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Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Unveiling of Jesus Christ # 6

The Unveiling of Jesus Christ # 6

Part Three

The Foundation of Recovered Testimony

In our first chapter our main point was that this book of the Revelation is, in its first section, a call-back to a position which had been lost by most of that representative body of first Christians. The first chapter must be read in that light, and it is that fact which will most truly interpret its symbolical content. The following messages to the churches must also be related to the full presentation of Christ in chapter one. This will become clear as we proceed. We reached the point where we saw that the "garment down to the foot" introduces all that follows as signifying the fullness and completeness of Christ as the standard for the Church and churches. More will be said about this later. For the present we are going to take a step backward, and a step forward because this full-stature description of Christ stands between two important fragments, verse five: "Unto Him That loveth us, and loosed us from our sins in His blood," and verse eighteen: "I was (became) dead, and behold I am alive for evermore." These words, as we have said, form the boundary within which Christ in heavenly fullness is presented. This boundary, or basis, is something to be very carefully noted, for its significance is immensely important. Whenever God has moved for the recovery of the lost testimony (chapter 1, verse 2) He has always called back to the Cross. That was always His starting point, and any deviation will necessitate a return there. There are three very clear and strong instances in the Old Testament. These were in the reigns of Josiah and Hezekiah respectively, and, later, in the time of Ezra. In the revivals under Josiah and Hezekiah recovery was definitely related to the Passover.

Three Features In That Connection are Noticeable:

(a) It is impressive and instructive that the two godly kings concerned were characterized by a clear perception as to the key to the prevailing spiritual weakness and complications. Not a "conference" or "convention" or "convocation." Not a "round-table discussion." Not an entertainment or "holiday camp". But a celebration of the Passover. A solemn yet joyful reaffirmation and celebration of the one fundamental and inclusive basis of their life as the people of God. The Passover had constituted them God's distinctive people, and it had, year by year, been the central power in their testimony. That both Josiah and Hezekiah discerned that this was the ground of resolving the so deplorable situation, and not any of the other methods resorted to since, is a very clear evidence of the sovereign guidance and instruction of the Spirit of God. The Passover had all the aspects and content of the Cross of Christ, just as the Lord's Table - or Supper - is the inclusive embodiment of everything foundational to New Testament Christianity.

In the  case of Ezra, it has only to be pointed out that after the seventy years of Israel's exile, when the 'Remnant' returned, ti was the altar which was the center and focal-point of the recovery of testimony.

With the Church in the New Testament the testimony becomes definitely the Testimony of Jesus, and, as we are seeing, after decline at the end of the apostolic period, the Lord works again for recovery by introducing and presenting Himself in terms of the Cross.

(b) The second thing noted in this method and means of revival and recovery is that the Passover was:

The All-uniting Ground

We know that in the times of Josiah and Hezekiah the nation was divided and in strong conflict; ten tribes against two. It would have been impossible to restore or get an expression of unity by any organizational recourse, or any friendly gesture. Jehoshaphat resorted to a compromise with Ahab, but with disastrous consequences. Hezekiah ignored the division and  disunity and sent his appeal to ALL Israel. It is true that his call was met with laughter, scorn, and ridicule by some, but a great number responded favorably. "They made proclamation throughout all Israel, from Beersheba even unto Dan that they should come to keep the Passover unto the Lord God of Israel, at Jerusalem." What a tremendous lesson and principle this is with regard to all efforts to secure unity in broken Christendom, evangelical Christianity, and all realms of broken fellowship! It would truly work if all concerned really and truly understood and embraced the true meaning of the Cross - "Christ our Passover!"

No other ground or means will ever secure the kind of oneness mentioned by the High Priest as He as about to offer the one great sacrifice on the Cross (John 17).

(c) There is the third feature which comes into view in those Old Testament instances of revival and recovery. It is that the Passover was:

The All-corrective Dynamic

Idolatry was rife and widespread in the land. Altars and monuments to other gods were numerous. But nothing was said in the appeal as to these things. 'Come to Jerusalem and restore the Passover to its central place' was all that was mentioned. They came; the Passover was the one object and interest. It was a time of such blessing from God that nothing like it had been known for very many years. So blessed was it that the people wanted to extend the period beyond the appointed time, and they did. But that was not the end. As they returned to their own homes they passed those objects of false worship which had before been their life of devotion, and they smashed the lot! Nothing before would have displaced those altars and idols. But a taste of the real thing did what nothing else could do. How we ought to stand still and consider this! There are so many things which both divide us and account for our spiritual weakness, and all our efforts and plans to change that situation are so abortive and unsatisfactory. If only we could meet on the sole ground of the Cross - the infinite love and grace of God, so costly, and so eternally efficacious - and of an inward sight of our Redeemer-Saviour, the work would be done!

"I have seen the face of Jesus,
Tell me not of aught beside."

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 7)

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Unveiling of Jesus Christ # 5

The Unveiling of Jesus Christ # 5

The Intimate Association of Christ with Conditions, continued

At this point we should sit back and allow ourselves to register the forceful impact of a serious fact. Taking not one whit from the Lord's command and commission to evangelize the whole world, it was after the world that then was had been evangelized that practically the entire New Testament was written to Christians who had responded. After "Acts" there is not one book of the subsequent twenty-six comprising the New Testament which was written to the unevangelized and unsaved. This surely is forceful enough (apart from the contents of the books) to convince us that the Lord is - at least - as much concerned with the 'follow up,' the saved, as He is to evangelize! The law of God, both in nature and in grace, is "full growth," and anything less than that is either abortion or stultification; it is sub-normal, or un-normal, and it speaks of defeat and frustration of purpose and design. God is not like that, and Himself suffers in any such condition. We shall come on this again later, but it must be from this consciousness that we begin. If that has impressed us sufficiently, and only if so, we can proceed, and in doing so we shall at once be confronted with:

God's Ultimate Standard

This is set before the Church, the churches, and individual believers ("He that overcometh," "Unto him will I give ..." etc.) in the full stature and characterization of Christ. John says, inclusively, "One like unto the Son of Man" (verse 13). The title, used some eighty-two times of Christ in the New Testament, has a double significance. It means representation; and it means identification. Not to be too detailed and ponderous, e do not include a study of these two aspects, but those who are following closely will at once see how true they are in this final presentation. Here, "Jesus Christ" represents Man as God intends him to be, and as he will be through grace, in Christ. And here "Son of Man" means the most intimate organic identification with His redeemed, so that He stands to lose something of Himself if they fail.

When the Ultimate Standard has been presented, we are very soon led on to see that the Lord is not willing to accept comparative standards. In the majority of the messages to the churches the comparative is noted. Good things are tabulated, such as "works," "labors," sincerity, zeal, hatred of falsehood and hypocrisy, orthodoxy, etc., but when all this is allowed for, warning, rebuke, severity, and entreaty are administered. The "garment down to the foot" (1:13), is not sleeveless, half-length, or even three-quarter length. It is full length, and all-covering. It is the "seamless robe" of John 19:23. It is of one piece and complete. Garments in the Bible speak of the measure and the character of the wearer. But here it is the garment of authority, the Judge. By it standards are judged, and criteria are fixed.

With God in Christ there are no substitutes for Divine fullness and no alternatives to the Person. This comes so clear in the confrontation of the churches. When all is taken into account the judgment is gathered into one word: "But."

This could be very disconcerting, discouraging, disheartening, but we must remember that the Lord puts His finger upon causes and reasons, and shows what can be done to make good the defects. Among the multitude of 'overcomers' doubtless there are many who were in the poorest state described in these Messages.

Let us go on, for about this 'seamless robe,' the perfect wholeness, there is a girdle of gold about the breasts. It is oriental symbolism, but it is eloquent. The breasts speak of the affections; here, the affections of Christ. Gold is ever the Divine nature. And the girdle, the symbol of strength and action. To His Church, His people, in their weakness, their decline, their failure, even in their apostasy, He comes in the energy, the strength, the activity of Divine love and affection to recover, to restore, to be faithful, to lift up. It is in love that He rebukes: "As many as I love, I rebuke" (3:19). This Divine love is not mere sentimentalism. It is very faithful love. It is parental love which for the child's good may slap, but in so doing feels the regret as much as the child. "Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it."

I think that perhaps we have something here to learn and to which to adjust. We criticize and harshly judge the Church. We take a very adverse attitude to what we deem to be the faults, weaknesses, deflections, and even evils in the Church. We must search our hearts to see why we do so. Is it really our suffering love and sorrow for the Lord that motivates our spirit and demeanor? Is it redeeming love?

Now, seeing that this is not a whole book, we must sum up thus far. What comes out as governing this contemplation is this: whichever school of interpretation may be ours - historicist, futurist, literalist, spiritual, or none of them - one thing governs the whole section (chapters one to three). It is that, whenever things have departed from the pristine glory, fullness, and power, and a decline to a lesser and lower spiritual measure and level has taken place, the Divine method of recovery is a fresh presentation and unveiling of Christ in His fullness and true character. Before there can be any hopeful dealing with the details of the situations which are wrong; that is, before taking a negative course of condemnation, judgement, warning, etc., the Lord presents, or represents the positive standard of His Son. This has always been the principle on which God has acted, as we could show from many instances. Unless we have a positive better to present, we have no ground for being negative in judgment, criticism, or attitude. There must be a Divine criterion by which all things are measured. People will only see the wrong and be ashamed if the right is set before them. "Show the house to the house of Israel that they may be ashamed" was the command of God to Ezekiel. The Lord would, in our time, have His prophets who can - like John - bring the fullness and significance of Christ before His people. So the whole book of the Revelation is governed by the initial unveiling and presenting of Jesus Christ in full stature and detailed character.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 6 - The Foundation of Recovered Testimony

The Unveiling of Jesus Christ # 4

The Unveiling of Jesus Christ # 4

Part Two

"The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him, to shew unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass; and He sent and signified it by His angel unto His servant John" (Revelation 1:1).

Yes, we are in the Book of the Revelation, the most controversial book in the Bible. This book has set up more schools of interpretation than any other. It would not be profitable even to name these schools. Of them all, no two are in agreement, and each one is uncertain of the rightness of the others. The only safe and profitable way is to find what is certain. This is the Bible's way of solving and answering its problems and questions. That is, interpretation and application by spiritual principles. In passing, we do point this out as a really valuable and satisfying method of approach. Apply it to the first chapters of Genesis and there will e a very great deal of rest from the weariness of mental wrestling with questions and problems there. The same is even more true with Revelation. This is what we shall do in this message. We begin with reference to:

The Apocalyptic Method

It is essential to accept the fact that, whatever actuality and literalness there is behind the record here (and of course there is such; it is not a book of myths) it is all presented to us in symbols, figures, resemblances, similitudes, and representations, and not in real and actual things. Dragons, and Beasts, and Bowls, and A Lamb, etc., are not actually such. We ask: why this method?

Well, at least part of the answer relates to the time and condition of the writing. It was a time of terrible and fierce persecution of the Christian Church. The focal point of that persecution was the Christian testimony to the Lordship of Jesus Christ; what the book calls "The testimony of Jesus." That testimony came into direct and immediate collision with Roman Emperor-worship. Caesar took the title of God, and claimed worship as such. The Christians both refused to acknowledge this, and preached Jesus Christ as Lord.

This set up a situation in which it was dangerous to speak in plain terms, names, and definitions. So, in writing to the Church and Christians for their instruction, counsel, comfort, correction, and warning, their spiritual discernment and perception was called into use, and they had to - as we say - 'read between the lines.' No Caesar's name is mentioned, but a representation of him is there. No system is named explicitly, but its character is delineated; and so on.

But the method applies to much more than the immediate historic background or the prophetic horizon: it is applied to almost everything in the book. That has to do with the nature of the book. Now we proceed to the question - Why the book? In another place we were occupied with the last chapters of this book. Here it is with the first chapters, and mainly with chapter one. In this part we are met with:

A Challenge to Christians

Asia is the venue of the vari-sided message, or - if you like - the seven messages. Asia was representative of first century Christianity: that is, Asia had received all the primary and essential apostolic teaching. Paul called it "the whole counsel of God." But some thirty or more years had passed since Paul wrote his great circular letter to Asia and so soon after completed his ministry. In that period - only about thirty years - serious decline had set in in the majority of the churches. The character had changed. Divergence had taken place. The standard had lowered. Measure had been forfeited. The churches were living on a past. The fine gold had become dim. Form had taken the place of life, and works went on without the primary love. It is painful to have to accept the fact that, in even the fullness of the apostolic times, such a change could take place in a comparatively short time. It surely says that, to have had so much is no guarantee of final consistency. This is an age-long peril; the peril besetting the path of anything which had a great and wonderful beginning under the hand of God! It is not difficult to find all over the world the dead shells of what once was a mighty testimony to the sovereign movement of God; a "candlestick of pure gold." We do not dwell on this aspect for the moment, but move on with the positive method of the Lord to meet it.

So we are brought back to the introduction: "The unveiling of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to shew unto His servants". While the whole statement as to the 'shewing' is immediately related to 'the things which must shortly come to pass,' it is essential to note that this whole unveiling is based upon, and issues from, an unveiling and presentation of the Person of God's Son, Jesus Christ. All that follows in the whole book is intimately connected with the personal presentation. The phrase: "to shew unto His servants" comes to relate - at least in the first place - to the churches in Asia, and, of course, to John. This full-length presentation of Jesus Christ will occupy us in this present consideration - is so closely linked with the churches as to 'hold them in His right hand' (1:16, 20), and also "walketh in the midst ..." (2:1).

The point here is:

The Intimate Association of Christ with Conditions

It is not a contradiction or confusion to see Christ in Heaven and at the right hand of God, as Paul and Stephen speak of Him, and then to hear John say that He is imminent and immediate in the churches on earth. And this is shown to be so ever when the churches - the true churches - are in a poor and bad condition. It may come to be that because of certain conditions, as in the case of Laodicea, where Christ is represented as on the outside of the door; nevertheless, He has not deserted and abandoned. We shall see that the real force of this first section is the deep and pained concern for His Church in her state of declension.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 5)

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Unveiling of Jesus Christ # 3

The Unveiling of Jesus Christ # 3

The Personal Greatness of the Son of Man

Now here He is presented in the Revelation, and He is not presented in the language of Deity, although it runs very close. At some points, you cannot distinguish between the humanity and the deity. You do not know whether John is speaking of God or of Christ at certain points. The fact is, he is speaking of the One Who is both. But the title, as we have already seen, by which He is presented in this matchless, incomparable unveiling, is 'Son of Man.' Let us now consider the personal greatness of the Son of Man, Who is, at the same time, Son of God, Very God.

We have referred to the Letter to the Hebrews, and we call it in now for our help in this matter. We read from it, and we begin with this "effulgence of His glory," and then we read: "Whom He appointed heir of all things" - appointed heir of all things! - "through Whom ... He made the ages ...", and so on. "But one hath somewhere testified, saying, What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? or the Son of Man, that Thou visitest Him? Thou ... didst set Him over the works of Thy hands: Thou didst put all things in subjection under His feet ... We see not yet all things subjected to Him. But we behold Him Who hath been made for a little while lower than the angels, even Jesus, because of the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God He might taste death for every man.'"

Here is the Son of Man in His Own Personal Greatness. See Who He is: 'the effulgence ...', 'the express image ...'. See His appointment: 'Heir of all things." See His instrumentality and agency: 'through Whom the ages were made.' The Son of Man - how great that One is! You would not think that, when you see Him walking about Palestine - not all that! You do not recognize Him. But that same One is now here before John, with these devastating effects; that same One, now revealed, unveiled, as to what He is essentially in His Person; Who He is; what position He holds. He is here as the Heir of all things come for His inheritance. And the rest of the book sees Him working it out - the securing of that inheritance of which He is the Heir, and, in the end, of a 'new heaven and a new earth.' What a glorious inheritance comes into view in the last chapters of this book! This is the Son of Man; this is His greatness! But we are completely defeated at any attempt at a true, not exaggerated, unveiling of Jesus Christ. There is His personal greatness.

But as the Son of Man, we have, in that very title, His representative greatness. To borrow again from the Letter to the Hebrews, where first He is appointed Heir of all things, then He is the 'Captain of their salvation,' 'bringing many sons to glory.' The word 'Captain' there would be better translated the 'Pioneer' of their salvation - the One Who goes before to lead them into that into which HE Himself has entered. Of course, that is the substance of this Letter to the Hebrews. HE has gone before; HE has entered into the heavens; HE has 'passed through the heavens;' HE has gone the whole way, and reached the end, as the Pioneer of the many sons being brought to glory, whom He calls His 'brethren.' His representative greatness, as there at the end, in fullness, in glory - for there He represents all those whom He is going to bring and is bringing - how great it is! We read in the Revelation of a 'great multitude which no man can number out of every tribe and kindred and tongue ... thousands ... ten thousands of thousands ...'. Language is taxed to the breaking point to describe the fruit of the sufferings of the Lamb! And He is the Representative in glory of them all. How great is His Person and His representation!

And then, His official greatness. That is seen through this book of the Revelation, and again in the Letter to the Hebrews. His official greatness, as High Priest - what a great High Priest He is, as according to that book; what a tremendous thing He does! Think of it: through century after century, sacrifices of lambs, and goats, and bulls, and other things - blood enough to fill an ocean - all through the centuries, day after day, and never reaching an end in effectiveness where sin was concerned: but He, One Offering - only one! - went far beyond the millions of sacrifices on Jewish altars. How great was His sacrifice, and His priesthood, as He offered Himself without spot to God, once for all.

And here, in this book, as the other side of His official greatness, we have His description as "King of kings, and Lord of lords!" What a thing to say, in a day when that tyrant at Rome was dominating the world, assuming lordship over all lordships, and seeking to subject to himself every power, not only in earth, but in heaven, since he claimed deity. In that day, the unveiling of Jesus Christ is 'King of kings' - yes, and Nero among them! - 'Lord of lords.'

To sum up: I believe we would have very much better converts if they were presented with a very much greater Christ. To anyone who does not know in their own life and experience salvation in Jesus Christ, what it really means to be born again - to be really a 'child of God,' and to know it - to be able to join in heartily with this Apostle John when he said, 'Beloved, now are we the children of God ... Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God, and such we are!' - to any such I would say this. While Jesus would be your Saviour, the Forgiver of your sins, and many other things to you, He is far, far greater than anything you can imagine. Salvation takes its greatness from the measure of the Saviour. If you want a great salvation, see what a great Saviour He is. And remember that because of what He is, you need have no fears in putting your trust in Him; and need not fear that you may not be able to keep it up! No, you won't, but He will; He will be able to keep you up - He is great enough! We need an unveiling of the greatness of Jesus Christ, to get a better kind of Christian.

For the recovery from our spiritual losses and declensions and failures, and deliverance from all these things which are so abhorrent to us and to Him, there is only one way, and that is, really to see His greatness. If we do that, we cannot live on a little level. I recently went to the Planetarium in London. The thing that was with me, while listening to the lecture, and afterward, was, how ever can anyone be 'little' when they are dealing with these things all the time! I suppose it is possible even for a Fellow of the Astronomical Society to be a 'little' man in character (I am not implying this about this man, but it is possible!). But it is not possible to have a revelation of the greatness of Jesus Christ and remain a little person! Oh, for our enlargement, our ennoblement, our deliverance from our pettinesses, and all this which is so despicable! What is the answer? A new grasp of His greatness - that is all!

And then, if we are suffering; if we are knowing adversity and trial; if the clouds seem to be gathering, and increasing, how will we get through? Only by getting away, and asking, seeking, pursuing in prayer a new heart revelation, a new unveiling, of Jesus Christ, and that will surely do it.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 4)

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Unveiling of Jesus Christ # 2

The Unveiling of Jesus Christ # 2

But oh, these are but words! When we have said these things - and we would all agree that they are true - we are still so helpless, because it is the thing that matters - not talking about it! If only, by the Holy Spirit - and there is no other way, no other means - we could catch a new glimpse of His greatness, how may problems that would solve, questions that would answer, needs that would meet!  How overwhelming it would be! - and when I say 'overwhelming,' I mean, how much would be overwhelmed! A mighty tidal wave, making all these rocks, upon which we threaten to founder, as nothing, they are sunk beneath it, disappear from view.

Now that is not just language. Look - who is writing this? It is the Apostle John. The Apostle John? Yes, that man who walked with Jesus of Nazareth, listened to Him, watched Him at work, and, at supper, and at other times, sat next to Him, and put his head upon His shoulder - the most familiar picture of a man alongside of a Man, in close, devoted, affectionate association. John always called himself 'the disciple whom Jesus loved': it showed that there was a sacred, holy familiarity between John and Jesus, marked by very human terms and language.

Yet that same man said: 'When I saw Him I fell, as one dead.' It is the same Jesus, and the same man; but - 'I fell to the ground as one dead.' And if that One had not, in His great mercy, come and laid His hand upon him, saying, 'Fear not, John: I am the First and the Last; I am the Living One,' John would have been there as a dead man. It was the same Jesus - but look at the transition from the 'Jesus of history' to the Christ of glory! That is the difference. From the John of the Gospel to the John of the Revelation it is a marvelous and mighty movement! He never felt like that when he walked with Jesus, devoted as he was. With his fullest consciousness of who Jesus was, he was at most perhaps sometimes awe-struck and awe-inspired. It was not until he saw Him glorified that he went down, helplessly prostrate, like a dead man. It was a great transition from the Jesus of history to the Christ of glory.

Now, I take nothing whatever from the value and blessings of the Gospels, when I say that I am sometimes afraid that we may dwell too much upon the Jesus of history, and fail to remember that the men who wrote those four Gospels wrote them long after Jesus was glorified. You notice, they did not, at some point toward the end of His life, when they perhaps began to sense that He would not be with them much longer, get away and decide to write the story of that life - of His birth, and His manhood, and His teaching, and His miracles - as a mere human, earthly story. When they wrote, they had all the mighty facts and realities of His resurrection, ascension and heavenly glory, which they were seeking to crowd into that story of His life here, as those who would say: 'That One was This One! That was not just Jesus of Nazareth - that was the mighty Son of God from Heaven!' They were crowding every incident with the fullest apprehension that they had of the glorified Christ - Christ, Who was now there at the right hand of God! They were not just writing a human story.

That is the only way in which to preach the Gospel from the Gospels. Do you notice, when after His ascension and His glorification they preached or they wrote, how little, how remotely little, they ever said about the three-and-a-half years? - just a fragment here and there. They said very little about His teaching and His miracles and His walk about Palestine. They were all occupied with this One Who had been 'crowned with glory and honor' - that was their message. Yes, there was that other One - Jesus of Nazareth, 'Who went about doing good, and healing all who were oppressed with the devil' - a sort of passing reference to that earthly phase, a summary ...'But God raised Him!' God honored Him, this One! It will not get us very far just to be occupied with the incidents of His earthly life, however precious they are. If we are going on and going through, we need an apprehension of that fullness of glory that is His now - the greatness of Christ.

It is, indeed, just because men have robbed or stripped Him of His essential greatness, that we find, down the centuries, the deplorable conditions that have obtained. Our 'liberal' theologians have stripped Him of His Deity; with what result? Oh, devastating results in the impact of Christ upon this earth! They have made Him a lesser Christ than He is. The philosophers have just made Him one in their gallery of great and wise men. It was against that tendency even with the Christians in Corinth that Paul raged in his first letter - taking something from the Lord Jesus, and just putting Him among other great men. The gnostics of Colossae - what were they doing? They had a theory of angelic ranks and orders, from the highest order of angelic beings down to the lowest subordinate; and they put Jesus, perhaps at the top, but as nothing more than an 'angelic being,' robbing Him of His essential Person. He is VERY GOD!

The 'comparative religionists,' all along and in our own day, are saying, Well, there are great founders of religions - there is Buddha, and Confucius, and Mohammed, and Jesus ... and so on. You see the subtlety? - a comparative, not an absolutely Supreme and unique! And then there are the humanists of our time, inflating and glorifying man and humanity to such a point that, after all, humanity will be deified one day, will reach God-head - and Jesus is only, after all, the Super Man! So it goes on, and it is all these things, this satanic work, to reduce the size of Christ, to make Him less than He is, that has done so much mischief. If we lose, or fail to have, the essential greatness of Christ in our consciousness, ours is going to be a lesser spiritual life than it could be, and we shall break down under the stress and the strain of adversity. The only thing for every need is the recovery of His greatness.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 3)

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Unveiling of Jesus Christ # 1

The Unveiling of Jesus Christ # 1

Part One

"The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him, to shew unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass; and He sent and signified it by His angel unto His servant John" (Revelation 1:1).

At the beginning of the Book of the Revelation, we find, on the one hand, a situation of spiritual loss and failure, weakness, and many other conditions and features which even the Lord Himself, in all His grace, has to deplore. Through His servant John He sends a series of letters to seven representative churches, aimed at securing the renewing of the life of His people, and the restoring of those primary and primal values of their beginnings. Then, it was a situation of many difficulties - sufferings and trials and adversities from various quarters and of various kinds. The Christians at that time were both actually in a time of much adversity, and were moving yet more deeply into suffering. To one of these churches the Lord said that they were about to suffer; they were about to be cast into prison; they were going to have tribulation for a specified time (2:10). It was a time when Christians both actually needed real help and stimulus, and needed to be prepared for further battles, further conflicts and further sufferings. These were the two main aspects of the general situation.

In the light of those facts, we stand back and ask: How did the Lord, and how does the Lord, meet that need? Indeed, we might say: How does the Lord ever meet a great need? What is that which alone will supply the need, and be the key to the problem, the answer to the demand, and the assured ground, both of recovery and renewal, and of fortification for the suffering? And the answer has ever been, and always is: A new revelation - an unveiling - of the greatness of Jesus Christ. That is the very platform, we might say, upon which and from which the Lord moves into these situations, and into all the situations that follow in this book. He prefaces everything with this fresh revelation or unveiling of His own personal greatness.

That has ever been the way. Abraham was called upon to make tremendous decisions, to make immense sacrifices. In his native country and city, with its marvelous and rich civilization, he had a very full life indeed; and, without assurance that his movement would be justified, he was called upon to move under sealed orders. 'Get thee out ...unto a land which I will show thee.' 'I will show ... when you get there!' It was a tremendous move, very costly, and very testing. But if you have wondered how it was that Abraham went through, met all the tests, and at last survived, you have, I think, the answer in these words: "The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia" (Acts 7:2). If ever that happens, you have got something to move on; you have got a back-ground; you have something that will again and again come to your rescue in a time of difficulty.

Moses was called upon to undertake a tremendous responsibility. We know the whole story now. Moses was not altogether ignorant of what he had to face, in Egypt and afterward; and we may wonder sometimes how he kept to the course and got through. But we know that he met God 'face to face;' it could be said equally that 'the God of glory appeared' to him. Reference is made several times in the Bible to that encounter with God in the bush. And we are told that "he endured, as seeing Him Who is invisible" (Hebrews 11:27). That was the secret of his sustenance.

Joshua was called as a young man to face very great responsibilities and undertakings, in the ridding and clearing of that country of those ten kingdoms, getting that people in - such a people - he knew them! - to possess the land, and all that was bound up with it. And no wonder the Lord had to repeat one word to Joshua continually, to get him on the move. 'Be of good courage'; 'be strong and of good courage'; 'only of good courage ... only be strong' (Joshua 1:6, 7, 9). How did the Lord give to Joshua the basis? He 'lifted up his eyes' and saw the 'Captain of the host of the Lord' (Joshua 5:13, 14). From that time it was all right; he could go on and go through.

Isaiah was a young man in a very, very difficult day, one of those very cloudy days in Israel's history. He was taking up his great prophetic ministry in the face of great difficulties and threatening problems. How did he get through? 'I saw the Lord, high and lifted up,' he said (Isaiah 6:1). That is the answer.

Think of Paul - did ever a man have to face greater difficulties, oppositions and antagonisms and sufferings and perils, more than that man? How did he get through? He saw the Lord, or the Lord appeared to him. He saw the greatness of Jesus Christ.

Stephen triumphed as he saw 'the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God' (Acts 7:56). So we could go on.

Some thirty years later, the Lord's people had come to a point where there was going to be a devastating blow struck at their corporate life. It was just on the point of that final siege of Jerusalem, when everything was going to be shattered and scattered; a great earth-shaking was about to take place; all that the Lord Jesus Himself had foreshadowed, '...not one stone left upon another ...', and all those other terrible things, were all about to take place within a very little time. How were the believers going to get through?

The Lord took up a man - we do not know now exactly who it was;some say one and some say another - but He took up a man to write what we call The Letter to the Hebrews, and he begins with an almost matchless unveiling of the greatness of Jesus Christ! The Lord was saying through that letter: If only you can get that as your foundation, you will go through it all. You will not go back as you are being tempted to do, as perhaps you are contemplating doing. If only you see how great your Lord is, you will go on. So He laid the foundation for survival of faith - for that is the issue; you know how it all comes up in the eleventh chapter - the survival of faith, on the ground of an apprehension of the greatness of Christ.

And then we come to this book of the Revelation, and again we are in the presence of these things; on the one side, spiritual declension, failure, breakdown, loss; on the other side, suffering, growing  suffering, terrible afflictions for the Church. How will the one be remedied and recovery take place? What is the key to a renewing of spiritual life when it has reached a low ebb? How shall they go on through the tribulation and the tribulations, and come out in victory in the City of God? The Lord's only answer, His one answer, which has always been successful, and is the only one which will be successful in any situation of need, is a new unveiling of the greatness of the Lord Jesus.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 2)

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Classic Christian Quotes

Classic Christian Quotes

God can take the most sin-soiled soul!

(J.R. Miller)

Queen Victoria stopped one day at a paper-mill near Windsor Castle, and was shown through it by the foreman. He did not know who she was, as she was alone and was plainly dressed. The queen was intensely interested in every process of the paper-maker's art. She was conducted at last to a place where a number of rag-pickers were emptying out the dirty rags which they had gathered from the gutters and alleys of the great city. There was a large pile of these filthy, blackened rags, which looked as if they never could be made clean. The queen asked the foreman what he would do with these. To her amazement, he told her that he would make them into the finest, whitest paper.

When the queen had gone, the foreman learned who she was. Some days after, there was received at the palace--a package of the purest, most delicate paper, having the queen's likeness stamped upon it, with a note from the foreman of the mill, telling her that this paper was made from the very rags she had seen on her visit!

In the same way, the Holy Spirit takes human lives, ruined and blackened by sin--makes them whiter than snow, and stamps upon them the holy image of Jesus!

No life is hopeless in its ruin--which the transforming grace of God renews.

God can take the most sin-soiled soul--and give to it radiant beauty!

"Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were! But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." 1 Corinthians 6:9-11


His own Father!

(David Harsha, "The Crucifixion")

"My God, my God--why have You forsaken Me?" Matthew 27:46
He drinks the bitter cup of God's wrath due to sin.
The powers of darkness fiercely assail Him.
He enjoys no sensible communion with Heaven. It is the gloomiest period in His whole life.
But at length His agony is so piercing that He is constrained to utter the most touching words of grief,"My God, my God--why have You forsaken Me?"
His Father--His own Father, in whose bosom He had lain from eternity! His Father, by whom He was always beloved--has withdrawn the light of His countenance from Him! And from His cross arises a most piercing and agonizing cry, "My God, my God--why have You forsaken Me?"
Oh, how mysterious, how solemn, how affecting is this cry! It is the most doleful that ever came from the lips of Christ during His sorrowful sojourn from the manger to the cross.
Ah! Why does He hang on yonder cross, uttering these doleful words 'with strong crying and tears'?
It was not the nails which pierced His hands and feet, nor the agony of a crucifixion, which caused this mournful cry. He was now offering Himself a sacrifice for sins. As our Surety, He suffered all that divine justice required to bring the sinner back to God and to glory.
Here is the great mystery of Godliness: the Father bruises the Son, and puts Him to grief for our sakes!All those cries, and tears, and groans of Him whom the Father appointed to accomplish our salvation--were for us.
On His shoulders was laid the enormous load of our guilt.
Oh, what can we render to our Divine Savior, for His amazing and unparalleled love to us?

The Cross The Believer's Victory

From a worldly perspective, Christ's death signaled His defeat. After all, dying in agony on a cross hardly seems like the path to victory. But it was! And He did it all for us. Because Jesus triumphed over death, we can be victorious in life. Just consider what He won for us by sacrificing Himself on the cross.
Our Eternal Salvation: The cross was the means of our salvation. Without it, we'd have no hope of heaven. If Christ hadn't died in our place, we'd have to stand before God and receive the just punishment for every sin we've ever committed.
Power over Sin: Jesus not only paid the penalty for our sin; He also brought us present victory over it. When He was crucified, our old sinful nature died with Him (Rom. 6:6). The power of the "flesh" was broken, and Jesus now lives His triumphant life through us. That means we are no longer enslaved to sin and can choose obedience to God.
Defeat of Satan: At the crucifixion, the list of decrees against us was nailed to the cross, and the Devil lost his power over our lives (Col. 2:13-15). None of his accusations can stick, because God holds nothing against us anymore. And now every time we yield to the Spirit within us, Satan is defeated once again.
Christ met all our needs on the cross. By making us a part of His family, He gave us a sense of belonging. When He died in our place, He affirmed our value. And by coming to live His life through each believer, He gives us the ability to live a victorious, obedient life.

~Dr. Charles F. Stanley~

Sunday, April 9, 2017

"Nor ... the Smell of Fire ..."

"Nor ... the Smell of Fire..."

Read Daniel 3:16-27 and 1 Peter 1:6-8)

"Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God Whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace; and He will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up." Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Maeshach, and Abednego: therefore he spake, and commanded that they should heat the furnace seven times more than it was wont to be heated.

And he commanded certain mighty men that were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. Then these men were bound in their hosen, their tunics, and their mantles, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Therefore because the king's commandment was urgent, and the furnace exceeding hot, the flame of the fire shew those men that took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonied, and rose up in haste: he spake, and said unto his counsellors, "Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?" They answered and said unto the king, "True, O king." He answered and said, "Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the aspect of the fourth is like a son of the gods." Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace: he spake and said, "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ye servants of the Most High God, come forth, and come hither." Then Shedrach, Meshach, and Abednego, came forth out of the midst of the fire. And the satraps, the deputies,and the governors, and the king's counsellors, being gathered together, saw these men, that the fire had no power upon their bodies, nor was the hair of their head singed, neither were their hosen changed, nor had the smell of fire passed on them." (Daniel 3:16-27).

"Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, ye have been put to grief in manifold trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold that perisheth though it is proved by fire, may be found unto praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ: Whom not having seen ye love; on Whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice greatly with joy unspeakable and full of glory" (1 Peter 1:6-8).

"The trial of your faith." Let us consider four things that are the outcome of the trial.

The Outcome of Trial
(1) The Self-Destruction of the Enemy

How wonderfully above the situation these three men were! With the prospect of the trial, with the threat over their heads, how utterly careless about answering the king! "We have no need to answer thee in this matter." There was a settled confidence of heart, the outcome of an integrity of life and walk before God. Their concern was that they should not in any respect be found in compromise of their relationship to the Most High God. Threaten them with a fiery furnace - they are quite above it all. And the first effect of the bringing of these men into that trial justified their confidence, because the very means that were used of the enemy to compel them into the fire were consumed by the fire. If our lives are in an utter position in relation to the Lord Whom we confess and serve, we have no need to fear the fire. We shall certainly be wise not to invite the fire; but in the course of our life and our testimony, if and as the fire comes we have no need to fear. The very means that the enemy uses to bring about the fiery condition will be consumed. That is a very solemn word for any who would be found creating fiery conditions for the saints. The saints' concern must be their relationship to the Lord.

(2) The Loosing of Bonds

Another outcome of the fire is the loosing of bonds. Are you in the fire? Have you got a satisfactory reason for being there? Here is one; it may apply to you; the fire is ordained of God for the very purpose of loosing you from bonds. Yes, the limitations that circumstances and conditions outside of us put upon us, the frustrations of which we are so conscious - they are dealt with in the fire.

But what about the limitations, the bonds, that are peculiarly ours, within us - the bonds of our makeup, the features of our temperaments? The same is true. Here is a loving God ordaining  the fire and allowing the enemy to stoke it to a seven-fold heat, with the purpose, in the heart of God, of loosing us from bonds. Oh, is this happening with us? The fires are being heated to an intensity that we never thought possible for us to endure; are we being liberated by them? Are we coming into the glorious liberty of the children of God? Are we being rid of those things that have so marred our life, our testimony, our ministry?

Maybe you are feeling that you have not got any bonds. Well, some of us have, and some of us are satisfied that this is what God is doing in the fire. There is a loosing in the fire.

(3) Closer Fellowship With the Lord

Another thing that happens in the fire is that these three men are found with One with them in closer fellowship and company than they have ever known before. We know a little about that, do we not? - in the fire, coming to a knowledge of our Lord. We come through the phase of fire and say, 'I would never have known the Lord in this way but for that; it was in the fire that I found Him in these terms. I knew all about the theory of it before, but I got hold of the reality there.' One "like a son of the gods" - so says Nebuchnezzar in his ignorance - but, as far as we are concerned, it is "the Son of God"; all through the fire, in fellowship with our beloved Lord. Well, the fire is justified.

(4) The Supreme Glory - No Smell of Fire, But Joy Unspeakable

But to me, the crown of this whole matter is what follows after, and it is this that is the real burden on my heart. They came out of the fire, and there was not even the smell of fire upon them. I think that is wonderful. Yes, greater knowledge of the Lord; yes, a liberation and an emancipating; yes, but not even the smell of burning! What is the interpretation of that? Well, I think there is no doubt that one very great effort of the adversary in the fiery furnace - if he cannot stop us getting out and cannot consume us in the fire - is so to leave the marks and smell upon us that for all succeeding days people will associate with us the matter of suffering and trial. You see what that does - it draws attention to us; and the devil does not mind that, because if attention is drawn to us, the Lord is hidden. Having a smell of burning about us means that the suffering and the trial that we have been through have beclouded the glory. To come out of the fiery of our faith without the smell of burning means, I think, the fulfilling of that word in Peter - "Whom not having seen ye love; on Whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice greatly with joy unspeakable and full of glory" (1 Peter 1:8). That follows this word concerning the fiery trial of our faith - "joy unspeakable and full of glory." Here is the crown of a desperately dark time, of maybe years of suffering, of the testing of our faith - joy beyond speech, full of glory. The enemy ever seeks to rob us of our joy and frustrate the desire of the Lord that we should be radiators of His glory;and by the fiery trial all too often he succeeds.

I recently had occasion to see a brother who before the last war was on the Continent, and he was incarcerated for years in one of the big concentration camps. Without attempting to describe his harrowing experiences in detail, suffice to say that, by reason of the stand he took, at least three times he was trussed head downward over the bough of a tree and thrashed into unconsciousness. I was interested to see him and to note what were the effects of his suffering upon him. That man's faith is undimmed; he has waxed strong; and the outstanding mark is not the suffering - though you can see the traces in his face; the outstanding mark is not the suffering, it is the glory. He is full of joy. Yes, I think he knows something about this "joy unspeakable."

The Need for Watchfulness

Now the enemy is making a very big effort to rob us of our joy. If he cannot keep us in the furnace, he will bring us out so smelling of the fire that everywhere we go people will say, 'Poor So-in-So! He is having a terrible time; I don't know how he goes through; I don't know what he will do.' You see what the smell of fire is doing - it is drawing attention to ourselves.

I have been quite impressed with the amount that there is of joy and gladness relating to the Anointing. We are so familiar with the thought that the Anointing brings power and the exercise of the authority of the Throne, but you know the word in Psalm 45:7 quoted in Hebrews 1:9 - "Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows." Here is the One Who is supremely standing true to God, committed to a way of trial, of suffering, to the fiery furnace; yes, but this One is outstanding in gladness and joy. Again, the Lord takes up the prophecy concerning Himself in Isaiah 61, and says, "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me ..." Look at that prophecy, and see the amount of joy and gladness that follows that anointing; for mourning, the oil of joy; for ashes, beauty; for heaviness, praise. Because of the greatness of the pressure and adversity in which you are found, are you in danger of losing your joy? Are you as glad in the Lord now that you are well on the road as you were when you began? Of course, we can disdainfully attribute the original joy to the superficiality of things at the beginning. 'These young believers,' we say, 'do not know what suffering and trial and testing mean. If they did they would not be so radiant.' Ah, yes, but have we lost something? Have we 'gone on with the Lord' and lost the joy of the Lord? If we are conscious of having lost something of this, we must take steps to regain it. I was reading of an advertisement that had been put in the paper - "Wanted, Christian - cheerful, if possible," Yes, we smile at that, but evidently the advertiser did not think there was much chance! True Godliness and glumness do not go together. We have get to watch, for the enemy is out to rob us and to keep us with the smell of fire upon us. Oh, that we can come through the darkest experiences and be those who are so full of what we have gained in the fire that the fire takes a secondary place, and all that meet us after the trial find us with "joy unspeakable and full of glory"!

It may be that some to whom these words come do not know what we are talking about, this 'trial of our faith.' All I would say to such is, "Don't worry about that. Just store up the word, because if you are going on with the Lord, if you have any faith to purify, God will purify it, and somehow, some day, by some means, you will find your self in the; you are not going to escape. It is not the experience of some special saints only. The Lord is after the purifying of the faith of all His people, and you will come to the day of the fire. When you do, remember the Lord wants these things to issue from it. Do not be too concerned about the enemy; he is not on top in the matter at all. In his fury and malice and hate he is doing certain things; but God is turning those things to account and using them to perfect that which concerns Him and concerns us, to bring about the end which He desires, even the glory of God in us."

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(The End)

Friday, April 7, 2017

No Word of God Can Fail!

No Word of God Can Fail!

"The grass withers, the flower fades - but the Word of our God will stand forever!" (Isaiah 40:8).

I have often thought over an illustration of this truth taken from Old Testament times. When Jericho perished before the children of Israel, Joshua declared from the mouth of God, a special curse on any one who would rebuild the city. "Then Joshua laid this oath on them: Cursed is the man before the Lord who rises up and rebuilds this city, Jericho. With the loss of his firstborn shall he lay its foundation, and with the loss of his youngest son shall he set up its gates" (Joshua 6:26).

For many a year the word of God was feared and regarded. For about five centuries no one dared to put his hand to rebuild a city which, for its abounding wickedness in days past, lay under the curse of the Most High God. Its massive walls lay a heap of ruins. Wild beasts of the forest would make the place their abode, and birds of the air would there make their nests. But no human foot trod the spot where once had been so great and populous a city.

However, it was not always thus. In the days of Ahab, wickedness, idolatry, and Baal-worship filled the land. Few reverenced the true God, and most men were willing followers of an ungodly king. Then rose a man more wicked than his fellows. Living at Bethel, the seat of idolatry, he scorned the faith of Jehovah and had no fear of His judgments. So Hiel, for this was his name, began his accursed work. Rebuild Jericho he will, so he lays its foundation, and possibly he made it a great day of rejoicing for himself and his friends. But it ended in a great sorrow. The old curse was still living and mighty. Just as grains of wheat buried in the mummy cases in Egypt were found to have life in them after the lapse of many centuries, so is it with God's Word. Hiel found it so. "In his days, Hiel the Bethelite built Jericho. He laid its foundations at the cost of the life of Abiram his first-born, and set up its gates with the loss of his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke through Joshua son of Nun" (1 Kings 16:34).

The angel of death touched his first-born, Abiram. If the corner-stone of the city was laid - that of his own family was taken away. But he still perseveres. He may have reckoned it but a change or coincidence that had happened to him. At any rate, the work went forward, the city was rebuilt, and the gates set in their place. But the old curse still moves on to its complete fulfillment. The elder son had died, so now the youngest, Segub, dies also.

In no particular, does the word of the Lord fail. By the grave of his two sons, might this scornful unbeliever learn the sureness of the threatenings which were uttered by the living God. Did this man learn wisdom by the judgments of God? Did the death of his sons prove life to his own soul? We cannot tell. But there is a message from God to us from the story. May we only have grace to learn it!

I want you to notice that the two sons of Hiel were cut off as the fruit of unbelief and sin. In this case it was the sin of a parent; and no less is it true now that many a child dies through the sinful self-indulgence or evil habits of a father or mother. But are there not many brought to an early grave through their own sin? Are  there not secret vices, of which it is difficult to speak, which plant in many a constitution the seeds of premature death? Are there not evil habits which sap health and vigor, and not seldom destroy life itself?

But the main reason I want you to learn is the stability and sureness of the Word of God. You may hear many things which may be apt to shake your confidence in this. Theories of science seem now and then to clash with it. Very clever objections can be raised against certain doctrines of the Gospel.

Nor is it wise to attempt hastily to answer doubts and questions which may be proposed. The solution may not be easy, nor may it be found at once. But do not in the very least, cast aside your faith in the truth of God's Word.

I have no doubt that in Ahab's days, the land abounded in clever skeptics. Number would laugh at the stories which their faithful forefathers believed. They would glory in being emancipated from old fetters. They would make very light of the curse which Joshua had uttered. Nevertheless it came true. It came true to the very letter, and at the time foretold.

Bear this in mind. It is quite possible darker days may lie before us. Unbelief and ungodliness may spread like a flood, and the plain lessons of Divine truth may be trampled under foot. Men may deny - 

 the sinfulness of man, 
the atoning sacrifice of Christ's death,
the work of the Comforter,
and eternal judgment.

But God cannot die, and His truth cannot die; and the doctrines so plainly declared in His Word cannot die, but will live on - to the everlasting joy of those who hold them fast, and the eternal confusion of those who reject them.

All that God has spoken will certainly come to pass. The good and the evil, the sweet and the bitter, the heavenly consolations and the threatened curses - not one thing will fail.

Which shall be yours? Which will you choose?

I pray you to be wise. Honor God's Word. Heed its warnings. Trust its promises. Then you shall never be ashamed. God will be to you a tower of strength, and His presence and love your portion forever.

~George Everard~

(The End)

Monday, April 3, 2017

The Cross of Calvary # 25

The Cross of Calvary # 25

The Cross and Its Claims, continued

Moreover, the word of the Cross does not require persuasive words of man's wisdom for the manifestation of its power. The Apostle goes so far as to say that "wisdom of words" makes the Cross "of none effect!"

Does this explain the existence of so much knowledge about the death of Christ, without vital changes in the lives of men?

Can the Cross be made void by the preacher? How awful the thought! The God-Man pours out His soul unto death for the eternal salvation of men, and His messengers make the Cross of "none effect!" God forbid!

But how can the Cross be "made void" by the "wisdom of words" of the preacher? It must be because "words which man's wisdom teacheth", are scarcely possible unless the preacher is being occupied with his words rather than with the death of Him Who died; and "wisdom of words" must surely draw attention to the messenger, rather than to the message, to the oratory, rather than to the theme, to the servant rather than to the Master.

Reverently may we not say that the message of Calvary must be the most sacred theme to God the Father, and He will not give one shade of glory to men in the proclaiming of the death of His Son.

The story of Calvary must be preached to a dying world in all its tragic awfulness, and "flowers of speech" as ill become the message, as flowers around the Cross, if they had been strewn by those who watched the God-Man die. Moreover, the theme of the Cross will not lend itself to rhetoric or poetic fancy. In brief, there is no place in the Cross, either in its reality or its proclamation, for glory to the flesh.

In Paul, as an object lesson, we see what condition are necessary for the effectual preaching of the Cross. The message of Calvary must be proclaimed by those who are willing to be crucified by the very preaching of the crucifixion of the Lord.

The Cross must be preached by those who know its power, if it is to have the witness of the Holy Spirit, and if the "word of the Cross" is to be the energy of God to men. How the Spirit bore witness to the proclamation of the death, and the resurrection of the Son of God, we see in the Acts of the Apostles. The men who had stood by Calvary could preach Calvary. The men who had seen the Risen Lord could witness to His resurrection. It was more than an historical fact to them, more than a doctrine or a fundamental truth.

"I feel as if Christ died yesterday," said Martin Luther! It is the special office of the Holy Spirit to unveil the death of Christ to the messengers of the Cross today, so that it becomes as real to them as it was to the Apostles. Then He will be able to placard Christ crucified before the eyes of those to whom they are sent, and the passion begotten of the Cross will cast out all thought of the praise or condemnation of men, as with broken hearts, the messengers proclaim the death of the Son of God as the only hope for dying men.

Thus it was revealed to Paul, until he could only cry, "Woe is unto me if I preach not the Gospel". Beholding Calvary from the standpoint of God, and Him, Who for the joy set before Him" endured the Cross, despising the shame," all pride is swept away,and he elects to preach the Cross, even though the Cross he preaches thereby becomes his own Cross, and he, like his Lord, becomes despised and rejected of men.

The Message of the Cross

"The word of the Cross ... is the power of God." (1 Corinthians 1:18).

The Greek word translated power in this passage is "dunamis" - the word from which we get the English word "dynamite". The Apostle declares that "the word of the Cross" is the dunamis, or energy, of God. The expression signifies, not latent power, but power in action. In the Cross of Calvary, God has centered His power to deliver a lost and ruined world, and "the word of the Cross" is God's power in action" to all who receive it, for it has Omnipotence behind it. "I, if I be lifted up", said the Lord Jesus, "will draw all men unto Myself."

But it is "the word of the Cross" - not words about the Cross - that is the energy of God. Not speculation as to what the Cross means; but the pure and simple preaching of the Cross of Christ as Paul preached it, taught by the Risen Lord Himself.

The servants of God need to face the question today whether they really believe that Divine energy is in the message of the Cross, or do we limit God, and think that "the word of the Cross" needs many words to explain it? Is it not the key devised by the All-wise Creator to unlock the hearts of men? "It fits me as a key fits into a lock" said one, and this is true of every human heart, be he heathen, or so-called Christian.

The message of the Cross has Omnipotence behind it and in it, for it is the energy of God, not only to the sinner burdened with his sins, but "unto us which are being saved". It meets the soul at every point of life; at every stage of spiritual growth; in every cry of need, and is never inappropriate or exhausted. It is the power of God.

Antagonism to the Cross

"Many walk, of whom I told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the Cross of Christ ... who mind earthly things." (Philippians 3:18, 19)

In proclaiming the message of Calvary these words describe those in whom the message will arouse active antagonism,so that they become its enemies; for all enmity to the Cross, really has its origin in the love of all that the Cross proclaims deliverance from! They who love earthly things resent a message which offers deliverance from the things they love!

It is true that the intellect is stumbled by the Cross; yet the antagonism to the Cross is mainly moral, both in the sinner and in the saved, for its message is only welcomed by those who desire freedom from the bondage of their sins, and who hunger and thirst after the righteousness of God.

Enemies of the Cross! The preacher aiming at "wisdom of words" makes the Cross void as he proclaims it; those who cling to external things find it an "offense" in its message of freedom from the elements of the world; but those who love the things of earth are called its "enemies", for by their lives they place themselves in direct opposition to the very purpose of the Cross. Oh solemn fact! Oh terrible thought! An enemy to Him Who died to save me from myself, maybe whilst professedly His friend; perhaps whilst even a messenger of the Cross, making void the message, not only by seeking glory for self in "wisdom of words", but by love of earthly things, for all self-indulgence is actually enmity to the Cross of Christ.

The Renewing of the Cross

"They crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame." (Hebrews 6:6).

Apart from the context of this passage, it is sufficient for us to notice the solemn words which declare that the Son of God can be crucified afresh, and this time by those whom He has redeemed, and who have tasted of the life He came to give to all who obey His call.

The Christ has passed beyond the power of the world and of the devil, and now only the blood-bought ones can re-crucify the Lamb. This is said of them when - having partakers of the Holy Spirit - they do despite to the Spirit of grace, and choose to turn back to the "defilements of the world" from which they have escaped, and thus put the Lord Who bought them to "open shame."

The warning comes in this passage of the Scriptures of the responsibility of light. The Apostle Peter solemnly says it is better not to have known the way of righteousness, than to turn from the holy commandment delivered.

Oh that the Holy Spirit may so illumine the death on the Cross to every child of God, that the exceeding sinfulness of sin may be seen in the light of Calvary, and a resisting of sin, even unto death, be the mark of all the redeemed in these latter days, with the deep sense that, for those whom He has purchased with His own blood, all yielding to sin now is a "re-crucifixion; a re-binding; re-nailing; re-torturing; re-agonizing; and re-killing" of the Son of God, Who "suffered for sins once, the Righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God."

"And one shall say unto Him, what are these wounds between Thine hands? Then He shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends." Surely we children of God open His wounds afresh when He sees us shrink from the fellowship of His Cross, and cling to aught in heart or life from which He died to set us free; or when in any way we make light of sin, or do despite to the Spirit of Grace, counting the blood of the covenant a common thing.

Oh child of God, beware of the deceitfulness of sin. Take heed that thou dose not presume on the grace of God, by yielding to the least temptation with the thought that thou canst be freely forgiven. See, too, that thou does not call sin by the name of "infirmity", nor in any degree excuse thyself for failure. Since Christ has died there is full victory for thee, but thou must walk in godly fear before the Lord, and touch not aught that is to thee the unclean thing.

~Jessie Penn-Lewis~

(The End)