Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

March 20

20 MAR – The Cross and the Flesh Cannot Exist Together

The Word of God declares that “our old man has been crucified with Christ” (Romans 6:6) and that “One died for all, therefore all died; and he died for all, that they which live should no longer live unto themselves, but unto him” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).

So far as God was concerned the history of the fallen race was concluded at Calvary. From that time onward, God’s entire concern was the new creation. It is no use our trying to bring some of the old creation life into the new creation, for God will not accept it. Our human capabilities as well as our infirmities; what we call our better side as well as what we recognize to be our worst side; our goodness and our badness have all been included in that death. Henceforth we are called to live not on a human level but on a divine. In ourselves we possess nothing which is acceptable to God.

So often it is the assertion of some human element, some like or dislike, some ambition or some personal interest which paralyses the work of God in and through us. To regard not only our sins but ourselves as having been taken to the Cross by Christ is the only way by which those purposes of God can be wrought out through our lives. It may seem strange that while we so often deplore our lack of spirituality, we are so slow to accept the verdict of the Cross on our natural lives. We find it humiliating to accept the same verdict on ourselves as has been passed on the world, namely that of death by crucifixion. Nevertheless there is no other basis for a really spiritual life and witness: the Cross must work out death in us in order that the life of Christ may be released in full expression through us. So there may be a sense in which the Christian also has to face the offence of the Cross. Only by really knowing the power of the fact that he is crucified with Christ can he know the blessedness of the new life. When it is truly “no longer I”, then the way is opened for the affirmation: “but Christ that liveth in me”. The end is glorious but the way is the painful way of the Cross.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

March 19

19 MAR – The Demand of the Cross for Separation from the World

In the Cross, Christ created a great divide between the old world and the new, a divide which cannot be bridged. Two distinctly different systems, scales of value, standards of judgment, sets of laws, stand contrasted on the two sides of the Cross. The system of each is not only quite different, but irreconcilable and forever mutually antagonistic. The cross demands an absolute distinctiveness of interest and objectives, relationships and resources. It draws the final distinction between the saved and the unsaved, between the living and the dead.

The apostle Paul said that by the Cross of Christ he had “been crucified to the world” and the world crucified to him. The Word of God emphatically declares that this age is evil and that “the whole world lieth in the wicked one”. It says that the world’s ways, motives, purposes, ideas and imaginations are all the opposite of God’s. It further asserts that the world is utterly incapacitated from either receiving the revelation of the divine mind, growing of itself into the divine image, enjoying and appreciating real fellowship with God, or being entrusted with the privilege of co-operation with God.

Such capacities and relationships belong only to those whose new birth has delivered them from this present world. It is understandable that the world finds the condemnation of the Cross irritating and unacceptable, and it is to be feared that the presence of “worldliness” in the individual Christian life and in the Church is in direct contradiction to the essential purposes of the Cross. The Lord Jesus described His cross as being “the judgment of this world” (John 12:31). Those who follow Him must accept this verdict, and will consequently have to suffer from the offence of the Cross. The Cross condemns the world utterly and completely.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

March 18

18 MAR – A Re-Emphasis of the Reality of the Cross

It is an obvious fact that wherever the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ has been faithfully preached, it has not only brought hope and new life to some but also caused trouble with many more. Wherever this message has gone it has aroused antagonism. As it was a stumbling-block to the Jews and an absurdity to the Greeks in the first days, so it has ever since been unacceptable not only to men of the world but even to many religious people.

This is a fact, in spite of its being the most popular symbol. There is hardly a city in Christendom where the architecture, galleries of art, collections of literature and conservatoires of music do not give a prominent place to the sacred sign of the cross. It is a pity, then, that so much of the preaching and teaching in the Christian Church is either confined to the “Historic Jesus”, which presents a crossless Christ, or to an interpretation of the cross which is much less than the Scriptural one.

Yet the consistent message of the whole Bible is that the Cross is God’s way of salvation, His sufficient and His only way. It is further very clear that this has been the message which God has blessed to the salvation of men. It was dominant in New Testament days, and the recovery of, or re-emphasis upon, some vital and essential phase of that Cross gave rise to such movements as are signified by names like Luther, the Wesleys, Whitfield, Moody, Spurgeon and many other God-honoured men.

Why has the Cross always been such a maker of trouble and cause of offence? We need to make it plain that no exception is taken to the heroics of the Cross or its aesthetics. Sacrifice, suffering, unselfish devotion, self-effacing service for the good of others, enduring the penalty of setting oneself against current evils; these are romantic elements which are popularly appreciated. It is the deeper meaning which the Bible gives to the Cross which provokes men’s opposition.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

March 17

17 MAR – God’s Mind about the Church

In the Divine scheme of things it is the Church which has the ultimate effect in the spiritual realm. I mean that individual Christians, though they may be born again, as individuals will not get very far in touching the outermost realm of spiritual forces. There a real registration has to be a corporate one. It will be the Church eventually which will be the instrument of Divine government in this universe.

Spirituality means what the Church is in God’s mind. When we come to contemplate the Church in its wholeness and entirety, of course, we come mainly to the letters to the Ephesians and to the Colossians. There we find God’s mind about the Church. We must realize the necessity for our seeing and apprehending what the Church is in God’s mind, not as we find it in the churches, not as it actually is here; and we must stand on that ground, or we shall be helpless in this matter of spiritual impact. I mean that if we are going to accept what we find in the New Testament as to the churches as being the expression of all there is, we are very soon going to give up the fight and shall not get very far. If we are going to accept that as the standard, we are going to be crippled, and the measure of our spirituality will be very small indeed, and therefore the measure of our impact likewise. The Apostle, who was mainly responsible for these churches coming into being, repudiated their condition, would not accept it, was fighting against it. Why? Because he had seen God’s mind; that was his position, his vantage ground, his strength. If he had never seen God’s mind and only saw this, what a disheartened, disappointed, despairing man he would be! He had seen God’s mind about it.

It is the Church that is in view in these epistles, and spirituality in Ephesians and Colossians means first of all an inward revelation of God’s mind about the Church. It is a tremendous thing for spiritual strength, for spiritual power, for spiritual ministry, for spiritual impact, for spiritual food ― yes, for every spiritual value to have really had a heart revelation of God’s mind about the Church; not simply to have studied Ephesians and Colossians, but for it to have broken in upon your heart, to have seen it in an inward way. I say that is spirituality with an impact; it is spirituality with a dynamic; and what a dynamic it is!

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

March 16

16 MAR – The Anointed Church

The anointing has always been within the Divine sovereignty, and NEVER in the choice, power, or hands of men. It is a very serious thing to either get or be put into a position for which God has not acted by the anointing.

When we come into the New Testament this law of the anointing is very clearly recognizable as to both Christ and the Church. The Holy Spirit is seen to be the custodian of the gifts, functions, appointments, and enduements in the churches. It is GOD’S order; to overlook, to ignore, to violate, to exceed this law is to mean an affront to the Holy Spirit. This will result in confusion, limitation, and divisions. The anointing is different from natural ability and qualification. The least gifted naturally is not thereby disqualified from Divine usefulness, and the most gifted or qualified naturally has no advantage here. The anointing is unique. Just put together 2 Corinthians 1:21 and 1 Corinthians 1:26-30, and all of 1 Corinthians 2.

In the Tabernacle of Israel there were great vessels under the anointing, and there were such humble instruments as the snuffers, but even the latter were anointed. Now, be careful! It was ANOINTED snuffers. There are plenty of people who take on themselves the function of snuffing. They will snuff ANYTHING, and snuff OUT anything. The snuffers of the Tabernacle were not for reducing or extinguishing the light of the testimony, but for keeping it fresh and from making an unpleasant atmosphere. It needs the anointing for such a ministry.

There is another thing that we must always remember, and it is that EVERY vessel, function, and place derives its value from its relatedness to all the others. Indeed, no one vessel however important has either meaning or anointing apart from all the others. The anointing is ONE, although in a variety of operations. The lamps demand the snuffers, and the snuffers are absurd without the lamps.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

March 15

15 MAR – Bound To the Anointing of God

The anointing throughout both Old and New Testaments is shown to be both general and particular; comprehensive and specific. The first thing about the general aspect of the anointing is that, because it is the Spirit of God who is the anointing Spirit, the anointing is God joining and uniting, and committing Himself to whatever or whoever is anointed. It means that whenever and wherever the anointing rests, there God has to be reckoned with. To touch that is to touch God. To obtain a real knowledge of this truth and fact we have only to read those parts of the Book of Numbers which deal with the Levites, the Tabernacle and the vessels thereof. Life and death were bound up with all these as anointed because thereby God was bound up with them.

In the New Testament this comprehensive aspect is first related to Christ and then to the Church. The very word or name ‘Christ’ means Anointed. “Jesus of Nazareth, whom God anointed…” (Acts 10:38) To Him God was committed. To touch Him was to touch God, as history has proved. In the end everyone is going to be judged and their destiny fixed according to their attitude and decision regarding Jesus Christ. What a tremendous amount of detail is comprehended by this inclusive truth! When we pass to the Church we find that, according to the New Testament, the Church is the Anointed Vessel.

On the Day of Pentecost a company of over five hundred men and women were constituted the Church of God by the anointing of the Holy Spirit. That company came under the anointed leadership of the exalted Lord Jesus, for INCLUSIVE anointing was always upon the head. From that time the Church carried into the world the implication of God, and rulers, empires, and peoples had to reckon with God in the Church. All that was true of Christ as the Anointed passed from Him as Head down to the Church, His Body. It was not what the people were, or are, in themselves, but because of the anointing, although anointed people are such because they do not stand on their own ground, but on the ground of Christ. It is taken for granted in the New Testament that truly born from above baptized believers have the anointing, and surprise is expressed if the evidence is not present (see Acts 19:2-3, R.V.). Place alongside of this reference 2 Corinthians 1:21, etc. The very place of believers as “in Christ” places them under His anointing, or in Him, as the anointed One.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

March 14

14 MAR – Filling Up That which is Lacking

Fellowship in the sufferings of Christ is something that is offered to us as a gift, and it is always fruitful. The sufferings of Christ are always fruitful sufferings. And we have a picture in the Word of God of how it will be in the end in Revelation 5:11; 7:9. Indeed, the sufferings of Christ are fruitful sufferings.

Although we may not always feel it to be so, fellowship with Christ in His sufferings is the way of fullness of blessing. Did you see what followed those words to Abraham about offering his only son? “And the angel of the Lord called unto Abraham a second time out of heaven, and said, By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore” (Genesis 22:15-17). Fellowship with Him in His sufferings is the way of fullness of blessing. There is always a second time with the Lord. The first time was: “Take now thy son… and offer him”, and the second time was: “Because thou hast done this thing… in blessing I will bless thee.” The Lord commits Himself to those who commit themselves to Him. You can see that in verse 16 of this chapter, and here is one of the many ‘I wills’ of the Lord. How often the Lord says ‘I will’ to His people! It is usually some blessing, but here it is Himself. The Lord gives Himself to those who share His sufferings.

But this blessing is not just a personal thing for ourselves. See how extensive this blessing was! ‘Abraham, however much you may be blessed, you will not just be one by yourself. Many, many others will come into blessing because you have shared My sufferings.’ It must be like that, because God is like that. If we want to be a blessing to others we must accept fellowship with our Lord in His sufferings, and if we will accept it, we shall certainly be a blessing. The Word of the Lord is not ‘I will bless thee’ only, but ‘I will make thee a blessing.’ The Cross always cuts deeper channels in our lives, but God does not cut deeper just in order to leave it like that. It is in order that there may be more room for His fullness. It is a universal law in all creation that increase only comes by travail. God only knows how much it may cost us, but where there is cost there is preciousness, that which is precious to the Lord.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

March 13

13 MAR – Stepping Into the Heart of God

The last step into the heart of God is oneness with God in His passion, one with God in His suffering and in His joy. All the other aspects of oneness with Him meet at the Cross, and the deepest fellowship that can be had with Him is found in fellowship with His sufferings. When Abraham was obedient to the Lord’s command: “Take now thy son, thine only son, whom thou lovest”, he certainly did reach the point of absolute fellowship with God, who Himself gave His only begotten Son.

Abraham had been called upon to make many offerings in his life; many sacrifices had to be made from the day that he left his own country, but there was no sacrifice like this one, which touched him at the point where it cost him more than anything else. This was more than all the other sacrifices, and so, at last, he stepped right into the heart of God.

That Scripture makes it very clear to us, that we are called into the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings. This is not His sufferings which were atonement for sin; there is never any atonement about our sufferings. But leaving that aspect out, it is quite clear in the Word that we are called into the fellowship of His sufferings. The sufferings of Christ are a gift to His people. The Apostle Paul says: “To you it hath been granted in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer in his behalf” (Philippians 1:29).

Jesus offers us the cup and says: ‘Will you drink of My cup?’ While it is the cup of remission of sins and we would grasp that with both hands He also says: ‘This cup is fellowship in My sufferings’, and too often our hand is very slow to take that cup.

Once as we gathered at the Lord’s Table in India, there were two very fine young Indian men sitting in front of me. I explained what was the meaning of the cup and the loaf, and then everyone rose to receive them. These two young men rose, and hesitated for a moment; they were weighing this matter up and then one of them bowed his head and accepted it. The other shook his head, as much as to say ‘No, I cannot.’ One went out of that meeting with much joy in his face, and the other went out with his head bowed and no joy.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

March 12

12 MAR – “Christ In You, The Hope of Glory”

There is one indispensable mark and feature of the Christian life to which we will point at this time. It is shown in the words addressed to Paul by one Ananias: “The Lord Jesus… hath sent me that thou mayest… be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 9:17).

The consummation of this basic work, by which we become Christians in the true sense, is that everything which is true of Christ is made an inward thing with us. Up to this point, although everything has been very real and deep changes have taken place, it has been mainly as in an outward relationship with Christ. But it would have been fatal to have left it there, however great the discovery. We cannot live upon something which happened at a certain time. We cannot meet all the tremendous forces of evil which will oppose us, in the strength of a mere memory, however vivid. We shall never live triumphantly, or serve effectively, or satisfy God truly on any basis of what is merely outward and objective.

The fact is that only Christ can really satisfy God; only Christ can do God’s will and God’s work. Only Christ can overcome the spiritual forces of evil. Yes, only Christ can really live the Christian life. Hence, the one great inclusive and crowning reality of a Christian is Christ Himself WITHIN! Paul later put this in these words: “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).

This becomes true by a definite act when we believe. The Holy Spirit takes possession of us in an inward way. This indwelling of Christ had never been known by any man in history until Christ had died and risen and been glorified. It is therefore the peculiar wonder and glory of the Christian. It is this very thing that explains the New Testament term “born anew”. There was nothing like it before.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

March 11

11 MAR – What Wilt Thou Have Me Do, Lord?

This represents a new position and a new relationship with Christ. How very different from that of the old Saul! Hitherto his life and activity had been out from himself ― what he thought he would do, what he proposed, purposed, planned, determined, and desired. Self-determination had been his way of life, although he would have said that it was done in a good cause ― even done for God. What an example Saul was of the fact that a man’s very best intentions and devotions, in what he believes to be God’s interests, may yet be doing God the greatest disservice and he himself be totally blind to the fact.

We see here, then, that one thing is a clear evidence of a life truly acceptable to God; it is the absolute Lordship of Jesus Christ. Paul first used that word, “Lord”, at his conversion; it came out spontaneously when he realized that Jesus lives! From that moment Jesus was his Lord, his Master. We know from his life afterward how utter was that surrender and change of government. Everything from that hour was on the basis of “What wilt Thou?”

Yes, it is the hall-mark of a true Christian life when, with the same inward realization and abandonment, we say to Jesus, “Lord”, and thenceforth have our whole lives governed by Him as Master.

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