Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

January 16

16 JAN – Counterfeit Spirituality

There is a false and counterfeit spirituality which is purely soulical. It looks like spirituality, and passes for it, it assumes to be spiritual; but it is false, it is counterfeit. We find it in mysticism, and mysticism can go a very long way to simulate what is spiritual. Aestheticism so often looks like spirituality and has been mistaken for it. There is a vast amount of religion that thinks it is spiritual and claims to be, and yet it is purely aesthetic or mystical or soulical; it is not spiritual at all. There is a soulical insight which is the counterfeit of spiritual apprehension. It is purely psychic.

There are people with phraseology and they are not clear, they are involved, and what are they after? They are trying to be spiritual on the basis of revelation, seeing things no one else sees or can see. Be careful! The enemy does simulate every truth in order to destroy the truth. We have to be in a true position, and there is this counterfeit, mystical interpretation. You can drive typology to an extreme, you can force it to a point where it loses its value and becomes almost ridiculous. Spiritual discernment is counterfeited, and shows itself along the line of premonitions and second sight; it is all soulical. Consecration is often counterfeited by asceticism, a false consecration. The monasticism of the Middle Ages and what remains of it is a false interpretation of spirituality, of consecration.

Therefore test things, give them time, take them into another atmosphere and see how they live. It is so easy to get into a false position when there is a hothouse condition; you can get a lot of things springing up rapidly and seeming to be genuine growths. But take them outside and they shrivel up. The things of God do not do that, they survive all atmospheres, they live though death encompasses. His life is not a prey to earthly conditions; it triumphs. Everything can be counterfeited, and there is a counterfeit spirituality along every line.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

January 15

15 JAN – The Answer to Satan through the Spirit

When we speak of spiritual warfare, let us not think in terms of the abstract. “They overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb.” What do you take that to mean? ― that they were a people of a phraseology about the blood and they started hurling their phraseology at the Devil? Well, phraseology, even about the Blood, has no effect on him. “They overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb.” Whom did they overcome? The Accuser of the brethren, who accused them day and night. How do you overcome an accuser? Only by having a better case than he has. You have to have a good case, and the Blood of the Lamb represents that in a mighty way. Our legal standing because of the Blood of the Lamb puts the enemy out of court if only faith will hold to it. And we must not think in geographical terms of Satan being cast down from somewhere high up and coming crashing to the earth. This is spiritual warfare. We have to get this spiritual sense and idea of things. Our soulical mentality is always drawing pictures of places, positions, spaces, but we have to understand that this is a spiritual matter that Satan can, in effect, be cast from the highest heights to the lowest depths without any geographical factor coming in at all.

You may have a person against you who lays a charge at your door, and thinks he has a very strong case. But you happen to have a case which undercuts that and tears it to pieces, and he goes down before you in utter collapse; he comes from a tremendous soul height to a very great depth. That is not a geographical thing but a spiritual. This is spiritual warfare, not geographical. “Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood” (Eph. 6:12), it is not in the realm of the physical and geographical at all. It is spiritual; you can call it moral if you like and the Blood represents a legal case, and Satan can be cast down from heaven countless times in one day. You cannot do that literally; it can only be understood spiritually. A million people all over this earth may cast him down in one day at different moments of the day. As they stand by faith on the case that the Blood provides, they have a mighty and triumphant answer. That is how spirituality works out in warfare. Christ works spirit-wise. Soul cannot cast out soul, and the soul cannot cast out the Devil because the Devil has already got it in his hand. Satan has obtained ground in our souls, but in our renewed, born-again spirits he has no place. The evil spirit behind everything can only be overcome by a spirit strengthened with might by the Spirit of God, and that means by a subduing of the soul to the spirit.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

January 14

14 JAN – Spiritual Ascendancy Demands Faith

Now, let me say further and again, things that are seen, things that happen, are not alone, they have spiritual factors behind them. Oh, young people, try to get hold of this. Ask the Lord to help you to get this really registered in your hearts, not as a part of your religious education or information, but really as a working principle in your lives. Your difficult situations, hold-ups, frustrations ― they are not just alone by themselves. If you are a child of God, there is a spiritual factor and a spiritual intelligence behind, and you will never get through until you can get behind the thing and deal with that spiritual factor; until you know how to deal with the enemy, the things will not be loosened. The Lord’s answer to these challenges may not always be in the same way, but always on one certain principle.

Paul said, “I would have you know that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the progress of the gospel” (Phil. 1:12). That is one way in which the Lord answers the enemy. He sovereignly turns the work of the Devil to His own glory and to the fulfilment of the very thing which the Devil intended to prevent. The Lord’s answer is not always in the direct way of casting out the Devil, nor a direct rebuke that brings the enemy’s work to naught or stops him from working. The Lord very often allows him to work but answers him in many ways, and the ultimate issue is with the Lord, not the Devil. But always the Lord works to one principle, and that is the principle of our faith.

Paul met the situation; he saw and felt the things that were happening. Do you think that in his heart he capitulated to Satan and said, The Devil has things in his own hand, it is of no use our trying to do anything? Not a bit! Paul’s attitude was the Devil sees we are having some success and he is working; he is apparently doing a lot of harm, but the issue of this thing will be with the Lord and not with the Devil. So, because of an attitude taken like that on the part of His servant, the Lord was constantly, in different ways, answering the Devil and getting the issue into His own hands. But the instrument of the Lord in defeating and casting down the Devil was the spirit of the servant of God standing strongly and you do marvel how strongly Paul’s spirit stood. Though Satan often seemed to have things his way, in the end the Lord triumphed every time.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

January 13

13 JAN – God’s Mind about the Church

In the Divine scheme of things it is the Church which is the intermediary, that which stands between and 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 that 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.

Here 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.

Dr. Campbell Morgan has remarked that there is often heard the word ‘Oh, let us get back to the New Testament church!’ But, he said, ‘God forbid!’ And went on to say that you will look a long way today for a Christian church that will wholly correspond in its defects to the church in Corinth. When you come to think of it, there is some truth in that – a church in which there is incest and all that you find in Corinth! God forbid that we get back to the New Testament church if that is it! God forbid that we should say that we have made no progress from that! 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.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

January 12

12 JAN – Discriminating Between Spiritual Gifts and Persons

There was at Corinth the spiritual inability to discriminate between spiritual gifts and spiritual persons. In 1 Cor., it is clear that spiritual gifts are not necessarily evidence of people being spiritual – that you can, in this real sense, be a very unspiritual person and have spiritual gifts. You will find that spiritual gifts may, and very often do, only relate to spiritual infancy, and not to spiritual maturity. The possession of such gifts may run side by side in the same life with very serious moral defects. This is a problem, this is startling. But it was so at Corinth. They could not see the difference between spiritual gifts and spiritual persons.

Why should Paul head this whole matter of gifts right up into chapter 13? What is the meaning of chapter 13 if it is not this? “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal.” Is he suggesting an impossible thing? Is this a merely hypothetical conjecture which has no reality in life or experience that a man can speak with the tongues of men and of angels and have not love, and, being like that, be sounding brass or a clanging cymbal? Speaking with tongues – surely tongues are the ultimate thing, a great evidence of spirituality? Not at all! The supreme feature of spirituality is Divine love. God is love, and we are to be made perfect in love. “Faith which worketh by love” (Gal. 5:6) – this is maturity and this is spirituality. “I could not speak unto you as unto spiritual.”

So he heads this whole thing right up through gifts to love, which is spirituality. He says, I may have all these gifts, and yet may be an unspiritual person. The gifts may only be marks of my spiritual infancy. I am not saying that that is necessarily so. Paul said that he spoke with tongues more than they all. But spiritual gifts and spirituality do not necessarily go together. That is the point. Spiritual maturity did not go hand in hand with their gifts at Corinth. They thought that the gifts meant much more than they did mean, that they were the evidences of great spiritual measure. They did not see. There is a lot of difference between inward formation and merely outward action.

Well then, in Corinth, spirituality meant a heavenly standard of wisdom and power; the Body as a unified whole; and spiritual measure inward more than spiritual gifts outward. That is spirituality.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

January 11

11 JAN – Spirituality is the Door to God

A spiritual state is the key to all that is of God. Spirituality is the door, and the key to the door, beyond which lies everything that relates to God. Without spirituality, there is no way through, the door is closed. The word “cannot” stands written as an impassable barrier “cannot understand or receive the things of the Spirit of God.” In reality, our lives are set in a realm of things spiritual. God is Spirit, therefore the supreme Reality, the supreme factor, the ultimate environment of this universe; God is Spirit. Man, in the deepest and truest nature of his being, is spirit. He has a soul and a body. Evil forces in great power encircle man on this earth, and they are spiritual forces. But more, the entire temporal order is constituted upon spiritual principles and meanings. The visible things are but symbols of spiritual things; the seen things are types of unseen things. God has constituted this whole universe, in every aspect and detail, upon a basis of spiritual principles; they are tokens of something more than themselves. If God, Who is Spirit, makes anything, He makes it with a meaning, and that meaning is given to it by the mind of God. It takes its deepest significance from God Himself, therefore its deepest significance is spiritual.

We know how, right through the Bible, these things of creation are used to represent spiritual things. The sun, the moon, the stars, and every other created thing embodies some spiritual thought, meaning and law, so that, when we come to the revelation of Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit, we find a whole comprehensive and detailed counterpart in a spiritual realm of what we have in the temporal realm; a new creation in Christ Jesus with its initiation by God, Who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. (2 Cor. 4:6). Here is the new creation act, the new fiat for bringing in a spiritual order, which, in a spiritual way, reproduces all the laws which lie behind the creation of the natural order. It is a very strong and very full realm by which we can recognize really what God is after through and in and by all things.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

January 10

10 JAN – God’s End Does Not Lie in Temporal Things

A temporal thing is only a shadow of another, it has no abiding qualities or values in itself. It is governed by the law of vanity, vanity meaning simply that it cannot of itself realize its own destiny. It will reach a point, and from that point turn back and in upon itself; its efforts, its groanings, its travailings, never issue in a final realization of its intention. Nothing of it, by its own properties, can realize Divine purposes and ends. It is very important to recognize this.

Oh, how many things are gathered into organized Christianity with the idea of making for effectiveness! The idea is that, if you can have these things, you are going to get results. Money – Oh, how much could be done if only we had money! We must have the money! I ask you, how was it in the book of the Acts? Was anything done? With all the money today, how much is done of an abiding, eternal, spiritual value? If only you can get names and titles on your programs and advertisements, you are going to effect something! Are you? If you can get reputation, scholarship, learning, ability, physical strength, business acumen, the work will be effected! Will it?

I want to say that not in one of these things, nor in all of them put together, in themselves, is there any spiritual value, and there can be a very vast amount of spiritual value without any of them. God has taken pains along both lines to prove that. Along the line of their presence in abundance He has proved their spiritual futility; and along the line of taking the weak things and the despised and the foolish and the things which are not, by something which was nothing in itself He has through the ages demonstrated His own power and done mightily fruitful things for eternity. Well, that is simple and obvious, and it is only one more contribution to this fact, that it is spirituality that counts, that is the effective thing, the thing that gets through, and nothing else. The learning, the money, and all the other things may have a place, provided they do not govern, provided they are subservient to what is spiritual and are never banked upon as the things which are going to do the work, provided it is never assumed that if you have these things, a great work for God can be done; God will make evident the folly of that assumption.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

January 9

9 JAN – “Afterward that which is Spiritual”

The Apostle says much about the spiritual side of things (1 Cor. 15), and amongst those statements he says concerning the body that not that which is spiritual is first but that which is natural, and afterward that which is spiritual. We might observe, by the way, that when he used that word “natural” he really used the word “soulical.” That which is first is the soulical body and afterward that which is spiritual, indicating that the ultimate and final thought of God is the spiritual. The Apostle leads on very clearly to show that this body, this soulical body as such, is going to be changed. But there is a germ – the spirit is the germ of a new body, and that spirit will be clothed with a spiritual body. It is something that we cannot wholly understand, but we can see something of what it is like when we remember that the forty days after the resurrection of our Lord Jesus were used precisely for this very purpose to demonstrate and establish the nature of a spiritual man in his final and full constitution, visibly, as well as spiritually.

There is no doubt that in those forty days the Apostles were convinced that Jesus was alive, that they had seen the Lord; they were left without a shadow of doubt – nothing could shake them on that matter. But what a Lord, what a difference! An absence altogether of some things with which they were familiar. He was there, and He was there in a positive presence, not a ghost, not a disembodied spirit, but a full Manhood; and yet how different! He was using the forty days to show what the end of God is for man, the nature of things when God reaches His end. “Afterward that which is spiritual…” God’s final, ultimate thought is the spiritual, and I want to emphasize that for this purpose I am not talking about atmospheres, things floating in the air, but about something very real if I may use the word, very concrete when I talk about spirituality. It is something very practical. The Lord Jesus sought surely to show that after His resurrection.

“Children, have ye any meat?” He can make a fire of coals, He can cook fish on it, He can break the food and distribute it and He can eat with them, and yet in a moment can be out of sight. Dismissing time and geography, He is in one place and then in another far off, but He is real. Do not let us think we are talking about spirituality as something unpractical, mythical, abstract. We are going to see that it is a very practical matter; first that which is natural, and afterward, as the final thought and the goal of God’s activities, that which is spiritual. The end and the eternal will be spirituality; we shall be in the full sense spiritual. Well, that is a general statement.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

January 8

8 JAN – The Cross Is Linked to His Fullness

The Cross of Christ is deeply bound up with the question of Divine fullness. Everything that carries with it the idea of our doing anything and making ourselves anything to obtain the mercy of God and attain unto acceptance with Him, bears the hallmark of the Devil himself. Christ’s death for us and our death with Him is the only, but the sure, ground of full acceptance! Luther said it very utterly when he put it thus “O Christ, I am Thy sin, Thy curse, Thy wrath of God, Thy hell; and contrariwise, Thou art my righteousness, my blessing, my life, my grace of God, my heaven.” No wonder the Devil hated Martin Luther and assailed him so bitterly.

But there is not only the basic, initial, perfect value of the Cross for our full and unquestioned acceptance; there is a meaning of the Cross in relation to spiritual fullness and fruitfulness. It is what Paul calls “Being made conformable to His death” (Phil. 3:10).

How very much of the tragedy, scandal, defeat, weakness, deadness, limitation and unloveliness of many Christian people and Christian institutions, communities and churches is due to uncrucified “flesh” or natural life! How greatly Christ is hidden from view by men and things and methods which bring themselves into prominence! The need, if He is to come to the place of the Divine intention, and we with Him, is for a continuous and ever-deepening working of the Cross in us.

We really must be in a position to say “I have been crucified with Christ”. Yes, but also to complete the statement “It is no longer I, but Christ.” Is it true “No longer I?” “No… I”? That is what Paul meant, but who can know the depth of that “I”. Only Christ knows how deep and thorough His Cross is, and we must hand ourselves over to Him for the Holy Spirit to work all His meaning of the Cross in us if the way is to be clear for His fullness.

So the twofold meaning and message of the Cross is a very strong part of EVERY ministry. There are many who do not like the latter “It is no longer I” and will not have it.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

November 6

6 NOV – Perfected Through Suffering

“I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Rom. 8:18

What is God doing with His people? He is using all these things which are happening, primarily to bring about in His people that conformity to the image of His Son which is to mean Christ in manifestation in an elect people — a people foreordained — foreknown for this very thing. This thought of God is a delivering thought. How do you pray for the Lord’s people in times of trouble? Of course, we are all tempted to pray for their deliverance, to cry to the Lord that they may escape. It may be right at times to pray thus, but suppose the Lord does not deliver? He does not always deliver at once. He allows the situation to continue, to become long drawn out.

The enemy will encamp upon that fact and give it his own twist and interpretation — ‘God is not doing anything; He has left His people – is standing back – is not concerned.’ There is no answering voice, no slightest indication that He is taking any account at all. It is like that very often, and that is a real playground for the enemy. God apparently makes no response. How shall we be delivered from going to pieces, from being overwhelmed in such a time and under such conditions? Only by grasping this thought of God; and then we have to begin to pray along other lines.

If God does not act to deliver His people, there is a deeper and a higher thought and purpose than their deliverance, and He is at work upon that; and deeply in them He is going to reproduce the patience, the endurance, the longsuffering of Jesus Christ. If you go right over the whole ground of God’s Son perfected through sufferings and can read your Gospels anew and understand Him as He differs so utterly from the standards of men, you can see what God is doing with us His people. Meekness and gentleness — these are foreign things to our natures; under stress, under adversity, under the cruel hand of tyrannical men — to say, ‘Father, forgive’! He could say “I am meek and lowly in heart.” Oh, you see — the image of His Son. Such testing conditions are a terrible challenge to our natural dispositions. Our whole nature revolts against meekness and lowliness and wants to rise up and be even with the other one, or be the master. Our nature does not accept and delight in opposition, antagonism, frustration, persecution, and all such things.

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