Month: May 2009

“That I May Know Him” – T. Austin-Sparks

An Apostle’s Supreme Ambition – by T. Austin-Sparks

“That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming conformed unto his death” (Philippians 3:10).

Lion_Lamb

There are few words in his writings which reveal how committed to the Lord Jesus this man was. The whole context is one consummate outpouring of his heart to the One whom he said had “apprehended” him, and he focuses all in a brief half sentence: “That I may know him.”

The impressive thing about this expressed ambition is the time at which it is made. Here is a man who has had a revelation and knowledge of Jesus Christ greater than any other man up to that time. That knowledge commenced whence as he said, “it pleased God to reveal his Son in me”. That beginning devastated him, and sent him into the desert to try to grasp its implications. Later he had been “caught up into the third heaven and shown unspeakable things, which (he said) were not lawful to be uttered”. Between, and around those two experiences, there is evidence of an ever growing knowledge of Christ. Here, after all that, near the end of his life, he is crying passionately: “That I may know him.”

The very least that we can say about this is that the Christ in view was a very great Christ indeed, who outstrips the greatest capacity and comprehension of man. This stands in such tremendous contrast to the limited Christ of our recognition and apprehension! How very much more there is in Christ than we have ever seen! But we must break down our verse. It is divided by its main words, and can be stated in its four phrases.

(1) The all-governing passion: “That I may know him.”

(2) The effectual power: “The power of his resurrection.”

(3) The essential basis: “The fellowship of his sufferings.”

(4) The progressive principle: “Conformed to his death.”

1. THE ALL-GOVERNING PASSION

“That I may know him.”

Here a little study in words is both helpful and necessary. In the original language of the New Testament there are two words for ‘knowing’ or ‘knowledge’ or ‘to know’. They run in numerous occasions and connections right through the New Testament.

One of these words has the meaning of knowledge by information; being told, reading, by report. It is more the knowledge which comes by observation, study, searching, or talk. It is rather knowledge about things, persons, etc. The other word carries the meaning of personal experience, intimate acquaintance; and inward knowledge. Sometimes there is a prefix which gives the meaning of “full knowledge” (epi). The second of these words and meanings is that which Paul is using and employing here: ‘That I may have or gain more of the knowledge of Him which is personal experience by personal acquaintance, by living, firsthand relationship with Him.’

This removes everything from the realm of mere theory, the intellect, and being told. It is the result and effect of an act of the Holy Spirit within. That is why Paul links with this knowledge “the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings”. It is powerful knowledge, born of deep experience. And this is the only true knowledge of Christ! It is planted or wrought deep in the inner life.

2. THE EFFECTUAL POWER

“The power of his resurrection.”

While there is a future aspect of the whole statement, that is, the consummation in glory, we must understand that in each of these phrases Paul is thinking of this life. Even in the next verse, where he speaks of attaining to the “outresurrection from among the dead”, he is thinking primarily of present spiritual and moral out-raising. He had known something of this power already. His conversion was such. Again and again, in what he called “deaths oft” he had known it. Perhaps greatest of all were his experiences in Asia and Lystra (II Corinthians 1:9; Acts 14:19-20).

Resurrection power and life are the knowledge of Christ. This is how we know Him, and this is available for every believer. It is for endurance, for overcoming, for fulfillment of ministry, for maintaining the Lord’s testimony in the world; for every need which demands it in relation to the interests and glory of Christ. It puts life on a supernatural basis. It is the power of His resurrection, the greatest miracle in history.

3. THE ESSENTIAL BASIS

“The fellowship of his sufferings.”

In this connection there are some things that we must at once set aside. There were sufferings of Christ which we do not share, and are not called upon to share, although sometimes there seems to be a very fine and thin line between them.

We do not share the atoning sufferings of Christ. There is a whole realm of suffering which was His alone. The work of man’s redemption was His alone, for us. When He who was without sin was made sin for us He was alone, even God-forsaken in that eternal moment. Upon that fact the whole truth of His unique Person hangs, and the whole system of perfect sacrifice rests; the spotless Lamb.

But when all that is accepted and established, there are sufferings of Christ in which we have fellowship with Him. We also, for His sake, may be despised and rejected of men. We can be discredited, ostracised, persecuted, mocked, tortured, and even “killed”, both in an act and “all the day long”. Paul speaks of a residue of Christ’s sufferings which he was helping to fill up for “His body’s sake which is the church”. This is another, and different, area and system of suffering. Paul looked upon this as an honour and something in which to rejoice, because it was for the One whom he so deeply loved. But he also saw that this suffering with and for Christ provided the basis for knowing Christ and the power of His resurrection This Apostle would agree that only those who know this fellowship truly know the Lord. We know that! It is perfectly evident that real usefulness in a spiritual way comes out of the winepress, and “they that have suffered most have most to give” There is nothing artificial about the fruit of Christ.

4. THE PROGRESSIVE PRINCIPLE

“Becoming conformed unto his death.”

It is important in understanding the Apostle to realise that he was not thinking of conformity to Christ’s death as the end of all else. His real meaning was that he should increase in the knowledge of Christ, know the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings by becoming conformed to His death. His death – Christ’s – was behind, something at the beginning, and the spiritual history of the believer is a working back to what that death meant. It meant the end of the “old man”, crucifixion to the world mind and will; the closing of the door to a whole system which was not Christ-centered and Christ-governed.

All this had been stated and presented in Paul’s earlier letters; but it was a meaning which had to be progressively made real and true in spiritual experience. The meaning of Christ’s death – Paul taught – was to be the inner history of the believer, and this would work out – progressively – in the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings. So that, by being conformed to His death, he would come to the fuller knowledge of Him and of that Divine power. It is ever so.

The all-governing passion opens the way for the effectual, and effectuating power, by the essential basis, through the progressive principle of conformity to His death.

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Knowing Our God – W.E. Smith

Greetings to all our readers out their in the scattered wilderness, following hard after our Lord and our God at the twilight of this evil age. Our hearts and prayers are with you all, and we thank you for the moments you spend here seeking exhortation, and the heartfelt encouragement to go on yet another day, and to let our Dear Lord, Our Savior, King and Shepherd, Our Way and Truth and Life, Jesus Christ, have His most perfect way in us.

KnowingGod

Recently dear saints I have found myself wading into the very tangled thick of things in the first chapters of Jeremiah, where the Lord, in no uncertain terms, indicts His people Israel, on a number of fronts. But one thing in particular really jumped out at me; that despite all of their history with their God; despite all of His magnanimous revelation; and despite His munificent blessing and grace towards them, they still, at the end of it all, did not –

“know Him”.


The priests did not say, ‘Where is the LORD?’ And those who handle the law did not know Me; The rulers also transgressed against Me, And the prophets prophesied by Baal And walked after things that did not profit. (Jer. 2:8)

“For My people are foolish, They know Me not; They are stupid children And have no understanding. They are shrewd to do evil, But to do good they do not know.” (Jer. 4:22)

The prophets prophesy falsely, And the priests rule on their own authority; And My people love it so! But what will you do at the end of it? (Jer. 5:31)

Amazing this, that the very people, priest and prophets who were called to know Him, and to singularly represent Him to the nations of the earth, did not; and they actually exalted in this. Apart from His original intent for them and the patient showering of much divine favor on them, they had by some strange means derived a life and religion completely divorced from the blessing, guidance and governance of their God.

Well folks, that was them, but what about us, what about you and me? Do we know the Lord, and are we actually aware that knowing Him is the reason we were reconciled to Him by the blood of His Precious Son in the first place. And more to the point, how do we come to know Him, and what is the price of this intimate knowledge?

It was Austin-Sparks, that gracious and humble servant of God, who taught that the cross must be basic to all knowledge of the Lord, and that true spirituality, reduced down, is simply knowing God.

sparksHe also wrote this –

“We cannot have the knowledge of the Lord – the most important thing in the mind of of God for us – except on the ground of the continuous application of the cross, and that will go right to the end.”

Dear friends, please keep that statement in mind as you read the following passages –

Make me know Your ways, O LORD;
Teach me Your paths.
Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
For You are the God of my salvation;
For You I wait all the day. (Psalm 25:4-5)

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. (Eph. 3:16-19)

For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God (Col. 1:9-10)

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation (Col 1:15)

Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? (John 14:8-9)

I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. (John 14:16)

“That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming conformed unto his death” (Phil. 3:10).

To know the Lord of All Life is everything isn’t it? One can know many things and many persons and many concepts in the course of his life, but only one thing truly matters at the end of the day – and that is to know the Living God; to know our God; to know the Lord Jesus Christ! Knowing God is the reason we were born, and the purpose for our lives! And we will go on knowing Him as long as eternity persists! Yet to know Him as He intends means so much more than knowing ‘about Him’ through study or investigation or religious pursuit. Consider Job –

Then Job answered the LORD and said,
“I know that You can do all things,
And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.
‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
“Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand,
Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.”
‘Hear, now, and I will speak;
I will ask You, and You instruct me.’
“I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear;
But now my eye sees You;
Therefore I retract,
And I repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:1-6)

Job’s coming to “see” and know the Lord was no mere intellectual realization, but a blood and spirit encounter; a reckoning borne out of heart-felt repentance and self negation. If this sounds a lot like what Austin-Sparks was describing above – “the continuous application of the cross” – then it is because that is the only way to see or know our God.

And as we also recognize from the passages mentioned, to know the Son (“The image of the invisible God”) is to know the Father. This is the fundamental reason any idol or graven image representing God is blasphemous, for it supplants and obscures the one true and legitimate image of the Eternal God –

the Lord Jesus Christ!

Further, Ephesians reveals that fruit, borne out of the crucified life, leads to the ever-increasing knowledge of God. If we we want to know our God, and to know Him more perfectly, there must be loss, rejection, suffering, pain, loneliness, estrangement; in short an ultimate cost to be paid. For if the Lord Jesus Christ is the singular way to the Father, then only His way can be ours as well. It is a way spotted with blood; where the chorus of the crowd shouts down against the few, where life is brought forth mysteriously out of death. It is ironic that spiritual life can only genuinely begin when one is reduced to the very thing from which the animal life was derived in the beginning – dust.

And so when David prayed –

Make me know Your ways, O LORD;
Teach me Your paths.

…we must acknowledge what in fact he was asking for and how it would ultimately be apprehended. Not sitting casually at ease in the king’s chamber reading the scrolls or discussing theology with his contemporaries. No, where David learned the ways and paths of the Lord was by sharing in the rejection and suffering of the Christ. And it is no different with any of us dear brethren, all those who would know the Lord God in all of His Wondrous Wisdom and Love and Glory!

How we all need His grace to know Him, and His Spirit and Help to know Him, and how that knowing Him would become the very pivot of our lives, turning us here or there, or wherever He leads us. And I pray that we will see, that as we come to know Him it is not as a God somehow outside of us (out there or up there), but within, abiding within us in real spiritual unity, intimacy and relationship.

Dear friends, I must say sadly and candidly, that there are many in the world and the church speaking for our God who don’t actually seem to know Him. They (it would appear anyway) have never actually encountered Him or experienced that moment of reckoning where they see Him as He truly is, and then abandon all else to follow Him unequivocally. There are many more I suppose who have studied the Scriptures to great depth, and have a vocabulary for all of their high-sounding concepts about the Lord (this was me at one time I confess). Yet look around and there is no cross, no thorns, and no blood and no pain and no rejection. In short, the way they have chosen is not the Lord’s way. The truth they have accepted is not His Truth! And the life they are advancing is merely a religious, ephemeral life rooted in ease and earthly security; it is not a life derived out of death at all!

The path of knowing the Lord is a singular one, and as much as we may prefer the notion of many different roads all leading to the same happy place, this concept is nowhere found in the testimony of Scripture. It is a lie and can only lead to greater blindness and unknowing, the polar opposite of what we are referring to here.

My friends, dear saints of God, we must all come to the place where we are willing to suffer whatever the cost that we might know the Lord God who saves us. Everything else to be known is incidental and relatively worthless. We were created and redeemed that we might know our God who breathed life into us, and is conforming us to the image of His Son. Yes we can read in the Bible that He is this or that, but our knowledge of Him must be founded on so much more than reading or scholarship (please note that I am in no way devaluing the importance of study in the Word; this should go without saying). We must experience Him in all of His abiding wisdom and love and truth and wonder! And we cannot possibly know Him if we persist in remaining rooted and attached to this present evil world, for He has already judged this world and its God, and found it wanting. Doom, death and destruction is all that remains for this world and its collision course with the Almighty Judge!

Is the price of knowing Him dear? Oh yes, very dear indeed, for the pioneer of our faith showed us the way to the heart of the Father, and look at what it cost Him. Dear brethren, the greatest blessing the Lord has endowed us with is Himself. Let me say that again – the greatest blessing the Lord has endowed us with is Himself! Look how much our Lord loved and honored the Father! Oh what He must have known about Him, such that all else proved merely superfluous. Oh what He must have seen! To know God truly is to love Him! And to know Him is to worship Him as He deserves, with all honor and truth and spiritual praise! Truly He is the most compelling thing in His universe!

My friends, I pray for all of you that you might know the Lord our God, and be willing to pay the price, such as it is in your life, that this might be possible! I can personally attest to the fact that it is not an easy path; that at times it is a bewildering and painful road we are on. But we are all on it together my brethren, and it leads to the very heart of our Heavenly and Loving Father! Please pray for one another and for the one sharing these words. It is only His grace that brings us through the trials and storms, only His grace!

Oh Lord, help us to know You most perfectly, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

“I AM” – The Self-Declaration of the Lord

Rev2216There are many it seems who have many things to declare about the Son of Man and the Son of God. There are more still who feel it necessary to speak in some way for Him; to defend Him, explain Him or otherwise legitimize Him. Strange isn’t it, when He asserted all that He was when He came to the earth; when He declared to all who had ears to hear that He was the Great “I AM”. Should not, therefore,  His self-declaration be sufficient for us? Indeed. For He alone is the perfect fullness and fulfillment sent down among us by the Eternal Father.

So I thought it might be necessary here brethren to let Him speak for Himself for a change…

  1. John 6:35
    Jesus said to them, ” I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.
    John 6:34-36 (in Context) John 6 (Whole Chapter)
  2. John 6:41
    [ Words to the Jews ] Therefore the Jews were grumbling about Him, because He said, “I am the bread that came down out of heaven.”
    John 6:40-42 (in Context) John 6 (Whole Chapter)
  3. John 6:48
    I am the bread of life.
    John 6:47-49 (in Context) John 6 (Whole Chapter)
  4. John 6:51
    I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”
    John 6:50-52 (in Context) John 6 (Whole Chapter)
  5. John 7:28
    Then Jesus cried out in the temple, teaching and saying, ” You both know Me and know where I am from; and I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know.
    John 7:27-29 (in Context) John 7 (Whole Chapter)
  6. John 7:29
    ” I know Him, because I am from Him, and He sent Me.”
    John 7:28-30 (in Context) John 7 (Whole Chapter)
  7. John 8:12
    [ Jesus Is the Light of the World ] Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, ” I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”
    John 8:11-13 (in Context) John 8 (Whole Chapter)
  8. John 8:23
    And He was saying to them, ” You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world.
    John 8:22-24 (in Context) John 8 (Whole Chapter)
  9. John 8:24
    “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”
    John 8:23-25 (in Context) John 8 (Whole Chapter)
  10. John 8:28
    So Jesus said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me.
    John 8:27-29 (in Context) John 8 (Whole Chapter)
  11. John 8:58
    Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.”
    John 8:57-59 (in Context) John 8 (Whole Chapter)
  12. John 9:5
    “While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.”
    John 9:4-6 (in Context) John 9 (Whole Chapter)
  13. John 10:7
    So Jesus said to them again, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.
    John 10:6-8 (in Context) John 10 (Whole Chapter)
  14. John 10:9
    I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.
    John 10:8-10 (in Context) John 10 (Whole Chapter)
  15. John 10:11
    I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.
    John 10:10-12 (in Context) John 10 (Whole Chapter)
  16. John 10:14
    I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me,
    John 10:13-15 (in Context) John 10 (Whole Chapter)
  17. John 10:36
    do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘ I am the Son of God’?
    John 10:35-37 (in Context) John 10 (Whole Chapter)
  18. John 11:25
    Jesus said to her, ” I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies,
    John 11:24-26 (in Context) John 11 (Whole Chapter)
  19. John 12:32
    “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.”
    John 12:31-33 (in Context) John 12 (Whole Chapter)
  20. John 13:13
    “You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am.
    John 13:12-14 (in Context) John 13 (Whole Chapter)
  21. John 13:19
    “From now on I am telling you before it comes to pass, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am He.
    John 13:18-20 (in Context) John 13 (Whole Chapter)
  22. John 14:6
    Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.
    John 14:5-7 (in Context) John 14 (Whole Chapter)
  23. John 14:10
    “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works.
    John 14:9-11 (in Context) John 14 (Whole Chapter)
  24. John 14:11
    “Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves.
    John 14:10-12 (in Context) John 14 (Whole Chapter)
  25. John 14:20
    ” In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.
    John 14:19-21 (in Context) John 14 (Whole Chapter)
  26. John 15:1
    [ Jesus Is the Vine–Followers Are Branches ] ” I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.
    John 15:1-3 (in Context) John 15 (Whole Chapter)
  27. John 15:5
    I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.
    John 15:4-6 (in Context) John 15 (Whole Chapter)
  28. John 16:5
    [ The Holy Spirit Promised ] “But now I am going to Him who sent Me; and none of you asks Me, ‘ Where are You going?’
    John 16:4-6 (in Context) John 16 (Whole Chapter)
  29. John 16:28
    ” I came forth from the Father and have come into the world; I am leaving the world again and going to the Father.”
    John 16:27-29 (in Context) John 16 (Whole Chapter)
  30. John 16:32
    “Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home, and to leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.
    John 16:31-33 (in Context) John 16 (Whole Chapter)
  31. John 17:11
    I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are.
    John 17:10-12 (in Context) John 17 (Whole Chapter)
  32. John 17:14
    “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
    John 17:13-15 (in Context) John 17 (Whole Chapter)
  33. John 17:16
    ” They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
    John 17:15-17 (in Context) John 17 (Whole Chapter)
  34. John 17:24
    “Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.
    John 17:23-25 (in Context) John 17 (Whole Chapter)
  35. John 18:37
    Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, ” You say correctly that I am a king For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”
    John 18:36-38 (in Context) John 18 (Whole Chapter)
  1. Revelation 1:8
    I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, ” who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
    Revelation 1:7-9 (in Context) Revelation 1 (Whole Chapter)
  2. Revelation 1:17
    When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man And He placed His right hand on me, saying, ” Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last,
    Revelation 1:16-18 (in Context) Revelation 1 (Whole Chapter)
  3. Revelation 1:18
    and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.
    Revelation 1:17-19 (in Context) Revelation 1 (Whole Chapter)
  4. Revelation 2:5
    ‘Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place–unless you repent.
    Revelation 2:4-6 (in Context) Revelation 2 (Whole Chapter)
  5. Revelation 2:16
    ‘Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth.
    Revelation 2:15-17 (in Context) Revelation 2 (Whole Chapter)
  6. Revelation 2:23
    ‘And I will kill her children with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.
    Revelation 2:22-24 (in Context) Revelation 2 (Whole Chapter)
  7. Revelation 3:11
    I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown.
    Revelation 3:10-12 (in Context) Revelation 3 (Whole Chapter)
  8. Revelation 16:15
    (“Behold, I am coming like a thief; Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his clothes, so that he will not walk about naked and men will not see his shame.”)
    Revelation 16:14-16 (in Context) Revelation 16 (Whole Chapter)
  9. Revelation 21:5
    And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new ” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.”
    Revelation 21:4-6 (in Context) Revelation 21 (Whole Chapter)
  10. Revelation 21:6
    Then He said to me, ” It is done I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.
    Revelation 21:5-7 (in Context) Revelation 21 (Whole Chapter)
  11. Revelation 22:7
    “And behold, I am coming quickly Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book.”
    Revelation 22:6-8 (in Context) Revelation 22 (Whole Chapter)
  12. Revelation 22:12
    “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.
    Revelation 22:11-13 (in Context) Revelation 22 (Whole Chapter)
  13. Revelation 22:13
    I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
    Revelation 22:12-14 (in Context) Revelation 22 (Whole Chapter)
  14. Revelation 22:16
    ” I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”
    Revelation 22:15-17 (in Context) Revelation 22 (Whole Chapter)
  15. Revelation 22:20
    He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly ” Amen Come, Lord Jesus.

This Present Evil World – T. Austin-Sparks

Editor’s Note: It has occurred to us that we often refer in our writings to the “World”; and that this may cause some degree of confusion among our readers as to what we are actually referring to – the unsaved people in the world, the cultural, political or commercial nature of the world, just the overtly bad or evil parts of the world, the entire spiritual order or system arrayed against God and His Sovereignty, etc?

We offer this comprehensive treatment by T. Austin-Sparks as a response to this question, as it perhaps best conveys any underlying meaning and assumptions embedded in our perspective in this matter.

An additional resource on this subject that we offer for your reference is “Love Not the World”, by Watchman Nee (a student of Austin-Sparks), linked here.

This Present Evil World by T. Austin-Sparks

sparksBefore we proceed with the message, for the sake of any young Christians who may read it, and who have not yet studied the use of words in the New Testament, let us explain the one which is now to occupy us – the ‘World’.

There are three main ways in which this word is used:

1. As to the material sphere which we call the earth.

2. As to the people who live on the earth.

3. As to the spiritual and moral system, order, economy, and principles which govern the people.

Peter has things to say as to the climax and destiny of No. 1. John three sixteen relates to No. 2: “God so loved the [people of this] world.”

It is No. 3 that is the occasion of what follows here.

thisevilworld
A reading of such passages of Scripture as John 17, John’s Letters, Colossians 2:20, 3:1-2, Galatians 1:4, and many others such, will leave us in no doubt whatever that the New Testament designates this world system as evil, and that any spiritual relationship with it lies under God’s judgment. It has always been so since the beginning, but we are now living in the full development of the fact, so terribly and shockingly, that it is ripening fast for final destruction. The following message is very timely, and we trust that it will serve the solemn purpose of leading many to save themselves from “this present evil world”, and will explain the spiritual conflict through which many are passing.

We shall gather up certain things which we find running through the whole of the Scriptures, and what we find throughout the Scriptures is, for our present purpose, an eightfold thing:

1. AN ABIDING ANTAGONISM AND CLASH BETWEEN GOD AND THIS WORLD

I think that needs very little enlarging upon for the moment. Anyone who has any grasp of the Scriptures will be able instantly to recognize that that is so. From Cain – the man of the earth – right on through the whole of the Scriptures, you are brought to recognize that abiding antagonism and clash between God and this world.

2. AN ABIDING EXPRESSION OF THAT ANTAGONISM BETWEEN THAT WHICH IS SPIRITUALLY RELATED TO GOD AND THIS WORLD

Anyone, any company, or anything spiritually related to God is found to be in the expression of that antagonism and that clash between God and this world, and that very relationship to God spiritually involves in the clash, involves in the antagonism

3. A NEW CONSTITUTIONAL AFFINITY WITH THIS WORLD IS SEEN TO BE IN MAN’S NATURE

A new constitutional affinity with this world is seen to be in man’s nature, gravitating toward the world, like the point of the compass to the magnetic North. There is that which is in the very nature of man now as fallen which has an affinity with this world, and gravitates towards it, and the Scriptures reveal that that gravitation is of an inveterate character.

May I stay to make a parenthesis? No one is thinking that when I use the word ‘world’ I am just meaning the geographical sphere. You understand that the word ‘world’ is a very much bigger word as we use it spiritually than this geographical sphere. We use that word in its fullest meaning – an order of things here separated from God, organized and controlled by the evil one. That is the full meaning of ‘kosmos’.

4. A SPIRITUAL SYSTEM OF INTELLIGENCE

A spiritual system of intelligence as revealed by the Scriptures to be bent with all its might upon maintaining that affinity, and that relationship between man and this world.

5. SPIRITUAL DEATH IS THE LAW WHICH GOVERNS THAT RELATIONSHIP

Spiritual death is the law which governs that relationship, and is the mainstay and master-hold of that system of spiritual intelligences. Let me repeat that: spiritual death is the law which governs that relationship, the relationship between fallen man and this world, and spiritual death is the mainstay and master-hold of those spiritual intelligences which are out to maintain that relationship between fallen man and this world.

6. TO SEVER THAT BOND, TO DESTROY THAT AFFINITY, TO INTRODUCE A COUNTER LAW OF GRAVITATION, IS THE ESSENCE OF THE WORK OF CHRIST

If you get that you get the heart of everything. That will explain everything. The work of the Lord Jesus in coming from heaven and fulfilling His mission here is, in its very essence, the severance of the bondage of man to this world, the destroying of fallen man’s affinity therewith, and the introducing into man of another law, which counters man’s gravitation toward this fallen world, another law of gravitation, which is not world-ward spiritually.

7. THIS SEVERANCE, THIS INTRODUCTION OF THE NEW SPIRITUAL LAW OF HEAVENLY GRAVITATION, IS ALWAYS MARKED BY A MOST INTENSE CONFLICT AT EVERY STAGE AND POINT

It is always fraught with deep spiritual suffering. You will never emancipate a people spiritually from this world except by intense conflict and through deep suffering.

8. THE METHOD IS THAT OF GOING INTO DEATH IN ORDER TO DESTROY DEATH, AND BEING IN THE WORLD IN ORDER TO OVERCOME THE WORLD

That is an outline, and if you were able to sit down with that prayerfully I am sure you would see that you have touched something which is of primary importance. Within the range of that everything with which you and I, as the Lord’s children, have to do is gathered up. Now I am going on to take up one point. The work of Christ, the Cross in the work of Christ, and the purpose of His coming. That again is gathered up into eight things.

THE EFFECT OF CHRIST’S PRESENCE

Firstly: To once and for all register in an absolute and pre-eminent way that collision, that mutual antagonism between God and this world. Christ’s coming into this world, and Christ’s work in this world in a way unparalleled, unprecedented, registered, made manifest, dragged out into the light, threw up into clear relief that fact that there is a mutual antagonism between God and this world. You can trace it through the Old Testament. It is quite clear there, but it is more or less local or localized in the Old Testament. When you come to the Lord Jesus coming into this world you have the universal factor, a universal Person set down in the midst of the universe, and universal forces focused upon Him. And because of who He is, because God is there in Christ, because this is no mere man, as in the case of the Old Testament, because this is “God with us”, you find that from the very commencement of His career, His course, His time here on the earth, there broke out that smouldering volcano of antagonism: first through Herod, and then by another, and another, and another means, until in the end it seems that everything has conspired and converged to cast Him out of this world, as having no place in it, as being a menace to it.

Demons betrayed secrets, the full explanation of which is not in the Word of God: “Art thou come to destroy us before our time? I know thee who thou art, the Holy one of God”, betraying deep mysteries concerning the destiny and the doom of that spiritual world, that world of spiritual intelligences. Men and demons worked together, and this hate showed itself. What a great deal He had to say Himself about it, and to what lengths He carried it, and into what realms – right into the heart of Judaism and its spiritual, religious citadel, the Scribes and the Pharisees: “Ye are of your father the devil”; “The works of your father ye do”; “Ye are from beneath; I am from above”; “If ye had known the Father ye would have known Me.”

You see, He carried it right there into the highest realm of religious life as this world knew it, and finding there this deep-rooted antagonism, and dragging it out, making it impossible for that thing to go on being hidden, until at last, stung by His presence, it broke loose, and from that realm came His doom, so far as his course here on the earth was concerned as a man. Oh yes! everywhere this universal focal point: God in Christ making manifest as never before not locally, but universally, not merely on the earth, but in that spiritual realm – that there is a clash, a deep-seated and terrible clash between God and this world. And His coming was for that purpose. It is important for us to realize that it was necessary to expose that thing. It was essential that that thing should be dragged out, but, oh, that the people of God had sufficiently recognized and grasped and apprehended this thing!

Oh, dear friends, you and I, before we are through, will see the utter impossibility of that contradiction called ‘a worldly Christian’, ‘a worldly Church’. If we do not see that now, well, the Lord help us! The very coming of the Lord Jesus into this world was, firstly, to manifest, as had never been manifested before in a universal way, that there is, right at the very heart of things spiritually, an antagonism between God and this world, and that world can never be reconciled to God. You have to use the word ‘world’ in another sense when speaking of reconciling the world; that is a more limited usage of the word, but that world of which we are speaking is beyond reconciliation. We shall see that as we go on.

Secondly. His coming was, while to register in an absolute and pre-eminent way that mutual antagonism, TO RESCUE AN INSTRUMENT FROM THIS WORLD, to secure an instrument in this world for this age, EMBODYING THAT ANTAGONISM. Do you get the force of that? Did Christ come, first of all, to make the antagonism absolutely apparent? Yes! Then equally He came to secure an instrument in this world, for this age, which would embody that antagonism. That is, the instrument which Christ secures in this age, in this world, is going to be an age expression of the antagonism between God and this world. That means that if you and I are a part of God’s instrument in this world, resultant from the work of the Lord Jesus in His Cross, you and I are going to be the embodiment of that antagonism; that is, there is going to be something about us which can have no compromise with this world, and which for ever stands in a position similar to that which the Lord Jesus occupies in relation to this world in the spiritual antagonism. And that instrument is going to feel the antagonism which He met, and is going to be conscious that this place, this world, is by no means a place of rest and abiding. “In the world ye shall have tribulation…”. To get rid of that is to undo the work of the Lord Jesus: to try to get popularity in this world for Christianity, to escape the world’s bitterest antagonism, is to counter all that the Lord Jesus came to do.

Now that is a terrific thing to say, but it is true. I made a note in my Testament from Martin Luther. He had a pictorial way, as you know, of presenting truth, and he did it both for the devil and for the Lord. In speaking about Matthew 5:10-12 he pictures the disciples of the Lord, the believers, arriving at the gates of heaven and being met there by the Lord Himself: and one of the questions which He asks each one who arrives, with which He interrogates every professed disciple, is this:

“Wert thou an abomination to the whole world as I and Mine have been from the foundation of the world?”

Well, the Lord’s coming was to secure an instrument in this world for the age which would embody that mutual antagonism between God and this world. You see your calling, brethren. Does that explain something? I think it explains a lot. The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews has a way of putting it: “Of whom the world was not worthy.” That is his verdict on the whole matter.

Thirdly. His coming was to destroy for such (that is, such instrument) that law of death. Note: firstly, to bring out into the clear light, which He Himself was, the reality, the depth of that mutual antagonism between God and the world; secondly, to take out of the world a people for Himself, yet to be in the world for the age as a representation of that antagonism; then, thirdly, to destroy for such that law, that mainstay, that master-hold of the powers of evil, to destroy him that had the power of death and to deliver them; to destroy the power of death for His own. He came to do that. It would be impossible for us to live here on God’s side and on God’s behalf, to meet all that antagonism of hell to God, unless Christ had accomplished the destroying of that masterhold of the devil – spiritual death.

Dear friends, you and I are becoming more and more conscious, are we not – many of us are – that the only possibility of staying in this world and on the earth is by the life which is triumphant over death, and unless we know more of that, this place is going to be impossible spiritually. Is that not true? It is! There is a real spiritual world with which we are in touch, but which we so dimly understand. What is the spiritual experience of those who are really going on with God? It is, on the one hand, of an intensified consciousness of death, and, on the other hand, a growing emphasis on the power of His resurrection. Is that true? I do not think there is any doubt about it. And this is not something which touches merely the spiritually aged and fully matured. I believe that the Lord would teach the younger folk this thing: those of you who would, perhaps, think that you are not old enough to understand and enter into these great spiritualities. I believe the Lord would teach you that you can know deliverance and victory in the realm of death by coming into a full apprehension of Him as your life, and, while the phraseology, the terminology may be difficult for you, the experience may be as clear and as simple as anything could be. The fact that those who are children of God – whether mature or immature – ARE children of God brings them into experiences which they might never have if they were not the Lord’s children. The Lord does not save from going into those experiences, but in them draws out to Himself by a strong taking hold, when something very critical is threatened, and then Himself comes in, and it is something which is above what man can do, and they have learned their lesson. They have discovered that it is possible to live in this world, where death reigns, and to know victory in Christ by taking hold of Him as their life. He came that for His own He might destroy that law of death by which the god of this world, the prince of this world, holds his own in bondage, and by which he operates against the saints to try to bring them back into bondage, the bondage of death.

Fourthly. His coming was to set up His instrument, redeemed from the world, that counter-law of a heavenly life, to introduce something else into their constitution. The constitutional law of the unredeemed from the world, of those who are of this world, is bondage to the world. They see nothing beyond the horizon of this world, and all the time the world holds them and carries them on. The tides of worldliness carry this world on, and to try to stem those tides is an impossible thing until something has happened by which there comes about the realization of this: “Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world”, the introduction of that which is an adequate countering to the mighty gravitating affinity in man’s nature toward the world. He came to set that up in His own, and here that big difference is recognized, which has been so often pointed out – that if you really do become begotten of God, born from above, there is put into you the life of God. You do not have to give up the world, there is not a struggle to break with this anew that and something else, and you never have to sit down and say: ‘I suppose now that I am a Christian I have to give up this and that, and I must not go here and I must not go there.’ You never have that sort of thing at all: you find a counter-gravitation, you find that something else has come in which has made that kind of gravitation comparatively weak, and your heart is now in other directions, drawn to other things. You may test your spiritual life by that.

Now, young people, let me say a word to you. Perhaps sometime in your superficial thinking and imagining you think the world has a better time than you do, and that you would like to have a little more of what the world has. I put it to you: make up your mind to go and have it. IF YOU ARE A TRUE CHILD OF GOD, start off, and see how far down the road you get. You will not get there. You will turn round and come back. What is the matter with you? Well, something has happened in spite of your thinking and your imagining and those superficial feelings – many of them, perhaps, the fruit of the severe time which you have because of spiritual antagonism. In spite of all that you cannot go very far in that way. You know the parable of the squirrel; you know that the gravitation is upward. Although you might just jump down to get a nut, it is not your place. The Lord came to do that, and it is the strategy of the Lord never to say that you must not go there and you must not do this. He puts something into you – a counter-gravitation, a mighty work, which the Lord has accomplished.

Fifthly. To gather out from the world spiritually a people for His coming Kingdom. Not to take them away from the world. That would be very nice, but He would take them out from the world spiritually, so that He has here in the world His Kingdom spiritually represented by them. And He is gathering out from the nations spiritually now; a spiritual out-gathering, detachment, a people for that coming Kingdom. He came to do that, and He has made it perfectly clear that His Kingdom is not of this world and is not of things seen and handled. “I would have you know, brethren,” said the apostle, “that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom.” His Kingdom is now a spiritual thing in the hearts of those who have been taken out of the kingdom of darkness and translated into the Kingdom of the Son of His love. That is a thing already done. A day will come when He will translate them from this world while He deals with the rest, and purges this world and makes it fit for the habitation of saints, without any antagonism. He came to do that. He is doing it. We know it in our own hearts. That is exactly what has happened with us. We are not of the world. Our life “is hid with Christ in God.” We look for a Saviour.

Sixthly. The whole course of spiritual experience is progressive detachment from the world and attachment to Christ. It is a course of spiritual history. It is a progressive thing, and not that in the very commencement of our spiritual life we were not severed from the world. We were fundamentally and originally separated from the world, but you and I know quite well that our experience has been all in the direction of this world becoming less and less, and Christ becoming more and more and more. “Whom having not seen, we love.” “Where our treasure is, there our heart is also.” We know something of the words: “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is…”. “Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth.” We know that that is going on in us.

Seventhly. The death, resurrection and ascension of Christ, and the gift of the Holy Spirit are the basic factors in this work of Christ. Let me repeat it. The death, the resurrection, the ascension of Christ, and the gift of the Holy Spirit are THE factors, the basic factors, in this work of the Lord. His death is basic, and we are told that His death is to be entered into by us in faith. “Ye died…”. That means we were crucified to the world and the world unto us in Christ. The resurrection of Christ is a basic factor in this work. It means that we stand on resurrection ground and are outside of the world. He never appeared personally to the world again after His death. He will one day, but He has not done so yet. So far as this age is concerned, He is not on that level at all. He is outside of the world, and for the age all His own, standing with Him in resurrection, are there spiritually. His ascension means that everything now for this age for His own is heaven-ward and not of this world. The anointing of the Holy Spirit will lead us progressively, ever more and more, away from the world to Christ, revealing His things. These are the basic factors in this great work which He has come to do.

Eighthly. The Church is called to be the collective embodiment of all that truth. The Church is called to be the collective – the corporate – embodiment of that full, absolute antagonism between God and the world. I realize that is a tremendous thing to say in the face of what is called the Church, in the face of what we know to be associated with what is called the Church. One hesitates in the almost hopeless situation that immediately confronts you when you raise the standard like that. Are we to conclude that what is called the Church is not the Church? At any rate, let us challenge ourselves on that. We can do no more than proclaim the truth and seek that it shall be realized in ourselves. It is not for us to go out and denounce or to judge, we must proclaim. But, oh! it does raise some very serious questions for many of the Lord’s people. To be in any way entangled with that thing, that awful thing spiritually, against which God as in Christ has been revealed to be so utterly set! To be entangled in that through religion, through Christianity, through what is called the Church! You know quite well that if you stand on that ground you will meet the antagonism of the scribes and pharisees.

The Church is called to be the corporate expression of that antagonism, of that impact, by which Christ has destroyed the power of death, and living in the power of His resurrection. The Church is called to reveal in itself that it is not of this world and that it is moving steadily further and further away from the world, because Christ is becoming more and more its life; to be the embodiment of all that is meant by the death of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, the ascension of Christ, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. There is no doubt but that that is how it was at the beginning. Are we to say that that is gone for ever, and that that can never be? No, we cannot say that. We may have to come within a very limited realm, but I verily believe that when the Lord comes, and there is that blessed movement toward Himself of the overcomers, He will have in them the embodiment of all that. They will represent all that.

For myself I cannot see translation possible on any other ground. Is the Lord going to translate this world to heaven? Never! If you are spiritually bound up with it – when I say ‘spiritually’ I mean bound up with it in heart, a heart link – I do not know what will happen. It seems to me to be so distinctly contradictory to the law of Christ’s work. The work of the Lord Jesus marks the utter detachment from this world, and the consummation is simply the crown of that which has already taken place spiritually, the seal upon what has been done spiritually. That is how I see it, but I know the many difficulties that come up there.

Now let us close, so far as this broad survey is concerned, by just putting our finger upon one or two points. Do you see now why there must be no personal interests on the part of the people of God? What are personal interests? They are worldly in essence, in nature. It is what Paul spoke of when he said: “All seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.” That personal element runs out into so many directions, and is so imperceptible in many things, that only the Lord can bring it to light and destroy it. Do you see, on the face of it, why there must be no personal interest, and that there must be such an utterness of abandonment to the Lord’s interests, and that anything other than that is a spiritual link with this world? The enemy can come in and destroy your testimony if you have any personal interests, even in the work of the Lord. Deeper than we recognize there are those things which represent our like and our dislike, our want and our not want, our going to have and our not going to have, all of which give rise to suspicion of others, and then suspicion moves silently and imperceptibly on to jealousy, and jealousy on to a breakdown in fellowship. Tracked right down to its source it was some personal element, wanting it as we want it, wanting it ourselves, and not the utter emptying of self; and in the long run, sooner or later, the enemy has made an awful havoc because there was his link. Do you now see why?

When the Lord really gets a complete mastery of the life, He works to have everything carried on to resurrection ground. That is, He takes everything through a depth and a death, where we lose it, and then in a deep crisis, in which we are brought to the point in heart of letting that go to God, not reproaching God, not rebelling against God, not refusing to accept God’s way, but where we come to the place where our heart is one with the heart of God over that matter; then so often the Lord gives that back, but it has come back in a new realm. It has gone through death and it comes back by resurrection, and there is something in it now which is not of this world. It is not a time thing, nor merely an earthly or natural thing. There is something about it now which has God in it. It is on resurrection ground, and the world factor in it has been destroyed. Now that is a true spiritual law. Do you see why the Lord must have it that way?

Let me put that in another way. This is why everything must be brought through to the place where it is wholly for God. Everything has to be wholly for God. The apostle had something to say about the shortness of the time, and those who had wives being as those who had none. Do you think he meant that literally? Ignore your domestic responsibilities, or ignore something which was of God, or ride rough shod over it for what you call spiritual things? Never! A thousand times, never! What the apostle meant was this: you have to hold everything in the light of God’s interests, and if you are holding domestic relationships, or anything else here on this earth, on a natural level, where they are for yourself, for time, and for what they mean to you merely in this life – and that is the range of things – well, that is wrong. Everything has to be held for God, in the light of the Lord’s interests. Why? To have that link with this world and the natural life absolutely destroyed so that the power of spiritual death cannot operate there. Do you not know that when you as a believer, as a spiritual person, or I, touch things naturally we touch spiritual death? Have you no experience of that? The power triumphant over death is in having everything wholly for the Lord and not for ourselves, not for this world, not for this life. Everything has to be held for the Lord.

It is so easy to sing hymns of consecration. We can sing about being all for the Lord, and having everything for the Lord, and we can answer to such challenges, but now let us face it. Are we holding everything for the Lord? Have we got something which, if we would only let that go, would in some other life give the Lord larger interests? Are we taking this attitude: ‘Now, while this thing means much to me, while in a natural way I have deep sentimentalities with this, and it is not easy to let things go, nevertheless, if the Lord is going to get more by my letting go, giving up, well, that is the thing that counts and that matters.’ That is holding things for the Lord. Are we holding things for the Lord? If we are holding things for ourselves, if we are holding things in this life before those heavenly interests of the Lord, we are opening the door to spiritual death. We cannot grow spiritually; we become earthbound, and our spiritual progress is delayed, if not utterly arrested. Everything must be carried over on to resurrection ground, and be wholly for the Lord, wholly for heaven. “Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth.” There is so much bound up with this.

Now do you understand the meaning of suffering? I ask you, those of you who have suffered as the Lord’s children, what has been the effect of your suffering? That is, inasmuch as you have not been persistently rebellious and hard because of the suffering, but inasmuch as you have sought to be one with the Lord in your suffering, what has been the effect of it? Answer me: has it been to make this world much less and the Lord much more, the things of heaven much more? Is that not true? This world has lost its grip, perhaps its charm, its hold. The things which are above have become far more to you through your suffering. Well, do you see the meaning of suffering? Do you see what the Lord is doing? Why does He empty us out? Why does He pour us out to the last drop? Just so that He can pour in, that is all. Just so that heavenly things may take the place of natural, earthly things. The Lord permits His people to suffer in order that that gravitation world-ward might be weakened, and that that power of death might be destroyed: that they may become a heavenly people, living by a life which is His own life, and which it takes full spiritual intelligences to appreciate.

That is the testimony of Christ triumphant, but you cannot recognize that with the human mind. You need a full spiritual intelligence to grasp that. It is only principalities and powers who are able adequately to register the power of His resurrection. They recognize it. So the Church goes on in suffering, in weaknesses, in infirmity, “in deaths oft”; but the Church will finish its course, and the issue will be that the full measure of that law of death operating in this world was taken by Christ in His Church and triumphed over. He is doing something through our weakness. We do not see it nor feel it, and we very often forget all about it in the presence of the suffering, but He is doing something, that now unto the principalities and powers in the heavenlies should be displayed this manifold wisdom of God. That is the meaning of suffering – the raising of a heavenly testimony: getting us away from the world and making us live by a life which is hid with Christ in God.

Do you see the utter impossibility of being all the Lord’s and having any kind of heart association with this world? That ought to come home to us in a new way.

The Church and the World

In our quest for the secrets of the power in the church “As it was in the beginning” — that is, in the years immediately subsequent to the great Pentecost — it is inevitable that we come to its relationship to the world. This inevitability is forced upon us both by its spirit and conduct and by the large place of reference to the world in the New Testament writings. The Lord Himself is recorded as having some very strong things to say about the world. John in his gospel uses the word seventy-seven times. In chapter seventeen alone it occurs fifteen times. In his letters it is used some twenty-one times. In Corinthians it is found twenty-two times, and it is referred to in almost every other letter.

Concerning the world, it is said:

1. That it is something that Christ had to overcome, and which He said that He had overcome.

2. That in its entirety it lies in the wicked one, and has a Prince.

3. That it is hostile and inimical to God, and that to be its friend is to be the enemy of God.

4. That it is something out of which Christians have been taken, and are prayed for that, although in it, they may be kept from it.

5. That it lies under condemnation and is to be destroyed.

Many more things are said about it, but we do not propose to enter into an analysis of the word itself or the difference in Greek words translated into this one word “world”.

But some may perhaps quote John 3:16, over against the above: “God so loved the world…”. This great Scripture indicates the real meaning of what we are going to say. There is really no contradiction. In order to understand the contrast we have to ask the question: What is this thing that is so out of favour with God and on the other hand, what is it that God so loved?

As to the first question it can be said at once that, in this sense of disfavour, “world” does not mean the framework, the sphere, the material and geographical structure. Neither does it essentially mean the people within that structure. God does not hate mankind! “World” must therefore mean something other, and we can perhaps indicate this by certain terms such as: a nature, a disposition, a mentality, a system, a constitution, a way! It is in all this that what is alien, hostile, and contrary to God is inherent.

The “world” in this respect is outlawed by God because foreign to His own nature and constitution. It is here that this whole matter of worldliness rests. This matter has suffered lamentably from over-simplification, and has resulted in many people being put into a false position.

For instance, worldliness has been made a question of where people go (theatres, cinemas, dances, etc., etc.), or how they dress and behave and talk. It has been said that to become a Christian such things must be abandoned and certain other things MUST take their place. Pamphlets have been written on: Should a Christian go to the theatre? — Smoke? — Drink alcoholic drink? — Use make up? and so forth. This is to miss the point entirely and can become as legalistic as Judaism. Really, in all this, no less a point is missed than that of the new birth itself, which, if genuine, — resulting in the indwelling Spirit and life of God — will answer all such questions FROM WITHIN.

Let us look more closely at this term “world” in the light of the Bible.

1. The World is a Nature

If, as we have noted, the world is hostile to God, and God to it, if it is something to be “overcome”, and from which the Christian must be separated, if friendship with it constitutes those concerned “enemies of God”, then there MUST be something VERY evil about it, and what is more evil than Satan himself? The Bible represents Satan as having become “the PRINCE of this WORLD” and its “god” by the CONSENT and conquest of man, to whom the created earth was committed as a trust.

But let it be clearly understood that this change of government was no mere “official” and formal thing, so that Satan came to rule merely from an external position. He captured mind, heart, and will and inoculated man’s soul with his own nature. Man’s nature was changed. What is that nature?

All-inclusively it is shown to be rivalry with God, that is:

(a). To take the place of God.

(b). To take God’s rights from Him and not let God be everything.

(c). To be independent of God and SELF-sufficient, knowing better, able to do better, or to do without God.

(d). To be possessed of power, to control, to master, to rule, to be superior; a revolt against subjection and servanthood.

This is the nature with which, in greater or lesser degree, humanity has been impregnated. The heart of this whole issue is “selfhood”, rather than “Godhood”. How does it work out?

(a). It makes much more of the material and temporal than it does of the spiritual.

With God all things are viewed from the standpoint of spiritual value. That is His very nature. God is a Spirit, not impersonal, but a spiritual person. The significance of persons in the Bible, and even after, is the measure of the spiritual effect and fruit of their lives and work.

Satan will absorb and obsess with the material and temporal in order to rob of the spiritual or to squeeze it out.

(b). It makes everything of the present and blinds to the eternal.

What we have and can get NOW is the main consideration. This life is everything! This is the real; the eternal is unreal to the natural man.

This is a great point on which Satan tempted Christ and offered Him the world. On this point Jesus overcame the world! In the world the SEEN is what matters; the natural senses of perception and evaluation wholly govern. The standard of success is that of what can be shown.

In many other ways the nature of this world is in contrast to that of God; its standards, its point of view, its values, its aims, its thoughts, its ways, its spirit. One of the greatest features in Christian spiritual education is that of learning how altogether different are God’s thoughts, standards of values and ways from our own.

2. The World is a Prison

The keeper of that prison is Satan himself.

The Bible represents the souls of men as in captivity, in bondage, in fetters, in prison, in the power of Satan. It represents Christ as the anointed Redeemer breaking into the world to “proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound”. He is the Stronger than the strong man keeping his house!

The escape or deliverance of a soul from the world is fraught with very intense conflict, and forever after it is a battle to keep free of its influence, its power and its down-drag.

3. The World is a Lie

As man was at first trapped by a lie, so he remains the victim of what is false. The more a person has of this world, the greater the disillusionment at the end. Its pleasures are a deceitful stream which will fail at last. Its riches bring no deep heart satisfaction, and the soul goes out as naked as it came in.

Jesus said that to gain the whole world at the expense of the soul is no bargain. The subtlety by which man was first captured was in the fact that the TRUTH as to the ultimate result was not disclosed but hidden. Jesus left the people of His day in no doubt that they were blind and demonstrated it by miracles, that is by acts which only GOD could do.

There are degrees of blindness. There is the natural blindness which is universal, but which can be remedied by the grace and power of God. And there is the double blindness of prejudice and pride added to nature, which is fatal. Such was the blindness of the ruling religious class of Christ’s time and it cost them everything of hope.

All that we have said and all that it implies can be tested by history and for Christians by experience.

“In the beginning” the church knew all this, stood in the truth of it and taught it. Moreover, the Holy Spirit made this very real. In those days a spiritual complicity with the world was disastrous. When those who had marketable goods and properties were turning them to account for the furtherance of the Gospel, there were two who took advantage of the “going” to get profit for themselves. They took hold of the commercial element of the world and linked it with the things of heaven. It is later declared to be something put into the heart by Satan. The result was disastrous for them, and the swift visitation of judgment laid down for all time the principle that commercialism in divine things is fatal.

It was because of the allowed invasion of the world into the churches that their judgment was effected, as recorded in Revelation, and in some cases the lampstand removed. The great deception which is costing the church so much power is, that in order to influence the world, it is necessary to be one with it, to come down to its level; to employ its methods, to use its means and to remove all distinctiveness between the church and itself. The truth is that the church’s power over the world is in proportion to its separation from it. The question of attraction is to be answered along the line of a perfectly joyous and satisfied church without any of the world’s playthings. This, we have seen demonstrated. There is a magnetism about the joy and enjoyment of wholly committed and consecrated Christians which makes the world’s methods vain.

So it was “in the beginning” despite persecution, ostracism, and much adversity. The secret of the early power and growth of the church was the greatness of the new world which had been opened in Christ, and the church’s entrance thereinto. Christ ENTIRELY filled their bill, and they needed no plus. What it meant was the greatness of Christ and their apprehension thereof.

Their independence of the world was their power over it. The sufficiency of Christ made that independence. It intrigued the world, led to enquiry, investigation and wistfulness, even if it did provoke the prince of this world to bitter jealousy and antagonism.

The church may have to travel a long way back to recover its power and influence, but there is no alternative and the world will prove its undoing, disillusionment, and shame.

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Livingwalk Note: For the fullest library of the works of T. Austin-Sparks, please go to http://www.austin-sparks.net.

Regarding recommendations and referrals in general: It should go without stating, that we do not hold, as do some, to any notion of “infallibility” among the Lord’s servants. It is the responsibility of all students to search the Scriptures by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to determine if the ideas and experiences of others along The Way represents the truth or not. It is our experience that the Spirit of Truth will indeed “affirm” or substantiate the truth in ways that transcend mere intellectual or theological agreement or convincing; in short we have nothing to prove to anyone through the recommendations and referrals of the writings of others, or even our own. As in everything pertaining to The Way, please pray accordingly that the Lord’s path be chosen and His will be fulfilled; that we will all be led into the deeper knowledge (GK: “epignosis”) of His Son and His Way. (Ed.)

Behold the Lamb of God – W.E. Smith

Dear saints – as we push further and deeper into the limitless mind and heart of our God; as we seek sincerely to comprehend and internalize the exceedingly great wisdom of His ways and plans; as we commit to laying aside all religious convention and human insight, we inevitably come naked and alone to He who is known preeminently as the Lamb. All else is eclipsed and marginalized as we gaze upon and ponder He who represents the express sum of all of God’s grace and truth and wisdom. Every false and self-sustaining thing can only attempt in so many pitiful ways to reduce Him, and every fruit that does not spring forth from out of His life and purpose can only fall to the dust and die. False prophets can only fabricate some other thing, some vain counterfeit, some anemic reality so easily revealed for the emptiness it holds. Yet the Spirit of God knows only the Christ of God. The Father of the Lamb, Peter’s “Most Excellent Glory” reveals only His Son.

He alone is the mystery, the truth, the wisdom and the life recorded in the Scriptures and confirmed by the very testimony of the heavens and the earth. He is our only object, and only in Him will everything good from the Father flow down to us. Only He was sent to heal the brokenhearted, and to loose the chains of captivity from the human spirit. Only He can comfort those who mourn and lift the spirit of heaviness that bears down on the human condition. Only He can plant trees of righteousness in a forgotten and barren wasteland. Only He can reconcile a universe cut off from the divine intent of its Maker.

And so have you come, dear Christian? Have you stood naked in that most holy place where only you and He stands alone, stripped of your most sacred notions and arguments, all of your man-sized categories and concepts? Or do you turn away from so weak and seemingly pathetic a thing? Does everything it represents prick and unsettle everything you have learned while living and breathing in this dark world? The very survival instinct within you, flowing into you with your mother’s milk, is smashed to superficiality by everything that He represents. Clearly, this is some other wisdom, my friends, and please don’t be tempted to reduce it to some generalized martyr’s zeal, for this was no temporal political or social cause for which our Lord allowed Himself to be poured out and consumed. There are, and have been, many martyrs, but only one Lamb of God. There have been countless causes and wrongs to be righted, but only one universe held bondage to the sin of the serpent and his children.

Consider for a moment that most biting and loathsome language employed in Isaiah’s Suffering Servant (Isaiah 53) –

despised and rejected by men
a man of sorrows, well acquainted with grief
stricken, smitten, afflicted
wounded, bruised
“the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all”
oppressed and afflicted, yet “He opened not His mouth”
“led as a lamb to the slaughter and as sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth”
“it pleased the Lord to bruise Him, He has put Him to grief”
“He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors”
“He bore the sins of many and made intercession for the transgressors”

Now when John the Baptist laid eyes on Him, he did not declare “Behold your King!” or “Herald the Champion of the People!” Instead, he saw a lamb and cried –

“Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)

Let that settle in deep for a moment, folks; let it stir around and swell up inside you. Let the transcendent, spiritual wisdom of it stretch beyond everything that this faith has become in this age, to so many superficial proselytes and pretenders. Let it assimilate and supplant every vain and peripheral notion that so readily consumes so much of His church these days. Let it sift, settle and lie where it may, for this wisdom is unlike anything we have known or can know from any created thing, at anytime or anywhere. To call it religious is a mockery. To allegorize it away is practically heresy. And to affirm any other wisdom from any other source is outright apostasy. For here is the Christian way in a nutshell and a heartbeat. Here is God’s Wisdom and God’s Way. Here is where spirit touches bone.

“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.” (Rev. 5:12)

Whereas the world and its wisdom eschews weakness and esteems the mighty, the true path to glory, honor and power lies elsewhere. The seldom mentioned thrust of the gospel is that our God accepts us only in the context of our rejection at the hands of this world and its wisdom. We will only truly and ultimately find life in Him when we forfeit our lives here and now in this world. Only by releasing it do we attain it. Only by letting it go do we pick it up again. Here is the faith and testimony of the saints, those who love not their lives in this world, and are not afraid to lay it down for their Savior and Lord.

Let me ask you this, dear ones – when our Lord asked you to follow Him, what was He asking? What could He have possibly meant? I think you know the answer, my brethren. His way is the way of the lamb, of death unto life, of losing to gain, of falling to the ground and being broken so that others may live, of being opposed, rejected, and wrongly accused; of being judged and found guilty for crimes you did not commit; of the spilling of innocent blood while the Father weeps and the heavens roar.

Now I dare say this with all boldness – if any preacher, man or angel himself knocks on your door and offers you anything less than this, slam the door and bolt it tight, for the gates of hell have come knocking!

A little different from Friday night socials and Vacation Bible School, isn’t it? Oh how we have twisted the message my friends. Oh how we have believed that first lie of easy believism. Oh how we all need to rededicate ourselves to His Way and His Wisdom, regardless of the cost. Please help us Lord. Heaven help us.

And before you start assuming that the one sharing these words has already attained to this wisdom, and is shouting down to you from atop the mountain – think again, dear friends. I confess sadly that my disposition has always been that of a fighter, one who scratches and claws to assert himself in whatever way he can, shaking his little red fists at the world. No, like you, I am looking up to He who has ascended, and is forever worthy. My wisdom is perhaps even further from that of our Lord and Master.

Please pray that the Lord’s grace and life will spill out into all of us here in such a measure as to demonstrate the wisdom of the Lamb to a world that knows nothing of it, and indeed wants nothing of it.

His very own people rejected Him at His first coming because He was not the Samson-esque deliverer they wanted and expected. And I fear in my heart that the church (especially here in the West) has already rejected Him for their own worldly and political savior. May our God deliver us and in His mercy help us to behold the Lamb.

Oh Merciful and Beloved Father – Great and Glorious God – so pampered and needy are we in this generation. Forgive us, Father, and let the sustaining wisdom of Your Son shine forth in us as a witness to Your ultimate and eternal glory. Not because we are in any manner worthy, but merely because we are emptied of every other kind of wisdom, Oh Lord. We praise and honor You as God, and by Your grace we will have no other. In the name of the Lamb, we pray. Amen.

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Please pray for us here at Living-Walk, that we would watch and see the Master at work, and understand what He would have us do.

Your friend in Christ Jesus,

Wayne

The Work of God at the End Time – T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 1 – The Peculiar Conditions of an End-Time

Reading: Luke 2:25-38; 1 Cor. 10:11; Heb. 8:13, 9:26.

sparksWe are being led at this time to take note of the fact that we are at an end-time, and that God does a peculiar work at such a time. Things become very strange and very difficult at an end-time; everything seems to be thrown into a state of disturbance, upheaval, intense pressure and conflict. The great conflicting forces in this universe register very terribly and intensely upon that which is of God and upon those who are of account to Him, so that there often arises the sense that this is an actual end, and a question as to what more is possible. Inwardly we feel that the way is becoming exceedingly hedged up: ‘frustration’ is the word which seems to prevail, and outwardly everything is in a state of serious and great question as to the future. Indeed, it becomes more persistently the experience of the true people of God that they could give up and abandon everything. The ways in which this works out are numerous, but the whole effect is to paralyse and put out of commission that which is of God and bring it to a complete standstill. It is this, then, that will govern our consideration at this time – that we are in an end-time and that in end-times the work of God takes a particular form and is of a peculiar nature. It obviously becomes supremely important and necessary for the Lord’s people to know the time in which they live, what the portents are, and what it is that God would do at such a time.

I suggest to you that that constitutes a real reason for getting together in serious and solemn conference, for it is not something that we can take just as a part of a sequence of meditations. Our consideration of it may be supremely crucial and in a peculiar way related to a time in the history of this world, and of God’s work in this world, which is of tremendous importance and will not be repeated.

Now, this matter of the end-time and God’s work therein is brought very fully and clearly into view by Simeon and Anna. There is no doubt that they represent firstly an end-time – an end-time dispensationally and an end-time with regard to their own age, for they were both advanced in years. And then they also represent God’s service at such a time. Simeon used the word of himself – “Now lettest thou thy servant (bondservant, the word is) depart, Lord, according to thy word, in peace.” “Thy servant.” Anna was found continuing in the temple in fastings and supplications day and night, not leaving it, a prophetess thus occupied in the house of God; and if that is not a picture of service, what is?

FULLNESS OF RIPE AGE CARRIED ON IN FRESHNESS OF NEW LIFE

I am, in the first place, going to take up the age factor. Let me say at once that, although I am going to talk about old age, my message is mainly to young people. If that sounds hardly kind and fair to others, let me put it in this way: age is not a matter of years at all. You may be young in years and yet be far beyond your years, or you may be old in years and far behind your years. This is a spiritual matter. This age factor, as represented by Simeon and Anna, corresponds to the word in Hebrews 8, “He hath made the first old. But that which is becoming old and waxeth aged is nigh unto vanishing away”; and again, to the words in 1 Cor. 10, “upon whom the ends of the ages are come.” That makes us very old, does it not?

Well now, what have we as the picture before us? We have an aged man with a babe in his arms, at once bringing an end and a beginning together, an end handed on to a beginning, a beginning taking up all the fullness represented by the old. It is the old passing over into and giving place to the new. If we get the Divine idea, the spiritual thought, about this – an aged man with a babe in his arms – we at once see that from the Divine standpoint that is the Divine principle. Age is not diminution, contraction, declension, depreciation. That is not God’s mind about old age. There is a passage in Isaiah which says, “The child shall die a hundred years old” (Isa. 65:20). There is a state, a condition, a realm in which a child shall die one hundred years old. It means there is a principle here – that there is a realm in which age has the child present, has the babe there in its arms. At one hundred years old the child has not gone, it is still the child. The Divine thought about old age is rather that of fullness, fullness unto the enrichment of what is yet to be, and which is about to come in; to provide a heritage; not to pass out and take everything with it and for that to be the end, but to have something very full and rich to be taken up and carried on and expressed in newness, freshness, youthfulness; all the values of a long history brought out in new ways. That is what is here.

You know the instances in the Bible of infancy linked with old age. How much is made of this spiritual principle in relation to Abraham and Isaac! When Abraham was old, Isaac was born. The fact is taken up to express this – that when there is a great accumulation of history and spiritual knowledge, God will reproduce that, He will give it form again and yet again. “In Isaac shall thy seed be called” (Gen. 21:12). Or again, Jacob and Benjamin, the child of his old age; and what a lot Benjamin represents spiritually. Then we have the case of Eli, who was very old, and the child Samuel. It is not only a beautiful picture, but it is a very significant one, that child alongside of the aged Eli. God started there again, right in the presence of something that was in itself about to pass out, but taking up all its spiritual values to reproduce them and bring out all their intrinsic worth. Here again are the aged Simeon and Anna, – by certain computations we arrive at the conclusion that Anna was 106 years old at this point – these two with a babe. It is not an end with God; it is something very much more than that.

ALL FORMER SPIRITUAL VALUES NOW CENTRED IN CHRIST

So the inclusive thing represented by Simeon and Anna is fullness by fulfilment. Firstly, it was the completing of a phase, the gathering up of all past spiritual values, as represented in these two, into a new and wholly spiritual order, the order of Christ.

Simeon so clearly speaks of that transition mentioned in the first chapter of the letter to the Hebrews: “God, having of old time spoken unto the fathers in the prophets by divers portions and in divers manners, hath at the end of these days spoken unto us in his Son.” It is a transition from the fragmentary, the partial, the occasional, the diverse, to the complete, to the inclusiveness of the unified, and to the final. That is the transition here represented. The bringing in of the Babe, the Christ, holding Him in his arms, was in figure, simply the gathering up of all that had been of God in the past, and centering it in Christ, and seeing how He takes it up and is the fulfilment of it and transcends it.

See Simeon, then, as to the past. Something was happening now with the coming in of this Babe, the coming in of the Christ. It is not without a certain significance that Matthew’s Gospel has been put out of chronological order and put into the first place in our New Testament. In that Gospel, again and again Matthew uses this phrase, “that the scriptures might be fulfilled,” or, “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet.” It is characteristic of Matthew’s Gospel. It pointed backward to all the Scriptures which were looking toward this Christ in Whom they were to find their fulfilment, their realisation, their finality and their transcendence. All the hopes, all the expectations, all the promises, all the foreshadowings and all the forecastings, were gathered into the hands of Simeon that day as he held that Babe. The Hope Of Israel was in his hands. What a long hope, what a chequered hope! Even through all their failure when black and dark despair seemed sometimes to have settled down upon them and they cried that their way was hidden from the Lord and their judgment passed away from their God, still they cherished a hope. Through all their failure, through all their sufferings, they still held to the hope that there was something yet to be. Through all the judgments which were poured upon them from heaven for their sins, they still clung to the promises and believed that they would one day see the salvation of the Lord. Oh, here it is all in the hands of Simeon! All that past is here present in those arms. That Little One answers to it all. The Hope of Israel!

This expectation and hope has reached its consummation in these very two who, with others, were looking for the consolation of Israel, the redemption of Jerusalem. They were looking; and what a day it was of little prospect, of seeming hopelessness! and yet there were those who were still hoping, still believing, still clinging. And there that day stood Simeon, holding in his arms the fulfilment of all the hopes and expectations and promises – holding the complete embodiment of the full thought of God. Simeon held all that in his hands, and by his words and attitude and spirit you can see him projecting that into the future, holding it forth. “This child is set for…” – the whole future is going to be affected by Him. It was a tremendous moment.

ALL TYPES AND SYSTEMS TRANSCENDED BY CHRIST IN PERSON

Ah, but note, it carried with it a stripping of all framework of earthly systems. It was no longer that which encased Christ, it was Christ Himself. All the encasements of Christ were finished at that moment. What a moment it was! The encasing in types and figures, symbols and prophecies and the whole system of Judaism, that whole framework was shattered and stripped off that day, and the manifest reality of all that had been inherent and intrinsic in the past was in Simeon’s hands, to be handed on to the future. It was a crisis, a turning of the dispensations. It was a passing from all that was merely of earthly systems in relation to Christ, to the Christ Himself: and that is no small thing, and that is the mark of the end-time.

See what we come to. Christ Himself emerges from the framework of things, from all the scaffolding of past ages, from all the figurative and typological and symbolical, and transcends the things by His own Person. There is all the difference between Himself and His things. Right up to that time, God’s people had been occupied with the things concerning the Christ: now they were to be occupied with the Christ Himself. It was a tremendous moment. This is what will be at an end-time. That is the point. An end-time is transition from a lot that has had to do with Christ to Christ Himself, transition from frameworks to the essential and the intrinsic, transition from all the works and the things related to Christ to that which is known of Him personally. All the other is going to be stripped off, and we are in the day when that stripping off has seriously commenced. The issue is going to be – may I put it this way? – how much we have actually in our hands of the very Christ Himself, how much we are occupied with the things concerning Him, the encasement of Christ.

This work of transition is going to be done, for this is an end-time movement. I see it here so clearly, the pre-figuring of the prophesying of that other end-time which we have in the book of the Revelation, when the man child is brought forth, and the ultimate things are in view. At such a time everything will be tested and challenged by the forces that will be let loose from hell. There started, with the bringing in of this first man child, the Lord Jesus, a loosing of Satanic and hellish forces which has gone on and on, right through this dispensation. Herod heard, and loosed his sword, occasioning a terrible massacre, in an endeavour to compass the death of this One; and from that time onward hell was out (and has continued to be out) not against a system but against a living Person. So here we see the man child presented and the tremendous reactions that are immediately provoked.

Pass right on to Revelation 12, and there you see a corporate company called the man child. (It is corporate because the language is “and they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb.”) This is the corporate counterpart of the individual, of the personal. When that corporate expression of the man child is presented in the book of the Revelation, what have you? – a most violent release of evil forces for the destruction of everything that speaks of Christ.

GOD’S END-TIME WORK – EVERYTHING ESSENTIALLY SPIRITUAL

Well now, what is the service of God at an end-time? As far as we have gone, surely we are able to see one or two things. The particular work of God at an end-time is, to begin with, the constituting of a new and spiritually inclusive dispensation, a new age of an essentially and wholly spiritual kind. In Heb. 12:27 we have, “And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that have been made, that those things which are not shaken may remain.” That word ‘removing’ really means the transferring or the transposing on to another and different basis. The fact that that comes at the end of the letter to the Hebrews is significant, for that letter is just full of that earthly system of Judaism with all its forms, its ritual, its make-up and constitution. All that is earthly, even in relation to God, is going to be removed, and everything is going to be transferred to another basis – a spiritual, a heavenly basis; and when things begin to happen on the ground of an end-time, that is the character of what is taking place. The earthly is now going to be forced to give way to the heavenly, the temporal to the spiritual, the outward to the inward. Then it will be proved just how much we have that can be transferred, for there are many things that are not going to be transferred. “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 15:50). That signifies and implies that there is a whole order of creation which is not going to constitute that eternal order; it is to pass away. Everything is going to be transferred to another basis, and this kind of thing intensifies at an end-time. Do you see that?

Let me put that more simply. What God will see to, by sheer force of conditions, is that anything that is only temporal will go and that which is spiritual alone will remain. There must therefore be intensifying processes to bring out the spiritual. Is not that where we are? I do not know what your experience is, but touching one and another here and there I find there is some real understanding of this. We never knew such spiritual conflict, pressure and difficulty as we are knowing now; things seem to be getting beyond measure. May this not be the explanation? The Lord seems to be concentrating upon bringing out spiritual values, making spiritual men and women, and if I am not mistaken (and I claim no gift of prophecy, in the foretelling sense), we are going to see, and are already seeing, the removal of so much, the external things, upon which Christians have been relying as though these things constituted their Christian life. We are going to be forced back to the place where the one question that faces us is, After all, what have I got of the Lord Himself? Not, What can I do, where can I go? but, What have I got? I believe that is a very present and appropriate question in many parts of the world just now, and it will be increasingly so as everything outward is brought to an end. Now is the test – What have I got in my hands?

GOD’S END-TIME WORK INCLUSIVE OF ALL FORMER VALUES

Yes, the constituting of a new and spiritual dispensation. But I also used the word inclusive – that is, the heritage of all the values that God has ever given. This is, mark you, a dispensation principle. Spiritual history returns upon itself, it goes back to the last point of fullness. Perhaps you do not grasp what I mean by that. If there has come about a decline, whether in our own spiritual life or in the life of the Church, sooner or later we shall be forced back to the point where we left the full measure of God. Cannot you see that happening? We see it in various connections today. Take the matter of literature. There is an increasing demand for the old works. Publishers are finding a great demand for something of years ago, and it is coming into the market. The shelves have been full of cheap, superficial Christian stuff with gaudy wrappers and all that, and times have come when people are aware that this is not meeting the need, and the demand for something more is arising. The call is for some of the books which former generations had. That is happening. History is returning upon itself. There has been decline, loss, superficiality, frivolity, cheapness, in Christianity, and the Church is going to perish for want of solid food unless it is provided. Thus the cry is, ‘Let us get back to what there was before.’ That is happening in many ways. It is a dispensation principle. If God has really given anything, that will never be lost. Time will vindicate it. Sooner or later we shall have to come back to it. We shall be thrown back for our very lives on what God has given. This is where the new takes up the old.

It is a sorry and a superficial day, and one which will not stand up to things, when you think you can dispense with experience. If young people suppose they can think lightly of those who have gone through the fires and grown grey-headed in the service of God, in learning to know the Lord, and that such can be set aside as back numbers, that is a sorry day for the future. With all that is needed of the new generation, do not let us think they can produce all the past in their own lifetime. God will throw them back upon what has gone before. Do not count the past servants of God as back numbers. They are very much up to date. Simeon was very much up to date when he brought all the wealth, fullness, richness of the past in his hands, and, so to speak, transferred it to the new, to the Babe, Who took it all up, and Who later confessed that He did take it all up. “Think not that I came to destroy the law or the prophets: I came not to destroy, but to fulfil” (Matt. 5:17). There are always, sooner or later, reactions from cheapness and superficiality, and that usually under duress and compulsion and a sense of being unable to go on without something fuller.

Infancy in the arms of age. Yes, and infancy depends upon those arms. I think I am not going too far in saying that here, in the holding of the infant Christ in these arms, there is this signification, that for the fulfilment of His life and ministry the Christ depended very much upon the past, upon all that God had done before. The only Bible He had was the Old Testament. How He lived on it! When He said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God,” He was talking about the only Bible He had, the Word of God, the Old Testament. You see how the Old Testament is used in the New. It is but another aspect of this. One of the richest studies and most profitable lines of inquiry is to mark where the Old Testament is found in the New and why it is found there, the use made of it. Yes, it is a tremendous fact that which is new depends upon that which has gone before.

THE ABIDING VALUE OF EVERY WORKING OF GOD

We come to a close for the present by noting this. We must live and we must work with our eye upon the after value of our lives. Thank God that can be. Life would be an enigma and intolerable if all that we have learned through suffering and discipline passed out with us and there was nothing more for it. No, it is not like that at all. There is an after value, and we ought to live, I say, and work, with our eye upon that heritage which we are to give beyond our own time. On the principle that God vindicates everything that He Himself has done and given, and makes it necessary, then He is making necessary for His new dispensation what He is doing in you and in me now. That new dispensation is going to be constituted on the basis of what He is doing in his saints now. That is a New Testament principle. What He is doing in the Church now is to be the good of the coming ages. What He is doing in us, it is not presumption to say, is going to be the very life of some beyond our time. So we should not think of this life as something to be got through, to be lived through to ourselves, something in itself. It is something that is to be found again to the glory of God in that which is to be – the passing on of that which has been of God, which can never die but is conserved by Him forever, and will be necessary. I wonder if that is a new thought to you? What the Lord is doing in you by way of increasing the measure of Christ in you is going to be necessary long after you have gone. It is a principle, a law, that anything that God does is forever and will be necessary.

We will leave it there for the time being and ask the Lord to exercise us quite strongly about this matter of the intrinsic value of the knowledge of Himself for the time that is to be, through this transition upon which we have now so seriously entered.

Go to Chapter 2 – The Importance of Vision