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Monday, December 31, 2012

The Need For A Revelation of Christ in the Heart # 2

You see, about every fresh case of revelation there is a sense in which everything is quite new, as though the thing revealed had never been before, and no one else in all God's universe had ever heard or seen it. When you really come to have that experience, that knowledge by revelation of the Lord Jesus may be very imperfect, it may be only one thing about Him, but it is the revelation of the Lord Jesus in some particular way, at some particular point, some particular significance; and when you come in this way of revelation into possession of that it is to you as though it is something that has just come out of heaven newborn, and no one else in all the world has ever had it before. That is the effect of it. You want to tell it to other people, and older believers who have known it for years and years have become your pupils. You begin to teach them something they know about as though they knew nothing of it at all. That is the effect of it. Of course, they do not let on; they do not smile benignly, and say, Poor creature! Inwardly they may smile, but it is a smile of gratification. They know that is how it ought to be with you. But they know quite well exactly what has happened. It is just like that. Some of us know that, when we did, by the grace of God and the operation of the Holy Spirit, leap clear of all that we had known in that other way, that traditional way, into the knowledge of the same thing in a living way by revelation, then we began to talk about it, and it did not matter to us at all that there had been people saying the same thing for years, or that it could be found in a good many books. To us it was as though they knew nothing about it at all. We were the only ones who knew anything about it! That is quite pardonable. If it really is of the first-hand order, there is something which is quite new and quite fresh, as though it had just come for the first time out of heaven. That is sonship!

Oh, if we lived there right up to date all the time, how different things would be. I mean, how much of our knowledge is, after all, what we have got through men, or of a man. And Paul is saying, Now, I could have got it all from the elders and apostles at Jerusalem and become a good Christian and an apostle, a servant of Jesus Christ like that. But no - "Paul an apostle (not from men, neither through a man, but through Jesus Christ, and God the Father, Who raised Him from the dead)."

Revelation Makes for Stability

Now we want to see how this connects with the whole object of the Letter to the Galatians. These Galatians had, as the apostle said, started well, and for a little while they had run well, and then they had stopped because the traditionalists, the Judaizers, had come in and bewitched them, and their going on had been arrested; they had proved unstable. "I marvel," says the Apostle, "that you are so quickly removing from Him that called you in the grace of Christ unto another gospel' (1:6). I marvel! "O foolish Galatians, who did bewitch you ... having begun in the Spirit, are ye now perfected in the flesh?" (3:1, 3). They had proved to be fickle, unstable, unreliable: and such features are not the features of sonship. They are just the opposite; they are the contradiction of sonship.

Now what is implied, if it is not directly stated, by the Holy Spirit through the Apostle is this, that when it is after this kind - "God revealed His Son in me" - when it is first-hand, immediate, direct, personal, the revelation of God's Son in us, it makes for stability, it makes for assurance, it rules out all fickleness. Immediately you get on to second-hand ground, you get on to dangerous ground, so far as your stability is concerned. Presently a storm will arise, the rains will come, the winds will blow and beat upon that house, and it will fall: and great will be the fall of it, because it was build upon the sand. You remember what our Lord said: "He that heareth these sayings of Mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sane." it implies something that is NOT rooted in experience, not rooted in ourselves, something we have heard and that is as far as it got. We have got it second-hand. The Galatians met the adverse winds and rains of the Judaizing assaults and cashed. Paul then, says, by implication, Stability, assurance, trustworthiness in the spiritual life, demand that we shall have this first-hand knowledge by revelation of the Lord; and if it is a demand, it is a possibility, it is meant for us; and it is just that freshness of things by first-hand knowledge and revelation which brings the element of wonderful freshness and life into every case concerned.

There is all the difference, you see, between that Christian life which is a laboring under the burden of an imposed Christian order and system, requirement and demand, and the  free life of a son in whom the joy of the Lord is the strength. I cannot help asking this question of you, Is your Christian life a burden? Are you under a strain because you belong to the Lord? Have you come into a realm - you may use phraseology and call it "the testimony" or something of the kind - into a realm which has brought you into a strain and you ever wear a look of strain on your face, and go about as though you were carrying a great burden: this testimony is something so exacting and you have to be so careful? Has your Christian life become anything like that, a strenuous burden - something which takes the real joy out of your life, and people feel that you are all the time trying to live up to something, to keep up a standard, to maintain something? That is all wrong, every bit of it is wrong!  That is NOT sonship; that is slavery. That is what Galatians deals with, the great difference between the son and the slave. Sonship carries with it in the heart always the sense of wonder, of freshness of life. It does not mean you have no burdens and trials, but it does mean that your relationship to the Lord is a thing which is so real, so first-hand, and your knowledge of the Lord is so fresh, that you know that you are on the borders of a land of far distances. You know in your own heart what these words mean - "Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty: they shall behold the land of far distances" (Isaiah 33:17). I am not exaggerating and I am not straining to make this mean something. To some of us it is just like that. For us we know that we have come to the land of far distances. That can be put in other words. We are seeing so much, sensing so much, that we realize quite well we will never get through it, and never be able to give it out or even to exhaust it, though we were to go on here for many a lifetime. It is like that.

Is it like that with you, or are you living on the last crumb, hardly knowing how to make ends meet spiritually? It is the difference in sonship, you see. Sonship implies an open heaven, sonship does bring in this element of wonder. Oh, friends, it is very true; and I would not say that to you if it were not true in my own case. I know this tremendous difference. Life is cut in two for some of us. On the one side of life, there was that strain to get something, to meet the demand, working hard to get some fresh idea, buying the latest books in order to try and keep fresh in our preaching, getting new ideas. People who were the most suggestive or provocative of thought and idea were our favorite authors. Then came the dividing of life with death and resurrection, with the Cross, and the other half of life, the growing revelation of the Lord Jesus that, no matter how long you go on, you feel that you have not started, but are still right at the beginning. It is a wonderful thing to feel you have the land of far distances, and are seeing the King in His beauty. That is the inheritance of sons. Christ is the land of far distances, He is the King in His beauty; and the land is our inheritance; we are brought into the land. It is a wonderful land.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 3 - "Revelation Leads to Loneliness")

Bearing with an Exhortation







"I urge you, brethren, bear with this word of exhortation" (Heb. 13:22).

Hell is undoubtedly full of people who did not actively oppose Jesus Christ, but simply drifted into damnation by neglecting to respond to the gospel. These are the kinds of people the writer challenges in Hebrews 2:1-4. They were aware of the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ, but weren't willing to commit their lives to Him. As a result, they were drifting past the call of God into eternal disaster.

The Word of God always demands a response. Any effective teacher of it must do more than just dispense facts; he must warn, exhort, and extend an invitation. He may have impressive knowledge of the truth, but if he doesn't have a passionate concern for how people react to it, he is not a worthy representative of Jesus Christ.

Jesus had that kind of compassion. Despite the rejection of His own people, He ached for their salvation: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen ushers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling" (Matt. 23:37). You can feel His heart go out to the people.
Paul had similar compassion: "I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of My brethren, my kinsman according to the flesh" (Rom. 9:2-3). A true teacher is interested in more than just academics; he is concerned that people respond rightly to what is taught.

Just as the writer of Hebrews had to warn and exhort his readers, at times it becomes necessary for us to warn those we are witnessing to. If you want to see unbelieving friends, relatives, or associates come to Christ, warn them. Let them see the passion in your heart and your love for them. Please don't allow anyone to slip into eternal destruction without being warned sufficiently.

Suggestion for Prayer:

Ask God to give you wisdom regarding when to warn the people you are witnessing to.
For Further Study:

Read Hebrews 3:7--4:13, 6:4-8, 10:26-31, and 12:25-29 noting the pattern the writer followed in presenting these other warnings.

~John MacArthur~

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Revelation In Relation To Sonship

Galatians 1:1, 11, 12, 15-17, 23, 24)

I want to seek, as the Lord enables us, to get still closer to this matter of sonship, and I think there is no doubt that Paul, as he comes before us in this letter to the Galatians, himself stands as an example of what sonship is. There is no doubt that much of the nature of sonship is resident in these statements of his about himself - "not from men, neither through a man, but through Jesus Christ, and God the Father, Who raised Him from the dead," and other passages which are similar.

The question arises - and it is a very simple way I think, of getting to understand what is indicated - the question arises, How might Paul have been an apostle other than by this method, other than in this way - "an apostle not from men, neither through a man: the Gospel which I preach not after man, neither did I receive it from a man, nor was I taught it." What did he mean? Well, there were two ways in which Paul could have become an apostle and a preacher of the Gospel. There were the apostles at Jerusalem with whom he went up later, and if he had been an interested inquirer, he might have gone perhaps to one of their meetings, or might have called upon them for an interview, and they, Peter, James and John, and others, might have told him all that they knew about Jesus, and have given him a good deal of what they had heard Him say through the three years, and also of the many and mighty miracles which He wrought; and then about His death; and then with tremendous earnestness, passion, zeal and fire and enthusiasm, of His resurrection. Thus they might have given Saul all those facts, and given them in such a way, with such fire and such earnestness as to be tremendously persuasive. The young man might have fallen to that because the thing seemed to be indisputable, so real, so wonderful to them. He might say, There is no doubt that these men have seen something, and they know something, and what they say is true! Then, as a result of it all, he might have said, Well, what can I do but accept what they say, believe that they are speaking the truth, and myself just become a followers of Jesus Christ and, accepting these facts and believing them, go out and declare them to other people? He might have become an apostle in that way. That is what he meant when he said, "of men," "through a man." It might have been like that. It could have been like that, and it has been like that in multitudes of cases; not just the acceptance of the argument, but the contagion of someone else' belief, becoming enthused by the others.

It is not a question of whether they were right, or whether what they said was the truth. That is not the point at all. Nor is it in question whether their experience was a true one. There is no doubt at all regarding the truth and reality of their experience. Yet other people may have an experience, and be in a perfectly true and right position; it may be the most living and real thing with them; and their zeal and their passion and their conviction, and all that they know, the truth which they possess, may be given to you, may be passed on to you, and you may accept it quite honestly and sincerely, and in a sense you may believe it, and in that way go on with the Lord Jesus and become a Christian and a servant of Christ: and it is just between that and something else which, after all, is altogether different, that this whole matter of sonship arises.

The Need for a Revelation of Christ In the Heart

Paul says, "It pleased God ... to reveal His Son in me." It pleased God likewise to reveal His Son in Peter, and in James and in John. Yes, but that is not good enough for me, and, while I may not question or doubt their experience or their knowledge, or the facts which they state, sonship in my case demands that God shall reveal His Son in me, and that I do not get it even from those who are reputed to be something, pillars in the Church, Peter, James or John.  "It pleased God ... to reveal His Son in me."  I received it NOT from men, be they the twelve apostles; neither through a man, be he Peter, but through revelation of Jesus Christ.

That is very simple and elementary, but it sets forth the difference; and that is what Paul is drawing attention to. He does not, in so many words, say, Now, this is what sonship is, it is a revelation of God's Son in the heart of a person. He does not put it quite precisely like that, but that is what this letter stands for, and that is what the New Testament makes perfectly clear as being the real nature of sonship. It is that this whole matter of the Lord Jesus has become a personal and, in a right and proper sense, an independent thing in our own hearts. Our testimony must be, not, I was brought up in a Christian home, and sent to Sunday School and taken to church, and instructed in these things of the Lord, and given a sound Bible teaching; not that - that may all be receiving it through or of men, or a man. There has to be something more than that. We have to be able to say, "God that said, Light shall shine out of darkness, hath shined into our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:6).

"In our hearts" - that is where sonship begins, and it is that which is sonship from beginning to end; an initial thing where we leap clear of everything that is second-hand and the thing becomes first-hand, and where it grows and grows and never stops growing as a first-hand thing. That is sonship. If you understand and can grasp what that means, then you know what sonship is.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 2)

A Life of Obedience


A Lifestyle of Obedience

John 14:15-21

According to John 14:21, we express love for Jesus by obeying His commands. To love Him wholeheartedly, we must develop a lifestyle of obedience. Let's look at four aspects of such a lifestyle.

1. Our trust in the Father grows. This confidence comes from believing that the Lord is who Scripture says He is. And God's Word tells us that He is good—as well as faithful to keep His promises (2 Cor. 1:20). Psalm 86:15 calls Him merciful, gracious, loving, and slow to anger. His character remains unchanged by difficult or hard-to-understand circumstances (Heb. 13:8).

2. We develop a deepening ability to wait on the Lord. Delays can be hard in our I-want-it-now culture. But we must resist temptation and wait on Him instead of running ahead.

3. We commit to obey God. Without such a resolve, we'll vacillate at decision time or allow fear to prevent us from choosing His way.

4. Our study of Scripture becomes consistent. The Bible reveals God's priorities, commands, and warnings. It acts as a light, illuminating His chosen path for us while revealing obstacles and dangers along the way (Ps.119:105). Without it, we are like a person who walks in the woods at night without a flashlight.

Becoming a Christian doesn't mean that obedience to the Lord is automatic. It's a lifelong process of growing in our trust and patiently waiting on Him before we act. This requires a steadfast commitment to obey so that we can say no to ungodly choices and yes to God. 

~Charles Stanley~

Saturday, December 29, 2012

What The Faith Is

What is the faith? The faith is this, that Jesus is the Son of God. But that is something more than a personal, objective relationship. That is a spiritual reality which has to come into expression through Him in the Church, in His members as representing the heavenly seed, coming to the fullness of Christ; which being accomplished, is to supplant and oust all this other seed which satan has introduced into God's universe. That is the faith. The faith comes down to this, namely, what we are spiritually in God's universe. That is the faith.

What are we intended to be? We are intended to be in our experience, in our spiritual life, in our presence here, a living proof that Jesus is the Son of God; not just to declare this as a tenet of our faith and creed, but to be here as children of God growing up into sonship, by which sonship His sonship is put into expression. Do you follow what I mean?

Oh it is over this that there is all the conflict, and I say again, the conflict get right in inside, among godly people, godly men, devout men. Why? Because some are so held by their traditions, by their fixed system, by the thing established here in Christianity. Somehow or other that very thing gets in the way of what Paul calls here in the Galatian Letter "the liberty of sons."

The Liberty of Sons

I wonder what that phrase means to you, what it is becoming to mean to you - the liberty of sons. Oh, if you have known bondage to legal Christianity and the Lord has led you in any measure into spiritual liberty, that is a very cherished phrase - the liberty of sons. It is a great, great position to be in. You are not being brow-beaten in your conscience for a moment about what you must do or must not do, this whole tremendous, colossal system of Shalts, and Shalt nots that has come into the midst of Christianity, making Christianity into something that is put on you. They bind heavy burdens and grievous to be born, and lay them on men's shoulders (Matt. 23:4). That is what the Lord said about the Jews, but that is what many Christians are doing, and it is very easy for us to slip into the position where our Christianity and the Christian life becomes a burden almost grievous to be born.

To be emancipated from that into the liberty of sons; what does this mean, and how is it brought about? You go after the Lord, that is all.  It is not a thing, a system, it is Himself, Christ. Run through this Galatian Letters and put your pencil mark under every mention of the name of Christ, and you will get a surprise; and you have got the message of the letter, for it all resolves itself into this - it is the Lord, not Judaism, not Christianity, not a system at all;  it is the Lord. And if it is the Lord, you are emancipated; you need not worry about anything else. You will not go wrong on any of those thousand points, if it is the Lord upon Whom you are set. You are bound to go right, if you are after the Lord. That is liberty, and that is deliverance!

You see the nature of the conflict. The fight of the faith is not fighting with modernism in the first instance, nor standing for the virtues of the Christian faith. It may work out that way, it may at times have to do with that, and doubtless it does include that, but there is something very much deeper than that. Right in the innermost part of our being we know that is a spiritual conflict going on, and that spiritual conflict has to do with whether we are going on with the Lord, and that going on with the Lord is the development or outworking of sonship, it is coming to the consummation of sonship. That is where the challenge is, and anything the enemy can bring in to stop that, he will. The Lord give us light on all this.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with "Revelation In Relation to Sonship")

Embracing the Truth


Embracing the Truth
Openness to truth where truth may be found is a long-standing virtue that worked on the assumption that there is such a thing as objective truth, to which we should be open. Students of higher education now taught one overarching virtue: to be "open." The purpose of their education is not to make them scholars but to provide them with a moral virtue—an openness, a relativism that eschews any form of fixed objective values or truth. Its simplistic creed is that there are no absolutes.

Without objective standards of truth, we are left with feelings, impressions, and intuitions that can never be judged as either false or bad. The bottom line of such an approach is not merely ignorance and skepticism, but the ultimate dehumanization of persons. If everybody is right, then nobody is right. If every viewpoint is equally valuable, no viewpoint is valuable.

As members of the body of Christ, we face twin enemies, both of which are deadly. First, we are tempted to embrace the thought patterns of the secular world in order to be modern and relevant in our thinking. We are terrified of being perceived as being "out of it."

Second, we may be tempted to a new form of monastic isolationism, in which we surrender science, logic, and education to the secular world while we try to live an empty, discontent faith on an island of religious feeling.
Either option ends at the cemetery with a morbid funeral service for truth. A burial is a decent thing to do for a body that has been left where it was slain.

Coram Deo: Living in the Presence of God

Examine your own life: Are you tempted to embrace the thought patterns of the secular world in order to be modern and relevant in your thinking? Are you living an empty, discontent faith in monastic isolation?

For Further Study

John 16:3: "And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me."
John 17:17: "Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth."
1 John 4:6: "We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error."

~R. C. Sproul~

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Liberty of Sons # 2

A Legal System Works Against the Faith

And what is it that has come in to stop? Well, it is the same thing you find in so many other directions in the Church of the New Testament times. It is those Judaizers from Jerusalem who were following Paul wherever he went, coming after him and in among the fruits of his ministry, his converts, and saying, "Except ye be circumcised, ye cannot be saved," bringing in the old traditional system of religion, a fixed thing, in all its legality, and seeking to impose it upon them. And the tragedy, the sham, the grief of ti is this, that it is so infectious that even a Peter can become contaminated; even a Peter, a pillar in the Church, a foremost apostle, a good and godly man, devoted to and serving the Lord. Here in this letter to the Galatians, Paul says, "Certain men came down from James, and Peter was infected, and he compromised, and I withstood him to the face." That is a terrible passage, a terrible situation. But do you see what it implies? There are few people so good, so high up spiritually, so distinguished for their service to the Lord, and their relationship with the Lord, so few who cannot be infected with this something which works so insidiously against the faith in its essence: good men, godly men, devout men, Peters, men of the first three, touched by this thing that is at work. What is it? A legal system set and fixed, be it Jewish or Christian, which straddles the path of going right on with the Lord to His full thought, which just comes right in the way of all that sonship means.

For you see how the Apostle leads right off on this matter of sonship in the Letter to the Galatians. He is dealing with this spiritual, heavenly seed. His introduction is all concerning that. "Paul, an apostle, not of men but of God, Who raised Jesus from the dead ... to deliver us from this present evil world." How significant is every word. There is something here that is not of this earth, not from down here at all, something not of men - "I received it not of man, I was not taught it of man." There is something here that is from heaven. This thing from heaven was on the the basis of resurrection; and that is of God, and God only, something above all that is here. We are delivered from this present evil world or age, and Paul in his mind was not only thinking of the vast, sinful world of paganism and heathenism; he was thinking also of the religious world. "It pleased God to reveal His Son in me." We mark, then, all the spiritual elements about his very introductory words.

Where the Fight of the Faith Arises

And then, when he has struck tremendous blows at this system of things, this religious system, and has challenged Peter over it, in respect of his dissimulation, he goes on about this heavenly and spiritual seed. "We are sons of God by faith in Jesus Christ" (3:26). Then he moves to Ishmael and Isaac, the seed after the flesh and the seed after the Spirit, and brings in this whole matter of what sonship really is, as being something after the Spirit. What he is saying in this whole letter is just this in a word: Sonship, with all that God means by sonship, is what is in view, and over against it there is this breaking in continually of things religious, subtle, beautiful, with all the argument that God is in them; but, nevertheless, breaking in with one object, all hidden from sight, namely, to cut right across the path of the believer in his going right on to God's fullest thought in sonship; and it sets up a warfare.

Let us be perfectly frank and plain. Beloved, it is true that there are many good people, many leading Evangelical people, many Peters if you like, touching whose devotion to the Lord we can have no question: their zeal, their consecration, are not open to discussion; and yet they are so tied by a fixed system that they become points of conflict where the matter of going right on with the lord is concerned. They oppose, they make the difficulty and the trouble: and it is not themselves personally but the thing which binds them. In principle it is this Judaism cropping up again, a fixed system which has held for generations and centuries, a tradition which is established, and anything that seems to require a superseding of that tradition - I choose the word carefully - at once provokes antagonism and conflict. Is it not strange? Why do I use the word supersede? Because of what Paul says here. He says there are those who have come in with another Gospel, which is not another. He means this, that all that came in with Israel was intended to lead right on to Christ, but now it is being used to hold back from Christ. The effect of it is to obstruct the way of realizing the end for which it exists. It is not really two things that are here. Christ is the complement and the fulfillment of all that came in through Moses, and if only you understand and interpret Moses right, you will go right on with Christ. But now this thing is brought in as though it were another thing. Really, in essence the two things are one, intended to be one, in the thought of God, but it is being made two things now. But the intention of God is that there should be this glorious issue - Christ in fullness: so that, what can lead to Christ is to be superseded by Christ. You are not going to say that Judaism is all wrong, you are not going to say, all the Old Testament is wrong, is false, you are not going to say that what came in through Moses is error. Not at all! But you are going to say that it was intended to come to a place where all that to which it was pointing would supersede it.

Oh, the conflict is there, and the fight of the faith comes right in among Paul and Peter in principle. That is a terrible thing. The fight of the faith! Oh, you would never find Paul and Peter fighting one another over the deity of Christ. You would never find them in conflict over any of these fundamentals of Christianity; the inspiration of the Scriptures, the Person of the Lord Jesus, the coming again. Oh no. You would find them absolutely one on all those matters, however many they were. But here,strangely, we find Peter and Paul in conflict, one having to withstand the other to the face, and it is the faith which is involved.

~. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 2 - "What The Faith Is")

Ruth 1:14

Orpah kissed her mother-in-law; but Ruth clave unto her.
 
 
Both of them had an affection for Naomi, and therefore set out with her upon her return to the land of Judah. But the hour of test came; Naomi most unselfishly set before each of them the trials which awaited them, and bade them if they cared for ease and comfort to return to their Moabitish friends. At first both of them declared that they would cast in their lot with the Lord's people; but upon still further consideration Orpah with much grief and a respectful kiss left her mother in law, and her people, and her God, and went back to her idolatrous friends, while Ruth with all her heart gave herself up to the God of her mother in law. It is one thing to love the ways of the Lord when all is fair, and quite another to cleave to them under all discouragements and difficulties. The kiss of outward profession is very cheap and easy, but the practical cleaving to the Lord, which must show itself in holy decision for truth and holiness, is not so small a matter. How stands the case with us, is our heart fixed upon Jesus, is the sacrifice bound with cords to the horns of the altar? Have we counted the cost, and are we solemnly ready to suffer all worldly loss for the Master's sake? The after gain will be an abundant recompense, for Egypt's treasures are not to be compared with the glory to be revealed. Orpah is heard of no more; in glorious ease and idolatrous pleasure her life melts into the gloom of death; but Ruth lives in history and in heaven, for grace has placed her in the noble line whence sprung the King of kings. Blessed among women shall those be who for Christ's sake can renounce all; but forgotten and worse than forgotten shall those be who in the hour of temptation do violence to conscience and turn back unto the world. O that this morning we may not be content with the form of devotion, which may be no better than Orpah's kiss, but may the Holy Spirit work in us a cleaving of our whole heart to our Lord Jesus.

~Charles Spurgeon~

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Keeping An Eye On The Goal

One of the biggest problems in the Christian church today is that so many believers are aimless. In other words, they have trusted in Christ for salvation, but they have never surrendered their lives to His control and guidance. It is as if they have said, "Okay, I'm saved. Now what?" They have no idea, no clue, about what Jesus expects of them with regard to their lifestyle or even that they have a responsibility to live under His Lordship. In his devotional book "Awake My Heart", J. Sidlow Baxter remarks:

"It is possible to have a saved soul and a lost life! That is because there are those who believe on Christ for the salvation of the soul from damnation in eternity, yet never hand over their life to Him, thus failing to render Spirit-filled service here, and to receive reward hereafter."

In other words, you can get to Heaven by the grace of God and the blood of the Lamb, yet stand there with absolutely nothing to present to the Lord. In that case, your whole life will have been wasted, consumed by your own will, flesh, and desires. We need to recognize that, according to God's Word, He has saved us and called us. Most Christians readily acknowledge that they have been saved, but all too few fail to understand that they are called. I'm convinced that when the writer to the Hebrews speaks about pressing on to maturity, he has more in mind than repentance from "sin" when he refers to not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works. I believe he is exhorting the believers to lay aside unprofitable activities, ways of life that have no eternal value to them. Too many Christians have given up their "sins" but continue to be involved in things that do not advance the Kingdom of God or His purpose. Scripture teaches us that one day all our "works" will be tested with fire. Any whose works pass through the fire will receive a reward, but for those whose work is burned up, "he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire" (1 Corinthians 3:15). Many believers are walking aimlessly through life, building "works" of flesh that will not survive the fire of testing.

Paul was not aimless; he had a vision and a direction to his life. He knew what he wanted, where he was going, and how to get there. Keeping his eyes squarely on the goal, Paul disciplines himself for the race. He said, "I buffet my body and make it my slave" (1 Corinthians 9:27). "Buffet" is a translation of the Greek word "hupopiazo", which literally means "to hit under the eye." In a figurative sense it refers to subduing one's passions. In either sense self-control is involved. Many Christians face defeat and failure because they lack self-control; they are slaves to their passions and desires. On the other hand, like any well-trained athlete, Paul was disciplined in every area of his life, having brought every fleshly passion and every human desire under strict subjection and control.

When I was in high school I ran the mile and some cross-country and was on the wrestling team for awhile. One thing my wrestling coach stressed to all of us was the need to keep our bodies strictly under weight limits. Even a few extra pounds could put us in a higher weight category and at a disadvantage against other wrestlers who might be bigger and stronger. I remember him telling us, "If I ever catch you at McDonald's, you're done for." We were given special passes for the cafeteria that authorized us to eat the athletic meal prepared especially for the students involved in various sports. The goal was to make sure that we were in top physical condition and had our appetites under control.

The ancient Olympics that were held in Paul's day consisted primarily of foot racing events. The Corinthian games, with which Paul may have had particular reason to be familiar, were second only to the Olympics. One common strategy in these events was to try to distract competing runners by rolling balls of solid gold across their paths. That would be equivalent today o dangling several thousand dollars in front of an athlete's face. If the ploy worked, the runner would slow down to pick up the ball, losing a few precious seconds of time. Not only that, but the added weight of the heavy gold also would slow him down, resulting in his losing the race. Athletes had to learn to maintain strict self-control even in the midst of tempting distractions.

Crossing the Finish Line

Not only was Paul consumed with running a good race preaching the gospel and reaching the lost, he also was consumed with crossing the finish line in victory. He exercised self-control in all things in order to ensure that he did not fall or falter along the way of fail to complete the commission that the Lord had given him. Paul did not want to disappoint or let down the one who had been so gracious and merciful to him. He says, "I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified" (1 Corinthians 9:27). The Greek word for "disqualified" is "adokimos", which signifies not standing the test, rejected, disapproved, and so rejected from present testimony, with loss of future reward." The word was primarily applied to the testing of metals, as in assaying gold or silver to determine their level of purity, or in proving the strength, quality, or temper of the iron used for sword blades r spear heads. Metals that did not pass the test were reject as unworthy and useless.

By using the word "adokimos" Paul is saying that all who are in the race face testing. We face the tests of integrity; of purity; of financial accountability; of carnality, ambition, and pride; and of authority. (Or, in other words, are we controllers or do we have a servant's heart?). Paul doesn't want to come to the end of the race only to find himself disqualified or rejected or to discover that he is no longer usable. (Remember that we are talking about "rewards" here, about winning the prize.)

When Paul stood before the Roman governor Felix defending himself against false charges brought against him by Jewish religious leaders, he said, "I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men" (Acts 24:16). The phrase "do my best" also could be translated as "exercise" or "strive". Paul's goal was to live every day with a clean conscience before both God and men, faithfully obeying the Lord and faithfully discharging his responsibility before men to proclaim Christ to them in word and action. He aspired to nothing less than to be pure in the sight of both God and man every day. That's quite a goal!

Paul was faithful to his mission, the special course that God had laid out for him. The course that God has laid out for each of us may not be the same course as Paul's, but we are all in the same race. Each of us has a particular course to run that God has set for us. According to J. Sidlow Baxter, 

"the Christian life is to be viewed as a race, by every Christian believer ... [The Lord] has a special, individualistic track of service marked out for each of us, whoever and whatever we may be. As in the physical race there is a track, a goal, and a prize. As in the physical race there are spectators, so in this spiritual race there are spectators - some encouraging, some discouraging. As in a physical race the runners discard all hindering weights and hampering indulgences, so in this spiritual race we must "lay aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us" (Hebrews 12:1). As in a physical  the runners concentrate with keen determination to press on, so in this spiritual race we must concentrate with keen determination to press on. As in a physical race the runners keep their eye on the winning post and the prize, so must we keep our eyes on the goal and the heavenly prize."

Paul's words to Timothy should be an inspiration, an encouragement, and a challenge to us. "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there I laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing" (2 Timothy 4:7-8). Let us be committed to run a good race with discipline and self-control, not dropping out along the way. Let us not drink from the river, only to die in the wilderness. Rather, let us press forward to the goal of fulfilling God's purpose for our lives!

~David Ravenhill~

The Liberty of Sons

Galatians 1:1, 11, 12, 15, 16, 23

In this time together so far, the Lord directed our attention to that little clause - "the faith." The passages basic to our meditation have been those in the two Letters of Paul to Timothy, first his exhortation to Timothy to fight the good fight of the faith, and then his own statement as to himself at the end - "I have ought the good fight, I have kept the faith," and it is into something of the meaning and significance of that phrase, "the faith," that we are being led to inquire at this time.

Here it is again in Galatians 1:23 - "He that once persecuted us now preacheth the faith of which he once made havoc." What was it that Saul of Tarsus sought to destroy, of which he set himself to make havoc? Well, he was a Jew, and of the Jewish party in Jerusalem, who summed up their charge and accusation against the Lord Jesus in those words - "He made Himself the Son of God" (John 19:7). As we said before, it was not just the coming in of a new and rival religion, but something very much deeper than that, and all that is contained in that designation "the Son of God" (Jesus, the Son of God) is what is meant by "the faith." In a word, it is sonship, and all that sonship means as something that is out from God, and which has come into this world, and which being here, is altogether other than that which is already here: different in nature and different in position, and therefore different in destiny; something in this universe which is unique - sonship.

All the forces of hell, and of this world which lieth in the wicked one, are set against that sonship; in Christ primarily, preeminently, and then in those who are begotten of God, sons of God, through faith in Jesus Christ. It is that spiritual reality, that spiritual thing, namely, sonship which is the object and occasion of all hostility that makes it necessary for believers to fight. The contention is not for a creed, not for a system of truth, not for fundamentalism, but for a spiritual position and a spiritual nature, and for all that sonship means from God's standpoint; and for all that sonship means from satan's standpoint. As we said before, wherever we come on this matter of "the faith", we find ourselves at once in very close proximity to the element of conflict. Wherever it is mentioned, nearby there is warfare.

May I just repeat one word said in our previous meditation when we were thinking about our Lord's words recorded by Luke - "When the Son of man cometh, shall He find the faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8). The question does not relate to what is called in general "the Christian faith." There will be plenty of the Christian faith on the earth. The Lord Jesus would have been a bad prophet, and have had very little foresight, had His question meant that in the day of His appearing there would be very little Christianity on the earth, in that general sense. No, His question went much deeper than that, and it is a very real question, if we recognize that sonship is something which has to be brought to fullness in believers, something which relates to Christ coming to fullness in His own and of His members coming into His fullness, unto that ultimate manifestation of the sons in full growth. If that is the meaning of sonship, then indeed there is room for the question - "Shall He find the faith on this earth?"

That could be put in other words. Shall He find on the earth a people who are really going right on in sonship to the fullness of Christ? And I do not think there is any doubt about the answer. He will certainly find a great many Christians who are not going right on, who have stopped short. It will not be so easy to find these who will go right on.

My trouble this morning is lack of time, and I really do not know where to begin and what to say, because the whole New Testament gathers around this very thing.

The New Testament as a whole - of course, I am referring to the Epistles - the New Testament as a whole just comes right down on this question of who is going on, or who is going to come under this terrible arresting effort of the enemy, in the matter of spiritual growth.

A Legal System Works Against the Faith

When you come to the Letter to the Galatians alone - and I am led there very definitely at this time - you know Paul has hardly got through his introductory word before he says, " I marvel that you are so soon brought to a standstill, that your going on has so quickly been arrested." The whole letter is on that matter, namely, their stopping, and Paul's urge that they should throw off the thing which has come upon them to stop them, and go on.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 2)

They Go From Strength to Strength


Psalm 84:7

They go from strength to strength.
 
 
They go from strength to strength. There are various renderings of these words, but all of them contain the idea of progress. Our own good translation of the authorized version is enough for us this morning. "They go from strength to strength." That is, they grow stronger and stronger. Usually, if we are walking, we go from strength to weakness; we start fresh and in good order for our journey, but by-and-by the road is rough, and the sun is hot, we sit down by the wayside, and then again painfully pursue our weary way. But the Christian pilgrim having obtained fresh supplies of grace, is as vigorous after years of toilsome travel and struggle as when he first set out. He may not be quite so elate and buoyant, nor perhaps quite so hot and hasty in his zeal as he once was, but he is much stronger in all that constitutes real power, and travels, if more slowly, far more surely. Some gray-haired veterans have been as firm in their grasp of truth, and as zealous in diffusing it, as they were in their younger days; but, alas, it must be confessed it is often otherwise, for the love of many waxes cold and iniquity abounds, but this is their own sin and not the fault of the promise which still holds good: "The youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, 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 shall walk and not faint." Fretful spirits sit down and trouble themselves about the future. "Alas!" say they, "we go from affliction to affliction." Very true, O thou of little faith, but then thou goest from strength to strength also. Thou shalt never find a bundle of affliction which has not bound up in the midst of it sufficient grace. God will give the strength of ripe manhood with the burden allotted to full-grown shoulders.

~Charles Spurgeon~

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Law of Faith and Dependence # 3

Sonship Indestructible in Itself - The Work of satan to Nullify Its Power

But the point that I want to get at and emphasize is this, that because it is a spiritual thing, it is something which interests satan in a particular way. Being exclusively of God and being wholly spiritual, it is something which, shall I say, tantalizes satan; it is a case of tremendous annoyance ad grievance to him. He cannot get at this thing directly, it is beyond him. You notice that in the Word of God there is no denial from any realm that there is such a being as the Son of God or as the Christ. There is no denial; that is recognized, acknowledged and accepted everywhere. There is a denial that Jesus is the Son of God, but the fact of sonship as a reality in God's universe is never questioned. antichrist is not the denial of the existence of Christ, but the counterfeiting of Christ: and that is a tremendous admission, a tremendous acknowledgment. If you counterfeit something, it is your way of admitting that there is something real. You do not counterfeit if there is not the genuine thing. You see my point. There is something in God's universe which is never questioned or denied, but which is an established thing, which cannot be touched as a reality, and that is sonship. To get at that - well, anything can be done to nullify it in its effect - but the fact is there, and it is that fact which is satan's aggravation and annoyance, the fact of the existence of this sonship, in God's universe, and that sonship has invaded and come into his domain. There is sonship right in the very domain of satan, in the kingdom of this world, this world which "lieth in the wicked one." Sonship has invaded and come into it; and there is a fact which cannot be destroyed, it is inviolate in itself.

Oh, lay hold of this! Sonship which satan cannot destroy in itself. Sonship, is something inviolate, lying outside of satan's realm and satan's power. What then is the nature of the battle? Oh, satan is not so foolish as to think that he can destroy sonship as a fact, but all his efforts and methods are employed to nullify the effect of it as he can, as he will, in his domain. After this manner, therefore, he started with the last Adam - "If thou be the Son ..." The sting is in that "if." If only the Lord Jesus would admit an "if," satan has scored, and while the sonship is not destroyed, the effect of it in his kingdom is.

That can be put in another way. Admit a doubt, admit a question, and you are undone, and the thing which in itself is inviolate is put under the arrest with regard to its effect against satan. Doubt, unbelief, a question, an uncertainty, suspends the tremendous potency of sonship as against the enemy, even though the sonship position cannot be destroyed. If satan can find a people here who believe on the basis of sonship, and persist in believing, and refuse to doubt and question, he has found sonship there which corresponds to what he found in Christ, Who said, "The prince of this world cometh and hath nothing in Me" (John 14:30). Hath nothing! What is he looking for? The ground of a question or a doubt, is what he is after, and he found nothing.

So the faith you see, is faith which is reposed in God's Son and which makes that sonship a mighty power in the one who believes.

Now, what are  we saying is that the existence of this thing called sonship is the occasion of all the conflict because it is something which in itself is beyond satan's power, and unless in some way its effect in his kingdom is neutralized, it is going to be his ultimate expulsion and undoing. Let us say again that, lying right there at the heart of sonship, is no less a thing than the ridding of this universe of satan and his kingdom. That is the issue of sonship. Therefore let us look at the nature of sonship. What is it? It is a life in the Spirit. satan will constantly try to provoke unto a life in the flesh. A life of dependence: then satan will try to make us independent. A life of humility, meekness, drawing wholly upon the the  Lord for everything: then satan will try to provoke us to pride, to have it in ourselves, to be something ourselves, to care for our reputation, to fight for our own vindication. Remember that every tendency, inclination or attempt to secure our vindication - we may be right, but that is not the question - anything in the direction of securing our vindication is against sonship. "He made Himself of no reputation" (Phil. 2:7). He did not seek to vindicate Himself or to be vindicated. He left the matter of vindication altogether with God, and became obedient unto death, yea, the death of the Cross. "Their righteousness is of Me, saith the Lord" (Isaiah 54:17). Oh, for this grace of self-emptying, seeking no title, no name, no reputation, no vindication, no justification for ourselves. It cuts the ground from under the feet of the enemy, robs him of that which he needs to save his own position and to nullify the effect of Christ's presence. Let us ask the Lord for that grace of selflessness, and of joyful acceptance of a life of dependence upon the Lord in terms of daily resurrection. That is the way of sonship. It makes room for the Lord and for the fullness of Christ.

I think perhaps we could very well close there just now. Do not forget that satan is out to bring the effect of sonship under arrest in his kingdom. He cannot destroy it, that is something beyond his power, but he can nullify its power so far as his interests are concerned, and he does that by trying to get us to violate the very laws of sonship. Those laws of sonship we have mentioned. They are shown in the life of the Son Himself so clearly - nothing in Himself, but dependence upon the Father, altogether dependent upon the Father. A life in which the law of resurrection is a daily and hourly operation and experience, a life without personal name, reputation, standing or vindication, a life wholly handed over to God, these and many other things comprise sonship, and are the marks of a life in the Spirit.

The Lord make us good son for His own glory and satisfaction.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(the end)

(Next: "The Liberty of Sons")

Ezra 7:22

Salt without prescribing how much.
 
 
Salt was used in every offering made by fire unto the Lord, and from its preserving and purifying properties it was the grateful emblem of divine grace in the soul. It is worthy of our attentive regard that, when Artaxerxes gave salt to Ezra the priest, he set no limit to the quantity, and we may be quite certain that when the King of kings distributes grace among His royal priesthood, the supply is not cut short by Him. Often are we straitened in ourselves, but never in the Lord. He who chooses to gather much manna will find that he may have as much as he desires. There is no such famine in Jerusalem that the citizens should eat their bread by weight and drink their water by measure. Some things in the economy of grace are measured; for instance our vinegar and gall are given us with such exactness that we never have a single drop too much, but of the salt of grace no stint is made, "Ask what thou wilt and it shall be given unto thee." Parents need to lock up the fruit cupboard, and the sweet jars, but there is no need to keep the salt-box under lock and key, for few children will eat too greedily from that. A man may have too much money, or too much honour, but he cannot have too much grace. When Jeshurun waxed fat in the flesh, he kicked against God, but there is no fear of a man's becoming too full of grace: a plethora of grace is impossible. More wealth brings more care, but more grace brings more joy. Increased wisdom is increased sorrow, but abundance of the Spirit is fulness of joy. Believer, go to the throne for a large supply of heavenly salt. It will season thine afflictions, which are unsavoury without salt; it will preserve thy heart which corrupts if salt be absent, and it will kill thy sins even as salt kills reptiles. Thou needest much; seek much, and have much.

~Charles Spurgeon~

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Sonship Based on Resurrection # 2

Adam was created with sonship in view, sonship after  this kind, but he was placed upon the basis of dependence upon God, faith and dependence. That was the law of his life, and that was to be the law by which he would come to the realization of sonship in its full sense. satan came and suggested to Adam that he could have it in himself if he liked. He need not have it of God and have to look to God all the time If Adam did but follow his advice, there need be none of this servitude to God, but he could be as God and have it in himself, and be delivered from the bondage of this life of dependence and faith, and obedience. Adam accepted that suggestion and sought to take it, to have it in himself without reference or deference to God. Sonship was lost for Adam and his race. The last Adam comes and accepts a life of absolute dependence upon the Father, and obedience to the Father in an utter self-emptying. "He emptied Himself ... and became obedient"; He took "the form of a bond-servant" (Phil. 2:6-8). He had it not in Himself, by His own choice: He had it in the Father; and sonship was established, realized and expressed in fullness in Him.

We, beloved, are called on to that basis. Oh, there is nothing which will work against the spirit of sonship, God's purpose of fullness in us, like pride, the pride which wants to have it in ourselves. Pride hates a life of dependence. Pride cannot bear to have to look outside of itself for everything. Pride must have the root of things in itself. "Be not wise in your own conceits" is a phrase the Apostle used (Romans 12:16). What is conceit? The very word itself means "having the seat of things in yourself": wise by having the seat of things in yourself. The Lord Jesus, Who had the highest place in heavenly glory, the highest and greatest title and name - all rights were in His power - accepted the position of girding Himself with a towel and putting water into a basin and kneeling down to wash the feet of His disciples. That is the mind which was in Christ Jesus. That is sonship. It is not nice for the flesh, nor for our reputation, it is not pleasant to our education; we look for something better than that. But that is sonship. That is a life in the Spirit. That spirit will be the mark, the hall-mark, of spiritual growth, of spiritual maturity. The person who is really growing spiritually is not the person who is becoming something important spiritually. The one who is growing is the one who is growing in the servant dependent spirit more and more. The one who can get down lowest is the one who is really getting up highest.

That is the nature of sonship. It is something which is wholly of God, exclusively of God, not of ourselves. We cannot produce it.

Sonship A Spiritual Thing

It is, therefore, in the next place, a spiritual thing. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3:6). Sonship, therefore, is essentially a spiritual things and is always connected, in the Word, with the Spirit. The new birth is connected with the Spirit - "born of the Spirit." "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God" (Romans 8:14). Born; led. You come to Galatians: Galatians is just full of these things, full of sonship and the Spirit. "Because ye are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father." Then you know Paul's argument about Hagar and Ishmael, and Sarah and Isaac; the one born after the flesh, the other born after the Spirit; and the one born after the flesh is to be cast out, that the one born after the Spirit may be established (Galatians 4:21-31). It is sonship and the Spirit again. Sonship, therefore, is a spiritual thing. It is obvious that this kind of sonship is not a natural thing.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 3)



Habakkuk 3:6

His ways are everlasting.
 
 
What He hath done at one time, He will do yet again. Man's ways are variable, but God's ways are everlasting. There are many reasons for this most comforting truth: among them are the following-the Lord's ways are the result of wise deliberation; He ordereth all things according to the counsel of His own will. Human action is frequently the hasty result of passion, or fear, and is followed by regret and alteration; but nothing can take the Almighty by surprise, or happen otherwise than He has foreseen. His ways are the outgrowth of an immutable character, and in them the fixed and settled attributes of God are clearly to be seen. Unless the Eternal One Himself can undergo change, His ways, which are Himself in action, must remain for ever the same. Is He eternally just, gracious, faithful, wise, tender?-then His ways must ever be distinguished for the same excellences. Beings act according to their nature: when those natures change, their conduct varies also; but since God cannot know the shadow of a turning, His ways will abide everlastingly the same. Moreover there is no reason from without which could reverse the divine ways, since they are the embodiment of irresistible might. The earth is said, by the prophet, to be cleft with rivers, mountains tremble, the deep lifts up its hands, and sun and moon stand still, when Jehovah marches forth for the salvation of His people. Who can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What doest Thou? But it is not might alone which gives stability; God's ways are the manifestation of the eternal principles of right, and therefore can never pass away. Wrong breeds decay and involves ruin, but the true and the good have about them a vitality which ages cannot diminish. This morning let us go to our heavenly Father with confidence, remembering that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever, and in Him the Lord is ever gracious to His people.

~Charles Spurgeon~

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Nature of Sonship # 2

Now, God is going to be very true to that principle and position, and we will discover that a life in the Spirit, which is the life out of sonship, cannot be a life in the flesh, cannot be a life out of nature and nature's springs. A life in the Spirit, which is the life of sonship, has continuously behind it the realization that we cannot live save out from God, that we draw our very life from Him every day. The more we go on with God, which means the more we live in the Spirit,  and the more spiritual growth and maturity takes place in us, the deeper will be our consciousness of utter dependence upon God for our life, and for everything in the realm of our relationship with Him. Self-resource, self-strength, self-confidence, self-ability, self-wisdom, self-esteem, self-reputation, will be steadily undermined and sapped and drained by the Spirit of God, and we shall come more and more to the place where we know that it is not in us to be Christians, not in us to live a life in the Spirit, not in us to go on with God. It must all come right out from Himself. Sonship is the most dependent thing of which you can have any conception. He said of Himself, in words perhaps all too familiar to us: "The Son can do nothing out from Himself" (John 5:19). Again, "I can of Myself do nothing ... because I seek not Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me" (John 5:30). The Apostle, in the spirit of a true son, will say, "I know nothing by myself ..." (1 Corinthians 4:4). "We have this treasure in vessels of fragile clay, that the exceeding greatness of the power may be of God, and not of ourselves" (2 Corinthians 4:7). "Who is sufficient for these things? ... our sufficiency is of God" (2 Corinthians 2:16; 3:5). Now, that is sonship, and that means living continually on the ground of resurrection.

Sonship Based On Resurrection

And so we come to Romans 1:4: "... declared to be the Son of God in power ... by the resurrection of the dead" - sonship based upon resurrection. That is wholly of God, only of God. The Lord Jesus, in putting the truth of sonship into operation, said and did several things which are full of significance in the light of what we are saying. You remember in those early chapters in John how He said, "The hour cometh, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son .. and ... shall live" (John 5:25). Why? "As the Father raiseth the dead, and giveth them life, even so the Son also giveth life to whom He will" (John 5:21). This relationship with God in terms of sonship means that by dependence upon God, by a life in God, a life in the Spirit, that which is God's sole and exclusive prerogative of raising the dead becomes an actual fact in the sphere of sonship, an actuality at work in the sphere of sonship. The Son becomes the sphere in which the Father's power and right of resurrection operates. But, while that is true, that resurrection life is working through the Son from the Father,the Son is still saying in the very same parts of the Word, "The Son can do nothing out from Himself, but what He seeth the Father doing" (John 5:19). That is in the early part of John.

You get well on in John and you have the case of Lazarus, and Lazarus is taken up, as you know by the introduction to the incident, with one object. The Lord Jesus states the object of Lazarus' sickness and death. "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified" (John 11:4). And so Lazarus is not healed. The Lord Jesus does not come to the home in Bethany as the doctor to give a remedy, and to recover Lazarus. He stays away deliberately until Lazarus is not only beyond hope in this life, but is beyond this life itself, and then, when the Lord Jesus knows that he is dead, He says, "Our friend Lazarus sleepeth." The disciples misunderstood and thought He meant that he was having a sleep: so Jesus said plainly, "Lazarus is dead." Then, when He knew in His spirit that Lazarus was gone, He came to Bethany. He was acting out now what He had said before, and the thing which governs the action is "that the Son may be glorified." Then John sums up the whole of that Gospel in the words of chapter 20:31: "These things are written that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God." The whole of John's Gospel is written with that object in view.

Now John has written the statement which we have about the Son raising the dead by His relationship and life in the Father, and dependence upon the Father, and John too has written about Lazarus; and he says, I have written all these things and all the other things with one point in view, namely, "that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God." Sonship is all the time on this basis of resurrection.

What was true in the case of the Lord Jesus is true of the spirit of sonship, wherever that spirit is found. Turning to Galatians again, the Apostle says, "Because ye are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father" (Galatians 4:6). We are sons. But how many of the Lord's people are willing to live on that basis? How many there are who want to have it in themselves; the strength, the wisdom, the ability, the efficiency; everything in themselves, not a life of utter dependence and daily resurrection. "When the Son of man cometh, shall He find the faith ...?" You see the point - something which is exclusively of God; and God takes pains to undercut every tendency and inclination to have it in ourselves, because that is the way in which at the first this very purpose of God in sonship was set aside.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 3) - "The Law of Faith and Dependence")

Mary: Our Example in Obscurity?


Mary: Our Example in Obscurity?


It is difficult for us to understand, 2,000 years later, the significance of the angel Gabriel’s appearance to Mary in Nazareth.

After all, he could have found the future mother of the Messiah in Rome, the capital of the greatest power on earth at the time. He could have found her in Athens, the cultural center of the world, or in Jerusalem, the spiritual center of the world.

But God chose Nazareth, an obscure but extremely wicked city that was notorious for its sin. Upon hearing that Jesus was from there, Nathanael said, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46).

What is amazing about Mary is that she lived a godly life in a godless place, and she did so as a very young teenager. Commentators believe she may have been as young as 12, but not much older than 14.

Here she was, a nobody living in a nothing town in the middle of nowhere—precisely the kind of person that God goes out of His way to call. He chose an unknown girl in a relatively unknown city to bring about the most-known event in human history, an event so significant that we actually divide human time by it.

Maybe you are trying to live out your faith in a godless place today, at work or school or among unbelieving family members. You’re wondering if it can be done. It can.
Mary stands as an example for us, proving that it is possible to live a godly life in an ungodly world.

~Greg Laurie~

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Nature of Sonship

"When the Son of man cometh, shall He find the faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8)

Place that passage alongside of those read in our previous meditation (1 Tim. 6:12; 2 Tim. 4:7; Jude 3; Rev. 2:13); we will not repeat them in full just now. Just be reminded that the two passages in Paul's two letters to Timothy were among them; first, his exhortation to Timothy to fight the good fight of the faith, and then his own statement that he had fought the good fight and had kept the faith; and we were and are occupied with this phrase - "the faith."

I am quite sure that, in the light of what we said in our previous meditation, the passage in Luke 18:8 takes on new significance and we are better able to understand it. "When the Son of Man cometh, shall He find the faith on the earth?" That certainly does not mean, shall He find a Christian system of doctrine on the earth. He will find plenty of that. And it certainly does not mean, shall He find faith in the sense of people who believe in Christianity or in general in Christ. There would be no point, I think in asking that question, if He meant that. There are multitudes of people who believe in a general way in Christ and Christianity, if that could be said to be the meaning of faith, and I do not know that we are to expect that kind of Christianity to diminish very greatly, at least to such a point where it is really a question whether He will find any of it at all when He comes.

But when we look into this phrase, "the faith" as we were doing earlier, and really understand its essence and nature, then the question has some point, and it is really concerning the point of the question that we are going to spend a little time now.

We have sought to see that the faith in its essence is the essential and the unique nature of Divine sonship. It is over that that the fight goes on, rages and intensifies, and that sonship is something into which believers are initially brought by new birth, and thereafter progressively by a life in the Spirit, and it is therefore saying that sonship, in the New Testament sense, is something more than being born into a family; it is growing up in that family, and  carries with it the feature of spiritual maturity. A phrase used so frequently in our New Testament is "perfection"; "go on unto perfection" (Hebrews 6:1), or as the margin expresses it, "go on to full growth." Really it means the consummation of things, coming to the full end for which you exist.

Seeing then, that that is sonship - going right on to the full end for which you exist as children of God; which, again, implies a life in the Spirit continually - then you have room for the question, shall He find the faith on the earth? In other words, shall He find on the earth a real going on in the Spirit unto full growth? I do not think the question was meant to suggest that He would not find it, that it would not exist at His coming, but I do think that the question contains this factor, namely, that it would be far from being a general thing and that you would have to look for it. In order to find it, you would have to look for it; it will not be there in such a way that everybody can see it. That, I think, is the point of the question.

Well then, we want to look a little more closely at this matter of sonship, seeing that everything is bound up with it. It is the faith, it is the occasion of the conflict, it is the cause of the question of the Lord. What is the nature of sonship? We can answer that by two or three quite simple statements.

Sonship Essentially and Exclusively of God

Firstly, it is essentially and exclusively of God. We are familiar with he statement in John 1:13: "who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." Not this, nor that, nor that, but of God! You might very well put in there - 'but exclusively of God.' Sonship, therefore, is something exclusively of God. It lies altogether beyond the power and possibility of man to achieve, to attain, to reach unto it. It is not in man to produce it or arrive at it. The secret of sonship is not resident in man. The seed of sonship is not in man by nature, in spite of all that of which we spoke in our previous meditation that is the generally accepted doctrine concerning man today. The fact is that this sonship is something which belongs to another realm altogether.

We know that the Word of God sees man as dead, so far as God is concerned, and nothing short of a miracle can change that situation, for life is God's prerogative and gift alone, and resurrection something which is alone in the power of God. Therefore the principle, the law, of sonship is an experience of resurrection which, to those who have it, is such an experience as to settle forever in their convictions that everything they have in relation to God is a sheer miracle of God's own working.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 2)

How Does the Manger Reveal Who Christ Is?


How Does the Manger Reveal Who Christ Is?

A.W. Pink

Jesus was laid in a manger because there was no room for Him. How solemnly this brings out the world’s estimate of the Christ of God. There was no appreciation of His amazing condescension. He was not wanted. It is so still. There is no room for Him in the schools, in society, in the business world, among the great throngs of pleasure seekers, in the political realm, in the newspapers, nor in many of the churches. It is only history repeating itself. All that the world gave the Savior was a manger, a cross on which to die, and a borrowed grave to receive His murdered body.

He was laid in a manger to demonstrate the extent of His poverty. "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might be rich" (2 Corinthians 8:9). How "poor" He became, was thus manifested at the beginning. The One who, afterwards, had nowhere to lay His head, who had to ask for a penny when He would reply to His critics about the question of tribute, and who had to use another man’s house when instituting the Holy Supper, was, from the first, a homeless Stranger here. And the "manger" was the earliest evidence.

He was laid in a manger to show His contempt for worldly riches and pomp. We might think it more fitting for the Christ of God to be born in a palace and laid in a cradle of gold, lined with costly silks. But as He Himself reminds us in this same Gospel, "that which is highly esteemed among men, is abomination in the sight of God" (Luke 16:15). And what an exemplification of this truth was given when the infant Saviour was placed, not in a cradle of gold but, in an humble manger.

He was laid in a manger to mark His identification with human suffering and wretchedness. The One born was "The Son of Man." He had left the heights of Heaven’s glory and had descended to our level, and here we behold Him entering the human condition at its lowest point. Thus did the Man of Sorrows identify Himself with human suffering.

~A. W. Pink~