Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

June 30

30 JUN – Concentration of Purpose

“…… that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming conformed unto his death;

“…..but one thing I do, forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before, I press on toward the goal unto the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, be thus minded: and if in anything ye are otherwise minded, this also shall God reveal unto you.” Phil 3

“This one thing I do”. In all the ways, in all the aspects, in all the phases, in all the many-sided occupations “that I may know him”; that I may know Him along this line, down this way, through this avenue, through all the avenues and ways of life, I am set to make one thing govern everything: to know Him; “for the excellency (that does not mean only the splendor, but the transcendence) of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord”. Concentration of purpose – “this one thing”, an undistracted life, an undivided interest, everything gathered and focused on one thing; whatever comes must in some way be made to serve this end: my fuller knowledge of the Lord. It is the only way to economize in life; otherwise you have a lot of wasted things that count for nothing. Paul would look at everything and ask, ‘What has this in it of potentiality to bring me into some further and fuller knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord?’ Through sufferings, “the fellowship of his sufferings”; through conformity to His death, but always the cry, “that I may know him”. This is concentration of purpose.

Oh, there is the fullness. It is there, it is ours, but we need a spirit to lay hold, to persist; this spirit “Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect.” That spirit alone will bring us into the experience of what is ours. It is a terrible thing to have been heir to a very great deal and yet never to have known what was ours. The Spirit of God would make us know.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

June 29

29 JUN – An Inheritance to be Possessed

“Howbeit what things were gain to me, these have I counted loss for Christ. Yea verily, and I count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but refuse, that I may gain Christ, and be found in him, not having a righteousness of mine own, even that which is of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.” Phil. 3:8-9

So we begin at this time by reminding ourselves that in our coming into the Lord Jesus and receiving Him, we have been introduced into an inheritance far, far beyond our present knowledge and experience; and it is not only to be entered into hereafter. Do not immediately mentally relate it to the hereafter. If our Christian lives are not characterized by a continuous apprehension of greater fullnesses in Christ, there is something very seriously wrong with us. The inheritance is to be known now. Its fullness will extend beyond all time – it must, for life is far too short and limited for the apprehension of the ‘all things’ of God’s fullness, in Christ. Nevertheless it is all ours now for our discovering, for our knowing, for our experiencing progressively and continuously now.

Firstly, it is the spirit of renunciation. “What things were gain to me, these have I counted loss for Christ”. Yes, those which were gain – not bad things, not evil things to be put away, not wrong things to be given up, not things upon which the Divine veto rests to be let go, but good things to be renounced for the best. That spirit has to characterize us that we will never be satisfied with good that is less than the best, a measure that is less than the fullness. Renunciation yes, of good things and things which in their measure and in their way may have been gain to us; renunciation of these for the best. Devotion of heart is breathed here. Oh, how this man’s heart is set upon all that has come to him in Christ! What a heart Paul had – to exploit all the profound and unsearchable riches of Christ and to turn them to account! Devotion of heart.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

June 28

28 JUN – The Hill of the Lord

Here, then, is “the hill of the Lord”. We have to identify that hill, first literally and then spiritually. It does not take very long to do that because the Psalms almost opens with the identity of the hill of the Lord. “Yet I have set my king upon my holy hill of Zion” (Ps. 2:6). “My holy hill of Zion” is, historically and literally, the hill of the Lord.

What, then, is Zion spiritually? Do you remember that that second Psalm was quoted right at the beginning of the church’s history? When the earthly forces set themselves in array against the Lord and against His anointed ones, the latter met in prayer and quoted that Psalm, and the place where they were assembled was shaken (Acts 4). The very shaking of heaven came into that place. What did it say? You have touched the holy hill of Zion! Where is that? The Lord Jesus is ascended to the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens. It is the place of absolute ascendency, victory, power. Who is Lord now? “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed… Yet I have set my king upon my holy hill of Zion”.

Zion, then, is not a place on the earth: Zion has now resolved itself into the absolute lordship of Jesus Christ at God’s right hand. Thus the apostle writes, “Ye are come unto mount Zion… the heavenly Jerusalem… the… church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven” (Heb. 12:22-23). It is no longer a place, it is a spiritual position. That is Zion, and we have identified the holy hill.

Who shall ascend? Who shall stand? You see, this is a present question. While the consummation of this lies at the end of the way, it is something which has a present bearing upon the life of the Lord’s people. Let me say in fuller definition that Zion, or the holy hill of the Lord, spiritually embodies all that divine thought which the people of God will express when He has them, as He will have them, wholly according to His will. In other words — when God gets a people where He has ever determined to have them, He will have them in what is the spiritual counterpart of Zion — absolute ascendancy over all other powers.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

June 27

27 JUN – The Gravitation of the Spirit

And what does the Holy Spirit do with a life in which He has a free, full way? Well, He never allows that life to drop down on to low levels without the one concerned knowing it. You know quite well, in the very simplicity of your relationship with the Lord Jesus from the beginning, that if you make a blunder, say or do something, look or feel something that is on the lower level of the old life, you are made aware of it, and you are not happy until you put that right. As you go on further with the Lord, you become not less, but infinitely more sensitive. You suffer very much more over lapses the further on you go. You know with increasing intelligence what it means to grieve the Holy Spirit. Why? Because the Spirit is gravitating back to the place from where He has come, gravitating back in us, and the whole gravitation of a Spirit-governed life is upward. It is a test as well as a statement of fact. Are you gravitating thus? Is there a pull upward? Can you be happy and comfortable living a low-level Christian life? There is something wrong if you can. That is very simple. The very beginnings of this life of ascendency are found in the gift of divine life, and the whole course is the outworking of that life. When we come (if we do by the grace of God come eventually) to that place of Revelation 14, it will not be because of any particular merit, but simply that the life has triumphed in us. So you see the consummation of that great thought and purpose of God is glory.

The beginning is life, the end is glory. But what is glory? It is the triumph of life. The body of our humiliation shall be made like unto the body of His glory (Phil. 3:21). How shall this be? Well, it is all by the Lord the Spirit. It is all by the in-working of His life, resurrection life; glory at the end where life is triumphant. That is said for this reason, that this is the normal Christian life; and the abnormal Christian life is that which acts by fits and starts, up and down, and can be content not to go right on. There is something wrong about that; something has interfered with the normal growth.

Here you see that Zion is really something that is planted in us by birth. You remember that other fragment from the Psalms in this connection — “In whose heart are the highways to Zion” (Ps. 84:5). It does not say, ‘Whose feet are on the highways of Zion’. It is something subjective: Zion is inside, and it represents a tremendous transformation or change.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

June 26

26 JUN – Spiritual Maturity

There are two maxims which it will be well for us to have settled quite early. One is that we can only “go on” in the Holy Spirit. The other is that the Holy Spirit can only take us on as the foundations and “principles” are laid and settled. There are many of the Lord’s children who, after many years of being such, are under arrest, paralyzed, ineffective, and almost counted out because they are in a state of unsettlement about the “first principles.” With some it is a matter of “faith toward God”; with some it is the matter of baptism; with some it is “eternal judgment.” Let it be clearly recognized that on all such matters the Holy Spirit Himself will demand an absolute settlement and will not take us on to “full growth” until the “principles” are established. Why are there so many old-aged infants, elderly dependents, spiritual “Peter Pans” amongst the Lord’s people? Why is it that after years of work and service so many come to a place where they are beaten and helpless because of being “without understanding” in that sense in which the words are used? Col. 1:9; 1 Cor. 14:20; Matt. 15:16.

It may be – and certainly sometimes is – because at some time the Spirit’s requirement as to some basic principle was unheeded, argued aside, discussed, passed, or definitely refused. That is a sin against the Holy Spirit – while it may not be the sin – and that sin is bound to find us out sooner or later. What we have to say here as we proceed will make clear what we mean by this being found out. The letter to the Hebrews marks the transition from the fragments of the Prophets to the fullness in Christ, this fullness is spiritual and is consequent upon spiritual revelation which leaves all the “earthlies” behind and comes into the “heavenlies,” even in the matter of Divinely constituted institutions, which nevertheless were but as a “schoolmaster” to lead to Christ and maturity. We can still go on with the “things” and stand still as to the “meaning.” For instance, it is impossible to have a revelation of the true nature of the Church the Body of Christ and remain a denominationalist or sectarian without joining issue with the Holy Spirit. It is equally impossible to remain a Jew as such (in the matter of Judaism) and be a member of Christ. Once the Holy Spirit has spoken or enlightened, tremendous crises are reached on foundation principles, and these crises if not settled soon will come up later. The Holy Spirit never moves a fraction from His original premise.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

June 25

25 JUN – Spiritual Immaturity

The believers at Corinth had evidently made some inquiries of the Apostle Paul concerning certain particular matters which they thought were the cause of trouble and bad spiritual conditions. The Apostle postponed his dealing with these until he had dealt with what he himself was convinced was the cause of the trouble. This was not the particular “problems” about which they were concerned, but that which lay behind them and much more. They were occupied with the externals of the faith both as to personal, domestic and church affairs. The Apostle goes to the heart of things and makes it perfectly clear that their trouble was arrested spiritual development. Thus he mentions some of the symptoms which prove this. The first one was partisanship. They had men in their eye. Human selection, favor, preference issuing from temperamental reactions caused them to “hive off,” form circles, parties around the mannerism, ‘line of things,’ or make-up of this man and that.

Some would prefer the mystical and poetical to the practical. Others the opposite. Some would take up with the subjective line of things and decline the objective and vice versa. And so on and on. Then there would be the men themselves with what was liked and what was disliked. Concerning all this, the Apostle says “I could not speak as unto spiritual but as unto babes, I fed you with milk” (3:1, 2). The fundamental fault with all this was that with them the Lord Jesus had not become pre-eminent; it was not Him always in view, to whom they gathered, whom they were seeking. It was the vessel not the treasure; the channel not the stream. In effect the Apostle says that it is a mark of real spiritual growth and maturity when the Lord’s people are not influenced by the instrument as such, but have their hearts directed toward Himself, and are asking all the time, “What has this one and that one of the Lord?” So in this matter as in all others the remedy presented is a putting of the Lord Jesus in His place, which is the supreme place, and the place which excludes all human obtrusions, for or against.

The heads of these Corinthians were projected toward the servants of the Lord instead of their hearts being set on the Master. Divisions are so often childish, and when looked at from a point of greater spiritual advancement are seen to be so. Then it is perfectly clear that human elements played all too great a part, and if only the Lord Himself had been the dominating reality and object of concern, things would have been different.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

June 24

24 JUN – What Are You Abiding In?

“Abide in Me”! When Jesus said that, He was getting right back behind everything to the great eternal factor, and in those simple words He was taking up the one thing for which He came into this world. It is the question with which the whole Bible is occupied from beginning to end, and the one question which comprehends everything that Jesus came to answer. The question: In God or outside of God? That sounds very simple, but it comprehends all the ages. It is the question of all time and eternity.

Do you see something of what the Lord Jesus meant when He said “Abide in me”? ‘Outside of Me it is just a wilderness. There is no fruit there. If you abide in Me you bring forth much fruit’… “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit” (John 15:8). God’s satisfaction is the one great thing through all the Bible. His satisfaction is now in His Son, and if we abide in Christ we abide in God’s good pleasure and shall bring forth much fruit. If we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us as we are supposed to have we shall know in our hearts whether we are out of fellowship with the Lord or whether we are abiding in the Lord and we shall know because we shall feel that we are in the wilderness when we are out, and that we are in the garden when we are in. Jesus was very emphatic about this. He knew what a tremendous thing it was and so, eleven times in a short chapter, He said “Abide… abide… abide in Me.”

May the Lord keep us abiding in Christ! All other things will prove to be false and only what is true will stand us in good stead to the end. “I am the true vine… Abide in Me”.

That is only one way of saying: ‘We must know the Lord and our place in the Lord’. What are you abiding in? Are you abiding in people? Are you abiding in conferences? Are you abiding in a religious system? Well, all these things will pass, and the time will be when there will not be any more conferences and when you will not be able to depend upon any people. The whole religious system will disappoint you, but if you know and abide in the Lord Jesus, it will be all right to the end.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

June 23

23 JUN – Humility is Needed to be His Dwelling Place

The whole thought and intention of the incarnation is: “God with us”, “God manifest in the flesh”, and dwelling in man. That is bound up with Christ, and that was in the eternal counsels of God. If God were going to dwell in man, and at some dateless point pride was found in the heart of Lucifer, and he reached out to occupy the place which God had appointed for Christ, that he should dwell in man as God, you have two lines at once starting off: the line of God indwelling man; and the whole course of demon possession – Satan seeking to gain entrance into human life and make it his tabernacle, his dwelling. Those are two courses of history. It is Christ and Antichrist.

What is Antichrist? In the full development of Antichrist it is Satan incarnate as God dwelling in man, being worshipped (mark you) as God in man. What is it that moves toward that? It is this evil thing of which we have been speaking: pride. What is pride? Pride is the elevation of man – Antichrist is the elevation of man to the place of God. All the things that are said about pride, independence, relate to that. Independence is man assuming personal rights, prerogatives, acknowledging no greater authority than himself, bowing to no one, a law unto himself, drawing things to himself in possessiveness, having them under his control, in his own hand, all things centered in himself and working toward self-exaltation. Pride in its simplest forms has all those elements, and it has only to grow. That is the soul of man by nature. That soul has only to exert itself or assert itself and you get a development of Antichrist, or the spirit of Antichrist.

What is it that marks the Christ? Is it this assertiveness, this personal drive? No. Christ is the Lamb, as it had been newly slain, and it is the Lamb Who shall overcome. What is a lamb? A lamb is dependent, in itself nothing. The Lord will deal with us in this way. If the Lord is going to constitute us His temple, if we are really going to be a dwelling place of God; that is, not to be brought to ruin, but to be established, to become a part of that tabernacle of God coming down from God out of heaven, God dwelling with man, what will the Lord do with us? He will destroy our independence, empty us of our self-sufficiency, bring us to the place where we have nothing in ourselves and our all in Himself.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

June 22

22 JUN – Pride Breaks Our Heart Fellowship

Paul was dependent, and self-emptied. There is a wonderful glory about emptiness when the Lord does it. It is not always a glorious feeling to feel empty, but it is marvelous how the Lord gets glory through emptying us, and keeping us emptied, until He wants us full. One of the things that the apostle said to the Corinthians in a kind of irony was: “Ye are full… ye have reigned as kings without us.” That was no compliment. They are not to be admired for that. It was pride. “We are accounted as the offscouring of all things.” “Ye are full… ye have reigned as kings without us.” Yes, but after all, what was it the Lord said to the church at Laodicea? “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.”

There is an emptiness which brings much glory to God, and humility is being poor in spirit. “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” God dwells with such as are of a broken and contrite spirit. God-centeredness is the opposite of self-centeredness, that all our wellsprings, all our resources, our everything is in the Lord, and all our interests are in the Lord. As for self-exaltation, the Lord made Himself of no reputation, He humbled Himself.

If pride, with these various aspects, led to death, then humility after this kind, that which Paul calls “the meekness of Christ”, leads to life; life by humility, life by meekness; death by pride. “God beholdeth the proud afar off”; “Pride is an abomination unto the Lord”. If pride puts us away back there, there is not much hope of life. When pride is out of the way, God draws near, and there is life.

If, again, the result of pride was darkness, then humility, meekness, is the way of light. “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart.” You will learn by that spirit. It is enlightening. We said that the great law which governed everything was that of heart fellowship with the Lord, and we saw that that heart fellowship was broken by pride in the heart, the heart lifted up in pride. Now, says the apostle, “the eyes of your heart being enlightened”. This is heart fellowship with the Lord, bringing about enlightenment, leading to enlightenment, or making possible enlightenment.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

June 21

21 JUN – Having What Your Father Wants You to Have

Pride is shown in possession or possessiveness; that is, taking hold of things to govern them ourselves, to be in possession of them. It is the work in Adam, and it is in all of us. It is shown in the desire to have in our own possession, to have in our own power, to have under our own hand, under our own influence, and it is a terrible thing. It is in us all by nature more or less, and the ruin of the church has come along this line of men wanting to take charge, men wanting to possess, men wanting to bring their influence to bear upon things, so that the thing comes into their hold.

There is nothing like that about the Lord Jesus. His was letting go to the Lord, letting go to the Father all the time. Listen to some of the sublime things that He said: “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me…”. “All that the Father giveth me shall come…” That is not mere passivity, but faith in the Father. It is our inborn desire to have a sphere of power, of influence, of domination, of government, that causes us to try to get something, to get hold of something, to possess something, to see something, to have something, to see the work grow, to see a success.

It is a mark of the house of God that there is no strain to possess for the sake of possession, to have power, to have mastery, to hold something. That is mine! Do not touch this—it is mine! The Lord Jesus had nothing in Himself, and wanted nothing for Himself, but He had everything in the Father. His attitude was, Father, if You want Me to have that, You will give it to me. I am not going to strive, and worry, and manipulate, and work, and plan, and scheme, and be all the time anxious to have it. If You want Me to have that, I trust You to give it to Me, and what You do not want Me to have I do not want! That is the attitude of Christ, and that is how the Lord builds His church. We must be very careful that this natural possessiveness does not come up in the things of the Lord. It works up unconsciously, even in our desire for spiritual blessing. It is to possess something in order that, having it, we may have greater influence, we may be something more, that we may become a dominating factor, that we may be recognized. Even a desire for holiness may have a subtle snare in it, that if we are holy it will be noted that we are holy, said that we are holy.

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