Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

January 25

25 JAN – Emancipation from All that is Less than the Lord

Vision is the background, the foundation, the basis of life and service in relation to the Lord Jesus. Vision has a wonderful power amongst the Lord’s people. One of the effects of true vision, God-given vision, is to emancipate them from all that is less than the Lord, and that is no small effect. It is an emancipating power. This is where vision is needed so badly today. The Lord’s people are so cramped, so small, so narrow, so bound, so shut in, hedged in, so parochial in their spiritual horizon. They are so limited by the common traditional acceptances, by “as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be” so far as a system is concerned. That is something which has become static, fixed. Paul himself moved in a very rigid and fixed realm, the realm of “Thou shalt,” and “Thou shalt not,” which had almost countless points of application in the sphere of a very rigid system of religious life, which mainly held him down to this earth. Then he had the vision of the Lord, and in the day in which he received his God-given vision he was emancipated from this earth, emancipated from everything earth-binding even in a religious way. He was emancipated from all that which had so rigidly and firmly, and with such terrific power, bound him all his previous life. It is one of the miracles of the New Testament how a rabid Pharisee, such a deeply dyed Jew as was Saul of Tarsus, should be stripped of the whole of that tyranny and bondage of Judaism, and come right out into a clear place where he said such a thing as this: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.”

Think of a man like Saul of Tarsus saying that, with all the history behind him, the birth, the upbringing, and the training. It is not easy to get rid of a thing which is in your blood, and has been in your blood for countless generations. That was Judaism. All that tremendous vehemence of Saul of Tarsus as he was, more zealous than the rest; “I advanced… beyond many of mine own age… being more exceedingly zealous…,” he said all that was in the man’s blood. And then you find that man out of it, repudiating it and turning upon it, ready to fight it, with a new force and a new power to lay it low. What has done that? Vision! Not just a mystical vision, but something more than the psychical. It is the miracle of a revelation of Jesus Christ, and nothing other than that will do it. This kind of vision emancipates from all that is less than the Lord, even though it be of a religious order.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

January 24

24 JAN – The Need for an Ever-Enlarging Vision

When you touch the beginnings of Christian life in the New Testament you are touching vision. But when you touch the continuance of Christian life in the New Testament you are also touching vision. The continuance of Christian life is the development, the increase, the progress, which means the greater fullnesses of Christ; and whenever you touch some fuller meaning of Christ in the New Testament, whenever you come to some progress, some movement, some advance, some development, some increase, you will always find it is by fresh vision or revelation. It is a further unveiling, a fuller revelation. It is a new heart apprehension of something presented, and something seen by the enablement of the Holy Spirit. It is so different from merely an intellectual grasp of Christian doctrine, which may fall altogether short of that dynamic power of enlarging the spiritual life. True progress as we find it in the New Testament is on the basis of a fresh revelation, a fuller revelation, a new vision. So that the true, living believer marks his or her progress by being able to say, as at the beginning, I have come to see the Lord in a new way, in a fuller way; and that with the eyes of the heart being enlightened.

What is true of the initiation and the continuation is true of the consummation of the spiritual life. If you touch the consummation of the spiritual life in the New Testament you find it has to do with an unveiling of Jesus Christ. What is the consummation of the spiritual life? It is His appearing, and with His appearing there is closely and inseparably linked the completing of our spiritual progress.

“Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the children of God.” That is the initiation.

“It doth not yet appear what we shall be, but when he shall be manifested we also shall be manifested with him… we shall be like him for we shall see him as he is.” That is the consummation of the spiritual life.

We shall be like Him because we shall see Him. There is a marvelous changing power in seeing the Lord from the beginning to the end.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

January 23

23 JAN – The First Step in a Christian’s Life

Were I asked what I considered to be a need which embraces the greatest number of vital issues amongst the Lord’s people, I should sum it up in one word, “vision,” vision God-given. If you reflect for a few moments you will see that the Bible is almost entirely a matter of vision, that the whole of the New Testament Christianity is a matter of vision, that all Christian life and service which is that in truth is a matter of vision.

Vision, of course, has two parts. It means something seen, and it also means a capacity for seeing; something presented to be seen, and the power of seeing that which is presented. That is vision. There may be a vision in the first sense which is not seen, a presentation not discerned. It would be very difficult indeed to estimate the value and the importance of vision Divinely given.

In the New Testament another word is used for vision. It is the word “revelation.” That is a very comprehensive word. No matter at what point we touch the New Testament Christian life, we touch vision or revelation.

The initiation, or the initiatory stage, of the Christian life in the New Testament is seen to be a matter of revelation or vision. It is a presentation to the heart and a heart apprehension of the Lord Jesus, and unless that is the nature of the beginning of the Christian life, there is something essential and vital lacking. Any Christian life which is simply a matter of giving a mental assent to certain propositions of Christian truth, and the writing down of the name, for instance, upon a slip of paper, saying that you become a Christian, lacks something which is essential to make that Christian life a mighty force. In the New Testament the beginnings of the Christian life are a revelation of Christ to the heart, and a heart apprehension of Him. It is a matter of inward spiritual vision. It may be of a very elementary character; it may be very imperfect so far as the fullness of Christ is concerned; but it is sufficient for its immediate purpose, and it is tremendously real to those who have it; to those who are able to say in any form of words: I have come to see the Lord Jesus as my Saviour! When that can be said in reality it represents vision, if it is the vision of the heart.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

January 21

21 JAN – The Worldliness of the Church

“My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you…” (Galatians 4:19)

Christ formed in you — that is my concern, he says that is what weighs with me… not extensiveness, not bigness, not popularity, not keeping in with the world, so that it is said that this is a successful ministry and a successful movement. That is worldliness. I am dead to all that; I am crucified with Christ to all that. The thing that matters is Christ — the measure of Christ in you.

You see how the world can creep in… and how worldly we can become almost imperceptibly by taking account of things outwardly — of how men will think and talk, what they will say, the attitude they will take of the measure of our popularity; the talk of our success. That is all the world, says the Apostle, the spirit of the world; that is how the world talks. Those are the values in the eyes of the world, but not in the eyes of the risen Christ. In the new creation, on the resurrection side of the Cross, one thing alone determines value… and that is the measure of Christ in everything. Nothing else is of value at all, however big the thing may be, however popular it may be, however men talk favorably of it; on the resurrection side that does not count a little bit. What counts is how much of Christ there is.

“But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Galatians 6:14).

You and I in the Cross of the Lord Jesus must come to the place where we are crucified to all those other elements. Ah, you may be unpopular, and the work be very small; there may be no applause, and the world may despise; but in it all there may be something which is of Christ, and that is the thing upon which our hearts must be set. The Lord gives us grace for that crucifixion. There are few things more difficult to bear than being despised; but He was despised and rejected of men. What a thing is in God’s sight must be our standard. That is a resurrection standard. Now that is the victory of the Cross.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

January 20

20 JAN – The Fallacy of Intellectualism

Intellectualism is fundamentally the wisdom of this world. That is the thing that was underscored as a part of the trouble in Corinth; the control of intellectualism, the natural reason, the natural mind, the idea that you are going to solve the problems of life along intellectual lines. Will you tell me that that is not a peril of Christianity today? Why, it is everywhere! It shouts at you from the religious circles. All this terrific effort to solve the problems of Christianity by the human intellect; the research, argument, discussion and debate, theses, etc.; philosophical Christianity trying to solve spiritual problems; what a weariness it is! It is thought that if you go to our seats and seminaries of learning with a clever brain, able to put out a convincing argument, you are going to save souls. There never was a greater fallacy!

The Letter to the Corinthians says that. Paul was an educated man, so much so that for two thousand years the best scholars have found him defeating them, and they have not mastered him yet!

1 Cor. 2:1-4 “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.”

What was Paul’s conclusion? ‘It is no use, however much I may have of the schools, whatever I may know, however I might be able to argue with the Corinthians or the Athenians on Mars Hill, I will get nowhere along that line with a spiritual situation like this. I have made up my mind about that.’ It is part of the natural man to think that you are going to be able to build up something by intellectual, scholastic, academic acumen. The fact is that what intellect can build up, intellect can pull down! The man of soul and the man of spirit are always in conflict. Who is going to have the upper hand, the mastery, in every one of us? The two are in each person.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

January 19

19 JAN – The True Nature of Christianity

“We… are transformed into the same image” (that is: ‘We pass from one form to another’) 2 Corinthians 3:18.

Well now, what is the point of focus here? “We are transformed…”, and it is the present active tense: ‘We are being transformed’; ‘We are in a process of transformation, passing from one form to another.’ There is a sense in which that fragment, that condensed verse put into those few words, touches the heart of the whole New Testament and explains everything.

The process of transformation talks of a former state and a latter state. Transformation is built around two contrasted words mentioned in this second chapter. Those two contrasted words describe two different types of humanity, two different manhoods, and between the two, firmly and squarely the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ is planted.

There is a cleavage cut by the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ between those two which separates them and makes them two different species of mankind. That truth follows right through this Letter. The Apostle here speaks about a foundation and a building. He says: “Let each man take heed how he buildeth thereon. For other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ”, and then he drives the wedge of the Cross right into the superstructure and speaks of one kind of work or works, which are the product of one type of man, or Christian, and another kind of work, or works, which are the product of another kind. The first will go up in flames and will never be found in eternity. It has gone forever. The second will abide. It will abide the fire of judgment and the test of time, and be found in the ultimate structure, or building of God. These are not non-Christians. What an immense amount is being built upon Christ that is going up in smoke! Every man’s work will be tried by fire, and its real value and its endurance will be determined by and will depend upon where it comes from, that is, from which of these two types of manhood. The two words which define the two types of manhood are “the natural man… he that is spiritual.” There are the two words: the natural and the spiritual. CHRISTIANS–the natural Christian must be transformed into the spiritual Christian by the Cross of the Lord.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

January 22

22 JAN – The Greatness of the Church

Not many in the House of God realize that the church is more than an institution, an organization, a place to gather on Sundays, a social structure for marriages, baptism and funerals. Tradition of the church as we know it has watered down the church to something that is earthly and mundane, lacking in true spiritual content and substance. The majority of Christians go to church in response to their understanding of church doctrines, rituals.

Now the greatness of the Church is here, that God has ordained and appointed that the Church now, in this dispensation, should be as the living Person of the Lord: where He can be found, where He can be met, where He can be touched, where He makes self-manifestation. Rome has the ‘truth’ regarding this, but has dragged it down on to a temporal, worldly level; but nevertheless the fact remains, He is found there, in the Church, and only in the Church. “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them’’ (Matt. 18:20). God can be met, found, touched there; there is the vehicle of His manifestation. So the Church is called to be here in this dispensation, and in the ages to come, the very Body through which God in Christ manifests Himself, makes Himself known. Is that the Church that we know, that is commonly called the Church? (Oh, no! But that is God’s thought, and how different!).

The true Church is nothing less, in the intention of God, than Christ Himself present and going on with His work, now without those earthly limitations of His life before His death and resurrection. The Christ risen, ascended and exalted in all the fullness which God has put in, is now in the true Church, and that Church exists. I say, you cannot identify it; you can only see where two or three are gathered. You cannot say of this or that or some other thing called ‘the Church’ that that is the Church. No, the true Church is still this mysterious thing. It is Christ in active expression. How great is the Church if it is Christ! I say, we can only state the facts. There they are. What we have to do next is to pray to the Lord: O Lord, reveal the true Church and save me from the caricature!

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

January 18

18 JAN – The Heavenliness of the Church

In the letter to the Ephesians, the constant repetition is “in the heavenlies in Christ.” We must seek to dismiss our natural, soulical mentality about that. I am not saying that there is no such place as a geographical heaven, but we must rule out that kind of mentality of geography, and realize that “in the heavenlies” is a spiritual principle first of all before it is anything else, and that, while it may mean that Christ is in a certain geographical location, yet spiritually it signifies a realm altogether outside of this world order. You know quite well that two people can be side by side, as close as two can be, and yet they may be in absolutely different realms. That is the principle of heavenliness; it refers to a different spiritual realm altogether. True, it is above, elevated, higher, but that is spiritual first of all before it is anything else. It is a spiritual difference on an altogether higher level of Divine thought not of this order, not, as we say, earthbound; it is heavenly, it is in a spiritual sense in the heavenlies in Christ. You can sit in your chair and be in the heavenlies. I am not talking about the psychic now, but the real spiritual enjoyment of the Lord so that we forget the people around us; we are, to all intents and purposes, somewhere else.

The church is a heavenly thing from God’s standpoint, and it is dynamic when we have really seen it. When really it has come home to us in the power of the Holy Spirit it is dynamic, because it results in tremendous things in us first of all. Oh, what that revelation has done with some of us! When ours was an earthly conception of the Church, how we were engrossed with its ecclesiasticism, its forms and procedure! The whole system of things meant a lot to us. Then God broke in with His conception of the Church as a heavenly thing, and all this fell from us like a mantle; it went, and from that time to this we have felt how futile and petty it all is. But that does not happen until you have seen in your heart; and I beg of you, do not go and do things merely because you hear these things said. Ask the Lord for the revelation. Once you see God’s mind about the Church as a heavenly thing, it is emancipating, it makes tremendous challenges within and without and puts you in a place of being able to minister in a way that meets need, brings in heavenly fullness, and God comes through. In a word, it results in spiritual increase to have really seen the heavenly nature of the Church. (From The Church in the Spiritual Realm)

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

January 17

17 JAN – Spirituality is the Law of Life

Spirituality rightly understood is the secret of all that belongs to God. At the very beginning of our life with God, we have to be reconstituted as spiritual beings. “That which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” “He that is spiritual…” “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” But there is a false thing to counterfeit and simulate spirituality, and it is not objective to ourselves; it is made out of ourselves. We make gods after our own likeness, our souls produce their own system, even in religion; and the Spirit produces His system.

Note the difference, then, between what is truly spiritual and what is falsely so. Let me say without any hesitation, the measure of external ritual and formalism and that sort of thing determines the measure of spirituality. The more you have of that, the less you have of true spiritual life, of real spiritual food. A real life with the Lord is something very simple, shorn of all the art of religion; a few children of God gathered together in something which has no ecclesiastical traditions, no religious embellishments, no external forms, but just a simple meeting in the Name of the Lord. There you have life, power, fullness. I am not saying that things must be shoddy in order to have spirituality. I am saying that the law of life is spirituality.

Said the woman to the Master, “Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” The Lord Jesus said, “Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall ye worship the Father… God is a Spirit; and they that worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:20-24). That is only saying, This Mount Gerizim and its temple and the temple in Jerusalem are purely temporal, earthly, the things of men’s souls. Men must have something to see, to handle, something they can appreciate by their soul faculties, but that is not the realm of things since I, the Lord, have come. That is the natural, it is past. Now, the spiritual comes neither here nor there, not a matter of place or things or anything like that on the earth. It is in spirit with the Father.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

January 16

16 JAN – Counterfeit Spirituality

There is a false and counterfeit spirituality which is purely soulical. It looks like spirituality, and passes for it, it assumes to be spiritual; but it is false, it is counterfeit. We find it in mysticism, and mysticism can go a very long way to simulate what is spiritual. Aestheticism so often looks like spirituality and has been mistaken for it. There is a vast amount of religion that thinks it is spiritual and claims to be, and yet it is purely aesthetic or mystical or soulical; it is not spiritual at all. There is a soulical insight which is the counterfeit of spiritual apprehension. It is purely psychic.

There are people with phraseology and they are not clear, they are involved, and what are they after? They are trying to be spiritual on the basis of revelation, seeing things no one else sees or can see. Be careful! The enemy does simulate every truth in order to destroy the truth. We have to be in a true position, and there is this counterfeit, mystical interpretation. You can drive typology to an extreme, you can force it to a point where it loses its value and becomes almost ridiculous. Spiritual discernment is counterfeited, and shows itself along the line of premonitions and second sight; it is all soulical. Consecration is often counterfeited by asceticism, a false consecration. The monasticism of the Middle Ages and what remains of it is a false interpretation of spirituality, of consecration.

Therefore test things, give them time, take them into another atmosphere and see how they live. It is so easy to get into a false position when there is a hothouse condition; you can get a lot of things springing up rapidly and seeming to be genuine growths. But take them outside and they shrivel up. The things of God do not do that, they survive all atmospheres, they live though death encompasses. His life is not a prey to earthly conditions; it triumphs. Everything can be counterfeited, and there is a counterfeit spirituality along every line.

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