Google+ Followers

Saturday, July 22, 2017

His Great Love # 12

His Great Love # 12

God's Everlasting, Unchanging Love

We have been moving around a center and viewing it from different angles, in different relationships. The center is give to us in Ephesians 2:4 - "His great love wherewith He loved us".

God's Great Declaration

We are now coming to look at one of the most amazing statements ever made:

"The Lord appeared of old unto me, saying, 'Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee'" or, as the margin gives the alternative rendering, "therefore have I continued lovingkindness unto thee" (Jeremiah 31:3).

I repeat, that is one of the most astounding statements that has ever been made. To verify that, to realize something of that fact, you need to read all that leads up to it and that follows afterward. That is to say, you need to read the prophecies of Jeremiah throughout, and then to add to them some of the prophecies of other prophets. For the word of the prophets was very largely to point out how far, how terribly and tragically far, those being addressed had gone from God's mind, God' thoughts, God's will, God's way, and in what a terrible state of hardness of heart and rebellion - and worse than that - they were toward God. All that - and it is a terrible and dark story - gathers round this statement. "I have loved them." At the time when they were in the very worst condition that ever they had been or would be in spiritually and morally, it was then He said "I have loved thee with an everlasting love." Viewed in its setting, you must agree it is one of the most amazing statements ever made.

"His great love wherewith He loved us." We are baffled and almost rendered silent when we try to fathom and comprehend the word "grace" in reference to the love of God. How great is God's love? Were we to spend our lives trying, we could never utter its depth or content. Yet here is a statement, and we have to approach it, to try to grasp something, be it very small, of this incomprehensible love of God, the mystery of it. So I shall adopt the very simplest method of trying to get into this word, just breaking up the statement into its component words.

The One Who Makes the Declaration

We will begin then: "I". You notice here the statement is really governed by the words "Thus saith Jehovah" (verse 2). Who is it speaking? To begin with, it is the One whose name is Jehovah. By that name He made Himself known to the Hebrews through Moses. But later that name became so sacred to Israel they would not use it, and it was mentioned but once in the year, the great day of atonement, by the High Priest, as he went into the Most Holy Place by the High Priest the name was pronounced, so great, so awful, was that name to them. But what does it mean? Jehovah, the unchanging One, the eternal One, the self-existent One, existing not by anybody else's act or power or support, perfectly self-existent - that is Jehovah, that is the One who says, "I have loved thee with an everlasting love."

But look again. It is the name of the One of infinite holiness, whose eyes are too pure to behold iniquity, whose nature is too pure and holy and altogether right to have any association with sin. You see how helpless we are when we try to deal with God and explain Him and define Him. These are statements, but if you and I, apart from some great provision of God to cover our sin: fullness, were to come into the presence of that infinitely holy God, we should be shattered beyond repair. The infinitely holy God! It is He who says, "I have loved thee with an everlasting love."

It is the name of infinite majesty, glory, might, dominion, power. He is very terrible in majesty, in glory, in power; and that One says, "I have loved thee with an everlasting love."

And still we press in to this name. It is the name of infinite self-sufficiency. From time to time He has found it necessary to state that in various ways. "If I were hungry, I would not tell thee" (Psalm 50:12), He said to them of old. "Every beast...is Mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills" (Psalm 50:10). "I have made the earth,and created man upon it: I, even My hands, have stretched out the heavens" (Isaiah  45:12). "The nations are as a drop of a bucket" (Isaiah 40:15). "Do I need anything or anyone? Am I, the creator of the universe, in need? Am I suffering want? Am I not utterly and absolutely independent, self-sufficient, the only One in this universe Who is self-sufficient?" And that One, out of it all - His holiness, His majesty, His self-sufficiency - says, "I have loved thee with an everlasting love." It is a mystery. Can you explain that? Can you understand that?

I Have Loved

"I have loved." The very essence of love is "I must have, I cannot do without." Here the word "love" is just the common word that was used in all true human relationships. It is the word used of parents for children, of children for parents, of husband for wife and wife for husband, of friend for friend. Of the classic instance of the love between David and Jonathan, it says, "Jonathan loved him as his own soul" (1 Sam. 18:1). "Thy love," said David of Jonathan after his tragic end, "thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women" (2 Sam.1:26). That is the word here. Jehovah, infinitely self-sufficient, used that word concerning Israel. As the friend's love for the friend must have the friend, and, as in every other true relationship, true love must have the one loved, must have the companionship, the fellowship, the nearness, so is Jehovah speaking about Israel. "I have  LOVED thee." Amazing love!

"I Have Loved Thee"

Ah, but still more inward - "I have loved thee." Now we are at the end of wonder. At the beginning I pointed out the state of these people. Not only were they in a deplorable state morally and spiritually, deeply in sin; not only were they in this tragic plight; but they were in positive antagonism, rebellion, repudiation, killing the very prophets of the Lord who would tell them of their wrong. "I have love thee."

Without anything positive in the way of opposition or antagonism or rebellion or stubborness on our part, it is still the greatest mystery and wonder that He should love us. But think of this - "thee!" Think again of whom that is said, to whom it applies. "I have loved thee"; and that, moreover, coming at the point where it did and at the time it did.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 13 - "An Everlasting Love"

                                                                                               

Sunday, July 16, 2017

His Great Love # 11

His Great Love # 11

Growth On The Basis Of Love

If I am going to grow spiritually, I shall only do so on the basis of love. I shall never grow because I get a lot more teaching. You do not grow by teaching. That is the tragedy of attending conferences - that you may attend them for years and years and still be of the same spiritual measure afterward, and never grow: still making no greater contribution to the measure of Christ in the Church, still not counting any more than you did years ago in the spiritual battle. No, all the teaching does not necessarily mean that you grow. It is necessary as a background, but we grow by love. Do not let anybody think we can dispense with the teaching and have the love and get on all right. That would be a contradiction of the Word altogether. The teaching has its place, it is absolutely necessary; but though I have everything and have not love, I am nothing (1 Cor. 13). So all is based on this.

The Love of God, Not Natural Love

But lest you should inadvertently misapprehend what I am saying, I must emphasize that I am talking about the love of God. You must not think I am talking about a generous disposition, a magnanimous temperament, of the kind of people who are made that way, and who cannot bear to be across someone else, even if there is a tremendous spiritual issue at stake. Such never "truth it in love" (Eph. 4:15) for fear of anything unpleasant. That is not the love I am talking about. This love is not temperamental love. The people who may be of that kindly, magnanimous, large-hearted disposition may find that they have to have that smashed up and broken by coming up against a spiritual situation for which no natural temperament is sufficient. They may have to be provoked to get on their feet. People who have never been angry may have to be stirred to anger. People who are always compromising rather than have unpleasantness may have to make a clean cut. The love of God may demand something like that. On the other hand, those who may not be at all of that generous, magnanimous disposition, by the love of God and an altogether new heart and nature become what they are now temperamentally. This of which we speak is not on a natural ground at all - what we are or what we are not.

The Love of God Triumphant Over Evil

What I am trying to say is that God's love is a mighty, triumphant love that has triumphed over something immense. The love of God which now comes to us from Christ comes from Him as crucified. It flows to us from the Cross, from His wounds, from His riven side. That love came up against the most awful things in this universe which withstood it, and overcame them. It was not just a nice disposition that looked benignly upon everything wrong and excused it. Oh no! It came up against the fierceness of anti-love, anti-love of God in this universe, and overcame it. Calvary was the mighty triumph of God's love over everything contrary to it, and it is that kind of love we are to have, an overcoming love, a triumphant love.

It is, in a sense, an awful love. Come up against that, and it breaks and shatters; things have to go down before it. Things will not go down before our human niceness, things of the devil, things that are positively evil and antagonistic to God; but they will go down before tested, proved, enduring, patient, longsuffering love. You may have to wait a long time,suffer a lot, put up with a lot, have your love ignored, even resisted. Give it time, and all may go right down before Divine love. It is the longsuffering love of God that has won us. Is not that the deepest thing to your heart? - it is in mine - the infinite patience of Divine love, the bearing and forbearing of that love. It is a tremendous love. It is a power, it is a conquering love - something so much more than this (may I use the word?) sloppy kind of "love" which is always smoothing things over. Oh no, that is not God's love. God's love is overcoming love!

No True Ministry Without Love

There is challenge in this love of God to us. "We also ought..." It is a challenge. Nothing can be except as the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

Let us come back to where we started. If you have ever had exercise with God on any matter, do so on this matter. If you are concerned about being of any use to the Lord at all, in any capacity, - as a preacher, a teacher, a personal witness, as a life lived here without any public place at all - let me tell you (and it is a ripening knowledge of a life that has not much further to go but has for forty years been concerned with this matter of being useful to the Lord) let me tell you that nothing of usefulness to the Lord is possible except on the basis of God's love shed abroad in our hearts. It must be this Holy Spirit love for the people to whom we would minister: love for them even to the laying down of our lives for them,suffering unto death for their sakes: love to the point of  being brokenhearted - I use that word quite deliberately - over people for whom you have spiritual concern and in whom you have spiritual interest; love like that. No ministry will be ministry to the Lord that is not born of that; no testimony, no life, except as rooted and grounded in the love of God. You can have all the rest, a mass of Bible knowledge, a wealth of Biblical instruction and doctrinal information and all that, but it is all without any value unless its exercise is in a love, a passion, a heart beating with the heart of God for His great love wherewith He loved us.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 12)

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

His Great Love # 10

His Great Love # 10

How We Know God's Love For Us

How do we know God's love for us? Well, that is a pertinent question. There are many difficulties and much mystery connected with His love - why, in the first place He should love us at all. But then He has said that He does love us. He has given us exceeding great and precious promises and assurances. We have, in what He has done for us, a very great amount of proof from God's side that He loves us. But even so, with all the doctrine of the gift of God, the great redemptive activity of God, with all the words that tell us that He loves us, there are times when all that is just something in the Book, something of the doctrine. But is it true? Does He love me? It may e true everywhere else, but does He love me?

Now come back to that word in Romans 5:5 and you have the answer in principle and in substance. Let us ask the question - How can you and I know that God loves us, know in a way extra to our being told, to having an intellectual presentation of the truth of the love of God for man? I will tell you of one way in which you can know, and know very surely. If you are a child of God and have received the Holy Spirit in you (and remember that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Divine love) then if you should have a reservation of love toward another child or other children of God,some attitude of criticism, suspicion, or prejudice, within you something dies or seems to die. Your joy goes, you feel something has gone wrong, and within you there is a sense of grief. You know what it is to grieve, to have that awful feeling of grieving over that unlove, but there is Someone within you who is grieving: there is a sob at the center of your being. That is how we know that God loves us, that "the love of God hath been shed abroad in our hearts." When we grieve that love, we know that in us the Spirit says, "I cannot go on in happy fellowship with you. I am grieved, I am pained." It is only love that can be grieved. People who have no love never grieve, they are never pained, never hurt. You need to have love, and the more sensitive the love the more you register and are grieved when things are not right. The Holy Spirit is exceedingly sensitive in this matter of love, because that is His supreme characteristic. Remember, that is His inclusive characteristic. Paul wrote, "The fruit of the Spirit is love" (Gal. 5:22). He put it in the singular. It would have been wrong grammar to have said, "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering," etc. He would have had to say, "The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace ..." But he said, "The fruit of the Spirit is - love" and then he went on to tell you what love is - joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control." Kill love and you kill the rest; injure love and you injure all the rest. You cannot have the others, without the inclusive thing - love.

The Spirit, therefore, is inclusively and preeminently the Spirit of Divine love, and as such He is very sensitive and easily grieved. "Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God" (Eph. 4:30) is the exhortation. That is how we know that God loves us - that the love of God in us by the Holy Spirit suffers grief when love is injured.

Again, there is so much that the enemy points to and tells us is a mark that the Lord does not love us. For my part, I have to have some inward proof, a living proof, something right inside of me that proves He loves me; and this is one of the ways in which I have learned that God loves me - that if I say or do anything that is contrary to love, I have a terribly bad time. God's love for me is touched, grieved, when I violate that love, and I am at once conscious of the fact. Everything is bound up with that. We do not get anywhere until we say, "Lord, forgive me that, I go back on that, I confess that sin"; and so get it all cleared up and have no repetition of it. It involves the whole walk with God, it touches the very relationship with God. We need to be made sensitive to the Spirit of love so that our lips and hearts are purged by the fire of love, and so that it is not easy for us to be superior and pass superior judgments and to be of a criticizing and suspicious spirit. We shall never get anywhere with God if there is anything like that.

The Prayer Life Affected By Lack of Love

It touches every aspect of our lives. It touches our prayer life. We cannot get on in prayer if it is like that; and what a need there is today of men and women who can pray; not of people who say prayers and yet do not pray. One does not want to despise any prayer, but oh, we do need men and women who can pray through, who can lead us into the presence of God, and take right hold on Him, and get a situation established by prayer. We shall never be able to do that unless this basic relationship with God is established, expressing itself in love for all those whom He loves, no matter what they are nor who they are. Prayer life will be interfered with, and the Word of God will be closed to us. The Lord will not go on if the foundation is hurt.

We Love Because He First Loved

"If God so loved ..." Can you fathom that "so?" Can you understand that "so?" No, we cannot. "God so loved" - then "we also ought to love"; and we love, says John here, because He first loved us. As I pointed out earlier, the putting in of the word "Him" in the Authorized Version is unfortunate. It is not in most of the original manuscripts. I am not sure that it would not be bad doctrine; it certainly is out of keeping with the context. John did NOT say that in his letter. He said, "We love, because He first loved us." You say you do not quite grasp that, and it it would be quite true to put the "Him" in and to say, "We love Him, because He first loved us." There are literally teeming millions in this world whom God first loved and they do not love Him; there are multitudes of the Lord's people whom He so loved but they do not love Him as they would. Is not the cry "I have not the love I ought to have, even for God, to say nothing of His people and the unsaved?" Not necessarily do we love Him, because He first loved us. When we come to a fuller apprehension of His love for us, then love for Him does flow out, but here the whole emphasis is upon the fact of love - "We love, because He first loved us." The challenge is there. The measure of my love for others is the measure of my apprehension of God's love for me. I could never have anything like an adequate apprehension of His love for me, and not love others. Oh, if we were really overwhelmed with the greatness of God's love for us, how could we take an attitude of judgment toward some other erring, mistaken, perhaps sinning, child of God? Not at all! It is herein that we know the love of God, in that we love the brethren. There is the test of our apprehension, the test of our relationship, and it is the basis of everything for the child of God.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 11)

Friday, July 7, 2017

His Great Love # 9

His Great Love # 9

The Call To Fellowship With Him In Servanthood

I do not know how you feel about it. I confess to you that, as I have been thinking about this, I have wondered whether I ought to pass it on to anyone else. I know by long experience that it is possible to turn the edge of something the Lord says to one's own heart by giving it out as a message. Have you found that, those of you that minister? The Lord brings some thing strongly to you and you give it as a message, and it has gone from you. I take this to my heart. And as I see that my salvation and yours, in the infinite love of God, was through the spirit of lowliest service, servanthood, I have to say, Is there any other kind of service? Can we hope to see anything done by any other kind of movement of the Spirit? Oh, this is more an appeal than a profound message! It all centers in this - "having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the uttermost" - such men as they were, and as we are. I do not see them objectively. I see them subjectively. I can see a Peter, a Matthew, a Judas, in my own heart. Thank God, He loves unto the uttermost, and His love unto the uttermost is of this kind, that He does NOT stand on His rights and dignity and position and demand that I come down in an abject slavery to acknowledge His lordship. He come to serve you and me. He is Lord, but for the time being a serving Lord. As He is seen in the glory, mark you, He is still girded. He is Lord but still the great heavenly Servant, serving us, washing away our sin, delivering us from this present evil world. All He does is in the spirit of the servant. Oh, how the spirit of service and servanthood is despised today! Everywhere you hear it. No one wants to be a servant today. That word "servant" is hated. The spirit of service has almost gone from the earth. The spirit of Christ is a rare thing, but, when it is found, it is a heaven-blessed thing, a mighty power. Oh, do not despise the servant position! Be not ambitious for place, for recognition, for name,for reputation. Be not ambitious to have your rights recognized. God fill us with this spirit, that we are not all the time waiting for others to do something for us, but looking to see what we can do for them in Christ's name - being busy in the right sense to find out how much we can do for the Lord's people because they are the Lord's people, and for the unsaved because He died to save them,and for the unclean because He died to cleanse them. The Lord fill us with this spirit!

The Challenge of Love

"...His great love, wherewith He loved us" (Eph. 2:4)

"The love of God hath been shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit which was given unto us" (Rom. 5:5).

"Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another...We love, because He first loved us" (1 John 4:11, 19.

The challenge of love, Divine love - "Beloved if..." then... "If God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." There is a tremendous challenge in that. We have, I trust I can say, been seeing that Divine love, the love of God, is the key to everything from Genesis to Revelation; and if that is true, as we have said before, that the sum of all Divine revelation is vital union with God in Christ, if it is a matter from first to last of relationship with God as Father, then here in this fragment in John's letter, we are at once brought face to face with the test of our relationship with God. The test of that relationship is here resolved into a matter of love. There follows immediately another of the several "ifs" of John's letter - "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar" (1 John 4:20), he does not love God. The test of our relationship with God is this matter of love. It all hangs upon "if".

The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit. The relationship with God in Christ is brought about by an act of the Holy Spirit's incoming, in our receiving Him. He is given to us, and He brings about the relatedness, and the immediate result and seal of that relationship by the indwelling Spirit is that the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts. It is the test of relationship. The very basis of our organic spiritual and vital union  with God is this matter of the Divine love in us, and John will challenge us with this in his letter and say, "We know that we have passed out of death into life (i.e., that we are in vital union with God) because we love the brethren" (1 John 3:14). The Word of God makes this love a test of our having received the Spirit.

Divine Love Demands Love of the Brethren

Well, of course, on the simple basis of our conversion we know that to be true at the beginning - that whereas, before, we have no particular love for Christians, afterward,when we had come to the Lord, we found we had an altogether new feeling toward other children of God. That was the simple beginning. But it is the beginning, the basis. John is carrying us beyond the beginning. He is speaking to us, as in the case of those to whom he wrote, as to people who know the Lord, to people of God who have the Spirit. He says, "The anointing which ye received of Him abideth in you, and you need not that any one teach you: but... His anointing teacheth you concerning all things...' (1 John 2:27). He is writing to those who are getting on in the spiritual life. When we come there, it is possible that in some way a root of bitterness may spring up in us toward our brother. It is possible that you may fail of the love of God. It is possible that this very basic nature of your relationship with the Lord should be numbed for want of love, that your whole spiritual life should come under arrest and be paralyzed, and you cease to be a vital factor and have a real living communion with your Lord day by day, all because the basic love in some way has been arrested or injured. What was the mark of your initial relationship with the Lord? It was the love of God shed abroad in your heart, and you loved other Christians tremendously. That can be changed in such a way that you do not love other Christians as at the beginning. You thought then that all Christians were very wonderful: no questions were asked; they simply belonged to the Lord and that was all that mattered. Since then, you have begun to have questions about Christians, and not only Christians in general, but sometimes Christians in particular. You have come to know that Christians are still human beings and not angels, not that consummate thing you perhaps thought Christians were at the beginning. You have come to some disappointment about them and are really up against something now in them, and your basic relationship with God is being touched. If you do not somehow get over that and find a way through, if you do not have a new accession of Divine love, your very walk with God is going to be arrested, you are going to lose your precious and joyous communion with you Lord, and there will come a shadow between you and your Father. You will find that the only way to get rid of the shadow is to get victory over that un-love toward those of His children who are concerned.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 10 - How We Know God's Love For Us

Sunday, July 2, 2017

His Great Love # 8

His Great Love # 8

Love Serving, continued -

The Disciples, Personal Interests Dominating, continued -

So they came to the upper room which Jesus had taken. In every nicely-appointed guest house or guest chamber in Jerusalem, just inside the door was a little table, and upon it a basin, with a jug of scented water and an apron and a towel. If it were the house of a wealthy or well-to-do person, there would be a servant in attendance. But when Jesus took the room He did not employ a servant, and only the things were there. And the disciples arrive in this spirit, with this mentality, in the upper room - annoyed, irritated, eyeing one another, and they pas in through the door. They look up at the ceiling, or somewhere else, but none of them sees the basin! They are not in a mood for that sort of thing at all. The supper is ready, and they sit down to supper with unwashed feet. Now when I was a young man, there were two cities which were said to e at that time the two dirtiest cities in the world, and one of them was Jerusalem; but even that had a semblance of sanitation. But there was no such thing in the days when the Lord was there. All the garbage and refuse was pitched out into the street. Think of a hot day in the east, the dust and the mess and the smell! They had come through that and gone in. That basin was not a thing that you could just pass by as though it did not mean anything - some quite unnecessary thing. There was a real need for it and for that scented water. But no, they had carefully not seen it!

That is the very strong setting of the whole scene. It is not exaggerated, it is only bringing out the details that are here, a matter of reading between the lines. They had all passed by and sat down to supper.

The Servant Spirit Lacking

Now, let us look at these men themselves. There feelings had been irritated and accentuated; and you know, when we get like that, what excuses we make and how we argue and bring up all we can to support our position. Is that not human nature?

There was Matthew. Now Matthew had taken on service with the alien government in occupation and had made a lot of money out of it, so much so that when Jesus called him to discipleship, he made a great feast for all his friends. He could not have made a great feast without having money, and he could not have had an expensive feast without having servants. So Matthew was doubtless a man who had always someone to wash his feet, and who thought of himself as the big man. No servant, he!

There were James and John. They were friends of the High Priest and had access to the High Priest's court; so they were somebody in the social world, in the world of public influence and importance.

And there was Peter, and Peter could, under these conditions, argue like this - "I am one of the inner three; I have always been privileged above the rest. I have been recognized as something more than the others. Whenever the Lord has wanted something special, I have been one of the three with Him, so it is not my place to wait on the others."

The Lord - Prompted By Love To Lowly Service

I am not saying all this merely to draw an entertaining or vivid picture. It is by way of getting the right setting for our Lord. In that atmosphere, in the presence of that mentality, that attitude: false, artificial, unworthy, and oh, so petty, so mean, so contemptible: "He...riseth from supper" - to perform Himself the task they all avoided. What a significance there is in John's statement in that connection! - "knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He came forth from God, and goeth unto God." This One it is Who rises from supper, and (following, no doubt, what was the usual custom) goes quietly over to the door and takes off His outer robe and lays it down, takes the apron (the servant's apron) and puts it on, ties the towel round His waist, pours water into the basin, and comes to wash His disciples feet. "Having loved His own that were in the world (and just now, at any rate, so very much of the world), He loved them unto the end (unto the uttermost)".

The question immediately arises, and is answered here, What is love to the uttermost? What is the love of Christ? What is the love of God? It is NOT in sentimental words. No, this is it. It is NOT love for the lovely and the lovable, only, for those whom you cannot help loving. This is the love to the uttermost.

Our Cleansing The Outcome Of Selfless Love

The rest of His explanation, His comment, His message founded upon what He had done, does bring us all up short for He said, "What I do Thou knowest not now, but Thou shalt understand afterwards" And what did they know afterward? They came to know that the world itself was a filthy place, deep-dyed in sin's degradation, with all the muck and refuse of hell spread over it - worse than the streets of Jerusalem - and men had to be saved from that degradation, cleansed from all that filthiness; and it was going to be done, not by a haughty Matthew nor a self-important Peter, but by the Lamb of God becoming "obedient unto death, yea, the death of the Cross" (Phil. 2:8). It was going to be done by stripping by humbling, by emptying, by the spirit of uttermost service - service of this kind, Christ's service to us. Oh, what humiliation, what emptying, lies behind our cleansing! What it has cost! That is what He calls love - not the finding of a place for ourselves in the Kingdom, being something important, giving ourselves airs. Moffatt translates that fragment in 1 Corinthians 13 - "Love...doth not behave itself unseemly," - as "Love giveth itself no airs." We look at the Lord Jesus, and there we see love. To think for a moment of what any given thing is going to mean to our pride, to our influence, to our position, to our prestige, never comes in with love. Love, this love, never leaves room for such a thing as standing up for our rights, for saying they are not being recognized, that we are not being given our place. Oh no, there is none of that here. If the Lord Jesus had taken that position, He certainly would never have enacted this object lesson of love, and would never have gone to the Cross at all; and we should never have been cleansed and saved from this world. It is a sad picture from one standpoint.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 9 - The Call to Fellowship With Him In Servanthood

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

His Great Love # 7

His Great Love # 7

Love Serving

Reading: Ephesians 2:4; John 13:1-17

"Jesus...having loved His own that were in the world, He loved them unto the end... He... riseth from supper, and layeth aside His garments; and He took a towel and girded Himself. Then He poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith He was girded"

The Disciples - Personal Interest Dominating

Here is the great object lesson of Divine love. We must get the setting of this scene in order to obtain something of its real effect. The atmosphere at this time was a high tension atmosphere. It was charged with a sense of pending crisis. It was full of expectation mingled with wonder - wonder as to exactly what was going to happen. The kingdom was in everybody's thoughts; Jesus was being hailed by the multitudes as the Messiah, palm branches were being waved, people were shouting "Hosanna: Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord" (John 12:13). All the Messianic thoughts and expectations now for many centered in Him, and especially so in the case of His disciples. Some great event in relation to the kingdom was on the point of taking place, and this had given a great impetus to their personal expectations. They were, of course, very much in the grip of the Jewish expectations of the kingdom on this earth, the ousting of the Roman power, and the setting up of the Kingdom of the Messiah. All that was in the air and in their minds, and they were beginning to see their respective places in this kingdom. The mother of Zebedee's children had come to Jesus and, worshiping Him, had said, in reply to His interrogation of her, "Command that these my two sons may sit, one on Thy right hand, and one on Thy left hand, in Thy kingdom" (Matt. 20:20). You see the expectation and the two sons were not ignorant of the ambition and request of their mother: they were parties to it. The other disciples were terribly provoked that this thing should have taken place, and as they went on in the way, they talked about this and discussed who should be greatest in the kingdom.

Now that is a statement, but we cannot leave it with just the thought that they were saying to one another "I will be greater than you." They were clearly going into more detail than that, and saying, "In the kingdom, I am going to be so and so"; all thinking in terms of place and position, and vying with one another, each trying to go one better than the other. This is indicated in what is recorded as having taken place. It is also recorded that Jesus knew their thoughts, and understood what was going on. So in this wrangle about place, position, personal importance and advantage in this kingdom that was about to come, they were all jangled and on edge with one another, and out of temper. Such was the atmosphere.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 8)

Thursday, June 22, 2017

His Great Love # 6

His Great Love # 6

All-Sufficient Provision In The Beloved, continued -

That causes Paul to go out along one wonderful line, and he says, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me: and that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, Who loved me, and gave Himself up for me" (Gal. 2:20). (Paul is not saying that when we died in Christ we lost our individuality. We ought to have lost our individualism, but not our individuality.) There is some difficulty in translating the verse just quoted. "I live by the faith of the Son of God," or "which is in the Son of God." It seems to me that, in keeping with so much more that Paul says, it means this: "It is Christ Who is providing what is necessary for this new life on the other side of the Cross. I live by Him, I live by the prevision that He makes." Yes, and God, in calling us into His Son, has called us into an all sufficient provision. You say, "I cannot love, especially in certain directions." But Christ can, and He has proved it in your case. Do you think everybody loves you? There are some people who do not love you, but Christ loves you whatever you are. You might be unloved for very good reasons by everybody else; He loves you, God loves you now with that love that can and does love the unlovely. He can provide us with a love to love.

Is not this the wonder of the whole evangel? Have we not many times heard missionaries who have come home saying, "When I was called of God to go to such and such a country and people, they were the very people I felt I could never love; everything about them stirred up in me only bad feelings; but I have come to love them, they are my people."  Well, that is simple enough. My point is that to be called into Christ is to be called into a provision for what that very word "beloved" means. You have the great example of Paul and the Corinthians. If ever a people deserved the opposite of love from a man, those Corinthians deserved it from Paul. They owed everything to him, and they treated him, to say the least of it, most shabbily, so that he could say that the more he loved them, the less they loved him (2 Cor. 12:15). When you read about them your uppermost feeling is that it requires a great deal to love those people. Yet what is Paul's attitude? His heart is going out in brokenness over them. This is love that is not natural, it is in Christ, it is the provision in the Beloved. Do you catch the thought? I need not labor it. In Christ is an all-sufficient provision.

Well, Paul has many aspects to this great reality of "in Christ." As you know, he says that God put us all into Christ in the Cross. When Christ died and was judged of God, in Him we, too, were judged and death passed upon us all. We are in Him also risen; and not only so, for we are not just left here on this earth as risen: we are in Him seated in the heavenlies. How many aspects of this "in Christ" matter there are! What does it amount to? It amounts to this, that only Christ is the sphere of the believer, and in Christ that great heart intention of God in the creation is realized - a people in the Beloved, beloved of God, the objects of that love, and who should be filled (the Lord forgive us for our failures!) with that same love of God. It is in that sphere of Christ that God proceeds with His love purpose.

Conformity To The Beloved

What is God doing with us in Christ? Inclusively, He is seeking to conform us to the image of His Son in terms of love. What is your idea of the image of God's Son? He is the Son of His love, and the very word "Son" is a love term, than which there is no higher and fuller, and in the revelation of God, Son, Sonship, is the embodiment and exhaustion of love. "Conformed to the image of His Son" in terms of love. I am putting something on you and on myself when I say these things, but there it is. You must ask the Lord to write the force of this in your heart and do not just take it as an address. The Lord will have to help us after this, for there will have to be some very real dealings with Him. We are going to be challenged and found out on this. It is well that we are very much occupied with the word "grace." "Oh, to grace how great a debtor daily I'm constrained to be." We love that word. Do we realize that is only the other word for love, and that it speaks of the initiative of God in this whole matter? In grace He chose us. The initiative of God was in love.

Then what is true of our position in the Beloved is put upon us as our obligation, and when we are bidden to love one another we are bidden to show to others the grace that God has shown to us. In 1 John 4:19 there is a fragment which is so often quoted - or misquoted when it is quoted from the Authorized Version - "We love Him, because He first loved us." It is a misquotation because the "Him" should not be there, and to put it in really does not make sense with the context. "We love, because He first loved us." That is the whole of John's argument in that letter. "If God so loved us, we also ought to love one another" (1 John 4:11). "God so loved"; He gave the all that He in heaven possessed. We therefore love one another, because He loved us first.

That is a tremendous test of the reality of our being "in Christ," and a tremendous challenge, and we need something with which to meet and answer that challenge. Paul says that provision is all in the Beloved. That does not get us close enough. It is not us though the beloved Christ is a kind of sphere and God has put everything inside there. It is Himself. "It is no longer I, but Christ liveth in me." Christ is the supplier. Oh, how much Paul dwells upon that! Right through to the end, to the ultimate realization - "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27). If there is anything beyond what I have said,it might be summed up in that word "glory." "...hath called us unto His eternal glory" (1 Peter 5:10). But what is the glory? There is no glory except the glory of perfected love. Perfected love is the glory of God. The glory of God is His love.

Well, if you forget all that has been said, do get the impression upon your heart of the one thing - "His great love wherewith He loved us." This whole matter of a Christian's live is gathered into that. That love in us is the satisfying answer to the heart of God. It is not how much truth and doctrine we possess, how much teaching we have or give; it is not a matter of the mysteries of the Gospel; it all resolves itself into this - the love of God shown to us and then shown by us; that is all. The Lord help us!

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 7 - Love Serving

Sunday, June 18, 2017

His Great Love # 5

His Great Love # 5

Union With God In The Beloved

Now, what does that mean? As I see it, it means that the sum of Paul's ministry, which was the outflow of his own life and experience and understanding, was and is union with God in Christ, and that, living union, organic union. I would have to take you back to the Old Testament again to indicate how much that was so in the terms used. We saw in our previous meditation the terms used by God concerning Israel, calling Israel His child. His son, His daughter, His betrothed, His wife. All these are organic, vital conceptions. It is not the relationship of one brick to another in a building, inanimate, cold, however closely connected. It is the throbbing life of a love union, so strong and deep that Paul will cry in one of those inexpressible utterances of his "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" (Rom. 8:35). Then he tabulates and catalogs all the things that do effect separations - life and death, things present, things to come, and all the rest, and he says, But none of these "shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." The union is so much a part of Himself that it would be dividing God and dividing His Son.

I am not stepping over now to the obligations and responsibilities of this love where we are concerned, but at once you will glimpse something when I quote that passage from Corinthians - "Is Christ divided?" That is only one way of saying, that you cannot divide Christ, you cannot make Christ into parts without destroying His very Person. So this love makes for such a oneness with God, of an organic and vital character, that to separate would be to destroy an organism. Oh, that we had a right conception, God's conception, of the Church and of relatedness! What a tremendous statement that is - "I am persuaded that neither death, nor life," or this and that and that  (tremendous things) "shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom. 8:38-39). What a pity it is that the chapters should have been broken there (Romans 8 and 9). We need to read on to get the full force of it. But we must not be too detailed now.

Paul's whole conception and unfolding of the purpose of God from eternity is in this little phrase - "in Christ," "in the Beloved." Here, in the Letter to the Ephesians, you have the summary of it all. He goes right back before ever we were formed, and before ever this world existed in its present order - before the re-creative activity of God. It was back there God chose us in the Beloved. Looking right down through all the ages, He chose us in Him.

Called Into The Fellowship of the Beloved

Then Paul passes from the eternal choice of love and speaks about our being called into the fellowship of God's Son. Chosen, now called. I wonder what weight you give to your salvation, your conversion, your coming to the Lord, however you may put it? Is it no more than just that one day you met the Lord Jesus, one day you were saved, one day you came to the Lord? Have you recognized that was the day of a call, concerning something related to you and to which you were related, which goes right back before time? It is as thought God in eternity past chose you in love, and then called you according to His purpose. He had to wait until you were here to actually call you; and the call came, but that call was wrapped up in something vast, and the vast thing was union with God Himself in His Son to the terms of eternal love.

What is God after? And when He gets what He is after, what will things be like? We talk about the testimony of Jesus. We have a lot to say about the fullness of Christ, of the Church, which is His Body, of identification with Christ. All these are great truths, great conceptions. But what I find is this, that we have not come to an end of God's thoughts yet. I am very glad of this; but it is the most painful thing we can know, that we never come to an end here, and in order to go on a further stage something has to happen to us that knocks the bottom clean out of all that has gone before. That is to say, we go through a new experience of death and desolation and emptiness, of hopelessness, in order to come to something further on in the Divine revelation. We thought, "Oh, now we have come into the fullness of God's thought! Now at length we are seeing what God is after!" We get on with that for a time and it fills our whole vision; and then everything is as though it were nothing, and we go through a terrible time. Oh, yes, it was right, it was true, but it was not God's end. My experience is that it is through just such a history with God, of repeated desolations and emptyings and despairings after wonderful unveilings and times when you feel there cannot be anything more, that you are brought up again into something further on, with your vision enlarged. I do not know whether we have come to the last point of God's movements, but what I am saying now is this, that when God gets His end, everything will be only, but absolutely, a manifestation of His love.

I think that is what Paul means here in the Letter to the Ephesians, for this is a wonderful revelation. But look at the place of grace in this letter, look at the place of love. "...the breadth and length and depth and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge." (Eph. 3:18, 19). That is the object. Paul holds it up into view, that we may come to that in the end.

Well then, if you and I are going on to God's end, what will characterize us? This one thing - abounding more and more in love. I state that and leave it for the time being.

All-Sufficient Provision In The Beloved

He called us, but, blessed be God, His calling of us is on to and into a perfectly prepared ground to an all-sufficient provision. It is in Christ. What a terrible thing it would be if He called us with so great a calling, and we had somehow to attain to it of ourselves and to find all that is required for attaining. Why, it were better that we have never been called! We know how utterly impossible it is for us to provide the smallest degree of anything that can attain to God's end. Can you find in yourself this love of God, this kind of love? Why, we have only to read one section of this whole revelation ti find ourselves defeated at every point. I refer to 1 Corinthians 13. There is not a fragment of a sentence that that does not knock us to the ground. "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, is not provoked, taketh not account of evil." And to sum it all up. Where are we? Can you stand up to that? No! But He called us in the Beloved, and in Christ is a perfectly prepared ground. "In whom I am well pleased" - an all-sufficient provision.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 6)

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

His Great Love # 4

His Great Love # 4

God's Beloved

"...but God, being rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us..."

In our previous meditation, we were seeking to point out that, although this whole vast universe has behind it a mind, a reason, a design, a plan, a will, a fiat, yet back of all that there is a heart, and that means love. We sought first to see that the very creation of man was dedicated by the heart of God for purposes of His own love, and then that the whole Bible is a progressive and growing unveiling of that fact. It is God's love for man that lies behind all His dealings with man. We traced that fact from Adam, through the chosen seed, particularly citing the case of Abraham, and then of the chosen nation, Israel. How full, wonderful, altogether inexplicable, was the love of God! We went on into the New Testament and pointed out how that eternal, mighty, mysterious love of God became fully embodied in the person of His Son, Who lived His life, did His work, gave Himself, all on the basis of love for the Father and that the Father might have in man that upon which His heart has ever been set. We dwelt at some length upon His love for God His Father, and we marked it also in connection with His disciples, whom, having loved, He loved unto the end; and we saw at what infinite cost to Himself all was at length accomplished, all in the strength of that love.

God's Love For the Church In the Beloved

Passing from the days of His flesh over into the next part of the Bible, beginning with the Book of the Acts and running on to the Book of the Revelation, we have the love of God from eternity as now seen to be centered, in the first instance, in something called "the Church." "the church of God which He purchased with His own blood" (Acts 20:28). "Christ...loved the church, and gave Himself up for it" (Eph. 5:25). It is quite impossible for us in a brief time to go right through all that section of the New Testament, but I think we shall be agreed that this unveiling is brought to us, not exclusively but in its fullest and richest form, in the ministry of the Apostle Paul, who himself was a wonderful embodiment of God's love. It was the one note deepest in his own heart, breaking out from time to time in nothing short of utter amazement. He "loved me, and gave Himself up for me!" (Gal. 2:20). "O the depth of the riches..." (Rom. 11:33); they are the riches not only of wisdom and knowledge but also of His love. And this man, who could never understand why that eternal love should light upon him and single him out, has given us such a marvelously full, deep, rich revelation of that love. We are just helpless and hopeless when we try to cope with this revelation through and in Paul. We can only do the best the Lord enables us to do in thinking about it and bringing it to the notice of others.

We remember, as we pointed out in our previous mediation, that, when the Son of God's love stepped out into His great public ministry at Jordan, the Father's word from heaven was - "This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased" (Matt. 3:17). "My beloved Son." You will recall what we said about that little prefix - 'he loved"; not just "My loved Son," but "My beloved Son," that is, one to whom I am utterly given. Now this Apostle of the eternal love of God - with what would be frightful audacity were it not the whole doctrine of the love of God - dares to use that same phrase of the believer, "hath made us accepted in the beloved" (Eph. 1:6). "Us in the beloved"; God giving Himself to us in the same way as He gave Himself to His Son. Oh, I do hope you do not just take that as a kind of play upon words, a little touch of interest, when I stay to underline the beginning of the word "beloved." I pointed out that it is the beginning of many words and every one of them has to do with a complete thing. If it is "betrothed," that is the complete giving. If it is "beseech," that is something more than asking. When I come to you concerning something with which my life is wrapped up, something which is of very great importance, I do not just simply and casually ask you about that matter; my whole being goes out to you; I beseech. God is very particular about that, and He very often heads us up to something more than easy asking - to beseeching; not because He is reluctant or unwilling, but because He wants us to get right into the matter. It is of paramount importance. "I beseech," said Paul - that was how he approached men. "We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be ye reconciled to God" (2 Cor. 5:20). It is a life and death matter. Or take "besiege." If you are going to besiege anyone or anything or any place, you do not just walk up to them or it. You give yourself to that thing,you are all in on that matter. That is where God is over His Christ - the Beloved; and that is transferred to us.

Chosen In The Beloved

Here, in this letter to the Ephesians, right at the beginning everything is put on that basis. "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish before Him in love" (1:4). An alternative rendering to that is, "He chose us in love before the foundation of the world that we should be holy." "Having foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved: in Whom we have our redemption." It is all in the Beloved, in the Be-loved. Do you catch the emphasis? It is not just that He chose us, or that He chose us for this or that. It is where He chose us. Nor is it just that He chose us in Jesus Christ: He chose us in the Beloved, giving the character and the quality of the basis of our relationship to God. That being so, our very existence in relation to God is a love existence, a love relationship. It is what Christ's relationship was to the Father that is ours; and you know how in the New Testament this very word "beloved" is frequently used concerning believers. [Note: Let it be clearly understood that nothing said here or elsewhere means that the unique and exclusive nature of Christ as "the only begotten of the Father," the eternal Son, is infringed or overlooked. The peculiar nature of the Person of Christ is preserved and jealously preserved. We are here dealing with our calling in Christ.] Paul was tremendously fond of using it. Here he says it inclusively - "In the Beloved," but again and again he will say to the saints, "beloved of God." That is not just a pleasant thing said. We can use that language to one another, we can address people in those  terms; but Paul was not just saying a nice thing, calling them beloved of God to make them feel comfortable.

For him, the whole doctrine of grace was wrapped up in that. He comprehended the eternities past and future in that; "in the Beloved," "beloved of God." If you think that is just language and words, do remember that Paul's horizon, his whole world, beyond which for him there was nothing, was what he so frequently called "in Christ." You have little need that I remind you of the way in which Paul used that phrase. I have managed to find 128 occasions in Paul's writings alone in which he uses that phrase, or what corresponds to it. "He chose us in Him." "In Whom we have our redemption." Now you go on and see all that he has to say about "in Christ." It is the Beloved.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 5 - Union With God In The Beloved

Friday, June 9, 2017

His Great Love # 3

His Great Love # 3

God's Love Embodied In His Son, continued -

Oh, but you say, there is another side to the Old Testament. There is the awful story of God's wrath. Ah yes, but what is God's wrath? Rightly understood, wrath, anger, only exists because of love! There is no such thing as anger or wrath if there is no such thing as love. In the fallen creation, if we are angry, it is so often because so some self-love. There is very rarely that crystal-pure essence of wrath which is utterly selfless. We are angry because in some way we are cheated or defeated or robbed; something is happening to us, and we are angry. There is very little of that pure wrath of God in this creation, that which is apart from any selfish consideration whatever, when we are angry in a disinterested, detached way, angry with pure anger. If you can get that, then it is that because you love so strongly, therefore you hate so strongly. Wrath is only the other side of love. If God is angry, it is His love in reverse expression. That comes out at the end of the Bible. It is seen to be anger because of all that Divine love means - the very nature of God.

But to return to our point. The issue of the Old Testament is - "God so loved the world that He gave His ...Son". The Scriptures have all been pointing to that, but it is love that is behind all. The Lord Jesus is the succession of all that has gone before showing the love of God.

The Love Relationship of the Son to His Father

You can see Him in His relationship to God His Father. Oh, if the Lord Jesus does reveal God, how does He reveal Him? Well, I do not see any fuller way in which He reveals Him than in terms of love, through His devotion to the One Whom He always calls "My Father." The Father says, once, twice, "This is (Thou art) My beloved Son" (Matt. 3:17; 17:5; Mark 1:11). He could have said, "Thou art My loved Son." It is not making something out of nothing. Look at some words with that little prefix. "Betrothed" - that is your relationship of a troth to a person. "Besiege" - the direct, immediate relationship of an investing army to those invested. "Beseech" - there is something more in beseeching than just asking. When you beseech, you give yourself, you pour yourself out, you let yourself go, you hold nothing back. And so, "Beloved." The point is that God has come into an immediate heart-relationship with this One, He has taken Him into His heart, He has related to Him in terms of love. His relationship with this One is not just that He loves Him, He has given Himself to Him. He is "Be-loved!"

See the relationship of the Lord Jesus to God's will. Oh, yes, it was a blood conflict, even unto death, sweating as it were great drops of blood, but His love for the Father bore Him through. "The cup which the Father hath given Me,shall I not drink it?" (John 18:11). "Father...not My will, but Thine, be done" (Luke 22:42). This love relationship to His Father went down so deep, was so tremendous. Words with us have become so common as to be robbed of a great deal of their strength. I was going to say, it was terrific, that love for the Father, when you see what the Son went through. Do you notice that when He had fought through the battle, that battle of His relationship with the Father in terms of love, from that moment He was so calm and steady and tranquil that everything was going down before Him? The battle is over, the situation is established. They come to take Him, with torches gleaming in the night; with sound of hurrying feet, of swords being drawn from their scabbards; a traitor betraying a leader, a traitor who has said, "I know where He goes, I know because I have been with Him, I will take you to Him; and in case you might mistake one of His disciples for Him, I will give you a sign as to which is He, I will kiss Him." Thus they came, with all the hatred that lay behind on the part of the High Priest and the rulers; and He is as steady as a rock, they fall back from before Him. "Whom seek ye?" "Jesus of Nazareth." "I am" - and "they went backward, and fell to the ground." Again He says, "Whom seek ye?" "Jesus of Nazareth." "I told you that I am He"; "if you seek Me, here I am; take Me, let these others go free." See how tranquil, steady, rock-like, He was right to the last, before the rulers, the High Priest, before Pilate. Oh, there is something about triumphant love that settles a great deal of conflict and hate and fever and anxiety, and makes you very steady. That was the Lord Jesus.

The Son's Love Relationship To His Own

See His relationship to His own. It is summed up in one word - "having loved His own that were in the world. He loved them unto the end" (John 12:11). Perhaps He loved Judas. You notice that when Judas led that band to Him, He did not look at him and say, "Traitor! You scoundrel! You wicked man!" He said, "Friend!" I think that was enough to send Judas to suicide. "He called me friend, and yet He knew what I was doing!" He loved His own to the end. And knowing ourselves, shall we not agree that there is a mystery about this love? Oh, yes!

I am going to stop there, because at that point you have to go right on from the persons here in the days of His flesh, through the rest of the New Testament, and all the teaching that was given to the Church, and so at length to the Revelation, and you find that it is all turning round this one point - the love of God. I think I have said enough to give some ground at least, for believing it is true. Oh, there may have been times in your experience, and there may yet be - if you have not yet come there, do not worry, go on with the Lord - when you wonder whether you will ever again speak about the love of God. Everything seems to argue to the contrary, and satan has struck such a blow as to have made your faith rock. What the Lord is, I think, trying to say to us is this, that that may very well be just the way to a new discovery that it is all in love, and just the opposite to what the devil is trying to say. "Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth" (Heb. 12:6).

Well, to sum all that up again, to the center of this universe is a heart. That is God's side. Our side has yet to be contemplated. But oh, it is wonderful, inexplicable love, and I, for my part, am one of those who believe that if only we could present the love of that aright, we should never have to speak of the wrath of God in order to persuade men - and even if we did, we should have to show that His wrath is love in reverse.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 4 - God's Beloved

Saturday, June 3, 2017

"His Great Love" # 2

"His Great Love" # 2

God and Abraham - A Heart Relationship

You can only explain and understand the drama of Eden by recognizing that it was a love matter between God and man, and that the enemy's activity from then on to the end was, and ever is, to  cheat God of that on which His heart is set, to take from God the object of His love. From that tragedy of the garden, you find God moving again in sovereign love, choosing that which is called "the seed." You see Him fastening mysteriously, inexplicably, upon certain individuals. Let Abraham stand out as a very strong and full example. God fastened upon Abraham, and brought him into a relationship with Himself which was a relationship of love. Mark the progressiveness of God's dealings with Abraham as a representative one in bringing that man right into His very heart. Step by step, stage by stage, Abraham was being brought more to the inward side of the heart of God. I am not going now to trace those steps; they are familiar to you. In His dissatisfaction and disappointment with man, and yet in His hunger to have man all for Himself (which was the first motivating activity of God) God chose this man Abraham, brought him in love to that relationship with Himself, one with His heart in His disappointment over man and in His desire to have man according to His own mind, right  those successive stages to the final step. "Take now thy son, thine only son, whom thou lovest ... and offer him" (Gen. 22:2). It was the last step of a spiritual journey where finally, in one magnificent, triumphant step of faith, Abraham went right into the heart of God. "For God so loved...that He gave His only begotten Son." He became one with God's heart in its passion to have man. That is the essence of John 3:15, 16). So the end of that journey sees Abraham as the friend of God, "Abraham My friend" (Isa. 41:8). You can have all other kinds of relationship without having that. You can be parents and children; you can be husband and wife; yes, you can be on the basis of any known relationship, and yet not just come to that - "My friend." If a man's son is his friend, or if a son's father is his friend, you have something extra, the climax and the crown of the relationship. And so with every other relationship. Said the Lord Jesus to His disciples, "No longer do I call you servants...but I have called you friends" (John 15:15). Abraham, the friend of God! Is it not perfectly clear that, in the choosing of this seed, what God was after was a heart relationship? It was a matter of God's heart. The climax of all was not merely some world, some creation, some race of very wonderful people objective to God upon whom He had conferred many wonderful blessings and benefits, that the universe could look on and say, "Well, God thinks a lot of those people, He has done a lot for them." That is all true, but something far more than that is involved. The end which God has in view is a race of friends, the expression of mutual love; God's love begetting love, destroying that evil work when God lost what He was after in the first place - a potential friend. You cannot understand that; He is speaking in human language, to express a Divine mystery; but the Bible is full of it.

God and Israel - Love The Only Explanation

From the individual seed you come to the nation. Again the mystery deepens. Why choose that nation, Israel, the seed of Jacob? But here is the nation chosen. It would take us a long time, but it would be well worth doing, to trace the love of God in the history of that nation. We find ourselves very near the heart of God when we touch Israel. You think of all the words the Lord used, the titles He employed, concerning that people. He called Israel His child. "When Israel was a child then I loved him" (Hosea 11:1). He called Israel His son. "I...called My son out of Egypt" (Hosea 11:1). He spoke of Israel as betrothed unto Himself, His wife (Hosea 2:19, 20, etc.); His daughter - "virgin daughter of Zion" (Lam. 2:13, etc.); He spoke of Himself as Israel's mother - "Can a woman forget her...child...yea, these may forget, yet will not I forget thee" (Isa. 49:15). Have you not read the prophecies of Hosea? There, within a very small compass, you have this whole story of God's love for Israel in such terms of strength and passion and longing and yearning and heart-brokenness as cannot be found anywhere else.

"When Israel was a child, then I loved him ... I drew (Ephraim) with cords of a man, with bands of love; and I was to them as they that lift up the yoke on their jaws; and I laid food before them. They shall not return into the land of Egypt; but the Assyrian shall be their king, because they refused to return to Me. And the sword shall fall upon their cities, and shall consume their bars, and devour them, because of their own counsels. And My people are bent on backsliding from Me: though they call them to Him that is on high,none at all will exalt Him. How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I cast thee off, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? My heart is turned within Me, My compassions are kindled together" (Hosea 11:1, 4-8)

That is God speaking; and note the setting of that eleventh chapter of the prophecies of Hosea. It is the time when Israel's sin had filled the cup to overflowing, the time when they had reached the climax of iniquity and idolatry, practicing such wickedness as I would not dare to mention here. It would be a scandal in the presence of decent-minded people to say what was going on in the streets of Jerusalem in the name of religion. It is at such a time, when His wrath might most justly have been poured out upon them, that God says about those people - "How shall I give thee up?" You know the story of Hosea's life - how he was commanded by God to go and love and marry a harlot, all to set forth in the life of the prophet the great truth that however deeply buried in iniquity these people were, God loved them. Oh, the mystery of God's love! Will you tell me it is not true that the universe has at its very center a heart that loves? Well, think again and go back to your Old Testament.

God's Love Embodied In His Son

We pass to the New Testament, and what do we find? We find there that the heart of the universe is now embodied and revealed in One Who is God Himself incarnate. This One gathers up into Himself - and far transcends - all the past. If Israel has so direly sinned and so stricken the heart of God, that heart has gone beyond Israel now. Here, in the person of His Son, God is showing it is not only Israel that is in His heart, but the whole world. "God so loved the world." "...the Gentiles are fellow heirs" (Eph. 3:6). And then you read the first chapters of Romans, and see the state of the world. Horrible things are said about the state of man in those chapters; and yet how does that letter break out? It breaks out in a matchless revelation of the grace of God, which is only another word for "love." In this One - His Son - the love of God, far transcending all the wonderful revelation of it in the past, is now embodied and manifested.

You can see the link of the Lord Jesus with all the Scriptures of the past; and let this be the key to them. It is not just that He was foretold - thought that is true: He was the theme of the Old Testament writers and they were all pointing toward Him. But it is something more than that. What have they all been dealing with, what has been the substance, the essence, of all the Old Testament writings? Is it not God's love for man? The Lord Jesus embodies in Himself all the Old Testament on that point; He includes everything.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 3)

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

His Great Love # 1

His Great Love # 1

The Creation Motivated By The Love Of God

"...But God, being rich in mercy, for His GREAT LOVE wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace have ye been saved)" (Eph. 2:4, 5)

"And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth may in Him have eternal life. FOR GOD SO LOVED the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:14-16).

There is a great weight made to rest upon that little word "for" - "For God so loved the world." We say that John 3:16 is the heart of the gospel: but it is much more than that, it is the heart of the universe. There is back of all things in this created universe a heart; not just a mind or a will, a design, a reason, a power, a fiat,k but a HEART. We are familiar with the attempts to prove there is a design in creation, that there is a mind behind the universe, and that a will brought it into being. That is all quite good and right; but we are not so often asked to consider that behind it all there is a heart - and more heart than anything else. The reason, the will, the design, come from the heart. Everything takes its rise in the heart of God. We have said much about the thoughts of God, the counsels of God. The nearer we get to the very center of things, the more we shall become affected by this fat, that right there in the center is a heart. It is a heart that we shall come to eventually; not an explanation to satisfy our reason, not a demonstration of power, but just a heart - but a mighty heart: and when we use that word rightly, we simply mean LOVE. We speak of people being heartless. That means that they are without all that love means. Love is not the governing thing in their thoughts, actions, and motives; they are strangers to love. Heart then for us means love, and when we say that back of all things and at the center of all things there is a heart, we mean there is love.

All the dealings and ways of God with His own people will have a twofold result - but mark well that this is with His own, who have come into some very real and vital relationship with Himself in an inward way.

The Twofold Effect of God's Dealings

(a) A Deepening Exercise to Know Him

Firstly, a deepening exercise to understand Him, to know Him. Think about that. Is it not true that God's dealings with us and God's ways with us have the effect of causing us to reach out longingly for a knowledge, some better understanding, of Himself; when things have got beyond us, nay, the Lord has got beyond us. For all that we know, for all that we may have learned, He has got beyond us now. He is too deep, too hidden for us now; He is defeating all our efforts and all our ability to understand Him. But we are not just prepared to leave it there and throw up our hands and say right away, "Well, I do not understand the Lord, I do not know what He is after, what He means; I give it up." Those in whom the Spirit of God is at work find that, although they may be in such a position as to be completely helpless and hopeless in the matter of knowing and understanding the Lord, at this juncture they find they HAVE to know, they MUST know, they CANNOT just leave it there and give up. Everything depends now upon knowing the Lord anew. And it is a very big everything - far more than our life here on this earth as mere human beings. If that were all, we should cut it short and seek the way out through the forbidden door. But we know that something very much more is at stake than just the finishing of the tenure of our days on this earth. Everything that matters over and above this earthly life, all that we have said and professed and claimed and hoped for, is bound up with this crisis. There has to be a discovering of the Lord in some new way. That is the first effect of the Lord's dealings and ways with His own.

(b) The Resultant Knowledge of His Heart

The second thing, as issuing from that, is the resultant knowledge - not in the first place of His mind, not an explanation to our reason, a solving of our problems, a satisfying of our inquiries, but the knowledge of His heart. Any of you who have known anything of a life with God can test it by your experience. You have these deep crisis, you come to an impasse by reason of the ways and dealings of the Lord with you, and the one thing, the only thing, to save you is a new knowledge of the Lord, I ask you, has He explained Himself to you in the first place/ Has He ever come to you and said, "Now this is exactly why I have taken you, and am taking you, this way" - and so solved your problems and satisfied your mind? Has He done that? Not in the first place. No, the first effect of this deep exercise of your heart is the knowledge of His heart; that is, arrival in a new way at the fact and the reality of the love of God. We shall come to the wisdom of God through the love of God. We shall come to the understanding of God only along the path of the love of God. Everything is revolving upon this pivot of the universe - the heart of God.

Is that not proved in many ways, and not least by spiritual conflict? Upon what does spiritual conflict turn and hinge? Well, when we get into the vortex of a great spiritual warfare, where the pressure is almost unenduring, where everything is going against us, when the heavens are as brass over us and our prayers seem to get nowhere, when the Word of God seems a sealed book, when adversity and disappointment follow on in quick succession, what is the upshot? The upshot is the love of God every time. When the evil forces create conditions like that, and when the Lord is giving them so much liberty for the time being, those forces are always near to whisper about His love, to turn for us His love into hate. "This is not His love, this is the opposite of love!" Is that not true? You have only to get right down, really down, to have that issue of the love of God presented to you. The heart of the universe is this matter of God's love.

The Love of God: The Key to the Scriptures

Having said that, are we not able with this key to unlock the whole of the Scriptures? Is not this the key to the Bible? - for the Bible is one continuous and growing revelation of this central and basic fact, that love is the motive of all things. What was the motive back of the creation, and of man as the very center of the creation? It was love. All the rest of the Bible is an unfolding of God's love for man. Man was made for the heart of God. It is a mystery. The mystery deepens and grows as we go on; but there is always a mystery about love, even among humans. Love is a strange thing. Very often you cannot for the life of you explain why some people love certain other people - why it was that so-and-so fell in love with so-and-so; it defeats every attempt to explain. Well, if that is so in the human realm, the Divine is infinite in its range above the human. To explain in terms of love why God, with all His perfect knowledge, knowing the end from the beginning, set His hand to make man, is not the easiest thing. Indeed, I think we are at the depth of mystery. You follow that through the Bible. As we proceed, we are coming on to that again and again.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 2 - God and Abraham - A Heart Relationship)