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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)

Sunday, July 2, 2017

The Crisis of Pentecost # 18-1

The Crisis of Pentecost # 18-1

Christianity is built upon two great facts, the facts that God raised Jesus from the dead and the fact that the Holy Spirit makes this a reality in the life of the believer. Jesus risen; the Spirit given: these are the two foundations of our faith. There is no real knowing or living until the Holy Spirit comes, and comes in.

It is He who throws light upon Jesus, from His birth to His Cross, explaining the significance of His earthly life. You will never come into the good and value of the life of the Lord Jesus until the Holy Spirit interprets, explains and applies it. You will only have an earthly story, snatches of history and biography, unless the Spirit takes up the incarnation, the walking, the teaching, the working and the dying of the Lord Jesus and imparts their true significance to you. Why did Christ come to earth at all? What was He here for? The one inclusive answer to this question is that He came to bring back man into a living, conscious union with God. 

But if this was the case then all that He was and did was in vain until the Holy Spirit came from above to impart the value of His life and work to believers. He would have come in vain, taught in vain, worked in vain and died in vain if the Holy Spirit had not taken up the matter and made it real and living. It was the Lord Jesus Himself who placed this tremendous importance upon the Holy Spirit: "It is expedient for you that I go away, for if I do not go away the Comforter will not come..." (John 16:7). The meaning of the life of Christ can never be effectively realized apart from the gift and indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The very first thing which the Spirit does is to make instantly real in us that which Christ came to do. "The Spirit beareth witness with our spirits that we are children of God." Quite clearly this means living, conscious relationship with God. When the Spirit comes He begins at once to take up the purpose of Christ's coming to earth and imparts it in the life of the believer. In fact there is no spiritual experience which we can have which is not directly attributable to the Holy Spirit.

Now the Bible is a book of crises. There are four major crises described in the Word of God, and of course many minor ones in between. The first of these major crises was the crisis of creation. That was a major crisis for it was nothing less than the intervention of God in relation to purpose. God reacted to vanity, to what was void and without purpose or meaning, serving no real end - "Now the earth was without form and void." God was not prepared to tolerate this, so He acted in a crisis of intervention. The second great crisis was that of redemption. Through the coming to earth of the Son and through His death on the Cross, God intervened to recover what had been lost through sin. It was the great crisis of recovery. The third crisis was that of Pentecost, the intervention of spiritual fullness as against mere figures, representations and fragments, to bring in the real and the full. By Pentecost heaven intervened to bring into human affairs and experience the full expression of  divine life. Then the fourth great crisis will be that of the coming again of Christ. This will represent the intervention of God for universal restoration and restitution. It has many aspects and is still future, but it is just as certain as the other three.

Now we note that in every one of these major crises the Holy Spirit is very much in evidence. At the beginning, we are told that "the Spirit of God brooded over the face of the deep". He was the agent and energy of the first creation. Then in the crisis of redemption He was in charge from first to last. The Redeemer was born of the Spirit; He was anointed by the Spirit and did His mighty works by His agency; and finally He offered Himself without spot to God through the eternal Spirit. All the way through the work of redemption, the Holy Spirit was the energy and power, the agent, the custodian. Then of course it goes without saying that the third great crisis of Pentecost was in the hands of the Holy Spirit. That was where He took charge of everything, even as the Lord Jesus had so strongly stipulated that no attempt was to be made to preach and nothing was to be done until the Spirit had come. It was the commandment of the Lord that His disciples were to tarry until they had been endued by the Spirit, so insisting that no movement was to be attempted until the whole divine program had been taken over by the Holy Spirit. Finally we may be sure that the matter of the coming again of the Lord Jesus will involve the activities of the Holy Spirit. It will represent the consummation of the Spirit's work. He will have brought to birth sons for manifestation with the Son. He will have effected the spiritual growth and perfection of God's people; like Abraham's servant, He will bring the bride and present her to the Bridegroom. So it is that the end of the book of the Revelation brings the all: "the Spirit and the bride say, Come."

But when we have considered these four main crises and the many minor ones in between, we still have to ask what occupies the foreground of God's eternal purpose. The answer is that right in the center of the stage is a being called MAN, a unique creation, the crown of all creation. The Bible is the story of heaven's interest in man. He is the one upon whom attention is focused. God's great concern is with man, and moreover the activities of all the heavenly beings are centered upon him. "Not unto angels hath he subjected the inhabited earth to come, but one in a certain place has said, What is man that thou art mindful of him?" (Heb. 2:5-6). All heaven is occupied with the destiny of man. And all hell equally focuses its attention on the human race. The kingdom of evil is occupied in its hostility to mankind. Being divided as a kingdom - as Jesus says it is - it works in seemingly contradictory ways. On the one hand it does its utmost to degrade man, to dishonor him, to make him lower than he really is, to persuade him to make human life cheap, a mere cipher to be liquidated at will, fodder for the state or for the cannon. On the other hand it tries to make man without God to be something more than he really is, to ensnare him into arrogance and self-sufficiency, to pretend that a human being has independence and authority of his own and something to be proud of. But in both cases the objective is the corruption of man and his spiritual destruction. The kingdom of evil concentrates its attention on the purposes of God for man in a never-ceasing campaign to spoil this masterpiece of God's creation.

This may seem irrelevant to the subject of the Holy Spirit, but far from being so, it forces us to recognize that only by the coming in of the Spirit can these evil purposes be averted and the grand design of God fulfilled. The purpose of creation was that man should become a son of God. As Paul explains: "...foreordained unto the adoption as sons, to be conformed to the image of his Son...". So Pentecost really takes us back to the original thought and purpose of God in the creation of man. The Holy Spirit brings that purpose up to date, so that when a believing man receives the Holy Spirit as his inner life, all God's eternal desires and intentions enter into a phase of realization.

If this is so, then it follows that there must be a tremendous change in the person of the one who is in the good of Pentecost. We know very well that before Pentecost the men and women who were closely associated with the Lord Jesus in His walk and work by no means answered to God's original thought for mankind. When the Holy Spirit came, however, they became quite different people, so very different that we might almost say that they were another 'order' of people. They had passed from one kingdom into another. By the Spirit of sonship the Son Himself had entered into their lives, to make them veritable sons of God.

It seems to me that there can be no true understanding of the meaning of the crisis of Pentecost until we associate it with God's original purpose in creating man. Immediately we understand this, though, we have the key to the coming of the Spirit. I understand that there are some eighty eight direct references to the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament, but they are partial, symbolic or preparatory, all pointing on to the supreme objective of God which is to enjoy intimate fellowship with human sons. This explains the words in the letter to the Galatians, where Paul speaks of the promise of Abraham coming to Gentiles as well as Jews. This promise consists of the life of sonship to God through Jesus Christ. Now we note that the apostle goes on to say that this is made effective by the promised gift of the Holy Spirit who is "the Spirit of His Son" (Galatians 4:6).

The Spirit is busy making possible God's desire to have His creation peopled by loving and obedient sons. We are told that the creation itself groans and travails that this holy purpose should be realized - and soon! What is more, the Holy Spirit also longs over God's people with groanings which cannot be uttered, for His supreme purpose in intervening in human history is related to the goal of sonship. He regenerates us to make us children of God. He guides us because we are the sons of God. He trains and disciplines us according to the fact that "God dealeth with you as with sons." It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of the presence and working of the Holy Spirit. All the fulfillment of divine purposes in man is committed to Him. But it is possible for us to fail to realize the great objective of the crisis of Pentecost, which was to provide God with men and women who can eternally satisfy His heart and administer His will. This is not mere doctrine, it is the most wonderful prospect which has ever been revealed in God's universe. God the All-Wise and the All-Gracious has set His heart on bringing many sons to glory, and has committed to His gracious Spirit the task of transforming sinners like us so that He may have the family of sons, conformed to the image of His Son, which He planned before time was. There are many other aspects of the Spirit's working in and through us. All of these are important. Most of them, however, are related to the one all-inclusive objective which involves the transformation of our inner lives into that spiritual reality of likeness to Christ which was always God's purpose for man. "Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God, and such we are. It is not yet manifested what we shall be, but we know that when He is manifested we shall be like him." That is really what Pentecost was all about.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(The End)

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Words of Wisdom and Revelation # 17-3

Words of Wisdom and Revelation # 17-3

The Holy Spirit An Earnest, continued -

You see how we answer all our questions. I answer all my technical questions by looking to see what it means to me that the Holy Spirit is in me. What is the spirit pointing to? What is the significance of today's touch of the Spirit upon my spirit? That is an earnest of something. If that is followed through it will grow and develop and it will lead me somewhere. That is going to answer all my questions if I have got that principle. Have I been too difficult for you? Oh, listen to the Spirit, and then, when the Spirit checks you, urges you, moves in you, gives you a bad time or gives you joy in your heart, note what that means, what it is leading to. Oh, there is something bound up with that, there is something at the end of that.  I interpret everything in life by that touch of the Spirit and that answers all my questions. If the Spirit touches my mortal body today with His living finger and quickens it, I do not at once conclude that I have become immortal, that death for ever has gone and in corruption has settled down in my mortal frame. But I can say, "My resurrection body will be like that in fullness. It will simply be the consummation of that touch I have known today. I have a wonderful accession of life today, but the time is coming when that very thing will have been developed to its fullest extent and I shall live utterly by Divine life. I have the Spirit as an earnest." I am trying to illustrate this thing. The Spirit touching us in any way, dealing with us in any way as sons of God, is pointing on to what it will be when sonship is manifested (the day of the manifestation of the sons) and the creation is delivered from the bondage of corruption.

Now all that is detail. You can drop the detail and get back to the foundation. What is it? The Holy Spirit is basic to everything. We shall never get anywhere without the Holy Spirit; we shall never know anything without the Holy Spirit; we shall never reach anything in the purpose of God without the Holy Spirit; and the Holy Spirit has to be a conscious life with us: growingly so, as in the case of a baby. The baby has very little self-conscious life to begin with. As a baby,most things are done for it. But it is not long before the very first and remote signs of conscious life are there. Whereas up to a point there seems to be no consciousness of anything in particular, suddenly you will see a baby get its eyes fixed upon something; suddenly it sees something. From that time, the baby is taking account of something. It does not understand, but it is aware of some object and cannot take its eyes from it. It comes back to it and, as the days go by, seems to look for it. Self-conscious life has started, and from that time onward that grows. In the spiritual life it is just like that.

At the beginning, most things are done for us from the outside, although there is a remote sense of a new self-conscious spiritual life. But, as we grow, the Spirit's presence in us has to become more and more a conscious life of government; and these who are led by the Spirit of God are sons. That is the foundation. It is the foundation of growth, it is the foundation of understanding, it is the foundation of God's purpose, it is the foundation of all that is wrapped up in our relationship with God.

Forgive me for being so elementary, but if we can only get this, it is the key to everything. We do not want to have certain questions answered in a technical way to the satisfaction of our minds, but we get at the answer spiritually. We are never really satisfied by having a question answered so that our minds can grasp it. Presently we shall come up against new features of the thing and want new explanations. But if we can have the answer conveyed to our spirit - ah, then we are satisfied, and I say the answer is found in the presence of the Spirit and what the Spirit is indicating by His present dealings with us. What do His dealings with us indicate? What is the end of it all? If the Spirit today touches us upon a question of wrong, of evil, of something doubtful, what is the end of that? The end is holiness, perfect holiness. It will take some time because there are many things to be dealt with. But the end, when reached, is a holy being. So with everything else. In this the Spirit is therefore the foundation.

Adjustableness A Mark of A Life Governed By the Holy Spirit

There are some other things that come up in that connection. One of them is this, that a mark of sonship or of a Spirit-governed life is adjustableness. Now, I want you to grasp this. You see, it means that nothing is final with us, so far as our attainment is concerned or our light, and that we can never, if we are under the Holy Spirit's government, come to a fixed place. We can never come to the place where we just accept everything and go on with it rigidly as it is. Oh no, a Spirit-governed life can never do that, can never become stagnant, can never become fixed. There can never be any sense of finality about the position or state in such a life. I am not talking now about those great truths which are settled, to which nothing is added or need be added. We are settled, of course, in the matter of what Christ has done and what Christ is, those great objective truths of our faith. I am not talking about that, but of our understanding, our apprehension, our knowledge, our growth, our relationship to these things, our position. These are all things which must remain open to enlargement, to expansion, and it may be, to drastic  changes. You see, in traditional Christianity we have come into something that is more or less fixed. It is fixed in different ways. If you are a Baptist, then your position is a fixed position. If you are a Presbyterian or a Methodist, etc., it is the same. These are things which are rounded off. I am only illustrating, not judging. What is within these things is something to which you have conformed, of which you are a member. That is your bound, your world. I have only cited one or two examples. I could take any number of things.

Now then, where are we? How did we get in? Perhaps we were born, brought up, in those things, or perhaps we came into them later. But they are something, and they represent a fixed position and we, if in them, are fixed and governed by that position. That is to say, within them, certain things are interpreted in this way, certain things are practised in this way, the method there is this method; and how often, when you have been speaking of things, have you had this reaction from people, "Oh yes, but I was never brought up to that way of thinking. In the church to which I belong" (really referring to the denomination) "it is taught and practiced like this." That is a fixed position. Let me say it, without judging these things, that any fixed position is a contradiction of the Holy Spirit and of sonship. It does not matter what the position is; and it may be (I am only going to say it may be, I could put it more strongly than that) that if you really come under the government of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of sonship, you will have to make very drastic changes and cease to be this and that, and go on with God. Adjustableness is a mark of sonship, and, as the Holy Spirit has never brought any of us yet to a final position, there is more light and understanding yet to be received. The ways of God are not all known to us yet.

We must remember there is all the difference between the permissive will of God, for such instruction in us as can never be gained in any other way, and the whole will of God, which is another thing. We all have to look back on our lives and believe that certain steps which were taken and courses followed were in the will of God for us. Yet, in later life, we have had to repudiate the position into which we then came, entirely change and adjust. But, beloved, I am going to say this: it does not mean that it was not the will of God for us that we took that step. The Lord may, at one time, in His permissive will, lead us in a certain way, because of its being the only way we can learn certain things we have to learn. But it does not mean that God intends us to stay there for ever, that He has settled us there, and that, we dare not ever contemplate moving out of it. That is bondage. You and I as sons have to know liberty from bondage of every kind, and that means that we are adjustable, free for adjustments, not bound by any kind of conception that would prevent us from making changes as we are led by the Spirit; and it is true of every life that is Spirit governed that tremendous changes take place. The things which at one time would never have been considered nor contemplated, have become actualities now. The basis of the life of the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit producing sonship means that you and I have to be adjustable, and if we are not adjustable there is arrest at once: we are in bondage, we are in limitation. The Lord Jesus was adjustable under the government of the Holy Spirit. He was not playing a trick on His brethren when one day they came to Him and said, 'We are going up to the feast. Are you going up with us? If you do not go, people will wonder; you will prejudice your interests.' He said, 'No, you go up, I am not going up.' Yet when they were gone up, then Jesus went up to the feast. Is He playing a trick on them? Was He simply saying, Well, I would rather go alone, I would like to get rid of you? He had not the witness of the Spirit at that moment that He was to go, and therefore He had to stand His ground and take the risk of being misunderstood. But when they had gone up, He evidently got the Spirit's witness that He should go up; and He did not say, I have told them I was not going up: they will think I have played a trick on them, that I did not want them. No, He did not argue like that, but moved in the Spirit and left it all with the Father. He was not bound by those considerations of what people would think and say either way. If they should talk because He was not there - all right, let them talk. As for Him, He must be true to the Father. Adjusting, even if it is at an hour's notice, that is life in the Spirit, that is sonship.

This is the basis of victory over the devil. There is no defeating satan save on this ground of walking by the Spirit, of being governed by Him. May the Lord give us understanding in these basic things about our life with Him.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(The End)