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Saturday, January 31, 2015

God's Reactions to Man's Defections # 53

The Retrospective Feature (continued)

Incorruptible Life in Christ (continued)

Let me say to young Christians: Be very wary of an insidious deception - partly through unfortunate mistranslations of the Scriptures, but more through common language and phraseology about immortality, the 'immortality of the soul'. The Bible does not teach it! The Bible word, where the translators of the Authorized Version have put 'immortality', is really 'incorruption' - ad incorruption is quite a different thin from what men mean by the immortality of the soul. They lump all men together in this and by their word 'immortality' lift us on to a level to which we do not all belong, and to which we can never come naturally. Incorruption is the "true" immortality.

But immortality is thought of as continuity of existence, and we will allow that for the soul; but there is a very great difference between continuity of existence and incorruption, incorruptible life. Eternal life is a different thing altogether from just continuity of life. It is a kind of life, a character of life. It is the life which we have in Christ. You see, this goes to the root of the whole matter. We have got to get right back to Jesus Christ. Christ is different from all other men in the essential nature which is in Him; and, when He gives us His own life, we as Christians are different essentially, with the  biggest difference possible, from all other creations - because this is an eternal matter.

The Counter to Corruption

Now Paul sees corruption coming into the Church. Moral laxity, and all sorts of things which belong to this fallen creation, to this evil world, were creeping into the Church in Paul's day; corruption was manifesting itself in the life of God's people. What is going to be done about it? "Remember Jesus Christ"! For just consider: you and I have another life, through Christ, and we have got to live on the basis of that life, and to remember that it is not necessary for us to be corrupted. We have in us a life, the mighty life of God, which in Christ has overcome death and corruption, for man. "Remember Jesus Christ"! Remember that, in Jesus Christ, there is that which went through all corruption untainted, and it is still possible - and blessed be God, it has been proved actual again and again - for a child of God to walk in white raiment in the midst of Sodom and Gomorrah. Where satan's very seat is you may find saints waling in purity. It is the marvelous miracle of the Christian life that we can be subjected to all the filth and all the horror, all the corruption and pollution of this world around us, and still go on, unstained, untainted.

So, when corruption is assailing, is seeping in, remember: your life is not for you; that is not your way, that is not the way of Christ. This life is not one imposed upon you by law - it is something in you by power. Thank God for this miracle! A young man or young woman, without a great deal of knowledge, instruction, or teaching, or experience, has to go out into this world, and, without anther Christian anywhere near, be surrounded by people of the lowest type, and that young man or woman can be kept by the power of God unpolluted. This incorruptible life is very practical. Jesus is different. He is not just better than the rest; He is different, basically different from the rest. That is the truth about Jesus, and that is the truth about the child of God: not only a bit better than other people, but different. The life-principle is different. Is that important? Surely it is, if we are to negotiate this course safely to the end.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 54)

Our Prince of Peace

The Christmas rush is here. There are plans to make, gifts to buy, and parties to attend. Sometimes these activities leave us exhausted and cranky—instead of peace and joy, we may feel inner churning because there’s too much to do. Or perhaps this time of the year brings nothing but sad memories and loneliness. Unrealistic expectations and conflicts with loved ones often leave us depressed and discouraged.

How can Jesus be our Prince of Peace when our expectations and traditions fight against the tranquility we desire? To understand why Jesus was given this title, we must first understand what it means. First of all, God’s Son did not come to do away with all conflicts—not yet, anyway. One day He will return to earth and rule as King in an environment of external harmony, but that was not the purpose of His first coming. So while we’re on earth, we’ll have trouble (John16:33).

When Christ left heaven to become a human baby, His goal was to bring us peace with God by reconciling us to the Father. His death on the cross paid our sin debt in full, and our relationship with God is restored. Now He offers us divine peace—an inner serenity that fills our hearts and minds no matter what is going on in our circumstances.

Is your life characterized by a quiet assurance that guards your heart and mind all day long (Phil. 4:6-7), or have stressful circumstances left you feeling depressed or agitated? Try setting aside time each day to fix your eyes upon Jesus. Then let Him heal your heart and calm your spirit.

~Dr. Charles F. Stanley~

Friday, January 30, 2015

God's Reactions to Man's Defections # 52

The Retrospective Feature (continued)

Christ the Embodiment of Godliness

But here is this other great statement, in the first letter, chapter three, verse sixteen: "And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness" (or 'God-likeness'); "He Who was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, received up in glory." That is Christianity in a nutshell, a comprehensive and inclusive representation of everything upon which Christianity rests. There are other fragmentary retrospective features in these letters, but that is enough. The first great throw-back of the Apostle at this point of crisis and danger is to Christ, back to Christ; for Christ is ever the standard, not only backward but forward. At any given point where there are dangers, where changes are threatened, we must refer back to Christ, and from that point we have to carry on what has been of Christ from the beginning.

Here it says that Christ is the embodiment of godliness, or God-likeness. It is a mystery: 'great is the mystery of God-likeness.' The Greek word (eusebeia) combines the thoughts of worship, devotion, and piety. Here Christ is said to be the inclusive, comprehensive embodiment of all this - God's likeness indeed. Now that has a very practical application in this letter, for the real purpose of God in the Church is God-likeness, or conformity to the likeness of God's Son. It is the great dominating purpose and objective of God in our very lives as His people. How shall we explain or define godliness? It is Christ - the reproduction of Christ, the expression of Christ. It is the bringing of Christ into the present situation. He is the embodiment of godliness.

Incorruptible Life In Christ

Just consider for a moment who Christ is. I am sure that many of us Christians have not really understood Christ - and we do need to understand Him. You see, Christ was more than one man among many, albeit better than the rest, a real improvement on all other men. You might find somewhere a man of very high moral character, of unimpeachable integrity, and you might say, 'A splendid specimen of moral uprightness and goodness - and Jesus goes one better.' No, He is not just one better than the best. He is not one man among many, although better than all.

Let me put it another way. The goodness of Jesus was Divine goodness, and not human goodness. It was by Him, Jesus, that life and incorruption were brought to light, through the Gospel (2 Timothy 1:10). The very best specimen of mankind, morally, that you can find is still corruptible: he can still be corrupted - he has the seeds of corruption in his nature. But not so Jesus Christ. There is no corruption, there are no seeds of corruption, in Him. It is incorruptible life that has come with Him. And the life that He gives to the child of God is incorruptible life. That is not ourselves, what we are; it is a distinct gift which, while being in us, is apart from us. And mark you, that is the key to our spiritual survival, in spite of a world of corruption, and a nature of corruption. He has given to us His own incorruptible life. Life and incorruption have been brought to light through the Gospel.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 53)

Praying God's Will

But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some. Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: "The Lord knows those who are His," and, "Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity." But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will. - 2 Timothy 2:16-26

Can you honestly say that you know what God’s will is for your life, or a specific area of your life? Most Christians today do want to know God’s will but many of us are not sure how to find it. The answer lies in His Word, the Bible. It sounds simple, yet so many of us make it more complicated than it needs to be. We need to open the Bible and ask the Lord to speak to us. We need to start praying God’s Word back to Him. It is in praying God’s Word that we begin to truly understand His will for us.

Our Prayer revised from 2 Timothy 2:16-26:

Dear Heavenly Father, I pray that I will “shun profane and idle babblings” that increase ungodliness and “spread like cancer.” Lord, I pray that I “will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful” to You, my Master.  I pray for Your guidance in leading me to “pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” Dear Father, lead me away from “foolish and ignorant disputes” that “generate strife.” And, Lord, give me a servant’s heart that does not “quarrel but (is) gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition.” Use me Lord in those whose lives You want to touch “that they may know the truth,” “come to their senses,” and “escape the snare of the devil.” In Jesus name, Amen.

~Daily Disciples Devotional~

Thursday, January 29, 2015

God's Reactions to Man's Defections # 51

The Retrospective Feature

I want at this point to return for a few moments to the matter of the boards of the Tabernacle, referred to in our first chapter, when we saw God's provision for reinforcing the corners, the turning-points, with an extra board. Turning-points or angles are always danger spots, and the Lord has always made a special provision for such points in the course of His people's history. It is something to be taken up, if ever you are disposed to do so, in the Bible, and you will see how true it is. I have only to remind you, by way of instance, of the first chapter of the Book of Joshua. You could not have any chapter in the Bible which represents  a greater reinforcement of everything, taking up the past to carry it on to the future. That was a big turning-point, from the wilderness into the Land, and it certainly needed strength to turn that corner and negotiate that crisis safely.

In using again this illustration of the Tabernacle, the point that I want afresh to indicate is this: that the corners of the Tabernacle may be taken as a setting forth an arrival at a certain point. That point had, so to speak, a past. Things had moved up to that point, and from that point there was a future, a new phase, a new course in the road. And the reinforcement at the corner was a taking up of what had been up to that point, and saying, 'Now, we must safeguard that, we must conserve that, we must ratify that; we must be quite sure that that does not suffer loss or is allowed any weakness, in order that everything that is yet to be shall take up those values and continue them in strength.' For God does not intend a fundamental change in things, a change in character, a change in nature, at any point: He just means that all that He has done and given shall be carried on safely and in strength up to and through the next phase.

Now, when we come to these letters of Paul to Timothy, we have to recognize that they are the last writings of the Apostle - a fact which in itself represents a corner being turned, one phase closing and another phase coming. It was like that; things changed when Paul went. And it was because Paul himself was conscious of this that he wrote to Timothy as he did. These letters therefore by way of reinforcing the things of God, taking up what has been in the past and confirming and consolidating for the future. That is what God meant by these letters. And so we find in them first of all what we may call a retrospective feature, a look-back to the past. Timothy is taken back, right back to the beginning: to the beginning of Christianity, and to the beginning of his own work and ministry.

"Remember Jesus Christ"

Let us consider the retrospect as to the beginning of Christianity, which is Christ. Paul makes here a very strong and a very comprehensive throw-back to Christ, in two passages - one just a recall, the other a very inclusive statement. The first comes in the second letter, chapter two, verse eight: "Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead - of the seed of David, according to my gospel". "Remember Jesus Christ". We have come to a crisis, we have come to a turn, we have come to a point where things are changing. What is our safeguard at this point? "Remember Jesus Christ". It is only a way of saying: 'Bring Him into view again.' That is always God's method at any crisis - bring Jesus Christ into view again. Whether it be a crisis in a church, or a personal crisis in our own spiritual lives - "Remember Jesus Christ." How often the Apostle resorted to that method of dealing with difficult situations! At Philippi, for instance, where there was some trouble, some disagreement, some lack of single-mindedness, Paul resorted to this method: "Have this mind in you, which was ... in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 2:5).

I will not stay to gather up all the material on this point. Let me just remind you of the big turning-point which we find at the beginning of the Book of the Revelation. What a turning-point in the Church's history was there! Remember that the beginning of that book is a re-presentation of Jesus Christ, comprehensively and matchlessly. "Remember Jesus Christ." It is always like that. Suppose you are having a bad time - so bad that it is creating a real crisis for you. "Remember Jesus Christ." It is the greatest help in every such time. Is there some trouble between you and another Christian? "Remember Jesus Christ." Is there trouble in the assembly? "Remember Jesus Christ." The greatest corrective is to remember Jesus Christ.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 52 - (Christ the Embodiment of Godliness)

Too Tired to Trust and Too Tired to Pray

The Lord’s angelic messenger came back again, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat, for otherwise you won’t be able to make the journey.”—1 Kings 19:7

And what did God do with His tired servant? Gave him something good to eat, and put him to sleep. Elijah had done splendid work, and had run alongside of the chariot in his excitement, and it had been too much for his physical strength, and the reaction had come on, and he was depressed. The physical needed to be cared for. What many people want is sleep, and the physical ailment attended to. There are grand men and women who get where Elijah was—under the juniper tree! and it comes very soothingly to such to hear the words of the Master: “The journey is too great for thee, and I am going to refresh you.” Let us not confound physical weariness with spiritual weakness.
“I’m too tired to trust and too tired to pray, 
Said one, as the over-taxed strength gave way. 
The one conscious thought by my mind possessed, 
Is, oh, could I just drop it all and rest.
“Will God forgive me, do you suppose, 
If I go right to sleep as a baby goes, 
Without an asking if I may, 
Without ever trying to trust and pray?
“Will God forgive you? why think, dear heart, 
When language to you was an unknown art, 
Did a mother deny you needed rest, 
Or refuse to pillow your head on her breast?
“Did she let you want when you could not ask? 
Did she set her child an unequal task? 
Or did she cradle you in her arms, 
And then guard your slumber against alarms?
“Ah, how quick was her mother love to see, 
The unconscious yearnings of infancy. 
When you’ve grown too tired to trust and pray, 
When over-wrought nature has quite given way:
“Then just drop it all, and give up to rest, 
As you used to do on a mother’s breast, 
He knows all about it—the dear Lord knows, 
So just go to sleep as a baby goes;
“Without even asking if you may, 
God knows when His child is too tired to pray. 
He judges not solely by uttered prayer, 
He knows when the yearnings of love are there.
“He knows you do pray, He knows you do trust, 
And He knows, too, the limits’ of poor weak dust. 
Oh, the wonderful sympathy of Christ, 
For His chosen ones in that midnight tryst,
“When He bade them sleep and take their rest, 
While on Him the guilt of the whole world pressed—
You’ve given your life up to Him to keep, 
Then don’t be afraid to go right to sleep.”

~L. B. Cowman~

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

God's Reactions to Man's Defections # 50

The Divine Resource (continued)

Christians Are Super-men In Christ

Now, without taking that any further, I bring it to this focal point. Difficult as it may be for you and for me to believe it, especially at times, it is true that in a sense, and a very real sense, every Christian is a super-man or a super-woman. Every Christian is supposed to be something that no other person in this world, even at their best, can be. Every Christian is supposed to have knowledge and understanding of that which no other person at their wisest can know. Every Christian is supposed to do what no one outside of Christ can possibly do; and every Christian is supposed to go through what no one else can go through, in the way in which a Christian is supposed to go though it. There are imposed upon Christians demands which are super-human. There are given to Christians resources which are super-natural, from start to finish.

It is very important for young Christians to recognize this, and for all of us to call it to mind. When the whole story is told, when we know as we are known, when we see all things clearly and no longer through the glass darkly, the one thought that will, I am sure, overwhelm us will be this: 'It took the infinite power of Almighty God to do that, and I didn't know it!' Our salvation demanded that. Salvation is not the simple little thing that I am afraid many people think it is, or make it out to be. However simple may be the turning-point, there are vast immensities of Divine power lying behind the rebirth of any one soul. And to get that soul right through and bring it at last into His presence, glorified, calls for the "exceeding greatness of His power to usward." Thank God, that power is available!

Now is that not true, dear Christian? You have been on the way long enough. You know quite well that you could not have got through; you may have said, 'It is no good, I give it all up', and contemplated another course, looked for a way out - the situation was so difficult, so trying. Indeed, it may even have been worse: perhaps you actually broke down, and went all to pieces. Yet, in spite of everything, in spite of yourself, in spite of the devil and all his forces, you are here! How do you account for it? Well, there is something to account for it that is not in us, and in that sense we have surmounted a tremendous force of opposition and antagonism to our getting through to a glorious end. I have often said that, when we are there, we shall look at one another and say: 'Well, brother, we are here!' You did not expect to be, did you? - but you are here!' Yes, even Timothy will be there. With all that he had to face, and all that was put upon him, he could yet "be strengthened in the grace that is in Christ Jesus." That lifts us above the level of any human possibility.

Let us remember that we are, as Christians, supposed to be something other than, and more wonderful than, any other people in this world, in every way. That wonder  may be secret and hidden, not manifest to the world, but it is there. May the Lord help us to lay hold upon that which He has presented to us - for it is miraculous. "Lay hold" says Paul, "on eternal life."

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 51 - (The Retrospective Feature)

Attack at the Point of Spiritual Breakthrough

We have seen in previous devotionals how Satan will attack when a person comes to Christ, when they are a babe in their faith.  I believe Scripture shows us that the devil will also attack when you are on the verge of a breakthrough, or at a time of important transition.  This is the second battle we must fight.

In Matthew 3, we find Jesus at an absolutely critical time of transition in His life.  We have not heard from Him since He was 12 years old.  There has been about 30 quiet, unnoticed years where He presumably was working in His father's carpentry shop. 

That is when we read in Matthew 3:16-4:1,

When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him.  And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."  Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

Jesus is about to enter public ministry.  The sick will be healed; the poor will have the gospel preached to them; miracles will be worked; the Father will be revealed.   So from this point, the battle is on.  And we are given a bird's-eye view of the conflict that occurs between Christ and the devil, which we will look at in more detail in the next several devotionals.

But I want to submit something to you today.  If it seems that all hell has broken loose in your life, maybe, just maybe, it's because you are on the verge of a breakthrough in your life. 

Maybe it's a time of very important transition where God wants to lift you into a place where there is going to be greater influence and greater impact through your life.

~Bayless Conley~

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

God's Reactions to Man's Defections # 49

The Divine Resource (continued)

Well, what did it all amount to? This is the point; we only need to reemphasize it. Paul was not calling upon Timothy to be more of a man than he was; he was not calling upon him to be a kind of superman. If we talked to one another like that when we were a bit down under, it would not get us very far. If in our human language we used such expressions as: 'Well now, buck up!' or: 'Now then, none of that, no giving way!' or: 'Remember you are a man, remember you are a responsible person! You ought to behave better than that!' - I do not know how far that would get us. It might make us feel all the worse, thoroughly ashamed of ourselves; such utterly worthless creatures that we wanted to get out of it altogether. And so might Timothy have felt, if this had been what Paul was doing. He might have said, 'Well, Paul evidently does not think much of me; he has got a very poor opinion of me. I am good for nothing - I had better just give it all up.'

But that was not what Paul was doing. It is important to notice this great feature about his letters; we shall probably enlarge upon it in other connections later. Paul was not telling Timothy to be a superman - for it wanted a superman to stand up to this situation, to carry this load, to meet these emergencies - or to be more of a man that he was, in himself. Paul was indicating to Timothy all the way through that Timothy's very life and work, his ministry and his position of responsibility, rested upon a Divine and super-natural basis. "The gift of God which is in thee..." Paul refers to that more than once in his letters (1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6). "God gave us not a spirit of fearfulness" (2 Timothy 1:7). Read them through again and note this. The strength that Timothy  was to have, the ability that was to be his for doing and for enduring, was a strength and an ability which would not come from any spring in himself. He could be, and Paul was calling upon him to be, a superman - but not in himself. "Be strengthened in the grace that is in Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 2:1). He was really being called upon to be and to do far more than any human person could measure up to; far more than was possible even for the best of men, the strongest and the wisest of men - let alone a Timothy! But the Lord never lays upon us as impossibility. If He charges, if He calls or demands, He provides: His is the strength, His is the wisdom.

Christians Are Super-Men In Christ

Now, without taking that any further, I bring it to this focal point. Difficult as it may be for you and for me to believe it, especially at times, it is true that in a sense, and a very real sense, every Christian is a super-man or a super-woman. Every Christian is supposed to have knowledge and understanding of that which no other person at their wisest can know. Every Christian is supposed to do what no one outside of Christ can possibly do; and every Christian is supposed to go through what no one else can go through, in the way in which a Christian is supposed to go through it. There are imposed upon Christians demands which are super-human. There are given to Christians resources which are super-natural. The Christian life is super-natural, from start to finish.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 50)

Perfect In Suffering

But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. - 1 Peter 5:10

The word "suffer" is not a word that brings comfort or peace. When we hear someone is suffering, we feel concern, sympathy and even sadness for that person. The definition for suffering means "to experiencea sensation or impression (usually painful)." The other fact that we as Christians must deal with is that God allows suffering. Nothing on this planet or in the universe happens without God's approval.

Why does this loving, gracious God allow tragedies that bring such suffering? Why does evil persist, even in homes and families who seek the Lord the most? These and many more questions are asked when we try to make sense of God's ways. Satan has taken full advantage of these events in our lives; at least he has tried to. Have you ever had thoughts like: "Why should I believe that doing things God's way brings me any assurance of protection or blessings?" Or, "If God loves me then why is He letting this happen to me?" The same logic applies when we turn those same thoughts to others. People hurt us, so let's not trust people anymore. Circumstances hurt us, so let's control everything we possibly can to prevent being hurt (Hurt, by the way, is just another description for suffering.).
The bottom-line answer is that we will never fully understand why God does what He does. We must live as He has told us to live—by faith. We must believe and trust that the Lord has a reason for everything that happens to us. When we dig into His Word and study His teachings, then we will have more peace in those times of confusion and pain. Today's verse is an example of how we can find peace and hope in times of suffering. We should pray this verse and meditate on it as we are going through those times of suffering. If we can look beyond our pain for the moment and pray to see the bigger picture that God has for us, then we can find hope and even peace in what we are going through. Even in the midst of great tragedies that tempt us to ask God "why," we can trust that He has a much greater plan than what we see in the short term. The question for us is whether or not we will trust Him or turn from Him.

Take time today to really meditate on the verse above. Take comfort and trust the Lord to "perfect, establish, strengthen and settle you" after you have suffered a while. Only God knows the timing of such things. Pray for the perseverance to endure.

~Daily Disciples Devotional~

Monday, January 26, 2015

God's Reactions to Man's Defections # 48

The Divine Reaction (continued)

Endurance Only Possible Through Spiritual Measure

"Endure hardness" - hardship - "as a good soldier" (2 Timothy 2:3). Endure. Just think for a moment what Timothy was called upon to endure at that time. You perhaps have not any idea of the situation. I have re-read lately the account of those persecutions of the Christians which came about through Nero, and through the Jews - the unspeakable horrors of cruelty to men, to women, to children, to families. I should shock you if I mentioned the inhuman, indescribable atrocities that literally hundreds of thousands of Christians suffered at the hands of those Roman Emperors. When Nero commanded the burning of Rome, a scapegoat had to be found upon whom the blame could be laid, and it was laid upon the Jews: and the Jews said No, it was the Christians; and so the Christians were taken. You are not surprised at the sufferings of thousands of His precious children were tortured in unspeakable agony, for many decades.

Timothy was in the presence of that growing shadow. He knew that his father in Christ was in prison and shortly to suffer death. He knew that those who had been near Paul in Rome had left him. And Paul said: "At my first defense o one took my part, but all forsook me" (2 Timothy 4:16). Timothy was in the presence of that! Endurance! Who could endure but by the mighty power of the Spirit? You want spiritual measure for that, you need the enduring power of Christ for that; that is spiritual endurance, not just natural courage.

We see, then, that, at all times of peril to His Church, at all times of danger, when things are threatening, and a change seems to be coming about, the Lord, in the first place, always tries to get His people on to higher spiritual ground: He always seeks to increase spiritual measure, to bring things over from the merely professional and formal on to the ground of spiritual life and spiritual character. And, secondly, He seeks to remind us that we are "God's men": we are not the men of a system, not men of the world, not men of our own natural ambitions - we are God's men. It is significant, is it not, that Timothy's name (Timo-theos) means  "honoring God". That is the key to everything, as with him, so with us: that is spirituality.

The Divine Resource

In thinking about Timothy as himself a symbol of the need, and of God's method of meeting it, we noted, on the one side, the neediness of Timothy - how he is presented in these letters as one in need in every way - and, on the other side, the urge that the Apostle brought to bear upon him, the tremendous responsibility which the Apostle indicated as resting upon him. We noted all the words of exhortation and command, which seemed to make such great demands upon this young man. "O Timothy ...", says the Apostle, "I charge thee in the sight of God ..."; and he appeals to him more than once to "Be strong", "Endure hardship as a good soldier", "Give diligence to show thyself approved unto God", and so on. And all this, as we saw, was in the light of the situation, terrible persecution of Christians that was coming about, to which Paul, so soon after writing this last letter, fell a victim - and Timothy knew all about it. It was indeed putting much upon a weak vessel. It was making tremendous demands upon one who, in himself, speaking quit naturally, was not of great account. Even physically he was apparently at a discount, for the Apostle refers to "thine oft infirmities." Evidently Timothy went down under some malady, repeatedly and often.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 49)

God's School of Obedience

Starting at age five, our children are enrolled in school and given lessons to learn each year. We are students too. At salvation, we became participants in the Lord's school of obedience. There, we are discovering the necessity of trusting Him and waiting for His direction. We are taught the importance of commitment and learn to search His Word for guidance. God also wants us to learn these lessons:

• Listen attentively to the Spirit's promptings. Our God does not speak in an audible voice, but He makes Himself heard quite clearly through the Holy Spirit. Jesus said the Spirit is our Helper who will bring to mind Scripture passages we have studied (John 14:26) and show us how they apply.

• Obey the next step. Abraham was called to leave his home and journey to an unknown destination (Gen. 12:1). He obeyed even though the way was unclear to his human mind. We, too, must step out in faith even when we do not know all the details of the itinerary.

• Expect conflict. We can't live obedient lives without having trouble with the world (John 16:33). Our friends or family may drift away when they realize certain interests of ours have changed. Some may hurl criticism our way or call us unkind names, while others may reject us completely.

Practicing a lifestyle of obedience doesn't mean we'll never make mistakes. But it does require diligence if we are to succeed. Obeying the Father was Jesus' priority and purpose in life, and we should make it ours as well. Which of these lessons do you want to tackle first?

~Dr. Charles F. Stanley~

Sunday, January 25, 2015

God's Reactions to Man's Defections # 47

The Divine Reaction (continued)

Strength Through Grace

Now, if you are acute in your mental activity, you may have thought you are catching me out on this, because in these letters Paul is telling Timothy he must be strong, and I have just said he must be weak! Paul is as good as telling him he must be full, and I have said he must be empty! Ah, yes, but if Timothy was to be all that Paul said he must be, then it would all be spiritual and not natural. Is that born out by the context? Of course it is! "Be strong" - but it does not stop there. "Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 2:1). That is no self-strength, that is not natural strength of any kind. "The grace that is in Christ Jesus" - be strong in that. So we see what is the strength in the case of Timothy, as the symbol of God's reactionary method and means in a day of declension. The strength is to be spiritual strength.

That works both ways. It is a word of encouragement to those who are conscious of no strength, who only feel their weakness; as though to say: 'Look here, that is not the criterion, how weak you feel, at all: the criterion is "the grace that is in Christ Jesus." ' And it works the other way. If any of us should feel that we can do it, and press into the situation or into the position, and take it on, assuming or presuming, then we are in for a bad time under the hand of God - that is if we are going to be of any use to the Lord. And any such attitude is going to be emptied out.

All Functions To Be Spiritual, Not Natural or Official

"Let no man despise thy youth." Well, then, what is to be the reaction of Timothy when he finds men despising him? Suppose you are a young man: how would you react if you were in his place, and I said: 'Don't you let them despise you! Don't you let them have that attitude toward you!"? What would you do? You could act very much in the flesh, couldn't you? You could begin, as they say, to be "chesty" - peacockish, they mean - and spoil it all by a false dignity, by an artificial personality that is not yourself. Authority in the House of God is spiritual. There is authority about a man or woman who has real spiritual measure, that weighs, that counts, but let spiritual measure be found with them, and you will find that in times of difficulty they are the ones to whom people turn. We may touch again upon spiritual authority later.

The knowledge and the understanding are to be spiritual. The office, if you like to use that word, whether it be of elder, overseer, teacher, evangelist, or whatever it is, is to be spiritual, not official. You do that because you are that. It simply comes out because that is how you are spiritually constituted - it is how the Holy Spirit has constituted you. Oh, what tragedies we have seen, through people trying to be teachers, or whatever it may be, because they like it, it appeals to them, and the Holy Spirit has not qualified them for it. It is just like the peacock's tail - when it has gone! Still strutting about, but there is nothing behind it! Is there anything more pathetic? What is the good of it all, if it is not of the Holy Spirit?

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 48 - Endurance Only Possible Through Spiritual Measure)

Trusting In God's Faithfulness

Is there something God has told you to do that seems just too difficult? You can be sure that if He has called you to carry out His will, He’s going to be faithful to accomplish it through His Spirit living and working in you. So if you tell Him, “I can’t do that, Lord—what if I fail?” you’re really saying, “God doesn’t keep His word.” And yet, our total expectation should be in Him—not in our own energy, ability, or experience.

When you doubt God’s trustworthiness, that unbelief becomes a gap in your spiritual armor, and you can be sure that’s exactly where Satan will attack you. You’ll begin to doubt even more about God’s character, such as His goodness—and that distrust will become a heavy load of baggage you’ll needlessly drag through every area of your life.

You might feel that you do not have enough faith to obey, but the Lord isn’t asking you to have faith in favorable circumstances. He’s asking you to trust that He is who He says He is.

Do you believe that God is a liar? It’s really that simple: either He is truthful or He’s not. But if you believe that faithfulness is His character, then you can do anything He requires. You’ll be strengthened by your dependence on Him—whether a deluge or trials or a flood of blessing comes.

It’s actually when life gets rough and rugged that the sweetness of God’s faithfulness makes itself real in your heart. As you walk through those storms in complete reliance on His strength, your trust in His character becomes part of who you are and strengthens from within.

~Dr. Charles F. Stanley~

Saturday, January 24, 2015

God's Reactions to Man's Defections # 46

The Divine Reaction (continued)

Timothy An Instrument of the Divine Reaction

Now let us come to the Divine reaction more particularly and specifically. I would ask you to take note of this. Timothy himself is at this point being marked out as the instrument of the Divine reaction to the existing trend of things. And Timothy therefore assumes the role of a "sign". Now, that is not a new idea in the Bible, is it? Ezekiel was told by the Lord that He had made a sign for the house of Israel (Ezekiel 12:6, 11; 24:24, 27). And Timothy comes into that position or function, as a sign: he must himself be indicative of what  spiritual features are, what spirituality is. Let us then look at Timothy - first of all, shall we say, negatively - remembering that he is himself a symbol of things essential to recovery. We are going to find much comfort and help here, all of us. What are these things?

First of all, weakness. You can despise Timothy, if you like; they did that when he was alive. Paul said to him: Let no man despise thy youth" (1 Timothy 4:12). Naturally, he was despised, and in weakness. Then, dependence. It looked as though Paul was providing him with a set of crutches to help him to keep on his feet! So much of what Paul wrote to Timothy indicated these things about him. Speaking of Timothy naturally, you might say that he was evidently a very timid, nervous sort of young man, who needed all the time to be bucked up. Surely, Timothy must have been very weak, seeing all these things were necessary!

Weakness and Dependence The Ground for Spirituality

Look at it that way, if you like; but there are other ways of looking at it. This is the most suitable and promising ground for spirituality - indeed, it is absolutely essential to the thing that God is after and Paul was after! What shall we say about Timothy? Paul thought a very great deal of him; Paul, who did not usually err in the matter of wisdom and discretion, put Timothy into a very, very important place. Timothy was an apostle, although he was never called that. Timothy was an elder, although he was never called that. But Timothy was more. There was in Timothy a combination of all the functions from an evangelist to a church-builder. "Do the work of an evangelist ". He was the elder among the elders of the church at Ephesus - no small responsibility! Think of Ephesus. What was Paul thinking of, sending someone like Timothy to put things right at Ephesus, to take charge in Ephesus, to correct and to build in Ephesus? Preposterous to send a young fellow like that, of this kind!

Well, spiritual and natural abilities are in altogether different worlds! And when God reacts to recover, or acts to provide against a threat, a peril, a danger that has the characteristics we have noted, He brings His instrument down to nothingness - He empties it out and makes it more conscious of its weakness and of its dependence than of anything else. In this greatest of all works of God - the maintaining of His testimony in absolute purity and truth - there is no place whatever, among those who are involved, for assumption: for assuming that they are something, or assuming that they can do something, or assuming that they are called to do this or that. There is no place, either, for presumption - that is, running ahead of God, running ahead of the Spirit. There is no place for self-importance, for self-sufficiency, for self-assertiveness - no place for any of these things. If you and I are going to be used for spiritual purposes, God will take us in hand to drain us of the last drop of anything like that, until we know that of all men we are the most unfit and unsuited to the thing to which God has called us; that from all natural standpoints we have no right to be in that position at all. That is God's way of making spiritual men and women.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 47 - (Strength Through Grace)

Spending Our Inheritance

The word “inheritance” usually brings to mind the money and real estate handed down from one generation to another. But God has an even greater legacy to share with His children—one that they are given the moment they enter His family.

Galatians 4:7 tells us that believers are God’s heirs. First among our priceless treasures is a living hope in Jesus Christ that cannot be taken away (1 Peter 1:3). What’s more, He pledged to supply our needs according to His riches (Phil 4:19). In other words, we already have all that we need for an abundant and victorious life.

However, some folks get stuck in spiritual poverty because they refuse to view themselves as adopted children. Failing to tap into their inheritance, they’re like a man who sees himself as a poor, sinful creature: he wanders through this big angry world hoping to hold on to his meager scrap of faith until he’s lucky enough to die and go to heaven. Of course that man misses the blessings available in this life, because he’s not looking for them.

How differently people see themselves when they look through the eyes of Jesus. Christians who live like the beloved, empowered heirs that they are will lavishly spend their inheritance of grace to benefit everyone they meet.

God gives all believers a pledge of inheritance out of the unsurpassed riches of His infinite grace. We are spiritually rich citizens of heaven who have nothing to fear in this world. Choose to live boldly for Christ, and see how abundantly God pours out blessing from the legacy already set aside for you.

~Dr. Charles F. Stanley~

Friday, January 23, 2015

God's Reactions to Man's Defections # 45

The Divine Reaction (continued)

John's Writings: A Renewed Recall to Spirituality (continued)

But, again, what is the Lord's reaction? It is a reaction to a spiritual position. What are "overcomers"? Overcomers are simply those who have maintained or recovered spiritual ground. It is not easy, in a world like this, in the present course of things, in Christianity as it has become, to recover or to maintain purely spiritual ground. You will suffer for it, so the Lord said. I venture to say that it is far more difficult to keep a clear, straight spiritual course in the Christian life, than it is to live just as a Christian in this world. To live as a Christian in the world may be difficult, but you will find that there are difficulties in Christianity which you will never encounter from the world. Am I right? Yes, "a man's foes shall be they of his own household" has a very much larger meaning. A spiritual course in Christianity is exceedingly difficult - because of Christians. Christianity has become very largely the enemy of spirituality.

These are strong things to say, but, you see, it is a matter of the effectiveness of testimony, the purity of testimony. I am not at the moment touching upon the doctrinal side of things. A large part of these letters is given up to departure from former doctrine, and I may come to that in some measure later on. What I am concerned with just now is to demonstrate two things: firstly, that this kind of crisis happens, it is the kind of thing that happens again and again, it is a besetting peril all along the line, to drop from the full, high, spiritual level to which the Lord has called, away to something lower and something less; and then, secondly, that God has ever and always reacted, and still does react by trying to get His people on to a more spiritual level of things, to increase their spiritual measure, their spiritual life. It is the only way to overcome, it is the only way to get through and (to come back to the letters again) to be able at the end to hand back the deposit to the Lord unspoiled. "O Timothy, guard that which is committed unto thee" (1 Timothy 6:20). "Guard the deposit! Hand it back at the end, unsullied, unspoiled, undiminished, intact!" Paul, on that very matter says: "I have finished the course, I have kept the faith" (2 Timothy 4:7) - "Timothy, take it up and do the same." That is the effect of it. "Guard that which is committed unto thee: - the deposit of God.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 46 - (Timothy An Instrument of the Divine Reaction)

A Great, True Living Heart of Love

Trust in the Lord and do what is right! Settle in the land and maintain your integrity!—Ps 37:3
The word trust is the heart word of faith. It is the Old Testament word, the word given to the early and infant stage of faith. The word faith expresses more the act of the will, the word belief the act of the mind or intellect, but trust is the language of the heart. The other has reference more to a truth believed or a thing expected.
Trust implies more than this, it sees and feels, and leans upon a person, a great, true, living heart of love. So let us “trust also in him,” through all the delays, in spite of all the difficulties, in the face of all the denials, notwithstanding all the seemings, even when we cannot understand the way, and know not the issue; still “trust also in him, and he will bring it to pass.” The way will open, the right issue will come, the end will be peace, the cloud will be lifted, and the light of an eternal noonday shall shine at last.
“Trust and rest when all around thee
Puts thy faith to sorest test;
Let no fear or foe confound thee,
Wait for God and trust and rest.
“Trust and rest with heart abiding,
Like a birdling in its nest,
Underneath His feathers hiding,
Fold thy wings and trust and rest.”

~L. B. Cowman~

Thursday, January 22, 2015

God's Reactions to Man's Defections # 44

The Divine Reaction (continued)

Responsible Men In the Church Must Be Spiritual Men

Now, the point is that the Holy Spirit saw this encroachment, saw this thing beginning, and sought to react to it. Through Paul He wrote these letters, pointing out that elders and overseers in the Church must be essentially spiritual men: they must be known for their spiritual life and measure, as well for their moral character; and everything in the House of God must be spiritual in its nature and value, not official. The Lord's word, then, now and ever, is: If you want to recover the power of testimony in this world, recover spirituality! If you want to have that impact and registration which was known at the beginning you must recover the spiritual state which existed at the beginning. Everything must be like that, not like this. A man's position in the House of God depends, where God is concerned, on his spiritual value and nothing more. You may dress him up and decorate him and "lord" him, and call him by this name or that, but with God it is no more than that man's spiritual value that counts.

And what is true in the realm of those in position of responsibility is true of everyone. Paul calls Timothy a "man of God"; indeed, he makes it personal, and says, "O man of God ..." That is because of Timothy's particular position of responsibility; but, mark you, Paul uses that phrase of all others too, in the same writing. Why are the Scriptures given and to whom are they given? Are they only given to Timothy and to overseers and to men in particular responsibility? Not at all. "Every scripture inspired of God is ... profitable for" this and that, "that the man of God ..." (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Who is that? Every one to whom the Scripture is given is called a "man of God." So, if you have the Scriptures, you come into that category, under that designation; you are supposed to be a man of God". What are God's men, the men of God? Again, that title belongs only to those who are in a spiritual position, not in any formal, official position. They are where they are because of their spiritual life, measure and value. We cannot underline that too strongly.

We thus see something of the crisis involved in this change from what was inward to everything being outward - offices and functions and positions and titles - the introduction of formalism. Paul is bringing it back to where it ought to be - to the person himself, the person herself. That is where he fastens it. In order to recover, and to safeguard, and to protect, responsibility must be in the hands of spiritual men and women.

John's Writings: A Renewed Recall to Spirituality

These are indications of the course of things, of the change that was coming over Christianity, and, as I said earlier, there is so much proof of this. Paul went, but somewhere John was going on. You know that Paul went in the terrific holocaust of persecution that led to John's exile. John is somewhere - and then he writes his Gospel, the Gospel of preeminent spirituality. You do not need that I should stay to show that the Gospel written by John was written with the object of bringing things back to spiritual principles. And then he wrote his letters: and John's letters are just full, from beginning to end, of spiritual essentials - life, light, love, and so on. And when you come to his Revelation, and read those chapters containing the Lord's challenge to the churches in Asia - Paul's churches - what do you find? Full development of those things of which we have been speaking! Moral laxity: "thou sufferest the woman Jezebel" (2:20); formalism, empty show: "thou hast a name that thou livest, and thou art dead" (3:1); and so on. The thing has come about.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 45)

The Power to Forgive

There are times when we need to forgive someone for something they have done.  On occasion it can seem so difficult…almost impossible.

But forgiveness is not an option for you and me as followers of Jesus Christ.
Forgiveness is an act of the will.  You can forgive.  In fact, Jesus said that we even need to love our enemies, those who may not want peace with us.
Jesus said in Matthew 5:44,

"Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you."

How can you do that?  Because God has done the same thing for you.  In Romans 5:10 it says,

When we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son.

When you and I embrace salvation through Jesus Christ, that same love of God is poured out in our hearts. (See Romans 5:1 and 5).  As a result, we can forgive those who have wronged us.

Once you have forgiven someone, it can still affect your emotions.  I like what Corrie ten Boom shared.  She went through several sleepless weeks over something that someone had done to her.  She tried to forgive the person; but, still, when she would think about it, she would respond emotionally.

When she shared this with her pastor, he had her look up at the bell tower of the church.  He reminded her that the bell would continue to ring even after the person ringing it had let go of the rope.  But given a little time, the bell would slow down until it was silent. 

It may take time for your emotions to settle even when you have let go of the rope.  Just let go of the rope and forgive.  You can do it!

~Bayless Conley~

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

God's Reactions to Man's Defections # 43

The Divine Reaction (continued)

Becoming Behaviour and Appeal In the House of God (continued)

But is it not a pity that these things which Paul wrote, concerning women, sisters, for instance, have been taken out and made subjects in themselves, so that Paul has been reproached that he ever said such things? That is a complete mishandling. Why not recognize that this is set in a decline of Christianity, and that these things are marks of spiritual decline? That is why they have to be spoken about; they are not things in themselves. Naturally, you may have your feelings about them. You might, for instance, be called old-fashioned, not up-to-date; you have not moved with the times. But if you are spiritual, you will have another kind of argument. You will not be behind the times, and you will not be moving with the times: you will be moving with Heaven, and that is a different standard altogether.

Beginnings of Formalism, Institutionalism, Ecclesiasticism, In the Church

Let us note other indications in these letters. On the outside there was the beginning of an altogether new situation with Christianity itself. We here have quite clearly indicated the beginning of ecclesiasticism, clericalism formalism, officialdom in Christian orders. It is all here, it has started. Paul died, Paul was executed, and there was a period of some twenty-five years without any historical record of what was happening. Then we come to the writings of John, followed by silence again. And then men began to write, and we have the writings of men called the Fathers. What do we find? Immediately they begin to write, at the end of the first Christian century, we find that clericalism is in full force and so is ecclesiasticism. The whole principle of spiritual men as overseers has been resolved into a system of prelates, bishops, and what not - a non-New Testament system. This is officialdom: men in high position ecclesiastically, governing in an official way. It has come; here are the beginnings. That which was spiritual - spiritual men, men of God, functioning as overseers of the Church and of the churches, because they were spiritual men - has now given place to men who are officials, ecclesiastics, clerics, and so on. A tremendous change has taken place, and it has come right down through all the Church's history.

The Christian ordinances were changed and the Christian doctrines were changed. The ordinance of baptism, for instance, was changed at the end of the first century. I am not going to enlarge upon these things; I am taking them as indications of a change - the turning of a corner - the coming in now of something organized in the place of that which was organic, of something institutional in the place of that which was spiritual. It is the movement away from what was spontaneous. And how spontaneous it was! In the early days the Church was just springing up and pressing on and expanding and growing by the sheer life that was in it; now it is organized, now it is a self-conscious entity, making its own appointments, and so on. The change led to infinite loss of power, and all the unhappy conditions that we have today.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 44 - (Responsible men in the Church Must Be Spiritual Men)

Consider Your Deeds

"I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead." - Revelation 3:1

Companies hire consultants to come into their business to assess and evaluate the services they provide. The goal is to become more efficient, make more product and have better outcomes. Hiring an outsider allows an unbiased opinion without any emotional attachments to the employees involved or the personal dynamics that make up each "excuse" of why the employees do not achieve the company's goal.

In the Book of Revelation, Jesus does not ask for a consultant, like a prophet or angel, to come in to evaluate His church and His people. He clearly and lovingly assesses each church Himself. He starts each letter with the words, "I know your deeds" and then to six out of the seven churches, He says, "But".  Deed is also another word for work, which in the Greek means an act, deed, work that is done or anything accomplished by hand, art, industry or mind. These churches know Jesus because they each have a saving faith to be called and hear what He is saying. So, Jesus speaks to each one about their works, not their faith. And we know that faith without works (or deeds) is dead. However, the Overseer of each church rebukes their works and deeds that follow their faith. The stakes are high. The rebuke is not about losing your job but the shaking of your eternal foundation.
Jesus writes these letters explaining that He understands who they are, where they live, what they do and to six of the churches, how they fall short. Then, He lovingly tells them how to return or be restored. God is also for us. He wants us to be our best and live abundantly. How we live our life here day by day does matter for eternity. For me personally, I do not want any "Buts" when standing before Jesus face-to-face. I want to hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into My rest." I want all He has for me here and I want to do it and live it His way.
Today, read over Revelation 2-3. Meditate on the verses; ponder His descriptions in your mind. Then ask the Lord which description looks a lot like you. He will honestly and clearly answer and then help you become all He wants you to be. 

The stakes are too high—take His words seriously.

~Daily Disciples Devotional~