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Saturday, November 18, 2017

Words of Wisdom and Revelation # 2

Words of Wisdom and Revelation # 2

Leaving Room for God

On the day of Pentecost there was "a sound as of a mighty rushing wind." Have you ever been in a really mighty rushing wind? The thing about a real wind storm is that it takes the government out of all other hands and proceeds to do as it chooses without reference or deference to conventions, traditions, common acceptances, inclinations, or fixed ideas. While it lasts,k it is sovereign. That is how it was then; but there were those who were offended, shocked, scandalized, and who said in effect that such a way could never be of God... So we see that for all enlargement and increase, we must leave room for God to do 'new' things, strange things, things that we cannot understand for the moment. We only put ourselves outside of His intention to enlarge spiritually if we bind Him to our own fixed judgments.
__________________________

Reaching Divine Fullness

Divine fullness is only going to be reached by a progressive and ever-increasing revelation of Christ and His significance. Such a revelation - unless we misunderstand the record of God's ways from of old - comes firstly to an apprehended instrument which is taken into the deeps with God; then it is given forth as His truth for His people; and then it becomes the inwrought experience and knowledge of such as really mean business with God - not as to their blessing, but as to His purpose and inheritance in them.
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The Present Need

URGENTLY NEEDED!
Men (and women) of stature - (Isaiah 65:14; Ephesians 4:13).
In whom the Cross has done a deep work as to self-interest.
Who are not so concerned to preach, or to try and influence others to a doctrine or theory, but whose main influence will be one of LIFE.
Who have come to know the Lord in a way of proving.
Whose reaction to every situation, circumstance, and proposition is: Does it glorify God? and whose touchstone by which all things are tested and determined is: Can it work out to an increase of Christ?
For such there is a pressing need, in the Church, in the Lord's work, and in all the nations.
Inquire in the Secret Place.
Basis of considerations: (Romans chapter 6).
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Christ Only and Fully


Whenever and wherever, by a new revealing of Himself, His purpose and method, the Lord has secured those who have moved out on to the ground of Christ only and in fullness, they have always had to meet a great and painful cost. Usually it has been their own brethren in Christ who have exacted it ...The truth is that - in many cases - they have only taken the ground which everybody knows is the ground of spiritual fullness, where questions of "church connection" and orders, etc., are never raised; where such things or practice are never mentioned, but "Christ is all and in all"; and the one concern has been that He should have what is His ground and way of continuous increase.

_____________________________

The Way of Fruitfulness

If you are going to be an overcomer... if you are going with the Lord wholly and utterly, to persecute in a thoroughgoing way God's will end, to pursue it...and pay the price...there is undoubtedly going to be tremendous enrichment of others, and the fact is, and it is a settled law, that the enrichment of others can only come in this way. Those who will not pay the price forfeit the fruitfulness. The real values of Christ have come all the way through the centuries through men after this sort, men of this mind... Your greatness and your value and your fruitfulness will be according to the utterness of your abandonment to God's full thought. He will see to the rest, and many will thank God that you paid the price, that you suffered for an utter way for the Lord, that you counted not the cost too great.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 3)

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Words Of Wisdom and Revelation # 1

Words Of Wisdom and Revelation # 1

Introduction:

Very shortly after his departure in 1971, the Norfolk Christian Gathering of Norfolk, Virginia, issued a statement of "MEMORIES AND THANKSGIVING FOR THE DIVINE CALLING, LIFE, AND MINISTRY OF GOD'S SERVANT - T. AUSTIN-SPARKS." That statement said, in part:

"We thank the Lord that...
the distinctive emphasis and message of the Word revealed to Brother Sparks reached us in America years ago through "A Witness and a Testimony," its associated literature, and his personal visits for conferences...

"We thank the Lord that...
in his person and his messages, the Lord enabled Brother Sparks to bring fresh spiritual values out of living experience - messages wrought in him - evidencing the illumination of the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ and of the Father's eternal purpose in His Son. All of our brother's spoken and written ministry came to us as bearing the unction and imprimatur of the Holy Spirit.

"We thank the Lord that...
He gave our brother that much-needed ministry for the remnant in this current end-time period. By it we were greatly encouraged in faith to 'go on' into God's full purpose in spite of misunderstandings. 
"In his spoken and written ministry the Lord has bequeathed to us a great legacy of truth - a trust so vital that it imposes on us a serious challenge and responsibility..."

Because we brothers have been spiritually enriched in such great measure over a forty year span by Mr. Sparks' ministry, we are deeply concerned to make some little part of that wealth available to others. So for the following pages we have culled a number of choice passages from Mr. Sparks' writings - though mostly from "A Witness and a Testimony" magazine covering the years 1941 through 1971 - and have loosely arranged the selections under three headings:

1. Individual Christian Life and Service
2. Christianity and the Church - the New Testament Model vs. the Contemporary Scene.
3. The Lord's Coming and its Challenge to Christians.

Our desire and hope for these pages - reflecting in a small way Mr. Sparks' own heavy burden through many, many years of service and suffering - are that they may contribute to the building up of others to more mature spiritual stature, and as a consequence further their preparation for the Lord's return. May He do it in all of us!

Individual Christian Life and Service

God's Mysterious Dealings

If God were dealing with us as sinners, that is, if He were dealing with us because of certain personal sins and personal faults, we could quite clearly understand that; but when He is dealing with us in relation to Divine purpose, as His servants, His dealings with us go far beyond our understanding. We are taken out into a realm where we do not understand what the Lord is doing with us, and why the Lord takes certain courses with us. We are out of our depth; we are altogether baffled; and we are compelled - that is, if we are going on with God - to move with Him according to whatever light we may have, and believe that these dealings with us, so far beyond our understanding are somehow related to that purpose with which we are called, and that the explanation waits some distance ahead, and we will find it when we get there. God does not explain Himself when He takes a step with us.
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The Holy Spirit's Objective

...the Holy Spirit has one object in view, and all His activities are toward that one object, namely, the establishment of the Lordship of Jesus Christ. That is what He is after, and if you want the Holy Spirit to operate, to work in your life and through you, remember it is to that He will work, and it is not always the Holy Spirit's way to give us lovely sensations and beautiful experiences which would bring us into prominence, and make something of us. The Holy Spirit may take us into deep depths in order to get the Lordship of Jesus Christ established, and He will do it in the way which will reach His end best. He will dethrone, He will break down all our strength, our glory, and our kingdom. His end is the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit prayer is, "Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever."

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 2)



Saturday, November 4, 2017

Five Principles Of Interpreting the Bible # 2

Five Principles Of Interpreting the Bible # 2

Our measure of understanding of the Bible will be just in accordance with the measure of our spiritual life. This is why the Lord takes us through experiences in order to bring us to understanding. The measure of our death to the natural mind will be the measure of our understanding of the things of the Spirit. Please remember that in these days which are before us. Something has got to happen in us before we understand the Scripture. We cannot understand the Word of God by just deciding that we are going to have a training course, that we are going to have some classes for Bible teaching. No, that is not the way in which we come to understanding of the Word of God. We shall only understand according to the measure of our spiritual life. That is a principle of Biblical interpretation. Now we come to the fourth.

(4) The Final Mention

The final mention of any particular matter in the Bible is usually a key to all its meaning. That is something that we must think about. We find certain things mentioned again and again in the Bible; but when we come to the final occasion where that thing is mentioned, we usually find the key to all that has been said before. If you take a particular matter, where it is mentioned for the last time, and then note the setting and the context and the relationship, you will get the full meaning of all that has been said about that before.

Now that is a statement that I have made, and you will need to think and to work on that, but I will help you by taking just one illustration. In the last chapter of the Bible, Revelation twenty-two and verse two, we have the last reference to "the tree of life." Now when we go right back to the beginning of the Bible, we have "the tree of life" mentioned, but we are told nothing about it - it is just referred to as something that exists. We have no explanation, we are not told what that tree is, or what it means; it is just referred to as "the tree of life." We have to go to the end of the Bible for the explanation, and when we come to this last chapter of the Bible, by the context and relationship, we have a very large explanation.

Let us look at the passage. Revelation twenty-two: "And He showed me a river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb," - note the context, "the throne of God and of the Lamb." You have got to read the whole book of Revelation to understand that. There is a tremendous amount in the early chapters of this book about "the throne of God and of the Lamb." And you need to understand what the throne of God is and what is the significance of the throne of the Lamb, - "For the Lamb is in the midst of the throne."

Now in relation to "the throne of God and of the Lamb," there is "a river of water of life... in the midst of the street thereof. And on either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve manner (kinds) of  fruit, yielding its fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no curse any more; and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be therein: and His bondservants shall serve Him." There is "the tree of life." It bears immortal fruit. There is no place for death here. Its fruit is born every month: this is fruit immortal, or fruit without death. The leaves of this tree are for the health of the nations. I am sorry that in most versions the word "healing" is wrongly translated. I do not know what the word is in your translation, but the original is not for "the healing of the nations," but for "the health of the nations." You may ask, 'What is the difference?' Well, one is the removal of disease, and the other is the prevention of disease.

In Revelation twenty-two, we have come to the time when the spiritual diseases of the nations have been healed, but the health of the nations needs to be preserved. It is a state that is to be maintained. Thus, the leaves are not for healing, they are for preservation. And so it says: "And there shall be no curse any more."

You see, you have got the whole history of the Bible in those words. You have got all that came on the nations through Adam's sin. You have corruption and death - natural disease - the result of a curse. All that is now cleared up, and "the tree of life" represents Victory of Life over all that, Life Triumphant, and Life Abundant. Here the full meaning of "the tree of life" is revealed. And it is like that will all other matters. When you come to the last mention, you have the key to the whole subject. That is a principle of the interpretation of the Bible.

(5.) The Only Real Value Is The Spiritual

Now I come to the last principle for the present, number five: the only real value is the spiritual. We must remember this when we are reading and studying the Bible, and we must keep this in mind in these times  in which we are together. We must not come here just with a thirst for more information or a craving for more knowledge. There are people who just want to get more and more knowledge and education. Now that constitutes a danger. That is exactly how Adam was caught. You see, satan said: "If you take of this tree, you will know"; it was "the tree of knowledge." And there is always a danger of eating of that tree. It might just lead us into death and not into life. So, I repeat this principle of Biblical interpretation: the only read value is the spiritual. And spiritual value is just how something affects our life with God. I do wish that Adam had recognized that. When satan tempted him to take of "the tree of knowledge," if only Adam had said, 'How will this affect my life with God?' He, and we, should have been saved all the trouble.

So, let me say this again, spiritual value is just how something affects our life with God. Shall I put that in another way - spiritual value is just how much something increases the measure of Christ. If Christ is the interpretation of the Bible, then the spiritual knowledge of the Bible results in an increase of Christ. If our days together do not result in an increase of the measure of Christ, we have missed the Way. If we do not go away more Christ-like men and women, with a larger measure of the Lord Jesus, this training course has failed. So I beg of you to pray all the way through that this time together may mean spiritual increase, spiritual knowledge, and not intellectual enlargement.

Everything has got to be judged by how much it contributes  to the Ultimate Purpose of God! We have to ask, "Where does this lead us? Is it Is it leading us somewhere? What is it leading us to? All spiritual knowledge leads to an increase of Christ; it contributes to the ultimate purpose of God. The question always is "How much of life is there in it?" It is not a matter of interest; it is not a matter of fascination with Bible truth; it is not a matter of making us more important people by the enlarging of our natural stature, but it is just a matter of the measure of Christ. This is the real spiritual value!

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(The End)

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Five Principles of Interpreting the Bible # 1

Five Principles of Interpreting the Bible # 1

God's Full Intention Governs Everything That He Does

I want to speak now about some principles of Biblical interpretation. It is very important for us to be able to know how the Bible is to be interpreted, and this will be especially seen in what we have to consider later on. Unless we do understand the principles of the interpretation of the Bible, the Bible is not an open book: we may know what is in the Book as a book, but we do not understand it until we have the principles of interpretation. So I ask you to try and remember what I am going to say now and bring it over into our later study. We will consider five important principles of interpreting the Bible:

1. The Eternity of God.
2. The Comprehensiveness of Christ.
3. The interpreter of the Bible is the Holy Spirit.
4. The Final Mention.
5. The Only Real Value is the Spiritual.

(1.) The Eternity of God

The first principle of the interpretation of the Bible is the eternity of God. We must always remember that all time is present time with God. There is no past and future with God: all that is past and future with us has been present with God always. At any moment in what is time to us, eternity is present with God.

The architect always has the completed plan before him. If he is the designer of a ship, he has a model made of that ship before anything is done. He sees in the model the completed object, that is, exactly how the thing will appear when it is finished. If it is a great building, or even a city, it is the same. The architect draws what we call a scale model, and he sees in that model exactly how the building, or the city, will be when it is finished. The builder works day by day according to that completed plan. Those who only see the parts cannot understand, and must not take the parts as being the whole. Sometimes when you look at the parts of a building, you cannot for the life of you understand what it is going to be. It is only as the completed thing is seen that you can understand the parts.

Now the Bible is just full of parts, but they are all the parts of something that God sees in completion. God is the Great Architect, He has the completed and perfect plan before Him before He begins any work. God's eternity is in every part. So we must realize that God has His full Mind behind everything that He does! You must realize that God's Mind never grows, - God Himself is incapable of development.

The temporary form of anything contains the eternal and full thought of God. You must realize that there are always two meanings in anything that is in the Bible. There is the present meaning, that is, how that applies to the present situation; but there is also the future meaning. Everything in the Bible, while it has a present application, has a fuller meaning in the future. That is the first law of interpretation: it is the eternity of God.

(2.) The Comprehensiveness of Christ

The second law of interpretation is the comprehensiveness of Christ. Christ is the interpretation of all the Bible, to know Christ is to understand the Bible. Men like Peter and Paul knew the Bible, but they did not understand it until they knew the Lord Jesus. We first know the Lord Jesus, and then we take Him back into the Bible, and He is the interpretation of the Bible. Therefore, we cannot really understand the Bible until we know the Lord Jesus. That results in this - that the Bible is really a Person, and not a book. The Bible is a Living Person, and not a dead letter. Because this Person is inexhaustible, He makes the Bible inexhaustible.

Now that is a more important principle than perhaps you realize. It is possible to exhaust the Bible as a book. We have known great Bible teachers who went through the Bible teaching it again and again, but at the end of their lives they were having difficulty in finding something fresh; and they were only repeating again and again things that they had said in past years. The reason for this is that they dealt with the Bible as a book. That will never happen if  you know the Lord Jesus and see the Bible in Him, and Him in the Bible. I repeat that the Lord Jesus can never be exhausted. As the Holy Spirit reveals the Lord Jesus to us, the Bible is always more alive. So, we have our first two principles of interpretation: (1) The Eternity of God and (2) The Comprehensiveness of Christ.

(3.) The Interpreter of the Bible Is the Holy Spirit

Now we come to number three: the interpreter of the Bible is the Holy Spirit. I have said that Jesus is the interpretation of the Bible. I am saying now that the Holy Spirit is the interpreter of the Bible. We are familiar with the words in the Letter to the Corinthians, but let us just look at them again now. The first Letter to the Corinthians, chapter two and verse thirteen: "Which things also we speak, not in the words which men's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Spirit teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual."

Now I do not know if you have marginal references in your Bible, but the more correct translation of those words is this: 'interpreting spiritual things to spiritual men.' Let us read the whole passage again in that way:

"Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Spirit teacheth; interpreting spiritual things to spiritual men."

That scripture is a very important statement,and it definitely affirms the principle that we are now setting forth - the interpreter of the Bible is the Holy Spirit. First of all, then, the Bible is the Holy Spirit's Book. The Bible is not firstly man's Book, it is not our Book, we have not got the Book. We have got certain writings which are called Scripture, but in truth we do not possess the Book.

You remember the case in Acts of the Ethiopian eunuch. When Philip came near to his chariot, he heard the Ethiopian reading. He was reading the Book at Isaiah fifty-three. Philip said to him, "Understandest thou what thou readest?" And he said, "How can I, except some one shall guide me?" Here is a man who had the Book in a certain sense, but in a real and profitable sense he did not possess the Book. We can have the Book as a volume, and yet we may not possess the Book, because the Bible is the Holy Spirit's Book first. The mind of men and the Mind of the Spirit are  two altogether different things!

Do you know that there are many, many Christians who do not recognize that. There are many Bible teachers who do not recognize that. And this is the cause of very much confusion, and the reason for very much spiritual smallness and weakness. I think this may lie at the bottom of most of the controversy. The Bible is a closed Book to all but spiritual men. This is the principle that the Lord Jesus set before Nicodemus: You must be born from above before you can see what is above.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 2)

Saturday, October 21, 2017

His Great Love # 23

His Great Love # 23

The Mastery of Love

And then the mastery of love. "When thou wast young thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither Thou wouldest not." When thou was young - in other words - you did as you liked; when you get old, you are going to do what you would not have done then. And love is going to make you do a lot of things you would not have done before. It is something more than "like"; it is love. You are going to be mastered by another master than yourself and your own likes and preferences. You are going to do quite a lot out of love, because you are love-mastered, that you would never do otherwise. When love is the master, you are going ways you would never go otherwise.

Is not this something that discriminates between spiritual infancy and spiritual maturity? In effect, the Lord is saying here, 'In spiritual infancy and immaturity, people always do as they like, as they want to do, as they choose. But when you get to spiritual maturity it is no longer what you want or the way you would go, it is the way the other Master says, the Master Who is love.' The day comes when you say:

"My Master, lead me to Thy door;
Pierce this now willing ear once more;
At length my will is all Thine own,
Glad vassal of a Saviour's throne."

That is a new kind of mastery. There has been service to the Lord, but this is something new, this is maturity. You notice that Paul said the very same thing in another way in 1 Corinthians 13, "A more excellent way show I unto you. If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal," and on he goes with what might be, yet without love, and of it all being nothing, and then He goes on to the positive unfolding of the nature of true love. "Love suffereth long, and is kind;love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not its own..." and then, without a break, it is not another chapter on another subject, he says, "When I was a child I spake as a child, I felt as a child, I  thought as a child: now that I am become a man, I have put away childish things." Oh, love, mature love, true love, this love is not childish in its thoughts and ideas and ways,seeking its own. But mature grown-up love, the love now of the man as against the child,is a different thing altogether from that. This is the love of the mature man that Paul is talking about, and it is his way, his lovely way, I was going to say - his clever way of just letting the Corinthians see that it was all childishness, this that was going on in Corinth. "I am of Paul;and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas" (1 Cor. 1:12). It is childishness and it is NOT love, and when you come to mature love, when you grow up, all that sort of thing will go. You will not be selecting your favorites, you will not be doing any of those things the Corinthians were doing.

When thou shalt become a man, thou shalt be under another mastery,and, although you will not like it, your flesh will shrink from it, you will even go to the cross. No man chooses that for his own fleshly comfort, he would shun it; but you will go to the cross. "Now this he spake, signifying by what manner of death he should glorify God." He would be so mastered that he would stretch forth his hands - Peter according to tradition was crucified - he would stretch forth his hands, he would be carried not the way he would like, but another way because of another master, the mastery of love, mature love, grown-up love.

Now this brings me to this point. The Lord does really need men and women to serve His ends. In many ways there is a need for more young men to come on in the ministry of feeding and tending. A lot of people have interpreted that "Feed My lambs" as Sunday School work. I do not believe the Lord meant that at all. The lambs in this case are not little children, although that may be your ministry and it may be included. You know, one of the most difficult things is to tend and minister to the immature, the spiritually delayed in their growth. But whatever it is, the Lord does need those who will serve Him in ministering to His own. Young men, He does! He needs you to preach the Gospel. He needs you to teach His people, to feed His people. There is a great need. Perhaps you have thought about it and perhaps you have desired it. Perhaps that is your will or your hope. But listen - the need is very great in all phases and directions of the Lord's work, He needs you; but the fact that the Lord needs you does not mean that you can do it, or that He can come now and call you into it and open the way for you. His need may be very great, and yet He may not be able now to open the way for you to come in to serve Him in meeting it. Why? It might be that you would come in on some other ground - to be a minister, to be a teacher, to be something; to study up the Bible and then pass on the fruits of your study. All sorts of things you might begin to do, and the Lord is waiting until your heart is broken over this whole situation, and it is such a heart-matter that you come to the place where you say, 'Lord, the only justification of my life is that Your interests are served.' It must be a matter of heart-love for the Lord and for what is His, and not for the work, the ministry; not for anything but for your Lord what is His. When you get there, and you are found upon your face before the Lord breaking your heart because you see He is not getting what He ought to have, when this becomes the travel of your soul, you will find the Lord will begin to do something. This is the necessary basis for the Lord to bring out His servants. That is what is here. You may come in the way to the place where you find it painful and not likeable at all, but that basic grip of the master-love will keep you going when everything would make you run away. When I see young men with ambition to be ministers, I quietly say inside, 'The Lord have mercy upon them.' This is something to be guarded against unless the Lord puts you in and holds you in. Do not have natural ambitions in the Christian realm, but ask the Lord for this love that will hold you in when you would give anything to run away.

You say, 'It is terrible to talk about Christian work like that!' But, in a true spiritual realm, you meet forces that you would never have imagined existed. You meet hell when you are seeking to build the heavenly kingdom. Well, here again the Lord does need you. The need is there, He wants you. There is work for you to do and plenty of it. Oh, His people are hungry, His sheep need tending and feeding; they need guiding, counseling, instructing, and to be provided for, and the Lord wants you to be His under-shepherds. I am so glad Peter wrote his letter about the great Shepherd and the under-shepherd. Yes, He wants you, He needs you. Do not be mistaken about that. And if He is keeping you waiting, do not think it is because He does not want you, because there is no need. It is all there, clamant, pressing, but He must have you on this basis, nothing else will do - your own personal heart-love for Him that will not choose your own way or go anywhere because you like it. You will go against yourself altogether under the constraint of His mighty love.

The Concentration of Love

If I were to add another word, it would be this - connected with Peter's seemingly superficial reaction to this terrific thing. Suddenly seeing John following on he turned around. The Lord has said, "Follow Me," and he immediately turns around, sees John and says, "Lord, and this man, what?" What I am going to say about it is not all it contains, but it is this, that you are going to be called, appointed, to your particular ministry. Others will be called to theirs and theirs may be different from yours, theirs may be in another realm altogether from yours. The Lord's servants are often characterized by a specific ministry. They have to recognize what that is and keep to it.

Effectiveness depends upon concentration and avoidance of either distraction, diversion, or divided interest. There is something in the nature of rebuke in the Lord's rejoinder to Peter - "What is that to thee?" The whole statement seems clearly to mean that the Lord has sovereign rights to dispose of His servants as He wills, and they must not allow themselves to be diverted from what He appoints for them severally.

Love for Him must work out in giving oneself wholly to the thing to which they have been called. Superficially turning therefrom to what is not their calling is itself contrary to love, it is fickleness.

Well, Peter learned this lesson, did his job, and glorified his Lord. He became a true shepherd. No one can read his letters without feeling his love for his Lord above all dividedness of heart. Love works out in faithfulness to the particular function, and faithfulness thereto unto the end - the long last proves the love.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(The End)

Saturday, October 14, 2017

The Sanctifying Power of the Cross! (and other devotionals)



The sanctifying power of the cross!

(John L. Dagg, "Manual of Theology")

"May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world!" Galatians 6:14
It may be profitable to yet linger a little while at the cross--that we may again survey its glory, and feel its soul-subduing power.

In the cross of Christ--all the divine perfections are gloriously and harmoniously displayed. Infinite love, inviolable truth, and inflexible justice are all seen, in their brightest and most beautifully mingled colors. The heavens declare the glory of God--but the glory of the cross outshines the wonders of the skies!God's moral perfections are here displayed, which are the highest glory of His character.

The cross of Christ is our only hope of everlasting life. On Him who hangs there, our iniquities were laid--and from His wounds, flows the blood that cleanses from all sin. Our faith views the bleeding victim, and securely relies on the great atoning sacrifice. It views mercy and grace streaming from the cross--and to the cross it comes to obtain every needed blessing.

In the cross, the believer finds the strongest motive to holiness. As we stand before it, and view the exhibition of the Savior's love--we resolve to live unto Him who died for us.

The world ceases to charm. We become crucified to the world--and the world crucified to us.

Sin appears infinitely hateful. We regard it as the accursed thing which caused the death of our beloved Lord--and we grow strong in the purpose to wage an exterminating war against it. By all the Savior's agonies, we vow to have no peace with sin for ever.

The cross is the place for penitential tears. We look on Him whom we have pierced, and mourn. Contemplating Jesus' sin-atoning sacrifice, is the highest motive to holiness. Our hearts bleed at the sight of the bleeding sufferer, murdered by our sins--and we resolve that the murderers shall die! 

The cross is a holy place, where we learn . . .
  to be like Christ,
  to hate sin as He hated it, and
  to delight in the law of God which was in His heart.

In the presence of the cross, we feel that omnipotent grace has taken hold of our heart--and we surrender to dying love.
The doctrine of the cross needs no other demonstration of its divine origin--than its power to sanctify the heart, and bring it into willing and joyful subjection to Christ.
______________________________


Nothing is more helpful and practical in Christian living!(J.R. Miller)

"Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful." Joshua 1:8
The habit of treasuring up a text of Scripture in the morning, to be meditated upon while engaged in the business of the world through the day--is both profitable and delightful. It is as a refreshing spring to a weary traveler!

Nothing is more helpful and practical in Christian living, than the habit of getting a verse of Scripture into the mind and heart in the morning. Its influence stays through the day, weaving itself into all the day's thoughts and words and experiences.

Every verse in the Bible is meant to help us to live--and a good devotional book opens up the precious teachings which are folded up in its words.

A devotional book, which takes a Scripture text, and so opens it for us in the morning--that all day long it helps us to live, becoming a true lamp to our feet, and a staff to lean upon when the way is rough--is the very best devotional help we can possibly have. What we need in a devotional book which will bless our lives--is the application of the great teachings of Scripture--to common, daily, practical life!
"Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night!" Psalm 1:1-2
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The one unfailing source of help and comfort!

(Francis Bourdillon, "Come unto Me!")

"Come unto Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest!" Matthew 11:28

Jesus invites all who labor and are heavy laden, to come unto Him. Not sufferers of one kind only--butall sufferers. Not those alone who feel the weight of this particular burden or that--but all the heavy laden.

The poor and needy,
the weak and sickly,
the toiling father,
the anxious mother,
he who feels the weight of his sins,
he whose conscience testifies against him,
he who finds no comfort in this world, and yet fears that he is not prepared for the next
--all are invited to come to Jesus!

Their cases are widely different, the burdens that press upon them are by no means alike--yet all are invited to one Helper and Comforter, "Come unto Me!" He does not bid one sufferer go for comfort to this source--and another to that. He invites all to Himself--as the one unfailing source of help and comfort! 

"Come unto Me!" We do not deserve to be thus invited. Many are suffering the consequences of their own sins--and all of us are sinners. If we met with only what we deserve--then He might justly say to us, "Go away from Me!" Instead of this, Jesus bids us come to Him. Whatever we may have been--however thoughtless, however ungrateful, however wicked--yet if we are now in need or trouble, that is enough. He bids us come to Him.

We are not to stop and think about our own unworthiness. He says nothing here about that. He only says, "Come unto Me." That is what He invites us to do--that is what we are to do, and we are to do it at once!

Monday, October 9, 2017

The Chisel of Affliction! and Other Devotions


The chisel of affliction!(Charles Naylor)

[Editor's note: Naylor is peculiarly qualified to write on affliction by his training in the school of suffering. As a young evangelist, Naylor was severely injured in an accident. For forty-one years as an invalid, he lay day and night on a bed of pain as a constant sufferer.]

"God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it!" Hebrews 12:10-11One thing very difficult for many Christians to learn, is that the chastening rod of God is applied in love, not in anger. We are told that God "scourges every son whom He receives," and that that scourging is the proof of our sonship. So often people are inclined to take God's chastisement as an evidence that they are no longer His sons. They look upon it as a mark of God's disapproval--or even of His anger. But Scripture tells us that His chastening is for our profit. He does it not for His own pleasure--but that we may be made holier by it. It is a mark of His love. He says, "As many as I love--I rebuke and chasten!" Revelation 3:19

Note carefully God's attitude in His chastening in Hebrews 12. We are all ready to admit the truth of the eleventh verse, "No chastening for the present seems to be joyous--but grievous." None of us like to be chastened--but yet it is necessary; out of chastening come the fruits of righteousness. When the Lord chastens us, therefore, let us bear it with meekness. Let us profit by it. Let us neither be grieved nor discouraged. 

Gold is purified in the furnace. It is not destroyed--it is made the better by the flames. 

In the same way, every believer must pass through the furnace. The purpose of the furnace is . . .
  that we may be purged from our dross,
  that our graces may be refined,
  that we may be rid of worldliness,
  that we may be made more holy.

If you and I have to pass through the furnace of affliction or sorrow, of losses or failures--then let us submit ourselves to the hand of God. Let us not question either His mercy or His goodness.

We must often endure the chisel of affliction, as God carves us into His image. We desire to be in His image. We desire to be godlike in character. Remember that God only afflicts for our good. Like the surgeon, God does not hurt willingly--but only of necessity.

In our times of trouble, He would have us run into His arms and tell Him all our troubles, our questionings, our heartaches! 
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This unravels the mystery!

(Octavius Winslow, "Christ, the Counselor")

The path of providence is often paved with difficulties and beset with perplexities with which we can hardly cope.
Our way to Heaven is through an intricate wilderness, and across a circuitous desert.
To many even of the Lord's people, this is literally the case. Visit their abodes, and ponder the struggle passing within. All is . . .
  poverty and discomfort,
  penury of bread,
  scantiness of clothing,
  pining sickness,
  loathsome disease,
  excruciating suffering,
with no human friends, no soothing alleviation, no earthly comforts.
And yet this dark picture is not entirely unrelieved.
Christ dwells in that obscure abode! God's eye is watching over it! There is . . .
  gnawing poverty--and yet boundless wealth;
  deep need--and yet a rich supply;
  acute suffering--and yet exquisite pleasure;
  keen sorrow--and yet unspeakable joy!
And why these paradoxes? How are we to understand these strange contradictions?
The apostle gives us a clue in a page of his own history.
"As unknown--and yet well known;
 as dying--and behold, we live;
 as chastened--and not killed;
 as sorrowful--yet always rejoicing;
 as poor--yet making many rich;
 as having nothing--yet possessing all things!"
This unravels the mystery!
The possession of Christ explains it! He who has Christ in him, and Christ with him, and the hope of being forever with Christ in glory--is not a poor, nor a sorrowful, nor a suffering, nor a lonely man. He can say, "I am not alone, for my Father is with me! I am not poor, for all things are mine! My body is diseased--but my soul is in health! I have all and abound!"
Can we for a moment doubt His perfect power . . .
  to undertake all the cares,
  to cope with all the difficulties,
  to solve all the doubts, and
  to disentangle all the perplexities brought to Him by His saints in all places and at all times!
"Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name--you are Mine! When you go through deep waters and great trouble--I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty--you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression--you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior!" Isaiah 43:1-3

Sunday, October 8, 2017

"His Great Love" # 22

"His Great Love" # 22

"Lovest Thou Me", continued -

That is why He was so insistent. 'Simon, you have protested that you do love Me; you have even gone as far as to say that you would out-love other people; but Simon, Simon, really look into your own heart - do you? Why, under trial, when I was withdrawn from you and you were left alone, and everything seemed to have gone wrong and to have broken down and all your personal expectations and ambitions and visions had proved worthless, why did you say, "I go a fishing?" as though you said, 'I am going to find some alternative to this kind of life, it is not satisfactory, it is so uncertain and there are so many difficulties, I cannot see the way, therefore I am going to make a way myself.'

There was another of this group who took the course of despair, passive despair - I refer to Thomas. But Peter put his dilemma into a positive form and said, "I go a fishing." We may adopt different courses in our perplexity, in adversity, under trial. When the Lord hides Himself and we cannot see Him, or hear Him, and we do not feel that He is with us, He seems to be so far away and to have gone right out of our world, all we were expecting seems to have come to an end, and we do not know where we are, then we are prone to go some way that we choose for ourselves, and begin to take alternatives to steadfast love. It is a real challenge, it is a positive challenge, because these are experiences, these are tests, that the Lord allows. It is not a wrong thing to say that there are times when the Lord hides Himself, when the Lord lets us feel that we are left alone, when the Lord seems to close the heavens to us so that there is no to-and-fro communication, and when everything that we had looked for, expected and preached, seems to have come to an end and to have broken down, we are just left in what seems like ruins of everything; the Lord just does do that, and peculiarly does He do that sort of thing when He has people in view who are going to count. Take that, brothers, sisters! People  who are going to count for Him go through deep experiences like that, and the object is to get them on to a basis which will make it possible for Him to use them. We will never be used unless we can stand on our feet in the storm. We are useless to the Lord if we go to pieces when everything around us, and in our spiritual life, seems to have come to a deadlock. If then we give it up, we are of no use to the Lord. The whole question of future usefulness to the Lord is based upon a love for the Lord which does not give up and say, "I go a fishing."  'I take an alternative to following the Lord, I take an alternative to going on with the Lord because of the situation.'

That is why the Lord came back, once, twice - "Follow Me," "follow thou Me." 'You went back under trial, under testing - follow thou Me.' And you have got to follow and go on following when you cannot see Him, when you do not know where He is, you have got to go on. These are the kind of people, and these along, who will be used as Peter was. The basis of everything was that kind of personal love to the Lord Himself, not for what He was doing for Peter at the time, but for Himself. Oh, that is difficult - God only knows how difficult it is - to love Him for Himself when He does not seem to be doing anything for us at all. That is the challenge of love.

Really now, have we got very near to this? Love is something more than being a nominal Christian, bearing the name of Christian and going to meetings and taking up Christian work and all that. Love for the Lord is something very much more than that. The Lord says, "Lovest thou Me?" I am not stopping with the different words that were used for "love." The Lord used one word, Peter used another. We will leave that aside. The challenge is this - "Lovest thou Me?" What is the caliber, the quality, the content, of your love? "Lovest thou Me?"

The Proof of Love

Peter answered, "Yes, Lord; thou knowest that I love Thee." The Lord came back upon that declaration, imperfect as it was, for He Himself had used another word, the Lord came back and said, 'All right, prove it.' There was the challenge of love, and then the proof of love. "Feed My lambs." "Tend My sheep." And where is the emphasis in that? The emphasis is upon "My" - My lambs, My sheep. Love is not for the ministry, love is not for the work in itself. Oh, we can love to preach, we can love to work, to be in the work. We can love the whole system of Christian organization, activity, and all that, and find a great deal of satisfaction in it and place for ourselves, but it is not that at all. It is not love for the ministry, not even for tending and feeding. There is an awful snare in that. The love lies in this, 'Because they are Mine, just because they are Mine, and yours is a love for Me, anything that is Mine becomes the object of your love and your devotion and your activity.' This is really a sifting out. You perhaps like to be in Christian work, you like to teach, to preach, to do things and you would say that it is for the Lord. But let us ask our own hearts, if it is because we really love that which is dear to the Lord, is that really the motive? Just because it is the Lord's will we pour ourselves out, break our hearts over it, will we really shed tears because of genuine love for our Lord and what matters to Him? Is it like that? Why are you doing what you are doing, whatever it is, in relation to the Lord's things? Sheep and lambs can be very trying and cause us almost to despair, but love for the Lord and because they are His will keep us from giving them up.

Oh, I could break that up to apply it. I do not know what you are doing, but you may be doing various things. Where it is within the company of the Lord's people, you may be looking after the door and bringing the people in. You may be playing the instrument, you may be doing anything that people do in Christian work. Why are you doing it? Is it really out of a heart love for the Lord, for the Lord Himself, because this is the Lord's, or can it be put down to anything less than that - you have been persuaded or appointed to do it. Really are you doing it from the heart as unto the Lord? This is for the Lord consciously and deliberately, He puts everything on that basis. The proof of love is our concern for what is His. It is just His, and that is all there is to it. It is something that counts for Him, that matters to Him, and I need no other persuasion, no other coercion, no other urge or invitation. It is because it is the Lord's, and that is enough!

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 23 - The Mastery of Love)

Saturday, September 30, 2017

His Great Love # 21

His Great Love # 21

Spiritual Significance

Philadelphia marks the call for steadfast love, and so you expect in the issue of steadfast love to find something that would correspond. To Philadelphia the word is - "He that overcometh, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out thence no more and I will write upon him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from My God, and Mine own new name." "A pillar in the temple of My God." Again, do not materialize, for later we read, "And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God the Almighty, and the Lamb are the temple thereof" (Revelation 21:22). A pillar in the place where God dwells, a pillar in the house of God, the place of God's abode. A pillar, a strong thing, carrying responsibility in the very house of God. Steadfast love has that issue. "And I will write upon him ... the name of the city of My God." He shall have the franchise of the heavenly Jerusalem. He is a man of substance, a person that counts, he is carrying weight, he is a freeman of the new Jerusalem. "And Mine own new name"; which means 'I commit Myself to that man.' Are these things too big to grasp? They are not exaggerations, but that is what is implicit in this statement, and all who are of the character of Philadelphia, marked by steadfast love, become a strength in the place of God's dwelling and in His interest. They are people that count. Job said of his days before his affliction that when he went out everybody took account of him and bowed down to him and honored him. To be not self-important, but from heaven's standpoint, with that kind of importance that is humble, meek, altogether without arrogance or pride, to be of great importance to God, in the presence of God, important in the Church which is the new Jerusalem - love is the thing that must characterize us. Do you desire in a right way to carry weight, to signify something, to be really a strength in the things of God, to stand before the Lord as one who counts for something? Do you want that? Do you know the way there? I wonder what you think it is. Do you say, "Oh well, if I study, if I get a lot of teaching and Bible knowledge, and am always busy in the Lord's work, I shall become something?" No, not at all! In the dealings of God with you, you will find you will be emptied and brought down to nothingness in yourself, until you reach the place of pure, selfless love for the Lord for His own sake. Oh, there is a difference even in loving the Lord - whether it be for what He an do for us or for His own sake. You do not want to be loved because of what you are able to do. You want to be loved for your own sake. When it is like that, and we get away from all our ambitions, all our craving for recognition and reputation, and we love the Lord for His own sake, we have attained a place of tremendous importance - pillars of strength in the things of God, in the temple of God, in the presence of God. Love is the key to all spiritual significance.

Sharing His Throne

And finally, Laodicea; poor Laodicea, with its mediocre kind of testimony, neither hot nor cold, and the demand, therefore, for fervent love with no mistake about it, burning love, love at white-heat. What is the issue hanging upon love like that? "To him that overcometh, I will give to him to sit down with Me in My throne, as I also overcame, and sat down with My Father in His throne." You have reached the highest place now - throne union with the reigning Lord. All that that may mean we can never describe. Were we to start, we should never be able to tell it; but it must mean something that the Lord should say to people on this earth - 'On certain grounds you shall sit with Me in My throne, you shall have the place that I have, you shall share with Me the position to which I have come.' It must mean something tremendous. And He says that is related to victory over mediocrity in the matter of love. When you have this kind of love,fervent, full, strong love, you will come to the place of uppermost ascendency, the place in the throne.

You may not remember all I have said, the detail may go from you; but remember that in the Revelation the last times and the last things are in view. If you forget all the details, remember this one thing, that the ultimate, the supreme issue of our life and union with God is bound up with this question of love. How great, then, in importance is this question of His love being shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. What a wonderful thing is His great love wherewith He loved us, when it is found in us. It is both toward us and should be in us. The Lord make it so!

"Lovest Thou Me?"

Read: John 21:15-23

We are now nearing the end of our contemplation of "His Great Love," and we shall conclude with a word on the way of love. It is still through the Apostle John that the message is coming to us. His writings are the last of the New Testament, and the final and predominant feature is love.

The twenty-first chapter of his Gospel is a kind of appendix; almost like an afterthought. He seems to have concluded at the point marked verse thirty-one of chapter twenty, and then, as though on reflection, he seems to have said to himself, 'I cannot leave it there; there is something yet to be added. I must resolve it all into a personal application, a matter of personal love for the Lord proved by practical devotion.' So we have - in the first place -

"Lovest thou Me more than these?" The challenge is made very personal and direct: not to any Simon, but to "Simon, son of John." He is penned down and is not allowed to be mixed up in a crowd of Simons. Then, it was this Simon who had protested that, whatever might be the failure of others, his love would be stronger and more reliable than theirs. "Lovest thou Me more than these?" Doubtless many who read this, were they asked by the Lord if they loved Him, would be quite emphatic in their answer of "Yes!" But the Lord was evidently seeking an answer that was more than Simon was giving.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 22)

Monday, September 25, 2017

His Great Love # 20

His Great Love # 20

A Deep, Secret Life With The Lord, continued -

And that is said to the people whose great need was discerning love, and the message, therefore, is that if you have this love, you have a secret with the Lord. If this love is in us, this first love, this complete love, this true love for God, we have a secret life with God, God means something to us in secret that He does not mean to everybody. And we are elected to that: not that we are favorites, but through suffering love we come to discerning love. That is the sequence - suffering love, then discerning love. Those who have the deepest and most inward knowledge of the Lord are those who have suffered most for and with the Lord. They have knowledge others do not possess. So you move from Smyrna to Pergamum; from suffering love to discerning love - through suffering to the hidden manna, the mystery of a love relationship with the Lord in a knowledge which is not common knowledge.

A Position of Power and Authority

Thyatira - seduced and corrupted, calling for uncompromising love. What is the issue of that uncompromising love? "He that overcometh, and he that keepeth My works unto the end, to him will I give authority over the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron."  Here we are touching a tremendous principle. Do not materialize that for the moment and picture yourself somewhere as a reigning monarch over the nations of this earth, and that sort of thing. That is not what I am getting at. It is the principle that matters. Here you see, when love triumphs over that state of compromise and mixture and confusion and entangling of contrary things, and comes right out into an uncompromising place of victory, you are in a position of tremendous ascendency, of power to  govern. Test it the other way. You find a compromised life, a mixed-up life with contraries all entangled;some of the world, some true Christianity; some flesh, some Spirit, things which ought never to be brought together. Will you tell me that such a life has any power in it, any authority, any power of ruling and reigning? Not at all! Was it not just in that connection that the devil through Balaam seduced the corrupted Israel, to bring Israel down from their high place as the ruling nation among the nations, to rob them of their spiritual government, to make them broken among the nations, when God had said, "The Lord will make thee the head, and not the tail" (Deut. 28:13)? That is the principle here. Love, uncompromising love, brings into a position of power, of authority. You will never pray through so that God comes in and does things if you life is compromised, if there is any kind of double life going on. You may pray until you cannot pray any more, and the Lord will not come in, you will not govern in prayer if the life is mixed up. Love, which brings us out into an absolutely clear, pure, transparent place before God, means we are put into a position of great spiritual power. What that may be afterward we are not going to stop and say. I merely indicate it. The Church is going to rule in the heavenlies in the ages to come, and in the Letter to the Ephesians, where the revelation of the Church and of its eternal calling and vocation is presented to us most fully, love is the triumphant note - "...to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye may be filled unto all the fullness of God" (Eph. 3:18, 19). That is set there in relation to the Church. The Church is to come to that place. There are big issues bound up with this matter of love, both that of spiritual power and ascendency now, and afterward throughout the ages to come that of governing in the heavenlies, when the Church will take the place occupied now by the evil principalities and powers, the world rulers of this darkness. That is no small vocation. It depends on first love. Such is the lesson of Ephesus and of Thyatira. Right at the heart is love, first love, full love, and outcome of that is authority over the nations.

Our Name Confessed In Heaven

Then comes Sardis; and, because of its indefiniteness, the call for distinguishing love, the love that marks you out; not only that you are marked out by love, but love marks you out. Do you think that is a distinction without a difference? Not so. When you come here to this distinguishing love, what is the word to that church? "He that overcometh shall thus be arrayed in white garments; and I will in no wise blot his name out of the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels." Is this not distinguishing love, love leading to distinction? - white garments, and his name confessed before the Father and the holy angels. Maybe I can help you by a very ordinary illustration. I have a brother who is an engineer, and I went to see him the other day and found him in his office behind his engineering works where some sixty men, all experts, were busy mostly on government work. I talked with him for some time, and, being an opportunist, and remembering that there was something I needed done to my care, I said, "I have a little trouble with my car; I wonder if you can do something about it?" He came downstairs to look at the car, and then said to one man, "Put that on the left." He then sent for his chief expert on that side of things, and when he arrived said to him, "This is my brother, if ever he brings his car in here, see to it, please, and see that the job is done properly." "this is my brother" - and the whole sixty men and all the works were at my command! Everything there could be centered in my interest at that moment. "I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels." "I will say, 'This is My brother' " - and all heaven will be interested. Love, honor in heaven; our names confessed and honored in heaven, when love distinguishes us. Oh, we try to curry favor and get service and help and status by being important before men, by putting on airs, by making demands, by being something big. That is the way in which men try to get recognition. But here it says that love is the distinguishing thing in heaven. It is love that makes you a distinguishing person there. It is love that will bring you before the Father and the holy angels as one to be taken account of, and that is an issue for now, not only for hereafter. Oh, if only we have this love, the Father will take account of us. "This is My beloved." The holy angels will take account and put themselves at our service as beloved of the Father.It will be because we are not only located in the Son of His love, but in heart-fellowship with what that love means, that we are marked out by heaven.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 21 - Spiritual Significance)

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Notice

I will be offline probably all of next week. Will be switching to another server, another system and, knowing me, it will take me a while to figure it all out! Back as soon as possible. Sorry for the delay!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

His Great Love # 19

His Great Love # 19

The Issues of Love, continued -

We know something of glory of this life even now; it is not reserved only for the end. It is not so much in our bodies, perhaps - although sometimes the Lord touches even them with a touch of the powers of the world to come and revitalizes them with His own life - but we do know the whole question of life and death in our spirits, our souls, and what a difference there is between life and death! To sense death, to know something of death inside us, in our spirits, in our souls, to be touched by, or to be in an atmosphere of spiritual death, is an awful thing. But what a glorious thing it is to be in an atmosphere of Divine life! It is glory in our spirits now. For those who have to live in a world in which there is nothing of the Lord at all,it is all spiritual death, whether it be secular or religious, and it is a horrible thing. But it is a grand thing when you can escape that and find yourself in the presence of the Lord among His people and taste something of life. That is glory of a spiritual kind inside. But think - that is going to be manifested in its fullness for our whole being, including our bodies! It is the prospect, the calling, of the people of God, and it is all a matter of life.

But that life is based wholly and solely upon this matter of love. If you touch anything that is other than love - if you touch hate, animosity, suspicion, prejudice, criticism, jealousy, envy or any other thing that is contrary to love - you touch death. It is horrible. When you meet somebody who is eyeing you, not sure of you, suspicious of you, oh, how helpless, how hopeless, the situation is; you cannot get on, you are glad when you have passed, but you are sad. You have met with a touch of death. You touch love in another child of God coming out to you, and oh, what a prospect fills the air, what possibilities arise! There is a way through, everything possible where there is love. That is the issue which bounds all, and that is why you begin with the tree of life.

You end with the tree of life, but it is in the garden, the garden of Divine love. That tree can only thrive in the soil of love. These are very practical matters with a challenge. Do not forget that while you need people to love you and show you love, so that your spiritual life may grow and you may be released from smallness and pettiness and limitation and be enlarged, other people need your love to the same end; and you are not going to enlarge other peoples' spiritual life by criticizing them, by eyeing them. You are going to help their spiritual enlargement by loving them with the love of God.

This is inclusive; it includes everything else. We are not surprised, therefore, that when at Ephesus the matter of first love is raised, which is love inclusive of all the features of love, the all-inclusive question and issue arises, namely, that of life.

No Second Death

You are able then to pass on to break it up with what is said of the church in Smyrna. The issue of love triumphant in Smyrna was to be that the overcomer should have part in the first resurrection. "He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death." What is the second death? Briefly, it is that death where there is no recovery. It is the door finally closed, where there is then a distinct and abiding separation between God and man. All goes out in the second death: it is the end. There is no hope beyond that door, no possibility of life. But here in Smyrna, of him who is triumphant in love it is said, "He...shall not be hurt of the second death." Fullness of death shall be broken and defeated and deprived of its prey. Love means that you will never be allowed to be touched by that ultimate despair of separation from God. That is no small thing. If the end on that dark side is to be without hope, where God is lost and the soul has gone out into the everlasting desolation, never able to find God, it is a big matter that we should never be touched of that. And love triumphant, this kind of love in Smyrna which is suffering love ("Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life") means that, although it may cost you your earthly life, you shall never be touched of the second death. You may know the first death, in this sense, that you may go into the grave, and that maybe at the hands of murderers; you may have a martyr's grave, you may die because of the opposition and suffering that is heaped upon you; but that is only a first kind of death. There is a much deeper and more terrible death than that, and if you are faithful unto that first death, you shall not be touched of the second. You will find you will be among those who have completely conquered death. Now, whatever it means to you to have to exercise the love which suffers long, remember that is a big issue bound up with suffering love. You who are putting up with things for Christ's sake, who are enduring, who are suffering in any way in love for the Lord, by that suffering love you are in the way of cheating death in the end. You are undermining the power of death, you are destroying the very touch of death. Perhaps that wants explaining, but there is the fact stated, that by suffering we conquer death.

A Deep Secret Life With The Lord

We come now to the issue of love triumphant in Pergamum. It is remarkable that to this church that had come into a state of compromise from their failure to detect the inroads of evil, because of the low condition of that love for God which should normally be alert and sensitive to things injurious to God, it is remarkable that to them this word is addressed, "To him that overcometh, to him will I give of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and upon the stone a new name written which no one knoweth but he that receiveth it." But I can tell you in a word what it amounts to - that there is some inner fellowship with God to be known which is not the common lot of people, some inner knowledge of God which is a secret thing to be possessed, which means a very great deal. It is something to have a personal, inner, secret knowledge of the Lord, a knowledge which other people, not having, do not understand at all; you know the Lord in your own heart and you are enjoying something of the Lord in yourself; but you have to have it to yourself, it is your own secret. Is there not something in that for believers now? "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him" (Psalm 25:14). There is a mysterious something in the inner life of some children of God and in their walk with the Lord; they have a secret. They can never make other people understand it, it is a mystery to others, but there it is. It is their blessed possession, and oh, what it means to them! And that is what is here. Hidden manna, a white stone, a new name written thereon, His own name; "I will set him on high, because he hath known My name" (Psalm 91:14); and that distinguishes people who know the Lord in some more inward and some deeper way than the majority. It is not the ordinary kind of knowledge to the Lord that is here.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 20)