Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

October 31

31 OCT – Outward Separation from the World

The inward separation had its outward effect or outworking in separation from the world, and no one will think for a moment that I mean physical separation from the world. No, He was here right in it, in its throng and press, in its affairs, with everything pressing upon Him; never seeking to live the life of a hermit, detached from the world, but right in it and yet while rubbing shoulder to shoulder with the world, having all the contacts of this world in every form, there was a distinctiveness about Him. He was not a part of it, but apart from it, a wonderful outward separation. While being able to talk with the grossest and the most defiled and the people most involved in this world, He was yet by no means a part of their system, their order, their way of life, but outwardly separate from the world.

The most unhappy people in this world are Christians who try to have both worlds. It is my experience that if you want to find a miserable Christian, you must find what is called ‘a worldly Christian’, one in whom a constant civil war goes on between two kingdoms. Yes, a Christian in this world, trying to get something out of this world is a miserable creature. I used to illustrate it by the old border battles between Scotland and England. The people who lived in the border country never had a day’s rest all their lives. One day it would be the overrunning from one side, the next day from the other side, and these poor people on the border line had the most miserable existence possible. It is like that. You try to live on a border-line – or border-land Christian life – and you will be a miserable person, without rest or peace or joy or anything else. You will never know exactly where you are, who is your master, which way you are going, to whom you belong. It is a miserable existence.

The Lord Jesus was not like that. He was on one side and absolutely on one side. The border line was a very wide one for Him. Indeed, there was no border line. He was attached to heaven, and He maintained that attachment. You and I, if we are going to know glory now and glory afterward, will have to be on the same ground as He was in this matter – no compromise with the world; in it, having to do our work here, having to meet people here, having to be friendly in a way, yet not one with their nature, their realm, their way. It is a difficult thing – not as easy to do as to say – it works out in many practical ways. The point is that Christ was wholly for God, and because of that, His Father was the Father of glory, and the Spirit of glory rested upon Him, and the Father could give Him glory.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

October 30

30 OCT – Living On the Ground of Glory

So we have to look again at the One who has set for us the pattern – who indicated the principles of the incorruptible which result in glory; to look at what was true of Him, as this incorruptible One that resulted in God giving Him glory. One or two things I will indicate because they are very important. Firstly, it was His inward separation from sin. There was a great gap between Him and sin. It is said of Him that He “knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21), that He was “separated from sinners” (Hebrews 7:26). That is, that in His nature He was separate from the rest of men; there was an inward separation. Now, we are not constituted as He was, as sinless, but we are told and made to understand in the New Testament that that inward separation, which was so true of Him, can be made true in us.

Paul has a way of putting it. He calls it: “the circumcision of Christ” (Colossians 2:11), and he says that it is a thing of the heart, an inward separating between what we are in ourselves and what we are in Christ, the putting of a gap between the two. And then the New Testament says that by the Holy Spirit’s enablement, by the Holy Spirit’s power, you need not live on the ground of what you are in yourself, you can live on the ground of Christ, and living on the ground of Christ you need not be the slave of yourself and your sinfulness, you are delivered. There is something that has separated inside, and if you live on the ground of what Christ is and not on the ground of what you are in yourself, you are on the ground of the incorruptible and you are on the ground of the glory.

We who are Christians know that a cleavage has been made in us, and that we are now two people. There is that side which is our new life, our new relationship, which is our Christ-connection. There is that other side which is still our old relationship with the old Adam. It is there: it is not cauterized, it is not annihilated; and we know now that it is for us to take continually the power of the Holy Spirit, in virtue of that separating cross, to keep on the Christ side, on the new side; and if we do, we know that it is glory.

The enemy, the great enemy of the glory, was ever seeking to contaminate Him, involve Him, pollute Him, corrupt Him. Do not let us think that He never had to resist anything, that He never had to say ‘No’ to another. That matter of how a sinless Man could be tempted is of course an old theological problem, but there is no doubt about it that He fought our battle in all reality.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

October 29

29 OCT – The Recovery of a Fighting Spirit

One of the reasons why Christians who have been active settled down too soon was the spirit of the world getting in amongst them. What is the spirit of the world? It is the spirit of: ‘Have a good time! Let us have a good time! Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!’ The people of Israel looked at the world around them and, if I understand it rightly, they said: ‘These people do not have all the hard time that we do. Our life is a life of continual battle. They do not know so much about that, but they believe in having a good time.’ I think that is how it was at this particular time. Instead of fighting the world they made friends with the world. They made the world their friends, and so they did not finish the work. Compromise is a dangerous thing to the inheritance! Trying to be on good terms with the world and having an easy time will result in our losing a large part of the inheritance.

In the history of the Israelites we find that God did not give up the battle against the enemy, and that whenever the people took up the battle and turned again on to the Lord’s side to fight the enemy, they found the Lord waiting for them. So we have the story of Deborah, the story of Gideon – and dare I mention Samson? However, although Samson was a poor sort of man, if only the Lord gets a poor chance, He will take it. You may not think much of Samson, but do you think better of yourself? We are all poor creatures! We have all been discouraged, we have all been tempted to give up, we have all stopped too soon, we have all been weary in well-doing; but take the sword of the Spirit again! Take up the battle again, and you will find the Lord is ready and waiting for you.

Gideon, Deborah, Samson, and all the others – but I think there is one who is better than them all. Do you remember that beautiful little Book of Ruth? Everybody is charmed with that book! What a lovely book of spiritual recovery it is! What a picture of the Lord’s patience, the Lord’s readiness to take advantage of every opportunity! How does that book begin? “And it came to pass in the days when the judges judged…” The Book of Ruth was in the times of the Judges, which until then was the most terrible time in history of Israel, but God was ready to change the whole picture. There are the two different pictures: the Judges and Ruth, but both were in the same period. Do you see what I am trying to say?

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

October 28

28 OCT – The Loss of Heavenly Vision

From time to time people who began their Christian life with zeal seem to come to a place of losing steam. This has happened all too often in the past. What was the effect of people stopping too soon in their spiritual tracks? It was the loss of vision. They only saw the things that were near and lost sight of God’s eternal purpose. They lost sight of what Paul calls the “prize of the on-high calling” (Philippians 3:14). Now this sounds like a contradiction, but they lost sight of the things that are not seen! You say: ‘What do you mean by that? That is nonsense! How can you see the things that are not seen?’ Paul says: “The things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18). They lost sight of the things which are eternal because they were looking too much at the things which are seen. They lost the heavenly vision for they became satisfied too soon. It was all good so far, but the good became the enemy of the best.

The first thing that happened, then, was the loss of the heavenly vision. It works both ways. If we lose the heavenly vision we settle down too soon. If we settle down too soon we lose the heavenly vision. And what do we mean by settling down too soon? We mean: losing the warring spirit. In the Book of Judges the Philistines resorted to a very subtle strategy: they took all the weapons of war away from Israel, and all that they had left was one file to sharpen their agricultural instruments, so that every farmer in Israel had to take a journey to the blacksmith to sharpen his farm instruments. All the sharp instruments had been taken away and the spirit of war was undermined. The Philistines had made it impossible for Israel to fight and you know that there is a very big Philistine about! The strategy of this great enemy of the inheritance is to take the fighting spirit out of us. Oh, what a lot of mischief the Philistines have done to Christians! What about our prayer life? Yes, we ask the Lord for a hundred and one things, but we do not battle through to victory on some situation. There is some life in terrible bondage, there is some servant of the Lord having a hard time, and there are many other calls for battle, but where are the prayer groups who take up these issues and will not give up until they are settled? The warring spirit has gone out from so much of the Church. That is a clever strategy of the devil! Lose the spirit of spiritual battle and you will stop short of finishing the work.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

October 27

27 OCT – Weariness in Battle

There are many Christians who make a wonderful beginning. They see the vision of God’s great purpose, and certain words in the New Testament make a great appeal to them, such as: “Called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). That is a wonderful vision! “…According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Ephesians 3:11) Such a thought makes a great appeal to these people and they make a heart response. They go on so far, and then many stop too soon. They lose the vision; they lose the inspiration; they lose the sense of purpose; they lose the energy to go on, and of some we have to say: ‘Something has gone out of their faces. What was there with them once is not there now. They were so positive once, so occupied with the heavenly calling, but something has happened.’ These people may not be altogether conscious of it, and they would not tell you that something has happened, but it is quite evident that something has happened. They have just lost something, and you do not get the response now from them that you once got. They are not so interested now as they were. The heavenly vision has gone out of their lives. That is true of many Christians, and it could be true of all of us.

Why did these people stop short of finishing the job? I think that very likely it was because they became weary in well doing. The battle was long drawn out. It was spread over years and was very exhausting. No sooner had they gained one victory than they had to start fighting again. They did not have much rest between one battle and the next one. It was a long drawn-out warfare; they got weary in battle, and in their weariness they lost the vision, they lost heart, and they lost the initiative.

I am so glad that with all the strong things that the New Testament says, it says some very kind and understanding things about this: “Let us not be weary in well-doing; for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Galatians 6:9); “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, … your labour is not vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58); “God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love” (Hebrews 6:10). What a lot of things there are like that! And Jesus said to His disciples, who were being brought into the battle: “Let not your heart be troubled!” (John 14:1), while we can hear the Lord’s words to Joshua: “Be strong and of a good courage; be not affrighted, neither be thou dismayed” (Joshua 1:9). Again, the Lord Jesus said to His disciples: “He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved” (Matthew 24:13).

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

October 26

26 OCT – The Crisis Point of Committal

Very often the whole mounting avalanche of Divine working in our lives—an avalanche built up as silently and slowly as the added snowflakes in the Alps—just waits to move with power and overwhelming for that final—yet all-inclusive—act of committal. We wait; we think, wrestle, contemplate, analyze, go round-and-round; we reason and argue; we recognize that there is nothing else for it, and even say so; we even come to the point when the matter is settled in our conviction and acceptance, and we think that we are over the hedge, but nothing happens, nothing eventuates. Why is it? The Lord knows more than we do about the deceitfulness of our hearts. A covenant has two sides, and in the Old Testament two sacrifices were connected with a covenant; one representing God, the other the offeror; both were killed and the two parties to the covenant were represented as passing between the two (See Abraham in Gen. 15). There has to be a slaying of something on our side! In other words, God is waiting until we have burned our boats behind us. Though we may have approached the shore of His will and way for us, there will be nothing from God’s side while our boats are just left on the shore so that, if things don’t go quite as we expect, we still can retreat. That boat is an evidence of doubt or reservation. It must be burned, so that—whatever the consequence—we have no alternatives.

The young believer will not grow unless he or she makes a committal in testimony, so letting others know where they stand. The law holds good in every stage of development and progress. If policy governs, or fear, of how such a step will affect our prospects, or any consideration which conflicts with what we know in our deepest hearts is the way indicated for us—for us—those things are boats or bridges representing a false “Safety-first” policy. As when the bleating lambs were preserved by Saul—the finger of God will point to them and say, What mean those boats? God will wait for the full and final capitulation without a reservation, and to defer is only to be involved in confusion, and either becoming a misfit, having missed God’s first best, or losing out altogether.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

October 25

25 OCT – The Unrecognized Thing: Adjustableness

One of the most common causes of spiritual stultification is fixedness. It is peculiarly common in the realm where Christian truth has been reduced to a fixed form, order, system, and creed. The doctrines of Christianity are such and such; so many. The accepted and established ideas of Christian service and methods are so-and-so. Peter had his fixed position as to Jews and Gentiles, and, because of it, came perilously near missing the larger purpose of God, and presented the Lord with a real battleground in his Christianity. It has so very largely resolved itself into a finality of position, which results in a closed door to fuller revelation as to what God means by His Word. The fact is, that God only gives us enough light to get us to take the next step, but when that step has been taken, we are in the way of being shown that much more was meant by the Lord than He showed then. The first expectations of many servants of the Lord in the Bible, expectations resultant from something said by the Lord to them, were later seen to have been not all that He really meant, but there was something more, and perhaps other than they thought.

Can anyone really dispute that full light very often means a shedding of things and ideas that we thought were of God? Is it not true that, as we go on, we find that certain leadings of the Lord were tactical, intended to get us to a certain place where alone we could learn of a greater necessity? There is very much of this kind of thing in relation to both doctrine, practice, and service—its nature and ways, and while Divine principles will never change to all eternity, the clothing of those principles may vary and change with both dispensations and generations and stages of our own lives.

In all this—while Truth remains unalterable—the only way to grow is to be adjustable and not static and fixed. Do your religious traditions bind you in such a way that you are not free to move with God? If He sees this to be so, He may not give you the light necessary to enlargement. But if He sees that, although you may be in a comparatively false position, your heart is really set on His fullness at any cost, He may present you with light which will test your adjustableness severely. See the case of the disciples of John the Baptist transferring their discipleship to Christ. See the case of Peter and what happened in the home of Cornelius. See also the case of Apollos in Acts 18:24–28, as also the disciples mentioned earlier in that chapter.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

October 24

24 OCT – The Unattractive Thing: Obedience

No one naturally likes that word. It is unpleasant from infancy onward. Its very essence seems to imply the presence of – at least a peril of – disobedience, and the universal natural dislike of it more than implies – it proves the presence of a wish to be free from any obligation or law. Yes, that primeval revolt, and break from God which was the beginning of actual sin has entered as the Serpent’s poison into the very blood-stream of the entire creation, and the very mention of obedience stirs a secret dislike, if not resentment.

It would take too much space to show how, through all time, the one thing which has been God’s supreme obstacle to man’s relationship with Himself has been this inherent disobedience as the active expression of unbelief. On the other hand, it would take volumes to show fully how every movement into fellowship with God in His great purposes has been based upon a demanded obedience of faith; a test, a challenge and a conflict issuing in a willing capitulation to the Divine will in some general or particular direction. Here, our only intention is to point out and emphasize the fact that there is no possibility of the slightest true and genuine spiritual progress and growth beyond the point where light received, the Lord showing His mind, has not had a definite response in practical obedience. Time does not change this, and no matter how long we go on or imagine that the matter is passed over, when at length the real question of approval for particular usefulness arises, we shall be brought right back to the hindrance of that reserved obedience.

But there is a realm of obedience which is not law but love, and love transforms the unlovely to delight. Hence the Apostle Paul, in calling for an obedience which would make possible a spiritual enlargement, puts the matter on the basis of love, and then gives the supreme Example of the obedience of love. “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ, Who… became obedient” (Phil. 2:5). It is those whose love for the Lord leads to swift actions in relation to light received, who make swift progress, and are seen to grow up in beauty before the Lord. On the other hand, those who are careless or rebellious when the Lord has spoken, and tardy in response— practical response—are marked by repeated defeats, recurrent bouts of spiritual cloudiness, and inability to meet an emergency demand when it arises. Too often this lack of obedience, or positive disobedience, is due to its origin in Satan – Pride.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

October 23

23 OCT – The Cause of Arrested Spiritual Development

The Apostle Paul was convinced that it was not because of any particular “problems” that the growth of the Corinthian church was arrested 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 not a matter of what of the Lord Jesus had this one and that one to impart. 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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October 22

22 OCT – Your Sin Will Find You Out

You may have the life of the two and a half tribes if you so desire, but you will never come into the governmental position, the meaning of the throne. What is more, the former will always prove to have been less than what God purposes, and the knowledge of it must sooner or later find us out. Was it not in that very connection the Lord’s servant said, “… be sure your sin will find you out.” That is not to say, ‘Be sure your sin will be found out.’ It will find you out. What is the meaning of that? Sometime or other you will come to say: ‘Well, I was a fool! I might have had far more than I have. God intended me to have it. This that I have is proving, after all, to be much less than what God called me unto.’ You will exclaim, just as Saul exclaimed, ‘I have played the fool!’ That is your sin finding you out. It is bound to come to that, to the recognition that God purposed much more than we, because of the conflict and the suffering involved, were prepared to accept.

However, the Lord will have a company in governmental fellowship with Himself. He will sift, and sift again, but He will have that company; and it is for us to recognize the fact that He has made that known to us. That is a matter of importance. Just pigeon-hole all the questions and problems that arise about others who have not had it made known to them, and face the fact that He has made it known to us. As Sovereign, God can do as He likes about these matters. He has made known to some (not to us alone) in the earth what is His full end, and the making of it known has constituted His call, His voice. When God has made known to us His mind we are left at once with a great responsibility; but I think, if we did but know it, we are even then in a peculiarly blessed position, although it does not always look like it.

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