austin sparks, book ministry, christian ministry, daily devotional

August 25

25 AUG – The Mark of a Christian Life

The mark of a life governed by the Holy Spirit is that such a life is continually and ever more and more occupied with Christ, that Christ is becoming greater and greater, more wonderful as time goes on. The effect of the Holy Spirit’s work in us is to bring us to the shore of a mighty ocean which reaches far, far beyond our range, and concerning which we feel: Oh, the depths, the fullnesses, of the riches of Christ! If we live as long as ever man lived, we shall still be only on the fringe of this vast fullness that Christ is. That at once becomes a challenge to us before we go any further. These are not just words. This is not just rhetoric; this is truth. Let us ask our hearts at once: Is this true in our case? Is this the kind of life that we know? Are we coming to despair on this matter? That is to say, that we are glimpsing so much as signified by Christ that we know we are beaten, that we are out of this, and will never range all this. It is beyond us, far beyond us, and yet we are drawn on and ever on. Is that true in your experience? That is the mark of a life governed by the Holy Spirit. Christ becomes greater and greater as we go on. If that is true, well, that is the way of life.

The beginning: “In Him was life;” the middle: “I came that they might have life;” the end: “Believing, you may have life.” In that one word “life” we have the full answer to our question: ‘Why did Jesus Christ come into this world?’

Note one or two things: All the teaching and works of the Lord Jesus related to this thing that He called life – all His teaching and all His works were in relation to life.

The second thing to notice is this: Jesus demonstrated that to possess this life is a miracle, and He showed that it is impossible to have it without a miracle. To come to be possessed by this life is something supernatural.

The third thing we have to notice is: It is revealed by the Word of God that the possessing of this life is the basis of all God’s works. He can do nothing in us until we have this life. He has to stand back and say: ‘I can do nothing until I have My life in you.’ His life in us is the basis of all His work.

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August 23

23 AUG – Lordship Is the Key to Fullness

You look at Israel’s history. While in the wilderness for forty years, the one thing that was the issue being fought out was the Lordship of God: they were fighting with that matter of absolute submission and subjection to Him in their own hearts, their own minds, their own wills. For forty years that battle went on; and it was not until the Jordan made the great divide between that kind of thing and the coming of the Captain of the Lord’s host into His place; it was not until then that they moved on into the great fullness which God had intended for them. The inheritance was altogether frustrated while the battle of lordship went on. The inheritance was entered upon as soon as that lordship was established. Lordship is the key to fullness.

In the New Testament, it is just the same. Here you have it in the case of the Apostles, the twelve. You can see their defeat and their weakness and their failure and their poverty until Christ becomes Lord, absolute Lord; the Holy Ghost making Him Lord in them as He was Lord in Heaven and then they come into fullness! Pentecost – “Jesus Christ is Lord” – and then fullness!

Take Peter. You remember, Peter had to have a special battle over this. Fullness is a progressive thing. We do not enter upon it all at once, and every fresh measure of that fullness is preceded by some fresh conflict as to the Lordship of Christ, and Peter had several. Peter in Joppa on the housetop had a vision, a sheet let down from Heaven in which were all manner of four-footed creatures, reptiles, unclean beasts, and the voice saying, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” Peter said, ‘Not so, Lord; nothing unclean has ever passed my lips.’ And the thing was done thrice, the Lord was insistent; and Peter was wondering what the vision meant, when the messengers of Cornelius arrived from Caesarea. And what was his note there? Well, his note was: “He is Lord of all”. What happened? Peter entered into something bigger than he had ever had before; that is, he found a bigger Christ than he had known before. In recounting what happened, he says: ‘Who was I to withstand God?’

‘Who was I? The Lord took this thing in hand and showed Himself far bigger than myself and my tradition – He simply lifted me right out of my old bondages and limitations and landed me out of my depths altogether!’ It was all upon that one inward triumph, the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

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August 24

24 AUG – The Personal Lordship of Christ

… The Saviourhood of Christ is but a recovering thing in relation to His Lordship. The Lordship was the eternal intention of God concerning Him. The Saviourhood is in order to get back to the Lordship, to lead on to the recovery of the Lordship. He can never be actually Lord until He has saved the inheritance of which He is the eternally designated Lord; but when He is Lord, it means that He is Saviour, He HAS redeemed. The Lordship is more than the Saviourhood. And so, when you come on to God’s SUPREME ground – “hath made him a Prince and a Saviour” – then the way is open for God to take you right on, beyond conversion, beyond the infant stage of just being born again, on to ‘growing up into Him in all things’, on to the fullness of Christ. So they put the full testimony there, where all the rest was included, and thus there was a wide open way for all God’s intention.

Wherever you look in the Scriptures, you find that it is Lordship which is the secret of fullness. All the dealings of the Lord with us are not just to get us saved, but to make the Lordship of Christ real in us. Yes, all His dealings with us are to that end, and His dealings with us are personal dealings. Everything is going to be very personal in this matter. You and I, no matter who we may be, if we really come into the Lord’s hands, are going to be dealt with in such a way as to bring us to the place where Christ is Lord in our lives. It is going to be personal: for, after all, while the end is corporate and collective, it must of necessity be an individual thing between us and the Lord so that we know within our own hearts and experiences that God is working at a very real thing in this matter of making His Son Lord. It is going to be as personal with us as it was with Paul. It may not be in exactly the same way, but it will be just as personal.

“When we were all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking unto me in the Hebrew language…” I, me, and my own language, and by name, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” (Acts 26:14) It is going to be as personal as that with us; we are not going to pass in the crowd. You say, ‘Oh, Paul was an exceptional man, an exceptional case, outstanding; it can never be like that with me!’ Well, it is going to be. We may not go on a Damascus road and see a light from Heaven at noontide brighter than the sun. But it is going to be as personal.

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August 22

22 AUG – What is Keeping You Out of His Fullness?

Why was it that at the beginning there were such virile converts, marked from the outset by such a large measure of Christ? Why was it that then things happened on such a large and effective scale within the compass of a few days? Why was it that the churches grew and the Lord added unto them those who were being saved? Why could it be that in one day three thousand, and soon after as many again, were added? Why, in the course of one man’s lifetime, could the greater part of the then known world be evangelized and churches be established everywhere, and that upon a large measure of spiritual light and life? Why?

If you think about it, I am quite sure that you will be convinced that the answer is to be found in the testimony, the declaration born out of something which had happened and that testimony was to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. They proclaimed Him as Lord. “He is Lord of all.” The Lordship of Jesus Christ is the secret of fullness, and we never really move into the fullness of Christ until He is Lord.

I suppose almost any Christian, any really born-again child of God, would be willing to subscribe to the objective fact and say, “Jesus Christ is Lord”! But why, then, this state of things? Either what I am saying is entirely untrue, and the Lordship of Christ does not lead to His fullness, or else it means something more than objective truth; and I think the latter is the case. The real trouble is that in so many of His own He is not Lord. He may be Savior, but He is not Lord. The Lordship of Christ means in us a very deep and very drastic work. It means the overthrowing of every other lordship.

But the other lordships may not be in the form of outward things. The other lordships may be in our own wills. Just that strong-mindedness of ours may be the thing which occupies the throne in the place of Christ. The Lord Jesus is kept out of His place as Lord in us because of the very strength of our own natures, our desires, our affections, our likes and our dislikes, and all that realm of our human feelings. There may be that in our make-up which is thwarting and frustrating His Lordship and in so doing is just keeping us out of His fullness.

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[What is the Church – Video Bible Study (Session 1)]

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August 21

21 AUG – Is Your Knowledge of Christ Based on Friendship?

“No longer do I call you servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from my Father I have made known unto you.” John 15:15

Here is a knowledge from the Father through the Son which is based upon this element which is called ‘friendship’. “I have called you friends”. Surely that means that we have to come into a relationship with the Lord Jesus of a very deep, inward character of a very confidential nature, shall we say. There is something about that relationship which speaks of understanding born of the very closest communion. Someone may say to you about a friend of yours, that they said a certain thing or that they did a certain thing, and your rejoinder would be: ‘No! I am quite sure that so-and-so never said that or did that. I know them too well. I know that they would not say or do a thing like that.’

There you have touched the inner meaning of friendship. It is a knowledge which understands quite well what would be expected and not expected, what could come from that direction and what could not come from that direction. But that is a knowledge which is a deep, inside knowledge. You can never get that by observation; you can never come to that position by simply listening, or studying; you have to know, and when you know by communion, by living in touch with that one, you know instinctively what to expect and what not to expect. The Lord Jesus says that He takes the disciples into that relationship with Himself, and on that basis He opens His heart; that all things that He had heard from the Father He made known unto them, because of the relationship: “I have called you friends…”

What is the point of saying such things? You and I are not going to get the real knowledge of Christ by listening to addresses, by attending meetings. The value lies in the fact that we go away with what is said into the presence of the Lord, having a background relationship with Him. Things may be true, and of the greatest value as things for our spiritual help, but we have to work those things out in the secret with the Lord. Otherwise we shall be ‘meeting-mongers’; we shall simply be attending meetings and getting an accumulation of knowledge. The real value will lie in the time which we spend with the Lord on these things: it will be personal communion with the Lord in the secret place; it will be what is going on deep down in our hearts, between ourselves and the Lord. This knowledge is on the ground of what the Lord Jesus calls ‘friendship’.

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August 20

20 AUG – Imparting Christ to Others

Ministry (speaking now of service) is not telling out truths. A good many people have thought that ministry is preaching sermons, giving addresses, or talking Christian doctrine. That is not ministry. If that were ministry this world ought to have been turned inside-out and upside-down a thousand times over. If that were ministry, then every weekend ought to see this world revolutionized with the amount of preaching that is going on. Ministry is not talking even the most orthodox doctrine. Service is not giving out by word of mouth things which may be perfectly true about Christ. Ministry is bringing Christ and imparting Christ. It is ministering Christ. It is communicating Christ. There is all the difference between giving addresses and preaching sermons, and communicating Christ. The measure of the success of our ministry is the measure in which other people come to realize that they have had Christ ministered to them, and that they are the richer spiritually. That is not just mental gratification, intellectual satisfaction, but something deep down in the innermost being, which is Christ. The Apostle would put it this way: “As ye received Christ, so walk in him…” Not: ‘As ye heard about Christ’, but: “As ye received Christ…”

A ministry like that is usually costly, and when we speak about ministry let no one think that that belongs to a certain class. We are all to minister. The business of every child of God is to communicate Christ to others; and, in so far as you can, by a simple word, communicate Christ, you are a minister of Christ. The effect of our being here on this earth as the Lord’s should be that others should say: ‘I received something of the Lord through that one; I came into possession of something more of Christ through such-and-such.’

There will be one, and only one, hope for God’s people: their knowledge of Him in Christ… and the power of His resurrection as a present spiritual reality. Not their activities, enthusiasms, organizations, enterprises, creeds, “churches,” orthodoxy, etc., but HIMSELF. That time, which is now coming upon us though imperceptible to so many who are preoccupied with plans and programs, will make manifest the principle of the “one Body”, for each of the Lord’s children will feel keenly the need of the fellowship of another, no matter of what connection, so long as that other knows Him.

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August 19

19 AUG – Do You Know ABOUT Christ or Know OF Christ?

There is all the difference between a very large knowledge ABOUT Christ, and the smallest measure of the knowledge OF Christ. One may be immense in its range; the other may be very small in its measure. And yet the small thing may count for infinitely more than the immensity of the other.

The knowledge of Christ in a spiritual way is basic to everything in our lives as the Lord’s children. As we go on, and the Holy Spirit begins to unveil Christ in our hearts, then we know how true this is. We know that it is that which gives reality to the spiritual life, makes it a very real thing. It is that which establishes us, so that, while the adversities might turn us away from a creed, a doctrine, an accepted position, a profession of relationship, nothing can turn us away from a spiritual knowledge. Spiritual knowledge is a part of our being, and we can never separate ourselves from that. That is reality! Nothing less than that could have accounted for Paul going through to the end, when he saw his life’s work going to pieces about him. The very assemblies for which he had, so to speak, poured out his lifeblood, forsook him at last when all they in Asia turned away from him. There is nothing to account for his remaining, not only loyal to the Lord, but triumphant to the last, save the fact that he knew the Lord in a spiritual way. Reality is found there. And every other virtue and value lies in the same direction. It is what Christ is, being progressively disclosed to our hearts.

The day will come when most of us will be tested on this very thing, and under given tests the one thing that will become clear will be that a very great deal of our knowledge of the Lord was not knowledge after the Spirit, but knowledge which we had obtained by reason perhaps of having been born and brought up in Christian families, instructed from infancy; knowledge which we had obtained by reading good books, devotional literature; knowledge perhaps by all the ‘providences’, as we call them. They carried us through to a right place – the providences of birth and upbringing and association. And yet, unless they go further than that, the time will come when it will be proved that they lack the essential element in our relationship to the Lord. And from time to time the Lord does allow His winds of adversity to blow, He does take His winnowing fan and throw everything up into the air, and cause the wind to pass through, just to find how much there is of solid grain that will fall and remain uninfluenced by the wind, and just how much of the chaff will be carried away.

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