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Sunday, March 31, 2013

His Great Love # 15

Love: The Supreme Test of the Church

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

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


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

The Nature of First Love

(a) Suffering Love

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

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

(b) Discerning Love

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

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 16)

Christ's Love for those who Rest in Him


John 15:9
As the Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you.
 
As the Father loves the Son, in the same manner Jesus loves His people. What is that divine method? He loved Him without beginning, and thus Jesus loves His members. "I have loved thee with an everlasting love." You can trace the beginning of human affection; you can easily find the beginning of your love to Christ, but His love to us is a stream whose source is hidden in eternity. God the Father loves Jesus without any change. Christian, take this for your comfort, that there is no change in Jesus Christ's love to those who rest in Him. Yesterday you were on Tabor's top, and you said, "He loves me:" to-day you are in the valley of humiliation, but He loves you still the same. On the hill Mizar, and among the Hermons, you heard His voice, which spake so sweetly with the turtle-notes of love; and now on the sea, or even in the sea, when all His waves and billows go over you, His heart is faithful to His ancient choice. The Father loves the Son without any end, and thus does the Son love His people. Saint, thou needest not fear the loosing of the silver cord, for His love for thee will never cease. Rest confident that even down to the grave Christ will go with you, and that up again from it He will be your guide to the celestial hills. Moreover, the Father loves the Son without any measure, and the same immeasurable love the Son bestows upon His chosen ones. The whole heart of Christ is dedicated to His people. He "loved us and gave Himself for us." His is a love which passeth knowledge. Ah! we have indeed an immutable Saviour, a precious Saviour, one who loves without measure, without change, without beginning, and without end, even as the Father loves Him! There is much food here for those who know how to digest it. May the Holy Ghost lead us into its marrow and fatness!

~Charles Spurgeon~

Saturday, March 30, 2013

His Great Love # 14

Love: The Supreme Test of the Church

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

I say again, we have to make over anew our conception of Divine love. It is not that sickly, sentimental thing we call love. It is something tremendous. We have so to reconstruct our conception of Divine love as to see that our highest interests for all eternity demand very faithful dealings with us by God, and the more we really know the heart of God, the more we come to be ready to say, "Thou art right, Lord; even in what I would call Thy hard handling of me, Thou art right." God in His love has the end in view, not just the pacifying of some fretful child with a toy. We are called unto His eternal glory and "our light affliction, which is for the moment, worketh for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory" (1 Corinthians 4:17). But we do not always believe it while the affliction is on us. We do not even call it "light"; but He knows how transcendentally and infinitely the glory outweighs the suffering. He has decided with the greatness of the end in view, it is worth His while to be faithful with us and let nothing pass that would take from that glorious prize of His glory or work against it. He knows quite well that, when we are with Him afterward, were we to see something that was not taken up by Him and dealt with because of the suffering and the pain it would have caused us, and because we would have murmured and complained, that we would say to Him then, "Lord, why didst Thou not do that in spite of me?" And so, knowing the end and dealing with us in the light of it, the faithful and the true love is other than our poor sickly conception of love. Love in our thinking so often means just giving way all the time, just having everything we want or giving everything that others want. God deals with us, not as infants, but as sons (Hebrews 12:7). The presentation, you see, is all a comprehensive and detailed consummation of love.

The Churches Challenged as to Love

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

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

First Love as Covering All

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

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 15)

Crush, Kill and Destroy



Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 1 Peter 5:8

Satan is alive and well. His mission has been the same since the Garden of Eden: to crush, kill and destroy (just like the android on Lost in Space). He is good at twisting concepts and manipulating ideas into truths that are not real. Satan’s battlefield is in your mind and starts within your circumstances. He frustrates your plans, trying to crush that peace within your heart. When your attitudes don’t match, you have just become a hypocrite and Satan loves to make hypocrites out of Christians. Once you are aware of this scheme (which for some of us is a lifetime), you learn to pray and resist him by drawing near to God. You do this by learning how to discipline your behavior and choosing not to allow the fruits of the Spirit to be crushed. Praying, submitting to God and meditating on scripture are the next steps. But then Satan’s next plan of attack hits your mind. Now, Satan cannot read your mind but he can discern what you are thinking by your words and behaviors. He can also put his thoughts into your mind. I have found that many times I don’t need the devil to put bad thoughts into my mind because I can do that all by myself. I am capable of taking my own self out of the ministry or walking away from the Lord, with very little effort or attack from him.

So “be on guard” for Satan is seeking someone, like you, to devour. If you look weak, think weak, act weak, and your words express a weakness in your faith, then you will surely become his next target. Peter warns us to be sober and vigilant. Both words have similar Greek meanings: to watch and keep awake.  Obviously this is more difficult for us because we don’t see into the spiritual realm to understand what’s going on. If we disregard the work of the enemy, we allow him to have the advantage over us.

After we pray, the Lord opens our eyes and gives us discernment to know what’s really going on. Too many Christians are apathetic and complacent. The enemy doesn’t have to bother with an apathetic and complacent Christian. That is just where he wants us to be, but God has so much more for us. The Lord has won the battle; we just have to put the armor on and pray, “Lead us not into temptation.” But when we are tempted, remember 1 John 4:4, “Greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world.” The Lord wants to give us an abundant life on this earth so why not start living it today!

~Daily Disciples~

Friday, March 29, 2013

His Great Love # 13

Love: The Supreme Test of the Church

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love the Master-Key to the Whole Bible

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

Love the Key to the Vision in Revelation One

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

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

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

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

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 14)

Strength in Troubled Times




Where will you turn in a time of crisis? When tragedy hits? When disaster strikes? Will it be your favorite magazine? The morning newspaper? The evening news? You will need something to give you strength and direction in your time of need—and you cannot find a better resource than the Word of God.

As one writer said, "One gem from that ocean is worth all of the pebbles from earthly streams." Just a single pebble from the ocean of God's Word can make all the difference when tragedy or hardship strikes. How many in their affliction have found comfort from the Scripture?

Trusting in what God has said through the Bible can sustain us and give us direction and hope and comfort when we most need it. Little platitudes or clever sayings don't help, but the Word of God does. It has been said that "he who rejects the Bible has nothing to live by. Neither does he have anything to die by."

Things go in and out of style, but the Word of God never goes out of style. It never goes out of date, unlike this morning's newspaper. The Word of God always will be relevant.

That is why C.S. Lewis once said, "Everything that is not eternal is eternally out of date."

I urge you to get a good foundation in this Book, because it is only a matter of time until hardship strikes you. It happens in every life, without exception. But if you have a good foundation in the Word of God, then you will be ready for difficulty when it comes. Don't wait until then to try and catch up.

Get that foundation now.


~Greg Laurie~

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Infiltrate, Not Isolate



 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (1 Peter 3:9)




Far too often it seems that Christians don't want to have any contact with unbelievers. Maybe they don't want to talk to them for fear of being polluted spiritually. But the church needs to infiltrate, not isolate. And to reach our culture, Christians must go where people are.

I am not saying that we should spend time around unbelievers and stay silent about our faith. We should speak up for Christ when the moment is right. At the very least, we should live a godly life as an example of what it is to follow Jesus Christ.

We see Jesus demonstrating this as He adapted His approach with the people He spoke to. With Nicodemus, who was powerful and affluent, Jesus told him that he must be born again (see John 3:1–17). With the immoral Samaritan woman, He reached out to her and engaged her in conversation (see John 4:1–26).

Before we can reach people, we first have to care. And I think one of the reasons we don't share our faith more often is because we don't care. We might think another person's eternal destiny is their problem. If an unbeliever argues with us, we tend to think, Forget it then. I am going to heaven. You can go to hell if you want to. It is not my problem.

But actually, it is our problem, because they need someone to engage them. They need someone to share the gospel accurately with them. So we need to pray that God will give us a burden for people who do not yet know Him.

The great commentator Alexander MacLaren said, "You tell me the depth of a Christian's compassion, and I will tell you the measure of his usefulness."

How deep does your compassion go?


~Greg Laurie~

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

His Great Love # 12

His Continued Lovingkindness

What then? There follows the second half of the statement - "Therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee" or "therefore have I continued lovingkindness unto thee." 'I have born with you all this time because I love you; anything could have happened to you, but I have not let it, I have shown you infinite longsuffering and patience, and earnest solicitude for your eternal  well being: because I love you, I have kept you alive, and have brought you to this time and to this place; I have not let you go.' Oh, that this might come home to us! We may, all unconsciously  be hearing this message now simply because of this infinite love of God which has been preserving us unto this hour to let us know it. You may think it is quite fortuitous that you are hearing it - just one of the chance happenings of life; but if you know the truth it is this infinite love of God which has held you to this time in relation to the infinite purposes of that love to let you know it. There is nothing casual about it, there is sovereign love here. "Because I have so loved, because, self-sufficient as I am, I cannot do without you" - oh, mystery of Divine love! - "because I so much wanted you I created you, and now at this moment I am drawing you." We cannot take that in, but that is the teaching of the Word of God.

We started these messages by pointing out that behind the universe, behind the mind, the reason, the plan, the design, there is a heart. The universe exists as an answer to that heart. Today that heart in its love is bleeding. It has suffered a great deal of disappointment, deprivation; it has been robbed of its object - the wife has been unfaithful. But the Lord comes out in the presence of it all and says, "I love you and I still love you; My love is an everlasting love: therefore I have kept, I have preserved, and I have brought you to this very hour and I am telling you now that this is the position; there is no breach of love on My part.

Love Persisting Though Spurned

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

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

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

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 13 - "Love: The Supreme Test of the Church")

Controlling Our Appetites



What words would you use to describe our society? Materialistic, sensual, impatient, indulgent, undisciplined--these are just a few. We're also a "have it now" culture. Satan specializes in presenting us with opportunities for instant gratification while promising us that indulging our appetites will bring us the satisfaction we seek.

Human appetites, in themselves, are not sinful. In fact, they're God-given. However, because of our fleshly weaknesses, they need to be controlled. When our appetites rule us, we're in trouble. Paul likened the Christian life to that of athletes who are so focused on winning the race that they exercise self-control in every area of their lives.

That's exactly how we're called to live, yet we lack the motivation, determination, and power to do so in our own strength. For this reason, we need to rely on the Holy Spirit within us. If we yield our lives to Him and step out in obedience to His promptings, we'll have the strength to say no when fleshly desires feel overpowering (Gal. 5:16).

Another key to success is keeping our focus on the eternal instead of the temporal. Many decisions that seem mundane are in fact spiritually significant. Are you indulging an appetite that could result in the sacrifice of an imperishable reward in heaven?

When the Enemy tempts us, he always tries to keep our attention on our desire and the pleasure of indulgence rather than on the eternal rewards and blessings we're forfeiting. Just remind yourself how quickly immediate gratification wanes and how long eternity lasts.

~Charles Stanley~

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

His Great Love # 11

"I Have Loved"

"I have loved." The very essence of love is "I must have, I cannot do without." Here the word "love" is just the common word that was used in all true human relationships. It is the word used of parents for children, of children for parents, of husband for wife and wife for husband, of friend for friend. Of the classic instance of the love between David and Jonathan, it says, "Jonathan loved him as his own soul" (1 Samuel 181). "Thy love," said David of Jonathan after his tragic end, "thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women" (2 Samuel 1:26). That is the word here. Jehovah, infinitely self-sufficient, used that word concerning Israel. As the friend's love for the friend must have the friend, and, as in every other rue relationship, true love must have the one loved, must have the companionship, the fellowship, the nearness, so is Jehovah speaking about Israel. "I have  loved thee." Amazing love!

"I Have Loved Thee"

Ah, but still more inward - "I have loved Thee." Now we are at the end of wonder. At the beginning I pointed out the state of these people. Not only were they in a deplorable state morally and spiritually, deeply in sin; not only were they in the tragic plight; but they were in positive antagonism, rebellion, repudiation, killing the very prophets of the Lord who would tell them of their wrong. "I have loved thee."

Without anything positive in the way of opposition or antagonism or rebellion or stubbornness on our part, it is still the greatest mystery and wonder that He should love us. But think of this - "thee!" Think again of whom that is said, to whom it applies. "I have loved thee"; and that, moreover, coming at the point where it did and at the time it did.

"An Everlasting Love"

"I have loved thee with an everlasting love." You can never translate that word "everlasting" into English. It simply means that you have got into the spaceless, boundless realm, you have fallen out of time to where time is no more. You have gone out into that mysterious something where nothing can be taken hold of as tangible, it is all beyond you, beyond your grasp, beyond your calculation, beyond your power to cope with it and bring it into some kind of dimensions. That is the word: beyond you, beyond your time, beyond your world, beyond all your ways of thinking and working. 'I have loved thee with an everlasting, timeless, spaceless love.'

Did you notice the alternative marginal reading to the phrase? "Jehovah appeared of old unto me?" It is, "from afar appeared unto me" - outside of our world altogether. He says, "I have loved you with a love altogether outside your dimensions of time and space."

"I have loved thee with an everlasting love." And strangely, the repetition of the word "love" here adds an extra feature or factor. It is in the feminine, and it means mother-love. "I have loved thee with an everlasting mother-love." Now, mother-love is one of the most mysterious things with which in ordinary human life we have to deal. You cannot always understand mother-love. You may look at a baby and you may see much that is not lovely about the child, but the mother of that child simply adores it. That is mother-love. That is the word the Lord is using here. The world would see everything to the contrary - but the Lord says, "I have loved thee with an everlasting mother-love."

His Love for the People of the New Covenant

Well, we are touching the fringe of this thing, but you are perhaps asking a question. You are not gripped yet, because you say, "That may be quite true as to Israel, but can we rightly and properly appropriate that? Can we step into that and say it is ours; that this same One says that to us?" You have only to read on to verse 31 of this same chapter to find your answer:

"The days come, saith Jehovah, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah, not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which My covenant they break, although I was a husband unto them, saith Jehovah ... I will put My law in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it" (Jeremiah 31:31-33).

Now do you not know that is taken up in the New Testament, in the Letter to the Hebrews, and applied to the Church in this dispensation? Its fulfillment is there said to be not in the Jewish dispensation, but in the New Testament dispensation. That applies to those to whom the gospel of the grace of God has been preached, the new covenant; and it is the new covenant, not in the blood of bulls and goats, but the blood of the Lamb of God, God's Son, who said, in the night in which He was betrayed, when He took the cup -"This is My blood of the new covenant; which is shed for many unto remission of sins" (Matthew 26:28). Are we in this? Oh yes, it is for us, the people of the new covenant in the blood of Jesus Christ. Oh, if He could say such a thing to Israel, then if it is possible to say it with fuller meaning and greater strength at all, so He says it to us.

We have so much to confirm this in the New Testament. "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16) - that mysterious word, that age-out-lasting life. "His great love werewith He loved us" - that word was said not to Jews only but to Gentiles, and comes in the Letter to the Ephesians, the Letter for all men, Jew and Gentile alike. Or again, "Who delivered us out of the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love" (Colossians 1:13). I could go on piling up Scripture to show that it is the same love as that love in Jeremiah 31:3. It is the same God and it is the same love, and now it has expanded beyond Israel to embrace us.

Listen again, then. This same God, no less holy, no less majestic and glorious, no less self-sufficient, says to you, to me, "I have loved thee, I have loved thee with an everlasting love." "His great love wherewith He loved us." Are you impressed, do you believe it?

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 12 - "His Continued Lovingkindness")

[to those who are new to this blog page, I want to introduce you to T. Austin-Sparks and why I use his Christian materials so fully. Number one: He was a truly, classic Christian author. Number two: he follows the Bible very closely as is plain by his writing and quoting of scripture. Thirdly, Rev. Austin-Sparks would never allow anyone to copyright his Christian materials. His family, since his death in 1943, have followed his wishes. T. Austin-Sparks always said: "Freely received and freely given." God was gracious to this Spirit-filled man of God and, Rev. Austin-Sparks complied to Christ's wishes for his material. "Freely received (from God) and freely given (to all who wished to have a closer walk with their Lord and Saviour and desired to be obedient to God and to His Word. And now, I too, offer his materials to anyone who desires to grow and mature in their Christian faith. Praise God for His awesome work in T. Austin-Sparks!] 

Return, Return, Return


Genesis 8:9
Then he put forth his hand, and took her, and pulled her in unto him into the ark.
 
Wearied out with her wanderings, the dove returns at length to the ark as her only resting place. How heavily she flies-she will drop-she will never reach the ark! But she struggles on. Noah has been looking out for his dove all day long, and is ready to receive her. She has just strength to reach the edge of the ark, she can hardly alight upon it, and is ready to drop, when Noah puts forth his hand and pulls her in unto him. Mark that: "pulled her in unto him." She did not fly right in herself, but was too fearful, or too weary to do so. She flew as far as she could, and then he put forth his hand and pulled her in unto him. This act of mercy was shown to the wandering dove, and she was not chidden for her wanderings. Just as she was she was pulled into the ark. So you, seeking sinner, with all your sin, will be received. "Only return"-those are God's two gracious words-"only return." What! nothing else? No, "only return." She had no olive branch in her mouth this time, nothing at all but just herself and her wanderings; but it is "only return," and she does return, and Noah pulls her in. Fly, thou wanderer; fly thou fainting one, dove as thou art, though thou thinkest thyself to be black as the raven with the mire of sin, back, back to the Saviour. Every moment thou waitest does but increase thy misery; thine attempts to plume thyself and make thyself fit for Jesus are all vanity. Come thou to Him just as thou art. "Return, thou backsliding Israel." He does not say, "Return, thou repenting Israel" (there is such an invitation doubtless), but "thou backsliding one," as a backslider with all thy backslidings about thee, Return, return, return! Jesus is waiting for thee! He will stretch forth His hand and "pull thee in"-in to Himself, thy heart's true home.

~Charles Spurgeon~

Monday, March 25, 2013

His Great Love # 10

God's Everlasting, Unchanging Love

We have been moving around a center and viewing it from different angles, in different relationships. The center is given to us in Ephesians 2:4 - "His great love wherewith He loved us."

God's Great Declaration

We are now coming to look at one of the most amazing statements ever made.

"The Lord appeared of old unto me, saying, 'Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee' " or, as the margin gives the alternative rendering, "therefore have I continued lovingkindness unto thee" (Jeremiah 31:3)

I repeat, that is one of the most astounding statements that has ever been made. To verify that, to realize something of that fact, you need to read all that leads up to it and that follows afterward. That is to say, you need to read the prophecies of Jeremiah throughout, and then to ad to them some of the prophecies of other prophets. For the work of the prophet was very largely to point out how far, how terribly and tragically far, those being addressed had gone from God's mind, God's thought, God's will, God's way, and in what a terrible state of hardness of heart and rebellion - and worse than that - they were toward God. All that - and it is a terrible and dark story - gathers around this statement. "I have loved thee." At the time when they were in the very worst condition that ever they had been or would be in spiritually and morally, it was then He said "I have loved thee with an everlasting love." Viewed in its setting, you must agree it is one of the most amazing statements ever made.

"His great love wherewith He loved us." We are baffled and almost rendered silent when we try to fathom and comprehend the word "grace" in reference to the love of God. How great is God's love? Were we to spend our lives trying, we could never utter its depth or content. Yet here is a statement, and we have to do something about it. We have to approach it, to try to grasp something, be it very small, of this incomprehensible love of God, the mystery of it. So I shall adopt the very simplest method of trying to get into this word, just breaking up the statement into its component words.

The One Who Makes the Declaration

We will begin then: "I." You notice here the statement is really governed by the words "Thus saith Jehovah" (verse 2). Who is it speaking? To begin with, it is the One whose name is Jehovah. By that name He made Himself known to the Hebrews through Moses. But later that name became so sacred to Israel that they would not use it, and it was mentioned but once in the year, the great day of atonement, by the High Priest, as he went into the Most Holy Place by the High Priest the name was pronounced, so great, so awful, was that name to them. But what does it mean? Jehovah, the unchanging One, the eternal One, the self-existent One, existing not by anybody else's act or power or support, perfectly self-existent - that is Jehovah, that is the One who says, "I have loved thee with an everlasting love."

But look again. It is the name of the One of infinite holiness, whose eyes are too pure to behold iniquity, whose nature is too pure and holy and altogether right to have any association with sin. You see how helpless we are when we try to deal with God and explain Him and define Him. These are statements, but if you and I, apart from some great provision of God to cover our sinfulness, were to come into the presence of that infinitely holy God, we should be shattered beyond repair. The infinitely holy God! It is He who says, "I have loved thee with an everlasting love."

It is the name of infinite majesty, glory, might, dominion, power. He is very terrible in majesty, in glory, in power; and that One says, "I have loved thee with an everlasting love."

And still we press in to this name. It is the name of infinite self-sufficiency. From time to time He has found it necessary to state that in various ways. "If I were hungry, I would not tell thee? (Psalm 50:12), He said to them of old. "Every beast ... is Mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills" (Psalm 50:10). "I have made the earth, and created man upon it; I, even My hands, have stretched out the heavens" (Isaiah 45:12). "The nations are as a drop of a bucket" (Isaiah 40:15). "Do I need anything or anyone? Am I, the creator of the universe, in need? Am I suffering want? Am I not utterly and absolutely independent, self-sufficient, the only One in this universe Who is self-sufficient?" And that One, out of it all - His holiness, His majesty, His self-sufficiency - says, "I have loved thee with an everlasting love." It is a mystery. Can you explain that? Can you understand that?

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 11 - "I Have Loved")


She Had Left Her Heart Behind Her!




 "The Gospel of Luke" 
"Remember Lot's wife!" Luke 17:32


Observe what a solemn warning our Lord gives us against unsound profession

Lot's wife went far in religious profession. She was the wife of a "righteous man." She was connected through him with Abraham, the father of the faithful. She fled with her husband from Sodom in the day when he escaped for his life by God's command.

But Lot's wife was not really like her husband. Though she fled with him, she had left her heart behind her! She willfully disobeyed the strict injunction which the angel had laid upon her. She looked back towards Sodom, and was at once struck dead. She was turned into a pillar of salt, and perished in her sins!

"Remember" her, says our Lord, "Remember Lot's wife!"

Lot's wife is meant to be a beacon and a warning to all professing Christians. It may be feared that many will be found like her in the day of Christ's second coming. There are many in the present day who go a certain length in religion. They conform to the outward ways of Christ's true people. They speak the "language of Canaan." They use all the outward ordinances of religion. But all this time their souls are not right in the sight of God. The world is in their hearts--and their hearts are in the world! 

Their Christianity will prove rotten at the core! 

Let us remember Lot's wife, and resolve to be real in our religion. A mere formal religion will never save our souls. Let us serve Christ for His own sake. Let us never rest until we have the true grace of God in our hearts, and have no desire to look back to the world.

"Remember Lot's wife!" Luke 17:32


~J. C. Ryle~

Sunday, March 24, 2013

His Great Love # 9

The Love of God Triumphant Over Evil

What I am trying to say is that God's love is a mighty, triumphant love that has triumphed over something immense. The love of God which now comes to us from Christ comes from Him as crucified. It flows to us from the Cross, from His wounds, from His risen side. That love came up against the most awful things in this universe which withstood it, and overcame them. It was not just a nice disposition that looked benignly upon everything wrong and excused it. Oh no! It came up against the fierceness of anti-love, anti- love of God in this universe, and overcame it. Calvary was the mighty triumph of God's love over everything contrary to it, and it is that kind of love we are to have, an overcoming love, a triumphant love.

It is, in a sense, an awful love. Come up against that, and it breaks and shatters; things have to go down before it. Things will not go down before our human niceness, things of the devil, things that are positively evil and antagonistic to God; but they will go down before tested, proved, enduring, patient, longsuffering love. You may have to wait a long time, suffer a lot, put up with a lot, have your loved ignored, even resisted.  Give it time, and all may go right down before Divine love. It is the longsuffering love of God that has won us. Is not that the deepest thing in your heart? - it is in mine - the infinite patience of Divine love, the bearing and forbearing of that love. It is a tremendous love. It is a power, it is a conquering love - something so much more than this (may I use the word?) sloppy kind of "love" which is always smoothing things over. Oh no, that is not God's love. God's love is overcoming love.


No True Ministry without Love

There is challenge in this love of God to us. "We also ought..." It is a challenge. Nothing can be except as the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

Let us come back to where we started. If you have ever had exercise with God on any matter, do so on this matter. If you are concerned about being of any use to the Lord at all, in any capacity, - as a preacher, a teacher, a personal witness, as a life lived here without any public place at all - let me tell you (and it is the ripening knowledge of a life that has not much further to go but has for forty years been concerned with this matter of being useful to the Lord) let me tell you that nothing of usefulness to the lord is possible except on the basis of God's love shed abroad in our hearts. It must be this Holy Spirit love for the people to whom we would minister: love for them even to the laying down of our lives for them, suffering unto death for their sakes; love to the point of being brokenhearted - I use that word quite deliberately - over people for whom you have spiritual concern and in whom you have spiritual interest; love like that. No ministry will be ministry to the Lord that is not born of that; no testimony, no life, except as rooted and grounded in the love of God. You can have all the rest, a mass of Bible knowledge, a wealth of Biblical  instruction and doctrinal information and all that, but it is all without any value unless its exercise is in a love, a passion, a heart beating with the heart of God for His great love wherewith He loved us.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 1 - "God's Everlasting, Unchanging Love")

Our Awesome God




In our culture, God’s name is oftentimes mentioned with little reverence. In fact, many people actually use it as a curse. Even among those who love Him, it is far too common to use His name casually, without taking time to ponder who He is. When you say a blessing at mealtimes, for instance, do you realize that you are talking to the almighty Creator God who rules over all things?

Our view of the Lord impacts three areas of life. First, it affects our prayers. As we come to know Him better and better, our desires will start to look like His goals for us, and our petitions will align more closely with His purposes. Furthermore, as we recognize His greatness and power, we’ll become more confident that He can accomplish mighty things—and we will venture to “pray big.”

Second, our understanding of His righteousness and goodness influences our behavior. If God has these attributes, surely it is in our best interest to obey gladly. We will desire righteousness and be quick to repent of sin.

Third, our faith is impacted. Grasping that Jesus is holy, good, and powerful grows our trust in Him. Knowing our awesome God and remembering His great works will further build our confidence in Him.

Do you personally know our loving and holyheavenly Father? He invites you into an intimate relationship with Him. But, as with any good friendship, time and intentionality are necessary to understand Him and learn His ways. The more you do that, the more your prayers, behavior, and faith will be impacted.

~Charles Stanley~

Saturday, March 23, 2013

His Great Love # 8

The Challenge of Love

The Spirit, therefore, is inclusively and preeminently the Spirit of Divine love, and as such He is very sensitive and easily grieved. "Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God" (Ephesians 4:30) is the exhortation. That is how we know that God loves us - that the love of God in us by the Holy Spirit suffers grief when love is injured.

Again, there is so much that the enemy points to and tells us is a mark that the Lord does not love us. For my part, I have to have some inward proof, a living proof, something right inside of me that proves He loves me; and this is one of the ways in which I have learned that God loves me - that if I say or do anything that is contrary to love, I have a terribly bad time. God's love for me is touched, grieved, when I violate that love, and I am at once conscious of the fact. Everything is bound up with that. We do not get anywhere until we say, "Lord, forgive me that, I go back on that, I confess that sin"; and so get it all cleared up and have no repetition of it. It involves the whole walk with God, it touches the very relationship with God. We need to be made sensitive to the Spirit of love so that our lips and hearts are purged by the fire of love, and so that it is not easy for us to be superior and pass superior judgments and to be of a criticizing and suspicious spirit. We shall never get anywhere with God if there is anything like that.

The Prayer Life Affected by Lack of Love

It touches every aspect of our lives. It touches our prayer life. We cannot get on in prayer if it is like that; and what a need there is today of men and women who can pray; not of people ho say prayers and yet do not pray. One does not want to despise any prayer, but oh, we do need men and women who can pray through, who can lead us into the presence of God, and take right hold on Him, and get a situation established by prayer. We shall never be able to do that unless this basic relationship with God is established, expressing itself in love for all those whom He loves, no matter what they are nor who they are. Prayer life will be interfered with, and the Word of God will be closed to us. The Lord will not go on if the foundation is hurt.

We Love Because He First Loved

"If God so loved ..." Can you fathom that so?" Can you understand that "so?" No, we cannot. "God so loved" - then "we also ought to love"; and we love, says John here, because He first loved us. As I pointed out earlier, the putting in of the word "Him" in the Authorized Version is unfortunate. It is not in most of the original manuscripts. I am not sure that it would not be bad doctrine; it certainly is out of keeping with the context. John did not say that in his letter. He said, "We love, because He first loved us." You say you do not quite grasp that, and that it would be quite true to put the "Him" in and to say, "We love Him, because He first loved us." There are literally teeming millions in this world whom God first loved and they do not love Him; there are multitudes of the Lord's people whom He so loved but they do not love Him as they would. Is not the cry "I have not the love I ought to have, even for God, to say nothing of His people and the unsaved?" Not necessarily do we love Him, because He first loved us. When we come to a fuller apprehension of His love for us, then love for Him does flow out, but here the whole emphasis is upon the fact of love - "We love, because He first loved us." The challenge is there. The measure of my love for others is the measure of my apprehension  of God's love for me. I could never have anything like an adequate apprehension of His love for me, and not love others. Oh, if we were really overwhelmed with the greatness of God's love for us, how could we take an attitude of judgment toward some other erring, mistaken, perhaps sinning, child of God? Not at all! It is herein that we know the love of God, in that we love the brethren. There is the test of our apprehension, the test of our relationship, and it is the basis of everything for the child of God.

Growth On the Basis of Love

If I am going to grow spiritually, I shall only do so on the basis of love. I shall never grow because I get a lot more teaching. You do not grow by teaching. That is the tragedy of attending conferences - that you may attend them for years and years and still be of the same spiritual measure afterward, and never grow: still making no greater contribution to the measure of Christ in the Church, still not counting any more than you did years ago in the spiritual battle. No, all the teaching does not necessarily mean that you grow. It is necessary as a background, but we grow by love. Do not let anybody think we can dispense with the teaching and have the love and get on all right. That would be a contradiction of the Word altogether. The teaching has its place, it is absolutely necessary; but though I have everything and have not love, I am nothing (1 Corinthians 13). So all is based on this.

The Love of God, Not Natural Love

But lest you should inadvertently misapprehend what I am saying, I must emphasize that I am talking about the love of God. You must not thing I am talking about a generous disposition, a magnanimous temperament, of the kind of people who are made that way, and who cannot bear to be across someone else, even if there is a tremendous spiritual issue at stake. Such never "truth it in love" (Ephesians 4:15) for fear of anything unpleasant. That is not the love I am talking about. This love is not temperamental love. The people who may be of that kindly, magnanimous, large-hearted disposition may find that they have to have that smashed up and broken by coming up against a spiritual situation for which no natural temperament is sufficient. They may have to be provoked to get on their feet. People who have never been angry may have to be stirred to anger. People who are always compromising rather than have unpleasantness may have to make a clean cut. The love of God may demand something like that. On the other hand, those who may not be at all of that generous, magnanimous disposition, by the love of God and an altogether new heart and nature become what they are now temperamentally. This of which we speak is not on a natural ground at all - what we are or what we are not.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 9 - "The Love of God Triumphant Over Evil")

Joy In Unlikely Places



 But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's chains were loosed. (Acts 16:25-26)



When Paul and Silas were thrown into prison in Philippi, they prayed and sang hymns to God at midnight. And they brought the house down—literally. An earthquake struck and shook the prison to such an extent that the walls collapsed.

Their jailer was about to kill himself, because at that time, death was the penalty for guards and their families when a prisoner escaped. But Paul shouted, "Do yourself no harm, for we are all here!"

Ultimately, that jailer came to believe in Jesus Christ, along with his entire household. And the next day, the city officials sent word to release Paul and Silas from prison.

This story in Acts 16 reminds us that the child of God can rejoice in the most trying of circumstances. But sometimes the earthquake doesn't come in the middle of the night. Sometimes deliverance from our circumstances doesn't come.

Paul and Silas had to endure a beating, getting thrown into jail, and having their feet fastened into stocks before they were delivered. And although God delivered Daniel from hungry lions, he still had to spend the night in the lions' den.

Because of their unwillingness to bow before the golden image of the king, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into a fiery furnace that was heated seven times hotter than usual. But we read that while they were walking around in the furnace, someone was with them who was "like the Son of God." Many believe this was Christ Himself walking with them.

Sometimes when we pray for God's help, He will deliver us and heal us. He will provide for us. He will fix our problem. But at other times He will say, "I will be with you through this, so trust Me."


~Greg Laurie~

Friday, March 22, 2013

His Great Love # 7

The Challenge of Love

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

"The love of God hath been shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit which was given unto us" (Romans 5:5)

"Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another ... We love, because He first loved us" (1 John 4:11, 19)

The challenge of love, Divine love - "Beloved if ..." then ... "If God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." There is a tremendous challenge in that.  We have, I trust I can say, been seeing that Divine love, the love of God, is the key to everything from Genesis to Revelation; and if that is true, as we have said before, that the sum of all Divine revelation is vital union with God in Christ, if it is a matter from first to last of relationship with God as Father, then here in this fragment in John's letter, we are at once brought face to face with the test of our relationship with God. The test of that relationship is here resolved into a matter of love. There follows immediately another of the several "ifs" of John's letter - "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar" (1 John 4:20#, he does not love God. The test of our relationship with God is this matter of love. It all hangs upon "if."

The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit. The relationship with God in Christ is brought about by an act of the Holy Spirit's incoming, in our receiving Him. He is given to us, and He brings about the relatedness, and the immediate result and seal of that relationship by the indwelling Spirit is that the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts. It is the test of relationship. The very basis of our organic spiritual and vital union with God is this matter of the Divine love in us, and John will challenge us with this in his letter and say, "We know that we have passed our of death into life (i.e., that we are in vital union with God) because we love the brethren" (1 John 3:14). The Word of God makes this love a test of our having received the Spirit.

Divine Love Demands Love of the Brethren

Well, of course, on the simple basis of our conversion we know that to be true at the beginning - that whereas, before, we had no particular love for Christians, afterward, when we had come to the Lord, we found we had an altogether new feeling toward other children of God. That was the simple beginning. But it is the beginning, the basis. John is carrying us beyond the beginning. He is speaking to us, as in the case of those to whom he wrote, as to people who know the Lord, to people of God who have the Spirit. He says, "The anointing which ye received of Him abideth in you, and you need not that any one teach you; but ... His anointing teacheth you concerning all things ..." (1 John 2:27). He is writing to those who are getting on in the spiritual life. When we come there, it is possible that in some way a root of bitterness may spring up in us toward our brother. It is possible that you may fail of the love of God. It is possible that this very basic nature of your relationship with the Lord should be numbed for want of love, that your whole spiritual life should come under arrest and be paralyzed, and you cease to be a vital factor and have a real living communion with your Lord day by day, all because the basic love in some way has been arrested or injured. What was the mark of your initial relationship with the Lord? It was the love of God shed abroad in your heart, and you loved other Christians tremendously. That can be changed in such a way that you do not love other Christians as at the beginning. You thought then that all Christians were very wonderful: no questions were asked; they simply belonged to the Lord and that was all that mattered. Since then, you have begun to have questions about Christians, and not only Christians in general, but sometimes Christians in particular. You have come to know that Christians are still human beings and not angels, not that consummate thing you perhaps thought Christians were at the beginning. You have come to some disappointment about them and are really up against something now in them, and your basic relationship with God is being touched. If you do not somehow get over that and find a way through, if you do not have a new accession of Divine love, your very walk with God is going to be arrested, you are going to lose your precious and joyous communion with your Lord, and there will come a shadow between you and your Father. You will find that the only way to get rid of the shadow is to get victory over that unlove toward those of His children who are concerned.

How We Know God's Love For Us

How do we know God's love for us? Well, that is a pertinent question. There are many difficulties and much mystery connected with His love - why, in the first place He should love us at all. But then He has said that He does love us. He has given us exceeding great and precious promises and assurances. We have, in what He has done for us, a very great amount of proof from God's side that He loves us. But even so, with all the doctrine of the gift of God, the great redemptive activity of God, with all the words that tell us that He loves us, there are times when all that is just something in the Book, something of the doctrine. But is it true? Does He love me? It may be true everywhere else, but does He love me?

Now come back to that word in Romans 5;5 and you have the answer in principle and in substance. Let us ask the question - How can you and I know that God loves us, know in a way extra to our being told, to having an intellectual presentation of the truth of the love of  God for man? I will tell you of one way in which you can know, and know very surely. If you are a child of God and have received the Holy Spirit in you (and remember that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Divine love) then if you should have a reservation of love toward another child or other children of God, some attitude of criticism, suspicion, or prejudice, within you something dies or seems to die. Your joy goes, you feel something has gone wrong, and within you there is a sense of grief. You know what it is to grieve, to have that awful feeling of grieving somewhere inside. But in this case it is not you at all who are grieving over that unlove, but there is Someone within you who is grieving: there is a sob at the center of your being. That is how we know that God loves us, that "the love of God hath been shed abroad in our hearts." When we grieve that love, we know that in us the Spirit says, "I cannot go on in happy fellowship with you, I am grieved, I am pained." It is only love that can be grieved. People who have no love never grieve, they are never pained, never hurt. You need to have love, and the more sensitive the love the more you register and are grieved when things are not right. The Holy Spirit is exceedingly sensitive in this matter of love, because that is His supreme characteristic. Remember, that is His inclusive characteristic. Paul wrote, "The fruit of the Spirit is love" (Galatians 5:22). He put it in the singular. It would have been wrong grammar to have said, "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peach, longsuffering," etc. He would have had to say, "The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace ..." But he said, "The fruit of the Spirit is - love" and then he went on to tell you what love is - "joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control." Kill love and you kill all the rest; injure love and you injure all the rest. You cannot have the others, without this inclusive thing - love.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 8)

Christ Is Altogether Lovely


Song of Solomon 5:16
Yea, He is altogether lovely.
 
The superlative beauty of Jesus is all-attracting; it is not so much to be admired as to be loved. He is more than pleasant and fair, He is lovely. Surely the people of God can fully justify the use of this golden word, for He is the object of their warmest love, a love founded on the intrinsic excellence of His person, the complete perfection of His charms. Look, O disciples of Jesus, to your Master's lips, and say, "Are they not most sweet?" Do not His words cause your hearts to burn within you as He talks with you by the way? Ye worshipers of Immanuel, look up to His head of much fine gold, and tell me, are not His thoughts precious unto you? Is not your adoration sweetened with affection as ye humbly bow before that countenance which is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars? Is there not a charm in His every feature, and is not His whole person fragrant with such a Savour of His good ointments, that therefore the virgins love Him? Is there one member of His glorious body which is not attractive?-one portion of His person which is not a fresh loadstone to our souls?-one office which is not a strong cord to bind your heart? Our love is not as a seal set upon His heart of love alone; it is fastened upon His arm of power also; nor is there a single part of Him upon which it does not fix itself. We anoint His whole person with the sweet spikenard of our fervent love. His whole life we would imitate; His whole character we would transcribe. In all other beings we see some lack, in Him there is all perfection. The best even of His favored saints have had blots upon their garments and wrinkles upon their brows; He is nothing but loveliness. All earthly suns have their spots: the fair world itself hath its wilderness; we cannot love the whole of the most lovely thing; but Christ Jesus is gold without alloy-light without darkness-glory without cloud-"Yea, He is altogether lovely."

~Charles Spurgeon~