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Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Cross and the Eternal Glory # 35

What We Have Come To (continued)

She may not know about that ban, that Divine edict. Perhaps the reason for this decision she came to, to go with her mother-in-law, Naomi, from her country, into the land of Israel was just that she felt it was something she must do. Probably, she had weighed it up, though about it, considered it, and then Naomi had done everything to dissuade her, to get her to go back, and not to accompany her. But if we had asked Ruth, why it was that she decided, and was so decided about it, the probability is that her answer would have been, "Well, I cannot explain, I cannot give you any reasons for it, but I just feel it is the thing to do. I have got to do it."

You know, that is very often the only reason at the beginning, why people come to Christ. They feel somehow that they have got to do it, they cannot explain or give reason, but, "Well, that is all. I just felt that I had to. There was an urge, a constraint, a something working in me, and all I can say about it is I felt that I just had to do it. It was a big thing. I had thought about it. I had weighed it up. I had faced what it might involve, but there you are, I could not get away from it."

And I think, probably, that is exactly how it was with Ruth, because you see, the word "costs" attached to this, costs enough to discourage and even to disconcert; it was no small thing as Boaz said, she left her father and her mother and her country, to go into a strange land; and one of our verses says, "unto a People that thou knewest not heretofore" (Ruth 2:11). There were costs attached to it that they might, if it had been just faced as something in itself, might have been regarded as something she could not do, she could not hep it, I just had to, the urge, the constraint, the drawing, the something working in me was more than all my reasoning, all my argument and every other consideration." And you know, dear friends, that is just it, for as it proved, although she did not know it and could not explain this thing at all, she could not define it, it came to be seen afterward that there was a Mighty Will at work upon her. Yes, all undefined, all unexplained, without any bribes or any offers, or any prized or anything to try to get her in mind to go this way, there was this working of God, this working of God.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 37)

Better Than Life

Better Than Life

In Psalms 63, the psalmist makes an incredible statement,

O God, You are my God; early will I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water.  So I have looked for You in the sanctuary, to see Your power and Your glory.  Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You.  Thus I will bless You while I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name.

What does the psalmist mean when he says that God's lovingkindness is better than life?  Let me try and explain.

First, lovingkindness literally means merciful love.  It is God's unfailing, merciful love.

And this is the love the psalmist says is "better than life." This merciful and unfailing love of God is better than life at its best without that love.

When I think of my life without Christ, I can remember many high times, laughter I shared with people, and great relationships.  But the least of God's mercies far outweighs the best of those times.

My life before coming to know Christ was chasing shadows.  It was doing the best with a counterfeit because I had never experienced the reality.  It was eating freeze-dried food when the Master Chef had prepared this sumptuous feast with the finest ingredients. 

His lovingkindness is indeed better than the best of life without it.  The natural response to such merciful love, to such an abundant life, is praise.  Which means that every day, until your dying day, should be a thanksgiving day.

~Bayless Conley~

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Cross and the Eternal Glory # 34

What We Have Come To

Now I am going to turn you this evening to the little book which goes by the name of Ruth. And in chapter two, at verses 11 and 12 we have this:

"And Boaz answered and said unto her (this is, to Ruth), 'It hath been fully showed me, all that thou hast done unto thy mother-in-law since the death of thy husband; and how thou hast left thy father and thy mother; and the land of thy nativity, and art come unto a people that thou knewest not heretofore. The Lord recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the Lord, the God of Israel, under Whose wings thou art come to take refuge".

Now, only two fragments of two words in those two verses: "art come, thou art come." And I want to say a little this evening about what we have come to. I could wish that you were familiar with the whole of this story of which we have in this tiny book; it would help me a lot if I could be sure of the background of knowledge, but AI am not going to traverse anew the story. You will probably, if you do not already know it, pick it up from what I do say. But I think it might be helpful to those who are not acquainted with it, if I just read again that wonderful passage containing the great decision which this young woman made, Ruth the Moabitess. We have it in chapter one, verses 16 and 17.

"And Ruth said, "Entreat me not to leave thee, and to return from following after thee, for whither thou goest, I will go, and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God, where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me,and more also, if aught but death part thee and me".

That really does give me the background for what I want to say this evening in connection with what we have come to.

I begin by pointing out how unsuspecting was Ruth of all that to which she was coming by her great decision. How unsuspected was the greatness and the values bound up with that decision. I think it very possible that Ruth did not know of the ban, which rested by God's edict upon her nation, her people, and herself as included therein. For some very good reasons God had pronounced a ban upon the Moabites, and said that a Moabite should not come into the house of the Lord forever. It is probable that Ruth did not know of that ban, that edict, any more than those who are outside of Christ are alive to, or aware of, what a position they are in as under judgment. It is probable that if there are any people here tonight outside of Christ, they would be either amazed or offended if they were told that they lie under the judgment of God. And yet, the Scriptures declare it to be so, that outside of Christ, all are in condemnation. But whether she knew it or not, and whether any such here tonight know it or not, there is the fact.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 35)

Clean Feet, Clean Heart

Clean Feet, Clean Heart

Israel can be a dusty place, and sandaled feet get filthy walking to and fro. In ancient times, a person entering a home removed his sandals and cleaned his feet. Or if the homeowners were wealthy, servants would do the washing. This distasteful but necessary task fell to the worker of lowest position in the household.

Imagine the disciples' surprise when the Son of God put Himself in the role of a lowly servant and knelt to wash their feet. The need for such a service was great, as they had been traveling for some time. But not one of them offered to do it.
Jesus did more than fill a need; He offered an object lesson. As He explained, "I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you" (John 13:15 nlt). Some churches have incorrectly interpreted this as a command to make foot washing an ordinance. But it's possible to clean someone else's skin without contemplating the significance of Christ's actions.

In fact, the act itself is not the main point; attitude is what counts. Jesus desires that we be willing to humble ourselves to serve others. He is looking for men and women who will ignore pride, position, and power in order to do whatever must be done, wherever it needs doing, and for whoever requires assistance.

Jesus performed His greatest and most humble acts of service within 24 hours of each other. He washed dirty feet using two hands that would be pierced by nails in less than a day. The message here is that every task God gives us is important to His kingdom.

~Dr. Charles F. Stanley~

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Cross and the Eternal Glory # 33

The Urgency and the Way of Spiritual Reality (continued)

The Holy Spirit is Here to Make Real the Fullness of Christ

And I close with this, the Holy Spirit is here to make real the fullness of Christ, because that is the vision the Apostle Paul had in Ephesians, "filled unto all the fullness of God" (3:19). He had seen that we, the members of Christ, ought to be just flooded, as it were, with Christ Himself; flooded so that there is just not any room for anybody else. That when we meet each other we are meeting so much of Christ that it is fullness. Now is that not it? It is the fullness of Christ.

And you know whenever we come to this matter of fullness, there is a peril of our seeing it as a beautiful idea, and then leaving it up there. Dear friends, I believe God's challenge to us to to bow our knees. I really do! I believe He wants us to seek Him earnestly, individually and together, that by the working of His Spirit we shall be saints who know the indwelling of Christ in away that we have never known it before. That we shall know the Love of Christ in our relationship with one another as we have never known it before, that whatever is not of love shall be found out and shall be put away. It is worth praying about, is it not? It is worth our bowing our knees about, because everything hangs on what is in the Word of God being made an actual real thing in us.

And I close with a little word of comfort. Praise God for all the measure in which we do know the reality. Yes, we do not say that just to, as it were, pump each other up, but we do encourage one another with this: that by His grace, we are tasting something of the Love of Christ, are we not? Tasting something of the fellowship in the Spirit! Tasting something of the Lord Who is dwelling in us as our very life!

Well, surely having tasted that the Lord is gracious we want much more, we want the blessed Spirit of God Who is here to mightily strengthen everyone of us, and to strengthen us all together. That Christ may dwell, that we may know the Love of Christ that passes knowledge. That we may be filled unto all the fullness of God, and that is the passage that finishes, "Now unto Him that is able to do it." So that in the Church there shall be Glory, the very Glory of God shall be realized in us.

Well, you may not be able to follow all of that, but I believe the secret is this: That the Holy Spirit is here to make all this absolutely real difference. And I feel that we can together trust Him to do it. And He surely will, to His Own Praise and Glory!

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 34 - (What We Have Come To)

Love and Truth

Love and Truth

Love and Truth 
For your love is ever before me, and I walk continually in your truth. Psalm 26:3

Walk in truth and be led by love. These are the twins of wise living. Love is our leader and truth is our motivator. Love is our strategy, truth is our tactic. Love is our goal, truth is our inspiration. Love is our encouragement, truth is our obedience. We need both to become better followers of Jesus. Love and truth work together to bring us into balance.

This is why we look forward to the love of God as a guide for our faith. Faith trusts God to accomplish His own decrees. This is why we do not have to steal for we know God will provide for His children. This is why we do not have to get revenge on others because God can and will handle them in His timing and His way. This is why we look ahead to the love of God. We follow the Lord and His love by faith—we trust and walk in His truth.

“Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6).

Secondly, we walk grounded in truth. Truth governs our faith. Truth keeps us rooted in reality. It is obedience to God’s truth that proves our love for Him. Truth takes us back to the basics, “Who does Jesus want me to be?” We walk in truth because it preserves us from sinful behavior. It is the assurance of God’s promises that causes us to believe and behave like Christ. Like a GPS (Global Positioning System) truth guides us on the best path. Truth obeyed is best not delayed.

Moreover, a companion of fools suffers harm (Proverbs 13:20). Stay away from those who stray from the truth. It may be a pastor, teacher, friend or business client who handles the truth loosely. They lie even when the truth will do. These are vain people. Do not sit with them and be drawn in by their sly charisma. However, those who walk in the truth will tell you things you do not want to hear. So listen when they prescribe doses of truth. The medicine may be distasteful but if applied will heal your heart. Walk in truth, and with those who walk in truth. Follow love’s lead as you walk with truth—Jesus is love and truth!

“God is love” (1 John 4:8)… “I [Jesus] am the truth” (John 14:6).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, lead me in Your truth and by Your love, so I can love others.

Application: How can I walk and delight in the truth? What evil do I need to avoid?

~Wisdom Hunters Devotional~

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Cross and the Eternal Glory # 32

The Urgency and the Way of Spiritual Reality (continued)

He Called You the Obtaining of the Glory of our Lord Jesus Christ (continued)

Yes, but that is only an example of the whole wealth of what is here, that He wants to make real. Do you see that? Suppose God's Word says, "By love serve one another," (Galatians 5:13). You say, 'Oh dear, I do not know much about that.' We ought to say, 'No, but I want to know what that means, Lord, show me how that applies practically in my case.' You know, if we have exercise over that Word, the Holy Spirit will show us the meaning. We can be quite certain He will. If the Lord shows us that we need humbling, then we should go alone and say, 'Lord, I want to humble myself because Your Word says this to me. I trust You to make this true of me.' So the Holy Spirit is all the time not wanting us to read a book and say, 'Is that not beautiful,' but to make the thing an actual happening in us. He is here for that purpose, to make the Word of God an actual fact in our lives.

The Holy Spirit Making Real to Us the Cross in Us, In Order that He May Make Real Christ our Life!

Yes, but there is another thing that the Holy Spirit will make real, and that is the Cross of the Lord Jesus. Yes, the Cross! You see, there is so much about us that is NOT Christ, it is NOT glory. Oh,what a mass of contradictions and selfishness and weaknesses and strengths, everything that is NOT Christ, we are in ourselves.

Now the moment a child of God says, 'Lord, I want You to be glorified, I want all this that is not of Christ, I want it to be dealt with,' The Holy Spirit begins to work, and He brings us into actual experiences one by one, and we go through all sorts of difficult times. But that is the Holy Spirit getting rid of something that is us, to make room for something that is Christ. The Holy Spirit making real the Cross in us, in order that He may make real Christ our Life! Christ our Character! Christ our Glory!

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 33)

A Wise Prayer

A Wise Prayer

"Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?"

—1 Kings 3:9

Imagine if God were to come to you today and say, "Ask what you want, and I will give it to you." That is what happened to Solomon. But because Solomon had his priorities in order, he responded in the right way. He said,

"Now, O Lord my God, You have made Your servant king instead of my father David, but I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen, a great people, too numerous to be numbered or counted. Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?" (1 Kings 3:7–9)

Solomon's answer pleased God, and God gave him what he asked for. You might wonder, Would God ever do that for me?Yes, He would. But let's not miss the condition. Jesus said, "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you" (John 15:7).

If you are walking in close fellowship with God, and His Word is at home in your heart, then you will pray for things that bring God glory. If you are praying for self-indulgent things, then it would be doubtful that you are maintaining a living communion with Him and that His Word is at home in you.

Prayer is aligning ourselves with the will of God.

~Greg Laurie~

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Cross and the Eternal Glory # 31

The Urgency and the Way of Spiritual Reality (continued)

He Called You ... to the Obtaining of the Glory of Our Lord Jesus Christ (continued)

Now, the Lord is not satisfied if we do not obtain, if we do not enter into something of what Christ is. We are so utterly unlike Him in ourselves, and God is determined that we should be like Him; He is working that we shall be like Him. How are we to come to any measure of that reality? Well, I believe again, that the Holy Spirit is here to make all of this true. And I would say, before we close, that the Holy Spirit works in two ways: to make real what is ours in Christ, and to make real Christ in us. Two ways: one way is that He makes the Word of God real. We need to come to His Word not for information merely, but to come to the Word of God in order that it should become real in us. That what we see there shall happen in ourselves. That is what James says, 'The Word of God is like a mirror, that you look into it and you see what you are like.' And then it says, 'The wrong thing is to go away and straightway forget what kind of person you were' (James 1:22-25). The right way is to look into it and to continue therein. To say, 'Lord, this is quite true, I want this to be true in my life, and I am going to trust You to make it real.' Do you know when we do that, the Holy Spirit does begin to make it real!

Yes, I do not know really how any of you got saved, but I can tell you how most people get saved, they usually get saved by believing what the Lord says; they see that the Word of God says: "He took our sins away." Well they do not feel it, but they say, "There it is, well I believe that is true, Lord, I trust Your Word that it is true, that my sins have been taken away on the Cross." You know if you really believed that Word, it is not very long before something happens inside, and you know your sins have been taken away. The Holy Spirit makes real what the Word of God says, because it is true.

Yes, and when anyone receives Christ into their life, they rest upon His promise that He has come in, and they thank Him. And little by little the Holy Spirit says, 'You are quite right, He is in you. You are quite right, Christ is in you.' You find that what God says is true in your own life.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 32)

To Walk with God, is to Live Ever as in His Presence!

To walk with God, is to live ever as in His presence!

(George Everard, "Daily Walking!")

"Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account!" Hebrews 4:13

"The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good!" Proverbs 15:3

To walk with God, is to live ever as in His presence! To realize His presence, to abide continually under His eye, to recognize our Father as close by our side--is the secret of much peace. We must ever regard Him, not as if He were far away in some inaccessible abode--but nearer to us than our nearest friend. In our chamber, by the wayside, at our work, in our recreation, when mingling with others, or all alone--we must see One whom the world sees not, we must hear a voice that the world hears not.

In the life of the sweet Psalmist of Israel, the same truth was ever the joy of his heart. As he lay down to rest, it was his joy to know that the sleepless Guardian of His people was by him: "I will both lay me down in peace and sleep, for You O Lord alone make me to dwell in safety." As he arose, he still rejoiced in the almighty Friend who was ever near him: "When I awake, I am still with You." Surrounded by malicious foes, it is still his confidence, "You are near, O Lord." Under all the vicissitudes of his eventful life, the nearness of God was the rock on which he reposed: "I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved."

Whether beneath the eye of man or not, let all things be done under the eye of Him to whom . . . .
  all hearts are open,
  all desires known, and
  from whom no secrets are hidden!

A few plain principles have been given to assist us in carrying this out in daily practice:
Say nothing you would not like God to hear.

Do nothing you would not like God to see.

Write nothing you would not like God to read.

Go to no place where you would not like God to find you.

Read no book of which you would not like God to say, "Show it to Me."

Never spend your time in such a way that you would not like God to say, "What are You doing?"
To consciously live in God's presence, will aid us in cultivating thorough genuine piety and godly character. 

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Faint Not! Fight On!

But they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die. (Rev 12:11)
When James and John came to Christ with their mother, asking Him to give them the best place in the kingdom, He did not refuse their request, but told them it would be given to them if they could do His work, drink His cup, and be baptized with His baptism.
Do we want the competition? The greatest things are always hedged about by the hardest things, and we, too, shall find mountains and forests and chariots of iron. Hardship is the price of coronation. Triumphal arches are not woven out of rose blossoms and silken cords, but of hard blows and bloody scars. The very hardships that you are enduring in your life today are given by the Master for the explicit purpose of enabling you to win your crown.
Do not wait for some ideal situation, some romantic difficulty, some far-away emergency; but rise to meet the actual conditions which the Providence of God has placed around you today. Your crown of glory lies embedded in the very heart of these things—those hardships and trials that are pressing you this very hour, week and month of your life. The hardest things are not those that the world knows of. Down in your secret soul unseen and unknown by any but Jesus, there is a little trial that you would not dare to mention that is harder for you to bear than martyrdom.
There, beloved, lies your crown. God help you to overcome, and sometime wear it.
“It matters not how the battle goes,
The day how long;
Faint not! Fight on!
Tomorrow comes the song.”

~L. B. Cowman~

Friday, December 25, 2015

The Cross and the Eternal Glory # 30

The Urgency and the Way of Spiritual Reality (continued)

We Are Called Into Liberty

And then another great privilege for us who are God's children, do try and get this, is liberty, is freedom. We are not under law; we are not a people just bound hand and foot by rules. We are a people who have a glorious liberty in Christ. "Ye were called unto liberty" (Galatians 5:1, 13). Yes, you can get the wrong idea about liberty. You can think it is doing what you like. No, real liberty is a freedom in the law, but also a captivity in Christ. It is a strange paradox, servants, slaves, bondservants of Jesus Christ; under the Law of Christ: yes, but freedom from all bondage, external bondage.

Now that liberty can only be really known as the Holy Spirit strengthens and governs our lives. "If ye be led by the Spirit, you are not under the law." You see that? "If ye be led by the Spirit, you are not under the law." If we want to be free people, we shall be free people as we are Spirit-governed people. Now that does not mean license in doing what you feel led to do, we get hold of the wrong end of this matter, but it means a life really God-governed, and that will need getting very close to Him to know what that means, but once the Spirit is governing our lives, we are brought into an ever greater freedom, enlargement, emancipation: an emancipated people.

He Called You ... to the Obtaining of the Glory of Our Lord Jesus Christ

And finally, that wonderful word in Thessalonians, "Whereunto He called you through our gospel,to the obtaining of the Glory of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thess. 2:14) - the obtaining the Glory! How can we obtain that which is the actual, excellence, beauty, wonder of what Christ is? How can we obtain it? The Glory of our Lord Jesus, what a thing beyond our puny grasp that seems, the Glory of Our Lord Jesus: His moral quality! His purity! His meekness! His love! Everything that Christ is, we have been called to obtain it, to become partakers of it; for that Glory to become real in our makeup, so that we are like that: we are meek and lowly, we are pure in heart, we are as He is. You say,what a hopelessly high standard, but dear friends, that is exactly what we are here for: that we "should show forth the excellence of Him, Who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9)

Now, the Lord is not satisfied if we do not obtain, if we do not enter into something of what Christ is.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 31)

Putting Your Faith in Action

Putting Your Faith in Action

The organized church is torn with strife and distrust. Ultimately, the battle is not so much between conservatives and liberals, evangelicals and activists, or fundamentalists and modernists. The issue now is between belief and unbelief: Is Christianity true or false, real or unreal?

What is deadly to the church is when the external forms of religion are maintained while their substance is discarded. This we call practical atheism. Practical atheism appears when we live as if there were no God. The externals continue, but man becomes the central thrust of devotion as the attention of religious concern shifts away from man's devotion to God to man's devotion to man, bypassing God. The "ethic" of Christ continues in a superficial way, having been ripped from its supernatural, transcendent, and divine foundation.

Biblical Christianity knows nothing of a false dichotomy between devotion to God and concern for man. The Great Commandment incorporates both. It is because God is that human life matters so much. It is because of the reality of Christ that ethics are vital. It is because the cross was a real event that the sacraments can minister to us. It is because Christ really defeated death that the church offers hope. It is because of Jesus' real act of atonement that our forgiveness is more than a feeling.

The church's life and her creed may be distinguished but never separated. It is possible for the church to believe all the right things and do the wrong things. It is possible also to believe the wrong things and do the right things (but not for very long). We need right faith initiating right action. Honest faith—joined with honest action—bears witness to a real God and a real Christ.

Coram Deo: Living in the Presence of God

Examine your heart today: Are you believing the right things, yet doing the wrong things? Are you believing the wrong things while still trying to do the right things?

For Further Study

James 2:17-18: "Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.' Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works."
James 2:26: "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also." 

~R. C. Sproul~

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Cross and the Eternal Glory # 29

The Urgency and the Way of Spiritual Reality (continued)

Fellowship "With" Christ and Fellowship "In" Christ

What does Corinthians say? One Corinthians, verse nine says: "God is faithful, through Whom ye were called into the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord." Not only the reality of likeness to Christ, but the reality of fellowship with Christ, now try to follow this, fellowship "with" Christ and fellowship "in" Christ. We are called into the fellowship of His Son. God's intention here and now is that we should have real fellowship with Christ. "Truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son" (1 John 1:3). Our supreme life secret ought to be fellowship with His Son. If we are not in communion with Christ, dear friends, our whole life and its influence is nothing. What a battle there is for fellowship with Him, but that is the secret. "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life" (Proverbs 4:23).

Yes, it is communion with Him that is the very life source of everything that happens in our life; it has got to be fellowship with Him. Now we have been called in close fellowship with Christ. How are you getting on in that matter? Are you meeting the Lord every day? Are you in touch with the Lord, does He speak with you and you speak with Him? Or do you just read your Bible as a book, and just pray your prayers as a kind of duty; is it fellowship with Him?

Well, we have been called, we have been called into the fellowship of His dear Son. You say, 'I cannot pray. I cannot get on with my quiet time. I find it so difficult.' What is the answer? The Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit, "strengthened with might by His Spirit," you see, "that Christ may dwell." Everything that seems impossible is possible to the Holy Spirit. And you and I can say, "Lord, I want to become closer to You, I want to know You better, and I do trust the Holy Spirit to lead me into more real fellowship with Yourself."

Yes, and we will find that something is beginning to happen that has not happened before, the Holy Spirit is doing it. Yes, but not only fellowship "with" Him, but fellowship "in" Him. Oh, how the Lord wants to deepen our real kingship with one another in the Lord. I believe He wants to do that, and will, as we trust Him: Fellowship "IN" Him.

And, you see, Corinthians was a church in which there was so much that was not fellowship with Christ, and so much that was not fellowship with one another. The Apostle Paul became the vehicle of the Holy Spirit to say to them: 'This is not right and this is not right, let us get it right; let us come to the Cross with all these things that are not right and be done with them.' And you know, as they responded to that word, responded to the pleading of the Spirit, something happened in them. We believe that something did happen, because in the Second Letter things were very much better. He was able to write a loving letter to them, and rejoice that things were so different. They responded to the Holy Spirit, and the fellowship became a reality.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 30 - (We Were Called Into Liberty)

Godly Training

Godly Training

Godly Training 
Train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. 1 Timothy 4:7b-8

Godly training is profitable now and for eternity. It does not mean you are some super spiritual person who cannot relate to others. On the contrary, godly means you have the character and sensitivity of Jesus. Thus, you understand and relate to people very effectively. It is not all about you, but about others and their needs. You encourage when there needs to be encouragement. You rebuke when you need to rebuke. You teach when there needs to be teaching. The godly know how to laugh, cry, pray, hope, work hard, and trust in God. Godliness comes in all forms.

Every temperament can express godliness. If you are an extrovert, your godly expression may come in the form of humor or encouragement. Your ability to make people laugh (not at the expense of someone else) is godly. Your passion to encourage and build up others is godly. Godliness is certainly expressed through your character. Your honesty is godly; your diligence is godly; your pure motive is godly; your generosity is godly; your compassion, boldness and leadership are godly. All of these behaviors that reflect the way Christ would behave are godly. Godliness is behaving as Jesus would behave. It is not a certain voice inflection or body language, because those can be pretentious and ungodly. It is having a heart and mind that express as Christ would.
True godliness points others to God. It provides value for all things: body, mind, soul, and spirit. Godliness, however, does not happen accidentally. There is intentionality to godliness. Just as the body benefits from physical training, so the mind, soul, and spirit benefit from training in godliness. The most effective training comes with consistency and repetition. It is not a complicated process, but it is exercising faith. The muscles of faith expand and contract when engaged in everyday life. Training involves prayer instead of worry. Praying works on your heart. It is your spiritual cardio workout. Worry works like plaque and cholesterol clogging the flow of God’s faithfulness to you. He is always faithful, but you must receive his faithfulness by faith. Prayer facilities this and provides a free flow of faith. In addition, fasting keeps your focus on the Lord.
Training in godliness means the word of God becomes your spiritual diet. If you replace the word with the world you will settle for spiritual junk food rather than Jesus. Snubbing God’s word is like substituting chips for chicken. This cheap imitation of spiritual nutrition eventually disables your godly maturity. Lastly, training in godliness requires service to others. You work out your faith in good deeds. You serve others for the glory of God. This is training in godliness. This has tremendous value now and forevermore. Therefore, train well and you will be transformed. Over time, when you look into the mirror of your soul you will see Jesus. There are benefits to training in godliness.
The Bible says, “Know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD will hear when I call to him” (Psalm 4:3).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I want to grow in godliness so my life points people to Jesus.

Application: What area of my life does the Spirit need to grow in godliness?

~Wisdom Hunters Devotional~

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Cross and the Eternal Glory # 28

The Urgency and the Way of Spiritual Reality (continued)

The Holy Spirit Came to Glorify Christ ...And He Is Here to Make Christ Real In Us (continued)

But we come to the Epistles. What is the Holy Spirit here to do? When we turn to the first of the Epistles, the Epistle to the Romans, it says: "Them that are called according to His purpose" (8:28). Now those of you who know your Bibles, know that the primary chapter concerning the Holy Spirit is Romans, chapter 8. And the Holy Spirit is doing everything, everything. You see, in the earlier part of the Epistle, the way of salvation has been made clear. And the way of deliverance from sin has been made clear. In Romans 6, you have seen that with Christ we are dead to sin, and alive unto God. And by the end of Romans 6, you are rejoicing and saying, "Well, praise the Lord, sin shall not have dominion over me." Yes, but why is it that chapter 7 goes into a sort of muddle again? It seems all wrong, because you have got free from sin in chapter 6, but in chapter 7 there is an awful battle going on trying to make it real. You now a lot of people are trying to make it real. You know a lot of people are trying to make it real; an awful effort and strain to make real the thing that somehow or other God has been speaking about, and then in chapter 8, you get the secret: it is the Spirit of Life that makes it real. It is the Holy Spirit Who makes Romans 6 real. Romans 8, is really only Romans 6 made real, is it not? It is the Holy Spirit making real. Why, "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and of death." Yes, of course, it was the Cross that really delivered us, that is Romans 6, but the Holy Spirit makes real what the Cross has done. And I believe that everyone of us has to come to the actual reality of Romans 8 and say, 'Lord, I trust You to make Calvary real as my deliverance, and I trust the Spirit to maintain me in this new position, which is in Christ Jesus. I trust the Holy Spirit to do it.' And the Word is, "You are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit" (verse 9). It is the Holy Spirit.

Yes, but what is the purpose of the Holy Spirit applying the Cross? Because there is a  lot of application in Romans 8: There is a lot of suffering, there are things happening to us; it is not just a doctrinal position, you get to verse 28, "For all things work together for good to them that love God." And we usually use that verse about people having some awful trials do we not? Whenever anyone has a dreadful time we say, well, Romans 8:28. Yes, that means together for good, in what way? "For them who are called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He did foreordain to be conformed  to the image of His Son." The purpose is likeness to Christ: it is being changed into what Christ is.

Yes, in fact the Holy Spirit is here set upon this one thing, to change us, to change us into that image, to change us into that Likeness. And all of our trials and all of our disciplines are to change us, to transform us into the likeness of His beloved Son. That is what's happening, but the Holy Spirit is doing it as we trust Him, as we obey Him.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 29 - (Fellowship With Christ and Fellowship In Christ)

Upside Down Leadership

Upside Down Leadership

Upside Down Leadership 
Guest Writer: Meet my son-in-law Tripp Prince. We are blessed to have him as our guest writer.

And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:42-45

Of all the things Jesus taught his disciples, the way of humility was one of the hardest for them to grasp. His disciples thought they were following a revolutionary: someone who would overthrow the Romans and help God’s chosen people regain their rightful place in the world. This is why these words from Jesus in Mark 10 immediately follow a request from James and John to sit at Jesus’ right and left hand when he conquers and begins his reign. What then is all this business about coming not to be served but to serve?

Though they couldn’t see it at the time, Jesus’ approach to leadership was in fact, deeply revolutionary.

When we look at Jesus, we see that true glory is only found through humility. That strength is found in weakness. Good Friday must precede Easter Sunday. This is the upside down nature of God’s kingdom, and the invitation of the gospel is for us to reframe our lives in light of this value system.

Jesus is fully aware of the radical nature of servant leadership. He knows it stands in direct opposition to the way people “make it” in this world. Yet he is also fully aware of the destruction that comes from inflated egos and leadership power plays. He knows that when we enter the rat race and fight our way up the corporate ladder, we will eventually find ourselves bitter, broken, and burnt out.

Because Jesus loves us deeply, he says to his followers, “It shall not be so among you!” When he says this, Jesus redefines what it means to be a leader. In God’s kingdom, a leader doesn’t have to have the corner office. A leader isn’t someone with power over employees or an agenda to push. No, in God’s kingdom, a true leader is the person who has the courage to walk the way of humility. A servant leader sees their brokenness and weakness, not as a source of shame or embarrassment, but as a way to point beyond themselves to the one who came, “not to be served but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many.”

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. Luke 14:11

Prayer: Father, give us hearts of servants that look to Jesus and in him learn the upside down nature of your kingdom.

Application: In order to foster a life of humility and servant leadership, how can you go out of your way to serve someone else this week?

~Wisdom Hunters Devotional~

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Cross and the Eternal Glory # 27

The Urgency and the Way of Spiritual Reality (continued)

The Love of Christ (continued)

I think we were all very moved by that word last night about the awfulness, its possessiveness, and everything else. What can we do about it? Well, praise the Lord, He has gone to the Cross to deal with it. And at the Cross that old thing has been put away. And we always have got to go back to the Cross and appropriate the mighty putting away. But on the positive side there is a new nature, and a new power imparted, the Holy Spirit.

I was talking to a young brother this morning after the meeting, wondering how it could be made real, and we were talking on this very thing; you cannot do it yourself, the Holy Spirit must make it real! Will you trust Him to make it real? And I believe this is a real issue, I believe w have got to get to grips with this, to cry to the Lord, as Paul did for those saints, that we shall be so strengthened by the Spirit: Spirit energized, that the reality of the thing will be found in us, and increasing us.

The Holy Spirit Came to Glorify Christ ... And He Is Here to Make Christ Real in Us

Now, we have stayed for some time with that passage in Ephesians. But we come to something that is an explanation, if you like, of the whole New Testament. You know when the Holy Spirit is moving among us and working. He is always striking the same note, and you are always noticing how things connect up, and you know the Holy Spirit, when He came, He came to glorify Christ. And that means to bring Christ into view, that we could see Him. And not only to bring Christ into view, but bring Him into Reality in our lives. The Holy Spirit is here to make Christ real in us.

Why did Paul write these letters? Romans; Corinthians; Galatians; Ephesians; Philippians; Colossians; and all the rest of them. Why did he write them? Simply because the Holy Spirit had taken hold of him, with the one intention of making Christ real in all the saints, that is all. That is all the Epistles are about. Here are groups of real Christians, people who have Christ in them, but all sorts of things that are not according to Christ, all sorts of things are not real. You see, it is not the real thing when Christians are quarreling is it? It is not the real thing when they are living defeated lives in sin. That is NOT Christ, not really. It is NOT real when there is not the fullness of love and fellowship and relatedness. We want those things. Well, my message today is that the Holy Spirit is here to do it, to make it a fact that we are a people full of the love of Christ. We can trust Him to do it.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 28)

Disaster or Deliverance?

Disaster or Deliverance

"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."

—Romans 8:28

Chuck Swindoll tells the story of a man who was shipwrecked on an uninhabited island. He painstakingly built a little hut for protection from the elements where he could keep the few items he had salvaged from the wreck.

For weeks he lived in this little hut, with only the hot sun and cold nights to keep him company. Prayerfully, he scanned the horizon for the approach of a ship, but nothing appeared.

Then one evening, when he returned from a search for food, he was terrified to find his little hut in flames! He tried to put the fire out, but it was too late. Everything he had in the world had gone up in smoke.

He went to sleep that night listening to the pounding of the surf, amazed at his misfortune. The next morning he awoke to find a ship anchored at the shore! It was the first ship he had seen in all the weeks he had been marooned.

Still trying to believe his eyes, he heard footsteps, and then heard the captain's voice: "We saw your smoke signal and came to rescue you!"

What may seem like a disaster in your life might be just the thing that leads to your deliverance!

Has God used bad things in your life to bring about good?
~Greg Laurie~

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Cross and the Eternal Glory # 26

The Urgency and the Way of Spiritual Reality (continued)

The Love of Christ

Yes, the love of Christ is the next thing. We need the energy and the enabling of the Holy Spirit to manifest and to know the Love of Christ. Love is not a thing that we can produce, it is a supernatural thing. It is something for which we need Divine energy. And I believe God would have us to take hold of Him for the love that we have not got to be made real to us. Oh yes, we talk about love, but how little of it seems to come off. It has got to be something Divine that we appropriate and count upon continually: The Love of Christ. Not our love, but His Mighty Love. "The love of Christ constrained us." What is love? Well, for this we need one another, "That ye may be strong to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge" (Ephesians 3:17-19); to apprehend with all the saints. What a privilege to be together, in order to know the Love of Christ, to learn this supreme secret of love: His love!

We are put together, dear friends, in order that we may know the Love of Christ. And when it speaks about being filled with the fullness of God, it comes immediately upon this matter of love. There is no fullness of God where there is no love.

You know I think that not only is the apostle bowing his knees, but I feel that he is calling all of us to bow our knees, that we may be on our faces before God for the reality of all this: "That we may be strong to apprehend with all the saints." As though it was our pursuit and our quest together. Do let us find out the Love of Christ. Let us learn what it means. Yes, I am quite sure we would have plenty of opportunity of learning, plenty of opportunity inwardly, let alone outwardly, we have got to learn what it really means to love one another, really what it means!

What is love? Surely love is where self is dethroned. That nothing is left but love when we are out of it: "Love seeketh not its own, love taketh no account of evil, love beareth all things" (1 Corinthians 13). It is as though there is a treat to us of our rights or our feelings and we are just going to take it on and we say, 'No, love beareth all things," even that. Something evil happens and we are just going to resent it, but love taketh no account of evil, what a terrific thing love is! Just imagine if all of us were doing that. I do not think we would stay on the earth very long do you? I think that the gravitation upward would be too much, we would go. And just a little bit of love like that is heavenly, is heavenly. Yes, it is costly because we cannot make someone else lovely, or shut up to ourselves over this. It all begins with number one, does it not? I have got to go away and find out what this means and so have you.

But a tremendous thing that the Reality of God is bound up with our love together, will all things; the Reality of God. It is as though where love is not, God  withdraws. And satan is always wanting to turn our most valuable and wonderful faults about the things of God into pure theory. He says, 'Yes, you have got wonderful ideals have you not, but as long as it does not work, I do not mind in the very least, I do not mind at all.' And we might leave this place this afternoon and say, 'Oh dear, I do not want to show love, I do want to be loving.' That is not the answer, the answer is to be strengthened with might by His Spirit, it is really the Holy Spirit that can do it, and I do believe that is the Gospel in this message, the good news in it. That we are in the dispensation of a mighty, living, powerful Holy Spirit, Who says, 'I will do in you that which you cannot do and make you love it.' And make that disposition which is Christ in you, which means: that self is dethroned. Self is dethroned!

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 27)

How is Jesus the "Glory of God"?

How is Jesus the “Glory of God”?

by R.C. Sproul

The book of James has an unusual sentence construction that links the word glory with the name of Jesus: “My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality” (James 2:1). In this verse the words Lord of glory have alternate renditions. Some translations read, “Our glorious Lord.” Still another possible translation reads, “Jesus Christ, who is the glory.”

B. B. Warfield, in his book The Lord of Glory, says, that Jesus was the glory of God, the shekinah. According to the Old Testament, the shekinah was the visible manifestation of the invisible God. The shekinah was a radiant cloud or brilliant light within a cloud that signaled the immediate presence of God. For Jesus to be identified with the shekinah was to be equated with the presence of God Himself. In Jesus we see the full manifestation of the majesty of God.

That the New Testament writers ascribed glory to Jesus was a clear indication of their confession of His full deity. Glory, in the sense it is used with reference to Jesus, is a divine attribute. It is the glory of God that He refuses to share with any man.The angels sang “Glory to God” at Christ’s birth. The heavenly elders give glory to God around His throne. Why don’t you follow their example and give God glory today in every circumstance of your life?

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Cross and the Eternal Glory # 25

The Urgency and the Way of Spiritual Reality (continued)

The Second Effect of the Spirit's Coming is Power (continued)

The secret of Christ dwelling within us is something that the Holy Spirit wants to make real. And if that secret by the Holy Spirit is made real, we shall be a people at rest, a people with balance, a people with strength to meet the days as they come. However, is the day to be met: a day of darkness, a day of clouds, a day of weariness; unless we know the indwelling Christ as an abiding reality we are going to be defeated on every turn.

The Apostle Paul would be the first to tell us that he cannot face life, let alone serve God, without this mighty fact, that Christ has come to dwell in his heart through faith. Oh, how great Christ is! You see this One, Who is the fullness of God, in Whom is all the qualities that we need, taking up residence in our puny frames, why that ought to become a mighty source, not only of our own satisfaction, but of  influence and power and reality.

And dear friends, if Christ is not really living, if we are not really living by faith in Him, day to day, well, there is not much reality. We are talking about spiritual reality, and I believe this is the first key to it. It is the indwelling Christ. I believe otherwise, we present to the situation that word - empty shell - of what we are in ourselves. Really, Paul just calls himself an earthen vessel, he says that does not do it, it is This Treasure in the earthen vessels that is the secret. It is Christ in us that is the hope of glory, is it not? The only hope of any glory during the day is Christ in us, is it not? What a pity that we should have an unglorious day. Every day should have something of glory about it, whatever be the calling of each one of us in practical terms. It may be the home. It may be going out to work. It may be a hundred and one things; but glory ought to mark the children of God, because Christ is dwelling within us.

Yes, and that is where we come to this word about the Holy Spirit. I believe that though we believe as it were about the Holy Spirit, and believe about Christ being in us, that something is needed of a putting forth of a Divine Power to make things real: "That you may be strengthened  with might by His Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell" (Ephesians 3:16, 17). And I believe the practical application for everyone of us, and do try and get this, in order that it may be really Christ, dear friends, I believe that we need a new appropriation of the power of the Holy Spirit, a new appropriation. You have the Holy Spirit if you are a child of God, but a new appropriation and trusting the Spirit of God to make Christ very real as our life. Perhaps, you do not think that matters, I believe it matters very much. And this is the cause of why the Apostle Paul bowed his knees unto the Father, that the saints might know this Great One as their indwelling life. Well, we must leave that, but it leads to the next thing: "That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; to the end that ye, being rooted and grounded in love."

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 26 - (The Love of Christ)