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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

We Beheld His Glory # 36

A Change from Law to Grace (continued)

Proceeding further into chapter 8, we find that, with this which we have mentioned standing at its threshold, it contains an emphasis upon the fact that Christ is the Light, that man by nature is in darkness, that darkness means bondage, and that liberty comes through knowledge of, and obedience to the truth. Christ is here set forth as the revelation of God, and as such He is the Truth; therefore the knowledge of Him, and obedience to Him, is the way of liberty and of light.

Christ Writes on the Ground. God Writes in the Dust

Various interpretations have been given to Christ's act of stooping down and writing on the ground. Some have thought that He was writing the sins of the Jews. Others have been content with the simple explanation, that He was merely showing contempt for the accusers of this woman in their contemptible conduct; or, at best, indifference to their attempt to catch Him.

May it not be there is something deeper and richer than this in His conduct? His actions were always so full of meaning, and seeing that He was the perfect embodiment of the gospel, may we not expect to be led by this act - seeing that it was so deliberate and repeated - to some larger eternal reality? God has written His mind in dust more than once in this world's history. Indeed, this has been His deliberate and chosen way. In Adam He wrote an expression of Himself. In Moses the finger of God wrote Divine thoughts on tables of stone. There were objective expressions of  the mind of God; that is, they were something outside of and apart from God Himself. In His full and final expression He, in grace, stoops right down to men to associate Himself with them, and in humanity gives an expression of Himself for their salvation first, before judgment. This stooping down is revealed in the letter to the Philippians, chapter two. From God-equality to man-likeness, and deeper yet He has stooped to deliver from the curse of the Law and the death of sin. He has written in the dust of this earth, for all - this woman taken in sin, and all others - that "There is ... no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus ... the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made ... free from the law of sin and of death" (Romans 8:1, 2). "God ... hath... spoken unto us in his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things..."  Hebrews 1:1).

What an inscription! What dust! What grace and truth!  "... He that hath seen me hath seen the Father" (John 14:9).

He could well afford to seem indifferent to the Law and its exponents, to have no interest in their case (as some have interpreted His act) when He well knew that with Himself had come, securing on the one hand a perfect satisfying of God in man representatively, the Law fulfilled and its regime ended, and on the other hand a dispensation of grace; a transition from the outward to the inward, from the transient to the permanent, from the earthly type to the heavenly reality. It is all in the deepest meaning of Sonship.

Chapter 9. following is really a part of this one thing, and while it introduces several extra factors, it becomes a grand object lesson of the truth enunciated in chapter 8. We shall, therefore, pass immediately into the next chapter.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 37 - "Spiritual Enlightenment")

Sufficient Grace

thought the Christian life was going to be easier than this. Have these words ever entered your mind? Sometimes we come into the family of God thinking that our heavenly Father will fix all our problems and devote Himself to our happiness and comfort. However, that is not the reality portrayed in Scripture. Paul was a man whom the Lord used greatly, and yet his life was anything but easy.

In fact, at one point, the apostle thought his pain was too much to bear, and he begged God to remove it. There’s nothing wrong with asking the Lord to relieve our suffering, but what should our response be if He doesn’t? Paul probably had no idea that His experience would find its way into the Bible, to comfort and guide believers throughout the ages. The promise God gave him applies to us as well: “My grace is sufficient for you” (v. 9).

God’s grace could be defined as His provision for us at the point of our need. The problem is that sometimes it doesn’t seem as if the Lord truly is meeting our need. But He frequently sees deficiencies, outcomes, and complications that we don’t. His goals for us involve spiritual growth, the development of Christlike character, and strong faith. And trials play a vital role in achieving these.

The important issue is how we respond. If all you want is relief, you could descend into anger and doubt. But if your desire is to become the person God wants you to be, you’ll see each trial as an opportunity for Christ to display His character and strength in you.

~Charles Stanley~

Monday, December 30, 2013

We Beheld His Glory # 35

The Person of Christ Before the Doctrine

There are two sides from which this parenthetical fragment can be viewed, the natural and the spiritual. The natural is that which relates to the trap which was set before Christ. These Jewish leaders, seeking to ensnare Him, brought this woman, as they said, taken in sin, and presented to Him this query: "Moses commanded ... what sayest thou?" When all the factors are taken into account, it would seem to be a trap from which escape would be exceedingly difficult, if not impossible. In laying it they would consider, if He set Moses aside, there would be a clear case against Him before the whole Jewish world, and especially before the Jewish Sanhedrin. Such an attitude would also involve Him in a charge of Himself being a party to sin. If, on the other hand, He stood with Moses, and agreed to, or demanded the stoning of this woman according to the law, two things would happen. He would come into collision with the Roman authorities, who for the time being had superseded Jewish law, and then also He would bring a very large social feeling against Himself, for morality had become very lax, and it would be difficult to be poplar, if such extreme measures were applied in such directions. There may have been other features, but, on the face of it, this seems to be a reasonable interpretation of what was going on. The probability is that the latter alternative is the weaker surmise, and that, inasmuch as so often He had taken a place of superseding Moses with His: "... but I say unto you ...," they would be content to get Him into moral implications of seeming to condone this sin, against which Moses had so severely prescribed.

With this trap before us, and - as they who laid it might think it to be - one from which there is no escape, we are able to see why the Spirit of God has placed this incident where it is, when to the human mind it appears to be so unconnected with the narrative.  In three ways it serves the main purpose of bringing out the glory and greatness of Christ. Before we consider those three ways, let us notice, first of all, that it does stand at the threshold of a new section, and it is not so much a mere incident that becomes the focal point of attention, but the Person. This reminds us that it is the Person Who is always presented first, before the doctrine, and that all that which follows emanates from the works back to Him. This is a law which governs everything in the Scriptures. Teaching is never something in itself, and we are not to be governed by a system of doctrine, however high and good. What is essential is that everything shall be related to the Person, for it is the Person Who makes the doctrine live, and Who governs it. Apart from the living presence of the Lord in our lives, the teaching resolves itself into something merely theoretical.

Now, as to the above mentioned trap, and the three ways in which the main object of John's gospel is served by it.

The Superiority of Christ

Firstly, there is escape from the trap. This escape is magnificent. It is not merely cleverness. Mere cleverness would simply resolve itself into extrication from a difficulty, but here the issue is so much more far-reaching, and leaves standing tremendous moral and spiritual factors, which challenge the world, and especially this religious world. It is not merely that those who sought to capture Him have been frustrated in their purpose, or disappointed of their object: they are left with something to think about, and that something for them raises the ultimate issues between themselves and God.

Then secondly, as being a part of those issues, something has been done, which no one but Christ could have brought about. Meet any of these Jewish leaders in the course of daily life, and seek by argument or by accusation to bring home to them conviction of sin, and to precipitate the effect of such conviction, that is, a slinking away under condemnation - such a thing would have been impossible. They were so utterly satisfied with their own righteousness. Were they not the people, God's chosen, possessing the oracles, within the covenant? Were they not always thankful that they were not as other men were? No! nothing could have been a more thankless task, than to try to bring sin home to their consciousness. But here it is done, and they themselves have provided the very ground for it. No one but the Lord Jesus could bring home to Jewish hearts condemnation because of sin. Here we see, what we have said before, to be so true; that it is not doctrine, the philosophy of Christianity, the morality of the Christian religion. Such would utterly fail in cases like these, but the whole question of sin and condemnation is related to the Person; "and this is the condemnation, that light is come": "I am the light ..."

A Change From Law to Grace

The third thing which inheres in this parenthetical fragment, is that of the change of the dispensation. From time to time as we have moved through the chapters of this gospel, we have remarked upon the fact that chapter one is the seed-plot of the whole gospel, and that what is there in fragment, is developed subsequently. This is true with regard to the passage under consideration. In chapter one, verse 57, we have: "The law was given by Moses; but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." What an example of that is here. They said: "Moses commanded ...". That was the law, and by the law this woman ought to die. But how magnificently through Jesus Christ grace and truth came in. But for this there would have been no escape for the woman, so far as the law was concerned. But while grace does not condone sin or make it less sinful, grace provided a way of forgiveness and salvation. The law was turned back upon the head of these Jewish leaders themselves, and smote them in condemnation; grace ground a way of escape for this  one, whom they had sought to destroy on the ground of having violated the law, and yet concerning which law they themselves are proved not guiltless.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 36)

Flawed Leaders

Since he himself is subject to weakness. This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people. Hebrews 5:2b, 3

Even the best of leaders are flawed. Jesus Christ was the only flawless leader to ever live. The rest of us operate in the flawed category. The wise leader will acknowledge this, as his flaws loom over his life like a canopy of accountability. The smart leader uses his flaws to facilitate a closer walk with Christ. As the adversary accuses you of your flaws, agree with him. Use your flaws as an asset rather than a liability. The leader who fails to flush out his flaws into the open is pretentious and positioned for a fall. Flaws can only hurt you if they remain concealed. Exposed flaws wither in their influence under the heat of confession and repentance. This is when you go to your flawless heavenly Father and ask for His forgiveness and grace. Ask Him to use your flaws to further His Kingdom.
Many times, God works through us in spite of ourselves; so, lay bare before Him your fears, insecurities, weaknesses, and flaws. Watch Him do a beautiful work of transformation. Your weaknesses become His strengths that carry out His purpose. Where you feel out of control, He is in control. He is the pilot and you are the co-pilot. Trust Him to guide you through the complex instrument panel of life. Your flaws do not surprise Him, because He knows they can keep you close to Christ. Your honest feedback to others about your flaws frees others to do the same. Pretension crumbles and honesty flourishes in a culture of self-awareness of—and openness to—one another’s flaws.

Therefore, be patient with the flaws in others. We recognize the flaws in others because they are flawed copies of ourselves. Normally, what ticks you off the most are your flaws exhibited in the life of another. Cut them some slack and learn how to use their flaws to facilitate God’s will. Allow flaws to promote relational intimacy rather than relational hostility. Flaws are friends who can lead us closer to God and closer to each other. Flaws remind us all that we are a work in progress. Flaws begin as concealed imperfections. Just as flaws lead to the shattering of an imperfect crystal under pressure, they can lead to our brokenness. Flaws make us better, if they lead to our brokenness.
The world is made up of flawed people. Those who recognize and accept this use it to their advantage. Leaders have a unique opportunity to set the example in this area. Your ability to be honest about your own flaws sets the course for those you lead. Season your language with, “I am sorry that is a weakness of mine.” Or, “Please be patient with me; I am a work in progress. Details are not my strength.” Or, “Help me not to overcommit. I can say yes to too many things, and fail to do any of them well.” Or lastly, “I was wrong. Please forgive me.” This honesty and transparency creates a safe environment for the authenticity of everyone. Flaws revealed lead to freedom, but flaws concealed lead to bondage. Do not project a flawless image, but one of learning, growing, and many times, struggling. Make confession and repentance a normal part of your vocabulary and behavior. Focus on the flawless leader, Jesus. He will never let you down. 

~Wisdom Hunters Devotional~

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Audience of One

“I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me”(John 14:31).

I struggle playing to an audience other than almighty God. I create an unnecessary tension by asking myself, “What will they think? How will they respond?” Yet the heart of Jesus asks, “What does my heavenly Father want? How can I obey Him with my whole heart?” It is an audience of one with my heavenly Father that requires my focus.

So I ask myself, “Whom do I love more? Do I love my Savior more, or do I love the praise of people more?” If I truly love the commendation of Christ more than the approval of people, then I will obey His commands, even when I am misunderstood and mistreated. A life that loves God longs to grow in a relationship that faithfully follows His ways.

Caution is required not to become proud in our obedience. In a distorted way, a disciplined life can play into impressing people instead of pleasing God. It is false humility to be proud of our humility and wish others could attain our level of maturity. False humility on the stage of life acts out its spirituality for the world’s accolades.

“These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence”(Colossians 2:22–23). True humility seeks only to deflect glory back to God’s glory.

However, when all is said and done, living for an audience of one insists on intense intimacy with Jesus Christ, so that we naturally follow His lead. It is like an eloquent dance rendition, where He leads and we follow. Some steps are new and awkward, while other moves are comfortable and unconscious. If we dance with Jesus before others, He will amuse them most, as He leads us into His will. True humility follows Christ’s lead.

Lastly, learning to live for an audience of one means giving away recognition and resisting taking credit. For example, at work give the team credit for success, and take responsibility for failure. At home quietly serve behind the scenes without a worry about who gets the recognition for the household chores. Most of all, minister for Christ’s kingdom, so your kingdom fades away and His becomes full center. An audience of one pleases the One.

Joseph revealed his devotion to an audience of one with the Lord when he declared, “How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9).

Prayer: Do I live unashamedly for an audience of one? What competing audience can I dismiss?

~Wisdom Hunters Devotional~

Saturday, December 28, 2013

We Beheld His Glory # 34

Sin Atoned for, Man Justified

The next point is sin. It is the truth in Jesus over against bondage to sin. "Him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf ..." His soul was made an offering for sin. "A full atonement he hath made." "But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed." The truth in Jesus, by which we are set free from sin, is that He has dealt with the whole sin question on our behalf, and that deliverance from the bondage of sin is a full deliverance in the Lord Jesus, as the Sin-bearer.

satan Overthrown, Man Delivered

The same thing is true in relation to the bondage of satan. "Now", said He, as He went to the Cross, "shall the prince of this world be cast out."  "... The prince of this world hath been judged." And, reflecting, with Divine illumination, upon what took place in the unseen at Calvary, the Apostle says: "He stripped off from himself principalities and powers, and made a show of them openly, triumphing over then in his Cross." And as the outcome of that the Apostle says: "But thanks be to God, who leads me on from place to place in the train of his triumph, to celebrate his victory over the enemies of Christ". Calvary was Christ's victory over the devil on our behalf, and because of what He did there, we are set free from the bondage of satan.

Judgment Suffered, Man at Rest

Then the bondage to judgment. If He, of His own free will, without being personally involved by birth or nature, took our place in regard to sin, and as under the law, and under the power of satan, and then destroyed them all, He has destroyed the consequences which follow them - judgment. In His Cross He received our judgment, and the judgment due to us was exhausted upon Him. The Psalmist, prophesying of that, put prophetically these words into His mouth: "All thy waves and thy billows are gone over me." That was the judgment of God going over His soul as He represented us. Blessed be God, you and I in Christ are not to face judgment. It is past for us, but all these things remain for those outside of Christ.

The Family of the Free

There is one other thing which must be noted. "If therefore the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed."  "If the So ..."  It is very impressive how often that title is used in John. And, alongside of it, "the Father." The name "Father" occurs one hundred and eleven times in John's gospel. "The Father," and "The Son," are familiar terms. Then it is impressive, recognizing those familiar terms, that you have at the beginning of John so much about being born again. "But as many as received him,to them that believe on his name, which were born, not of blood, nor of the flesh ...," and to Nicodemus: "Ye must be born again." That is a family thought. There is the Father; thee is the Son; but to be in that family, you have to be born into it; and "if the Son shall make you free," that means you are in the family. He said: "The bondservant abideth not in the house...the son abideth .."  If you are in bondage to the law, you have no place in this family. This is a family of the free ones, of the free born. How are we to be set free from the bondage of sin, to satan, to judgment? By being born again. The Son makes free. It is given to the Son to give eternal life to as many as He will, and we receive eternal life when we are born again. It is the gift which Christ, the Son, gives us. It is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. How are we set free? By being born again and brought into the family. We become members of a family of those who are free from all these things which speak of bondage.

If we are rejoicing in that great liberty which is ours in Christ, our great desire is that should be the joy of all. If you do not understand those terms, we will put it this way: You should know the Lord Jesus in a saving way, and then you will be set free from the law, free from sin, free from satan, free from judgment.

A Curious Feature

We have noted in chapter 7 that the general character of this gospel take a turn, and a new aspect of the Person and work of Christ is introduced. With that chapter the matter of light is brought in, but when we reach the section which is marked by chapter 8, this "light" assumes definite form, and that form runs through to the end of chapter 9. The first eleven verses of chapter 8, as it will be noticed, are something in the nature of a parenthesis. They seem almost like a curiosity. This will be recognized by the absence of any sense of continuity between verses 11 and 12. Verse 12 seems to throw back to verse 52 of chapter 7. Why is this? What is the explanation of this curious feature? Whether John himself knew who or not, there is here one more remarkable instance of a progressive spiritual history being followed. We shall see this as we proceed.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 35 - "The Person of Christ Before the Doctrine")

The Power of a Discerning Spirit

In a world filled with endless sources of information and opinions, believers need to develop a discerning spirit. Otherwise, how will we know what is true? Much of what we see and hear is based on a worldly perspective that is influenced by Satan, the Father of Lies. Deception is found even in the religious realm: cults mix lies with enough truth to make some people consider them legitimate Christian institutions.

The only way believers can guard against deception is to ground themselves in God's Word. The more time you spend filling your mind with the Lord's thoughts, the more discerning you will be. However, just knowing biblical truth isn't enough. You must put what you learn into practice so that it becomes more than head knowledge.

The goal is to let God's Word become such an integral part of your thinking that it guides all your decisions. Even if the situation you're facing isn't specifically addressed in the Bible, scriptural principles provide the needed wisdom for every choice. In addition, the Holy Spirit was given to each believer as a Helper, whose job is to guide you into all the truth (John 14:2616:13). However, your responsibility is to put God's Word into your mind so that He can bring it to your remembrance. If you neglect the Word, you'll lack discernment.
What are you allowing into your mind? Is Scripture high in your priorities? Unless you're careful, worldly thinking will overpower spiritual discernment. It's difficult to keep God's perspective in the forefront if you spend two or three hours in front of the television and only ten minutes in the Bible.

~Charles Stanley~

Friday, December 27, 2013

We Beheld His Glory # 33

4. Bondage to Judgment

Then the fourth thing is brought to light here by the Lord Jesus, and that is they were in bondage to judgment. Because of this other threefold bondage, judgment rested upon them, the judgment of God. "Ye shall die in your sins," but that is not merely going out, ceasing to be.  "... It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment," and there is no escaping that. In bondage to judgment; that is, judgment stands as master of the situation for every sinner. So you see, what He said about being in bondage is a very, very great thing, a thing which is true in all directions. When He said: "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free," and the whole question of being in bondage came up, instantly they repudiated the suggestion, the insinuation. He proved His case, and showed that they were very much more in bondage than they had ever thought.

Christ - The Truth Making Free

That is how we are, but He added: "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free ... If therefore the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." We have seen the one side, the bondage; now we look at the other side, freedom by the truth. What truth makes free? There are several sections to this gospel by John. The first section has to do with life, and the second section has to do with light. Each of these sections circles around the Person of the Lord Jesus. When he is dealing with life, the central declaration is: "I am the life," and when he is dealing with light and truth, the central declaration is: "I am the light." So all that being said focuses upon Him. "Ye shall know the truth." "I am the truth"! And it simply amounts to this: Ye shall know Me, and you will be set free. What does it mean in this respect to know Him as the truth, and be made free? It is not just knowing the fact of the existence of the Lord Jesus. It is not just believing that there is such a Person. It is knowing what He stands for, what He means.

The Law Fulfilled, God Satisfied

What is the truth in the Lord Jesus which stands over against the bondage of the law, by which we are made free from that bondage? It is this, that while God never reduced His law by one fragment, one iota, the whole law was fulfilled by the Lord Jesus for us. Everyone has been beaten by that law, but God has never said: "Well, you cannot fulfill that law; I will let you off." Never! He said: "You have to face that!" Impossible! Well, what is the way of escape? God will have His law fulfilled! The Lord Jesus came and said: "I will fulfill it, and when once it has been fulfilled, it can be taken out of the way." It could never be set aside until it was utterly fulfilled, and so He fulfilled the law to God's perfect satisfaction, on our behalf. "Lo, I am come (In the roll of the book it is written of me) to do thy will, O God." And He did it perfectly, and having fulfilled the law and made it honorable, He put it out of the way, and introduced the dispensation of grace, so that we sing now:

Free from the law, oh, happy condition!
Jesus hath bled, and there is remission
Cursed by the law, and bruised by the Fall,
Grace hath redeemed us once for all.

The truth in Jesus, by which we are made free, is that He has satisfied God in the matter of the law. But we must remember it all hangs upon Who Jesus Christ was. No ordinary man could do this universal, heaven-and-earth, time-and-eternity work. Only one who had been placed in a unique position of universal representation could affect this.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 34 - "Sin Atoned for, Man Justified")

A Blessing for Others

And Laban said to him, "Please stay, if I have found favor in your eyes, for I have learned by experience that the Lord has blessed me for your sake." Then he said, "Name me your wages, and I will give it." So Jacob said to him, "You know how I have served you and how your livestock has been with me. For what you had before I came was little, and it has increased to a great amountthe Lord has blessed you since my coming.And now, when shall I also provide for my own house?" - Genesis 30:27-30

Jacob had two wives and eleven children and he wanted to return to his own land. The time had come for him to leave his father-in-law, Laban, but Laban was not ready to let Jacob go. Both men acknowledged the blessings upon Laban’s house as being from the Lord. Jacob lived with and worked for Laban for over 20 years and both men prospered greatly, but the blessings came to Laban because the Lord’s hand was upon Jacob.

The same should be true of the Christian today. Because we know the Lord Jesus, our lives should bring blessings to others. The blessings come in many ways, such as recognizable calmness in our presence and stability. Many times, others do not want to admit that their blessings are a result of the Christian’s convictions and prayers. The unbeliever’s pride causes them to take the glory for themselves. But as Christians, our lives do bless others. In time, God will get the glory as the fruit of our lives, as well as the testimony of our mouths, will clearly point to His intervention

Are others blessed because of you? Even if you are the only Christian in your family, God’s hand is on you and your home will be covered with your prayers. Continue to pray for your family and seek the Lord’s blessings over those who do not yet know Him. Press on to not grow weary in doing good. Wherever we go, we bring the Lord’s presence because His Holy Spirit lives within us. We need to acknowledge the Lord’s blessings not only in our own lives but also in the lives of those around us. Let your light shine to those around you and give God the glory for all things.

~Daily Disciples Devotional~

Thursday, December 26, 2013

We Beheld His Glory # 32

2. Bondage to Sin

Then note they were in bondage to sin. They said: "We ... were never in bondage to any man." He said: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Every one that committeth sin is the bondservant of sin." Only a little while before, they had been unable to stand up to that, to face that: "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone..."  These very people have walked out, and in walking out had admitted they were not without sin. Now He says: "Every one that committeth sin is the bondservant of sin." So that they were self-confessed slaves of sin. Oh! they would not have said it in word, but it had come home to their consciences.

Now, leaving these Pharisees aside, that does not want a great deal of enforcing, so far as we are concerned. I do not think we would be in the place of religious Pharisees, who would in word repudiate any bondage to sin, that is, by nature. None of us would say that we were sinless. But I ask you; Have you ever tried to stop sinning? Have you tried never to sin? Have you started a day, and in starting it said: I will not sin today? How have you got on? You know quite well that you are in bondage to sin, and there is no option about it. It is not something concerning which you, if you are not saved and in Christ, have the mastery; it is your master. We know quite well that out of Christ sin has dominion over us, and we are in bondage to sin. That is what the Lord Jesus makes quite clear, and brings home here.

3. Bondage to Sin

The third thing which comes in, is that they were in bondage to the devil. "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father it is your ill to do." That is an awful thing to say, but He proved His case. And has it not proved that He was right? These religious Pharisees slew the Lord of Glory, and two thousand years have proved that they did the devil's work; that the devil was behind it; that it was not the work of God; and that what He said, as recorded here, was perfectly true, that they were of their father the devil, and the works of their father they did. They were, therefore, blindly in bondage to the devil.

This is a still deeper fact lying behind the state of every man and woman born into this world. They are under the tyranny of God's law, they are in the bondage of sin, but back of that is the tyranny of the devil. What we have to recognize is that we are not merely dealing with sin, powerful as sin is in itself, but it is satan himself back of the sin with whom we have to reckon. You cannot outwit the devil! You may try to take precautions against sinning,but you will find that you are up against, not some abstract thing, but a sinister, cunning intelligence, which can trip you up just when you do not want to be tripped up; can get you at the time when you are off your guard, when you are tired, and unable to stand up. It is all plotted, all thought out, all worked to a scheme. The devil s back of this sin business, with his great intelligence as well as with his great power, and every man and woman outside of Christ is not only in bondage to sin, but in bondage to the devil. It is all very well for people to say they are not going to sin again, that they are going to give up sinning. They cannot give up the devil like that, he is not going to be put off so easily. They are not dealing merely with some habit, something into which they slip from time to time. They are in the toils, and grip, and dominion of the devil, and they have not only to be saved from sin, they have to be saved from him. Even religious Pharisees were there, in bondage to satan.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 33 - "4. Bondage to Judgment")

Trust Jesus for Fruit

John 15:4
The branch cannot bear fruit of itself.
How did you begin to bear fruit? It was when you came to Jesus and cast yourselves on His great atonement, and rested on His finished righteousness. Ah! what fruit you had then! Do you remember those early days? Then indeed the vine flourished, the tender grape appeared, the pomegranates budded forth, and the beds of spices gave forth their smell. Have you declined since then? If you have, we charge you to remember that time of love, and repent, and do thy first works. Be most in those engagements which you have experimentally proved to draw you nearest to Christ, because it is from Him that all your fruits proceed. Any holy exercise which will bring you to Him will help you to bear fruit. The sun is, no doubt, a great worker in fruit-creating among the trees of the orchard: and Jesus is still more so among the trees of His garden of grace. When have you been the most fruitless? Has not it been when you have lived farthest from the Lord Jesus Christ, when you have slackened in prayer, when you have departed f rom the simplicity of your faith, when your graces have engrossed your attention instead of your Lord, when you have said, "My mountain standeth firm, I shall never be moved"; and have forgotten where your strength dwells-has not it been then that your fruit has ceased? Some of us have been taught that we have nothing out of Christ, by terrible abasements of heart before the Lord; and when we have seen the utter barrenness and death of all creature power, we have cried in anguish, "From Him all my fruit must be found, for no fruit can ever come from me." We are taught, by past experience, that the more simply we depend upon the grace of God in Christ, and wait upon the Holy Spirit, the more we shall bring forth fruit unto God. Oh! to trust Jesus for fruit as well as for life.

~Charles Spurgeon~

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

We Beheld His Glory # 31

Made Free by the Son

Let us look at John verses 32 and 36. These give us a key to the chapter:

"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

"If therefore the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed."

That speaks to us of freedom by knowledge of the truth. You will notice that the declaration made by the Lord Jesus in these words about the truth making free, immediately raised in those to whom He was speaking the whole question of bondage. Their instant reaction to His words was, that they repudiated the suggestion that they were in bondage. Said they: "We ... were never in bondage to any man ..." and in so saying they betrayed themselves very thoroughly. They showed how utterly blind they were, and they completely justified the words with which this portion commences: "I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in the darkness." There is no need for a light, if there is no darkness. The Lord Jesus made the statement that He was the Light. He knew right well how deep the darkness was, but they were not aware of that darkness, and therefore they saw no need for Him. They were not aware of bondage; therefore they saw no need for liberation. It is just wonderful how this whole chapter justifies Him in declaring Himself as the Light, and as the Liberator, because of darkness and bondage existing, although they were unconscious of it.

Thus this chapter brings out both the fact and the nature of the darkness, and of the bondage, and then shows the way of deliverance, and that way is the Lord Jesus Himself. They said: "We ... were never in bondage ..."! He will show four ways at least in which they were in bondage, and inasmuch as they did not recognize any one of them, it is proved how utter the darkness was.

1. Bondage to the Law

First of all He will make it perfectly clear they were in bondage to the law. In bondage to the law in this way; that that law stood over them as a master, as a judge, as something from which they could not get clear, from which there was no escape, to which they would have to capitulate by compulsion. They were in that way in bondage to the law. The first eleven verses of this chapter are a remarkable parenthesis. We shall see how they form a part of this general matter. You notice that these rulers brought the woman taken in sin, and said to Him: "Master, this woman hath been taken in adultery, in the very act. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such: what then sayest thou ...?" Of course, it was an utterly illegal act of theirs. They had a court, a recognized court for such cases, where the law was administered. They had no business to take it away from the proper quarter and bring it, as it were, to a private person, especially to One in Whom they did not believe. But man will do anything with a view to getting an end upon which he is set, and these rulers were out to entrap Him. They were trying to get Him to adjudicate, and to bring Him into conflict with the Sanhedrin, the judicial court. We leave that, but notice the issue that arises: "Moses commanded ... what sayest thou?" Will He uphold Moses? If He does so, and pronounces judgment, He takes the place of the Sanhedrin, and also immediately comes into conflict with the Roman authorities who, for the time being, have superseded Moses in the administration of the Law. Will He set aside Moses? If He does, then He will be implicated in the sin, He will be condoning it, and will be a party to evil. It looks like a trap from which there is no escape.

He is sitting in the temple teaching, and when they bring in the woman, and make their charge, and interrogate Him He bends down from His seat, and writes on the ground. They press Him with their question, and all He says, lifting up His head, is: "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone ..." and then stoops down again. When He has been writing a little while He looks up, and they are all gone: the Word says: "They ... went out one by one, beginning from the eldest, even unto the last." Do you say they are not in bondage to the law? He has brought home to them the law they were trying to bring home to this woman. He has turned the weapon on to the accusers, and they, who thought they stood well with Moses, have come under the lash of Moses, and cannot stand up to the law. If they could have stood up to the law of Moses, that woman would have been stoned, but they could not do it; the law judged them, condemned them. How proven was their state of bondage, when they went out!

We make our application as we go along. Not only they but all are in bondage to the law in that way. God has uttered His law, and has never taken one fragment away from the law. That law stands! It is comprehensive, detailed; it touches everything in life and in character. On the one hand there is a whole comprehensive catalogue of: "Thou shalt not!" On the other hand there is an equally comprehensive catalogue of: "Thou shalt!" And then the whole of both sides is gathered up into one thing: If you are guilty of breaking the law at one point, you are guilty of the whole law. If you break down at one point, you are responsible for all the rest. We cannot stand up to that. We are in bondage by nature. God has spoken, and we cannot get away from it. We are responsible for all that God has made known of His mind, of His requirements, both on the side of : "Thou shalt"; and on the side of" "Thou shalt not." We shall never get away from that, but shall have to answer for that one day. Every one of us has got to stand before God, to answer to Him for His law, and there is no escape. God will bring it home to us sooner or later, and it will mean condemnation and judgment for every one. There is only one way of escape, but we are all in bondage to the law by nature, and we have all to answer for the law. Is there one who can say he has kept the whole law, and never violated any bit of God's commandment? It is not a matter of how many sins. If you only commit one violation of God's commandment, you are guilty of all the rest before God. The law is broken, you are proved a sinner, and you might just as well go the whole way, so far as your standing before God i concerned. The fact of sin is established, and, whether it be sin more or less, it is judgment.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 32 - "2. Bondage to Sin)

Victory Over Unforgiveness

Immediately after teaching His followers to pray, Jesus gave a warning about allowing unforgiveness to reside in the heart. He said that those who refuse to forgive others won't be forgiven by the Father.

Do not misunderstand Jesus' meaning here. Believers don't lose their salvation when they refuse to forgive. Rather, they break fellowship with God because their unrepentant attitude gets in the way of regular confession and repentance. The Lord cannot ignore sin, and His Spirit will bring wrong behavior to the believer's attention until he or she deals with it.
Forgiveness is an act of the will more than an act of the heart. Often people don't feel like being merciful to someone who has wronged them. But a resentful spirit grows into a terrible burden. The Lord knows that forgiveness is best, even when it is difficult.

You won't deal with a sin until you see it as God does. So assume full responsibility for your unforgiving attitude, and acknowledge that it is a violation of His Word. Claim the divine mercy He offers, and ask Him to enable you to lay aside anger and resentment against the other person(s). As part of the decision to move forward in grace, make a habit of praying for those who hurt you. And if God so leads, seek their forgiveness for your wrong attitude.
A bitter and resentful spirit doesn't fit who we are in Christ. Nor is it healthy to carry an angry attitude through life. That's why Scripture emphasizes the need to forgive. Choose to be liberated from your burden--Jesus promised to make us free when we release our sins to Him (John 8:36).

~Charles Stanley~

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

We Beheld His Glory # 30

Christ in Glory, and the New Day

Now a further great mark of chapter seven is that it presupposes Christ in glory, and that represents the new day. That new day is typified by the eighth day, which, according to Leviticus 23:36, is the last great day of the Feast of John 7:37. That eighth day, as we know, sees concluded the history of Israel under the Law, and brings in the Church under grace. It is the day when, all God's works have been perfected in Christ, Christ is seated at His right hand in glory, and the Spirit is poured forth, just as the waters from Bethesda were poured out in the Temple. The eighth day has become the first day for the Church, and with it all things begin anew on resurrection ground. The new day is that of the Spirit as life and light.

Looking again at this seventh chapter we find the antagonism to Christ is coming out with increasing severity. What has been latent is now becoming manifest, and the hostility is well-nigh universal. Even the members of His own family are said not to believe in Him. There is suspicion, prejudice, and even danger to life itself. Realizing this we cannot but be impressed with the calm, undisturbed dignity; the strong, steady moral ascendency in which Christ continues to move. His confidence is not for one moment upset. He goes on as One Who is perfectly assured that nothing can befall Him or overtake Him until His work is done. What is the secret of this spiritual and moral elevation? To answer that is to disclose the law which governs the new day of the Spirit, and all that that day brings in for the believer.

The Law of the Life Hidden in God

That law, as represented in the Lord Jesus, is the law of a hidden life in God. From that secret fellowship He refuses to be drawn out. Note how even His brethren would argue with Him. Note how they seek to impose upon Him the accepted religious order, the recognized ordinances, the things which are done by the religious people. Note how He is advised to be politic in these matters; and then note how He puts it all back, refusing its domination. There is something for Him which takes preeminence over all religious systems and accepted forms; something which is more than policy or diplomacy. It is the witness of the Father in His heart. If you have gone through this gospel, and put your pencil under every occurrence of the name "Father," you have been astounded with the result. This gives you the background of everything in the life of the Lord Jesus. It is His filial devotion to His Father, and it is in that secret communion that everything is determined for Him. Things, methods, times, means, all have to e decided back of the clamoring, shouting, coercing, arguing elements of men - even religious men and commonly accepted orders. It is never a question for Him as to whether the thing is what is done by others, or what it may involve, or even what the advantage may be in doing it. Everything for Him is: Does My Father will it? If so, how does He will it? And, when does He will it? Thus you see there seems to be some contradiction at the commencement of this chapter, when He says that He goes not up to this Feast, and then when the others have gone up He does go. The explanation is that for Him it is not government by what exists outwardly, but He waits to receive the inward government of the Father's witness.

How many of the Lord's people have come to failure, defeat and even disaster by becoming a part of an accepted order, and surrendering themselves to the government of an organized system, and have sacrificed thereto the inner walk with God. Thus their ascendency, spiritual power, and effectiveness have become severely limited, and they have not been able to help others as they might have done, because they have not learned to know the Lord by an inward, secret fellowship and walk with Him. This may raise difficulties for many, but all those difficulties would be solved if the Lord's work were so constituted that, even where the matter of government obtains, all things were done by prayer, and, as far as possible, in fellowship.

Surely that is what is characteristic of the new day, the day of the Holy Spirit, the day of life and light, in individual and collective union with Christ.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 31 - "Made Free By the Son")

Enduring satanic Attacks

Every believer faces temptation. Take a moment to recall a particularly enticing situation involving something that would displease God. Did you realize you were involved in a satanic battle?

The Devil is real. Scripture reveals that he leads an army of fallen angels and is prideful enough to think he can gain victory over God. By definition, a satanic attack is a deliberate assault upon an individual, which is designed to cause spiritual, physical, material, or emotional harm. Satan desires to thwart the Lord's purpose in believers' lives, to rob them of joy and peace, and ultimately to deny God the worship He receives through yielded followers.

As in any war, knowing the enemy's plan helps us prepare for the attack. First, be aware that the battlefield takes place in our minds. To walk in a godly manner with Christ, we must first be sure that our thoughts are in submission to His Spirit. This takes daily surrender and time in God's Word. Second, Satan tempts us during vulnerable moments. Be cautious when you are hungry, angry, lonely, or tired (This is often known as the H.A.L.T.  warning). Third, he is deceptive; we won't recognize the trap as an evil scheme. Instead, it will seem good, and we'll likely wrestle with some sort of doubt.

As Christians, we should walk closely with Jesus. Satan desires to lure us into destructive actions that rob us of God's plan for a good, full life. Stay connected to the Savior: read the Word, pray, and fellowship with other believers. These are weapons we use against the Devil in spiritual war. 

~Charles Stanley~

Monday, December 23, 2013

We Beheld His Glory # 29

"A New Day Foreshadowed"

With chapter six the first section of the gospel is concluded (John 6).  This section is bound up with the word "Life." It has been made clear, and emphatic, that life is inseparably related to Christ. This declaration, with what was involved as to the death of Christ, caused much offense, and many went away. It is ever so! Jesus the Teacher, Worker, or Good Man may be accepted, but make His death the exclusive way to life, the feeding upon the Broken Bread the only ground of union with Him, and of fellowship with God, then that way is rejected. From the days of the apostolic fathers up till now there has been strong deviation of opinion as to whether the words "the Passover," in verse 4 of chapter six, should be there, and are original. Whatever the arguments against may be, we submit that the whole spiritual teaching of the gospel by John justifies their being there: The very words: Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, ye have not life n yourselves" carry back to the Passover. As we have seen, the Passover was the life of Israel when death was abroad, and it is fitting that with John six the whole question of life should be headed up in the Passover, or the Cross of Christ. Chapter six marks a transition from life to light, but combines them both. The same declaration, emphasis, and conclusion will be made in relation to light, as in the case of life, and the same result will follow; offense and rejection through unbelief. The light will sift, as it ever does. We have observed that chapter one comprehends, by its words, the whole gospel. This second section is, therefore, foreshadowed in such words from that chapter as: "In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in the darkness ..."  "The same came ... that he might bear witness of the light ..." "There was the true light ... which lighteth every man, coming into the world."

Then the discrimination between those who see, and those who do not, is marked by Nathanael: "... ye shall see ..." (verse 51). Over against those who were in darkness, even when the light was present, was one, truly, of their number, but different. This was an Israelite indeed and without guile; an Israelite, in whom was no Jacob. The self-seeking, self-sufficient, time-serving Jacob was subjected to the spiritual, transparent, God-seeking Israel. This difference will determine who will come to the light, and who will have their darkness doubly darkened.

Christ Fulfills the Feast of Tabernacles

Returning to chapter seven, we find that another feast is in view, and is the occasion of what comes out. It is interesting that in John the narrative moves swiftly from the Passover to the Feast of Tabernacles. In Exodus and Leviticus the order is the Passover, on the 14th day of the first month; then the Feast of Unleavened bread, Firstfruits, Feast of Weeks, Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and lastly, Feast of Tabernacles. Thus the Feast of the Passover is on the 14th day of the first month. All that lies between is messed out in John, and in once step we are from Passover to Tabernacles. This is significant, and is in keeping with what we said earlier about spiritual history (see chapter 4). Let us note that the Feast of Tabernacles is the last of the mosaic Feasts (the Feast of Purim was something which came in much later in Israel's history). Thus the Feast of Tabernacles looks back over all to the beginning, and commemorates detachment and separation from the world (Egypt), and speaks of a life of faith. The security (?) of Egypt has been forsaken, and the tents of the wilderness have been accepted. The stone houses have been exchanged for booths, but this new order is not so flimsy as may appear, for there will be the infallible government of the pillar of cloud and fire. There will also be the "...rock that followed them; and the rock was Christ" (1 Cor. 10:4). This separation is from the light and life of nature, which is shown to be darkness and death, unto life and light in union with Christ. At the Feast of Tabernacles, s celebrated in the Temple, a great candelabrum was lighted, and great vessels of water from the Pool of Bethesda were poured out in the Temple. These, as we well know, are symbols of light and life for those who believe. Christ takes hold of this custom, and puts Himself in the place of both, uniting in Himself the two-fold symbolism of the light and the life.

The transitional factor in chapter seven is seen to be this: the question of knowing the Father and the Son is quite definitely in view, and it will be noted how through this chapter, and those subsequent, the matter of ignorance in both these directions is strongly emphasized and reiterated. The whole question of spiritual light, knowledge, understanding, truth, turns upon this final emphasis upon lie (vii. 37-39), and this by reason of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Before there can be a knowledge of the Lord which means fellowship, there must be the life. Life leads on to light. This is a crucial test, and shows how crucial chapter seven really is. Reject the life, which comes alone by way of the Passover, the death of Christ, and whatever the traditions may be, the historic light, yet the intelligent apprehension of God, the real spiritual understanding and fellowship with Him is impossible.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 30 - "Christ in Glory, and the New Day")

Stop Talking To Yourself

You comprehend my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways. - Psalm 139:3 

Does God want to be involved in every decision we make? Is it necessary to pray about every little detail? Many would say that God doesn’t care, He saved you and He gave you a mind to think things through for yourself. I would completely disagree. After spending years of praying over the details in life, I have come to appreciate all He does for me just by including Him and looking for His fingerprints in my life.

But how does this work? Well, for a great starter, stop talking to yourself and start talking to the Lord. If you are late, talk to God about it. If you are confused, include God in it. Talk to Him as a friend, a counselor and a companion. He says that He is all those traits so get to know Him in those ways. In every relationship, there needs to be two-way communication. Prayer obviously is your part in the communication process with the Lord. But the Bible is God’s way of speaking back to you. So let’s say it is on your heart to buy a new car. Start talking to Him about it. Ask Him to change your heart if it is not His will or to lead your heart in the car buying process. Next, go to the Bible and ask the Lord to give you verses to guide you in this decision. If some verse pops out to you, pray over it and ask God to make His message clearer through that verse. If He does give you the go ahead, do further research with that promise.  Keep talking to Him and keep going back to the Word, asking for specific direction. Whatever you include Him in, the Lord will work with you from dealerships to your finances. As you grow in the knowledge of God’s guidance, you will gain a peace in your decision of what to purchase. Regardless of the outcome, you will have assurance of God’s hand in the process. Walking through these decisions in our lives with God is the only way to assure peace. The more we include Him in every decision, the more we grow in our knowledge of Him, which leads to a closer walk with the Lord.

Are you in the midst of a trial or major decision in your life? Are you searching for answers in various places? Knowledge can bring peace, but the knowledge of God brings everlasting peace that continues to surpass our understanding. Start out everyday in God’s Word. Take time to put His Word in your heart and mind. Before the day is through, you will need to hear from the Lord on something that crosses your path. The knowledge of His Word will give you peace and assurance in ways you could never imagine. Try it and see what God will do.

~Daily Disciples Devotional~

Sunday, December 22, 2013

We Beheld His Glory # 28

Sustenance by Fellowship

Then we feed upon the Lord, and He becomes our life, when we recognize the Divine order of spiritual fellowship. That is a Divine order. You have it brought in with Acts: "And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in prayers." There is a tremendous means of grace, a tremendous enrichment of Christ in the fellowship of the Lord's people. I believe the enemy will get believers, when they are together, to talk about anything under the sun rather than about the Lord. It is easy when you meet together with the Lord's people to be carried off with all kinds of matters of interest, and not to begin to talk about the Lord; but if you do there is always an enrichment, always a strengthening, always a building up; it is the Divine way. Fellowship is a means of imparting Christ to the believer. And wherever spiritual fellowship is possible, you and I ought to seek it, look after it, cherish it. There are all too many of the Lord's children today, who have no chance of spiritual fellowship, and would give anything to have it. The Lord would have us at least two together. That is His order, and there is something in ministering Christ to one another. There will be something lost unless that is so. These are ways in which we feed upon the Lord.

Enrichment by Worship

There is one other way. It is worship. There is a wonderful enrichment in worship. What is worship? Strangely enough worship in the Old Testament, by which the person or persons were themselves enriched, was by bringing something to the Lord, for Him. Yes, there is some enrichment, building up, enlargement, impartation of Christ, when we take account of what He is, and speak to Him of what He is to us. I do not think we have yet learned all the value of worship as a factor in our spiritual upbuilding.

When all is said about the way of feeding upon Christ, what is the all inclusive effect? What should it all lead to? What does it mean to appropriate the Lord Jesus? Well, you see He is everything that God ever wants us to have spiritually and morally, and there is all he difference between our struggling to be like Jesus and our taking Him to be His own likeness in us. I think that struggling to be like Him is a starvation way; we shall finish up as skeletons. Most people do, who try to be like the lord by an effort; but when we begin to recognize this, that on the one hand I am insufficient, I never can be anything; on the other hand, He is all, and He is God's provision in that very respect to meet my deficiency, if that I by faith can take Him for that, then there is victory whatever it may be. The way of victory is not struggling to overcome, it is taking Christ as the Victor. Is it a spiritual matter? A moral matter? Or a physical matter? He is what we need. I mean by physical, do we need physical strength? Well, nature will not give us what we need for spiritual purposes. The Lord has taught us strange lessons in this way. Sometimes we have thought that what we needed for spiritual purposes was physical renewal along ordinary natural lines of a holiday, and we have made that our objective, and, of! what a poor holiday it has been; and the Lord has shut us up to something else and showed us that spiritual purposes required spiritual resources, and there are spiritual resources for physical needs for spiritual ends. I do not mean the Lord deprives us of holidays. The Lord gives some people good holidays! The Lord lets us go out for a good day. That is not wrong, but I am saying there is a law which is deeper than that, and unless you recognize that law, the other will not work. The law is, that being tired, exhausted, thoroughly played out, yet if the Lord wants you to do something, He can make you able to do it without giving you a holiday. When you have settled that, and recognized that, and do not make the natural course the essential, the indispensable, well, the Lord may give you the other, and doubtless He will. That is the Testimony. Where is the Testimony of life triumphant over death in the physical if you go away and have a good holiday and thorough rest, and come back and work for the Lord on that basis alone? What is the Testimony? There is something behind that, and the Lord would hold us don to that basic principle, and then: " good thing will be withheld from them that walk uprightly," and: "... seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." When we are settled on that, the Lord is free to give the other; but if we think that this natural course is the only way to a spiritual Testimony, it is a contradiction. The Lord is life for us physically for all that He requires. He has triumphed morally, and on every moral question that victory is for us. The Lord is life for us spiritually. We must take Him by prayer, by the Word, by obedience, by fellowship, by worship; take the Lord! There is the truth, life triumphant over death, a present and continuous Testimony. There is the law; feeding upon, appropriating the Lord as our life. The Testimony requires the law. You cannot maintain the Testimony without observing the law. Fail on any one point of that spiritual law and the Testimony breaks down. You will never live in victory, if you do not pray, and pray every day. You will never live in victory, if you do not feed every day upon the Lord in His Word. You will never live in victory, unless you come to use all spiritual fellowship for spiritual ends, if it is available. If it is not available, the Lord will have to be extra to you, and He can be in other ways. But we must recognize what He is made unto us of God, and take Him as that.

~T. Austin-Sparks

(continued with # 29 -"A New Day Foreshadowed")

A Coronet of Thorn

Matthew 10:25
It is enough for the disciple that he be as His Master.
No one will dispute this statement, for it would be unseemly for the servant to be exalted above his Master. When our Lord was on earth, what was the treatment He received? Were His claims acknowledged, His instructions followed, His perfections worshipped, by those whom He came to bless? No; "He was despised and rejected of men." Outside the camp was His place: cross-bearing was His occupation. Did the world yield Him solace and rest? "Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay His head." This inhospitable country afforded Him no shelter: it cast Him out and crucified Him. Such-if you are a follower of Jesus, and maintain a consistent, Christ-like walk and conversation-you must expect to be the lot of that part of your spiritual life which, in its outward development, comes under the observation of men. They will treat it as they treated the Saviour-they will despise it. Dream not that worldlings will admire you, or that the more holy and the more Christ-like you are, the more peaceably people will act towards you. They prized not the polished gem, how should they value the jewel in the rough? "If they have called the Master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of His household?" If we were more like Christ, we should be more hated by His enemies. It were a sad dishonour to a child of God to be the world's favourite. It is a very ill omen to hear a wicked world clap its hands and shout "Well done" to the Christian man. He may begin to look to his character, and wonder whether he has not been doing wrong, when the unrighteous give him their approbation. Let us be true to our Master, and have no friendship with a blind and base world which scorns and rejects Him. Far be it from us to seek a crown of honor where our Lord found a coronet of thorn.

~Charles Spurgeon~

Saturday, December 21, 2013

We Beheld His Glory # 27

What Feeding Upon Christ Means

Feeding upon Christ! Remember that you have made a start by making Christ your life, and that has to be kept up as a habit.That it will not do, according to the Lord's Word and stipulation, to have done it yesterday, and not to do it today, or to think that that is enough for a few days; it has got to be continuous, daily, habitual. What then is feeding upon Christ? It relates to several simple things, but the importance and magnitude of these things, which are regarded as commonplace, can only be recognized from the standpoint of the testimony to which they lead. Is there a greater testimony than life triumphant over death? There is none! And you and I, as we go on with the Lord, will discover that it is the highest thing in our experience, and the thing concerning which all hell rages. We are really up against the naked forces of the devil, and they are against us, when once we have taken our place with the Lord Jesus, and the issue will be either the destruction of our testimony by the forces of death in bringing us to death spiritually, and in any other way, or the testimony will be maintained, the Testimony to Christ's tremendous victory over all the power of the devil. When you view things from that standpoint, related things take on importance, and when one speaks about feeding upon Christ as being, in the place a matter of prayer, then prayer is immediately related to the testimony of life triumphant over death.

Feeding By Prayer

We do feed upon Christ in prayer. To put that in another way, there is an imparting of Himself to His Own in prayer. We may go to prayer in weariness, and rise in freshness; we may go to prayer exhausted, and rise renewed. Is it that we have simply uttered some form of prayer, prayed some prayer? We know quite well if that is so we do not get up very much invigorated. Formal praying does not bring very much life. Going through a form of prayers sometimes only ministers death. But really seeking the Lord, reaching out, taking hold of the Lord, giving ourselves up to the Lord in prayer, never fails to have renewing, uplifting, strengthening results. You say prayer may wear you out? Yes, but there is a wonderful strength that comes by wearing out prayer. There is vitality given to the spiritual life even in prayer that tires us physically, and we go in the strength of it. Yes, prayer is a way in which Christ is ministered to us by the Holy Spirit. Prayer is a way in which we feed upon Christ; He becomes our life.

Feeding By the Word

Then of course, the Word: there is value, a strengthening, enriching, building up value in giving ourselves to the Word of the Lord, I mean spiritually. We can study the Bible in a technical way, and it may not mean a great deal of spiritual help. But to go to the Word of the Lord, in order that our spiritual life may be enriched; not with a congregation in view, not with increased information as our objective, but because of our own spiritual life; and to take pains with the Word of the Lord and to give ourselves, and not to be discouraged because for a little while we are getting nothing: there is a real value in that; and it is remarkable how, after the initial period of discouragement, you begin to get something. It seems as though the Lord tests us out, and then there is a ministration of Christ by the Spirit through the Word. Yes, but it is not only reading the Word of the Lord; there is a value in that; but that passage, quoted by the Lord in the wilderness to the devil, has a deeper meaning than that. Go back to the book of Deuteronomy with it, and you will find that it was not Israel's reading or studying of the Law that was in view, it was their obedience to it. They lived by obedience to the Word of the Lord, and in every act of obedience to the Word of the Lord there is a fresh ministration of Christ. You can never be obedient to any part of the Word of the Lord without gaining Christ. It is always so. That is how we live by the Word, being obedient to it. Obedience to the Word is life, because it is an increase of Christ.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 28 - "Sustenance by Fellowship")

What Is Your Choice?

"And now look, I free you this day from the chains that were on your hand. If it seems good to you to come with me to Babylon, come, and I will look after you. But if it seems wrong for you to come with me to Babylon, remain here. See, all the land is before you; wherever it seems good and convenient for you to go, go there." - Jeremiah 40:4

The prophet Jeremiah foretold the coming destruction of Jerusalem. The people hated him for what he predicted, but the Lord's words were true. The day came when the Babylonians invaded Jerusalem and Jeremiah was taken captive along with many others. But Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard in the Babylonian army, said to Jeremiah: "The Lord your God has pronounced this doom on this place. Now the Lord has brought it, and has done just as He said. Because your people have sinned against the Lord, and not obeyed His voice, therefore this thing has come upon you" (Jeremiah 40:2-3). Even the enemy invaders saw the judgment of God upon His people. Jeremiah; however, was given a choice. He could go to Babylon or stay with the people left in their land. Jeremiah chose to stay.

Today, we have a choice as well. We can go with the Babylonians and pursue the things of the world, or we can remain in the place where the Lord has placed us. Sometimes the land we are living in is filled with hardships and afflictions. Sometimes we are tempted to choose the things that promise relief, even when they may not be God's will for us. Choosing the harder path does not come naturally for us, but it is usually what is best in the end. We must remember that our time here on earth is but a vapor, a brief moment. But eternity lasts forever and ever.

One of God's greatest leaders boldly proclaimed in Joshua 24:15, "And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Make your choice today to serve the Lord. Do not stop serving Him during the hard times. Hold fast and firm to the choice you make today. Our Lord is faithful and just to get us through to the end.

~Daily Disciples Devotional~

Friday, December 20, 2013

We Beheld His Glory # 26

The Significance of a Changed Tense

Now here is a remarkable thing. Look at verse 53: "Jesus therefore said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, ye have not life in yourselves." Now the Greek tense there is that of something done: it is the second AORIST active subjunctive; that is, something which has been done, but which has to be carried on. An aorist tense is something done, but with something yet to be the outcome, the outworking. Literally it is completed in the past, but wholly indeterminate; that is, it has not reached its final issue although it is already done, something completed. It is something done in the past. When you come to the next verse, 54, you have a change of tense: "He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day." The tense there is the present active participle: He that keeps on eating, makes a habit of it. So we have something to come out and be carried on continually; a thing which relates to the origin of our history and of its continuation. I think that is a magnificent example of the Holy Spirit controlling grammar. It is a remarkable thing that at the beginning you have the Passover as the basic act, in which everything really is complete, and yet an implication that something else is to be done. Then the wilderness is introduced, and the very grammar here indicates that the wilderness experience is to be a habitual eating, something going on all the time. Life triumphant over death is something which we have completely when we first receive the Lord Jesus, but there has to be an outworking of it, and we have continually to receive Christ for the maintenance of the Testimony.

Christ's Body - an Incorruptible Humanity

Do remember that this eating of the flesh and drinking of the Blood of the Son of man, is the receiving of that which is incorruptible and has incorruptible life in it. The flesh was the body of Christ, was that in which death was conquered: "A body hast thou prepared for me."  Why? That, in a body - the sphere of death in the race - death should be conquered. I am so glad that the Lord met death just in death's own residence, the body. Death has struck right at the race in its very humanity. Humanity was a thought of God of a very high order; a perfect humanity. Humanity is something unique. Humanity is something special. "For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak. But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, thou thou art mindful of him?..."  Of a higher order than angels is man. The inhabited earth to come is not to be under the dominion of angels, it is to be under the dominion of man. "Know ye not that we shall judge angels?" Angels are subject to man, when man is what God intended him to be. "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?" They are ministers in relation to salvation; ministers to man, in order to bring man to the place for which God eternally intended him. Humanity is a high thought of God, something higher than the angelic order. Ah! but it was there that the enemy struck, and it is in humanity that death reigns, and it is in our mortal bodies that death has its ground. That is the teaching of the Word, "our dying bodies." In a body the Lord Jesus conquered death, and dealt with man's moral condition, which was the basis of death; He did it in a body. His body was the instrument of His triumph over the moral state of man, and death, the result of that moral state. Remember, in His body He met every temptation which is common to man and overcame it. In His body, in humanity: " all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." Temptation is not temptation if you do not feel it. The question of how a perfect being can be tempted misses the point altogether. He was tempted, He was tried, and He was victorious, and victory is nothing if you have no ordeal: victory has no meaning if you never have a battle. In His body He met "from without," the assault of every kind of evil suggestion, evil influence; He was left alone with the very devil himself in trial and temptation. In His body He triumphed, and in His body He bore our sins. "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body upon the tree ..." We would be careful to say that we do not believe that there was any sin in Christ Himself in any part. Therefore we underline "from without". Now in that body triumphant there is incorruptible life. This Holy One did not see corruption because He had triumphed morally; it was not possible that He should be holden of death, because death had no place of residence in that body. "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you." Life triumphant over death is in our appropriating all that which is represented by His body. That is faith appropriation of Christ in His victory, in humanity. We will explain what that is presently. But we must remember that it was in His flesh, in His body that He triumphed over death; if you like - in a body He overcame. Christ's body was, and is, a body in which all Calvary's work and victory was accomplished. Receive the virtue of that, the spiritual efficacy of that by faith, and you are receiving Calvary's victory. Calvary's victory is not some doctrine you adopt, it is a spiritual exercise in relation to Christ Himself in victory: the taking of Christ, the making Christ yours by faith. That is the way of Calvary's victory. Feeding on Christ is sharing His victory. Feeding on Christ is strength, is growth, is endurance; it is not doctrine or teaching, but feeding, taking, assimilating, appropriating, making ours. That is the way of victory over death continuously. A thing we do at the beginning once and for all. We take Christ; and then we do so habitually every day; just as those in the wilderness had to do afresh every morning. The Lord there carefully stipulated that they were not to live on yesterday's manna. Nothing was to be left overnight; anything left over in the evening was to be burned. It was to be fresh every morning; not yesterday's exercise in relation to Christ, but today's, every day. The wilderness; well, Christ was in a wilderness with the devil, and the first assault was concerning bread: "If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread." What was the Lord's answer? The Lord's answer is out from the wilderness: "It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." You LIVE, even in the place of death, by the Word of the Lord. He is the Word in Person, and in commandment.

We will now move to the end of this meditation by saying a little about what feeding upon Christ is, as the way of the Testimony of life triumphant over death continuously. We shall be very elementary.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 27 - "What Feeding Upon Christ Means")