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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Spiritual Sight # 4

Spiritual Sight # 4

The Issue of Spiritual Sight

Read: Num. 24:3, 4; Mark 10:46, 51, 52; 8:23-25; John 9:1, 7, 25; Eph. 1:17-19; Revelation 3:17; Acts 26:17, 18.

At the outset of our previous meditation we were speaking of the root-malady of our time, which is spiritual blindness. We took those passages which we have read and noted how they, in a very general way, cover the full ground of spiritual blindness and spiritual sight. Then we went on to speak about the common factor in all these cases, which is that spiritual sight is always a miracle. No one has real spiritual sight by nature. It is something which comes out of heaven as a direct act of God, a faculty which is not there naturally, but has to be created. So that the very justification for Christ's coming from heaven into this world is found in this fact, that man is born blind and needed a visitant from heaven to give him sight. Then, finally, to lose spiritual sight is to lose the miraculous element in the Christian life; which was the trouble with Laodicea. We went on to see that the great need of the hour is for those who really can say, I see! Imagine yourself being born blind and living perhaps to maturity without having seen anything or anyone, and suddenly having your eyes opened to see everything and everyone. The sense of wonder would be there; the world would be a wonderful world. I suppose when that man in John 9 went home, he would be constantly saying, It is wonderful to see people, wonderful to see all these things! Wonderful! That would be the word most on his lips. Yes, but there is a spiritual counterpart, and the great need is of people who have that spiritual wonder in their hearts all the time; that which has broken upon them by revelation of the Holy Spirit and is a constant and ever growing wonder. It is a new world, a new universe. That is the need of the time - I see!

Well now, the final phase of our afternoon meditation was that which we are going to follow up a little now, that at every stage of the Christian life from initiation to consummation, the secret must be that - I see: I never saw as I see now! I never saw it like that, I never saw it on this wise; but now I see! It must be like that all the way through, from start to finish, if the life is a true life in the Spirit. So for a little while let us think on one or two phases of the Christian life which must be governed by the great reality of seeing by Divine operation; and you will be recalling a great deal of the Word as I speak, seeing how much there is in the Scriptures about this matter.

Seeing Governs The Beginning of the Christian Life

What is the beginning of the Christian life? It is a seeing. It must be a seeing. The very logic of things demands that it shall be a seeing; for this reason, that the whole of the Christian life to to be progressive movement along one line, to one end. That line and that end is Christ. That was the issue with the man born blind in John 9. You will remember how, after they cast him out, Jesus found him, and said to him, "Dost thou believe on the Son of God?" And the man answered and said, "And who is He, Lord, that I may believe on Him?" Jesus said unto him, "Thou hast both seen Him and He it is That speaketh with thee." And he said, "Lord, I believe." And he worshiped Him. The issue of spiritual sight is the recognition of the Lord Jesus, and it is going to be that all the way through from start to finish.

We may say that our salvation was a matter of seeing ourselves as sinners. But had it been left there it would have been a poor lookout for us.

No, the whole matter is summed up into seeing Jesus: and when you really see Jesus, what happens? What happened to Saul of Tarsus? Well, a whole lot of things happened, and mighty things which nothing else would have accomplished. You would never have argued Saul of Tarsus into Christianity; you would never have frightened him into Christianity; you would never have either reasoned or emotionalized him into being a Christian. To get that man out of Judaism needed something more than could have been found on this earth. But he saw Jesus of Nazareth, and that did it. He is out, he is an emancipated man, he has seen. Later, when he is right up against the great difficulty of the Judaisers, tracking and following him everywhere to disturb the faith of his converts, to wreck their position in Christ, and they are inclined to fall away, if they have not already done so (I speak of those converts and churches in Galatia), he once again raised the whole question as to what a Christian is, and focuses it upon this very point of what happened on the Damascus road. The Letter to the Galatians really can be summed up in this way: a Christian is NOT one who does this and that and another thing which is prescribed to be done; a Christian is NOT one who refrains from doing this and that and another thing because they are forbidden; a Christian is NOT one at all who is governed by the externalities of a way of life, an order, a legalistic system which says, You must, and You must not: a Christian is comprehended in this saying, "It pleased God to reveal His Son in me" (Gal. 1:15, 16). That is only another way of saying, He opened my eyes to see Jesus, for the two things are the same. The Damascus road is the place. "Who art Thou, Lord? I am Jesus of Nazareth." "It pleased God to reveal His Son in me." That is one and the same thing. Seeing in an inward way: that makes a Christian. "God...hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor. 4:6). "In our hearts:" Christ,so imparted and revealed within, is what makes a Christian, and a Christian will do or not do certain things, not at the dictates of any Christian law, any more than Jewish, but as led by the Spirit inwardly, by Christ in the heart. It is that that makes a Christian, and in that the foundation is laid for all the  rest, right on to the consummation, because it is just going to be that growingly. So the foundation must be according to the superstructure; they are all of a piece. It is seeing, and it is seeing Christ.

That is a bold statement upon which a very great deal more might be said. But it is a challenge. We have to ask ourselves now, On what foundation does our Christian life rest? Is it upon something outward; something we have read, something we have been told, something we have been commanded,something we have been frightened into, or emotionalized into; or is it based upon this foundation. "It pleased God to reveal His Son in me?" When I saw Him, I saw what a sinner I am, and I saw too what a Saviour He is: but it was seeing Him that did it! I know how elementary that is for a conference of Christians,but it is good sometimes to examine our foundations. We never get away from those foundations. We are not going to grow up and be wonderful folk who have left all that behind. It is all of a piece. I do not mean that we stay at elementary things all our lives, but we take the character of our foundation through to the end. The grace which laid the foundation will bring forth the topstone with shoutings of Grace, grace! It will all be that; the grace of God in opening our eyes. I will not stay longer with that.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 5 - Seeing Governs Spiritual Growth)

Friday, May 26, 2017

Spiritual Sight # 3

Spiritual Sight # 3

The Need of the Hour, continued -

Oh yes, it is a far bigger thing than you and I have yet appreciated. Let me tell you forthwith that all hell is banded together against that, and the man who has had his eyes opened is going to meet hell. This man in John 9 was up against it at once. They cast him out, and even his own parents were afraid to take sides with him because of the cost. "He is of age, ask him." Yes, this is our son, but do not press us too much, do not involve us in this thing; go to him, get it cleared up with him, leave us alone! They saw a red light, and so they were seeking to by-pass this issue.  It costs to see, and it may cost everything, because of the immense value of seeing to the Lord, and as against satan, the god of this age, who hath blinded the minds of the unbelieving. It is the undoing of his work. "I send thee to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of satan unto God." satan is not going to take that, neither at the beginning nor in any measure. It is a tremendous thing, to see.

But oh, what a need today for men and women who can stand spiritually in the position in which this man stood and say, I was blind, but now I see,and this one thing I know! It is a great thing to be there. How much I do not know, one thing I do know, I see! which was not the case before. There is an impact, a registration, with that. Life and light always go together in the Word of God. If a man really sees, there is life, and there is uplift. If he is giving you something secondhand, studied, read, worked up, there is no life in it, other than, perhaps, that temporary and false lift of interest, passing fascination. But there is no real life which makes people live.

So one does not plead for changing the truth or having new truths, but for spiritual sight into the truth. "The Lord hath yet more light and truth to break forth from His Word," which is true. Let me get rid of that thing which has been fastened upon us here if I can. We do not seek for new revelation, and we do not say or suggest or hint that you may have anything extra to the Word of God, but we do claim that there is a vast amount in the Word of God that we have never seen, which we may see. Surely everybody agrees with that: and it is just that - to see, and the more you see, really see, the more overwhelmed you feel about the whole thing, because you know that you have come to the borders of the land of far distances, lying beyond a short lifetime's power of experience.

Now just to close, let me repeat that, at every stage from initiation to consummation, spiritual life must have this secret in it, I see! Right at the commencement when we are born again, that should be the spontaneous expression or ejaculation in the life. Our Christian life ought to begin there. But all the way along to the final consummation it must be that, the working out of this miracle, so that you and I are maintained in this atmosphere of wonder, the wonder factor repeated again and again, so that every fresh occasion is as though we had never seen anything at all.

But I may as well say at once that usually a new breaking in of the Spirit in that way follows the eclipse of all that has gone before. It seems that the Lord has to make it necessary, so that we come to the place where we cry out, Unless the Lord shows, unless the Lord reveals, unless the Lord does a new thing, all that ever has been is as nothing, it will not save me now! Thus He leads us into a dark place, a dark time. We feel that what has been has lost the power which it once had to make us buoyant, triumphant. That is the Lord's way of keeping us moving on. If you and I were allowed to be perfectly satisfied with what we have got at any stage, and not to feel absolute necessity for something we never have had, should we go on? Of course not! To keep us going on, the Lord has to bring about those experiences where it is absolutely necessary for us to see the Lord and know the Lord in a new way, and it must just be so all the way along to the end. It may be a series of crises of seeing and seeing again, and yet again, so the Lord opens our eyes, and we are able to say, as never before, I see! So it is not our study, our learning, our book knowledge, but it is a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of our hearts being enlightened, and it is that seeing which brings the note of authority that is so much needed. That is the element, the feature, that is required today. It is not just seeing for seeing's sake, but it is to bring in a new note of authority.

Where is the voice of authority today? Where are those who are really speaking with authority? We are languishing terribly in every department of life for the voice of authority. The Church is languishing for want of a voice of spiritual authority, want of that prophetic note - Thus saith the Lord! The world is languishing for want of authority, and that authority is with those who have seen. There is far more authority in the man born blind seeing, in his testimony - One thing I know that, whereas I was blind, now I see - than there is in all Israel, with all Israel's tradition and learning. And may it not be that that was the thing about the Lord Jesus that carried such weight, for "He spoke as One having authority, and not as the scribes" (Matt. 7:29). The scribes were the authorities. If anybody wanted an interpretation of the law, they went to the scribes. If they wanted to know what the authoritative position was, they went to the scribes. But He spoke as One having authority, and not as the scribes. Wherein lay that authority? Just that in all things He could say, I know! It is not what I have read, what I have been told, what I have studied, that is with power, but this - I know! I have seen!

The Lord make us all to be of those who have eyes opened.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 4 - The Issue of Spiritual Sight)

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Spiritual Sight # 2

Spiritual Sight # 2

Spiritual Sight Always A Miracle

When we have covered the whole ground in a general way, we come back to notice one particular and peculiar feature in every case, and that is, that spiritual sight is always a miracle. That fact carries with it the whole significance of the coming into this world of God's Son. The very justification of the coming into this world of the Lord Jesus Christ is found in the Word of God; because it is a settled matter with God Himself that man now is born blind. "I am come a light into the world" (John 12:46); "I am the light of the world" (John 9:5): and that statement, as you know was made right there in that section of John's Gospel where the Lord Jesus is dealing with blindness. "When I am in the world, I am the light of the world," and He illustrates that by dealing with the man born blind.

So spiritual sight is a miracle from heaven every time, and that means that the one who really sees spiritually has a miracle right at the foundation of his life. His whole spiritual life springs out of a miracle, and it is the miracle of having sight given to eyes which never have seen. That is just where the spiritual life begins, just where the Christian life has its commencement: it is in seeing.

And whoever preaches must have that miracle in his history, and he himself is dependent entirely upon that miracle being repeated in the case of every one who listens to him. That is where he is so helpless and so foolish. Perhaps it is here that, in one sense, we find "the foolishness of preaching." A man may have seen, and may be preaching what he has seen, but no one listening to him has seen or does see: and so he is saying to the blind, See! and they see not. He is dependent entirely upon the Spirit of God coming and, there and then, working a miracle. Unless that miracle is wrought, his preaching is vain, so far as the desired effect is concerned. I do not know what you say when you come into a gathering and bow your head in prayer, but there is a suggestion for you. There may be present that which has come out of a miracle in the one who is giving it forth in preaching or teaching, and you may miss it all. The suggestion is that you ever and always ask the Holy Spirit to work that miracle in you afresh in this hour, that you may see.

But we go further. Every bit of new seeing is a work from heaven. It is not something done fully once for all. It is possible for us to go on seeing and seeing, and yet more fully seeing, but with every fresh fragment of truth, this work, which is not in our power to do, has to be done. Spiritual life is not only a miracle in its inception, it is a continuous miracle in this matter right on to the last. That is what arises from the passages we have read. A man may have had a touch, and, whereas before he was blind and saw nothing, now he sees; but he sees only a little, both in its measure and in its range, and he sees imperfectly. There is a certain amount of distortion about his vision yet. Another touch is required from heaven in order that he may see all things correctly, perfectly. But even then it is not the end, for such as are seeing things correctly, perfectly, within that measure, have yet possibilities from God of seeing such vast ranges. But is it still a spirit of wisdom and revelation which is required to effect it?! All the way along it is from heaven. And who would have it otherwise, for is not this the thing which gives to a true spiritual life its real value, that there should forever remain in it the miraculous element?

The Effect of The Loss of Spiritual Sight

Then we come to that final word. To lose spiritual vision is to lose the supernatural feature of the spiritual life, and that produces the Laodicean state. If you seek to get to the heart of this thing, this state of things represented by Laodicea, neither hot nor cold, the state which provokes the Lord to say, "I will spew thee out of My mouth"; if you seek to get to the heart of it and say, Why is this, what is the thing lying behind this? the one thing that explains it is simply this, that it has lost its supernatural feature, it has come down to earth; it is religious, but it has come out of its heavenly place. And then, you see, you get the corresponding rebound to overcomers in Laodicea, "He that overcometh, I will give to him to sit down with Me in My throne." You have gone down a long way to earth, you have lost your heavenly feature, but for overcomers in the midst of such conditions there is still a place above, showing the Lord's thought as over against this condition. To lose spiritual vision is to lose the supernatural features of the spiritual life. When that has gone out, be as religious as you like, the Lord only has one word to say - Buy eye salve: that is your need.

The Need Of the Hour

That brings us, then, to the need of the hour, the need which, of course, is the need of every hour, of every day, of every age. But we are made more and more aware in our time of this need, and in a sense, we can say there never was a time when there was a greater need for people who could say and can say, I see! That is the need just now. Great and terrible is that need, and not until that need is met will there be any hope. Hope hangs upon this, that there should arise people in this world, this dark world of confusion and chaos and tragedy and contradiction, people who are able to say, I see! If there should arise a man today who had position, to exercise influence and be taken account of, and such a man who saw, what new hope would arise with him, what a new prospect! That is the need. Whether that need will be met is a public, national, international way or not, I do not know, but that need must be met in a spiritual way by people on this earth who are in that position, who really can say, I see!

You see, Christianity has so largely become a tradition. The truth has been resolved into truths and put into a Blue Book, the Blue Book of Evangelical Doctrine, a set and fenced up thing. These are the evangelical doctrines, they set the bounds of evangelical Christianity in preaching and in teaching. Yes, they are presented in many and various forms. They are served up with interesting and attractive anecdotes and illustrations, and with studied originality and uniqueness, so that the old truths will not be too obvious, but will stand some chance of getting over because of the clothes in which they are dressed up; and a very great deal depends upon the ability and the personality of the preacher or the teacher. People say, I like his style, I like his manner, I like his way of saying things! - and much depends upon that: but when all those trappings have been stripped off, the stories, the anecdotes, the illustrations, and the personality and the ability of the preacher or teacher: when that has all gone, you have simply got again the same old things, and some of us come along and outdo the last man in the way of presenting them in order to gain for them some acceptance, some impression. I do not think that is unkind criticism, for that is what it amounts to; and no one will think that I am asking for a change or dismissal of the old truths.

But what I am trying to get at is this: it is not now truths, it is not the changing of the truth, but it is that there shall be those who, in presenting the truth, can be recognized by those who listen as men who have seen: and that makes all the difference. Not men who have read and studied and prepared, but men who have seen, about whom there is that which we find in this man in John 9 - the element of wonder. "Whether he is a sinner, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see." And you know whether a person has seen or not, you know where it has come from and how it has come: and that is the need: that something that indefinable something, which works out in wonder, and you have to say, That man has seen something, that woman has seen something! It is that seeing factor which makes all the difference.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 3)

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Spiritual Sight # 1

Spiritual Sight # 1

"Then Jehovah opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of Jehovah standing in the way" (Numbers 22:31).

"Balaam the son of Beor saith, and the man whose eye is opened saith ... falling down, and having his eyes open" (Numbers 24:3, 4).

"And they come to Jericho: and as He went out from Jericho, with His disciples and a great multitude, the son of Timaeus, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the way side... And Jesus answered him, and said, 'What wilt thou that I should do unto thee?' And the blind man said unto Him, Rabboni, that I may receive my sight." And Jesus said unto him, "Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole." And straightway he received his sight, and followed Him in the way" (Mark 10:46, 51, 52).

"And He took hold of the blind man by the hand, and brought him out of the village; and when He had spit on his eyes, and laid His hands upon him, He asked him, "Seest thou aught?" And he looked up, and said, "I see men; for I behold them as threes, walking." Then again He laid His hands upon his eyes; and he looked steadfastly, and was restored, and saw all things clearly" (Mark 8:23-25).

"And as He passed by, He saw a man blind from his birth ... and said unto him, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam ..." He went away therefore, and washed, and came seeing ..." He therefore answered, "whether he is a sinner, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see" (John 9:1, 7, 25).

"...that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him; having the eyes of your heart enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of His calling, what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe, according to that working of the strength of His might" (Eph. 1:17-19).

"I counsel thee to buy of Me gold refined by fire, that thou mayest become rich; and white garments, that thou mayest clothe thyself, and that the shame of thy nakedness be not made manifest; and eyesalve to anoint thine eyes, that thou mayest see" (Revelation 3:18).

" open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of satan unto God, that they may receive remission of sins and an inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith in Me" (Acts 26:18).

I think the phrase used by Balaam might very well stand at the head of our present meditation - "the man whose eye is opened."

The Root Malady Of Our Time

As we contemplate the state of things in the world today, e are very deeply impressed and oppressed with the prevailing malady of spiritual blindness. It is the root malady of spiritual blindness. We should not be far wrong if we said that most, if not all, of the troubles from which the world is suffering are traceable to that root, namely, blindness. The masses are blind, there is no doubt about that. In a day which is supposed to be a day of unequalled enlightenment, the masses are blind. The leaders are blind, blind leaders of the blind. But in a very large measure, the same is true of the Lord's people. Speaking quite generally, Christians are today very blind.

A General Survey of The Ground of Spiritual Blindness

The passages which we have just read cover in a general way a great deal, if not all, of the ground of spiritual blindness. They begin with those who never have seen, those born blind.

Then there are those who have been given vision, but are not seeing very much, nor very clearly - "men as trees, walking" - but who come to see yet more perfectly under a further work of grace.

Then there are those who have true and clear sight as far as it goes, but for whom a vast realm of Divine thought and purpose still waits upon a fuller work of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him; having the eyes of your heart enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of His calling, what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe." Those words are addressed to people who have sight, but for whom this great realm of Divine meaning still waits upon their knowing a fuller work of the Holy Spirit in the matter of spiritual sight.

Then, again, there are those who have seen and have followed, but who have lost spiritual sight, of which they were once possessed, and are now blind, but with the most fatal additional factor: they think they see and they are blind to their own blindness. That was the tragedy of Laodicea.

Further, there are those two classes represented by Balaam and Saul of Tarsus, from whom we have quoted. Balaam, blinded by gain, or the prospect of gain. That is, I think, what is meant in the New Testament by following in the way of Balaam; being taken up so much with the question of gain and loss as to be blind to the great thoughts of God and purpose of God, not seeing the Lord Himself in the way, and by his blindness coming very near to being smitten down on the road. The statement is quite definite there. Balaam did not see the Lord until the Lord opened his eyes, and then he saw the Lord. "The angel of the Lord": that is the way in which it is put. I have not much doubt but that it is the Lord Himself. Then he saw. Later he made that double statement about the matter - "the man whose eye is opened", "falling down and having his eyes opened." Such is Balaam, a man blinded by considerations of a personal character, of a personal nature, how things would affect him. That is what it amounts to. And what a blinding thing that is where spiritual matters are concerned. If ever you or I pause on that question, we are in very grave peril. If ever for a moment we allow ourselves to be influenced by such questions as, how will this affect me, what will this cost me, what do I stand to get out of this or to lose by this? that is a moment when darkness may very well take possession of our hearts and we go in the way of Balaam.

Then, on the other hand we have Saul of Tarsus. There is no doubt about his blindness; but his was the blindness of his very religious zeal, his zeal for God, his zeal for tradition, his zeal for historic religion, his zeal for the established and accepted thing in the religious world. It was a blind zeal about which afterward he had to say, "I verily thought that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth" (Acts 26:9). "I thought I ought." What a tremendous turn round it was when he discovered that the things which he thought, and passionately thought he ought to do, in order to please God and to satisfy his own conscience, were utterly and diametrically opposed to God and the way of right and truth. What blindness! Surely he stands as an abiding warning to us all that zeal for anything is not necessarily a proof that the thing is right, and that we are on the right road. Our very zeal as a thing in itself may be a blinding thing, our devotion to tradition may be our blindness.

I think eyes have a very large place in Paul's life. When his eyes spiritually were opened, his eyes naturally were blinded, and you can use that as a metaphor. The using of natural eyes religiously too strongly may be just the indication of how blind we are, and it may be that, when those natural eyes religiously are blinded, we will see something, and not until they are do we see something. For a lot of people, the thing that is in the way of their real seeing is that they see too much and see in the wrong way. They are seeing with natural senses, natural faculties of reason, and intellect and learning, and all that is in the way. Paul stands to tell us that sometimes, in order really to see, it is necessary to be blinded. Evidently that left its mark upon him, just as the finger of the Lord left its mark upon Jacob, for the rest of his days. He went into Galatia and later wrote the Letter to the Galatians; and you remember he said, "I bear you witness, that, if possible, ye would have plucked out your eyes and given them to me" (4:15); meaning that they noted his affliction, they were aware of that mark which had lasted from the Damascus road, and so felt for him, that if they could have done so, they would have plucked out their very eyes for him. But it is wonderful that the commission which came when he was naturally blinded on the Damascus road was all about eyes. He was blind, and they led him by the hand into Damascus; but the Lord had said in that hour, "to whom I send thee to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of satan unto God."

Well, all these have their own message for us, but they cover the ground fairly generally in relation to spiritual sight. There are, of course, many details, but we will not seek to search those out at the moment; we will get on with this general consideration.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 2 - Spiritual Sight Always A Miracle

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Grace of God # 2

The Grace of God # 2

Grace For Character and Conduct

When we turn to Titus, that is just exactly what Paul says. The Apostle, in writing to this younger brother, had gone to some length to set out the kind of life that the Lord's people should live, summing up the whole matter of our duty and life here in the world in one beautiful phrase in which he speaks of our "adorning the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things." Then immediately he comes to the practical power that produces practical holiness, and what is it? "For the grace of God hath appeared." There is the secret of Christian conduct. We do not want to be neglectful of or indifferent to the whole matter of living here on earth lives that are a credit to the Lord and having nothing to be ashamed of before Him and before men, but what is the secret of that? It is the grace of God, and you will notice here the Apostle passes into one or two spheres in which the grace of God becomes a working, effective power.

First of all, "the grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men," and I take it that this thought of salvation refers in the first instance to the inward life. The grace of God is sufficient for our inward life. It comes in the power of salvation for deliverance, and the sphere in which we need deliverance is inside, and not outside. Let us be quite sure about that. You would never dispute it in relation to anyone, man or woman, who does not know the Saviour. You know that, when you begin to speak to them of the Christian life, they will always say that in their circumstances, just where they are, it is not possible to live a Christian life. And the attitude of the natural man is always that it is the outward realm that needs changing, but we all know that it is not there. What we need is deliverance inwardly, and if we are free there, then we will be all right wherever we are.

Now, it is the grace of God which, appearing, brings salvation to all men. The Authorized Version says: "The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men," but that cannot be the meaning, for it is not true. Of course, the problem arises: Does the grace of God bring salvation to all men? Surely this is what it means: the grace of God has appeared and it is a grace which is capable of saving all men, of bringing salvation to every kind of man. There is none so weak or so handicapped that the grace of God is not sufficient for them, nor is there anyone so strong or so good that the grace of God is not their only sufficiency. It is for all men, and it does not matter where the word of the Lord finds you. There is only one solution to your problem, and that is the grace of God. There are so many realms in which we may need deliverance, but the grace of God comes bringing salvation. "The grace of God hath appeared," has been made manifest. The whole effort of the Spirit of God is to make us believe that this is something that God has in hand - and that is so true of the whole Christian life. Your problem may be (and perhaps in this very thing you do not know the grace of God) that you have not yet realized how utterly and completely the whole matter of the Christian life is God's concern. It is His responsibility, and it is from His side. How do you know the grace of God? Well, God appears to you with it. You cannot say more than that!

This is what happened to Paul. It is true that he prayed three times, but he did not get deliverance by praying, and nothing was put on the credit side of his life for his helpfulness because he prayed three times. No, deliverance came to him when the Lord appeared. "He hath said unto me..." Oh, when the Lord speaks to you, you know it! You see, this does not speak of a man wrestling a promise from God. It speaks of the grace of God, unmerited, unexpected, and very often unasked. And it appears to all. Blessed be His Name!

It appeared supremely in the Person of His dear Son, Who is the very embodiment of God's grace. Who was asking for Him to come? Who was expecting Him? There were very few who wanted Him, but He came, moved by His great Divine compassion and concern which we call the grace of God. The Lord Jesus Christ came, so that now, by His Spirit and through His word in the Gospel, the grace of God is manifested to us. It is not what we are doing, but God coming to our hearts and offering Himself in grace. You say: "I wish the Lord would do that to me!" Have you ever seriously faced this fact: that the Lord is doing that to you? I think the matter becomes personal very often when we make it personal. "My grace is sufficient for thee!" Is that the Lord's word to you? Of course, if you heard it coming out of heaven you think you might believe that it was the Lord speaking to you. You would not know if this is the Lord speaking to you, because it does not come in some supernatural way. We do not need to know. Many of us have known the Lord speaking His word to us just by reading it. It has come to us, not as the word of man, but as the Word of God, and we have known that it is the Lord speaking to us. Then we have doubted. Was it the Lord's Word? We have to say in faith: 'It is the Lord's Word, and all the promises of God are Yea and Amen in Christ Jesus. The Lord is saying to me: "My grace is sufficient for thee." Well, then, I believe it and I stand on it! That is so often how it happens - it becomes a matter of faith.

Grace For Thee

"My grace is sufficient for thee." Now that is just exactly the point where the faith wavers a bit, if it does not fail. We have no doubt in believing that the Lord's grace was sufficient for the Apostle Paul,for it is very easy to believe things about him. We may even have no doubt that the Lord's grace is sufficient for other people. Have you never, in another human life, seen things that were unbearable and would altogether have handicapped and made a walk with God impossible, and then have you not seen that person overcoming and walking with God? Of course, the devil will say to you: 'You are different!' But you are not! Why have they overcome? What have you been looking at when you have been looking at a true Christian's life? The value of being brought up in Sunday school and knowing Christian doctrines? No, thousands of people have had that and there is not a sign of the grace of God in them, so it is not that. Is it that you have been seeing people who are extraordinary people and have such a strength of ability that they can walk in the way of holiness and obedience to God? No!

But let us see other people's failures. Why? To encourage us to know that these are fallible people, capable of the most terrible collapse spiritually, and sometimes even morally. It is like that in the Word of God. What is God's purpose in doing that, and why does He allow some of us to be seen in our failures? Perhaps He is just pointing out a truth to some soul. Here is someone whom you thought was wonderful, but they are not so wonderful after all - and yet there is something wonderful about them! They are failing men and women, but the grace of God in them causes them not to fail. However, if they move from the grace of God for one moment, they are miserable failures - and that is true of all of us!

So there is no real excuse for you. God's Word is just as much for you as for any other - "My grace is sufficient for thee." Would you dare to tell the Lord that His grace is not sufficient for you? Is it sufficient for you? Well, you have been failing - but why have you been failing? The Apostle wrote to the Colossians of a day (and what a day!) "since ye knew the grace of God in truth." Wonderful things had been happening in these Colossian believers. They were growing, and increasing in holiness, and pressing toward the goal of glory, the goal which is set before us here. The goal of grace of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, and when you have the grace of God in your heart, you have that hope burning brightly. That is the goal - the blessed hope of Christ's appearing in glory, and of our having our inheritance with Him in that same glory. That is the end, and that end is for you, presented to you by the Lord - and yet you have been failing. Well, what is the matter? It is because you have not the experience that the Colossians had - and what was their experience? It is very simple! They knew the grace of God in truth. That is how they began. There was a day, not when they resolved to be Christians, but when they said: 'Now we know the grace of God!' The Lord had spoken to them concerning their sin and their guilt and their need, and had said: "My grace is sufficient to save you!" They said: 'Praise God, we believe it is - we are sure it is!' And that was the beginning.

But every step of the way, every phase, every aspect, meant for them a new knowledge of the grace of God, a new speaking into their hearts by the Lord of His word: "My grace is sufficient for thee."

Now the Galatians moved from that ground. They did not give up being Christians. They tried to be Christians, and that was their trouble. The Apostle said to them: 'You have fallen from grace!' That does not mean that they had slipped into sin, though it does lead into sin. They tried to have their salvation by works and by their own efforts. Paul said: 'You have made Christ of none effect! You have fallen from grace!' And that is the explanation of a lot of trouble in Christian lives. It is not that we are not trying to be Christians, but that we are trying to be Christians, and we have been deceived into the thought that we can be. We fall from grace, and we fail.

The true path of the just, that path which is 'as a shining light that shineth more and more unto the perfect day,' is just a simple walk of a continually increasing knowledge of the grace of God. It begins in its appearance for our salvation, whoever we are. It takes us through, whoever we are. It will take us through a life of learning, of being instructed, of being chastened, and of being trained in a way of holiness. It will take us through to that blessed hope, even the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, Who gave Himself for us. That is the grace of God - Christ giving Himself, and that is the grace of God at every aspect. He gave Himself to us, giving Himself to us to purge us from all iniquity and to purify unto Himself a people for His own possession. That is the same thing as the Lord, and glory for Him that at long last, after the centuries upon centuries, He has a people who are His own peculiar treasure, precious above all else that He possesses - the peculiar treasure of a redeemed people. If you seek, and if in eternity it be sought, the secret that lies behind this people, the peculiar treasure precious to the Lord's own heart above all else - for He said: "All the earth is Mine" - it is just this: that they knew the grace of God in truth. The Lord said to them, kept on saying it, and the good of what He said remained: "My grace is sufficient for thee."

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(The End)

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Grace of God # 1

The Grace of God # 1

Read: Titus 2:9-11; Colossians 1:5-6; 2 Corinthians 12:9

"My grace is sufficient for thee." For the Apostle that solved a very great problem in his life, and met a need in such a remarkable way that he was still in the good of it fourteen years afterwards. You notice that he does not say so. He is speaking as if the Lord were continually saying this word to him, as if it were a present experience. In a sense he does not speak of it in the past, as something finished and over and written in history, but it is that past experience which still comes right up to the present moment and stands good today. "He hath said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee."

Now the grace of God, I believe, is, so far as we are concerned, one of the biggest and most vital truths of Divine reality, and the real burden of what I wish to say to you in the Lord's Name is something after this fashion. The grace of God - yes, it does express that loving, kind, considerate, thoughtful sympathy of the Lord for us. For the sinner it means that, though God might be angry with him, He is not; that, though He has every reason for hating him, hurling him into the abyss, and feeling an implacable resentment toward him, He does not. His feelings toward the sinner are those of kindness, of desire, of sympathy, of compassion. If you are tempted to wonder whether you have ever known the Lord or not, or if you are tempted to feel that God is against you, those temptations are of the devil, though he may be masquerading as an angel of light. There is a sphere, a realm, into which, in God's infinite mercy, we have been brought, and that means that His attitude toward us is one of grace. In the general sense that may even be said of those who do not know God, for, today being the day of grace, God is not, in the first place, angry with men except as they harden their hearts and refuse His grace.

So, as we touch every realm of human need in our lives as Christians, we are again touching a realm where the grace of God becomes such a precious thing, and in the hour of trial and of deep tribulation, of testing or of perplexity, of loneliness, or whatever be the peculiar trouble and difficulty of any one child of God, it is still true that the Lord has that attitude and sympathy and comes near with His own blessed presence as a balm and a comfort. In that sense (and it is in that sense that these words are usually applied), "My grace is sufficient for thee."

Grace More Than Comfort

I have said all that because it is very true and very precious, but there is something more that I feel we need to know, for the grace of God is much more than that kindly, comforting, sympathetic love. It is the mighty power of God for the fulfillment of His will in our lives. I believe it is a need that may be found in many of us to know the Lord saying - not just: 'I will comfort you; I will cheer you up; I will pity you; I will assure you of My love!' but: "There is no need for the experience through which you are passing! There is no need for your failure, nor for those experiences of which you are ashamed and for which you are sorry, and which you feel need to be covered and hidden! All that sad story of failure is not necessary!' 'Well', you begin to say, 'look at the circumstances in which I am! Look at those people with whom I have to do! Look at my upbringing and my handicap, my circumstances, myself!' The Lord knows them far better than you do! Nevertheless, He does not accept that any one of them, nor all of them together, are the real explanation of your failure, of your wandering, of your place of difficulty, or of your experience of defeat. None of these things is the true reason why you do not know the will of God being fulfilled in your life. What, then, is the reason? It is that you do not know the grace of God! You may object to that, but I say it again. You do not know the grace of God, and that is your difficulty.

The Apostle Paul, under the peculiarly acute trial which came upon him, was also in danger of failing and fainting, and to his cries to the Lord he received an answer, which was: "My grace is sufficient for thee!" The Lord did not mean: 'It is all right Paul! You have this trial and this suffering,and it is all very bitter and very hard, but I will just comfort you and give you the grace to bear it quietly!' The Lord did not only mean that. He was saying: 'Paul, in spite of this thing, you will reach the goal. The heavenly vision will be realized. My grace is sufficient, not just to comfort you, but to get you through.' Paul was feeling: 'This thing is like a great stake that holds me to the ground. It is driven in by the devil, and here I am down here when I would be up there. Now, if the Lord, in His sovereign power, would rebuke the devil and remove the stake, then I could get busy climbing up there!' But the Lord said: 'No, you do not get there that way. Let the devil drive in his stake that cripples you, handicaps you, and makes you,as you have never been before, aware of your own utter helplessness, but My answer is not to remove the handicap. My answer is that there is a spiritual power which I call My grace that will, in spite of everything, in spite of your own more conscious weakness,disability, inability, yet bring you to that heavenly goal. My grace is sufficient!' That was the Lord's word to the Apostle, and it is His word to us.

Grace For Service

Is My grace sufficient for ministry? When the Apostle had that vision, it was not of himself with the Lord in glory. That is some people's idea of heaven, but it is not the Lord's idea, for it would not be very glorious to Him, and does not represent His purpose one little bit. No, the vision was of a great company of redeemed souls brought right through to glory in spite of their own hopelessness, of the tremendous pull of the world, of the power of sin, of the antagonism of the devil, and of sin, and shame on their side. Paul saw that vision and his heart was moved with a great desire to serve the Lord in that. He longed to pour out all that he had and all that he ever could be in order that  that might be realized, not just in him, but that he might serve the Lord in bringing others there, and then, doubtless just when he was most full of hope as to the glory and blessedness of this ministry, and he left all for the Lord to do that, he was smitten down. Some of us know something of what that means: the bitter disappointment of not being able to fulfill our ministry. And that is how it came to Paul. From a human point of view he was out of the ministry,and it was satan's work. That was a very bitter thought to Paul, but the Lord came to him after his third appeal, when he was really desperate, and assured him that, far from being out of the ministry, he was now coming into it, and that this experience was a part of it. 'Paul, you shall fulfill a ministry with this suffering, this disability, such as you could never have fulfilled by any other way, but it will not be you. My Grace is Sufficient for You!'

I have said this in order that we may catch something of the thought of God's grace being a tremendous power, and a practical power, in the life.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 2)

Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Unveiling of Jesus Christ # 8

The Unveiling of Jesus Christ # 8

(2) "Faithful and True Witness"

"Witness" is the same as "Martyr," "Faithful unto death." His testimony - "the testimony of Jesus" - is forever sealed with His Own Blood. A vast amount of the Bible is gathered into this.

(3) "The Firstborn of the dead"

This is position and relationship. Priority to be followed by others in resurrection. There could be no resurrection for any until Jesus was raised, but then "a new and living hope' sprang to birth for all born-anew believers.

(4) "The Ruler of the kings of the earth"

By His resurrection He won universal Lordship. What satan offered Him on the ground of compromise, and he refused and declined, He has gained through no compromise, but obedience unto death.

This brings us to the all-inclusive issue - the issue which is greater than Caesar and satan - His victory.

(5) "The First and the Last"

Note the particular use of this title in relation to this book. This is the end! The end is to see everything where, and as, God - at the beginning - intended it to be. 'All things summed up in Christ' (Colossians 1:16-20). Pause here with your New Testament open at Ephesians, Colossians, Hebrews.

(6) "The Living One"

"I became dead" - not 'I was killed.' The Roman Empire, the Jewish nation, the kingdom of satan, all conspired to kill Him, but "No one taketh it from Me. I lay it down of Myself. I have authority to lay it down, and to take it again. This commandment received I from My Father" (John 10:18).

"I am alive unto the ages of the ages, and I have the keys of death and of hades." Here we have two things:

(a) The purpose of His becoming dead," His voluntary death. This is in verse five, and it is summed up in a mighty "US" - "Loveth us" - Loosed us" - Made us."

"Christ loved the Church"
Christ loosed the Church from
satan's authority.
Christ made the Church a "Kingdom and Priests."

"The keys of death and hades." The right and authority to deliver from the sum of human sin and satan's power thereby, which is death. Read in here First Corinthians fifteen.

Death, and subsequent captivity - imprisonment - cannot prevail against the Living Lord and His Church. Death is the power, and hades is the realm in which the system of death operates. Christ has plundered both, and taken their power into His Own hands.

"He plunged in his imperial strength
To gulfs of darkness down;
He brought His trophy up at length;
The foiled usurper's crown."

Again, we have to place the Cross over the whole book!

The Throne is the Throne of the Lamb!

(b) The second thing intimated here is the one which relates to the final issue in a primary way. It is going to be the ground of the real controversy, connected with everything. Because it requires so much consideration, we shall do no more than mention it now. It is just what is the meaning of our Risen Lord's exultant cry: "I am alive for ever, more." Yes, that is it!

The Life of the Ages,
Life Triumphant;
Life Immortal!

You may be sorry that we break off there for the present, but this is enough to bring us face to face with the mighty issue of this book - even that of God's eternal counsels.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(The End)

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Unveiling of Jesus Christ # 7

The Unveiling of Jesus Christ # 7

The All-corrective Dynamic, continued

The Cross, Christ crucified, is the great corrective.

How often we have said that if only our gatherings and gathering-place were full of the life and light of the Lord, and the power of the Cross was manifested in His gathered people, there would be a spontaneous forsaking of all that divides and weakens the testimony! It is difficult to set down all that we see in this ultimate presentation of Him as alive, Who became dead,and is risen for evermore.

What it amount to, in the Passover and its counterpart or full unveiling, is that God MUST be ALL. That which takes His place, or divides place with Him - the idols of men - may just be anything which is of any consideration before or beside this one thing: is it wholly and undividedly the Lord and His glory? Our institutions, organizations, traditions, enterprises, even denominations, associations, etc., may obscure or limit the Lord. The answer is a new captivating, all-mastering and over-circling vision of Christ in all His Divine fullness and significance. The last movement before "Behold, I come quickly" must be a Christ-movement.

Part Four

The Consummation of the Ages

We concluded our last chapter with the words: "The last movement before 'I come quickly' must be a Christ-movement'. If this book of "the Revelation" is finality, then it is - in that very connection - the book of the fullness and finality of Jesus Christ. Above we have used the word "consummation," the etymology of which is: "to bring into one sum, to perfect, to bring together." This is exactly what this book does. It is the summation of the ages. It comprehends the whole Bible and bounds all history. It compasses creation, redemption, and perdition. It embraces heaven, earth, and hell. It connects with God, man, and satan. In it there are no less than four hundred allusions to the Old Testament. When all is said, the one question that arises is: "Is there one thing - one issue - that interprets and explains everything?" Yes, there is! The all-inclusive issue is:

The Purpose of God in the Eternal Government of This World

In our other series of messages on the Holy City we are seeing that - not only at the end of this book but at this end of all time - universal government is represented by the City, both in fact and nature. It is the symbol of universal authority vested in, and mediated by Christ and His Church. It is the nature of the Son of God as Son of Man. That is why "judgment begins at the house of God" (1 Peter 4:17) as in the first chapters, representatively.

This inclusive issue is seen (in this book) to relate to the purpose of God

1. in creation;
2. in redemption;
3. in His Son;
4. in Israel;
5. in the Church;

and that is the way in which to read and study the book! The book is the revelation of final restoration and recovery in Christ Jesus.

A revelation has been given in (a) the Old Testament; (b) the New Testament - brought to its greatest fullness through the Apostles Paul and John. 

That revelation has been departed from, both by Israel and the Church. Its greatest fullness was given through Paul to the churches in Asia; hence it is there that the comprehensive message of judgment unto recovery is focused. But that was intended to reach through all time to the end, and that message shows that there are always those, a remnant, who stand and make up the difference of Christ in God's people (Col. 1:24). So, what we have seen in our first three chapters is a fundamental presentation of God's Pattern and God's way, i.e. His Son and the Cross.

The consummate issue, then, is brought into view in two ways:

1. A personal presentation of Christ; and
2. A comprehensive designation of Christ in His titles.

As to the latter we have:

1. "Jesus Christ, the faithful witness".

"Jesus" - the Man. The title of His humanity before His exaltation. When He is so called, almost invariably the connection is with His earthly life before 'being glorified.' After that, as a rule, there is added 'Lord" - 'Lord Jesus,' or 'Jesus, our Lord', etc. It is quite a mistake now, as with a whole body of people, to say just 'Jesus, Jesus'. That title, or name, is used only to identify Him with the designation that follows. This One Who is majestically and gloriously unveiled,  is none other than the One Who came into this world at Bethlehem and lived a life as a Man here.

"Christ" = Messiah, the Anointed. "This Jesus" was, by anointing, made Prophet, Priest, and King, for all men, in the midst of God's new Israel, the Church. 'Anointed' is His official title to carry out a Divine mandate. It is God committed to Him.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 8)