are

 these; 

Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,

Idolatry, witchcraft, 

hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, 

heresies, Envyings, 

murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the 

which I tell you 

before, as I have also told you in time past, that they 

which do such things 

shall not inherit the kingdom of God." That's quite a list.

 Verses 22-23 reveal  

the characteristics of walking in the Spirit. "But the fruit of 

the Spirit is love, 

joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 

Meekness, 

temperance: against such there is no law." Take a look at

 these lists that 

Paul provides to us. Is there more characteristics of the works 

of the flesh, or of the Spirit? 



Paul says in verse 17, "For the flesh lusteth against the 

Spirit, and the Spirit 


against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the 

other: so that ye 

cannot do the things that ye would." This verse reveals why

 I say "You can't 

live as a Christian on Sunday, and as a sinner on Monday." Paul

 puts it plainly 

here. The flesh and the Spirit cannot coexist in the same life. 

Paul teaches 



that they are contrary to one another. They are polar opposites.

 You can't live in joy & peace if your're committing adultery and

fornication. 



Which list looks more like your life? Are you walking in the 

Spirit? Or, are you 

walking according to your wants and desires? 

~Think About It~

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Cross and the Holy Spirit # 2

The New Testament Counterpart

We now follow the same course as we have followed in every connection. This part of Isaiah's prophecies, and this chapter in particular, carries us to the New Testament counterpart. We have seen that there are parts of the New Testament which answer distinctly and clearly to the different phases and movements in these prophecies of Isaiah. And the New Testament counterpart of this sixty-fist chapter is undoubtedly Paul's Letter to the Galatians. Let us look at a few fragments from that letter. You will see how they bring in Isaiah 61, the anointing of the Spirit.

Paul's Letter to the Galatians

"This only would I learn from you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now perfected in the flesh? ... He therefore that supplieth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth He it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? ... Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law ... that upon the Gentiles might come the blessing of Abraham in Christ Jesus; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith" (Gal. 3:2, 5, 13-14).

"And because ye are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, 'Abba, Father' " (4:6).

"For we through the Spirit by faith wait for the hope of righteousness" (5:5).

"But I say, 'Walk by the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary the one to the other; that ye may not do the things that ye would. But if ye are led by the Spirit, ye are not under the law ... If we live by the Spirit, by the Spirit let us also walk" (5:16-18, 25).

"For he that soweth unto his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth unto the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap eternal life" (6:8).

All that, as you notice, has to do with the Spirit - which is, of course, another way of speaking of the anointing. We will now take another brief series, which follows the line of the Cross.

"I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live; and yet no longer I, but Christ liveth in me ..." (2:20).

"O foolish Galatians, who did bewitch you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was openly set forth crucified?" (3:1).

"And they that are of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with the passions and the lusts thereof" (5:24).

"But far be it from me to glory, save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world hath been crucified unto me, and I unto the world" (6:14).

These two series of extracts from this brief letter "to the churches in Galatia" (1:2) make it clear that two of its major themes are the Cross and the Holy Spirit. It is the bridge that is passed over between Isaiah 53 and Isaiah 61.

The Essentially Spiritual Nature of Christianity

Now we all know that this Letter to the Galatians contains Paul's tremendous battle. Yes, Paul was out for a fight when he set himself to write this document. There is no more vehement product of the pen of Paul that that which we have in this letter. But what is the battle over? What is it all about? Of course, there are theological and doctrinal answers to that question; but it may be said, with a good deal of support both from the letter itself and from other parts of the New Testament, that this battle of Paul's all related to the essentially spiritual character of Christianity. The Christianity which is the true Christianity is an essential spiritual thing. That is what the battle is about. It shows so clearly, in every connection, that the Cross leads to a spiritual position, to a spiritual condition.

The great enemy, who had very useful instruments in the Judaizers, was fighting to make of Christianity something other than a spiritual thing; to bring it on to an other than spiritual basis. Both then, and ever since, he has sought, either to resolve Christianity into a matter of rites and ceremonies - ritual, formalism, earthly and temporal symbols, representations, figures, and so forth; or, failing that, to substitute for it the false spirituality sometimes dignified by the name of 'mysticism.' That was satan's object, and Paul saw that the issue was nothing less than the real meaning, the essential nature, of Christianity - what it is. And Paul was not giving it away, because he had had a tremendous experience on this very matter. He therefore set himself to fight this thing with all the strength at his command, to make it perfectly clear that Christianity is not in any respect an earthly system - it is a heavenly life. Christianity is essentially a life in the Spirit, and the Cross is intended to produce that. If it does not produce it, there is some reason for it in those concerned. It means that the whole nature of Christianity has been changed, and the meaning of the Cross subverted.

So Paul lunges at this subtle move of the enemy with all the force of the Cross, and brings in every weapon to which he can lay his hand. What are some of those weapons?

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 3 - "Paul's Weapons Against the Debasing of Christianity = 1. His Personal History")

I Will Help Thee


Isaiah 41:14

I will help thee, saith the Lord.
 
This morning let us hear the Lord Jesus speak to each one of us: "I will help thee." "It is but a small thing for Me, thy God, to help thee. Consider what I have done already. What! not help thee? Why, I bought thee with My blood. What! not help thee? I have died for thee; and if I have done the greater, will I not do the less? Help thee! It is the least thing I will ever do for thee; I have done more, and will do more." "Before the world began I chose thee. I made the covenant for thee. I laid aside My glory and became a man for thee; I gave up My life for thee; and if I did all this, I will surely help thee now. In helping thee, I am giving thee what I have bought for thee already. If thou hadst need of a thousand times as much help, I would give it thee; thou requirest little compared with what I am ready to give. 'Tis much for thee to need, but it is nothing for me to bestow. 'Help thee?' Fear not! If there were an ant at the door of thy granary asking for help, it would not ruin thee to give him a handful of thy wheat; and thou art nothing but a tiny insect at the door of My all-sufficiency. 'I will help thee.'" O my soul, is not this enough? Dost thou need more strength than the omnipotence of the United Trinity? Dost thou want more wisdom than exists in the Father, more love than displays itself in the Son, or more power than is manifest in the influences of the Spirit? Bring hither thine empty pitcher! Surely this well will fill it. Haste, gather up thy wants, and bring them here-thine emptiness, thy woes, thy needs. Behold, this river of God is full for thy supply; what canst thou desire beside? Go forth, my soul, in this thy might. The Eternal God is thine helper!
 
"Fear not, I am with thee, oh, be not dismay'd!
I, I am thy God, and will still give thee aid."

~Charles Spurgeon~

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Cross and the Holy Spirit

Isaiah 61:1, 62:1

We come now to yet a further aspect of this so many-sided fruit of the Cross of the Lord Jesus. We remember that the first three verses of this sixty-first chapter of Isaiah, so full, were taken up by our Lord Jesus Himself. After His baptism the heavens were opened, and the Spirit descended and came upon Him: it was the great moment of His anointing as the Servant, Who had just passed, symbolically, by the way of the Cross, as represented by His baptism. Now, anointed, He meets the enemy in the wilderness, and worsts him completely on all points; then, returning from the wilderness in the power of the Spirit, He comes to Nazareth, where He has been brought up.

On the Sabbath day, He enters into the synagogue, and the Scriptures are handed to Him. He opens them at this point in Isaiah's prophecies, and reads these verses; and, when He has read them, He hands the roll back to the Ruler of the synagogue and sits down. (This, contrary to out custom, was a sign that he had something to say. If we have something to say, we usually stand up; but in the synagogues, if they had something to say, they sat down). And it says that 'the eyes of all' that were assembled 'were fastened upon Him' - because He had sat down; they saw He had something to say. "And He began to say unto them, Today hath this scripture been fulfilled in your ears" (Luke :14-21).

We thus see that the Lord Jesus was appropriating this part of Isaiah to Himself. All along we have recognized that there is a relationship of these prophecies to the Lord Jesus and to this dispensation, as well as a connection with the history of Israel. And this is what we now come to.

The Anointing of the Head Flows down to the Members

But notice, as we begin, that this anointing, while resting first of all upon 'the Lord's Servant' - for that is the title of Christ in Isaiah: "Behold My Servant" (Isaiah 42:1) - while this anointing of course rests upon Him and relates, fully and supremely, to Him, as the Head, the language of the prophetic narrative immediately afterwards makes an abrupt transition to 'they', 'them,' 'ye,' 'you,' your.' After this declaration concerning the anointing of the Servant, it goes on: "And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolation's, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolation's of many generations" (61:4). The people of God derive the values, come into the good, of this anointing. It is as though the anointing upon Him, as Head, just flowed down and embraced the whole of His membership - the members of Christ.

That is why we read the first fragment of the next chapter: "For Zion's sake will I not hold My peace ..." As I said in the previous chapter, there is so much, in these later prophecies of Isaiah, about Zion, Zion inheriting all these values. And Zion, as we know, is the Old Testament figure of the Church. We were speaking, in that chapter, about Zion's light: "Arise, shine, for thy light is come" (60:1) - this is the testimony recovered. Here, in chapter 61, we move into Zion's life and Zion's liberty.

To Proclaim Liberty to the Captives"

You notice, first of all, that this is a message to Zion, to the Church. All this has to have its fulfillment, its realization, in the Lord's people. Israel, at this time, were in exile in Babylon, in a state of bondage and spiritual death, and the prophecies have to do with their deliverance, their liberation from that bondage, from that death, the bringing of this people out into life and into liberty. Now I have said that Jesus took to Himself this Scripture about the anointing of the Lord being upon Him, "to proclaim liberty to the captives," and so on. But you remember that the earthly Zion, the earthly Jerusalem - in other words the Jewish people - never did come into the reality of this liberation. They missed all these values. That Zion did not inherit the values of His anointing. But the Church has inherited it all. This has become the inheritance of the spiritual Israel, the spiritual people of God. Judaism - 'Israel after the flesh' - was the supreme antagonist of the anointing. By their weapon of legalism, they slew Him. It must be a people who answer to all this that is said about the anointing, who come into these further values of the second part of this chapter.

That is, it must be a people who can appreciate the Good Tidings, because they are meek: that was not true of Israel after the flesh. It must be a people of a broken heart, and that was not true of Israel after the flesh. It must be a people conscious that they really are captives, and that was not true of the Jews in our Lord's day. They thought, they believed, that of all people on the earth they were the freest, the ones who knew least about bondage: that was one of the points of controversy with them and the Lord Jesus (John 8:33). It must be a people who feel that their state is one of imprisonment, if they are to enjoy the "opening of the prison to them that are bound;" and so on. The values of the anointing can only come to people who realize, all these ways, spiritually, their need of this Servant of the Lord, working, under the anointing, for their good, for their advantage.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 2 - "The New Testament Counterpart")

Trusting Self is Never Justified



He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’” - Matthew 4:4

Christians are never justified in trusting solely in themselves to meet their basic needs. No matter how worried we might become, if we turn to God in faith and obedience, He will meet all our essential needs in His own way, according to His sovereign schedule. Implicit in this understanding is that God will meet every need, both physical and spiritual, as Paul promises us, “My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19; cf. Matt. 6:8, 33).

It is always best to follow Jesus’ example, obeying God and trusting wholeheartedly in His gracious provision, than to impulsively and selfishly attempt to meet our own needs in ways that could disobey or compromise God’s Word.

To trust first of all in ourselves to meet our needs—circumventing or modifying God’s will in the process—not only demonstrates a lack of faith but rests on the false assumption that our earthly well-being is our most crucial need. Jesus contradicts such thinking, which is so natural to fallen humanity, both to unbelievers as well as believers who slip into carnal mind-sets. Therefore our Lord quoted Deuteronomy 8:3, “‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’” The all-sufficient and sustaining power of God is the only true source that meets our every need.

Ask Yourself

Where does your dependence lie? Are you trusting in your paycheck? Your insurance policies? Your physical strength and smarts? Or have you finally realized that everything hinges on God, His Word, and His sovereign plan for your life? Find your sense of security in Him alone.

~John MacArthur~

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Value of Brokenness # 2

Recovery of Lost Testimony

Do you talk about 'the testimony?' Have you got a phraseology of 'testimony'? Do you talk about 'ministry?' Have you got ideas about 'ministry?' My dear friend, the Holy Spirit would say, both to you and to me, that testimony and ministry are only real when they come from broken men and women. Let us make no mistake about it. I know it is the hard way, but it is the only way. You and I have no right to minister, no right to talk about 'the testimony' or about 'the Church' or about 'the vessel' or any such things, unless we know something of this brokenness, this weakness.

You see how true this is to what we read in Isaiah. The Lord says: "Mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all peoples" (Isaiah 56:7); but - "Thus saith the high and lofty One That inhabiteth eternity, Whose name is Holy; 'I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit'" (Isaiah 57:15). You find Him at humbled Corinth, chastened Corinth. There is something new in this second letter - something that was missing from the first. You feel the unction of the Lord is here now, because they are broken. That unction of the Lord is only found with men and women who have really had a weakening, a breaking, an emptying, who have lost all 'confidence in the flesh," whose own self-strength has all gone. That is the way of the shining; that is the way of recovered testimony.

Love the Way of Enlargement

There is one more passage to which I would lie to refer you.

"Our mouth is open unto you, O Corinthians, our heart is enlarged. Ye are not straightened in us, but ye are straightened in your own affections. Now for a recompense in like king (I speak as unto my children), be ye also enlarged" (2 Corinthians 6:11-13).

What was the cause of the lost, broken-down testimony in Corinth? They were too small; they were too little. Paul said that he had to treat them like babes - they were peevish! Children can be like that, can they not? Trifles have far too much importance. Paul says: 'Be enlarged, be enlarged! Be bigger people - be too big to come down to all these mean things. Have big thoughts, have big feelings - of course without self-importance or self-inflation; have a large heart - a heart of love!'

What does love do? Love "rejoiceth not in unrighteousness, but rejoiceth with the truth." Love "believeth all things:: it takes a large heart to do that, does it not? It is never ready to believe an unfavorable report, but always ready to believe that there may be something that can be set off against it - that there may be another explanation. Love rejoices not when one who has committed a wrong suffers for it - that is paltry. This is where David is such a rebuke to us. Just consider him: what a life Saul gave him during those years! He hunted him, he said, like a flea, like a partridge (1 Samuel 24:14; 26:20); chased and pursued him from rock to rock, from cave to cave, in the wilderness, if only he might get him and destroy him; gave him no peace day or night. He was determined, implacably determined, that David should die. And the day came when, in one of these pursuits, Saul, with his 3,000 chosen men - an army to catch a man! - arrived in a certain place at night, and lay down to sleep. And, unknown to him, David was very near, right on the spot (I don't think he would have slept if he had known!); and David came with his men, and looked on him; and David's men said: 'Now is your chance - the Lord has given him into your hands!' (1 Samuel 24:4).

You know, if only we can imagine we have got Divine support for something, that is all we want. We only want someone to say, 'It is the Lord's will,' and if it is something that serves our own interests, something that we would naturally very much like, how we will go for it! It is a very strong temptation, is it not, when it appears to be supported by the Lord?

But here, David - as on another such occasion, when his companion said: 'God has delivered your enemy into your hands this day; now is your chance! Let me smite him, and I won't have to smite him twice! One blow, and I will finish the whole thing for you!' (1 Samuel 26;8) - David replied: 'No, no; God forbid that I should touch the Lord's anointed!'  Ah, that is bigness; that is real greatness. He forbore, to his own hurt. He knew not how many more years of suffering he would have, but he accepted them. He could have ended all that at one blow, but he said: 'No, I must not touch the Lord's anointed. I may be in the right, and the Lord's anointed may be altogether in the wrong: nevertheless, it is not for me to touch him. I leave him with the Lord; I must not lift my hand against him. God forbid that I should touch the Lord's anointed.' I repeat: that is bigness, that is spiritual greatness! And so Paul appeals to the Corinthians: "Now for a recompense in like kind ... be ye also enlarged." The Lord make us big people, in this spiritual sense.

The Constituents of Recovered Testimony

Let us now try to summarize the constituents of recovered testimony, whether that testimony be local or to the world.

It must be born, firstly, as we have seen, out of what we know of Divine comfort in suffering.

Second, it must be born out of  what we have known of resurrection (whether individual, or collective and local), when all has seemed to be hopeless.

Thirdly, it must be born from what we have learned of Divine love through our own failure. I am sure that this was a great factor in Corinth. How deeply they recognized their failure! They went down, right down in the dust, under the sense of what a miserable failure they had been as a local company. And then, smitten with this realization of their own failure, they discovered that there was love pouring to them, through this Apostle, from the heart of God; and that discovery constituted their new testimony.

Fourthly, it must be born from the brokenness and enlargement of heart that comes through the consciousness of weakness. I suppose, if any people ought to have been conscious of their own weakness, it was those people at Corinth. There are, in fact, indications in this Second Letter that they came almost to the point of despair about themselves. I think this realization of their own fallibility and untrustworthiness just overwhelmed them, overflowed them. But through it they came to this enlargement of heart. If you and I are groaning under the consciousness of our own failure, we are not going to be petty and mean toward the failures of other people; we are going to be very much more patient, very much more understanding - altogether larger of heart. We are going to say: 'Well, I have had to walk very carefully myself, just there. But for the grace of God, there goes myself!' That is largeness of heart, true brokenness.

Fifthly, and finally, what utterness for the Lord should result from a sense of responsibility for His honor in the locality and in the world. I think that is what arises here. If that is not present, then all the other means nothing. It must have been brought home to the Corinthians that they were letting the Lord down in the locality. Their condition, the situation among them, was just bringing dishonor to Him. And that provoked a sense of responsibility: 'Oh, we cannot afford to let the Lord down! For the Lord's sake, for the sake of the Name of the Lord, we must put things right among ourselves, whatever it costs.' There is much in Isaiah's later chapter about the Name of the Lord in Zion, when recovered. And so, in the church at Corinth, this sense of responsibility for His Name and for His honor, in that vicinity and in that city and in the world, produced a new utterness for the Lord.

We come back to our question: "To whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?" Well, to those, such as we have seen, who accept the implications of the Cross. This is all the outcome, the outworking of the Cross. This all comes out of Isaiah 53. Recovered testimony of this kind can only be as the result of the Cross. The Cross is the basis of everything in all testimony.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 1 - "The Cross and the Holy Spirit")

Renew Your Mind



I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. - Romans 12:1-2

Have you ever found yourself humming or singing a song that is in your mind but you are not sure where it came from? So often, I will walk out of a store with a familiar tune playing in my head. The same thing happens when we watch television. Images from movies and television shows repeatedly play over and over in our minds. The power of sound and visual imagery can dominate us and yet, in many ways, we are somewhat immune to their influence. The entire marketing industry knows that repetitive marketing slogans will lead us to desire and purchase them. Our minds are well-trained in the ways of the world.

As Christians, we need to be aware of the worldly influences that infiltrate our minds. Thoughts tend to build upon each other and that can lead us into ungodly habits and patterns. The devil will tell us that whatever is in our minds is just for us; no one will get hurt, and no one will ever know. But in time, out thoughts will begin to change our behaviors and ultimately, some of those hidden things in our minds will be exposed in our lives. We must guard against these influences from the start. We must be on the offensive at all times. The apostle Paul tells us that we are not to be conformed to this world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Our minds must be renewed daily, moment by moment, and this training begins by keeping certain things out. Make a conscious choice to avoid watching certain programs or movies. Turn off the noise in the car and replace it with music of praise and worship. We need to put things in our minds that glorify our Lord, for He that is in us is greater than he that is in the world.

Is it a sacrifice? Yes. We must present our bodies and minds to be a sacrifice unto God. The best part is that our sacrifice is greatly rewarded in the blessings that come from having a sound mind filled with peace and joy. Ask the Lord to help you today, and pray for His power to overcome the enticing activities of the world. Retrain your mind and your life will change.

~Daily Disciples~

Saturday, January 26, 2013

More Than Conquerors



"In all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us" (Romans 8:37).

This is more than victory. This is a triumph so complete that we have not only escaped defeat and destruction, but we have destroyed our enemies and won a spoil so rich and valuable that we can thank God that the battle ever came. How can we be "more than conquerors"? We can get out of the conflict a spiritual discipline that will greatly strengthen our faith and establish our spiritual character. Temptation is necessary to settle and confirm us in the spiritual life. It is like the fire which burns in the colors of mineral painting, or like winds that cause the mighty cedars of the mountain to strike more deeply into the soil. Our spiritual conflicts are among our choicest blessings, and our great adversary is used to train us for his ultimate defeat. The ancient Phrygians had a legend that every time they conquered an enemy the victor absorbed the physical strength of his victim and added so much more to his own strength and valor. So temptation victoriously met doubles our spiritual strength and equipment. It is possible thus not only to defeat our enemy, but to capture him and make him fight in our ranks.

The prophet Isaiah speaks of flying on the shoulders of the Philistines (Isa. 11:14). These Philistines were their deadly foes, but the figure suggested that they would be enabled not only to conquer the Philistines, but to use them to carry the victors on their shoulders for further triumphs. Just as the wise sailor can use a head wind to carry him forward by tacking and taking advantage of its impelling force; so it is possible for us in our spiritual life through the victorious grace of God to turn to account the things that seem most unfriendly and unfavorable, and to be able to say continually, "The things that were against me have happened to the furtherance of the Gospel."

--Life More Abundantly

A noted scientist observing that "early voyagers fancied that the coral-building animals instinctively built up the great circles of the Atoll Islands to afford themselves protection in the inner parts," has disproved this fancy by showing that the insect builders can only live and thrive fronting the open ocean, and in the highly aerated foam of its resistless billows. So it has been commonly thought that protected ease is the most favorable condition of life, whereas all the noblest and strongest lives prove on the contrary that the endurance of hardship is the making of the men, and the factor that distinguishes between existence and vigorous vitality. Hardship makes character.

"Now thanks be unto God Who always leads us forth to triumph with the Anointed One, and Who diffuses by us the fragrance of the knowledge of Him in every place" (2 Cor. 2:14, literal translation).

~L. B. Cowman~

Friday, January 25, 2013

Ministry Made Through Experience of Resurrection

Recovery of Lost Testimony

For that is how ministry is made. The man or the woman who is ambitious to be "in the ministry" - to be speaking and preaching, going about taking meetings and all that sort of thing -  but who has not gone through deep places, and found the Lord there, and brought up some treasure from the depths, some 'pearl of great price:' that one's ministry is not real; it is artificial, it is merely professional. The true minister of Jesus Christ will be taken down to the depths, to discover there, right down thee, and to bring up thence, these pearls, these precious things, for the sake of the Church. Did you notice that phrase in Isaiah - "the abundance of the sea shall be turned unto thee?" (Isaiah 60:5). Yes, but the sea can be a very deep place, a very dark place, a very terrible place: and yet there are treasures there. That is the way of testimony.

Notice what Paul writes at the beginning of his letter. "For we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning our affliction which befell us in Asia, that we were weighed down exceedingly, beyond our power, insomuch that we despaired even of life: yea, we ourselves have had the answer of death within ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God Who raiseth the dead" (2 Corinthians 1:8-9). This is how ministry is made - when you have a real experience of and testimony to the power of His resurrection. When everything seemed hopeless in your own personal situation; when everything seemed hopeless in your company of believers; and the providence of God led you to make a discovery of the power of His resurrection, 'that you should not trust in yourself but in God Who raises the dead: this is a constituting of ministry. If you have gone that way, you are a true 'minister;' you need not take the name; you need not be set apart or anything. If you have a knowledge of the mighty power of His resurrection, you are a minister; you have something which is most greatly needed.

The Value of Brokenness

The third thing in effective testimony is the value of brokenness and weakness.

"But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the exceeding greatness of the power may be of God, and not from ourselves; we are pressed on every side, yet not straightened; perplexed, yet not unto despair; pursed, yet not forsaken; smitten down, yet not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the putting to death of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you" (2 Corinthians 4:7-12).

We should continue reading down to verse 18. You will notice that this section has as its real message the tremendous value of the quality of brokenness and weakness. That is a vital thing in effective testimony. We, perhaps, do not naturally put much value on brokenness and weakness; but here, very much value is put upon it. "We have this treasure in vessels of fragile clay." What the Apostle is saying, in effect, is this: 'We are broken men; we are weak vessels. The one thing about us, more than anything else, is our capacity for being broken - it seems that we have just been made to be broken.' And then he is saying that there is an infinite value attached to that.

In the First Letter to the Corinthians, the church was not broken. It was hard; it was trying to hold itself intact; it was proud; it was judging; it was cruel; it was unkind; it was anything but broken. But now, as we read this Second Letter , we find there is about the church a softness. It is soft - it is melted - it is broken! You can talk about 'ministry' now; you can talk about 'testimony' now; you could not do so before. No: until the vessel is broken, nothing can flow out; if anything is to flow out, it will only do so when the vessel is broken. The Apostle is saying that that was how it was with him personally (and of course he is, by inference, passing it on to the church in Corinth). Our weakness, our brokenness, is of the greatest importance and value, for it is only then that the real treasure can be manifested.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 2)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Value of Triumphant Love

Recovery of Lost Testimony

"For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be made sorry, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you" (2 Corinthians 2:4).

The first thing that we see is the value of triumphant love. That is a constituent of effective testimony, of clear shining. This clearly had its two sides in the Apostle. If ever a man might have found his love exhausted, the Apostle might well have been that man, as far as these Corinthians were concerned; for he did say: "If I love you more abundantly, am I loved the less?" 12:15). Surely that is enough to put any man off - to find that all his outpouring and outgoing and giving in love only means that love is being withdrawn; that less and less love comes back. What a situation he had to meet! yet his love triumphed. But it seems to have had an effect in them too: something of what he had written in his First Letter, chapter 13, seems to have come about. Yes, the triumph of 1 Corinthians 13 can be traced in this Second Letter to some very real degree - the love that "suffereth long, and is kind," and so on - the quality of triumphant love.

That, we might very well say, is the first and primary factor in effective testimony. The Lord Jesus said that: "By this shall all men know --- if ye have love one to another" (John 13:35).  This is the testimony; this is how it will be known - if we have love one for another. It matter very much whether the world is affected by what it sees. We cannot close the doors on ourselves, and say: 'Oh, well, the world in any case is inimical, it is always hostile, it is always unsympathetic; why take any account of it? Let us shut ourselves in and get on with our job.' You cannot do that; you cannot ignore the world. We are here to affect the world - that is one of the chief reasons why the Lord leaves us here. We are not just to live here, cloistered and closed in, indifferent to the world, coldly detached from it.

Moreover, the world is going to find out, sooner or later, what is happening inside the church - what is happening in your local assembly! Make no mistake about it. The world will know the condition of the church: you cannot close doors and windows on that, and keep it in! All around will know; it will become known. And I repeat - it is a most important thing that the world should be affected, not by what it hears us say, but by what it sees in us. And the only thing it can really see, that will affect it, will be the mutual love which we have one for another. "By this shall all men know ... if ye have love one to another." One of the most effective ways of  testimony is - not preaching, but - loving! If that is there it will do far more than our preaching. But it will at least give a great backing to our preaching. All our preaching must be supported by this one thing - a strong triumphant love in the midst of the Lord's people.

The Value of Suffering With Christ

The second thing in testimony is the value of suffering with Christ. There is much about this in the Second Letter to the Corinthians. For instance: "The Father of mercies and God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our affliction, that we may be able to comfort them that are in any affliction, through the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound unto us, even so our comfort also aboundeth through Christ" (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).

First of all, suffering with Christ brings a wonderful return in or discovery of the consolations of Christ.

It is a very important thing, in a world like this, that we should have some comfort to give. Both in the Church and outside of the Church, there is a great need of a ministry of comfort. You come back to Isaiah: "Comfort ye, comfort ye My people," saith your God (Isaiah 40:1). But you cannot fulfill a ministry of comfort in mere platitudes; by coming into difficult and troubled situations and just saying nice things. If people are in real trouble, in real distress, and you begin to talk to them, the first thing they have a right to say to you is: 'Well, what do you know about it? Have you ever been in my position, my condition? Have you ever had any deep, deep suffering? What do you know about it?'

Perhaps, therefore, it is one of those sovereign, providential ways of God, that He allows His people to know much suffering, so that they may derive this wonderful value of the consolations of Christ, in order that they may have that with which to comfort or encourage others - the tried, the suffering, the sorrowing. And what have we to give? Well, the word is: "that we may be able to comfort ... through the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God." And if there is anyone reading these lines, who is having a painful, suffering time, going through a 'dark patch,' as we say, might I try to transfigure it for you, in this way. Just look at it like this. Say to yourself: 'This gives me an opportunity to make a discovery of the Lord which will be stock-in-trade for future service. In my distress and trouble I can find comfort and help from the Lord, which may be of tremendous value to some others in the future.'

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 1 - "Ministry Made Through Experience of Resurrection")

These Have No Root


Luke 8:13
These have no root.
 
My soul, examine thyself this morning by the light of this text. Thou hast received the word with joy; thy feelings have been stirred and a lively impression has been made; but, remember, that to receive the word in the ear is one thing, and to receive Jesus into thy very soul is quite another;superficial feeling is often joined to inward hardness of heart, and a lively impression of the word is not always a lasting one. In the parable, the seed in one case fell upon ground having a rocky bottom, covered over with a thin layer of earth; when the seed began to take root, its downward growth was hindered by the hard stone and therefore it spent its strength in pushing its green shoot aloft as high as it could, but having no inward moisture derived from root nourishment, it withered away. Is this my case? Have I been making a fair show in the flesh without having a corresponding inner life? Good growth takes place upwards and downwards at the same time. Am I rooted in sincere fidelity and love to Jesus? If my heart remains unsoftened and unfertilized by grace, the good seed may germinate for a season, but it must ultimately wither, for it cannot flourish on a rocky, unbroken, unsanctified heart. Let me dread a godliness as rapid in growth and as wanting in endurance as Jonah's gourd; let me count the cost of being a follower of Jesus, above all let me feel the energy of His Holy Spirit, and then I shall possess an abiding and enduring seed in my soul. If my mind remains as obdurate as it was by nature, the sun of trial will scorch, and my hard heart will help to cast the heat the more terribly upon the ill-covered seed, and my religion will soon die, and my despair will be terrible; therefore, O heavenly Sower, plough me first, and then cast the truth into me, and let me yield Thee a bounteous harvest.

~Charles Spurgeon~

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Recovery of Lost Testimony # 3

Paul's Second Letter to the Corinthians

The great issue of both the letters to the Corinthians was that of the testimony of the Church in the city of Corinth and in the world. When we read these letters, of course we become very much taken up with all the details: in the First Letter, with the miserable details; the many things that are being dealt with. It is, for the greater part, not a happy or pleasant letter to read: perhaps you have given it up many times before you have got to the end, nut understanding very much, and not liking a good deal more. But we need to stand back from it, and ask: What is it all about, after all? Let us not upset ourselves about all the details, for the moment; they all go to make up some one particular issue. What is the issue?

Well, as I have said, the issue of the letters to the Corinthians is the Lord's testimony in the Church, in the city and in the nations. Let us be clear about that. In the First Letter, there is, as you know, very much said about the world, and how the church in Corinth was failing to overpower the world, because the world had already overpowered it from the inside. The testimony was destroyed from within, and therefore there was no real impact upon the world. The natural, the carnal man had found his way into the church, and the church had therefore lost its testimony. It will always be like that. If anything of the natural man and the carnal man makes inroads, in any locality, into the church, that will be the end of the testimony in that church, and in that locality, and, so far as that company is concerned, in relation to the world. When the natural man comes in the testimony goes out.

Testimony Destroyed By Carnal Elements

In the First Letter, then, the whole question was one not merely of local conditions but of the local conditions destroying the testimony of the Church in the city. And therefore all those conditions had to be dealt with, had to be exposed, uncovered, and brought to the Cross of Christ. Of course, what we have in 1 Corinthians is satan's second great strategy toward paralyzing the Church's testimony. His first strategy, his first line with the Church, was open persecution, to try to destroy, to obliterate the Church's testimony in the city of Jerusalem and in the nation. As we know, it failed! But now satan comes back along a second line of strategy: that is, he insinuates, into the very ranks of the church, men according to his own mind - carnal elements - the natural man, the carnal man. They serve the devil's purpose so well; they effect the very thing he is after. When he finds he cannot succeed by open persecution, he comes around, as it were, to the back entrance, and introduces carnal and natural elements in by that door - and that has done it! The testimony goes out; it is destroyed.

But in between these two letters to the Corinthians, something happened. In chapter 7 of the Second Letter we read: "Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye were made sorry unto repentance; for ye were made sorry after a godly sort, that ye might suffer loss by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance unto salvation, a repentance which bringeth no regret" (7:9, 10). The Apostle has a good deal to say about what had evidently taken place after his first letter. There was repentance, there was judging of themselves and of the conditions; there was, as he said, 'a clearing of themselves' (v. 11). There was a real distress and exercise about their condition, and this had taken place between the two letters. We may say that they had brought the situation to the Cross, and that had changed everything. And now that things had been dealt with on the inside, the whole matter of the testimony to the world, in the city, could be reconsidered, and a counter-attack could be made by the church upon the enemy.

So that is what is in this Second Letter - the recovery of the testimony in the locality and out to the world. It all brings out into very clear relief the constituents of effective testimony - or, to use Isaiah's figure, the shining forth of the light. Let us look at some of the things that Paul says about this.

The Value of Triumphant Love

"For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be made sorry, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you" (2 Corinthians 2:4).

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 4)

I Shall See God


Job 19:26
In my flesh shall I see God.
 
Mark the subject of Job's devout anticipation "I shall see God." He does not say, "I shall see the saints"-though doubtless that will be untold felicity-but, "I shall see God." It is not-"I shall see the pearly gates, I shall behold the walls of jasper, I shall gaze upon the crowns of gold," but "I shall see God." This is the sum and substance of heaven, this is the joyful hope of all believers. It is their delight to see Him now in the ordinances by faith. They love to behold Him in communion and in prayer; but there in heaven they shall have an open and unclouded vision, and thus seeing "Him as He is," shall be made completely like Him. Likeness to God-what can we wish for more? And a sight of God-what can we desire better? Some read the passage, "Yet, I shall see God in my flesh," and find here an allusion to Christ, as the "Word made flesh," and that glorious beholding of Him which shall be the splendour of the latter days. Whether so or not it is certain that Christ shall be the object of our eternal vision; nor shall we ever want any joy beyond that of seeing Him. Think not that this will be a narrow sphere for the mind to dwell in. It is but one source of delight, but that source is infinite. All His attributes shall be subjects for contemplation, and as He is infinite under each aspect, there is no fear of exhaustion. His works, His gifts, His love to us, and His glory in all His purposes, and in all His actions, these shall make a theme which will be ever new. The patriarch looked forward to this sight of God as a personal enjoyment. "Whom mine eye shall behold, and not another." Take realizing views of heaven's bliss; think what it will be to you. "Thine eyes shall see the King in His beauty." All earthly brightness fades and darkens as we gaze upon it, but here is a brightness which can never dim, a glory which can never fade-"I shall see God."

~Charles Spurgeon~