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Saturday, September 16, 2017

Notice

I will be offline probably all of next week. Will be switching to another server, another system and, knowing me, it will take me a while to figure it all out! Back as soon as possible. Sorry for the delay!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

His Great Love # 19

His Great Love # 19

The Issues of Love, continued -

We know something of glory of this life even now; it is not reserved only for the end. It is not so much in our bodies, perhaps - although sometimes the Lord touches even them with a touch of the powers of the world to come and revitalizes them with His own life - but we do know the whole question of life and death in our spirits, our souls, and what a difference there is between life and death! To sense death, to know something of death inside us, in our spirits, in our souls, to be touched by, or to be in an atmosphere of spiritual death, is an awful thing. But what a glorious thing it is to be in an atmosphere of Divine life! It is glory in our spirits now. For those who have to live in a world in which there is nothing of the Lord at all,it is all spiritual death, whether it be secular or religious, and it is a horrible thing. But it is a grand thing when you can escape that and find yourself in the presence of the Lord among His people and taste something of life. That is glory of a spiritual kind inside. But think - that is going to be manifested in its fullness for our whole being, including our bodies! It is the prospect, the calling, of the people of God, and it is all a matter of life.

But that life is based wholly and solely upon this matter of love. If you touch anything that is other than love - if you touch hate, animosity, suspicion, prejudice, criticism, jealousy, envy or any other thing that is contrary to love - you touch death. It is horrible. When you meet somebody who is eyeing you, not sure of you, suspicious of you, oh, how helpless, how hopeless, the situation is; you cannot get on, you are glad when you have passed, but you are sad. You have met with a touch of death. You touch love in another child of God coming out to you, and oh, what a prospect fills the air, what possibilities arise! There is a way through, everything possible where there is love. That is the issue which bounds all, and that is why you begin with the tree of life.

You end with the tree of life, but it is in the garden, the garden of Divine love. That tree can only thrive in the soil of love. These are very practical matters with a challenge. Do not forget that while you need people to love you and show you love, so that your spiritual life may grow and you may be released from smallness and pettiness and limitation and be enlarged, other people need your love to the same end; and you are not going to enlarge other peoples' spiritual life by criticizing them, by eyeing them. You are going to help their spiritual enlargement by loving them with the love of God.

This is inclusive; it includes everything else. We are not surprised, therefore, that when at Ephesus the matter of first love is raised, which is love inclusive of all the features of love, the all-inclusive question and issue arises, namely, that of life.

No Second Death

You are able then to pass on to break it up with what is said of the church in Smyrna. The issue of love triumphant in Smyrna was to be that the overcomer should have part in the first resurrection. "He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death." What is the second death? Briefly, it is that death where there is no recovery. It is the door finally closed, where there is then a distinct and abiding separation between God and man. All goes out in the second death: it is the end. There is no hope beyond that door, no possibility of life. But here in Smyrna, of him who is triumphant in love it is said, "He...shall not be hurt of the second death." Fullness of death shall be broken and defeated and deprived of its prey. Love means that you will never be allowed to be touched by that ultimate despair of separation from God. That is no small thing. If the end on that dark side is to be without hope, where God is lost and the soul has gone out into the everlasting desolation, never able to find God, it is a big matter that we should never be touched of that. And love triumphant, this kind of love in Smyrna which is suffering love ("Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life") means that, although it may cost you your earthly life, you shall never be touched of the second death. You may know the first death, in this sense, that you may go into the grave, and that maybe at the hands of murderers; you may have a martyr's grave, you may die because of the opposition and suffering that is heaped upon you; but that is only a first kind of death. There is a much deeper and more terrible death than that, and if you are faithful unto that first death, you shall not be touched of the second. You will find you will be among those who have completely conquered death. Now, whatever it means to you to have to exercise the love which suffers long, remember that is a big issue bound up with suffering love. You who are putting up with things for Christ's sake, who are enduring, who are suffering in any way in love for the Lord, by that suffering love you are in the way of cheating death in the end. You are undermining the power of death, you are destroying the very touch of death. Perhaps that wants explaining, but there is the fact stated, that by suffering we conquer death.

A Deep Secret Life With The Lord

We come now to the issue of love triumphant in Pergamum. It is remarkable that to this church that had come into a state of compromise from their failure to detect the inroads of evil, because of the low condition of that love for God which should normally be alert and sensitive to things injurious to God, it is remarkable that to them this word is addressed, "To him that overcometh, to him will I give of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and upon the stone a new name written which no one knoweth but he that receiveth it." But I can tell you in a word what it amounts to - that there is some inner fellowship with God to be known which is not the common lot of people, some inner knowledge of God which is a secret thing to be possessed, which means a very great deal. It is something to have a personal, inner, secret knowledge of the Lord, a knowledge which other people, not having, do not understand at all; you know the Lord in your own heart and you are enjoying something of the Lord in yourself; but you have to have it to yourself, it is your own secret. Is there not something in that for believers now? "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him" (Psalm 25:14). There is a mysterious something in the inner life of some children of God and in their walk with the Lord; they have a secret. They can never make other people understand it, it is a mystery to others, but there it is. It is their blessed possession, and oh, what it means to them! And that is what is here. Hidden manna, a white stone, a new name written thereon, His own name; "I will set him on high, because he hath known My name" (Psalm 91:14); and that distinguishes people who know the Lord in some more inward and some deeper way than the majority. It is not the ordinary kind of knowledge to the Lord that is here.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 20)

Sunday, September 3, 2017

His Great Love # 18

His Great Love # 18

The Issues of Love

In our previous meditation, we arrived at the consummation in the Book of the Revelation, and we were taking note of the wonderful truth that is in the first three chapters of the Book of the Revelation, the whole question is the question of love, love relating to many things, but all a matter of love.

We now go on to the issues of that love. Here we do really come up against the vital point that, while the Lord is seeking in His people that love - love like His own - there are tremendous things hanging upon it. It is not just an optional matter: everything hangs upon it. That is what arises here when the Lord says, "To Him that overcometh." You know that is said to each of the seven churches. Even where the Lord has not to point out any serious delinquency, He still says, "I see big issues bound up with this love, and everything hangs upon it." So we will spend this little time in looking at these great issues found in that final word to each, to all, to us - "He that overcometh"; or "to him that overcometh."

Life In Fullness

Ephesus; and again we remind ourselves that the challenge there relates to the all-inclusiveness of love, the first love, and so, when we touch the matter of love in its fullness, we expect to find an all-inclusive issue. That is to say, we expect to find that the thing which is bound up with an all-inclusive love is an all-inclusive outcome, and we are not wrong in that expectation. Here it is - "To him that overcometh, to him will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God." Here, with love after this kind - the love of God, the love of Christ, the love of the Spirit - is bound up the whole question of life in its fullness and what an issue that is! There is a reference to the tree of life in the Paradise of God. It is a backward look as well as a forward one. It takes us to the beginning and then to the end. We shall find that tree of life right at the end of the Book of the Revelation as the ultimate thing. It was the first, it is the last; therefore it is all-comprehending, this matter of love.

But you have to look back to the beginning to see what a tremendous issue it was and is. God, having first created the heavens and the earth, and all things, then created man and set him in that garden, and in the midst of the garden placed the tree of life; and everything of the creation and everything of man and everything of the Divine heart-purpose was centered in that tree. It was the tree of life. That is more than the animal life, more than the human life, more than the natural life. That kind of life, the animal, the human, the natural, was all there, but there was a life that was not there except as represented by the tree. As constituting a test, symbolically it was there, but its real significance was spiritual and unseen. And when man failed in this matter of reciprocating the love of God, and doubted and questioned and disbelieved and disobeyed - all of which is the contrary of love - Go made it impossible for that man as he was, in that state, to have that other life; and therefore the creation faded like a fading flower, was disrupted, and man came under the terrible shadow of judgment and death. Says Paul, "Through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin; and so death passed unto all men" (Romans 5:12). For the very creation, for man himself, that life was essential for God's purpose. Man never received it, and he lost it on the ground of lost love,failure in love.

Now look at the Lord Jesus. He came to the fullness of times. God sent His own Son, the Son of His love, and when the Son stepped out from His hidden years into the open, to assume definitely His great life work, the heavens were opened and God said, "This is My beloved Son" (Matt. 3:17). And John said of Him, "In Him was life" (John 1:4). Here He is, the embodiment of a new creation, in Whom is that life which Adam missed. It is here in Him. "In Him was life," that other life, that different life, that Divine life. It is in Him, and God says of Him, as embodying a new creation, "in Whom I am well pleased."

He is the Son of God's love, He possesses the life which no man had ever before possessed, He is the answer to all God's heart, God finds His perfect pleasure and satisfaction in Him. But look at Him. What do you see? Well, in this world among men, He appeared outwardly no different from any other man. There were repeatedly hints of something unusual about Him, which at times were dimly discerned by others, but these related to His nature and character and not to His outward appearance. Apart from this, men saw nothing different: even those closest to Him saw nothing. But there came a day of which it is written, "And after six days Jesus taketh with Him Peter, and James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into a high mountain apart, and He was transfigured before them: and His face did shine as the sun, and His garments became white as the light"; and all this was accompanied by the same voice from heaven, saying, "This is My beloved Son" (Matt. 17:1-8). Not a different Christ, not a different Son, not another, it is the same One. The life had been hidden, and now it blazed out. The life had been a secret thing,and now it was divulged. The life that was in Him was now seen to be what it was. What a transfiguring life! His whole body transfigured, aglow, agleam with Divine glory. Everything about Him was glory, the glory of heaven, the glory of God, and it was just the nature of the life that was in Him being given an opportunity to express itself. And that is a parable and a prophecy; for does not Paul tell us that the day is coming when this body of our humiliation shall be fashioned anew that it may be conformed to the body of His glory (Phil. 3:21), when this corruptible shall put on incorruption, this mortal put on immortality, and death shall be swallowed up in victory? (1 Cor. 15:50-55). The life which we have received in Jesus Christ is that kind of life. That is the extra life that Adam never possessed, and you see it is all on the basis of lover, Christ's love for the Father. His was a love which was unto death, that would battle through the hordes of evil forces: that, in obedience to the Father's will and for our salvation would cause Him to give Himself into the hands of the evil forces and say, "I am at your mercy, do your foul work; this is your hour and the power of darkness" (Luke 22:53). All this He was ready to do in obedience to the Father's will.

The Cross was right in view, and when on that mount Moses and Elijah appeared, they spake with Him of the exodus that He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. They were speaking with Him about His Cross. He was already under the shadow of the Cross, had already accepted it in principle, already yielded by every test to the will of the Father. Love was triumphant already in Him. He was going all the way, and the Divine love and the glory broke out. This is the inclusive note from Genesis to Revelation. Love is always linked with life and life with love - that kind of life.

Is this to you merely a beautiful theme, a lovely song? Does it matter to you whether you have a body of glory? Or is it just a negative matter with you, that you will be glad when you have done with this one, and that is all there is to it? Have you no concern for the glory that is to be? Are you not interested in that great and  marvelous statement that we have been called unto His eternal glory (1 Peter 5:10), to be glorified together with Christ when everything of death shall be fully and finally quenched and destroyed, and life - that Divine, uncreated life, that unique life of Christ - shall show what it is, manifest its nature, its qualities? The very glory of God is in His life. It is a big issue, the issue of life.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 19)

Sunday, August 27, 2017

His Great Love # 17

His Great Love # 17

(b) Discerning Love, continued - 

I would like to spend all my time on this matter of discerning love, because there is so much about it. We do not grow by teaching and information, by being filled up with the Bible and its doctrines and its truths, how ever wonderful and true and great they are. We only grow by love, and we grow by love in terms of spiritual discernment. "Love buildeth up" (1 Cor. 8:1); but love buildeth up because love gives us spiritual insight, and the simplest child of God, who has never been brought up in profound things, in the midst of a great wealth of teaching, but who loves the Lord will make far greater strides in spiritual growth than those who have it all mentally and intellectually and not through the eyes of the heart. It is true. If there is an adequate love there will be no compromise with error, with wrong, no permitting of questionable things, no long-drawn-out shedding of things which, while they may not be altogether wrong, would be better not there. The Holy Spirit can come along that way. Have we not seen it? Have we not seen people making all kinds of changes in their habits, in their manner, in their very adornments and fashions, as they have grown spiritually,and because of an intense love for the Lord, without anyone having said anything at all? Probably had someone pointed out various things - I had better not mention them - they might have said, 'All right, he says we must not do this.' Is that good enough? Oh no!  But without every mentioning these things, we have seen people gripped by the love of God, some right at the beginning of their Christian life, steadily through following months changing themselves outwardly, becoming different people. Love is the key. You can see, then, why the Lord spoke to the church at Pergamum in the terms in which He did. What was needed there, and therefore what is needed in the consummation, is first love as marked by discernment.

(c) Uncompromising Love

In Thyatira again we come to a bad state, as well as a sad one, a state of spiritual tragedy. Look at the language, the names, the history behind certain names there, and it is the history of the seduction of Israel. They have been seduced, and corrupted through seduction. That is summing it up. What then, is the requirement, in what way will love express itself? If a state of compromise in Pergamum requires discerning love, in Thyatira seduction and corruption demand an uncompromising love, repudiating Balaam and all the rest of his kind. No compromise, no seduction unto confusion, no mixing things up, no trying to bring together contrary things, no wearing of linen and wool, no ploughing with ox and ass - the symbols, you know, of two realms of two natures - none of this trying to bring together the life of the flesh and of the Spirit; it cannot be done. No compromise can really be established between the flesh and the Spirit, between the world and Christ. No; here first love to be recovered will mean no compromise, no mixture, no confusing of issues.

(d) Distinguishing Love

Sardis - what is the upshot of things in Sardis? "Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead." You look at the message to the church at Sardis and try to put it all into one word. What is the word that sums it up? Well, you have to say it is indefiniteness. So we can say again, in the light of the whole standard, that first love, ultimate love, the love of Christ, the love which He is seeking, is a distinguishing love that marks you out as clearly defined for the Lord and all that is of the Lord. Distinguished, different, outstanding, defined, unmistakable by the love that characterizes and governs. The thing that distinguishes from all else is that great love, and this great love brings about a distinctiveness of life. You cannot be indefinite if you are mastered by this kind of love. First love does not care one little bit what people think or say. Oh, everybody is saying this and that about the lover in the grip of first love. They may be using all sorts of language - He is a fool, he is mad! - it does not matter. This love is making them clear cut - one object, one design, one thought, one intent. They are people marked by one thing and not two. There is no doubt about it. We have our humorous ways of speaking of people who are in that state. He is in love, you cannot get away from it, everything goes by the board! There is one thing and one thing only in that life. That is, of course, how it ought to be. You young people, never have any relationships in the beginning that are not like that. First love is like that, and the Lord says, "I want you where you were at the beginning." Or shall we say, "I want you where I have ever been. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end; I am like that from first to last. I want you back therein a distinguishing love."

(e) Steadfast Love

Philadelphia is very quickly summed up. While the name itself means "brotherly love," there is one word that sums up this message, and that is "patience." "The word of My patience." First love is patient love, or, to use the other word that is always in the margin of the New Testament when you come on patience, steadfast love. That is first love, that is the love of Christ. "He loved them unto the end" (unto the uttermost): "I have loved thee with an everlasting love"; and oh, what a triumph that kind of love was and is! It needs steadfastness to go on with all that love has to encounter and suffer and endure. It is the quality of the love of God, steadfast love.

(f) Fervent Love

Finally, we have Laodicea. What is the word which sums up Laodicea? It is mediocrity, neither one thing nor the other, nothing outstanding, nothing positive. You cannot say they are not Christians, but yet again you cannot say very much that is good about them as Christians. They are very ordinary. There is no such thing as an ordinary first love. In first love you area most extraordinary person. What then is first love? It is, as over against Laodicea, fervent love, which means red hot love, white hot love, fervent love.

This is the sum of first love - suffering love, discerning, uncompromising, distinguishing,steadfast, fervent. Have we the key to the messages, have we the key to the end time? There may be another, but I have not found it yet. This is the last one I have found. I think we are right this time, and it amounts to this, that the Lord is going to speak to the Church, to His people, to us at the end, and that the thing He will speak about is the matter of love. He will place more emphasis upon that than upon anything else. All other aspects of truth are important, and they will be the directions in which love will work itself out; but the foundation, the spring of all, that which is to impregnate all - whether it be the service of the Lord, the very truth of the Church's eternal calling and vocation, the greatness of the work of the Cross, whatever it may be as a matter of aspects of the one whole truth - beneath and through all must be this Divine love. Have the things in themselves - the truths, if you like to call them that - have them all without love, and they are nothing. May the Lord write this in our hearts! Amen

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 18 - The Issues of Love)

Sunday, August 20, 2017

His Great Love # 16

His Great Love # 16

First Love As Covering All

Here again is the wonderful thing, that in Ephesus, which marks the beginning of everything, all turns on love. "Thou didst leave thy first love." What is first love? Well, first love is all-inclusive in its nature. You will not be able subsequently to find any characteristic or feature of love without finding it in first love. First love covers all the ground of love. We could not tabulate the meaning of first love. It is everything, it is all that you can say about love, utterly selfless, self-forgetting, uncalculating. It is fierce, it is fiery, it is completely hot, strong and faithful. That is where the Lord begins. First love is the basis on which the Lord takes up the whole matter, comprehensive of all love's features. So in relation to the ultimate situation, we see here, through Ephesus, that what the Lord must have in His Church is inclusive love, love in all its features. He must come at the end back to the beginning, and bring His Church likewise back to that basis. Of course, there must have been a first love; you cannot depart from what never was. That will challenge us.

To Israel the Lord said, through a prophet, with a sigh of disappointment and grief, "I remember concerning thee the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals; how thou wentest after Me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown" (Jeremiah 2:2). That is what love will do. Love will go after its lover in a wilderness where there is nothing to live on.

If necessary, it will die of starvation in order to be with its lover. "I remember concerning thee...the love of thine espousals." Inclusive love is the basis upon which the Lord begins, and in effect He is saying, "I can be satisfied with nothing less." Oh, there is love in Ephesus, there is no doubt about that. "I know thy works, and thy toil and patience" - and this, that and the other it is not that they are without love, but that they are without their first love, that utter, inclusive, every-sided love; that is the trouble.

Let this come to our hearts. We all love the Lord; I trust we can say that truly. We love the Lord and we will do much for Him. But is our love of this kind? Is everything in our lives prompted by love, or is much of it lived under a sense of duty, of obligation or necessity, of having to do;or are there other motives, other interests and objects that keep us in the work of God as Christians? Is it the fear that we must not drop out in case of what happens to us? That is all on a lower level of life. Inclusive love is God's starting point, and He says, "I can be satisfied with nothing less; even you who labor and are patient and have this, that and the other thing which are very commendable, I cannot let your lamp-stand remain with a loss of first love." Testimony is really gone when first love is gone, however much remains.

The Nature of First Love

(a) Suffering Love

We look now at Smyrna, and see that a great suffering has come upon the church there, a period of intense suffering in which it will be necessary to be faithful unto death; and so the Lord, in the inclusiveness of first love, would say, and does say, as I see it here, that first love is suffering love. It is indicated by what you will go through for the Lord's sake and out of love for the Lord, what you will endure, what you will put up with. No, not just to what part of the world you will go to minister to the heathen and lay down your life for your Lord, but what you will put up with at home, what you will put up with in other Christians, what you will put up with of daily martyrdom in love for your Lord without a revengeful spirit, without wanting to see those who cause your suffering and affliction made to suffer themselves for it. Suffering love, that is first love. Are you having to suffer, and suffer wrongfully? Peter says, "If, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye shall take it patiently, this is acceptable with God" (1 Peter 2:20). As we have said, grace is only another name for love. Suffering love - that is first love.

I could illustrate that. You have no need that it should be done, but you know quite well that in a first whole-hearted devotion to any object you are prepared to go through anything for that object. It does not matter what people say, the love is stronger than all hindrances.

(b) Discerning Love

Next we come to Pergamum. Here we have an awful state of mixture, contamination, compromise, entanglement with evil things.If we seek for the cause, we find that the church in Pergamum has not discriminated between the things that differ, between what is of the Lord and what is not. It has compromised by reason of defective spiritual sight, and so the issue here, the matter of first love, is that first love is a discerning love. There is much about that in the Bible. Paul is rich on the matter of discerning love. "...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" (Eph. 1:18). "The eyes of your heart enlightened" discerning love. The fact is that true love sees everything, but transcends everything. The love of Christ for His disciples was not blind love that did not know His men, love that was duped, deceived, misled, but eventually found out that they were not the men He thought they were, No, "He... knew what was in man" (John 2:24). His love saw everything, could tell them before hand exactly what they would do; but love persisted in face of it all. Love is a great seeing thing. If you are consumed with a burning love for the Lord, you will be very quick of scent as to what is doubtful and questionable. You not need to be frequently and continuously told when a thing is not right. No, move for the Lord will bring you quickly to see and to sense there is something that needs to be adjusted. You may not know what it is at the time, but you have a sense that all is not well. Love will do it. All the instruction in the world will not bring you to it. You may have the Word of God brought to you on all such points, and you might even say, "All right, because you say so, because it is in the Bible, I will do it, I will be obedient." Do you think that is good enough? Such a thing has never come to you through the eyes of your heart. But mark you, if this love, this discerning love, has really filled your heart by all the intelligence of the Holy Spirit indwelling you, you will sense it without being told, or if it should be brought to you from the Word, that within you will say, "Yes, I know that is right, the Lord tells me that is right."Do you not think that is the kind of Christian that is needed, and what the Lord needs at the end? That is what He has had in mind from the beginning and He calls that first love that is quick of scent to see what needs to be cut off or added, what adjustments are necessary, and does accordingly. You do not have to follow round and say, "Please do this; have you never taken note that you might be helpful in this way?" You do not have to do that where there is devotion, love is watchful all the time,aliveness, alertness, perception, readiness to do without being all the time told to do it. Real devotion to the Lord is something that far outreaches legality. First love is discerning love.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 17)

Sunday, August 13, 2017

His Great Love # 15

His Great Love # 15

Love The Key To The Vision In Revelation One

You take, then, the first chapter, and what is the key? The key to the first chapter and also to the whole book is to be found in the words, "Unto Him that loveth us, and loosed us from our sins by His blood; and He made us a kingdom, priests unto His God and Father." You can see love in almost every word of that great sentence.

But alongside of, or following on, that statement, you have the presentation of the risen and glorified Lord, and He is presented at once in that marvelous designation "Son of Man," the title of kinship, the redeeming kinsman. "Unto Him that loveth us, and loosed us from our sins" - the title, you see, belongs to One Who has come right into our estate, and eventually into our state. That is the theme of love. Oh, how great, how comprehensive, is that Son of man, flesh of our flesh, bone of our bone, to redeem us unto His Father! He is described in that matchless presentation, verse by verse, step by step, and when you have read it all and noted everything that is said about Him, every detail of His person and of His adornment, you find it is the sum total of love.

He is "girt about at the breasts with a golden girdle." Every word speaks of Divine love, the breasts, the gold, the girdle. The girdle is the symbol of strength, of energy, of intention, of purpose. You mean business when you gird yourself. The robes are no longer flowing for leisure, loose for reclining. The girdle is golden, symbolic of the very nature of God Who is love. Above the rest that girdle seems to me to include all the other features, give meaning to everything else.

I am not going to mention in detail all the features of this Son of man as given to us here. What I am trying to convey to you is that this inclusive presentation of the risen and glorified Christ is the comprehensive presentation of love. "But," you say, "is that true? - because some of the terms used are terrible, awful. John fell at His feet as one dead when he saw Him. Is that the effect of love? Would it not be truer to say that this is the Lord All terrible, rather than the Lord All loving?" But think again. It is love, but not our idea of love. We have to reconstitute our conception of Divine love. This One here is described as "the faithful and true." Have you never been in the hands of the Lord in discipline, in breaking, yes, in shattering, being poured out like water on the ground, and afterward have had to say, "Thou wast right, Lord, it was the only way. It was a terrible experience, but Thou wast faithful with me, faithful to all the highest and deepest principles of heaven. It was not in anger and judgment, but in faithfulness and mercy to my soul that Thou didst do it." We have to reconstitute our idea of love. Here John says, "When I saw Him I fell at His feet as one dead. And He laid His right hand upon me, saying, 'Fear not.' "  This is not judgment, this is not destruction, this is not death and condemnation. The right hand is the token of honor, of favor, "Fear not; I am the first and the last." "Everything is in My hands and in the end it will be all right; I took it up and I am going to finish it; fear not."

I was saying that John fell at His feet as one dead. There was another man who, traveling on a road with the positive intention of blotting out from this earth, as far as it lay in his power, every remembrance of Jesus of Nazareth, was met by this same Lord of glory. All-terrible? Well, certainly Saul of Tarsus went down, he was broken, the encounter overpowered him and left its mark upon his very physical body to the end of his life. Fro three days he had no sight, and they had to help him into the city. But do you tell me that was God All-terrible? Oh, listen to the conversation! "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?" What is the tone of that? It is not, I am sure, the tone of anger. It is a pleading tone of entreaty, of sorrow, of solicitude. "Who art Thou, Lord?" "I am God the All-terrible, and now I have brought you to book?" No - "I am Jesus Whom thou persecutest...What shall I do, Lord? ... Rise, and enter into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do." The Lord went ahead of him, prepared the way for him (Acts 9:1-9; 22:4-11). Do you tell me that terrible revelation was not love? Well, ask Paul himself what he thought about it, and see in after years what he had to say about it. He did not say, "He met me, He smote me, He destroyed me, He brought me into such awful judgment that I lost all hope." He said, "He loved me and gave Himself up for me" (Gal. 2:20). That meeting, terrible and devastating as it might be in one sense, was a meeting with the Lover of his soul.

I say again, we have to make over anew our conception of Divine love. It is not that sickly, sentimental thing we call love. It is something tremendous. We have so to reconstruct our conception of Divine love as to see that our highest interests for all eternity demand very faithful dealings with us by God, and the more we really know the heart of God, the more we come to be ready to say, "Thou art right, Lord; even in what I would call Thy hard handling of me, Thou art right." God in His love has the end in view, not just the pacifying of some fretful child with a sop. We are called unto His eternal glory and "our light affliction, which is for the moment, worketh for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory" (2 Cor. 4:17). But we do not always believe it while the affliction is on us. We do not even call it "light"; but He knows how transcendently and infinitely the glory outweighs the suffering. He has decided, with the greatness of the end in view, it is worth His while to be faithful with us and let nothing pass that would take from that glorious prize of His glory or work against it. He knows quite well that, when we are with Him afterward, were we to see something that was not taken up by Him and dealt with because of the suffering and the pain it would have caused us, and because we would have murmured and complained, that we would say to Him then, "Lord, why didst Thou not do that in spite of me?" And so, knowing the end and dealing with us in the light of it, the faithful and the true love is other than our poor sickly conception of love. Love in our thinking so often means just giving way all the time, just having everything we want or giving everything that others want. God deals with us, not as infants, but as sons (Heb. 12:7). The presentation, you see, is all a comprehensive and detailed consummation of love.

The Churches Challenge As To Love

Now you pass to the next two chapters, and you have the churches; and the Lord is here dealing with the churches on the basis of the presentation. That can be seen by noting that every one of the seven messages to the churches takes up some feature of the presentation of Christ in the first chapter. You can look at that and note it. Actual phrases in the presentation of chapter one are used in relation to the churches respectively. So He is dealing with the churches on the basis of Himself as fully presented, and therefore if the presentation is the comprehensive embodiment of love, He is dealing with all the churches on that basis.

Now you note that the messages and the churches are bounded by Ephesus and Laodicea, and not as unrelated but as embracing and covering all the seven. In Ephesus and Laodicea the trouble is defective love. Ephesus, "thou didst leave thy first love"; Laodicea, "thou are neither hot nor cold." The whole question with these churches is love. Let us hurriedly look at them separately, as far as we can.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 16 - First Love As Covering All)

Friday, August 4, 2017

His Great Love # 14

His Great Love # 14

Love Persisting Though Spurned

But Israel went into a great deal of suffering and distress because they did not respond to that love of God thus expressed, and it looked very much as though the everlasting love was lasting no longer. But not so, it has never changed. You see, love has sometimes to change its form of expression, although in itself it does not change, and so we have another side to the revelation of God's ways with wayward and wilful man. Suffering affliction and adversity to individuals and to nations and to the world is not because of a contradiction of the statement that God so loved the world. It is the only way in which that love stands any chance of getting a response of the kind God wants. God does not want that kind of love that is not love at all because it gets everything that it wants to satiate its own lusts. That is not love. This love of God must make us like itself, it must be after its own kind.

And so, strangely enough, many have come to find the love of God through the dark way of suffering - to discover that God was not their enemy but their friend, when they thought that He was pursuing with the object of destroying them. But I am not going to follow that out just now.

I want to be content now with making that great declaration with which we started, doing the little I can to try to bring it home to you - who it is that says it, what it is that He says, the people to whom He says it, with the assurance that, so far as He is concerned, He will never take another attitude but love, even if it is disappointed love and we ourselves should lose all that that love meant for us. To lose that and to know it would be our hell of hells. There could be no deeper hell than to discover all that was meant for you by infinite love, and to realize that by your own folly and your own stubbornness it has gone beyond your reach forever. What more of a hell can you imagine than that? I think that is the only kind of hell we need contemplate, whatever may be the full truth about it. For any one to wake up and have to say, "Oh, what might have been, if only, if only I had done so and so! If only I had taken the opportunity! It is too late now!" - that is agony of soul, that is misery, that is despair. You see, it is the effect of love, Divine love's immense purposes,and we discover that it is now all impossible because we have foolishly rejected, refused, repudiated, gone our own way, stubbornly said No! to the Divine love. That is the dark side of this,but I am not going on to the dark side now. Listen again, whoever you may be. If you know yourself only a little you must be amazed at this statement, but if it does not come to you as the most wonderful thing that ever was or could be, there is something grievously the matter with you; that such a One should say to such as we, "I have loved THEE, with an everlasting love." May God Himself bring that home to us with something of its implication, something of its meaning and value, its glory, its wonder. If He should graciously do that, we shall be worshipers for the rest of our lives; there will be something about us that is in the nature of awe and wonder and we shall go softly. The realization of it will smite all our pride to the dust. There is no room for pride here. This will remove all those horrible things - pride, avarice, covetousness, self-interest, worldly ambition - and we shall be be very humble, very grateful people, full of a great longing somehow to requite that love, somehow to win for that One His rights. This has been the motive and passion of many who have given themselves in the far places of the earth in a daily suffering for their Lord's sake. Love - a little return for this so great love wherewith He loved us.

Love: The Supreme Test of the Church

"His great love wherewith He loved us" (Ephesians 2:4).

We come now to the close of the New Testament, the consummation in the Book of the Revelation. A great deal of reading ought to take place at this point for which we have not the time. Will you open the Word at the beginning of the Book of the Revelation and glance down through the first, second and third chapters as the first main part of this book, hurriedly recalling what is there, and helping as best you can as we go on by noting details also?

We have said that we are here in the consummation, and I think I shall have no difficulty in having your agreement that,when we come to the Book of Revelation, we do come to the consummation of all that is in the Word of God; that is, it is a gathering up of all at the end to a final settlement. That at least we can say about the Book of Revelation. Whatever may be our idea of interpretation of the many things here, we are all agreed that here we are at the end and everything is being gathered up to a final settlement. At this point we must ask a further question. Have we not much to go upon that we are now nearing that final settlement of all things, that we are in the days of the consummation of the ages? Is it necessary for me to gather up all the proofs and evidences and signs to prove that? But I think there again I have your agreement. We certainly are in the end times.

If that is true, there it is a matter of supreme importance that we should recognize what are the primary and ultimate factors with God; and if those factors are at all at issue in our considering them together at this time, then our meditation must take on a significance which is altogether  beyond our own. It must be a very solemn and consequential time, and it must demand and receive from us a definite act of putting away every other kind of thought and consideration. There should be an open-hearted seeking of the Lord, with no prejudices, no suspicions, no curiosity, nor anything that is casual or indefinite. We must come, and, with all our hearts, take the attitude that if God is going to say to us that which with Him is of primary and ultimate consequence, we must note that and we must be in it.

I tarry to lay emphasis on one further matter. I am intensely concerned that we should not be just occupied with a lot of Bible matter. This is not just a theme that is being taken up, a subject, with all the subject matter about it being brought out. No, a thousand times no! If this is not God's message to us, well, we had better cut it short and go and do something else.

Well then, let us come to this book of the Revelation. We take chapters 1 to 3. I have many times made great efforts to resolve these three chapters into one clear meaning, but I have always finished with a sense of defeat. There has been something true and right, but in the thing that I was after I have had a sense of defeat and frustration; and when we come to certain details in these messages to the churches, such as Jezebel, Balaam, the Nicolaitans, somehow we seem to have got into a realm of the technical. The thing has not become a concrete, definite, positive message, it has escaped me. I knew what those things meant in principle, but what I so much wanted to do was to find one resolving thing which gathers them all up and makes of them as a whole a single message for the Lord's people. Until now, as I say, I have felt defeated every time, all through the long years. I am wondering if I have got it now; we shall see.

Love the Master-Key to the Whole Bible

It seems to me at length that the master-key to the whole Bible is in our hands when we come to this. The master key to everything is love; and if you will look, I do not think there is any doubt but that you will come to see that all is here is gathered into that one matter of Divine love. We are in the consummation of love in this book, and it begins and ends with the Church.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 15 - Love the Key To The Vision In Revelation One