Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

August 17

17 AUG – The Consciousness to Which a Believer Comes

The calling of believers is said to be in accordance with His (God’s) eternal purpose. What is that? The eternal purpose is Christ inheriting all things; so that our being called, our hearing the Call, is a first work of the Holy Spirit in relation to Christ coming into His inheritance, according to something laid down with the foundation of the world. That makes conversion something very much bigger than just being saved, does it not? It is not just a matter of becoming a Christian. There is this immense background to our being called. The Holy Spirit has, so to speak, ‘got to work’ in relation to the appointed Heir of all things; you and I are coming under the hand of the Holy Spirit as a part of that inheritance. Our very calling in grace is according to that purpose, and our calling therefore is something tremendous. It is not only our calling. The beginning of our Christian life is not something merely incidental. It is fundamental to the whole scheme of things in relation to the Lord Jesus. I think it is true to the experience of most, if not all, of those who respond to the Spirit’s influence and call, that, following that response, there comes into being, there settles down within, a sense of belonging, of being owned, possessed. We feel: ‘I know now where I belong; this is really where I belong. I felt that I did not belong to anything or anybody before, but now I know I belong, and to Whom I belong.’ It is a sense of being taken into possession. It is a matter of ownership.

That is why there springs immediately from the lips of those who have responded to the Spirit the word ‘Father’. Paul says to the Galatians that the Spirit of God has been put into our hearts, and thereby we cry ‘Abba, Father’: and what does ‘Father’ mean if it does not mean belonging? And again, ‘Lord’ – the first ejaculation of Paul after his apprehending was ‘Lord’. We love that word, but we did not always love the idea of being ‘lorded’. It is foreign to human nature to be lorded over.

‘Master’ – that word is music to the Christian, as applied to the Lord Jesus; but how the natural man hates the idea of ‘master’!

This is the consciousness that comes in. We are not compelled or forced; it is spontaneous. The Spirit has brought us home, brought us into our rightful ownership. This is how it ought to be. For that was all arranged long, long before we had a being. We belong to Somebody, we are Somebody’s, that is where we belong.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

August 16

16 AUG – The Call for Obedience to His Word

Spiritual understanding is shown quite clearly in the Word to be essential to a sound beginning in the Christian life. Why is it that such a large proportion of those who seem to make a good beginning do not go on? They fall away and you cannot find them after a little while. Why? Because they did not have a beginning in understanding what all this is about, what it means, what it implies and what it involves. It was an appeal on the outside, perhaps a very powerful one and so they made their answer, but where are they after a little while? Spiritual understanding, says the Lord Jesus here, is the answer to that. Be very sure that your converts understand! Do not be satisfied with any light and superficial spiritual catch phrases, but seek to get them truly grounded in the Word of God and rooted in OBEDIENCE TO THAT WORD.

The unproductive soils (Mathew 13), by their very contrast, illustrate for us the essentials of a spirit of understanding. The opposite of the hardened ground is the heart which is ready to receive with meekness the seed which is sown in it. Always the Lord requires of His children that they have a teachable spirit. Those who are self-assured and independent give little opportunity for the Word to do its cleansing and transforming work. So the first requisite for an understanding heart is simple dependence and a genuine humility, with a willingness to abandon one’s own conceits in order to allow God to do His own work of correcting and reshaping according to His will.

Then there is the stony ground, the opposite of which is surely a heart softened and broken under the hand of God. This is not natural to any of us, for even the weakest nature can be strong and stubborn in its unwillingness to submit to the inward working of the Word. Even though the experience may be painful to the flesh, it is essential that our own strength and self-esteem should be set aside to make room for God. Without such experiences of being broken down and opened up by the working of the Cross it is not possible to become spiritually sensitive to the will of God.

Finally, it is essential to be single-minded if we are really to understand the ways of God. Whether the “thorns” be ugly or whether they be seemingly beautiful, if they are rivals to God’s speaking then they must not be tolerated. Spiritual understanding means the ruthless setting aside of lesser things in order to make room for God.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

August 15

15 AUG – The Endurance of the Word

Matthew 13:1-9, 11, 14-15, 19, 23, 51 (see 14 AUG)

Spiritual understanding means that that which comes from the Lord finds a place for itself in us. There is a receptivity in the heart (re: ‘parable of the sower’). In the first scattering of the seed, the birds of the air found it an easy prey because of a lack of receptivity. It just stayed on the outside, on the surface, and did not enter in at all. And so it was stolen. Spiritual understanding means that we draw the word in, take it in and apply ourselves to it. There is a receptivity about us.

In the next place, spiritual understanding means an endurance of and through what the Lord gives. The life of the seed on the rocky ground was short, so the history of that bit of the work of God was very short-lived. There was no real endurance. Spiritual understanding is the basis and the means of the spiritual endurance of the work of God in our hearts and in our lives. That is very clear and, I think, very simple. It is so possible, as we know, to hear it all and, in a way, know it all. Then, when the real test is applied, things begin to get difficult, the sun rises with scorching heat, and we get into the fires, the adversities and the suffering; all our knowledge means nothing. All that we have heard and all that has come to us just stands for nothing, and our spiritual history goes. I am afraid that is how it is with many; there is no endurance through the scorching sun and the fires.

Then, what about this that fell among thorns? “And the thorns grew up, and choked them.” Spiritual understanding has a wonderful power to set up in us a resistance to this world and its fires, but there was no resistance here. The thorns sprang up and choked the seed. They were not challenged and subdued. The Lord’s explanation shows that there was no resistance because there was no spiritual understanding, no real spiritual apprehension. Spiritual understanding means depth, and that brings us to the fourth class. Everything depends upon our having depth.

Oh, for more of this spiritual understanding that has these results! First a receptivity, which means that we embrace the truth. Then an endurance against all adversity and temptation. Then a resistance to everything that comes to us which is not true or right; and finally a depth that lays hold and reproduces.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

August 14

14 AUG – Taking His Word Seriously

That day Jesus went out of the house and was sitting by the sea. And large crowds gathered to Him, so He got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd was standing on the beach. And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, “Behold, the sower went out to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.”

Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted.

In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, ‘You will keep on hearing, but will not understand; You will keep on seeing, but will not perceive; For the heart of this people has become dull, With their ears they scarcely hear, And they have closed their eyes, Otherwise they would see with their eyes, Hear with their ears, And understand with their heart and return, And I would heal them.’

When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road.

And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.”

“Have you understood all these things?” They said to Him, “Yes.”

Matthew 13:1-9, 11, 14-15, 19, 23, 51

In this chapter all those people who received the Word, received the ministry of the sower and the seed, but with three parts of them it came to nothing in the end. They had the word, they had the sower as much as anyone, and they had Christ. He was present, and they had the word of the Lord. All the potentialities of the Lord’s presence, His work and His Word were with them and were there for everyone. It was not that He gave more lavishly to some than to others. They all had the same possibilities, but only a fourth part showed anything for it, and the Lord said: ‘There is one reason only. The three classes failed in the end because they had no spiritual understanding. They had the word, the Lord and everything, but they might just as well have never had them for all the value that accrued. The one class showed a return, greater measures, because they had spiritual understanding.’ What did it mean? Well, surely it just meant that these people laid the word to heart. They discerned and recognized something of the significance, the meaning, the importance and the destiny that were bound up with the word.

Dear friends, these are not the words, nor is this just teaching. The Lord Jesus was not just broadcasting ideas and saying: ‘You can take it or leave it.’ There is something here that is going to affect us in relation to the ultimate issue of the Kingdom of Heaven.

A seriousness of attitude is the beginning of understanding. It is put like this in the Old Testament: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10). What is the fear of the Lord? It is taking Him and His word really seriously. Anything that comes from the Lord is of tremendous consequence, and that is the beginning of spiritual understanding.

We need to pray that among the children of God there may be an increase of spiritual understanding in the knowledge of Him, and we need to remind ourselves that the essentials to such an understanding are humility, brokenness and singleness of heart.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

August 13

13 AUG – Spiritual Understanding

Spiritual understanding, to begin with, is the combination of two things. First of all, it is the result of the direct action of the Spirit of God upon the spirit of man. By nature our spirit is in death, and the Spirit of God acts to raise it from the dead and bring it into life. And it is our spirit which is the organ of spiritual understanding. If we are normal, we have a natural understanding, but by nature we do not possess this faculty, this organ of spiritual understanding. It is dead, or dormant, until the Spirit of God acts upon it, and then we are aware that we have a new faculty, a faculty of discrimination. We know from that moment, without being told anything about it, what we should do and what we should not do, what is right and what is wrong. It is a new faculty, but that faculty is indwelt and actuated by the Spirit of God, and is not acting independently. “The Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16).

Therefore the combination of these two things, the resurrection into life of our own spirit and becoming indwelt by the Spirit of God, constitutes the organ and function of spiritual understanding. It begins in simple ways, but education in the Christian life proceeds upon that basis, and that alone.

There is a link formed by this action of the Holy Spirit between knowledge and conscience. Note that, for it is a very important thing. There is a link between knowledge and conscience, which is a new conscience or consciousness. That explains the tragedy of many Christian lives. They have a lot of knowledge without any conscience about it. It is not a knowledge which produces a consciousness of life, and so there is inconsistency and contradiction. They know the teaching, the doctrine, the truth and what the Word of God says, but there is no deep exercise in their hearts that gives them, on the one side, a bad time for any inconsistency and, on the other side, great joy in realizing that they are being well-pleasing unto the Lord. This link, you see, is what is meant by spiritual understanding. ‘I KNOW that that is mere knowledge, information, or truth, but I UNDERSTAND when the thing affects me, when it touches my life, and when it brings me up short on matters.’ That is spiritual understanding.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

August 12

12 AUG – Understanding the Times

What a lot really does hang upon spiritual understanding and intelligence! How essential it is for the Lord’s people, in a day of crisis and perplexity, difficulty and confusion, to have somewhere, by some means, spiritual understanding! It was a great thing in Israel’s history that the men of Issachar had “understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do” (1 Chronicles 12:32).

Think of those men on the Emmaus road. What a position and a state they were in! Their world had collapsed and everything had gone until He opened their eyes and they understood the scriptures. A new world was recovered instantly, and a new hope and prospect were saved by spiritual understanding. Oh, the tremendous value and importance of spiritual understanding! However, let us be quite clear as to what it is and what it is not.

Of course, it is not worldly wisdom and acute, natural, intellectual acumen. In this Gospel by Matthew the people who are most in evidence are the teachers and rulers of Israel, the scribes and Pharisees, the people who knew it all and gave the interpretation and explanation of everything. They are in the forefront of the scene on the stage here, but later Paul said about them that theirs was the wisdom of men, not the wisdom of God, “which none of the rulers of this world knoweth: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:8). It was the wisdom of this world that crucified the Son of God. So spiritual understanding is not that!

It is not that we have a great and wonderful religious tradition with all the oracles handed down to us, and we stand possessed of the great inheritance of religion. That is not spiritual understanding! It is quite evident that you can have all that and still go wrong. There was a man in the New Testament who said that he had everything along that line, and yet he was the most vehement antagonist of Jesus of Nazareth and all who were of that way. He pursued them unto distant cities, hauled men and women to prison yet he was a man with the largest tradition. So spiritual understanding is not that! Further, it is not a wealth of truth and Christian teaching. Again, it is possible to have that and not have spiritual understanding.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

August 11

11 AUG – Eternal Life: The Christian Battle Ground

Now, we know that eternal life is a gift in response to faith in the Lord Jesus. It is a gift, but that is not the end of the story. When it has been given, it becomes the battleground for the rest of the experience of the Christian; right through to the end, that very life is the battleground of all true Christians. If it can by any means be neutralized, made inoperative, arrested, Satan will do it; that is his object. On the other hand, the Lord’s object is to make us, with Paul, ‘know Him, and the power of His resurrection’, in ever greater fullness. If ever a man knew the power of His resurrection, it was Paul, through many, many deadly conflicts, terrible battles and deep experiences; and yet, in his last writings, right at the end of his long, full experience of knowing resurrection upon resurrection, he still says: ‘That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection’ (Phil. 3:10). It is as much as to say: ‘I don’t know all that there is to know of that yet. I know a lot, but there is much more to know of that yet.’

And to Timothy, much about the same time, Paul writes: “Lay hold on the life eternal.” That is where I would put the emphasis. Do not just passively rest upon the fact that through faith in Jesus Christ you have eternal life. Remember that, from day to day, that life is to conquer; it is to be the basis of your very survival, it is to be the very means of your daily overcoming. It has to be the ground of your physical life, as well as your spiritual life: for your body, you must lay hold on that life; for victory, you must lay hold on that life. Would that we knew more about this in our prayer gatherings, really laying hold for victory, laying hold for the overthrow of the enemy; this positive taking hold, in spirit, of life. This is the battle; this is the very nature of things. In all this terrible welter in which we find ourselves, we have not, on the one hand, to accept it as inevitable, things being as they are; nor, on the other hand, to have a merely passive faith that, in the end, the Lord will triumph. Between those two, there is all this in the Word of God about our being positive, about our laying hold; about our attitude on the one side, of refusing; on the other side, of laying hold of God’s end.

The Lord save our fighting spirit, and ‘teach our hands to war, our fingers to fight!’ (Ps. 144:1)

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

August 10

10 AUG – The Battle Over Life

All spiritual progress, all increase of spiritual measure, came to the Lord’s people along the line of battle; and it is still like that. But what is the focal point of this whole contest, this whole battle? Upon what does it all turn? Just one thing: life. It is the battle over life. Make no mistake about it; that is the issue upon which the enemy is focusing all his attention. In all his countless schemes, of neutralizing and putting out of the fight, his objective is that life against which he moved at the beginning. His whole success will depend upon death. If he can bring death in, in any form whatever, he has succeeded; and on the other hand, the whole triumph of the Lord’s people is in the one connection of life.

We have said that all spiritual progress is a matter of knowing Him ever more in the power of His resurrection. Every fresh step in spiritual progress comes out of a crisis, and that crisis is one in which a fresh knowledge of the power of His resurrection is the only thing for our salvation. That is a very hopeful thing. If today you and I are more conscious than ever, both personally and collectively, of the need of a new, mighty incoming of the power of His resurrection, it may be that the Lord has precipitated a crisis in order that there shall be more of that Divine life than ever.

It has always been like that. Israel’s coming out to be the Lord’s people, with the inheritance in view, was through a crisis of death and resurrection; their moving into the Land, into the inheritance, was on another crisis of death and resurrection. All progress, all increase, is in this battle between death and life, life and death.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

August 9

9 AUG – The Example of Mordecai

“Mordecai was great in the king’s house, and his fame went forth throughout all the provinces; for the man Mordecai waxed greater and greater.” Esther 9:4

“The man… waxed greater and greater.” You see how this little phrase “the man” in every connection is related to stature, to growth, to greatness. “The man Mordecai waxed and greater.” Why? What was the secret of his greatness? Why did God sovereignly act to bring that man right up, in that startling way, from sitting at the door as a kind of eavesdropper and beggar, bring him up and up and up, until at last this could be said of him: “the man Mordecai waxed greater and greater”?

Why? There is only one reason. Here was a man who at any cost was devoted to the interests of the Lord’s people and to the Lord’s testimony as vested in the Lord’s people. That is the answer. You know the story of Mordecai and of Esther. Here is a man whose whole story is summed up in this deep, overwhelming concern for the Lord’s people, because they embodied the Lord’s testimony. We need, of course, to go over that whole ground of how Israel, chosen of God, was chosen as a people in the earth to be the vessel of His testimony, and here these people are at the point of being wiped out to the last child by this cunning, evil work, the devil-inspired device of Haman, “this wicked Haman”, the Agagite. This man Mordecai set himself right in the full tide and flood of that iniquity, which was nothing less than the destruction of the life of the people of God in order to carry away the Lord’s testimony from the earth. He set himself, and the tide broke on him, and God honored him and raised him up and saw to it that he became great. His greatness was not the mere turn of fortune in his favor. It was because of what God was in him; and it is ever like that. Whatever other people try to do, however much they try to keep us down and under and out, spiritual greatness will be brought about by the Lord in us, if only we have this overwhelming concern for His interests in His people.

These are the features of greatness, because they are the features of Christ, and it is by these things that we come to the full stature of “a man in Christ”. How important it is for us to recognize that all this is to be true in us as men and women, not as glorified saints hereafter, and certainly not as angels, but as men and women on this earth now, as human beings down here. How wonderful to know that it can commence and develop right away, even here and now, through the grace of God.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

August 8

8 AUG – Do You Think You Are Meek and Humble?

“Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men that were upon the face of the earth.” Numbers 12:3

What a verdict! “ABOVE all men”; head and shoulders above all other men! And how was he head and shoulders above all other men? It says it was in meekness, a tremendous summing up of a man’s life! You could say about Moses that he was great in many respects, very great, but the Bible does not make a lot of his greatness in other respects. The Bible passes its verdict upon him that he was the meekest man upon the earth. See God’s estimate of greatness, what God calls greatness: meekness. We need not stay with it.

What is it? Well, meekness is what he thought of himself; it is what a man is in himself and toward himself. When Moses was alone and when Moses had any thought about himself at all, those thoughts about himself were very poor. He never, when thinking about himself, recognized that there was any reason why he should assert himself, that there was any ground on which he could stand up for his rights or could be something; any reason why they ought to take account of what he was in his own inner life. There was none of that – it was the other way. His thoughts about himself were very small thoughts, and he was only in his position because he had great thoughts of God and little thoughts about himself. That is all we need say. That is Meekness. It works, of course, in many ways, it comes out in many ways; but that is the heart of the matter, what we are in our own eyes about ourselves, and therefore how we behave.

Moses was not always meek, as we know from his early life in Egypt; but, under the hand of God, his weakest point became his strongest.

Now look at the Lord Jesus. There did come a Man on the earth greater than Moses, and His greatness was superior greatness even to that of Moses. He was on the same ground. “I am meek and lowly in heart”, He said; “learn of Me” (Matt. 11:29). That is the way to grow. Pride is one of the most ruinous things in the realm of spiritual growth.

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