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Saturday, November 30, 2013

We Beheld His Glory # 7

Fullness out of Emptiness, Life out of Death, Joy out of Sorrow, Glory out of Shame

All that is gathered up and brought into this testimony of the third day, the Divine fullness. What is the sign n its elements? Well, there is marriage. You say: An ordinary, perhaps, everyday occurrence. Yes, but this comes within the compass of the Divine economy; this comes under the hand of the Divine sovereignty. Things that happened in these gospel records did not happen by chance as mere everyday happenings. They came in order of the Divine sovereignty to fulfill a purpose. You watch that principle; that which looked like an ordinary happening turned out to have been Divinely ordered to serve the eternal purpose. God in sovereignty was ordering these details to His own ends. It was not just by chance that things took place, came to pass in the life of the Lord Jesus. This marriage, one among many marriages, had a place in the economy of God. It is not without tremendous significance that the first sign of the Lord Jesus by which He  showed forth His glory should be related to a marriage, it is foundational. If you look on through all the other elements you look on to a day of another marriage, the marriage supper of the Lamb all the elements which are in this marriage of Cana. Waterpots, vessels, and there are six of them. These are vessels of humanity, human vessels, in type. Man is here in view, man, six is the number of man; and man as a vessel; but impoverished, knowing nothing of fullness, may have been quite empty or may have been almost empty. The fact that the Lord had to command that they were to be filled indicates that they did not know fullness. Emptiness! Intended for fullness but not enjoying it! Intended for very large fullness. (Each one of these vessels was capable of containing about twenty gallons of water). They were not little waterpots, not mere pitchers or jugs. Not notice the details were given. The firkin is the New Testament measure which corresponds to the Old Testament bath, and the Old Testament bath was some eight gallons, perhaps eight-and-a-half. So you can see about how many gallons each of these vessels held - and there were six of them. Capacity intended for a large measure of fullness but not in it, not knowing it. And if that water speaks of life, then they are not knowing life; it is death. "In him was life." "I am come that they might have life and that they might have it abundantly" - the intention of God. The thought of God for man is fullness to the brim, not only fullness in a very small capacity but in large capacity. A large capacity being used to the full; life! But here death was truly in possession, if not altogether, where life ought to have been. Further, this whole occasion had become overshadowed by the failure of wine, and knowing that it was the foundational thing of such an occasion, that if the wine failed their feast failed, you may take it that in the hearts of those responsible there was consternation and despair, a cloud was over the whole thing, and a very great deal of anxiety. I mean that joy must have been quite seriously arrested by reason of this emergency. "These things have I spoken unto you, that ... your joy might be full." And then this state of things would undoubtedly bring reproach and shame and disgrace, anything but glory, just the opposite of glory. You see the elements in this. What was the effect of the intervention of the Lord Jesus? It was to change this whole situation. "Fill the waterpots with water." It was an imperative which carried with it that they were to be filled to the brim, and they filled them to the brim. He changed their emptiness to fullness, their death to life, despair to joy, shame to glory. Life represented by the water; the marriage covenant represented by the covenant of His Blood, the wine; the fullness to the brim: "Of his fullness we all received, and grace upon grace." That is an after statement of the apostle, it is a retrospective view, he is writing many years after this and he says: "We beheld his glory,"  "of his fullness have we received." From emptiness to fullness, from shame to glory, from despair to joy. Fullness! All his was illuminating as to His Person. Life, the covenant in His Blood; the Light as to Who He was; the "joy unspeakable and full of glory." All these re elements of this basic sign. You see everything is gathered up in this, all the other signs are gathered into it. It was intended to be a foundational thing by which these disciples were brought into a spiritual knowledge of Himself. All the great principles of both Testaments are here. If I were to stay with the whole matter of Divine life, which He came that we might have abundantly, the gift of God which is eternal life, you would find it one of the basic things of these signs. If I were to stay with the precious Blood represented in the cup which we take at the Lord's Table, the wine, the basis of a covenant union with Him when He says: " ...Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it" - a marriage union in His Blood; if I were to stay with God's thought for His own, that they should know fullness, and how God is always anxious to have things filled, and does not believe in things being half filled; we should have a very large volume, but the end would be the same, namely, the universal glory of Christ. In the end He is going in His Son to fill all things, and the Church is to be the fullness of Him Who filleth all in all. Full waterpots - a humanity eventually full to the brim with the life, joy, glory of the Lord, of what He Himself is. That is all here.

Governing Factors

As to the revelation of Jesus Christ - the Light, well, that is another great theme running all the way through the scriptures. But do you notice the things which govern all this? Firstly, "Mine hour." "The mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her. Woman, what have I to do with thee?" - or, what is there in common between thee and Me; meaning, You are thinking in one realm and I am in another; you are thinking of making this feast a success; you are thinking - good woman that you are in your sensitiveness for people's dilemmas and unfortunate situations - of how we can make things easy and save them from this very awkward situation; you are thinking in the natural realm. I have other thoughts, I am here not to be a guest at a marriage, but in relation to the end for which I have come from heaven. And that phrase: "Mine hour" is always related to the great work of the Lord Jesus in His Cross, by which His universal purpose is to be accomplished. So He puts back the natural suggestion, all that is merely sentimental and earthly, and waits for the witness of the Spirit in His heart to move with the Father in relation to eternal things. "Mine hour"; that governs this thing; that lifts things off that sentimental level of the Lord gracing a wedding with His presence, helping things out socially, and it brings things out into the vastness of an eternal issue. So His Cross is basic to His very first sign.  "... manifested forth his glory."  "(...glory as of the only begotten from the Father), full of grace and truth." That is not something which is local, which is a time thing; that is eternal. That governs this feast. So He intended it to be.

The next thing is "the beginning of His signs." This is a significant act which carries with it such a tremendous significance which has behind it a whole realm of meaning.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 8 - "The Link of Faith")

God's Grace Defies Logic

Christians often speak about grace with a thousand qualifications. They add all sorts of buts and brakes. Listen for them! Our greatest concern, it seems, is that people will take advantage of grace and use it as a justification to live licentiously. Sadly, while attacks on morality typically come from outside the church, attacks on grace typically come from inside the church. The reason is because somewhere along the way, we’ve come to believe that this whole enterprise is about behavioral modification, and grace just doesn’t possess the teeth to scare us into changing, so we end up hearing more about what grace isn’t than we do about what grace is. 

Where disobedience flourishes, it is not the fault of too much grace but rather of our failure to grasp the depth of God’s one-way love for us in the midst of our transgressions. Grace refuses to be controlled by our innate sense of fairness, reciprocity and evenhandedness. It defies logic. It has nothing to do with earning, merit or deservedness. Grace is unconditional acceptance given to an undeserving person by an unobligated giver. It is one-way love. 

But while grace does not demand payment in return, it does something fantastic: it inspires the very things that the law demands. The law prescribes good works, but only grace can produce them. It’s only grace that can change a heart and produce law-fulfilling works of mercy and selfless acts of service to our neighbor.

Dearest Lord, we can never thank You enough for Your radical love, grace and mercy to us, demonstrated so spectacularly by the cross of Christ. We ask for an ever-deepening revelation and appreciation of just how profound this grace is; and may it produce the fruit of the Spirit in our lives, all for Your glory, purposes and pleasure. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

~Billy Graham~

Friday, November 29, 2013

We Beheld His Glory # 6

The Great Inclusive "Sign"

We take this first of His signs. Take all the signs of John as the showing forth of His glory and all of them were in terms of grace and truth. We have pointed out that of six words in the Greek which are translated in some versions "miracle," John's favorite word is the one which means sign. There was a hidden meaning. So the miracles of Christ in John are signs; they are meant to be teaching factors, instructing instruments conveying some meaning.

So we look at the eight signs of John and find that they are manifestations of His glory in terms of grace and truth; and the first one is basic to them all and basic to the whole gospel. That is, all the rest are gathered up in the first one, and the whole gospel is gathered up in the first sign. That is why I think it was done outside of Judea. We have pointed out that what was said and done in John's gospel in the main was said and done in Judea, but you find the first movements in John are not in Judea, and two, perhaps three, of these signs were outside of Judea, but they are in a special way related to the Church and are formative of the disciples, and have to do with that realm which is what we call "Church" ground. Perhaps the best way to explain that will be to let it come to us as we go on. But let us repeat that the first sign in Cana of Galilee outside of Judea is a comprehensive one, has in it all the features of John's gospel, is basic to all the other signs, and carries us right on to the end. Note that phrase that comes up in it - "the ruler of the feast." The man there referred to was not the master of ceremonies, but was simply the man who had charge of the food and drink, and had to taste things to see that they were all right. He tasted the good and wine before the guests partook, to see if they were all right. What he said was a very significant thing. He said: "Thou hast kept the good wine until now" - "You have kept the best wine till the last," that is not the usual order. When you take that with its larger significance you are seeing the end of Christ. The end of Christ is going to be the best; I mean the end of Christ's coming into our experience is going to lift us on to a level where everything is at its best. Supposing that suddenly there disappeared all those elements of clash, discord, every element of lack of fellowship, schism, warfare in all its principle and spirit, lust and passion and corruption, and there spread over this whole realm a state of absolute peace and harmony, with everybody in perfect understanding and friendliness and joy and gladness, and the thought of evil had disappeared, what a wonderful thing that would be. We could put up with this world under those conditions! Well, that is the best wine that is coming. That is the end of Christ; it is that which is kept for the ultimate issue of all that precedes in the work of Christ, and all that is gathered up in the sign in Cana of Galilee in spiritual principles.

There are all kinds of things in principle gathered up in this miracle, and each one of them represents a movement toward that glorious end where there will be a testimony to the transcendence of the Lord Jesus over anything according to nature. The usual thing is so-and-so, but the order is changed with the Lord Jesus. You come out into something unusual at the end with Him, the best wine kept to the last. When you and I get into the glory we shall say: This is the best wine kept till the last.

The Third Day - Fullness of Divine Testimony

Now briefly, look at this first sign. First of all it says: "And the third day there was a marriage." Is that just a natural observation? Is that merely to give us a movement of time? I do not think so. I think it is in keeping with various other similar references in this gospel. "Now Jesus, eight days before the Passover ..." Why that? Why these time movements? Well, briefly here without being too full, we may say that this third day represents a taking up of the contents of the two days before. The third day means that there is a full Testimony; three is the fullness of Divine Testimony, it is the Divine perfection, the Divine fullness; and on the third day this fullness of Divine Testimony in representation comes in through this sign. It takes up what has gone before, brings it to fullness of crystallized expression. What has gone before? Well, the beginning of John is the doctrine of the Person of Christ. Who He is, what He is; that has gone before. Then there is the gathering of disciples by the Lord. The heavenly Testimony to Christ, the Testimony of man to Christ, and now a gathered company. Simon, Philip, Nathanael, Andrew. I should like to stay with each one of them to indicate their significance. You must dwell upon that.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 7 - "Fullness out of Emptiness, Life out of Death, Joy out of Sorrow, Glory out of Shame")

The Cure for the Drought Brought by Sin

In our last devotional, we talked about sin being the number one cause for spiritual drought.  The natural question is, "What is the cure, how do I end that drought?"

One word:  repentance.

In addition to the passage we read yesterday, 2 Chronicles 7:13-14 is clear and instructive,
"When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land."

True repentance literally means an inward change of heart resulting in an outward change of direction.  If there is no outward change of direction, then it is not true repentance.
There is no real repentance even if you are feeling emotional and weeping over your sin.  That is not repentance.  Feeling sorry is not repentance.

Repentance is the change of heart that results in a change of lifestyle, a change of direction, a turning.  So I have a word for you:  If there is known sin in your life, repent.

King David gives us a great example in Psalm 32:4-5 when he said,
For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was turned into the drought of summer.  I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden.  I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD…."

If, because of sin, you are in a drought spiritually, repent.  If you do, your drought can be broken and you can experience the blessings of God.

~Bayless Conley~

Thursday, November 28, 2013

We Beheld His Glory # 5

"Full of Grace and Truth"

John 2:1-11; 1:14, 16, 17

"Manifested his glory," (and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth."

Following very closely upon our meditation in chapter 1, we proceed to a further emphasis upon the manifestation of the glory of God in Jesus Christ.

If the first part of the first chapter is occupied with introducing and presenting Christ in the eternity and in the universality of His Person, and that all that is brought to us in the content of His humanity, when - as the word here literally is - "He pitched His tent among us," if that is the great thing and the basic thing, all that follows is the breaking up and applying of that. Christ eternal, Christ universal, brought down into human life, and by reason of pitching His tent among us, bringing us into fellowship with Himself in His eternity and His universality, thus becoming in our own life the all, and in all, from the Father's standpoint. To catch some of the meaning of that will make the greatest difference possible in our experience.

Glory in Terms of Grace and Truth

The apostle, long years after, writing this gospel says: "We beheld his glory" (we contemplated, gazed upon His glory). Then he gives some definition of it: "...glory as of the only begotten from the Father," that is parenthetical; and then - "full of grace and truth." "We beheld his glory ... full of grace and truth." What was it that "we" of that sentence beheld? What was it that was contemplated, gazed upon by the disciples? It was glory interpreted in terms of grace and truth.

There is a naked glory of God which, breaking in measure upon men from time to time, has rendered them as dead in its presence, a thing of unbearableness to the natural man. It was not so in this case. John later in the Apocalypse saw that glory of the exalted Lord and fell as dead at His feet, but when he - with others here included - beheld, contemplated His Glory, it was not that glory, it was glory interpreted in terms of grace and truth. It was, as we said, the glory of God as through the prism of His humanity. It was the glory of God showing itself through a human life along the lines of grace and truth.

Now you notice a comparison and a contrast is drawn here immediately by the apostle in this very connection. He says: "For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ," and that is connected with the tabernacling among us. The tabernacle which enshrined the law which came through Moses in the wilderness was the place of the Shekinah glory, and when the Shekinah glory came, by the coming of the law through Moses, it was a glory which was intolerable. You know what the apostle says in the letters to the Hebrews and Corinthians, that even the people besought that they might no more hear that sound, so terrible was it, and Moses had to put a veil over his face because they could not look upon him or that glory (Hebrews 11; 1 Corinthians 3). It was intolerable glory which meant destruction, not salvation; which did not mean life but death; even a beast if it touched the mountain would be slain. You see glory can be a terrible thing, and when we pray "Show me Thy glory" we must do so in terms of grace and truth as in the gospel by John. I mean the revelation of God by Jesus Christ. It would be death, destruction.

Well, the Shekinah glory coming to the tabernacle of old in the coming of the law, the enshrining of the law, was a glory intolerable. But here is a tabernacle ("He tabernacled among us"), another tabernacle in this wilderness, in which, in Whom, is the Shekinah glory, the same glory, the glory of God, but interpreted in terms of grace and truth; not intolerable, not to destruction, not to judgment, but unto salvation; the same glory. But, oh! how the glory differs in its coming to us through Moses and through Christ!

The Church - A Company Who Have Seen

Now, this glory being contemplated was formative of a people; that is the object of it. That is, the revelation of this glory in Christ, in terms of grace and truth, was to constitute disciples, the nucleus of the Church, and to lead on to the whole Body of the Church. "This beginning of his signs did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested his glory; and HIS DISCIPLES BELIEVED ON HIM."  That was the object of it. It was to constitute discipleship; that is, a company of taught ones. How were they to be taught ones, the instructed ones? Not by receiving a whole list of orders: "Thou shalt," and "Thou shalt not"; not a creed, a rule of life to be imposed upon them; that is, not just Christianity, but to be brought by the Lord Himself into the inner realities of His own Being, what He is. He, the Tabernacle, with the Shekinah glory enshrined in terms of grace and truth, is going to manifest that glory along the line of living fellowship with Himself in what He is. The Church has ever been, in the thought of God, intended to be a company of taught ones in that sense, those who know along experimental lines what the Lord Jesus is. That is simple. It gets away from a great deal of the complication of ecclesiastical systems and brings us down to personal relationship to the Lord. "...And manifested his glory," it says here. Quite a proper, legitimate, permissible way of paraphrasing that statement would be to say: He showed forth His grace and truth, for that was His glory. If you see the grace and the truth which the Lord Jesus is  you at once apprehend His glory. I mean this; go to Cana of Galilee and be one of the people there, specially one of the responsible people, and get delivered out of your dilemma in this way, and you will be a happy person. You will be full of praise and thankfulness. You will say: "We had a great deliverance; what would have happened if He had not done it?" That is seeing the glory of Christ, being filled with the glory of Christ, glorifying Christ in your heart, you become full of His glory. But of course it is an insight into Who He is, not just a happy deliverance from a difficult situation.

Follow through John with any of those great interventions of the Lord Jesus in times of need, trouble, distress, suffering, sorrow, death; get the issue of it in the heart of the one concerned, and what is the effect? A rejoicing in the Lord, a worshiping of the Lord, an adoration of the Lord; saying, What a wonderful Lord He is! You have beheld His glory. You have got a correspondence in you with something that He is, the greatness of Christ. You have been brought into that by some expression of Him along the line of grace and truth.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 6 - "The Great Inclusive "Sign")

Extravagant Love Pursues

Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Luke 15:4-6

God never gives up on going after His lost sheep. He pursues them with an extravagant and passionate love that exceeds human understanding. The secluded and insecure sheep trembles in fear and worry, but the Great Shepherd gently picks them up. He places them on the broad shoulders of His salvation. His eyes of compassion create comfort and His heart of forgiveness brings joy. Jesus the Shepherd of our soul never stops loving us or pursuing us in our sin.

Do you feel lost and alone? Have you wandered from the care of Christ into the discomfort of some bad decisions? If so, you are not the first one to find yourself unsure of what to do next and embarrassed about your precarious predicament. You may have drifted from God’s best for now, but you do not have to remain in this scary state of mind. Your Heavenly Father is hot on your heels with His loving kindness and long suffering. Ask Him to hoist you onto His back.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:6

Who do you know who needs the pursuit of your extravagant love? Perhaps a child who is lost in the weeds of the world but longs for your unconditional acceptance. Or a colleague who has failed, but with the assurance of your trust and encouragement will try again. Maybe your spouse is experiencing life change or a mid life crisis. They desperately desire your grace and patience. Pursue those who are on the edge of despair. Love them back to the support of saints.

Most of all enjoy the grace of God’s goodness. His extravagant love goes with you in your ups and downs. He leads you with the staff of His Holy Spirit. He teaches you with the wisdom of His word. He uplifts you with the joy of Jesus. He corrects you with His loving discipline. He carries you when you are exhausted and unsure what to do next. Yes, celebrate with Christ the joy of your salvation and the event of one sinner who repents. His extravagant love seeks you!

For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. 1 Peter 2:25

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for pursuing me with Your extravagant love and grace. 

~Wisdom Hunters Devotional~

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

We Beheld His Glory # 4

Some Great Words of John - continued

This, of course, will smite our hearts if we are at all sensitive spiritually. It will at once set up a standard by which to judge everything. It will mean we have to go to the secret place with the Lord and say: "Now, Lord, life and love must be commensurate with the light." It is this that the apostle means when he uses that particular phrase: "as truth is in Jesus". It means that truth is not something to be had intellectually. You need the Person and then you get the truth. This carries with it its own challenge, and it is intended to be an introductory word for these meditations. We are not seeking to get a great deal more light as such; we are seeking to get more of the Lord, to see the Lord, to know the Lord, and unless the issue of these meditations is that our union with the Lord is deeper and stronger and fuller, then we have spoken in vain, our work is all to no purpose. Oh that all our messages might have that issue, more of Himself! We want to meet the Lord, and when it comes to a personal matter the result of the study ought to be that more of the Lord in the fullness of grace and truth should be met in us by others. You notice what the apostle here says: "For of his fullness we all received, and grace for grace [or, grace upon grace]." That must be the result of our meditation together, even of this introductory word. The only justifying reason for our consideration is that in us others should meet more of the Lord in grace and truth. We should not be a people known as having a good deal of light alone, but that it might be said always that with the light there is lie, and with the life there is love; that it is not the light that scorches and blazes and is intolerable; that it is the light of those tender tones which are seen in Christ incarnate. That is the meaning of the incarnation. God, to be seen nakedly, would mean destruction; but God manifest in Christ means that something has come between the blazing light to break it up in its components and give us the effect of a prism, so that the blazing white ray is now seen in all its manifold hues. The body of Christ was like a prism, breaking up for us the rays of infinite holiness, and we are able to see what God is, in Christ. That is what we are to be in turn, as members of the Church; a prism that others shall see God. The all terrible God, the intolerable God? No!  God full of grace and truth. God Who is life, God Who is light, Go Who is love. Let us pray that there may be more of Him in Christ seen and known in us. We must make that a real quest before Him; Christ more to us; Christ more to others through us. If you want the solution to all your problems it is there. You want to know more? Do not think of knowing more in the matter of truth, as truth. It is a personal knowledge of our union with the Lord Jesus that goes to the root of everything, answers every question, and solves every problem. "That I may know Him," not this and that and something else. Having Him we have everything. It will be a blessed thing if we can say after these hours together: "Of his fullness we all received, and grace upon grace."

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 5 - "Full of Grace and Truth")

Why God Speaks

God is not one to speak in generalities. When He whispers from the pages of Scripture or confronts through a friend's words, the Father directly addresses issues in His children's lives. With that in mind, let's look at His three goals for communicating with believers—namely, for us to:

1. Comprehend the truth. God wants us to learn His ways and principles, to recognize our own frailty, and to identify the needs of others. He does more than offer this as head knowledge—He makes truth applicable to our lives. For example, the Lord assured Paul that His strength was sufficient to carry the apostle through anything (2 Cor. 12:9). Circumstances taught the apostle that God's Word was true.

2. Conform to the truth. Our lives are shaped by our belief system. What we hold as true influences our thinking. In turn, how we think affects our character, conduct, and conversation. God is determined to mold His children into Christlikeness so that they reflect His gospel to the world.

3. Communicate the truth. Every child of God is called to make disciples (Matt. 28:19). Believers can know the Lord and walk in His light but still fall short of this expectation. We must share the gospel by sharing God's truth with others and explaining how His words played out in our lives.

Notice that each goal builds on the one preceding it. Christians are a light reflecting God's glory to this world. We shine brightly by being attentive to God's voice and following His will. And when someone takes an interest in the source of our light, we are prepared to share the good news of Christ. 

~Charles Stanley~

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

We Beheld His Glory # 3

John's Theme - The Testimony of Jesus

Now the theme of John throughout, not only his gospel but his epistles and the book of the Revelation, is the testimony of Jesus: "These are written, that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God." The letters of John are all upon that note; and then we know the Apocalypse contains that very sentence repeatedly used - "The testimony of Jesus." John's theme is the Testimony of Jesus.

What is the testimony of Jesus? Well, what does John say the testimony of Jesus is? Jesus Himself! He is Himself the testimony. There are things said, and there are things done, there are great facts presented, but you never get anything in John as something apart from the Person. I do want you to notice how everything is related to the Person in John. He introduces the Person, and keeps to the Person all the way through.

Take one or two illustrations. Chapter four. The question of the water; the incident of the woman at the Sychar well. The water there is vitally and inseparably linked with the Person of the Lord Jesus. Take the bread of chapter six. It is not "something" that He gives, it is giving Himself: "I AM the bread"; giving Himself. Take the raising of Lazarus. He says: "I AM the resurrection." It is not that He performs an act of raising the dead. The testimony of Jesus is not that He gives you life, but that HE IS the life. It is not that He gives you bread, HE IS the Bread. It is like that all the way through. The testimony of Jesus is what He is Himself. And when we have said that we have got right up close to the whole matter. "Full of grace and truth." The testimony, beloved, is carried on not by teaching, it is carried on by living union. Oh, that is where the breakdown has come about. The Lord has had in some life, or lives, such a union and such a fellowship with Him as to be able to make Himself known there in a very rich, wonderful and blessed way with some tremendous spiritual results in that life, or those lives, which has meant that there has gone out from them a revelation of Him, a living revelation of Him; and in that day many have been brought into a living revelation of Him, have come into that living touch with the Lord and rejoiced, not in a doctrine, not in a teaching, but in some real, new experience of the Lord. The next generation has taken it up in its teaching and sought to carry that thing on in the terms of its doctrine; and generation has succeeded generation with the doctrine of that thing, and they have called it  "carrying on the Testimony." You cannot enter in the way those first entered into it. It is not only full of truth, it is full of grace as well as truth. Truth may be light; grace is love.

Some Great Words of John

Take John's three great words: life, light, love. There are the great words of John, all as in the Lord Jesus, bound up in His own Person. They are the great strong notes that run through this gospel. Now you can have light, but if you have not got love and life you are unbalanced and you have not got the testimony. You cannot have the life without the light. The Lord Jesus combining all three means that in spiritual fellowship with Him, and possessing of Him, you should have these things in equal measure, in balance; life, light, love. The testimony of Jesus is not only carrying on the light, it is just as much carrying on the life and the love. It is possible to take up a system of truth that is undoubtedly New Testament doctrine to the full, but being without the life and the love you have not the Testimony of Jesus. The Testimony of Jesus is Himself. Life, Light, Love, that is the Testimony of Jesus.

To bring that all back to one application, the answer to everything is our possessing of the Lord, or in other words, our vital union with Him. We can explain everything of failure and breakdown by the absence of that, whether in ourselves or in others. We may have the tradition, and we may have the doctrine; we may have the truth and yet there may be the most appalling inconsistencies, contradictions and breakdown because we have not got the life and the love in the same proportions. What we need is not more light; it is life commensurate with the light, and love in equal proportion to the light. So many who have a lot of light are so loveless, as it is true that many have a lot of light without much life. "Full of grace and truth." He was manifested thus; the Church is elected eternally to be in union with Him for the purpose of carrying on His testimony, and the testimony the Church has to carry on is not something about Christ, but to carry Christ on. Our business in this world as the Lord's people is to carry on Christ, full of grace and truth.

All that has to be seen through this gospel in its own respective connection. That is a basic statement for our thought. Our need is more of the Lord Jesus. That is a very simple statement, but it goes to the root of everything. You say: "I want more light." No, you need more of the Lord. You say: "I want more love." You need more of the Lord.  It is not things, it is Himself; that is the testimony with which we are entrusted.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 4)

Broken Things

"By reason of breakings they purify themselves" (Job 41:25).
God uses most for His glory those people and things which are most perfectly broken. The sacrifices He accepts are broken and contrite hearts. It was the breaking down of Jacob's natural strength at Peniel that got him where God could clothe him with spiritual power. It was breaking the surface of the rock at Horeb, by the stroke of Moses' rod that let out the cool waters to thirsty people.
It was when the 300 elect soldiers under Gideon broke their pitchers, a type of breaking themselves, that the hidden lights shone forth to the consternation of their adversaries. It was when the poor widow broke the seal of the little pot of oil, and poured it forth, that God multiplied it to pay her debts and supply means of support.
It was when Esther risked her life and broke through the rigid etiquette of a heathen court, that she obtained favor to rescue her people from death. It was when Jesus took the five loaves and broke them, that the bread was multiplied in the very act of breaking, sufficient to feed five thousand. It was when Mary broke her beautiful alabaster box, rendering it henceforth useless, that the pent-up perfume filled the house. It was when Jesus allowed His precious body to be broken to pieces by thorns and nails and spear, that His inner life was poured out, like a crystal ocean, for thirsty sinners to drink and live.
It is when a beautiful grain of corn is broken up in the earth by DEATH, that its inner heart sprouts forth and bears hundreds of other grains. And thus, on and on, through all history, and all biography, and all vegetation, and all spiritual life, God must have BROKEN THINGS.
Those who are broken in wealth, and broken in self-will, and broken in their ambitions, and broken in their beautiful ideals, and broken in orldly reputation, and broken in their affections, and broken ofttimes in health; those who are despised and seem utterly forlorn and helpless, the Holy Ghost is seizing upon, and using for God's glory. "The lame take the prey," Isaiah tells us.
O break my heart; but break it as a field
Is by the plough up-broken for the corn;
O break it as the buds, by green leaf seated,
Are, to unloose the golden blossom, torn;
Love would I offer unto Love's great Master,
Set free the odor, break the alabaster.
O break my heart; break it victorious God,
That life's eternal well may flash abroad;
O let it break as when the captive trees,
Breaking cold bonds, regain their liberties;
And as thought's sacred grove to life is springing,
Be joys, like birds, their hope, Thy victory singing. --Thomas Toke Bunch

~L. B. Cowman~

Monday, November 25, 2013

We Beheld His Glory # 2

A Living Testimony Amidst Religious Death

I want us to remember - for it will help us toward our object if we do so - that John in his gospel and its content especially relates to Judea. In this gospel what is being said and done is, in the main, within the compass of Judaism. The other three gospels mainly have to do with Galilee, but here the Lord is moving and working and speaking mainly in relation to Judea. That carries with it this significance, that it is the religious world in the midst of which the main part of that which is in John's gospel is being enacted. Judea especially represents the religious world; and as it was in the time of this gospel. There was a state of religious intellectual antagonism to Christ. And you see John's tremendous emphasis was upon Who He was, and that emphasis has its own implication; that the religious mind was not recognizing and accepting the ultimate fact of the Person of Christ as the Son of God; that the religious intellectual world was estranged from that basic fact of Who Christ was; and the emphasis here was in that realm; firstly, Whom Christ is, and secondly, what the Church's business is.

I see in this for ourselves: that it is, at any rate, not nearly so difficult to establish the fact of the Person of Christ among those who have never heard and never known, as it is to establish the whole testimony of the Lord Jesus among those who are full of religious history. It is in the realm of religious tradition, religious history, religious intellectualism, much knowledge of religious things, that the greatest difficulty arises in establishing the testimony of Jesus. And if you read through this gospel with that thought in mind you will be tremendously impressed. When you get on to chapters eleven and twelve you get into an atmosphere of tremendous spiritual antagonism to Him, coming from the religious people. They sought to stone Him; He went away beyond Jordan, and then the news of Lazarus came to Him. He tarried, then He said: "Let us go," and the disciples said: "Lord, will You go back there into Judea where they sought to stone You?" You remember His reply, and then poor Thomas' - "Well, let us go that we may die with Him. It is certain death if He goes back to Judea; perhaps there is nothing better for us than to go and die with Him." Perhaps Thomas thought it better to die with the Lord Jesus than to live without Him. He saw that to go back to Judea was certain death, as it proved to be in the end. You see it is there, in the realm of religious tradition, of religious intellectualism, that you find the lack of sympathy.

It arises early in the gospel. You have, in Nicodemus, the intellectual class represented, and it is made clear within that realm that religion - as such - may be rather a hindrance than a help. It is true what the Lord said to the prophet: "Son of man .. thou art not sent to a people of a strange speech and of a hard language, but to the house of Israel; not to many peoples of a strange speech ... if I sent thee to them, they would harken unto thee. But the house of Israel will not hearken unto thee." And our hardest work, and yet the thing which is being put upon us by the Lord, is the recovery and establishment in finality and fullness of the Testimony of Jesus among those who have all the traditions. The whole gospel of John gives us a comprehensive presentation of the Testimony of Jesus. I want you to remember that Judea represented the religious intellectual realm, out of sympathy with Who Jesus was, and therefore out of sympathy with those who are out for the Testimony of Jesus, that is, to establish the fullness of meaning of Christ having come to reveal the Father.

John's Favorite Word for Miracle

There is another thing in John's gospel to be noted in this connection. It is, that of the various words translated into the one English word "miracle" or connected therewith, John has one favorite. The six words are: Terata=portent, or omen; Dunameis=powers; Thaumata=wonders; Paradoza= contrary to expectation; Erga=deeds; Semeia=signs. This last word is John's particular word. In Judea - the world of religious and intellectual antagonism - Christ is not out to capture by wonders, or impress by powers, or hold by the unexpected, etc. No, it is something with a deeper implication, a profounder significance. He is teaching something by what He does. There is a great truth hidden in His act, and only a heart of faith and sympathy will come to see that truth.

The first miracle in Cana of Galilee: "This beginning of his signs did Jesus." You want to get the significance of the turning of water into wine at the marriage. And the miracle of the loaves and fishes, a sign. (You have the significance given almost immediately after: "I am the bread of life.") The Lord is seeking to get to His own people the knowledge of Who He is, and what He is, and He is bringing into fellowship with Him, into union with Him, a company who know Him in that sense. The effort of John is in that direction, to get a company who know Him, to be the continuous instrument and vessel of a manifestation of Who the Lord Jesus is. John is not dealing specifically with sinners, he is dealing in principle with the religious. You have not got "repentance" in John; the word does not occur. You have not got that realm at all. This is all in keeping with the thought that this gospel is to bring the Church into a place of union with the Lord in order to be for Him the instrument of His manifestation.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 3 - "John's Theme - The Testimony of Jesus")

Desperate Situations

"The angel of the Lord came upon him (Peter) and a light shined in the prison; and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off" (Acts 12:7).
"And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises unto God. . . . And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and every one's bands were loosed" (Acts 16:25, 26).
This is God's way. In the darkest hours of the night, His tread draws near across the billows. As the day of execution is breaking, the angel comes to Peter's cell. When the scaffold for Mordecai is complete, the royal sleeplessness leads to a reaction in favor of the favored race.
Ah, soul, it may have to come to the worst with thee ere thou art delivered; but thou wilt be delivered! God may keep thee waiting, but he will ever be mindful of His covenant, and will appear to fulfill His inviolable Word. --F. B. Meyer
There's a simplicity about God in working out His plans, yet a resourcefulness equal to any difficulty, and an unswerving faithfulness to His trusting child, and an unforgetting steadiness in holding to His purpose. Through a fellow-prisoner, then a dream, He lifts Joseph from a prison to a premiership. And the length of stay in the prison prevents dizziness in the premier. It's safe to trust God's methods and to go by His clock. --S. D. Gordon
Providence hath a thousand keys to open a thousand sundry doors for the deliverance of His own, when it is even come to a desperate case. Let us be faithful; and care for our own part which is to suffer for Him, and lay Christ's part on Himself, and leave it there. --George MacDonald
Difficulty is the very atmosphere of miracle -- it is miracle in its first stage. If it is to be a great miracle, the condition is not difficulty but impossibility.
The clinging hand of His child makes a desperate situation a delight to Him.

~L. B. Cowman~

Sunday, November 24, 2013

We Beheld His Glory

Meditations in John's Gospel

John 1:1-18

We have often said, in connection with the Gospel of John, that it is in a peculiar sense the gospel for the Church. That does not mean that the other three gospels are not for the Church, but they have their own specific line of emphasis, as you know. When we come to this gospel, however, we move away from anything that is in any sense particular, as to its application among men on the earth, and we immediately find ourselves in what the apostle Paul would call, "the heavenlies." It is not the note of Matthew, which was peculiarly a note to the Jews in the first instance; and it is not the note of Mark nor of Luke, which have their sectional application in the first instance; but with "John" it is the note of what is not in time but in eternity, not on earth but in the whole universe. Every kind of local limit and application is transcended when we come to John, and we find ourselves very quickly in the realm of the letters to the Ephesians and Colossians. The atmosphere of John is that atmosphere, the range of John is that range, and the accent of John is that. If you listen to the tones of John you find there is something wonderfully and strangely akin to the tones of the apostle Paul, especially in those two letters which I have mentioned. And it is in that sense that we see that this gospel by John is peculiarly the gospel for the Church.

Two Main Features

1. The Person of Christ

There are two main things through this gospel. The one is the Son of God, Christ Himself in person. That is the first note and that runs all the way through. It is struck as the key-note in the very first sentence of the gospel. To that key-note the whole of the gospel is brought into harmony, it takes its harmony from that key-note, and with the closing notes of the gospel we know that the key-note once again is heard distinctly, and in a sense exclusively: "...these are written, that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God." That is where he commenced; he finishes there, and the whole of his gospel is tuned to that key-note, Christ the Son of God. That fixes the object of the gospel.

2. Union with Christ

The second thing running throughout this gospel is union with Christ. That comes up very early in the gospel. In the first chapter you have not got past the introduction before it is brought in concerning those who received Him, and, receiving Him, were given the right to become children of God. Then the nature of that relationship is manifested, showing that it is an organic union, on the basis of birth from above. On from those early verses, all the way through right up to the close, you have the thought and truth of union with Christ. These are the two dominating notes or emphases of John's gospel.

Two Features of Christ in Manifestation

And then there are two main features of Christ as the Son of God in manifestation, and they are grace, and truth. "He tabernacled among us full of grace and truth." I take the word "tabernacled" as it is used there as being a better word in a sense than the word in our translation, "dwelt." It is to enter into a tent, and a tent is always a symbol of transience, the opposite of permanence; and the implication here clearly is that He came for a time, not to abide forever. He came for a time as in a tent, in a transient way, and yet in Hi transient sojourn among us there was a manifestation of God in Him, and that manifestation of God was along the line of grace and truth. The two man features of Christ in manifestation are grace and truth.

Now these are the two features which, by reason of its union with Him, the Church is elected to represent. If this gospel is peculiarly the gospel for the Church, if Christ manifested as the Son of God and union with Him are the two main things of this gospel, then we want to know what is the object of the manifestation and of the union, for they both go together; they are held together all the way through. These are two things which God has joined together; the manifestation of Himself in Christ, with a view to bringing a company into union with Him in that manifestation: two parts of one eternal thought. Then, what is the object of that two-fold revelation - Christ in Person as the Son of God manifested, and union with Christ revealed? The answer is that what He came to show forth of God in Himself is to be shown forth in and through those who come into that union with Him, and that is grace and truth. The Church is eternally elected to be unto Him, by reason of its union with Him, the means of the universal manifestation of grace and truth. Carry that into Ephesians: "...the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all." Then it is to be to Him, the vehicle for making known the manifold grace of God. There is your "grace," but the other thing is running parallel all the time. "... As truth is in Jesus." The Church is called for the display of grace and truth as it is in Jesus. (This is only working toward the object of our meditation. I trust it is a helpful foundation for our coming into our place in the eternal purpose of God.)

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 2 - "A Living Testimony Amidst Religious Death")

Help Me to Be Holy

Romans 8:30
Whom He did predestinate, them He also called.
In the second epistle to Timothy, first chapter, and ninth verse, are these words-"Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling." Now, here is a touchstone by which we may try our calling. It is "an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace." This calling forbids all trust in our own doings, and conducts us to Christ alone for salvation, but it afterwards purges us from dead works to serve the living and true God. As He that hath called you is holy, so must you be holy. If you are living in sin, you are not called, but if you are truly Christ's, you can say, "Nothing pains me so much as sin; I desire to be rid of it; Lord, help me to be holy." Is this the panting of thy heart? Is this the tenor of thy life towards God, and His divine will? Again, in Philippians, 3:13, 14, we are told of "The high calling of God in Christ Jesus." Is then your calling a high calling? Has it ennobled your heart, and set it upon heavenly things? Has it elevated your hopes, your tastes, your desires? Has it upraised the constant tenor of your life, so that you spend it with God and for God? Another test we find in Hebrews 3:1-"Partakers of the heavenly calling." Heavenly calling means a call from heaven. If man alone call thee, thou art uncalled. Is thy calling of God? Is it a call to heaven as well as from heaven? Unless thou art a stranger here, and heaven thy home, thou hast not been called with a heavenly calling; for those who have been so called, declare that they look for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God, and they themselves are strangers and pilgrims upon the earth. Is thy calling thus holy, high, heavenly? Then, beloved, thou hast been called of God, for such is the calling wherewith God doth call His people.

~Charles Spurgeon~

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Fight of the Faith # 27

The Focal Point of the Conflict - Its Nature and Outcome

With one word of emphasis, I close for the present. Beloved, the focal point of the conflict is the spiritual advancement of the children of God toward full-growth, and by any means whatever the enemy will seek to interfere with that. He is striking right at the heart of this thing all the time by every means in his power. God will reach His end, He will come in, in His Son in terms of sonship, to take up residence within those begotten of Him, and will grow in them, increase His measure in them, until at last, brought to the unity of the faith, they become a mighty embodiment and revelation of God Himself; not in deity, but in what He is spiritually and morally in this universe, conformed to the image of His Son, a living expression of God's own thoughts, to fill His universe. The enemy is out against that, and every little step in that direction is challenged, the spiritual growth is countered all the time. He is striking at God's Son. Of course in principle it is quite true that the fight rages around the person of the Lord Jesus. There is a great fight going on between modernism and fundamentalism. The one stands on he ground of the absolute deity of Christ, Christ manifest in the flesh, and the others will not have it. So the fight rages. But that is an objective fight really, a fight of creeds, philosophies, ideologies. It does not get very far spiritually. I grieve to think that some of the most unspiritual and unkind and unChristlike people have been the most rabid fundamentalists who would fight to the death for the deity of Christ. It does not get you very far spiritually. It is something more than that, is His deity. You see what I mean. It goes deeper than that.

The person of the Lord Jesus means something more than what He is in Himself as one apart. It is what He is in this life of sonship as manifested in believers. God manifest in the flesh is not something in the way of a creed to be argued out. God manifest in the flesh is something to be proved by a life. I do not know but that it may have a meaning, that Jesus Christ came into this world and was Emmanuel, God with us, that God did incarnate Himself in that Man, and did some things, and went back to heaven. It might mean something, but I do not know that it would get me very far as something back there. If that fact of God in Christ did not become some reality right at the center of my life, it would lack something of real value. The mystery is this - "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27). It is the same mystery. There are not a half a dozen mysteries in the New Testament. It is the gospel of God concerning His Son, and the Gospel is not a system of truth to be preached, the Gospel is a Person, and the power of the gospel is not that you accept certain things proposed to you about Jesus Christ, but that Jesus Christ comes to reside in you by new birth. That is the gospel. That, of course, is going back to the very elementary; but oh, that we could get a fresh glimpse of the immense significance of the gospel, the gospel of God concerning His Son, Jesus Christ, God's secret! I like to dwell upon that. If you sit down in the presence of the world situation and try to sort it out and find the solution to it, it is beyond us, altogether; but all through the ages God has been perfectly at rest about this whole thing, about the issue. He was able to say, I have the secret of the whole thing, I have solved the whole problem, I have the means in hand; in the end My method will absolutely succeed! And the secret? - why it is just this: I will go down Myself in terms of sonship and will generate a new race through faith, and that new race will be brought eventually to spiritual full-growth; which simply means that then I shall fill all. I shall occupy all the space; there will be no room for anything else at all! That is the issue for every Christian life. It is whether God is going to fill the whole space or not, or whether we are going to have a bit. All the time that is what is going on. Can the Lord gain the ground, will we give way to Him? Are we holding the ground for ourselves, are we in His way? Are we going to let the Lord have all the territory of our being in every way. It is not so easy as saying, Yes! It becomes a daily challenge. There is a strong, many-sided, subtle self-life. We never know how difficult it is to let the Lord have His way until He lights upon some pet opinion of our self-life. But that is the issue. When the Lord has gained His full way in all His own, as He will at the end, the manifestation of the sons of God will take place, and the whole problem will have been solved, the problem of this universe.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(the end)

Joy In Prison

"And Joseph's master took him, and put him into a prison... But Jehovah was with Joseph... and that which he did, Jehovah made it to prosper" (Gen. 39:20-23).

When God lets us go to prison because we have been serving Him, and goes there with us, prison is about the most blessed place in the world that we could be in. Joseph seems to have known that. He did not sulk and grow discouraged and rebellious because ."everything was against him." If he had, the prison-keeper would never have trusted him so. Joseph does not even seem to have pitied himself.
Let us remember that if self-pity is allowed to set in, that is the end of us -- until it is cast utterly from us. Joseph just turned over everything in joyous trust to God, and so the keeper of the prison turned over everything to Joseph. Lord Jesus, when the prison doors close in on me, keep me trusting, and keep my joy full and abounding. Prosper Thy work through me in prison: even there, make me free indeed. --Selected
A little bird I am,
Shut from the fields of air,
And in my cage I sit and sing
To Him who placed me there;
Well pleased a prisoner to be,
Because, my God, it pleaseth Thee.
My cage confines me round,
Abroad I cannot fly,
But though my wing is closely bound,
My soul is at liberty;
For prison walls cannot control
The flight, the freedom of the soul.
I have learnt to love the darkness of sorrow; there you see the brightness of His face. --Madame Guyon

~L. B. Cowman~

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Fight of the Faith # 21

Sonship - the Occasion of the Conflict

What is the gospel? It is Jesus Christ, God manifest in the flesh in terms of sonship, to generate a new race after His own kind, to bring many sons to glory. That is it in brief. Oh, that is something very much more than getting your sins forgiven, that is very much more than justification by faith. It is that, but it is infinitely more  than that, and all the other things included; the deep, deep inner secret of God, how He is eventually going to have triumph in His original purpose; and what we have been seeing is this, that the faith is not a system of doctrine at all. The faith, according to the New Testament, is sonship, and it is in relation to sonship as an inward, spiritual reality brought about by this work of God in generation, it is that which is the occasion of all the conflict. The Son came and, right at His coming, hell was moved from beneath to withstand Him and to make His entrance into this world impossible, and to get Him out of it as soon as could be. All the way along it was upon this very point - "If thou be the Son..." Hear it in the wilderness, satan saying, "If thou be the Son..." It is an assault upon sonship in terms of doubt, to try to paralyze the effect of that sonship by introducing some question about it. "If thou be the Son..." So it was all the way through; and then on he Cross you hear that satanic hiss again, coming through the Jews who cried, "If thou be the Son of God, come down from the Cross" (Matthew 27:40). Only when we are in conditions and circumstances of extreme pressure and adversity, only then are we able to understand a little of what it meant to have that question raised at such a time. "You" the Son of God! Poor Son of God! Look at you, look at your condition, look at your situation! God has left you! This is the outworking of your own foolish ways, your own self-chosen way; there is no trace of sonship about this! "If thou be the Son ..." - raising the question again in the light of the awful conditions. It is the assault upon sonship.

And then the assault was transferred from the Son to His seed, and we know quite well that the real nature of spiritual conflict is not around our creed, our profession; it is over the spiritual life that is in us. It is about that mystery in us of a difference. We are going the same way as He went, we are being subjected to the testing fires of adversity. The Lord allows conditions to arise in our lives which seem wholeheartedly to deny that we are sons, that we have been born out from God, that God is with us, that God is in us by His Spirit. All the conditions seem  at times to put God far from us, and there is nothing whatever to argue that we are sons. That is the test of faith.

And the faith is just that; not only faith in Him but the faith is that we are sons, sons of God, in the midst of a wicked and perverse generation, in the midst of a world that is hostile, in the midst of a cosmos full of antagonistic spirits. Yes, the fact of sonship is there through new birth, but sonship is something more than birth, sonship is maturity. That is where the consideration at this time comes in. It is so clear that the New Testament shows that the continuation unto the full growth of sonship is as vital and as important as the beginning of sonship; that is, the bringing of the Lord's people to full spiritual growth is as important as bringing them to new birth. That is where there has been a breakdown.

That brings us right back to what I was saying at the beginning. Today, and for a long time, evangelical leaders have put all the emphasis, or the main emphasis, upon getting people saved. They are interested in that more than anything else, and that is the direction of their main occupation. With what result? That we see a most unsatisfactory state among Christians, and that too in the face of the fact that the very existence of the New Testament itself is the evidence that to bring converted people to full spiritual growth is as important as bringing them to new birth. Why have we the New Testament, with Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and all the other letters, occupied with the fight of the faith to bring believers to full growth? Every one of them is a battleground.

Look at Paul's fight for Galatia. What a fight it was against those Judaizers who had come in, and were causing arrest to the spiritual progress of the believers there. Paul had to say, "I marvel that you are so soon removed ... unto another gospel". Hebrews is another battleground. All these letters are battlegrounds, and they all have to do, not with the conversion of the unsaved but the going on of the saved, the terrific fight of sonship. Why? Because the issue is not that babes are going to oust the powers of darkness, but full-grown believers. The Church has to come to maturity.

So the apostle says, "When he ascended on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men... and he gave some apostles: and some, prophets", and so on. What for? "The perfecting of the saints ... till we all attain unto the unity of faith ... unto a full-grown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:8, 11-13). The unity of the faith, the fullness of Christ. You see, that is the thing that comes to light. It is just as important for the seed or the family or the Body to come to spiritual full-growth as it is for it to be begotten at all. That is a tremendous thing. The mystery of the Gospel is not just getting people born again. The mystery of the Gospel is the fullness of Christ, and that only begins at new birth. This is the disclosed secret, this Gospel, and it is the occasion of the tremendous, unrelenting conflict, a cosmic conflict conflict with principalities, powers, world-rulers of this darkness, spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenlies (Ephesians 6:12). That is where the wrestling goes on.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 22 - "The Focal Point of the Conflict - Its Nature and Outcome")

Worldly Heart

God warns us against misguided desires, because sinful passions can lead to emptiness, suffering, disappointment, pain, and even death. Wise believers let the Father direct their yearnings--and then make changes if necessary.
Impure desires have been part of the "flesh" nature since the fall of man, and they can be hard to see in ourselves. Instead of obvious things like theft, drugs, or immorality, they often involve more subtle attitudes and behaviors, like hoping for a rival's downfall, despising authority (2 Peter 2:10), obsessing about wealth (1 Tim. 6:9), or even speaking arrogant and vain words. Since worldly passions can cause great damage (2 Peter 2:18), believers are to deny them (Titus 2:11-12). But we can't overcome these desires on our own. Submitting to God's Spirit is the only way to live righteously.
The Lord knows what we really desire--and more importantly, what we need--even when cloudy judgment leads us astray. And He understands honest mistakes. When a believer misinterprets the Spirit's guidance or receives bad advice from a friend, God looks at the heart. He may allow the consequences of a poor choice to play out, but He won't shame His children for an honest mistake. He can turn a bad situation into something good (Rom. 8:28).
God can save us from worldly desires, but we must be willing to commit ourselves to Him and trust that His response is the best thing for us. When we put our lives entirely in the Father's hands, we can claim the wonderful promises He has for us and then rest in His grace.

~Charles Stanley~