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Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Work of the Ministry # 8

The Work of the Ministry # 8

"For The Glory Of God"

"This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified thereby" (John 11:4).

"He that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with grave clothes; and His face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go" (John 11:44).

"But the chief priests took counsel that they might put Lazarus also to death; because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus" (John 12:10, 11).

You know quite well, but it may be as well if we remind ourselves, that in this Gospel there is brought out the one thing which governs all the interests and activities of God - namely, His glory, and His glory in the face of Jesus Christ: so that the one thing in view, giving meaning to everything, is the glory of God through the Lord Jesus. Let us keep that in mind, because if we detach anything from that we lose both its meaning and value, and probably lose our way. God is doing everything for His glory, and that particularly in the lives of those who are His.

God's Glory Manifested Against A Background Of Suffering

Let us now come to the first of three fragments in this wonderful illustration. "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God". The statement is the explanation and the interpretation of a very mysterious providence, a providence which lifts things which otherwise could be regarded as the common happenings in human life on to another level, and clothes them with majesty, with glory. It is not an uncommon thing that a man should be taken ill and die, and there are literally countless things which just happen like that, making up the sum of human life and experience, every one of which can be regarded as the as the common lot, the everyday experience; but here is something which, by the illumination of the Lord, has to be seen in another way - and another way which almost startles us. It is that the sovereignty of God, moving toward that great object of His own glory in His Son, acts to make a man ill, to bring sickness upon a man; and providence stands back and lets that sickness take its course, until the man dies and is more than dead, and all the features of an earthly human tragedy are there, of bereavement, of sorrow and heartbreak. They are all there - and yet God is in this thing, involved and implicated by His own act in a most remarkable way, and it is made known that this thing was determined by God Himself with a tremendous object in view, the greatest object in the heart of God - His own glory.

Now you see the far-reaching possibilities of such a consideration, and the tremendous range of application. We shall be content just now to take the fact that when God is seeking to glorify Himself, to bring His Son into His rightful place of recognition, of Lordship, those things which we may naturally regard and interpret as the haps and chances of human life, to which all are subject, may be something predestined of God, under God's control, to bring out something greatly to the glory of God, to God's satisfaction.

Now, friends, this is something to which you and I, have to seek quite diligently to adjust ourselves. Let us widen and enlarge the application from just human indisposition or sickness, even if it does culminate in death. Let us view in the light of this perhaps a lifetime of difficulty and adversity and suffering, perhaps something that has come to us for which we have more than thrice sought the lord that it might be removed, and the Lord has in effect said, 'No': there has been no removal; it is something that we are called upon to experience and endure. It may be something in our lives as a whole, or it may be some event in our lives of great distress. Oh, look at it, whatever it may be in you case that you would have removed, to which you would take the attitude that Mary and Martha took - This is a tragedy, this is a misfortune, this is a great adversity, this is an overwhelming sorrow, this is all against us, all contrary to our good and to our blessing and to our joy. The Word of God makes it clear in more than one place that there is a sovereignty behind the lives of His own, "the called according to His purpose", which may have not just let that thing happen, but actually ordained it, and made that very thing, ordered by the will of God, the means by which something should come from our lives very much to the glory of God. I know that it is not easy to take that attitude toward things when you are in them - it is the most difficult thing; but here is something which is concrete as a statement,and it says in a general way to us, "to them that love God... that are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28): 'You who love the Lord, there is some tremendous possibility for the Lord's glory, the Lord's satisfaction, wrapped up in that which you are inclined to regard as a trouble, suffering, adversity, a setback, a tragedy, if not a catastrophe, a strange and mysterious providence which has reversed your hopes and expectations - all that and much more. That may be something that the Lord has not only allowed to take place, but has arranged Himself.' In the end, of course, we recognize that and acknowledge it, and we shall not be sorry that we went through that thing. I do not think Mary and Martha were sorry afterwards that they went through it. I think there was tremendous gain there, but the point is in suffering something for God's glory, and if our hearts are set upon His glory, we shall share it. "If so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified with Him" (Romans 8:17).

That is just the first brief but quite real message to us, and it must be taken by every one of us according to our own hearts' secret bitterness and sorrow. You know the Lord has dealt with you in a strange way, upset all your plans, suspended all your expectations, reversed all your hopes, brought everything to a standstill, whatever it might be. Now "this sickness is not unto death". If Christ, the Resurrection and the Life, is involved in this, it is unto life; it cannot be unto death, but for the glory of God.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 9 - Manifested Glory Limited By An Earth Touch)

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Work of the Ministry # 7

The Work of the Ministry # 7

The Work of the Cross, continued -

That constitutes the next battle for the child of God. To begin with, the Holy Spirit, as it were, does not talk about this; He just gives the joy of salvation. But after a bit there is the discovery of the need of something deeper. What is the final solution to a defeated Christian life? It is the end of Romans seven - "I thank God through Jesus Christ", and he thanks God because what is in Romans six has been realized. "Our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away, that so we should no longer be in bondage to sin; for he that hath died is justified (released) from sin" (verses 6, 7). And the revelation of the Spirit comes as to the further meaning of the Cross as deliverance from the power of sin.

The next thing is that the Cross begins to deal with the self-life itself, and we run into a deeper discovery of what self is - not actual sins and wickedness, but motives, a whole world of iniquity which is our self-life; and the end of it is that the Lord will lead us to a crisis, where we see that the Cross has dealt with that person, that self. Paul tells us in Romans six that the old man is crucified, and in Galatians two, verse twenty he says, "I have been crucified with Christ...no longer I... but Christ". So the Cross is our deliverance from that.

But the deepest thing is that the work of the fall was undone by the Lord Jesus. Redemption was an adequate thing. He was manifested to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8). Now, one thing that was injected into the human race was enmity against God. The enmity between man and God was dealt with at the Cross; we who were once enemies were reconciled, and there is peace with God. But the fall has always brought enmity between man and man; between each one of us and every other one there is an enmity. If we had to live with one other long enough and uncomfortably enough, trouble would soon blow up. There is something that is "I", and it is irritating. Well, the Cross has slain that enmity - of course, in the Lord Jesus - but that is our refuge. Our refuge is the Cross, and Ephesians two touches that very matter. It says, "That He might create in Himself of the two one new man", "having slain the enmity thereby" (verses 16, 17). The Lord is not satisfied with a lot of warring units. It is a travesty to think of having peace with God upwards while there is war between His children down here. The Lord says, I want to get among you all and clear that away, so that you become one. And the proof that the Cross has done its work is the oneness that is in Christ.

A Practical Expression

Now, this is not just theory: it is the thing that the Lord longs for, "I pray for them...that they may be one", and our first exercise must be to commit ourselves to the Lord's will in this matter. He may touch actual points where there is not absolute oneness. That is a practical issue that we have to face. "If a man say, I love God,and hateth his brother, he is a liar" (1 John 4:20). The proof that we are right with God is that we are right with one another. We are living in tremendous, terrific, days: every man of the world you talk to admits it. But, in the midst of all the chaos, the Lord has an answer. How encouraging that in Isaiah it says, "Darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon thee" (Isa. 60:2) As the darkness deepens, the Church is the answer, and that means corporate life. "Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matt. 18:20). It does not mean two or three in a room; it means two or three who have been made one, who have been through the fires of the Cross until they are one and you cannot get a wedge between them; Christ has done something. And love is not sentiment - it is a miracle. You have to love people with whom you could not get on naturally. The Cross has to deal with that life, that the life of Jesus may be manifest; and it is one life. The Lord says, if even two or you are one, you can have anything you like. It is an immense thing to get two people really one.

What, then, is the answer to the day in which we live? It is the Church; it is Christ corporate; it is the "togetherness in Christ, at all costs, of the saints. "We ought to lay down our lives" (1 John 3:16). It is the losing of that natural independent self-life, whatever it costs, in the place where we live in order that the Church may be built. The churches are the expressions of Christ in His people, and that is what matters. There needs to be a closely related practical life in Christ to make this effectual. In other words, the Church has to be built. There has to be a knitting of member to member in order that the Lord's presence may be known.The Lord is not just present, in an indefinite way, in the middle of a room where the saints are. He is in saints who are one. The key to the whole situation in the earth is this matter of oneness in the saints, and I believe that it needs practical expression.

"I pray for them...that they may be one". The travail of His soul will not be satisfied until He finds something of His own likeness reflected in us, and that reflection requires our being close together. We must "grow up in all things into Him, Who is the head, even Christ", but we cannot grow separately.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 8 - For The Glory of God)

Saturday, December 2, 2017

The Work of the Ministry # 6

The Work of the Ministry # 6

The Seed Is The Church, continued -

So you go down into death as an individual, but you come up as part of a whole. There is only one Christ, Christ and His members, and that is the Church. The Church is Christ as the life and the realm of His people. The Church is not a lot of people. It is one new man, and the only way to know the Church is through death and resurrection. You have got to go right out of the picture, or you will never know what the Church is; because it is not on this side - it is on that other side. There may be religion on this side, but it is not the Church. The Church is on that side, and it is just Christ. It is not a thing, an organization; it is a life in union with the living Lord and vital union with one another. We feel for one another, we care for one another. How the whole physical body hurries to the aid of the of the foot that is damaged, or anything else. How insensitive we can be to one another, how terribly self-occupied and self-centered. The Lord wants to deliver us from that and bring us on to a new ground where we "love one another from the heart fervently", where we really care what happens to one another.

Than brings us to what I believe is the key to what was in the Lord's heart as He faced the Cross. I do not know where you think John seventeen took place. It looks as though it took place in the upper room, because chapter eighteen tells us that afterward they went into the garden, but it all seems bound up with Gethsemane. It was the same night, and more than once in John seventeen the Lord uses the actual words "I pray..." When He is facing the greatest issue that has ever been faced, He pours out His heart to His Father. This is, so to speak, the Holy of Holies. You could not have a greater opening of His heart really than John seventeen. He is letting us into His secret. What an extraordinary thing for those men to have been thee in His presence when He so prayed!

What does He pray for - the Saviour of the world, the One Who is going to the Cross as the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world? "I pray for them; I pray not for the world" - is that not extraordinary? - "I pray... for those whom Thou hast given Me" (John 17:9). And what is the heart of His burden for those who are His children/ His one heart cry to His Father for His seed, His own ("they are mine", He says, "for they are Thine"). The Lord's burden is - not that people may exist spiritually, but they they may be one; not that they may be brought to birth, they shall be brought into oneness. The full fruitage of redemption is not merely their salvation. The Lord is not satisfied with countless saved souls. Saved souls can be a perfect travesty and a contradiction of everything. Some Christians are doing the most grievous harm, but you cannot say they are not saved. We have spoken to a Roman Catholic who was in the employ of a professing Christian. He says - 'Well, I am sorry, I know too much.' And your tongue is tied because sometimes you know things yourself - injustice, wickedness, lying -yes, but the man is saved. God's great issue is not only our standing in Christ, but the state is a very serious matter. There is no testimony by standing; the testimony is by the state. It is not until something happens inwardly in the life that there is any testimony, but being a Christian does not necessarily make you a witness.

Then there is one further thing. The travail of His soul requires something more than individual spirituality. You can as it were beget a lot of semi-spiritual people, because they have had the teaching and they have heard about the Cross; they are, as it were, going on with the Lord all by themselves, but there is very little impact in an unrelated, isolated spiritual individual. A ministry can so produce individuals, and the tragedy is that so often these individuals, if you meet them aside, fall into one of two categories. Either they think they have something a bit better than other people, therefore they cannot help feeling a bit critical of other people, and other Christians can smell their critical spirit miles off, and so are not interested - and so that testimony has gone out. Or, at the other extreme, they are going through such a time, because they are trying to go on with the Lord, that they are nearly always 'under the weather' - in other words, they are always having spiritual problems because they have heard this deeper thing and it has got them tired up. Even if you get quite a measure of spiritual life in a child of God as an isolated unit, and they go on faithfully and seek to be true to the Lord, the weight of things proves too much for them, and the more real they are, the more the weight of it is on them. They are nearly crushed out of existence. The Lord has another way, and the Lord's way is the Body - one life together, oneness. "That they may be one."

The Work of the Cross

The Cross has done a mighty thing. If we could see what the Cross has really done,we would all stand up and say, Hallelujah! It is tremendous, it is a mighty deliverance. It has taken away the whole sin of the world - yes; but that is not all, though that is big enough. When you and I had our sins forgiven, I wonder how many of us, after a little time, ran into a sticky patch? I did; I am sure most of you did. We discover that, although we have a new nature through new birth, unfortunately we also have another nature still there. "The flesh lusteth against the Spirit" (Gal. 5:17). We still have this other nature.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 7)

Saturday, November 25, 2017

The Work of the Ministry # 5

The Work of the Ministry # 5

Travail Unto Full Growth, continued - 

So Hebrew two says: "It became Him, for Whom are all things, and through Whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Author of their salvation perfect through sufferings" (vs. 10); not 'in bringing many sons into eternal life', but "in bringing many sons unto glory"; and glory is moral glory, it is likeness to Christ. The only glory in us is the measure of Christ - not this wretched person. Glory is the presence of the One within, Who is there that He may increase and grow and develop, until His very features begin to appear in these poor vessels of clay: so that qualities and characteristics and beauties, which just are not in us at all naturally, begin to appear; and that is what the Lord is looking for. 'My seed", seed like that - because seed means nature. He is looking for the nature; He is looking for what which in Himself finds its fullness, manifested and brought through into actual expression in redeemed lives. The Lord's satisfaction with a seed is found not only where the life is implanted, but where it is increased and comes to expression.

We could spend much time on the great secret of that increase of Christ. There is a New Testament Scripture that bears right on this matter - Galatians four and verse nineteen. Paul, who has been used to bring into being a nucleus of believers called 'the churches in Galatia', says to these Christians, these saved people, "I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you". "Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now perfected in the flesh?" (Gal. 3:3). 'Having started in the power of that new God-given life, are you now going on in the energy of this same old one that you had before? You have a tradition, you have doctrines that you hold on to, you observe days and years - you are trying to be pleasing to God by doing things. That is all a dropping out of the realm of this new life which has made you sons of God; you have become withered, you have become babes again; and now I am in travail until Christ is formed in you.' Travail unto the full measure of Christ - that is the first thing.

The Way of Growth

The second great matter here is that not only is the seed a life imparted that it may come to fullness, but that fullness never comes without a basic work being done in the life. Paul touches on that in Galatians. He says, "Walk by the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh" (Gal. 5:16). We have the corollary of this in Romans eight and verse thirteen: "if ye live after the flesh, ye must die." If you ask, How can I live in the realm where Christ increasingly becomes my life" - the answer is: "They that are of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with the passions and the lusts thereof" (Gal. 5:24). Only if we have repudiated the old natural basis of life and said, 'I have finished with it, I want it to be no longer I but Christ', only if we have decided that it must be Christ, can it so be. Do you want it to be you or the Lord? You have to make up your mind. The Lord says, "If any man would come after Me" the first thing he will have to do is to "deny himself" (Matt. 16:24). The word "deny" in the Greek is a deliberate and final repudiation of self. Baptism declares that; but baptism does not end the process, rather does it begin it - because from that crisis, what happens? Then all that is not Christ in us begins to come to light, bit by bit. You say, I did not know it would mean that! Then crisis follows crisis. But if you have wholly committed yourself, then there will be that further word of the Lord: "let him deny himself, and take up his cross" - in one case it says "daily" (Luke 9:23). As far as self is concerned, all the way of the Cross is the only way of the increase of Christ. 'Not I, but Christ.

But that has to be a heart matter settled secretly with the Lord. When a child of God settles that with the Lord, the Lord's mighty hand closes on him. He says, 'I will see you through'. How blessed it is to see children of God who come up to crisis after crisis; perhaps you see them meet the crisis, and you can tell from their faces what they are going through, it may be for two or three days, and then life breaks, and they seem more gentle. You have some fellowship with them: they say, 'Praise the Lord, that is done!' With those who mean business, it is remarkable how often that others,and how quickly they grow. You do not have to engineer your own crisis - the Lord does it. The Cross is the only way for Him to "see...and be satisfied". Can the Lord be satisfied with the carnal Christian - with someone full of their own importance, going their own way? Does heaven look down and say - "That satisfies God"? It is nonsense! The Lord is looking for something quite different. He is looking for the ruling out of that, that His Son may come into view.

The Seed Is The Church

But the further meaning of this seed, I believe, is that it is a corporate term. The Lord has not died and risen again merely with individuals in view, though it begins with individuals; but as we come into Christ, we become His seed, a kind of person - many persons, of course, but of a certain kind - and in that kind of person the mere persons begins to be very much at a discount. It does not mean that personalities and individuals are ruled out, but they become something more than just a lot of unites: and that brings us to that word in Galatians three and verse sixteen, where Paul is speaking about Abraham's seed, "He saith not, And to seeds, as of many, but as of one, 'And to thy Seed,' Which is Christ." Christ Himself is, of course, the seed of God, the Only Begotten, but in Christ we become a seed or a generation which is Christ corporate. What we are naturally is all under judgment at the Cross and ruled out. God is only seeing a new creation altogether,where He sees but one person - His beloved Son; one Christ, and every one of us in Christ.

Therefore the fruit of the Cross is not just individual salvation. The fruit of the Cross is the Church. The fruit of the Cross is a very big thing: it is oneness.Will you look at Galatians three,verses twenty-six, through twenty-nine: "For ye all all sons of God, through faith, in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ. There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, there can be no male and female; for ye all are one man in Christ Jesus. And if ye are Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, heirs according to promise." As individuals, each with our background, our opinions, our personal angle on things, which seem so real to us - if I am a Jew, well, I see everything Jewishly, and if I am a Greek, I cannot abide Jews, and therefore I see everything Greekishly. But then there is a grave, and we say, 'Lord, I want it to be You and not me'; there is resurrection on that side. How many Jews and Greeks are there over there? You cannot find one; there is nobody there at all except Christ.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 6)

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Work of the Ministry # 4

The Work of the Ministry # 4

The Fruit of His Travail

Reading: Isaiah 53:10, 11; Psalm 22:22-31

In this passage in Isaiah, we get those words concerning the suffering, the Cross, of our Lord Jesus - "When Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed"; then that is enlarged further - "He shall prolong His days"; and finally we read in the eleventh verse - "He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied". The question which arises from this tremendous passage, this tremendous statement, is - What, after all, is it that will satisfy the Lord as the fruit of what He has endured? There is no doubt about it that the cost has been tremendous. We have only to read Isaiah fifty-three: the whole of that experience is called "the travail of His soul". This is a vital matter - the question to what end, after, did He endure so much, why did He go through it all? Such suffering must have an adequate fruitage; there must be that which causes out of what the Lord went through to justify it. Here, for our great encouragement, we read, "He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied". There is an end when it will be glory, when the Lord will be satisfied.

But, while, as in every other matter of the Word of God, there is an ultimate realization, an eternal realization, there is also a present or a spiritual realization before the end comes. There is a great peril among Christians of relegating everything to heaven; but the point is that the battle is here, and there are many things that ought to be operating here. That is what the Church is here for - to be the demonstration of heavenly things that one day will be eternal, so that God is able to point to the Church and say, 'Look at them! It is happening now, they have glory now, there is glory in the Church now. Is all the Lord's satisfaction to be withheld until the end is reached? Is the Lord never to have anything here and now that delights His heart?Surely there ought to be that which here and now brings joy to His heart: so that He is able to look upon it and say, 'This is what I have been wanting'. He should even be able to look at us sometimes and say, "This is what I wanted'. The Lord wants to be satisfied "now". "He shall see... and be satisfied". And we need to be very exercised about this matter.

What is it that the Lord gave Himself for, that was so costly? What was the point of the terrific scene in Gethsemane? "Not My will, but Thine, be done" (Luke 22:42). Well, let us say it straight away - it was unto something very great: not unto something small or partial, but unto something very worthwhile. The Lord is never satisfied with half a thing. The Lord wants the full thing, and this raises the great issue of what is the full fruitage of redemption. There are some statements in the Word that tell us: "To this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord..." (Rom. 14:9). He did not die and rise again for partial possession, but that He might be Lord. Everything belongs to Him, His rightful place is Lord. Here we get an explanation of what it is that satisfies Him.

Satisfaction In A Seed

"He shall see His seed." Satisfaction, first of all, in a seed. Notice it says "His seed". In Psalm twenty-two which is again the travail of His soul because it is the psalm of the Cross, we find the same expression used - "a seed" (vs. 20). "A seed shall serve Him"; out of His travail, in other words, there will be a seed or a generation who shall serve Him. And earlier in that passage, we find that He uses those words - I will declare Thy name into My brethren" (vs. 22). In Hebrews two, where that passage is quoted, the Lord uses the words - for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren", but a little further on another Scripture is quoted which says, "I and the children whom God hath given Me" (vs. 13). "As the Father hath life in Himself, even so gave He to the Son also to have life in Himself" (John 5:26); and "the Son... giveth life to whom He will" (John 5:21).

There is a very great word used about the Son of God, particularly in John's writings - "the only begotten". "We beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father" (John 1:14). "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son (one reading says 'God only begotten')... He hath declared Him" (John 1:18). That word 'only begotten' means that He is the unique One in that He derives His life from God Himself. He is unique as the only One directly driving life from God. The eternal God is in the Son. "In him was life" (John 1:4).

But the amazing thing is that He has a seed and imparts His life to those who become joined to Him. He is the life-giving Son of God, and those who become partakers of His nature are His seed. They derive their life, their nature, from Him. The Lord is a fruit of  His travail has brought into being a seed. And then it says that He shall see that seed, and there are two things that we need to recognize about the seed.

Travail Unto Full Growth

First of all, that the impartation of the life of Him Who is the Only Begotten is not the end of the process - it is the beginning of it. He puts the seed in, in order that the seed may germinate and develop and come to fullness. A child is always intended to be a full-grown man or woman,and what obtains in nature is always an illustration of an eternal reality. We are not satisfied with an undeveloped human life. However small it is, so long as it is developing properly, we are happy; but when development ceases, and ceases for months or years, then it is a serious thing, the life is not moving. The Lord is not satisfied with His seen being merely imparted, though everything begins there.

Do not minimize the coming of the life of God into a human being. That is new birth, that is eternal life; and "they shall never perish". "There shall be joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth" (Luke 15:7). Praise the Lord for the millions who have been saved because there is life for a look at the crucified One. New birth is a glorious thing. But the Lord Himself wants something more than that. His own nature is now there as a seed, but He wants to see it. He wants to see the nature coming to development and to full fruition. We are stupid about spiritual things. If we were planting an orchard, would we be content to put in little plants that never grew, and they were supposed to be fruit trees? Would you bring your friends around and say, 'Look at my dear little fruit trees'? But with many of us it almost amounts to that. The thing has never come to life. The fruit of the Spirit is "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control" (Gal. 5:22). It is the nature of Christ being expressed. It is something that take a lot of developing; it is the formation of Christ. The Lord is satisfied when He sees Himself reflected, when He sees that He is now beginning to take shape in many sons.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 5)

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Work of the Ministry # 3

The Work of the Ministry # 3

The Meaning of the Incarnation - The Answer to All Our Need, continued -

Every time we gather at His Table and partake of the symbols, we are entering into the meaning of that covenant love, as the seed of Abraham. What a mighty covenant is in that Blood! What a mighty covenant in that body of the Lord Jesus! We are made partakers of His flesh, of His bone, of His very life. This is covenant love. What assurance that should bring to us, what strength for progress - for if we have not that assurance and hope, how slow we are to go on; how difficult it is to maintain a going-on position and course. We may take a step forward - and then there enter in thoughts about ourselves, some accusation from our own hearts: the enemy comes because of some thing that is in us, and we find ourselves two steps backward. A little on, and then a rest, and then back where we were, because of uncertainty springing from the humanity that we are.

Jesus In Glory Our Confidence

The absolute strength of certainty to keep going on is in our faithhold on the Humanity that is in heaven. "We behold". You see, this letter eventually arrives there. There are all those who have run this race of faith, and they were weak men many of them. They are not the pick of the world's best in themselves. The story of their failures, and of being men of the passions with ourselves is not covered up by the Lord, it is fully exposed, but they have run the race. And then it says, "Let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus" - "crowned with glory and honor": the guarantee that we will be there crowned with glory and honor through faith in Him. You can have as little faith in yourself as you like, perhaps the less the better, but do not stay there with your no faith in yourself. Your strength to go on is in looking off from yourself unto "Jesus... crowned with glory and honor". Does it convey something to you, that here is a man tempted and tried, as we have been, through the fires of antagonism and evil that were always seeking to scorch Him, to mar Him? He got through, He triumphed, "crowned with glory and honor". Did He do it for Himself? No, He did it for us, as us. Our strength to go on is in looking off.

The Explanation Of God's Ways With Us

And as for God's ways with us, His strange ways, His sometimes seemingly hard ways. What about understanding all these? There is the explanation - "crowned with glory and honor", "conformed to the image of His Son." We are going through the fires; we are being tried, tested, up to the hilt; we are really having a difficult time in the hands of God. But what is it doing? Well, sometimes it seems that the fires are just making manifest all that is bad in us, ads it comes to the surface. But look again into the crucible. That scum, that dross, is on the surface, it has come to the surface all right. But what is underneath? The gold is underneath. We see what is on the surface; it is the things that are seen that we take note of - but God is doing something deep down. It would not be for our good to know all that God is doing deep down. We would, in our poor humanity, at once become spiritually proud. The last thing for our good is that. But He is doing something deep down underneath. He is refining the gold, even if we are more conscious of the surface dross than of anything else. He is going to crown us with glory and honor, that we should be held in honor before God. That is a mystery, but we have to accept it.

Jesus has actually taken our human nature and has carried it through into the presence of God, and it is there through all testing and difficulty and adversity. It is exalted. Our humanity is already exalted in the presence of God to glory and honor, and He, being there, is the pledge that, whereas the presence of God would be our utter destruction, we are going to abide the presence of God without destruction. He is the pledge of that.

The Need For Objective Faith

I close with this. If you have lost it, if you are in danger of losing it, or if you have never yet adequately grasped it, lay hold on your great objective faith. You may have become so subjective in your faith, in your doctrine, that you are wholly occupied with what is inside yourself, and that is a devastating thing. You never have any encouragement or hope along that line.

May the Lord recover our balance between objective and subjective faith, and restore to us the full balance of this great fact, this glorious fact, without which all the subjective will be for our undoing. There is One in the glory Who, tempted in all points like as we, sin apart, took our humanity through the fires, far keener and more intense fires than we know anything about. He is there as us - the pledge that we are going to be there. To me it is wonderful. This is the Gospel, this is the substance, the essence, the heart of Christianity. The incarnation is the very core of Christianity. Oh yes, we are not going, the longer we live, to have a better opinion of ourselves, to begin to be able to congratulate ourselves. It is going to be worse and worse along that line, but the counter to it all is "Christ in you, the hope of glory" - "crowned with glory and honor."

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 4 - (The Fruit Of His Travail) 

Saturday, November 4, 2017

The Work of the Ministry # 2

The Work of the Ministry # 2

A Man In The Glory

Read: Hebrews 2:5-12

This portion of the Scriptures is a condensation of all that the Bible, and especially the New Testament, is about. It is a strange thing to say, yet it is quite true, that at this late hour in the New Testament dispensation our greatest need, as the people of God, is to know what we have come into, what Christ means, and what we as the Lord's people, are called unto.

The Need Of Assurance

That need has several aspects. You will, I am quite sure, agree that one aspect of our need is that of assurance, of confidence, of being settled, rooted, grounded with an unwavering hope. We all have need of being so confirmed in the faith, so established, that we are not easily shaken in our minds nor moved in our confidence. That need is present with us, and that need, I think, is going to be felt more and more, as things become increasingly difficult - the need for the Lord's people in this world to be established and fully assured. There is need of strength, real strength, among the Lord's people, deliverance from weakness, from feebleness, so that they can go on, make progress, and really grow, for where there is uncertainty, where there is weakness, then there will be slowness of progress, then there will be real limitation in spiritual development.

The Need Of Understanding

Further, there is the great need of understanding, especially understanding of God's ways and God's dealings with His people, to know why the Lord deals with them and with us as He does, to have the meaning of the Lord's ways and the Lord's works which are so strange and often so difficult for us to understand. These are aspects of the great need which we all feel.

The Meaning Of The Incarnation The Answer To All Our Need

This passage of Scripture, as I have said, is a condensed statement of that which goes to the very heart of that need. It brings us to the infinite wonder and mystery of the incarnation. If we could grasp the meaning of the incarnation, God manifest in the flesh, we should have an answer to all our questions, and all our many-sided need would be met.

Notice this twofold "not". "For NOT unto angels did He subject the world to come" (verse 5), and "verily NOT of angels doth He take hold" (verse 16), "but He taketh hold of the seed of Abraham", "Not unto angels", "not of angels". The first is not angels, but man. What is man? The second, not of angels, but of the seed of Abraham. Man -that is humanity; the seed of Abraham - that is covenant love, love in covenant. You look in your margin and you probably find a reference, taking you back to the Old Testament, about the seed of Abraham (2 Chron. 20:7; Isa. 41:8), and you find the immediate context is 'Abraham, the friend of God' - of the seed of Abraham, the friend of God - God's covenant love. That is the direction in which this wonderful mystery of the incarnation lies, in the direction of man, of humanity, and in the direction of man brought into the covenant love of God.

Here is the upshot, the issue, the grand climax of this whole paragraph is - "We behold...Jesus". Oh, the music of that Name - for we are permitted in the right connection to use that name by itself. I know the modern school drops all the other titles, speaks not of Jesus Christ or the Lord Jesus, but is always talking about 'Jesus', making Him one among many, though perhaps somewhat better than other men; and that of course is evil. But here and there in the New Testament we have this name used by itself, and rightly so. "We behold...Jesus...crowned with glory and honor". Jesus is the name of Him Who emptied Himself, of Him Who became Man, Who took our humanity, a body like our body, a soul like our souls. He took our manhood - He, Jesus,crowned with glory and honor - to bring glory and honor our humanity, our manhood. That is the heart of Christianity.

Consider our humanity: let us look at ourselves, take account of ourselves, what we are as human beings; these bodies, at best, at worst; these souls - an everlasting trouble. Yes, our humanity: what a thing it is! Those of us who have come into touch with the enlightening Spirit of God in any real way have nothing to say for our humanity. We would be more inclined to apologize for "being" at all. And He has taken hold of our humanity to bring it to the place where it is crowned with glory and honor. That is redemption. That is why the passage goes back to the very first "Thou didst set Him over the works of Thy hands." "Thou crownedst Him with glory and honor" - potentially declared. "Thou didst put all things in subjection under His feet." That was man's creational purpose, but he failed of it, missed it all, and became the humanity that we know him to be. And there came from heaven One Who took hold of that humanity, and took it through all its trials, all its temptations, all its pressures and its stresses, through all its opposition and its antagonisms, through all the full force that came to bear upon it for its destruction. He took that humanity through it all, perfected it, took it to glory - our humanity, your humanity and mine, this troublesome thing, and made it fit to abide the very presence of the infinitely holy and glorious God. That was indeed "bringing many sons unto glory".

The Bible is full of that in figure, in portrait - the union of the Divine with the human. You have it in the figure of the Cherubim, and in the figure of the Ark of the Testimony - the wood, the common wood of the desert, overlaid with the gold. You have it right through. God is testifying - for this is the ark of testimony - testifying that from glory He has laid hold on humanity and is going to bring it through into the Most Holy Place where it is to abide for ever. The last picture of the ark of the testimony is in that Holy Place in the Temple, when they drew out the staves. It is there for ever in the presence of God. Its journey has ended, it is crowned with glory and honor - Christ and you and I in union in the presence of God. I say, that is the heart of everything, and if you and I need, as I have said, assurance and confidence, remember that God has entered into covenant love with us to do this. Do we want anything to give us greater and deeper assurance and confidence and hope than this, that God has entered into covenant love?

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 3)