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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)

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