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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Into the Heart and Mind of God # 40

The Return of His Glory

There is another aspect as to its meaning to Him. I think it is quite clear that the Lord Jesus carried in His heart a great longing and a prayer for the glory that He once had. This is where I think John touches this matter very closely. In the seventeenth chapter of his gospel, he records that great prayer of the Lord Jesus: "Father, glorify Thou Me with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was" (vs. 5). That opens a window and lets us see that the Lord Jesus had a consciousness of His eternal glory past: He carried it with Him; He knew about it - marvelous thought! - and that the consciousness of that former glory was ever prompting Him to pray toward, long toward, the day when He would return to it and it would return to Him. "Father, glorify Thou Me with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was."

The Mount of Transfiguration had become an answer to His heart's prayer and cry and longing - at least a touch of it. A fleeting touch, but for Him it was one of those things which perhaps you know a little about in your in your Christian life. The Lord just does something - it passes, but you know by it that you have been heard; you know that there is sympathy in the Father's heart for your need and situation. It may only last for a day, or a night, for an hour, or for a little while, and then pass, because the end of the road is not yet; the eternal glory has not yet come; but the touch by the way is something that carries us on. We know the Lord has heard; we know the Lord has taken account of that inner cry and longing, and has given us a token of His sympathy. It was like that with the Lord Jesus - the answer to His own cry.

The Offset to the Cross

Now, it is here that the Lord Jesus introduces, in a direct, frank way, the matter of His Cross. If there had been any hints before, the apostles and their representative, Peter, were completely oblivious of those hints; but now, at this time, the Lord Jesus comes to the matter quite positively, quite deliberately. Peter rises up as the spokesman of the others, in rebellion; he will not have it. But here it is. The Transfiguration was to be the offset to the Cross for these men, at the time when thy should come to realize that the Cross was no (as they were then thinking it would be) the end of everything: shame and failure, reproach, dishonor, and despair. When they should come to see that the Cross was just the opposite of all those things, then the Transfiguration would take a new place, and they would see, as Peter says in his letter.

If you will read back in his first letter, you will hear Peter saying this: "The prophets sought and searched diligently ... what time or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did point unto, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glories that should follow them" (1:10-11). Peter has got it right now; he has got it round the right way. First, when he would repudiate the sufferings, he is all for the glory - he is putting that first. The disciples were after the glory and were not going to have any of the sufferings; the Cross was something they would not hear about or accept. Glory, yes, but not the suffering. He has got it round the right way now: "the sufferings, and the glory that should follow."

Is that what Moses and Elijah were talking to the Lord Jesus about on the Mount? - "the exodus that He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem" - the suffering and the glory? The Transfiguration was the great offset to the suffering, to the Cross; and it was intended not only for the Lord Himself. It was intended for these leaders among His servants, that they should have the ground laid, the foundation put down, upon which presently the Holy Spirit would alight for seeing that not only the Cross of Calvary, but all its outworking, were in the light of the glory, had in view the glory at the end. These sufferings were toward the glory. They came to see that later.

You and I need that message. The message of the Transfiguration at this particular point is this: It is not now all 'transfiguration'; there is a lot that is of the plain and of the valley; there is the Cross. You notice that the Lord Jesus, in speaking of the Cross, said: 'He that would save his life shall lose it'. There is much of that to be gone through and experienced. But this is saying that all that- the Cross, His Cross, and the outworking of His Cross in the experience of His own servants - is unto this glorious end, that they shall be glorified together with Him.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 41)

The Spiritual Life # 4

The Heart's Desire Voices its Request in the Intensity of it Longing

"All things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing ye shall receive." The word "ask", in Matthew 21:22, is rendered "desire" in Mark 11:24, "begged" in Matthew 27:58, "Petitions" in 1 John 5:15,  and "requests" in Phil. 4:6. The Greek word and its cognate are found altogether in some seventy-four passages, and their usage suggests the though of need expressed in definite request, and there is also the further suggestion of the difference between the supplicant who asks a favor and the one who grants it. Unless the heart of desire moves the lips of petition, we pray to no purpose. On the other hand, the inward desire without petition is sometimes the most potent in its pleading.

"Prayer is the soul's sincere desire,
Uttered or unexpressed,
The motion of a hidden fire
That trembles in the breast."

When Hannah was praying in the temple, we read that she spake in her heart, only her lips moved but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was under the influence of drink, and rebuked her accordingly; whereupon she replied, "I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the Lord." When Eli heard this he said to her, "Go in peace and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of Him" (1 Samuel 1:9-17). Her moving lips were thought to be the mutterings of a daughter of Belial, as Eli judged, but he did not see the moved heart of earnest prayer beneath the surface. As a man thinketh in her heart, so is he, and as a man prayeth in his heart, so God estimates the real worth of the prayer.

The consecrated Petitioner Prays a Petition which Evidences His Consecration.

The consecration of prayer is suggested by two Greek words "proseuche" and "proseuchomai" which occur 125 times. These words indicate the condition of the one who prays. They convey more than mere asking; they suggest that the one who prays is right with the Lord. They are restricted to prayer to God. Sometimes they suggest the place of prayer (Luke 19:46), as being a place set apart for that purpose. The first word is a compound word, one part meaning a vow and the other signifying a turning towards; therefore it is an attitude of worship as expressed by prayer.

When we remember there can be no worship without being in communion with the Lord, we can see that consecration is an essential element in effectual prayer. Take but three instances where the word occurs. Of Christ it is said, "As He prayed," He was transfigured (Luke 9:29). The glory of the Christ was latent in Him before He prayed, but the praying caused the glory to become patent. The church of Antioch were able to send forth Paul and Barnabas on their great missionary journey because they had "fasted and prayed." The church could act in a right way towards them because they were right with the Lord (Acts 13:1-3). It is not any one that will do to pray over the sick; hence the elders of the church are named as those who pray over the sick one (James 5:14), which presupposes that the elders are not only men of experience in the things of the Lord, but those who are in close touch with Him. Hence "the prayer of faith saves the sick". This implies that there is the faithfulness of a consistent life; for no one ever yet prayed the prayer of faith who had not behind it the life of faithfulness.

To be right with the Lord, is sure to secure blessing from the Lord.

The Help of Prayer is Expressed in the Help Which Comes in Response to its Cry.

The man out of whom Christ cast the legion of demons "prayed that he might be with Him" (Mark 5:18). The Greek word rendered "prayed" in the above passage means "to call beside one", that something may be done, or said. It is rendered "besought" three times, in Luke 8:31, 32, 41. The demons prayed that Christ would not allow them to go into the "abyss", but suffer them to go into the herd of swine; and Jairus pleaded with Christ to go with Him to heal his daughter. Paul uses the word in indicating that the aim of true ministry is to "beseech" men to be reconciled to God; and the same word is given in 2 Corinthians 1:4, "comforteth," when Paul speaks of the comfort which the Lord gives to His own afflicted ones.

Here is a great fact, no one ever called to Christ to come near to assist but that He responded. The centurion was found at His feet "beseeching Him' (Matthew 8:5) to heal his servant, and at once Christ said, "I  will come and heal him." The multitude "besought" Him that they might touch Him to their healing, and as many as touched Him were healed (Mark 6:56). The leper came "beseeching Him" for cleansing, and at once He said, "I will; be thou clean" (Mark 1:40). The friends of the deaf man "beseech Him" to cure him, and immediately He says to the deaf ears, "Be opened" (Mark 7:32). The blind man is brought to Him, and they "besought Him" to touch him, which He did to the restoration of his sight.  We have to do with the same Christ, and whether for ourselves, or others, we may be sure He will come near and do as we wish.

"More things are wrought by prayer
Than this world dreams of. Wherefore, let thy voice
Rise like a fountain for me night and day.
For what are men better than sheep and goats
That nourish a blind life with the brain,
If, knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer
Both for themselves and those who call them friend?
For so the whole world round is every way
Bound by gold chains about the feet of God."

We may find others about "the feet of God."  Let us therefore prize this ministry, and exercise it continually, for there is no service valued so much in heaven as this, nor any other which brings such benefit to men and help to the suppliant.

~F. E. Marsh~

(continued with # 5)

The Work Has Been Done

"It is finished" (John 19:30)

We need to be delivered from the power of the devil, we need death and the grave to be conquered - and our Lord Jesus Christ has done it all. And beyond all that, we need a new nature, because we need not only forgiveness of sins, but to be made fit to have communion and fellowship with God. We need to have a nature that can stand before God, for "God is light, and in him is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:5). And Christ has come and given Himself, His own nature, the eternal life of which He speaks in John 17:1-5. So here, looking at it all, He can say, "I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do" (verse 4).

He has done everything that is  necessary for man to be reconciled to God. Have you realized, my friends, that this work is finished? Have you realized that it is finished as far as you are concerned? You are asked whether you are a Christian, and you reply that you are hoping to be, but that you need to do this, that, and the other. No! Christ says, "I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do." The work has been done, and what proves whether we are truly Christians or not is whether we know and realize that the work has been done and that we then rest and rest only, upon the finished work of our blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. If we see it all in Him and the work done and completed in Him, it means, if our hearts are in the right place, we are Christians.

The way for you to know God and to be reconciled to Him is wide-open in the Lord Jesus Christ and His perfect work on your behalf. If you have never entered in before, enter in now, rest upon the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ, and begin to rejoice, immediately, in your great salvation.

A Thought to Ponder: The way for you to know God, and to be reconciled to Him, is wide-open in the Lord Jesus Christ.

~Martyn Lloyd-Jones~

Monday, July 30, 2012

Spiritual Life # 3

Helps and Hindrances

Prayer: The Secret of the Spiritual Life

"Tell me, what is the secret of your success?" was the question put to Evan Roberts, when referring to the Welsh Revival. "There is no secret," was his reply. "All that is needed is reliance on the great promise, 'Ask and ye shall receive.'" Prayer is the secret of the deeper life. Prayer is a sin-killer. No one can sin and pray, for prayer will either make us cease from sin, or sin will make us cease from prayer. Prayer is a power-bringer. It is the hand which touches the hem of the garment of Divine grace, and causes the life which is in the Divine One to flow into us. Prayer is a victory-giver. Bunyan's Christian found that the weapon of "all prayer" was sufficient to wound and defeat the adversary, who would stop him in his progress as a pilgrim. Prayer is a holiness-promoter. It is like the gentle dew which falls upon the thirsty plants, and causes them to be refreshed and to fructify. Prayer is a dispute-adjuster. Let any two brethren who are at loggerheads get on their knees, and ask the Lord about any disputed matter, and they will find the Lord saying to their troubled spirits, "Peace, be still." Prayer is an obstacle-remover, as Peter found when an angel came in answer to the prayers of the saints, and delivered him from the prison of Herod's hate; and prayer is a Christ-revealer, for it clarifies our vision, and enables us to see the unseen.

We cannot do without prayer. The spiritual life is born in prayer, and it flourishes, and is strong, as it lives in that same atmosphere.

"Why, therefore, should be do ourselves this wrong,
Or others - that we are not always strong;
That we are ever overborne with care;
That we should ever weak or heartless be,
Anxious or troubled, when with us is prayer,
And joy, and strength, and courage are with Thee?"

There are seven strands in the cable of prayer, and these are denominated in the seven words which are associated with the inner life of prayer, as revealed in the New Testament.

1. The Art of Prayer is the Prayer from the Heart.  Of Elijah we read, "He prayed earnestly," or as it might read, "with prayer he prayed." His prayer was no cold and formal petition, but it was all aglow with intense and deliberate asking. He illustrates, in a striking manner, two of the essential requisites in prayer, namely, "heart" and "art." When the warm heart of earnest feeling and the holy art of definite pleading are present, there is sure to be effectual prayer.

Longfellow says: "The heart giveth grace unto every art."

George MacDonald says something similar, "Better to have the poet's heart than brain, feeling than song; but better far than both, to be a song, a music of God's making."

When the music of the Spirit's pleading is making our petition, there is sure to be the warm heart of felt need, and this at once will lead us to the art of pointed petition. The thing which made Elijah to pray as he did, was the man that he was. When our great High Priest comes with the lighted torch of His grace, and ignites the wood of our being into a holy flame, then the sweet smelling savors of our  definite requests ascend acceptably to God, and bring down the benediction of His love.

We recognize that, the art of prayer is a sense of desperate need, for as an old writer has said: "It is not the arithmetic of our prayers, how many they are; not the rhetoric of our prayers, how eloquent they be; nor the geometry of our prayers, how long they be; nor the music of our prayers, how sweet our voice may be; nor the logic of our prayers, how argumentative they may be; nor the method of our prayers, how orderly they may be; nor even the theology of our prayers, how good the doctrine may be - which God cares for. Fervency of spirit is that which availeth much."

2. The Sense of Need will Make Us Sensible to the Necessity of Prayer.  The Holy Spirit, like a skilled artist in painting a picture, has given to us in the words which are rendered prayer, suggestive touches as to the qualifications which go to make up its volume.

We are told, "the effectual prayer of a righteous man availeth much" (James 5:16). The word "prayer" in this instance signifies a "sense of deed." [The substantive "deesis" occurs nineteen times, and the verb "deomai" occurs twenty-three times, and in every case more or less there is a sense of need expressed in the use of the words.]  The noun is rendered "supplication" in Acts 1:14, where we are told the disciples met "with one accord in prayer and supplication." They were conscious of their deep need of the Spirit's equipment for life and service; hence, they were pleading in prayer and supplication for this enduement. The verb is rendered "besought" in Luke 5:12, and "making request" in Romans 1:10. In the former passage we have described to us a man full of leprosy, who fell on his face before Christ and besought Him to cleanse him; and in the latter passage the apostle is praying that he might have a prosperous journey to the saints in Rome. In each case there is a sense of need, and an earnest desire to have that need met. We pray so little because we feel so little. If we only realized it, there are always four petitions which we could make to the Lord, as Southey says: "Four things which are not in Thy Treasury, I lay before Thee, Lord, with this petition: my nothingness, my wants, my sins, and my contrition."

The sense of our sin will make us cry out with Isaiah, "Woe is me," till we know the cleansing of the Lord's sacrifice, which removes sin from us, and fits us for future service. The consciousness of our nothingness, as we are confronted with the demoniacs of evil, will make u cry out with the Syrophenician woman, "Lord, help me"; and the wants which press us on every side, and the meager supply we have to meet them, will make us say with Andrew, as he contemplated the few loaves and fishes and compared them with the needy multitude around him, "What are these among so many?" 

~F. E. Marsh~

(continued with # 4)

The School of Intercession

"Who in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears ... and was heard in that He feared" (Hebrews 5:7)

Christ, as Head, is Intercessor in heaven; we, as the members of His Body, are partners with Him on earth. Let no one imagine that it cost Christ nothing to become an intercessor. He could not without this be our example. What do we read of Him? (Isaiah 53:10-12): "When Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed ... He shall see of the travail of His soul ... I will divide Him a portion with the great, because He hath poured out His soul unto death." Notice the thrice-repeated expression in regard to the pouring out of His soul.

The pouring out of the soul - that is the Divine meaning of intercession. Nothing less than this was needed if His sacrifice and prayer were to have power with God. This giving of Himself over to live and die that He might save the perishing was a revelation of the spirit that has power to prevail with God.

If we as helpers and fellow-laborers with the Lord Jesus are to share His power of intercession, there will need to be with us too the travail of soul that there was with Him, the giving up of our life and its pleasures for the one supreme work of interceding for our fellowmen. Intercession must not be a passing interest; it must become an ever-growing object of intense desire for which above everything we long and live. It is the life of consecration and self-sacrifice that will indeed give power for intercession (Acts 15:26; 20:24; Phil. 2:17; Rev. 12:11).

The longer we study this blessed truth and think of what it means to exercise this power for the glory of God and the salvation of men, the deeper will become our conviction that it is worth giving up everything to take part with Christ in His work of intercession.

Blessed Lord Jesus, be pleased to teach us how to unite with Thee in calling upon God for the souls Thou hast bought. Let Thy love fill us and all Thy saints that we may learn to plead for the power of Thy Holy Spirit to be made known. Amen

~Andrew Murray~

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Into the Heart and Mind of God # 39

This is significant. There is something for the people of God in this great matter in days of difficulty and adversity: indeed, what they and we all need at such times is a new vision of the King. That, among other things, is what the Lord Jesus meant for that little band of men. The three were commanded to say nothing about it for the time being, until He was risen from the dead. Someone has used his imagination in that connection, as to how difficult it was for these three men to hold their tongues, and say nothing about it, even to the others; but then, when He was risen, how gladly and eagerly they told the others and everybody of this wonderful experience. It goes to the heart of everything. If this is true - that is, if the Transfiguration was true - then anything and everything in the Bible can be true. If it was not true, then we can doubt everything. BUT IT WAS TRUE!

The Significance of the Transfiguration

You are aware that the Transfiguration marked the turning-point in the mission of the Lord Jesus on this earth. He had gone to the farthest point of His travels north; from that outermost rim of His ministration, He would immediately turn about, with face to the south - to Jerusalem, and to the Cross. A resolute, purposeful, meaningful decision was reached on the mount; it was a crisis, a turning-point. We might say that it represented the very heart of of His time here on this earth, if we could see it. But what did it mean so far as He was concerned?

(1) Humanity Perfected

I think it meant two things in one. It certainly represented and set forth the absolute perfecting of His humanity. Here He has reached the point of His own personal perfecting as a Man. This glorifying, this transfiguring, was Heaven's testimony to His utter and perfect sinlessness as a Man: that in all respects, whether of Hell's assaults and temptations and subtleties and efforts, or men's hatred, malice, trickery and what not, He had triumphed, completely triumphed. If we were to analyze it, we should have to look at the word SIN. But we can say this, that the sum of sin, from the beginning in the garden to the end, is UNFAITHFULNESS TO GOD - a breach of fellowship with God through mistrust. That is the very core of sin. Everything was concentrated upon Him, from every realm, if by some means, in some way, a breach could be made between Him and God. That would be sin.

But in His case it never happened. He met it all and triumphed. The first Adam failed, and all his seed have been involved - but here is a Man perfected. Humanity that God intended is here achieved and realized, and is therefore glorified. So far as He was concerned, that was the first meaning: Sin, with all its horrible entail, has been completely defeated in and by this Man; and therefore death must go. There can be no death, for death is the result of sin. If Adam had never sinned, he would never have died. This One never sinned: He could not die - He could only be glorified!

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 40 - "The Return of His Glory")

The Spiritual Life # 2

Helps and Hindrances

Every careful reader of the New Testament must see that in the Godhead there is a trinity of blessing, no matter what note we strike on the piano of truth. There is life from Christ (John 5:25) which, like Ezekiel's river, makes us glad and healthy and fruitful as it touches us (Ezekiel xlvii: 9-12); there is life in Christ (Romans 8:2), which means participation in all His fullness and unlimited riches, even as Ruth was made to participate in all the wealth of Boaz in her union with him; and there is life with  Christ, which means fellowship with Him, or having everything in common with Him, as Elijah and Elisha had when they went together from Bethel to Jordan (2 Kings 2:2).

When we come to the Shiloh waters of God's peace we find there are three streams which flow one into the other. Peace with God is the first stream which flows, like the living water of Ezekiel from beside the altar of sacrifice (Ezekiel xlvii:1). The peace of God is the garrison to keep the citadel of our heart from one care and worry, as we are careful for nothing, prayerful in everything, and thankful for anything (Phil. 4:6, 7); and the God of peace enshrines Himself in the sanctuary of our being to keep us absolutely and wholly for Himself. Thus we have not only the blessing but the Blesser.

It is not without significance that the apostle replied to the jailer's question, " What must I do to be saved?" "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ." That is, I take it, to believe in Him as Lord, Jesus, Christ. To believe in Him as Jesus means to be saved by Him; and to believe in Him as Lord signifies, He is sovereign over us. The practical question now comes, do we know the Lord and His blessings in the larger and deeper sense of the word? No one who comes in contact with the Christians of our day can help being convinced that there are those who are, like Peter, following their Lord afar off; that there are those who are like the Ephesian Christians, who do not know the Spirit's filling; that there are those, like the Thessalonians, who have a defective faith; that there are those who, like Ananias, are keeping back part of the price; that there are those like the unspiritual and factious Corinthians, who are "carnal"; that there are those who are in bondage, like the legal Galatians; that there are those who have left their first love, like the Church at Laodicea; and that there are those who are tolerant to error, like the Church at Pergamos. Mr. Moody was not far wrong when, in calling together a conference at Northfield some years ago, said, "There are in the churches stores of unconsecrated wealth, unused or misused talents, multitudes at ease in Zion, witnesses who bear no testimony for their Lord, workers with the Spirit's conquering power, teachers who speak without authority, disciples who follow afar off, forms without life, Church machinery substituted for inward life and power."

The question may be asked, "How are we do be the opposite to what the great evangelist said too many Christians were?" There is one answer, namely, obedience to the Lord.

When Arthur of Round Table fame lay dying, he commissioned Bedivere to take his beautiful sword and throw it into the lake. The knight hesitated to do his master's bidding, but at last at his lord's repeated command he made his way, sword in hand, to the margin of the lake. Ere he obeyed Arthur's word he looked at the hilt of the sword as it flashed in the moonlight, and saw that it "twinkled with diamond studs, myriads of topaz-lights, and jacinth-work of subtlest jewelry."  He was so dazzled by the beauty of the sword that he went and hid it among the marsh, and then went back to wounded Arthur, who looked up to him and said, "Hast thou performed the mission which I gave? What is it thou hast seen, or what hast heard?"

He knew by the answer that Bedivere gave that he had not obeyed his directions. The king tells him so, and charges him with his unfaithfulness, and bids him go the second time and do his will. As he goes he argues with himself against the king's command, and again failed to do as he was bid, and gave the same reply to Arthur upon his return. Whereupon the king, with scathing words, told him again to obey.

Stung to the quick he rushes down to the waters edge and, without look or hesitation, he grasps the sword and flings it far into the waters. As Excalibur, flung through the air, nears the surface of the lake, there "rose an arm clothed in white samite, mystic, wonderful, and caught him by the hilt, and brandished him three times and drew him under the water."

Bedivere had no vision till he had obeyed, and obeyed fully, King Arthur's will. The same is true of the believer in Christ. The Lord as the Almighty will not walk in us till we fully come out from the world to Himself (2 Corinthians 6:14-18); He will not give the Spirit's fullness of power unless we obey Him (Acts 5:32); He will only direct our steps as we acknowledge Him in all our ways (Proverbs 3:6); and He will only give us "open vision" as we are right with Him.

~F. E. Marsh~

(Continued with # 3 - "Prayer: The Secret of the Spiritual Life")

To Be Christlike: Walk in the Spirit

"Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come ... He shall glorify me; for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you" (John 16:13-14)

If we are going to reproduce Christ on earth and be Christlike and show forth Christ, what is our greatest need?

We must have the Spirit of Christ!

If we are going to be the children of God, we must have the Spirit of the Father to breathe in our hearts and breathe through us. That is why we must have the Spirit of God! That is why the church must have the Spirit of Christ!

The Christian church is called to live above her own ability. She is called to live on a plane so high that no human being can live like that of his own ability and power. The humblest Christian is called to live a miracle, a life that is a moral and spiritual with such intensity and such purity that no human being can do it - only Jesus Christ can do it. He wants the Spirit of Christ to come to His people - an invasion from above affecting us mentally, morally and spiritually!

The Holy Spirit brings the wonderful mystery that is God to us, and presents Him to the human spirit. The Spirit is our Teacher, and if He does not teach us, we never can know. He is our Illuminator, and if He does not turn on the light, we never can see. He is the Healer of our deaf ears, and if He does not touch our ears, we never can hear!

The Holy Spirit bestows upon us a beatitude beyond compare. He asks nothing except that we be willing to listen, willing to obey!

~A. W. Tozer~

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Into the Heart and Mind of God # 38

Men Whose Eyes have Seen the King

Eyewitnesses of His Glory

11 Peter 1:16-19

That little clause in the hymn by M. E. Gates that we often sing might be the title of our present meditations - 'men whose eyes have seen the King'.  Men whose eyes have seen the King! As we, in that hymn, pray the Lord to send such men, I am sure we all feel deeply and strongly that that is the great need of our time. The world needs such men; the Church needs them; and at all times when the Lord has had such men, and has sent them forth, the need has been met - His need and the need of others.

I think it is the "seeing of the King" that really sums up this whole matter of the Transfiguration. That is why the Lord took the three leaders from the twelve up the mountain, in order that presently, with that vision made alive with meaning and power by the Holy Spirit, they might go forth as men who had seen the King. And what happened? We are living today in the ever-growing value of that vision.

The Setting of the Transfiguration

The very setting in the Word, in both of the places in which the Transfiguration is referred to, as we have read, is significant and helpful. As you know, three of the four Gospels - Matthew, Mark and Luke - record this matter of the Transfiguration, indicating, surely, that with these men this matter was of some particular importance. If John did not actually record the event, I am not sure that he passed it over, or did not have it in mind. We may come to that as we go on. But you will recall that, at the time of the Transfiguration, things were becoming increasingly difficult for the Lord. The growing hostility in all directions was pressing Him in, weighing heavily upon His spirit, and making His ministry more and more difficult, more and more limited. The shadow of the Cross was lengthening on His path. It is of this very matter that He now speaks frankly to His disciples for the first time: He speaks frankly about the Cross. The atmosphere was just charged with a sense of pending crisis - something is going to happen. It was at that time, in those conditions, that He took three from the twelve into the mountain apart, and was transfigured before them. It had a greater relatedness to the situation which was developing.

In the case of the many years later, when Peter wrote about the Transfiguration, we know from his letters something of the situation. He begins his first letter by addressing himself to the saints 'scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia' - scattered saints. Perhaps you know what it means to be of the "scattered" people of the Lord, in distant places, in lonely places; distance and loneliness creating their own problems and heartaches. How things seem to ease up when we are together! There is such a sense of fellowship, a sense of life and of joy, when we are all together. These saints had perhaps known something of the great togetherness of Jerusalem or elsewhere, but were now scattered, with all that that means.

Peter goes on to speak to them about the 'trial of their faith' - the trial of your faith is more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried in the fire (1 Peter 1:7). These scattered saints were knowing something of the "fire" of tried faith. There is much more in his letters indicating a not too helpful situation for the people of God. The key-note to his letters is "grace"; they needed to know grace. There was opposition, there was persecution; there were false prophets, false teachers. And, in that situation, Peter wrote and introduced this matter of the transfiguration.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 39)

Choosing the Perfect Path

"Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His Name" (Hebrews 13:5)

When you are faced with a very crucial decision and you really want to do God's best, what do you do? When you are rejected and criticized by someone you love very dearly, how do you respond? When you are tempted to indulge your carnal desire, where do you turn?

If you depend on your own calculations to negotiate an important decision in life, there is absolutely no guarantee that your action will yield God's best. While you may make a smart choice, your inability to see what lies ahead in life limits your capacity for decision making. But God, who sees all things, has plans to prosper you and to give you hope for your future. If you allow Him, He will make certain that you choose the perfect path for your life.

Rejection and criticism can be literally debilitating, particularly when  they come from loved ones. But there is no one who loves you more than your Father in heaven. When Jeremiah's heart was faint, he turned to God to be his comforter (Jeremiah 8:18-19). You can too.

The apostle Paul instructed believers to pray for deliverance from temptation. When you are in the throes of ungodly provocation, invoke the name of God. Direct your prayers to Hi, and your heart will follow.

A wise person looks to God to be his stronghold through trials. Realizing that you are no match for the snares of the enemy, it is always prudent to put your trust in God, who will never leave or forsake you.

Lord, on my own I am asking nothing. Thank You that You are always there to give me love and guidance when I am feeling battered.

~Charles Stanley~

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Spiritual Life # 1

The Spiritual Life or Helps and Hindrances


Phases of the Spiritual Life

An old man in the South of England often used a suggestive sentence in prayer. He would say, "Help us, O Lord, to deeper sink, that we may higher rise." Consciously or unconsciously he was indicating a deep spiritual axiom of the Christian life; for it is only as we get into the deeper things of the Spirit that we begin to rise into the heights of that lie which is life indeed.

Every one knows the importance of a deep foundation to a high building. In looking at the Times Building in Broadway, New York, the first impression we get is, that this structure of over twenty stories would hardly stand the blast of some terrific cyclone, but when it is known there are some five or six stories beneath the surface as foundation, it is realized that its foundation is its stability and therefore its security. When God speaks of bringing His judgment upon Edom, He tells the inhabitants of Dedan to turn back and "dwell deep" (Jeremiah xlix. 8). Their separation from Edom and their dwelling in some secret place of safety would be their security. The same holds good in the Christian life. There is a needs be for clear and definite separation from everything that is not in the line of God's will, and to dwell in the secret place of the presence of the most High. In the old days when there were constant feuds between the English and the Scots, those who lived on the borders of either country were in anything but a happy situation. Those too, who live as near as possible to the world, and yet hold on to Christ are in no happier position. There  is a necessity not only to come out and be separate from the world, but also to come into the banqueting house of full fellowship with the Lord.

There were at least four circles of those who came in contact with Christ. There were the seventy disciples who were actively engaged in the Lord's work, in going at His bidding to preach to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and who were eminently successful, for the devils were subject to them (Luke 10:17).  There were the twelve who were chosen by Him, and who knew in some measure what it was to have fellowship with Him, for they are said o be "with Him." Then there were the three out of the twelve who were especially privileged to see the manifestation of His glory, and suffering, and power (Luke 9:32; Matthew 16:37; Mark 5:37); and, lastly, there was one who came nearer to Him than any other and entered into the secret purpose of His coming into the world, and that one was Mary of Bethany, for she anointed Him for His burial. These have their correspondence among the Lord's people today. There are those who have their names written in heaven and who are busily engaged in the Lord's work; there are those who know something of communion with the Lord in having left all and followed Him; there is yet another section who have a larger experience, in suffering with Christ, in seeing the manifestation of His power, and in beholding the shining forth of His personal glory; while there is yet another circle who, through sitting at the feet of Jesus, are quite enough for Him to make known to them His secret purposes.

Years ago, in the days of the American slavery, there came to the lead mines on the Iowa side of the Mississippi river, a slave who had been entrusted by his master to make an effort to earn sufficient to free himself, his wife and children. After a little, he found a partner to work with him. They sunk a shaft to the average depth of eighty feet, but found no paying deposit of ore. This brought them to the end of their resources, and exhausted the partner's endurance. The slave was able to work at his shaft occasionally, while doing odd jobs for the other miners. For awhile he went on cheerfully, but hope  at last began to grow dim in him. He therefore made up his mind to make one last effort, in drilling a hole as deep into the rock as he could, and as he was doing so the drill suddenly fell through. He then knew that his efforts were successful. It was not long before he had made an orifice through which he let himself down into the cavern, when to his unspeakable delight, upon striking a light, he was fairly dazzled by the brilliance of the crystalline ore around him,and was gladdened by the fact that he stood in the presence of the illuminated price that was to buy his freedom. When he had gained the value of his freedom, he was confronted by the fact that his wife and children were still in bondage. What should he do? There were two ways presented to him. He could either drift along the crevice at the same level of his first discovery, or he could go deeper down for a second store of mineral wealth. The old miners advised him to follow the former course, but his own heart seemed to say, "Go down." And down he began to drill again. His own intuition was soon rewarded, for he struck another opening much larger and richer than the first. This time his hopes were abundantly surpassed, and it was not long before his wife and children were emancipated, a good house erected and furnished, and a large farm purchased and stocked, besides which he had an ample capital left over for business transactions.

This incident is a parable. All believers know what it is to receive the Redeemer, Who has procured redemption for them by His atoning death, which redemption means freedom from condemnation and deliverance from sin's power; but too many are content to follow the "drift" of a negative salvation, instead of going into the deeper experience of a positive salvation, in possessing the fullness of the Spirit's power, for their own sufficient equipment and in blessing others. It is well that we should with Jacob see the way cast up to heaven in the mediatorial work of Christ, and the angels of blessing coming to us in consequence; but i is better to be conquered by the Lord at Peniel, for it is there that the joint of self is displaced and power is obtained through faith's clinging. It is well to be protected from judgment in the Egypt of the world's condemnation, by the blood of the Lamb, but it is better to come out of Egypt and to be delivered from our enemies by means of the Red Sea of the Lord's delivering grace; and better still to be led through the wilderness of sin into the Land of Promise, for God deals with us according to the riches of His grace, in giving us every spiritual blessing in Christ.

~F. E. Marsh~

(continued with # 2)

Into the Heart and Mind of God # 37

I am not sure how your Bibles put this, but I am sorry that in the English Bible the words of the Lord Jesus to Nicodemus are put as they are, although in the Revised Version there is a connection in the margin. In the old Version it says: "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). This is quite good, as far as it goes, but what Jesus really said was: "Except a man be born from above". The real beginning of a Christian's life is from above, and not from beneath. Of course, dear friends, you and I have to learn the meaning of this all our life, but we just state the fact and leave it there for the moment.

The next thing that we must come to in the Pattern is what we may call "the take over of the Holy Spirit." That which is born of God is taken over by the Holy Spirit. I do not want to make difficulties for anyone, especially for our young people, but for those who know their Bibles, you will remember that there is always associated with the resurrection of the Lord Jesus the idea of sonship. Now it was when the Lord Jesus came up out of the waters of Jordan that He was attested the Son of God. Be careful! I am not saying that it was then that He became the Son of God - He was the Son of God. But on the resurrection side of the Jordan heaven attested Him the Son of God, and the Apostle Paul says: He "was declared to be the Son of God in power, ... by the resurrection from the dead" (Romans 1:4). There is a spiritual sense in which that was the new beginning.

Then do you notice what happens immediately after? The Holy Spirit from heaven takes over.

Now the Church went down into the Jordan when Christ was crucified. It certainly did not go down into death. But when Christ was raised from the dead the Church began to live again, or, anyway, move toward life. It was like the dry and scattered bones of Ezekiel's vision beginning to move together. Something is happening in those forty days after the resurrection - there is a sound of movement among the dry bones. Then "they were all together in one place" (Acts 2:1) and the Holy Spirit came upon them. Although the Church was an eternal thing, it was born historically on the Day of Pentecost. The eternal had now come into time, and the mark of the birth of the Church was that the Holy Spirit took over. I am very careful when I use that phrase: "He took over." The Holy Spirit took everything out of the hands of men into His hands. That is why it is said: "A sound as of a rushing mighty wind" (Acts 2:2),and you know that when you get into the grip of a mighty, rushing wind, things are taken out of your hands and you just have to go where the wind is going. So Jesus said to Nicodemus: "The wind blows where it likes, and you cannot tell the wind where it is to blow." Some of us heard the wind coming down the mountains last night, and if you had been in the course of the wind it would have been silly for you to say: "Now, wind, don't blow this way. Blow the other way." You just have to go the way of the wind and accept that it is the master. "So is everyone that is born of the Spirit" (John 3:8).

What did this mean in the case of the Lord Jesus as the Pattern? It meant that all His acts, His word and His ways were governed from heaven. There was a mystery about it. People could not understand why He did what He did and why He did things in the way in which He did them. They certainly could not understand His words. Apparently He was like other en, and that was their problem. As they looked at Him they did not see anything different from the other men around. He was Himself as a man, but He was also someone else, and something else.

Now, when we become mastered by the Holy Spirit we do not lose our personality. We remain ourselves and we can be distinguished among one another because we are all ourselves. And yet we are someone else. There is another who is different from what we are. In a sense, there are two personalities about us. There is what we are naturally, but there is someone else - what we are spiritually. So it was with Jesus: He was two beings, so to speak. Under the government of the Holy Spirit we are more than ourselves, and that is how it was with the Lord Jesus. When people met Him, they met more than Him, and if we are according to the Pattern that is how it must be with us. How I would like to spend a lot of time on that! May I remind you that Abraham was more than Abraham, Moses was more than Moses and Elijah was more than Elijah. When you met Abraham, Moses or Elijah, you met all Israel.

You see, "none of us liveth to himself, and none dieth to himself" (Romans 14;7). As the Lord's people we represent something very much more than our individual life: we represent all the people of God. We are bound up with the whole life of the Church, and the vessel that God is making is the Church as a whole. It is the whole Church which constitutes the one vessel that God is seeking to form, so that our lives are intended to be a part of a much bigger whole. That truth, of course, involves us in a great responsibility.

Now, if you look into your Bible, you will see that that is exactly what it meant when the Holy Spirit took over. On the one hand, these people, Apostles and others, were just themselves. They were not changed into angels or into disembodied spirits. They were just themselves. Peter is still Peter - and yet they represent something very much more than themselves. They have become greater than themselves, and that is what the Holy Spirit will do for us.

These are just some features of the Pattern. There are very many more, but I must leave it with you to go on and learn Christ.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 38 - "Men Whose Eyes have Seen the King")

God Seeks Intercessors

"He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor" (Isaiah 59:16)

From of old God had among His people intercessors to whose voice He had listened and given deliverance. Here we read of a time of trouble when He sought for an intercessor, but in vain. And He wondered! Think of what that means - the amazement of God that there should be none who loved the people enough or  who had sufficient faith in His power to deliver, to intercede, on their behalf. If there had been an intercessor, He would have given deliverance; without an intercessor, His judgments came down (see Isaiah 64:7; Ezekiel 22:30-31).

Of what infinite importance is the place the intercessor holds in the Kingdom of God! Is it not indeed a matter of wonder that God should give men such power and yet that there are so few who know what it is to take hold of His strength and pray down His blessing on the world?

Let us try to realize the position. When God had in His Son wrought out the new creation and Christ had taken His place on the Throne, the work of the extension of His Kingdom was given into the hands of men. He ever liveth to pray; prayer is the highest exercise of His royal prerogative as Priest King upon the throne. All that Christ was to do in heaven was to be in fellowship with His with His people on earth. In His Divine condescension God has willed that the working of His Spirit shall follow the prayer of His people. He waits for their intercession, showing the preparation of heart - where and how much of His Spirit they are ready to receive.

God rules the world and His church through the prayers of His people. "That God should have made the extension of His Kingdom to such a large extent dependent on the faithfulness of His people in prayer is a stupendous mystery and yet an absolute certainty." God calls for intercessors; in His grace He has made His work dependent on them; He waits for them.

Our Father, open our eyes to see that Thou dose invite Thy children to have a part in the extension of Thy Kingdom by their faithfulness in prayer and intercession. Give us such an insight into the glory of this holy calling that with our whole heart we may yield ourselves to its blessed service. Amen

~Andrew Murray~

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Into the Heart and Mind of God # 36

This is an example of how the Old Testament, as their Bible, was used to preach Jesus. There is something here which always amuses me. Philip preached Jesus out of Isaiah 53, and the very next thing the Ethiopian said was: "Behold, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?" (Acts38:36). Please turn to Isaiah 53 and tell me where it mentions "baptism"! You will read it a hundred times and, on the face of it, you will never discover the word "baptism". There is only one conclusion that we can draw. That chapter is about the death, the burial and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and Philip must have said to this Ethiopian: "To be united with Christ means being united with Him in His death, His burial and His resurrection." The man believed and said "Here is the water..." I always think the next phrase is significant: "And they both went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him" (Acts 8:38). Well, I leave that with you, but the fact is that that Ethiopian was baptized on Isaiah 53. That is just one instance of what we are saying. Whether it is the great persons in the Old Testament, or whether it is the central nation in it - Israel - or whether it is particular places, like Jerusalem and the Jordan, or whether it is special objects like the tabernacle and the temple, the fact is that in some way they all point to Jesus Christ.

So we come back to this: that He, God's Son, is the Pattern for the vessel, and we have commenced - and only commenced! - to study that Pattern.

Now just a further word about the beginning of the showing of the Pattern. The first thing about this Pattern is the mystery and the miracle of His birth from heaven. It is such a mystery that all the great brains of theology cannot accept it. I suppose the main point of controversy about the Lord Jesus is His virgin birth, but if you set that aside you reduce Him to the level of an ordinary man. In his very origin He would be  no different from other men. I say again: may of the great brains of theology have decided against that birth. Nevertheless this has been, and still is, the great point of controversy, and this is an example of the fact that "the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God ... and he cannot know them" (1 Corinthians 2:14).

The birth of Jesus Christ is a mystery and a miracle. At Christmas we see all sorts of things set up which are called  "the Nativity". There are some animals in a stable, a man and a woman with a little baby, and we are told: "That is the Nativity." There was never anything more false! Bethlehem was never the birthplace of the Son of God. He was with the Father before this world was (John 17:5). Bethlehem was only the point at which He came out of eternity into time. His nativity was not in Bethlehem; it was in heaven. He repudiated His earthly father and mother and always spoke about "my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 18:10).

Do you notice that when Luke wrote the genealogy of Jesus, he said of Him: "being the son of Joseph" (Luke 3:23), and then he protected that by putting into brackets "as was supposed". This was just what man supposed, but it was not true.  He never was the son of Joseph!

What has this to do with us? This is the Pattern. The beginning of every Christian life is on the same principle as that of Jesus Christ. The Christian is not of time, but of eternity - thus the Apostle says: "He chose us in him before the foundation of the world" (Ephesians 1:4). Our coming into relation with the Lord Jesus is only our coming out of eternity into time, our of heaven into this world. Where is your true nativity? If you were asked that by people of the world, you would say: "I was born in France ... in Switzerland ... in England." If you were to say: "I was born in heaven," the world would look at you and say: "You are a funny creature!" At best they would say: "What do you mean? I don't understand." Jesus said of Himself: "I am come down from heaven" (John 6:38) ..." I am not of this world" (John 8:23), and in that sense He is the Pattern. We do not belong here, and the consciousness of that ought to be growing stronger all the time. As we have said, there ought to be a mystery and a miracle in the life of every child of God.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 37)

Discipleship: Saying Goodbye to the World's Toys

"Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: ... he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised" (James 1:12)

There is one kind of human suffering which can be known only to the believing Christian, and that is voluntary suffering deliberately and knowingly incurred for the sake of Jesus Christ!

Such voluntary suffering displayed among us in these times is a luxury, a treasure of fabulous value, a source of riches beyond the power of the mind to conceive. And it is rare as well as precious, for there are few in this decadent age who will of their own choice go down into the dark mine looking for jewels.

But of their own choice it must be, for there is no other way to get down. God will not force us into this kind of suffering; He will not lay this cross upon us nor embarrass us with riches we do not want.

Some riches are reserved for those who apply to serve in the legion of the expendables, who love not their lives unto the death, who volunteer to suffer for Christ's sake and who follow up their application with lives that challenge the devil and invite the fury of hell.

Such as these have said goodbye to the world's toys; they have chosen to suffer affliction with the people of God. They have accepted toil and suffering as their earthly portion.

But where are they? Has this breed of Christian died out of the earth? Have the saints of God joined the mad scramble for security?

Are we now afraid to suffer and unwilling to die? I hope not- but I wonder. And only God has the answer!

~A. W. Tozer~

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Into the Heart and Mind of God # 35

Another Vessel

"Then I went down to the potter's house, and, behold, he wrought his work on the wheels. And when the vessel that he made of the clay was marred in the hand of the potter, he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it" (Jeremiah 18:3, 4)

We have reached the point in our meditations which is represented by that little clause "another vessel". When the clay of Israel refused to accept the Pattern of God as represented in Jesus Christ, it was broken on the wheel. And that is how Israel is today. It refused to accept God's Pattern and therefore, being marred, it was broken on the wheel, and God turned to make another vessel, of which He could say: 'In him I am well-pleased' ... a vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it".

The vessel, then, that God is now making is according to Christ, and this time He is going to succeed. The end of the Bible shows us the vessel perfected and glorified.

Before we go further with this Pattern, there is a general word to be said. It is important for us to realize that God always had only one vessel in mind. He never did intend to have two vessels, one spoiled  and the other good. The whole of the Old Testament contains the mystery of Christ. He is hidden everywhere in it and, in reality, God was working through all those centuries on the principle of Christ. The fact that the Old Testament closes in failure only means that the earthly representation failed. The heavenly intention never did fail, so that if God has to set aside one earthly expression, He is going on with His eternal thought. God's intention concerning His Son did not begin when Jesus came into this world. Christ had been in the mind of His Father from all eternity and was appointed to be the Pattern before ever this world was created.

You must remember that the only Bible the first Christians had was the Old Testament, and Christ said that everything in that Bible concerned Himself. He said: "The Scriptures ... these are they which bear witness of me" (John 5:39). He took up all the writings of Moses and the prophets and "interpreted to them all the scriptures the things concerning himself" (Luke 24:27), and Peter says that it was "the Spirit of Christ which was in them (the prophets)" (1 Peter 1:10). So that if you had lived in the early days of the Church the only Bible you would have had would have been the Old Testament. But it would have been your Bible. If we ask for a  Bible today we get the Old and the New Testaments together, but if Christians in the early days asked for a Bible, they were given just the Old Testament. Jesus used the Old Testament for Christians, and so did the Apostles, whose business was simply to show that the one Person in the Old Testament was Jesus Christ. All the outstanding features in it point in some way to Christ. It is God's book. He wrote it, and in His Mind there is only one object, and that is His Son.

So, in the outstanding persons of the Old Testament you have to see some feature of Christ. Was it Abraham? Well, we have been seeing how Abraham leads us to Christ. Was it Moses, or David, or the prophets? It was Christ about whom they were all speaking and whom they were representing in some way.

Let us take one simple illustration. Before the New Testament was written, during those wonderful movements in the early days, Philip was in Samaria, where God was doing a great work. The Spirit told Philip that he was to leave Samaria and go down to the desert. We might just say, by the way, that it seems a strange thing for the Lord to lead someone away from what was a very evident piece of His work to a desert. If Philip had not been a man utterly committed to the Holy Spirit, he would have  had an argument with the Lord. He would have said: "Lord, You sent me here to Samaria and You have proved that that was right. There is a great work of the Holy Spirit going on here, and now You tell me to go to a desert. How on earth can there be a revival in a desert?" The Lord does strange things, but in the end of the story shows that He was right. Perhaps you would choose to stay in Samaria,where things are happening, and you might not like the idea of going down to a desert, but  it might be that the Lord has something in that desert which is bigger than Samaria: Not only a town, but a whole new nation was touched in that desert. Well, that is just by the way.

You know what happened when Philip went down to that desert. He was looking around and wondering why he was there when he saw something coming from a distance. When it got nearer to him he saw that it was a chariot with some men in it. The Spirit said to Philip: "Go near, and join thyself to this chariot" (Acts 8:29). Again Philip was obedient to the Spirit, and as he got near to the chariot he heard the chief man in it reading. He looked at the man and saw that he was a dark-skinned Ethiopian, but as he listened, he said: "I know what it is that that man is reading. He is reading out of my Bible." So he said to the man: "Understand thou what thou readest?" The man was reading from Isaiah 53, and he said: "How can I, except someone shall guide me? And he besought Philip to come up and sit with him ... And Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture, preached unto him Jesus" (Acts 8:31, 35). I think this settles all arguments as to whether Isaiah 53 related to Jesus!

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 36)

God's Goal In Speaking

"But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood" (Galatians 1:15-16)

When God speaks to us, He always has something very specific to say. Never speaking in generalities, He has a goal in mind to reach the human heart. Using today's passage from Galatians as our guide, we can identify three clear objectives of God's speaking. God speaks because He wants us to: comprehend and understand truth; be conformed to and shaped by this truth; and be equipped to communicate truth to others.

In Galatians chapter 1, the apostle Paul used the example of his own life, pre-conversion and post conversion, as evidence of God's objectives. Beginning in verse 12, he explained how God first revealed truth to him through the revelation of Jesus Christ. This was the beginning of Paul's understanding of the truth.

Next, Paul wrote that, despite his advancement in the teachings of  Judaism, the Lord called him through His grace (verse 15). This was the beginning of a process that involved Paul being conformed, or shaped, to the truth.

Finally, we are given Paul's grace-filled account of the Lord's plan for his life. "God ... called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles" (verses 15-16). Clearly, Paul received and embraced his call to communicate God's truth to others.

What better proof do we have of God's objectives being perfectly revealed and carried out in one believer's life?

Thank You, Father, for Your truth in my heart. Please use it to shape me to Your will, so that I may share Your truth with others. Amen

!Charles Stanley~

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Into the Heart and Mind of God # 34

Just before we finish let us look at a three-fold declaration that Jesus made about Himself. The words are so familiar to us: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life" (John 14:6). He did not say: 'I have come to show you the way, to tell you the truth.'

"I am the way." That is not the Pattern's ideal doctrine or theory: the way is a living Person. You can have all the doctrine and all the theory, but not be in the way. Difficult as it is to explain, this is what it means:  It is not by coming into the teaching of Jesus, but by coming into Him Himself that you come into the Mind of God. Being 'in Christ' means that you have been introduced into the very Mind of God. When we come into Christ we are introduced into the Mind of God. But that is only an introduction. We are being introduced to one another here at this time 'This is so-and-so' .. 'Oh, I am glad to meet you' - but no one imagines that that is all there is to  know about that person. There are some people you can know all about in five minutes, and after that they have no more to give you, but there are others whom it takes a whole lifetime to know. It is one thing to be introduced to Christ, but it is going to take all eternity to know Him. He as a personal reality is the full embodiment of all that God has to give us. The apostle Paul did not say at the end of his life: 'Oh, I do want to know more about Christ!', but he did say: "That I may know Him" (Philippians 3:10).

So Jesus says: I am the Way. If you want to come into the full knowledge of God's Mind, you will find it in Me. It will be a matter of knowing Me more and more' ... "I am the way .. no one cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6).

"I am the truth." Again, it is not what Christ says, not the teaching of Jesus. That may be important, but what He is saying is: 'I am personally the truth.' All the truth of God and heaven has become a personality, has become embodied in a Man. When He says "I am the truth", He is saying 'I am unique. There is not another like Me. In the matter of the truth I am the first and the last. I am the beginning and the end.' He is the unique presentation of the Mind of God, the exact expression of the Father. If we want to know the truth, it can only be in a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus.

"I am the life." What a vast amount that comprehends! This takes us right back over the ages to the very beginning, and on to the consummation. God has comprehended everything in one thing. Is it the way, with all that that means? Is it the truth, with all that that means? All this is gathered into divine life. It was the original intention of God that man should have eternal life, and should share with Him His own life, but not one man of all the vast multitudes that ever lived on this earth had that life until this Man came and gave it. "I came that they may have life" (John 10:10). ... John says: "The life was manifested" (1 John 1:2). He is the life and "he that hath the Son hath the life" (1 John 5:12) - not the teaching about eternal life, but the Person Himself. You see, He is God's Pattern.

So we repeat: the Pattern is a Person who is shown to us by the Holy Spirit. There is one test as to whether we have seen this Pattern. We may think we have seen because we have a lot of Christian truth, but there is one, and only one, proof that we have seen the Pattern. I use the words of the Apostle Paul: "We ... beholding ... the Lord are changed into the same image" (2 Corinthians 3:18). The proof is that as the years go by we are becoming more like Christ. It seems all too slow, but it just must be like this - that more of Christ is being manifested in us as time goes on. That would be the only justification for our being here in this way - not that you have a lot of notebooks full of notes (whatever you are intending to do with them - it might be that you are going to preach all this to someone else, but that will not justify your having come here). The only justification will be that, having seen the Lord, we will be more like Him.

May the Lord make it like that!

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 35 - "Another Vessel")

Are You Listening to God?

"They said to Moses, 'You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die" (Exodus 20:19)

We don't consciously and deliberately disobey God - we simply don't listen to Him. God has given His commands to us, but we pay no attention to them - not because of willful disobedience, but because we do not truly love and respect Him. "If you love Me, keep My commandments" (John 14:15). Once we realize we have constantly been showing disrespect to God, we will be filled with shame and humiliation for ignoring Him.

"You speak with us ... but let not God speak with us ..." We show how little love we have for God by preferring to listen to His servants rather than to Him. We like to listen to personal testimonies, but we don't want God Himself to speak to us. Why are we so terrified for God to speak to us? It is because we know that when God speaks we must either do what He asks or tell Him we will not obey. But if it is simply one of God's servants speaking to us, we feel obedience is optional, not imperative. We respond by saying, "Well, that's only your own idea, even though I don't deny that what you said is probably God's truth."

Am I constantly humiliating God by ignoring Him, while He lovingly continues to treat me as His child? Once I finally do hear Him, the humiliation I have heaped on Him returns o me. My response then becomes, "Lord, why was I so insensitive and obstinate?" This is always the result once we hear God. But our real delight in finally hearing Him in tempered with the shame we feel for having taken so long to do so.

~Oswald Chambers~

Monday, July 23, 2012

Into the Heart and Mind of God # 33

Well, if we take the Lord Jesus as our example, these two things really are inseparable.

But, even if it takes time, I must try to make this helpful to you. You will understand that I am not here to try to give a full explanation of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. However, because baptisms are going to take place today; there are those who have said: "Oh, I wish I could be baptized again! I did not understand when I was baptized all that I see now. Should I not be baptized again? Should I not bring my baptism right up on line with my present knowledge?" Well, if we were to adopt that procedure, every bit of fresh knowledge that you received would require a new baptism! If when you were baptized you really meant to give your life to the Lord, your heart was right with Him, then God knew all that it meant, even if you did not. I do not think anyone could have known much less about the meaning of baptism than I did when I was baptized. I wanted to belong to the Lord and to go on with Him, so I was told that I ought to be baptized. There were other people who wanted me to be baptized more than I did myself so, in my simple way, I just yielded to their wishes. The only thing was that I wanted to love the Lord. Years afterwards I came to understand a great deal more about the meaning of baptism, so I went to the Lord about whether I ought be be baptized again, and He just showed me that it was not what I understood but what He understood, and that into the first simple step that I took He put all the meaning of that step and said "I will lead you through your whole life into the meaning of that simple step."  

[Shepherd's Note: Later in T. Austin-Sparks writings, he gets the "baptism" of the Holy Spirit and the "anointing" of the Holy Spirit correctly. Perhaps Christ later showed him the difference. We will get to that much later.]

I hope that is helpful. Of course, it would be another matter if you were not definitely saved when you were baptized.

I think we must leave that there and return to our Pattern: These are the first things that have been shown in the Pattern: the meaning of baptism as changing our ground, leaving the whole ground of the flesh and taking the ground of the Spirit, and, by so doing, coming under the direct and complete government of the Holy Spirit. By doing this we become marked out by God - "This is My beloved son". Thus we are distinguished by heaven and among men as being in a new relationship with God. It is a very important thing that every Christian should be a distinguished Christian.

Now, do you notice the first thing that distinguished Jesus as heaven's very important Person? "Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil" (Matthew 4:1). If men did not recognize who He was, hell did. satan said: "This is a very important person," and he paid Him very great attention all life. At the end of these temptations in the wilderness it says: "He (satan) departed from him for a season" (Luke 4:13). It was as thought satan said: 'You have defeated me now, but I will be back again' and how true that was!

Heaven's important persons are known by the enemy, and he will do everything he can against that. He will do it by persecution, or he will try it by deception. There is no numbering of the ways in which the enemy tries to counter that. But it is the baptism of the Holy Spirit which gives us our importance - we are not important in ourselves.

Now I think we can leave Jordan and go on. That is the Man presented, the first view of the Pattern that has been shown. From that point the Pattern is described, and that description is all gathered up in a very simple phrase, spoken by the lips of Jesus: "I AM". That means that He is the all-inclusive representation of the Mind of God. Jesus Christ as a single personal reality encompasses all the original intention of God. He is personally universal. We have often said that when God reaches His end, in everything that we shall see and touch, we shall see and touch the Lord Jesus. What a glorious state that will be! You will meet me and I will meet you, and yet we shall snot meet one another - we shall meet the Lord Jesus. All the difficulties that we find in other people will be gone and we shall meet the Lord Jesus. He will be everywhere and in all things. "A great multitude, which no man could number" (Revelation 7:9), and yet one all-comprehensive Person, the Lord Jesus. He is universal, timeless, without beginning and without end. He speaks of the glory which He had with His Father before the world was (John 17:5), and the Word is that that glory is to be in Him "unto all generations for ever and ever" (Ephesians 3:21). He is universal and eternal, and yet He comes down into history. This One of whom we are speaking as God's Pattern, or Vessel is all that.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 34)