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Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Cross, The Church, and The Kingdom # 35

The Power and Challenge of the Kingdom of God (continued)

The Importance and Power of Letting Go to God (continued)

This is practical. I have to be quite sure that I am not in this, that some secret ambition of mine, some motive of mine, is not at work. Oh, how subtle are our hearts! You and I perhaps are ready to be utterly for the Lord. We mean well, and we mean it thoroughly. We would sing really with our hearts and with our voices at full strength, 'None of self, and all of Thee,' and we would mean it, and there would be no uncertainty so far as we are concerned. And yet God knows that we are all the time defeated in our very sincerity by secret motives, and nothing but a test position can prove whether we actually mean it. So He brings us to a test - to a prospect, and then a disappointment. How do we react? Is our sorrow, our pain, for the Lord or for ourselves? Are we disappointed, or is it really only the Lord for Whom we are concerned and we are not in it at all? You see what I mean - a test situation to find out after all whether it is 'None of self, and all of Thee". We can never discover it except in practical ways along the line of very practical testings. The Lord knows it all right, but it is not enough that He knows it. You see, in order for us to come in, we have to come in intelligently and cooperatively. That is the point of every test. The Lord could do a thing with a stroke, it could happen mechanically. But we are in a moral world, and God acts towards man on moral ground. Man has a will that constitutes him a morally responsible person, and so he must exercise his will in cooperation with God.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 36)

Children of God'y Parents Go to Church Every Day!

The children of godly parents go to church every day!

(George Everard, "A Blessing in the Family!")

"Amaziah did what was right in the eyes of the LORD. In everything he followed the example of his father Joash." 2 Kings 14:3

The life of a godly parent is a daily sermon.

It has been said, "The children of godly parents go to church every day!"

Never doubt for a moment, that genuine piety and eminent holiness are the first requisites for all parents. No parent can expect to influence their children for good, without themselves walking wisely and worthily in the narrow path of holiness.

Here may be seen the reason that sound faithful teaching in Sunday schools, has comparatively effected so little good. It is not the fault of the church--but in the home's pernicious influence! The evil that is witnessed at home, more than counteracts the lessons learned at church!

It is the will of God that parents should exercise control over their children. They must command that which is right--and they must forbid that which is wrong. It was spoken to the praise of Abraham, that God knew that he would command his children after him to keep the way of the Lord. It was the overthrow of the house of Eli, that his sons made themselves vile--and he did not restrain them.

In Scripture children are compared to arrows--but all depends upon the direction given to the arrow by the hand that guides it.

They are compared to vine branches--but an unpruned vine will bear no fruit worth gathering. So it is written, "A child left to himself brings his mother to shame!"

In training their children, let parents begin early. Long before a child is two years old, it will know the meaning of an emphatic "No." Even at that tender age, some measure of discipline may begin.

Yield not to the self-will or pettishness of a child. What you once say--let it be law. Without some special cause--do not turn from it. Especially punish lying and disobedience--they are the root of all that is evil.

Yet with firmness, be very gentle
. Harshness is a cold wind, that nips in the bud the beginnings of better things in the heart. Byron's character was ruined by the cruelty of a harsh and unfeeling mother.

Win your children by love. Draw, rather than drive. 

Make home the happiest place in the world to them.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Cross, The Church, and The Kingdom # 34

The Power and Challenge of  the Kingdom of God (continued)

The Importance And Power of Letting Go to God 

You say, 'Well, I believe that is true, and all my heart responds, and I pray God that it may be so where I am concerned. I want it to be, but nothing happens. How can it be?' That is just what we are getting at; and I have hinted already how it can be. It is intensely practical. When I said that the Lord Jesus was the greatest expert at letting go, I touched the heart of the matter. We have said again and again that everything is centered and focused in the human will. Let me ask here (though I shall have to refer to it again later on more fully), have you not many times discovered that your real power - the power which delivered you, the power which lifted you up and set you on high - came when you let go? You were holding on - and I am not saying that you were holding on to something that was necessarily wrong; you were simply holding on. It may have been something given to you by God, and your own natural possessiveness had got hold of it, and you were holding something of God to and for yourself, and saying "hands off" to everybody else. There is no question that Isaac was given of God to Abraham; he was a perfect miracle, impossible unless God had given him. And then we read, "God did prove Abraham." He said, "Take now thy son, thine only son, whom thou lovest" (and, He might have said, whom I gave thee) "...and offer him ... for a burnt-offering" (Genesis 22:2). Abraham did not say, 'Thou gavest him to me, do not contradict Thyself and take him away again; Thou didst make all Thy promises to hang upon him; I am not going to give him up!' He gave him up and he got him back; got him back with a whole kingdom by which he became "heir of the world" - that is the statement (Romans 4:13). He has the kingdom by letting go - the foreshadowing of this Son of God Who let go. They would take Him by force and make Him a king; He let go. He got His kingly place with increase, but He got it in a realm where satan could not touch it: it was beyond the power of death. If He had accepted that thing which was offered Him it would have been subject to death. Here in resurrection He has it, and death has no power over it. But He got it like that - by letting go to God. You see, it is intensely practical. Oh, how can this be? By getting yourself out of the picture! That is why it cannot be - because self is in the picture! Self-will, self-interest, self-realization. That is the kingdom of satan, and God is NOT going to give you His kingdom on that ground. That was the ruin and the loss of the kingdom of God for man. You cannot restore it. Something different, other, is needed; and whatever that self may mean, it has to get out of the way if the kingdom of God is to come in.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 35)

Examine Yourselves

2 Corinthians 13:5

(5) Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.
New King James Version   

We generally take one of two approaches to self-examination. The first is something on the order of, "I'm no good. I've never lived up to my expectations. I'm just worthless."

Some of us hail from some pretty painful backgrounds. A handful have been molested and feel worthless because of it. Others have been told they were useless from childhood and have a very low opinion of themselves. Many have just had terrible experiences that have left scars, making accurate self-examination very difficult.

We may not like ourselves, and we wonder how anyone else could like us—especially God. We may look at ourselves, at the plethora of mistakes that dot our past, and judge ourselves harshly. In some cases, we feel we are unworthy to take the Passover.

The second approach to self-examination is just the opposite. Here we give ourselves a quick once-over and go on our way. Like the man in James 1 who looks in the mirror, sees what he is, but immediately forgets, some of us fail to give our lives a thorough evaluation.

We may think, "Well, in Romans 7 it shows that Paul sinned. He didn't want to, but the sin in him caused him to. Man will never be perfect until the return of Christ. If Paul couldn't overcome sin, then I guess that God knows that we really can't get out all the sin. I'll try, but if it's too hard, I'm sure that God will understand." A person who uses this approach may feel he is taking the Passover seriously, but in fact has not done a proper self-examination.

~John O. Reid~

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Cross, The Church, and The Kingdom # 33

The Power and Challenge of the Kingdom of God (continued)

The Spontaneous Challenge of the Kingdom of God Through the Church (continued)

You see the point for us. It all carries in that, it is all summed up in that. What is our real business here? Is it to propound doctrines, expound truths, give out volumes of interpretations of Scripture? NO! Whatever place that may have for edification, for instruction, it will all be unprofitable so far as real spiritual effectiveness is concerned, unless the kingdom of God is coming through - that is, unless there is the real registration of the fact that Jesus is raised from the dead and is Lord. It is no use saying that, unless you can say it in the power of the Holy Spirit. "No man can say, Jesus is Lord, but in the Holy Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:3). That does not mean that you cannot use the phrase "Jesus is Lord," but there is something more in saying than using words. When God said, "Let light be," there was light - and that is the kind of saying that we are thinking of - a saying which is a fiat, an impact. One man may say, "Jesus is Lord," and while it is quite true, the doctrine is correct and sound, nothing happens. Another man in the power of the Holy Spirit declares the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and you feel something, you are conscious of something coming through of God. Now, this is not the privilege only of Apostles in the ecclesiastical or official sense. This is for the Church, and you and I are the Church in representation. Oh, that our prayer should be the impact of the Kingdom upon that other kingdom! That is what my heart cries for; for prayer should not be a list of petitions, a lot of things asked for, but there should be something done behind things. In all our teaching, though it may not be instantly seen, there should nevertheless be a steady work going on which is producing lives in the power of the kingdom - people becoming factors to be reckoned with by the enemy. It is the only justification of all our teaching, that those who receive it shall themselves become in turn factors which are marked by the enemy; of whom, as we have said before, the demons can say, "Jesus I know, and -so and so - I know."  It ought to be that we are known to the enemy by name as people to be reckoned with, to be taken account of, and not included in the category of those who do not count - "but who are ye?" (Acts 19:15).

The matter which occupies the risen Lord is the kingdom of God. It is the thing with which He would occupy His servants. The kingdom of God - not some framework of a temporal system, but the kingdom of God - is not in word, but in power; not in eating and drinking but righteousness in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17). That is the kingdom of God; and you and I, dear friends, are in the very happy position of being included in that former statement of the Lord - "There are some of them that stand here, who shall in no wise taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God." That is our privilege - to see the kingdom of God, and for the kingdom of God to come through us with a sense of Divine power. That is the heart of things. I have said already that all the rest we are talking about in these meditations gathers round that.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 34 - (The Importance and Power of Letting Go to God)

The Great Balm of Human Woes!

The great balm of human woes! 

(George Everard, "Daily Prayer")

"Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray!" James 5:13 

Prayer is the great balm of human woes! Go from house to house through a country village, or through a single street in a large town--and what a sad catalogue of sorrows you may reckon up! 

In one, there is a dying parent--or a child fast sinking into the grave. 

In another, there is dire and distressing poverty

In a third, perhaps, there is a heart bleeding through some bitter disappointment, or the unfeeling conduct of a beloved one. 

In a fourth, there is some secret sorrow which may not be told.

In every case, through prayer, relief may be found. By it the sorrowful, afflicted one comes near to a most pitiful Father, and His loving care becomes a sure rest to the weary spirit.

The excellencies of prayer may be summed up in the words of John Chrysostom:
"Prayer, in a spiritual sense, is . . .
  a haven to the shipwrecked man,
  an anchor to those who are sinking in the waves,
  a staff to the limbs that totter,
  a mine of jewels to the poor,
  a healer of diseases, and a guardian of health.
Prayer at once secures the continuance of our blessings, and dissipates the cloud of our calamities. O blessed prayer! You are . . .
  the unwearied conqueror of human woes,
  the firm foundation of human happiness,
  the source of ever-enduring joy,
  the mother of all comfort. 
The man who can pray truly, though languishing in extreme indigence, is richer than all beside. While the wretch who never bowed the knee, though proudly seated as monarch of all nations, is of all men, most destitute!"

"Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need!" Hebrews 4:16

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Cross, The Church, and The Kingdom # 32

The Power and Challenge of the Kingdom of God (continued)

The Spontaneous Challenge of the Kingdom of God Through the Church (continued)

The Church is taking up something and giving it out, very largely as objective teaching; of course, knowing something of the blessedness of being saved, of the good and joy of what the Lord Jesus is in terms of salvation. That is all very good, it gets so far, but somehow or other there is a tremendous margin of ineffectiveness; and the reason may be - I put it in that way - that first of all the preaching is to men, the registration is upon men, and there is not that which comes from behind spontaneously. The kingdom of God is not something worked up, properly arranged in addresses and sermons, it is not a theme, a subject, but it is the mighty power of the Holy Spirit coming from behind. You are there as the Lord's witness, and there is something more than the power of the enemy present; the power of God is there too. The kingdom of God has come. The kingdom of God is an overwhelming thing. That is the meaning. It is in this realm that the weakness of so much preaching lies. Now, we will go on with our preaching of salvation, we will proceed with our approach to men and women about this matter of salvation; we must, more than ever. But remember, if we come without the kingdom of God - not as a subject but as a power coming through us, so to speak, as from behind, coming right through and registering itself, not upon men and women in the first place but upon those forces behind in which the world lies - we shall be largely ineffective. It is very true that no one can believe, no one is free to turn to the Lord - however much they may crave to do so - unless the Lord does something to release them. This strong man has to have his house broken into by a stronger than he; and who is stronger than he? This kingdom has to be raided by another kingdom greater than itself. And so, although the Lord had given the disciples the sphere of their activity and the commission to go out into it, He said, "But tarry ye in the city, until ye be clothed with power from on high" (Luke 24:49). "John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days hence" (Acts 1:5). 'Until then, do not attempt the commission or will will fail, and the other kingdom will prevail over you.'

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 33)

A Marvelous Combination of all that is Lovely and Beautiful!

A marvelous combination of all that is lovely and beautiful!

(George Everard, "Counsels to Christians on the Details of Every-day Life!")

"We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14In Christ is a marvelous combination of all that is lovely and beautiful. Whatever virtue or grace that was ever witnessed in another--was fully, preeminently in Him.

The faith of Abraham, 
the godly fear of Isaac, 
the meekness of Moses, 
the patience of Job, 
the holiness of Isaiah,
the devout prayerfulness of David, 
the integrity of Daniel, 
the sincerity of Nathanael, 
the fervency of Peter, 
the zeal of Paul, 
the tenderness of John--
all these, in their brightest colors, shone forth in Him, who was full of grace and truth

"Yes, He is altogether lovely! This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend!" Song of Songs 5:16 

In our measure, let us follow Christ in this beautiful harmony of Christian graces. Let no part of His character be left out of sight. This coat of many colors which was worn by our Joseph--may be also upon us His brethren. "Leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps." 1 Peter 2:21

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Cross, The Church, and The Kingdom # 31

The Power and Challenge of the Kingdom of God (continued)

The Spontaneous Challenge of the Kingdom of God Through the Church

If that is the course and nature of things, what really is the heart of it all? Well, the heart of it is this, that when from the day of Pentecost men and women went out into this world in the good of what it meant that the Kingdom of God as an actual reality had come, and that it was an inward fact, the thing which characterized them was that there was, by their very presence here in this world, an impressive and overwhelming impact of the kingdom of God upon that other kingdom lying behind the framework of this world system. It just happened. Their very presence disturbed, challenged, provoked that other kingdom, and the fact of these two kingdoms being in such deadly opposition became a manifest reality simply because those believers were there; and, mark you - this is something to be marked - their predominant note in preaching was not the salvation of men from sin (which was the result of something else) but it was the absolute Lordship of Jesus Christ. Everywhere they bore witness to the resurrection of Jesus, and they proclaimed Him as Lord. When it came to dealing with exercise of heart under conviction and with the inquiry, 'What shall we do to be saved?' then the interpretation or the application was that this Lord is also Saviour. You can be saved by Him because He is Lord. Let me say again - it is not just because He is officially Lord, but because He is morally in the position to forgive. Leave that again for a minute.

What I want to concentrate upon and keep to is this, that there needs to be recovered the spontaneous challenge of the kingdom of God in the Church. We may be preaching the gospel of salvation - let no one think for one moment any discrediting or weakening of that is intended - but that must come out of the established Lordship of Jesus Christ in the preacher and in the Body representing Christ. It must be that - that Jesus is Lord - not as an item of a creed or of doctrine, but as something which has become an inward power. The Lordship of Jesus Christ as an inward power, both in the life and in the Church, has to be registered in a spiritual way, not first upon men. I do not know whether you are able to follow further than I am saying; but why is the vast amount of the preaching of the gospel to the unsaved without effect? Does that not exercise you, or is that a question which ought never to be raised? It is true, is it not? The gospel is preached and preached and preached with little effect. Is the gospel weaker than it was in those days? Is the Holy Spirit withdrawn from the earth? What i the explanation? Is it that the Lord is different, His gospel is different, or His Church is different? Ah, I think it must be the last. It cannot be the others. What is the difference?

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 32)

"All Is Vanity"

"All Is Vanity"

I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind.

—Ecclesiastes 1:14

After his futile search for the meaning of life, Solomon concluded, " 'Vanity of vanities,' . . . 'Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.' What profit has a man from all his labor in which he toils under the sun?" (Ecclesiastes 1:2–3).

The word vanity Solomon used didn't mean the same thing it means to us today. When we think of vanity, we think of people who've never met a mirror they didn't like. But the vanity Solomon spoke of could just as easily be translated "emptiness," "futility," "meaningless," or "nothingness." Solomon was saying, "There is nothing on this earth that will satisfy us completely: no thing, no pleasure, or no relationship."

It's not unlike riding a stationary bike. You see on the little video screen that you're going uphill, so it gets a little more difficult to pedal. Then you go downhill, and it becomes a little easier. But the reality is that you haven't moved an inch. You've spun your wheels without going anywhere. That is the idea Solomon was conveying. He was describing a life without God.

Have you ever wondered why the super rich or super famous often have substance abuse issues or other problems? I think it's because they get to do what others only dream of. They accomplish a certain thing, and then they move on to the next thing. They experience another success, and then they move on to something else. They can't keep that high they were on, so they turn to the next thing.

You might say that Solomon tried it all, and he realized that it all was meaningless. He was saying, "I'm a seasoned pro. I know what I'm talking about here. If you take God out of the picture, your life will be empty, meaningless, and futile."
~Greg Laurie~

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Cross, The Church, and The Kingdom # 31

The Power and Challenge of The Kingdom of God (continued)

The Kingdom Recaptured for God Through the Cross 

So to the Cross, along the line of repudiating a kingdom after that order, and there, in the Cross, He went behind the framework, behind all the form and the system, and dealt with the prince of this world, and cast him out. How He cast him out we have been seeking to see in these meditations; He cast him out morally. "The prince of this world cometh: and he hath nothing in Me" (John 14:30), so he is morally put out. And, casting out the prince of this world there in the Cross, He captured - let us rather say, recaptured - the Kingdom which had been betrayed by Adam into that usurper's hands; recaptured it as the last Adam, the second man, the Lord from heaven; and, having recaptured it in and by His Cross (a matter about which we have yet to say more) He rose, and His theme was the kingdom of God - the fulfillment of His emphatic statement, "There are some of them that stand here, who shall in no wise taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God." They saw it on the day of Pentecost, the recaptured Kingdom in the hands of this victorious Christ Who knew how to refuse quick returns - a thing which we know very little about morally; and because He was able to let go, He secured all.

That is a law of tremendous value in spiritual life - being expert in laying hold "I will, I will, I will." There again we shall have more to say. But now in the hands of this One, the Kingdom recaptured is brought in on the day of Pentecost in the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit The Life and Power of the Kingdom

But note, the point for us is that it is a reformed kingdom, that is, its constitution is altogether different from and other than that which was in the minds of the Apostles and was offered to Him by satan. It is another king of kingdom, essentially spiritual. It comes in by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is in charge of the Kingdom. He precipitates this thing and He keeps the reins in His hands in the projecting and the developing, the expanding and the establishing, of this kingdom. Everything is spiritual, and we find therefore that the Kingdom is, from first to last, essentially an inward thing. The Lord's words about the kingdom of the heavens being within you were very, very truly proved on the day of Pentecost and afterward - it was the Spirit within that was the nature, the power, the life, the energy and the everything of this kingdom.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 32 - (The Spontaneous Challenge of the Kingdom of God Through the Church)

No Condemnation

No Condemnation

"Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment [or condemnation], but has passed from death into life.” - John 5:24

Although there is a huge difference between conviction and condemnation, they seem to be interchangeable in the Christian life at times. When Christians are convicted, often this leads them into feeling condemned. The thoughts and feelings associated with the word convicted suddenly become closely defined to the words "convict or a prisoner". When convicted, we act as if God wants us to wear prison clothes, eat prison food and wake up behind prison doors to remind us of how we have fallen short. God does not want that for us. Neither word: condemned nor convicted, applies to the believer negatively.

The Bible defines these words differently. Condemnation has to do with who you are, either in Christ or not. Conviction has to do with what you do, to bring you closer to Christ. If you do not know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, if His blood does not cover your sins, you are condemned. You have not passed over from death to life and you remain in your sins. However, if you are a Christian, you will never be condemned because Jesus has given you eternal life. Thoughts of condemnation are not from the Lord, not ever. Condemnation is about your spiritual state for eternity, not your daily thoughts or actions.

For the Christian, there is a clear distinction between conviction and condemnation. Conviction leads us closer to Christ as we confess and repent to Him. Condemnation makes us feel as if we cannot come to God as we concentrate on our own shortcomings. Condemnation is a tactic of the enemy. Pray that you do not fall prey to his lies. Romans 8:1 tells us that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

If you know Jesus, He is for you. He is always on your side and He wants you to succeed at everything you do. Stay on His team by thinking His thoughts about you. Work with Him to change. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ because He has come to give you life in abundance.

~Daily Disciples Devotional~

Friday, December 25, 2015

The Cross, The Church, and The Kingdom # 30

The Power and Challenge of the Kingdom of God

Read Luke 9:27; Acts 1:1-3

"There are some of them that stand here, who shall in no wise taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God."  "... by the space of forty days ... speaking the things concerning the kingdom of God." The theme with which the Apostles were being occupied by the Lord during the forty days after His resurrection - the theme of the risen Lord - was the kingdom of God.

The Battle of Two Kingdoms In Our Lord's Earthly Life

Looking back into the years of His life from the Jordan to the Cross, we can see that, in His own personal case during that time, the battle of two kingdoms was going on. Along various lines and through various instrumentalities, influences were being brought to bear upon Him. He was moving within a circle of forces and activities the object and direction of which was set to get Him to have a kingdom. At the very beginning, the conflict with the adversary in the wilderness during the forty days and nights headed right up to that issue. "The devil ... showed Him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and he said to unto Him, All these things will I give Thee, if Thou wilt fall down and worship me" (Matthew 4:8, 9). His own disciples were constantly pressing upon Him with their Messianic mentality and expectation, making it very difficult for Him in this way - that He knew they were as yet such children spiritually that it would be a disaster to disillusion them too quickly and disappoint their expectations and hopes. Those expectations, hopes and visions, and all that they included for these men, were for the Lord like barbed wire all the time pricking Him. He could hardly say anything of a disillusioning character but at once the disciples were offended, questioning, thrown all over the place, even to revolt. The crowd, the hysterical multitude, on one occasion would come and take Him by force and make Him king. There is something all along, putting it back, rejecting, repudiating; and it was no easy thing. At the last, as He stood before Pilate, when the accusation against Him was that He said that He was a king, Pilate said, "Art Thou the King of the Jews?" and Jesus said, "My kingdom is not out from this world system: if My kingdom were out from this world system, then would My servants fight ... but now is My kingdom not from hence" (John 18:36). It was the repudiation of a kingdom; which meant that inwardly He was standing for another. It was not the repudiation of the Kingdom. He was fighting all the way along against a false for a true, against a temporal for a spiritual; but the powers that existed were seeking to precipitate this other matter, to get Him involved in a kingdom which was not His real one. You can easily see what an involving it would have been. Suppose He had capitulated, accepted a kingdom out from this system, put Himself on this level; well, a little thought at once betrays the sinister nature of the pressure, the offer. No, He was not accepting the framework which embodied the kingdom of satan - that is what it amounted to. Within the kingdom out from this system satan, the prince of this world, was established, and the Lord was not accepting that at all. Through all these temptations, even though they might come through the lips and by the mistaken zeal of a beloved and devoted disciple of the inner circle - no other than Simon Peter himself - He was adamant. On that very matter of His going up to Jerusalem and being delivered into the hands of men to be crucified, when the human counsel is "Be it far from Thee, Lord: this shall never be unto Thee," the instant rejoinder is, "Get thee behind Me, satan" (Matthew 16:21-23). He sees satan entrenched in the very suggestion, and that is not the kingdom the Lord will accept. There would be a kingdom which He would have, but not of that kind.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 31 - (The Kingdom Recaptured for God Through the Cross)

What Christmas Is About

What Christmas Is About

Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

—Isaiah 9:7

As we look at our world today, we realize that part of the promise of Isaiah 9:6–7 has not yet been fulfilled. The Son has been given. The Child has been born. But He has not yet taken the government upon His shoulders. We do not yet have peace with judgment and justice. But the good news is that there will come a day when Christ will return. He will establish His kingdom on this earth. And it will be the righteous rule of God himself.

Before Jesus could take the government upon His shoulder, He had to take the cross upon His shoulder. Before He could wear the crown of glory as King of Kings, He had to wear the shameful crown of thorns and give His life as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. The first time, a star marked His arrival. But the next time He comes, the heavens will roll back like a scroll, all of the stars will fall from the sky, and He himself will light it.

Christ came to this earth. God came near to you so you can come near to Him—to give your life purpose and meaning, to forgive you of your sins, and to give you the hope of heaven beyond the grave. Christmas is not about tinsel or shopping or presents. Christmas is not about the gifts under the tree. Rather, Christmas is about the gift that was given on the tree when Christ died there for our sins and gave us the gift of eternal life.
~Greg Laurie~

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Cross, The Church, and The Kingdom # 29

The Kingdom of God (continued)

The Practical Issue - Ascendancy Over the Kingdom of Darkness (continued)

Now you can reject all that we are saying and still be saved. In order to be saved, all that you need is to "believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved" (Acts 16:31). With that you can go to heaven, you can be delivered from condemnation and from hell, without having any of this that we are talking about. Well, if that is all you want, you can have it! But I ask you this, are you as concerned to be useful to God as you are to be saved? That is another question. The matter of your value to God is decided here - what account are you to Him in the realm of the spiritual forces in this universe which are opposed to Him? How much account does the devil take of you? How much are you a menace to his kingdom? Not, how many services and meetings are you taking, how many addresses are you giving, how much running about are you doing; not all those etceteras in Christian activity; but how much impact do you register upon that dark, evil kingdom? It is just there that your value to God is decided. Well, if the devil gives you a very bad time and has made you know you are a marked man, a marked woman, take comfort; it shows you are of some value to God. But we do not always remember that. We have terribly bad times under the hand of the devil and get under them, we think how terrible and wicked he is, we get occupied with that, and forget - perhaps it is a kind of humility - that we must mean something after all. That is where things count with God in this dispensation. It is not how many structures you can put up nor how big an organization you can create on this earth, it is not anything in the temporal realm at all. It is, in all, through all, by all, how much is counting against the kingdom which is opposed to the kingdom of God? That is the challenge which we must seriously face.

The Kingdom Present In Principle Now

The kingdom of God is something very much more vital than we have realized. Oh, what a pity that men have so systematized this thing as to rob it of its real spiritual value! Some tell us, for instance, that the Kingdom is for a coming age, that this is not the Kingdom age. That is NOT true. The kingdom of God is a present issue, the supreme issue of this whole creation; and it is concerning that that all the forces of darkness, under whatever name they may be working on this earth, are converging under one evil, spiritual government and overlord - to make it impossible for the kingdom of God to be established and extended in this creation. Well, Christian people know it. The big question in missionary magazines now is whether we can go on with our work in many places, whether we must withdraw, whether there is any prospect for extending in the future. Doors are closing. But what about God's kingdom? Is He Lord? Is He going to be pushed out of His universe? Well, the picture that the Word of God gives at the end is not that, but just the opposite. That is the battle we are in. It is a spiritual one, after all. The Lord bring home to our hearts the seriousness of the challenge, and help us to see that now it is a personal matter; the kingdom of God is a personal matter.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 30 - (The Power and Challenge of the Kingdom of God)

Conversations not Commands

No Longer Slaves to Fear

Conversations not Commands 

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, Abba, Father. Romans 8:15

Fear is a cruel master. Like a bad dream, fear imagines scary situations that never take place. The fears in my mind seem so real that I stress over—even obsess over them. Recently, I became fearful of a worse case scenario at work. I lost confidence and sleep. Finally, somewhat perturbed—I began to quietly reflect and remember how God is writing my story. In His script, His perfect love casts out my phobias. I am not a slave to fear—but to my Savior Jesus.  The love of God is much larger than life’s momentary anxieties. His love converts fear into faith!

The Holy Spirit reminds us of our position: we are a child of God. The Lord adopted us as His daughters and sons. The Spirit gives us life to live for Christ. In His power we are able to produce positive and lasting results. The Spirit allows us to put to death the deeds of the flesh (Romans 6:12-17) that facilitate fear. As we yield to the Spirit, He uses us for His purposes. Similar to a gifted teacher, the Holy Spirit instructs us in truth to combat the lies we lived before Christ. He leads us as adopted children. Fear has no place for a child cared for by King Jesus!

“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God” (Romans8:14).

What do you fear? Confronting a co-worker? Confessing a hidden sin to your spouse? A new school? A new job? A new relationship? A new responsibility? A health issue or lack of finances? Whatever you fear, ask the Holy Spirit to lovingly convert your fears into faith. Trust—when you have done the right thing, it will be what’s right for everyone involved. Do not dread someone or something you have no control over—instead trust the Spirit to accomplish the appropriate outcome. Fear holds onto pseudo control. Faith hands over all control to Christ’s sovereignty.

You are a child of God and no longer a slave to fear. You have been released from the fetters of trepidation and freed to trust Jesus. Your ball and chain of dread has been removed by the grace of God. Once you cowered in a corner of shame, but now you have come clean and placed your confidence in Christ. Your heavenly Father’s perfect love has replaced your pesky fears. Fear acts like a malaria carrying mosquito, only to discover the blood of Christ in your spiritual veins. Fear wants you back in bondage, but God’s love sets you free. Cry Abba, Father and fear not!

“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:16).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I receive Your perfect love to flush out fear from my imperfect heart.

Application: What fear do I need to trust God with and not obsess over?

~Wisdom Hunters Devotional~

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Cross, The Church, and The Kingdom # 28

The Kingdom of God (continued)

The Church To Administer And Manifest The Kingdom

But then the matter does not end there. Israel was a chosen nation, not to be an end in themselves, but to display to all the nations what the kingdom of God is, and to administer that kingdom in the midst of the nations. There were times when other nations got the benefits of Israel. When they were not against Israel, when they were amendable or favorable, great blessings came to them because of Israel, and so it has been since then. I am not at all sure that we have not derived a great deal of blessing in this country because of the attitude in past years toward that nation - even in their rejection. "I will bless them that bless thee, and him that curseth thee will I curse" (Genesis 12:3); and that holds good. But in a very direct way, when Israel was according to God's mind, in line with Him, people were blessed because of them. And the Church is not an end in itself. We find in "Revelation" the end - the city is in its place of administration, and it is the nations that are deriving the benefit. The light of the nations, the leaves for the health of the nations, the water for the life of the nations, issue from that city. The Church, then, is to be so constituted as to be God's instrument of administration and manifestation of His kingdom.

The Practical Issue - Ascendancy Over the Kingdom of Darkness)

But while we are set in that as the ultimate, and all the practical questions and challenges and issues bound up with that have to be brought home to our hearts, the whole matter resolves itself for the time being into one of registering all that is meant by the kingdom of God, the mighty sovereignty of God in Jesus Christ, not now so much upon kings and rulers of this earth as upon those principalities and powers and world rulers of this darkness, those spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenlies. That is where we are brought to, and if I were to gather into one statement what I believe to be the the Divine intention in our present meditations it is this - to seek to bring us, as among that people, to the place where we count infinitely more in the spiritual than we now do, where we have to be reckoned with by the powers of evil back of this world system. It is there that value to God is decided in this dispensation.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 29)

A Gift for Jesus

A Gift for Jesus

And when Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to Him having an alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil, and she poured it on His head as He sat at the table.

—Matthew 26:6

Things were clearly coming to a head in the ministry of Jesus. There had been a number of confrontations with the religious leaders, and it was evident they wanted Him dead. But Jerusalem was swarming with visitors for Passover, so they couldn't risk an arrest.

Meanwhile, Jesus decided to spend some time with friends at the home of a man known as Simon, whom Jesus had healed of leprosy. There was a lot to talk about. Jesus had just delivered what we know as the Olivet Discourse (see Matthew 24), essentially an overview of end times events. The newly resurrected Lazarus was there, along with his sister Mary.

In the midst of all the animated discussion, Mary saw something that no one else saw. It dawned on her that Jesus was about to die, and this unique understanding produced a response. Mary took an alabaster flask of fragrant oil and poured it on Jesus' head. The oil was worth a lot of money and may have been a family heirloom. But Mary didn't care about that. She wanted to show her love and devotion to Jesus, and it made a significant impression on the Lord.

Jesus said, "Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her" (Matthew 26:13).

Did Mary deliver a great sermon? No. Did she pray an incredible prayer of faith? No. Mary simply gave the most precious thing she owned to Jesus. The value was in the cost to her. Nothing is ever wasted when it is done from a right motive for the glory of God. And the more we know of what God has done for us, the more we will want to do for Him.
~Greg Laurie~

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Cross, The Church, and The Kingdom # 27

The Kingdom of God (continued)

The Kingdom of God Within And In the Midst

And those powers are firstly spiritual, to bring this about. You and I, in this terrible conflict between the two kingdoms which is focused in our very souls - you and I, frail, faulty, a thousand times failing and slipping and blundering and erring - are nevertheless being carried on by a power and an energy that is not our own, that will bring us finally to the place of absolute ascendancy over the powers that are set against us. God is working that out in us; it is His kingdom. The kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven, is within you. It is an inward matter; that is where it begins. And it is in the midst of you - which expresses the corporate setting of the Kingdom; in the midst of the Church, a people secured and constituted by God and in whom first of all His absolute Lordship shall be established.

I must add a word about the other aspect that - the Church is a people in whom the blessedness of God is known. Well, there is a sense in which that is true, but not true enough of us yet. The pressure and the intensity of this great spiritual warfare does register upon us, it does take its toll. This persistent determination of the enemy to wear us out leaves its mark, and we are not too characterized by the blessedness of God's kingdom. But it does break out sometimes. We sing some of those songs of Zion together, we speak of the great day of Christ's soon appearing, we remind ourselves of all the wonders of His Cross - 'Oh, the sweet wonders of that Cross' - and when we dwell upon these things the glory of His kingdom does well up; it shows itself from time to time. Perhaps that is one of the great blessednesses of Christian fellowship. We gather in meetings and in the Spirit, and the real nature of the Kingdom does come up and show itself. it is there, and more or less it is abidingly there, consciously there, all the time; but we are conscious too that we are up against things, we are in a grim fight. Yet in this kingdom we have to know more and more of the blessedness of God, the happiness of God. We must rebuke ourselves for what contradicts that and remind ourselves that, after all, we are a very happy people. "Happy is the people whose God is the Lord" (Psalm 144:15).

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 28 - (The Church To Administer and Manifest the Kingdom)

There Can Be Nothing Unless Christ Does It

The anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as His anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit – just as it has taught you, remain in Him. (1 John 2:27 NIV)

The School of Christ; that is, the School where Christ is the great Lesson and the Spirit the great Teacher; in the School where the teaching is not objective, but subjective; where the teaching is not of things, but an inward making of Christ a part of us by experience – that is the nature of this School. "Ye shall see the heaven opened." "He saw the heavens opened and the Spirit of God descending upon Him." What is the meaning of the anointing of the Holy Spirit? It is nothing less and nothing other than the Holy Spirit taking His place as absolute Lord. The anointing carries with it the absolute Lordship of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit as Lord. That means that all other lordships have been deposed and set aside; the lordship of our own lives; the lordship of our own minds, our own wills, our own desires; the lordship of others. The lordship of every interest and every influence is regarded as having given place to the undivided and unreserved lordship of the Holy Spirit, and the anointing can never be known or enjoyed, unless that has taken place....

Do you ask for the anointing of the Holy Spirit? Why do you ask for the anointing of the Holy Spirit? Is the anointing something that you crave? To what end? That you may be used, may have power, may have influence, may be able to do a lot of wonderful things? The first and preeminent thing the anointing means is that we can do nothing but what the anointing teaches and leads to do. The anointing takes everything out of our hands. The anointing takes charge of the reputation. The anointing takes charge of the very purpose of God. The anointing takes complete control of everything and all is from that moment in the hands of the Holy Spirit, and we must remember that if we are going to learn Christ, that learning Christ is by the Holy Spirit's dealing with us, and that means that we have to go exactly the same way as Christ went in principle and in law... "The Son can do nothing out from Himself." You see, there is the negative side of the anointing; while the positive side can be summed up in one word – the Father only. Perhaps that is a little different idea of the anointing from what we have had, "Oh, to be anointed of the Holy Spirit! What wonders will follow; how wonderful that life will be!" The first and the abiding thing about the anointing is that we are imprisoned into the Lordship of the Spirit of God, so that there can be nothing if He does not do it. Nothing!

By T. Austin-Sparks

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Cross, The Church, and The Kingdom # 26

The Kingdom of God (continued)

God All In All

How? On what ground? That is God's first sphere of domain where He is all in all, where the devil has no place, nor man as such. That is the great meaning of the Cross at which we are trying to get, where no systems of men are the ruling things, where God is all in all. You must remember that that is the end toward which everything is moving. It is moving through and by Christ in the first instance, and then through Christ through His Church, back to God complete. "... He shall deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father; ... that God may be all in all" (1 Corinthians 15:24-28).

That is the setting in which we are found. God is all in all, to begin with. Is He? Well, that is the whole battleground of our inner life. It was that point which we reached in our previous meditation. There we shall resume later on, if He wills. But it is the question, first of all, of God being all in all, the Lord being Lord, and there being no other lordship - the lordship of our will, our likes, our dislikes, our preferences, our prejudices, our selectivenesses, and all that belongs to us - that rises up and disputes the place and way and will of God. No other feature must have lordship, but He must be Lord of all. I do not expect literally to see Jesus Christ riding on a white horse with a name written on His garment, "King of kings, and Lord of lords." I believe that is a symbol of the great spiritual truth that He will ride in majesty as Lord of lords; He will trample down every other lordship and bring it into subjection to Himself, and  - metaphorically, but none the less very truly - ride forth triumphantly as King. That is the end, and that absolute supremacy which He has attained He will hand up to the Father, for the Father's ultimate satisfaction in accordance with the purpose which He purposed before the foundation of the world. The whole question of the kingdom of God is resolved in the very first instance into an inward matter in the case of every believer, as to whether He is Lord.

I said just now that that is the battleground in which we find ourselves continually; but, blessed be God, it is not all defeat! There is the mighty energy of the Spirit of God that makes it possible for us to cry - "when I fall, I shall arise" (Micah 7:8). That is not the assertion of self-assurance and self-sufficiency, but of faith that knows there is a power that worketh in us. The mighty energy of the Spirit of God is working the powers of the Kingdom in us, the powers of a coming age.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 27 - (The Kingdom of God Within and In the Midst)