Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

April 19

19 APR – Redemption’s Purpose

“Christ is all, and in all” is the explanation of redemption, for there is redemption only through the Cross of the Lord Jesus. What is the explanation of the Cross? What is the explanation, on the one hand, of all that atonement, that redemptive work of the Lord Jesus in dealing with sin, and having universal sin laid upon Him, and being made a curse for us, in our place? God redeemed mankind so that Christ may be all and in all.

On the other hand, as the complement of that, what is the explanation of that Cross being wrought in the believer so that the believer becomes united with Him in the likeness of His death and burial as a spiritual experience? – all that application of Calvary which is so painful, so terrible to pass through – yes, the disintegrating of the “old man”, the cutting off of the “body of the flesh”, that inward knowledge of the power of the Cross, so terrible to the flesh. What is the explanation? Beloved, it is that Christ may be all, and in all.

Why are we broken? To make room for the Lord Jesus. Why are we brought down to the dust by the Holy Spirit as He works Calvary’s death into us? In order that the Lord Jesus may take the place that we in the flesh have occupied. We get wrong sometimes about this application of the Cross. The enemy is always at our elbow to insinuate and suggest the unkindness of God – to smash us, to humiliate us, to bring us to nothing, and to say that there is no end to this thing, seeking thus to get us down.

Beloved, the Cross was intended only to make the Lord Jesus all, and in all, for us; and is it not true that, because of the way that the Lord has dealt with us, the way in which He has applied the Cross, planting us into that death and burial, we know Him in a way in which we never knew Him before? We know quite well that our chief enemy is ourselves, our flesh. This flesh gives us no rest, no peace, no satisfaction; we have no joy in it. It obsesses, engrosses, constantly struts across our path to rob us of the very joy of living. What is to be done with it? Well, in and by the Cross we are delivered from ourselves – not only from our sins, but from ourselves – and being delivered from ourselves we are delivered into Christ, and Christ becomes far more than us.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

April 18

18 APR – Man is Born to be Like Him

What is the explanation of man? What is the explanation of Adam as the first man? There is one little passage of Scripture which answers that: “Adam… who is a figure of Him that was to come”, that is, Christ (Rom. 5: 14). A figure of Him that was to come – that is the explanation of man.

God intended that every man entering this world should be conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. Multitudes will miss it, but there will be multitudes such as no man can number, out of every tribe and kindred and nation and tongue, who will realize it. What a high calling! What a different conception of man that is from that which is popularly held, and what a thing to be missed! And yet there are many who say complainingly that if they had had their way they would never have come into this world. There have been those who, in an hour of eclipse, cursed the day that they saw the light. Ah, but something has gone wrong there. That is not how the Lord meant it to be, and however much we may have blue days, when we wonder whether really it is worthwhile after all, let us come back to God’s thought in our very being. It is our tremendous privilege, the highest honour that could ever have been conferred upon us from the Divine standpoint, that we should have been born.

We do not always feel or speak like that, but we are constantly compelled to bring ourselves back to God’s point of view about this and to remember that His purpose is to have a universe peopled with such as are conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ, a people who are a universal manifestation of Christ glorified with the glory of the Father. That is a privilege, an honour, something to be born for! That is the explanation of man.

Things of course went wrong – God’s purpose was interfered with. It could never be finally thwarted, but there was another who did determine that, so far as it was in his power, that universal display of Jesus Christ – that ‘all-in-all-ness’ of the Lord Jesus – should never be; one who desired to have that for himself, that he should be universal lord of heaven and earth. That interference for a time has made a great deal of difference. It has interfered with man and made him other than God intended him to be. It has spoiled the image.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

April 17

17 APR – God’s End: Christ All and In All

The intention in the heart of God in bringing this universe into existence was that, ultimately, the whole creation should display the glory and supremacy of His Son, Jesus Christ; and this one little fragment, “and in Him all things hold together”, says quite clearly that but for the Lord Jesus Christ the whole universe would disintegrate, fall apart. It would be without its uniting factor; it would cease to have a reason for being maintained as a complete and concrete whole. Its holding together, its failure to disintegrate and break up, is because of this: God has determined that the Lord Jesus shall be the centre, the governing centre, of this whole universe, and He, God’s Son, is the explanation of creation. But for Him, there never would have been a creation. Take Him out, and creation loses its purpose and its object, and need not go on any longer. “Christ is all, and in all”, was the thought, the ruling thought, in the mind of God in the creation of the universe.

That may leave you cold in some measure and not get you very far, but I venture to think that what I am now going to say will get you a little further and warm your hearts; for the prospect is this, that when God has things as in eternity past He determined to have them and He is going to have them so every atom of this whole universe will display the glory of Jesus Christ. You will not be able to look at anything or anyone without seeing Christ glorified. A blessed prospect!

It is a happy thing when, as a company of the Lord’s children, we can be together for hours on end or even days on end when we are occupied with the Lord as our one common interest and are all taken up with Him. When we have a time like that and go back into the world, what a different atmosphere we find! How chilled we feel! It is a fine thing to meet the Lord in His children and to be shut up to Him like that; but even then it is only in part. But the eternal day is coming when there will be no going back into the world on a Monday morning after a day in the courts of the Lord, when we shall be touching nothing else but the Lord Jesus, and the whole universe will be full of Him – “Christ all, and in all”! That is God’s end. That is what He has determined; all displaying the Lord Jesus; all for Him.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

April 16

16 APR – The Corporate Body Which is the Church

The Architect is God the Father.

The Builder is God the Son.

The Custodian and energy is God the Holy Spirit.

Here, again, nothing in conception and planning is left to angels or men. If man interferes, insinuates himself, and tries to organize or run the Church, so much the worse for the man, as the New Testament both shows in results and declares in words. Nothing but confusion, frustration and shame can follow man’s hand upon that which exists wholly for the presence of God.

The last chapters of the Bible must be read in the light of all the immediately preceding chapters. There we see the progressive judgment in every realm beginning with the churches of everything unsuitable to the presence of the Lord. The end is all that removed and a state symbolically represented which is suitable to Him, and “the Lord is there”.

What a challenge all this is: to the Christian to “walk in the Spirit”; for the Church and the churches to be governed and sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

The hand of man is a defiled thing. Only “he that hath clean hands, and a pure heart” can “ascend into the hill of the Lord”. We may not put our hand on one another for judgment or control. We may not put our hand on the House of God. We may not (like Uzza) put our hand on the ark. Woe to Uzzah, to Ananias and Sapphira, to Diotrophes, who touch the holy things of the Lord’s presence with fleshly hands of natural strength, ambition, and pride!

How safe it is to be where the Lord is if, through the Cross, we are made suitable. How dangerous it is even to draw near without taking off the shoes of association with the cursed world!

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

April 15

15 APR – The Holy Spirit’s Exactness

If the Holy Spirit is jealous for the main object, He is shown to be equally jealous for the detailed features. This can be seen in various connections.

If the creation and man were intended for the presence of God, they had to be a meticulous expression of God’s mind. God was Himself the Architect. God was Himself working scrupulously to a Pattern. (The whole Bible shows that Pattern to be His Son.) The Holy Spirit became the Custodian and energy of that Pattern. Nothing was haphazard, left to chance, or left to man or angels to conceive or design.

Another great and forceful example of the principle was the Tabernacle of Testimony. Here, again, nothing in design – even to a pin or a stitch, a measurement, a material, a position – was left to man. It was all to be according to “the pattern shewn”. The Holy Spirit took charge of the artisans, and only when ‘all things were according to the pattern’ did God presence Himself. The slightest deflection would have meant that it was only an empty shell without God.

The same is to be noted in the Temple of Solomon and the Temple of Ezekiel’s vision.

When it comes to the consummate presentation of that which (Him who) is typified in the Old Testament, the Incarnate Son of God, “Emmanuel, God with us” , again the Spirit of God takes over and governs all the details of His conception, birth, life, history, works, death, resurrection, etc. See the place of the Holy Spirit in the life of Jesus. God’s Son will Himself declare that “the Son can do nothing of [out from] himself, but… the Father” (John 5:19).

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April 14

14 APR – The Lord Is There

A criterion is that by which the truth and value of any matter is determined. By such-and-such a principle or fact the whole thing stands or falls – is true or false. That then is our objective in relation to Divine Purpose. Can we put our finger definitely upon that Divine Purpose and see that it is the climax, the culmination of all God’s ways? Well, what is that climax, that one Divine end, by which everything is to be judged, now and forever?

The book of Ezekiel is not only a book about prophecies and history, but a book of spiritual principles with a much greater context than earth and time. When we reach the end of that book, we find ourselves in the presence of that great ultimate, that universal climax, that realized purpose, and it is all summed up in the brief, though vast, phrase: “The Lord is there”.

What a wide field is opened by that climacteric phrase! The Bible is bounded by this supreme concept. It opens and closes with the presence of God with man. It is the governing issue throughout all its pages and phases. There are almost countless aspects of this one thing, but, be it so, the issue is just this alone: Is the Lord there or is He not? Is the Lord in that or is He not? Is the Lord with that, with him or her, in that place, in that decision or course, or is He not? That is the criterion. His presence with unfallen man and His departure from disobedient man is an eternal principle. His presence in the beginning indicates purpose. His presence by the Incarnation of His Son is unto the redemption of the purpose. His presence by the Holy Spirit is to make that purpose actual as an inward thing.

The major aspects force us back to basic considerations. Let us not hurry on with greatness of vision, but pause and quietly tell ourselves that what is more vital and important than anything else in all our life is that the Lord is with us. Futility, vanity, disappointment and remorse will most certainly overtake us, sooner or later, and overtake all our undertakings if, at length, it should be found that the Lord is not with us. It is a perilous thing to go on without the Lord. Moses, who did know something, cried: “If thy presence go not with us, carry us not up hence”. Mere assumption in this matter may well prove to have been fatal presumption. “Supposing him to be in the company” may lead to the necessity to retrieve the value of the whole journey (Luke 2:44).

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April 13

13 APR – A Watchman

Israel ought to have been a watchman to all the nations (illustrated, e.g., by Jonah and Nineveh). This is what the Church ought to be to the world. This is what every local church ought to be to its locality. But, in ‘Ezekiel’ where things are bad in the nation, the designation and its meaning apply to the people of God themselves; and in this connection we consider it here. What we say then is, in the first place, to the servants of God.

“Son of man, I have made thee a watchman to the house of Israel” (Ezekiel 3:17; 33:1-9).

This is not an altogether new idea or title for the Lord’s servant. It occurs more than once in Isaiah in an objective and kind of abstract way. No one else but Ezekiel is mentioned as having been specifically appointed to this position. It will be noted that this appointment took place very early in his ministry. What then was the particular function of the Watchman, and what were his essential characteristics?

Firstly, and supremely, he was the custodian of the elect purpose of the people to whom he was appointed. The very existence of those people as related to the Divine purpose was very largely in his hands. In this respect, perhaps one of the most clamant and urgent needs of our time is of this prophetic function. There are Evangelists, whose function is related to the unsaved, and positively not the oversight of a local church. For the Evangelist to get or be put into such a position will sooner or later mean that he frustrates the full purpose of God by keeping God’s people to a very limited and elementary measure of Christ. This is the tragedy of any evangelistic work which stops at itself. It is the tragedy of many so-called Gospel Missions and Mission Halls. They often serve to abort full purpose and spiritual maturity. Let the Evangelist anointed of God do his work, but let him and all others recognize that his work is only relative and not something in itself apart.

The world is now seeing the terrible spectacle of Christians and a ‘Church’ unable to meet and go through the awful fires of testing, and without the tremendous impact of an authoritative witness and message. In a day of spiritual declension or weakness, it is the Prophetic function that is needed.

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April 12

12 APR – The Church as a Watchman

It is not too strong a thing to say that, in human life, everything hangs on a sense of purpose. Lose that, and we lose all motive and incentive in living and working.

Someone else has said: ‘The outstanding feature of our time is confusion, a depressing consciousness of futility and helplessness, and secret despair.’ This, and much more is all too true, and, for this reason, there is a primary demand to return to that realm where ‘Purpose’ is a dominant feature. It is not wrong to say that the revealed truth that the world is not going to be an easier and better place to live and work in as we approach the end of the age, constitutes the main battle for faith where God’s people are concerned, and it would be a very easy thing to let hands hang down, and for the knees to become feeble.

… The idea of Purpose stands over the whole Bible revelation. This all-governing idea explains all God’s activities and interests in creation and men. In the Scriptures it is clear that God’s Son, now known as Jesus Christ, our Lord, is the inclusive and ultimate sphere of all that Divine Purpose, that His Coming into this world, His life, death, resurrection, and exaltation are all immediately and exclusively related to the realization of the Purpose; that the Holy Spirit has come as the age-long custodian of God’s Purpose concerning His Son.

Further, it is revealed that the Church is the eternally elect vessel and instrument in which, and through which that Purpose is to be in the first place realized, and then administered in larger realms in “the ages to come” –  that it is the Church, as the Body of Christ, which is “called according to his purpose”, and “chosen in him before the foundation of the world” – and that individuals can and will only come into the realization of that Purpose in an organically related way in the Body corporate.

Again, this “on high calling” explains the particular and peculiar spiritual history – the discipline, suffering, and trial of those who are so called. Any truly spiritual ministry unto this Purpose, and any representation of it in companies of committed people of God do experience and suffer every wile, stratagem, and malicious effort of the evil powers to break them up, wear them out, pull them down onto earthly ground, force them to compromise, and so on. They are the object of every kind of misrepresentation, treachery, cruelty, ostracism, and discrediting.

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April 11

11 APR – The Vessel as a ‘Sign’

“Son of man… I have set thee for a sign”

“Say, I am your sign.” (Ezek. 12:6, 11; 24:24)

The prophet himself was a sign. There were many signs, but these were God’s ways with the prophet to make him the sign. Those ways of God with His servant were not ordinary and usual ways. They were unusual, singular, and often very enigmatical, incomprehensible, and inscrutable. The thing to note is that with God the history of the vessel was the history of the people pre-written. He went through their history in advance of them. He not only prophesied, he was the prophecy.

Paul, the Apostle, was a sign of this dispensation in this way. If Paul was “a chosen vessel” for the special purpose of bringing in the particular purpose of this dispensation, namely, the revelation of the Church, its nature, place, and vocation in the eternal counsels of God (the stewardship of the mystery, he called his ministry); then Paul’s history ran along those lines from his conversion to his departure to be with Christ. We make the observation without embodying the great amount of evidence here.

Is this not a law of God when Purpose is in view? Those who are “the called according to his purpose”, and especially those individual or collective who are instruments or vessels of the Purpose, are taken through quite unusual and, otherwise, inexplicable experiences. Theirs is no ordinary way. The Purpose unto which they are called, if they are committed to the Holy Spirit, will be wrought into their very beings. Theirs is no studied or second-hand ministry. They are the message before they speak it. For them to have to hand up their message would be to part with their very life. It is a very costly way, but would we have it otherwise? Such a ministry is only possible if a total break with all else has been made. Ezekiel had to do things that made him a laughingstock to others. Sometimes they thought that he was mad. Whatever they thought and said, the time came when they could see their own experience in the light of his personal history. They literally went the way that he had gone symbolically. How effective was his life with God!

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April 10

10 APR – The Essential Vocation

Ninety times in ‘Ezekiel’ the designation “Son of man” is used. Among the Prophets this is peculiar to Ezekiel. We know that the favourite title chosen by the Lord Jesus Himself was “The Son of man”. Only twice in the eighty-two times where it occurs was it used by others. There is a similarity and a difference. Ezekiel has no article: he is just “son of man”. Jesus always has the article The Son of man”. The similarity is not in Person, but in Vocation. The infinite difference is in Person. The vocational similarity is found in the meaning of the title. It is that of identification with man; representation of man. The idea is a very large one; it brings into view God’s concern for mankind. Not Israel, but all mankind is God’s concern.

Israel’s vocation was meant to be to all men. The Church’s vocation is to “all the world”. Christ is identified with and representative of man in the thought of God. This is the essential feature of the prophet’s ministry, which ministry is to reveal the Man, and to lead to Him. Anything that puts the minister in a separate class and marks him off as apart from other men is a violation of a principle of the Spirit’s way, and will, sooner or later, prove to be a limitation among men. Ezekiel said that he “sat where they sat”. That was not the condescending act of a superior, an official, one of a special class. No, it was a man amongst men, seeing with their eyes and feeling with their hearts, yet seeing with the eyes of God and feeling with the heart of God. Jesus adopted no garb, habit, tone of voice, or badge to mark Himself off as different or apart from others. There was ample prejudice, suspicion, criticism, and that kind of thing to question His authority, and He never tried to overcome this attitude or get any advantage by artificial, official, or formal means.

Nothing was assumed, put on, or feigned to make an impression and gain acceptance. The Holy Spirit of anointing was His sole basis and source of authority. That was enough and the centuries testify to it. Note then again, the title chosen by Him and linked by Him with every phase of His life and history was not one that men would look upon with honour, respect and awe, but “the Son of man”. Different indeed, but in nature, not in anything external. At the same time remember who He was! He “emptied himself… and being found in fashion as a man…” (Phil. 2:7, 8). That is said of the One who, in His own right, was equal with God.

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