Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

December 13

13 DEC – The Open Heaven Today

Now we see heaven and earth united in Christ risen and ascended. He is the mediator. He is the ladder which Jacob saw in his dream, and upon which the angels of God were ascending and descending. The Lord referred to that when speaking to Nathanael, saying: “Ye shall see the heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” What was but a type at Bethel has become a living reality in Christ. He is uniting heaven and earth. In Him — in the two sides of His nature — God and man are brought together, heaven and earth are united. He is the way, the only way of communication for heaven and earth. Union with Christ means to live under an open heaven, in the presence of God, and in all the reality of the new life.

The Holy Spirit is given us on that ground. He came upon the Lord Jesus after His baptism in the Jordan. The heavens were opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him. Now Christ risen means an open heaven. The Spirit of the Anointing comes upon us because the crucified One is risen. He comes to us out of an open heaven which the Son of God has opened for us.

But what was the value of the anointing? It is to bring us unto a heavenly union with God. The Lord Jesus said: “When he, the Spirit… is come, he shall guide you into all the truth.” And John confirms this in saying: “The anointing which ye received… teaches you concerning all things.” That is represented by the angels ascending and descending. The Holy Spirit is communicating with us, but Christ is the ladder, reaching from earth to heaven. Where is that ladder? It is not in the world. The ladder is set up in our hearts. It is Christ in our hearts. There is an open way from heaven in our hearts, Christ Himself, leading us into the very presence of God. The Holy Spirit moves in relation to Christ to bring us into communion with Christ, just as Christ is in communion with His Father.

The all-sufficiency of Christ is secured for us on that basis. We are in the heavenlies, because Christ is in us. If joined to His person the limitations are gone. There is a direct and immediate communion with God, and the Holy Spirit can reveal to us heavenly things.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

December 12

12 DEC – An Open Heaven for the Spiritual

Now let us turn to Hebrews 9:3-4: “And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holy of holies”. We have here the tabernacle as it was in the earth, with its holy place and its most holy. The holy place represented the earth. There we have the candlestick, the altar of incense, and the table of showbread, pointing — in type — to the Lord Jesus Christ. Now Jesus Christ has gone through the veil into the place of future realities, where everything is Christ, Christ All and in all. Heaven is open since Christ rent the veil. For the natural man heaven is closed. This includes not only the heaven we may go to one day, but it represents a sphere, the present realm of God’s activity, which we can share in union with Him.

We too, have an open heaven. Paul says: “Our citizenship is in heaven”! If our walk on this earth is to be a heavenly one, we must have an open heaven, for we are utterly dependent upon heaven for spiritual blessing. The door of heaven is closed to the natural man. Even a man like Nicodemus cannot see it, and even less enter it.

Let us repeat that the ‘holy place’ of the tabernacle represents the earth, and the ‘most holy place’ heaven. In the one place we have the types of heavenly things. In the other was God Himself. Between the two was the veil. Death would meet anyone who would go through that veil into the most holy place, except by God’s special command.

The letter to the Hebrews tells us further that that veil was a type of Christ’s flesh. There are two sides in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ: an earthly side (towards the earth) and a heavenly one (towards God). Between heaven and earth was the veil, and Christ’s flesh was that veil. When Jesus Christ died on the cross the veil in the temple was rent from the top to the bottom. Now the types gave place to the reality. What was but suggestive, pointing to God, passed away, and man was allowed to draw near to God. The flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ is speaking of human limitation which formed a barrier between the realities of God and man. If we look into the holy place of the tabernacle we have features and illustrations of heavenly things because of man’s limitation.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

December 11

11 DEC – Abiding In the Anointing

“The anointing teaches you concerning all things.” Has this not been true many a time in our lives? For instance, a difficult situation arises, a problem has to be solved, and we are asked to meet that need. Now we get worked up into a state of anxiety, but all our thinking and planning is getting us nowhere. We cannot see what we should do; we have no light. But when we have handed it over to the Lord, when we put our confidence in Him, trusting Christ to be our wisdom and strength, the light comes, and we are able to give the needed counsel, and touch the vital points as we, in ourselves, would never be able to do. It just comes by revelation.

The experience is true: “In that hour it shall be told you what to speak.” The Holy Spirit is given us that we may, through Him, continually stand in unbroken and direct fellowship with our Lord in heaven. Immediately we begin to work at things with our mind, and count upon our resources, or look at circumstances, we take upon us a responsibility which is beyond us, and which we cannot meet. The result is that we become anxious, worried and fretful. We begin to ask other people to tell us what to do. We look round for some help from outside, and thus enter more and more into the realm of the natural world which, we know, cannot help us in heavenly things. But if we abide under the anointing, we have the certainty that all we have to do is but a part of a completed work.

How often attempts were made upon the life of the Lord Jesus to destroy it. His life was beset with danger. He had hardly stepped out into public ministry, and we see His murderers at work. We are told that such an attempt was made when He went into the synagogue of Nazareth. The people were offended by His words and led Him to the brow of the hill of their town to cast Him over. But He went right through their midst out of their hands, and their attempt failed. He could not be destroyed even one day before His time because of the anointing. God had ordered His life to the very “hour”. “No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of myself”. What is anointed and abiding under the anointing will complete the work. We too can be assured to complete the work to which God has called us in life, and for which He has appointed us in Christ. “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them.” What a mighty comfort to know that it is the anointing which takes the full responsibility for the completion of our life! So we just have to abide under the anointing.

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December 10

10 DEC – Being a Tool in His Hands

Let us realize that God Himself will do His work. It cannot be done through our trying to do it. To ask Him to help us to do His work is a great mistake. If it is the Lord’s work, then it is HE who is doing it. He never gives His own work into our hands. The Lord does not give His work to you or to me. We are but His employees, like the workman who uses his tools. A tool never thinks out what it should do. It simply yields to the hand of its master. He has the plan, He has the skill and the strength, and the tool is only expressing what is in the mind of the workman. The responsibility lies with HIM. The tool is only allowed to do what the master wants to do through his instrument. Imagine an instrument getting up in the morning determined to do this or that, hoping the master would help it. This is not the right attitude. Let us think of the tool which takes this attitude and says: “Now Master, you know what You will do. You have the plan. You know how You will work, and at what time You will do it. I am here at Your disposal. I am willing to serve You in any way You please. I am altogether consecrated to You and Your purpose. I look to You concerning the work which lies before us. You must be the wisdom, the strength and the power of endurance behind me. If I should become blunt, You can sharpen me again. Everything depends upon You, but I am one with You.”

This is a very simple illustration of the truth. That was exactly the relationship of the Lord Jesus with His Father. He said: “My Father works even until now, and I work.” He only worked because His Father worked. He also said: “The works which the Father has given me… the same works I do.” The link between Him and the Father was the Holy Spirit. He brought about that marvelous oneness. Now we are under the same anointing. That anointing is the guarantee for meeting every need to which we are called, and to do it at the right time.

When we are under the anointing, which brings us into oneness with our Lord Jesus Christ in the heavenlies, there is no need to get into a state of anxiety concerning ‘our works’. The Holy Spirit will come in and show us where we have to act as under the Lord’s commission, and where we have to stand back and wait — in spite of apparent need and pressure which comes upon us — because the Lord’s time has not yet come to meet that need.

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December 9

9 DEC – The Secret of His Triumphant Life

When Israel was separated from Egypt, and brought out into the wilderness, God gave them the pillar of cloud by day, and the pillar of fire by night. That cloud is a type of the Holy Spirit. The forty years in the wilderness typify that Israel’s life became entirely governed by the Holy Spirit. When we come to the Lord Jesus we see the reality of this, and how true it was in His case. When He stepped out into public life, God separated Him for His special ministry. He came under the anointing of the Holy Spirit (Luke 3:22). From that moment His whole life was governed by the Holy Spirit (Heb. 9:14).

If we want to live a heavenly life in the wilderness, the Holy Spirit is essential. He is given for that very purpose. Through the Holy Spirit the same resources are at our disposal upon which Christ, in the days of His flesh, had been living. It is very important to recognize the fact that our Lord Jesus Christ voluntarily accepted our position, and was fashioned like a man, taking the place of one who is dependent on God for everything. If we do that, we shall rejoice to live a life which is governed by the Holy Spirit, a life through which our Lord Jesus Christ shall be glorified, even as He, living in the Father, glorified the Father. This then is our relationship with Christ. The basis of a heavenly life is the Holy Spirit. The Lord Jesus lived His life in the Holy Spirit. By that Spirit He was doing His work. He moved continually, in all His ways, as governed by the Holy Spirit. He refused to move or act under the influence of man, or be pressed by circumstances. He only did that which the Holy Spirit witnessed in Him. The secret of His triumphant life was the government of the Holy Spirit.

Now what is true of the Lord Jesus has to be true for us. It is the same Spirit which is anointing us. We have come to see that this world is a wilderness. We are called to let go our natural resources, and to live a life entirely out from God, in direct communication with Him. In the things of God we cannot use natural resources. Neither the world nor we in ourselves can produce anything for God. But let us place the emphasis upon the positive side: the Spirit of Anointing makes everything possible. The Holy Spirit, the Anointing which we have received, brings us into oneness with Christ. Just as Christ was one with the Father by the Spirit, so we are made one with Christ by the same Spirit. This is a wonderful union! It means that the Lord Himself is doing the work in us in order to work it out through us.

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December 8

8 DEC – The Basis of Spiritual Life

The most important thing in the believer’s life is to learn Christ. “In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” That fullness is for us, for: “In Him we are made full.” And because Christ, as our fullness, is in the glory, therefore Paul writes to the Ephesians: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” That means we are blessed with every spiritual blessing in our Lord Jesus Christ in the heavenlies. That implies that our relationship with the Lord Jesus must be a heavenly relationship. Only as we come into a heavenly union with Christ can we partake of these heavenly blessings.

There has to be a wilderness first in our lives before we can experimentally know the all-sufficiency of Christ for us. Israel’s life in the wilderness meant a complete separation from the old nature, and an utter dependence upon resources outside of this earth. The wilderness in itself provided nothing for them, and all their natural capacities were of no use in such a place. But these conditions were just given to make the wilderness a place of revelation where they had to learn Christ, in a special way, as their sufficiency. Christ is the living Bread which came down from heaven. He is the Water of Life. The “spiritual rock that followed them” was Christ.

Let us therefore emphasize again that in order to know Jesus Christ in fullness we have to come to the place where the world and all its natural resources cannot help us, and have to be completely ruled out.

Jesus Christ Himself accepted that position, that He voluntarily chose to live on a faith-basis. He chose to depend entirely on His Father. He could do absolutely nothing without Him; He had nothing Himself but was drawing everything from the Father. That is the more negative side of our meditation. Now let us turn to the positive side.

What is the basis of a life lived in a heavenly union with Christ, where all the resources have to be of a heavenly nature? The answer is: That basis is the Holy Spirit.

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December 7

7 DEC – Learning Christ

It may startle you if I say that we can only know the sufficiency of our Lord Jesus Christ if we are willing to go into the wilderness.

Now, the wilderness has always been the best place for spiritual education. You may think that there is not much to be learnt in a wilderness. Nevertheless it is so; it is the best place to learn heavenly things. It was so with Abraham; it was so in the case of Moses; it was true with Israel. The wilderness had also a definite place in the life of Paul. Whether we take it in a literal or a spiritual way, the fact is that God’s people were, again and again, sent into the wilderness. Many of us know what such a ‘wilderness’ means.

When God puts His hand upon a people, He always cuts them off from everything which is not of Himself; that is, He cuts them off from the whole realm of their natural life, and puts them, so to speak, outside of the world of nature. We see this in the case of the people of Israel. Pharaoh was allowing them to go into the desert; he wanted them to serve God in a half-hearted way: partly in Egypt and partly in the land. But that could never serve God. God’s irreducible minimum was: not a hoof was to be left behind. God’s people should be absolutely separated from Egypt. Therefore the Red Sea came between His people and the Egyptians. God saw to it that they remained in the wilderness until they had learnt their lesson. God had some great lessons to teach them there. Israel’s sojourn in the wilderness had to serve coming generations as an example. The dispensation of the church — yet far away in the future — was to derive its instruction from them. In the wilderness God laid down eternal principles. The things which happened to Israel “were our examples”.

God cuts His people off from the whole realm of nature. You know how little the natural man prevails in the wilderness. It doesn’t matter how intellectual, how mighty the natural resources are. It is not of much use in a wilderness. You may be an excellent student, a splendid businessman or organizer, yet all this is not much good in a wilderness. For a man who is planted down alone in the middle of a wilderness, his own cleverness is not of much avail, his natural capacities will not bring him very far.

So you see what matters. When God gets us into His hand, He takes us right out of the realm of what we are by nature. That is the meaning of the wilderness. God’s object is to make Christ everything. So long as we can do things, so long as we have resources in ourselves, we cannot know Jesus Christ. Christ will remain an unexplored realm for us.

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December 6

6 DEC – Christ, Our Sufficiency

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ…” Eph. 1:3-4

“…They drank of a spiritual rock that followed them: and the rock was Christ”. 1 Cor. 10:1-4

“This is he that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel… who received living oracles to give unto us.” Acts 7:38

“…Our sufficiency is from God…” 2 Cor. 3:5

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the exceeding greatness of the power may be of God, and not from ourselves.” 2 Cor. 4:7

All these passages have to do, in one way or another, with sufficiency. That sufficiency is bound up with our Lord Jesus Christ. Now what occupies us here is touching a question about which every Christian should be quite sure and clear as to its answer: What is the supreme purpose which governs the life of a child of God? It is very important that we should be able to answer that question. I believe the right answer is: the supreme purpose of the life of the child of God is — to learn Christ.

God has filled Christ with all His fullness. In Him dwell all the riches of knowledge and wisdom. And that fullness is for us. The apostle Paul makes this statement, saying, that we are “blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ”. Thus our business as believers is to learn Christ — to come, in a living way, into the fullness of Jesus Christ. That governs everything. Every dealing of God with His child is to bring that one into a fuller knowledge of Christ. All the rest in our life will be but the outcome and the result of that knowledge.

I have heard many people say that the purpose of God, in having saved us, is that we should save others. But this is only a part of God’s purpose. There can be no real service for the Lord apart from a personal knowledge of the Lord. We can never lead anyone into a knowledge which is not ours; neither can we lead anyone further than we know Christ in a living way. So everything depends on the measure of our knowledge of Jesus Christ.

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December 5

5 DEC – The Antichrist in Us

The hallmark of the natural man is self-sufficiency. He always finds the springs of his resources in himself. We see that in Adam. At the beginning up to a certain point his resources were in God. He drew his instruction and wisdom from God. Everything was from God. By the way of obedience to God he was in fellowship with Him. But then came the moment when he began to act out from himself. By a subtle insinuation of the devil he began to reason out things for himself, until he became deceived by his own will, and mistrust against God crept into his mind. He took things out of God’s hands into his own hands. He ceased to draw his resources from God and thought he could have them in himself. That is the attitude of the natural man in Adam up to this day. The natural man acts according to his own natural wisdom. He seeks to reason out a situation, weighing up things for and against it, and proceeding according to what he thinks to be ‘common sense’.

But notice, as the natural man develops in history, the end of this dispensation will produce a natural man (humanity in its fallen state) developed to the utmost. There will be dictators, supermen, acting from themselves. They will be a law to themselves, without consulting others. What they feel, desire and reason out must be done. That state of things will lead up to Antichrist. He will be a self-contained man and represent the sum total of all that is natural — reason, desire, will. He will not hold God in reverence, but will be bigger than God. In him the human race will be represented in its fully developed fallen nature, turning that whole race against God.

What is true of Antichrist is true, in part, of every member of the human race. The natural man moves out from himself, but the result is always death. If we project our own will, our own desires, our own reason into things, however alive they may appear, the result will be death. Only that which comes out from God is Life. In connection with this the meaning of the word of the Lord Jesus is of primary importance: “The Son can do nothing of Himself.” If others believe they can, the Son cannot. Here is the tremendous difference between the Lord Jesus and ourselves. He can only move as from the Father. He can only go if the Father leads Him.

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December 4

4 DEC – God Is the Source of All that is New

If ever we see the necessity of a new creation, the need of an absolute new creation, we see it here. Everything must become new. The Word of God says: “Behold, I make all things new!” God has raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Again we come to the book of Genesis. “The earth was waste and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” And God said, “…raised from the dead through the glory of the Father!” God raised His Son from the dead. He brought Him forth as “the firstborn from the dead”. It is a new creation which is rising. In Christ we too are a new creation. It is true, without a doubt: “All things are new”.

Our wisdom is a new wisdom. Our strength is a new strength. Our heart is a new heart. Our capacities are new capacities. All things are become new. It is Christ in us!

I realize in a new way that we have to be very diligent to see to it that we do nothing out of our own strength, that God is doing all. Looking into the work of my own mind there are my own thoughts, there is the strength of my own desires, strong passions of heart and will. But I ask the Lord to keep me in dread of myself, for this whole creation, all of what I am in Adam, is cursed. It lies where God has abandoned it. He cannot use it. Everything now must be of God.

I do want to urge upon you to have more heart-searching in this matter. Oh, there is a wonderful new creation with divine resources! There are marvelous possibilities, because they are God’s possibilities for us. All things are possible from God’s side. Shall we not take the place where all things are possible? We can be there where all things are of God. HE is initiating things, HE is doing all. Let us reach out to come into our God-appointed place in Christ — the fullness of God in Him. Therefore we have to come to the Cross, and accept its implications from both sides. We must see that awful side of the Cross of Jesus Christ — the curse of the cross — that He was crucified for us, and we in Him. We dare not bring anything of that old creation into the new life, for it would continually come under God’s judgment. The day might come when all our work would have to be burnt. There is a big difference between that which is done for the Lord, and that which is of the Lord in us. “He that is hanged is accursed of God.” With Christ we have hung upon the tree, and God has forsaken us in His Cross. But that is not the end of all, but the beginning of a far bigger thing, something altogether new. Let me say it again: we cannot come into the new thing unless the old things are passed away. “Behold, I make all things new”!

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