Monday, January 31, 2011

THE FLESH COUNTS FOR NOTHING

NOTHING OF THE FLESH WILL COUNT.


"The Spirit gives life, the flesh counts for nothing."  --Jesus, Matt. 6:63


There is so much flesh in our normal striving after God.  Christ came to bring Spirit and Life.  Now the flesh counts for nothing, as He says to us today. 


Are you weak physically?  
Are you old?  
Are you young and inexperienced?  
Are you talented and strong?  
Are you sick?  
Are you poor?  
Are you rich and endowed with position and influence?
Are you man?  Woman?  Child?  
Are you in the East or in the West, North or South?  
Are you educated or uneducated?  


None of this matters, once Christ comes.


You are hearing Him say what drove many away from Him.  At this point in His ministry, Jesus laid out the hard truth, which was that we must eat and drink of Christ's flesh and blood, His Way, if we are to follow Him.  Read John 6:25-70.  Most of His followers wouldn't accept this teaching.  Just as most who claim to be with Christ today do not accept it.  And so are not really following Christ as He requires.  


Jesus was disregarded by many because He did not have the marks of what they thought a King should be.  They were looking for the things of flesh.  Instead, He came without the physical and educational and social and economic marks of worldly kingship.  He came without worldly titles or pedigrees.  He came without fanfare, into a rural area with only shepherds to witness the angels sing.  He came without money, being willing to live as a common carpenter.  He came without education, without religious schooling.  Even His ministry was humble, without marketing or a large following.  He came like many of us, without what the world thinks is needed to be successful.


Yet He says that the flesh counts for nothing.


What does this mean?  It means what He says.  That when Christ comes to us, and we come to Him, and we abide in Him, and He abides in us, that we can do anything that God wants to do through us.  There are no longer limitations of earthly nature.  We now live the life of Christ, who lives within us by His power.


Today, like Christ, you may have none of the things the world thinks are significant and count for something.  However, you count in the Kingdom, and have a place of honor at the banqueting table of Christ.


See John 15 for a complete look at this life.  Jesus tells us there that the flesh counts for nothing, and that we will accomplish spiritual feats, not by anything we bring in the flesh, but by what He brings into us.  By the Spirit of God we will conquer the uselessness of flesh, and be amazed by what Christ does in us and through us by that Spirit.


We are going to produce fruit that will last.  Fruit of righteousness in an evil and unbelieving world.  Fruit that the Father wants.  Not the useless fruit of the flesh, with its human pride of achievement.


Today, don't be chasing after anything of this world.  Let Christ dwell in your heart by faith, and the fruit of that dwelling will be obedience to His Word, and spiritual fruit that brings glory and honor to Him.  

Saturday, January 29, 2011

ONE THING I DO

ONE THING I DO

Zac Poonen

"But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss
for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord:
for whom I have suffered the loss of all things,
and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,
and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness,
which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ,
the righteousness which is of God by faith:
That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection,
and the fellowship of his sufferings,
being made conformable unto his death;
If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect:
but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also
I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended:
but this one thing I do,
forgetting those things which are behind,
and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
I press toward the mark for the prize
of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
Phil. 3:7-14.

Let us first of all remind ourselves that these words of the apostle were not written by a young enthusiast starting out on the Christian road. They are the testimony of a mature Christian towards the close of a rich and full life. Thirty years had passed since Paul's conversion. During those years God had used him to establish many churches, mightily attesting his ministry with signs and miracles. From the start, Paul had spent himself unstintingly in the work of the gospel, traveling constantly and undergoing great hardships. He had come to know the reality of victory over sin as he grew in likeness to his Lord. And among his many joys he had had one unique experience of being, as he put it, lifted up into  heaven to receive remarkable revelations of spiritual truth.

Yet at the end of all this, he states that he still has not attained to all that God had purposed for his life. Here is one of the greatest Christians of all time saying towards the end of his life that he still needs to press on to the goal. To most believers, alas, salvation begins and ends with the new birth and its assured escape from Divine judgment. Not so for the apostle, nor indeed for anyone else who seeks, like him, to be a true disciple of Christ. Here in this passage he declares his firm belief that Christ had laid hold of him with a purpose. He, in return, was determined to lay hold of that purpose at any cost. This is a tremendous and solemn truth, that when the Lord lays hold of us at conversion, it is with a purpose extending far, far beyond just the saving of our souls out of hell fire and into heaven. If , so mature a man as the apostle Paul had to say at the end of thirty years of untiring Christian service that he had not yet attained, but had still to strive to fulfill all of God's purpose for his life, what a vast thing that purpose must be.

Paul goes even further in this passage. To him everything that the world considers as precious is worthless rubbish, when compared to this supreme objective of grasping the purpose of God and fulfilling it. He considers this a prize worth giving up everything in the world for(Phil. 3:14). When we look around us and see believers coveting worldly possessions and clinging to material things, giving these a greater place in their lives than the things of God, we are forced to conclude that their Christianity is very far removed from Paul's.

It is a mark of spiritual infancy to think of salvation only in terms of an insurance policy to escape the flames of Hell. When we mature spiritually, we realize that God has saved us in order that we might walk each day in the pathway that He has already planned for each one of us from eternity (Eph.  2:10). That  pathway was what Paul called God's purpose for his life. If we are satisfied with having received His grace, but are uncommitted to fulfilling His will for our lives, then no matter how thoroughly evangelical we may be, we shall go through life without accomplishing anything of lasting value to God. Of course the Devil's first aim is, by one means or another, to blind people to the grace of God in Christ Jesus, thus preventing them from being saved (2 Cor.  4:4). But if he does not succeed there, then his next aim is to blind that new believer to the fact that God has a very definite plan for him. To a large extent he has succeeded here. There are thousands of true believers who never seek the will of God with any degree of earnestness, even in major decisions that they make in their lives.

The Christian life is depicted in this passage in Philippians as one in which we have to be continually pressing on. No degree of spiritual maturity attainable on earth will ever absolve us from this need of constant urgency. It is because many believers have neglected this lesson that they have no living testimony. Their only testimony relates to an experience in the distant past when on a blessed day they perhaps raised their hand or signed a decision-card in some evangelistic meeting. That was wonderful, but nothing has happened since! Prov. 24:30-34 with its picture of a garden gone to waste, describes the condition of the man who relaxes after his salvation. A garden requires constant weeding and caring, if it is to be guarded against weeds and nettles - and so does the human soul.

I think it was John Wesley who made it a rule in the early Methodist testimony meetings that no one was to give a testimony that was more than one week old. Anyone who had no story to tell of the Lord's dealings with him during the previous seven days, was to consider himself a backslider. How many of us can stand that test? Would we have to sit glumly silent in a meeting of that nature?

Notice Paul's words in Phil. 3: 13, 14: "This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." Here we have one more of the priorities for the Christian. Understanding God's purpose and pressing on to attain it is not an optional extra for the spiritual elite. It should characterize the life of every true child of God.
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Thursday, January 27, 2011

THE MONEYCHANGERS ARE ALIVE AND WELL

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:


Reading Mark 11:15-18 this morning, I'm amazed at the clear parallel between the temple in Christ's day, and Christ's Living Temple today.  


God's people are being built into a Living Temple, with each of us who are in Christ being a living stone, full of the Spirit of God, being built up together in the fullness of Christ into a spiritual dwelling for Him.


When Jesus came into the physical temple courts in Jerusalem, He was disgusted and moved to action by the buying and selling going on within it.  They had turned God's temple, His dwelling, into a marketplace.


So today, men turn God's living temple into a disgusting and self-focused place for the buying and selling of all kinds of things.  We have ignored our Lord's mandate, and He is going to act again as He did then.  Our blatant disregard for His Word has meant we have allowed those who want money, and fame and comfort from the gospel to profit personally from their "ministries" and to make a mockery out of God's house.  We also believe it's acceptable for men and women to build their own kingdoms within the Kingdom of God, with giant organizations that require the constant changing of money among the people of God.  Instead of glorying in the holiness of God, and focusing on Christ, and feeding one another, and clothing one another, and caring for one another in the Body, we are buying and selling constantly to keep ourselves in comfort, with our warm and cozy church complexes, and our large retinue of servants, meaning our pastors and administrators who feed off the churches.


Christ demands that we stop.  Those of us who seek Him will seek to worship Him in Spirit and in Truth, and to make His house, this Living Temple He inhabits, a house of prayer again.  We must learn this truth about the Body of Christ, or He will discipline severely those who flaunt His authority, as the religious Jews did in His day.


Love in the Lord Jesus Christ to all who focus on Him, and exalt Him today.


A. Brother

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

FOR THE LOVE OF THE BRETHREN

There is only one thing that counts for us today, and that is Christ.  He is all, and in all.  He is Lord, and that right now, not at some future time.  We live in Him, and move in Him,  and have our very beings in Him, many without even recognizing that He exists.  When we breathe, we are only breathing because He gives us breath.


Yet there are many who "live as enemies of the cross of Christ" as Paul states. (Phil 3:18)
Many among us who claim Christ, may go to church, may talk of being Christians, yet who chase after worldly things, as I did for many years.  These are not my brethren.  


You who don't make your bellies your gods, in other words, your appetites of the flesh do not drive and control you, are my brethren.  You who seek Christ above all are my brethren.  You who long to know all of Christ, to walk only by His Light, and His Word, who seek to do the works of Him who sends you every day, you are my brethren.


Sadly, many today defame the name of their Lord, who doesn't know them because they haven't begun to rest in Him, and lay down the heavy yoke of sin and pride and religious Christianity they have taken upon themselves.  They believe their striving will result in God's approval, or at least they hope that it will.  So sad.  For no striving at all on our part will win God's approval.


Only our focus and love for Him, and His Son, will win His approval...and love is what He wants from us.  A love that proves itself by obedience, walking "in the Light as He is in the Light". (1 John 1)


Today, I pray for all of us this focus on Christ alone.  He is the Father's focus, and the reason for all He does.  He is our only hope.  The shreds and tatters of religious Christianity will hang limp from dead hands in the end of all things.  There will be no endorsement of any religious striving from Christ, the King, when He leads His Kingdom armies in triumph over His foes, and we stand before His throne. 


Shed your tattered garments of religion and seek Christ today.


A. Brother

FOR THE LOVE OF THE BRETHREN

There is only one thing that counts for us today, and that is Christ.  He is all, and in all.  He is Lord, and that right now, not at some future time.  We live in Him, and move in Him,  and have our very beings in Him, many without even recognizing that He exists.  When we breathe, we are only breathing because He gives us breath.


Yet there are many who "live as enemies of the cross of Christ" as Paul states. (Phil 3:18)
Many among us who claim Christ, may go to church, may talk of being Christians, yet who chase after worldly things, as I did for many years.  These are not my brethren.  


You who don't make your bellies your gods, in other words, your appetites of the flesh do not drive and control you, are my brethren.  You who seek Christ above all are my brethren.  You who long to know all of Christ, to walk only by His Light, and His Word, who seek to do the works of Him who sends you every day, you are my brethren.


Sadly, many today defame the name of their Lord, who doesn't know them because they haven't begun to rest in Him, and lay down the heavy yoke of sin and pride and religious Christianity they have taken upon themselves.  They believe their striving will result in God's approval, or at least they hope that it will.  So sad.  For no striving at all on our part will win God's approval.


Only our focus and love for Him, and His Son, will win His approval...and love is what He wants from us.  A love that proves itself by obedience, walking "in the Light as He is in the Light". (1 John 1)


Today, I pray for all of us this focus on Christ alone.  He is the Father's focus, and the reason for all He does.  He is our only hope.  The shreds and tatters of religious Christianity will hang limp from dead hands in the end of all things.  There will be no endorsement of any religious striving from Christ, the King, when He leads His Kingdom armies in triumph over His foes, and we stand before His throne. 


Shed your tattered garments of religion and seek Christ today.


A. Brother

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

THOUGH HE BRINGS GRIEF, HE WILL SHOW COMPASSION

Today let's not harden our hearts, though our Father discipline us for our wanderings and sinfulness.  When He does, it is out of love.  Some of us this very day are going to face extreme difficulty because of past decisions, even because of sins that have already been forgiven.


What do we do when we face these?  So many Christians look down on others who face the consequences of their sins.  So many around us feel superior to those who struggle through the mess of their lives, which was created by our own disobedience and bad decisions.  So many of "God's people" turn away in embarrassment.  So many of them say inside, 'I'm glad I'm not like that person', just as the Pharisee looked down upon the tax collector.


But remember, it was the tax collector, who cried out to God in utter repentance, and in his need for God, who Jesus said went away justified.


Today, let us cry out to the Lord in our difficulty and need, whether it was caused by our past sins or not.  He will abundantly pardon.  He will have compassion upon us.


He is not like men, who judge harshly, without thought of our good.  He will finish what He started in us, if we remain faithful to Him and His Word.


"For men are not cast off by the Lord forever.  Though He brings grief, He will show compassion, for great is His unfailing love.  For He does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the sons of men."  Lam. 3:31-33


Seek the Lord's face today.  Don't run away, or hide away in fear.  Face the day with Christ, your strength and your song.  Seek His Kingdom first, even in the face of past wrongs, and hard things that come as a result.


"Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning.  Great is Your faithfulness."  Lam. 3:21-23


Your Brother,
A. Brother







Monday, January 24, 2011

THE INDESCRIBABLE GRIEF OF LOSS

THE INDESCRIBABLE GRIEF OF LOSS
A. Brother

“The Lord had made proclamation
to the ends of the earth:
‘Say to the Daughter of Zion,
See your Savior comes!’…
They will be called the Holy People,
the Redeemed of the Lord;
and you will be called Sought After,
the City No Longer Deserted.”
Isa. 62:11,12

Some of you know the grief of having lost or being lost.  By this I mean you’ve know the intense grief of losing someone close, or you know the intense grief of being lost yourself, and not having anyone search for you.

This grief is indescribable to anyone who has not suffered it.  The sadness, the emptiness, the pain is beyond words. 

This is the pain in the heart of God this morning as He is separated from so many of His People.  The Daughter of Zion is His Holy Nation, the Redeemed of the Lord, whom He has called from every tribe, nation, language group, culture, level of society, and from among men, women, children, old, young, rich, poor, educated and uneducated.  This Daughter is lost, and He is seeking her.  His great heart, the Heart of all Hearts, is broken with grief at His Daughter’s waywardness.  She is caught in worldliness, and doesn’t even see or grieve over her own sin.

So God, Father of Fathers as He is, is seeking His own.  He will make the Way.  He will Redeem His Holy People.  He will make Zion a City No Longer Deserted. 

By the power of His love He searches. 

He searches for you and for me, His lost ones, His lonely ones.  Those who believe there is not one person who really cares for them on this earth.  Those who feel abandoned.  Those who cannot reach out to help themselves.  The spiritually famished, those lamed in heart, wounded and bruised in spirit.  Those caught in the snares and webs of sin and those weighed down by the burdens and cares of this world.

The heart of God is seeking you and me.  When you see Him, run to Him and embrace Him as a long-lost daughter or son.  As we grieve over earthly losses today, remember God’s great loss.  He gave a Son to save a Daughter, and she is wandering today, far from Him, and refuses to return.

Open your arms this morning and run to your Father, “Daddy”, the One who seeks you.  This isn’t about religion.  This is about Family.  You are Sought After today.  That is your name.  Reach out and embrace the One who wants to hold you and love you.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

FOR EVERYTHING THAT I HAVE LOST

Dear Brothers and Sisters:  I give this poem freely to all.  It can be put to music if God wills.  It is for all who suffer today, laying down your lives to follow Christ.  For those in pain, or those who have a loss they are facing, with the hurt that involves.  It is a poem that is for you who have sadness, and know what it means to lose precious things for the sake of Christ.  May He comfort you today by His Spirit.

FOR EVERYTHING THAT I HAVE LOST
A. Brother

For everything that I have lost
I do my grieving at the cross
My heart is full of joy in pain
My tears in trial are like the rain

These tears of grief will dry and stop
And love will grow up where they drop
What springs to life will be God’s best
His finest flowers, His glorious rest

I offer grateful thanks, my Lord, for all you give
 for laying down your life for me so I might live
You gave all that you had and didn’t count the cost
So now I give you special praise for what I’ve lost

I’ve lost the need to live in sorrow and in shame
I’ve lost my pain and guilt and now I wear Your Name
My heart is full of joy for every precious trial
For growth in Christ that comes with every hard-won mile

I’ve lost the drive to have just what I think I need
But rather want the fruit of love to be the seed
That grows a garden full of life and makes me whole
A refuge I can share with every wand’ring soul

There is no condemnation for the one in Him
Yes, He is now the Way for us to conquer sin
We must not count the cost but follow close behind
For us to die is gain, by losing all, we find

For everything that I have lost
I do my grieving at the cross
My heart is full of joy in pain
My tears in trial are like the rain

These tears of grief will dry and stop
And love will grow up where they drop
What springs to life will be God’s best
His finest flowers, His glorious rest

Source:
The Narrow Gate: http://narrowgatepub.blogspot.com


Saturday, January 22, 2011

THE MARKS OF A CHURCH THAT IS FAITHFUL AND OBEDIENT TO CHRIST

By Zac Poonen
Christian Fellowship Church
Bangalore, India

In Rev. 3:7-13, The Lord describes Himself to the church in Philadelphia as the One who can now open or shut any door.  If we are overcomers, we need never stand before a closed door at any time when it is the will of God that we should go through. But the Lord also shuts certain doors before us, so that we don't go into paths that He has not ordained for us - paths that He knows will not be profitable for us. It is really an exciting life to be an overcomer. The Lord Himself decides which doors we should go through, and which doors we should stop knocking at.

Here in Philadelphia, we see the second of the two messengers, and churches that receive no rebuke at all from the Lord. The first was the one at Smyrna. These two examples show us that it is possible to be such a messenger of the Lord and to be such a church as to receive no rebuke at all from the Lord when He examines us. This should be a challenge to all of us. The messenger and the saints here were a weak people ( Rev. 3:8). They had very little human influence and power, but they had obeyed God's Word and confessed the Name of the Lord. These are two primary requirements for the days in which we live - and that is why we find them being repeated again and again in the book of Revelation: OBEDIENCE TO GOD'S WORD AND HOLDING FORTH THE TESTIMONY OF JESUS.

Because of their faithfulness, the Lord says that He has set before them an open door to witness for Him. No one will be able to shut that door (Rev. 3:8). Their witness will naturally be opposed by Satan, but the gates of Hell will not be able to prevail against this church - for this is a triumphant church that Satan himself is afraid of.

The church here was being opposed by a synagogue of Satan - similar to the one that was in Smyrna (Rev. 3:9). Notice that the synagogue of Satan opposed only two of the seven churches in Asia - the very two that the Lord commends unreservedly. Those churches that are most wholehearted for God, are the ones that Satan opposes the most, and Satan's opposition comes mainly through religious people.

Jesus was opposed in the days of His flesh, not by the Romans or the Greeks, but by religious Jews who studied their Bibles daily! It will be the same for the body of Christ. Our main opposition will come from those who claim to be Christians, but who don't preach freedom from sin's power.

The Lord says that He will make the synagogue of Satan recognise in an obvious way that He is with the church at Philadelphia. The agents of Satan will be compelled to bow down before the church (Rev. 3:9). God has destined that Satan should be crushed under the feet of the church (Rom. 16:20). We must never forget this that God is always on our side against Satan. So we need never fear Satan or his agents at any time.

Jesus prayed that the world would know that His disciples were loved by the Father (John 17:23). This prayer was to be answered in Philadelphia. The synagogue of the Jews would be made aware of the fact that the Lord loves the church and that He would stand by them (Rev. 3:9). God has wonderful ways of confounding our enemies and of making them aware that we are the objects of His love and care!

The church in Philadelphia had kept the word of Jesus' perseverance (Rev. 3:10). They had obeyed the word of the Lord and endured to the end in obedience. It is only by enduring faithfully in times of temptation, that we become perfect, lacking in nothing (James 1:4).

The Lord's promise to this church was, "I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world" (Rev. 3:10). Here the Lord warns them in advance of a time of trial that was going to come upon the whole world at that time (at the end of the first century or in the early second century). The church in Philadelphia was promised Divine protection during that time of testing. How did the Lord "keep them from that hour of testing"? It was certainly not by rapturing them out of the world. No. They were KEPT SAFE IN THE MIDST OF THE TRIAL. They experienced the Lord's protecting hand in the midst of their tribulations.

This is a word of encouragement for us too - for the Lord will similarly keep us also safe from evil in the midst of the great tribulation during the time of the Antichrist. He will keep us exactly as He kept the church in Philadelphia in the second century - on earth, safe from evil, even though we may have to suffer for His Name's sake. Jesus has said, "You will be hated by all on account of my Name.....but do not fear those who kill the body.......for the very hairs of your head are all numbered.....Not a hair of your head will perish" (Matt.10:28,30; Lk.21:17-18). Even during the tribulation, not a hair on our head can be touched by anyone without the Lord's permission. So we can be at rest.
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Friday, January 21, 2011

ENCOURAGEMENT FROM WORLD WAR TWO

BROTHERS AND SISTERS:  THIS WAS WRITTEN TO CHRISTIANS ALL OVER THE WORLD DURING THE FIRST YEARS OF WORLD WAR TWO.  COULDN’T IT BE WRITTEN TODAY?  I PRAY WE’LL SEE THAT CHRIST IS ALL, NO MATTER THE GENERATION OR THE SITUATION!
A. Brother

ONE UNIVERSAL REMEDY

Editor's Letters
by T. Austin-Sparks

November-December 1941

Beloved of God,

We are full of wonder and praise that, after two years of war, we are still able to send out this instrument of ministry to so many parts of the world. I write this letter just immediately after the first anniversary of the terrible assault on London, which was so vital a part of what has come to be known as the Battle of Britain. Twelve months ago fire and destruction rained from the skies all around us. We were ringed by it to within a few feet. For months this went on, and sometimes we have wondered whether there would be anything left. But here we are. We have never had to discontinue conferences, nor has the regular ministry been interrupted. There have been dark and strenuous times, and much scattering has taken place. If you could look over the "Acknowledgment" columns of the "Witness and Testimony" for the last one, or two, years, you would get some idea, not a complete one, of how the word has gone forth, remembering that in practically every case a letter of appreciation has accompanied the gift. We can truly say "Having received help from God, we continue until now".

But, oh! what a spiritual battle it is! Although our own all-dominating desire is that the absolute Lordship of Christ, which means the ground of His fulness in the saints, should be a realized thing by all of His own, we are bitterly hated and opposed by many children of God. They are praying hard against us. How strange it is that, while so many are thus beseeching the Lord to quench us, from so many parts of the world children and servants of God in various connections of missions and denominations are all the time sending written testimony to the enrichment of life and ministry through this instrumentality! And it is so often those who have been through, or who are in, the fires of trial, or who have passed from the elementary stages of Christian life and service, who so testify. I do not essay to give the solution to this enigma, but I do mention it in the hope that some might pause before jeopardizing the prospect of the fulness of Christ in their own case or in that of others, as did Israel of old, by taking up an "evil report". As for ourselves, we will seek to be faithful and commend ourselves to God's approval "through evil report and good report". If only the Lord's people universally would get away from things and be taken up solely with Himself, how much of all this would cease; and what a way would be made for Him! I would appeal to you, beloved of the Lord, to give yourselves to preparing a way for the Lord. Let the question which governs every matter and relationship be, not, how far will or does it help or hinder such and such an enterprise, movement, society, or piece of work? but, how does this minister to an increase of Christ in the saints?  We can take it that a true increase of Christ will have effects in many directions, but the directions must never be separated and made the paramount concerns in themselves apart. I am ever more convinced that for all such troubles as afflict the saints, individually and collectively, the secret of victory, deliverance, and salvation, is a very simple one, so far as both the prescribing and the working are concerned: the one difficulty being—as with so many patients—the honest and wholehearted taking of it. It is found in a short sentence used frequently by Paul:—

"According to Christ"

Romans 15:5; Colossians 2:8.

It would be a wonderful thing if in the realm of medicine one remedy could be found whereby every conceivable malady could be most certainly cured. What a tremendous amount of complication and confusion would at once be removed. It is almost too big a thought or prospect for us to take in; there is so much of life taken up with the endless systems of healing, and the countless number of remedies. Not only are there the varieties and multitudes of propositions and advocacies, but there are the strong and, sometimes, fierce rivalries in medicine and surgery; the opposing schools.

Someone years ago gave to spiritual ministry the name of "the cure of souls". That "cure" far outreaches the matter of individual salvation. The Apostle Paul, in particular, had all his time taken up with the "cure" of believers, and the "cure" of the churches. The maladies of individuals and churches were many; from sins of a very low level, through jealousies, factions, personal interests etc., to false doctrine, and all the complexity of church technique.

But this servant of God had and propounded, one universal remedy, one panacea for all ills. You ask, "Is that possible?" Yes! In this realm of the spiritual borders in the Lord's people, whether personal or collective, as for the unsaved of every different constitution, temperament, inheritance, etc., there is

One Universal Remedy

That simplifies things very much. It sets aside a thousand questions and perplexities. The evil germs of suspicion, prejudice, fear, jealousy, and many other such like things will be killed by the radium-like power of this new Life. The dislocations between people will be quickly and effectively adjusted. The whole question of order and technique in the churches, in all its particulars, will spontaneously resolve and answer itself. The malady of spiritual inertia and lack of concern for the salvation and eternal good of others will yield to a new vitality and energy.

Yes, there is one all-inclusive cure; but to say this is of no more value than an advertisement, unless it is believed and obeyed.

What then is this one all-embracing Remedy? It will not help a great deal just to give the answer in a simple sentence so we must illustrate or instance it. 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. His one all-covering Remedy is announced, or prescribed very early in the first letter to them:-

"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 fulness 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 fulness of Christ."

We greet you again, beloved, while we labour and stand with the trowel and the sword, spread out extensively upon the one wall, and bound together by the one trumpet of testimony and Headship of our exalted Lord.

Yours in His fellowship,
T. AUSTIN-SPARKS

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

FROZEN WITHOUT LOVE

 FROZEN WITHOUT LOVE
T. Austin-Sparks

“Three things will last forever – faith, hope, and love –
and the greatest of these is love.”
1 Corinthians 13:13 NLT

You can have all the gifts and be very immature.

Spiritual increase is not by knowing all these things, the way of growth is not by faith's power externally manifested, but more by inward endurance.

Do you want to know the way of the increase of God? It is by love. What the Lord needs is an open, pure spirit towards Himself, and love toward all saints; the Lord will bring into His greater fullness where there is a genuine love one to the other - in Him....

The Ephesian letter in which there is the fullest unveiling of heavenly truth in the deepest teaching concerning the Church, the Body of Christ, there is from start to finish the golden thread of love running all through; this is significant when you consider what the letter contains.

1 Corinthians 13 is the great chapter on love, and is put over beside all the "gifts."

Love is the real spirituality that is spirituality. Love is the most difficult and the greatest of all gifts. "Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are straitened in your own affections" (2 Cor. 6:12 ASV). You are so narrow, so limited, like a closed hedge, pent up, cramped! "Our heart is enlarged, ye are not straitened in us."

The measure of our spiritual life is no greater than our heart; the knowledge that is in the head is not the measure of spirituality, the way for your release, emancipation, increase, abundance is the way of the heart.

Spirituality is not mental agreement on things stated in the Word, it is the melting of one heart to another - to all saints.

The devil has locked up a number of the Lord's children as in a padded room of their own limitations; frozen their love by something between them and other children of God. The way out is by increase of love; and we shall remain locked up until we are there...

True spirituality is the measure of love of God shed abroad in the heart, all the spirituals rest upon and have their rise out of love. Not power, or knowledge, or different gifts, these are not the first things, the first thing is love. That leads to the increase of God.

By T. Austin-Sparks from: The Increase of God

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

ARE WE STARGAZING OR DRESSED AND READY?

OUR FIRM INSTRUCTIONS IN THE LAST DAYS
A. Brother

“Be dressed ready for service,
and keep your lamps burning,
like men waiting for their master to return
from a wedding banquet, so that when
he comes and knocks they can
immediately open the door for him.”
Luke 12:35

“You also must be ready,
because the Son of Man will come
at an hour when you do not expect Him.”
Luke 12:40

As we talked about day before yesterday, we are not to spend our time speculating and studying “when and how” Christ will come back.  We have our marching orders.  Christ was clear with His disciples here and in many other passages.

Our instructions are clear.  Read this passage in its entirety.  Does Jesus tells us to spend our time gazing up into the heavens and wondering when He will come back?  Does He tell us to be caught up in end-times speculation?  Does He command us to figure all this out and share our ideas with others?

No.  In fact we are forbidden that information.  (See last posting—IT IS NOT FOR YOU TO KNOW).  So when we spend our time on this useless activity, we are actually disobeying Christ’s orders.

Our Lord commands us to be busy about the Kingdom’s business.  We are to be sharing the good news of Christ with all those around us whom God gives us.  Whether we are in Jerusalem, Judea, or Samaria.  Whether we are in New Zealand, Gambia, Sweden, or Germany.  Whether we are in Niger, or Singapore, India or Slovenia.  Whether we are in the United States, Canada, or the United Kingdom.  Each and every one of us is to be captivated by Christ, and spend our time sharing that love we have for Him with others.

Dressed and ready.  Always prepared with an answer for whoever asks us about the hope that is within us.  Feeding Christ’s sheep.  Praying for and helping others.  Being part of the Kingdom’s expansion. 

Be ready, brethren, but don’t worry about the times or dates.  If Christ is our love and our focus, we will be ready.  If we are being obedient, we will be ready.  We will have our lamps burning, because the oil of the Spirit will be ours in abundance.  We will be dressed, because we will have on the whole armor of God on a daily basis. 

When Christ comes back, we will be ready to open the door to Him immediately.

What a truth that brings freedom from worry!

Monday, January 17, 2011

LETTER TO A STRUGGLING YOUNG BROTHER CAUGHT UP IN THE PROSPERITY RUSH

NOTE:  This morning I received an email from a young friend who asked me to remove him from my subscription list.  He sent me a list of positive promise verses that all talk about God giving us “over and above” “superabundantly” and having a “plan” for our life that involves prosperity and good things.  Knowing his struggles, I sent him this reply.  I pray that this reply will help others of you who have friends struggling with the same issues.  Feel free to use it if it helps!

LETTER TO A STRUGGLING YOUNG BROTHER
CAUGHT UP IN THE PROSPERITY RUSH
A. Brother

Dear _________,

Thanks for thinking of me.  Because I care about you, and am not sure why you sent me this letter, I'm going to respond fully.  From our talks, I know you've been struggling with things, and I can relate to that struggle completely.  These are my thoughts. 

I pray that our devotion to Christ would be of such depth that we would be willing to give up all for Him.  Many follow Him because of the "blessing" verses. 

When Jesus began to teach the "hard stuff" about dying to self, and living only to Him, the crowds dwindled down to a few hundred out of thousands.  He talked about giving up all, including those around us if necessary, to follow Him.  About living "upside down" lives, being the servant, like He showed us how to be, washing others feet.  About how the first in this life will often be last in the next.  About selling all we don't need and giving it to the poor.  About taking up our crosses, and being willing to follow Him to Gethsemane and Golgotha, learning the dying that the apostles talk about in their books and letters.  This dying to self, this giving up everything, is required of true disciples.

I spent over 50 years hearing the "prosperity gospels" and many other man-made gospels that ignore Christ's call to true discipleship. 

I was frustrated, struggling with sin in my life, and wondering where Christ actually was in all the hoopla.  It seems we are often more concerned about creating a Christianity that is smooth, and full of good things in this life, and easy to digest, than we are concerned about really listening to Christ and hearing Him.  Our loud and carefully-crafted worship services do not bring us closer to Him.  Being on the narrow road, obeying His voice, learning in the hardships is what brings us close to Him.

The apostles preached the "full message of this new life" that Christ had brought them. (Acts 5:20)  It involved difficulty, and perseverance through trial and pain.  They were warned of that by Jesus, and knew it by experience.

"'We must go through many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God,' they said." (Acts 14:23)  This was the boot camp of early Christians. 

We have abandoned it for teaching the easy promises, which are all true, but they are only true spiritually in Christ.  We have all blessings in Christ.  He promises us to never leave us or forsake us.  He gives us the great gifts of the Holy Spirit, not riches in this life.  He has an entire Body of people all over the world who become our brothers and sisters when we are rejected by our families and loved ones for His sake.  He empowers us to live lives full of grace, love, truth and victory.  He gives us joy even when we are in the middle of severe trouble and pain.  These are the promises fulfilled.

“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are YES in Christ.” (2 Cor 1:20)

Christ becomes our life when He dwells in us.  We no longer have worldly ambitions for comfort, and ease, and an easy life.  We become soldiers in God's army, and members of the household of faith.  We are no longer citizens of this world, but of the Kingdom of God, with only Christ's good in mind. 

He works His holiness in us through the dying of our old sinful nature, and the rebirth in us by His Spirit of a New Man, and this ongoing work results in us becoming conformed to the image of Christ.  It is not our own work, and we don't get credit for it with God.  We don't do it by working up a bunch of emotion.  We do it by giving up to Christ all that would benefit us.

"But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I now consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him..." (Phil 3:7,8)  Was this just the life of an apostle?  Or was Paul teaching us that this is the life of any true disciple of Christ?

I write this to you today, brother, because I know you've been within the church a long time.  As I was.  And many things are ignored there, for the sake of keeping things on a happy, everything fine level.  But things aren't fine.  There are a lot of things going on behind the scenes.  I know--I was there.  I was living a double life myself, struggling with sin, and yet looking good at church.  I couldn't share my sins and failures there, because people just wouldn't believe me.  It was NOT OK to be NOT OK!  And the churches are there today, still.  I tried confessing and getting help, but it seemed there were just more platitudes and verses thrown at me, because nobody seemed to know how to deal with problems.

When I went to Christ Himself, and threw myself on Him, He answered, and began to show me how I'd been taught and trained in an insufficient way to understand what He calls us to.  His calling is so much higher than we have been shown. 

We have this great gift, above all others:

"For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for Him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have."  Phil 1:29,30

I pray the highest and best in Christ for you, my brother, and that you would become involved in the "same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have."  This struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of darkness that would keep us preoccupied with trying to build a comfortable life, full of good worldly things, here on earth.

Follow Christ into the dark forest of our fears.  Let Him take you where you would never dare to go.  He will never leave us or forsake us.  That is true discipleship.  It is His work in us, not our work for Him, that counts. 

In Christ, Your Brother,
A. Brother





Sunday, January 16, 2011

WE CANNOT KNOW WHEN CHRIST WILL RETURN


 IT IS NOT FOR US TO KNOW
A. Brother

“He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know
the times or the dates the Father has set
by His own authority.  But you will receive power
when the Holy Spirit comes on you;
and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem,
and in all Judea and Samaria,
and to the ends of the earth.’”
Acts 1:7,8

“They were looking intently up into the sky
as He was going, when suddenly two men in white
stood beside them.  ‘Men of Galilee’, they said,
‘Why do you stand here looking into the sky?
This same Jesus, who has been taken from you
into heaven, will come back in the same way
you have seen Him go into heaven.’”
Acts 1:10,11

What a lesson for all of us who await the Lord Jesus’ return.  Anyone who knows Christ should be eagerly anticipating His arrival to take us home with Him.  Yet we are given, as the apostles were given, clear instructions about what we’re to do while waiting.

Are we to spend our time speculating on the times and dates of Christ’s return?  Jesus Christ Himself tells us we can’t know those things, because they are set by the Father, and nobody will know before it happens.

Incidentally, this was the last instruction given by Christ before His ascension into heaven!  He knows us so well.  We will tend to “get into” the spectacular, the speculative.  We will tend to want to solve this great mystery of when Christ is returning. 

Our earliest brethren were reproved by the angels immediately when they continued to stand gazing up into the sky after Jesus had been taken up from them.

Our Father tells us to obey Him, and that means doing what we’re to be doing in Christ, without spending our time “stargazing”, and speculating back and forth endlessly about when and how Christ is coming back.  Throughout history, there have been disobedient groups of Christians who, instead of seeking the power of Christ in their lives to be His witnesses, and to bring others to Him, have spent their time focusing on the “when” and “how” of Christ’s return.  So today we have the same happening.

However, brethren, we are to resist and reject those activities.  We are to focus on Christ, and on the work of the Kingdom, as He instructed us.


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