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Friday, November 30, 2012

The Way to Heavenly Fullness

1 Kings 19:9, 10; 2 Kings 19:29-31; Isaiah 59:17; John 2:14-17

The word we see to be common to those passages strikes the keynote for our present meditation, the Zeal of the Lord, or The Way to Heavenly Fullness. Heavenly fullness in a very real and special  way is set before us in the life of Elisha. This fact will impress us every time we read that life, or anything in connection with it. From beginning to end, wherever Elisha is seen to come into a situation, the result is fullness, living fullness, fullness of life. That fullness is heavenly fullness because it came out from heaven, had its rise in heaven. It was when Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven, and his mantle fell upon upon Elisha, that Elisha's real life and ministry commenced. So that it was a heavenly fullness, and it is of this that his life speaks to us.

Elisha, then, was the outcome and fullness of Elijah. Elijah laid the foundation and provided the ground for Elisha's ministry, and in spiritual things Elijah indicates, therefore, the way, the basis, the foundation of heavenly fullness. Elisha required Elijah. In a very real sense he sprang out of Elijah. Bu Elijah also needed Elisha. He needed that which would be the increased expression of his own life. Here you have part and counterpart. Here you have the ground or foundation, and the superstructure. Here you have the seed, and fruit, and full-grown tree. You need to know the nature of the seed, to know exactly what it is you are planting or sowing, and it is likewise important to recognize what Elijah stands for, in order that you may get the Elisha result. It is very nice to take up what is presented to us of heavenly fullness in Elisha, and be drawn out to that, and to say: Well, we desire with all our hearts to have the heavenly fullness, the resurrection life, the power of His resurrection as brought out by Elisha; but it is quite impossible for us to enter to that, to know anything about the heavenly fullness, unless we stand upon the Elijah ground which provides for it.

The Starting Place of Heavenly Fullness

We therefore look to Elijah, to see the starting place, the foundation, the basis of heavenly fullness. Before we go on in our consideration of Elijah in this particular connection - and there is no doubt whatever that that is the meaning of the life of these two viewed as one life; seed and fruit; foundation and building; root and branch -  there are one or two preliminary words of a general character to be said, though they are of great importance.

God has fixed a starting place. God never changes that starting place, nor does He move from it. The importance of recognizing that to be so is that everything in the matter of progress is determined by the starting place. The starting place governs all the later life. That means that if we take up things at a point beyond God's starting place, we shall have that much to go back upon and to undo, or we shall otherwise be limited as to the measure of Divine fullness forever after.

I am sure that strikes you as being of some significance, for there are undoubtedly a great many who take up things of the Lord a long way beyond God's starting point, and therefore a great deal of time is occupied by the Lord in taking them backward rather than forward, in undoing a great deal of history. They do not immediately move on from the point at which they sought to begin, but we find them being humbled, undone, and their movement for a long time seems rather backward than forward, rather down than up. The explanation is that they have taken things up elsewhere than at God's starting point.

On the other hand, where there is not the yielding to that work of God, that work of the Spirit which seeks to bring back by undoing, but rather a forcing on, a taking of things up at a point other than at God's starting point, if there is an unwillingness to be brought right back to God's basis, and a pressing on and determined taking up of work on the part of such, there remains to the end a limitation. This would explain many difficulties and problems which arise.

There are many who refuse the work of the Cross in its deepest meaning, who will not have it, who have yet taken up the things of God, and the work of God, without that deep work of the Cross in their lives, the need of which they refuse to acknowledge or to recognize. They seek to force their way onward, and to forge ahead with the work of God. They build. What they build may reach great dimensions, and according to the standards of men may appear to be something successful, something big, something full of activity and energy, but when you come to measure it with the golden reed, that is according to the Lord's estimate of its spiritual value, it is very limited, very thin, very superficial, and represents but very little of the fullness of Christ in the lives of those concerned. These builders are full of activity, but they are babes in spiritual intelligence and understanding. The trouble is that things have been taken up somewhere beyond God's starting point, and there has not been a yielding to the Spirit to bring back to that point, and therefore there is a remaining limitation to the end, and tragically enough forever.

These are alternatives which arise from recognizing the fact that God has a fixed starting point which He never changes, and from which He never moves. It is necessary, on the one hand, to come to His starting point. Right at the beginning is the best time to come there, but if by reason of lack of knowledge, understanding, proper teaching, or because of our ignorance, we have been drawn into things without knowing of God's starting point, then in His faithfulness to Himself, and in His faithfulness to us, but always with the highest and fullest interests in view, God will take in hand to bring us back, to undo, if we will let Him. On the other hand, unwillingness and unyieldedness leave the other alternative open, which is to go on, but to be forever in limitation, which God never willed for us.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 2 - "Two Practical Issues")

The Church According to God's Thought

Our hearts have been directed anew to the relationship between the Cross, the Church, and the spiritual conflict, and what we are seeing in the first place is that, in the purpose of God, the Cross is intended to lead directly and immediately to the Church. You will suffer a word or two of re-emphasis in that particular matter before we go further.

The Expression In The Church of the Life of the Lord Jesus

It is possible to have an evangelism of the Cross which does not lead directly and definitely to the Church, and it is possible to have a teaching about the Cross in its fuller meanings; that is, the Cross beyond the elementary matters of new birth, justification and such matters; it is possible, I say, to have a message, a teaching, which is fuller concerning the Cross than that, which, nevertheless, does not really and actually lead to the Church; in both of which cases the Divine intention is missed, the purpose of God is NOT reached. Now, probably someone might say, "But surely everyone who is born again is in the Church, and the Church comes into being in that way: what is the Church but the company of those who are born again?" Yes, but that is not what I am talking about. That may be true, and yet, for all practical purposes, the Church may not exist; for all practical purposes, in the real, present, practical values of the Church, the Body of Christ it might not be in existence. I am speaking now not so much about the Church as it is called mystical; that is, that somewhere outside of this realm, in the unseen and the unknown, all believers are one, spiritual oneness obtains, and that is the Church. That may be true, I do not dispute that, but there is something more than that. If that were all, then perhaps we should be excused for all the things which exist here on the earth, and we could accept them without any question or heartache, and we could just go blithely on our way, saying, Oh yes, it is quite true that all the Lord's people are divided up into thousands of warring sections and parties, nevertheless we do not take any notice of that; they are all one in heaven, they share one common life! I am quite sure that some of us do not feel that is what the Lord would have us accept. No, I am not speaking about the Church "mystical," to use a word of which I am always a little afraid. I am speaking about the Church actual. The Lord Jesus died that there might be an expression here on the earth of what He is in heaven, to have a working expression of His life.

Surely the very term "Body of Christ" means something more than just the fact that the life of the Body is one life. It signifies that the members of the Body are one Body. You see what I mean. Take the physical body. You or I may be alive physically more or less, but as for the embers of our physical body there may be something that has altogether upset their unity; a germ, an injury, and there is no coordination of the members; they do not work together in cooperation and harmony, there is no proper control. There may be an acting of certain members out of relation to the others; yes, all sorts of things like that, where we would not say for a moment that that is because there are two or three different kinds of life in that body. We should say the life that is there is only one life; that is, that that man or woman has not the life of a man and of a dog, and of a bird, and of a fish, all different kinds of life, and that it is this that explains the contradictions in their makeup; that one moment you come on the cat life, and another the fish life, (whatever those things represent!). No, it is one kind of life, human life, and so far as the life is concerned, it is a unity. But the expression in the body is not the expression of one life; it is not showing itself in a coordinated activity.

And the Church, all who are born again, may be sharing the one life of the Lord Jesus, and yet in the Body that life may not be showing itself in a coordinated, properly ordered organism in expression: and do you think the Lord can be satisfied with just the life being there and the expression being full of contradictions? Surely not! So that there is something more than being born again and receiving the life of the Lord. That life is given for a purpose, and that purpose is to bring about this properly governed and ordered and regulated and coordinated organism, the Church, which is His Body. I am speaking about that, not the mere existence of the Church, not the one mystical life of the Church, but the Church as a functioning thing under the sovereign government of Christ as its Head. The Cross was intended to lead to that.

Now I repeat, it is possible to have an evangelism that does not result in that at all, and such an evangelism is falling short of the intention of the Cross. It is possible to have a teaching of the full meaning of the Cross which does not work out in the Church according to God's thought, and such a teaching is falling short. We have known such teaching, full teaching on the meaning of the Cross, but what has remained has just been everything that is here among men; every kind of division going on, every king of distinction in Christian sections continuing, all the differences and the conflicting differences just persisting in the presence of a fuller message of Calvary. Then there is something wrong somewhere, for the Cross, when really known and really operative, will deal with all that which contradicts the real Divine thought about the Church. The Cross is intended to lead to the Church as God has conceived the Church. Well now, we were saying that the Cross has certain specific aspects or directions in which it deals with things that are in the way of God's thought concerning the Church. We shall go on now with some other things that the Cross effects. But let us recognize that the Cross provides the ground for the Church and the Church is intended to show what the Cross means. When the Church does approximate to the Divine thought in reality, you will see there exactly what the Cross has meant and has accomplished. The Church is to preach the Cross by what it is first; and that is where you begin in the Book of the Acts. You can see all that obtained in the pre-Calvary days, even among Christian men, and Christ with a company around Him. You can see all the old elements of divisions, strifes, ambitions, avarice, pride,self-assertiveness, all these things are there in the Gospels, even among disciples, and the inner circle of disciples. But when the Cross is an accomplished fact, and the Holy Spirit brings it right into the life of that company, then you find a wonderful revelation of what that Cross has done; for they had all things common, not one said of the things which he possessed that they were his own, and so on. You have something done. All self-interest has gone, all that rivalry has disappeared. Now it is all for the other; it is love, it is joy - it is peace. The end of Acts 2 is a wonderful revelation of what the Cross has done in people. And that is how the Lord wishes it to be. And when you come to Corinthians, to conditions which are such violent contradiction of the Church according to God's mind, the only thing to do is to know nothing save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. You have to get back to the Cross, in order to get the Church as it should be. So the Cross provides the ground and the means for the Church, and the Church becomes the embodiment of the meaning of the Cross. That is what obtains when God has things according to His mind.

Well then, if the Church is the Divine outcome of the Cross, it must define the nature and meaning of the Cross. What does the Cross do? What is the function of the Cross? We have viewed that in three directions in our previous meditation - God-ward, man-ward and satan-ward. Now, let see it in one or two other connections which touch all three of these at the same time.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 2)

Never Be Moved

Psalm 30:1-12

Two words are repeated five times in Psalm 30 - "You Have."  David is praising God for what He had done for him. Are you doing that today? Perhaps you've seen the plaque that says, "Prayer changes things," and that's true. I've also seen a plaque that says, "Praise changes things," and that's also true. It's amazing how our whole attitude and whole outlook can be transformed by praising God.

In verse 6 David gives a testimony: "Now in my prosperity I said, 'I shall never be moved.' " When we have prosperity without humility, it leads to adversity. Why? Because we start to be more concerned with things than we are with God. David said in his prosperity, "I shall never be moved." But then he found out that he could be moved. He found out that his prosperity did not guarantee security. So instead of saying "I shall" or "I shall not," he began saying "You have." He submitted his will to God's will. "You have" defeated the enemy. "For You have lifted me up, and have not let my foes rejoice over me" (v. 1). "You have given me victory." "You have" answered prayer. " "You have healed me" (v. 2). "You brought my soul up from the grave; You have kept me alive" (v. 3).

God did some marvelous things for David. He defeated his enemy, answered his prayer, saved his life, and established him (v. 7). And then He gave him joy. "You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness" (v. 11). Do you want your life to be transformed today? Move from "I shall" to "You have," and in humility praise God for what He has done.

Submitting to God is an exercise in humility. Until you humble yourself before Him and concern yourself with the things of God, you will not become established. For God to work in your life, you will must be aligned with His. Are you submitted to Him? If not, humble yourself before Him and allow Him to transform your life.

~Warren W. Wiersbe~

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Cross: The Basis of the Church # 4

Well, to come right on into all that fullness which is God's thought, the Cross has to come very powerfully and very drastically down, cleaving and cutting between what man is in himself and what he is in Christ, and keeping that difference always very distinct and very clear.

You will notice the Holy Spirit is very uncompromising, and we must never think that patience and forbearance of the Spirit with us means compromise on His part. The Lord may treat us gently and kindly for a time, but the time comes when the Lord would say, "I have born with you a long time on this matter and you have been presuming; you have been presuming upon My patience, on My long-suffering, on My mercifulness and kindness, and you have interpreted My patience with you as My condoning of your flesh, that I am not so particular, after all! That has been your attitude. If you have not said it, that is exactly what it amounts to, and then the time comes when the Lord says, "Judgment must begin at the house of God" (1 Peter 4:17), and it begins with those who have been indulging the flesh because of the patience of God. The Holy Spirit does not indefinitely permit that. No, the Cross, in God's mind, is intended to clear the ground of all that, in order that there may be a place where Christ, and Christ only, is seen and known.

That is God's thought about the Church, for upon this the Bible is clear throughout, that you can never make Christ one thing and the Church another. I mean this, that, wherever you find the Church, you find that the Church is Christ. Take the tabernacle, the tabernacle in the wilderness. You cannot get away from the fact that this tabernacle represents something corporate. Here are all those boards bound together by ties, and that is a number of unites bound together into one. You cannot get away from the fact that that is a type of the Church.

And yet look again, and can you discriminate between that and Christ? It is all Christ, every bit of it is Christ. Every substance, every form, every measurement, it is all Christ. These two are one. That does not mean that Christ has no separate, personal existence in glory as an entity. But Christ and His Church are one. But you and I and Christ are not the same. I would not dare to say that I am Christ, would you? NOT AT ALL. You see what I mean. There is that about us which is other than Christ. Christ is one thing, and we are another thing, and yet there is a union within with Christ which makes u one in the sight of God. The outworking of that at length is going to be that, in seeing the Church perfected, you will see Christ glorified. You will see what it means that Christ is glorified, "when He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be marveled at in all them that believed (2 Thess. 1:10). That is not only identification in relationship, that is identification in nature. That is the end. Well, the Cross has to prepare the way for that by dealing with man in what he is and putting him in his nature aside, in order to bring in Christ in fullness.

The satan-ward Aspect Of The Cross

One word more. The Cross has another aspect, and that is satan-ward. God-ward, man-ward, and satan-ward. Many Scriptures will at once leap into your minds in this connection. "For this purpose was the Son of God manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:8). When did He do it? He put off from Him the principalities and powers and made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in His Cross (Col. 2:15). As He moved to that Cross, He cried, "Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out" (John 12:31, 32). And again, "The prince of this world hath been judged" (John 16:11).

The Cross undoes all the work of satan. It removes all the ground of satan's further work and closes the door to him. Oh, this is very utter, but it just means this, that if you and I really did live on the ground of the Cross utterly, satan would never have a chance of doing anything. To put that around the other way, is to say that all that satan is able to do is because we do not live on the ground of the Cross. The Cross undoes all his work and it deprives him of the ground of doing any more, and then eventually it results in the casting out of his kingdom altogether, in that day when it shall be made universally actual. That is secured in the Cross of the Lord Jesus.

The Church issues from that, follows upon that, is built upon that - the work of the Cross. The Church takes its character from that in the thought of God.

Well, we must leave it there for the time being. If all this is true, beloved, you understand the conflict. It is not to be wondered at that there is terrific conflict when the Cross is really brought into view and the Church according to God's mind issues therefrom. There is bound to be conflict; there is, and we know it! They set the altar in its place, they laid the foundation of the house of the Lord, and when the enemies heard, they drew nigh. That is the synopsis of a book, a story, a very big story.

That is a very brief word about the Cross by way of re-emphasis, but I am quite sure you will agree with me there is a tremendous need for bringing the greater meaning of the Cross before the people of God continually, before our own hearts. I am quite sure of this, the day will never come when the Holy Spirit will cease to speak to us, the Lord's people, about the Cross of Christ, that is, while we are on this earth. His emphasis may rather grow stronger and more emphatic. He will constantly bring us back to that Cross. Every degree of spiritual increase results from some further spiritual apprehension of the Cross. It is basic to everything. Of course, this is a superstition, but I believe in some parts of South America, when putting up a building, they start with across at the foundation and as every layer of stones and bricks is set on, they lift the cross as they go. It is a superstition, and is supposed to keep off demons, but there is something by way of illustration there. It is exactly what the Holy Spirit does. We do not grow, there is no increase, except only by the Cross. At every stage, the Cross is applied anew. I think some people's idea is that you come to the Cross and then you leave it and you go on, and you go back to the Cross merely in testimony, in thought, as to the time when you were converted: that was the Cross, and that was forty or fifty years ago. For many Christians the Cross is always something that is a way back in the past history of their spiritual life. Oh no, not in God's thought. The Cross ought to be more than ever it was yesterday, or any of the yesterdays. It ought to be far more, and it will be if the Holy Spirit has His  way.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 1 - "The Church According to God's Thought")

Understanding God's Will

"We have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding" (Colossians 1:9)

Godly living results from being controlled by the principles of God's Word.

Paul's prayer for the Philippians (Phil. 1:9-11) is closely paralleled by his prayer for the Colossians (Col. 1:9-12). Both epistles were written from the same Roman prison at about the same time in Paul's life. Both prayers focus on godly living, but they approach it from slightly different perspectives.

The Philippians were gracious people who needed to exercise greater knowledge and discernment in their love. The Colossians also were gracious, but their devotion to Christ was being challenged by heretics who taught that Christ is insufficient for salvation and godly living. True spirituality, the false teachers said, is found in Christ plus human philosophy, religious legalism, mysticism, and/or asceticism. Paul encouraged the Colossian believers and refuted the false teachers by showing the utter sufficiency of Christ.

At the outset of his prayer Paul stressed the importance of being controlled by the knowledge of God's will (which is revealed in His Word). That's the meaning of the Greek word translated "filled" in verse 9. "Knowledge" translates a word that speaks of a deep, penetrating knowledge that results in behavioral change. "Spiritual wisdom and understanding" refers to knowledge that cannot be known through human reasoning or philosophy. It is imparted by the Holy Spirit Himself.

In effect Paul was saying, "I pray that you will be continually controlled by the life-transforming knowledge of God's will, which the Holy Spirit imparts as you prayerfully study and meditate on God's Word."

Scripture supplies the principles you need to live a godly live. And the Spirit gives you the power to do so. Many false teachers will try to divert you from the simplicity of devotion to Christ by offering you philosophy, psychology, and a myriad of other hopeless alternatives. Don't be victimized.l In Christ you have everything you need!

Suggestions for Prayer: Thank God for His all-sufficient Son and for the resources that are yours in Him. Ask for wisdom to apply those resources to every situation you face today.

For Further Study: Read Colossians 1:15, 2:23. What was Christ's role in creation? What was Paul's goal as a minister? What warnings and commands did Paul give?

~John MacArthur~

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Cross: The Basis of the Church # 3

How does God have His rights in righteousness secured? Well, by dealing with the unrighteousness in man, the unrighteousness in this world, the unrighteousness which from the beginning has been standing in God's way. Now, in this representative One, all that unrighteousness is taken up and brought under judgment and death, the final judgment of unrighteousness in the death of Christ. Jordan, of course, is a very passive figure of it. The active positive view of the meaning of that can only be seen and understood if in any way the Holy Spirit shows us the meaning of that great and terrible cry, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27:46). If ever a soul were to be fully alive to the eternal meaning of being God-forsaken, then such a one would understand the meaning of unrighteousness, the awfulness of eternal abandonment by God because of unrighteousness. To deal with that the Son of God came and went to the Cross.

God has something which He demands as His rights and that something is righteousness, perfect righteousness, righteousness filled full, fulfilled, and that must obtain before anything else can be realized. God must have His rights secured in utter righteousness.

But that means, of course, an utterness of abandonment to the will of God. Abandonment to the will of God - that is righteousness. God having His rights means that He has undivided allegiance, devotion, abandonment. That is the note from Genesis to Revelation. Whenever God gets anything which resembles that, you will notice there is something very, very wonderful that comes out from God. You think of it. We only dare take one instance, that of Abraham in the offering of Isaac. Here, you see, is an abandonment to God, an utterness, unquestioning devotion to the will of God. That is the only thing that governs; no arguments: and he might have argued. God said, "Take now thy son," and Abraham neither argued, reasoned, nor held back, but made his way to the appointed spot and virtually enacted the Divine requirement and offered Isaac. What was God's reaction? "Because thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed ..." (Genesis 22:6-17). But, more than that, Abraham became the friend of God. The friend of God! I do not think there is any other title in the Bible which approximates to that in its meaning. "Abraham my friend" (Isaiah 41:8). Think of Almighty God saying that of a man. Here is an utterness of devotion to the will of God. But that is the Cross, that is always connected with the Cross. With Abraham, it was, in type, bound up with the Cross, the offering of his only son whom he loved. It was the Cross!

But it is a figure, after all, of something greater in the Lord Jesus and His Cross. He was an abandonment even unto death, unquestioning devotion to the will of God.l "I come to do Thy will" (Hebrews 10:7). "I delight to do Thy will" (Psalm 40:8). "Not My will, but Thine" (Luke 22:42). The will of God, that is the Cross, God getting His rights. Oh, beloved, you see what the Church is founded upon. Had the Church truly seen and taken its character from that, there would have been none of this situation which we find on the earth today among Christians.

Yes, the Cross God-ward means that God comes into His place. If you and I are going to say anything about the Cross, if we are going to preach and teach the Cross, let us understand that, from God's standpoint, this is what the Cross means, not merely a question of the benefits we derive, but what God Himself gets in us and through us by His Cross. That is the other aspect. God has His eye on that all the time, and that to which God has a right is this abandonment to His will without question. Upon that rock the Church is built.

The Man-ward Aspect of the Cross

Then there is the man-ward aspect of the Cross, that is, that not only does the Cross clear the ground for the Eternal Purpose of God in Christ by its answering to God's requirement of absolute righteousness, but it clear the ground of man, man's nature, man's being; for the Church can never be composed of man as he is by nature. That is just where things have gone all wrong, and that is why we have such a situation. The "old man" has come into the Church, and he has no right and no place there. Yes, Jacob is there; whereas he ought to have been smitten, to have become a prince with God. You and I by nature have no place whatever in the Church, and will forever keep a clear line of demarcation registered between what we are by nature and what Christ is in us by grace. Do not forget that. The Holy Spirit by the Cross draws that line, and if and I are really going on into God's fullest thought and purpose, that line will be constantly kept in view by the Holy Spirit, and we shall be made aware of it all the time - Yes, that is you, that is not Christ, that has no place here at all and you must leave it out! In this place, the House of God, the Church, it is Christ and only Christ, and you can only abide in this House as you abide in Christ; which in turn means that you must keep out of what you are by nature, and keep what you are by nature out. The Cross has for ever put those two asunder, cleared the ground for God's purpose.

You know that, you know it all. I have not told you anything fresh. Ah, but it is very necessary for everyone of us to be continually reminded of this lest we are found to be in God's way, lest we are found, after all, to be fighting against God; lest we are found to be bringing stuff into God's house which has no right there. Oh, that is a terrible thing. You know what happened in the days of Nehemiah over that, how Nehemiah had to turn the furniture of an enemy from the very house of God; how place had been given to that which was inimical to God's thought by the very people of God themselves. Oh no, God will not have anything of that!

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 4)

Suffering a Faith Failure

"So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief" (Hebrews 3:19)

See also: Numbers 13:27-33

Be nature, we are people of belief because faith is the foundation of our relationship to God. But every once in a while, we experience what can be called a faith failure. Often, these failures happen when we hesitate or cease to trust God during challenging times. Yet there are many other causes for faith failure:

Fear of being unsuccessful.

Failure to understand the nature of God.

Forgetting God's power.

Focusing on our obstacles.

As you read through today's Scripture passage from Numbers, ask yourself this question: Which of these factors do you think played a role in the Israelites' hesitance to enter the land of Negev?

Actually, it can be argued that a combination of all these issues suddenly caused the Israelites to doubt God and become fearful. This massive faith failure then led to a crisis among the people.

So, how do we avoid faith failures? Truthfully, we will all experience doubts from time to time. But we can be prepared for these episodes by filling our minds with God's truth. When we know the character of our heavenly Father, we will be prepared to respond with spiritual maturity when our faith is tested.

As you spend time with God today, focus on His true nature. Which of His characteristics has He shown you: faithfulness, goodness, mercy? The Lord longs for you to know and trust Him so that His perfect will may be carried out in your life.

Lord, there are lands of the Negev in my life - places where I fear to go. I want to immerse myself in Your truth so that my bolstered faith will carry me through. Amen

~Charles Stanley~

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Judgment and the Love of God

"The time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God ... " (1 Peter 4:17)

The Christian servant must never forget that salvation is God's idea, not man's; therefore, it has an unfathomable depth. Salvation is the great thought of God, not an experience. Experience is simply the door through which salvation comes into the conscious level of our life so that we are aware of what has taken place on a much deeper level. Never preach the experience - preach the great thought of God behind the experience. When we preach, we are not simply proclaiming how people can be saved from hell and be made moral and pure; we are conveying good news about God.

In the teachings of Jesus Christ the element of judgment is always brought out - it is the sign of the love of God. Never sympathize with someone who find it difficult to get to God; God is not to blame. It is not for us to figure out the reason for the difficulty, but only to present the truth of God so that the Spirit of God will reveal what is wrong. The greatest test of the quality of our preaching is whether or not it brings everyone to judgment. When the truth is preached, the Spirit of God brings each person face to face with God Himself.

If Jesus ever commanded us to do something that He was unable to equip us to accomplish, He would be a liar. And if we make our own inability a stumbling block or an excuse not to be obedient, it means that we are telling God that there is something which He has not yet taken into account. Every element of our own self-reliance must be put to death by the power of God. The moment we recognize our complete weakness and our dependence upon Him will be the very moment that the Spirit of God will exhibit His power.

~Oswald Chambers~

Monday, November 26, 2012

Upon That Great Day of the Feast ... # 4

"Sealed with the Holy Spirit of Promise"

Now, most of us may wonder, and even despair at times, at the seeming impossibility of our being "filled up to the measure of all the Fullness of God." But God in His Mercy has given us the Holy Spirit, and it is the work of the Holy Spirit "to fill us up to the measure of all the  fullness of God." In Ephesians 1:13, 14 we are told that, "after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation - having also believed [in Christ], you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of Promise,  Who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His Glory".

Thus, when we believe in Christ, when we are saved by His grace, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit of Promise. This seal not only assures us of our full redemption in Christ, but this seal is also God's pledge of our inheritance in Christ - and as His Church, our inheritance is to become the fullness of Christ. The Word says that we are sealed with the Holy Spirit of Promise; let us remember, the Holy Spirit of Promise, which is the Eternal Promise of the Father to the Son, was given upon the Day of Pentecost after Christ was glorified. The Holy Spirit of Promise was given in order that the Church be empowered to become the Fullness of Him. Therefore, God has given the Holy Spirit to each one of us as His Seal, His Pledge, His Guarantee that we each have our portion in the Fullness of Christ.

John 1:12 - 16 tells us that each believer in Christ is given a portion, a measure, of the Fullness of Christ: "And of His Fullness, out of His Fullness, have all we received, and grace for grace" - grace in place of grace; new grace, continuous and unintermitted. Ever fresh grace according to the need. These glorious words indicate that through God's ever-increasing Grace, our measure of Christ's Fullness, along with all the other measures of His Fullness, will be forever increasing; for God's Fullness in Christ is limitless - boundless - endless - fathomless - exhaustless -measureless.

So each of us receive a measure of His Fullness when we are saved by His grace; and it is the Holy Spirit's work to bring forth the increase of each and every  measure, in each and every Christian, "unto all the fullness of God." This is the preeminent meaning of our Lord giving each one of us this command: "... be filled in the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18) - be being filled, be filled up, be fulfilled, be made complete in the Spirit.

There is a sense of urgency in this command of the Lord, and this urgency emphasizes that being filled in the Spirit is essential if we are to fulfill our part in the Full Purpose of God in Christ. So, beloved, since the Lord commands us to "be filled in [the] Spirit," then we must willingly commit our life to His command. We must willingly choose to allow the Holy Spirit to do His Work in our lives. In Ephesians 5:18, the Holy Spirit's use of the word "filled" is from a family of words which, especially in Ephesians, relate to Christ's fullness.

Fullness. The Fullness of God! The Fullness of Christ! The Fullness of God in Christ! The Fullness of God in Christ in the Church, the Body of Christ! Oh, beloved, the Fullness of God in Christ in the Church has always been God's desire, God's will, God's determined purpose.

Therefore, the fullness of Christ is the purpose and goal of the Holy Spirit as He works in each of our lives. So we are commanded to "be filled in the Spirit." We are commanded to be immersed into the realm of the Holy Spirit where He is always bringing forth a great increase of Christ's fullness.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 1 - "I Was In The Spirit ... And Heard")

The Cross: The Basis of the Church # 2

The Result of An Imperfect Apprehension of the Cross

In saying that, one is touching a good deal of tragic history. There has been a great deal of teaching of the Cross, preaching of the Cross. It has been faithful, it has been sincere, but for want of seeing this very thing, namely, what the Cross is meant to lead to, the results have been very unsatisfactory. That is to say, vast numbers of those who have come into those elementary benefits (if I may call them so) of the Cross of the Lord Jesus have just remained there, elementary Christians all their lives, and there has been no touching, or very little touching, of the great situation on the earth which is such a terrible denial of God's thought about His people.

You look at the Christian world today, the people of God upon the earth, and what do you feel about the situation? The more you look, the more you know, the more your heart aches and the more you are driven to despair. The conflict between true children of God is the most terrible thing. They are all at variance with one another, they are suspecting one another; suspicion runs rife among the people of God. They even go as far as to pray hard against one another. This is not against the enemies of the Lord as pronouncedly so. One could say much, and not exaggerate, about the situation, for the more you know, I say, the more you feel what a situation of impossibility it is among Christians on the earth. Ought these things to be so, brethren? No, we cannot accept that situation as representing God's thought.

Then something is wrong. There is some explanation. It ought not to be so. Why is it? The answer is here. There has been a misapprehension or an imperfect apprehension of the Cross of the Lord Jesus, for the Cross of the Lord Jesus was intended to meet such a contingency and make it impossible; and yet all those concerned have accepted the Cross, that is, they have embraced those elementary values of the Cross, that Christ died for their sins, that by His precious Blood, by faith in His atoning work there is justification from all sin, acceptance with God, deliverance from judgment. Yes, they have accepted the Cross; but all that is but the beginning, the foundation. It is intended to lead to something very much more than that. The Cross is a means in God's thought to a great end, and none of us as the Lord's people must be satisfied with just the means. We must be supremely concerned with God's object through the means.

The Cross Effects A Clearing of the Way for God's End

As a foundation, as a basis, there are various directions in which the Cross has its meaning. We must recognize these because they represent the clearing of the way for this that God is going to bring in.

It is interesting that there in the case of Ezra and those with him, those who came back from the  captivity, that they spontaneously, instinctively turned to the building of the house of the Lord, as though it was the accepted thing, the thing taken for granted. It was the thing that had to be done; they simply gave themselves to it. But in order to prepare the way they put the altar in its place, and you notice what is said about that - "for fear was upon them because of the peoples of the countries." This is setting up that which gives assurance, an assurance that they can go on, that they can be established, that they can accomplish the work, that they can build the house, and although the enemies prevailed for a time, it was never the Lord's thought that the work should cease. That altar had secured a way, had secured the accomplishment of the work. If only they had recognized and stood by all the significance of that altar, they would never have stopped building the house for those years, for you know that eventually when the work was resumed, it was because the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel and Joshua, and further exhorted the people through the prophet in the words, "Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts" (Zech. 4:6); meaning this - You may be weak, a mere remnant back from captivity, there may be enemies, the peoples of the countries round about all against you, but that altar has secured a way for the Holy Spirit, and in all your weakness you can go on. It is "not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts."

That is exactly how it worked out in the New Testament. Here were these few poor people in Jerusalem who had proved themselves so weak and impotent, having failed at every point and broken down in all directions. Now the Cross is an accomplished fact, giving a way for the Holy Spirit, and that handful of weaklings, not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord of hosts, go right on in the building of the house against terrific odds; but the work goes on.

They put the altar in its place and instinctively turned to the building of the house. The altar cleared the way, and the Cross is just that by which a way is made, getting rid of things that hinder the realization of God's purpose.

The God-ward Aspect of the Cross

The Cross first of all has its God-ward aspect or direction; that is, the Cross secures God's rights in righteousness. There is no hope of any Divine purpose being realized, there is no hope for the Church to become an actuality according to God's mind until that has been dealt with; until God's rights in righteousness have been secured. The Lord Jesus, then, came, and coming to John at Jordan to be baptized of him, John would have refused: but Jesus said, "Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness" (Matthew 3:15). In the same record later on He will say, "I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18). But there is no hope for that until this has been settled; all righteousness, and that in His baptism, type and figure of His Cross, His burial, His resurrection, all righteousness settled. That is to say, God in the first instance has His place, has His rights secured.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 3)

Humility: A Blessed Thing If You Can Find It

" ... He that humbleth himself shall be exalted" (Luke 14:11)

Watch out, Christian brothers and sisters, for the danger of arrogance, in assuming that you are somebody, indeed!

God will never let you high-hat somebody else if you are a Christian. He loves you far too much to let you get away with that.

You may ask: "What will the Lord do, then, if I get arrogant and presumptuous, full of pride over my victories and successes?"

Well, the Lord will remind you of His own example, and will rebuke and chasten you in His own way.

Our Lord Jesus Christ would not allow any success or temporary honor to lead Him astray.

The Lord had no servants. He bossed no one around. He was the Lord, but He never took the tyrannical attitude toward anyone.

I think it is very good spiritual advice that we should never tie ourselves up to public opinion and never consider any honors we may receive as being due us because of our superior gifts.

In that day of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the crowd acclaimed Him and cried, "Hosanna!" but on the very next Friday they joined in the shout, "Crucify him!"

Humility is a blessed thing if you can find it. Early church fathers wrote that if a man feels that he is getting somewhere in the kingdom of God, that's pride - and until that dies, he is getting nowhere!

~A. W. Tozer~

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Cross: The Basis of the Church

The Cross, The Church, and the Conflict

[In this day and age, this article - one of many - is one of the most important we will ever read and hopefully, heed.  I pray that we read, understand, and follow through with the mighty suggestions in these forthcoming articles. Be alert, make the necessary changes, and end with the satisfaction that Christ is showing us how to be with Him forever!]

Reading: Ezra 3:1-4, 6, 8, 10-13; 4"1, 2; Matthew 16:18-21.

We have hopefully read those two portions of the Word of God, not because we are going to dwell upon them in particular, but because they bring very clearly and definitely into view the matter upon which the Scriptures as a whole come with very great weight and forcefulness. Both in the Old Testament type, and in the New Testament in reality, this thing is made very clear, namely, that the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ is meant by God to lead immediately and directly to the Church, and that, when the Cross and the Church are really brought spiritually into view, then an intense state of conflict is set up. That is stating very briefly what, as I have said, the Scriptures throughout make very clear.

You will at once recognize that those three things are clearly seen in the passage of the Book of Ezra. They set the altar in its place. That is the Cross. They came to build the house of the Lord. That is the Church. And when the adversaries saw it, they drew near. That is the conflict.

In the passage in the Gospel by Matthew, chapter 16, you have it again. "Upon this rock I will build My church." "From that time Jesus began to show unto His disciples, how that He must go unto Jerusalem and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed,and the third day raised up." That is the Cross; and the Cross and the Church being in view, the conflict is begun. And so you will find it everywhere.

Go further back in the Old Testament to the twelfth chapter of the Book of Exodus, and you have the same thing, remembering that the Book of Exodus opens with a presentation of the sons of Israel, and you know that the sons of a prince with God are found in bondage and are about to be emancipated. Typically the Church is in view. Chapter 12 brings the Cross in as the ground of that emancipation, but it is surrounded by intense conflict. The battle is joined when the bringing out of those elect people is begun, and the ground upon which the battle is really fought out is the ground of the Cross. You come to the Book of the Acts, and it is just the same: the Cross, the Church, and the Conflict. It is the three C's all the way through the Scriptures. Well, then, we need to see God's mind about this matter.

In the thought of God, the Cross of the Lord Jesus is meant to lead immediately and directly to the Church. Any apprehension or teaching of the Cross which does not lead directly to the Church is either a misapprehension or only a partial apprehension, and it will inevitably result in a limited spiritual life and a limited spiritual service! The Cross, in God's intention, is never an end in itself. It is a way, it is a means, it is a basis, it is intended to lead to something else.

You go to another part of the Old Testament type of this. You remember when David, provoked by satan to number Israel, to take account of natural resources, brought that awful judgment upon the people, the angel with the drawn sword smote up and down the land and was about to strike at Jerusalem itself, when the Lord intervened and said: 'It is enough, stay now thy sword.' David was then by the threshing floor of Ornan, the Jebusite, and Ornan was threshing wheat, and David drew near and bought the threshing floor and built an altar unto the Lord, and altar by which this sin was dealt with, this iniquity was removed, by which the Lord was given His place, and that threshing floor of Ornan where David built the altar became the site of the temple in Jerusalem. It was the very foundation of the temple. If you dwell upon that a little more you will see how many elements of tremendous significance there are in that.

Yes, the Cross is a foundation, a basis, and it is the basis of the Church. They set the altar in its place and then they built the house of the Lord. I repeat, the Cross of the Lord Jesus in the mind of God is intended to lead directly to the Church, and unless it does that there will be progress only within certain very limited dimensions. There will be a straitened spiritual life and a service to the Lord which is lacking in those greater fullnesses of Divine meaning and intention.

I am most anxious that you should see more than I am saying, that you should really grasp the significance of this, and not just take it as something said. It can be put in many different ways.

We can put it like this, that the Lord Himself sees through the Cross a great heavenly object, and that object is His Church. "Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it" (Ephesians 5:25). There is your precise statement that, in the giving of Himself, which is the Cross of the Lord Jesus, there was an object in view, and that object was the Church. "Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it," and if you and I are going to come into God's meaning of the Cross, it will be something more than the forgiveness of sins, something more than justification by faith, something more than the possessing of eternal life, something more than deliverance from satan and hell, and entitlement to heaven. If we come into God's thought concerning the Cross, we shall very soon come into a heavenly revelation of the Church. The one must follow the other if we are right in oneness with the Lord's thought.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 2 - "The Result of An Imperfect Apprehension of the Cross")

[this becomes more and more important and "heart opening" as we go along!]

"Upon That Great Day of the Feast ..." # 3

Christ Glorified - The Holy Spirit Given

So now we have the answer to the question that we asked before: what does it mean in John 7:39, when the Scripture says, "The Holy Spirit was not yet given because that Jesus was not yet glorified ...?" We have the answer because we know that Christ has been Glorified! The Hour has come! The Father has glorified the Son! His Cross, His resurrection, and His Ascension is now, and forevermore, a living Reality. Beloved, the Holy Spirit has been given because Christ has been Glorified! The Holy Spirit has been poured forth because of the Cross, the Resurrection and the Ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ! The day of Pentecost has fully come! The promise of the Father has been given to the Son; and the Church, which is the Body of Christ, has been baptized, immersed, in the Spirit - The Church has been empowered to become the fullness of Christ.

Now, it is true that the whole Church was baptized in the Spirit upon the Day of Pentecost; but it is also true that each one of us, each member of the many-membered Body of Christ, must be baptized in the Spirit, must be "filled in [the] Spirit," if our portion of the fullness of Christ is to become a reality. It is at this point that the majority of the confusion about the Holy Spirit in Christianity has taken place: some believe that we receive all of the Holy Spirit that we need when we are saved; some believe that we must be baptized in the Spirit after we are saved; and there are many other beliefs about the gifts, and power, and ministry, etc. Most of these different beliefs are based on Scripture. But the trouble is that most of us have not seen the fullness of the Holy Spirit's work in God's eternal purpose in Christ. Most of us see only a part of what it means to be "filled with and by and in the Spirit." Most of us see only a measure of that great realm of the Holy Spirit, the realm in which the Holy Spirit's eternal goal is to fill up all the redeemed unto all the fullness of Christ.

Beloved, whatever our belief about the in-filling of the Holy Spirit, as long as it is truly based upon the Holy Scripture, we can all agree that we, each one of us, are not yet truly "filled unto all the fullness of God". We can all agree that we are not yet "filled up to the measure of all the fullness of God" (Ephesians 3:19). We can also agree that the Church His Body is not yet "the fullness of Him (of Christ) that filleth all in all" (Ephesians 1:23). And we are sure we can all agree that we do not yet "Pray at all times - on every occasion, in every season - in the Spirit with all [manner of] prayer and entreaty" (Ephesians 6:18).

Therefore, no matter how mature or immature we may be in the Lord, we must also agree that each of us must heed the direct command of our Lord:  "... be filled in [the] Spirit." Below, we have quoted H. C. Moule's paraphrase of our Lord's command. So let us read this as our prayer for a fresh in-filling of God's Holy Spirit:

"But be filled, with a fullness habitual, normal, always supplied and always received, in the Spirit. Let the Holy One, Your Sealer and Sanctifier, so surround and possess you that you shall be as it were vessels immersed in His pure flood; and then, yielding your hearts without reserve to Him, you shall be vessels not only immersed but open; "in Him," and "filled" in Him, as He continually welcomed, continually occupies all departments of your life. Amen and Amen.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 4 - "Sealed With the Holy Spirit of Promise")

Renew Your Strength

"But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they walk, and not faint" (Isaiah 40:31)

What does it mean to "renew" your strength? It literally means "changed," as if you changed clothes.You remove your rags of weakness and put on God's royal robes of strength.

God promises to exchange our strength with His strength. You see, the Christian life is not just simply a changed life, it is an exchanged life. God doesn't just change us from what we were to something better. He exchanges His life with ours.

He takes our sin. We take His holiness. He takes our weakness. We take His strength. He takes our anxiety. We take His peace. Sounds great. But, what's the problem? We get tired of waiting or the change. Beloved, don't give up. The wait is never too long when God is in charge.

Read Psalm 62:5-8 and make it your prayer today.

~Adrian Rogers~

Saturday, November 24, 2012

"Upon That Great Day of the Feast ..." # 2

Upon that great day of the feast ... out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water"

Now we want to examine this closely because John 7:37-39 tells us that the glorification of Christ, through His Cross, His Resurrection, His Ascension, is the ground upon which we who believe receive the Spirit. The glorification of Christ is the ground on which we, the Church His Body, receive the power, the enabling "Power from on High", to become the Fullness of Christ.

In the Gospel of John, the Word of God declares: The Father glorifies Christ (John 8:54): and Christ glorifies the Father (John 17:4): and The Holy Spirit glorifies Christ:

"for He [the Holy Spirit] shall glorify Me; for He shall take of Mine [of ALL that Christ is], and shall disclose it to you [to all who believe]" (John 16:14).

In John 8:54, we are told that it is the Father Who glorifies Christ: "Jesus answered, 'If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing; it is My Father Who glorifies Me'.  It is My Father who extols, Who exalts, Who Honors, Who magnifies all that I am. Hence, in John 12:23, we find Jesus saying, "The hour is come, that the Son of Man should be glorified." And it is clear from the context of these Scriptures, that this "hour," that this Eternal Hour in God's Purpose, includes the Cross, the Resurrection, and the Ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ, for Jesus said: "I lay down My life, that I might take it again ... I have power (authority) to lay it down, and I have power to take it again ..." (John 10:17, 18). "Verily, verily, I say unto you, 'Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit' " (John 12:24).

Beloved, even the betrayal of Judas speaks of the sacrifice, and the power, and the authority of the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. For after "satan entered into him (into Judas)," the Lord commanded Judas, which means that He commanded satan, "That thou doest, do quickly" (John 13:27-31). It was the lord Jesus Who was in command of the situation, not satan. It was the Lord Jesus Who had power to lay down His life, and power to take it again. Therefore, when Judas "was gone out" to betray Him, Jesus said, "Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him."

It had always been the Father's plan that His Son would be glorified through His Cross, His Resurrection, His ascension: - Life out of death had always been God's way of reaching His End. In John, chapter eleven, this Divine principle of life out of death is especially brought to our attention when the Lord Jesus Christ raised Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, from the dead. The Word tells us that Jesus loved Martha, and her sister Mary, and their brother Lazarus very much. It also indicates that He had a special brother to brother love for Lazarus (John 11:3-5). So why, when He heard that Lazarus was sick, did He not go to them at  once instead of waiting two days? The Lord Jesus Himself answers our question: "Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany ... but when Jesus heard it, He said, 'This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified by it' " (John 11:1-4). The Lord Jesus was saying, "This sickness is not unto death, death will not be victorious here, for I AM the Resurrection, and the Life." We know that Lazarus died, but we also know that death could not hold Lazarus because Christ raised Lazarus from the dead.

The mighty power and glory of God was manifested when Christ raised Lazarus from the dead, and because of this, many of the Jews believed in Him. Nevertheless, the ultimate result of Lazarus being raised from the dead was the Cross, the crucifixion of Christ. When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard what Jesus had done, they were greatly disturbed. They feared that all men would believe on Him and that they would loose their religious and political positions. So they called a council, and they decided that they must kill this Jesus as soon as possible. Now the instigator of this wicked gathering was satan himself. The rising of Lazarus from the dead brought the hostility of satan against Christ to a climax, for his evil claim to the power of death was threatened. Hence, through these religious leaders of the Jews, satan set his final strategy int motion, a strategy that would result in the crucifixion of Christ, a strategy that satan believed would place Christ under his power of death. The Word of God makes it quite clear that satan, the devil, had tried over and over again to stop the Christ, the Seed of the woman, through the power of death - Abel, Joseph, Baby Moses, Israel at the Red Sea, David and his seed, the whole nation in Esther's time, etc.

So in a little town called Bethany, about one and three fourths miles from Jerusalem, the greatest battle of the ages was in process. He that is the Resurrection, and the Life, met him that had the power of death! And this battle would find both its end and triumph upon the Cross of Christ. Through the raising of Lazarus from the dead, God was revealing one of the greatest principles in His New Creation in Christ, Life out of death = Resurrection Life.

Therefore, as Lazarus, and his sisters, Mary and Martha, suffered under the throes of the power of death, Jesus said: "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby." Let us note the preposition, "for," in the phrase, "for the glory of God"; because, in this instance, the word, "for," has the underlying sense of "a sacrifice in behalf of." Therefore, this sickness of Lazarus was not unto death, but it was a sacrifice in behalf of the glory of God.

God did not cause Lazarus to be sick - this was the work of him that had the power of death, the devil. But God, through His Omniscient Foreknowledge, knew what would take place in the little village of Bethany, not many days before His Son would lay down His life. And, so, before He laid the foundation of the world, He planned that the sickness of Lazarus WOULD NOT BE unto death, it would not be a victory for him who had the power of death, BUT IT WOULD BE FOR "the glory of God" in order that "the Son of God might be glorified thereby." Behind Lazarus' sickness was  the glory of God's sacrifice of His Son - and through the sacrifice of His Son, through the Son laying down His life for the Father and for ALL that His Father had purposed, the Son would be glorified - His Cross, His Resurrection, His Ascension would become an eternal living reality!

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 3 - "Christ Glorified - the Holy Spirit Given")

Bring Me Out!

Psalm 25:16-22

The troubles of my heart have enlarged; bring me out of my distresses! (v. 17). Have you ever prayed like that? David did. What kind of answer did God give him? Ultimately, David was brought out of his distresses and put on the throne, and his enemies were defeated. But he had to go through some difficult years before God finally brought him to that place of glory and victory.

If you have ever prayed this way, stop and ask yourself, 'Is this the most important prayer I can pray?' Our first inclination in times of difficulty is to pray, "Bring me out!" But we should be praying, "Build me up." God enlarges us by enlarging our troubles. And when He sees that we are growing, He is able to give us larger places of service and ministry. It's sort of a weaning process. When a child is being weaned from his mother, he's fretful and unhappy. He thinks, 'Mother doesn't love me anymore.' But why is she weaning him? Because she wants him to grow up and mature. He cannot go through life depending on his mother. That's what David discovered.

When we are in times of difficulty and distress, the important thing is not that we get out of it but what we get out of it. "Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work" (James 1:2-4). If you find yourself going through a time of trouble today, if the troubles of you heart are enlarged, remember that God wants to enlarge you and give you a larger place of ministry.

Growth is often a painful process. it is through difficulty amid distress that God enlarges us. Are your troubles enlarged? It is important that you not waste your trials by simply enduring them or wanting to be delivered from them. Allow trials to have their "perfect work" of enlarging you for a greater ministry.

~Warren W. Wiersbe~

Friday, November 23, 2012

How to Lose Your Joy

"I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am" (Phil. 4:11)

Discontent and ingratitude will steal your joy

True joy is God's gift to every believer, and yet many Christians seem to lack it. How can that be? Did God fail them? No. As with peace, assurance, and other benefits of salvation, joy can be forfeited for many reasons. Willful sin, prayerlessness, fear, self-centeredness, focusing on circumstances, and lack of forgiveness are the main culprits.

Two of the most common joy-thieves are dissatisfaction and ingratitude. Both are by-products of the health, wealth, and prosperity mentality of our day. That teaching has produced a generation of Christians who are more dissatisfied than ever because their demands and expectations are higher than ever. They've lost their perspective on God's sovereignty and have therefore lost the ability to give thanks in all things.

In marked contrast, when Jesus taught about contentment and anxiety (Matt. 6:25-34), He spoke of food and clothing - the basic necessities of life. But preferences, not necessities, are the issue with us. We're into style, personal appearance, job satisfaction, earning power, bigger homes, and newer cars. In the name of greater faith we even demand that God supply more miracles, more wealth, and more power.

Amid all that, Paul's words sound a refreshing note of assurance and rebuke: "I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am" (Phil. 4:11). He made no demands on God but simply trusted in His gracious provision. Whether he received little or much no difference to him. In either case he was satisfied and thankful.

Don't be victimized by the spirit of our age. See God's blessings for what they are, and continually praise Him for His goodness. In doing so you will guard your heart from dissatisfaction and ingratitude. More importantly, you will bring joy to the One who is worthy of all praise.

Suggestions for Prayer: Pray that the Holy Spirit will produce in you a joy and contentment that transcends your circumstances. Make it a daily practice to thank God for specific blessings and trials, knowing that He uses both to perfect His will in us.

For Further Study: Read 1 Kings 18:1, 19:8. How did Elijah deal with the false prophets of Baal? How did he deal with Jezebel's threat? What caused Elijah's shift from a spiritual high to a spiritual low?

~John MacArthur~

Thursday, November 22, 2012

"Upon That Great Day of the Feast ..."

"Upon That Great Day of the Feast ... Out of His Belly Shall Flow Rivers of Living Water"

Now, we begin looking into these feasts of the Lord in order that we may comprehend more fully what the Day of Pentecost really means, and that we might further understand its purpose in the Full Purpose of God in Christ. We saw that the "Day of Pentecost" was so called because it took place on the fiftieth day, a day which was counted from the second day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Therefore, the "Day of Pentecost" was counted from the day of the offering of the sheaf of the firstfruits, which in God's Eternal timing is the Third Day - the Day that Christ arose from the dead. And Jesus said, "I AM the Resurrection, and the Life" (John 11:25).

We also found that the number fifty, as it is used in connection with the Day of Pentecost, means the perfect consummation of time; thus, the "Day of Pentecost" is the Divine Result of the Cross, the Resurrection, and the Ascension of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. And on the Day of Pentecost, an Eternal Day in the Lord's Purpose, the Lord God completed one of the most important portions of His Plan: the Church was baptized in the Spirit: the Church was empowered to become the Fullness of Christ.

In John 7:37, 38, we find the Lord Jesus Christ Himself describing that which took place "when the Day of Pentecost was fully come." We find Him describing the Promise of the Father, the Promise given to Him before the Foundation of the World, the Promise that the Church His Body would be empowered to become the Fullness of Him. Hence, in the last day, that great day of the Feast [of Tabernacles], Jesus stood and cried, saying, "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink. He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of His belly shall flow rivers of living waters." Then John goes on to tell us: "But this spoke He of the Spirit which they that believe on Him should receive: for the Holy Spirit was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified."

Jesus spake these Words about the Holy Spirit on the last day of the Feast of the Tabernacles. The Feast of Tabernacles was celebrated about six months after the Day of Pentecost, and it was also called the Feast of Ingathering, because it spoke of, or came at the time of, the final ingathering of the harvest. This feast was the most joyful and jubilant of all the feasts; and this last "great day" of the feast climaxed all their celebrations.

We are told by scholars of the Old Testament, and of Jewish customs, that for seven days as a  part of this great feast, the people led by a priest had made their way to the Fountain of Siloam, where the priest filled a golden pitcher, and brought it back to the temple amid music and joyful shouts. Then the priest, advancing to the altar of burnt-offering, at the cry of the people, "Lift up thy hand," emptied the pitcher of water toward the west, and he also emptied a cup of wine toward the east, while the people chanted, "With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation."

Now, it is not certain whether the Jews repeated this same ceremonial procedure on the last day, the eighth day of this great feast, but we do know that it was a day of great joy, of loud jubilation, and of sounding of trumpets. And there can be no doubt that the Words of the Lord had reference to this ceremony of the pouring out of the water and wine, a ceremony that had taken place each year for centuries.

In the Greek the phrase, "Jesus stood," implies that Jesus was standing and watching the people participate in this great feast; the sense behind these words also indicate that His heart and thoughts were full. And from what He said on the last day of the feast, His thoughts were full of the great change that was about to take place, for He knew the Cross was imminent. He knew that this change would bring the old ways to an end, and that in Him would be the New and Living Way. He knew that out of Him, out of His Innermost Being would flow Rivers of Living Waters. First of all, Jesus said these words of Himself; then, because we are in Him, it is in the measure that we are filled in the Spirit that this River of His Life, that the Livingness of His Life, shall by the Spirit flow through us - "out of His Belly shall flow Rivers of Living Water."

Now we do not know exactly when Jesus spoke these words on the last day of the feast, but we do know that they were said exactly at God's appointed time, for Jesus said, "I can of Mine Own Self do nothing" (John 5:30). We know that the people who heard His Words would understand some of the significance of these Rivers of Living Waters, for they had witnessed the pouring of the water on the altar for seven days. We know that the Words of Jesus must have reminded them of the river of water that had gushed out of the rock in the wilderness (Exodus 17:6). Also, when Jesus said, "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink," it must have called to their minds the prophetic words of Isaiah: "Ho, everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters" (55:1). Some of them must have surely thought of Ezekiel and his "waters to swim in" (Ezekiel 47:1-5). Jesus' Words spoke of all these Scriptures, and of many others, because Jesus Himself is the fulfillment of them.

However, the Gospel of John tells us that these Words of the Lord Jesus, spoken on the last great day of the feast, had an even fuller meaning, for His Words were speaking of a new beginning for those who believed. The Words of the Lord Jesus Christ were speaking of the Holy Spirit, "Which they that believe on Him should receive: for the Holy Spirit was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified."

So, what does it mean that the Spirit was not yet given because that Jesus was not yet glorified? In the Gospel of John, the word "glory," or "glorify" is used at least 42 times. Beloved, as Christians, we must see that no matter how mankind may apply the word glory, the word "glory" can only be attributed to God and to the Lord Jesus Christ. This is because the word "Glory," in its truest sense and meaning, speaks of the manifestation of ALL that God Was, and Is, and Ever-Shall-Be - and the manifestation of God's Glory can only be found in His Son. - "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God ... And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, Full of Grace and Truth" (John 1:1, 14).

We have seen that the Gospel of John is the book of Glory. It is the manifestation of ALL that God is in His Son: "I AM the Bread of Life - I AM the Light of the World - I AM the Good Shepherd - I AM the Resurrection, and the Life - I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life - I AM the True Vine." Thus, the Gospel of John makes it clear that Christ is the Full and Complete Manifestation of the Glory of God.

However, John 7:37-39 tells us that when Christ spoke these Words on the last day of the feast, Christ was not yet glorified. The Lord Jesus Christ was the glory of God, but He Himself was to be glorified by God. We shall see that this glorification of Christ is one intricate whole that includes His Cross, His Resurrection, His Ascension. Out of His Cross, out of His suffering, and death came His triumph over death,  His Resurrection. Out of His Resurrection came His Ascension, His Victory over principalities and powers as He ascended far above all the Heavens and was seated at the Right Hand of God, which is the Realm of the Throne - THE REALM OF ABSOLUTE SOVEREIGNTY, THE REALM OF ALL POWER AND AUTHORITY. Out of this Realm the Lord Jesus poured forth the Holy Spirit - out of His Belly, out of His Innermost Being, flowed rivers of Living Waters unto and into and out of those who believe.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 2)

God Never Violates Our Freedom of Choice

" ... And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely" (Revelation 22:17)

It is inherent in the nature of man that his will must be free. Made in the image of God who is completely free, man must enjoy a measure of freedom. This enables him to select his companions for this world and the next; it enables him to yield his soul to whom he will, to give allegiance to God or the devil, to remain a sinner or become a saint.

And God respects this freedom. God once saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good. To find fault with the smallest thing God has made is to find fault with its Maker. It is a false humility that would lament that God wrought but imperfectly when He made man in His own image. Sin excepted, there is nothing in human nature to apologize for. This was confirmed forever when the Eternal Son became permanently incarnated in human flesh!

So highly does God regard His handiwork that He will not for any reason violate it. He will take nine steps toward us but He will not take the tenth. He will incline us to repent, but He cannot do our repenting for us. It is of the essence of repentance that it can only be done by it the one who committed the act to be repented of. God can wait on the sinning man, He can withhold judgment, He can exercise long-suffering to the point where He appears lax in His judicial administration - but He cannot force a man to repent. To do this would be to violate the man's freedom and void the gift of God originally bestowed upon him. The believer knows he is free to choose - and with that knowledge he chooses forever the blessed will of God!

~A. W. Tozer~

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

"And When the Day of Pentecost Was Fully Come" # 10

Now, there were varied reactions among this company who had sought Him out: most of them misunderstood Him completely and went away confused; "the Jews" heard His words and rejected Him and continued to make plans to destroy Him; but the Word also tells us that "many therefore of His disciples, when they had heard this said, "This is an hard saying; who can hear it?" Why were both "the Jews" and the disciples so disturbed? First of all, we need to recall that they all knew that it was the Passover season; and they knew or suspected that Jesus was saying that no longer would the temple in Jerusalem, or the temple worship they loved so much, be the way of worship - all the ceremonies, all the ordinances, all the festal activities, all the methods, whether emotional or formal, were at an end - all that fed their soul, all that fed their human nature, whether is was the intellect or the emotions, must end, for God is seeking those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth. The time has come, and now is, that they were to take Christ as their Life; and whether they were priests or Pharisees or prophets or scribes or ordinary everyday working people or mothers or children CHRIST WAS TO BE THEIR ALL.

Now, when we read this, we may wonder how they could give these things the preeminence over the Lord - the laws, the feasts, the priests, the ceremonies, etc. We may wonder why many of His disciples followed Him no more. But is not this the great problem of Christianity today, something other than Christ!? something instead of Christ!? something more than Christ!? something that satisfies the natural man other than Christ!? Brethren, many things can take the preeminence of Christ in our lives: a Church organization, a Bible school, a pastor, a doctrine, a teaching, a method, even what we call deeper life teaching, etc. But only Christ can truly satisfy our hearts!

Christ is not saying I give you the Bread of Life; He is saying, " I AM the Bread of Life," and only as you partake of ALL that I AM will God have what He desires in your life. Only then will you have the true reality that I AM in your life, for "I AM the way, the Truth, and the Life." And as we have seen, for those who would wholly follow Him, this includes the partaking of the sufferings of Christ (1 Peter 4:13; Col. 1:24). So many of His disciples turned away and followed Him no more; many were offended at His Words, for His Words indicated that Life came out of death. In Luke 9:22, 23, we find this confirmed when the Holy Spirit significantly places the following Words of Christ just after He feeds the 5,000. We find Him alone and praying, and His disciples were with Him, and He said: "The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third Day." And He said to them all, "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me."

Oh, may we be like Peter and the others who continued to follow Him, however imperfectly, all the days of their lives. May our answer be the same as theirs when the Lord asks,

"Will you also go away? -
Are ye also wishing to withdraw? -
Will you refuse to take Me as your ALL?"

Then Simon Peter answered Him,

"Lord, to whom shall we go?
Thou hast the Words of Eternal Life.
And we believe [we have learned to believe and trust] and are sure that Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God."

"These Things are Written That Ye Might Have Life"

When we believe in Christ, we are given Eternal Life; and when we partake of Him, our life in Him is sustained by Him. All of this came about because He, Who is the True Passover Lamb, shed His Blood for us upon the Cross! All this came about because He, Who is the Incorruptible Unleavened Bread, gave His Incorruptible Life for us! But, beloved, we would never have Eternal life in Him, nor the privilege of partaking of Him as Life, if He had not been Resurrected from the dead. That is why when God decreed that the Feast of the Passover be celebrated on the 14th day of Nisan (usually our month of April), and that the Feast of Unleavened Bread be celebrated on the 15th day of Nisan, He also decreed that on the following day, the 16th day of Nisan, "Ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest," an offering of the Firstfruits of  your Harvest, a wave offering before the Lord (Lev. 23:9-11). The wave offering always symbolized Life - "But now is Christ risen from the dead and become the Firstfruits of them that slept" (1 Corinthians 15:20).

The sheaf of the Firstfruits was to be waved on the morrow after the sabbath, the day after the feast of Unleavened Bread began. This was the day that Christ rose from the grave, this was the Third Day. And in Revelation 1:17, 18, we find the Resurrected Lord of Glory, the Lord Jesus Christ, the I AM, summing up what took place in those three days; not just days according to our time, but Three Eternal Days in God's Eternal Purpose:

I AM the First and the Last:
I AM He that Liveth, and was dead; and behold,
I AM Alive for evermore, Amen ... "

And in John 14:19 where He is speaking of His Cross, and His Resurrection, He says: "Because I Live, ye shall live also."

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with #1 - "Out of His Belly Shall Flow Rivers of Living Waters")