Total Pageviews

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Spiritual Sight # 10

Spiritual Sight # 10

(c) A Seeker Who Meant Business With God

But the enlightenment that came to him brought with it a fresh challenge, as it always does. Every bit of new light coming from the Lord carries with it a fresh challenge, a challenge to some practical obedience. Now I am not going to stay to deal with a most interesting, and I think, a most profitable detail of the whole story, but let us note it. Isaiah 53 brought Christ into view and Philip preached from that scripture Jesus, and the very next thing we strike right up against is, "Here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?" Now, you have to do some filling in there, if you are to see how that arises with Isaiah 53. I leave you with that. Do not pass it over; you think about it. All I am going to say is that the revelation which came to the man then, the enlightenment of his eyes, brought with it a challenge to obedience, and this enlightened seeker was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision, but was swift to meet the challenge, quick to run in the way of His command, unhesitant in obedience to the light that had come. So far as the thing itself is concerned, all is very simple; but that is the substance of things. We see a man passing from darkness to light. We see a man passing from a quest to a heart ravishing knowledge. We see a man fumbling, changed into a man who has a firm grasp, a man whose heart is disappointed changed into one who goes on his way rejoicing. And the two things which from his side make that possible are an utter humility, in that he makes no bones at all about his ignorance and does not feign to know more than he does know, and his swift obedience to light coming to him. You have to say about this man, Here is an honest heart.

And that is how God deals with honest people. They get light and they get joy.

Before we leave him, let us say of him that he is clearly a man who means business. I like this man in his intentness upon knowing and doing. He is right on the mark. All the enervating effect of his Ethiopian climate had not robbed him of spiritual energy. He rose above that, he meant business with God. No element of compromise, excuse, or anything like that at all is found in him. He was simply set upon knowing, if it could be known, and doing whatever there was to be done when enlightened.

Well, to the man who is bent on thus knowing and coming into things, God is going to show Himself of the same kind. God is to us what we are to Him. God will be debtor to no man, and if you and I really mean business with God and are going right out for all that God has for us, all that God wants us to have and to know, and are not going to take on any airs but get right down to the level where we really and genuinely are, in all humility, and we mean that whatever the Lord shows us we are going to do it by His grace without any hesitation, we shall fine that, in the long run, God is not going to be our debtor, but He will meet us to the full. This man's story is given an immortal record. It comes in the Acts of the Holy Spirit, and when you come to ask the question, Why is this man included in the record and his story handed down from age to age to last as long as time? the answer is just what we have said: he was a man who meant business with God, was open to the Lord, honest in heart, humble in spirit,and obedient to the light that he had.

The Holy Spirit

(a) The Ground He Requires

Well, then, the second party in the story is the Holy Spirit, and a brief word only needs to be said. Of course, in reality He was the first party in the whole business, but I mention Him second here because it is perhaps more helpful to examine the incident in this order. The Holy Spirit was aware of such a man, and the Holy Spirit is always aware of such a man. There is a sense in which an Ethiopian must go before the Holy Spirit. You understand what I mean by that. Before the Holy Spirit can really do His work, He must have something upon which to do it that meets His requirements, and the Holy Spirit was cognizant of this man, of his quest and of his heart, and the Holy Spirit is always aware of such people as to where they are.

(b) How He Is Hindered

I think there is a very big story hanging upon a statement like that. If we did but know it, a lot of our problems are solved by understanding that. There is the big question which is always confronting us as to why is it that some leap into the light and go on, and others do not, but always lag behind, and never seem to see any more? Is it that there is a selectiveness on the part of God, a kind of elect of the elect that He has, is it that He has favorites? I do not think so. I think a great part of the answer lies here, namely, in what God finds He has to deal with, whether people mean business with Him or not, whether He has a clear way or not, whether the ground is occupied or not already by that which is an obstruction to Him. I do not think anybody will fail to get all the light the Lord wants them to have if they really mean business with God. The Holy Spirit knows us. He looks right deep down into our hearts and knows whether we mean business. He sees exactly what there is to hinder Him and how far He can go; for the Lord is not going to coerce anyone. If we are taken up with ourselves, occupied with ourselves,circling round ourselves, centering in ourselves, then the Holy Spirit has not a chance. We have to come to an end of ourselves. That is the trouble with so many. They have got a self-complex set up, and all the time it is a continuous going round in a circle and coming back to the same point at which they started, and it is all round themselves, and they are wearing themselves out. Before long they are going to have an awful crash that involves all that for which they are supposed to stand and represent for the Lord, and it will come down with them. The Holy Spirit has not a clear way. We have to get out of the way, so far as this self-occupation is concerned, if we are going to move straight on, and to go on. He knows exactly where we are, whether we are tied up with things, religious things, traditions and so on, and so tied up in them that we are not open to the Lord to consider any further light at all. We have got it all, and we are a part of that! You know what I mean. The Holy Spirit cannot do much with folk who are in a position like that; and He knows. His attitude is, It is no use, I cannot do much there, they are too tied up. But, if we are prepared to put everything into the water, then the Lord can go on and get a clear way.

The Holy Spirit knows. He knows you and He knows me. He knows us a great deal better than we know ourselves. We may have thought that we meant business and have been praying very much a long time and crying to the Lord to do something, while the Holy Spirit knows quite well that we are not at an end of ourselves and our own interests yet. Something more has to be done to bring us to despair before He can do what He wants. But He knows that is the point. He knew this man. He knew that He had not a great deal to do to make a start with every prospect of a clear way, and He took the opportunity presented, and He was able to act sovereignly. He did that in order to meet this need.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 11)

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Spiritual Sight # 9

Spiritual Sight # 9

The Reason For The Necessary Experience, continued -

Now, to go on with a ministry, like that is not a very comfortable thing. You have to be a crucified man to do that, you have to have no personal interest. If you are out for a reputation, for popularity, for success, for a following, then it is best not to go this way, not to see too much, best not to have insight into things; better put blinkers on and be an incorrigible optimist. If you are going the way of the Lord's purpose, of a people who really do answer to His thought, it is going to be a way which is cut clean through the mass who will not have it, and who let you know they will not have it, and you go a lonely way. They may think they have a case, but the fact is that they are not hungry and desperate enough even to investigate, to inquire at first hand. They are easily turned aside by the slightest criticism of you, or of your position, of your ministry, and you have to go on with the few, the handful who are going on. It is the price of vision, the price of seeing. Isaiah had to be a crucified man in order to fulfill a ministry like that, and in order for you and me to occupy a position with God, we have to be crucified to that which was in Uzziah, a craving for position. Not satisfied with kingship, he must have priesthood. Nay, more than that, not satisfied with the blessing of God, he must have the very place of God. What a contrast is this! - on the one hand, king Uzziah, on the other, "mine eyes have seen the King."

Can you follow this? It is searching, it is tremendous, but oh, beloved, it is the way of the full desire and thought of the Lord. It is a lonely and costly way, and the effect is really to bring out what God sees in the heart of His people, and in order to do that - which is going to mean that we suffer for our revelation, for our vision, for seeing; we have to pay a great price for it - in order to do that, we have to be well crucified, to come to the place where we say, Well, I am undone, I am deserving of death; there is nothing for it but that I should pass out! The Lord says, That is all right, that is what I want - for you to pass out; I wanted Uzziah to pass out: then I could fill the temple! Uzziah is self, it is man as he is, and God does not co-occupy His house with man. He must fill it.

The Man Who Receives Spiritual Sight

Read: Acts 8:26-40

In this simple but instructive incident we have three parties. We have the Ethiopian, the Holy Spirit, and the human instrument, Philip. The incident falls into the compass of our present meditation in this conference concerning spiritual sight.

The Ethiopian

(a) A Confessedly Blind Seeker

When we look at the Ethiopian, we at once see a blind seeker. Though religious, though moving in the circle of long standing and well-established religious tradition, though having been to Jerusalem, to the temple, to the very headquarters, he is still blind, still a blind seeker. That is quite clear from the questions he put to Philip about the Scriptures of those with whom he was associated, and their prophets. "How can I understand, except some one shall guide me?" "Of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other. He is manifestly a man in the dark, a man without spiritual sight, the eyes of his heart have not been enlightened; but the hopeful thing about him is that he is a confessedly blind man.

(b) A Humble Seeker

He was a very important man in this world, a man of considerable responsibility and influence and standing, and because of his position he might well have hedged things a bit. When challenged about his reading, he might have evaded the point or pointedness of the question and have given some kind of evasive non-committal answer. You know how people do who do not like to be thought ignorant, especially if they are people who are regarded as being of some standing, who have a position to keep up. This man, with all that he was among men on this earth, was a confessedly blind man. Without any hedging or evasion, he answers the question quite directly and honestly and frankly. 'Do I understand what I am reading? Well, how can I except someone teach me?' Then, in his openness, he pressed further for information, for explanation, for enlightenment. "Of whom speaketh the prophet?"

Now, that is very simple, I know, but it is fundamental. It is fundamental to any kind of spiritual understanding, it is basic to all spiritual knowledge, it governs every degree of progress in spiritual things. The humility of this great man is the key to the whole story. He does not seek to give the impression that he knows what he does not know, to lead another to think that he understands when he does not understand; he start right from the place where he truly and really was. He knew in his own heart that he did not understand and he gave no other impression,but let it be known that was exactly where he was, and that gave a fully opened way to the Lord. May it not be it was this that the Lord had seen long before and upon which He was acting all the time? He knew that He had a perfectly honest and humble man in the dark seeking light, and He could move sovereignly in wonderful ways over considerable distances and take some momentous steps; for these were taken by the Lord in order to meet that life. You see what such a state of heat makes possible from the Lord's side, how much the Lord is prepared to do when He finds a heart like that. A blind man seeking light, but confessedly blind: for the Lord did not leave such a man in the dark; He gave him the light he was seeking.

And may we not say the Lord gave him a great deal more than he was seeking; for I do not think we should be adding anything to the story if we said that, when he went on his way rejoicing, he felt that he had got a great deal more than he had set out to get. It is always like that. When the Lord does a thing, He does it properly. As Mr. Spurgeon said, My cup runneth over, and my saucer also! When the Lord does a thing, He does it well. The man went on with a full and overflowing cup, an enlightened  seeker. He had come to see what all the religious leaders of his day were not seeing, and were incapable of showing him.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 10)

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Spiritual Sight # 8

Spiritual Sight # 8

The Leprosy Of The Self-Live, continued -

Therein - and it is another branch of things for which we have no time now - therein lies the peril of blessing and prosperity. Oh, how necessary it is for us to be crucified in the midst of our blessings! How necessary it is for God to make safe His blessings of us by continually showing us ourselves, and that it is all of grace, and that if He has given us any kind of blessing, any kind of success, and kind of prosperity at all, it is not because there is something in us in His sight, whatever men may think. Whatever we may be among men, in God's sight we are no better than lepers, and what matters is NOT how we get on among men, but how we get on with God. We might arrive at some very high eminence in this world, but whether we arrive with God or not is the thing that matters.

Now perhaps this goes past most of us, because we are not all too conscious of having been blessed and prospered and having much to boast about. Most of us know the opposite, a good deal of emptying and humiliating. But let us get to the heart of this thing. Even down there in the depths there is a craving in us which is a self-craving, there is a revolt which is the revolt of this self-life.

Well, Uzziah is brought to light here in order to show that that is the thing in people and prophet which makes it impossible for God to reach His end, and it has to be dealt with, exposed; it cannot be overlooked; it must be dragged out, and we must see.

The Attainment of God's Object - The Fruit of Seeing the Lord

And so I just come at once and directly to this point, which is that God should get the end upon which His heart is set, a people, though it be but a tenth, a remnant, a people answering to His own heart-desire and satisfying Him in the full purpose of His will. For Him to get that, there must be seeing, and one thing to be seen, which will do all the rest, is the Lord; and to see the Lord, as this makes so clear, is to see holiness; and when we see holiness we see leprosy where we never suspected it, in ourselves or in others. When we have seen the Lord, we see the true state of things in ourselves and in those around us, even of the Lord's people. To see the Lord is the need, in order that we should be in the way of that end toward which He is pressing.

"I saw the Lord"; mine eyes have seen." What is the result? Well, it is a revealing of ourselves to ourselves, and it is a revealing of the spiritual state around us. When we have seen the Lord, we cry, I am undone! If you look at that word "undone", you will find that it just means this (but this it does mean), I am worthy of death. That is exactly the meaning of the Hebrew word there - worthy of death, I am worthy of death! You and I will see the need for union with Christ in death if our eyes are open to see the Lord; to see that there is nothing else for it, it is the only way.

Now, this is not just language, these are not just words and ideas. What I want us to see is this, for one thing, that the work of the Spirit of God in us, by which our eyes are opened to see the Lord, will result in our feeling that the only thing for us is to die, the best thing for us is to die, to come to an end. Have you got there? Of course, satan will play on that ground, as indeed he has with many people, trying to drive them to make an end of everything, to work upon something that the Spirit of God is doing and turn it to his own account and create a tragedy. Let us keep in the spiritual realm, and recognize that the Lord will work in us for His own glory and for glorious possibilities, by bringing us to the place where we feel deeply and terribly that the best thing for us is to die. Then He has got us in agreement with His own mind about us. I am undone! - and the Lord might well have said, And so you are: I have known it all the time, I have had difficulty in making you know it; you are undone.

Well now, when you come to that place, you have come to the place where we can start. While we are there, pressing in all the time, occupying the place like Uzziah,coming into the temple, into the house, into the sanctuary; busy, active; we in ourselves, what we are; while we are filling the temple, the Lord is not able to do anything. He says, Look here, you will have to go out,and you will have to come in the place where you hasten of your own accord to go out because you see you are a leper. That is put in there about Uzziah. "Yes, himself also hasted to go out." At last he realizes that this is no place for him. When the Lord has got us to that place - I am undone, this is no place for me! - then He can start on the positive side, He has the way open. This seeing is a terrible thing, and yet it is a very necessary thing, and in the outcome it is a very glorious thing. The commission came then.

The Reason For The Necessary Experience

I will just add this one thing. Do you see how necessary it was that a thing like that should happen with Isaiah? What was he going to do? Was he going to preach a great revival? Was he going out to tell the people, Everything is all right, the Lord is going to do great things: cheer up, there is a great day just about to dawn? NO! Go, make this people's heart fat, close their ears, shut their eyes! This is not a very joyful kind of work. What does it amount to? Well you see, the Lord knew the state of the people's hearts. He knows quite well that they do not want to see in reality. In reality they do not want to see. If they wanted to see, oh, they would be taking different attitudes altogether. They would be free of all prejudices, all suspicions, all criticisms; they would be reaching out and inquiring; they would be showing their signs of hunger and longing; they would be investigating, and they would not be readily put off by other people's judgments and criticisms. But He knew that in their heart they did not want to see, they really did not want to hear, whatever they might say about it; and this prophet will say later on, "Who hath believed our report?" (Isa. 53:1). The Lord knew, and judgment always comes along the line of a people's heart. If you do not want, you will lose the capacity for wanting. If you do not want to see, you will lose the capacity for seeing. If you do not want to hear, you will lose the capacity for hearing. Judgment is organic, it is not mechanical. It comes along the line of our life. You sow a seed of inclination or disinclination and will reap a harvest of inability, and one effect of a ministry of revelation is to draw out the people's inclination or disinclination unto their own judgment, and you will find that a ministry of revelation and life only makes some people harder. The Lord knows it is there.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 9)

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Spiritual Sight # 7

Spiritual Sight # 7

Seeing The Lord and Seeing Ourselves

Read: 2 Chron. 26: 1-5; 26:16-27; 26:23; Isaiah 6:1-10

This is a very impressive and striking story, and it circles round the matter which has been brought before us at this time, namely, that of spiritual sight. "I saw the Lord"; "mine eyes have seen..."; and everything gathers around that.

What arises from the whole incident is this, that king Uzziah was spiritually and morally a representation of Israel, and of Israel's prophets to a large extent. That is the significance of the double statement by Isaiah the prophet - I am a man of unclean lips, and I am your prophet; and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips. And that, as is very clear, connects with Uzziah; for you know that a leper had to put a cloth upon his upper lip and go about crying, Unclean! The significance of the words "I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips" is just that: we are all lepers. Isaiah is saying, in effect, What was true of Uzziah is true of us all, prophet and people. You do not realize it, and I did not realize it until I saw the Lord. We were all terribly, deeply, impressed with what happened in the case of Uzziah: we have been living in an atmosphere charged with the awfulness of that thing, we have been speaking under our breath about it, saying what a terrible thing it was, what an evil thing Uzziah did, and how awful that our king should turn out to be like that, and have an end like that, what a horrible thing leprosy is; and we have been speaking hard things about Uzziah and thinking many thoughts, how grievous his case was, but I have come to see that we are all in the same case. I, who have been preaching to you (do not forget that five chapters of prophecy have preceded this sixth chapter of Isaiah, this is not the commencement of a preacher's life, but somewhere in his life when he wakes up by a new revelation), I who have been preaching and prophesying, I have come to see that I am no better than Uzziah. You people, going on with your round of religious rites and ceremonies, you, attending the temple, you, offering the sacrifices, you, using your lips in worship, you are in the same case as Uzziah: we are all lepers. You may not realize it, but I have come to see. And how have I come to see? I have seen the Lord! 'Mine eyes have sen the King, Jehovah of hosts." "I saw the Lord...high and lifted up." I say this is very impressive when you think about it.

Well, what are we going to make of it? Perhaps we would do well just to steal away and be quiet with that a little while, just think it out.

Let us dismiss one thing immediately. It is a popular idea which somehow has sprung up, and by which most of us have been caught, that it was this vision that made Isaiah a prophet or preacher. We have heard that, perhaps we have said that. Oh no! Why, if the Book is inspired and governed by God, should it come long after he had been prophesying so much? Look at those five chapters of prophecies. What tremendous things are in those chapters. No, it was not this that was making him the prophet, the preacher. God was dealing with a man,not a prophet; God was dealing with a people, not with an office. He is getting down to what we are in His own sight. So we cannot just transfer it to a class of people called prophets or preachers, and feel that some of us are not involved because we are not in that class, we are just ordinary simple folk who do not aspire to be prophets and preachers. It is not that. The Lord is getting down to people here and seeking to make clear to them how He views them in themselves, even though they may have been preaching a lot; what they are, after all, in His sight, in themselves. Sooner or later that reality has to break upon us to safeguard everything and to secure His end.

What God Is Seeking

What is God after? If you can see, if you can have your eyes opened to see what God is after, than you will understand His method, and why He employs this method. Chapter 5 makes clear what God is after; He is after a people who satisfy His own heart. It is called a remnant. It is called that simply because such a people will be but a remnant. He knows quite well that the whole people will not conform to His thought. He has foreseen that history of His people right up to the days of the coming of His Son, and what this very people will do with His Son. He knows their hearts. That is why He tells Isaiah those terrible things that he is to do: make this people's heart fat, close their ears and their eyes. He knows!

But nevertheless, there will be those who will respond. They will be but a remnant,and that remnant is mentioned specifically at the end of Chapter 6 in these words -

"And if there be yet a tenth in it, it also shall in turn be eaten up: as a terebinth, and as an oak, whose stock remaineth, when they are felled; so the holy seed is the stock thereof."

In the stock that has been felled - and you notice what precedes is the felling of the tree; Israel would be felled by the nations whom God is going to call to cut down Israel, to use as His instruments of judgment, and they would fell this tree of Israel, but the stock will remain - and in the stock, there will be a tenth, there will be a remnant, a holy seed in stock when the whole tree has been dealt with. God is after a company, even out from the whole general company of His people, who will satisfy His heart, and to secure that remnant He lays hold of Isaiah and deals with him in this way, and gives him this vision. Beloved, in order that God should get His end, we have to be thoroughly disillusioned and have our eyes opened to see very clearly what we are in ourselves in the sight of God. Terrible revelation! Anything which is a suspicion or a suggestion of self-satisfaction, self-complacency, of having attained or being satisfied with our present condition, will disqualify from being in the remnant or in any way instrumental toward God's end, God's purpose.

So, after this man had set out to speak of the wide ranges of the sovereign judgments of God in the first five chapters of Isaiah,suddenly it seems God arrests him. There is a crisis in his own life and in his own ministry. God takes him to the depths of an eye-opening as to what he is, and what the people are, in His sight. He and they who had judged and condemned, and spoken those words with bated breath about the terrible thing that had happened to Uzziah, were shown to be just as bad; there was no difference. In God's sight, they were all with the cloth upon their upper lips, called upon to cry, Unclean, unclean!

The Leprosy of the Self Life

And what was this leprosy? Oh, we say, of course, sin. Yes, sin; but what is this? Let us have a look at Uzziah and see what leprosy meant, what leprosy represented or betokened in the case of Uzziah. "He did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that his father Amaziah had done," and while he walked in the ways of the Lord, the Lord made him to prosper. A man blessed of the Lord, walking in the light of the Lord, and knowing the Lord's favor, and alongside, that deeply rooted thing which is in every man's heart, always ready to rise up and turn the very blessings of God to his own account, to make a name for himself, to get a position for himself, to bring himself aggrandizement and glory and power and influence and satisfaction, to give him a reputation and a position. That is it. What is leprosy? What is this thing which is an abomination to God? It is just that self-life which is in us all, which is ever even coming into the things of God and seeking to make them of personal advantage and account. The Lord blesses, and we become somebody in our own secret hearts because the Lord has blessed. We forget that the very blessings that have come to us have come through grace and the mercy of God, and secretly we begin to think there must be something in us to account for it. It is our ability, our cleverness, something in ourselves. We begin to speak about our blessing, our successes. Oh, it is that thing down there, the leprous germ in us all, the self-life in its manifold ways which produces pride, even spiritual pride, and causes us, like Uzziah, to press in to holy things in self-energy,self-strength, self-assertion, self-sufficiency. Yes, the leprosy is the root of self, selfhood, however it may express itself.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 8)

Friday, June 9, 2017

Spiritual Sight # 6

Spiritual Sight # 6

Seeing Governs Ministry

And of course that must lead us to the next thing, though in a very brief word. What is true of the beginning of the Christian life, and what is true of growth, is true in the matter of ministry. Now, do not think I am speaking to any particular class of people called "ministers." Ministry, as we have said here before, is a matter of spiritual helpfulness. Any ministry which is not a matter of spiritual helpfulness is not true ministry, and anybody who is spiritually helpful is a minister of Christ. So we are all in the ministry, in God's plan. Now, since that is so, we are all affected, we are all governed by this same law. To be spiritually helpful is a matter of seeing. You know that 2 Corinthians is the letter in the New Testament which has most to do with ministry. "Seeing we have this ministry" (4:1) - and what is this ministry? Well, "God hath shined into our hearts" (4:6). It is very familiar to us that Paul has at the back of his mind as he writes this part of the letter, Moses, the minister of God. That is the designation by which we know Moses, as the servant of God, and Paul is referring to Moses fulfilling his ministry, his service, reading the law and having to put a veil upon his face because of the glory, the people being unable to look upon him. And that was a glory that was passing. Now, says Paul, in the ministry committed to us God hath shined inside and we have no need of a veil; in Christ the veil is taken away; and what you are to see is Christ in us, and Christ is to be ministered through us as He is seen, as we are the vehicles of bringing Christ into view. That is spiritual helpfulness, that is ministry, namely, bringing Christ into view, and "we have this treasure in vessels of fragile clay, that the exceeding greatness of the power may be of God, and not from ourselves" (4:7). "We are...": and then follows a whole list of things which put us at a discount. But he is saying, in effect, It is Christ! If we are put at a discount, if we are persecuted, pursued, cast down, alway bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that is only God's way of bringing Christ into view. If we are pursued and persecuted and cast down and the grace of the Lord Jesus is sufficient, and you see the grace of the Lord Jesus being exhibited in that suffering and trial, then you say, that is a wonderful Christ! You see Christ, and by our sufferings Christ is ministered. That is spiritual helpfulness.

Who has helped you most? I know who has helped me most. It has not been anyone in the pulpit. It was one who passed through intense and terrible suffering for many years, and in whom the grace of God was sufficient. I was able to say, If I go through suffering like that, then mine will be a Christianity worth having, mine will be a Christ worth having. That helped me most, that is what I want to see. Do not preach to me; live, and you help me most. It is an inspiration, surely, or should be to us, to see that it is in our trial and adversity that others may see the Lord and be most helped. How we go through trial is the thing that is going to help someone else better than all that we can say to them. Oh, the Lord cover us as we say a thing like that, for we know our frailty, how we fail Him under trial. But that is what Paul is saying here about ministry. "We have this treasure in vessels of fragile clay... we are persecuted, pursued, cast down, alway bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus." But, with Paul, the end of all such things was, "they glorified God in me" (Gal. 1:24). What do you want more than that? That is ministry. If you and I could say that at any time, well, we should not have lived in vain. We should have been of some help if it could be said, "They glorified God in me."

But it is seeing, we, to be spiritually helpful, have to see, that others may have the ground provided for seeing. I put it that way; because we may see, and we may give out what we see, we may be living epistles, but others may not be seeing. But there is the ground for their seeing, and if they are honest in heart and unprejudiced, really open to the Lord, He will give them to see what it is the Lord has revealed to us and in us, and is seeking to reveal of Himself through us. He must have living epistles, men and women in whom He can be read. That is ministry.

Well, ministry to be given and to be received, is all a matter of this Divine work of grace of opening eyes. I think we have leave it there, and it all constitutes one great appeal to our hearts to seek the Lord to have our eyes opened. It is never too late to get spiritual sight, however blind we may have been, and for however long, if we really man business with the Lord. But do not forget that this is a matter of being honest with God. The Lord Jesus said a wonderful thing to Nathanael. Nathanael was perilously near that double blindness. At the moment when he allowed himself to give expression to a popular prejudice, he was very near the danger zone. He said, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" That is a popular prejudice. A popular prejudice has robbed many a man and woman of knowing God's fuller thoughts. Prejudices may take many forms. Let us be careful. But Nathanael was saved. The Lord Jesus said, "Hereafter ye shall see the heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man" (John 1:51). "Hereafter..." - He meant, of course, in the day of the Spirit. "As by the Lord the Spirit", Nathanael would see. Well, he was in danger, but he escaped. If you are in danger through your prejudice, beware; forsake your prejudice, be open-hearted. Be an Israelite in whom there is no Jacob,no guile, open-hearted to the Lord, and you will see.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 7 - Seeing the Lord and Seeing Ourselves

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Spiritual Sight # 5

Spiritual Sight # 5

Seeing Governs Spiritual Growth

Let us pass on to growth. Just as the beginning is by seeing, so is growth. Spiritual growth is all a matter of seeing. I want you to think about that. We have to see if we would grow. What is spiritual growth? Well now, answer that carefully, in your heart. I think some people imagine that spiritual growth is getting to know a great deal more truth. No, not necessarily. You may increase in such knowledge as you grow it is true,but it is not just that. What is growth? Well, it is conformity to the image of God's Son. That is the end, and it is toward that that we are progressively and steadily and consistently to move. Full growth, spiritual maturity, will be our having been conformed to the image of God's Son. That is growth. Then if that be so, Paul will say to us, "We all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord the Spirit" (2 Cor. 3:18).

The Ministry of the Holy Spirit

Now that contains a very precious and deep principle. How can we illustrate? That very passage which we have just cited helps us, I think. The last clause will give us our clue - "as from the Lord the Spirit." I trust I do not use too hackneyed an illustration in trying to help this out when I go back to Eliezer, Abraham's servant, and Isaac and Rebekah, that classic romance of the Old Testament. You remember the day came when Abraham, getting old, called his faithful household steward, Eliezer, and said, 'Put now your hand under my thigh, and swear that you will not take of the women of this country for a bride for my son, but that you will go to my own kith and kin.' And he swore. And then Eliezer set out, as you know, with the camels for the distant Country across the desert, praying as he went that the Lord would prosper him and give him a sign. The sign was given at the well. Rebekah responded to the man, and when, after tarrying a bit and being confronted with the challenge quite definitely, she decided to go with the man, on the way he brought out from his treasures things of his mater's house, things of his master's son, and showed them to her, and occupied her all the time with his master's son and the things which indicated what a son he was, and what possessions he had and what she was coming into; and this went on right across the desert until they reached the other side and came into the district of the father's home. Isaac was out in the field meditating: and they lifted up their eyes and saw; and the servant said, "There he is! The one of whom I have been speaking to you all the time, the one whose things I have been showing you: there he is! And she lighted down from the camel. Do you think she felt strange, as though she had come from a far country? I think the effect of Eliezer's ministry was to make her feel quite at home, to make her feel that she knew the man she was going to marry. She felt no strangeness or distress or foreign element about this thing. They just merged, shall we say? It was the consummation of a process.

"As from the Lord the Spirit." The Lord Jesus said, "When He come ... He shall take of Mine, and show it unto you." "He shall not speak of Himself; but what things soever He shall hear, these shall He speak...He shall take of Mine, and shall show it unto you" (John 16:13, 14). The Spirit, the faithful servant of the Father's house, has come right across the wilderness to find the bride for the Son, of His own kith and kin. Yes, there is room for wonder here. "Since the children are sharers in flesh and blood , He also Himself in like manner partook of the same" (Heb. 2:14). "Both He that sanctifieth and they that are sanctified are all of one" (Heb. 2:11). The Spirit has come to secure that bride now, one with Him, His flesh and His bone. But the Spirit desires to be occupying us with the Lord Jesus all the time, showing us His things. To what effect? That we shall not be strangers when we see Him, that we shall not feel that we are of one kind and He another, but that it may just be, "This is the last step of many which have been leading to this, and every step has been making this oneness more perfect, this harmony more complete." At the end, without any very great crisis, we just go in. We have been going in all the time, and this is the last step. That is conformity to His image, that is spiritual growth; getting to know the Lord, and to become like Him, getting to be perfectly at home with Him, so that there is no clash, no strangeness, no discord, no distance. Oneness with our Lord Jesus deepening all the time unto the consummation: that is spiritual growth. You see, it is something inward again, and it is but the development of that initiation, that beginning. We have seen and are seeing, and seeing and seeing, and as we see we are changed.

Is that true of everything you think you see? We have to test everything we think we see and know by its effect in our lives. You and I may have an enormous amount of what we think to be spiritual knowledge; we have all the doctrines, all the truths. We can box the compass of evangelical doctrine; and what is the effect? It is not seeing, beloved, in a true spiritual sense, if we are not changed. Yes, seeing is to be changed, and it is NOT seeing if it does NOT bring that about. It would be far better for us to be stripped of all that and to be brought right down to the point where we really do see just a little that makes a difference. We must be very honest with God about this. Oh, would we not sooner have just a very little indeed that was a hundred percent effective, than a whole mountain of knowledge, ninety percent of which counted for nothing? We must ask the Lord to save us from advancing beyond spiritual life, advancing, I mean, with knowledge, a kind of knowledge, presuming to know. You know what I mean. Real seeing, Paul says, is being CHANGED, and being changed is a matter of seeing as by the Lord the Spirit. So we will pray to see.

Some of you knew our Bible, knew our New Testament, knew Romans, knew Ephesians, thought we saw. We could even lecture on the Bible and these books, and on the truths in them, and did so for years. Then one day we saw; and people saw that we saw, and said, What has happened to the minister? He is not saying anything different from what he has always said, but there is a difference; he has seen something! That is it!

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 6 - Seeing Governs Ministry)