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Monday, September 30, 2013

The Cross and the Person of Christ # 19

The Cross and the Lord's Coming Again (continued)

Let there be differences of opinion as to the willy-nilly translation of Christians, or as to whether the whole Church will be caught up at Christ's coming; it is not necessary to formulate theories or teachings on such matters. Selectiveness of rapture may or may not be held, but from one thing no one can get away, God has left no room for theories here; a spiritual state of separation, occupation, and expectation is invariably bound up with our being received by Him at His appearing. Why argue otherwise and support a presuming upon the grace of God? Why take risks on a false idea of grace when God has given us nothing but a positive demand, saying nothing whatever about His having a place for those who are less than one hundred-percent going on with Him?

Israel in the wilderness was given a blue token to wear on the border of their garments. This betokened that they were in God's mind - a heavenly people. They no more belonged to the wilderness than they did to Egypt. It was a place in which to know ad prove their heavenliness - heavenly life, resource, guidance, etc. - and it was always pointing to "a heavenly journey" which was really their own. But Jordan was the way in, the real point of crossing. And Jordan for ever represents the Cross of Christ. As the Red Sea represented what God did for them, so Jordan was the figure of a work consummated in them.

Ephesians is the counterpart of "Joshua"; it is "in the heavenlies in Christ," but the Holy Spirit took what was chronologically first _ "Thessalonians" - and caused it to be placed after "Ephesians," as much as to say - The Coming of the Lord (the main theme of Thessalonians") is the outcome of the Church's arrival at its heavenly position.

More will be said on this when we deal with the Church in our next chapter, but here we want to underline the Divine revelation that the Cross separates us from this world, from this "flesh", from satan's authority, and joins us to Christ, brings us on to heavenly ground, and constitutes us a spiritual people, and it is for such that the Lord will come. When David was driven out of his place by the usurper Absalom and his company, he exercised sublime wisdom and faith by sending back Abiathar with the ark into the city. It was his own foothold there. It was that which would always give him a place, even where he was otherwise repudiated. And to it he would return. It was his hold and his magnet. The Lord will not just return as a matter of course. He will come  to and for something. It is a love matter. He will come for His bride, but is has to be mutual. "Them that have loved His appearing." So the Cross is as much a part of the consummation as it is of the initiation, and by its operation in the life as a principle and power the Lord will come for "a people prepared." This preparation relates to heart condition and not to mental apprehension of prophetic truth.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 20 - "The Cross and the Church")

To Believe is to Live

Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins." - John 8:24

The Pharisees were always trying to catch Jesus off guard. Regardless of what Jesus was teaching, they would test Him. The Pharisees were the religious leaders and teachers of the day. They knew the Scriptures better than anyone and were always ready to tell others how to live by them. They were superior in their righteousness, or so they thought. They enjoyed their status, their power and the honor given to them by man. Jesus however, created problems for them in His teachings. The people wanted to hear more of what Jesus had to say. The Pharisees were threatened as they saw their power diminishing, as more and more people followed Jesus. How sad to realize that the very One whom they had been waiting for their whole lives was in their midst and they did not recognize Him!

The people who denied Jesus would die in their sins because they refused to believe that He is the Son of God. When all is said and done, the verse above sums up the truth. If we do not believe in Jesus, we will die in our sins. Sadly, there are still Pharisees in our world today who think that by knowledge and good works they have the answers. There are those who can recite Scripture to justify any argument or prove any point and are always instructing others on how to live godly lives. Then, there are those who truly try hard to do what is right. They volunteer for ministry services, give freely to others in need and are kind-hearted to everyone. On the outside, both types look very godly and religious. But what about on the inside?

Jesus is not impressed with our "good" works. Our best intentions mean nothing in the kingdom of God. We are born of sin, live sinful lives and will die in our sins, unless we do one thing—believe in Jesus. It is not the kind of belief that acknowledges His existence or His role. James 2:18 tells us that, “even the demons believe and tremble.” The word “believe” means to adhere to, rely on, trust in, and depend upon. Do you believe in Jesus Christ according to His definition of the word? Do you absolutely depend upon Him for your salvation? Do you know that there is nothing you can add to your salvation and that there is no good work that you can do for eternal security? The only requirement is faith. The only One who can cleanse us from our sins is Jesus Christ, and the only way we can be cleansed is by believing in Him alone. Today, you can know Him. Dear Lord, I want to know Your Son Jesus. I know that I am a sinner who cannot do enough good works to earn my salvation. I am lost without You. I want You to be my Lord and Savior forever more. 

~Daily Disciples Devotional~

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Cross and the Person of Christ # 18

The Cross and the Lord's Coming Again

This is no more a treatise on the Second Advent of Christ than a former chapter was on the Holy Spirit. Our specific object is to point out the connection between the Cross and the Coming. 

Just as salvation, sanctification, the Holy Spirit, have been made something in themselves, and have become isolated doctrines, separated from their relatedness to all else, and have therefore become abnormal and unbalanced, so has it become with the teaching concerning the Lord's coming again. For a long time this matter fell into abeyance and was neglected or rejected. Then came a real awakening concerning it, and it was given its place again. But, like every swing of the pendulum, it has either taken on abnormalities, or become something in itself. In the one case it does positive harm: in the other it does not do much harm or good at all.

Some of us have lived long enough to outlive many Second Advent theories - not of cranks, extremists, or fanatics (although there have been some of these) but of honest, devout, and otherwise balanced and sound evangelical leaders. How sure some were that the German Kaiser was the Antichrist! How much was published and said by prophetic students that Allenby's entrance into Jerusalem was the end of the times of the Gentiles! Then Hitler took his place in the long line of Antichrists. A well-known leader traveled to Rome with the express purpose of telling Mussolini that he was the one raised up of God at the end-times to reconstruct the Roman Empire according to prophecy, and Mussolini took it on. Well, what about it all?

We are not dismissing "signs of the times," for there undoubtedly are such, but we do emphasise that the spiritual aspect of things is far safer and more important than the temporal, fascinating as the latter may be. satan can sidetrack as much by means of unrelated truth as by positive error.

Before his departure to be with the Lord, a beloved friend and servant of God who had made prophecy his life-long study, and who was well-known as an investigator, wrote to me and said that he had been compelled to change his entire standpoint, and much of his interpretation in this whole matter. This is sad, if not tragic! We do need to be on very safe and sure ground.

The Lord's Coming is Rooted in the Cross

and is the definite outworking as well as the outcome of it.

"Thou art coming; at Thy table
We are witnesses for this."

The Table, which shows forth His death, links that death with His coming again - "till he come."

To show that the Cross is the basis of the Blessed Hope would be unnecessary here, but to show how that is so may be important. The reason for this is that so many have not got beyond the idea - an idea never seriously thought out - that the Second advent is just an isolated event, or an event which, standing in a program or time-table of dispensational movements, will just happen. When the clock strikes twelve the Lord will come. Well, "within his own authority" the Father may have the times and the seasons, but in touching this matter we are confronted with one of those inscrutable ways of God. There are several of them in the Bible. To reconcile freewill and predestination lies with the wisdom of God alone, we cannot do it. In the same way it is beyond our understanding that a certain state which lies with the volition of Christians should synchronise with a fixed point of time for the Lord's coming. Yet it is beyond dispute that in both the above matters the Bible is quite clear and emphatic. The Lord will come at a time definitely known to and fixed by Him, but, on the other hand, the Lord's coming will be just as much a spiritual matter as a chronological one.

It is on this spiritual side of Adventism that the Church and its teachers are so weak. As truly as Abraham's servant, sent to fetch the bride for Isaac, foreshadowed the Holy Spirit's being sent to fetch a bride for Christ, so truly is it a matter of spiritual progress on her part toward Him and the Spirit's showing of His things. Rebekah did not make one sudden leap from Mesopotamia to Canaan. It was a long, exacting and testing journey, and one involving a great exercise of faith. There was the whole question of leaving everything and everyone whose roots were in that land. There was the matter of implicit trust in the servant. There was, no doubt, a temptation more than once to wonder if the end was sure. And there was the constant battle with the reactions arising out of the weariness and the length of the unfamiliar way. But all this had a necessary effect upon this elect bride to both fit her for her great vocation and make the ecstasy of realization all the greater. This is at best a poor figure of the spiritual side of the consummation of union with Christ at His appearing.

The fact is that we are to move just as much toward Him as He to us. The break with all here in a heart way, the leaving of this world spiritually, the occupation with the things of Christ, the patient endurance, and the growth of faith, are indispensable and inseparable factors in relation to His coming and our going on with Him.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 19)

Parents Responsibility

Words are but a small part of parental communication. Now let's look at two types of messages we should purposefully model for our kids.

First, boys and girls need affirmation that they are loved, accepted, and competent. In today's passage, God the Father spoke those very things to His Son. It is essential that our children gain a sense of security and belonging at home so they won't seek acceptance elsewhere. And the way we care and provide for them will help them grasp the heavenly Father's love.

Second, parents are responsible for presenting the principles needed for living a godly life. One way to do so is by reading Scripture aloud and sharing stories of the Lord's involvement in our lives. But actions must match what we say. For example, we cannot expect children to truly understand the golden rule if we act with selfishness, arrogance, or insensitivity.

Modeling a godly life is oftentimes an intentional pursuit, like reading Scripture or serving as a family on a mission trip. It can also be as simple and unplanned as picking up a piece of trash on a neighbor's lawn. But keep in mind that actions and words aren't always perceived correctly. Check that your children's understanding matches the message you hope to communicate.

Your words and actions are teaching lessons. Do your children know, beyond any doubt, that they're treasured and capable? Are you giving them the tools they need to follow Christ? Remember, God doesn't expect perfection. He will guide the willing heart—and cover missteps with His grace.

~Charles Stanley~

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Cross and the Person of Christ # 17

6. Regeneration

Regeneration is not something extra to what has gone before, but is a feature or factor in all. It puts its finger upon that which has taken place in us. By regeneration something is present which was not there before, a life from God which only the born-again possess, an indwelling of the Holy Spirit which is not true of any others. This Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has in it all the potentialities of a new creation in every part. There is a new consciousness, a new capacity, a new sense of relationships, a new direction, a new standard, a new vocation. Indeed, it is the birth of a new child. Everything is new and has to be learned from the beginning. We really know nothing of God's thoughts and ways and standards and purposes until we are regenerated. The freedom and fullness in which we move in our new life and all that it means will largely depend upon our recognition of what has gone before, and perhaps especially of our death and resurrection union with Christ, because here, in this new creation order, the old mentality has no place, and it is only to hamper the work of the Spirit in us if we persist in bringing over our ideas, our desires, our judgments, our choices, even if we think them to be in the interests of  the Lord. We have to learn that the best of our old makeup may be all out of line with the simplest things of the Spirit of God. Regeneration is a new creation, and it is essentially "new".

7. Sonship

Sonship is something more than being born again. It represents growth unto fullness. It is quite a good thing to be a babe while babyhood lasts, but it is a bad thing to be a babe when that period is past. This is the condition of many Christians. Without going into technicalities, the New Testament in its original language makes a very clear distinction between a child and a son. While sonship is inherent in birth, in the New Testament sense sonship is the realization of the possibilities of birth. It is growth to maturity. So the New Testament has a lot to say about growing up, leaving childhood and attaining unto full stature. With this growth comes the greater fullness of Christ and the abundant wealth into which we are saved. The so great salvation has its greater meaning for those who are going on unto full growth. In other words, it is a matter not so much of that from which we are saved, as of that unto which we are saved. The grand climax of the new creation is "the revealing of the sons of God" (Romans 8:19).

8. Sanctification

Sanctification again is an aspect and not necessarily an addition. Briefly, this indicates an act and a process. Sanctification and consecration are alternative and synonymous terms. Firstly, they mean a setting apart or being set apart unto God. The New Testament is quite clear that, as we are justified in Christ by faith, so also we are sanctified in Christ by faith, and that this precedes  the work of making us holy in ourselves. Thus to believers who had many imperfections the Apostle addressed his letter - unto "them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus" (1 Cor. 1:2). Thus, when we are in Christ, the Divine mind concerning us is that we are wholly set apart unto the Lord. We are as consecrated as anyone can be as to our position. But the same Apostle who refers to believers as already sanctified in Christ Jesus, also writes to believers telling them that his prayer for them is that they may be sanctified wholly, spirit, soul, and body (1 Thess. v. 23). This simply means that what we are by position has got to be made good in our state. Sanctification or consecration is fundamentally a matter of separation. With the fall, an entangling with another nature and order took place. It became organic, therefore constitutional. The Cross of the Lord Jesus cut right in between that order and organism and a new and utterly different  one as represented by Christ. Sanctification is, therefore, the working of the Cross in us to make good the nullification of that entangled nature and to bring in, in every-increasing fullness, what Christ is as that 'altogether other." In His simple language of illustration, it is taking up the Cross daily and denying ourselves (Matt. 16:24). But the fuller spiritual explanation of that, which is given us later in the New Testament, is the working of the Cross in us to bring an end to that self-life which is inextricably bound up with a system of evil. Thus, we being regarded as sanctified in Christ Jesus by faith, the process of sanctification is our experimental approximation to the position in which we are placed by the grace of God.

It will be seen that sanctification thus follows closely in the sequence of things and is based upon substitution, redemption, justification, reconciliation, regeneration, sonship.

9. Glorification

In the case of the Lord Jesus, the suffering and glory are always kept together; suffering, the foundation; glory, the topstone. Glorification is the spontaneous issue of the working in us of that Divine life, the incorruptible life of God. That life has in it all the potentialities of glorification. What has been said above is of two activities: (1) The setting aside of all that cannot be glorified; (2) The bringing in of the new organism with the new life and its increase unto the fullness of Christ, and this twofold work of the Cross leads on to glorification. Glorification begins in the spirit, that is, the renewed spirit of the child of God, by reason of the indwelling Spirit of glory, the Holy Spirit. Glorification proceeds as the soul - mind, heart, will' reason, desire, volition - is brought into subjection to the spirit and made its servant; in other words, brought under the Lordship of the Holy Spirit through our spirit. The consummation of glorification will be in the body, "to wit, the redemption of our body" (Romans 8:23), and "when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption: (1 Cor. 15:54) then this mortal body shall have been made like unto His glorious body, or body of glory. Thus sonship will be completed as the out-working of regeneration; sanctification of spirit, soul and body will be the mark of perfect sonship, and glorification the issue.

Surely we are able, in the light of even this very brief and far from complete consideration of this great range of the work of the Cross, to endorse the term "so great salvation." We are also able to appreciate the seriousness of the warning, "How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?" (Hebrews 2:3). God has covered every need and requirement and has compassed the whole ground from A to Z in the Person of His Son and the work of His Cross.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 18 - "The Cross and the Lord's Coming Again")

Waiting Is Hard

"When the cloud tarried... then the children of Israel... journeyed not" (Num. 9:19).
This was the supreme test of obedience. It was comparatively easy to strike tents, when the fleecy folds of the cloud were slowly gathering from off the Tabernacle, and it floated majestically before the host. Change is always delightful; and there was excitement and interest in the route, the scenery, and the locality of the next halting-place. But, ah, the tarrying.
Then, however uninviting and sultry the location, however trying to flesh and blood, however irksome to the impatient disposition, however perilously exposed to danger--there was no option but to remain encamped.
The Psalmist says, "I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry." And what He did for the Old Testament saints He will do for believers throughout all ages. Still God often keeps us waiting. Face to face with threatening foes, in the midst of alarms, encircled by perils, beneath the impending rock. May we not go? Is it not time to strike our tents? Have we not suffered to the point of utter collapse? May we not exchange the glare and heat for green pastures and still waters?
There is no answer. The cloud tarries, and we must remain, though sure of manna, rock-water, shelter, and defense. God never keeps us at post without assuring us of His presence, and sending us daily supplies.
Wait, young man, do not be in a hurry to make a change! Minister, remain at your post! Until the cloud clearly moves, you must tarry. Wait, then, thy Lord's good pleasure! He will be in plenty of time!--Daily Devotional Commentary
An hour of waiting!
Yet there seems such need
To reach that spot sublime!
I long to reach them--but I long far more to trust HIS time!
"Sit still, my daughter"--
Yet the heathen die,
They perish while I stay!
I long to reach them--but I long far more to trust HIS way!
'Tis good to get,
'Tis good indeed to give!
Yet is it better still--
O'er breadth, thro' length, down length, up height, to trust HIS will! 

~L. B. Cowman~

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Cross and the Person of Christ # 16

The Cross and the "So Great Salvation"

3. Redemption

The word "redemption" at once indicates its own meaning. Man has been sold, or has sold himself. satan offered Adam a bargain (?), blinding his mind to the real issues involved. In unbelief and resultant disobedience in the matter of a precise Divine instruction, Adam bartered his soul for certain promised advantages, and sold himself to satan and sin, and the race with him. In that position man has remained, and the strength of it is that satan has rights because he has the round of his own nature. Redemption means that those rights are undercut and disposed of. That is done again in the Person and work of the Lord Jesus in His Cross. The great fact is that in Jesus Christ satan has no ground of authority because he has no ground of nature. There he is "cast out" (John 1231). satan's power of authority is death. The Lord Jesus "tasted death in the behalf of every man" (Hebrews 2:9), and met in Himself the final power of satan, that "through death he might bring to nought him that had the power of death, that is, the devil" (Hebrews 2:14). Thus man is redeemed unto God and upon the redeemed man satan no longer has any claims.

A sidelight upon this is found in a legal process by which a Greek slave obtained his freedom and preserved it, and it is this well-known procedure that doubtless the Apostle Paul refers in Galatians verse 17. The Greek slave, when he desired to secure his liberty, did not bring his master his earnings and obtain his freedom with his receipt for the money; he went to the temple of the god, and there paid in his money to the priests who then with this money bought the slave from his master on the part of the god, and he became for the rest of his life a slave of the god - which meant practically freedom, subject to certain periodical religious duties. If at any time his master or his master's heirs claimed him, he had the record of the transaction in the temple. But on one point the records are silent. If he traveled, if he were far from home, and were seized as a runaway slave, what security could he have? I would seem that Paul gives us the solution. When liberated at the temple, the priest branded him with the "stigmata of  his new master. So Paul's words acquire a new meaning. He had been the slave of sin and of satan; but he had been redeemed by Christ, and his new liberty consisted in his being the slave of Christ. "Henceforth", he says, "let no man attempt to reclaim me; I have been marked on my body with the brand of my new Master, Jesus Christ." The one flaw in this illustration is, of course, that no man can earn the means for his own redemption. Christ alone could provide this.

4. Justification

Justification sets forth a standing or position to which the believer is brought. Each of the preceding steps relates and leads to justification. Substitution sees the sin question dealt with; representation sees the old creation removed and the new brought in; redemption sees the link with satan and his kingdom destroyed. When these three things have been effected, then we have the answer to the question "How can man be just with God?" (Job 9:2), or, in other words, How can a man stand in the presence of God as just, or righteous? The full answer is that we are justified in Christ Jesus. Through faith's acceptance of His substitutionary, representative, and redemptive work, we are now accepted in Him and are upon the wonderful footing of being regarded in the light of His perfections. He is made unto us righteousness from God. It is "the righteousness of (which is from) God through faith" (Romans 3:22). This position is an utter one from God's standpoint and must be so from ours. It is a position to be taken in its fullness by faith and maintained as a way in which to walk by faith. "The just shall live by faith" (Galatians 3:2; Heb. 10:38). satan will never cease to try to bring us back on to the old ground, and this he will do by by ever bringing up to us what we are in ourselves and getting our eyes off Christ. His methods are countless, but the answer to them all is "Not what I m, O Lord, but what Thou art," and a strong holding on and looking off unto Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.

5. Reconciliation

The justified are reconciled. In our natural condition, we were alienated from, and at enmity with, God, and indeed we were enmity against God. It only requires given conditions to bring out from every one of us some positive rebelliousness; but in Christ Jesus and His mighty reconciling work in His Cross, we who "were  far off are made nigh" (Eph. 2:13); we who were enmity are at peace. We are brought into the blessed fellowship of a new life and a new spirit.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 17 - "Regeneration")

Get Up

“When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. ‘Get up,’ he said. ‘Don’t be afraid.’ When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus” (Matthew 17:6–8).

The world can get us down, but God gets us up. The cares of this world can choke out our motivation to move forward, but Christ is close-by to release the pressure and resuscitate our resolve. What has you down? Is it finances, faith, family, foes? Is it a deal gone south or a relationship that has gone awry? Whatever has you down, the Lord can lift you up!

“But you are a shield around me, O Lord; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head” (Psalm 3:3).

We bow down in humility and reverence to almighty God so we can get up, full of grace, to go on our way in quiet confidence. It is humble worship and praise that brings us back to the foot of the cross in gratitude to God for the gift of His only Son Jesus. We kneel at the cross overwhelmed by the forgiveness of our Savior Jesus, and we get up to forgive.

“But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself”(John 12:32).

If fear has you down, get up and walk by faith. If regret has you down, get up and go make restitution. If a relationship has you down, get up and initiate interest. If your job has you down, get up and go after excellence. If misunderstanding has you down, get up and clarify your concerns. If life in general has you down, get up and live a life for God.

Jesus gently admonishes us to lift our eyes off our circumstances and onto Him. So first get up and go to God in trusting determination. Ask Him for directions, and He will lead you in the way you should go. How do you get to your next destination in life? Ask the Lord. How do you solve your most pressing problem? Ask the dispenser of wisdom, holy God. It is from your humble posture in the low place that He lifts you up to see His face.

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James4:10).

Prayer: How can I humble myself before God? Where does He want me to get up and go?

Related Readings: 1 Samuel 2:8; Psalm 30:1; Psalm 145:14; Luke 22:46; Acts 22:16; Acts 26:16 

~Wisdom Hunters Devotional~

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Cross and the Person of Christ # 15

The Cross and the "So Great Salvation"

The third section of our article deals with the "so great salvation" (Hebrews 2:3); a phrase which at once sets forth its comprehensiveness and inclusiveness. Under that term we gather the various words which represent its many sidedness: Substitution; Representation; Redemption; Justification; Reconciliation; Regeneration; Sonship; Sanctification; Glorification. The best way in which to see the significance and the peculiar value of each word or work is to ask one simple question. In what state does the word indicate man to be to make such a work necessary?

1. Substitution

Man is clearly regarded as being totally unable to fulfill the Divine requirements as of himself. Those requirements would utterly destroy him and leave no residue of hope or prospect. He is judged and condemned and must die. But his death is more than physical, it is a state of conscious forsakenness of God, a consciousness to which man is to awake sooner or later unless he is saved - that is hell. For only a few that hell has really commenced in this life, for it is a part of the Divine order that men should live here under an aegis of mercy and grace. But "after death the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). Grace and judgment belong to two dispensations. That is why men presume upon God's grace. The grand feature of the day of grace is that God has - in the Person of His Son, Jesus Christ - provided a Substitute, Who has taken man's place in being "made sin on our behalf" (2 Cor. 5:21), and has passed into that 'hour' (which, in its awfulness, is an eternity) of being forsaken of God. "My God, My God, why has thou forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34). That Substitute is offered to men, for their faith acceptance of Him - "the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). That means that when He died, He was accounted by God as their sin, their judgment, their doom, their death, their hell. It is as though they had born it all but are saved. It required a Substitute Who, in Himself, was sinless, so that there was that behind all upon which judgment had no power and over which death and hell had no rights. There was no other good enough to pay the price of sin. Hence God could raise Him from the dead in virtue of His own inherent sinlessness. This could never have been so with us. All that I was, Christ was made on the Cross for me. All that I was not that God required, Christ is unto me in resurrection. This, very briefly, is substitution.

2. Representation

But the fact that this has been done for me by another is only one side of the great work and could leave the door open to many weaknesses if it were left by itself. The complementary aspect is that of representation. "One died for all, therefore all died" (2 Cor. 5:14). In substitution, Christ died for us; in representation, He died "as" us. This means that, in the mind of God, we, as belonging to the old creation, have passed out of sight. When we take the Lord Jesus as our substitute and representative, we are regarded as in Christ and only so does God see us. When the Apostle Paul said "One died for all, therefore all died" (in Him), he went on to say, "that they that live should no longer live unto themselves, but unto him who for their sakes died and rose again." This means that we cannot take the substitutionary work of Christ and then just go on as though it had no relationship to what we are by nature. Moreover, it was not just our sin that He took, but ourselves; not what we call 'the bad' about us, but our entirety. The same Apostle came to see that this applied to him as formerly a very religious man, consumed by a fire of religious devotion and activity. But the Cross represents the zero of the old creation in all its aspects, nature and abilities, and the beginning all anew as by resurrection from the dead. It is significant and impressive to remember that it was to Christian believers that Paul expounded this truth as in the letter to the Romans.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 16 - "3. Redemption")

Looking for God's Wisdom

So that you incline your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding; yes, if you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding, if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly; He guards the paths of justice, and preserves the way of His saints. Then you will understand righteousness and justice, equity and every good path. Proverbs 2:2-9

As King David was facing his death, he appointed his son, Solomon, as the new king of Israel. In the beginning of King Solomon’s reign, the Lord spoke to Solomon in a dream and said: "Ask! What shall I give you?" (1 Kings 3: 5) His reply greatly pleased the Lord, as he asked for wisdom and discernment so that he could rightly judge God's people. The Lord gave Solomon such an abundance of wisdom that he became famous throughout Israel and other lands, attracting the attention of many who came just to hear his wisdom. His own people feared and respected Solomon because of the power of his words.

The Proverbs are filled with Solomon's nuggets of wisdom, which are still applicable for our lives today. However, this man of wisdom begins this book of wisdom by instructing us to seek for wisdom, knowledge and understanding. Solomon tells us to "seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures." He obviously was thankful that he had the right answer when God asked him years earlier, “What shall I give you?”

We need to get in the habit of asking the Lord for wisdom, knowledge and understanding every day.  The New Testament writer, James, also instructs us to ask for wisdom as he says in Chapter 1 verse 5, “if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God who gives to all liberally and without reproach and it will be given to him.” In other ways, anyone can ask for wisdom at any time and the Lord will give it liberally regardless of our shortcomings and faults. Asking for wisdom is a gift as much as begin the recipient of the wisdom that He gives. There are no prerequisites or strings attached. There will be tangible fruit in your life as you begin to understand things from a different perspective. Certain habits will break and your own words will inspire you as they bring edification and counsel to others.

Oh Lord, please give me wisdom, knowledge and understanding today so I can think Your thoughts as You direct my words, hands and feet.

~Daily Disciples Devotional~

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Cross and the Person of Christ # 14

The Cross and the Throne

In the first place the case of Christ is cited as an example. "Existing in God-form ... emptied himself, taking the form of a bondservant ... humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, yea, the death of the Cross. Wherefore also God highly exalted him, and gave unto him the name which is above every name ..."

Then the Apostle is seen to be aspiring with a tremendous aspiration unto something that he calls "the prize of the on-high calling". It looks very much as tough this is all of a piece with the call and promise to the Overcomers of the Laodicean Church. "He that overcometh, I will give to him to sit down with me in my throne ..." (Revelation 3:21).

Thus it is clear from these Scriptures that not all will "attain," and a special work of the Cross is basic to attaining. The Cross has to deal with our "mindedness." "Have this mind in you." "Emptied himself." This "mindedness" is seen in Paul. "I count all things to be loss ... and do count them but refuse." Into the balances with the throne both Christ and Paul placed all personal "gain." Position, rights, reputation, advantages, etc.; this was the way and outworking of the Cross. "Obedient unto death." "Becoming conformed unto his death."

It is all so much a matter of 'mindedness.' There was a situation at Philippi which represented a real hindrance to that "pressing on" and "attaining," a real challenge to "the on-high calling." Two people were not of one mind; there was a clash and a breach. The implications seem to be that personal interests and earthly considerations were the strength of this strain. Only as the Cross is dealt with that 'mindedness,' and made way for Christ-mindedness could the way be cleared for apprehending that for which they had been apprehended by Christ Jesus. satan is terribly against saints coming to the throne. That throne and that transcendent Name mean his final undoing. He knows that a 'mindedness' which is not the fruit of death to self and resurrection to Christ alone can frustrate that Divine "calling." Everything, then, lies behind this throne-union - "Romans," "Corinthians," "Galatians," "Ephesians," "Colossians," and "Philippians," in their specific and cumulative application of the truth that the Spirit always works by the Cross, and the Cross always leads on to the Spirit.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 15 - "The Cross and the "So Great Salvation")

Shine as Lights in a Dark World

Philippians 2:15
In the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.
We use lights to make manifest. A Christian man should so shine in his life, that a person could not live with him a week without knowing the gospel. His conversation should be such that all who are about him should clearly perceive whose he is, and whom he serves; and should see the image of Jesus reflected in his daily actions. Lights are intended for guidance. We are to help those around us who are in the dark. We are to hold forth to them the Word of life. We are to point sinners to the Saviour, and the weary to a divine resting-place. Men sometimes read their Bibles, and fail to understand them; we should be ready, like Philip, to instruct the inquirer in the meaning of God's Word, the way of salvation, and the life of godliness. Lights are also used for warning. On our rocks and shoals a light-house is sure to be erected. Christian men should know that there are many false lights shown everywhere in the world, and therefore the right light is needed. The wreckers of Satan are always abroad, tempting the ungodly to sin under the name of pleasure; they hoist the wrong light, be it ours to put up the true light upon every dangerous rock, to point out every sin, and tell what it leads to, that so we may be clear of the blood of all men, shining as lights in the world. Lights also have a very cheering influence, and so have Christians. A Christian ought to be a comforter, with kind words on his lips, and sympathy in his heart; he should carry sunshine wherever he goes, and diffuse happiness around him.
Gracious Spirit dwell with me;
I myself would gracious be,
And with words that help and heal
Would thy life in mine reveal,
And with actions bold and meek
Would for Christ my Saviour speak.
 ~Charles Spurgeon~

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Cross and the Person of Christ # 13

Deliverance from the Earthlies

We shall now pass on to those companion letters known to us as Ephesians and Colossians, but more truly, circular letters to churches in an area. Here the particular application relates to the deliverance from the earthlies and the matter in view is the Fullness of Christ. In Colossians it is fullness in Christ as Head of the Church, the Body. "He is the head of the body, the church: ... that in him should all the fullness dwell". "... in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge...". "In him dwelleth all the fullness ... and in him ye  are made full".

In Ephesians, the fullness is in Christ in the Church. "... gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all". "...that ye may be filled unto all the fullness of God". "...till we all attain unto ... the fullness of Christ".

This is all revealed to be the object of "the eternal purpose," the "counsel of his will." It dates back to before times eternal and on to "the ages of the ages." It is a vast and unspeakable Divine intention, and one unto which not all will attain. It costs the Apostle much travail, agony, and striving on behalf of the Church (Col. 1:28; 2:1).

This "attaining" demands a special application of the Cross and consequent operation of the Holy Spirit. A phrase particularly characteristic of these letters is "the heavenlies." Ephesians has it five times, and the point is carried on in Colossians. This is shown to mean a spiritual position, life, and vocation, and when we look at the context we find that it is of very practical implications. Of course, it is especially related to the Church, the Body, and is corporate; but what is true of the Body must be true of every member, hence many personal exhortations. The practical implications referred to combine to emphasize that "fullness" is heavenly and spiritual, and therefore the Lord's people - if they are to attain, not to salvation but to "purpose" - must live on the heavenly line. Thus, all merely earthly features as governing factors have to be left behind. There is nationality. "There cannot be Greek and Jew." We have got to leave that ground, both as to ourselves and others. If we stand on national ground, which not only means nationalism, but temperament and disposition, we are going to cut short spiritual growth. The same applies to the social - "bondman, freeman"; to race or civilization - "barbarian, Scythian"; to religious rites - "circumcision, uncircumcision" (Col. 3:10-11).

The point is this: Christ is in heaven. He is there as "head of the Body." Christ is essentially a heavenly Man, representative of a new humanity, not of this divided, conflicting, chaotic, disrupted race. He is other and different. Divine fullness will be only known in Him as such. We have got to leave the ground of this humanity at every point and live on the ground of Christ - where "Christ is all in all."

To do otherwise is to lower Christ, to divide Christ, and to limit Christ.

Unto this heavenly position and fullness the Holy Spirit has come to lead the Church - which, as the "One Body," cannot recognize or tolerate schism or divisions except to its own destruction. So we have in these companion letters much about the Holy Spirit. See Eph. 1:3 (instead of "spiritual blessing" it should be "blessing of the Spirit")

But this work of the Spirit demands that the Cross has really come in between earth and heaven, and that - because of it - in a true spiritual apprehension we have taken our place with Christ in heaven. "Made us to sit with him in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus."

Because of the advanced position set forth, the Cross is largely taken for granted in Ephesians.

"We have our redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses." "The exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe ... which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead ..." "And you did he quickened when you were dead ... and raised us up with him." "That ye put away ... the old man ... and put on the new man." (Eph. 1:7, 19; 2:1, 6; 4:22, 24).

In Colossians it is more definite still. (2: 11, 12, 13, 20; 3:3, 9).

It is a vast revelation which is given in these letters, a "land of far distances" and of inexhaustible riches. We shall only keep ourselves out of it if we live on, and become actuated by, earthly considerations. Here we are forbidden to talk in a discriminating way, either favorably or unfavorably, about British, American, Chinese, German, etc.; social distinctions; or any other feature of the old humanity. If that were our realm of business and sole consideration then we should have to be so affected; but in Christ's interests and in the Church we are crucified to all this, and now we seek to meet believers solely on the ground of Christ. Only so can there be a building up of the Body. There are many other dividing factors among the Lord's people, both as to their natural constitution and their religious acceptance. The Cross is the remedy for all, and the Spirit of God demands the Cross if spiritual fullness is to be reached.

Our final word for the present will arise from the Letter to the Philippians. It is the climax of the risen life.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 14 - "The Cross and the Throne")

Leave the Infinite to Thee

Job 38:16
Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea?
Some things in nature must remain a mystery to the most intelligent and enterprising investigators. Human knowledge has bounds beyond which it cannot pass. Universal knowledge is for God alone. If this be so in the things which are seen and temporal, I may rest assured that it is even more so in matters spiritual and eternal. Why, then, have I been torturing my brain with speculations as to destiny and will, fixed fate, and human responsibility? These deep and dark truths I am no more able to comprehend than to find out the depth which coucheth beneath, from which old ocean draws her watery stores. Why am I so curious to know the reason of my Lord's providences, the motive of His actions, the design of His visitations? Shall I ever be able to clasp the sun in my fist, and hold the universe in my palm? yet these are as a drop of a bucket compared with the Lord my God. Let me not strive to understand the infinite, but spend my strength in love. What I cannot gain by intellect I can possess by affection, and let that suffice me. I cannot penetrate the heart of the sea, but I can enjoy the healthful breezes which sweep over its bosom, and I can sail over its blue waves with propitious winds. If I could enter the springs of the sea, the feat would serve no useful purpose either to myself or to others, it would not save the sinking bark, or give back the drowned mariner to his weeping wife and children; neither would my solving deep mysteries avail me a single whit, for the least love to God, and the simplest act of obedience to Him, are better than the profoundest knowledge. My Lord, I leave the infinite to Thee, and pray Thee to put far from me such a love for the tree of knowledge as might keep me from the tree of life.
~Charles Spurgeon~ 

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Cross and the Person of Christ # 12

The Cross and the Natural Man

Here those concerned are in Christ. So far as the "Romans" situation is concerned as to "justified in Christ," the position is all right. Their standing is complete; they have accepted Christ as their substitute. It is not that they are in the flesh, but that the flesh is in them, and they are being largely influenced and actuated by natural or soulical man who is riding over the spiritual man. "Natural" in 1 Corinthians is, in the Greek, "soulical." The Apostle explains what "soulical" means when he points out that their own minds and hearts and wills are governing instead of the mind of Christ by the Holy Spirit. Their reasonings, judgments, ideas, standards of values - "the wisdom of the world" - result in their unspiritual and unChristlike behavior. The soul-life finds its way even into the most spiritual realms; e.g. spiritual gifts, to use them for self-glory; the Lord's Table, to turn it to self-gratification; etc. Thus their progress toward the full purpose of being "In Christ" is retarded; they are not spiritual but "carnal"; not grown up ones but "babes."

In this connection the Apostle says: "I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ and him crucified" (1 Corinthians 2:2). What is needed is that application of the Cross, not to make us saved men and women in a general sense, but to deliver  us from our own souls as they overflow the life of the Spirit in us. The Cross must clear the way for the Spirit, and what must be dealt with is the dominance of our own soul-life.

We pass to another phase of the Cross and the Holy Spirit when we come to the Letter to the Galatians. Here it is:

The Cross and Legalism

You will remember how much there is n this letter concerning the Spirit and the Cross. Look at the following two series of passages - (a) Chapter 3:2; 3, 5, 14; Chapter 6: v. 5, 16, 17, 18, 22, 25; v. 8. (b) 2:20; 3:1; v. 24; v. 14.

What then is the point in this combination of the two - the Cross and the Spirit? The Galatians were being urged and tempted to return to the old legal order of "Thou shalt" and "Thou shalt not"; to the outward imposition of the whole system of religious regulations and rules; to the strait-jacket of legalism. Legalism is not only Jewish, it is a persistent tendency. It is the easiest thing into which to fall. It is so easy for a person who has the Spirit to begin to lay down the law to others; to say, 'You ought (or, ought not) to do this or that'; or, 'You must give up (or adopt) this or that.' Thus the strait-jacket of legal bondage is imposed, and it is forgotten that the main need is not law but that the Spirit should be Lord within, and that when this is so, many things will fall off, and those concerned will know what the Lord requires of them. This, as the Apostle says in this letter, is the way of sonship and liberty. The Lord within can be trusted, and hands need not be put upon lives to govern them. Let it be said quite definitely here that, as it was circumcision particularly which occasioned this letter to the Galatians, so it may be (and often is) some one or more of the Christian  ordinances or forms or orders or observances which are made focal points of legal pressure and crisic issues. Important as such things may be we cannot be too strong in pointing out that they may safely be subjected to what is supremely important, that is to say, if the Cross has really been so truly wrought in a life as to deliver from bondage to tradition, popular acceptances, and indeed all that is but the letter apart from the Spirit, thus giving a full an clear way for the absolute sovereignty of the Holy Spirit within the life, all such things will take care of themselves, and they will be brought in (that is, those which are required by the Lord) in a "living" rather than a legal and dead way. But what a mighty work it is for the Cross to have delivered from the inheritance of generations! Setness and finality are features of a legal system, and make spiritual growth and enlargement impossible. Truth without life is fatal, as is righteousness without love. Prejudice and suspicion are fruits of bondage to some religious thing and not of the Spirit.

It is possible to have the most perfect New Testament order and framework, and a most devoted adherence to the letter of the Word, but to be almost totally devoid of life and unction. This is usually due to a failure in a deep experimental working of the Cross and the consequent hindering of the Spirit.

Every one of these aspects of the Cross and the Holy Spirit ought to have a volume to itself, and we are only able to give here the vital points. 

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 13 - "Deliverance from the Earthlies")

Our Heavenly Home

As enjoyable as traveling may be, most of us would admit to having a sense of security and delight upon arriving back home. There's just something comforting about opening the door, seeing familiar things, and feeling we're where we belong.
The apostle John was given a vision that included glimpses inside our future home, the new Jerusalem. You may be surprised to know that some things from our old abode will be missing. But what replaces them will be infinitely better.
For one thing, there were no church buildings in John's vision, "for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple" (Rev. 21:22). No longer will denominations divide up the body of Christ. Nor will the sun or moon shine on the city in that day, "for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb" (v. 23). Imagine--no need for electricity, flashlights, or candles.
One other difference is that the city gates will always be open. Since sin will not be a factor, locks will be unnecessary in our heavenly home. Death and decay will also be absent. In fact, nothing impure will ever enter that future residence--utter holiness will characterize the heavenly place, and suffering will be a thing of the past. What we have to look forward to is the abundant life in Christ, pure and unmarred.
Think about the comfortable feeling you have as you open your front door. That's but a hint of what we'll feel some day on arriving at the place our Father has lovingly and personally prepared for us in heaven. We will finally--and permanently--be "at home" in a way that defies description.

~Charles Stanley~

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Cross and the Person of Christ # 11

The Cross and the Sinful Body of the Flesh

Up to chapter 7 everything circles around and centers in the Cross. The Cross is the great issue toward which everything is intended to lead. The Apostle steadily and thoroughly works his way to that climax. All that is in those seven chapters finds its end in the position set forth in the words of chapter 6:3-11, and especially in verses 3, 5, 6: "...all we who were baptized into his death ... we have become united with Him in the likeness of his death ... our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away." Until this has become a position established and entered into, the revelation of a life in the Spirit is not touched upon. But when this has become basic, then we have all that follows about the Spirit's presence and work.

"Ye are ... in the Spirit, if ... the Spirit of God dwelleth in you. But if any man hath not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his" (8:9).

"The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and death" (8:2).

"The mind of the spirit is life and peace" (8:6).

And so on.

Here, then, the specific emphasis is upon the fact that, for the presence and work of the Holy Spirit in the believer and the "Body" to be really known, the whole body of sin (the man out of Christ being a sinful creature and lying under judgment and condemnation) must be - not reformed, remedied, improved, educated to better things - but crucified and buried; not just sins being taken away or pardoned, but "himself" put away. As a man he must depart from God's sight, his good (?) and his bad. He belongs by nature to a race which no longer stands in the light of God's intention. God has departed from that race, and has made a "new creation." Christ in resurrection is the "firstborn among many brethren." He is "the last Adam," meaning that as the first of a new race, a new humanity, finality is with Him; there will be no need of another. This "last Adam" stepped back - so to speak - and before becoming in resurrection the "firstborn from the dead," He gathered up all the race of the first Adam and representatively took it into the full judgment of God-forsakenness, crying "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" That is God's ultimate mind toward the whole race in the first Adam. We are called upon to recognize that, to take a position and make a declaration that we accept Christ's death as our death and His burial as our burial. The New Testament says that that is the declaration which baptism makes, or that that declaration is made in baptism.

While very much more ought to be said on this whole matter, we will gather it up in this inclusive observation, that the position in "Romans" is God's foundation, and it is all-comprehensive. A Holy Spirit-governed life will be brought back to the implications of the Cross as the end of the old man. There will be one basic crisis, but through the years there may be many crises in which we have to refer back to the original  inclusive position fresh issues which have been raised as we could bear to know them. The final position which the Cross establishes and to which the Holy Spirit works is that all shall be - in every direction and connection - Christ only, and not ourselves in any respect. Thus we are led to the next specific application of the Cross as in the First Letter to the Corinthians.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 12 - "The Cross and the Natural Man")

Spiritual Fervor

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:11-12

Spiritual fervor is evidence of faith that is alive. It is vibrant and effervescent in expectation of an encounter with God. The commitment of a zealous follower of Jesus is contagious. They lift the faith of other believers by simply believing what the Lord says is true,  adjusting their behavior to His commands. Like a match stick ignites a fuse of dynamite, so someone’s spiritual spark can inflame an entire community for Christ. Spiritual fervor burns brightly in service to God!

For example, a person who passionately prays influences other prayer partners to earnestly pray. Your prayer life is revived when you pray with someone who has a hot heart for heaven. What area of your Christian life has cooled off? If your generosity has grown cold then hang around a generous giver who  liberally shares their life and money. If you have become mute in sharing the gospel then accompany a bold witness for Jesus. Zeal for Christ is as much caught as taught!

He (Apollos) had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately. Acts 18:25

Spiritual fervor comes from sitting at the feet of your Heavenly Father and learning His ways. His Holy Spirit will instruct you accurately about Jesus and His great love for you. Learn from the Lord and you will have fervor for the Lord. Also, engage as a student of Holy Scripture under the teaching of gifted Bible teachers. Scripture applied to your soul is like pouring gasoline on a campfire. You are combustible for Christ when the Spirit ignites your heart with God’s truth.

Lastly, make sure by God’s grace your knowledge keeps up with your zeal. Ignorance on fire can bruise relationships and even alienate those who want to know more about Christ. As a Spirit-filled follower of Jesus you can be confrontational without being combative. The honey of God’s grace is sweet to the lips of the lost, but self righteous speech is sour and distasteful. Stay broken before the Lord and your spiritual fervor will be a life giving fragrance to all you influence.

For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other; the fragrance of life. 2 Corinthians 2:15-16

Prayer: Heavenly Father, fuel my faith with your Holy Spirit, so my life burns bright for You.

Related Readings: Psalms 119:139; Proverbs 19:2; John 2:17; Ephesians 4:18-20; Philippians 3:6

~Wisdom Hunters~

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Cross and the Person of Christ # 10

The Cross Basic to all the Spirit's Work

That brings us to that to which we have been working, the Cross and the Holy Spirit; for the basis and the door of all the Spirit's work is the Cross. You will, with the slightest knowledge of the Old and New Testament Scriptures, at once recall very much that brings these two together. Back in the types we see them brought together; in the fire upon the altar - the altar typifying the Cross, and the fire upon the altar the Spirit consuming the sacrifice. Or again, as in Exodus 17, the rock smitten and the gushing water - the Cross and the Spirit. Or, coming to the New Testament, the Jordan of our Lord's baptism setting forth in type His death and burial and resurrection, immediately issuing in the open heavens and the Spirit in dove-like form resting upon Him - the Cross and the Spirit. Or, going back with that in mind to Israel's beginnings as a nation, the lamb slain, the blood sprinkled, the pillar of cloud and fire taking charge immediately afterwards - the Spirit by way of the Cross; all pointing to the great inclusive reality, Calvary and Pentecost. It is always like that. The two are always together. And these are but fragmentary selections of a vast amount in the Word of God which shows this close and inseparable oneness between the two.

When we come to the Lord Jesus, we know that His very messages or discourses on the Holy Spirit in a definite and specific way were reserved until the eve of the passion. It was with the shadow of the Cross thrown fully across His path that He began to speak about the coming of the Comforter and what that coming would mean to them; and He never did say, "Receive ye the Holy Spirit" (John 20:22) until He could show them His hands and His side, His pierced hands, His riven side. Just as the Spirit came on Him at the time of His typical death in baptism, so that Spirit led Him to the actual Cross, where we are told He "through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish unto God" (Hebrews 9:14). Well, if it were necessary, much more could be gathered to show how the two are kept together - the Cross and the Spirit. The Cross leads to the Spirit and the Spirit ever brings back to the Cross.

Why is the Cross basic to the Spirit's work? Our passage in Galatians 3 gives the answer. Because a curse exists, is resting now upon the old creation, "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us," or, literally and correctly, "having become a curse in our place." The human race by nature lies under a curse and the Holy Spirit can never, never, come upon an accursed thing. The promise of the Spirit can never be fulfilled in those who still remain under the curse. The curse must be removed, for the anointing oil shall come upon no flesh; "upon the flesh of man shall it not be poured" (Exodus 30:32). The curse must be removed, and Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a  curse in our stead, in order that we might receive the promise of the Spirit. The removing of a whole condition and state under a curse in order to clear the way for the Spirit - that is the answer. Therein lies the necessity for the Cross and for our faith identification with Him Who was made a curse for us. And, however uncomfortable and unlovely it may sound, the fact is that when the Holy Spirit really gets to work in a life, on the one side the course and history for that life is such as to make the one concerned very well aware that the flesh is an accursed thing.

There are no people in this world who are more ready to admit and acknowledge the accursed nature of the flesh than those who have the Spirit. It is the very pathway to glory to discover how accursed the flesh is. That is on one side. No doubt many of us know something of that history. The Holy Spirit really does make the meaning of the Cross known in that sense that the Cross speaks of a place where a curse is, and we are there in Christ. Something in the way has got to be removed.

Here, in the case of these Galatians, the Apostle says that they had begun in the Spirit; did they hope to be perfected in the flesh? And bringing in this passage, it makes the question very emphatic and very terrible. Having begun in the Spirit - which presupposes that you are outside of the curse to be able to make a beginning at all, to have any prospect of going on - do you think you are going to be perfected by getting back under the curse? No; the argument is that that is only to close the door again, to cut off all the prospect, to bar the way to any further progress. "Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now perfected in the flesh?" The deduction, while not exactly stated, but quite clearly implied, is that, having begun in the Spirit it is only possible to continue in the Spirit on the ground on which you made a beginning. That is, by the Cross you get away and continually keep away from that ground of the curse; or, in other words, your progress requires the continual position to which the Cross brings you, just as your beginning required that position. That is, to continue is to continue in the Spirit.

But you can continue in the Spirit only as you began in the Spirit. That was only made possible by the Cross removing the curse, the old man, the accursed old man. So that to continue in the Spirit, to go right on to all that the Spirit intends, means, and is after, demands a continual cutting off of the flesh, a keeping cut off of the flesh by the Cross. So the Spirit keeps the Cross in evidence, and the Cross makes all the Spirit's purpose possible.

We have not to be continually occupied with our crucifixion; the Holy Spirit will attend to that. We have to walk in the Spirit. To do this we have just to obey the Spirit. It is positive, not negative.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 11 - "The Cross and the Sinful Body of the Flesh")

You Are Important to God

How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; When I awake, I am still with You. Psalm 139:17-18

How many of us really believe that the God of the universe is thinking kind thoughts about us? Doesn’t He have more important things to think about?  How can He really care about us and be all that this verse says? The key point for us is to realize that God considers us to be veryimportant to Him. If we stop for a moment and consider some of the basics of what the Bible teaches, we may better understand the truth of these verses.

Over and over, the Bible is filled with verses of truth that describe His love for us. John 3:16 tells us that, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” for us.  Jesus came to earth, fully man and fully God, to give His life for our sins so that we may know Him personally. As hard as it may be to believe, God loves us so much that all He wants is to be with us; the God of the universe wants a personal relationship with you and me. That is why He thinks about us so much. That is why He never leaves us, even as we sleep. He wants us to know that He is still with us when we wake up.

My dog wakes me up each morning, sometimes earlier than I like. Now, my dog does not have to be let out, he has his own doggy door. He is not hungry or thirsty. He just wants to be with me. He wants to be petted and loved on, even for a few minutes until I am fully awake and then he goes back to sleep. As I wake up, I know that the Lord wants me up too. He has been thinking about me all night, watching over me and waiting on me to get up and be with Him. Mornings spent with the Lord are precious, and it is in those moments that He lets me know just how much He loves me. The Lord does not need anything from me, but He wants my attention and my love, and He gives me so much more in return.

Today, stop and give some time and attention to the Lord. Tell Him you love Him. Thank Him for His thoughts of you and for always being with you. And when in doubt, read the full chapter of Psalm 139…you will be blessed. 

~Daily Disciples Devotional~

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Cross and the Person of Christ # 9

The Unity of Christ

I am first of all concerned with this emphasis upon the greatness of Christ, the vastness of Christ, and the fact that the Holy Spirit has come to bring that greatness into the Church. There is so much detail bound up with that. We have referred to the laws and relationships and dependencies and inter-dependencies of this physical universe. Christ is that; difficult as it is for us to grasp, Christ is that. And then the Church has to be the reproduction of what Christ is, so that in the Boy of Christ you find all these spiritual laws of inter-relatedness, inter-dependence, and no member of the Body can say to any other member, however remote the other member may be in the matter of distance and position, "I have no need of thee." (1 Corinthians 12:21). The head cannot say to the feet - there are your extremities! - 'Because you are so far removed from me, I am not dependent upon you.' It cannot be. "The eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of thee." Proximity makes no difference in this matter, distance makes no difference. The relatedness constitutes the Body a perfect whole, a perfect "one", a perfect harmony, all inter-dependent, inter-related. That is Christ. "So also is the Christ" (1 Corinthians 12:12).

And in the realm of the Spirit that sort of thing is going on. We need, of course, spiritual perception to be able to grasp it. It may be that a very great deal of our spiritual experience which cannot be explained at all by anything within the immediate circle of our lives is due to something that is going on in some children of God or child of God far removed from us geographically. There may be some tremendous conflict in a life, or in a company of the Lord's people, on the other side of the world, and because the Spirit is one we are involved in that conflict, and we are going through something, and we are moved to pray, and the issue is one issue. Geography does not touch it. Very often we do not understand what is the meaning of that through which we are passing. We know of certain things in our spiritual experience, something is going on, that is conflict on, there is pressure on, and there is nothing immediately around us to explain it. There is no occasion for it so far as we can see here and now. But there is some issue in the balances, some issue over which there is spiritual conflict somewhere, and because the Spirit is one and the Body is one, we are bound up with that conflict. That is the oneness, the harmony of Christ, that is the interaction of these laws of one Body, a new spiritual system. Some of us have known how true these things are and how very practical they are. If the Church only had intelligence about this and lived up to its intelligence, what loss it would be to the enemy! How often the children of God are caught misinterpreting their experience, things that are happening, what is going on in another life. The enemy puts a false construction upon a thing, and, instead of bringing those concerned together to cooperate for victory, he sets them apart by mis-construction. If the Church saw this spiritual oneness, this spiritual inter-relatedness, inter-dependence, and threw itself right into that, what a mighty thing the Church would be here in this universe! And that is the spiritual system that Christ is, which is to be constituted in in His Body, reproduced in His Church.

You may say that it is a hopeless thing to expect so far as the whole Church is concerned. It is a very beautiful ideal, but what are the prospects of realization? Well, we cannot dismiss it like that. We have to come back. It will begin, perhaps, between two of us, and that will constitute a sufficient ground for instruction and for victory, for understanding. Even the perfect harmony of two children of God is a terrific cause of battle, but get it and see what an effective thing it is for God! And that is why the battle rages - just to separate two children of God who are vitally related. satan has always tried that, and what things come in to do it!

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 10 - "The Cross Basic to all the Spirit's Work")