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Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Persistent Purpose of God # 37

The Messenger Must be the Embodiment of His Message (continued)

"I Am Your Sign" (continued)

What is all the meaning of this? It is all gathered into this title: "I am your sign." We will just gather it up in this way: it means that the message of Ezekiel was first of all wrought into his own experience. He was taken through the message before he gave it. The things that he was to say were already wrought in his own life. I do not say we are to have Ezekiel's experience literally, but the whole point is this: the messenger must be a personal embodiment of his message! It must not just be things that we say, it must be things that have been wrought into our own life. Ezekiel did not just give a message, Ezekiel was the message; and when the people looked at him, they saw the message.

Now see what a big principle that introduces. John put it in this way: "We speak that we do know and testify that which we have seen and that which our hands have handled." There must not be any gap between the teacher and his message. The teacher and the message must be one thing. Our position must not be one of just doctrine or theory, our teaching must be ourselves. The message must be seen in our history, it must be seen in our experience. This will, of course, explain a lot as to the Lord's dealings with us. If the Lord really gets hold of us, He will not let us just give out theories. The message will be born out of deep experience.

We take three illustrations. Peter's commission was "to shepherd the flock," and in his letters he speaks much about that. He speaks of "THE SHEPHERD"; and he speaks of the elders and says, "... shepherd the flock over which the Lord has given you responsibility." What is the key feature of a true shepherd? If we take the Lord as the Example, the key feature of a true shepherd is that he lays down his own soul for the sheep. Notice, I have chosen the word "soul." That is the word that the Lord Jesus used. He spoke about the disciples laying down their souls. Now Peter had a very strong and big soul. You know what the soul is, and peter had a big one of those, and Peter's great life lesson was how to lay down his own soul. If the soul is the mind and the feelings and the will, we can see what a big one Peter had. Peter had a mind of his own; he had a will of his own; and he had feelings of his own; and he was always pushing these things to the forefront. Peter's life was in the hard school of having to learn how to lay down his soul. You know enough about the whole life of Peter as we have it in the New Testament to show you how true that was. Peter was not a professional shepherd - he had the principle of the shepherd wrought right into his very being.

Pass on to the Apostle Paul. Paul's great ministry was concerning the Church as the Body of Christ. The principles of the Body of Christ are relatedness, dependence, interdependence, heavenliness, spirituality. Saul of Tarsus had no sense of dependence, of relatedness, but see how the Lord took him in hand, and right from the point on the Damascus Road, all the way through, he was having to learn these lessons.

Now Paul was a sign for the dispensation. You think about that! We know the purpose of this dispensation: it is the Church which is His Body. That is not just an idea or a teaching, that is a practical reality. That revelation came to the dispensation through the Apostle Paul, and, therefore, it had to be wrought right into the very constitution of Paul. Al independence had to be destroyed, all unrelatedness had to be removed, all earthly expectations had to be taken away. Paul had to have his whole life constituted on the basis of the message that was given to him. He was a sign to the dispensation. That is why we make so much of Paul.

And now, what about John? What was John's particular message? The ministry of John particularly related to life. That is the big word of John through all his writings. John became the embodiment of that principle of life triumphant over death. When all of the apostles had long been gone to the Lord, John is still going on. He outlived all the others, not because he had an easier time than the others. John suffered with the others, and at last John died as others had died; but here is a testimony to Divine Life in spirit, mind, and body. The point is that John really, personally represented the message that he gave. Peter, Paul, and John could also say: "I am your sign."

Brothers and sisters, you and I have got to be able to say the same. People must be seeing in us the message and not only hearing it from our lips. They must be seeing that the message is true in our history and experience.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 38 - ("Behold ... A Man": Everything Is Measured According to This Man")

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