austin sparks, book ministry, christian ministry, daily devotional

October 23

23 OCT – The Cause of Arrested Spiritual Development

The Apostle Paul was convinced that it was not because of any particular “problems” that the growth of the Corinthian church was arrested but that which lay behind them and much more. They were occupied with the externals of the faith both as to personal, domestic and church affairs. The Apostle goes to the heart of things and makes it perfectly clear that their trouble was arrested spiritual development. Thus he mentions some of the symptoms which prove this. The first one was partisanship. They had men in their eye. Human selection, favor, preference issuing from temperamental reactions caused them to “hive off,” form circles; parties around the mannerism, ‘line of things,’ or make-up of this man and that. Some would prefer the mystical and poetical to the practical; others the opposite. Some would take up with the subjective line of things and decline the objective and vice versa; and so on and on. Then there would be the men themselves with what was liked and what was disliked. Concerning all this, the Apostle says “I could not speak as unto spiritual but as unto babes, I fed you with milk” (3:1, 2). The fundamental fault with all this was that with them the Lord Jesus had not become pre-eminent; it was not Him always in view, to whom they gathered, whom they were seeking.

It was not a matter of what of the Lord Jesus had this one and that one to impart. It was the vessel not the treasure; the channel not the stream. In effect the Apostle says that it is a mark of real spiritual growth and maturity when the Lord’s people are not influenced by the instrument as such, but have their hearts directed toward Himself, and are asking all the time, ‘What has this one and that one of the Lord?’ So in this matter as in all others the remedy presented is a putting of the Lord Jesus in His place, which is the supreme place, and the place which excludes all human obtrusions, for or against.

The heads of these Corinthians were projected toward the servants of the Lord instead of their hearts being set on the Master. Divisions are so often childish, and when looked at from a point of greater spiritual advancement, are seen to be so. Then it is perfectly clear that human elements played all too great a part, and if only the Lord Himself had been the dominating reality and object of concern, things would have been different.

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October 22

22 OCT – Your Sin Will Find You Out

You may have the life of the two and a half tribes if you so desire, but you will never come into the governmental position, the meaning of the throne. What is more, the former will always prove to have been less than what God purposes, and the knowledge of it must sooner or later find us out. Was it not in that very connection the Lord’s servant said, “… be sure your sin will find you out.” That is not to say, ‘Be sure your sin will be found out.’ It will find you out. What is the meaning of that? Sometime or other you will come to say: ‘Well, I was a fool! I might have had far more than I have. God intended me to have it. This that I have is proving, after all, to be much less than what God called me unto.’ You will exclaim, just as Saul exclaimed, ‘I have played the fool!’ That is your sin finding you out. It is bound to come to that, to the recognition that God purposed much more than we, because of the conflict and the suffering involved, were prepared to accept.

However, the Lord will have a company in governmental fellowship with Himself. He will sift, and sift again, but He will have that company; and it is for us to recognize the fact that He has made that known to us. That is a matter of importance. Just pigeon-hole all the questions and problems that arise about others who have not had it made known to them, and face the fact that He has made it known to us. As Sovereign, God can do as He likes about these matters. He has made known to some (not to us alone) in the earth what is His full end, and the making of it known has constituted His call, His voice. When God has made known to us His mind we are left at once with a great responsibility; but I think, if we did but know it, we are even then in a peculiarly blessed position, although it does not always look like it.

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October 21

21 OCT – One Universal Spiritual Remedy

It is quite clear that every letter written by the Apostle Paul has some maladies as the occasion of it. That is to say there were things that were wrong in every place to which the letters were written, and that needed to be put right. The outstanding case is Corinth. The disorders and diseases there both individual and collective were many and great. While the Apostle referred to these specifically… and rebuked, reproved, exhorted, and warned concerning them… he knew quite well that they could never be cleared up as things in themselves. It was of no use to try to get a solution by discussion, debate, logic, personal persuasion, or threat. Very early in the first letter to them, his one all-covering Remedy is announced, or prescribed:

“I determined to know nothing among you save Jesus Christ… and Him crucified.”

In other words, Paul’s finally settled position was that a passion for Jesus Christ in terms of His Cross – that is in terms of love: the letting go of all personal interest, the yielding of all natural mindedness – will solve every problem and cure, every malady. Paul believed that if he could get those believers to become really captivated by a concern for Christ as the objective of an ever increasing devotion and self-surrender, all the evils and hurtful things would fade out. If something more than the initial and basic personal advantages of salvation were to fill the heart, so many of the unhappy conditions in individual and corporate Christian life would disappear. That is to say, if the Lordship of Christ were to be given its place and His fullness were to be the governing goal, life would be ever rising in ascendancy above the low level and be enlarging beyond the small and petty measure which is characteristic of so many.

Oh, for the ability to show how the Lordship of Christ in a life or in a church, and in all the churches, is the solution to every problem and difficulty! Will you ask the Lord to impress you firstly with this fact… and then to lead you into its reality. To this ministry, by His grace… and as helped by your prayers… we give ourselves until we with all saints “attain unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”

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October 20

20 OCT – Revelation Bound Up with Practical Solutions

You notice that the Apostles got their revelation for the Church in practical situations. They never met around a table to have a Roundtable Conference, to draw up a scheme of doctrine and practice for the churches. They went out into the business and came right up against the desperate situation, and in the situation which pressed them, oft-times to desperation, they had to get before God and get revelation. The New Testament is the most practical book, because it was born out of pressing situations. The Lord gave light for a situation. The revelation of Christ, we might say, in emergencies is the way to keep Christ alive, and the only way in which Christ really does live to His own. You understand what I mean.

Now then, that is why the Lord would keep us in situations which are acute, real. The Lord is against our getting out on theoretical lines with truth, out on technical lines. Oh, let us shun technique as a thing in itself and recognize this, that, although the New Testament has in it a technique, we cannot merely extract the technique and apply it. We have to come into New Testament situations to get a revelation of Christ to meet that situation. So that the Holy Spirit’s way with us is to bring us into living, actual conditions and situations, and needs, in which only some fresh knowledge of the Lord Jesus can be our deliverance, our salvation, our life, and then to give us, not a revelation of truth, but a revelation of the Person, new knowledge of the Person, that we come to see Christ in some way that just meets our need. We are not drawing upon an ‘it’, but upon a ‘Him’.

He is the Word. “In the beginning was the Word”, and the meaning of that designation is just this, that God has made Himself intelligible to us in a Person, not in a book. God has not first of all written a book, although we have the Bible. God has written a Person. In one of his little booklets, Dr. A. B. Simpson has this illustration, or illustrates this thing in this way. He says that on one occasion he saw the Constitution of the United States written, and it was written on a parchment. He was near to it, and could read all the details of the Constitution of the United States. But as he stood back from that parchment, some yards off, all he could see was the head of George Washington there on the parchment. Then he drew near again and saw the Constitution was so written in light and shadow as to take the shape of the head of George Washington. That is it. God has written the revelation of Himself, but it is in the Person of His Son, the Headship of the Lord Jesus, and you cannot have the constitution of heaven except in the Person, and the constitution of heaven is the Person in the shape of God’s Son.

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October 19

19 OCT – KNOWING CHRIST

It is not possible to have or know anything of all the fullness which God has shut up in His Son without the Holy Spirit’s revelation of that in an inward way. It has to be a miracle wrought by the Holy Spirit within every man and woman if they are to know anything of what God has shut up in Christ. That again summarizes John’s Gospel, for there at the center is a man born blind. He never has seen. It is not a case of restoration with him; it is a giving of sight. It is the first thing. It is going to be an absolutely new world for that man. Whatever he may have surmised or guessed or imagined, or had described to him, actual seeing is going to be something with a new beginning. It is going to be an absolute miracle, producing an absolutely new world, and all his guesses of what that world contained and was like will prove to have been very inadequate when he actually sees. Nothing is going to be seen save by the miracle wrought within.

(1) God has shut up everything of Himself in His Son.

(2) No one can know anything of that save as it is revealed. “No one knoweth the Son, save the Father, neither doth any know the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son willeth to reveal him” (Matt 11:27). Revelation can only come by choice of the Son.

… God always keeps the revelation of Himself in Christ bound up with practical situations. I want you to get that. God always keeps the revelation of Himself in Christ bound up with practical situations. You and I can never get revelation other than in connection with some necessity. We cannot get it by studying. When the Lord gave the manna in the wilderness (type of Christ as the bread from heaven) He stipulated very strongly that not one fragment more than the day’s need was to be gathered, and that if they went beyond the measure of immediate need, disease and death would break out and overtake them. The principle, the law, of the manna is that God keeps revelation of Himself in Christ bound up with practical situations of necessity, and we are not going to have revelation as mere teaching, doctrine, interpretation, theory, or anything as a thing, which means that God is going to put you and me into situations where only the revelation of Christ can help us and save us.

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October 18

18 OCT – God’s Answer to Declension

Why was the Gospel of John written? Was it written just as a record of the life of the Lord Jesus here on earth to go alongside of two or three other records, that there might be a history of the earthly life of the Lord Jesus preserved? What was the object in view? Well, just this: as John writes, things are not as they were, not as God meant them to be; they no longer represent God’s thought in and for His people. The order, the heavenly order, has broken down and is breaking down yet more. The heavenly nature has been forfeited and an earthly thing is taking shape in Christianity; the true life is being lost and the glory is departing. To that situation God reacts with a new presentation of His Son in a heavenly and spiritual way; for the features or characteristics of John are heavenliness and spirituality. Is that not true? Oh yes, here is a new bringing into view of His Son. But what a bringing into view! Not just and only as Jesus of Nazareth, but as the Son of Man, Son of God; God revealed and manifested in man, out from eternity with all the fullness of Divine essence that His people might see.

So we must get to the Holy Spirit’s standpoint in the Gospel by John, and in his other writings, and just see this, that God’s way of recovery, when His full and original thought has been lost and that heavenly revelation has departed, and the heavenly glory has been withdrawn, is to bring His Son anew into view; not to bring you back to the technique of the Church or the Gospel or the doctrine, but to bring His Son into view, to bring Christ again in the tremendousness of His heavenly and spiritual meaning before the heart-eyes of His people. That is the answer that is found in John to these conditions that we meet with in the New Testament, which so plainly shows that the Church was losing its heavenly position, and all sorts of things were coming in, and the whole thing was becoming earthly. What will God do? In what way will He save His purpose which seems to be so dangerously near being lost? He will bring His Son into view again. Remember God’s answer is always in His Son to every movement. Whether that movement be in the world as it heads up to Antichrist (God’s answer to Antichrist will be Christ in the full blaze of His Divine glory), or whether it be in the Church in declension and apostasy, God’s answer will be in His Son.

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October 17

17 OCT – Seeing Christ by Revelation

Now, the Resurrection and Pentecost seem to me to have meant just this one thing, the seeing of Christ. You remember when He was considered dead and buried, even disciples were in black despair and eclipsed of faith and hope, and some went on the way to Emmaus very sad indeed; and their words were, ”We hoped that it was He Who should redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21). But before the end of that episode was reached, we are told that He opened their understanding that they might know the Scriptures. Having taken up the Scriptures right from the beginning and spoken to them things concerning Himself, He opened their understanding, and it was just that that was marking His appearances during the forty days after His resurrection.

They were in some altogether new way coming to see Him. Oh no, not now physically merely that He was alive, that He had a body; it was not merely this that was being borne in upon them very powerfully. They were seeing Him Who He was; the mystery of His Person was breaking down. They were seeing Him, and the day of Pentecost seemed to bring that through to full birth. The forty days were moving up to that day, and then on that day by the coming of the Holy Spirit the thing was consummated, and in the full blaze of Who He was, the Church was born. It seems to me that the Church was born, yes, by the Holy Spirit, but by the Holy Spirit’s breaking open to men who Jesus was after all. It seems to me that is how everyone came into the Church. They saw by an operation of the Holy Spirit Who Jesus was. That is how Paul came in on the Damascus road; he saw who Jesus of Nazareth was. On the day of Pentecost, Peter stood up with the Eleven, as under the power of the Holy Spirit they opened their mouths, and the spontaneous declaration was all about Who Jesus was, and they are men in a new revelation.

The disciples went out in the power of having seen, having had their eyes opened to the Lord Jesus. It was as though they had been men moving in the shadows during those years, groping, sometimes feeling an assurance, a certain amount of certainty, but then questionings, uncertainties coming in, shadows all the time. But at last the heavens were rent, the blaze broke through, and they saw. It was in the light of that they were constituted witnesses, representatives. It was in the light of that that the Church was born. It was in the light of that that the Church went on its way so effectively. The fact was that wherever they came, it was the impact of God in Christ by their presence. Their presence stirred hell, because hell felt anew, God is here!

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