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Monday, June 30, 2014

What It Means to be Filled with the Holy Spirit # 53

The Natural Man Receiveth Not the Things of the Spirit (continued)

Occupy the Land (continued)

When Joshua became old and his time was short to lead the armies, God instructed him to divide up the land between the tribes of Israel, even though there was still much land to be possessed. Now we know that the generations to follow did not drive out the enemy from their land; the Book of Judges is the sad history of that. Their failure can be summed up in two statements found in Judges 3:7, and in Judges 21:25. "And the children of Israel did [the] evil in the sight of the Lord."  "...every man did that which was right in his own eyes."

1. "And the children of Israel did [the] evil in the sight of the Lord ..." [Hebrew = "the evil"]. "The evil" was the forbidden evil of idolatry, "the evil" of settling down and intermarrying with the Canaanites, which led to their serving the gods of the Canaanites, and this ultimately led to slavery and great bondage. We find the New Testament counterpart of "the evil" in Colossians 3:5, which tells us that "covetousness," the greed of the natural man, the deifying of self, the preeminence of self, is the source of idolatry. And the other reason for their failure to possess their inheritance and drive out the enemy confirms this: 2. "... every man did that which was right in his own eyes." This statement is the last statement in the Book of Judges, and it sums up the whole history of God's people failing to possess and occupy the land of their inheritance. Every man did what was right in his own eyes; in other words, each one of God's people allowed their natural man to govern their lives. Their natural man got tired of the war and their natural man began to reason that there was an advantage in allowing the enemy to dwell with them in the land. Consequently Judges 1:28 tells us, "And it came to pass, when Israel was strong, that they put the Canaanites to tribute, and did not utterly drive them out." Their natural man's reasonings caused them to forget the lesson they had learned at Ai (Joshua 7); for Israel was only strong when they wholly depended upon the Lord, and did not mix in any way with the inhabitants of the land.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 54)

He Wears Your Picture Badge

So Aaron shall bear the names of the sons of Israel on the breastplate of judgment over his heart, when he goes into the holy place, as a memorial before the Lord continually. Exodus 28:29

Have you ever watched the news broadcast of a missing person? As I saw a report on a missing teenager, the family being interviewed all wore picture badges displaying the person’s face. They not only wanted this face in public view for possible recognition but also they wanted this reminder close to their own hearts. Just having this type of memorial helped this grieving family pursue their hopes of finding their child.

As discussed in Exodus Chapter 28, Aaron wears a garment that has the names of each of the twelve tribes of Israel etched in precious stones and placed over his heart. This robe is worn by Aaron as he enters the most holy place in the presence of the Lord. Aaron represents the people to the Lord and is a continual reminder of who they are to the Lord. Today, we have Jesus Christ who is our High Priest and who bears our names before the Lord. We, too, are considered as precious stones before the Lord as our names are placed over the heart of our Savior Jesus.

How many of us truly realize how precious we are to the Lord? When life’s ups and downs seem to dominate our time and thoughts, we may not realize that we have a High Priest who is continually presenting us and our needs to our heavenly Father. Sometimes, we, as believers, stray from our Father’s presence, maybe fall out of fellowship or a regular time of prayer and Bible reading. During those times, I can picture Jesus going before the Father with a picture badge over His heart reminding the Lord of His child who has gone astray.  More than anything else, the Lord desires a personal relationship with us and never wants us to be lost or to be away from Him.

Where are you today? Are you in close fellowship with Jesus? Regardless of where you are, know that if you are a child of God, born again in Jesus Christ, then your High Priest is continually presenting you to the Father. You can have the hope and peace today that Jesus is carrying your picture over His heart as a constant memorial. But, even more than that, He is living in your heart and wants to be with you always. Can you say the same? Are you carrying His picture in spirit and truth over your heart today? Are you spending time in worship and fellowship with Him? None are missing in the Lord today…for “I once was lost but now I am found, was blind but now I see” (Amazing Grace).

~Daily Disciples Devotional~

Sunday, June 29, 2014

What It Means to be Filled with the Holy Spirit # 52

The Natural Man Receiveth Not the Things of the Spirit (continued)

Occupy the Land

When Saul and his army faced Goliath, the Philistines had reached their greatest strength; and this is because Israel had not heeded God's command to possess the land. They had not fully possessed the land of their inheritance. Over 450 years had passed since Joshua and the children of Israel had entered the land of promise, and God's people still had not possessed their rightful inheritance. Generation after generation had come and gone, and the war with the Philistines continued; and most of this time, the children of God were in bondage to the Philistines and the Canaanites. Joshua 1:11 tells us that God gave "the land" to them in order that they might possess it. This land speaks of the inheritance of God's people, and it is figurative of that which we have in Christ. It is not just speaking of that which we are promised after we die, but it is speaking of that which we have been given in Christ from the instant we are saved by grace.

This is why Israel is told to possess the land, which means they are to occupy the land by driving out the enemy who has built his stronghold upon the inheritance of God's people. Then, as they possess the land, they must occupy each part of the ground taken; this means that they must live in the reality of the inheritance God has given them.

So not only was Israel told to possess the land of their inheritance, but they, and the generations to come, must continue to possess, to occupy, the land of their inheritance. They must guard it! They must keep it! They must live in the good of that which has been given them!

Beloved, as those who are saved by God's grace, we are blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ. However, we must keep in mind that there is also a great spiritual warfare taking place in the heavenlies, an unseen realm that is outside of the realm that is in Christ, and in this realm, which is not in Christ, are spiritual wickednesses (Ephesians 6:10-18). And the goal of these spiritual wickednesses is to stop us from living in the reality of that which we have in Christ.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 53)

Doing the Works of God

Then they said to Him, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?" Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent." John 6:28-29 

The other day I had the pleasure of speaking with a new Christian. It was a pleasure because of her enthusiasm and zeal for the Lord. Her eyes were bright and her smile was wide as she talked about Jesus. I found myself smiling back at her as she began sharing her testimony. She is reading, studying and working hard at knowing the Lord more deeply. Why? Because she loves Him and wants to serve Him with her life. But as she sincerely poured out her heart, I realized how hard she was working at trying to do all the right things. I thought about how easy it is for us to get focused on the work: trying to please God, trying to do deeds for Him and trying to know Him more.

I love what Jesus says in that the work of God is that we believe in Him. Doing God's work boils down to believing in His Son. It is not about our efforts or good deeds. We do not impress God with our works. God wants our hearts set on Jesus. He wants our lives surrendered to His will. He tells us to walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7) and that without faith it is impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11:6). But faith means that we give up control, we let go and we allow His Holy Spirit to lead us. Everything from that point on becomes about our belief in Him, not about our works for Him.

I often tell people, new Christians and older ones, to just relax. When I sense that their walk with the Lord is becoming one of frustration and confusion, I encourage them to stop working so hard at it. We need to learn how to let God be God. We need to put the responsibility of our lives back on Him. We are trained by the world to think and act for ourselves, but the Lord says to cast our cares upon Him. What is the key for us today? We must believe in Jesus. We must believe so confidently in His Word that we make no decisions without it. Ask yourself: Am I trying to work the works of God? If you are frustrated or disillusioned, you might be trying too hard instead of resting in Jesus. Ask the Lord to help you let go and to help you believe in faith that Jesus will do all He wants to do in your life. Let Him "work the works of God" in your life today as you believe in Him.

~Daily Disciples Devotional~

Saturday, June 28, 2014

What It Means to be Filled with the Holy Spirit # 51

The Natural Man Receiveth Not the Things of the Spirit (continued)

So 1 Corinthians 2:14 instructs us that "the natural (psuchikos) man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God"; and if we read on, ignoring the chapter divisions which are not in the original text, we find that Corinthians cannot be spoken to "as unto spiritual," because they are "yet carnal." They are "yet carnal," which means the Corinthian Christians should be able to receive the things of the Spirit of God, but they cannot because they are yet under the influence of the flesh - the natural man was ruling in their lives. Earthly wisdom, strife, division, misuse of the gifts, sexual perversion, are some of the things that prevailed among these Christians; and Paul likens them to the children of Israel who, through their murmuring and complaining about God's Way for their life, were overthrown in the wilderness; they could not face the giants of the land of promise. Remember, God's Way is always the way of the Cross, the way of self-denial.

Most of us do not see ourselves among these Corinthian Christians, we see ourselves as the more mature Ephesians who can receive the deepest things of the Spirit of God; and it is probably true that much of the time we can, by God's grace, receive the deep things of the Spirit of God. But let us never think that we do not allow our natural man to govern our lives in the way the Corinthians did: all of us at times allow our natural man to govern our lives, all of us at times are "yet carnal." If we find that hard to believe, let us apply the following test to our lives. Let us read 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, which is quoted below; and beside the Word "love," let us put our own name. For most of us the very first line will reveal that we are "yet carnal."

LOVE (my name) is very patient, very kind.
LOVE (my name) knows no jealousy;
LOVE (my name) makes no parade, gives itself no airs, is never rude, never selfish, never irritated, never resentful;
LOVE (my name) is never glad when others go wrong,
LOVE (my name) is gladdened by goodness, always slow to expose, always eager to believe the best, always hopeful, always patient.
LOVE (my name) never fails.

When we read this wonderful passage of Scripture in this way, it leaves no doubt that all of us at times are "yet carnal"; we all at times allow the natural man to govern our lives. Paul knew how strong the natural man was; consequently, when he came to the Corinthians, he was determined not to know anything among them "save Jesus Christ, and Him Crucified." The Way of the Cross of Christ was the answer for Paul, and for the Corinthians, and it is the answer for us!

Some of us who have walked in the Lord for many years find it hard to admit that our natural man still governs us in certain areas. But if we are to be among those who overcome that which is antichrist, we must not allow the natural man to govern our lives. We must heed the same words God spoke to Abraham: "Do not let" the natural man, in any form it may take, govern your life; otherwise we may find ourselves like Saul and his army, we may be unable to meet the challenge of this uncircumcised Philistine.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 52 - "Occupy the Land")

Blessed Afterward

Hebrews 12:11
How happy are tried Christians, afterwards. No calm more deep than that which succeeds a storm. Who has not rejoiced in clear shinings after rain? Victorious banquets are for well-exercised soldiers. After killing the lion we eat the honey; after climbing the Hill Difficulty, we sit down in the arbour to rest; after traversing the Valley of Humiliation, after fighting with Apollyon, the shining one appears, with the healing branch from the tree of life. Our sorrows, like the passing keels of the vessels upon the sea, leave a silver line of holy light behind them "afterwards." It is peace, sweet, deep peace, which follows the horrible turmoil which once reigned in our tormented, guilty souls. See, then, the happy estate of a Christian! He has his best things last, and he therefore in this world receives his worst things first. But even his worst things are "afterward" good things, harsh ploughings yielding joyful harvests. Even now he grows rich by his losses, he rises by his falls, he lives by dying, and becomes full by being emptied; if, then, his grievous afflictions yield him so much peaceable fruit in this life, what shall be the full vintage of joy "afterwards" in heaven? If his dark nights are as bright as the world's days, what shall his days be? If even his starlight is more splendid than the sun, what must his sunlight be? If he can sing in a dungeon, how sweetly will he sing in heaven! If he can praise the Lord in the fires, how will he extol Him before the eternal throne! If evil be good to him now, what will the overflowing goodness of God be to him then? Oh, blessed "afterward!" Who would not be a Christian? Who would not bear the present cross for the crown which cometh afterwards? But herein is work for patience, for the rest is not for to-day, nor the triumph for the present, but "afterward." Wait, O soul, and let patience have her perfect work.

~Charles Spurgeon~

Friday, June 27, 2014

What It Means to be Filled with the Holy Spirit # 50

"The Natural Man Receiveth Not the Things of the Spirit of God"

Now we have been tracing the Philistines throughout the Word of God in order to find out how Goliath, who represents that which is antichrist, was able to challenge Saul and the armies of Israel. In describing Goliath, the Holy Spirit carefully marked him with the number 666 (1 Samuel 17:4-7); and the Holy Spirit did this so that we would realize that this uncircumcised giant speaks of that which is antichrist. How did Goliath become so strong? Saul and his army were supposed to protect God's people, they were supposed to represent the strength and authority of God both to the world and to the devil. So why did Saul and his army find themselves unable to meet the challenge of this uncircumcised giant?

Well we have seen that that which is antichrist gains its strength, becomes stronger and stronger, when God's people either individually or corporately give place to the devil by allowing their natural man to control their lives. This is not speaking of an occasional giving in to the natural man, but it is speaking of our allowing, consciously, that which is the normal behavior of our natural man to control our lives. It is essential that we come to realize the difference between that which is of our natural man, and that which is of the Spirit, because 1 Corinthians 2:14 states: "But the natural man (psuchikos) receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God..."

In the Greek, the word "natural" is psuchikos"; and as it is used in the Scripture, it is speaking of "the human natural powers." You know, brethren, we are always making the statement that the enemy knows the weaknesses of our natural man, we have made that statement in this article. But what we should realize is that the enemy knows the strength of our natural man, and he knows exactly how to seduce this strength for his own use. Our natural man is very strong and it can only be overcome through the work of the Cross in our lives. We all have that in our natural man which is very strong, and it is usually part of our normal behavior and disposition. This is why we so easily allow the natural man to control our lives, for the natural man just does what is natural. The natural man is made up of that which is characteristic of our human nature; and these characteristics are usually a mixture of good and evil. Hence, these characteristics of the natural man are usually expressed in the way we habitually conduct our lives.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 51)

God Never Forgets You

"Remember these things, O Jacob, for you are my servant, O Israel. I have made you, you are my servant; O Israel, I will not forget you. I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you." Isaiah 44:21-22

Jacob (whose name was changed to Israel) was chosen by God, but not because he was sinless or above reproach from man's perspective. His descendants were just like us- real people with real problems making real mistakes. But God used this group of people to bring Jesus into the world and to give us a relationship back to God. Even though we have been dealing with the same sin issues since creation, God does not separate Himself from us because of our sin. Jesus made a way for us to be united with God forever.  We do not have the ability to become perfect while on earth but we can be perfected (or conformed) into God's image because of Christ.

It is because of the cross that all things are made new. We need to cling to the cross because it is there that we have been set free. We are forgiven, reconciled back to God and called out to be used of Him. I need to do nothing else but to accept that my sins have been cleansed and be willing to accept how the debt has been paid. It is of the Lord that we have been called. We are His witnesses established for His glory and sanctified for His purposes.

Nothing we do can separate us from Him but the same is not true of us. We tend to hang on to our sins, which lead us away from the Lord. Jesus has cleansed us from all sin—past, present and future. Our thoughts should not be on our sins as much as on our Savior. We need to be thanking Him for how good God is that He made a way for us to be with Him forever.

Take in a deep breath.
Think about how much grace has abounded to you.
Talk to the Lord about the sin issues in your life that keep pulling you away from Him.
Thank Him for never pulling away from you.

~Daily Disciples Devotional~

Thursday, June 26, 2014

What It Means to be Filled with the Holy Spirit # 49

"Neither Give Place to the devil" (continued)

However, Abraham was now in total control of the situation, the Philistines and their antichrist activities were no longer a threat; from here on, the Philistines had no power over Abraham. And this is because Abraham was walking in the way of the Cross, the way of self-denial: - Abraham would not allow his natural man to control him any longer. Therefore Abraham, empowered by God's Spirit, took back the ground these antichrist agents had gained; he took back the inheritance of God's people.

From the beginning of Abraham's walk, God had said, "Unto thy seed will I give this land" (Genesis 12;7). And God commanded Abraham to walk the length and the breadth of the land of promise (Genesis 13:17); which speaks not only of the nation of Israel's right to the literal land, but it also points to the full inheritance of those who are in Christ. The antichrist spirit of satan had tried to take the inheritance of God's people and failed. This attempt to steal the inheritance of God's people failed because Abraham, through the power of the Cross of Christ, walked in faith the length and the breadth of the land of the Promise. Abraham could walk in the Power of the Cross because, in God's sight, the Lamb was slain before the foundation of the world (1 Peter 1:20, 21).

The enemy failed to ultimately overcome Abraham because of the work of the Cross in Abraham's life; Abraham had come to the place where he was not looking  for an inheritance in the earth realm, he was not looking for that which would satisfy the natural man. He was not looking for the wealth, health, power and influence which are so in demand in the churches today. No! No! No! Through faith in all that Christ is, "He looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God" (Hebrews 11:10). Thus, Abraham and Sarah joined the ranks of all the other overcomers of every age who through faith "...desire a better country (a true home), that is an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for He hath prepared for them a city ... and the city had no need of the sun, neither the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the Light thereof" (Hebrews 11:16; Revelation 21:23).

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 50 - "The Natural man Receiveth Not the Things of the Spirit of God")

Your Sabbath

Jesus said to him, "Rise, take up your bed and walk." And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked. And that day was the Sabbath. The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, "It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.” John 5: 8-9

God established the last day of the week—sundown Friday to sundown Saturday—as a day of rest. God said in Exodus 31:13-17 that in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth. On the seventh day, he rested and was refreshed. The Israelites were to observe the Sabbath as a covenant with God. They were to put aside their normal business of sowing, reaping, treading the wine press, carrying burdens and unnecessary travel. They were to call the Sabbath a delight, a holy day of the Lord (Isaiah 58:13). The Sabbath was created so that the people could rest from the busyness of life and find refreshment and restoration in the worship of God. He did not restrict the deeds of necessity (like eating), service to God (the priests’ roles) or acts of mercy (kindness to others including helping animals). God did not say He stopped working in helping, healing, saving or doing good deeds. Even the Jews agreed that God was "working" because the universe remained intact. A common saying among the Jews was that God did not stop creating or judging on the Sabbath. And so the Jewish religious leaders felt the liberty to become good at judging on the Sabbath also. The Jews wrote volumes of books to define the limitations of work, yet created more burdens in the process.  However, the real burden was that they had taken the Sabbath, God's gift to man, and had transformed it from a day of rest to a day of rules, regulations and restrictions.

Jesus came to set us free and to restore the Sabbath to what it was meant to be. Jesus defined the Sabbath differently. Jesus said in Mark 2:27 that "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath."  The Sabbath was given so man would rest. The Sabbath was not given for man to worship the day of rest, but to rest in the worship of the Lord, by stopping his everyday work. Jesus got the religious leaders’ attention by continuing to heal and touch lives on the Sabbath. He healed an invalid of 38 years on the Sabbath.  The Jewish leaders scorned the newly healed man for following Jesus' instructions by carrying the mat he had laid on for 38 years. This man's burden was the sin that bound him, not the mat he carried on the Sabbath.
Because of Jesus' work, we entered into rest spiritually (Hebrews 4). We no longer need to try to keep laws and rituals seeking God's approval. We are saved by grace. Jesus has done it all. Take your Sabbath and spend time with the Lord and let Him give you rest.

~Daily Disciples Devotional~

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

What It Means to be Filled with the Holy Spirit # 48

"Neither Give Place to the devil" (continued)

So, just when Abraham seemed to be at his weakest, satan made his move; the Philistine king and the commander of his army moved to make an agreement with Abraham - and satan was about to be taken in his own craftiness. Now if we follow these Scriptures closely, in Genesis 21:22-34, we will find that the Philistine king and the commander of the army, under the inspiration of satan, were really trying to bring Abraham under their rule, and the king and the commander of his army said to Abraham:

"God is with thee in all that thou doest: now therefore swear unto me her by God that thou wilt not deal falsely with me, nor with my son, nor with my son's son: but according to the kindness that I have done unto thee, thou shalt do unto me, and to the land wherein thou hast sojourned."

And Abraham said, "I will swear."

When Abraham said, "I will swear," he was not just meekly submitting to the Philistines, for in the next breath he fearlessly "reproved" Abimelech because of a well of water which Abimelech's servants had violently taken away. The Septuagint Bible uses a better word that "reproved," the Septuagint says, Abraham "expostulated with Abimelech;" in other words, there was a vehement demand and a great force empowering Abraham's words, and this force was the Holy Spirit of God.

Thus, when Abraham said, "I will swear," he was "in the Spirit." He was no longer being ruled by his natural man, he was living in the control of the Holy Spirit. And he said, "I will swear." And because he was "in the Spirit," these words were not only spoken to the Philistines, but they were spoken to the devil himself.

"I will swear." - You can be assured, I will no longer deal falsely with you as I did when I allowed my natural man to jeopardize "The Seed."

"I will swear." - You can be assured I will speak "The Truth," I will give no place to "the lie" of the devil, who is the father of "the lie." I will give no place to "the lie" of the devil whose lying iniquitous spirit is always at work to seduce and convince God's people to partake of "the lie" - "the lie" which is always seeking to seduce and convince God's people that the natural man and his ways can become perfect, that the natural man can in some way please God.

"I will swear." - You can be assured, I will have no further part in "the lie," I will only live in the reality of "The Truth" which Is Christ, and which Is in Christ, The Messiah, The Anointed One.

Then, Abraham demanded that Abimelech give back the ground he had unjustly and violently taken; for there was more than a well of water at stake here, the enemy was after the inheritance of God's people. Abimelech then began to make excuses, and he declared that he had not known this; but as usual the lying spirit of the devil was behind these words, for Abimelech is an agent of the one who is the father of "the lie."

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 49)

The Family Influence Good or Bad

Proverbs 22:6 tells us, "Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it." What a great responsibility this places on parents. Records of royal lineage (1 Kings 15-16) illustrate that one's level of submission to God is often mirrored in the offspring's life.

Now, it's true that children eventually grow and make their own decisions. There are godly parents who are heartbroken by their kids' poor choices. Similarly, some from backgrounds full of sinful bondage become righteous people of integrity.

As mothers and fathers, we are given a momentous task: to model and teach how to live according to God's Word. Thankfully, we don't have to rely on ourselves for wisdom. Good parenting involves prayerful self-evaluation, godly counsel, and thoughtful course corrections.

Start by considering how you'd answer the following questions if your children were to walk in your way: What place will Jesus, the Word of God, and the church have in their lives? Will they seek God's direction as the ultimate guide for decisions? Will they develop strong godly relationships? Will they know how to handle money wisely? Will they do their best in their vocation? As you seek answers, ask God to reveal truth, since self-examination can be difficult.

In prayerfully considering your impact as a parent, expect to see positives and negatives. The goal isn't self-condemnation, so keep in mind 1) there's no perfect parent and 2) it's never too late. Even if the kids are grown, you can ask forgiveness, share what you've learned, and model a godly life starting now.

~Dr. Charles F. Stanley~

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

What It Means to be Filled with the Holy Spirit # 47

"Neither Give Place to the devil" (continued)

In order to see how this works, let us choose two of the most common characteristics of the natural man, depression and hatefulness. When we allow either one of these "grievous" things to take control of our lives we must do as God says, for He never tells us to do that which is impossible; so He tells us: "Do not let yourself become depressed or hateful because of your situation, do not allow your natural man to control your life." We must learn to say no to the natural man, an move in the good of all that Christ is and of all that Christ accomplished upon His Cross. Denying ourselves and taking up the Cross means this: "I will not allow this depression, I will not allow this hatefulness, or any other characteristic of the natural man to control my life. I will take up the Cross, I will live in the good of all that Christ is and all that He accomplished."

The Lord also told Abraham that he must trust Ishmael unto Him for He had promised to take are of Ishmael (Genesis 17:20). Beloved, if we are going to become overcomers throughout our lives, we must also come to the place that we believe, no matte how bad it looks, that God is working "all things," even the "grievous things," after the counsel of His Own Will.

So after the greatest struggle of his life, Abraham willingly submitted to the will of God; for early the next morning he cast out the bondwoman and her son, he cast out that which was born after the flesh, he cast out that which was produced by his natural man. Abraham had finally realized that only that which is born of the Spirit can be the heir of that which God has promised: "The Spirit Itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ..."

Now, the enemy of God has not been asleep during Abraham's struggle, for Genesis 21:22 tells us that the Philistines are on the move. We believe from the context of the Scripture that satan moved in with the Philistines just "at that time" because, from all appearances, Abraham seemed to be at his weakest spiritually; but satan had made a fatal error! Because in 2 Corinthians 12, God declares: "My strength is made perfect in weakness." What seemed like weakness to the satanic forces was really strength in God's sight, for Abraham had become wholly dependent upon the Lord. No, it was Abraham's strong natural man that was no longer strong and the enemy was not going to find any ground, any place, in Abraham this time. In fact, satan was going to lose the ground he had gained!

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 48)

The Infinite Tenderness of Jesus

Isaiah 40:11
He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom.
Who is He of whom such gracious words are spoken? He is THE GOOD SHEPHERD. Why doth He carry the lambs in His bosom? Because He hath a tender heart, and any weakness at once melts His heart. The sighs, the ignorance, the feebleness of the little ones of His flock draw forth His compassion. It is His office, as a faithful High Priest, to consider the weak. Besides, He purchased them with blood, they are His property: He must and will care for that which cost Him so dear. Then He is responsible for each lamb, bound by covenant engagements not to lose one. Moreover, they are all a part of His glory and reward. But how may we understand the expression, "He will carry them"? Sometimes He carries them by not permitting them to endure much trial. Providence deals tenderly with them. Often they are "carried" by being filled with an unusual degree of love, so that they bear up and stand fast. Though their knowledge may not be deep, they have great sweetness in what they do know. Frequently He "carries" them by giving them a very simple faith, which takes the promise just as it stands, and believingly runs with every trouble straight to Jesus. The simplicity of their faith gives them an unusual degree of confidence, which carries them above the world. "He carries the lambs in His bosom." Here is boundless affection. Would He put them in His bosom if He did not love them much? Here is tender nearness: so near are they, that they could not possibly be nearer. Here is hallowed familiarity: there are precious love-passages between Christ and His weak ones. Here is perfect safety: in His bosom who can hurt them? They must hurt the Shepherd first. Here is perfect rest and sweetest comfort. Surely we are not sufficiently sensible of the infinite tenderness of Jesus!

~Charles Spurgeon~

Monday, June 23, 2014

What It Means to be Filled with the Holy Spirit # 45

"Neither Give Place to the devil" (continued)

Therefore, when Sarah told Abraham that the bondwoman and her son must go, "the thing was very grievous in Abraham's sight because of his son" (Genesis 21:11). Hence, a great struggle began to take place in Abraham; for the word "grievous" implies that he felt as if he was breaking in pieces. He felt that he was a victim of his circumstances and that there was no way out. He was deeply afflicted, dejected and distressed; he was depressed and miserable; and the word "grievous' also indicates that he became hateful, contemptible, and despicable. There are just some of the things that are characteristic of our natural man, which is why the natural man cannot be trusted to handle the Holy things of God.

So, on the one side, Abraham was upset because the plans for his natural man, especially the plans and energies of his religious natural man, were being rejected; and on the other side his heart was breaking for he loved Ishmael very much. Abraham struggled throughout the night, and what a night that must have been. In the Bible, night almost always indicates "great difficulty in finding the way." But, God is faithful, for during Abraham's dark struggle God spoke His word unto Abraham's heart: "Let it not be grievous in thy sight" - which is saying, "Do not let this thing cause you to be dejected, distressed, depressed and miserable. Do not let this thing cause you to be hateful, contemptible and despicable." The phrase "let it not," or "Do not let," indicates that we have control over our natural man; and because of that which Christ is, and of that which He accomplished, we do not have to let our natural man rule in any of these ways, or in any other way.

God did not sympathize with Abraham's natural man. No, God told Abraham, as He tell us, that we must deny our self and take up our Cross. Some may say, "How do we allow the Cross to work in our lives, how do we deny ourselves?" Well, beloved, God's Word to Abraham is the answer. "Let it not be grievous in thy sight..."

In the circumstances of life we will all encounter the "grievous thing," probably more than once; and many times we feel that we are a victim of our circumstances and there seems to be no way out. We may even feel that we are breaking into pieces. We feel that we are afflicted, we feel dejected and distressed, for it seems that nothing that we have desired or hoped for is taking place. And as a result, we become depressed and miserable. Many times we will also allow our situation to cause us to become hateful, contemptible, and despicable; and we usually pour out the hatefulness of our natural man upon those who are closest to us. We do this because we must blame someone besides ourselves for our problem and for the actions of our natural man; or we pour out out  hatefulness upon those closest to us because we know they will not desert us even when we are being hateful and contemptible. The words "grievous thing" indicate that Abraham allowed all of these things to take over his life during his great struggle with God's way for his life. But as we have learned, God did not sympathize with Abraham's natural man. No, God told Abraham, as He tells us, "Do not let this be grievous to you"; in other words, the Lord tells Abraham, and us, that we must deny our self and take up the Cross. We must deny our self, we must deny the natural man and its characteristics, and we must take up the Cross - we must live in the reality of all that Christ is and of all that He accomplished.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 47 "In order to see how this works")

Obdience is the fruit; Patience, the Bloom

In the selfsame day, as God had said unto him (Gen. 17:23).

Instant obedience is the only kind of obedience there is; delayed obedience is disobedience. Every time God calls us to any duty, He is offering to make a covenant with us; doing the duty is our part, and He will do His part in special blessing.
The only way we can obey is to obey "in the selfsame day," as Abraham did. To be sure, we often postpone a duty and then later on do it as fully as we can. It is better to do this than not to do it at all. But it is then, at the best, only a crippled, disfigured, half-way sort of duty-doing; and a postponed duty never can bring the full blessing that God intended, and that it would have brought if done at the earliest possible moment.
It is a pity to rob ourselves, along with robbing God and others, by procrastination. "In the selfsame day" is the Genesis way of saying, "Do it now."
--Messages for the Morning Watch
Luther says that "a true believer will crucify the question, 'Why?' He will obey without questioning." I will not be one of those who, except they see signs and wonders, will in no wise believe. I will obey without questioning.
"Ours not to make reply,
Ours not to reason why,
Ours but to do and die."
Obedience is the fruit of faith; patience, the bloom on the fruit.

~L. B. Cowman~

Sunday, June 22, 2014

What It means to be Filled with the Holy Spirit # 44

"Neither Give Place to the devil" (continued)

There is a solemn warning about this in Revelation 13:7, "And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them." Revelation 13:4 tells us it was the dragon, "that old serpent, called the devil, and satan," that gave power unto the beast, that gave power unto that which is antichrist; remember, this power is a limited power, for only God is Omnipotent, all-powerful. This limited power that satan gave to that which was antichrist was to be used to make war with the saints (the redeemed) and to overcome them. Now how was the beast to overcome the saints? He could not take away their salvation, for only those "whose names are not written in the book of Life of the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world" shall worship the beast. We have also seen that he cannot take away from that which God has brought forth of Christ in the lives of the saints. So how does that which is antichrist overcome the saints? There is only one way. Only as we yield to the natural man does that which is antichrist have the ground it needs. But God is faithful, and just as He did with Abraham and Sarah. He will place us in a situation where only the reality of that Which Christ Is, and that Which He Accomplished, will get us through.

It seems that Sarah was the first to realize that Ishmael could not live before God as "The Seed," and she began to realize this when, "by faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life" (Hebrews 11:11). So Sarah bore Abraham a son exactly at God's "set time." Then, as she watched Isaac grow, she knew that "in Isaac" was the Seed - the "Seed, Which Is Christ." She began to realize that she and Abraham had allowed the desires of their natural man to mix into the things of God; and she came to know that only that which the Lord produced could be this promised Seed. Galatians 4:22 tells us that Abraham had two sons, one born after the flesh, and one born after the Spirit; and "He that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit" (verse 29).

When Sarah came to understand these things, this time she submitted unto the Lord, not unto Abraham's natural man; and she told Abraham that Ishmael must go. This was "grievous" to Abraham, but God told him to listen to Sarah, and Abraham obeyed God. Sarah had learned that she could be a vessel for "The Seed" of promise; but she had also learned that she and Abraham could not, out of themselves, produce that which was of God. Sarah learned this "through faith," which means she became wholly dependent upon the Lord through the work of the Cross in her life.

Sarah seems to have gradually learned this over a period of about five years; from Isaac's birth until he was weaned, she had begun to see the difference between that which was born of the flesh, and that which was born after the Spirit, and she saw this because of the work of the Cross in her life. Galatians four confirms that Sarah was not just jealous because her son was not Abraham's only heir; no, she had come to realize that the flesh could not be an heir of God. However, this revelation came to Abraham like an ax blow, a blow that cut into the depths of his being; for he had either not been conscious of this, or he had closed his mind to the fact that which was born of the flesh could not be heirs with that which was born of the Spirit. Some of us learn this gradually as we yield to God's dealings; and some of us learn as the ax is applied to the roots of our natural man.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 45)

God Makes Things Right

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

Have you ever wished you could take back something you just said? Or, have you ever thought “If only I had known then what I know now, I would have done things differently?” More than once in my life, I have wished I could go back and do something over to make it right. Even with our best intentions and motives, there are times when our words come out the wrong way and we find ourselves feeling badly. We usually know it immediately. I have learned from my own experiences that the Holy Spirit will convict and impress upon me that I should have handled a situation differently. One of the Greek definitions of the word "conviction" means to bring to light, to cause shame, or to show one's fault. One of the Holy Spirit's jobs is to convict us when we say or do things outside of God's will. This includes speaking when we should have been listening or speaking from our own wisdom instead of the Lord's.

When I find myself in a situation where I feel badly about what I have just said or done, I start praying. I begin by confessing my sin and asking for forgiveness. The Lord promises that He will forgive us our sins if we confess them (1 John 1:9). Repentance is definitely the next step because we need to acknowledge that we do not want to continue sinning against Him or others in this way.  Next, we have a responsibility not only to pray for ourselves but also to pray for the person(s) involved because our sins do affect others. And that is one of the reasons I love Romans 8:28. I pray this verse to the Lord when I know I have made a mess of something. I start asking the Lord to work it together for good despite what I have done or said.

I can honestly say that the Lord has always been faithful to these prayers. You see, we are going to say and do things that we wish we could take back. We are going to hurt others, even when our intentions are good. We will fail and fall short; we need a Savior. We are sinners saved by grace. So today, put the responsibility back on our Savior and Lord. Ask the Lord to work "all things" together for good and apply this verse to those times when you know you have just made a mistake. Ask forgiveness, and then start praying for God to make it right. Only He can make things right. God's love, mercy and grace cover us every moment of our lives and He gives us His Word to help guide us. Memorize this verse today and ask the Lord to bring it to your mind in times of trouble.

~Daily Disciples Devotional~

Saturday, June 21, 2014

What It Means to be Filled with the Holy Spirit # 43

Neither Give Place to the devil (continued)

One of the hardest things for most of us to see, and acknowledge, about ourselves is the religiousness of our natural man. Deep within the soul and spirit of the natural man is that which desires to participate in the Holy things of God. This is true of both the saved or unsaved person; and in Christians, the religiousness of our natural man can seem to be very spiritual. This part of our natural man is very hard to detect for it seems to be serving God's purpose; but when it is the religiousness of our natural man, in some way, it will have our own self-interest at the center of whatever we are doing for the Lord. We must all admit that even when we are doing what God has called us to do, as Abraham was, the religiousness of our natural man will, in someway, move into the center of things; for we must realize that at different times, and in different ways, we all desire that our own Ishmael may live before the Lord.

Hence, many of us are like Abraham and Sarah have walked with the Lord for 20 years, or more, and we still have not allowed the Lord to deal thoroughly with the religiousness of our natural man. If we are going to continue to be overcomers, if we are going to discern that which is antichrist, if we are going to remain among the faithful throughout our sojourn on earth, w are going to have to let the Lord deal with the religiousness of our natural man through the work of the Cross in our lives.

We may say, "I know I am a soldier of the Lord, I know I have joined with the Lord to deliver many out of the hands of the enemy": but so had Abraham, he was a mighty warrior of the Lord and he delivered both Lot's family, and even Sodom, out of the hands of the enemy (Genesis 14). We my know of a certainty that we have kept our stand before God and have not allowed the enemy to pervert our way before the Lord: - but so had Abraham, he said to the king of Sodom, "I will not take anything that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich" (Genesis 14:23). We may be a true intercessor, one who is used by the Spirit to pray for God's End through His Way: - so was Abraham; for God, Who considered Abraham His friend, told Abraham of Sodom and Gomorrah's coming judgment; and Abraham's intercession by the Spirit gave Sodom and Gomorrah the privilege of repenting (which they did not), and in his intercession Abraham joined with God again in saving "just Lot." In Genesis when Abraham and Sarah are both walking in faith, in full dependence upon the Lord, only Abraham is mentioned, for as husband and wife, they are one in the Lord. But most of the time, when they are yielding to the natural man, God deals with each one by name. This is true in the Church, when we  are "in the Spirit," we are joined with all who are "in the Spirit;" but when we yield to our natural man, God deals with us individually.

So in spite of all that God had done in and through Sarah and Abraham, they still yielded to their natural man when they came in contact with the Philistines. And this is because the Philistines being agents of the antichrist spirit were religious in nature; and because Sarah and Abraham desired that Ishmael live before God, because they desired that which they had produced out of themselves should be a part of God's purpose, the religiousness of their natural man was overcome by the antichrist spirit of the Philistines.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 44)

Rich Fulfillment

Oh, bless our God, you peoples! And make the voice of His praise to be heard, Who keeps our soul among the living, And does not allow our feet to be moved. For You, O God, have tested us; You have refined us as silver is refined.  You brought us into the net; You laid affliction on our backs. You have caused men to ride over our heads; We went through fire and through water; But You brought us out to rich fulfillment.  Psalm 66:8-12

Sometimes we have the misconception that being a Christian should be all about riches, fulfillment and abundance. As Christians, we know the Lord personally and have been given everything we need for life and godliness. We are the children of the King. What else could we possibly need that He has not already given to us? But why do we face such hard trials in life?
The Psalmist explains the real life version of receiving fulfillment. "For You, O God, have tested us," God tests the hearts and intents of His people. He allows trying circumstances to squeeze us: As if we are “in a net”; we carry affliction “on our backs”, often while submitting to others whose motives and intentions are wrong. God brings us through terribly trying situations to test and grow our faith in Him.

These trials are confusing and difficult. But we can we see God's love and care through them because when we have come through the fires of this life, and walked through the tests and trials, the crown of eternal life awaits us. Fulfillment and abundance have to do with the victory in overcoming the most terrible trials. That satisfaction comes when we know that we are still with the Lord regardless of the circumstances. There is a place of rich fulfillment and abundance on the other side of the tests. All the riches of the world cannot be compared with the love, joy and peace we get from God. Read through Psalm 66 and really praise the Lord for the trials of life. Praise and worship brings the greatest fulfillment and abundance of them all.

~Daily Disciples Devotional~

Friday, June 20, 2014

What It Means to be Filled with the Holy Spirit # 42

"Neither Give Place to the devil" (continued)

Then, in 1 John 2:13, 18, the Holy Spirit uses a different Greek word, "paidion," when He uses the phrase "little children"; and this word implies a child's dependency upon his father. In Matthew 18:1-4, the Lord Jesus Himself gives us the meaning of this phrase "little children" when His disciples asked Him, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And Jesus called a little child unto Him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, "Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become as little children (paidion), ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."

Thus, in 1 John 1:13-27, where we are told that "even now are there many antichrists," it is the "little children" who have received the anointing of the Lord in order that they may know that which is of Christ, and that they may discern that which is antichrist ["them that seduce you"]. Only those who have "become as little children," only those that humble themselves as a little child shall be able to discern that which is antichrist. In other words, only those who are becoming wholly dependent upon the Lord because of the work of the Cross in their lives will be able to thoroughly know that which is of Christ and discern that which is antichrist. Dear friends, our knowing Christ more intimately and thoroughly, and our discerning that which is antichrist, that which has been designed to seduce us out of the right way of the Lord, does not depend upon whether we are a new Christian beginning our walk with the Lord, or whether we are an older Christian and more mature in the Lord. No, it depends upon our being wholly dependent upon the Lord through the work of the Cross. Remember, Abraham and Sarah had walked with the Lord for  20 years, and we have seen that the Lord accomplished many things in and through their lives; thus when Abraham and Sara walked in dependence upon their Lord, the enemy had no ground; but when they walked in the carnal reasoning of their natural man, they could not discern that which is antichrist, and the enemy moved to seduce the strength of their natural man in his attempt to corrupt. "The Seed, Which is Christ."

We know that the enemy's attempt to corrupt "The Seed," Which is Christ, was defeated by the sovereign will of God; but God would still continue to deal with Sarah and Abraham. And they would both come to a place where they allowed God to deal with the religiousness of their natural man.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 43)

Choosing to Believe

Faith isn't something we can lay claim to because we were born to believing parents or have citizenship in a Christian country. Nor can we attain it by attending or even teaching Sunday school, though I've often heard such incorrect assertions. Instead, the following should be true of genuine believers.

A clear understanding of the gospel is essential for a person to believe and receive the good news of Jesus Christ. His death on the cross was the only sacrifice required to remove our sins. God offers His grace as a gift to anyone who will receive it.

A definite decision at a particular point in time serves as a sort of landmark of the heart and mind. People do not just slip into Christianity; faith in Jesus must be chosen. Believers are those who have made a deliberate decision to trust the Lord and follow in His ways.
A blessed assurance follows the clear-cut decision so that believers can be certain of their salvation. God wants confident, assured children (1 John 5:13).

A visible symbol of what happens when someone receives the Savior--namely, baptism--illustrates dying to one's old ways and rising to new life in Christ Jesus. Believers are to take this step as a public way of identifying with Him (Matt. 28:19).

A man or woman of faith chooses to surrender to Christ, embraces the Word of God, and lives fully for the Lord. True believers no longer muddle through the practices of religion out of habit, but instead worship and rejoice in a vibrant personal relationship with the Lord.

~Dr. Charles F. Stanley~

Thursday, June 19, 2014

What It Means to be Filled with the Holy Spirit # 41

"Neither Give Place to the devil" (continued)

Nevertheless, even though Abraham continued his walk in faith before God for at least 20 years; even though he became a mighty warrior before God, who could deliver many people out of the hands of the enemy (Genesis 14); even though he was a mighty intercessor for the Lord's interest (Genesis 18); and even though Abraham had allowed God to deal with his natural man in many ways, he still had not allowed the Lord to deal with an almost hidden self-centeredness in his natural man. Abraham had not allowed God to deal with his desire to preserve his natural life. It is true that Abraham feared for his physical life, but even more significant, he wanted to preserve that which his natural man could produce, he wanted his natural man to accomplish that which God had promised. Abraham had not submitted the religious part of his natural man to the work of the Cross, neither had Sarah. Remember his cry to the Lord, when after Ishmael was born, God told him that HIS SEED was yet to be conceived, and Abraham cried: "Oh that Ishmael might live before Thee!" (Genesis 17:18) - oh that  Ishmael may be THE SEED," in other words, "Oh that what I have produced may live before Thee."

So in not allowing God to deal with the religiousness of the natural man, the natural man of Abraham became stronger. Sarah had a similar problem with the religiousness of her natural man, for she joined with Abraham to produce Ishmael; and through Hagar they produced that which they desired to live before the Lord. So after  20 years of serving the Lord, neither Abraham nor Sarah could discern that the Philistines were being used as the agents of satan's antichrist spirit, no more than they discerned the same thing about the Egyptians 20 years before. Remember, the antichrist spirit is always religious, it always wants worship, it is always blaspheming Christ, by using the natural man to take away, or add too the Fullness of all that Christ is, and all that He accomplished. Remember, the antichrist spirit becomes increasingly stronger through the efforts of the Christian's natural man!

Some of us may say, "Well, maybe Abraham and Sarah should have discerned the antichrist spirit in the Philistines because they were much more mature in the Lord. But we could not expect them to discern that the Egyptians were agents of satan's antichrist spirit, for they had only begun to walk with the Lord." Beloved, this is not true because 1 John 2:13-27 instructs us that it is the "little children" (paidion; verses 13-18) who have received the anointing of the Father in them to discern that which is of Christ, and that which is antichrist.

In 1 John, the phrase "little children" is used nine times; seven times the Spirit of God breathes the words "little children" (teknion) in order to express the utmost tenderness and love of the Lord for those who are His. And at the same time, the Lord is expressing His Full Authority in the lives of His "little children" as He instructs them how they must walk before Him, and as He warns them of the works of the enemy.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 42)

The Cross - the Great Divide

You are in Him, made full and having come to fullness of life. (Colossians 2:10 AMP)

The Cross is a full and final principle, although it has many aspects. It is a full and final principle. We are going to see that the Cross in its fullness and finality was right there at the beginning of the Bible. As a principle, it was absolute then. It is just in so far as you and I bring our lives at this time of the day back to God’s fullness in the Cross that we are going to know this progressive development and increase of Life - so far and no more.

The Cross is a great divide. It divides people into three categories. Firstly, it makes a broad division between those who never get into Life, and those who do. Whether men and women get into Life at all depends entirely upon their acceptance of the Cross. But it divides further. It divides between those who do get into Life, and those who go right through to fullness of Life, and there is quite a real division there. Whether you like the theory or not, it is a fact. There are many Christians who are in the way of Life, that is, who have entered the way of Life, but are not going right on to fullness of Life. That is really what the New Testament is about - trying to get Christians who have entered into Life to go on to fullness of Life. The Cross divides between those, because, while we come into the way of Life by the Cross, we also only come into the fullness of Life by the Cross, and that is another thing - a fuller, deeper application of the Cross. So the Cross makes three categories, those not in Life, those in Life, and those in Life going on to fullness of Life.

By T. Austin-Sparks

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

What It Means to be Filled with the Holy Spirit # 40

"Neither Give Place to the devil" 

So we begin to see why the giant Goliath, the uncircumcised Philistine who is branded with the number 666, could challenge the armies of Israel. We are learning that we must not allow our natural man to give ground to the enemy. And this becomes even clearer as we see that Abraham and Sarah also gave ground that strengthened this Philisitine giant.

In Genesis, chapter twenty, we find Abraham giving place to the devil because he allowed the reasonings of his natural man, the self-centered carnal reasonings of his old man, to cloud his judgment. Consequently, instead of walking in faith, throughout the breadth and length of the land into which God had called him, Abraham lied to protect himself. And even more significant, this is the second time that Abraham committed this same sin.

Now there is much more going on here than Abraham telling a lie. The first time that Abraham told this lie he was in Egypt, and the second time he is in Gerar which is Philistine territory. We have seen that satan uses both Egypt and the Philistines as agents of his antichrist spirit. When Abraham went down into Egypt he was just beginning his walk with the Lord, and in fear for his life he told the Egyptians that Sarah was his sister and he allowed her to be taken into the king's harem.

Now we need to see that Sarah, who is also recorded as one who walked by faith in Hebrews 11, was also at fault because both times she went along with Abraham's lie. Many will say she had no choice, she must submit to her husband. This is not true, for the Bible teaches that wives are to submit unto their own husbands, as unto the Lord (Ephesians 5:22). So when a husband is not following the Lord, the wife should first of all remain devoted and loyal to the Lord. When a husband and wife have both dedicated their lives to the Lord like Sarah and Abraham, then when either one of them takes a wrong direction, the other one must take their stand in the Lord for what is right. If Sarah had expressed to Abraham her trust that the Lord was able to take care of them, perhaps it would have strengthened Abraham's spiritual man, and together they could have taken their stand. But Sarah submitted not unto the Lord, but unto Abraham's natural man; and they both missed the mark.

But God sovereignly moved to protect Sarah and Abraham, for Sarah was to bear "The Seed," Which is Christ (Galatians 3:16). God also brought Abraham and Sarah out of Egypt, and they moved again into a walk of faith before the Lord. However, when we sow to the flesh we reap in the flesh; and Abraham did not leave Egypt free of his natural man. He brought with him the riches he gained there, which resulted in the division between him and Lot. And he and Sarah brought with them an Egyptian woman named Hagar, which resulted in Ishmael - who was Abraham's and Sarah's attempt to produce God's "Seed" out from themselves.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 41)

How To Serve the Church

When I talk about serving the church with God-given talents and gifts, people oftentimes think too small. They picture the choir singer or the Sunday school teacher. But if they don't happen to be naturallly adept at singing or teaching, they give up.

It's time we stop thinking in terms of a "Sunday only" establishment. The church is not a place or a time; it is a body of believers, each one uniquely gifted by God to guide, help, challenge, and support the rest. In fact, most service to the Lord doesn't take place inside the church building. It happens out in the world, where we do all the things that Scripture commands.

Most believers are not in a position to influence a lot of people. When we act or speak, only those closest to us notice, but a chain reaction ripples outward to affect an entire community. Paul's metaphor of body parts working together harmoniously is a helpful description of how one small action can have a widespread impact. Consider the way tensing your big toe keeps your foot stable and thereby steadies your whole body. In the same way, a gentle rebuke, a listening ear, or a loving deed benefits the church by strengthening one brother or sister, who then supports another...

We are on this earth to serve the kingdom of God and His church. And we do that by ministering to each other in small ways that steady the whole body as we give extra support to one member. In talking about such service, I am challenging you to find a need that God can meet through you.

~Dr. Charles F. Stanley~

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

What It means to be Filled with the Holy Spirit # 39

"He That Hath Understanding, Let Him Calculate the Number of the Beast" (continued)

Then, the Holy Spirit goes on to list the generations of the sons of Noah; however, we do not want to look at this list as a way to determine how the different nations of the world came about or were populated. This is not what the Holy Spirit had in mind, for in Genesis ten we have the list of the world who comes under the dominion and oppression of satan, "the prince of this world," until they are redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb: all three of Noah's sons an their generations are included in this list.

Also, the Holy Spirit has taken special care to make Nimrod, who is a descendant of Ham, the most prominent character in this record of Noah's sons' descendants. And He has done this to call our attention to the first mention of satan's kingdom, a kingdom in which the antichrist spirit of satan rules through man: "And the beginning of his (Nimrod's) kingdom was Babel," etc. Hence, among Ham's descendants are those whom satan actually uses as his agents against Christ, among Ham's descendants are those in whom the antichrist spirit of satan has full sway; for instance: -

Cush begat Nimrod: through Nimrod satan established his religious Babylonian kingdom, which is man's own way of saving himself, man's own way of reaching God, man's own way of perfecting himself and worshiping God. This evil kingdom also includes whatever religiousity satan has injected into Christianity through the natural man of those who have not truly been saved, and even through the natural man of Christians who have not allowed the work of the Cross in their lives.

Canaan begat the Canaanites: the Canaanites inhabited the land God gave to His people for an inheritance, they represent those who would rob God's people of their full inheritance in Christ.

Mizraim and Phut begat Egypt: Egypt which represents the world spirit that attempts to hold, and enslave, the chosen of God in bondage to the world.

And out of Mizraim also came the Philistines: those who make every attempt to usurp themselves into the Holy things of God.

Noah's natural man gave ground and the enemy moved. No wonder we are told in Ephesians 4:27: "Neither give place to the devil." In Ephesians 4:19-27, we are told to put off the old man: "...lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and ... be renewed in the spirit of your mind (in the habitual way we thing or act), and put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness ... neither give place to the devil, do not give the devil an opportunity."

When the Holy Spirit ends His account of the generations of the sons of Noah, He immediately describes Nimrod's kingdom building, which ends with the Lord scattering all these people upon the face of the earth. Oh, satan has kept building his religious kingdoms, but remember a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand, and great will be the ultimate fall of this whorish Babylonian kingdom (Revelation, chapters 14-19).

However, the Holy Spirit does not choose to leave the descendants of Noah in such darkness; for in Genesis 11, we find that he had not yet listed all of Noah's descendants. He does not record all of Shem's descendants in chapter ten, He does not include the descendants of Peleg (10:25) in that record of darkness. No! The Holy Spirit records Peleg's descendants separately in Genesis 11; and that is because out of the descendants of Peleg, the descendant of Shem, the son of Noah, came the highway of the Messiah. For in these descendants we find a man named Abram (Abraham), and "the God of Glory" appeared unto Abraham (Acts 7:2): - and out of Abraham came Isaac, and out of Isaac came Jacob, and out of Jacob came Judah, and out of Judah came the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, the King of kings, Jesus Christ our Lord.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 40 - "Neither Give Place to the devil")