Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

July 10

10 JUL – Only Spiritual Values Must Concern Us

Well now, what weighs with me most? Where am I living? Is it on this wretched, earthly ground of people and things down here, or is it on the ground of Christ? Is it spiritual life and spiritual values that matter? If we can get up there and say truly, ‘It does not matter one little bit to me how a thing affects me personally’; the question is how much of the Lord is there in this? How much can there be for Him? I am not influenced by people’s relationships down here; I take the higher ground of the heavenlies and meet them, not as this, that, or something else according to earthly designation, but I meet them on the ground of Christ, the one new man. On that level there is nothing to impede spiritual enlargement.

Spiritual measure is not a matter of anything here, even for the Lord – its success, its support, its maintenance – but just how much it is answering to the full thought of God in a spiritual way. That is what counts, and that is heavenly ground. We know so well that if people are more concerned with the maintenance of something for the Lord on this earth – keeping it going, building it up, making it successful – they are in a realm of spiritual limitation, and not until they are completely lifted out of such considerations with the one question, ‘How far is this answering to the Lord’s fully-revealed mind?’, and are governed by that alone, can there be real progress and spiritual enlargement. Is it not true? And it is impressive that people who are really tied up with some thing, some organization, some piece of work, some society, some mission, some institution, even though it be for God in all sincerity, if that is their horizon, if that constitutes their world, they are limited spiritually. They go just so far spiritually and no farther. They are bound by their own earthly fences, the fences of that particular thing. Get away from things, out to the vast range of God’s eternal, timeless purpose, and you find all fences are down and spiritual enlargement takes place. It is the only way.

So we come back. What is the Lord after? Not just good things for Himself, however good; He is after nothing less than that great summing up of all things in Christ (Eph. 1:10).

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

July 9

9 JUL – Only Spiritual Value Counts with God

When we come into the ‘Ephesian’ position, we are at once introduced to the pre-eminence of spiritual values. That is what ‘in the heavenlies’ means – how things are viewed from above; not what they look like and seem to be from the earthly standpoint, not how we weigh and measure them down here on this earth, but how they stand from heaven’s viewpoint, how the ascended Lord looks at them. That is what governs all the way through this letter, at every point, spiritual value; not numbers, not what men call success, not all these things which are of such importance to people here, but just that which weighs with God; and that is spiritual value.

“…Hath blessed us with every spiritual blessing,” or, more properly and literally, “every blessing of the Spirit.” We saw how Paul sought, with both the Corinthians and the Galatians, to get them away to the place where the Spirit was the great, dominant reality. Now here that realm is brought fully into view, where the spiritual matters more than anything else. So if we want spiritual enlargement, if we are really coming to that greater fullness, we shall have to forsake these earthly standards and judgments and interests, and get to the place where, after all, nothing matters but spiritual value. How far is a thing of value in the Lord’s sight? We may take it as settled that only spiritual value counts with God.

Christ is in heaven. We must know Him now only in a spiritual way, and no longer after the flesh. We do not know Him as men know one another on the earth. He truly said, “The world beholdeth me no more; but ye behold me” (John 14:19). For the moment, that raised a problem for His disciples: they could not understand Him. They said “What is come to pass that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?” They came afterward to understand that perfectly well. Christ can be known truly now only in a spiritual way; He is in heaven. So here again the great phrase is “in the heavenlies in Christ”; that is, the great spiritual values are Christ, known in a spiritual way. Enlargement is a matter of knowing Christ. “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). Paul tried to make the Galatians see that. His epistles are full of the name ‘Christ’ – the Galatian epistle as much as any.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

July 8

8 JUL – The Practical Application of Christ’s Headship

“If then ye were raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are upon the earth. For ye died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life, shall be manifested, then shall ye also with him be manifested in glory.” (Col 3:1-3).

That is the practical application of headship. “Ye died” that is necessary to put Christ in His place. “Ye were raised together with Christ” – not apart from Him; not leaving any place for self-government, self-direction, self-sufficiency, self-assertiveness, or any other expression of self at all. “Ye died”; your own headship of your life died with you. All other governments of your life died when you died. You died to all other authorities, to all other rule; to every other kind of direction, government, headship in principle; you died to all except to the headship of Christ; and, being raised, you were raised with Christ. It is “together with Christ”; and now in resurrection it is Christ Who is Head of the Body, the Church.

While this has a personal and individual application, it is the Church which is in view here. This elect body of people called the Church died to all other governments, just as Israel was set aside and buried in Babylon. It was the crucifixion the death and the burial of Israel when the captivity took place. They were sent away, out of the place of covenant blessing, the place where the Lord was, the place of the inheritance, the place where everything had been provided for their very existence. They were sent right out of it and were for that time dead and buried, simply because they had let in other headships. Idolatry was the cause; that meant that another headship, that of Satan as a mediator through the gods of the nations round about had taken God’s place, and God would not tolerate any other headship of any kind at all. So He slew them and buried them in Babylon, and when there was a raising from that grave of a company that came back, it was under the absolute headship of the Lord, and that alone. That is the principle of it. It was a corporate thing, a corporate resurrection, and under one head. From that time, never again was idolatry found among them. There is that about it; it cured them of idolatry – that is, of another headship. You see the principle.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

July 7

7 JUL – Living “Unto the Lord”

“And the child Samuel grew on, and increased in favour both with the Lord, and also with men. And the child Samuel ministered unto the Lord before Eli…” 1 Sam 2:18

A most corrupt, base, iniquitous thing was happening in Eli’s time, a state of things utterly deplorable. Samuel might well have become a cynic, he might have become bitter and sour and critical. It is very easy when things are like that to be cynical, to be disgusted, and to have no interest in what we are doing, even though we ourselves are in no way compromising with the evil. But it seems that Samuel closed his eyes to a very great deal, and just kept them on the Lord, and his attitude was: ‘All around me is very evil, very corrupt, but I am here for the Lord; I am here, in the midst of it all, for the Lord.’ Thus was his spirit kept free from sourness and bitterness and cynicism. He ministered not to Eli, and not to Hophni and Phineas, and not to a mere procedure to keep it going, but to the Lord.

Remember, that is a secret of growth. We may all have reason to say: ‘There is a good deal around me that I do not agree with and which I am sure is contrary to what the Lord would have;’ But let us be those who say, ‘I am here to live unto the Lord, I am only doing it for Him, and so I intend to stay where I am.’ That is a way of growth.

Eli was the embodiment of the religious order of his time, he was in the place of authority and for the time being had to be recognized as such. Samuel was submissive. He was not trying to oust Eli, nor to condemn him. It is so easy to do that; because you find something wrong at headquarters, you can easily become disaffected and critical. Before Eli, he takes the submissive and subject position and ministers to the Lord. No wonder he grew.

You will not grow if you are observing the faults and flaws and errors around you, especially in people who are holding superior positions, and if you are talking and spreading reports about them. Samuel ministered unto the Lord before Eli, in subjection and in patience, waiting until the Lord took steps to deal with that very difficult situation which must have been eating into Samuel’s soul every day. It is our spirit that matters – purity, simplicity, earnestness, reality. That is what it means to grow, and to grow on.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

July 6

6 JUL – Living “Before the Lord”

“Samuel ministered before the Lord, being a child.” (2 Sam. 1) Like Another even greater, he grew up before the Lord, and it is of far greater importance than might be suggested by the little fragment of three words. That is the first thing that must be true of us that our whole life is not lived before men but primarily before the Lord; that there is always that about us which speaks of an inner life before the Lord.

When we are alone, shut in our room with the Lord, then everything is very pure. We know quite well that there before Him there is no deception, there is no feigning and pretending, there is no unreality. We know quite well when we come into personal aloneness with the Lord that everything artificial is stripped off. There we know that we are seen through, we are thoroughly well known; we can put on no camouflage, no disguises, in the Lord’s presence. There we are, what we are, and we know it, and we make no pretense about it. We cannot be on stilts or on a pedestal in the Lord’s presence.

When we are with people we may put on a lot of things to cover up, to make believe; we may become very artificial. Even when we are praying in the presence of other people, we can be anything but natural. We are so conscious of them, and begin to preach to them in our prayer. We do not do that when we are alone with the Lord, we do not make up anything then. We are right down on the very bedrock of what we are, a certain kind of naturalness; we cannot be other than perfectly natural there. What we are as before the Lord we have to be when we are with people in public life. It is important, it is essential. You see, anything put on amongst people, anything artificial, is not our measure at all; it is a false measure, and it may be holding us up in true spiritual life and growth.

“Samuel ministered before the Lord.” We might well take that for every sphere and every hour of life. “Whatsoever ye do, work heartily, as unto the Lord, and not unto men.” (Col. 3:23) God said to Abram, “…walk before me…” That may be very simple in its terms, but it is something which has to do with a ground work for spiritual growth. People who are like that will go on, will grow.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

July 5

5 JUL – A Man In Heaven And Christ In You

The two great basic features of living Christianity are (1) A Man in heaven, and (2) Christ in you. Stephen saw Jesus standing on the right hand of God. He said: “I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.” That is the Man in heaven! Then as to Christ in you, the Word says: “He, being full of the Holy Spirit…” This is a fulfillment of the words of the Lord Jesus in the Gospel of John: “If I go not away the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I go, I will send Him unto you” (John 16:7). It is by the Holy Spirit that the Lord Jesus is in us.

Those are the two major features of a living Christianity. They are two things which have opened up into two of the great doctrines of Christianity: Christ glorified, Christ in the presence of God, the Man in the Throne and all that that embodies and represents; and, on the other hand, the indwelling of Christ by the Holy Spirit. Everything in a living Christianity is gathered into those two things; you cannot get outside of them. It is marvelous that the word is used: “He… saw… Jesus” (Acts 7 vs. 55). This man whose name is mentioned for the first time at the end of this chapter, Saul, not so long afterwards had a similar vision. “I am Jesus”, said the glorified Lord to him on the Damascus road.

Satan thought he had triumphed absolutely when he succeeded in turning the first Adam away from God’s purpose, a Man in the glory, but this speaks of the absolute triumph of the Lord over what Satan thought to be his triumph. This is God’s answer: Jesus as the Man in the glory!

Then how will He bring the many sons to glory? “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” So that to be filled with the Spirit becomes necessary to the very purpose of God. Notice the effect in this model case! A Man in the glory, the Spirit filling, an instrument mirroring that Man in the glory. They looked upon his face, and it was as the face of an angel. Then: “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.” Is not that the character of the Man in the glory reproduced? Is not that conformity to the image of God’s Son?

What a contrast! What religion can do, and what Christianity can do! What tradition can do, and what revelation can do! That was Stephen. He beheld, he reflected, because he was filled with the Spirit.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

July 4

4 JUL – Waiting For the Son from Heaven

“Ye turned unto God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven.” Many people have failed to recognize that that is a part of the foundation of the Christian life, and that it is a part of the Gospel of our salvation, and it is fundamental to a really right kind of Christian life, such as is here. “… to wait for his Son from heaven.” What did that mean for them? We know what Paul has to say about the coming again of the Lord Jesus. Amongst a great many other things, it means this one thing, that everything of hope for us and for this world is bound up with the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. Apart from His coming and bringing in His kingdom, there is no hope. For the Thessalonians it implied that all the natural pouring out of their lives had been a hopeless thing; that they had no future really for which to live; that life and the world was a great enigma.

But when they came to the Lord they did so on this basis: God’s Son is coming again, and that will put everything right. Everything is bound up with Christ’s kingdom which is coming. It is, of course, one of those strange enigmas that the world still has false hopes of putting itself right. Someone has said that “all that we have learned from history is that we have learned nothing from history”, and that is just what is happening. We are learning that we have not learned anything, and yet men hold on for a better world. They are getting into deeper and deeper mire and perplexity, they do not see any way through, and yet all the time they are seeking expedients to save the situation and save the world, but it is a counsel of despair. The Word of God makes it perfectly clear that there is no hope for humanity and for this world apart from Jesus Christ being in the place of absolute Lordship in His kingdom. And these Thessalonian believers came to see that. They did learn something from history. What they learned was that it gets you nowhere except into more and more trouble, more perplexity, more and more despair. Then they saw that God’s Son is coming from the Heavens to set up His kingdom, introduce His reign, and all will be well.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

July 3

3 JUL – Turning To God from Idols

“Ye turned unto God from idols, to serve a living and true God.” That is the first stage of the Christian life. Now, although they were pagans formerly, in a pagan world with all its system of idol worship, and you might think that it is not quite right and hardly fair to compare people of a ‘Christian’ country with those pagans and to class them all together, I want to point out that in principle and in fact the classing of all unsaved people with those pagans is quite right. “Ye turned unto God from idols to serve” or “to worship”, for that is what the word here means “a living and true God”. Now, the principle here, a principle which has many forms in many different times and ages and parts of the world, is just the same. These people had been giving the “worthship”, for that is the meaning of worship, of their lives to other objects than God. Who is getting the worth-ship of your life – God, or… whatever else it might be? If you are not giving it to God, then you are giving it somewhere else, to something else, and that is idolatry. So the first stage of a true Christian life is this: the realization and recognition that God is worth your giving everything to Him. He is worthy of having the worth-ship of your life, of having laid at His feet all that you have and are.

Now, when Paul and his companions – you notice he speaks in the plural, “we give thanks” – came to these people, he set forth in the first place the worthiness of God to have their lives, and to have them and their all; and as he set forth the true and living God, they perhaps suddenly came to realize – “Oh, how different from what we have been doing! How unworthy has been the way that we have been going in comparison with this!” It is the seeing of the worthiness of God in Christ. We sometimes sing, as we seek to emphasize and reiterate the all-captivating worthiness of the Lord Jesus –

Marvel not that Christ in glory

All my inmost heart hath won.”

That is where it begins. Anything less than that, anything other than that as a beginning will find us out sooner or later. Here is One who, by reason of His self-manifestation and of the great work that He has done for our redemption and salvation, is worthy to have everything that we count worthwhile in life. That is very fundamental.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

July 2

2 JUL – Refusal of All Enticements

John Bunyan shows us that the pilgrims came to a place called the Enchanted Ground and the air in that country was so enervating and drowsy that they wanted to lie down and take a nap. It was all grown over with briars to slow up their progress and weary them so that they would succumb to the atmosphere. Mr. Feeble-mind has to be taken in hand very strongly by Greatheart, and Mr. Despondency has to be laid hold of by Mr. Valiant-for-Truth. In this Enchanted Ground there are many arbours in which you can turn aside and sleep, and some say that if you do, you may never wake up again in this life. There is one arbour which bears the name of The Slothful’s Friend; in another two men are asleep, Mr. Heedless and Mr. Too-Bold, and the pilgrims do their utmost to wake these two from their sleep, but they cannot be wakened.

And now note – for this is what I am getting at; Bunyan is here so full of wonderful insight and suggestion. ‘This Enchanted Ground is one of the last refuges that the enemy to pilgrims has; wherefore it is, as you see, placed almost at the end of the way, and so it standeth against us with the more advantage, for when, thinks the enemy, will these fools be so desirous to sit down as when they are weary? And when so like to be weary as when almost at their journey’s end? Therefore it is, I say, that the Enchanted Ground is placed so nigh to the land Beulah and so near the end of their race. Wherefore let pilgrims look to themselves, lest it happen to them as it hath done to these that are fallen asleep and none can wake them’. I say again that a spirit of energy is needed if we are to prevail.

As they journeyed over the Enchanted Ground, they espied a man upon his knees, and as they drew up closely to him, he suddenly sprang from his knees with new vigour and energy. They interrogated him and found him to be Mr. Standfast. They asked him why he was on his knees, and, a little abashed that they had seen him, he explained that having come to this Enchanted Ground, he was met by Madame Bubble who came and offered him all her enticements not to go on, inviting him to turn aside, to take a rest, to receive premature prizes before he reached the City; and, lest he should weaken under her influence, he fell to prayer and so was saved, and could go on.

What need we say more? Oh, there is the fullness. It is there, it is ours, but we need a spirit to lay hold, to persist; this spirit – “Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect.” “I count not myself yet to have apprehended (laid hold)”, “forgetting the things which are behind… I press on toward the goal unto the prize of the on-high calling”. That spirit alone will bring us into the experience of what is ours. It is a terrible thing to have been heir to a very great deal and yet never to have known what was ours. The Spirit of God would make us know. He would stir us to great earnestness in the quest that we may know, that we may possess the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

July 1

1 JUL – Unceasing Pursuit of the Goal

”I press on toward the goal unto the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, be thus minded: and if in anything ye are otherwise minded, this also shall God reveal unto you.” Phil 3

“I press on”. ‘I am not going to be brought to a standstill, I am going on’. Now this is exactly what the Spirit that was in Jesus Christ and that is in us will do.

The operations of the Holy Spirit, and the providential ways of God – strange, mysterious providences – these are all designed to keep us on the stretch. Any life that is really under the government of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, will never be allowed to settle down, will always be kept on the move – oh, yes, by strange means. The Lord knows how to deal with you and me. He knows the tendencies of our makeup, our constitution, our natures. He knows us exactly, every one of us, and (oh that we could believe it, really believe it always!) the way in which we are going is the way that the infinite, inscrutable wisdom of God knows to be the only way by which we shall come to a greater measure of the Lord. He vetoes much in order to economize, to ensure that we shall not be spreading ourselves too widely but be directed into the essential channels.

Yes, He deals with us because He knows us. His providential dealings with us and the Holy Spirit’s operations in us are to keep us on the move, on the stretch, with a holy discontent, for there is a great enemy to spiritual fullness. Do believe this, that there is no time in the life of a true child of God or servant of God when they retire, with their work at an end. We ought always to be receiving so much from the Lord that we just cannot retire and keep it all to ourselves. We ought to be like David, who said, “I was dumb with silence, I held my peace, even from good… My heart was hot within me; While I was musing the fire burned; then spake I with my tongue” (Psa. 39:2-4). No, the Spirit will keep us on the stretch, keep us in the way of the growing revelation of what is ours in Christ, so that we have more and more of Him, and cannot keep it to ourselves because it is too much.

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