Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

September 30

30 SEP – The Consummating Work of the Holy Spirit

There is something that consummates relationship to Christ. Apart from that something, Christian life is largely negative or neutral, in a position or state of suspension, indefinite, tentative, as though there is something more yet to happen. The disciples had believed, but there was something yet that needed to be. That is how it works out; there is no doubt about it. There are multitudes who have believed that Jesus is the Christ, believed in the facts of His birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension, and even of His coming again, and much more of the Christian doctrine and, having believed, they have come into a certain relationship with Him; and yet there is a pause, there seems a lack of something, and as time goes on, that lack becomes more accentuated, more apparent, more real to those concerned and to others who know them. In the Church they are either negatives or neutrals, or somehow suspended, tentative. You feel that something has to happen to them, something is needed.

Paul asked a question in this form, “Did ye receive the Holy Spirit when ye believed?”  – for this is the proper translation; not, “Have ye received the Holy Spirit since ye believed?” which implies that some kind of relationship with Christ is possible without receiving the Holy Spirit. That seems to me to be implicit in this very question. Paul at once regarded these disciples as believers, but he had a question about them and put his question to them.

He at once sought to get to the root of it and to have it put right; and it was found to be that, though they had believed – had accepted certain truths which resulted in their accepting Jesus – they were not right out liberated, regnant, effective. Something still had to take place. Their relationship with Christ had to be in some way brought to a fullness, a completeness.

This consummation places life on an altogether new basis. Indeed, it places life upon what we call a supernatural level. There is no doubt about it in the case of those mentioned in the New Testament. Witness was borne that this does bring in supernatural features and factors, and puts life on that level. The Holy Spirit consummates relationship to Jesus Christ.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

September 29

29 SEP – The Awfulness of Pride

The whole meaning of Christ’s coming into this world is bound up with the matter of pride and humility; His very coming from glory. Somewhere, somehow, before He arrived, He “emptied himself” (Phil. 2:7). He spoke to the Father later of the glory He had with Him before the world was (John 17:5). He had laid aside all that; He had emptied Himself. And then His strange – ah, yes, very strange until we have this key – His strange entry into this world, the circumstances of it all related to His coming and His whole time here. “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the heaven have nests [lit. roosts]; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head” (Matt. 8:20). It is all this one issue. Some tremendous thing is being fought out and dealt with, some immense thing. The whole meaning of His coming, His condescension, self-emptying, birth, life, death and the whole explanation of the experiences of His people, is all centered in this one matter. The discipline, the chastening, as it is termed, the Lord’s dealings with us, is centered in one thing: it is all related to the purpose for which Christ came, and how He came and how He accomplished the purpose.

And, further, the whole nature and vocation of the Church is centered in this one thing. The Church that is going to serve the eternal counsels of God will never be a Church of pride, self-glory, worldly glory, worldly power, worldly praise. It will be, ever and always, what it was at the beginning; something that the world will not look upon with praise, but will always look upon with contempt. That is essential to its vocation, for its vocation is positively to displace the world, and its temper and spirit and standards; to do something spiritually in this universe to rid it of that evil thing which has been its plague and curse from Adam onward.

It does not need any argument to show that the cause of wars, the cause of all the trouble, is pride – somewhere, somehow. No wonder then the phrase occurs: “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8). This is not something subsequent, taking place late in the history of this world. From the foundation of the world the Lamb was slain.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

September 28

28 SEP – God’s View on Man’s Pride

It is not just that the Lord wants people of a certain kind and type; not just that He wants us to be of a certain nature. He created man for a great destiny, and this thing pride came in and made it impossible for man to fulfil that destiny. So He has secured it in a Man utterly different from us, the Lamb slain, the Man who emptied Himself, the Man who became obedient unto death, yes, such a death as the Cross, the last word in shame, in despicability; and now He says to us, “Have this mind in you” (Phil. 2:5). I think the greatest conjunction in all the Bible is there. “Wherefore… God highly exalted him, and gave unto him the name which is above every name” (Phil. 2:9) – “Wherefore …” – all that leads up to that and all that issues from that. Two vast realms of meaning and value are linked by that conjunction “wherefore”. But – ‘this is the way the Master went’. Well, we cannot do what He did, or fulfil all that He fulfilled, but we are called to drink of the cup which was His cup.

Now this is not a word, perhaps, of great inspiration, but I feel it to be a word of very great importance. This must be true of us individually. There must also be a corporate humility. This is the way along which the Lord will commit Himself. He will never give us anything to feed our flesh, to enlarge and strengthen our natural life. He will hold us to the way that keeps us safe where that is concerned. How wonderfully the Bible becomes alive when you look at it in this way! It was Adam’s sin, Israel’s sin, the sin of us all. “By reason of the exceeding greatness of the revelations… that I should not be exalted overmuch, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, that I should not be exalted overmuch” (2 Cor. 12:7); that was making a man safe for great revelation, undercutting pride.

Yes, this is an important word; it explains a lot. But let us remember that the Lord always has positive ends in view, not negative. Though His ways may seem to be destructive, even annihilating ways, He has always in view and not in the far view only, but as quickly as possible, as soon as possible that position where He can Himself let go, so to speak, His own fears, His own reserves; and say, ‘I have found that to which I can give Myself without fear’. May it be like that with us.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

September 27

27 SEP – The Lord’s Dealings are Based on Our Pride

On the one side, it is terribly true: “Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord” (Prov. 16:5). “The haughty he knoweth from afar” (Ps. 138:6). It all sprang out of that proud heart that lifted itself up and said, “I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; …I will be like the Most High” (Isa. 14:13, 14). With that I, all the trouble began, and that one bit his poison into the race. The poison of the human race is pride, and it has come all the way down. It is sometimes almost untraceable: we are not able always to trace it out in all its forms, because pride has what we might call negative aspects as well as positive. There are, of course, the obviously, manifestly proud, the ambitious, the assertive, the self-important, the self-sufficient. But there are negative aspects – and I use that word with regard to pride very carefully, because pride is positive whatever form it takes. It is an ugly thing. A lot of our murmuring is pride; a lot of tears are pride which we think is humility. A lot of our criticism of other people springs from pride: we think we could do better, we could go one better, setting ourselves up as the judge, the critic: pride is at the root. Very much of our poor, miserable tone is, after all, pride. Oh, how subtle and serpentine a thing this is! It is there. So the Lord has to stand back.

On the other hand, look at humility. “To this man will I look” – that is the beginning, the Lord even looking in anyone’s direction –“even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit” (Isa. 66:2), and He dwells with them (Isa. 57:15). And “the meek will he guide in judgement: and the meek will he teach his way” (Ps. 25:9). And “the meek shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5). It is like that all the way through; vindication is on that basis. “Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth” (Num. 12:3): and you know when that was said at the time when his position was disputed, and God appeared at the entrance of the tabernacle and answered the challenge on the ground of the meekness of His servant. God stands by and vindicates the meek.

I say the whole Bible is founded on this issue. What a vital matter this is! Is not the Lord justified in taking any steps to clear up that situation – breaking, emptying, humbling, withholding, deferring, delaying; in any way bringing us to nought, to a place of utter dependence, where there is nothing we can rely upon at all but the Lord Himself? Is He justified? It is a tremendous process. It is a very real, very devastating work: and the very fact that we suffer so much shows how deep and real it is.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

September 26

26 SEP – The Reality of Sonship

What is God’s confirmation of our sonship? It is that He gives us continual experiences of being raised from the dead. He has left us here in a setting and a background of death: we are called upon to live and to walk amidst death. This world is a tomb, which sooner or later will engulf all those outside of Christ; but here we are in this very tomb, this scene and realm of death, living. We are not a part of it, we are living, and this is the testimony, this is sonship. Sonship is meant to be manifested. The end of this process is the full manifestation of the sons of God according to Romans 8:19. Here, in a spiritual way, the manifold wisdom of God is shown in the Church, to the glory of His name and to the confounding of principalities and powers.

Our new birth is our first taste of resurrection life. We notice that, after quoting the passage concerning Christ: “Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee”, the Scriptures present a further quotation: “I and the children whom God hath given me” (Hebrews 2:13). The completion of the original statement is: “Behold I and the children whom God hath given me are for signs and wonders…” (Isaiah 8:18). It is clear that Isaiah’s words are put into the mouth of the Lord Jesus who links the announcement of His own Sonship by resurrection to the fact that by that same resurrection He has begotten us again unto a living hope. We are the children given to Him by virtue of His resurrection. And we are for signs and wonders.

What does this mean? Well when the evil generation of Jews demanded a sign from the Lord Jesus, He replied: “… there shall no sign be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet” (Matthew 12:39). He went on to point out that this sign of Jonah was connected with death and resurrection. So the signs and wonders associated with Christ and the children whom the Father has given Him are the miracles of resurrection life. This is the experience of the spiritual Christian; he repeatedly knows the impact of death and the glory of Christ’s resurrection. So it is that the Church has survived. There is no other way of accounting for the continuance of the Church through the ages than the wonder-working power of Christ’s resurrection. The powers of hell and death have come like a deluge upon the Church through the centuries and have sometimes almost seemed to quench it, but it has sprung up again in greater fullness than ever before after every such time.

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September 25

25 SEP – The Hallmark of Sonship is Resurrection

The first Adam was called God’s son (Luke 3:38) and in a sense this was true, but that sonship was never fully realized; all its meaning, all its potential, all the divine intention, was never known. It was sonship on probation which never attained to determination. In the case of the Lord Jesus, however, we are told that He was “determined the Son of God…” (Romans 1:4 m.). The first Adam failed, and in him the whole race lost its sonship. That was why the Lord Jesus went to the Cross as representative of the whole race, to meet the final consequences of that lost sonship. Those consequences were known in that eternal period of unspeakable agony, when there was the awful consciousness of what it means to be abandoned by God. By nature we are out of Christ, without God and without hope in this world, but we are not fully aware of it nor of what it involves. In that phase of the Cross, the Lord Jesus was, so to speak, projected into the full realization of that complete consciousness of what God-forsakenness really means, that which is the very terrible destiny of all deliberate rejectors to find themselves rejected.

But while our sonship through the Cross and the risen Christ is to be appropriated and entered into by faith as an act, yet for the purpose of our testimony here, it is something which has to be continuous as a spiritual experience. It is accepted in an act, but it has to be borne out in a continuous process. The New Testament shows that sonship is something which relates to the whole life of the believer in a practical way of expression, so that inasmuch as it is inseparably bound up with resurrection in the case of the Lord Jesus, for us it demands a constant experience of His resurrection power.

How do we know sonship? Well, there was a time when we believed, and in believing were made children or sons of God. “Ye are all sons of God, through faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26). Because we believe, we have the sonship. That is very good, and of course we have always to cling tenaciously by faith to the fact that it is so. But that may have been years ago. Did the Lord just mean it to be something in our past history, something which took place years ago? We have always to hold on to that transaction with the Lord and believe, but does it not call for a reinforcement as we go along? Is there no opportunity for it to be more and more confirmed? Surely the Word teaches that there is; and so not only the origin but the experience of the believer should be that of sonship being freshly demonstrated and manifested on the same ground as its origin – that is, resurrection.

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September 24

24 SEP – Is God In What You Are Doing?

Beloved, the principle of Life in your spirit is to be the guiding principle of all your service in the Lord Jesus Christ. I do not mean Life in your surroundings. The Lord may take you to a place where death reigns, but if death reigns in you, you may as well give up the whole thing at once. You may be there, and the Life of God may be in you to meet that situation to triumph over it; but mark you, if you begin to touch what you call pieces of work for God and there is no Life in your spirit, the thing is dead in your spirit; you have no right there until you get in your spirit the Life of God relative to that thing. Don’t touch it, or you will be found in dead works, trying to do something where there is no vital principle at all.

A lot of people hold on and continue in certain realms, certain spheres, certain companies, certain connections; and they are there merely from the standpoint of natural reasoning and argument, sentimentality, tradition, or somehow thinking that by staying in, something is going to be done; while in their spirit they know the thing is dead, and they have no Life there.

Oh, that God’s people had discernment, spiritual discernment! The one cry in our spirit is that His people might be more discerning – to be able to discern in their spirit where Life is and where death is. We have got to get on to the thing that God is doing, for only in this can we have the witness of Life that it is the thing of God, and that we shall get through. In order that He might be able to consummate His purpose, gather up His plan and bring it to a mighty, victorious issue in the coming of the Lord, our need is to have Life more abundant… and the spiritual discernment by Life, to know where Life is and where death is. You may be doing what you call the work of God and have death in your Spirit; and that very doing of what you call the work of God because there is death in your spirit is antagonistic to the purpose of God. You may have Life in your Spirit and death all around, but the fact that you have the witness of Life is both the key and the assurance that something is to be accomplished.

I believe, beloved, that we dare not do a thing unless we have definite witness in our spirit that it is the thing of God to be done through us…. Is God in this? Is God in that? Has God undertaken it? The answer to that question in your spirit will not be an audible voice; it must ever be the liberty and the freedom and the uprising of His Life in you that gives you a clear way through in your spirit.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

September 23

23 SEP – “The Sentence of Death in Ourselves”

“Yea, we ourselves have had the sentence of death within ourselves that we should not trust in ourselves but in God, which raiseth the dead…. Always bearing about in the body the deadness of Jesus that the Life also of Jesus may be manifest in our mortal body…” 2 Corinthians 1:9, 4:10

“The sentence of death in ourselves” – that is the very basis of everything in real spiritual fruitfulness and effectiveness.

If you take up the Holy Spirit’s teaching in the New Testament, you will find that this has become the foundational principle of all Divine activities and operations: the sentence of death passed upon us and registered in us and working out in us, and all the time another thing doing the work of God, triumphing over this sentence of death in us, this other thing which is in us, working through us, giving us ascendancy over death in Christ, so that the wonderful things of God are manifest by us when there is no accountableness for them in us. The Lord has swept away with one stroke the whole basis of our trust in ourselves – has wiped out forever any hope in ourselves – not to destroy us, not to make everything impossible, but THAT He who raiseth the dead might show the mighty works by this Resurrection Life which is fruitful in us.

This is the principle all the way through the Word, that on the ground of a Life wrought in us through the cross by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, God is able to achieve and accomplish His supreme purpose. But in order to do it, the sentence of death must be planted right at the center of our old life to rule it out, so that where we despair of life in ourselves and have no trust in ourselves, we know we cannot of ourselves accomplish anything, there is the mighty Life of God for everything – that is, “Christ in you,” the Life of God, the hope of glory.

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September 22

22 SEP – An Appeal to Take the Ground of the Cross

The Corinthians knew about the Cross. They were “in Christ”, and there is no way into Christ but that of the Cross. Yes, but even so, the Apostle said that in visiting them it was his considered, resolute, and premeditated determination that he would ‘know nothing among them, save Christ, and him crucified’ (2:2). There was a knowledge of the Cross which either they did not possess, or else they were violating. In ‘Ephesians’, the death and resurrection ‘togetherness’ with Christ is foundational to all that fullness of heavenly position. In Corinth, the value of the Cross was in what it meant for them, rather than what it meant in them. There is undoubtedly a difference in these aspects, both as to position and as to results. The fuller aspect may have a deeper application to the natural life but, again, both in one are presented to us for our apprehending by faith.

The Cross not only deals with our sins and our condemnation: it deals with all our earthliness, our natural ground, which is so fruitful in those works which bring dishonor to our Lord. We are especially thinking of this spirit which produces or ferments jealousies, rivalries, contentions, criticisms, and all that is not love.

If we would take heavenly ground and the ground of the Cross, the Holy Spirit would be able to cause the things which really do not matter to fade from their importance, and to give the Lord’s people a loving concern for all who are His, just because they are His, and not ‘ours’ in any earthly way.

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September 21

21 SEP – Are You Taking the Heavenly Ground?

The best illustration of what this means is presented to us in considerable fullness in the New Testament, and particularly in Paul’s letters. We can narrow these down to two: ‘Corinthians’ and ‘Ephesians’. One is the earthly; the other is the heavenly. What is meant by the earthly is clear in 1 Corinthians, especially for our present point in the early part. Implying that it is wrong for supposedly spiritual people to be or to act so, the Apostle uses the words: “Are ye not men?” (3:4) This clearly means, as the context shows, that spiritual and heavenly people are not allowed to proceed as the rest of men do. The immediate connection (although it applies to all the other things) is that of divisions and circles bearing particular names and taking the character of natural preferences. This might be temperamental, doctrinal, emotional, intellectual, or ‘spiritual'(?). Whatever the causes or occasions, Paul says this behavior is “natural” and “carnal” – it is acting as “men”. In a word, it is earthly. At best, he says, it is childish, or ‘babyish’; it does not signify any spiritual stature. Looking at Christianity today by this standard, we cannot fail to be painfully impressed with how little the Church has grown up.

But that is the negative side. When we turn to ‘Ephesians’, we find ourselves in the presence not only of the oft-repeated words “the heavenlies”, but of the realities and characteristics of that realm. Here is the “one body”. Here is the “unity of the Spirit”. Here is heavenly wealth, walk, warfare. Here is relatedness and inter-relatedness. The Apostle, nay, the Holy Spirit has no restraint in giving out of the fullness, that it may lead again to the fullness of Christ. Here are the measureless dimensions of eternal thoughts, counsels, purpose, and love. Here is ascendency over disappointment, frustration, discouragement, and earthly limitations. Here is grace transcendent and triumphant. Yes, truly we are on heavenly ground here while all those things are bitterly true down below. To be “seated together with him (Christ) in the heavenlies” is no mere ideal, fantasy, illusion, beautiful concept, or sublime teaching; it is real because of the literal counter-realities to which it is set in contrast.

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