Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

October 15

15 OCT – God’s Thought is to Redeem a Family

Dear friends, it is a good thing to be redeemed, to have what redemption means in the sense of sins forgiven, deliverance from bondage, security unto eternal life, and all those blessings. But do we sufficiently recognize that it is a FAMILY He has come to redeem, and that we are redeemed as a family? We may be redeemed individually, but God’s thought, and Christ’s thought, was to redeem a family.

What is a family? Now, if you have a family, how happy and pleased would you be if every one of your children was a unit in himself or herself, living an independent life without any concern or consideration or interest in any other member of the family? Just so many isolated units in one place could not be called a home! Would you be happy about it if they all went off and never had any concern for the other members, but were just individuals? Well, they might be children of the same parents, but, if that was the situation, the parents would feel that the real meaning of parenthood had been lost – how God must feel about anything and everything that is other than a family concept and a family spirit amongst His people!

We hear so much about the Church, the churches and the local assemblies. Indeed, we can get very tired of that, for it can be so technical. But what is God’s thought in companies of His people in any place? That they should be a representation of the family where His Fatherhood is the dominant thing, where His Son has the place that He ought to have, and where all are a unit. “I pray… that they may all be one” (John 17:20-21). How? ‘As Thou, Father, and I are one.’ The Father is revealing Himself in the Son and the Son is manifesting Himself in the Father. What perfect oneness there is between those two! “That they may be one, even as we are one.”

The prayer of the Lord Jesus, right at the end, as He went to the Cross, was for the family. He went to the Cross to redeem the family, that out of His death and resurrection many sons should be born.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

October 14

14 OCT – The Father’s Good Pleasure

“Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Luke 12:32

God has never promised that we should be exempt from these perils and these dangers. He has not said, ‘You will never suffer, you will never be tried’. No. He has promised us nothing short of: “In the world ye have tribulation” (John 16:33). But He has said, ‘When these things come, do not forget that it is never to be interpreted as indicating that I am disposed toward you otherwise than in this way of goodwill, good pleasure’.

We have to meet, then, our difficulties and go through our trials and believe that in them God’s will is good and perfect and acceptable. It is all in the good pleasure of His will. And is it not true that it just works out like that? We sometimes feel, ‘Oh, that it might never have been, that this might never have been’, and afterward we say, ‘God meant it for good; the outcome is good, not evil; I did not see it, I could not see it, but it was the good pleasure of His will’. “It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom”. Rough handling, but it is good will. Many an adversity, but the goodwill is looking over it all and following the whole course. I can say this out of my own coward heart that knows only too well what it means to wonder whether the will of God is always good. The Gospel begins with goodwill, and it develops and unfolds to a vast fullness encompassing all ages, the good pleasure of His will.

So He says, “little flock”. He immediately, in so saying, admitted that His flock would be very small in comparison. They would be very full of suffering, because they were going the way of the Lamb, ‘following the Lamb whithersoever he goeth’. A “little flock”. But ‘fear not, small, despised, persecuted flock; fear not!’ In the midst of all that comes upon the world, remember, it is the Lamb who has everything in hand, and He has it all in hand with a view to having with Him the company of which we read in Revelation 14: “It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom”. It is “the good pleasure of his will”.

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October 13

13 OCT – The Frown of God’s Goodwill

Strangely enough, the very goodwill of God is often hidden behind a frown. I turn to my friend John Bunyan. You know that he had a man called Goodwill. He lived at the wicket gate, and Christian’s first contact with Goodwill was when he came to the gate. He saw the notice written up, “Knock and it shall be opened”, and he knocked and the man opened. It was Goodwill. But how is he described? “A very grave person called Goodwill”.

We often think God’s goodwill in terms of being boisterous, hilarious, hearty, and a jovial sort of person who was just falling over you with beneficence and everything light and helpful and cheerful. But in John Bunyan’s story it was a very grave person that Christian met when he met Goodwill at the wicket gate. And, the gate having been opened to him somewhat, and seeing this very grave person and being asked what he wanted and giving his reply, he was suddenly laid hold of by Goodwill with a terrible grasp and pulled in so strongly that he might almost have been torn to pieces. Anything but goodwill, it seemed! Christian did not expect that, and he turned to the man and said, ‘Why did you do that?’ ‘Oh’, he said, ‘Beelzebub has a castle just over there, and he is always watching for pilgrims coming, so that he can shoot them down before they get through the gate. He was going to shoot you down, so I pulled you in.’ Sometimes we need rough handling, and it does not mean it is not goodwill.

This is the marvelous shrewdness and honesty of Bunyan. Why was Goodwill a very grave person? Because of the aspects of the wicket gate. It looked down the way to the city of Destruction; and Goodwill had constantly in full view all that was going on down there – the souls perishing and going to perdition. He saw the castle of Beelzebub, and the malignant eyes watching for pilgrims, to shoot them down before they could get through; he knew this hatred, this malice of the Evil One; and with all the goodwill in the world he could not but be a grave person in the light of that. And as he saw on, he saw the way the pilgrims were going. He knew what they would encounter. He knew all that they had to meet. He knew all the rest of the story contained in that wonderful Pilgrim’s Progress, which was not always progress as we think of it, for we make progress very often by falls, by mistakes. There are Giants of Despair, and there are deep and dark valleys, and there are many other things. Goodwill stands looking in all directions, taking in everything, but he is still Goodwill.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

October 12

12 OCT – Getting Hold of the Impossible

There is a greater fact than ourselves and than our circumstances: it is the fact of Christ. And so you and I will have to seek from the Lord this grace, morning by morning, and day by day, perhaps even hour by hour, as we face our own inability and disability, our own utter futility and helplessness, to have the grace to say: ‘Nevertheless, I can through Christ.’ I say again, it is not just a psychological reaction, or fillip (stimulus), which will make us ignore facts. No! This is the act of faith; this is the link of faith; this is the plank of faith, across which we pass right over from ourselves and our condition to Christ. And today, when we are as weak, as helpless, as overwhelmed, as perplexed, as distracted by things as ever, nevertheless, today and tomorrow, and all the days, I CAN – I CAN THROUGH CHRIST! If it is real faith in Christ, you will find that the Spirit comes in, and enables you to do what you never would have done, or could have done, but for that positive attitude. May we be helped to find the way of deliverance from the ‘I cannot… I cannot… I cannot…’ into the ‘I can do all things through Christ.’

No doubt, with many this represents a very practical situation. As we look on ahead, we dread some things, for we know that those things are beyond us altogether; but we have got to take this position. We must look at our situation today, and say: ‘This situation holds something. The Lord is not answering my prayer and getting me out of it; He is not changing it, He is just not doing all that I am longing for, and praying for, and craving for. I pray, and there is nothing; there is no getting through; He is not doing it. Therefore, I must look at it in another way. There is a secret in this, and I have got to get hold of that secret. What does the Lord intend to teach me and to give me in this situation, that I can bring out of it as fruit, as stock-in-trade for the work in the days to come? What is it? I must get it!’

If we take that attitude toward things, I think we shall probably find that that is our way of deliverance, our way out, our way through. Let us ask for grace to do this, not only now, in our present situation, but as to everything that the Lord may require of us in the future – perhaps things that we never thought of. While we may never rise to such eminence, or become great historic figures, nevertheless, through Christ things can be, which would go far beyond any dreams that we ever had, more than we ever thought.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

October 11

11 OCT – Looking At Christ and Not At the Situation

You see, it is a question of a positive attitude toward things, is it not? It makes such a difference, the attitude that we take. “I have learned…” I have learned the secret; I have made everything yield something of a positive character. The result is: “I know…” I know how to be abased, to be set at nought, to be walked over, trampled upon, ignored, regarded as worthless; I know how to take hold of that, how not to go down under it, but to make it serve spiritual ends. I know how to abound: when people are kind and good when, as you Philippians, they send me gifts, so that I can say, “I have all things, and abound” I do not get proud and uppish, and conceited and self-sufficient, and think myself something: I know that is ruination! I have learned the perils of prosperity just as much as the perils of adversity; I have found the secret. And so, come what may, for or against; be as I may be and I am today in prison at the end of my life, I can! I do not say after all this, I cannot bear any more; but I can do all things, through Christ who strengtheneth me.’

I pass on this message, not as an elaborate address or discourse, but as a word from my heart. It is a challenge to us all as to our attitude. Our natural condition which is not mere imagination, but undoubtedly something very real would so often argue: ‘I cannot! The situation is utterly disconcerting, utterly devastating, both inside and outside. Naturally, it is the end: it is paralysis; I cannot, I just cannot.’ That is the situation, if we just look at ourselves, if we in ourselves represent the sum-total of everything. If we look at the situation, that argues finality; we may as well give it up and say: I cannot, I cannot! But what about Christ? Is there not another off-look from ourselves to ‘Christ who strengthens me’? This is not a question of a psychological effect upon ourselves in trying to be more cheerful, and to make ourselves believe something that is not true. There are the facts in ourselves, and perhaps in our circumstances: they ARE the FACTS, they are stark facts, and there is no getting away from them.

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October 10

10 OCT – Learning the Secret as Paul Learned

“Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therein to be content. I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound: in everything and in all things have I learned the secret both to be filled and to be hungry, both to abound and to be in want. I can do all things in him that strengtheneth me.” Philippians 4:11-13

If there is one statement in Scripture that finds us out, it is this one. It was Paul who said it; but I wonder how many of us could say it, with the same positive affirmation? You will notice, however, that the Apostle is stating it as the result of a life-long schooling. ‘This’, he says, ‘is the issue of my schooling with Christ. I have learned the secret. “I have learned… I know… I can do…”!’

The course of things is learning through experience, and thus coming to knowledge – knowledge which is not theory at all, but which works out in practice: “I can do”. That is the meaning for us of life with Christ. If we, His children, want to know the meaning of our experiences in this very exacting school, for it is an exacting school: we don’t get away with anything; nothing escapes; we are held to it, severely and strictly, though behind all is wisdom and love. The meaning of our experiences in the exacting school which the Christian life is, and is intended to be, it is that we may LEARN, that we may KNOW, that we may DO. God’s end is always a practical end, and the end is DOING. ‘I have learned… I know… I can do!’

And, of course, the way to that end is learning that you CANNOT do, and that you do NOT know. I suppose that that is the truest thing that could be said of anyone in the School of the Spirit. The thing that they are learning is that they cannot do, and they do not know. That is the way. It does seem, on the one hand, a negative process; it does seem to be an undoing experience; but God’s ends are always positive. And an absolute necessity to our arriving at the position, “I can do all things” – a tremendous statement! – which is His will for every one of us. It is a deep, fundamental consciousness and realization of how bankrupt we are of knowledge and of ability apart from Christ. For the all-governing clause or fragment is: ‘in Him that is, in Christ who strengthens me’.

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October 9

9 OCT – The Flesh and the New Nature

“And they that are of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with the passions and the lusts thereof.” Gal. 5:24

What Paul is saying, in effect, is this: It is all very well to accept the law; all very well to get back into the externals of religion; but does that deal with the moral issue? The sin question was a thing kept perpetually in view in the old order; it was never finally dealt with. If you had watched Israel round that tabernacle, and seen the continuous stream of sacrifices, and the veritable river of blood daily flowing in the court of that tabernacle, you would have known that sin was not once and for all dealt with. You would have known that the sin question was always in view. It does not deal with our very natures. It is a false peace that is merely based upon a system of outward religious activities. It is a false peace if it is not found in the precious, eternal efficacy of the Blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, which cleanseth us from all sin.

By way of the cross there is a new nature, a nature introduced which gets the upper hand of the old. The old is there, but it is not now reigning. Sin has not dominion. There is another nature which rises up and meets the old. Something has happened, and in that something a position has been reached which is just this: that old nature is no longer the master. It has been crucified. It has been put into the place where it no longer dominates. It has come under the veto of the cross. How does it work? By the positive fact of a new nature introduced, the divine nature in Christ. It is not a constant effort to suppress the old, a struggle to say, ‘No!’ It is that there is a positive factor which is working for us against the old. It does not mean that never at any time do we make a mistake, perhaps a slip, but we do know that there is a reactionary power at work within us now, which registers upon that old a veto and says with strength: “Thou shalt not”. It is a new law, not imposed from without but the law of an inward power, a new nature within. As we walk in the Spirit that new nature grows and increases, and more and more gets the ascendency over the old. Conformity to the image of God’s Son is going on: a growing, an increase in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

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October 8

8 OCT – Has the World Been Crucified to You?

“But far be it from me to glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world hath been crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” Gal. 6:14

The cross again is in the forefront. The apostle is saying here that his glorying is in the cross of the Lord Jesus, and that cross has represented for him his being crucified to the world and the world to him. Of course, that is a very inclusive, comprehensive statement, and embraces a very great deal, but there is a particular application of it, or a particular usage of the statement here. These Judaisers had gone to Galatia, and had sought to make Jewish proselytes of these Christian believers by having them circumcised, so that they might append these Gentile believers to the Jewish church.

As we have noticed, the point of their approach was this: If you do that, a great deal of persecution will cease. You will come into a realm of tolerance; at present you are outside everything that is recognized and accepted, and all the world is against you. Come into the fold. Come into the accepted system of things, and you will have an easy time.

What was behind it? Paul says their object is simply to count heads, to “glory in your flesh”, to say: See how many proselytes we are making! See how many converts we have got! No wonder Paul writes with heat, lest these Judaisers should glory on their side in their success, and then that these Galatians should discover that these people were only glorying on the ground of their having forfeited their high position.

What does Paul mean? It does not matter to me what the world thinks! It does not matter one wit to me the attitude the world takes! Let it persecute! Let it say what it likes! Let the world defame. Let the world misrepresent. Let the world lie. Let the whole accepted religious system say what it likes. I have been crucified to this world! I am dead to all that, and that is dead to me! The cross of the Lord Jesus means the emancipation from the world in that sense.

We shall have to decide, once and for all, as definitely as Calvary was a once and for all thing, that we are not going to be influenced or deterred one little bit in our utterness of abandonment to the Lord by what the world (even the religious world) says and does. When we recognize that, there will be triumph.

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October 7

7 OCT – The False and the True Life

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me: and that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Gal 2:20

What is the declaration contained within that statement? The essence of the utterance is this: There is a life which is not man’s natural life, which is not original human life, but is a peculiar, particular, unique life; it is the life of God Himself. That very life of God, eternal, incorruptible, indestructible, divine life, is the life which it is the Lord’s will for every one of His children to possess. There the whole of the Christian life has its beginning, its spring. What is the Gospel? What is the Christian life? It is not Judaism taking on the title of Christianity. It is not Christianity taking hold of Judaism. It is the possessing of God’s own divine life. Anything short of that is not the Gospel! Paul here says that this life is the very foundation and basis of a true Christian experience, and it means this: It is no longer I, but Christ living in me.

That is set right over against Judaism, which was all external, outward. This is inward. “Christ liveth in me: and that life which I now live…” Well, Paul, how did you become possessed of that life? In what way did you come into that great reality of Christ living in you? “I have been crucified with Christ!” What did that mean, Paul? That meant that Judaism had to go: I was steeped in Judaism, far more than any other of my brethren, the apostles, Jews as they were. I excelled in my zeal for the Jewish faith; but when I saw the Lord Jesus, and when I saw the meaning of Christ crucified, that which had been my very life (Judaism) became as nothing. He became my life, and that other ceased to have any meaning for me! Paul is here setting the life of Judaism, which is no life, over against the life of the indwelling Christ, which is the life.

What is it to be a Christian? It is to receive God’s very life in Christ into the innermost place in our being. “Christ liveth in me, and that life which I now live…” You cannot substitute that. There is nothing which can take the place of that. And yet there are those who think that if they go to meetings, and keep up their religious forms and observances, it is all well. It is not all well! That is the devil’s lie! Any religious system which is a substitute for the indwelling Christ is an accursed thing, by reason of its very effect.

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October 6

6 OCT – Refusing To Compromise with the World

In the very first chapter of the book of Daniel, he and his brethren determined that they would not defile themselves with the king’s dainties, nor with the wine from the king’s table; and that is how they spoke of it when they went to Arioch, the king’s representative, to plead their case. They asked – you would think hardly tactfully or diplomatically! – ‘that they might not defile themselves’. It is hardly complimentary, at any rate, to speak so of food from the king’s table. They pressed this matter of defilement. They had seen the principle that by this means they and their testimony would in some way be compromised. It was a link with this world and with Satan’s kingdom as in this world, and the effect of it would be – oh, how inclusive and comprehensive this is! – that they would be denying in their very persons the all sufficiency of the Lord. If they were to go the way of the world and look like the people of the world, where would be the testimony of the Lord? If they did not go the way of the world and were to refuse to have any kind of compromise with the world, there would be great opportunity for the Lord to prove that He can go one better than the world, and is more than all the world put together.

This is the challenge. On various grounds and by various arguments, young people especially are tempted to compromise on this point. They think they will gain influence with people of the world by coming down to their level and doing as they do, thus getting on an even footing with the world; but they do not recognize that such a course so often involves compromise. More rarely still do they recognize that when God’s people are going to the world for their sustenance and nourishment and pleasure and gratification and so on, it results in a question being cast upon the ability of the Lord to prove how far greater He is than this world. The bad spiritual state of the people in Daniel’s day was wholly due to their being in bondage to the world. Daniel and his brethren would have none of it. They stood apart in complete separation from the world, its standards, its ideas and all its resources, to give God the opportunity of proving that He is better than the world, and His servants, by His grace, better than the men of the world. That is the testimony, and until that is true, we have no authority, no ascendancy, no real testimony. Separation therefore, unpleasant and hard as the word may sound, is a very fundamental matter if we mean by it that we are separated unto the Lord, that He may show by means of us that this world is a poor thing compared with what we have in Him.

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