Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

August 31

31 AUG – What is God After?

What is God after? Why are you set on this scene as you are? Why is it that God does not give us such pleasant situations and circumstances as we crave for, and make it easy for us? Why does it seem rather that He makes it hard, puts us into hard places, and does not deliver us or prevent us from those very trying conditions? Why is the furnace heated seven times for saints, men who are walking with God? Well, what is He doing with us? Is not this the necessary background to formation according to Christ? Where will the characteristics of the heavenly Man have an opportunity, if not in adversity? Love has no meaning unless there is a background of hate. It is supine, it is weak, it is not real. When you read, “having loved His own that were in the world, He loved them unto the end” (John 13:1), you say, ‘that is a miracle’. When you read the prophecies of Hosea, and see God uncovering His heart about Israel, the unfaithful Israel, the unfaithful wife, the harlot wife, and then crying as with a broken heart, “How shall I give thee up?” (Hosea 11:8), you have to say, ‘that is love’.

You only see it in the light of the background. And this heavenly manhood can only be developed over against a background which is so opposite. That is why He puts you among men who are so earthly, sensual – ‘old-Adamic’. That is why He calls upon Christians to live together up against one another’s old man. If only we could get with all those nice Christians, it would be easy! But you would not develop any heavenly character if the Lord took that line.

God is practical. We do know that in no other way could God get us changed. He gives us a first-class opportunity just where we are of developing characteristics which are not of the old man at all – they are of the new man; that is the explanation.

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August 30

30 AUG – Why Are You a Christian?

Jesus was made perfect through sufferings; there is no other way for us. We are not already perfect, but we do stand on the same ground of Divine method. … made perfect through suffering. This manhood, this heavenly manhood, is only going to be produced through suffering. You had better settle it. We do not like it. It does not seem to be the kind of Christianity that we had offered to us in the popular terms. We have been promised so much if we become Christians, it has all been made so rosy. No, He never did that. He said, ‘You cannot be My disciple unless you deny yourself, you have to say No to yourself, and take up the Cross; you cannot be My disciple unless you hate your own soul and are prepared to lose it’ (meaning, to lay it down unto death: Luke 14:26, 27, 33; Matt. 10:38, 39; Matt. 16:24). It is suffering, deep inward formation according to Christ, God’s heavenly Man, by outward separation, inward separation and suffering. That is the way that Christ went. He has offered no other way to His disciples and to His servants.

Of course, to leave it there seems rather gloomy, not very attractive; but we have not finished by a very long way. Oh, what this Man in Christ, this corporate Man, this Body of Christ, is destined for! ‘What is man, that Thou puttest him in charge of all the inhabited earth to come, whereof we speak?’ (Heb. 2:5, 6) And, more than that, “know ye not that we shall judge angels?” (1 Cor. 6:3) I am not going further with that. I simply indicate it, to set that as an offset to what might look like rather a gloomy situation over this suffering business. “If so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified with Him.” (Rom. 8:17) “If we endure, we shall also reign with Him.” (2 Tim. 2:12) You see, it is not just again putting somebody into an objective position as a reigning monarch. It is spiritual character. “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matt. 5:5)

What the Lord is saying to us at this time is, ‘Do you know what you are in this world for? Do you know why I have reached out and laid My hand on you, why you are a Christian, a child of God? Do you know the meaning of it all? It is to make you a man according to My original and abiding thought and intention, to bring you into that Man’. Yes, it applies to all of us. It is a man-hood, a kind of humanity God has ever intended, and if you think this is theory, have you no experience that corroborates what I have said?

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

August 29

29 AUG – The Formation of Christ

The thing that matters is the kind of person I am. A kind of person is set before us in Christ. His Person is God’s beginning and you can have nothing before a beginning. He is God’s end, and you can have nothing after that. So there is nothing outside of Christ. He is God’s Man. I emphasize again, we must ever remember that it is the nature, the character of the manhood according to God that matters, and if that is true, then this means very deep formation. Conformation to Christ takes place in many ways, but two of the most important elements are:

(a) Through Outward Separation

Deep formation firstly through outward separation: that is one thing that is said about the Lord Jesus, that He was separate from sinners (Heb. 7:26), and using that word ‘separate’, I am only using a more common and ordinary word for the great Bible word ‘consecration’ or ‘sanctification’, which are the same word in the original. Consecration or sanctification simply means set apart unto God. Outward separation to begin with; separate – not going the way of others; not trying to stand well with them; no policy, no diplomacy, being perfectly willing to let a fundamental difference be recognized, and to take all the consequences of being in this world as something other than that which is here.

(b) By Inward Separation

And then deep formation by inward separation: Israel in the wilderness was outwardly separated, but inwardly not so. That is why, in recounting their history, the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews connects with the wilderness life of Israel those words “For the Word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing, even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow” (Heb. 4:12). You notice the context is Israel in the wilderness, and the meaning therefore is this, that while they were outwardly separated from Egypt and from the nations, they were inwardly not separated; there was something to be done inside to divide asunder between soul and spirit, joints and marrow; a deep inward separation. This cannot be accomplished mechanically. This is some deep inward work of God, getting us circumcised in heart.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

August 28

28 AUG – Do You Find You Cannot Pray?

You know, we have our “off” times spiritually – “off” times in the prayer life when it seems impossible to pray; “off” times in many other ways spiritually. No matter how we struggle, we can make nothing of it. What are we going to do? I have come to this position: through the Spirit, Christ is in me, and everything is with Him, not with me. It is not what I can do, nor what I cannot do, nor how I am today; all is with Him. Today, maybe, I am not conscious of His indwelling, but on the contrary, very conscious of other things that are not Christ. Well, that is my state; but He is faithful, He is true. He has given me certain assurances about never leaving nor forsaking me, about abiding through all the days to the end, and about perfecting unto the day of Christ a good work which He hath commenced. My one thing to do is to trust Him – trust Him, and if I cannot break through, to say: “Lord, I cannot pray just at the present; I must trust You to do all the praying.”

I find I have these “off” times, but as I definitely trust the Lord, and say: “Lord, this is Your responsibility, and I know this will not last; that prayer life will come back, and I am trusting You in the meanwhile.” It does come back, and in greater fullness and greater blessedness.

Beloved I have proved that again and again. It comes back. It is not merely that you get better and start again. You know quite well that you may be perfectly fit and yet be unable to pray. No one can make prayer. It is not a matter of health and strength to be able to pray. You may be a perfectly strong man or woman, but you cannot get through to heaven in prayer because you are that.

Prayer has to do with an opened heaven – prayer is fellowship with the Lord; and that is His doing, not ours. He brings that. Trust Him. “I live; and yet no longer I, but Christ liveth in me”; He has the whole matter in hand. While my attitude is one of faith in Him, He will see that there is a prayer life; He will see that there is a life in the Word. Positive faith in Him is the secret of everything in the will of God.

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August 27

27 AUG – The Altogether Other-ness of Christ

There is an otherness between us and the Lord. Yes, but it is this utterness of the difference between the Lord and ourselves that we have to learn, and that is going to set us over against the colossus of false doctrine, of the iniquitous lie which is being built upon this earth up to heaven, the lie of humanism.

That is the greatest lie that has been brought into this universe, that it is in man to be his own savior – that it is in man to rise to perfection, it is in man to be God; it is all in man, the roots are in himself. I say that is Satan’s colossus of iniquitous untruth, and God is working out the contradiction of that in a company, in His Church. It is being wrought, worked out, in the unseen; and while it is so difficult to accept it in the day of suffering, weakness, and darkness and inability to understand, if we knew the truth, the probability is that it is just this: God is doing with Satan in and through the Church what He did with Satan in and through Job, answering his challenge and his lie. Here is a broken, shattered, helpless little vessel of saints, bewildered, stripped, thrown back upon their God, unable to do or to understand, clinging to Him and seeking to prove Him, and through that the greatest iniquity in this universe is being assailed by God and answered.

The lie! There never was a time when that lie has reached greater proportion than it has today. But in you and in me, poor broken ones, God has His answer, and it does mean something to the Lord that we have been emptied out to the last drop, thrown back upon Him where He is our wisdom, He is our strength, He is our life, He is our very breath. That means something to Him.

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August 26

26 AUG – The Meaning of the Lord’s Dealings

In evangelical Christianity there is a clinging to the idea that we transfer everything to Christ and to Christianity when we are born again. We transfer all our faculties and our powers over to the interests of Christ and then, instead of using them for ourselves and for the world, we use them for Christ. That is the meaning of consecration, of surrender, as the terms are used so largely today in evangelical Christianity, the consecration of ourselves, our gifts, our faculties, our everything, to the Lord and to His service. But that falls short of something. It is not the transference and the consecration of everything that we are to the Lord to be used straightway as it is over on His side for His interests instead of in the world. Christ is other yet, Christ is still different yet from consecrated natural life; oh, so other! Something has to happen, our entire mentality has to be changed, transformed. The mind has to be renewed; we have to have an altogether different kind of outlook, even about the things of God. It is a constitutional matter, not merely a directional one.

This is the meaning of the Lord’s dealings with us; namely, to get a new mentality, a new conception; another, not our old one transferred, but another; and the distance is not the distance of time or geography necessarily, it is the distance of difference; and we make faster or slower progress spiritually according to how we learn this lesson. What is the secret of spiritual progress? It is the letting go of our own will and mind to the fact, to the truth, that after all, though Christians at our best, wanting to be a hundred percent for the Lord, it is not in us either to be or do. Our will can never do it, our reason can never accomplish it, our impulses and desires can never get us there. We have to come to a brokenness and yieldedness where nature is laid low in the dust and all our treasure is with the stones of the brook and the Almighty becomes our treasure (Job 22:24-25); the Lord alone our wisdom, our strength and vision, our desire. Until you and I have learned the lesson of that utter brokenness and yieldedness and letting go to the Lord, spiritual progress is delayed.

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August 25

25 AUG – The Mark of a Christian Life

The mark of a life governed by the Holy Spirit is that such a life is continually and ever more and more occupied with Christ, that Christ is becoming greater and greater, more wonderful as time goes on. The effect of the Holy Spirit’s work in us is to bring us to the shore of a mighty ocean which reaches far, far beyond our range, and concerning which we feel: Oh, the depths, the fullnesses, of the riches of Christ! If we live as long as ever man lived, we shall still be only on the fringe of this vast fullness that Christ is. That at once becomes a challenge to us before we go any further. These are not just words. This is not just rhetoric; this is truth. Let us ask our hearts at once: Is this true in our case? Is this the kind of life that we know? Are we coming to despair on this matter? That is to say, that we are glimpsing so much as signified by Christ that we know we are beaten, that we are out of this, and will never range all this. It is beyond us, far beyond us, and yet we are drawn on and ever on. Is that true in your experience? That is the mark of a life governed by the Holy Spirit. Christ becomes greater and greater as we go on. If that is true, well, that is the way of life.

The beginning: “In Him was life;” the middle: “I came that they might have life;” the end: “Believing, you may have life.” In that one word “life” we have the full answer to our question: ‘Why did Jesus Christ come into this world?’

Note one or two things: All the teaching and works of the Lord Jesus related to this thing that He called life – all His teaching and all His works were in relation to life.

The second thing to notice is this: Jesus demonstrated that to possess this life is a miracle, and He showed that it is impossible to have it without a miracle. To come to be possessed by this life is something supernatural.

The third thing we have to notice is: It is revealed by the Word of God that the possessing of this life is the basis of all God’s works. He can do nothing in us until we have this life. He has to stand back and say: ‘I can do nothing until I have My life in you.’ His life in us is the basis of all His work.

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August 24

24 AUG – The Personal Lordship of Christ

… The Saviourhood of Christ is but a recovering thing in relation to His Lordship. The Lordship was the eternal intention of God concerning Him. The Saviourhood is in order to get back to the Lordship, to lead on to the recovery of the Lordship. He can never be actually Lord until He has saved the inheritance of which He is the eternally designated Lord; but when He is Lord, it means that He is Saviour, He HAS redeemed. The Lordship is more than the Saviourhood. And so, when you come on to God’s SUPREME ground – “hath made him a Prince and a Saviour” – then the way is open for God to take you right on, beyond conversion, beyond the infant stage of just being born again, on to ‘growing up into Him in all things’, on to the fullness of Christ. So they put the full testimony there, where all the rest was included, and thus there was a wide open way for all God’s intention.

Wherever you look in the Scriptures, you find that it is Lordship which is the secret of fullness. All the dealings of the Lord with us are not just to get us saved, but to make the Lordship of Christ real in us. Yes, all His dealings with us are to that end, and His dealings with us are personal dealings. Everything is going to be very personal in this matter. You and I, no matter who we may be, if we really come into the Lord’s hands, are going to be dealt with in such a way as to bring us to the place where Christ is Lord in our lives. It is going to be personal: for, after all, while the end is corporate and collective, it must of necessity be an individual thing between us and the Lord so that we know within our own hearts and experiences that God is working at a very real thing in this matter of making His Son Lord. It is going to be as personal with us as it was with Paul. It may not be in exactly the same way, but it will be just as personal.

“When we were all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking unto me in the Hebrew language…” I, me, and my own language, and by name, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” (Acts 26:14) It is going to be as personal as that with us; we are not going to pass in the crowd. You say, ‘Oh, Paul was an exceptional man, an exceptional case, outstanding; it can never be like that with me!’ Well, it is going to be. We may not go on a Damascus road and see a light from Heaven at noontide brighter than the sun. But it is going to be as personal.

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August 23

23 AUG – Lordship Is the Key to Fullness

You look at Israel’s history. While in the wilderness for forty years, the one thing that was the issue being fought out was the Lordship of God: they were fighting with that matter of absolute submission and subjection to Him in their own hearts, their own minds, their own wills. For forty years that battle went on; and it was not until the Jordan made the great divide between that kind of thing and the coming of the Captain of the Lord’s host into His place; it was not until then that they moved on into the great fullness which God had intended for them. The inheritance was altogether frustrated while the battle of lordship went on. The inheritance was entered upon as soon as that lordship was established. Lordship is the key to fullness.

In the New Testament, it is just the same. Here you have it in the case of the Apostles, the twelve. You can see their defeat and their weakness and their failure and their poverty until Christ becomes Lord, absolute Lord; the Holy Ghost making Him Lord in them as He was Lord in Heaven and then they come into fullness! Pentecost – “Jesus Christ is Lord” – and then fullness!

Take Peter. You remember, Peter had to have a special battle over this. Fullness is a progressive thing. We do not enter upon it all at once, and every fresh measure of that fullness is preceded by some fresh conflict as to the Lordship of Christ, and Peter had several. Peter in Joppa on the housetop had a vision, a sheet let down from Heaven in which were all manner of four-footed creatures, reptiles, unclean beasts, and the voice saying, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” Peter said, ‘Not so, Lord; nothing unclean has ever passed my lips.’ And the thing was done thrice, the Lord was insistent; and Peter was wondering what the vision meant, when the messengers of Cornelius arrived from Caesarea. And what was his note there? Well, his note was: “He is Lord of all”. What happened? Peter entered into something bigger than he had ever had before; that is, he found a bigger Christ than he had known before. In recounting what happened, he says: ‘Who was I to withstand God?’

‘Who was I? The Lord took this thing in hand and showed Himself far bigger than myself and my tradition – He simply lifted me right out of my old bondages and limitations and landed me out of my depths altogether!’ It was all upon that one inward triumph, the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

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August 22

22 AUG – What is Keeping You Out of His Fullness?

Why was it that at the beginning there were such virile converts, marked from the outset by such a large measure of Christ? Why was it that then things happened on such a large and effective scale within the compass of a few days? Why was it that the churches grew and the Lord added unto them those who were being saved? Why could it be that in one day three thousand, and soon after as many again, were added? Why, in the course of one man’s lifetime, could the greater part of the then known world be evangelized and churches be established everywhere, and that upon a large measure of spiritual light and life? Why?

If you think about it, I am quite sure that you will be convinced that the answer is to be found in the testimony, the declaration born out of something which had happened and that testimony was to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. They proclaimed Him as Lord. “He is Lord of all.” The Lordship of Jesus Christ is the secret of fullness, and we never really move into the fullness of Christ until He is Lord.

I suppose almost any Christian, any really born-again child of God, would be willing to subscribe to the objective fact and say, “Jesus Christ is Lord”! But why, then, this state of things? Either what I am saying is entirely untrue, and the Lordship of Christ does not lead to His fullness, or else it means something more than objective truth; and I think the latter is the case. The real trouble is that in so many of His own He is not Lord. He may be Savior, but He is not Lord. The Lordship of Christ means in us a very deep and very drastic work. It means the overthrowing of every other lordship.

But the other lordships may not be in the form of outward things. The other lordships may be in our own wills. Just that strong-mindedness of ours may be the thing which occupies the throne in the place of Christ. The Lord Jesus is kept out of His place as Lord in us because of the very strength of our own natures, our desires, our affections, our likes and our dislikes, and all that realm of our human feelings. There may be that in our make-up which is thwarting and frustrating His Lordship and in so doing is just keeping us out of His fullness.

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