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Friday, January 31, 2014

We Beheld His Glory # 67

The Holy Spirit's Work In Relation to Christ (continued)

The Judgment Question

How wonderful are these simple though comprehensive formulas. 

Here the tremendous field of judgment is covered in one concise phrase: "Because the prince of this world has been judged." What does that mean?

Well, in God's thought and intention there is only one prince for this world. But another, a false prince, a usurper, a rival, has gained a position of lordship, and this by man's assent or acceptance.

"The whole world lieth in the wicked one."

But in the Cross of Christ this other has been judged, condemned, and 'cast out." By that Cross his casting out of Heaven has been followed by his casting out of the earth - in the thought and rights of God for His Son.

From the day the Spirit, when Jesus began to be preached as "Lord," "prince and Saviour" (the great Apostolic theme), judgment is gathered into the matter of a deliberate choice of sides. In Christ judgment has been finished. "Out of Christ" means "in satan": therefore in the realm of double judgment - exclusion both from God's kingdom here and from Heaven.

So judgment is solely a matter of taking sides, but it is Christ again who is the deciding Factor.

Thus the Spirit has as His ground the Person and work of Christ, in their respective meanings for the believer and the world.

This may be an added factor in that hostility to which the Lord so much referred at that time, and which was so satanically manifested after the Spirit had come.

But there is much comfort for believers in this chapter. The Spirit who was in the Lord Jesus is promised and given to all who will receive Him. All the possibilities  and potentialities of His indwelling, for progressive and never-ending knowledge of Christ's fullness, and for service, are for those who will take the ground of the new dispensation - the ground of Christ's absolute Lordship, His perfected work and who live abidingly in and by the Spirit.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 68 - "The Prayer Beside the Altar")

A Lifestyle of Obedience

According to John 14:21, we express love for Jesus by obeying His commands. To love Him wholeheartedly, we must develop a lifestyle of obedience. Let's look at four aspects of such a lifestyle.

1. Our trust in the Father grows. This confidence comes from believing that the Lord is who Scripture says He is. And God's Word tells us that He is good—as well as faithful to keep His promises (2 Cor. 1:20). Psalm 86:15 calls Him merciful, gracious, loving, and slow to anger. His character remains unchanged by difficult or hard-to-understand circumstances (Heb. 13:8).

2. We develop a deepening ability to wait on the Lord. Delays can be hard in our I-want-it-now culture. But we must resist temptation and wait on Him instead of running ahead.

3. We commit to obey God. Without such a resolve, we'll vacillate at decision time or allow fear to prevent us from choosing His way.

4. Our study of Scripture becomes consistent. The Bible reveals God's priorities, commands, and warnings. It acts as a light, illuminating His chosen path for us while revealing obstacles and dangers along the way (Ps.119:105). Without it, we are like a person who walks in the woods at night without a flashlight.
Becoming a Christian doesn't mean that obedience to the Lord is automatic. It's a lifelong process of growing in our trust and patiently waiting on Him before we act. This requires a steadfast commitment to obey so that we can say no to ungodly choices and yes to God. 

~Charles Stanley~

Thursday, January 30, 2014

We Beheld His Glory # 66

The Holy Spirit's Work In Relation to Christ

While everyone will agree that the phrase "Spirit-taught men" expresses the need of all times, and that this is no contradiction to the teaching of Scripture, yet strangely enough, this marks a distinction which issues in the conflict referred to in John 15:18-26; 16:1-3).

It is here made unquestionably clear that persecution has its chief force in those who hold firmly to a traditional position as to their apprehension of Scripture, as against those who, having the same Bible, have had a mighty work of the Spirit of God done in them by which they have been introduced into a realm which, while not contradictory to the Word, yet holds the all-inclusive and overwhelming significance of Christ in God's universe. "These things will they do unto you because they have not known the Father, nor me."

That knowledge of the Father and the Son is a revelation of the Holy Spirit, without which we may be the fiercest protagonists of Biblical tradition and yet like Saul of Tarsus be all wrong. So, when it comes to summing up the meaning of the new dispensation where believers are concerned, it amounts to this: "Have we really, by a definite work of the Holy Spirit withing us, seen the significance and meaning of Christ in God's creational, redemptive, and consummate scheme of things?"If not, then there is an open door to every one of the unhappy conditions in Christendom. If so, we are on higher ground than all that is petty, personal, earthly, and cruel.

2. As to the world (verse 18).

The words of this statement are often quoted, but their inclusive meaning is often overlooked or missed.

Note that it is not in the plural - sins.

The Holy Spirit may convict believers of sins, but He does not do this with the world.

The judgment of the world will not be on the basis of sins, greater or less, these or those. If that were so, it would be unjust. Some are - as General Booth put it - "damned into the world." That is from birth or before the most terrible forms of sin are their heritage. Others inherit and come into much more helpful and propitious conditions, which conduce to a more moral conduct. To condemn the one and be generous to the other would be totally unrighteous. God has His basis of judgment for both, and on it all are brought to a common level. The basis is"

God sent His Son into the world to redeem the world (John 3:17; Gal. 4:4-5).

What have you done with Him?

And: "Because they believe not on me."

The whole sin question is focused in acceptance or non-acceptance of Christ.

The Righteousness question.

"Because I go to the Father."

If Jesus was - while truly God - truly man, taking man's place before God, representative and substitutionary, and eventually - as men - goes to the Father, then, seeing that no unrighteous man will ever be in the presence of the Father, the whole question of righteousness must have been settled in Him as Man for man. This is the vast subject of "Righteousness by faith in Jesus Christ"; but in our passage it is concisely stated that the Holy Spirit's convicting work will be on the basis of Jesus Christ the Righteous, and on no other ground of righteousness, more or less, whether ceremonial, claimed, professed, worked up, or striven after.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 67)

Rich Poor Rich

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:9

Jesus exchanged the riches of heaven to become poor on earth. He gave up His mansion to be born in a manager. He gave up His Kingship to be pursued by jealous King Herod. He gave up His train of royalty to ride on a lowly donkey at His humble coronation. He gave up His majestic throne to take a towel and wash filthy feet.  He gave up His glory to glorify His Heavenly Father. Jesus gave up His riches, so we might be made rich by His grace and love! Rich, poor, rich.

Yes, Jesus Christ was born in poor conditions, lived a low income life and died impoverished. Yet, He was the richest gift ever given to the human race. The gifts brought by the wise men were a mere trinket compared to the gift of salvation who quietly lay at the back of the inn surrounded by noisy animals. All the natural resources in the world combined do not begin to define the value of this one child, Christ Jesus. One man’s poverty made the world rich indeed.

And all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Romans 3:24
What is the value of one saved soul? What is the worth of God’s grace that gets us through life with peace and joy? The human mind cannot properly monetize the mission of Jesus, but we know its worth far exceeds any earthly comparisons. Diamonds and jewels are only shiny rocks in light of God’s love given to all who love Him. Grace is the Lord’s blank check to draw on in time of need. His bank of love never has a run on its resources. It is insured by infinite grace!

Furthermore, your adoption by grace through faith gives you full benefits as a child of the King.  So, steward well the riches you received at salvation when you inherited the Kingdom of God. You have been made rich by every good deed that flows from God’s grace at work in your heart and life. Thus, remember the poor, because the One who was poor gave up His riches to make you rich. You are able to enrich others by introducing them to the poor child born at Christmas. For your sake, Jesus gave you His riches. Yes, thank Him this season for His indescribable gift! And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you.

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! 2 Corinthians 9:14-15

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I am eternally grateful for Your surpassing grace that exceeds my expectations, needs and wants.

~Daily Disciples Devotional~

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

We Beheld His Glory # 65

The Dispensation of the Spirit (continued)

Then again, this was all being stated with such an air of assumption. It seemed to be assumed that the coming of the Spirit was a part of the course of tings, and essential as the complement of Christ's word. In what ways would this be?

1. Christ physical presence was outward and objective. The Holy Spirit would be within and subjective.

2. Christ physically would be limited to one place at a time, and by all the straitness of time and geography. The Holy Spirit would be immanent, omnipresent; with all, everywhere, at all times - or apart from time.

3. Christ physically must do His work and return to the Father. The Holy Spirit would "abide for ever" ("unto the age").

4. Christ came that in the body He might accomplish eternal redemption through the Cross. The Holy Spirit would make that work the basis and means of world-wide and continuous conviction as to man's need of it.

5. While the relationship of men to Jesus in the flesh remained, it would remain a matter of following and faltering responding to commands and regulations imposed, with all the contradictions which did actually mark the three years with Him. By the coming of the Holy Spirit to reside in them, they would become actually spiritual men, with the Spirit of Christ within.

The proof and evidence that this was right - this great and critical change-over from Christ in the flesh to the Holy Spirit - is seen abundantly in the transformation which took place in these same men with and from the Day of Pentecost. It is a very profitable thing to tabulate the points of difference in them before and after that event. Not only was that immediately so, but the progress spiritually was more in three months than it had been in three years; and so it continued.

This is the inclusive and fundamental difference between this dispensation and the earlier, and it is a challenge to us as to whether we have really entered into the distinctive nature of the dispensation in which we live, according to God's order. More on this later in another connection.

The  next primary thing in this section of the discourse is - 

The Holy Spirit's Work in Relation to Christ

The Lord said that the Holy Spirit would make it His active business to work in relation to Himself Jesus Christ.

This work would be in two directions.

1. As to themselves.
2. As to the world.

1. As to themselves, He would be to and in them the Spirit of revelation.

It is positively affirmed that, as they were before, and without this definite gift and reception of the Spirit as an event, they were without the capacity or ability to receive and "bear" the much that Christ had to say to them. Let us note - "I have many thing to say to you." Into that statement must be gathered all that they came to know in after years, much of which comprises our "New Testament". But even Apostles had to confess to being unable to say all that they wanted to because of the limited spirituality of believers.

What was true of the Disciples before Pentecost is true comparatively of believers always, according to the life in the Spirit.

Spiritual knowledge is not only the result of study, reason, deduction or information.

The Scriptures, or what the Lord has said and which is recorded for us, are essentially the Holy Spirit's basis and means of operation, but revelation as to what the Lord meant, and of the inexhaustible  content of any Divine utterance, is a plus, an extra, while at the same time consistency with Divine principles is preserved.

The proof that the "eyes of the heart have been enlightened" is that the truth has become a power, a life, a revolution, not just a system of doctrine. Christ never violated any Scripture or Divine principle, and yet the mass of those who believed that they were the custodians of the truth firmly and fiercely believed that He did so. This stands to emphasize the fact that in the realm of Scripture there can be two positively opposed positions that of the men of the letter, and that of the men of the Word plus the Spirit.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 66)

Spending Our Inheritance

The word “inheritance” usually brings to mind the money and real estate handed down from one generation to another. But God has an even greater legacy to share with His children—one that they are given the moment they enter His family.

Galatians 4:7 tells us that believers are God’s heirs. First among our priceless treasures is a living hope in Jesus Christ that cannot be taken away (1 Peter 1:3). What’s more, He pledged to supply our needs according to His riches (Phil4:19). In other words, we already have all that we need for an abundant and victorious life.

However, some folks get stuck in spiritual poverty because they refuse to view themselves as adopted children. Failing to tap into their inheritance, they’re like a man who sees himself as a poor, sinful creature: he wanders through this big angry world hoping to hold on to his meager scrap of faith until he’s lucky enough to die and go to heaven. Of course that man misses the blessings available in this life, because he’s not looking for them.

How differently people see themselves when they look through the eyes of Jesus. Christians who live like the beloved, empowered heirs that they are will lavishly spend their inheritance of grace to benefit everyone they meet.

God gives all believers a pledge of inheritance out of the unsurpassed riches of His infinite grace. We are spiritually rich citizens of heaven who have nothing to fear in this world. Choose to live boldly for Christ, and see how abundantly God pours out blessing from the legacy already set aside for you.

~Charles Stanley~

Monday, January 27, 2014

We Beheld His Glory # 62

The Object of the Pruning

Finally, the work of the Husbandman, the Father, with His pruning knife, has as its object the preserving of true character. That is true in all pruning, as you know. You go along the path there in the garden. You will see some grafted rose bushes which once bore beautiful roses. They were not pruned. Now they have run wild: the wild stocks have been allowed to supplant the beautiful grafted forms, and they are only bearing what we call dog-roses. They may be pretty, but we know that the plant has run wild for want of the knife. The result is not the real thing - it is a wild thing; it is something inferior, it is not what it might have been. It is so easy for us, if the Lord spares the knife and leaves us alone, to lose distinctive character. Just let us get out of the Lord and run free, take our own way for a bit, and we lose distinctiveness of character. There is a wildness, a foreign element that comes in, and the real pleasure of the Lord is lost. It is not until that knife comes back and does some pretty hard work, saying, "No, no, not that way, not that way," that the Lord recovers the thing which He first intended as His own satisfaction. But what is the result? "These thing have I spoken unto you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full." We have to admit, after all, that it was not in that independent way that we really found our joy; our joy is being in the way of the Lord's first appointment and choice, and our joy is restored very often by the knife. "That my joy may be in you."

If you go to Hebrews 12, you will see the fuller interpretation and explanation. It is the Father's hand that is upon us to get that which, firstly, justifies our existence - the satisfaction of His nature, the fulfillment of His purpose - and in so doing brings His joy into our hearts. It is not our joy in the first place, but His. Then our joy is His joy - and our joy is fulfilled.

With the phase of John's revelation of spiritual truth that is marked, in our arrangement, by the beginning of chapter 16, we are presented with an immense development. It is nothing less than the grand turning point in the dispensations. There is here coming into view another dispensation, with its own particular and peculiar nature; an altogether new economy is about to be inaugurated.  It is -

The Dispensation of the Spirit

For many centuries the Law had reigned. Then came the brief interlude of the Incarnation, in which as to the past - for the first and only time, the Law had its perfect fulfillment in a Man, and - as to the future - the new reign of the Spirit also in a Man was exemplified.

Now, the "going" of that One to the Father is shown to be imminent. It is also shown to be essential in order that all in Him through faith should move on to that new basis.

There are one or two things in this part of the Lord's discourse which had a point and edge that startled those who heard them, and which need to be recovered from the blunting effect of familiarity and tradition where we are concerned. That the invisible should be of value far transcending the visible, that the intangible should transcend the tangible, the inward the objective, the inaudible the audible, was by no means a simple thing to believe. That this change was "expedient" was far from easy to accept. To let go the personal, physical, present embodiment of all hope and expectations of all that He had come to mean to them - for One who seemed so impersonal, incomprehensible, and mysterious, was a change to be contemplated only with misgivings and fears.

And yet it was being categorically states that the one was incomparably more important then the other - the Spirit than the Incarnate Christ as visibly present!

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 63)

Contagious Joy

Jesus calls us to be His “witnesses.” When some Christians hear this word, they worry that they need exceptional skill or charisma in order to share the good news with others. Yet to witness is not to merely speak of the “plan of salvation” to someone. The word literally means to see, hear, or know by personal presence and perception; to testify; bear witness to; give or afford evidence of. When John wrote that he was sharing what he had experienced first-hand, he was saying, “I am full of joy because of the experience of knowing Jesus, and I want to invite you to share in that joy!”

When you’re in love with someone, you are excited about the relationship and time spent together. Likewise, when you’re in love with Jesus, you can’t keep to yourself the joy that comes from knowing Him—it just spills over, bearing witness and strengthening other believers. In fact, as you give testimony of who God is and how He’s working in your life, it makes no difference whether you speak quietly or with great exuberance: in their spirit, Christians will pick up on the deep, genuine gladness in your heart that goes beyond natural happiness. And people who don’t yet know the Lord will find themselves hungering for the relationship you have. In that way, they will be drawn to His Spirit in you.

Witnessing is not a matter of eloquence or talent. It’s an overflow of the personal relationship with Jesus Christ that is conforming you to His image. As you allow the Holy Spirit to increasingly express His life and power through you, contagious joy will be “fruit” of His indwelling presence.

~Charles Stanley~

Sunday, January 26, 2014

We Beheld His Glory # 61

The Pruning Knife

"Every branch that beareth fruit, he cleanseth it," or "purgeth it": by which we understand Him to mean that He is pruning, and there are one or two things which we must conclude from this procedure of the Lord. He does not say that if a branch bears no fruit, He prunes it to bear fruit - no, He cuts that off; but if it bears some fruit, He "cleanseth it, that it may bear more fruit." The point here is that, for the Father's full satisfaction, it is not merely size that weighs with Him, it is not just bigness, it is not the expansiveness of the branches. The thing which counts with the Father ultimately is the quality and amount of fruit - in other words, the measure of Christ, the essential qualities of Christ. Other metaphors or figures the "Body of Christ" preeminently - will be used in the later New Testament to set forth this principle, but here it is the measure of Christ that the Father is seeking.

We can press that even more closely. Even in that which comes from the Lord - for the fruit comes from the Lord; it is the expression of His life - even in that very vine, the Lord takes measures of curtailment in order to get intrinsic values. Paul and the churches might well have thought that it would be of far more value to God if he had been kept at liberty, kept free to travel about over the world and meet the saints; but God's pruning knife decided that it would be of greater intrinsic value if the wisdom of God in that now. Thank God for what came out of that prison in those letters - intrinsic value indeed! Sometimes the wisdom and the love of God operate in what looks like limitation, in certain ways and certain directions, in order to get intrinsic value. A seed-plot is an intensive thing, not necessarily an expansive thing; but it may be that presently the whole world will be sown from that seed-plot: that plant or that crop will be reproduced everywhere. And the Lord is saying here, "I am not first of all interested in how big and expansive you are, in what you are doing, even though it may be for Me, and even though it may be, in measure, by the life which I have given you. What I am primarily concerned about is the richness of the fruit, the quality of the fruit and the real measure of intrinsic value." You can have grapes and grapes, and the Lord is after the first quality. It means that there is a good deal of saying "No" when that life is at work. Here are the branches spreading, and the knife says, "No, not that, not that, not that." The pruning knife is a great instrument for God's "No" - but it is governed by God's "Yes." The "Yes" lies hidden behind. The "Yes" relates to the quality and the intrinsic value of the fruit, the measure of Divine satisfaction, and it is that which governs the "No", which lops off.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 62 - "The Object of the Pruning")

Return to the Lord

"Their deeds do not permit them to return to their God. A spirit of prostitution is in their heart; they do not knowledge the LORD." - Hosea 5:4

During Hosea's time, the people would not return to the Lord. They continued to do what they thought was right in their own eyes, not acknowledging God's standard for their lives. As a result, they lived to please their king, and themselves, to their own destruction. However, the people were still trying to appease God by following in the things that God had established for them, like the rituals and sacrifices. It was easier for them to "do" for God than to "be" with God. God told them that He would rather have them acknowledge Him than to burn sacrifices for Him. The people's sins became such a habit and place of bondage that their deeds prevented them from returning to the Lord.

The Book of Hosea is written because God wanted them to return to Him. Their deeds did not have to separate Him from them, but their deeds kept their hearts from turning to God.If you find yourself in sinful habits and patterns that are keeping you from returning to the Lord, today is the day to come back to Him. The Lord's love cannot ever be separated from you, but you have the ability to separate yourself from Him. Start being honest with Him today. Tell Him the truth—He already knows everything about you. Let the secret out so that He may come in. Do not beat yourself up during the restoration process, it will take time and change often comes slowly. Praise God that He is never in a rush. Relax. He is on your side.

~Daily Disciples Devotional~

Saturday, January 25, 2014

We Beheld His Glory # 60

Fruit the Evidence of Life

And it is the fruit which is the evidence of life. That is what the Lord comes down upon. He does not say that branches and leaves justify the existence or prove anything. It is the fruit which proves everything and it is the fruit which proves the life. He fastens upon that: the fruit proves the life. And Christ's life is essentially fruitful. An unfruitful Christian is a contradiction of Christ, a contradiction of the life of Christ. Christ did not have to make efforts to be fruitful; there was no effort in His fruitfulness. It was spontaneous. The life itself is spontaneously, inevitably fruitful.

Was it not just there that Mr. Hudson Taylor came to his life crisis, when, after years, he was brought to a complete standstill on this question of fruitfulness? The whole crisis turned upon his struggling, his agonizing, his taking the strain and burden of this matter of fruitfulness, until he fretted himself into despair. And then he came upon this chapter of John's gospel, and the Lord, so to speak, stood by him and opened it up to him, and showed him that He was the life of the vine, and the branches had to do nothing by way of struggle to bear fruit. All they had to do was to let the life have its way unhindered. It came as a revelation to him; you have it in that great chapter in his autobiography, "The Exchanged Life." If the life of the Lord is not frustrated, is not hindered, or, to use the Lord's word here and its reiteration, if we abide in Him, that is, keep on Christ's ground and do not take our own or any other ground, the life proves itself spontaneously in fruitfulness without any effort.

The Bearing of Fruit is Service

And inasmuch as this fruit-bearing is the service which is rendered to God and includes all that is meant by Christian service, the service of the Lord; inasmuch as the fruit-bearing is the service of the believer and the Church; then it is quite clear here that service and union with Christ the right kind of union with a union that means identity of life through losing our own and having His yielding up our apartness, our independent life, and taking His. That union is spontaneously service.

We have thought of the service of God as a matter of preaching and teaching and doing a multitude of things for the Lord. They may only be the framework; they may only be the outer casing, like the bark of a tree. The Lord may pour His life through such methods and means, or He may not let us do any preaching or teaching. In the case of some, He may have the greatest measure of fruit without any preaching being done at all. Fruit is the spontaneous expression of a deep-rooted oneness with Christ, and there may be very much satisfaction and glory to God through people who are never allowed to preach or teach or do any of those things which we call Christian work. But to express Christ, to live Christ, to manifest Christ, to let everything around feel Christ and be touched by Christ through our presence - that certainly is to the glory of God and the satisfaction of His heart, and that is service.

For what is this fruit? It is the life of Christ manifested, and God help both the preachers and the teachers and the workers, and those to whom they preach, if there is not a manifestation of Christ coming though what they are saying and doing. The real heart of it is this deep union of life with the Lord, and it is this kind of service which satisfies God.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 61 - "The Pruning Knife")

The Same Always

Habakkuk 3:6
His ways are everlasting.
What He hath done at one time, He will do yet again. Man's ways are variable, but God's ways are everlasting. There are many reasons for this most comforting truth: among them are the following-the Lord's ways are the result of wise deliberation; He ordereth all things according to the counsel of His own will. Human action is frequently the hasty result of passion, or fear, and is followed by regret and alteration; but nothing can take the Almighty by surprise, or happen otherwise than He has foreseen. His ways are the outgrowth of an immutable character, and in them the fixed and settled attributes of God are clearly to be seen. Unless the Eternal One Himself can undergo change, His ways, which are Himself in action, must remain for ever the same. Is He eternally just, gracious, faithful, wise, tender?-then His ways must ever be distinguished for the same excellences. Beings act according to their nature: when those natures change, their conduct varies also; but since God cannot know the shadow of a turning, His ways will abide everlastingly the same. Moreover there is no reason from without which could reverse the divine ways, since they are the embodiment of irresistible might. The earth is said, by the prophet, to be cleft with rivers, mountains tremble, the deep lifts up its hands, and sun and moon stand still, when Jehovah marches forth for the salvation of His people. Who can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What doest Thou? But it is not might alone which gives stability; God's ways are the manifestation of the eternal principles of right, and therefore can never pass away. Wrong breeds decay and involves ruin, but the true and the good have about them a vitality which ages cannot diminish. This morning let us go to our heavenly Father with confidence, remembering that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever, and in Him the Lord is ever gracious to His people.

~Charles Spurgeon~

Friday, January 24, 2014

We Beheld His Glory # 59

Identity of Life (continued)

Now we are familiar with that truth, but that is what the Lord here lays down as the essential and indispensable basis of any satisfaction to the Father and realization of His purpose. It is basic to that; for only the Son can satisfy the Father, and only in the Son can the Father's purposes be realized. Therefore, if that is to be in any way fulfilled through a corporate instrument, there must be an absolute identity of life. We know now how that takes place; whatever there is going to be will not be from us - it will be from Him.

But I do want specifically to underline that point, that it is not our coming unto Him that has this result; it is what arises from His life within. It is the rising out from, and not the coming unto, that makes all the difference. We can adhere, we can sponsor, we can attach, we can take up a position; we can "come just as we are" and go on just as we are. We can still be in a kind of relatedness to the Lord which does not bring with it any rising out from the Lord, and it makes all the difference to what kind of life ours is going to be in the matter of God's glory. That is what the Lord is saying here, in more words. He is pointing out that there can be a kind of relatedness to Himself which does not bear this fruit to the Father's satisfaction and glory; something somewhere is lacking. Whatever the function of the branches - and that function is to bear the fruit of the vine - they can do nothing in that matter apart from this identity of life. This is a deep inward oneness with the Lord, which is not two things, but is only one thing; and that one thing is the Lord Jesus as the life.

The whole teaching of the New Testament is that union with Christ implies the end of any separateness of existence as apart from or other than Christ Himself. It is existence now as from a birth, not from an attachment; from a life imparted which has never before been possessed. It is something quite new, quite fresh, quite other than there was hitherto. That is the uniqueness and exclusiveness of Christ. So the branches become a part of something unique, something different from all that we know of mankind and creation, something that has not been before.

The Purpose of the Vine's Existence

We come now to this matter of fruit, and we note that, so far as the glory of God is concerned, it is a governing matter. It is impressive that the Lord should have chosen the vine  as the symbol of this means of reaching His end. You know so well that a vine has no other use in all the world but to bear fruit. It has no by-products. There are some thing from which, if the main object is realized or even has failed, you can get other things, by-products; there are secondary uses. But you cannot even make a walking stick out of a vine. If it does not bear fruit, it is good for nothing. There is no other purpose to which you can turn a vine except to make a bonfire of it.

The whole object of the existence of Christ and His members is the matter of fruit. The Lord expresses Himself here in strong terms. If fruit is not forthcoming, He says, such branches are cast out, gathered, thrown on the fire, burned. Men do not say, Oh, well, it is not bearing any fruit, but we can turn it to this use and to that, we can make it serve some purpose. There is no alternative for a vine. And there is no alternative for your life and mine, in relation to Christ, but the glory of God. God has no secondary purposes for us, saying Oh, well, they are not bearing any fruit - we will make some other use of them. No: the glory of God in satisfaction, in the realization of His purpose - His purpose - is the only justification for our existence in relation to Christ.

That is precisely the reason why Israel was cast off and burned. An old doctrinal or theological question arises here; but I am not going to follow that out. Is Israel in the fire? Have me cast Israel into the fire, since God cast Israel off? Well, we know the answer to that. But, leaving that aside for the moment, you see the point: it is that, with God, this vine is only justified in having an existence in the satisfaction of His nature and in the fulfillment of His purposes. "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit."

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 60 - "Fruit the Evidence of Life")

God's Wisdom Revealed

After exposing the futility of worldly thinking in 1 Corinthians 1, Paul introduces Christians to the higher realm of godly wisdom. This kind of knowledge and understanding isn't available through human intelligence and reasoning; it comes strictly through divine revelation. Only those indwelt by God's Spirit have "the mind of Christ" (v. 16) and access to "the things freely given" to them by God (v. 12).

Without this supernatural insight, no one can accurately know the Lord or His ways. Many people say they believe in God yet may not have a correct understanding of Him because their perceptions are based on their own thoughts and ideas. It's easier to custom-design a god to fit our preferences than to make the required adjustments that worship of the one true God demands.

Even believers need to guard against trying to fit God into their preconceived image of Him. The Bible is the only reliable source of divine revelation, but we must be careful to consider the Scriptures as a whole—it's critical that we don't just pick and choose the verses we want to believe. For example, by focusing only on passages that emphasize the Lord's lovingkindness while excluding those that speak of His holiness and justice, we misunderstand His true nature.
Let's seek to know the Lord in truth by considering the entire counsel of Scripture. Divine wisdom is available to every believer through the Holy Spirit, who searches the depths of God. May we never try to limit Him to fit our preferences. Instead, may He enlarge our minds to embrace His thoughts.

~Charles Stanley~

Thursday, January 23, 2014

We Beheld His Glory # 58

Christ the True Vine

Having established that, we proceed to consider the way to that object, the way to the glorifying of God, as it is revealed in this chapter (John 15).  As we should expect, right at the very beginning we are confronted with His Son, and the first thing we meet here is a statement which signifies the exclusiveness and uniqueness of the Son of the Father. In words of comparison and contrast, He begins, almost abruptly, it would seem; for, rising from the supper and the upper room, and saying, "Let us go hence," He just proceeds. It sounds almost an abrupt continuation. But there is no interruption; He just goes on talking. "I am the "true" vine." "I" and "true" are words of comparison and contrast. They follow in the line of many such things already said, "I am the "good" shepherd" (John 10:14); that is comparison and contrast. It is invidious. "My Father giveth you the "true" bread out of heaven" (John 6:32).

This comparison of the vine is, of course, with Israel who was the Lord's vine. He "brought a vine out of Egypt" (Psalm lxxx. 8), but that vine failed to produce the fruit for the glory of God; that is, the satisfaction of God's nature in the realization of His purpose. It proved a false vine - false to the Father's nature, false to the Father's expectations, false to the Father's purposes; still remaining in the earth for the time, still in a way growing, developing, making a show, making a profession, but now set aside as a false thing, in no way corresponding to the intention of God in its existence.

The Son says: "I am the true vine." What He is saying is that everything now for God's satisfaction, for the satisfaction of the Father's nature in the realization of His purposes, is centered in the Father's Son; everything now is summed up in the Son. "I am." When we gather together all those "I ams" of this gospel, how may there are of them, and how tremendously emphatic they are, even in the language itself. The "I" is emphatic. If we had heard the Lord say it, in familiarity with the language used, we should have heard the emphasis there: "I am the true vine." So, everywhere in this gospel, He brings things away from all other connections, centers them in Himself, and says: "Everything now of God's expectation, God's purpose, God's satisfaction, and therefore God's glory, is centered in His Son." "I am." As I said just now, that is what we should expect, when we are looking for God's satisfaction and God's realization of heart-purpose. It is in His Son we know that so well.

The Branches

But then a wonderful thing about that - about the glory of God, the satisfaction of God in realized purposes - is carried by the next statement. "Ye are ..."  "I am the vine, ye are the branches" (vs. 5), and in between "my Father" (vs 1). We must always keep the terms clearly before us: the husbandry is that of the Father; this has come as from a Father. It is something begotten of God, something born of God; something with which He, as Father, is bound up in a heart-relationship, for which He is jealous with the jealousy of a Father. This is not just a proprietor, an owner. This is something of an inward relatedness, not merely outward. The Father's heart is bound up with this. It is preeminently a matter of love.

Identity of Life

"Ye are the branches." In this statement there is at once struck the note which is fundamental to the whole New Testament revelation: the note of identity of life. What a dominant matter that is in the New Testament, as well as in our own experience! Of course, we are now able to read into this the so much greater revelation which came afterward as to its meaning, that of which this was but an illustration. We "know it all" now; it is one of the most familiar truths to us; and yet it is the matter upon which the Father is concentrating every day of our lives, and it is the matter which gives rise to by far the greater measure of our troubles and difficulties.

There is not an adhesion to Christ; there is not a "coming to" Him. There is a sense in which we come to Him, in the sense of His words "Come unto me" (Matthew 11:28); or else "ye will not come to me" (John 5:40); but no one would ever say, in the light of the New Testament, that coming to the Lord Jesus makes us an organic part of Him. We need all those other illustrations that are in the New Testament really to express this, e.g. "planted together," born anew," "buried - raised with Christ," and so on. We do not just come as people, and range ourselves at the side of a certain One, and then go on together. That is not the teaching of the New Testament. We come to Him and then are plunged into His grave, and out of that grave we do not rise in our old life, separate and different. "I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live; and yet it is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me" (Galatians 2:20).

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 59)

Glorify the Lord in the Fires

Glorify ye the Lord in the fires" (Isa. 24:15).
Mark the little word "in"! We are to honor Him in the trial--in that which is an affliction indeed and though there have been cases where God did not let His saints feel the fire, yet, ordinarily, fire hurts.
But just here we are to glorify Him by our perfect faith in His goodness and love that has permitted all this to come upon us.
And more than that, we are to believe that out of this is coming something more for His praise than could have come but for this fiery trial.
We can only go through some fires with a large faith; little faith will fail. We must have the victory in the furnace.  --Margaret Bottome
A man has as much religion as he can show in times of trouble. The men who were cast into the fiery furnace came out as they went in--except their bonds.
How often in some furnace of affliction God strikes them off! Their bodies were unhurt--their skin not even blistered. Their hair was unsinged, their garments not scorched, and even the smell of fire had not passed upon them. And that is the way Christians should come out of furnace trials--liberated from their bonds, but untouched by the flames.
"Triumphing over them in it" (Col. 2:15).
That is the real triumph--triumphing over sickness, in it; triumphing over death, dying; triumphing over adverse circumstances, in them. Oh, believe me, there is a power that can make us victors in the strife. There are heights to be reached where we can look down and over the way we have come, and sing our song of triumph on this side of Heaven. We can make others regard us as rich, while we are poor, and make many rich in our poverty. Our triumph is to be in it. Christ's triumph was in His humiliation. Possibly our triumph, also, is to be made manifest in what seems to others humiliation.
--Margaret Bottome
Is there not something captivating in the sight of a man or a woman burdened with many tribulations and yet carrying a heart as sound as a bell? Is there not something contagiously valorous in the vision of one who is greatly tempted, but is more than conqueror? Is it not heartening to see some pilgrim who is broken in body, but who retains the splendor of an unbroken patience? What a witness all this offers to the enduement of His grace!  --J. H. Jowett
"When each earthly prop gives under,
And life seems a restless sea,
Are you then a God-kept wonder,
Satisfied and calm and free?"

~L. B. Cowman~

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

We Beheld His Glory # 57

Enlightenment as to the Way (continued)

Peter's own abiding resulted from Christ coming to abide in him, to go no more away: "with you for ever" (14:16). This will be more fully considered in the next two chapters.

This is the ground and assurance of "peace". If we are entangled with ourselves, we have no peace. If we are entangled with the world, we have no peace. Only the disentangled can have peace; and death with Christ does the disentangling, and resurrection with Christ leads to a life above the world and above ourselves!

This chapter, John 14, really gathers around one word - a Greek word denoting: to stay, remain, abide, continue, endure, be permanent. It occurs in verse 2 - "abiding-places"; verse 10 - "the Father abiding in me"; verse 17 - the Holy Spirit will abide in them; verse 23 - the Godhead: "we will make our abode with" believers.

This stands over against -

The treachery of Judas; the shadow of the Cross; the imminent departure of Christ, the inability to follow Him; the questions arising "How?"

It is an amazing thing to realize that all this perplexity, uncertainty, bafflement, apprehension, is the doorway to the greatest rest: the rest of knowing, of certainty, of finality. This is indicated as being all bound up with a "spiritual" union with Christ in Heaven - stronger, deeper, and more abiding than any earthly, temporal, physical, sentient association could ever be. Those who know Him after the Spirit know how superior this knowledge is to any other kind of knowing, for by it their hearts have become untroubled as to eventualities; they are at rest.

There are heart troubles and heart cries here. Jesus has undercut all self-confidence and assurance as to man's ability to go through a severe test of faithfulness. He has practically undercut men's confidence in an earthly relationship with Himself. He has raised the tremendous question and mystery of the life beyond this: Where? How? What? What is the answer? How can we come to absolute rest and assurance? The inclusive answer is: "I AM."

Really to know Him as He can be known after the Resurrection answers all questions, settles all doubts, and silences all troubles as to ourselves, our way and our end.

The Glory of Christ the Vine

John 15

Considering the subject of this part of our Lord's discourse on the way from the upper room to the Cross, we have to bring into the foreground the governing object of all these discourses, and indeed of all that is reported and recorded in this gospel. It is an object that is seen in a peculiar way to govern the early part of this chapter - the discourse on the vine. Before we can understand all the rest everything that the Lord is saying here - we must see the object for which the vine exists. That object is clearly shown to be nothing less than the glory, pleasure, and satisfaction of God.

We have previously defined the glory of God as being His Divine nature satisfied in seeing His purposes realized: His very nature in its peculiar requirements satisfied - satisfied in the realization of its objects. But we must not just take that as a definition or a statement in words; we must feel it. It is the very being of God - what He is in His nature - finding an answer in kind, as embodied in purposes of His heart. When there is a correspondence between God and the object - the sentient object - of His work, there is a sense of glory; it may express itself in worship, joy, rest, gratification, a burst of praise. But this is something rather to feel than to grasp mentally.

Thus, it is the glory or the glorifying of the Father for which the vine corporately exists. He is glorified in that which is the fruit or issue of the existence of the vine. So we let the glory of God interpret every statement of the Lord Jesus in this remarkable, wonderful discourse. We cannot just now go through the whole, sentence by sentence, statement by statement. But if we take this matter of God requiring to be satisfied in His nature, and bring it alongside of each utterance of the Lord Jesus throughout this discourse, it will explain everything. It will even solve some of those long-standing problems which this chapter holds. For the moment we must confine ourselves to the statement that the governing object of the existence of the vine is the glory, or the glorifying of God; that is to say, His satisfaction in the realization of His purposes.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 58 - "Christ the True Vine")

Keep Looking Up

They looked…and behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud" (Exod. 16:10).
Get into the habit of looking for the silver lining of the cloud and when you have found it, continue to look at it, rather than at the leaden gray in the middle.
Do not yield to discouragement no matter how sorely pressed or beset you may be. A discouraged soul is helpless. He can neither resist the wiles of the enemy himself, while in this state, nor can he prevail in prayer for others.
Flee from every symptom of this deadly foe as you would flee from a viper. And be not slow in turning your back on it, unless you want to bite the dust in bitter defeat.
Search out God's promises and say aloud of each one: "This promise is mine." If you still experience a feeling of doubt and discouragement, pour out your heart to God and ask Him to rebuke the adversary who is so mercilessly nagging you.
The very instant you whole-heartedly turn away from every symptom of distrust and discouragement, the blessed Holy Spirit will quicken your faith and inbreathe Divine strength into your soul.
At first you may not be conscious of this, still as you resolutely and uncompromisingly "snub" every tendency toward doubt and depression that assails you, you will soon be made aware that the powers of darkness are falling back.
Oh, if our eyes could only behold the solid phalanx of strength, of power, that is ever behind every turning away from the hosts of darkness, God-ward, what scant heed would be given to the effort of the wily foe to distress, depress, discourage us!
All the marvelous attributes of the Godhead are on the side of the weakest believer, who in the name of Christ, and in simple, childlike trust, yields himself to God and turns to Him for help and guidance.  --Selected
On a day in the autumn, I saw a prairie eagle mortally wounded by a rifle shot. His eye still gleamed like a circle of light. Then he slowly turned his head, and gave one more searching and longing look at the sky. He had often swept those starry spaces with his wonderful wings. The beautiful sky was the home of his heart. It was the eagle's domain. A thousand times he had exploited there his splendid strength. In those far away heights be had played with the lightnings, and raced with the winds, and now, so far away from home, the eagle lay dying, done to the death, because for once be forgot and flew too low. The soul is that eagle. This is not its home. It must not lose the skyward look. We must keep faith, we must keep hope, we must keep courage, we must keep Christ. We would better creep away from the battlefield at once if we are not going to be brave. There is no time for the soul to stampede. Keep the skyward look, my soul; keep the skyward look!
"Keep looking up--
The waves that roar around thy feet,
Jehovah-Jireh will defeat
When looking up.
"Keep looking up--
Though darkness seems to wrap thy soul;
The Light of Light shall fill thy soul
When looking up.
"Keep looking up--
When worn, distracted with the fight;
Your Captain gives you conquering might
When you look up."
~L. B. Cowman~

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

We Beheld His Glory # 56

2. The Church In Heaven

In this chapter everything is future. "In that day" is a phrase which stands over a long section of several chapters. So we see that the Church (everything now being corporate) is not at this point in Heaven, but the day is seen when it will be. John, in the Revelation, sees it there literally at last, but between the position in his gospel and that at the end of the Revelation all of Paul's ministry has its place. Whatever may be either literal or symbolical, it is all based upon what is spiritual. For instance, "going to Heaven" requires spiritual, heavenly birth, citizenship, life, nature, walk, and conformity. Paul it is who brings in this counterpart, but the Holy Spirit is one in both and they are complementary.

The explanation of John's recorded words of Christ about the Father's House and the "abiding (or resting) places" is found in Paul's words in his Ephesian letter: "quickened ... raised ... seated us together with him in the heavenly places." We are regarded as being there now. The "that day" has come. It is the "day" after the Cross. Resurrection, Ascension, and the Spirit's descent. This is the full result of what we have seen as to chapter 13.

Enlightenment as to the Way

Jesus said: "Ye know the way." They said: "We know not the way." But Jesus had only just said: "Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow afterwards" (13:36). This all seems very confusing. Jesus must have been speaking mysteriously, parabolically! He must have been laboring under a definite handicap, some real disadvantage, because of a basic deficiency in them. There are therefore two things to note here.

"Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven." "Thou canst not follow ... now."

And "Ye know" "Thou shalt ..."

Upon what did their knowing rest initially? It rested upon their having come into touch with Him! "I am the way." But this knowledge is shown to be twofold.

a. Personal association with Christ. Present.
b. The Holy Spirit's inward revelation of Christ. Progressive.

John's whole gospel is based upon, or composed of, personal and actual contact with Christ, and an upshot from that. That upshot is that He  is acknowledged to be the Son of the Living God. "Thou art the Christ ..."

Paul's ministry is based upon, "It pleased God ... to reveal his Son in me." "Christ in you."

But the experience and teaching of both John and Paul are based upon a common foundation: the "cannot" of the flesh, the "natural man"; the need to become "spiritual" men, i.e. men of the Spirit; and between these the experience of the Cross. On one side the Cross says "No!" on the other side it says "Yes!" "Thou canst not" - "Thou shalt." How true that was proved to be of the self-confident, self-assured, self-sufficient Simon Peter of 13:37! - but, on the other side of the Cross, how true was the "Thou shalt", the great "afterward." That selfhood was satan's ground, and it had to be broken. Peter, the restless, feverish, troubled, variable, fretful, questioning, disputing, impulsive, and denying, was emptied out by the Cross. Subsequently, as under the mastery of the Spirit, he entered into heavenly rest, assurance, certainty, persistence, and courage. He followed through, and whatever the Father's House meant for him ultimately, he came, in this life, to the place of "abiding"; to the spiritual meaning of that House. This is abundantly clear from his letters.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 57)


Put on as the elect of God, kindness (Col. 3:12).

There is a story of an old man who carried a little can of oil with him everywhere he went, and if he passed through a door that squeaked, he poured a little oil on the hinges. If a gate was hard to open, he oiled the latch. And thus he passed through life lubricating all hard places and making it easier for those who came after him. People called him eccentric, queer, and cranky; but the old man went steadily on refilling his can of oil when it became empty, and oiled the hard places he found.
There are many lives that creak and grate harshly as they live day by day. Nothing goes right with them. They need lubricating with the oil of gladness, gentleness, or thoughtfulness.
Have you your own can of oil with you? Be ready with your oil of helpfulness in the early morning to the one nearest you. It may lubricate the whole day for him. The oil, of good cheer to the downhearted one--Oh, how much it may mean! The word of courage to the despairing. Speak it. Our lives touch others but once, perhaps, on the road of life; and then, mayhap, our ways diverge, never to meet again.
The oil of kindness has worn the sharp, hard edges off of many a sin-hardened life and left it soft and pliable and ready for the redeeming grace of the Saviour. A word spoken pleasantly is a large spot of sunshine on a sad heart. Therefore, "Give others the sunshine, tell Jesus the rest."
We cannot know the grief
That men may borrow;
We cannot see the souls
Storm-swept by sorrow;
But love can shine upon the way
Today, tomorrow;
Let us be kind.
Upon the wheel of pain so many weary lives are broken,
We live in vain who give no tender token.
Let us be kind.
"Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love" (Rom. 12:10).
~L. B. Cowman~

Monday, January 20, 2014

We Beheld His Glory # 55

The Troubled Heart

John 14

It is important, for obtaining the full value of the contents of this chapter, that we recognize that the opening words throw back to and link up with what has preceded. Really, the narrative ought not to be broken into at this point. The link should be with verses 33:35 of chapter 13. There the Lord had said some most disturbing things, especially disturbing to men who had such a different "Messianic" mentality as to the "Kingdom." He said: "Little children, I am with you for only a little while longer. You will look for Me and I shall be gone. Moreover, for the time being, you will not be able to come where I am."

Then, to Simon Peter's protestation, He spoke of the terrible breakdown which would so soon overshadow all Peter's self-confidence. Surely both of these things called for some words of reassurance that this was not the end of everything. How unstable and insecure everything seemed to be! The ground beneath their feet was giving way like quicksand. There was good reason for their hearts to be troubled. And then - straight on without a break - "Let not your heart be troubled," followed by the statement that there are "abiding places" in the Father's house. The emphasis is upon "abiding." These words of Christ are commonly regarded as relating to the more or less distant future when He shall "come again and receive us unto Himself, that where He is, there we may be also." That is undoubtedly true, and has in it the comfort which He intended it to have. But is that the whole truth? Is this not in keeping with the whole spiritual teaching of John's gospel? We have seen in every chapter that Jesus was speaking and acting on spiritual principles, and while we do not desire to spiritualize practical or temporal values out of existence, it is difficult to conclude that this section is essentially different from all that precedes and follows. Hence, we are bound to make room here for all that really did happen afterward and that has obtained during the many centuries since these words were spoken.

Indeed, this gospel of John is all of one piece, and what we call chapter 14 is but the enlargement of the principle, introduced with the feet-washing as a symbolic setting, in the words: "... his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father."

"In my Father's house are many abiding places."

So what is introduced here is - 

1. Christ in Heaven

The grand and all-governing feature of this dispensation is that Christ is in Heaven.

All that purpose and activities of God in this dispensation are related to that fact.

All government is vested in Christ in Heaven. The headquarters of the Church are in Heaven - it has none on earth; neither in Jerusalem, Rome, nor anywhere else. There can be no center or centralizing of God's work in any earthly place. Everything has to be referred to Heaven, and derived from Heaven.

The world is the place of man's glory; Heaven is the place of Christ's glory. The earth is the place of Christ's emptying; Heaven that of His filling. The earth sees His humiliation; Heaven sees His exaltation. The earth is the scene of His journeys with no place to lay His head. Heaven sees Him entered into His rest: He "sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high." The earth is the realm of satan's kingdom, Judas being the link: Heaven is the place of Christ's throne, from which He overrules satan's kingdom.

And so the comparisons and contrasts can go on, but the inclusive truth is that in Christ in Heaven everything is centered for the believer's and the Church's life, rest, power, direction, government, confidence, and fullness.

That is the explanation of everything in the Book of the Acts from chapter 2 onward.

But it leads to the counterpart of that, namely -

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 56 - "2. The Church In Heaven")