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Saturday, October 14, 2017

Adrian Rogers (and other devotionals)

BIBLE MEDITATION:
 “But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.” Romans 13:14

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT:
One of my favorite stories is about a father who leaves his son at home one Saturday afternoon because his son isn’t feeling well. He tells his son, “Don’t go swimming with your buddies.”

The son says, “Yes sir!”

The dad returns by way of the swimming hole and notices his son frolicking with the other boys. He stops the car, calls his son over and says, “I told you not to go swimming.”

“But I didn’t intend to go swimming. I just came down to watch, and I fell in,” the boy said.

The dad began feeling sorry for his son until he noticed he had his bathing suit on! The son explained, “I brought that along…in case I was tempted.”

ACTION POINT:
Friend, don’t make any provision for the flesh.
~Adrian Rogers~
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Consider carefully how you listen!(J.C. Ryle)"Consider carefully how you listen!" Luke 8:18 
We learn from this verse, the great importance of right hearing. The words of our Lord Jesus Christ ought to impress that lesson deeply on our hearts. He says, "Consider carefully how you listen!"
The degree of benefit which men receive from all the means of grace--depends entirely on the way in which they use them. 
Private PRAYER lies at the very foundation of religion--yet the mere formal repetition of a set of words, when "the heart is far away"--does good to no man's soul. 
Reading the BIBLE is essential to the attainment of sound Christian knowledge--yet the mere formal reading of so many chapters as a task and duty, with out a humble desire to be taught of God, is little better than a waste of time. 
Just as it is with praying and Bible reading--so it is with LISTENING. It is not enough that we go to Church and hear sermons. We may do so for fifty years, and be nothing bettered, but rather worse! "Consider carefully," says our Lord, "how you listen!"
Would anyone know how to listen aright? Then let him lay to heart three simple rules: 
For one thing, we must listen with FAITH, believing implicitly that every Word of God is true, and shall stand. The Word in old time did not profit the Jews, "not being mixed with faith in those who heard it." Hebrews 4:2 
For another thing, we must listen with REVERENCE--remembering constantly that the Bible is the book of God. This was the habit of the Thessalonians. They received Paul's message, "not as the word of men--but the Word of God." 1 Thessalonians 2:13 
Above all, we must listen with PRAYER--praying for God's blessing before the sermon is preached, and praying for God's blessing again when the sermon is over. Here lies the grand defect of the hearing of many. They ask no blessing--and so they receive none. The sermon passes through their minds like water through a leaky vessel, and leaves nothing behind.
Let us bear these rules in mind every Sunday morning, before we go to hear the Word of God preached. Let as not rush into God's presence careless, reckless, and unprepared--as if it did not matter how we listened. Let us carry with us faith, reverence, and prayer. If these three are our companions--then we shall listen with profit, and return with praise!
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Never let us read any portion of God's Word without looking up for divine teaching!

(James Smith, "The Evening Sacrifice; Or, A Help to Devotion")

"Open my eyes--that I may behold wondrous things out of Your law." Psalm 119:18

God's Book is a book of wonders! It is a wonderful record . . .
  of God's power in creation,
  of His wisdom in providence,
  and of His grace in redemption.

It has the stamp of infinity upon it. We cannot penetrate its heights, fathom its depths, or traverse its lengths and breadths--but as we are taught of God. The Holy Spirit, who composed it and inspired holy men to write it, must unfold and reveal it to our minds--or we shall never . . .
  see its glory,
  be impressed with its majesty,
  or rejoice in its divine truths.

Never let us read any portion of God's Word without looking up for divine teaching. Never let us imagine that we know all that is contained in any one verse of God's blessed Book--for there is afullness in the holy Scriptures not to be found anywhere else.

Oh, ever blessed Spirit of God, who has given us Your holy Word to . . .
   instruct our intellects,
   sanctify our hearts, and
   regulate our lives--we beseech You to . . .
enlighten our minds to understand it,
open our hearts to receive it,
give us faith to believe it, and
enable us to reduce it to practice in our every-day life!

O may we be given grace . . .
  understand the sublime doctrines,
  believe the precious promises, and 
  practice the holy precepts of Your blessed Word!
Lord, unveil to us the types, unfold to us the prophecies--and apply to our hearts, the consolatory portions of the sacred Scriptures. May we hide the Word in our hearts, that we may not sin against You. O to catch the meaning, taste the sweetness, and feel the power--of Your holy truth! O Lord, open our eyes, and unfold the truth to us this night! O Lord, soften our hearts, and bring home Your Word with power!

"Then He opened their understanding--that they might understand the Scriptures." Luke 24:45

"Behold, God is exalted in His power! Who is a teacher like Him?" Job 36:22
  

Monday, October 9, 2017

Contentment

Contentment

Charles Naylor

Contentment is one of life's greatest blessings. But contentment is not something that can be sent down, nicely wrapped up like a Christmas gift from Heaven. It is a state of mind and heart. It is not dependent upon our situation or our circumstances. Many people are contented and happy in circumstances — where others would be thoroughly discontented. Some people are discontented under the most favorable circumstances. Contentment is a structure we build ourselves. It is a state of mind we develop. It is an attitude toward things which comes to us through careful cultivation. It is something which lives inside us — not something that circumstances and conditions create.
If happiness has not its seat and center in the heart — we may be wise, or rich or great — but never can be blessed.
Contentment is sometimes spoken of as a lazy virtue. Perhaps that is because some people are content with things with which they ought not to be content. We should never be satisfied to permit things to exist, which ought not to exist. We should never be satisfied to be less than our best. There are wrongs which need righting. There are conditions which need improving. There is progress which needs to be made. A sort of contentment that can view these things with indifference, ignore responsibility, evade duty — should be called by an entirely different name. When we have done our duty, met our responsibility, corrected those things that need correction so far as is possible for us — then we may have real contentment. Contentment does not mean surrender to conditions. It does mean being satisfied in the circumstances and conditions which exist, for which we are not responsible.
Contentment is a lesson to be learned. Paul said, "I have learned in whatever state I am therewith to be content." (Philippians 4:11). He goes on to tell some of the things he has learned. "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." (verses 12, 13).
Paul had learned a great secret. It was the secret of adapting himself to conditions, and being at rest in those conditions. He could enjoy to the full, the things that afforded him enjoyment. He could suffer patiently, the things that came upon him to suffer. But whether rejoicing or suffering — he had that inner contentment of spirit — the calmness and peace of which enriched his soul and made quite tolerable a life that otherwise would have been intolerable.
We, too, need to learn the lesson of contentment. The command to Christians is, "Be content with such things as you have" (Hebrews 13:5). Speaking further upon this subject Paul says, "Godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into this world and it is certain we can carry nothing out. Having food and clothing, let us be therewith content."
A godly life is productive of contentment — but there are many Christians who at least in some respects are discontented. This discontent produces a constant urge to rebel against things.
It is a singular fact that many of the most contented people are those who live in poverty. In fact, the working people are the most contented of all people. Those who live on the common levels of life, are the truly happy — provided they have the attitude of contentment.
There are many things people desire which can never give them contentment. One man says, "If I had a million dollars — I would be contented." Another thinks if he had political preferment — that would satisfy his ambition and he would be content. Another has another thing to attain to make him content. These things when attained — do not bring contentment.
As already pointed out contentment is a lesson learned, a state of the heart, an attitude toward things.
Riches do not bring contentment. Andrew Carnegie, known to all for his wealth and a man who should have known what he was talking about, said, "Beyond a competence for old age, and that may be very small — wealth lessens rather than increases human happiness. Millionaires who laugh are rare!" Many of us would do well to pause here and carefully study this saying of a wise and prudent Scotchman.
Jesus told his disciples not to be anxious about food and clothing and such things and added, "After all these things, the Gentiles seek" (Matthew 6:32). Possession of worldly things, is a goal set before them by the unsaved. The question asked about a man often is, "How much money does he have?" His supposed happiness is usually rated by the size of his bank account. No greater error in the choice of a standard for measurement of happiness, could be made. The command of the Scriptures is, "Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness." We should put first things first. If we do this — then our needs will be few, and our desires not much greater.
The basis of contentment is simplicity of desire. One of the things that is ruining more happiness than anything else, is the desire to excel others. "We must keep up with the Jones," is an attitude of mind fatal to contentment. It has caused more heartaches, destroyed more happiness, ruined more homes, produced more divorces, perhaps than any other one thing! This strife to excel, often leads people into sin.
The wife would outstrip her neighbors, so she makes large demands upon her husband for money. Thus pressed, he sometimes adopts business methods that are highly improper. In many cases it has led to shame and disgrace. In any event, it leads to unhappiness for both husband and wife and for the whole family. Through envy, jealousy of others, and coveting what they don't have — many people have been brought to bitterness of soul and utterly to hate life. Better contentment in a cottage — than discontent in a mansion!
Very often prosperity in temporal things destroys the happiness which has already existed in a less prosperous condition.
Years ago in one of our northern States, a man engaged in the lumbering business in a small way, built a cozy cottage on the shore of a bay into which he brought his bride. They both worked, he in his sawmill, and she in her cottage — and were both happy. The years passed. He prospered in business and became rich. Then he built a fine mansion in the city and moved into it. After living there for some time and mingling with the society into which his riches gave them entrance — in speaking to a friend one day he said, "We are not as happy as we were in our little cottage on the bay."
A few months ago I heard Charles M. Schwab make an address over the radio. In that address he told of his big house in New York City and of another great house which he owned in the country. He said, "I don't own them. They own me. The only satisfaction I have in them, is that I have enough money in the bank to pay the taxes on them." He has to look to other sources rather than to his possessions, for contentment and happiness.
Contentment is not built of gold or of precious gems. It is not constructed of honors or fame or the applause of the multitude. It does not come from out shining others. These may bring a sort of satisfaction — but not contentment. Contentment belongs to the meek and lowly in spirit. Pride is destructive to it. Arrogance annihilates it. Covetousness curses it. Hatred poisons it. Malice thrusts a sword through it. Contentment can thrive only with the Christian virtues. Faith, hope, and charity abide with it. Peace broods over its domicile. Blessed forevermore is he who has a contented spirit.
So many nourish discontent. They are all the time looking at the things they do not possess — and coveting them. They are always reaching out, stretching themselves to gain something which they cannot attain. They find fault with the things they possess — instead of enjoying them. They minimize the simple good in things. They see all the faults and failures. They often feel that their rights are being trespassed upon. There is a frown in their hearts — and a frown upon their faces.
Who is to blame for all this? The individual himself! He has adopted a wrong attitude of mind and heart. He is facing the wrong way. He has the wrong standard. He cannot be happy. He needs to turn about, face the other way, adopt a different attitude, look at things from a different angle, and set different standards for himself. He needs to learn the secret of the simple life — simple desires, temperate aspirations, bridled ambitions.
In the valley of contentment — is calmness, sweetness of spirit, and rest of soul. Through it flow the peaceable waters of quietness. In this valley, the song-birds joyfully sing. The heart mounts up to God in praise. In it lies the spring of joy which bubbles up in gladsome song.
The valley of contentment is not a place of inactivity. When we have learned to be content with such things as we have, and in our situation in life and in our circumstances — that does not mean that we lose all aspirations or that all effort ceases. By no means. To be content with today, does not mean to be content with the same thing tomorrow. The right sort of contentment demands continual progress in the lines in which progress is possible. In fact, we cannot be contented not to make proper progress. In the valley of contentment, we are not to sit down idly dreaming away our days. On the contrary — there is a path which runs through this valley, and we are to walk in this path, ever forward, ever upward.

If we would be truly happy, if we would sing the songs of the joyous life — then we must learn the lesson of contentment. We must learn what desires to gratify — and what desires to repress. We must learn what things can bring contentment — and what things destroy it. We must avoid the latter, while we seek the former. We must cultivate our hearts. We must trust in God. Then and only then, shall we have that source of contentment and happiness within, which inspires us to sing the song of glad rejoicing!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Christ In Heaven And Christ Within # 1

Christ In Heaven And Christ Within # 1

The Need for Balance

"Which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places" (Eph. 1:20).

"To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27).

"What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin" (Romans 6:1-6).

"There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death" (Romans 8: 1, 2).

"Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again. Who is even at the right hand of God, Who also maketh intercession for us" (Romans 8:33, 34.)

We feel the importance of saying a word with regard to Christ in heaven and Christ within the believer, that is, what is objective and what is subjective. It is tremendously important that we should keep a proper balance of truth. A very great deal of our trouble is because of there being an unbalanced emphasis upon some aspect of truth. It is good to know the truth, and it is good to rejoice in it, but it is just possible that even truth may get us into trouble. There are many perils lying in the direction of truth, even spiritual truth; and there are not a few of the Lord's people who have fallen into those perils. It is not that they suffer from want of light, but they are suffering very much because they have not got their light properly adjusted and balanced. Thus it becomes very necessary for us to get things in their right perspective and proportion. Preponderance on any one side will always lead to spiritual injury, and very often to disaster. The history of many instrumentalities which have been raised up and used by the Lord is eventually the sad story of a loss of power and effectiveness because of striking an unbalanced emphasis, of putting some side of truth in a place out of proportion to that which is complementary to it.

Complementary Truths

It is not just a matter of being all-round, that is, of having everything and being in everything; but in the constitution of a body we find that one law is balanced by another. All the laws, of course, are necessary, and it is important to give due place to every function in our bodies; but there run parallel laws and functions, one balances the other. There is that which is complementary to something else. There two things are, as it were, twins, running together, and to over-emphasize or overdevelop one means to throw the whole order out, and to bring about quite serious limitation and weakness,and to make things far less effective than they should be.

So it is in spiritual matters. There are always balancing truths. There is one thing, but there is something which goes with it, and which keeps it in its right measure, and causes it to fulfill its purpose and to serve its end most effectively. There is this order in the Divine creation - one thing is necessary to another to make that other fulfill its purpose to the full. That is where balance has to be observed and maintained.

The Adversary Using God's Work Against Him

Then we must remember that the adversary is always wanting to use God's own work and God's own truth against God Himself. That fact is made very clear in the Scriptures, and we may observe it in experience and in spiritual history. This line of action is more successful for the adversary than perhaps any other, because the result is that he immediately prejudices God's work and God's truth. He closes the door to the acceptance of what is of God simply by using it against God, and one of his most successful methods is that of securing an over-emphasis or an unbalanced apprehension of Divine truth.  You will see what I mean as we go on.

A Peril With Every Blessing

So that with every Divine blessing there is a peril. Wherever there is something which is really from the Lord, that has linked with it its own peculiar peril.

Now these are merely general observations, as leading up to this brief meditation along the specific line of what is objective and what is subjective as to the work of the Lord Jesus for and in the believer. We will look at both of these separately very briefly, seeing what the blessing is and what the perils are.

The Objective Side

We take the objective side first, the Lord Jesus presented to us as in heaven. We know that He is there, and we know that a very great deal is said in the Word about His being there; but why is He there? In the first place: How did He get there? Now you will notice if you look into the Word that whenever the heavenly side of the ascension of the Lord Jesus is presented, that is, whenever the matter is looked at from above, it does not speak about His going up or His ascension, but it speaks about His being received up. In the first chapter of the Book of the Acts it is recorded that as the disciples were looking up into heaven after the Lord Jesus had been taken up from among them, two angels appeared and said to them: "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye looking into heaven? this Jesus, Who was "received" up ..." That is an angelic, or a heavenly, standpoint, and the word "received" represents something more than just the fact that He ascended to heaven. It carries with it this fact, that it would be impossible for the Lord Jesus to be received in heaven if He had not perfectly accomplished the work which He came from heaven to do. In effect, heaven would have been closed to Him; heaven would have had to say to Him, 'But You have not done the work; there can be no reception until You have.' But it was because He had perfected the work which He came to do, and there was nothing more to be added to it, that heaven received Him, and it was a great reception! Psalm 24 gives us some idea of what that reception was:

"Lift up your heads, O ye gates;
and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting
doors: and the King of glory will
come in. Who is the King of glory?
The Lord strong and mighty, the
Lord mighty in battle."

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continue with # 2)

Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Great Transition From One Humanity To Another # 28

The Great Transition From One Humanity To Another # 28

Ministry By The Spirit, On The Ground of the Cross, continued -

The writer of the Hebrew letter makes it very simple about Father and children and sons, for it says: "My son, despise thou not the chastening of the Lord." The chastening of the Lord - as a father chastens his son. Well, what about you fathers who have sons, what are you doing with them? Now you may not put it in this way, but this is how the New Testament puts it in meaning: "I am going to make a Man of you. I am out to make a Man of you. Sometimes you may not feel very happy about what I am doing, the way I am doing it, but I am going to make a Man of you." Paul says to these people: "Quit you like men." It is a Man, a Manhood, that the Holy Spirit has come to develop, a kind of Man coming "to full stature of Manhood in Christ." These are Paul's actual words (and this applies to the sisters as much as to the brothers). One Man in Christ, all One Man in Christ. I am sorry the translators have not given us the full translation where it says: "all one in Christ Jesus," but it is "all One Man." It is masculine. "All One Man in Christ Jesus," and the work of the Holy Spirit is to make a Man of us. Oh, yes, but a man according to that Man. Is this according to that Humanity? Everything according to that Humanity. That is why Jesus was here for those three and a half years. A Man amongst men, but different from all others. Everything "conformed to the image of His Son."

The Crucified Church: A Vessel, An Instrument: In Touch With the Throne

Brethren, I am going to close soon, but I want to get very near to the position of the Church, now and in the ages to come; and because this is a very large matter, I am going to focus on one thing to try and help you. We are going to focus upon the matter of prayer. I am convinced that in all the recovery that has to be made, the recovery of prayer, in the way in which I am going to speak of it now, is very, very important.

Have you ever seen, dear friends, what the position of the Church is, if it is in its right position and rightly constituted? Now I am not talking about the Church universal, it applies there, but let us come to a local church. Where is Christ? - "He is seated at the right hand of God." What does that right hand mean? - The place of power, The place of authority, The place of government. The Right Hand - He is there as "Head of the Church, which is His Body." He has been vested, invested, with all authority in Heaven and in earth! Have you sometimes questioned that? Have you questioned Christ's authority here in this world when you see things going as they are going? Have you wondered about that? - all authority in Heaven and on earth? Now, dear friends, if you have a nucleus of the Church in any one place - a nucleus in any one place - rightly constituted on the basis of the Cross and the Resurrection and the Exaltation of Jesus the Lord, you are united with that Throne; and if you get to prayer on that basis, as such an instrument, you are going to touch things in the heavenlies and on the earth. Have we not lost something?

I think I have told you before of a personal experience on my first visit to the United States in 1925. I was just learning then, just learning the great principles of the Church, the Cross and the Church; and I had come to speak at a church convention in Boston. I went into my hotel, into my room, and as I got there an awful sense of conflict and darkness and evil came over me. This was so terrible, and I had to go almost immediately to minister. I said: "I'm no good, I can't go and minister like this, something's got to happen." It was really awful. Abraham knew what he called "a horror of great darkness." That is what it was for me. And I began to use what means I knew of fighting the enemy,such as using "the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God" against the enemy and pleading the blood, but nothing happened. Nothing happened. I walked up and down in that room trying to fight this spiritual battle and never getting through. I cried to the Lord: "Lord, what does this mean? What are You saying? Have I got out of Your will? Ought I not to be here? What is it, Lord?" Then it came to me so clearly: "Just stand into the prayer for you of the Lord's people." Now that is very simple, but I stood there in my room and said:"I stand by faith into the value of the prayer of the Church on my behalf, in the Name of the Lord Jesus." And  just like that the whole thing went! We went through!

Now that is not the end of the story. I wrote back to my brothers in London, and I told them of my experience. One brother answered and said: "Will you please let us know exactly the time that that happened, making allowance for a difference of five hours between London and Boston; will you give us the very hour when that happened?" So I wrote back and said: "In that very hour, we were met for prayer, we felt that you were having a great battle, and we felt that we had to take up that battle for you and pray it through, and we did."

Now do you see what I mean? Forgive the personal reference, but see the principle; now three thousand miles away - five hours difference in world time, but at that very moment the Church prays, far away something happens: the enemy in the heavenlies is touched - Authority on earth, the Church in touch with the Throne! Do you not think we want something like that now? Are there not forces of evil in the heavenlies that need to come under the impact of that "All Authority in Heaven?" Are there not situations, even in the Church of the churches, where that "Authority in the earth" needs to be brought in to change them? And the Church is the vessel of that, the instrument of that! Oh, for local companies on that ground, the Power of the Cross and the Authority of the Risen and Exalted Lord! That is a great need. Ask the Lord about that when you get back where you are. Oh, be careful about a "technique" which is called "prayer warfare" and attacking the devil direct. Be careful, he will make a mess of you, he will wait his time. Get hidden in the Cross. Remember that this is not your strength, your wisdom: it is a crucified vessel that is going to do this.

But oh, the Lord does need recovery of that kind of vocation, and it is not going to stop here. I have said the vocation of the Church in the ages to come - oh, it may not be then against the devil, but I quoted a scripture the other day and told you, I do not understand what it means: "Know you not," said Paul to the Corinthians, "we shall judge angels?" We shall judge angels? That does not mean that angels are doing wrong and are going to be brought into judgment by us in eternity: it means government, telling them what to do,what is required of them. Oh, it means, I do not know what all it means, but it says, "We shall judge angels." It is the Church that is going to be the administrative instrument of Christ through the ages to come: - and the Church has got to learn administration now.

We are in a school of learning, a wonderful school, learning to fulfill such a vast vocation in the ages to come... in the ages to come. This school is for that. And if we are really through the Cross, under the Holy Spirit, under the Anointing Spirit, and if we are all "baptized in One Spirit into One Body," if that is true, if that is true, then we are now under the Holy Spirit's tuition. This is a practical tuition, and not a theoretical one, under His tuition in order that we shall graduate when the Lord comes - graduate into that vocation with which we have been called,unto which we have been appointed from eternity in the counsels of God: to be His governing vessel through the ages to come.

Too wonderful to grasp! Is it beyond you? It is beyond me. But this is what Paul teaches, and it is to begin with us now. "And now," says he, "unto the principalities in the heavenlies may be made known the manifold wisdom of God in the Church." It is a wonderful vocation. Yet how far we fall short.

Now this morning that is enough I am sure for you to lay hold of and wrestle with. Much more could be said, but that is quite enough for now. Be quiet about it, think about it, meditate upon it. All this, dear friends, that I have tried to say to you, that the Lord has tried to show you, does issue from an experimental knowledge of the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. It does. And you have seen now what that Cross means on both its sides. May it not be a subject, a doctrine, a teaching, a theory, but the mighty reality that it is in every realm. May we pray...

We are very conscious, Lord, that when we touch realms like this, there is much that tries to battle and stifle and make it difficult both to speak and to hear. So that now at the end of this course, or this time, we must appeal to Thee as on the Throne to exercise Thyself in Thy Authority, Thy Power, to make these things realities, living realities in us. Not the subject of the convocation in 1968, not the theme that certain people followed in their ministry; but, O God, save us and bring us into the good of what Thou dost say. Make it live, make it a power in us. May it register in earth and in Heaven. In the Name of the Lord Jesus, Amen.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(The End)

Monday, September 25, 2017

The Great Transition From One Humanity To Another # 27

The Great Transition From One Humanity To Another # 27

Ministry By The Spirit, continued -

Paul says, "Here is the wisdom of God" (the wisest thing from heaven) and "the power of God" (the most powerful thing from heaven): "Christ is Crucified." I repeat, the message of the Cross is not just a doctrine, a teaching; it is the message of human life. Before we can teach the Cross, we must know it and experience it. It must have done something in us, and a drastic thing in us. The preacher, the minister, the ministry, must be a crucified minister or vessel. And it must be quite clear that it is not a doctrine of the Cross that is being given, but that the person who is giving it is a crucified person. That searches a lot, does it not?

Oh, let us be careful about our talk on the Cross. Oh, be careful how you speak about the Cross. many people come to me and say: "I came to the teaching of the Cross so long ago. I came to the message of the Cross." Brethren, you see it has become some "thing." How much better if you could say: "The Cross, by the Holy Spirit, did something in me that made it far more than a doctrine, a theory, something to talk about." There is an old saying, an old adage, "You talk so loud that I can't hear what you say": yes, there is something in that adage, but I want to see what you are saying.

Here it is, ministry has got to be a ministry by the Spirit on the ground of the Cross. What will the Holy Spirit allow in ministry? What will He allow in ministry, and what will He disallow in ministry? You learn a lot about that as you go on. In the old days when I was very much in the preaching realm, before a big crisis of the Cross, I worked hard to get good sermons; and I collected everything to make up a sermon, a quotation from this and a quotation from this or that, this poet and that. Later one day I was preaching,and in the midst of my sermon I made a quotation from a certain poet to make a point; and at that point, the bottom fell out of my sermon. Everything went, and I had to struggle to get to the end. I went home and got with the Lord on that,and when I looked up that poet (a very famous poet) the Lord said to me: "Do you know that poet is a modernist,a liberal theologian, that he does not believe in the great truths of Christ's personality and atonement - and you drew him in this morning as your ally to make your sermon a success?" I learned a lesson that day, a life-lesson. And if really we are under the Cross, dear friends, we will know what the Spirit will allow and what He will not allow. We find that the Cross means that, the bottom does fall out of everything in that realm. Am I being too detailed? Oh, no, not for ministry,and I have defined what ministry is (not only pulpit ministry, platform ministry) but the function of the Christian - to minister Christ. That is the ministry, giving Christ, and this ministry must come out of the Cross because there it begins. Paul's ministry began there. The Cross must be the source of all true Holy Spirit ministry.

Now as for the Church, its nature and its purpose, now and forever, what has God in mind from eternity about this elect vessel? What is it? What does the Church exist for in the Divine counsels? Only to be itself the vessel, the embodiment, of all this meaning of the Cross. As with the ministry and ministers, so with the Church, it must be a crucified Church to preach a crucified Christ and to bring by the Holy Spirit all God's knowledge to men. The Church is a crucified Church. Ah, you look at the beginning and see, way at the beginning of these morning meditations, and see the devastation that took place at the Cross - not only in those of the world but with the disciples. We saw how their own humanity was devastated at the Cross. Scattered and desolated, they are men who have got nothing left when they come to the Cross of the Lord Jesus. In the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, the Church begins. He gathers the scattered fragments, and here and there He is putting the vessel together again, but on Other ground. Why did He tarry forty days? Why? - to make sure that they were on New ground, that they had really grasped the significance of the Resurrection as a New ground. And why did He lead them out as far as Bethany and went from them in full view into glory? - to let them know that the Church is on New ground and on Heavenly ground now, on Heavenly ground, and that the headquarters of the Church is not at Jerusalem; it is in Heaven! All is to be governed from Heaven now, because of this Man Who is Exalted. He is the Head, He is the government, but it is Heavenly.

Am I using language that you do not understand or is it too familiar to you? Christ is installed in Heaven as the Representative of this New Humanity, and the Holy Spirit sent down from Heaven is to govern everything, deal with everything, work in everything and in everyone. Firstly, on the relegation to judgment of the old humanity and its development; and, secondly, the initiation and the development of this Other Humanity. That is what the Holy Spirit is here for.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 28)

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Great Transition From One Humanity To Another # 26

The Great Transition From One Humanity To Another # 26

A Cosmic Cross: A Cosmic Death, continued - 

Brethren, I must not start with too much detail, but the Cross of the Lord Jesus is a very practical thing. The Cross is not just an historic thing. The Cross is not just something in the Christian creed. The Cross of the Lord Jesus is a devastating thing, a terrific thing, and it takes us a lifetime to learn how much that is true. However, the fact is here from the beginning: it is the zero hour of the Adamic race. And furthermore, the Cross is the registration of the subjection of the prince of this world. "Now the whole world lieth in the wicked one," says the apostle, "the whole world lieth (is in the lap of) the evil one." By nature, we are in that realm, in that kingdom, but the great and mighty work of the Cross is this transition - "hath transferred  (or transitioned) us out of the authority of darkness, ... into the kingdom of the Son of His Love." By nature we are within that kingdom of the prince of this world, but at the Cross Jesus said, "Now is the prince of this world cast out." Now what did Christ mean? He did not mean the annihilation of the devil. We know that quite well. Not that he ceased to be a being or to have power, but something better than that. Perhaps you know there is such a thing as victory, and there is something more than victory; there is being a conqueror, and there is being more than conqueror. What do I mean?

Many of you can remember, although in America, perhaps, you did not take much account of it and do not know much about it. bit some of us lived through the great Boer Wars in South Africa, and you know how that went on and on, and what devastation and desolation that Boer War saw in South Africa. At last, the British gained the upper hand and captured some of the Boer generals, and among them was General Botha: does that name mean anything to you? He was one of the great generals of the Boer army; and they captured him, and they put him in prison. He was conquered. As Botha watched the British, as he watched their way, their life, and learned the truth about them, he began to change. At last, to make the story short, he became one of Britian's best counselors and allies. The life of General Botha is a wonderful thing - how highly he was honored and respected. even into the First World War he came as a helper, a great helper on the side of the British. What had happened? Ah, yes, he was conquered - but there was more than conqueror; the enemy was made an ally.

Oh, you say, "Is satan for us then?" No, he is not for us. I supposed the analogy breaks down here, but what do we find in the New Testament? "I would have you know, brethren, the things which befell me have fallen out for the furtherance..." And those things which befell were satanic activities, and the Lord has taken hold of satan's work and made them serve His End. That is more than conqueror.

Perhaps we would rather that the Lord would wipe him out, wipe out his resistance altogether; but it is better that the Lord in His All-Authority in heaven and on earth makes the enemy in the long run serve His Purpose. That is more than conqueror. You and I know that he is an unwilling servant, but you have this all the way through your New Testament, such as: "saints in Caesar's household..." etc.

You see, the Cross was the registration of this subjection to Jesus Christ of the prince of this world. The Cross was the sentence of death upon the world itself, (I am keeping to Paul again), the sentence of death upon this world which lies under a curse. Jesus Himself as He came to the Cross knelt in prayer and lifted His heart to His Father in the presence of some of His disciples and said, "They are not of this world, even as I am not of this world, I pray not that Thou shouldst take them out of the world, but keep them from the evil one." The world is banned, the world system, the world spirit, the world influence is banned by the Cross. There is no such thing as a worldly Christian. And if you are worldly, you are contradicting your Christian life. However, here it is, the Cross pronounced the death sentence upon this world.

That is the negative side, but the Cross as Paul saw it in Jesus Christ was the D-Day of the New Creation. "D-Day" - what is that? Deliverance Day! Peter must walk in here and say to us:

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who hath begotten us again into a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, unto an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God."

The D-Day - a New hope for a New Creation: a creation that breaks into New Life, New Hope through the Cross in the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

Ministry By The Spirit - On the Ground of the Cross

Now surely all that does give us a much larger conception of the Cross. And I am not going to be able to cover all the ground of these three things, so I will mix up the next two, the ministry and the Church; mark you, issuing from the Cross, inherent in the Cross. No Church without the Cross. No ministry without the Cross. So hence, the Cross is the ground upon which the Holy Spirit encamps for ministry. Therefore, you can understand why it is that there has been such as assault made upon the Cross, to get it out of the preaching, to put other complexions upon it that are not true of it.

If you in the power of the Holy Spirit live the life of the Cross, and minister Christ crucified, the Holy Spirit comes on that! You want to know where the Holy Spirit encamps, where He takes up His position for cooperation? - He takes it up always on the Cross, and you will never come through to a genuine, true knowledge of the fullness of the Holy Spirit unless the Cross is the foundation. The Cross is the only safety, the only safety, in the midst of many things that are false and counter things. And what I want to know about everything is what place the Cross has there, not as a teaching, a theory, doctrine, and something in the Bible, but where is the Cross in the life there? That is the Holy Spirit's camping ground, Christ crucified, as preached in the power of the Holy Spirit.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 27)

Sunday, September 3, 2017

The Great Transition From One Humanity To Another # 25

The Great Transition From One Humanity To Another # 25

He Died In My Place - He Died For All

And what an "all" Paul saw; it comes out in considerable fullness in his ministry. What Paul saw first of all was that death, that ignominious death, that shameful death, that awful death, was his own death. Paul saw what God thought of him; it was God's attitude toward him. He could say: "That Man on that Cross like that, in all that state of degradation and shame and helpless weakness, despised and rejected, all that - that was me, that was me, that was what God thinks of my humanity. He died for me (but you know that the meaning is 'in my place'). When He died, I died, that was my death, and that was God's conception of me, Saul of Tarsus!" Oh, what a revolution! He had a great idea of himself and his own abilities; but, look, this is God unveiling Saul of Tarsus, but more than that: "He died in my place." And that was a death, a new idea about death.

Moreover Paul saw, and I am keeping, of course, firstly to his teaching; I am not reading in anything, making up something. You can sit down with it yourself and prove everything that I am saying from the New Testament. He saw not only that that death, that awful death, as a judgment upon a kind of man was his death, but he saw that it was the death of the whole human race in Adam. What does Paul say? "Because we thus judge that One died in the place of all, therefore all died." Coneybeare says, "It was the death of the whole race... 'As in Adam all die.'" This is the new conception to the Cross of the Lord Jesus. Our death, the death of the whole race, the humanity to which we belong by nature, the whole - all died. But then Paul came to see this also, that in the death of Jesus it was not death as an end; it was a death that destroyed Death. In  a sense, it was a death which was the end of Death. "He tasted death for all men," it is true; but then, "He destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil."

A Cosmic Cross: A Cosmic Death

So, from the death of Death, which Paul saw in the Cross, the death of Death has taken place: Christ is risen, He is alive forevermore. And Paul saw more: he saw that that Cross was, to use the word we have used before, it was a cosmic Death. That is, it reached out beyond the individual and beyond the race to that whole encompassing realm of evil forces which had brought about this condition, making that judgment necessary. And as he went to the Cross, Jesus said, "Now is the prince of this world (cosmos) cast out." And later the apostle said, A"He stripped off principalities and powers ... made a show of them openly... triumphing over them in His Cross." A cosmic Cross, a cosmic Death, touching the uttermost bounds of the lower heavenlies, destroying him that had the power of death, that is, satan.

Paul came to see all this when He saw by revelation of God His Son revealed "in him," and so, let us come further over into this matter of the Cross, the Resurrection, and the Exaltation of the Lord Jesus. You see,

If the revelation of Jesus Christ comprehends all those three things that we have said, comprehends the destiny of humanity (one side of humanity's destiny is judgment, out of Christ: the other side of humanity is glory, in Christ) -

if in the seeing of Jesus Christ in his heart revealed, Paul saw the nature and the dynamic of all true ministry during this whole dispensation - 

If he also say, began to see, and saw with increasing fullness as he went on, the nature and the vocation of the Church now and in the ages to come - 

If he saw all those three mighty things in the Face of Jesus Christ, in the Person of Jesus Christ - that is, in the Presence and Revelation of Jesus Christ -

If he saw all that (and remember, this is the vital thing for this morning), Paul saw that all that human destiny, all that ministry through the centuries, and all that place and vocation of the Church in time and in eternity, Paul saw that it was all centered in the Cross of the Lord Jesus.

Mighty, mighty thing was the Cross to Paul. "May it never be," said he, "that I should boast, except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ... We preach Christ crucified...I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified," for all this content is in the Cross of the Lord Jesus. Paul saw that the Cross of Jesus Christ was the climax of humanity. He saw that the Cross of Jesus Christ was the zero hour of the old Adam race, the place at which in the darkness (ah, more than natural darkness) God said: "The door is closed, the door is closed upon a certain kind of humanity. This is zero for that humanity." We take a lifetime to learn that. When the Holy Spirit gets hold of a life, He is always bringing us back to that, that one fact, and putting His finger upon this and that, and something else, and saying in us: "That went out through the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ; the Cross has closed the door on that. If you bring that in, you are countering the work of the Cross."

In the Letter to the Hebrews, as well as in these Corinthian Letters, it is a terrible, terrible thing to go back upon the Cross and crucify afresh the Son of God and stamp upon the Blood of our redemption. Oh, the apostles had a lot to say about that, but that is controversial; however, it is not our subject this morning, but there it is. Brethren, the Cross has said an eternal "No" to the whole kind, type, and way of a certain humanity. The Holy Spirit is trying to teach us that; and if you are sensitive to the Holy Spirit, you know quite well what the Holy Spirit will allow and what He will not, or you ought to.

Oh, young Christians especially, but all of us, how important it is for us to know the Holy Spirit in this way. You go to this one, and to that one, going around asking your questions, "Ought I? May I? Should I? Can I?" No need for that at all; and if anybody begins to tell you "you may" or "you may not," they are doing the wrong thing. You ought to know in your own heart by the Holy Spirit, if you are born of the Spirit, you ought to know by the Spirit making you uncomfortable about certain things. Not whispering in your ear in words and saying: "No, you must not do that," but inside. "I'm not so happy about this as I once was; I don't feel so free to do these things as I once did." You know what I mean; the Holy Spirit is only bringing you back to the Cross and saying again: "zero to that, the end of that, that belongs to the old humanity."

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 26)

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Great Transition From One Humanity To Another # 24

The Great Transition From One Humanity To Another # 24

The Immense Significance Of Jesus Christ: Crucified, Risen, and Exalted

Lord, when we say to Thee, "Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous thing out of Thy law," Thou knowest that the most "wonderful" Thou canst show to us is Thy Son; and so, not things, but Him. Open our eyes that we may see Him this morning. It is to Thee, and not to man, but to Thee that we say, "We would see Jesus"; and O Lord, grant it in Thy mercy that when we leave this place we are able truly to say: "We have seen the Lord." Be it so, for Thy Name's sake, Amen

Now we come to the last of these hours in which we have been occupied with the "Great Transition," having said at the beginning that the whole Bible is occupied with God and humanity. The Old Testament, with an old humanity throughout, showed how utterly unreliable that humanity is, and how it eventually proved a failure as the Old Testament closes. I expect you have noticed that not in the chronological order, but in the spiritual order the Old Testament closes with Malachi, and what a sorry picture in Malachi it is, the closing of the book in failure. The New Testament is occupied wholly with the introduction and development of a New Humanity, brought in with the Lord Jesus Christ; and from that point the whole of the New Testament is occupied with this New Humanity, of which Christ is the Representative of its birth, its growth,and its eventual and ultimate glorification.

That is the general background of these morning hours this week. And we came two days ago to the all-inclusive vision of the Lord Jesus and began (as we shall never finish though we stayed here all our life) began to see what there is in Jesus Christ, what He has brought in, and what the Apostle Paul saw in the Lord Jesus when, as he put it, "It pleased God to reveal His Son in me." What an immense revealing that was, which grew and grew all through the life of the apostle. And we said that four things came to the apostle in that vision, that "Heavenly Vision," that inward seeing of the Lord Jesus.

Firstly, in Jesus glorified, Paul saw, according to the eternal thoughts of God, the place and the nature and the destiny of humanity, the Humanity after Christ. Then Paul saw the nature and dynamic of a life ministry, of a ministry through this long dispensation between the ascension of the Lord Jesus and His coming again, he saw what the ministry is, the vocation. He saw that when he saw the Lord Jesus. We spent a lot of time on it: not enough. Then Paul saw the nature and the purpose of the Church now, and as he put it, "unto the Age of the ages." These three great things he saw, and then Paul saw a fourth. With this, we are going to be occupied this morning.

Paul Saw Jesus Christ Crucified, Risen, Exalted

Saul of Tarsus saw Jesus of Nazareth glorified - "The Man in The Glory." And as he gazed and gazed inwardly upon that Man,seeing that vision, that revelation, he saw these three things that  we have mentioned, and then Paul saw the immense significance of Jesus Christ Crucified, Risen, and Exalted; and, of course, these are the things which fill all his writings. You will have to approach them with these four things before you. Let me repeat, the immense significance of Jesus Christ Crucified, Risen, and Exalted.

We are totally incapable of sensing, recognizing, conceiving what happened to this man, Saul of Tarsus, when he saw the Lord Jesus. He had thought of Jesus the Nazarene as an imposter, a false teacher, a false leader, as One Who was leading people astray; and all the feelings of animosity and hatred and bitterness, of which that great soul was capable, overflowed against this Man - Jesus of Nazareth. He made it his life business, with his tremendous abilities, his natural abilities, and his training, and all his knowledge; he made it his life business to blot out any remnant related to that Man, Jesus Christ, Jesus of Nazareth. Saul viewed the Cross of Jesus Christ as His deserved crucifixion. He viewed the death of Jesus of Nazareth as death, death as we know it - the end. And that in shame - deserved shame, deserved ignominy, deserved disgrace. And more than that, from his Jewish standpoint, he viewed that Man on that Cross as cursed of God, as cursed of Almighty God! This was his mind about Jesus of Nazareth.

When Paul saw Jesus on the way to Damascus and he was smitten with the Light, not knowing at that moment Who and what it meant, he said, because of the overpoweringness of it, "Who art Thou, Lord?" I say we can never enter into the tremendous convulsion that must have taken place in this man Saul when there came back in answer: "I am Jesus, I am Jesus, that One of Whom you have had all those thoughts and feelings. I am He, I am Jesus." I say, we cannot enter into what that man must have felt at that moment, but it was then, and from then on, that he began to see This Man Jesus, Glorified, in the Seat of Power, capable of smiting even such a man as Saul of Tarsus to the ground with one stroke, and prostrating him, leaving him one who has got to be lifted up by men, and by the arm led blind to the place where he was going. In the overwhelmingness of it, he began to see in that One that it was not just a crucifixion, and it was not a death; but that Jesus Christ, Crucified, was all that his life after (that which he learned by revelation and experience throughout his life) and teaching showed him to have seen.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 25 - He Died In My Place: He Died For All)

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Great Transition From One Humanity To Another # 23

The Great Transition From One Humanity To Another # 23

The Nature and Purpose of the Church, part 2, continued 

Oh, do take this to heart, dear friends, for I do not intend to offend anyone, but what is God doing? What is He after? Is He after making a new institution called the Church, a new ecclesiasticism, something that has a denominator among men like the individual denominations or the non-denominations? Is God doing that? Is that what God is doing? (This is where we need a mental revision, a heart revision.) NO! He is NOT in it. NO, is not doing that. He is only with the people, not with the thing. But God is doing in the spiritual way what He did at the beginning. He is saying and proceeding, proceeding with His concept: "Let Us make man, let Us make Man." The Church is the One New man: - Let us make a Man, not an institution, or any of these things that the Church is called. God said: "Let Us make a Man," and that is what He is doing with you and with me. God is not trying to make of us any of these many things that Christians are called and the names by which they go. He is just getting to work on us to constitute us "the Man."

You remember what we said in the beginning: "He called them (man and woman) - He called them man." Here in this (and, sisters, be careful how you take what I am now going to say, for "there is neither male nor female") it is a Man, that is, it is a Humanity. I cannot explain to you, because I do not know what that Humanity is going to be afterward in glory, but Jesus answering a certain man's question about marriage and repeated marriages, (whose wife a certain woman would be afterward out of all she had married) said, "Ye do err... in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels." It is a kind of Humanity that is different. Oh, the questions will arise, "Shall I know my husband in heaven, shall I know my wife in heaven?" Yes! But we shall know in a way in which it is far better to know, however precious may have been the human relationships, husband and wife, wife and husbands here - yes, precious, very precious; but is it not better when a husband and wife know each other in the Spirit then in the flesh? Is it not lovely when they flow together from one Spirit, one vision, one objective that their united lives manifest Jesus Christ in the home and in the neighborhood? There is something very precious about that.

I had a son, and the Lord took him about three or four years ago;and as my son, we have a good relationship. There was not strife between us as father and son, no difficulty at all. He and I had such spiritual fellowship that I could open my heart to him as fully as I could to anybody, and more than to most people - for he was not only my son, but he was my spiritual friend. Brethren, you know what I am talking about. That is how we are going to know, and it will be a better kind of knowing. Do not worry, then, whether you know your husband or your wife. Oh, you will: "Then shall I know, even as I have been known by the Lord."

The Vocation: The Emanation of Christ

Now we must move on. The vocation of the Church now and in eternity is going to be just the emanation of Christ. It is now intended to be that, and God help us to be that. It is not this and that and one or more of a hundred things that are the idea about the Church today, but it is just this one thing, the presence of a different kind of Man in the individual and collectively. Let us take it universally.

Are you not impressed with how Peter, having passed through the great transition from the old Jewish humanity,got right through - after his battles with the Gentiles at Caesarea, and Cornelius' house - after his battle down at Antioch when James and the elders came down from Jerusalem, when Peter withdrew himself from eating with the Gentiles ("dissimulation" Paul called it.) When he got through it all, and thank God Peter got through it all, what did he say in the opening of his letter? "To the saints, scattered throughout Pontius, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia." Peter says: "Ye, Galatians, Cappadocians, Asians, Bithynians, you are all scattered. The dispersion has taken place, and you are all scattered, you saints, and yet you are a spiritual house, One House. Not so many houses, but One House, Everywhere." What is this? It is where the Lord is dwelling, in men and women.

The Church universal according to the Divine concept is just One Man in the earth. How we discover that when we meet somebody we have never met before and they are the Lord's. It is wonderful until you begin to ask or they begin to ask what you belong to. If you just talk about things of the Lord, One Man, One Blessed Man, it is like that. Well, that is very elementary;  it is very simple, but that is what the Church is universally: that is what the Church is locally.

When people come into the local company, they do not come in and say, "Well, this is how they behave, this is what they do; they have baptisms, they have the Lord's table, and they have this form of worship." No, these things may be all right, they may have their place, they may be a part of a Divine order, but what is it they are to meet? - not our baptism, not our Lord's table, not our method of procedure, not our technique, but "God is in this place!" - they meet the Lord. They may not be able to put it like that, they may not be able to define it or explain it, but the impress is: "There is something there, these people have got life, these people are in  the good of something that you will not find anywhere else. It is the Lord." Oh, that all our local companies were just like that, in whatever way we go on, the thing that impresses is: "The Lord is here, the Lord is here."

I have moved out from the universal to the local company, and now I am going to move down to the individual. To the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul said: "Do you not know that you are a Temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" He dwells in you. I am a microcosm of the Church (or intended to be), and each one of you is intended to be a microcosm of the Church. Now what is it? What is true of the universal Church collectively is to be true in our case, it is to be Christ that people meet when they meet us individually. What broke upon this man Paul's heart was not something that he studied up, read up, or worked out in his mind, but he saw Jesus as Lord (and He is a lifetime of seeing). Paul began to see, and to go on to see, what the Church really is. And I will say this, brethren, you do not know anything about the Church if you have not seen Jesus Christ - however much you have read and talked about it, if you have not seen Him, you do not know what the Church is. It is not a thing. But if you have seen Him, it is a Him, it is a Person Who is dwelling in persons - that is the Church! I think that is enough this morning. Very much more could be said, but time has gone. Let us pray.

Make the truth live in us, O Lord. May that Divine fiat take place, light shines into our hearts, and the eyes of our understanding be enlightened that we may see light in Thy Light. For Thy Name and Glory and Satisfaction's sake. Amen

!T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 24 - The Immense Significance of Jesus Christ: Crucified, Risen,and Exalted)

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Great Transition From One Humanity To Another # 22

The Great Transition From One Humanity To Another # 22

The Growth Of Ministry Is Through "Afflictions" - "Consolations", continued -

satan is "the god of this world," and the trouble at Corinth, as the whole of the First Letter shows, is that the world has laid its deadly, paralyzing hand upon those people. The world and the old humanity lie under a curse. Does that sound strong, brethren? But have you never said, "this accursed self." It is this accursed self that is in the way all the time. Yes, that humanity lies under a curse from the beginning, and this world lies under a curse which means that that humanity and this world can never go through to God's end as it is. The end of that humanity and of this world is what? destruction, removal right from the Face of God. Paul saw this as to the Corinthians, and natural man intruding, and this world - its judgments, its standards, its conceptions, its values, its ideas - among these people in the church, controlling, influencing - the world of Corinth had come into the church at Corinth - in its mentality, in its manner, and in its procedure: how the world does it .... that was at Corinth.

Yes, our natural man lies under a curse, our old humanity lies under a curse. It cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God because God has put His veto on it. It is vetoed, and this world is vetoed as to God's things. And who has done it? The god of this age, the prince of this world; and when God breaks in, He said: "Let there be light," because darkness is not of God; it is of the devil. And here we have it in the spiritual part: "he hath blinded" - the god of this age, blinded and brought into darkness this old humanity; and when God says, "Let there be light," the work of the devil is undone and the judgment is removed and that should be the effect of ministry.

The ministry of Christ should be out of darkness into Light; and you remember the commission to the Apostle Paul at the beginning, "To whom I send thee, to turn them from darkness to light." - The right translation in the Greek language is: "That they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of satan unto God, that they may receive an inheritance." This is ministry, the turning from darkness to Light, from the power of satan unto God, to have an inheritance which they lost in Adam. It is very full. That should be the impact and influence out of our presence as ministers of Christ.

When Christ was present, mostly to His disciples, preparing them for their work ahead; but it was not only what He said, it was as much His personal presence. He would come somewhere and He had not said anything, and demons would cry out: "I know Thee Whom Thou art; the Holy One of God." They could not hold their peace. His Presence dragged them out. His very Presence was an exposure of man, an exposure of satan: His Presence, and that is the ministration of Christ.

O Lord, make us ministers, make me a minister, as far as I can bear it, that the impact, the registration, the influence may be people moving into the Light, really seeing the Light in an inward way. The Light - not of truth, or even of Scripture to begin with, but through Scripture - the Light of Jesus Christ.

The Test of Ministry Is In Its Eternal Value

That is all I have time to say this morning about ministry - unless I add this word again, from Corinthians - the test of ministry is in its eternal value. Now the Apostle Paul associates the two things: Affliction and Eternal Value. He says, "Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while ..." (now do not stop there, get your conjunction) "...while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; (passing, transient) but the things which are not seen are eternal." The test of our ministry is perhaps not going to be what we see in our own lifetime, but what is afterward, going on to eternity.

When you get to glory, do you not want to discover that you meant far more than you knew you did? That there was a great deal more value in your being here than ever you saw. Oh, this soul life of the old humanity does want to see, it is always doing things to see, to see the result, to see the value. "While we look not at the things which are seen." I think perhaps this is one of the most testing words in the Bible to the old man. How can we live on what is not seen and what is in the eternal future and be satisfied? Oh, that is not the old humanity, but it is the New - the eternal value of ministry.

The Nature and Purpose of The Church - Part Two

Now for a little while I will go on to the next thing: the nature and purpose of the Church, now and in the ages afterward; and here again, we need a revised version of what we mean when we speak of the Church. Through the years I have talked and written much about the Church. But on this very matter of the Church I find that I am being forced to a revision, not to abandon what has been said, taught, and believed, and acted upon, but as we go on, a great deal of what we did at the beginning, of what we called our Church teaching, a great deal has, shall I say, broken down.

Now, brethren, what are you finding about the Church today? To begin with, you may be looking around everywhere and saying: "Where is it? Is this the Church? Well, this does not come up to Ephesians; far from it, it is very much like Corinthians." So, what is the Church? What is the function now and in the ages to come? The Apostle Paul always linked these two things together: "Unto Him be the glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus through all ages, forever and ever" - the function of the Church afterward, as well as now.

What is the Church? Of course, there are various symbols of the Church. The Church is called "the House of God," it is called a "Temple," it is called "the Body of Christ," it is called "the Bridge," and so on. You may ask, "Are these different things?" No, they are only aspects of one thing. Each of those definitions or designations or titles is only a functionary aspect of the Church. The House of God - the place where God lives. The Temple of God - where He is worshiped. The Body of Christ - the vessel of a Personality. The Body of Christ is a function, a many-sided function of the expression of the Personality. The Bride is the expression of the affectional relationship between Christ and the Church. "Christ loved the Church, gave Himself for it... so ought husbands to love their wives..." The Bride is the affectional relationship between Christ and His Church. These are all symbols of the one thing, but what is the one thing of which these are but aspects? And that is what we have got to come to, that is where our revision of mentality has to take place.

So, what is the inclusive designation of the Church? "One Man" - You have it in that great Church letter of Ephesians where "He has broken down the middle wall of partition" between Jew and Gentile (racially the old human divisions, compartments) He has removed the division and has made "of the twain one new man." The inclusive designation is a Man, "One new man," - a New Humanity. It is the aggregate of the New Creation people, men and women, Jews and Gentiles (not remaining as they are naturally, Jews and Gentiles) but just one New Man, one New Humanity: that is the Church! And which Humanity is it? That touches on the function: there is the nature.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 23)

Friday, August 4, 2017

The Great Transition From One Humanity To Another # 21

The Great Transition From One Humanity To Another # 21

The Nature and Dynamic of Ministry, continued -

Brethren, I am not saying that Bible study is wrong, but I am saying that through it all, has Christ appeared? and is He appearing? You may be a minister, a preacher, a Bible teacher of renown, and it may stop there; but the whole question is whether I am officially that or just a humble member of Christ, without any public gift at all, without any human ordination, I can be ministering Christ, in some way, ministering Christ, and that is the ministry. That is the source of all true ministry from beginning to end. Here the apostle is making it that. Paul is saying: "It began in me and is going on in me, and all that I have to say to you believers is what I am seeing of the Lord Jesus, a growing, inward unveiling of God's Son."

The Growth of Ministry Is Through Afflictions - Consolations

Now the question arises, how does the ministry grow, proceed? In these letters, and especially in the Second Letter to the Corinthians, we have the answer; and it is going to touch us quite deeply, acutely I think, on this matter of the procedure of ministry, of the growth of ministry. How will this be? Will it be by more study, more books? Oh, no, dear friends, that is not the way of a growing,continuing ministry; and the ministry has got to grow all the time, deepen and enlarge all the time, but how? Please read again your Second Letter to the Corinthians, and before you have gotten very far, indeed almost immediately in that letter, you come on some words which are repeated again and again. What are they? "afflictions"; "consolations."

Underline those words right at the beginning of the Second Letter. And in that connection the apostle brings forth his own great experience: "I would have you know what befell me - so great a death. (He had the sentence that it was death.) But we had the sentence of death. We despaired of life. We were pressed out of our measure." Then, and right through that letter, the apostle is constantly striking that note of sufferings, sufferings, sufferings.

"WE HAVE THIS TREASURE"
WHICH IS THIS MINISTRY,
THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST,
IN OUR HEARTS.

"We have it in vessels," and I like the literal translation of "fragile clay," capable of being broken and smashed. "Beyond our measure of endurance, even unto despair, we despaired of life," and then he will give us a couple of catalogues of his afflictions.

Now you ought to sit down brethren, and think about that if you are thinking about ministry. My, you ought to think about all that Paul himself met, encountered, and went through from center to circumference. At the center what do you find? - unfaithful, disloyal, and treacherous brethren, and moving out from that center in every enlarging circles, there are many implications in this letter, as well as statements, of what people were saying about him: "He was not a true apostle. He is not one of the twelve. He never saw Jesus after the resurrection. He is not a true apostle; he is an imposter. He is a deceiver. He is just going around cadging, getting money from Christians." These are all implications; a whole list of them. This is implied. It is there.

Paul goes on to say: If any man has suffered, "I more than them all." And then he speaks of the many times he was in prison, of how may times he received the stripes, and how many times he was in the deep and shipwrecked, a night and a day in the deep, of how may times he was in hunger and in nakedness and in peril - in sea, on land, from robbers and fellow Christians. It is a terrible double list that he gives to these chapters of Second Corinthians. Read them again, and no wonder that word has such a large place at the beginning of the letter - "afflictions of Christ which abound unto us, that the consolations also may abound." That is the ministry, those periods when even men like this man Paul, perhaps the greatest minister that Christ ever had, will say: "I despaired. I despaired of life, I was pressed beyond my measure of endurance." That is how the ministry grows.

If we really say to the Lord, "Lord,make my life a ministry of Christ," this is how the ministry grows, this is how it goes on. This is how the ministry proceeds, deepens, and becomes more fruitful. Believe me, dear friends, if the apostle is representative of ministry and if we as servants of God are to be spiritually fruitful - if really true ministers of Jesus Christ, there will be in the background of our lives the secret sufferings, a hidden history with God under His hand.

If you are going to be a true minister of Christ, ministering Christ, He is going to take you into some deep experiences with Him, very deep experiences, where you will discover something that is going to be of great value to others; for it is the crucified and suffering servant of God who is really the fruitful one, the one of whom you can say: "That man is not talking out of his library, from his books, that man knows what he is talking about - he has been there. He has been in it. This has come out of the travail of his soul." Read 2 Corinthians again in the light of how the ministry grows. Oh, I speak and say these things to you, but God only knows how I hold my breath, for we do know that if the Lord has done anything at all, it has been by a hard way. It has been by the "afflictions" of Christ that we might know the "consolations" of Christ; and, as the people of God what do we want? information or consolation?

I know what your answer is over that, but I want you to notice that this is something terrible in the whole cosmic realm, for ministry is not just limited to the people among whom we move. This kind of ministry is "cosmic ministry." What do I mean? I mean this: the god of this age had blinded the minds of the unbelieving, lest as a precaution, as a move, a strategic move, lost he Light of the knowledge of the glory of God should shine upon them. If our gospel is hid, it is hid in them that are perishing in whom the god of this age had blinded. - What is such a ministry? It is the undoing of that devilish work of spiritual blindness. All spiritual blindness is not just natural, it is satanic, and you have got to have something that strikes there beyond the merely natural condition, that strikes right home to the source of that condition, "he hath blinded."

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 22)