Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

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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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

October 5

5 OCT – The Faith That Takes Us Onwards

Twice in Chapter 11 of Hebrews it is said that by their faith they received a good report. The elders received a good report (v. 2). Then, toward the end, it says they all received a good report (v. 39). What is a good report? You know in the next chapter, Chapter 12, we are children at school, children of a family. Father is dealing with us as with sons, and it is all part of this whole argument: My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord and so on. It is all for this good report. I do not believe that it is true in the case of those referred to in Chapter 11 that the good report related to what they achieved, what clever people they were, what they were able to do in their lifetime. That was not the good report. What is the report for? No, it was not because they achieved so many wonderful things. The good report was this: they trusted in the Lord and did their utmost through faith.

They did not say, ‘Oh, well, this will never be realized in our lifetime; we shall never be able to see this done; it is no use! It needs better people than we are!’ No, they faced the whole thing, and saw that, in the main, the thing was humanly impossible. Only God could do it. But that did not make them sit back and say, ‘Oh, I can never be in this, and never have a part in this: I can never be of any use in this!’ No, they believed God, they trusted the Lord, and then they put themselves right into it with all their hearts and lived in a positive trust in God. They did all that faith could lead them and make them to do. Faith is always an active thing. The good report was that they trusted the Lord and got down to it, gave themselves to it, however difficult things were.

Faith is going to determine which of two things is going to characterize us. This is the real point. It is either going to be that we are living under a terrible paralysis, as altogether petrified through confusion, perplexity, inability to understand, being unable to disentangle, to sort things out, to see straight and see clearly, to know what is meant by happenings. That means utter paralysis, simply standing with our hands on our hips, helpless and hopeless. That is the effect of the absence of a positive faith. The only way of life and deliverance from such a paralysis is a deliberate faith in God which causes us to take the attitude that we are going on with God, understanding or not understanding, explaining or not explaining, having light or having no light; we are going right on with God on the basis of what God has done in us, made real in us, of what God Himself is to us by what He has effected in us. We are going on!

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

October 4

4 OCT – The Faith of the Saints of Old

Hebrews Chapter 11 gives us a remarkable account of the Old Testament saints. As a result of their faith they came to a place where they could and did believe for something which must eventuate, though in many cases, in the majority of cases, it never did eventuate in their lifetime. But the great statement here in this chapter is that this made no difference. They had come to such a position with the Lord, in this knowing of Him, that they could all die not having received the promises. All died in faith. You see, they did not even at the last have the stimulus of seeing the thing materializing; but they were able to die in faith. It may be somewhat easier to live in faith, if by that you mean that you expect the thing to be realized in your lifetime. But the essence of faith is ‘This must be! It is a part of God, it is God Himself, and whether I live to see it or not, that makes no difference to faith; it will be! And I live now, not to see it in my lifetime, but I live now in relation to it to be realized at some time in the purpose and intention of God’.

Then we have a further wonderful statement. They received not the promises, they died in faith, but they looked on, they looked on to us. Faith carried them beyond their own lifetime, and the statement is that they could not “be made perfect”. That word ‘perfect’ is very interesting. It simply means they could not come to the consummation, the full growth of their faith. That thing could not reach its ultimate end until we came in. It demanded us. They, apart from us, could not reach the consummation of their faith; and faith goes on and sees that there are yet things to be brought in by God for the realization of that which is in our hearts, for which we are living, for which we are laboring, for which we are suffering, for which we are being patient. Faith goes right on to the end and says, ‘It may not be in my time; there may be more things to be brought in yet to make the consummation possible, but eventually, my faith in God will be vindicated, and the thing will be realized!’

Faith is a big thing, a comprehensive thing, and a real purity of faith means we do not just live to see things in our time, so that, should there be any doubt about our seeing them in our time, faith would go out. That is not the essence of faith at all. We have to have an after-life faith, a long view faith, which is not made less active because the prospect of a full realization in our time begins to be overshadowed. That is the basis and nature of faith here.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

October 3

3 OCT – The Paramount Issue of Life and Death

The main issue in the Testimony of Jesus, in and through and by His Blood, is the issue of life and death, or death and life. That is the main issue. Oh, do follow me closely, for you will see in a moment some of the great content of this thing. The main issue in the Testimony of Jesus as by the Blood of Jesus is the issue of LIFE AND DEATH. If the Lord’s people recognized that enough, they would have their ground set and fixed, they would know exactly what their business is in the world, and they would have a full explanation of all that which they meet in the spiritual realm when they become related to the Testimony of Jesus. IT IS THE ISSUE OF LIFE AND DEATH. It is not only of sin and sanctification, and it is not only the issue of an old man and a new man, but in all that, and over all that, and around all that is the far bigger issue, the issue of life and death. And until this main issue is recognized, the whole question of sin, and of the new man, and the new race, and the bringing in of the new creation, and of the escape of men and women from the power of Satan unto God could never be. You will be held up until you recognize the main issue.

Where does the whole question of sanctification begin? Where does the whole question of a new creation begin? Where does the whole question of the emancipation of souls from the grip of Satan begin? It all begins at the place where the power of death is met. It is not sins with which you and I are contending, nor merely with the old creation. We can be locked up and bound and tied by the absorption and obsession with our old man and never get anywhere. We can be locked up and tied hand and foot with all kinds of truth and teaching about sanctification, the question of sins or sin specifically, and get nowhere because we are not recognizing the main issue. The main issue is death, the power of death, and we have got to come to that central issue of the Blood of the Lord Jesus – the question of life and death. That is the Cross at its heart. Unless the Lord had settled that issue once and for all in His Blood in the Cross then all other matters would have failed entirely and there would have been no complete Gospel.

Then, that being the Cross and the content of the Cross, we see what the Testimony of Jesus is in essence. It is the Testimony to life, making possible a new creation. That Testimony, when it really is recognized at its centre, is a Testimony concerning life which is brought into being upon the basis of death being destroyed, death having its power broken, and him that had the power of death being nullified.

When that Testimony comes into being, and it is recognized, and anyone enters into that Testimony and makes that their testimony, what happens? Immediately the murderer is brought out – he who, as the Lord Himself said, was a “murderer from the beginning”, always has acted in that capacity towards any who were called into the Testimony of Jesus, whether in the Old Testament or in the New.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

October 2

2 OCT – Have You Come Out of the Ground of the Natural Life?

There is the issue of Christ’s death and resurrection into which we are placed by faith, what we have called identification with Christ in death burial and resurrection; for that is what Paul laid down in calling upon the disciples to be baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. All the doctrine of identification with Christ in death and resurrection is gathered up in baptism. Dear believer, even though it be at a late hour in your life, you must get off the old ground of the old natural life. If that is governing, if that is controlling, if that is your main or sole sphere, you must get out of it, and you can only get out of it through death and resurrection.

The death of the Lord Jesus was His exodus. “Moses and Elijah… spake of his decease (his exodus) which he was about to accomplish” (Luke 9:31). What an exodus! Emancipation, release from all the limitations of this life as to time, space, and everything else! All those limitations broken down by His Cross! We are released by the Cross. If we really know the Cross as an experience, as something into which, by faith, we definitely stand for the end of the control, government, and limitation (as well as of all the evil) of the old natural life, and if by faith we lay hold on Christ risen, as being ourselves risen in Him, we are released.

Oh, is not that the need of so many Christians to be released, to be loosed, to be set free inside? They are tied up. We have to say of certain people, ‘They are all tied up in themselves’. The Holy Spirit comes upon the ground of resurrection-union, and all the rest follows. Let us challenge our own hearts. Are we in the realm of those still tentative, still suspended, still tied up, still governed by our natural life and make-up? Then there is something wrong; and it may be in your case, as it was in mine, that after a good many years of believing, of being the Lord’s servant, the thing happened. I am always hesitant to say that I received the Holy Spirit then, because that would be to state a kind of doctrine to which everybody else ought to conform; but I know the thing happened. The day I apprehended in a new way the meaning of Christ in death, burial and resurrection, the Holy Spirit followed on that and did something in me. It has been going on increasingly ever since and still has to go a very long way, but that was the turning point.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

October 1

1 OCT – The Supernatural Work of the Spirit

(This) brings (us) to a supernatural basis as to resources – that we are not left to our own resources, to draw only upon our own life. No, when we are at an end, that is not the end; when we are spent, that is not exhaustion. Oh, let this come to us as a real challenge! So often we take ourselves as the measure of things. ‘Oh, I am so tired, I feel so bad, I do not feel I can go to the meeting’, and so we stay away, taking our own condition as being all that there is to count on. There is another level on which to live, another basis; and if you like to put it to the test, if you really have received the Holy Spirit you can lay hold of the Holy Spirit in the moment of most utter weakness and find yourself capable of meeting a tremendous demand, of standing up to something for which you are totally unable in yourself. There is no place, and it is altogether wrong, for any Christian to say, ‘Well, I cannot, therefore I do not try; I am made like this and I have not got this gift and that, and I have not this qualification and that’ – and thus to settle down and become neutral. I am saying to you that if you have received the Holy Spirit, such an attitude is wrong and unnecessary.

When the Holy Spirit is present, we are put upon a supernatural basis for resources, and we can prove again and again that when we have absolutely nothing, and it would be utter madness and folly for us to essay, we can lay hold of God the Holy Ghost and go through triumphantly and come out at the other end with more life than we had at the beginning – contrary to nature, supernatural.

I said I am talking about a fact, not a theory, of ‘a second blessing’; and I can speak to you out of personal experience of the fact. I know what I am talking about. It is a fact. The Holy Spirit within does mean another level for resource, which is not just our natural level; we are not left to ourselves; so do not contemplate any proposition from the standpoint of what you are or are not in yourself. That standpoint in itself may be perfectly true; but there can be a laying hold upon the Lord by faith, saying, “I can do all things in him that strengtheneth me” (Phil. 4:13). You are surprised at what you can do if you know this great reality of the indwelling Spirit; you are capable of things you never thought you would ever do. It ought to be like that. That is the romance of a true life in the Spirit.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

September 30

30 SEP – The Consummating Work of the Holy Spirit

There is something that consummates relationship to Christ. Apart from that something, Christian life is largely negative or neutral, in a position or state of suspension, indefinite, tentative, as though there is something more yet to happen. The disciples had believed, but there was something yet that needed to be. That is how it works out; there is no doubt about it. There are multitudes who have believed that Jesus is the Christ, believed in the facts of His birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension, and even of His coming again, and much more of the Christian doctrine and, having believed, they have come into a certain relationship with Him; and yet there is a pause, there seems a lack of something, and as time goes on, that lack becomes more accentuated, more apparent, more real to those concerned and to others who know them. In the Church they are either negatives or neutrals, or somehow suspended, tentative. You feel that something has to happen to them, something is needed.

Paul asked a question in this form, “Did ye receive the Holy Spirit when ye believed?”  – for this is the proper translation; not, “Have ye received the Holy Spirit since ye believed?” which implies that some kind of relationship with Christ is possible without receiving the Holy Spirit. That seems to me to be implicit in this very question. Paul at once regarded these disciples as believers, but he had a question about them and put his question to them.

He at once sought to get to the root of it and to have it put right; and it was found to be that, though they had believed – had accepted certain truths which resulted in their accepting Jesus – they were not right out liberated, regnant, effective. Something still had to take place. Their relationship with Christ had to be in some way brought to a fullness, a completeness.

This consummation places life on an altogether new basis. Indeed, it places life upon what we call a supernatural level. There is no doubt about it in the case of those mentioned in the New Testament. Witness was borne that this does bring in supernatural features and factors, and puts life on that level. The Holy Spirit consummates relationship to Jesus Christ.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

September 29

29 SEP – The Awfulness of Pride

The whole meaning of Christ’s coming into this world is bound up with the matter of pride and humility; His very coming from glory. Somewhere, somehow, before He arrived, He “emptied himself” (Phil. 2:7). He spoke to the Father later of the glory He had with Him before the world was (John 17:5). He had laid aside all that; He had emptied Himself. And then His strange – ah, yes, very strange until we have this key – His strange entry into this world, the circumstances of it all related to His coming and His whole time here. “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the heaven have nests [lit. roosts]; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head” (Matt. 8:20). It is all this one issue. Some tremendous thing is being fought out and dealt with, some immense thing. The whole meaning of His coming, His condescension, self-emptying, birth, life, death and the whole explanation of the experiences of His people, is all centered in this one matter. The discipline, the chastening, as it is termed, the Lord’s dealings with us, is centered in one thing: it is all related to the purpose for which Christ came, and how He came and how He accomplished the purpose.

And, further, the whole nature and vocation of the Church is centered in this one thing. The Church that is going to serve the eternal counsels of God will never be a Church of pride, self-glory, worldly glory, worldly power, worldly praise. It will be, ever and always, what it was at the beginning; something that the world will not look upon with praise, but will always look upon with contempt. That is essential to its vocation, for its vocation is positively to displace the world, and its temper and spirit and standards; to do something spiritually in this universe to rid it of that evil thing which has been its plague and curse from Adam onward.

It does not need any argument to show that the cause of wars, the cause of all the trouble, is pride – somewhere, somehow. No wonder then the phrase occurs: “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8). This is not something subsequent, taking place late in the history of this world. From the foundation of the world the Lamb was slain.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

September 28

28 SEP – God’s View on Man’s Pride

It is not just that the Lord wants people of a certain kind and type; not just that He wants us to be of a certain nature. He created man for a great destiny, and this thing pride came in and made it impossible for man to fulfil that destiny. So He has secured it in a Man utterly different from us, the Lamb slain, the Man who emptied Himself, the Man who became obedient unto death, yes, such a death as the Cross, the last word in shame, in despicability; and now He says to us, “Have this mind in you” (Phil. 2:5). I think the greatest conjunction in all the Bible is there. “Wherefore… God highly exalted him, and gave unto him the name which is above every name” (Phil. 2:9) – “Wherefore …” – all that leads up to that and all that issues from that. Two vast realms of meaning and value are linked by that conjunction “wherefore”. But – ‘this is the way the Master went’. Well, we cannot do what He did, or fulfil all that He fulfilled, but we are called to drink of the cup which was His cup.

Now this is not a word, perhaps, of great inspiration, but I feel it to be a word of very great importance. This must be true of us individually. There must also be a corporate humility. This is the way along which the Lord will commit Himself. He will never give us anything to feed our flesh, to enlarge and strengthen our natural life. He will hold us to the way that keeps us safe where that is concerned. How wonderfully the Bible becomes alive when you look at it in this way! It was Adam’s sin, Israel’s sin, the sin of us all. “By reason of the exceeding greatness of the revelations… that I should not be exalted overmuch, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, that I should not be exalted overmuch” (2 Cor. 12:7); that was making a man safe for great revelation, undercutting pride.

Yes, this is an important word; it explains a lot. But let us remember that the Lord always has positive ends in view, not negative. Though His ways may seem to be destructive, even annihilating ways, He has always in view and not in the far view only, but as quickly as possible, as soon as possible that position where He can Himself let go, so to speak, His own fears, His own reserves; and say, ‘I have found that to which I can give Myself without fear’. May it be like that with us.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

September 27

27 SEP – The Lord’s Dealings are Based on Our Pride

On the one side, it is terribly true: “Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord” (Prov. 16:5). “The haughty he knoweth from afar” (Ps. 138:6). It all sprang out of that proud heart that lifted itself up and said, “I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; …I will be like the Most High” (Isa. 14:13, 14). With that I, all the trouble began, and that one bit his poison into the race. The poison of the human race is pride, and it has come all the way down. It is sometimes almost untraceable: we are not able always to trace it out in all its forms, because pride has what we might call negative aspects as well as positive. There are, of course, the obviously, manifestly proud, the ambitious, the assertive, the self-important, the self-sufficient. But there are negative aspects – and I use that word with regard to pride very carefully, because pride is positive whatever form it takes. It is an ugly thing. A lot of our murmuring is pride; a lot of tears are pride which we think is humility. A lot of our criticism of other people springs from pride: we think we could do better, we could go one better, setting ourselves up as the judge, the critic: pride is at the root. Very much of our poor, miserable tone is, after all, pride. Oh, how subtle and serpentine a thing this is! It is there. So the Lord has to stand back.

On the other hand, look at humility. “To this man will I look” – that is the beginning, the Lord even looking in anyone’s direction –“even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit” (Isa. 66:2), and He dwells with them (Isa. 57:15). And “the meek will he guide in judgement: and the meek will he teach his way” (Ps. 25:9). And “the meek shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5). It is like that all the way through; vindication is on that basis. “Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth” (Num. 12:3): and you know when that was said at the time when his position was disputed, and God appeared at the entrance of the tabernacle and answered the challenge on the ground of the meekness of His servant. God stands by and vindicates the meek.

I say the whole Bible is founded on this issue. What a vital matter this is! Is not the Lord justified in taking any steps to clear up that situation – breaking, emptying, humbling, withholding, deferring, delaying; in any way bringing us to nought, to a place of utter dependence, where there is nothing we can rely upon at all but the Lord Himself? Is He justified? It is a tremendous process. It is a very real, very devastating work: and the very fact that we suffer so much shows how deep and real it is.

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