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Friday, February 28, 2014

What Is A Christian? # 6

Christianity - Not a Religion But a Person (continued)

A Christian is not a person who is religious, either more or less. A Christian is not a person who has taken on a lot of "dos" and "do nots." God is not going to deal with us on these grounds. Neither is He going to judge men on the basis of the number or nature of their sins. He has one basis of judgment, than which any other basis would be unfair, because everyone, by his or her birth, upbringing, advantages, temperament, and so on, would be either favored or otherwise. That one basis of judgment is, and will be: What are we doing with God's Son, Jesus Christ?

God sent His Son, and by Him we are all brought to a common position. He is presented as God's appointed Lord and Saviour for all men. God will never say in the judgment, "How many sins did you commit?" "What kind of sins did you commit?" - but, "What did you do with My Son?" It is not necessary to be violent to our rejection, or actively and vehemently to fight against Christ, as did Saul. We can - with exactly the same eternal loss - just reject Him; say "No" and close ourselves to  Him; or simply ignore Him. We are lost just the same. There is no need to dash to the ground the saving medicine in order to perish. It is only necessary to leave it where it is and not take it. But it is a terrible responsibility to have known that it was there, and to have just failed to take it.

We see, then, that all questions of life and death, sin and righteousness, Heaven and hell, time and eternity, are bound up - not with "religion," "church," "creed" - but with a living relationship to the Son of God; and a Christian is one who has himself come into such a living relationship, and has found all these questions answered in the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Hast thou heard Him, seen Him, known Him?
Is not thine a captured heart?
Chief among ten thousand own Him, Joyful choose the better part.
Idols, once they won thee, charmed thee - Lovely things of time and sense.
Gilded thus does sin disarm thee, honeyed, lest thou turn thee thence.

What has stripped the seeming beauty from the idols of the earth?
Not a sense of right or duty, but the sight of peerless worth.

Not the crushing of those idols, with its bitter void and smart;
But the beaming of His beauty, the unveiling of His heart.

Who extinguishes their taper till they hail the rising sun?
Who discards the grab of winter till the summer has begun?

'Tis that look that melted Peter,
"Tis that face that Stephen saw,
"Tis that heart that wept with Mary,
Can alone from idols draw - 

Draw and win and fill completely, till the cup o'erflow the brim:
What have we to do with idols who have companied with Him. Anon.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(The End)

Developing A Vibrant Faith



The apostle Paul had a strong commitment to know and serve Jesus Christ. His passion and love for the Lord was obvious—Jesus was always central in his thinking, whether he was working as a tent maker, preaching to the crowd, or even sitting in chains at prison. What fueled his love for the Lord?

Paul's conversion experience on the Damascus Road was a motivating force in his life. Grateful for the gift of grace he had received at salvation, the apostle told many people about his encounter with the resurrected Christ and its impact on him. We, too, have a story to tell of God's mercy in saving us and of the new life we have in Him.

Paul's zeal also came from his firm conviction that the gospel message was true and available to everyone (John 3:16). On the cross, Jesus took all our sins—past, present, and future—upon Himself (1 Pet. 2:24). He suffered our punishment so that we might receive forgiveness and be brought into a right relationship with God. Through faith in Christ, we've been born again, and the indwelling Holy Spirit helps us every day (John 14:26). The more we understand what Jesus has accomplished on our behalf, the greater will be our passion to share the gospel.

Developing a vibrant faith requires time and energy plus a commitment to obey God. Regularly studying the Bible will strengthen your beliefs and give you courage to speak. Caring about the spiritual welfare of others will move you into action. Do you have a passion to serve Jesus wherever He leads?

~Charles Stanley~

Thursday, February 27, 2014

What Is A Christian? # 5

1. Something Absolutely Personal (continued)

Then Saul came to realize that his inner history was all known to Christ. The other people could see what was going on outwardly. He was going in hot haste to Damascus. He had certain documents authorizing him to arrest Christians and take them bound to Jerusalem. He was doing his business with a will, and those other people would put it down to his religious zeal. But there was One above Who knew something else. He disclosed that knowledge when He said - 

"It is hard for thee to kick against the goad" (Acts 26:14).

So, really, he was like an ox harnessed to a plough, which, unwilling to go in a certain direction, and being goaded against its wishes, was letting out in rebellion, and kicking against the goad. What a different picture this was from what others would have had of him, and how different from what he was trying to make himself believe! But that One above knows things that we are not prepared to admit or accept. He sees through us, through all our pretensions and self-deceptions and resistance.

Saul was striving desperately to establish the falsehood of Christ and Christianity, but the truth was that he was not so sure of himself as he had hoped. Something had touched him, and it would have been fatal to his position if he had given that something a chance. So he had to gird himself up and resist with all his might. Inwardly he was kicking, in effect saying, "I don't want Christ! I won't have Christ! I am not going to be a Christian!"

Well, Christ is a reality, and sooner or later we shall have to have Him. There are different times and ways in which that may be.

We can have Him now, as our Lord and our Saviour, and, like Paul, enjoy a life of wonderful fellowship with Him and useful service for Him.

Or we might have Him at the end of our life, whether that be sooner or later. But that will mean the unspeakable regret and grief that we have no life of service to lay at His feet - an eternally forfeited life of fellowship with Him in the great purpose with which He is now occupied.

Or, alas, when this life is past, we shall have to have Him - not as our Advocate and Friend, but as our Judge.

God has determined that eventually "every knee shall bow" to His Son, but His desire is that it shall be as it was with Saul: "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" This is what it means to be a Christian. But there is yet more in the words that we have quoted at the beginning of this chapter.

2. Christianity - Not a Religion, But a Person

"Why persecutest thou Me?" asked the glorified Christ. What an idea! Here was a man just going "all out" in religious devotion. So far as his reason was concerned (even if his heart had some lurking and bothering question), he was convinced that he ought to do this thing in the interests of religion. He was really a divided man inside, but in his zeal for traditional religion, and, as he would have argued, for God's sake, he was suppressing every question and relentlessly forcing himself on. And yet, all the time, he was working against God, against God's Son, and against Heaven! What a state of confusion!

Much could be said about this: as to the difference between being religious and being a genuine Christian; as to how it is possible for people to be passionately devout and devoted to what they believe to be of God - or for God - and yet to be rather obstructing His real interests by that very devotion. But we must resolve it all into one inclusive issue.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 6)

The Enemy Is Defeated


In the Book of Revelation, the Bible describes the fall of Satan from the heavens. 

The Apostle John saw it this way: “The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray” (Revelation 12:9).

Satan’s defeat in the heavenlies, however, has not yet led to his destruction. That awaits the second triumphant coming of Christ, when after being bound for a period of time, Satan will be eternally punished in hell. “And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulphur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever”(Revelation 20:10).

Until then, our archenemy will work tirelessly to blind the minds of the unbelieving and keep them captive in his evil treachery.

It is the life-giving Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ that liberates imprisoned souls. God’s truth has the power to conquer the deceptive ways of the wicked who oppress God’s people.

In Christ, our sins—with their guilt and shame—are overcome by the Savior. Jesus is the Light of the world, and His very light exposes our sin, leads us to repentance and gives us eternal life as we put our faith in Him. 


~Franklin Graham~

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

What Is A Christian? # 4

"Thou wouldest fain make me a Christian" (Acts 26:28)

"I heard a voice saying unto me Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?" (Acts 26:14)

The above words, spoken to the same man - Saul of Tarsus, later Paul the Apostle - in the first case by a ruler under the Roman empire, in the second case by Jesus of Nazareth, contain the essentials of a true Christian experience. This Paul was a truly typical Christian, both in the way in which he became one, and in his life as one. While there may not be many who become Christians with the same form or accompaniments of their conversion: we may not have been smitten to the round by a blinding light as we went on some journey, and heard an audible voice from heaven called us by name: yet the principles are always the same. Let us look into these words for the principles.

1. Something Absolutely Personal

"I heard a voice saying unto me ... Saul, Saul ..." There were others travelling with Saul on that day; how many, we do not know. Paul speaks of them as "all" - when we were all fallen to the ground." It would seem that there is quite a number. But Saul was singled out, and what happened was so directly personal that it was as though he were the only man on the earth. He ever afterward spoke of his experience as something extremely personal. The amazing thing to him was that Christ knew him by name, and knew all that was going on inside him.

It is a fact, and a fact which we must realize, that God has a personal and direct interest in us, and a very personal concern for us. The writer had a friend who visited military hospitals. He always carried in his pocket texts to leave with men who might be in need of a little lit of God's Word. Before starting out he used to pray that he might be guided to give the right text to the right man.

On one of these visits, when entering a ward, he looked around, and up in the corner was a bed with a form bandaged so completely that only nose, mouth and ears were uncovered. He was about to approach the bed when the nurse said that it was useless - the man was too far gone to be spoken to. He paused a minute, and then decided to leave a text on the bandaged hands. This he did, without looking to see what the text was. As he was moving away from the bed, a muffled voice said,

"What's that?"

"Oh," said my friend, "it is only a little bit of God's Word."

"What does it say?" asked the dying man.

"Let me see - yes, here it is, Proverbs 23:26. It says:

"My son, give me your heart."

"Who said that?" asked the soldier.

"That is from God's Word - the Bible!"

"Read it again," said the wounded man.

"My son, give me thy heart."

Silence for a moment, and then - 

"Did you say that is in the Bible?"

"Yes, and God says it to you."

The soldier heaved a sigh, but there was a question in the sigh. My friend waiting a moment and then asked what was perplexing or surprising him.

"Look at the card over my bed," said the soldier.

My friend did so, and was amazed to read, on the card giving his army particulars, the name  JACK MYSON

Do you say "accident!" "Coincidence!"" That man was about to pass into eternity, and God spoke to him by name. Again, it may not always be in just the same way; but the fact remains that God has a personal concern for each of us, and a true Christian is one who has come to have such a personal relationship with God as to make it possible for him - or her - to say, as did Paul:

He loved me, and gave Himself for me (Galatians 2:20

I heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul ...

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 5)

Spiritual Growth Plan

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.Psalm 119:11

Scripture memory is a spiritual growth plan against sin, Satan and self. It is also His primary method of conforming us into the image of His son Jesus Christ. We all are privileged to renew our minds with the truth of Scripture and to cleanse our hearts with the purifying Word of God. Perhaps we commit to memory a verse a week related to what we are experiencing in life. Over the course of a year we will hide fifty-two nuggets of spiritual nourishment within our soul. Thus, when needed, the Spirit brings to mind what has been deposited deep within our hearts.

We may not be the best at memorization, but we do seem to remember what engages our affections. Our ability to retain sports statistics and other details related to interests or hobbies should be trumped by the truth of Scripture. Sure, some have the uncanny ability to recite each word perfectly, some even paragraphs of content. We need not be intimidated, but work within our God given abilities. Let’s start off the new year with a systematic plan to retain the Word of the Lord.

The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word. 1 Samuel 3:21

Furthermore, the Lord reveals Himself through His word. We increasingly desire to know God, love God and obey God, as His word makes its way into the crevices of our character. We are conformed by the character of Christ as we mature in our understanding of the Word made flesh. Yes, we grow in our love for the Word as we grow in our love for Jesus since He was the Word revealed on earth. God’s secret weapon of scripture memory grows us into the likeness of Christ.

We are wise to see scripture memory as a blessing not a burden. Be creative. We can listen to God’s word as we commute to work, exercise or do chores around the house. Download free Scripture memory cards (http://bit.ly/1cQ2N7y) you can display to review and recite. Yes, we follow Jesus’ example when we seamlessly say to Satan, “It is written.” God’s word written on our hearts through memorization and meditation equips us to stand strong in Him. The spiritual growth plan of hiding His word is used by seasoned saints who deeply know and love the Lord.

How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word. Psalm 119:9

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me hide Your word in my heart that I might know You, love You and obey You.

~Wisdom Hunters Devotional~

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

What Is A Christian? # 3

What A Christian IS (continued)

2. "What Will Thou Have Me to Do, Lord?"

The second thing -in Paul's case, as in every true Christian life - is represented by one sentence: "What wilt Thou have me to do, Lord?" (Acts 22:10).

This represents a new position and a new relationship. How very different from that of the old Saul! Hitherto his life and activity had been out from himself - what he thought he would do, what he proposed, purposed, planned, determined, and desired. Self-determination had been his way of life, although he would have said that it was done in a good cause - even done for God. What an example Saul was of the fact that a man's very best intentions and devotions, in what he believes to be God's interests, may yet be doing God the greatest disservice - and he himself be totally blind to the fact. We shall speak of this again later.

We see here, then, that one thing is a clear evidence of a life truly acceptable to God; it is the absolute Lordship of Jesus Christ. Paul first used that word, "Lord," at his conversion; it came out spontaneously when he realized that Jesus lives From that moment Jesus was his Lord, his Master. We know from his life afterward how utter was that surrender and change of government. Everything from that hour was on the basis of "What wilt Thou?"

Yes, it is the hallmark of a true Christian life when, with the same inward realization and abandonment, we say to Jesus, "Lord," and thenceforth have our whole lives governed by Him as Master.

3. "Christ In You"

There is one more indispensable mark and feature of the Christian life to which we will point at this time. It is shown in the words addressed to Paul by one Ananias: "The Lord Jesus ... hath sent me that thou mayest ... be filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 9:17).

The consummation of this basic work, by which we become Christians in the true sense, is that everything which is true of Christ is made an inward thing with us. Up to this point, although everything has been very real and deep changes have taken place, it has been mainly as in an outward relationship with Christ. But it would have been fatal to have left it there, however great the discovery. We cannot live upon something which happened at a certain time. We cannot meet all the tremendous forces of evil which will oppose us, in the strength of a mere memory, however vivid. We shall never live triumphantly, or serve effectively, or satisfy God truly, on any basis of what is merely outward and objective.

The fact is that only Christ can really satisfy God; only Christ can do God's will and God's work. Only Christ can overcome the spiritual forces of evil. Yes, only Christ can really live the Christian live. Hence, the one great inclusive and crowning reality of a Christian is - Christ Himself WITHIN! Paul later put this in these words: "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27).

This becomes true by a definite act when we believe. The Holy Spirit takes possession of us in an inward way. This indwelling of Christ had never been known by any man in history until Christ had died and risen and been glorified. It is therefore the peculiar wonder and glory of the Christian. It is this very thing that explains the New Testament term - "born anew." There is nothing like it before.

So, then, in a word, our question, "What is a Christian?" is answered in three initial things.

a. Realizing that Jesus is alive.
b. Enthroning Him as absolute Lord.
c. Having Him as an inward presence and power by the Holy Spirit.

The testimony of a true Christian must ever be - 

"He lives! He lives!
Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me, He talks with me
Along life's narrow way.
He lives, He lives,
Salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives?
He lives within my heart!"

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 4 - "What Is A Christian?")

The Hope of Peace



Despite man's best efforts, the world's longing for peace remains unfulfilled. Each new generation has high hopes for reconciliation among people and nations but in the end faces disappointment.

One day Christ will return and make everything right. Until then, believers are called to be His ambassadors of peace. However, becoming a Christian does not automatically change us into people who pursue kindness and unity.

At times we're quick-tempered and impatient and find it hard to live in harmony with others. We may have trouble letting go of attitudes or habits that hurt those around us—and occasionally we don't even want to. God knows our true character and has provided the Holy Spirit to transform us into Jesus' likeness. The Spirit opens our minds to understand and apply Scripture. He gives us the power to say no to ungodliness and to replace me-centered thinking with a Christ-centered viewpoint. He patiently produces His fruit in us, which includes love, joy, and peace (Gal. 5:22-23). With His help, we can become peacemakers who work to bring about reconciliation between God and others (Matt. 5:9).

While our world keeps hoping for peace through man's solutions, we know the only source of lasting unity is Jesus Christ.

The Lord wants our hearts to be ruled by His peace (Col. 3:15) and our relationships to be marked by a spirit of oneness. How encouraged other people will be when they realize it's the transforming power of God in our lives that brings about reconciliation in our marriages, families, and churches.

~Charles Stanley~

Monday, February 24, 2014

What Is A Christian? # 2

What a Christian Is NOT (continued)

We do not appeal to you to join a movement. We do not invite youth, saying, "Here is something into which you can throw all your natural powers and youthful enthusiasm!" We would say: "God has a purpose: you are of concern to Him in relation to that purpose. But - you cannot even know or enter into that purpose until something has happened in you which has made you another person. In that purpose you will need much more than natural powers and youthful enthusiasm."

That brings us to the positive side -

What A Christian IS

In seeking to show what a Christian really is, we can do no better than take the case of one who not only was a great instance himself, but whose experience has been that of every true Christian since. We refer to the one who was addressed by a Roman "king" in the words at the head of this chapter - the Apostle Paul. While the method of his conversion may not be the usual or general one, the principles are always the same.

Here, then, are the first three principles and realities of a true Christian life.

1. "Who art Thou?" "I am Jesus."

The first thing is the inward realization that Jesus is (not was) a living Person.

The very first words of Paul when confronted by Christ were: "Who art Thou?" To which the answer came clear and strong - "I am Jesus!" It was a startling discovery, and Paul might well have exclaimed, "What, Jesus alive?" Jesus had been put to death, crucified. All that remained to do was to blot out the memory of Him and destroy what represented Him. To this work Paul (then Saul) had committed himself. We can hardly imagine, then, what a startling and paralyzing thing it was to be confronted with the fact that Jesus was not dead, but alive, and in glory. And not only with the fact, but with the Person Himself.

All that this implied and involved has been the teaching of many centuries since. But for those to whom these present lines are addressed, this can be resolved into a very simple matter. We begin our Christian life by an experience of this living reality. Not a Jesus of history, but a Jesus of heart experience. That He really is alive is the one thing which is open to be proved by us, and it is the most serious matter as to our eternal destiny. We have only to drop our traditions, our prejudices, our suspicions, our questions, our mental problems, and, quietly kneeling, speak to Him (although unseen) as we would speak to one whom we could see; telling Him out of the honesty of our heart what we would tell Him if we were face to face. The first step is definitely to speak to Him, as to a Person.

This is the way of a discovery. We learn from the New Testament that the Spirit of God is abroad in the world just to bring about this discovery - to make real that Jesus lives to save and be our very life. This wonderful realization, that Jesus lives, comes to the heart of every one who honestly turns and puts it to the test; and everything springs out of that.

There is only one way, really, of knowing Jesus, and that is by coming to Him. It may seem very unreal and foolish to say something to someone of whose existence you have no inward proof; but might this not be the same in other circumstances? You have heard of a physician. What you have heard makes you feel that he is just the man for your case. Will you say that you don't believe that there is such a person? Will you say that there is plenty of evidence available that he was killed some time ago? Will you go as far as going to his house and seeing the man spoken of, and then telling the man you you don't believe that he is a physician? If you will do this, then either your case is not very serious, or you are refusing to admit its seriousness. If you are really alive to your need, the very least that you will do will be to go the physician, tell him your trouble, and say: "I am advised that you can meet my need, and I ask you to do so. My coming to you represents an honest inquiry and committal, in spite of many doubts and questions."

My friend, Jesus Christ was ever ready to make the desired gesture to an approach like that. The discovery that Christ is a living reality is the first thing in the Christian life. This is a test as well as a testimony.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 3)

Wise Leadership


“Chose some wise, understanding and respected men from each of your tribes, and I will set them over you.”    Deuteronomy 1:13

The selection process of wise leadership can make or break an organization. We are constantly faced with this in our families, church, work, schools, civic groups, and professional associations. Wise leadership does not come about as a result of pride’s persuasion. It is not found in the “tit for tat” of petty politics. So where do you look for wise leaders? A good place to begin is within the ranks of those who already exhibit wise leadership (Acts 15:22). You see it in the open and authentic environment they create in their work and home, by their own honesty around personal weaknesses and strengths. Indeed, wise leaders are excellent listeners. They listen with the intent to understand. Wisdom desires understanding of what you are thinking and what you are feeling. You observe their wisdom in one-on-one conversation, as they know what questions to ask. They challenge you to think and offer counsel as is appropriate.
   
Wise leaders are not gurus or know-it-alls. Instead they are smart enough to understand the vastness of what they don’t know. Moreover, a wise leader is respected (I Timothy 3:8). Those who know them the best respect them the most. If those in someone’s inner circle lack respect for the person in leadership, so will those outside their circle of influence. Indeed, respect comes over time. It is the result of doing what you say. It is integrity in living out what you say you believe. Consistent Christ-like behavior invites raving reviews of respect. Wisdom and respect go hand-in-hand. They promote each another.
   
Last of all, wise leadership points toward God. (Any infatuation with them as an individual is directed to their heavenly Father). Wisdom can only remain in a humble heart. It is within the incubator of humility that wisdom germinates and flourishes. Therefore (aptly so), a wise leader shows humility in their heart for God.
   
God entrusts wisdom to the humble of heart. He is stingy in giving wisdom to the proud. Pride cannot be trusted to be used for His glory. God-given wisdom is priceless. Even religious leaders can forget the Lord’s wisdom (Jeremiah 2:8). It is the application of wisdom that matures relationships, facilitates faith, and grows business and ministry. Wise leaders do not always tell you what you want to hear, but listen to them. Their words are sometimes hard and seem at the moment to be intolerant and insensitive. But this is the maturing process. Wisdom makes foolishness uncomfortable. It is wise leadership that leads you beyond mediocrity and immaturity. Wise leaders lead you to grow in your relationship with Christ. They promote God’s agenda. Follow wise leaders and be a wise leader. Patiently and prayerfully select and appoint wise leadership.

~Wisdom Hunters Devotional~

Sunday, February 23, 2014

What Is A Christian?

"And Agrippa said unto Paul, with but little persuasion thou wouldest fain make me a Christian" (Acts 26:28)

Let us say at the outset that we are using the word "Christian" strictly according to what is found in the New Testament, and it is assumed that this will be accepted. Our inquiry will take the form firstly of a process of elimination, and we shall observe - 

What A Christian Is Not

1. To become a Christian is NOT to become "religious," or to adopt a new "religion."

Among non-Christian people, a turning to Christ is often referred to as "becoming religious." Such expressions, with their associated ideas, are altogether inadequate and indeed fundamentally false. There was no more religious man on the earth, in his time, than Saul of Tarsus. Read what he says of himself in Acts 22 and 26, and Philippians 3. Here was a man who was just aflame with religious zeal and passion. No argument is necessary, with history before us, to prove how wide of the mark religion can be.

And that is true of "Christianity," when it is merely a matter of religion. To be a true Christian is not to accept  a creed or statement of doctrine, to observe certain rites and ordinances, attend certain services and functions, and conform more or less diligently to a prescribed manner of life. All this may be carried very far, with very many good works; but those concerned may still be outside the true New Testament category of "Christian." Herein lies the danger of an assumed acceptance with God, which may bring that bitter disillusionment foretold by our Lord Himself in those startling words: "Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not ... by Thy name do many mighty works?' And then will I profess unto them, 'I never knew you: depart from Me' " (Matthew 7:22, 23).

No, religion is not Christianity, either more or less; it may be only a deception. So that when we seek that people should become Christians, we are not asking them to change their religion, nor are we asking them to become religious. Religion, as such, has never made this world happier or better.

2. To become a Christian is NOT to join an institution called "The Church."

If the truth were known, there is no such thing as "joining" the Christian Church. We never took any steps, either of word or deed, in order to get our limbs to become members of our bodies. There is no distinction between our members and our bodies - our members comprise our bodies; but they do so, not by organization, invitation, examination, interrogation or catechism, but simply by life. So, in the Church of Christ, provided that a true life-relationship exists, a "membership" in the technical sense is a superfluity, and may be a menace. If there is not that relationship, then no "membership" can constitute the Church of Christ.

There are multitudes, we fear, who have"membership" in what is called the "Church," who are not able to stand up to the test which will be presented when we come to speak of what a Christian is. But let us say here that when we appeal to people to become Christians we are not asking them to "join the Church." And it must be realized that Christianity is not just one more institution or society. You may go to many places called "churches," and never really meet Christ, or find satisfaction.

Of course, that is negative. We must realize, however, that when we become Christians we share one new life in Christ with all other born again believers, and thus we become one in Christ. That really is the Church. It is for us, then, to cherish that relationship and jealously watch over its sacredness. There are immense values in it.

3. To become a Christian is NOT to become a part of a new movement.

It is true that there is a sense in which Christianity is a movement, a Divine movement from Heaven. But there are very many who conceive of Christianity in terms of a great enterprise for world betterment or even evangelization. The appeal is so often made that people will come and associate themselves with this great "work." There is that in most people which makes a response to such an appeal, and would like to be in a great movement. But such a way of approach is to court trouble, or at least to be found sooner or later in a false position. Moses got the "movement" idea in Egypt - and then had forty years' inaction in the desert.

There is that which comes before the "movement," and the movement is with God, not with us. The greatest value in movement, when God's time comes for it, often is that we have learned not to move without Him.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with# 2)

Jesus Our Intimate Friend



I’ve counseled plenty of folks who argue that they are not worthy of God’s love. Of all the passages I could point to that describe the Lord’s devotion, today’s is the one I think best showcases the unqualified friendship He offers His followers.

As Jesus was praying in the garden of Gethsemane on the night before His crucifixion, Judas Iscariot approached him with a band of men. The betrayer stepped forward and kissed the Lord’s cheek. And what was Jesus’ response? According to another disciple, Matthew, He called the man “Friend” (Matt. 26:50).

Judas expected Jesus to establish His kingdom on earth and drive the Romans out of Israel—anyone who could calm a storm at sea could easily remove an oppressive government! But Judas’s interest in Jesus was more personal and political than spiritual. In fact, John reported that his fellow disciple stole from the money box (12:6). Today the man’s name is synonymous with those who betray others for personal gain.

In spite of Judas’ greed, blind ambition, and betrayal, Jesus never stopped loving him; He still used the word “friend” to address the one-time disciple. The Lord does not place conditions on His love or reject people who fail to meet certain standards. He simply cares for us as we are.
People cannot earn Jesus Christ’s love and friendship. He takes the initiative, reaches out, and draws into fellowship those who are willing. We are not worthy, but we are privileged to live in His love anyway. In the Lord, we find a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Prov. 18:24).

~Charles Stanley~

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Standing Firm In The Lord # 3

God's Call to Us (continued)

It is quite true that in the normal experience of the Tabernacle boards they were all joined together by the supporting crossbars. There bars gave solidity and strength to the structure, and it is generally thought that they typify the spiritual facts which bind God's children together in their life of faith. We need these divinely given helps, and we do well to make full use of them as we are able. Nevertheless, although it is essential that we learn to stand together, it must equally be true that in the Lord we can stand alone. Fellowship life is a divine provision, and it is almost impossible to exaggerate its importance in our spiritual life. We need one another, and the Lord needs that we recognize and maintain the unity which He has provided. But every spiritual blessing carries with it a corresponding spiritual peril, and it is a great peril of fellowship that we may misuse it and lean on one another instead of standing in the Lord. There is no substitute for a personal life with the Lord.

The truth is that fellowship life is only strong when the individual components are themselves rooted and grounded in God. It would not be difficult to find in both Old and New Testament examples of those who made a great contribution to the corporate life of God's people just because they could stand alone. Israel was saved because at the critical moment Gideon and his men stood firmly in their places, undaunted by the great odds against them. The spiritual life of God's people was maintained by the faithful few who in the night watches stood before the Lord in the intercessory work of the sanctuary. What importance is attached to this simple fact that the individual boards contribute so much to the whole because they have been made to stand!

Standing in Redemption

A further look at the Tabernacle boards will show us that although they have been cut off from their previous natural roots, they are not rootless - far from it. The boards would not have stood up for long if they had just been balanced, especially as they would have been balanced in sand. No, they were not taken from their natural roots to be left in a precarious and unstable condition but were each given two sockets of solid silver. Silver reminds us of redemption, and none of us can ever stand in the purposes of God unless we are firmly upheld by the redeeming power of Christ. The boards were shaped in such a way that each of them had its own means of penetrating into the sockets, and so, as it were, appropriating their strength. Each board had its own sockets. There was not a long bar of silver with holes for each board but a separate block for each of the two "hands" or tenons of the board. Here, then, was the secret of the stability of each board, it had its own solid foundation and it had an individual rooting in that foundation.

Redemption means that we do not belong to ourselves, we are purchased ones. Let the hands of our faith reach down well into this glorious truth and let us know for ourselves the reality of being bought by God for Himself, and we shall find stability even in the midst of the desert sand. Let a group of Christians stand in the good of this same glorious truth and at the same time stand together, and God will have a dwelling place among them.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(The End)

Godliness



There is a common misconception that believers should be perfect. Pretending to have our lives in order, many of us wear happy faces and speak words that sound acceptable. At times we’re ashamed to admit our shortcomings, as if they should not exist. Salvation through Jesus, however, doesn’t change the fact that sin is present in our life. When we’re born again, God forgives us and sees us as righteous. Yet our battle with sin continues till we arrive in heaven.

In fact, striving for perfection actually can be a trap that pulls us away from living a godly life. Functioning in this way is a form of relying on our own capability. Jesus said that He came to heal the spiritually sick because they recognized their weakness. With an awareness of our inadequacy comes the realization of our need for Him.

The world sees successful individuals as powerful and self-sufficient, but Jesus didn’t care about these qualities. Instead, He wants people to be aware of their own brokenness. This is the foundation for godliness.

We should accept our neediness and seek God passionately. Doing so allows the following attributes to develop: a hunger for God’s Word, faithful service, deepening trust, and decision-making based upon principle rather than preference. Patiently and mercifully, God matures us.

Be careful not to cover up your sins in order to look like a “good Christian.” Without recognition and confession of our sinfulness, we are unable to rely fully on God. It is only with this awareness that we can passionately seek Him, obey in His strength, and confess with repentance when we miss the mark.

~Charles Stanley~

Friday, February 21, 2014

Standing Firm In The Lord # 2

Preparation of the Boards (continued)

Then the boards were completely covered with gold. This, of course, had the effect of giving them a value which was altogether beyond themselves, a glory which did not belong to them by nature. This is another important feature of life in Christ, the bestowing upon us of the glories of Christ's own nature. Gold always represents the very nature of God. Christ, as the true Son of the Father, is pure gold. By His redemptive work He has provided this gift to us of His own very life. The humble, ordinary tree could only provide a very humble and ordinary board, but the glorious gold of His beauty gives an entirely new significance and value to it. So with us. The true spiritual values of our lives are those which we receive by faith as a gift from Christ. As we stand up like the golden boards in God's house our testimony is, "Not what I am, O Lord, but what Thou Art."

Mention should be made of the uniform height of the boards, which was ten cubits. It seems that in the Scriptures the number Ten speaks of responsibility under test. We remember that the young Daniel, when first he stood up in the Lord's Name, asked for a test of ten days to prove the practical value of his abstemious life. In the New Testament we have the Ten Virgins, the Ten Pounds and the ten days of tribulation for the faithful church in Smyrna. So the phrase "standing up" has also this sense of those who can bear responsibility and stand the test of time. This is the kind of material which God uses for His building.

God's Call to Us

The challenge of this symbolism is very simple but it is also very searching. It means that I must face the question as to what would happen in my case if all coverings and all supports were stripped away, if I were suddenly bereft of even the God-given aids to strength and unity, and I were left quite alone. I would e a solitary board. Yes, but would I still be standing up? This would be the ultimate test.

We are all being tested - there can be no question of that. God's people are passing through all sorts of strange and painful experiences, and the indications are that these will increase rather than otherwise. What does it mean? It means that our own personal life with God is being exposed to every kind of test, and that if we are to be worthy elements in His building we are expected always to be found standing up, even if we seem to stand alone.

It is not enough to have been cut down and shaped correctly as a board. It is not even enough to be gold-covered and radiant with His glory. It is essential that we remain standing. satan's work is to shake us, to bring about our collapse, to confront the Lord with the sorry spectacle of prostrate boards, lying down in the face of wicked wiles and threats. Even an Elijah, able so boldly to declare that he was a man who stood before the Lord, was at one point so disheartened and discouraged, so stumbled by God's strange dealings with him, that he was found lying down under the juniper tree. He who had stood so boldly for so long, had now collapsed. And why? Largely because he looked around at the rest of the people who were all lying down in unbelief and fear. There were none who would rally to his support. He seems to have given way to self-pity, for he complained to the Lord, "I, even I only, am left" (1 Kings 19:10). This was not in fact true. It is seldom true that God's servants are as alone as they seem. But even if it had been true that was no reason why Elijah should lie down with the rest of them. And there is no reason why we should allow our difficulties and apparent lack of support from others to make us collapse. His House is made up of those who know how to stand - if necessary to stand alone.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 3)

God Is Our Loving Father



Humanity tends to project its own faulty habits onto God. This is especially true regarding the nature of His love. We think we must barter, plead, or try hard to earn the Lord's favor. But as the prodigal son learned, the Father's love is unconditional.  

The wayward son expected his father's love to be diminished. Therefore, he went home hoping for a place among the family servants. Imagine the boy's delight when Dad greeted him with a hug and a celebration. His actions certainly didn't merit an outpouring of affection, but Jesus' parable is all about a Father who doesn't give people what they deserve. 

A love based on conduct would keep people guessing, Have I done enough? Instead, God cares for you simply because you're you, and He expects nothing in return. Consider the prodigal's life after his homecoming party. He didn't move into the servants' quarters and get to work. He was reinstated to his place as the second son of a wealthy man, with all of the privilege that entails. In the same way, believers are the Lord's cherished children (2 Cor. 6:18). When God looks at His loved ones, He doesn't focus upon past failures, faults, or sin. He sees the heirs to His kingdom—men and women who love Him and desire to spend eternity in His presence.

No matter how far we may wander from the Lord's perfect will for our lives, we are always welcome back. The Bible teaches that God's love cannot be lost, regardless of sin or poor decisions (though we may have to live with the consequences). Our Father's arms are always open. 

~Charles Stanley~

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Standing Firm In The Lord

Exodus 36:20; 1 Kings 18:15; Judges 7:21; Psalm 134:1

The Tabernacle represented the totality of the people of God, the sum of them all, in their life together in Christ. It was, however, a movable erection, not fixed in any permanent way, but built and taken down again then rebuilt and again taken to pieces, according to the journeyings of the people as determined by the will of God. Every time this dismantling process took place, there was a moment when the essential nature of the building was uncovered and found to consist of boards - boards standing up.

When the four coverings which masked the Tabernacle were removed, the essential structure was seen to be made up of three wooden walls with their curtains. After the curtains had been taken down, it could be seen that the rows of boards were held together by various bars which ran horizontally along the inside of the boards to join them up. In the dismantling the time came for these bars to be removed, but it is important to realize that when this was done the boards did not collapse, they remained standing. Even when their connections were removed and all outward supports taken away from the individual boards, they did not fall flat.

One by one the boards were then lifted up and prepared for the journey, until at last there was only one board left. It was not necessarily the same board each occasion, but there was always a time when only one remained. This was not all that could be seen of the Tabernacle representation of the House of God - just one board. But it was still standing. "He made the tabernacle of boards of acacia wood, standing up." Thus, with the final uncovering and separating, it was seen that, reduced to its simple minimum, the hidden secret of God's building is boards which are always capable of standing up.

Preparation of the Boards

Each board, of course, had its own history, just as every one of us who has a part in God's spiritual House must also have a personal history under God's hand. It was a history of severance, for at one time the tree had grown on its own roots and depended on them for its life and support. It may have been a good tree and stable enough, but when it stood by virtue of its own natural strength it had no place in God's building. Nature, however, was dealt with, dealt with severely and even ruthlessly, as the felling axe cut away the tree from its own standing and left it prostrate and helpless. Nor was this the end of the story, for the cutting process had to go on, reducing and shaping the wood until it was suitable for the sacred task for which it had been chosen.

The spiritual application of this felling and shaping process is familiar to us. We know that we can have no vital place in the purposes of God until the sharp knife of the Cross had done its work. It is essential that we should know ourselves to be cut away from our on natural resources, removed from the realm of what we are as men, and it is also essential that the Lord should be able to reduce us and re-shape us according to His own mind. We cannot do this for ourselves, but we can recognize our need and cooperate with the Lord in humble faith and patience as He works upon us. In the case of the board, it was a once-for-all operation. In our case the work of the Cross must go on all the time. Not till we get to glory shall we be able to claim that no more of this work is needed.

Reduction is, of course, the negative part of God's dealing with us, but it is all done with the positive purpose of making us fit for the work in hand. Every one of the boards was made to measure up to a certain prescribed standard; to all appearances they were all alike and all according to the divine measurements. In the spiritual outworking we must appreciate that God neither desires nor produces outward uniformity, that is not His purpose at all. For us the divine standard is an inward matter, but there is nothing haphazard about it, for the divine measure is the measure of Christ. This is the positive objective which the Father has in view in all His dealings with us, He is conforming us to His Son.

~. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 2)

Pass Through the Waters

When thou passest through the waters... they shall not overflow thee (Isaiah 43:2).

God does not open paths for us in advance of our coming. He does not promise help before help is needed. He does not remove obstacles out of our way before we reach them. Yet when we are on the edge of our need, God's hand is stretched out.
Many people forget this, and are forever worrying about difficulties which they foresee in the future. They expect that God is going to make the way plain and open before them, miles and miles ahead; whereas He has promised to do it only step by step as they may need. You must get to the waters and into their floods before you can claim the promise. Many people dread death, and lament that they have not "dying grace." Of course, they will not have dying grace when they are in good health, in the midst of life's duties, with death far in advance. Why should they have it then? Grace for duty is what they need then, living grace; then dying grace when they come to die.
--J. R. M.
"When thou passest through the waters"
Deep the waves may be and cold,
But Jehovah is our refuge,
And His promise is our hold;
For the Lord Himself hath said it,
He, the faithful God and true:
"When thou comest to the waters
Thou shalt not go down, BUT THROUGH."
Seas of sorrow, seas of trial,
Bitterest anguish, fiercest pain,
Rolling surges of temptation
Sweeping over heart and brain
They shall never overflow us
For we know His word is true;
All His waves and all His billows
He will lead us safely through.
Threatening breakers of destruction,
Doubt's insidious undertow,
Shall not sink us, shall not drag us
Out to ocean depths of woe;
For His promise shall sustain us,
Praise the Lord, whose Word is true!
We shall not go down, or under,
For He saith, "Thou passest THROUGH."

--Annie Johnson Flint
~L. B. Cowman~

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Cross in the Life of Elijah # 4

The Conquest of Death (continued)

Look at the militant aspect of it also. Ahab would slay Elijah; but when the bow was drawn at a venture, the man who tried to disguise himself, the man who wore armor, the man who did everything that man can do to avoid the Divine sentence was the man who was found out. The place in his armor was discovered by an arrow shot at a venture, and he died. According to the word of the Lord he died, and if you read that pronouncement again, uttered as it was it was in Naboth's vineyard, you will find it was Elijah who spoke that word.

Then we have that occasion when he was so desperately broken. God gave him, as we have said, a sleep, and then some food: then another sleep, and more food, and in the strength of this he went on and came to the mount. There the Lord graciously appeared to him, and what the Lord said to him was in effect: Elijah, now that you have given in your resignation and are utterly broken and disillusioned about yourself and your ministry; now, Elijah, your real work is but beginning. The fire, the earthquake, the mighty wind, all these are but in a sense preparation, necessary preparation, but the still small voice is essentially My work. That came with a two-fold purposes to Elijah. He was reminded that all that had been had its value; thee were seven thousand who were sustained by the prayers of Elijah; though they never knew and never thanked him; seven thousand, for all we know, kept in heart because of that bold public figure, Elijah. That may well have been a part of his ministry, but the outcome of it all is a train of events. He is to anoint Elisha, and Elisha in his turn will anoint Jehu, and the end of that train of events which emerges from Elijah's brokenness there in the wilderness is that Jezebel is slain according to the word of the Lord. God takes a long time to work. As far as we know, Elijah had gone to glory long before it happened; but it happened, and it all came out of Elijah's ministry.

I wonder whether you are seeing the implications of this as it has come to my own heart? The Lord delivers us unto death. It is a painful, terrible experience, but on the one hand we know He is going to bring us through. His end is life and not death. On the other hand, there is something more even than this. His purpose is, through us, to turn the tables on death and slay it. We do not want to become involved in any thought of slaying people. Ahab and Jezebel stand for spiritual evil, that which is out to murder the people of God. The man who feels the painful pressure of their murderous intents most is the man who in the end slays them by the word of the Lord. That is what you and I have been chosen for; to escape death, yes, but to do more than that, to slay death, to triumph in life by Christ. Remember the fifty men. The disciples later on remembered that incident, and, when certain people would not receive the Lord, they said, "Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elijah did?" Oh, how they had misunderstood! Elijah never called down fire nor moved a finger to protect himself. They wee moved by personal resentment that their Master had been rejected. In that personal way, because they had a grievance, they would slay other men. The Lord says, "Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of." Oh, dear friends, never let us think in terms of revenge, or of anything that is stirred in our hearts, because of what we suffer.

You see, these fifty came up and said, "Thou man of God ... come down." It is not, Elijah, come down. These men are defying God. They say, "O man of God, the king hath said, Come down"; and fire came down out of heaven to devour them. Why? Because it is not Elijah that the attack is against. It is against the Lord. On the third occasion, indeed, the captain of that fifty recognized something of the Lord, and he is not slain.

Thus, you see, the whole atmosphere and the whole thought of this life of Elijah is not that he is doing mighty things to justify himself, but that he becomes as it were a battleground for the glory of the Lord, and by his wholehearted submission to Christ, to God, his devotedness to the Lord, bearing the painfulness of death, tasting death, he nevertheless triumphs over death and destroys it, so that in the end he goes up to God. He never died, he is raptured. Because God lifts him up, you say. Yes, but because already there is wrought in him a victory over death. Already in his very being, there is, as it were, an answer to the challenge of death: as I have said, not just that mercy of the Lord protecting from death, but he is an overcomer in this sense, that there is a power of life n him which is death to death. That is why he is caught up, and I believe that also is, in the Lord's purpose, the basis of our being caught up. I sometimes tremble at the easy ideas I personally have had about the Lord's coming and about the rapture. I realize that tremendous age-long and eternal issues are involved in this thing. It represents the culmination of experience of a people delivered over to death, but not dying; and not only not dying, but triumphing in life, turning the tables on death, and slaying it.

Now, may the Lord strengthen our hearts that, however bitter may be the tasting of death, we may triumph in life by Christ the Lord.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(The End)

Do Not Pray Yourselves Out of Faith


Jesus saith unto him, "Go thy way; thy son liveth. And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way" (John 4:50).
When ye pray, believe (Mark 11:24).

When there is a matter that requires definite prayer, pray till you believe God, until with unfeigned lips you can thank Him for the answer. If the answer still tarries outwardly, do not pray for it in such a way that it is evident that you are not definitely believing for it. Such a prayer in place of being a help will be a hindrance; and when you are finished praying, you will find that your faith has weakened or has entirely gone. The urgency that you felt to offer this kind of prayer is clearly from self and Satan. It may not be wrong to mention the matter in question to the Lord again, if He is keeping you waiting, but be sure you do so in such a way that it implies faith.
Do not pray yourself out of faith. You may tell Him that you are waiting and that you are still believing Him and therefore praise Him for the answer. There is nothing that so fully clinches faith as to be so sure of the answer that you can thank God for it. Prayers that pray us out of faith deny both God's promise in His Word and also His whisper "Yes," that He gave us in our hearts. Such prayers are but the expression of the unrest of one's heart, and unrest implies unbelief in reference to the answer to prayer. "For we which have believed do enter into rest" (Heb. 4:3).
This prayer that prays ourselves out of faith frequently arises from centering our thoughts on the difficulty rather than on God's promise. Abraham "considered not his own body," "he staggered not at the promise of God" (Rom. 4:19, 20). May we watch and pray that we enter not into temptation of praying ourselves out of faith.
--C. H. P.
Faith is not a sense, nor sight, nor reason, but taking God at His Word.
--Christmas Evans
The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety.
--George Mueller
You will never learn faith in comfortable surroundings. God gives us the promises in a quiet hour; God seals our covenants with great and gracious words, then He steps back and waits to see how much we believe; then He lets the tempter come, and the test seems to contradict all that He has spoken. It is then that faith wins its crown. That is the time to look up through the storm, and among the trembling, frightened seamen cry, "I believe God that it shall be even as it was told me."
Believe and trust; through stars and suns,
Through life and death, through soul and sense,
His wise, paternal purpose runs;
The darkness of His Providence
Is starlit with Divine intents.
~L. B. Cowman~

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Cross In the Life of Elijah # 3

The Sentence of Death (continued)

It is not that as servants of the Lord, we move on to another plane. At least, that is not our consciousness; not that we pass from one realm, perhaps to some extent earthly, to another more heavenly: pass from that which has a good deal of the marks of carnality about it to that which is more spiritual. It is something deeper than that. We pass right out, we are finished. That is where Elijah was. There are other factors in his experience, one of which was undoubtedly the physical. God dealt with that by giving him sleep and food and drink. But the whole thing combined, whatever it was, had this effect, that Elijah, in his own heart of hearts, was a slain man. If he asked the Lord to slay him, it was because he already felt the sword in his heart, and it will not be strange to some of you to say that there are some things a good deal worse than facing danger of your life. That was no new experience to Elijah. He was not likely to be overwhelmed by being in danger, but when somehow the bitterness gets inside, the consciousness comes that after all it is all a failure, well that is tasting death. Elijah might have been slain and never have tasted death, but there in the wilderness he tasted death. Had he been a more superficial man, he would have gone on for months in the joy of what had happened on Mount Carmel. Had  he been out for self-interest, that would have kept him going a long time, but it was because his heart was set on a real, true work of God that he could never be satisfied with anything less.

The Conquest of Death

Well, of course, there is the rest of that chapter, and something far bigger emerges from this.Elijah was not finished, after all. He was a man delivered over to death; but this is the remarkable thing, that he is a man who never died! Other prophets died; Elijah never died. The man whose life was most sought, the man who from without and from within, by starvation, by the sword, by wicked rulers, by companies of men, was hunted and hounded for his life, that man never died! He went up to heaven in a whirlwind. That is the blessed and wonderful paradox about this life, that, after all you do not die. The Lord did not slay Elijah, nor did Elijah slay himself; he went on. That is the encouragement, the comfort, of it all. Oh, the Lord's purpose, however low He brings us, is not to slay us, not in that sense of a barren end. Elijah may feel, and some of us may feel, that things come to an end sometimes, but the Lord never intends an end like that, and we who are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, we live by Christ, and Christ's life reigns in us. Praise God, that is His intention all the time.

But more than that: the Lord does not need to take you so low just so that you can live. All the people of God will live. In Elijah's day there was seven thousand at least who lived. But have you noticed this further feature of Elijah's life, that, while he did not die, other people died? He slew the murderers; he slew death. All the saints will escape death and live, but I wonder how many of us will overcome death and slay it? That is the purpose of God. Now go through Elijah's life again, and you will find this, that he every time turned the tables against death, and the thing that would slay was slain. The simplest and perhaps the happiest episode, because in this case no human life is involved, i the case of the widow. Do not forget that, when Elijah arrived at her house, she was just making last preparations in order to die:and Elijah came there, a dying man. He had not a crumb to eat. He was one worse than she was in himself; yet the remarkable things is that not only did Elijah live, but the woman and her son lived. Life came into that house: death was overcome.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 4)