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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")

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