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Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Consequences of Drifting and Others

The Consequences of Drifting

Spiritual drifting--the gradual wandering away from God and His will--takes place when a believer ceases to steer toward the Lord. Like an empty boat set loose upon the waters, he or she makes a slow and lazy glide away from good practices like disciplined obedience, regular Bible study, prayer, and assembling with fellow Christians. And there are consequences for casting yourself on uncharted and dangerous waters.
A life adrift is outside of God's will and therefore in sin. The Holy Spirit pricks a believer's conscience to send a message when he is off course, but the drifter is prone to ignore such warnings. If a Christian continually excuses his wandering ways and denies sin, then his conscience gradually numbs. A person who becomes desensitized to wrongdoing has paved the way for more sinful behavior with less guilt. Can you imagine a more dangerous situation?
As the drifting believer's conscience becomes anesthetized, his spiritual ears are also deadened--truth cannot gain entrance because he has invited wrong attitudes and philosophies into his thinking process. What's more, his heart hardens to the things of God. Shrinking away from testimonies about divine power, grace, and mercy, he avoids situations that might reawaken the conscience and stir his spirit to repentance.
People drift from God in search of more--more freedom, choices, and pleasure. But since the consequences are a hard heart, a numb conscience, and dead ears, what they end up with is less. The drifting believer sacrifices the victorious life in Christ for an existence devoid of permanent satisfaction.

~Dr. Charles F. Stanley~

Developing Faith through Adversity

It doesn't seem fair, does it? Paul spent his life serving Christ, and yet he experienced continual suffering. Why would God let one of His most faithful servants go through so much pain? This isn't just a question about Paul; it's an issue we face today. In our minds, the Lord should protect His loyal followers from hardships, but He doesn't necessarily do so.
Maybe our reasoning is backwards. We think faithful Christians don't deserve to suffer, but from God's perspective, suffering is what produces faithful Christians. If we all had lives of ease without opposition, trials, or pain, we'd never really know God, because we'd never need Him. Like it or not, adversity teaches us more about the Lord than simply reading the Bible ever will.
I'm not saying we don't need to know Scripture; that's our foundation for faith. But if what we believe is never tested by adversity, it remains head knowledge. How will we ever know the Lord can be trusted in the midst of trouble if we've never been challenged by hardship? God gives us opportunities to apply scriptural truths to the difficulties facing us, and in the process, we find Him faithful. For example, how would Paul ever have known the strength of Christ if he had never been weakened by pain, persecution, and adversity?
Depending on your response, trials can be God's greatest means of building faith or an avenue to discouragement and self-pity. If you'll believe what Scripture says and apply its principles to your situation, your trust in God will grow, and your faith will be strengthened through adversity.

~Dr. Charles F. Stanley~

Peace, Joy, and Contentment 

Discouragement can rob peace, joy, and contentment. But I have great news if you feel disheartened: You’re not stuck!
I’ve known people who appeared to be in an impossible situation. A few years later, however, they were in a terrific place, either in terms of their circumstances or their emotions. The reason? They never gave up. Instead of sulking in self-pity, they chose to believe God, step out in faith, and climb out of the emotional pit.
Nehemiah is a good example. He had every reason to feel defeated, because his people were in trouble. After receiving news that the city wall had been destroyed, this man of God acknowledged profound disappointment and grieved. Though pain flooded his soul, he didn’t allow himself to stay in that low place. Instead, Nehemiah cried out to God, seeking direction.
Sadness in the presence of royalty was punishable by death. But the Lord answered Nehemiah’s prayer with amazing power, prompting the king to notice his servant’s sad countenance and then toask what he could do to help. This miracle led to the rebuilding of the wall and the redemption of God’s people.
The Lord can take an impossible situation--no matter what it is--and move in ways mightier than you can imagine.
Do you live in eager expectation of what the Lord will do? Or have you chosen to linger in the depths of despair? Like Nehemiah, turn your disappointment into a petition for God’s help. He can restore your hope and prevent negative emotions from gaining a stranglehold on your life.

~Dr. Charles F. Stanley~

Friday, August 4, 2017

If That Man Had the Soul of a Swine!

If that man had the soul of a swine!

(Thomas Brooks)

No object is so suitable and adequate to the heart as Christ is. He is a portion that exactly and directly suits . . .
  the condition of the soul,
  the desires of the soul,
  the necessities of the soul,
  the wants of the soul,
  the longings of the soul,
  and the prayers of the soul.

The soul can crave nothing, nor wish for nothing--but what is to be found in Christ. He is . . .
  light to enlighten the soul,
  wisdom to counsel the soul,
  power to support the soul,
  goodness to supply the soul,
  mercy to pardon the soul,
  beauty to delight the soul,
  glory to ravish the soul,
  and fullness to fill the soul.

Health is not more suitable to the sick man,
  nor wealth to the poor man,
  nor bread to the hungry man,
  nor drink to the thirsty man,
  nor clothes to the naked man,
  nor balm to the wounded man,
  nor ease to the tormented man,
  nor health to the diseased man,
  nor pardon to the condemned man,
  nor a guide to the blind man--
than Christ is suitable to all the necessities of man.
This speaks out the excellency of Christ above all others!

There is no 'earthly' portion that can suit an immortal soul. He is a fool upon record who said, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years--take your ease, eat, drink, and be merry!" If that man had the soul of a swine--what more could he have said? For those things were more suitable to swine, than they were to an immortal soul.

Man's soul is a spiritual and immortal substance. It is capable . . .
  of union and communion with God;
  of a choice enjoyment of God here,
  and an eternal fruition of God hereafter!
"Yes, He is altogether lovely. This is my Beloved--and this is my Friend!" Song of Songs 5:16

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Words of Wisdom and Revelation # 21

Words of Wisdom and Revelation # 21

The sufferings of this present time!

(James Smith, "
No Comparison!")

"For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time--are not worthy to be compared with the glorywhich shall be revealed in us!" Romans 8:18

Paul compares present sufferings--with future glory

Believers are exposed to all kinds of suffering, and instead of obtaining an exemption from afflictions--they are assured that it is through much tribulation that they must enter into the kingdom of God.

Some endure inward suffering, with which no one is fully acquainted but God Himself. They have such darkness, gloom, distress, agitation, trouble, and sorrow--as would not be easy to describe. 

Some suffer much in body, from the stressed and disordered state of the nervous system, from chronic diseases, or deformities in the physical frame. They seldom move without suffering, and for years together have but little freedom from weakness and pain. They live a life of suffering, a kind of dying life--and think much of Heaven as of a place where there is no more pain.

Some suffer much financially. Scarcely anything seems to prosper with them--losses, crosses, and opposition meet them at every turn. And though they live honestly, and conduct their business honorably--they are thwarted, hindered, and filled with perplexity. No one can tell what they suffer from financial trials and difficulties.

Others suffer from reproach, misrepresentation, strife, and persecution in the world, or in the Church--or both! No one seems to understand them, or is prepared to sympathize with them; they are like "a sparrow alone upon the house-top." False friends and open enemies unite to trouble and distress them, so that they often sigh, and say, "O that I had wings like a dove, for then would I fly away and be at rest!"

Others in the domestic circle, or from some of the relationships of life--are called to suffer long and seriously.

But whether from trouble of mind, sickness of body, trials in business, family difficulties, or persecution for Christ's sake--all suffer, and most believers suffer much!

But compare their present sufferings--with their future glory:
Glory which will exclude all pain and suffering, all sin and sorrow! 
Glory beyond the reach of all foes and the cause of all trouble! 
Glory which includes happiness--perfect, perpetual, never-ending happiness! 
Glory which includes honor--the highest, holiest, and most satisfying honor! 
Glory, or splendor--which will fill the soul, clothe the body, and dignify the entire person forever!

Filled with light, peace, and joy; clothed with beauty, brightness, and magnificence--they will appear with Christ in glory--filling them with wonder and unutterable delight!

This glory will be possessed by us--as part of our marriage portion and inalienable inheritance. But we can form no adequate idea of that glory, for "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined--what God has prepared for those who love Him!" 1 Corinthians 2:9


I am somewhat like that bird!

(James Smith, "
Sighing for Jesus!")
"As the deer pants for streams of water--so my soul pants for you, O God! My soul thirsts for God, for the living God! When can I go and meet with God?" Psalm 42:1-2
I have just been reading of the last days of a true believer, and his whole dying experience was comprehended in one sentence, "I am sighing for Jesus!" He did not sigh for life, nor for ease--but he was sighing for Jesus.
I cannot help observing, how much of my experience now, is expressed in those words, "I am sighing for Jesus." Yes, yes, I can do without riches, or fame, or the honor which man confers. I am pretty well content with what providence sends me--and yet I often sigh, and sigh deeply too. Some would think me unhappy--but I am not. Some may conclude I am discontented with my situation in life--but I am not. Yet I sigh--I often sigh.
I have read of a bird, which if caught and caged--never ceases to sigh, until it obtains its liberty, or dies. I am somewhat like that bird, and I expect I shall continue to sigh--until I obtain my desire.
I have had a glimpse of Jesus--and I sigh for a full view of Him.
I have tasted the sweetness of communion with Him--and I sigh for uninterrupted fellowship.
I have felt a little of the cleansing influence of His precious blood, and Holy Spirit--and I sigh for a thorough cleansing, that I may be perfectly and forever holy.
I sigh for Jesus--that I may . . .
  know Him more perfectly,
  love Him more entirely, and
  enjoy Him uninterruptedly!
I sigh to be exactly like Jesus!
I sigh to be forever with Jesus!
I believe that if I were just like Him, and always with Him--that I would sigh no more; and I think that nothing else will put a complete stop to my sighing. 
Yes, the day is coming, and it may be very near--when the days of my mourning will be ended, and when I shall heave the last sigh, and begin the never-ending song! My sorrows will soon end, and my sighing will forever cease! I shall soon be with Jesus, like Jesus, and everlastingly employed in praisingJesus! And then, I shall sigh no more!

"The ransomed of the Lord will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away!" Isaiah 51:11

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Words of Wisdom and Revelation # 20

Words of Wisdom and Revelation # 20

Where the Wrath and Love of God Meet 

In our culture, sin is no longer considered an issue. Although some people might admit to making mistakes or being wrong, few will actually say, "I have sinned." The Lord, however, takes sin very seriously. Until we learn to see transgression as He does, we will never understand what happened at Christ's crucifixion.
The cross was God's perfect answer to a terrible dilemma. Because the Lord is holy and just, He hates sin and must respond to it with punishment and wrath. Yet He also loves sinners and wants to be reconciled with them. The cross of Christ was the place where God's wrath and love collided.
The only way to rescue fallen mankind from eternal punishment was to devise a plan whereby the Lord could forgive sins without compromising His holiness. There was no way to overlook transgressions; His wrath had to be poured out--either on us or a substitute. But there was only one possible substitute: the perfect Son of God.
So Jesus came to earth as a man and suffered the Lord's wrath for us as He hung on the cross. Sin was punished, divine justice was satisfied, and now God could forgive mankind without compromising His character. His wrath was poured out on His Son so that His love and forgiveness could be lavished upon us.
Because of human limitations, we'll never grasp all that happened while Jesus hung on the cross. We can begin to comprehend only the physical suffering He endured, but in the spiritual realm, Christ bore so much more--the very wrath of God. This costly redemption plan proves God's great love.

~Dr. Charles F. Stanley~

The Believer's Journey to the Cross

We all know that Jesus walked the road to Calvary, but did you know that believers also journey to the cross? We've all been positionally crucified with Christ, but those who hunger for Him participate in a deeper experience of this reality. Jesus lovingly takes their hand and leads them to the cross. Even though this is the last place anyone wants to go, it's the only way to partake of God's best for our lives.
The trip to the cross is not one you take with family and friends. It's a lonely journey with just you and Jesus. He strips away everyone and everything you've depended on so that you'll learn to rely only on Him. While we're at the cross, He uncovers layer after layer of self-deception until we begin to see ourselves as He does. Soon our self-centeredness, inadequacy, and failures are laid bare.
The cross is a place of brokenness, but it's necessary because there's no other way we'll ever bear fruit. If we hang onto our lives and refuse to take this journey, we'll be like a grain of wheat that is never planted and never grows. But those who willingly die to themselves will produce an abundance of spiritual fruit. The only way Christ can live His life through us is if we've allowed ourselves to be crucified.
God doesn't want you to be content with just your salvation. There's so much more He desires to give you and accomplish through you. Are you willing to take the road to the cross with Him? Yes, it's painful, but the rewards in this life and in eternity far outweigh any suffering you will experience.

~Dr. Charles F. Stanley~

What Does It Mean to Be Saved

What makes a person acceptable to God? The path to redemption begins not with the decision to live a better life or to stop doing something wrong, but with the realization that we cannot correct our sinful nature. To find favor with the Lord, we must grasp that it's impossible to make ourselves righteous; instead, we need to depend on the sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf. When we trust in Christ as our Savior, God the Father applies the benefit of Jesus' atoning sacrifice to our sin debt, thereby making us "saved," or acceptable in His eyes.
Your good works and righteous acts are of absolutely no value in the mind of God. Compared to others' actions, your generosity and good works might seem like enough to bring favor with the Lord, but Jesus said, "Not as a result of works, so that no one may boast" (Eph. 2:9). When you stand before God, the only way you can be forgiven of your sins is through Jesus Christ and His sacrificial, substitutionary atoning death at Calvary. Jesus came to give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).
Jesus' public crucifixion was a demonstration of God's hatred for sin and immense love for mankind. He who was blameless bore the penalty for all in order that wicked, corrupt people could be made righteous.
No matter what you've done, you can be cleansed of the stain left by sin. Confess any known transgressions and turn from them; then Jesus will forgive you and write your name in the Lamb's Book of Life (1 John 1:9; Rev. 21:27). By trusting in Him, you are assured of eternity in His presence.

~Dr. Charles F. Stanley~ 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Words of Wisdom and Revelation # 19

Words of Wisdom and Revelation # 19

In that time before all time!

(Charles Spurgeon)

Meditate, dear friends, upon the whole range of God's works in Creation and Providence. There was a period when God dwelt alone--and creatures were not. In that time before all time, when there was no day but "The Ancient of Days," when matter and created mind were alike unborn, and even spacewas not--God, the great I AM, was as perfect, glorious, and as blessed as He is now. 

There was no sun--and yet Jehovah dwelt in ineffable light. 
There was no earth--and yet His throne stood fast and firm. 
There were no heavens--and yet His glory was unbounded.

God inhabited eternity in the infinite majesty and happiness of His self-contained greatness. If the Lord, thus abiding in solemn solitude, should choose to create anything--the first thought and idea must come from Him, for there was no other to think or suggest. All things must be of Him in design. With whom can He take counsel? Who shall instruct Him? There existed no other to come into His council-chamber, even if such an assistance could be supposable with the Most High. 

In the beginning of His way, before His works of old, eternal wisdom brought forth from its own mind the perfect plan of future creations, and every line and mark therein must clearly have been of the Lord alone. 

He ordained the pathway of every planet--and fixed the abode of every star. He poured forth the sweet influences of the Pleiades, and girt Orion with its bands. He appointed the bounds of the sea, and settled the course of the winds. As to the earth, the Lord alone planned its foundations, and stretched His line upon it. 

He formed in His own mind, the mold of all His creatures, and found for them a dwelling and a service. He appointed the degree of strength with which He would endow each creature, settled its months oflife, its hour of death, its coming and its going. 

Divine wisdom mapped this earth--its flowing rivers and foaming seas, the towering mountains, and the laughing valleys. The divine Architect fixed the gates of the morning--and the doors of the shadow of death. 

Nothing could have been suggested by any other, for there was no other to suggest. It was in His power to have made a universe very different from this--if He had so pleased. That He has made it what it is, must have been merely because in His wisdom and prudence, He saw fit to do so. 

"You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power--for You created all things,and by Your will they were created and have their being!" Revelation 4:1


How Will Believers Be Judged?

by Charles Stanley

Scripture reveals that Jesus Christ will judge every person who has ever lived (Acts 10:42). Those who refuse His offer of salvation face the white throne judgment—the unbelievers’ last stop before an eternity of exile from God’s presence. Believers will also stand before Jesus, at which time they’ll finally come to full comprehension of His extravagant grace.
In 1 Corinthians 4:5, Paul asserts that Jesus will disclose the motives hidden in believers’ hearts. Some people have gotten the misguided idea that all their sins will be displayed for everyone to see, but the Bible in no way supports that notion.

Jesus will reveal the true nature of a believer’s heart to him or her. Every rebellious act, wrong attitude, and cutting word will be reviewed. When the Bible says that Jesus will wipe the tears from our eyes, it is referring to this time (Isaiah 25:8). We’ll be standing in the holy Savior’s presence, grieving over how undeserving we are of His sacrifice. But the sorrow will last only a moment. On its heels comes the tremendous joy of having received forgiveness and lived a life pleasing to Him. Christ’s judgment is not a punishment; it is a reminder that we are pardoned. At last, we will fully realize the depth and breadthof His grace.

Believers need not cower or hang their heads during the judgment. Nor are we to repent—the time for that is past. We will stand before the Lord, clothed in Christ’s righteousness and forgiven of every single sin. And we will at last comprehend how great is the love of our God for us.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Rest and Liberty In The Spirit # 2

Rest and Liberty In The Spirit # 2

We can rest - without passivity which is a wrong kind of rest, a false rest; without that kind of fatalism which says, "What is to be, will be." But if we are definitely seeking to move with the Lord, we can rest. The Holy Spirit has this matter in hand, and every deviation of ours will find the Holy Spirit reacting to it and bringing us back. Every time we feel we can go on no longer, we find we come back again, we just cannot stay thee, back we come again. We know that it is not just our persistence, but thee is a persistence of God. He has this thing in hand, and that is liberty.

These others were coming in and saying, "You must, and unless you do...!" The apostle said, "There is no must about it, you walk in the Spirit and you will." You can take it for granted, you can rest in this: the Holy Spirit has come to take charge of this matter, and if you will seek to be in real fellowship with the Lord, you will be free from all that terrible bondage of all the time being beaten by what you ought to do and ought not to do. You are at liberty in Christ, you are at rest. All I have to do is to have no rebellion in my heart, to have no resistance to the Spirit, to seek to be open to the Lord. The Holy Spirit has the whole thing in hand if I will keep in the road; He has come to do this - I can rest. That is liberty in Christ from the terrible bondage of law. It is the work of the Spirit.

I put it very simply because we must never come under a strain in the Christian life. Sometimes there is presented to us some view of the great purpose of God, some presentation of truth that is altogether beyond us; something from the Word of God which we would call deeper or higher or fuller is brought to us, and we have it explained and all its laws and principles set forth, and then the whole thing becomes a strain. How can I get into that, how can I attain to that? The thing is so big and it seems so terribly beyond us. Well, if that is of the Lord, if that is the Lord's will, then, Lord, I adjust to that, I accept that, and I say, "Lord, I am committed to that; if You see there are those things that would get in the way, I am prepared for You to deal with those things that would get in the way, I am prepared for You to deal with those things." And you rest in faith, you apprehend, you lay hold. Then the Lord has got that, the Holy Spirit has come to do that, and, being like that, you do not make a great burden of it. We need not make a strain of it at all. The enemy would like us to make a terrible strain of this whole thing, and so the Christian life becomes something that takes the joy and rest out. It is just the opposite! The Holy Spirit has come to do this. All that we have to see to is that the Holy Spirit does not meet positive obstruction in us, that we are going on with the Lord as He shows us, and He will work the whole thing out.

Paul was the great personal example of the way of spiritual fullness as to its beginnings. You notice that in the beginning of this letter, Paul takes pains to present his own spiritual history. He is reinforcing his argument by a good deal about himself. He tells us of his beginnings, how it came to him. "Neither did I receive it (the gospel) from man, nor was I taught it, but ... through revelation of Jesus Christ" (Gal. 1:12). "It was the good pleasure of reveal his Son in me" (Gal. 1:15-16). Then he tells us various things about himself, but his point is that his whole spiritual life was based upon a firsthand, living knowledge of the Lord and not something second-hand. And that is the first key to spiritual fullness, that this is a living spiritual matter that is firsthand, and not something that we receive from books, study, conferences, messages, other people, but for us, whatever there may have been of help towards understanding, the thing has become a personal living thing, and it is like that all the time. That is the key to spiritual fullness.

The Holy Spirit's Urge in Ministry

But then you notice the apostle here is not only the example of the basis of spiritual fullness, but he is the great example of this principle that I have been trying to set forth - the urge of the Spirit. If the Lord had been content with anything less than fullness, if the Lord had been satisfied that these people had been saved with a good conversion from paganism to Christ, then Paul would not have been worried. You would never have words like this - "of whom I am again in travail." What is this travail? What is this thing that Paul is talking about as to himself - "striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily" (Col. 1:29). "That we may present every man perfect in Christ" (Col. 1:28). Paul is the personal example of the Holy Spirit's great concern for His spiritual fullness of the Lord's people.

I speak from our own case as those who need to be on this ground ourselves, this ground of rest, this ground of confidence that the Holy Spirit is going to do the whole thing while we are walking in the Spirit. If we are called to be ministers of the fullness  of Christ, that is, of greater measures of Christ to others, if we have been apprehended by Christ with a view to bringing the Lord's people into a greater fullness, we can take it that the Lord will never let us settle down to something less. May we take our own experience? I cannot tell you how many times in the course of these good few years now, I have been personally tempted to take a lower level of ministry, to be content with just so much and not go any further, because this reach for the Lord's fullest thought is so costly. It brings us into such suffering of almost every kind, in the spiritual realm and among men and among our brethren in Christ. To stand for God's ultimate, complete thought and intention involves us in such a lot, and the temptation comes sometimes, under extreme pressure, not to go so far, not to be so utter, not to stand for so much. The temptation is, if only you would come within a smaller compass, a lot of this trouble would would be lifted from you. And sometimes we have almost felt, "Well, perhaps we are trying to go a bit too far,and so on. Next time we are going to give a much simpler message!" But oh, we cannot, it just does not work. The Holy Spirit will not let you, and you come to a real crisis. Did the Lord call you to that? If so, you are going to do a terrible injury if you do not go right on with it. I mean this: the Spirit of God within just will not let you come down; He reacts, and you have to go on and go on. He has this thing in hand, and the issue is that you have to violate the Holy Spirit in order to take a lower line or level, and who will do that?

The apostle raised a very serious question with these Galatians. He said, If you accept this alternative, "ye are fallen away from grace" (5:4); you have got out of the realm where grace obtains and put yourself on another basis. That is exceedingly serious!

My point is that, if the Lord has in His sovereignty called us into the work, the ministry, of His fullest desire or His fuller desire for His people, the Holy Spirit will not allow us to argue ourselves out of it and say, "Well, look at all these other Christians. They are happy with something less, the Lord blesses them, and why this and why that where they are concerned?" When we say, "What of this man?" the Lord says to us, "What is that to thee, follow thou Me." He does not allow us to argue ourselves out on the ground of other Christians. The Spirit brings us back again. What He does in the matter of our Christian lives in bringing us back if we withdraw, if we get away, He does in the case of the purpose for which we are called into service. He makes us know that, whatever others may be called to do, this is our calling and we cannot get away from it. He expects nothing less, and we shall find our rest, not in an easier way, but in going on with the Lord; we shall find our life in the way of the Lord's calling, and any other is the way of death; not liberty at all, but bondage.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(The End)

Friday, July 7, 2017

Rest and Liberty In The Spirit # 1

Rest and Liberty In The Spirit

"I marvel that ye are so quickly removing from him that called you in the grace of Christ" (Gal. 1:6)

"O foolish Galatians, who did bewitch you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was openly set forth crucified? This only would I learn from you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now perfected in the flesh?" (Gal. 3:1-3).

"My little children, of whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you" (Gal. 4:19)

"For freedom did Christ set us free: stand fast therefore, and be not entangled again in a yoke of bondage" (Gal. 5:1)

The Result of the Spirit Being In Us

The commencement of these Galatian Christians was evidently a good and sound one, so much so that the apostle at one point says, "Did ye suffer so many things in vain? If it be indeed in vain" (3:4). They suffered much at the beginning, and paid a great price in persecutions. Their beginning was all right, there was no doubt about that. But then there came a point at which their progress was arrested. That radiant morning became overcast, and the promise which they gave faded. The big question arose as to the whole purpose for which they had paid the price and turned to the Lord. At the moment, we are not touching upon what it was that brought them under arrest. We come to this tremendous re-emphasis made by the apostle upon the purpose of salvation, and in that connection he brings the Holy Spirit very much into view. You go through and mark the occurrences of the Spirit in chapter 3:2, 3, 5, 14; 4:6, 29; 5:16, 17, 18, 22, 25. There are all those references to the Spirit, and they have therefore a very great bearing upon this whole matter of the purpose of salvation, and what the apostle is really saying, to sum it up in a word, is this, that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God's full purpose: that is, the Holy Spirit never begins a work to leave it half finished. If we make a beginning by the Spirit, our beginning is the work of the Spirit and in the beginning we receive the Spirit. The Spirit does not mean to leave it there. He is the Spirit of divine fullness. Fullness is a word which so often is associated with the Holy Spirit. Wherever you get types of the Holy Spirit, you get the idea of plenitude, of abundance, of fullness. If it is the river, if it is the fire, whatever it is, you find that He comes with the idea of making up a lack, of taking things right on, and He is God committing Himself, and God is full.

So the apostle here is saying, "Now, your very receiving of the Spirit at the beginning was not intended that you should just be saved, but that you should come to divine fullness, and the Spirit is here for that purpose, and will therefore be present with the mighty urge of God - Onward, ever onward!" It is a violation of the very Spirit which we received at the beginning if we just do not go on. Among the Galatians the Spirit is being suppressed, the Spirit is being grieved, the Spirit is suffering reverse, for the Spirit would take us on to that fullness which is always implied and meant by the word "sonship", which is another of the great words in this letter; "sonship" which is spiritual fullness.

satan's Endeavor to Make Christianity a Legal System

Now at that point things divided. There is the true foundation, the true beginning, and the meaning of the Spirit being in us, but at a point with these people, the thing divided. They moved away from the true guidance, the true constraint, the true movement of the Spirit on to an artificial one, and their Christian began to become artificial. The reason was that these Judaisers came along, always on Paul's heels to try to destroy his ministry. They came along and said, "You must be circumcised; except you be circumcised, you cannot be saved" - bringing in again the old legal idea, and making even Christianity into something legal. It is a persistent thing all the way along. It is one of satan's persistent objects, not to turn us away from Christianity necessarily, but to make Christianity something which it really is not, and to turn the great blessedness, joy, life and liberty of a true Christian life into something burdensome, something difficult and hard. It is so easy just to come to a point where, from what has been a really living and blessed experience and enjoyment of the Lord, Christianity becomes something of laws and regulations,and we begin to feel that the Christian life is a strain. Something has happened. A twist is being given to it, and now the whole prospect is one without real joy, without real liberty. It is a case of, "You must!" It is the big stick kind of thing. "You must, and if you do not, woe betide you!" It is easy for anything in Christianity to become like that, so that the Christian life now has become a burden, and the work of the Lord has become a burden. Then we are more slaves than sons. That is what the apostle is arguing in this letter! "Thou art no longer a bond servant, but a son" (4:7).

But what has brought about this change? We have begun to take on something which for us is not living; it is not for us a matter of life, it is a matter of something that we have to measure up to and try to attain, of trying to be something that we are not, and so the thing becomes a weight and a burden. It is an artificial kind of Christianity. But over against that, the apostle is saying this, that immediately things begin to get like that, something has gone wrong. If ever the Christian life begins to appear like that and become something like that to you, things have gone wrong; you have ceased to move in the Spirit, you have got on to some other ground.

The Spirit is the Spirit of life and of liberty. What do we mean by life and liberty? Well, the spirit of rest - just the opposite of burdensomeness.

Our Responsibility and the Holy Spirit's Responsibility

How does that work out? If the Spirit has got the matter in hand, if He is the Spirit of divine fullness, all that is necessary where we are concerned is to keep in fellowship with the Spirit, walk in the Spirit, to keep in spiritual fellowship with the Lord, to have our own life truly in union with the Lord and the Spirit will take responsibility for seeing that the whole divine purpose is reached. If we are not moving away from the Lord, pulling away or in the other direction, if we are having no unbelief, no rebellion and no stubbornness of our own, the Holy Spirit will take up this matter of God's divine purpose, and all the time we will be moving in that direction.

That can be proved as true in many ways. If you and I have really made a beginning in the Spirit, if it has really been a true spiritual history at the beginning where the Holy Spirit has really come into us, we may many times fail, even deviate, sometimes go away from the Lord, but we will come back. It will be wilderness, it will be disappointment. As Francis Thompson put it, "All things betray thee who betray Me." "You betray Me and all things will betray thee." It is Christ speaking. It will be wilderness. The Holy Spirit who started a work, will quietly work back again to the point where we deviated. If we get to pressed in the work, to strained, that we say, with Jeremiah, "I will not speak any more in this Name. It is too costly. I am not going to talk any more about it, it is far too painful. In the future I am just going to be silent." Then, "there is in my heart as it ere a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with forbearing, and I cannot contain" (Jeremiah 20:9). You see the reaction of the Holy Spirit. Paul is saying that - "My little children, of whom I am again in travail" (4;19). The reaction of the Spirit is that working within which brings us back and urges us on, even when we are resolved that we cannot go on. He does not accept that at all. He is going on, and only as  we definitely resist the Spirit shall we neutralize His direction, His object.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 2)