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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Jezebel - A False Cross

[this article is eye-opening. Never before have I had an answer to my question: "Why do church folk talk about themselves always instead of praising Christ, worshiping God, seeking the help of the Holy Spirit in their life, and preaching these things as per the Holy Bible - the full Word of God!? This article tells us why and the answer is: False thinking/false teaching among our Christian leaders that, sad to say, has been going on for many years. And we have taken it in "hook, line and sinker!!" (Is this the Adamic nature of us all overriding God's truth as taught in the Bible? I'll let you answer that.  But thankfully, this article explains the whole question and my heart and soul are relieved greatly to know that what God has taught me (and is teaching me) is His pure truth and not something coming from "man".  I pray you will enjoy. As usual the article starts with basic information to lead to the problem and then the solution. Bear with me. It may take two or three articles to accomplish what is intended.] But this is so very important!

Division: Jezebel - A False Cross

Union: The Bride of Christ - 

Submission Unto the True Cross

"But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel"

"Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, Beware of the concision."

Brethren, we are going to read a lot of scriptures in order to lay the ground for our study of "the woman Jezebel." We are going to lay this foundation by quoting from the Books of 1 Chronicles; 1 Kings; Philippians and Revelation. May we prayerfully and thoughtfully read these scriptures.

Now not long before David died, we have seen that he gave Solomon the following instructions, which included a very grave warning: "And you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a perfect heart [with a wholly devoted heart, a heart not divided between the Lord and other gods], and with a willing mind; for the Lord searches out all hearts, and He understands all the imaginations of the thoughts.; if you shall seek Him, He shall be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He shall cast you off forever. WATCH, NOW, TAKE HEED, NOW;  for the Lord has chosen you to build a house for a sanctuary: be strong, and do it." Then David gave Solomon the pattern ... the pattern of all that he had by the Spirit. "All this," said David, "the Lord made me understand in writing by His hand upon me, even all the works of this pattern" (1 Chronicles 28:9-19).

Then when Solomon became king, the Lord God Himself gave Solomon two grave warnings: The first one was given when Solomon humbly asked for wisdom, and the Lord gave Solomon wisdom, because Solomon had not asked anything for himself: - "Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart: so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee. And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches, and honor: so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days. AND IF YOU WILL WALK IN MY WAYS, TO KEEP MY STATUTES, AND MY COMMANDMENTS, AS THY FATHER DAVID DID WALK, THEN I WILL LENGTHEN THY DAYS" (1 Kings 3:12-14).

Then about seventeen to twenty years later, after Solomon had built and dedicated the house of the Lord, the Lord God warned Solomon for the second time: And the Lord said unto him, "I have heard your prayer and your supplication, which you have made before Me; I have consecrated this house which you have built by putting My name there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually. And as for you, if you will walk before Me as your father David walked, in integrity of heart and uprightness, doing according to all that I have commanded you and will keep My statutes and My ordinances, then I will establish the throne of your kingdom over Israel forever, just as I promised to your father David, saying, 'You shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.' But if you or your sons shall indeed turn away from following Me, and shall not keep my commandments and My statutes which I have set before you and shall go and serve other Gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land which I have given them, and the house which I have consecrated for My name, I will cast out of My sight. So Israel will become a proverb and a by word among all peoples. And this house will become a heap of ruins" (1 Kings 9:1-8).

Tragically, not many years later, we find these grave words recorded in the Holy Word of God: "But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites; of nations concerning which the Lord said unto the children of Israel, "Ye shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods:" Solomon clave unto these in love ... for it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives (the strange women) turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the Lord His God, as was the heart of David his father. Solomon's heart had become divided between the Lord and other gods. And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the Lord God of Israel, which had appeared unto him twice and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods: but he kept not that which the lord commanded. Wherefore the Lord said unto Solomon, 'Forasmuch as this is done of thee ... I will surely rend the kingdom from thee, and will give it to thy servant. Not withstanding in thy days I will not do it for David thy father's sake: but I will rend it out of the hand of thy son. Howbeit I will not rend away all the kingdom; but will give one tribe to thy son for David My servant's sake, and for Jerusalem's sake which I have chosen' " (1 Kings 11:1-13).

Then, in the Letter to the Philippians - who were some of the most mature and sincere Christians at that time- we find Paul through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit putting the Christians at Philippi, and all Christians of every age and generation, on the highest alert, by urging them, and us to Beware! Beware! Beware: "Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same thing to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe. Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision. For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh" (Phil. 3:1-3).

Furthermore, in Revelation 2:18-25 we find the Lamb that was slain, we find He Who is the First and the Last, writing a letter through John to the church in Thyatira - a letter, along with the six other letters in Revelation, chapters two and three, which has been sent through the holy Word of God to all the churches of every age and generation. "These things saith the Son of God, Who hath His eyes like unto a flame of fire, and His feet are like fine brass; I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first. But I have this against you, THAT YOU TOLERATE THE WOMAN JEZEBEL, the one calling herself a prophetess [claiming to be inspired], to teach and to deceive my bondservants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall that  I am He Which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works. But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, and which have not know the depths of satan, as they say: I place no other burden on you. Nevertheless what you have, hold fast until I come" (Revelation 2:20, 24, 25).

"But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel."

Beloved, the scriptures that we have just quoted do not seem to have much in common. We may ask ourselves, 'What does Solomon have in common with the Christians at Philippi? And what does Solomon and the Christians at Philippi have in common with the church at Thyatira and with the Christian of every age and generation right up to the present time?' Now as we continue, we shall see that the common factor in the above scriptures is the deadly strategy which proceeds out of 'THE DEPTHS OF SATAN"; and this deadly, subtle strategy of satan is the seduction of the bondservants of the Lord through the false cross. Furthermore, we shall find that satan uses one of his most deceitful messengers to deliver his message of the false cross, he uses "that woman Jezebel" who calleth herself a prophetess, who from the beginning was, and continues to be right up to the present day, a messenger of satan.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 2)

The Kingdom Come But Also Coming # 2

Prophetic Ministry

What the Kingdom Is

Now, another thing: the Kingdom has come, but it is always coming. We have entered, but we ought to be always entering. There is a little word at the end of the Letter to the Hebrews - "Wherefore, receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken ..." (Hebrews 12:28). The literal sense there is - "being in the course or process of receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken ..." It has come, but it is coming; and it is at that point that I think we all need to recognize a difference, to discriminate between two things - between conversion and salvation.

Have you ever made that distinction? There is all the difference between conversion and salvation. Conversion is a crisis, something that happens perhaps suddenly, in a moment, and it is done. Salvation? That is something that has commenced; but you find also that the New Testament speaks about "receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls" (1 Peter 1:9), thus indicating that salvation is still future. Some people have built a false doctrine upon this, teaching that you cannot know you are saved until you are at the end, because it is spoken of in the future tense. But we are saved, and we are being saved. We have entered the Kingdom by conversion, but salvation is a far greater thing than conversion. Oh, salvation is a vast thing, and is only another word for the Kingdom - the Kingdom coming all the time. A spiritual babe who has just received Divine life has not got everything, except potentially. It has conversion, it has new birth. Would you say that a little babe has everything it is intended to have? Potentially, in the life, all is there. But how much more that is to be known of what that life implies, of all that it carries with it and may lead to, of all the capacities that are there!

This is the difference between conversion and salvation. The Kingdom is a vast kingdom - "His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom" (Daniel 4:3). "Of the increase of His government ... there shall be no end" (Isaiah 9:7). 'No end' simply means eternally expansive. Can you make just a geographical matter of that? Surely not. It must be spiritual - the vast inexhaustible resources of God for His own people. It will take eternity to know and to explore all those resources, the dimensions of His Kingdom.

The Kingdom Suffers Violence

Now, having in a very imperfect way considered what the prophets were taking about and what you and I have come into touch with, let us see what can be missed. Let us look at these other words: "The law and the prophets were until John: from that time the gospel of the kingdom of God is preached, and every man entereth violently into it" (Luke 16:16). "From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and men of violence take it by force" (Matthew 11:12). It 'suffereth violence." That does not simply mean that it permits of violence. It really means that it calls for violence, and it is men of violence that take it by force. Luke puts it "entereth violently."

Here is the spirit of citizenship in that Kingdom - "by force." Why? This is not merely an appeal to be in earnest - though it certainly includes that, seeing what a tremendous thing this Kingdom is, and what an immense loss will be suffered if we do not take it seriously. But you see, the Lord Jesus is speaking as in the midst of things which are constantly opposing. There is a whole organized system, expressing tremendous prejudice. He said to them on one occasion "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye shut the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye enter not in yourselves" (Matthew 23:13). There is everything, from devil and men, to obstruct; to enter in requires violence. If you can be hindered, you will be hindered. If you are going to be easygoing, you will give to antagonistic forces all the ground that they want to put you out.

That is why I pointed out that it is not only a once-for-all entering into the Kingdom, but it is a continuous entering. The
 Kingdom is so much bigger than conversion. Of course, if you are going to be saved at all - I mean saved initially - you will have to mean business for that. You will have to make it a desperate matter, because there will be everything to stop you. But the Kingdom means a very great deal more than merely getting into it, far more than being converted. There is a great deal more in the purpose of God for our lives than we have ever imagined, and if we are to enter into that, violence has to characterize us. We must desperately mean business, and come to the place where we say: 'Lord, I am set upon all that Thou dost mean in Christ. I a set upon that, and I am not going to allow other people's prejudices or suspicions or criticisms to get in the way; I am not going to allow any man-made system to hinder me; I am going right on with Thee for all Thy purpose. I am going to do violence to everything that would get in the way.' It calls for violence, and we have to do a lot of violence to get all that God wills for us.

Oh, how easily many lives are side-tracked, simply because they are not desperate enough! They are caught in things which limit - things which may be good, that may have something of God  in them, but which none the less are limiting things, and do not represent a wide open way to all God's purpose. The only way for us to come into all that the Lord means - not only into what we have seen but into all that He has purposed - is to be desperate, to be men of violence; to be men who say, 'By God's grace, nothing and no one, however good, is going to stand in my way; I am going on with God.' Have that position with the Lord, and you will find that God meets you on that ground.

No men - not even Paul himself - knew all that they were going to know. Paul was constantly getting fuller unveilings of that unto which he was called. He received something fairly strong and rich at the beginning; then, later, he was shown unspeakable things (2 Corinthians 12:4). He was growing in apprehension. But why? Because he was a man of violence. God meets us like that. "With the perverse Thou wilt shew Thyself froward" (Psalm 18:26). That, in principle, means that God will be to you what you are to Him. He will mean business if you mean business. There is a vast amount in the Kingdom that we have never suspected. Do believe that. There is more for all of us to know than anybody on this earth knows - far more than the very greatest saints, the most advanced Christians, know of the purpose of God.

Paul intimates that. In his Philippians letter he makes it clear that, even at the end of his life, he has yet to apprehend, he needs still to know. "That I may know ..." (Philippians 3:10). There is far more to know. Are you going to allow your life simply to be boxed up within the measure that you know, or within the measure of other people? No - it is the measure of Christ that is God's end. "Till we all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a full grown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13). No movement, no society, no evangelical organization, no church on this earth has come to that yet, but that is the objective in view. But God requires, in order to bring us to fullness, that we be men of violence, that we really mean business, that we say to everything that gets in the way - and oh, the plausible voices, which nevertheless are subtly influenced by prejudices! - 'Stand thou aside; I am going on with God, I am going to allow nothing to stand in the way!'

"The gospel of the kingdom is preached." Can you imagine those Judaizers speaking to the people about Jesus? 'be careful; mind you don'[t get caught! Our advice to you is to steer clear of that - don't get into too close touch with Him!' All that was going on. Paul was up against it all the time. He was tracked down throughout his journeys by these very people who, following on his heels, said, 'Be careful - it is dangerous!' The Lord Himself experienced the same violence." It calls for violence; you will not get in to begin with, and you will certainly not get in in growing fullness, unless you are one of those people who do violence to everything that stands in the way of God's full purpose as revealed in Christ. You will not even know what that purpose is, God will not be able to reveal to you the next part of it, unless He find that you are one after this kind - entering in violently.

Are you like that? Well, if we are passive, there is everything to be lost; if we mean business, there is everything to be gained. The Lord make us men and women like that, lest we be numbered among those of whom it is said that they "have ears to hear, and hear not' (Ezekiel 12:2).

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 1 - "The Contrast Between the Old Dispensation and the New")

Worry About Work

In 2 Corinthians 11:28, the apostle Paul says something very interesting, Besides the other things, what comes upon me daily:  my deep concern for all the churches.

You may be wondering, "Bayless, what does this have to do with my life?"  Let me show you.

The phrase "deep concern" literally means anxiety and worry.  And that phrase "to come upon" in the original language literally means "it conspires against me in order to overthrow me."

The apostle Paul's job was to oversee the churches that God had used him to establish, and in this verse he is confessing, "I daily have to battle with worry over these churches.  How are they doing?  Are they being misled by false prophets?  Are they staying true to good doctrine?" 

He was dealing with worry about those churches.  Every day he grappled with that worry, and he had to throw it down.

It is easy for all of us to worry about our job.  Some people, even though they are at home, never leave their job.  They carry the burden around with them twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

They are always worrying about the job, even when they are home with their family.  "How are things going at work?  I wonder what they're saying.  I wonder about the competition.  What about sales?  What about my job security?  What's going to happen tomorrow?"

Consequently, when they get home from work, they are carrying this burden of work around with them, and they are robbing their family.  Their own spiritual life is robbed, many times almost to the point of bankruptcy.

Do not let your family be robbed.  Do not let your own personal and spiritual life be robbed because you carry the care of your job around with you.  Instead, give it to God.

~Bayless Conley~

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

What the Kingdom Is

Prophetic Ministry

1. A New Life

First of all, the Kingdom of Heaven was a new life, altogether other than that which men knew anything about in all their history from Adam onward. That is what the Lord meant in His own first reference to the Kingdom, when speaking to Nicodemus about his soul's need. "Except one be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God" - because it is another life that has come in, as by a birth. It is not just the energizing of an old life. It is not just the swinging over of an old life into new interests, turning from one line of interest to another, from one system of occupation to another: once you were all out for the world, and now with the same life and interest you are all out for Christianity. No, it is another, different life, a life that never was, given from God Himself. The very essence of the Kingdom of Heaven is that it is a heavenly nature in a heavenly life, given as a distinct gift at a crisis. Another life - that is the Kingdom, to begin with.

2. A New Relationship

It is a new relationship, a relationship with God: which is not simply that now we become interested in God - that God becomes an object of our consideration and we swing over from one relationship to another because now we have taken up Christianity. No, it is a relationship which is of the essence of this very life itself. We have an altogether new and different consciousness, so far as our relationship to God is concerned. The great truth of the Gospels, especially as emphasized in the Gospel by John, is that a new revelation of relationship with God has come by Jesus Christ. "I manifested Thy name unto the men whom Thou gavest me out of the world" (John 17:6). That name, of which He is always speaking, represented a new relationship - "Father"; not in the sense of a general and universal fatherhood of God and brotherhood of man, but a specific, new relationship which comes about only by the entering of the Holy Spirit into the life in a definite, critical act. "God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father" (Galatians 4:6). When did that happen with you? What was the very first lisp of your new life? "Father!" - uttered out of a new consciousness. Not now a God Who is afar off, unthinkable, all-terrible, of Whom you are afraid; no, "Father!" When we are "born of the Spirit," there is brought about an entirely new relationship.

3. A New Constitution

Then the Kingdom of Heaven is a new constitution. I am not thinking now of a new set of laws and regulations, but of a new constitution so far as you and I are concerned. We are constituted anew, with an entirely new set of capacities which make possible things which were never possible before. It ought to be recognized - and I would have you lay this to heart anew - that the child of God, the member of the Kingdom of Heaven, is the embodiment of a miracle, which means that there are supernatural possibilities and capacities in every such one. What tremendous things go on in the history of a child of God! When we see fully and clearly at last, we shall recognize them to have been nothing less than Divine miracles again and again. We do not know all the forces which are bent upon the destruction of a child of God, and how much his preserving through to the end represents an exercise of the almighty power of God. Some of us know a little about that: that our very survival is because God has exercised His power over other immense hostile powers, that we are kept by the power of God - and that it takes the power of God to keep us!

The inception of the life of the child of God is a miracle. 'How can a man be born again?' There is no answer to that question except that God does it. "How can this man give us His flesh to eat?" (John 6:52). That is, how can the child of God be supported throughout, without anything here to help, to succor, to nourish? There is no answer to that either, except that God does it; and if He does not, the child of God, because of the extra forces centered upon him or her for destruction, will simply go under. The consummation of the life of the child of God will be equally a miracle. "How are the dead raised? and with what manner of body do they come?" (1 Corinthians 15:35). The answer to that is the same - God alone is going to do it.

The whole matter is a miracle from start to finish. it is a new constitution, having in it possibilities and capacities which are altogether above and beyond the highest level of human abilities; that  is, above and over the whole kingdom of earth and nature.

4. A New Vocation

Further, it is a new vocation. It is something for which to live, something in which to serve, something to bring into operation. It becomes the sphere and the means of a new life ministry and - purpose. The very consciousness of a truly born-again child of God is like this - 'Now i know what I am alive! I have been wondering all along why I was born; I have grumbled about it, and felt I was hardly done by in being brought into this world without being consulted as to whether I wanted to come; but now I see there is purpose in it - I have something to live for!' A truly born-again child of God goes off and tells people that, after all, it is worth being alive! He has discovered, behind everything else, that which has Divine intent and meaning - it never existed as an active thing until he was born anew and entered into the Kingdom. The Kingdom of Heaven is a new vocation, a  new sense of life-purpose. It gives to life a meaning. That is the Kingdom.

Is that not altogether a different idea from that which would make the kingdom a place with certain laws and regulations - 'You must' and 'You must not' - something objective? "The kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:21), and it is after this kind.

5. A New Gravitation - To Heaven, Not Earth

It is moreover something from above, and that surely implies that it is transcendent in every way. It is something that lives, and it brings life up on to a higher level. That is, if the new life comes from above, from heaven, it will always gravitate back to its source, and if this new life works in us, it will be lifting us, pulling us upward to God. It will so work that we shall feel first of all that this world is not our home. It was our home; everything for us was here until that happened; we saw nothing beyond. Now we do not belong to it, we belong somewhere else; and in some strange way we are steadily moving further and further away from this earth. We find that we become less comfortable here every day. You are in the Kingdom if you have something like that experience. If you can be comfortable and happy and content to go on here you ought to have grave doubts as to where you are as regards the Kingdom. But if you are increasingly conscious that inwardly the distance is growing between you and all that is here, then the Kingdom is truly at work, the Kingdom of Heaven has come.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 2 - "The Kingdom Come But Also Coming")

Pray Without Ceasing

Pray without ceasing. - 1 Thessalonians 5:17

How do we do that? Well, I studied prayer for a while as if it were a science. I read about men who were known to be prayer warriors. But I noticed that by the end of their lives, many of them said that the one regret they had was that they didn’t pray enough. Immediately I prayed, “Oh Lord, don’t let that happen to me. Do not let anyone quote me saying that. Teach me to pray without ceasing. Teach me to tap into Your heart at the mall as much as when I am in trouble or in pain. Teach me that You are listening at a rock concert as well as at the beach. Teach me to include You in everything and take nothing for granted. And oh Lord, teach me to thank You for it all.”

God has given us His Holy Spirit on earth and has a will for us that He wants fulfilled on earth as it is in heaven. So, what does it take to have God’s heart so much in mine that He can fulfill His will on earth as it is in heaven with me? Verses like “Ask and it will be given,” “Whatever you ask, it will be given,” allowed me permission to ask for everything. I realized that He was with me wherever I went. He just wanted to be included. He heard my words but knew the desires of my heart. He might not answer my words but He would fulfill the desire. And as time passed, I realized that He placed a lot of those desires in my heart just so He could fulfill them. The key was learning to pinpoint my true motivation. God looks at my heart and He weighs the thoughts and motives of the heart. If I was asking out of selfishness, He didn’t answer. If I told Him that I thought my motive was selfish, He answered. And He would answer those prayers just like I asked. So I got another piece in the puzzle. God rewards honesty.

I could not have learned these lessons without writing out my prayers.  Prayer Journaling helps to clarify your thoughts, intents and motives. Writing allows you to focus and really understand who you are and what you want before the Lord.  Our heart’s desire is that you may learn to pray God’s heart and for you to see heaven open up on earth as He uses you, for we serve an Awesome and Faithful God.

~Daily Disciples~

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Shadow of God's Wings

"In the shadow of Your wings will I make my refuge" (Psalm 57:1)

What comfort the shadow gives, and what a refuge is thus provided! That passage had for me a specially personal interest, for I had chosen it as the motto-text for the anniversary of my beloved's birthday - June 19: and on that date I wrote thus concerning it:

Today's text is a very precious one to me, for though my dear one enjoys the full blaze of the light of God's countenance, while I am only "in the shadow of His wings," yet how blessed is it to rejoice in such a refuge - "Until the storm of life be past!"

It is very gracious of the Lord to use the homely illustration of "wings" and "feathers" in His Word, for the comfort of His people. The most simple, as well as the most sorrowful, can understand the beauty of it. Many a time have I profitably watched the feathered folk of the farmyard, and been taught by them that, in every time of trouble, be it little or great, the safest place in all the world is, "under the wings."

How well the wee chicks know this! When the least thing alarms them, or the drops of rain come pattering down then fly quickly to their mother's wings for shelter and safety, and you can see nothing of them but a collection of legs, tiptoeing in their eagerness to press very close to the warm breast which covers them!

Sometimes, I have dared to claim even such an experience! Not content with the blessed fact that I was hidden "beneath His wings," my faith nestled up, as it were, to the loving heart which brooded over me, and found such a glow of everlasting love there, that all outside ills and evils were as if they were not. Oh, that such times were less rare!

But if any timid, afflicted souls read these few lines, let me whisper to them to run at once to their God, "when troubles assail, and dangers afright." We are so safe when "covered with His feathers," so cared for, and comforted, and welcomed, so defended from everything that could harm us.

In one place the text reads, "Hide me beneath the shadow of Your wings." The hen effectually conceals her brood from any passing enemy - but God is an impenetrable hiding-place for His people. Surely this is the meaning of the psalmist when he says, "I will trust in the covert of Your wings" (Psalm 61:4).

Is it not a sad wonder that, sometimes, we willfully stay out in the rain and the storm, facing unknown dangers - when, all the while, so gracious a shelter is provided and accessible?

1. How does the believer find refuge in "God's wings?"

2. How do the "wings of God" provide safety?

3. Do I make it my practice, like a baby chick, to take refuge in the shelter that God provides through His Word, even during "the least thing that alarms me?"

[It is not so much a physical refuge as a spiritual one. It is a refuge for the soul that runs to God in prayer and rests itself in the "wings" of His promises, which are all "yes and amen" in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:19-20).

~Susannah Spurgeon~

(late wife of Charles Hadden Spurgeon)

The Kingdom, and Entrance Into It

Prophetic Ministry

Acts 13:27; Matthew 11:11-15; Luke 16:16

I think we can recognize that the common link between Acts 13:27 and Matthew 11:13 is "all the prophets." In the one case they heard not the voices of the prophets; n the other it is said (verse 15), "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."

The Prophets Prophesied of the Kingdom

First of all, we must understand the meaning of this whole statement in Matthew 11 - "all the prophets ... prophesied until John." What did they prophesy? Of course, they prophesied many things. One paramount concern in their prophecies was that relating to the coming King and the Kingdom. So much was that so that in the New Testament the matter of the Kingdom is taken for granted. When you open the New Testament and begin to read in the Gospels, you find that no explanation is given. The Kingdom is not introduced as something of which people were unaware. You find from among the people those who came to the Lord Jesus and used the very phrase, and you find the Lord Himself, although the matter was not mentioned by others, who came to Him, using the phrase "the Kingdom" without any introduction or explanation.

Nicodemus was a case in point. We have nothing in the narrative to indicate that Nicodemus said anything at all about the kingdom. He started by saying: "Rabbi, we know that Thou art a teachers come from God." There was nothing about the Kingdom in that. The Lord Jesus interrupted there and said: "Except one be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:2, 3). Evidently that was the thing that was in the mind of Nicodemus, and the Lord knew it. You see, it is a thing taken for granted in the New Testament; and although later (as we find in the Book of the Acts and subsequently) the true heavenly explanation is given, or there is some teaching concerning its true meaning, the Kingdom is something that is already very much in the minds of the Jewish people, and of course it has come from the prophets. The prophets had much to say concerning the Kingdom, and some of them had something very definite to say about the King. We will not try to prove that. It is a statement which you can easily verify.

What did the prophets prophesy? Inclusively, they prophesied concerning the king and the Kingdom. What was the culmination of the prophets in that comprehensive connection? It was John the Baptist. He gathered them all up; he was, so to speak, the inclusive prophet. What was John the Baptist? He was the terminal or turning point between all that had been and that which was now going to be, between the Old Testament and the New. That is the statement here - "all ... prophesied until John." Until John; now - from John. What was the message of John? "Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 3:2). But alongside that, the great outstanding note of John is, "Behold, the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29). Those are not two different things; they are one. "The kingdom ... is at hand": "Behold, the Lamb of God!"

The Kingdom Present in Christ

What was the issue, then, from John's time - the issue which sprang into new meaning, new force, because it had become an immediate one; no loner that of prophecy but now the issue of actuality? It was the Kingdom of Heaven. "The law and the prophets were until John: from that time the gospel of the kingdom of God is preached." The prophets had prophesied it; now it is preached as having come, and having come with "the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world."

What, then, is the Kingdom of Heaven? We have led up to this step by step, and when we answer this final question we shall see clearly what it was that these Jewish rulers and dwellers in Jerusalem never saw, though they heard the prophets week by week.

I am going to press the challenge of this again. I feel that it is a very solemn thing that ever the Kingdom of Heaven should have come near to anyone. You see, the Lord is eventually going to judge everyone on their opportunity. The opportunity has been given - and contact is opportunity. The very availability of the Kingdom is opportunity. What is done with opportunity? The Lord Jesus walked in the midst of the Jewish nation three and a half years. His very presence among them was their opportunity - and what a terrible, terrible consequence followed their failure to make good their opportunity!

Now there may be someone in this category who reads these words. Through reading them, there has become available to you, even if never before (but surely we could hardly say that), the gospel of Jesus Christ - the knowledge of the fact of the lord Jesus and His Cross. To have ever had that within your reach is enough to settle your eternal destiny. If the Kingdom of Heaven is come near - within the compass and range of your life, to your knowledge - that is the ground upon which your eternal destiny may be settled. Of course, there was very much more in the case of these people, and their condemnation was so much the more. The prophets prophesied in their hearing, and yet because of something in their own make-up, because of some reaction from themselves, the rulers and the people never heard what they were hearing; they never recognized that here was something which had very great implications, and that they must find out what those implications really were. They did not take the attitude - 'If there is something here which concerns me, I must know what it is.'

You could hardly ask for less than that, could you? But the very absence of that kind of reaction to the presence of the gospel, as I have said, may be the ground upon which judgment will take place. It did in their case, and a terrible judgment it was! What a judgment, those two thousand years of Jewish history! "Your house is left unto you desolate" (Matthew 23:38). Was there ever a story of more awful desolation than the story of the Jews since then? But, even so, that is only a parable of desolation; something here on this earth. What must desolation in the spiritual and eternal sense mean - forsaken of God, and knowing it? It is a solemn message, and of course it paves the way to this other part, the "violent" entering into the Kingdom. This is something to take seriously, something about which you cannot afford to be careless or indifferent.

What is the Kingdom? The answer to that can be given in three or four quite brief statements. What did the Kingdom of Heaven prove to be? I repudiate that system of interpretation which claims that a literal, earthly, temporal kingdom was offered to the Jews at this time. I do not believe it. It would have been a poor sort of thing for the people of whom we read in the Gospels to have had the kingdom in their hands - not much glory or satisfaction to God in them! Look at Palestine today, and see what kind of kingdom it would be in the hands of those people! What is possible for the world when that kind of thing gets the kingdom? No, I repudiate the interpretation of a temporal kingdom being offered to Israel by Jesus at that time. But what did the Kingdom of Heaven, which was preached in the days of John the Baptist, prove to be and to mean, as the Lord Jesus interpreted it, and later the Apostles?

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 1 "What the Kingdom Is (1. A New Life)"

Anticipating Your Inheritance

"In [Christ] also we have obtained an inheritance" (Eph. 1:10-11).
An inheritance is something received by an heir as a result of a will or legal process. It's a legacy one receives from family connections.

As a member of God's family, you are an heir of God and fellow heir with Christ (Rom. 8:17). As such you have obtained an inheritance that Peter called "imperishable and undefiled . . . reserved in heaven for you" (1 Pet. 1:4). It cannot perish, fade away, or be defiled because heaven is timeless and sinless. It is a secure inheritance.
In Ephesians 1:11 Paul refers to it in the past tense ("have obtained"). That's significant because the fullness of your inheritance won't be revealed until you are glorified in God's presence (1 John 3:2). But your inheritance is so sure, Paul refers to it as if it was already in hand.

Although its fullness is yet future, your inheritance has present benefits as well. In addition to inheriting Christ and the Holy Spirit, you also inherit peace, love, grace, wisdom, joy, victory, strength, guidance, mercy, forgiveness, righteousness, discernment, and every other spiritual benefit. Paul sums it all up in 1 Corinthians 3:22-23: "All things belong to you, and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God."

Nowadays many Christians are so preoccupied with acquiring material goods that they miss many of the present benefits of their spiritual inheritance and the joy of anticipating its future fulfillment. Don't fall into that trap!
Looking forward to your eternal inheritance will help you maintain a proper perspective on temporal things and motivate you to praise and adore God.

Suggestions for Prayer:
  • Praise the Lord for the incredible inheritance that awaits you in heaven.
  • Thank Him for the present benefits of your inheritance, which are yours to enjoy daily.
For Further Study:

One precious aspect of your eternal inheritance is God's mercy. Psalm 136 reflects on the mercy God demonstrated toward Israel. Read that psalm, noting the manifestations of mercy that relate to your life.

~John MacArthur~

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Cross Opens the Way to Full Knowledge

The Cross Opens the Way to Full Knowledge of the Lord

The Cross is the only way to spiritual knowledge. Important as study of the Word of God may be in its own realm, as laying a foundation for the Holy Spirit to work upon, you never come to a knowledge of the Lord simply by studying the Bible. The Holy Spirit may use what you know of the Bible to teach you much, to explain your experiences, to enable you to understand what the Lord is doing, but you never get this kind of spiritual knowledge merely by study and by teaching.

You must be prepared to let the Cross be so applied to your life that you are broken and emptied and fairly ground to powder - so that you are brought to the place where, if the Lord does not do something, you are finished. If you are prepared for that way, you will get to know the Lord personally (inwardly). That is the only way. It cannot be by addresses or lectures. They have their value, but you do not know the Lord spiritually along those lines.

The full knowledge of the Lord is reserved to us who live in this dispensation, because the latter is governed by the Cross. Peter himself had something to say about this:

"Concerning which salvation the prophets sought and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: searching what time or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did point unto, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glories that should follow them. To whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto you, did they minister these things, which now have been announced unto you ...; which things angels desire to look into" (1 Peter 1:10-12).

There you have two orders - prophets and angels - who did not know certain things which are revealed to us. The prophets knew much, but they were searching diligently to know something they could not discover. 'What does that mean?' they asked themselves. 'The Spirit of God is making us say these things, but what do they mean?' They sought diligently to know that which was reserved for us. Why could they not know?
Because full knowledge is based upon the Cross, and the Cross had not taken place then. And angels, too, desire to look into these things. Can it be true? We thought angels knew everything! Surely angels have far more knowledge and intelligence than we have about these things? They do not know. "Which things angels desire to look into." Why do they not know? Angels have had no need of the Cross; the Cross has no meaning for them personally. It is on the basis of the Cross that full knowledge is entered into. Does that need any further argument?

The Cross Secures Positive, Not Only Negative, Results

So then, the Holy Spirit, in order to bring us to the full knowledge of the Lord and by means of that growing knowledge to make us useful to the Lord, must constantly work by means of the Cross in principle; and my closing word is this. The work is not all negative; the Lord works on a positive basis. You may thing that the Lord is always saying 'No," that He is always against you, that the Cross is suppressive; but no, it is a positive instrument in the hands of the Spirit of God. God is working on a positive line. The fact is that, if ever the Holy Spirit brings us into a new knowing of the meaning of the Cross, He is after something more. That is the law of the Spirit of life.

You must remember that the Lord Jesus, in His resurrection, was not left just where He was before. Before He died He was on this earth, and then He died; and Paul refers to His raising from that death in these words: "the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe, according to that working of the strength of His might which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and made Him to sit at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all" (Ephesians 1:19-21). The resurrection carries Him through to the "far above all," and the principle of resurrection is always that of rebound - we may go down very deep, more deeply than ever we have known before, but the Spirit of God is intending that that shall issue in our being higher than ever before. So do not be afraid when you are feeling very empty, very finished, very much at the end. Ask the Lord that if this is truly the working of His Cross it shall be successful in what he intends for you; and if it is successful, you will be on higher ground afterward than ever you were before.

The Need for a Definite Transaction with the Lord

We have said from time to time that the Cross does involve a crisis. For some this may be an overwhelming experience, the biggest thing that has happened in your life, even bigger than your conversion. It was so for some of us as we moved from the apprehension of the substitutionary aspect of the Cross, where we saw only what Christ had done for us, to the apprehension of our union with Christ in death, burial and resurrection. Whether or not you have a big crisis which divides your life in two, you must have a point of transaction with the Lord where you recognize that the Cross is in principle an utter, all-inclusive reality that, sooner or later, is going to run to earth the last vestige of that self-life which is the ground of satan's power. It is best at some point to have this understanding: 'I rejoice in the fact of Thy death for me, and I am saved on the ground of that death and my faith in it. But I died in Thee - that was Thy thought about me as a son of Adam I could not bear to have all that that means brought to me at once, but I recognize that it has to be worked out as grace enables, and that sooner or later I shall have to come to an utter end; and I therefore commit myself to all Thou doest mean by the Cross.'

A transaction of that kind is necessary. Do not begin to kick when the Lord begins to work it out. He takes you at you word, but He is doing it with the definite object in view of getting you to a higher and fuller knowledge of Himself. Out of that growing knowledge of Him, the growing preciousness of the Lord, all real service will issue. It is not what we do, but what we have, that is the secret of service.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 1 - "The Kingdom, and Entrance Into It")

Convicting and Convincing

In yesterday's devotional, we talked about the fifth "C" of soul winning—the Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is such an important part in witnessing I want to take you to another passage today to help you understand His role more clearly.

The passage is John 16:7-9.  Here Jesus is talking to the disciples about the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter,

"Nevertheless I tell you the truth.  It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.  And when He has come He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:  of sin, because they do not believe in Me."

Jesus is not telling us that we need to pray, "Holy Spirit, go convict this person."  Rather, the foundation from which He is speaking is found in John 14.  In that passage He says, "When the Holy Spirit comes, He will no longer just be with you, but He will be in you."

In the following verses, He then talks about all the things the Holy Spirit does within us.  And here, when He talks about the Holy Spirit convicting people of sin (and, as the Amplified Bible says, convicting and convincing the world of sin), He does that work when we engage them with the gospel.

When we talk to people about Christ, the Holy Spirit then goes to work.
I think about that little boy who told me about Jesus—a Spirit-filled 12-year-old.  I had never heard the gospel in my life, yet there was something so captivating, so arresting about him, I could not get him out of my mind.

It was the power of the Holy Spirit working through him.  And He wants to work through you as well.

~Bayless Conley~

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Cross Basic to All Knowledge of the Lord

Prophetic Ministry

They could not hear the voices of the prophets because the prophets were talking about a suffering Messiah, and there was something inside the people which had closed the door; they were predisposed against anything like that, and so they could not hear. Even the disciples of the Lord Jesus were in that position. When He began to refer to His Cross they said, "Be it far from Thee, Lord: this shall never be unto Thee" (Matthew 16:22). A suffering Messiah? Oh, no! But they did come to the place where the Cross had its very deep application, where it meant an end of everything for them. The Lord precipitated that whole question, and you see them after His crucifixion - they have lost their Messianic Kingdom, they have lost everything, they are stripped and emptied. And then what happened? They began then to KNOW, just began to KNOW, and their knowledge grew and grew; but it was of another order entirely. So you find, in the rest of the New Testament, that, in  their own history and n their instruction of others, two things go together. They are like the negative and the positive in an electrical circuit - there can be no current without both. The negative is the application of the principle of the Cross, which says No, No, No: an end: death to yourself, death to the world, death to all your own natural life. But the positive is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, mightily present, but always hand in hand with the Cross. With those two acting always together, the negative and the positive - the Cross, and heavenly purpose and heavenly power and effectiveness - you find that there is movement and an ever-growing knowledge of the Lord.

We cannot have the knowledge of the Lord - the most important thing in the mind of God for us - except on the ground of the continuous application of the Cross, and that will go right on to the end. Do not imagine that there will come a day when you have done with the the Cross, when the principle of the Cross will no longer be necessary and when you have graduated from the school where the Cross is the instrument of the Lord. Such a day never will be! More and more you will come to recognize the necessity for that Cross. If you are going on into greater fullness of knowledge - I mean spiritual knowledge of the Lord - and therefore great fullness of usefulness  to Him, you must take it as settled that that principle of the Cross is going to be applied more and more deeply as you go on.

Oh, God write that in our hearts! for surely we all know the need of the Cross; and those who have known most about it are conscious most of its need still. We have seen the terrible tragedy of people who knew the message of the Cross in fullness, and who after many years have been a positive contradiction to that very message - marked by self-assertiveness, self-importance, impatience, irritability, so that other people have been unable to live with them. Are you one of those habitually irritable people? I do not mean one of those persons who sometimes is overtaken in a fault. The Lord is patient with the upsets that come here and there along the way, but are we habitually irritable, short-tempered, difficult to live with? That is a denial of the Cross, and that has wrecked the life and work of many a missionary.

The Cross will be applied right on to the end, and, altogether apart from our faults and the things in our constitution and nature which have to be dealt with, in this coming to know the Lord for still greater usefulness we go from death to death on that side of things. We think of someone known to us. We marvel at the way the Lord has been able to use them, the large place into which He has put them, what riches He has given them; but of late they have been plunged into depths of death never known before. It is evidently unto something more, something greater still. It is like that; the knowledge of the Lord requires it in an ever-growing way.

Knowledge and Usefulness Safeguarded by the Cross

But furthermore, there is no safe place, apart from the constant application of the principle of the Cross. Safety absolutely demands it. Nothing is safe in our hands. The more the Lord blesses, the more peril there is. The greatest peril comes when the Lord begins to use us. You may say, "That does not say very much for our sanctification." It certainly does not say very much for "eradication"! Well, here is Paul. Did that man know anything about the Cross? Would you say he was a crucified man? If he was not, who was? Did he know the Lord? And with all that he knew of the Cross and the Lord, did he know that he needed the Cross to be applied right on to the end? He will definitely place it on record - "... that I should not be exalted overmuch, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of satan to buffet me." "That I should not be exalted overmuch"! (2 Corinthians 12:7). And mark you, he is saying that because of the great revelation that had been given him. He was caught up into heaven. It is a most perilous thing to be entrusted with Divine riches, so far as our flesh is concerned. The only safe place is where the Cross is still at work, touching all that is ourselves, touching all our independence of action.

Take all these Apostles - take Peter, a man who would act so independently, who like to do hings on his own and do what he wanted to do. We find it cropping up constantly. He is the man who acts without stopping to ask anybody. We have no hint that he ever got into fellowship with his brother disciples and said, 'I am thinking of doing so and so; I would very much like you to pray with me about it and to tell me what you think; I have no intention of going on unless there is one mind among us.' Peter never did that sort of thing. He got an idea, and off he went. The Lord summed him up very well when He said: "When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walked whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not" (John 21:18). That was Peter before the Cross was inwrought in him. But see him afterwards. Why, in those early chapters of Acts, do we read "Peter and John", "Peter and John". "Peter and John"? Well, they are moving together now, there is relatedness. Is it an acknowledgment that Peter felt his need of cooperation and fellowship, that he had seen the perils and disasters into which independent  action led him, even when is intentions and motives were of the best? These are just glimpses of how the Cross touches us in our impulsive, independent nature, our self-will, our self-strength. The Cross has to deal with all that  to make things safe for God, and to keep us moving in the way of increasing knowledge of the Lord, which, as we have said, lies behind all our value to the Lord, all our usefulness, all our service.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 1 - "The Cross Opens the Way to Full Knowledge of the Lord")

He Putteth Forth His Own Sheep

"He putteth forth his own sheep" (John10:4).

Oh, this is bitter work for Him and us--bitter for us to go, but equally bitter for Him to cause us pain; yet it must be done. It would not be conducive to our true welfare to stay always in one happy and comfortable lot. He therefore puts us forth. The fold is deserted, that the sheep may wander over the bracing mountain slope. The laborers must be thrust out into the harvest, else the golden grain would spoil.

Take heart! it could not be better to stay when He determines otherwise; and if the loving hand of our Lord puts us forth, it must be well. On, in His name, to green pastures and still waters and mountain heights! He goeth before thee. Whatever awaits us is encountered first by Him. Faith's eye can always discern His majestic presence in front; and when that cannot be seen, it is dangerous to move forward. Bind this comfort to your heart, that the Savior has tried for Himself all the experiences through which He asks you to pass; and He would not ask you to pass through them unless He was sure that they were not too difficult for your feet, or too trying for your strength.

This is the Blessed Life -- not anxious to see far in front, nor careful about the next step, not eager to choose the path, nor weighted with the heavy responsibilities of the future, but quietly following behind the Shepherd, one step at a time.

Dark is the sky! and veiled the unknown morrow
Dark is life's way, for night is not yet o'er;
The longed-for glimpse I may not meanwhile borrow;
But, this I know, HE GOETH ON BEFORE.
Dangers are nigh! and fears my mind are shaking;
Heart seems to dread what life may hold in store;
But I am His--He knows the way I'm taking,
More blessed still--HE GOETH ON BEFORE.
Doubts cast their weird, unwelcome shadows o'er me,
Doubts that life's best--life's choicest things are o'er;
What but His Word can strengthen, can restore me,
And this blest fact; that still HE GOES BEFORE.
HE GOES BEFORE! Be this my consolation!
He goes before! On this my heart would dwell!
He goes before! This guarantees salvation!
HE GOES BEFORE! And therefore all is well. 

--J. D. Smith

The Oriental shepherd was always ahead of his sheep. He was down in front. Any attack upon them had to take him into account. Now God is down in front. He is in the tomorrows. It is tomorrow that fills men with dread. God is there already. All the tomorrows of our life have to pass Him before they can get to us.

--F. B. M.

God is in every tomorrow,
Therefore I live for today,
Certain of finding at sunrise,
Guidance and strength for the way;
Power for each moment of weakness,
Hope for each moment of pain,
Comfort for every sorrow,
Sunshine and joy after rain.

~L. B. Cowman~

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Prophet's Theme - Knowing the Lord

Prophetic Ministry

Now you see that does bring us to the matter of the voices of the prophets. What was the one thing the prophets were always talking about?  It was about knowing the Lord. The thing that was lacking among the Lord's people in the days of the prophets was the knowledge of the Lord. There were plenty of people who were prepared to have the Lord for what He could do for them, but as for the Lord Himself ... ah, that was another matter.

What is the Lord after with you and with me? Is He first of all wanting us to do things? The idea of what is of God today is chiefly associated with the things which are being done FOR Him, the work we are engaged in, and so on - that is, with what is objective and outward. But the Lord is not first of all concerned about how much we do! He is far more concerned that, whether we do little or much, every bit of it should come out of a knowledge of Himself. Any amount can be done for the Lord in Christian work and activities, just as you do other work, but it may not proceed from your own deep knowledge of God. The Lord is concerned above all else that we should know Him. "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches; but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he hath understanding, and knoweth Me" (Jeremiah 9:23, 24).

May that not explain the very principle of the Cross that is being applied to us? The Lord does not satisfy and gratify; along many lines He seems again and again to be saying "No" to quite a lot that we crave for; and, being denied, we often come to the point where we would almost give up everything and allow the biggest questions as to our relationship with the Lord. And yet what He is after all the time, by His denials and withholdings or delays, is to deepen our knowledge of Himself. What matters with the Lord before anything and everything else is not that we should be in any given place doing a lot of Christian work (do not let that stop you serving the Lord!), but that we should be there as one who knows the Lord. Our opportunities for serving Him will spring out of our knowledge of Him; He will see to that. The Lord the Spirit is arranging His own work. He knows where need exists, and when He sees someone who can meet that need He can make the contact.

Knowledge of the Lord Basic to All Usefulness

That is the principle of the New Testament. We see it in the life of the Lord Jesus Himself. That meeting between Christ and the woman of Samaria was not just a casual happening, a pretty story. No, you have principles. The Holy Spirit wrote those narratives, and involved principles in every incident. Here is One Who has water to give that the world knows not of, and here is a thirsty woman. God sees to it that the one in need is brought into touch with the One Who has the supply. That is a law. If you have not got the supply, it is very largely empty work that is done for the Lord.

The principle of the Cross works out along many lines, in many ways - testing, trying, emptying us, in order to bring us to the place where we know the Lord in our heart, and where  our joy in the Lord and our enthusiasm and our Christian life are the result of something deeper than the mere momentum produced by doing many things, running about from meeting to meeting, giving addresses, being occupied on the crest of a wave of engagements in Christian work. The Lord does not want it to be like that. I am not saying that you will never be on the crest of a wave, that you will never have your hands full; but the Lord's way of making us useful servants is so to deal with us as to make us know Him, so that, whether occupied in Christian work in an outward way or not, we are there with the knowledge of the Lord. What is so necessary for us is an increasing measure of the preciousness of the Lord to our own hearts; that, whether we are able to do anything or not, He should still remain very precious to us. That is what He wants.

That is very simple, but it is basic to everything. You are there in some place where you cannot be always talking about the Lord, where you can do very little; but if the Lord is precious to you, that is service to Him, and in you He has available a vessel for anything more that He wants. I am sure the Lord will never bring us out and entrust us with responsibilities until He has become very precious to us in the place where we are, even though many other things that we would like are being denied to and withheld from us. It is the principle of the Cross.

Nicodemus comes with all his 'fullness'. He is a man with a great fullness - a ruler of the Jews, in high standing, in a place of influence, and much more. He represents a fullness of a religious kind. Then the Lord virtually says to him: 'You have to let it all go, and start all over again like a newborn babe. You are concerned about the Kingdom of Heaven, but you cannot bring any of that into the Kingdom.' To the rich young ruler He says, in effect, 'You cannot bring your riches in here.' You may have a lot of natural wealth - intellectual, financial, influential, positional, but that does not give you any standing in the Kingdom of Heaven at all. The wealthiest, the fullest, the biggest here in this world receives no more of the glance of the Lord in their direction than the poorest and the weakest. All are brought down here - you must be born again, you must start from zero in this matter of the Kingdom of Heaven. The Kingdom is not a matter of eating and drinking, it is a matter of spiritual measure; and you start spiritual measure by being born of the Spirit. The new life is utterly spiritual from the very first breath - something that was not before, something new.

Spiritual measure is just knowing the Lord; that is all. Our standing in the Kingdom of Heaven is simply a matter of knowing the Lord, and if we are going to gain higher place it is not going to be at all by preferences, but by the increase of our spiritual measure. People who count in heaven are spiritual people, and what counts is the degree of their spirituality; and spirituality is knowing the Lord. We may take it that the Lord applies Himself utterly to this matter of bringing us to know Him. That is the thing that really does count.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 1 - "The Cross Basic to all Knowledge of the Lord")

The High Cost of Free Grace

"In [Christ] we have redemption through His blood" (Eph. 1:7, emphasis added).

Sin is not a serious issue to most people. Our culture flaunts and peddles it in countless forms. Even Christians who would never think of committing certain sins will often allow themselves to be entertained by them through television, movies, music, and other media.

We might flirt with sin but God hates it. The price He paid to redeem us from it speaks of the seriousness with which He views it. After all, we "were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold . . . but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ" (1 Pet. 1:18-19). In Scripture the shedding of blood refers to violent physical death--whether of a sacrificial animal or of Christ Himself. Sin is so serious that without bloodshed, there is no forgiveness of sin in God's sight (Heb. 9:22).

The sacrificial animals in the Old Testament pictured Christ's sacrifice on the cross. That's why John the Baptist called Jesus "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). The Old Testament sacrifices were necessary but incomplete. Christ's sacrifice was perfect, complete, and once for all (Heb. 10:10). No further sacrifices are needed other than the "sacrifice of praise to God" for what He has done (Heb. 13:15) and our very lives in service to Him as "a living and holy sacrifice" (Rom. 12:1). By His sacrifice Christ demonstrated not only God's hatred for sin, but also His great love for sinners. You could never redeem yourself, but Christ willingly paid the price with His own precious blood. He "gave Himself up for [you], an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma" (Eph. 5:2). His sacrifice was acceptable to the Father, so your redemption was paid in full. What magnanimous love and incredible grace!

Suggestions for Prayer:

  • Worship God for His wonderful plan of salvation.
  • Worship Christ for the enormous sacrifice He made on your behalf.
  • Worship the Holy Spirit for applying Christ's sacrifice to your life and drawing you to Christ in saving faith.
  • Ask God to help you guard your heart from flirting with sin.
For Further Study:

Read 2 Samuel 11

  • What circumstances led to David's sin with Bathsheba?
  • How did David attempt to cover his sin?
  • How did David finally deal with his sin (see Ps. 51)?
~John MacArthur~

Friday, January 25, 2013

Why the Prophet's Message Is Not Apprehended

Acts 13:27, 15; 2 Corinthians 3:14-18; Isaiah 53:1

The prophets were read, as Paul points out here, every Sabbath. It was the fixed custom to read the law and the prophets every Sabbath, and it may be pointed out that it was not just at one particular time in the day that this was done, but all through the Sabbath day the law and the prophets were being read in the synagogues. And yet it says that although the very rulers themselves, as well as the dwellers in Jerusalem who attended the temple, heard that reading of the prophets so continuously, they never heard the voices of the prophets. And because they failed to hear that inner something, which was more than just the audible reading of what the prophets had said, they lost everything that was intended for them, as this thirteenth chapter of Acts shows. The Apostles left them and turned to the Gentiles, who had an ear ready to hear.

That is a matter of no small consequence and seriousness. It is evident that it behoves us to seek to hear the voices of the prophets were saying. Let us again look at the statesmen: "...because they knew Him not, nor the voices of the prophets." Why did they not know? Why did they not hear? There is one basic answer to that inquiry which is going to occupy us just now, and which brings us down to foundations, really to the root of things.

The Offence of the Cross

(a) A Suffering Messiah

The answer to that inquiry is this - because they were not willing to accept the Cross. That is what went to the root of the whole matter. Firstly, they were not willing to admit of a suffering Messiah. They had their own minds well made up, both as to what kind of Messiah their Messiah would be, and as to what He would do, and as to the results of His advent; and anything that ran counter to that fixed mentality was not only not accepted - it was an offence. They could not admit into the realm of their suffering Messiah. Yet the prophets were always speaking about the suffering Messiah. Isaiah, at that point in his prophecies which we know as chapter 53, presents the classic on the suffering Messiah, and yet he opens by saying: "Who hath believed our message?"

I think we need not stay to gather further evidence that that was their attitude. Right the way through it was just that. Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, was dealing with that very thing. Towards the end of the letter he spoke about the offense of the Cross, and he set that over against the Judaizers, who were dogging his steps everywhere and seeking to prejudice his ministry, and at whose hands he was suffering. He "bore branded on his body the marks of the Lord Jesus' (Galatians 6:17). Why? Because of his message of the Cross. He said, 'If I were willing to drop that, I could escape all this suffering; it is the offense of the Cross which is the cause of all the trouble' (Galatians 5:11). And all the way through we see the Jews' unwillingness to admit of a suffering Messiah.

(b) The Way of Self-Emptying

But then it went further than that. It became not only a national issue but a personal one. They would not accept the principle of the Cross in themselves. You find that representative individuals of the nation, who came to the Lord Jesus from time to time, were presented with the offense of the Cross - and off they went again, not prepared to accept it. Nicodemus was very interested in the kingdom which the Messiah was going to set up, which he was expecting and anticipating, but it became a personal matter of the Cross. Before the Lord was through with Nicodemus, He had brought into his full view the serpent lifted up in the wilderness. That was an offense. Another man, who has become known to us as the rich young ruler, went away very sorrowful because of the offense of the Cross. It was no use for the Lord, at that time, before the Cross had actually taken place, to speak in precise terms about it to other than His disciples, but He applied the principle, which is the same thing. He applied the principle to this young man. 'If, as you say, you are interested in the Kingdom and  in eternal life, this is the way: the way of emptying - utter self emptying.' "He went away sorrowful: for he was one that had great possessions" (Matthew 19:22). The Lord said, "How hardly (with that difficulty) shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!" (Luke 18:24). The offense of the Cross finds them out.

Now here, with the Jews as a whole, they were making the kingdom of God an earthly thing on the principles of this world - and do not let us blame them without blaming ourselves! This is our battle right up to date. It is a matter that finds us all out at heart. Oh, you may not be expecting that through your preaching of Christ a temporal kingdom will be set up and you will get a literal crown to wear and a throne to sit upon - that may not be your outlook or mentality; but are we not, almost every day of our lives, in trouble because the Lord hides from us everything that He is doing and starves our souls of their ambition to see things, to have things? Is that not the basis of a great deal of our trouble? We want to see, we want to have, we want the proofs and the evidences. We do really, after all, want a kingdom that can be appraised by our senses of sight, and hearing and feeling - a palpable kingdom, the answer in tangible form to all our efforts and labors; and the opposite of that is a tremendous strain upon faith, and sometimes even brings us to a serious crisis.

Why does not the Lord do this and that, which we think He ought to do? It is simply this soul-craving to have proof and demonstration; and this is why, if there is anything built up in Christian work which is obvious, big, impressive, where there is a great thing being organized and a great movement on foot and all is in the realm of something that can be seen, crowds of Christians flock after it; or if there are manifestations, things that seem to be clear proofs, the crowds will be found there. The enemy can carry away multitudes by imitation works of the Holy Spirit in the realm of demonstrations and proofs. We are so impressionable, we must possess; and that is exactly the same principle as that which governed the rulers. They were not prepared for the principle of the Cross to be applied in this way - an utter self-emptying, being brought to an end of everything but the Lord Himself.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 1 - "The Prophets' Theme - Knowing the Lord")