Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

August 20

20 AUG – Imparting Christ to Others

Ministry (speaking now of service) is not telling out truths. A good many people have thought that ministry is preaching sermons, giving addresses, or talking Christian doctrine. That is not ministry. If that were ministry this world ought to have been turned inside-out and upside-down a thousand times over. If that were ministry, then every weekend ought to see this world revolutionized with the amount of preaching that is going on. Ministry is not talking even the most orthodox doctrine. Service is not giving out by word of mouth things which may be perfectly true about Christ. Ministry is bringing Christ and imparting Christ. It is ministering Christ. It is communicating Christ. There is all the difference between giving addresses and preaching sermons, and communicating Christ. The measure of the success of our ministry is the measure in which other people come to realize that they have had Christ ministered to them, and that they are the richer spiritually. That is not just mental gratification, intellectual satisfaction, but something deep down in the innermost being, which is Christ. The Apostle would put it this way: “As ye received Christ, so walk in him…” Not: ‘As ye heard about Christ’, but: “As ye received Christ…”

A ministry like that is usually costly, and when we speak about ministry let no one think that that belongs to a certain class. We are all to minister. The business of every child of God is to communicate Christ to others; and, in so far as you can, by a simple word, communicate Christ, you are a minister of Christ. The effect of our being here on this earth as the Lord’s should be that others should say: ‘I received something of the Lord through that one; I came into possession of something more of Christ through such-and-such.’

There will be one, and only one, hope for God’s people: their knowledge of Him in Christ… and the power of His resurrection as a present spiritual reality. Not their activities, enthusiasms, organizations, enterprises, creeds, “churches,” orthodoxy, etc., but HIMSELF. That time, which is now coming upon us though imperceptible to so many who are preoccupied with plans and programs, will make manifest the principle of the “one Body”, for each of the Lord’s children will feel keenly the need of the fellowship of another, no matter of what connection, so long as that other knows Him.

Book Ministry Website

Book-Ministry eBay Store

Advertisements
Standard
Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

August 19

19 AUG – Do You Know ABOUT Christ or Know OF Christ?

There is all the difference between a very large knowledge ABOUT Christ, and the smallest measure of the knowledge OF Christ. One may be immense in its range; the other may be very small in its measure. And yet the small thing may count for infinitely more than the immensity of the other.

The knowledge of Christ in a spiritual way is basic to everything in our lives as the Lord’s children. As we go on, and the Holy Spirit begins to unveil Christ in our hearts, then we know how true this is. We know that it is that which gives reality to the spiritual life, makes it a very real thing. It is that which establishes us, so that, while the adversities might turn us away from a creed, a doctrine, an accepted position, a profession of relationship, nothing can turn us away from a spiritual knowledge. Spiritual knowledge is a part of our being, and we can never separate ourselves from that. That is reality! Nothing less than that could have accounted for Paul going through to the end, when he saw his life’s work going to pieces about him. The very assemblies for which he had, so to speak, poured out his lifeblood, forsook him at last when all they in Asia turned away from him. There is nothing to account for his remaining, not only loyal to the Lord, but triumphant to the last, save the fact that he knew the Lord in a spiritual way. Reality is found there. And every other virtue and value lies in the same direction. It is what Christ is, being progressively disclosed to our hearts.

The day will come when most of us will be tested on this very thing, and under given tests the one thing that will become clear will be that a very great deal of our knowledge of the Lord was not knowledge after the Spirit, but knowledge which we had obtained by reason perhaps of having been born and brought up in Christian families, instructed from infancy; knowledge which we had obtained by reading good books, devotional literature; knowledge perhaps by all the ‘providences’, as we call them. They carried us through to a right place – the providences of birth and upbringing and association. And yet, unless they go further than that, the time will come when it will be proved that they lack the essential element in our relationship to the Lord. And from time to time the Lord does allow His winds of adversity to blow, He does take His winnowing fan and throw everything up into the air, and cause the wind to pass through, just to find how much there is of solid grain that will fall and remain uninfluenced by the wind, and just how much of the chaff will be carried away.

Book Ministry Website

Book-Ministry eBay Store

Standard
Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

August 18

18 AUG – The Knowledge of Christ is the Key

There is nothing which comes within the compass of the life of the Christian which does not depend upon the knowledge of Christ. But that knowledge is a thing which will never be exhausted here, however long we live, and however rapidly we grow. We shall never overtake the finality of that knowledge. That is why an apostle, at the end of his life, still more than at any other time in all his history, gave expression to the deepest desire and longing of his heart as being to ‘know Christ’ (Phil. 3:10). We may say that for every increase in spiritual life, spiritual strength, spiritual effectiveness, spiritual usefulness to the Lord, some further measure of the knowledge of Christ is essential. We increase by this knowledge; we progress by this knowledge; we are more for the Lord in accordance with the living knowledge of the Lord Jesus which is coming to us.

This knowledge is essentially a spiritual thing. It is a knowledge which is altogether closed to any capacity or ability or faculty, save that of the spirit. The measure in which we represent the Divine thought and fulfil the Divine purpose will be the measure in which we are learning Christ after the Spirit.

That may represent one of two things for different people. It may represent limitation for those who have learned Christ other than after the Spirit; who, therefore, have to unlearn a good deal more than others before they can learn. On the other hand, it may mean everything to those whose knowledge of the Lord is by way of an absolutely new beginning.

This kind of knowledge marks a difference between Paul and the other apostles. They had had a considerable knowledge of Christ which was historical, which was earthly. Paul came from the beginning into his practical knowledge of Christ on a heavenly level. Right at the very commencement of his Christian life, his was a spiritual knowledge of Christ. Every fragment from that point onward was a spiritual knowledge of Christ, and he jealously saw to it that it remained so. He positively refused to go to Jerusalem to get his knowledge of Christ from those who were apostles before him. He maintained stolidly his position that Christ, having revealed Himself to him, COULD and WOULD reveal Himself in the same way. Of course, the other apostles came into that spiritual knowledge later, but Paul had no other in experience.

Book Ministry Website

Book-Ministry eBay Store

Standard
Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

August 17

17 AUG – The Consciousness to Which a Believer Comes

The calling of believers is said to be in accordance with His (God’s) eternal purpose. What is that? The eternal purpose is Christ inheriting all things; so that our being called, our hearing the Call, is a first work of the Holy Spirit in relation to Christ coming into His inheritance, according to something laid down with the foundation of the world. That makes conversion something very much bigger than just being saved, does it not? It is not just a matter of becoming a Christian. There is this immense background to our being called. The Holy Spirit has, so to speak, ‘got to work’ in relation to the appointed Heir of all things; you and I are coming under the hand of the Holy Spirit as a part of that inheritance. Our very calling in grace is according to that purpose, and our calling therefore is something tremendous. It is not only our calling. The beginning of our Christian life is not something merely incidental. It is fundamental to the whole scheme of things in relation to the Lord Jesus. I think it is true to the experience of most, if not all, of those who respond to the Spirit’s influence and call, that, following that response, there comes into being, there settles down within, a sense of belonging, of being owned, possessed. We feel: ‘I know now where I belong; this is really where I belong. I felt that I did not belong to anything or anybody before, but now I know I belong, and to Whom I belong.’ It is a sense of being taken into possession. It is a matter of ownership.

That is why there springs immediately from the lips of those who have responded to the Spirit the word ‘Father’. Paul says to the Galatians that the Spirit of God has been put into our hearts, and thereby we cry ‘Abba, Father’: and what does ‘Father’ mean if it does not mean belonging? And again, ‘Lord’ – the first ejaculation of Paul after his apprehending was ‘Lord’. We love that word, but we did not always love the idea of being ‘lorded’. It is foreign to human nature to be lorded over.

‘Master’ – that word is music to the Christian, as applied to the Lord Jesus; but how the natural man hates the idea of ‘master’!

This is the consciousness that comes in. We are not compelled or forced; it is spontaneous. The Spirit has brought us home, brought us into our rightful ownership. This is how it ought to be. For that was all arranged long, long before we had a being. We belong to Somebody, we are Somebody’s, that is where we belong.

Book Ministry Website

Book-Ministry eBay Store

Standard
Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

August 16

16 AUG – The Call for Obedience to His Word

Spiritual understanding is shown quite clearly in the Word to be essential to a sound beginning in the Christian life. Why is it that such a large proportion of those who seem to make a good beginning do not go on? They fall away and you cannot find them after a little while. Why? Because they did not have a beginning in understanding what all this is about, what it means, what it implies and what it involves. It was an appeal on the outside, perhaps a very powerful one and so they made their answer, but where are they after a little while? Spiritual understanding, says the Lord Jesus here, is the answer to that. Be very sure that your converts understand! Do not be satisfied with any light and superficial spiritual catch phrases, but seek to get them truly grounded in the Word of God and rooted in OBEDIENCE TO THAT WORD.

The unproductive soils (Mathew 13), by their very contrast, illustrate for us the essentials of a spirit of understanding. The opposite of the hardened ground is the heart which is ready to receive with meekness the seed which is sown in it. Always the Lord requires of His children that they have a teachable spirit. Those who are self-assured and independent give little opportunity for the Word to do its cleansing and transforming work. So the first requisite for an understanding heart is simple dependence and a genuine humility, with a willingness to abandon one’s own conceits in order to allow God to do His own work of correcting and reshaping according to His will.

Then there is the stony ground, the opposite of which is surely a heart softened and broken under the hand of God. This is not natural to any of us, for even the weakest nature can be strong and stubborn in its unwillingness to submit to the inward working of the Word. Even though the experience may be painful to the flesh, it is essential that our own strength and self-esteem should be set aside to make room for God. Without such experiences of being broken down and opened up by the working of the Cross it is not possible to become spiritually sensitive to the will of God.

Finally, it is essential to be single-minded if we are really to understand the ways of God. Whether the “thorns” be ugly or whether they be seemingly beautiful, if they are rivals to God’s speaking then they must not be tolerated. Spiritual understanding means the ruthless setting aside of lesser things in order to make room for God.

Book Ministry Website

Book-Ministry eBay Store

Standard
Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

August 15

15 AUG – The Endurance of the Word

Matthew 13:1-9, 11, 14-15, 19, 23, 51 (see 14 AUG)

Spiritual understanding means that that which comes from the Lord finds a place for itself in us. There is a receptivity in the heart (re: ‘parable of the sower’). In the first scattering of the seed, the birds of the air found it an easy prey because of a lack of receptivity. It just stayed on the outside, on the surface, and did not enter in at all. And so it was stolen. Spiritual understanding means that we draw the word in, take it in and apply ourselves to it. There is a receptivity about us.

In the next place, spiritual understanding means an endurance of and through what the Lord gives. The life of the seed on the rocky ground was short, so the history of that bit of the work of God was very short-lived. There was no real endurance. Spiritual understanding is the basis and the means of the spiritual endurance of the work of God in our hearts and in our lives. That is very clear and, I think, very simple. It is so possible, as we know, to hear it all and, in a way, know it all. Then, when the real test is applied, things begin to get difficult, the sun rises with scorching heat, and we get into the fires, the adversities and the suffering; all our knowledge means nothing. All that we have heard and all that has come to us just stands for nothing, and our spiritual history goes. I am afraid that is how it is with many; there is no endurance through the scorching sun and the fires.

Then, what about this that fell among thorns? “And the thorns grew up, and choked them.” Spiritual understanding has a wonderful power to set up in us a resistance to this world and its fires, but there was no resistance here. The thorns sprang up and choked the seed. They were not challenged and subdued. The Lord’s explanation shows that there was no resistance because there was no spiritual understanding, no real spiritual apprehension. Spiritual understanding means depth, and that brings us to the fourth class. Everything depends upon our having depth.

Oh, for more of this spiritual understanding that has these results! First a receptivity, which means that we embrace the truth. Then an endurance against all adversity and temptation. Then a resistance to everything that comes to us which is not true or right; and finally a depth that lays hold and reproduces.

Book Ministry Website

Book-Ministry eBay Store

Standard
Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

August 14

14 AUG – Taking His Word Seriously

That day Jesus went out of the house and was sitting by the sea. And large crowds gathered to Him, so He got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd was standing on the beach. And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, “Behold, the sower went out to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.”

Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted.

In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, ‘You will keep on hearing, but will not understand; You will keep on seeing, but will not perceive; For the heart of this people has become dull, With their ears they scarcely hear, And they have closed their eyes, Otherwise they would see with their eyes, Hear with their ears, And understand with their heart and return, And I would heal them.’

When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road.

And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.”

“Have you understood all these things?” They said to Him, “Yes.”

Matthew 13:1-9, 11, 14-15, 19, 23, 51

In this chapter all those people who received the Word, received the ministry of the sower and the seed, but with three parts of them it came to nothing in the end. They had the word, they had the sower as much as anyone, and they had Christ. He was present, and they had the word of the Lord. All the potentialities of the Lord’s presence, His work and His Word were with them and were there for everyone. It was not that He gave more lavishly to some than to others. They all had the same possibilities, but only a fourth part showed anything for it, and the Lord said: ‘There is one reason only. The three classes failed in the end because they had no spiritual understanding. They had the word, the Lord and everything, but they might just as well have never had them for all the value that accrued. The one class showed a return, greater measures, because they had spiritual understanding.’ What did it mean? Well, surely it just meant that these people laid the word to heart. They discerned and recognized something of the significance, the meaning, the importance and the destiny that were bound up with the word.

Dear friends, these are not the words, nor is this just teaching. The Lord Jesus was not just broadcasting ideas and saying: ‘You can take it or leave it.’ There is something here that is going to affect us in relation to the ultimate issue of the Kingdom of Heaven.

A seriousness of attitude is the beginning of understanding. It is put like this in the Old Testament: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10). What is the fear of the Lord? It is taking Him and His word really seriously. Anything that comes from the Lord is of tremendous consequence, and that is the beginning of spiritual understanding.

We need to pray that among the children of God there may be an increase of spiritual understanding in the knowledge of Him, and we need to remind ourselves that the essentials to such an understanding are humility, brokenness and singleness of heart.

Book Ministry Website

Book-Ministry eBay Store

Standard
Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

August 13

13 AUG – Spiritual Understanding

Spiritual understanding, to begin with, is the combination of two things. First of all, it is the result of the direct action of the Spirit of God upon the spirit of man. By nature our spirit is in death, and the Spirit of God acts to raise it from the dead and bring it into life. And it is our spirit which is the organ of spiritual understanding. If we are normal, we have a natural understanding, but by nature we do not possess this faculty, this organ of spiritual understanding. It is dead, or dormant, until the Spirit of God acts upon it, and then we are aware that we have a new faculty, a faculty of discrimination. We know from that moment, without being told anything about it, what we should do and what we should not do, what is right and what is wrong. It is a new faculty, but that faculty is indwelt and actuated by the Spirit of God, and is not acting independently. “The Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16).

Therefore the combination of these two things, the resurrection into life of our own spirit and becoming indwelt by the Spirit of God, constitutes the organ and function of spiritual understanding. It begins in simple ways, but education in the Christian life proceeds upon that basis, and that alone.

There is a link formed by this action of the Holy Spirit between knowledge and conscience. Note that, for it is a very important thing. There is a link between knowledge and conscience, which is a new conscience or consciousness. That explains the tragedy of many Christian lives. They have a lot of knowledge without any conscience about it. It is not a knowledge which produces a consciousness of life, and so there is inconsistency and contradiction. They know the teaching, the doctrine, the truth and what the Word of God says, but there is no deep exercise in their hearts that gives them, on the one side, a bad time for any inconsistency and, on the other side, great joy in realizing that they are being well-pleasing unto the Lord. This link, you see, is what is meant by spiritual understanding. ‘I KNOW that that is mere knowledge, information, or truth, but I UNDERSTAND when the thing affects me, when it touches my life, and when it brings me up short on matters.’ That is spiritual understanding.

Book Ministry Website

Book-Ministry eBay Store

Standard
Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

August 12

12 AUG – Understanding the Times

What a lot really does hang upon spiritual understanding and intelligence! How essential it is for the Lord’s people, in a day of crisis and perplexity, difficulty and confusion, to have somewhere, by some means, spiritual understanding! It was a great thing in Israel’s history that the men of Issachar had “understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do” (1 Chronicles 12:32).

Think of those men on the Emmaus road. What a position and a state they were in! Their world had collapsed and everything had gone until He opened their eyes and they understood the scriptures. A new world was recovered instantly, and a new hope and prospect were saved by spiritual understanding. Oh, the tremendous value and importance of spiritual understanding! However, let us be quite clear as to what it is and what it is not.

Of course, it is not worldly wisdom and acute, natural, intellectual acumen. In this Gospel by Matthew the people who are most in evidence are the teachers and rulers of Israel, the scribes and Pharisees, the people who knew it all and gave the interpretation and explanation of everything. They are in the forefront of the scene on the stage here, but later Paul said about them that theirs was the wisdom of men, not the wisdom of God, “which none of the rulers of this world knoweth: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:8). It was the wisdom of this world that crucified the Son of God. So spiritual understanding is not that!

It is not that we have a great and wonderful religious tradition with all the oracles handed down to us, and we stand possessed of the great inheritance of religion. That is not spiritual understanding! It is quite evident that you can have all that and still go wrong. There was a man in the New Testament who said that he had everything along that line, and yet he was the most vehement antagonist of Jesus of Nazareth and all who were of that way. He pursued them unto distant cities, hauled men and women to prison yet he was a man with the largest tradition. So spiritual understanding is not that! Further, it is not a wealth of truth and Christian teaching. Again, it is possible to have that and not have spiritual understanding.

Book Ministry Website

Book-Ministry eBay Store

Standard
Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

August 11

11 AUG – Eternal Life: The Christian Battle Ground

Now, we know that eternal life is a gift in response to faith in the Lord Jesus. It is a gift, but that is not the end of the story. When it has been given, it becomes the battleground for the rest of the experience of the Christian; right through to the end, that very life is the battleground of all true Christians. If it can by any means be neutralized, made inoperative, arrested, Satan will do it; that is his object. On the other hand, the Lord’s object is to make us, with Paul, ‘know Him, and the power of His resurrection’, in ever greater fullness. If ever a man knew the power of His resurrection, it was Paul, through many, many deadly conflicts, terrible battles and deep experiences; and yet, in his last writings, right at the end of his long, full experience of knowing resurrection upon resurrection, he still says: ‘That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection’ (Phil. 3:10). It is as much as to say: ‘I don’t know all that there is to know of that yet. I know a lot, but there is much more to know of that yet.’

And to Timothy, much about the same time, Paul writes: “Lay hold on the life eternal.” That is where I would put the emphasis. Do not just passively rest upon the fact that through faith in Jesus Christ you have eternal life. Remember that, from day to day, that life is to conquer; it is to be the basis of your very survival, it is to be the very means of your daily overcoming. It has to be the ground of your physical life, as well as your spiritual life: for your body, you must lay hold on that life; for victory, you must lay hold on that life. Would that we knew more about this in our prayer gatherings, really laying hold for victory, laying hold for the overthrow of the enemy; this positive taking hold, in spirit, of life. This is the battle; this is the very nature of things. In all this terrible welter in which we find ourselves, we have not, on the one hand, to accept it as inevitable, things being as they are; nor, on the other hand, to have a merely passive faith that, in the end, the Lord will triumph. Between those two, there is all this in the Word of God about our being positive, about our laying hold; about our attitude on the one side, of refusing; on the other side, of laying hold of God’s end.

The Lord save our fighting spirit, and ‘teach our hands to war, our fingers to fight!’ (Ps. 144:1)

Book Ministry Website

Book-Ministry eBay Store

Standard