Month: August 2010

“Today If You Hear His Voice” – W.E. Smith

Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. (Heb. 10-25)

Dear followers of the Lord Jesus Christ; all those who are patiently waiting and preparing for His imminent appearance – our sense in the spirit at this time, is that these are indeed the waning hours of this age. And it is vital for all of us that we know what the Lord is doing, what He is saying by His Spirit and His Word, and what He is impressing on our hearts in this momentous time. The world is poised to be judged by He who wields the scepter (see Psalm 45:6; Rev. 2:27, 12:5) and we know that it is hastening toward that judgment. We are watching with great anticipation as all things are being concentrated and intensified, in terms of the wickedness of this world, the spirit of this world and the prince of this world that is soon to be revealed. We know that our place in this world, and our approach and attachment to it, as end-of-the-age followers of our Lord Jesus Christ is so vitally important. And our ever-gracious Lord, in anticipation of all these things, has so graciously provided us with all we need in this hour in terms of spiritual instruction and exhortation. The Book of Hebrews, for example, is absolutely packed with such if we have eyes to see it, and a heart to receive such an urgent and important message.

We will begin by taking note of this particular verse that is talking about fellowship, real spirit-touching-bone fellowship – “not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some”  Apparently, some addressed by Paul here were isolating themselves when the very opposite was needed – “but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” This encouraging of one another, the edifying of one another, we believe, is becoming so much more urgent as events advance. This exhortation is directed at all of us, and it is something that is most important to God. This is something that we need, something that the bride will need to make herself ready. We are to be doing this all the more as we see “the day drawing near.

So just what is this day? What is the day that is approaching or drawing near? If I read this verse correctly, there appears to be an assumption that those at that yet future time would be able to determine that the day is drawing near, that there will be indications that this day is imminent.

Now in terms of what this day might be, a few things might come readily to mind. Is this the day of the Lord? Is this the day of Christ? Is this as the days of Noah? These are all possibilities, to be sure, but I believe the most likely answer is found back in the third chapter of Hebrews –

Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today”, so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end, while it is said,

“TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE,
DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS, AS WHEN THEY PROVOKED ME.” (Heb. 3:12-15)

Here Paul is quoting from Psalm 95, where we read –

For He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you would hear His voice,  Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, As in the day of Massah in the wilderness,

“When your fathers tested Me, They tried Me, though they had seen My work. “For forty years I loathed that generation, And said they are a people who err in their heart, And they do not know My ways.

“Therefore I swore in My anger, Truly they shall not enter into My rest.” (Psalm 95:7-11)

This is obviously referring to Israel, and that wilderness generation that came miraculously out of Egypt and tested the Lord on the journey to the promised land. They were subsequently prohibited from entering into the land of promise and rest. If you recall, only Joshua and Caleb were permitted to enter, based on their faith in Jehovah’s provision and victory. Now this entrance through the Jordan into Canaan, into the land of promise, was called the Lord’s “rest”.

Now, as end-of-the-age, wilderness Christians, as those who are chasing hard after their God at the close of this sixth day (2 Peter 3:8), we need to know that this new “day” is approaching. We need to know what this “day” is and we need to be sure that our hearts are receiving the strong exhortation contained in this letter to the Hebrews. We also need to have eyes to see what the Lord is doing, and ears to hear what He is saying in this hour. We also need to have a spiritual discernment that is deeper than any political or economic sense that this present world is reaching its end. If we back up to Chapter 4 of this book, we will find even more timely exhortation for us –

Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it. For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard.

For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said,

“AS I SWORE IN MY WRATH, THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST,” although His works were finished from the foundation of the world.

For He has said somewhere concerning the seventh day: “AND GOD RESTED ON THE SEVENTH DAY FROM ALL HIS WORKS”; and again in this passage, “THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST.” (Heb. 4:1-5)

That these were Jehovah’s redeemed people, there is no question. They were among those saved by the blood, those who were baptized in the sea, who beheld miracle and wonder and evidences great of the Lord’s deliverance and power. They were His people. They were not unbelievers. Nor were they strangers.

Therefore, since it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly had good news preached to them failed to enter because of disobedience,

He again fixes a certain day, “Today,” saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before,

“TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, (verses 6-7)

So he repeats it again, further emphasizing this point. Back in Hebrews 10, we have a people who are to see the day approaching, to have that special sense that the day is drawing near. Because of that, there is the exhortation to come together more so than usual for the building up and encouragement of one another.

He again fixes a certain day, “Today,” saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before,

“TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS.”

For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that. So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. (verses 7-9)

So now it is starting to become clear just what this day actually is – it is the Sabbath day. It is typified by the Creator’s seventh day rest from the creation (or restoration) of the earth. It is called a rest for the people of God and there is definitely some prophetic significance attached to this particular day. It is a type therefore. Like so many things in the Old Covenant, it pointed to some greater fulfillment in the future. It remained unfulfilled. Those originally intended to enter this rest failed because of a hardened heart of unbelief; a refusal to believe the Lord and to go all the way with Him. Now this, brethren, is extremely important, and it gets right to the heart of this exhortation to us in the letter to the Hebrews.

Let us return to Psalm 95 for a moment. There, the people in the wilderness, those who came out of Egypt, that miracle-witnessing generation, they are said to have tested the Lord. Though they had personally experienced His marvelous works over and over; though they had seen His great and mighty wonders; though He had proven Himself faithful and able to deliver them and to fulfill every one of His promises –

“For forty years I loathed that generation, And said they are a people who err in their heart, And they do not know My ways.” (Psalm 95:10)

Clearly, that generation coming our of Egypt did not have the heart to go all the way with the Lord, and to enter fully into His plans and purposes for them as a people. And this is a most serious object lesson for Christians living at the end of the age. I believe we will find some further evidence for this in 1 Corinthians 10, where we read –

For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness. (1 Cor. 10:1-5)

It is as painfully clear then, that this is a precedent and an example for us. This is a living and breathing exhortation of what will befall us if our hearts are hardened and we fail to enter fully into the purposes and plans of the Lord.

Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, “THE PEOPLE SAT DOWN TO EAT AND DRINK, AND STOOD UP TO PLAY.” Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. Nor let us try the Lord, (verses 6-9)

Remember back in Psalm 95, we are told that they tempted the Lord; they tested Him for 40 years “as some of them did.” Remember that only Joshua and Caleb possessed the trusting faith to enter into the land of rest and promise (elsewhere referred to as an inheritance and a reward).

Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. (verses 9-11)

Now, I am not exactly sure what that last phrase means – “upon whom the ends of the ages have come”, but perhaps in some manner it links back to Hebrews 10, where we have an exhortation for the generation of saints found on the earth just prior to God’s judgment being poured out on the nations. Oh dear saints; where should our focused attention be right now in the time in which we are living? Oh, pray the Holy Spirit will make us ready in every way. Here again, is another warning in verse 12 –

Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. (verse 12)

Coming Soon - The Prophetic Urgency!Perhaps we feel we are alright then; that we are standing firm; that we have a faith and a commitment able to withstand the adversary’s fiery darts (Eph. 6:16), and the Lord’s testing at the end of this age. Perhaps we feel that we are a Joshua or a Caleb and not a Korah; that the life of the world and the passing pleasures of sin in this present world (Heb. 11:25) are far behind us. Oh dear Lord, please make it known what is truly in our hearts!

Now to be clear, this is not referring to our standing in Christ as being covered with His blood and born in the Spirit; that initial saving experience; that is a free and unmerited gift and it is unequivocal. That was resolved once and for all. What Paul is saying here is –  let those who think that they are worthy of reward, that they have the faith that will lead them into the rest and into the day of God, into the kingdom, into the millennial rest of God, the seventh day, let them be careful not to take anything for granted. Let them remember the first people that were chosen, that elect generation, how they failed because of unbelief. They did not enter.

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. (verses 13-14)

What was it that snared the majority of those who came out of Egypt? It is made so very plain right here in this letter – “The people sat down to eat and drink and stood up to play.” Does this sound like a people who were conscious in their spirit of a higher calling, to be a light to the nations of the world, to be a people of God, to be representatives of the righteousness of God? Does this sound like a heavenly people, a people so called that the Lord might manifest His holiness through them? Or does this sound like an earthly, worldly people, who were bound up in the lusts of the flesh, in the appeasement of appetites, in the gratification of sensual pleasure? “The people sat down to eat and drink and stood up to play”. To many of them, Jehovah was simply a means to an end – their very own Egypt where they could be in charge.

It was idolatry, plain and simple. It was a hardening of their hearts. It was a dullness of hearing caused by worldliness and unbelief. It was a looking to God merely as the purveyor of earthly blessing, when the Lord wanted them to know His ways, to enter into His presence and His will for the salvation of the nations; and they failed. They failed terribly and tragically. And they represent a very penetrating example for all those who follow the Lord Jesus Christ in this present age.

Now I am going to speak somewhat pointedly here. I certainly do not mean to intentionally offend anyone. Yet, as I look out on the landscape, out on the body of Christ as it currently stands; as I look at those who claim the name and testimony of Jesus Christ, I see generally people who are sitting down to eat, who are sitting down to drink, who are standing up to play, who rather than fleeing the idolatry of the world and overcoming the lusts of the flesh, lusts of the eyes, and the pride of life, as the Scriptures convey, are being enraptured, and given over to idols. I see quite generally a people who are blindly oblivious to the heavenly plans and purposes of the God who saved them at so great a price.

Remember, dear saints, the blood; the blood spread over the posts and lintels, the blood that pointed to the blood of the Lamb, to the blood of the Eternal Father’s Beloved Son. At what cost were they redeemed? And then they were baptized in the sea, and death encompassed them; yet they came up and out, through the grave, and unto newness of life (Rom. 6:4). They came forth, they burst forth, almost like a birth. You can almost picture these people coming out of the Red Sea as it closed in behind them, and they issued forth like a new child coming into the world. The Apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians, makes no bones about it. It is unmistakable that the lesson of their failure is for us. And the exhortation is sharply pointed and severe. If this elect people of God failed, though in every way they were redeemed and delivered; if they were washed in the blood and in the sea; if they were claimed by the Lord as His own; if they were saved, in that initial saving experience, the beginning of a new life, and yet in the end, they failed to enter into the rest, what does that say to every single Christian alive in this world today?

Dear saints, this exhortation to us is powerfully clear – we will only partake of Christ and His Millennial Kingdom of rest and reward if we “hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end.” If, while we are still in the sixth day (while it is still called “Today”) we do not hear His voice because our hearts have been hardened, then we, like that generation coming out of Egypt, will most likely come up short up in terms of entering the Lord’s promised rest and reward.

The promised outcome for the overcomer is that of quintessential rest; it is the unparalleled joy, peace and blessing of coming into a new and better home. Only then will we come to a place of true belonging. Until then, however, we must trust the Lord and press on patiently with Him until every single one of His plans and promises come to fruition. We must endure through hardship and testing, such that the Lord alone will represent our hope and salvation. We must let the life of Egypt die in us and to us, for this ultimately is what the wilderness is for. We must live only by every word that proceeds the mouth of our God. We must walk only by faith and not by sight, for natural wisdom or experience cannot serve us here in this wilderness of testing. We must let the life of the spirit prevail, such that the life of the soul – the mind, the will, and the feelings in man – will be made subservient. We must live and abide wholly in Christ – the Life of the Living God – so that the enemy cannot distract, deceive or destroy us. We must, in the end, be made ready as only the Lord through His Spirit can make us ready.

It was for this very reason that the Holy Spirit was dispatched to this planet, and came to abide within our human spirit at our new beginning in Christ. He was sent down by the Lord Himself for a very specific purpose, and only if He is permitted to accomplish this purpose will we be deemed worthy to enter in the promised rest of the Lord.

But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. “He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you (John 16:13-14)

Dear saints, only as the Spirit takes what is the Master’s and discloses it to us, can we be truly ready for His appearing and His kingdom. Only as He conveys to us all the truth, and the things to come, can we hope to survive in these perilous times (see 2 Tim. 3:1-5), when lying spirits animate the air. By all accounts and evidence, we have indeed entered a day when every form of wickedness and offense is being increased – false teachers and false prophets spouting doctrines of demons, scoffers denying the Lord Jesus Christ and His promised coming, lukewarm and pleasure-loving professors of Christ holding a form of godliness but denying its power. It is rapidly becoming the time of the hired servant, only seeking wages, not the bond-servant, who cares only for the interests and pleasure of his Master. It is clearly not too difficult to appreciate just how absolutely vital it is to be hearing the Lord in this dreadful hour, and casting all else aside. Again, we are exhorted – “TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS.”

Oh Lord, let it be so! Let your people, your precious sheep, hear your voice and surrender their hearts and lives to Thee in this present hour, Oh Lord!

Before closing this message, let us double-back to Hebrews (chapters 3 and 10) to consider briefly this whole aspect of encouraging one another all the more as we see this day drawing near.

But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today”, so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (Heb. 3:13)

…not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. (Heb. 10-25)

Oh how great is the need in this hour for encouragement, comfort, instruction, material provision, exhortation and prophetic utterance, dear brothers and sisters. Oh, that His brotherly love for His body would fill us and work in us for the edification and preparedness of the saints, as we await His imminent appearing. I am quite convinced actually, that endurance is not possible without such encouragement, for in each of us the will to surrender and let go is strong. The encourager is always reminding his friends to –

STAND FIRM! HOLD FAST! BE ALERT! DIG IN YOUR HEALS! DON’T SHRINK BACK! FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT! KEEP YOUR EYES FIXED ON THE KING AND HIS COMING! DON’T GIVE UP – WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER AND I AM WITH YOU! DON’T WORRY ABOUT THE LOSS OF THINGS IN THIS WORLD!  BE STRONG IN THE GRACE THAT IS IN CHRIST JESUS! WHAT IS IT YOU NEED MY BROTHER, FOR WHAT IS MINE IS YOURS!

This important and timely message is further conveyed by the Apostle Paul in his Epistle to the Ephesians, where he writes –

Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. (Eph.5 :15-21)

So it is vitally important that we are encouraging one another and emboldening each other’s faith in the Lord, especially as so much around us threatens to discourage us and fill us with fear and dread. This is most serious, dear brethren, and we would all do well to heed this exhortation just as it has been given. There are many ways to do this to be sure –  letters and email, blogs, journals, these are all wonderful. I thank God for them. But that whole aspect of spirit-touching-bone fellowship; being able to sit down together, being able to share the Word together, being able to let the Lord and the Spirit exhort and encourage each other, especially as we see the day approaching.

The question that presents itself to us then is this – Are we being careful how we walk in this ominous time leading up to the consummation of this age? Are we making the very most of the time we have, as long as it is still called “Today”? Are we investing ourselves spiritually and materially, as we are able, in the well-being and preparedness of others in the body of Christ?

Or are we effectively doing the opposite? We recall that when the spies came back from surveying the land, ten of them gave a most unfavorable impression of their prospects in the land, as they were consumed by a flood of unbelief and fear that blinded them to their real condition. Rather than encourage the people to go forth in the power and provision of the Lord and to advance in faith, as did Joshua and Caleb, they persuaded the people that all was hopeless; that the situation before them was greater than their God. Brethren, this lesson is most serious for all of us, and we would do well to allow the Holy Spirit to apply it to our lives as He deems necessary.

Now perhaps you may be wondering, what is the Lord saying to us now? What does He want us to focus on as we are beginning to see these dark prophetic clouds gathering over the nations? I believe, for the record, dear saints, that it is not so much a matter of months or weeks or days, but rather hours. I could be wrong, but my sense in the Spirit is that the events of the “last days” are imminent and that there is actually very little time remaining. This being so, I just want to encourage all of you, that as much as you are able, that  you come together, and speak the word, and exhort and encourage and edify one another, build each other, help each other to get our minds off the worries and anxieties and concerns of the world, and to focus on entering into that promised rest that is so very close.

BE STRONG MY BRETHREN, IN THE GRACE THAT IS IN CHRIST JESUS! HOLD FAST TO THE KING IN THIS HOUR! FIX THE EYES AND EARS OF YOUR HEART ON JESUS OUR MASTER! HEAR HIM AND DO NOT REFUSE HIM WHO IS SPEAKING! PURSUE THE PRIZE WITH ALL SPIRITUAL VIGOR! BE FILLED WITH THE KNOWLEDGE OF HIS WILL IN ALL SPIRITUAL UNDERSTANDING! WALK IN A MANNER WORTHY OF THE GOD WHO CALLS YOU INTO HIS KINGDOM AND GLORY!

Note here again in Matthew, how being actively ready is linked with the provision of food in the proper time on the part of those who are deemed faithful (knowing and then carrying out the will of the Lord) and sensible (aware of the urgency of the moment) –

“Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. “But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. “For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.

“Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time? “Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. “Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. “But if that evil slave says in his heart, ‘My master is not coming for a long time,’ and begins to beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matt. 24:42-51)

How then should we be spending the time that remains while He tarries (redeeming or making the most of the time)? There are many responses to this question, to be sure, but one answer certainly is that we are each exercising the spiritual gifts we have been granted to the edification and provision of the body.

“Kindle afresh the gift of God”, said Paul to Timothy. Don’t let it lie idle, in other words, but actively attend to it, asking the Lord for the measure of grace to exercise it for the common good (1 Cor. 12:7). He then exhorts Timothy to “guard this treasure which has been entrusted to him” (2 Tim. 1:14). Then there is the Master’s parable of the virgins and the talents (Matt. 25), which expressly concern this whole matter of the Holy Spirit’s gifts and our accountability before the Lord who bestows them.

Dear saints, how tremendously vital it is in this dark and difficult hour, while it is still today, that we are actively hearing the voice of our God and mutually strengthening the hearts and hands of our fellow saints in this wilderness. How vital it is that we are found constantly on the alert and at the ready, and watching over one another, and encouraging each others’ faith and confidence in the only One who can deliver us and bring us into His promised rest.

Our prayer is that our Beloved Father would bless this message and help us to bring forth these things as He has given them in this word of exhortation to His people. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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The Most Difficult Thing in the World – T. Austin-Sparks

READING: Heb. 4:1-13; 11:5-6.

I am going to speak for a little while on the most difficult thing in the world, that is, faith. So far as the Lord’s people are concerned, it can be truly said that the whole of their life in every aspect – salvation in its first step and every subsequent step, spiritual growth, spiritual sustenance, spiritual victory, spiritual work and service, fellowship with the Lord and ultimate glory is all resolved into one thing and that one thing is faith. Faith is the key to everything in our relationship to the Lord. It is all just a question of faith – not faith as something in itself, but faith in God. That is something which has to be faced and as far as possible at any point, settled; but it is not a thing which is settled once and for all. There has to be a settlement made again and again on this point. We are really continually confronted with this question; in the presence of new situations and trials and perplexities and seeming contradictions, am I going to believe God or not, am I going to repose faith in Him or not, am I going to trust the Lord or not? That is true all the way along, and it always will be so. And sometimes those testings are very, very acute and severe. A brother wrote to me this week, one who has been greatly used of the Lord in other lands as well as in this one, who knows the Lord, and has a very real walk with the Lord, and he just put this in his letter. “It sometimes seems as though the Lord is a thousand miles away and has no interest whatever in me. It sometimes seems as though He has just cut me off”. You may think that is very extreme, but some of you will not. You know quite well that such experiences are true to the life of a child of God. I was saying that this is something that has to be faced. That is the life to which we are called. The Lord has not covered it, has not veiled it, hidden it from us. We are called unto a life of faith, and we had better face it; and then we must, as far as possible, if we are going to get through, settle it, for I repeat there is no step or stage or aspect of the life of the child of God from first to last, from the beginning to the end that is not a matter of faith. Well, that is a fact, and let us be quite honest about it, and quite frank with ourselves. That is the situation. It will help to a very large extent if we have looked this thing straight in the face and not shelved it, not tried to evade it, but accepted it.

A Key to Faith

But we want to get inside of this matter of faith, and here in this letter to the Hebrews which is, as you know, from start to finish, a letter on the matter of faith, we have amongst others one very helpful clue and key to faith. It is in this fourth chapter. You may not think that it really is a matter of faith for it does not seem to lie on the face of it, but when you examine it, you find that that is the thing that it is touching – this strange, somewhat technical language – “For the word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit”. You will notice that that statement begins with a ‘for’, and that ‘for’ links you with Israel in the wilderness failing to enter into rest. It is said that they had the Gospel preached to them, but the word spoken did not profit, not being mixed or united by FAITH. It did not profit, not being united by FAITH. Then there follows, “I sware in my wrath, they shall not enter into my rest”. They could not enter in because of unbelief. Then more about the rest and their failure to enter in, and then – ‘FOR the word of God divides between soul and spirit’. This is the key to faith, or a key to faith. What is it? It is the conquest of the soul, and that is said to explain the whole of the wilderness failure and the subsequent not entering into the rest.

You know what soul is. I am not going to stay with soul and spirit very much. We know in this matter that the soul is the self-conscious life. By our souls we are conscious of ourselves and other people and all that world of things here. Spirit is just the God-conscious life. By our spirit we are conscious of God Who is Spirit, and all that realm. Self-conscious and God-conscious life, and because those two things were not defined, put apart and recognised in their difference, but allowed to overlap and bring about a state of confusion, they did not enter in. They failed because of unbelief. Well, what does that amount to? The self-conscious life predominated, and the God-conscious life did not predominate, was made subject and subservient. In other words, for them, everything was a matter of how self was affected by the situation and by the prospect. You find them again and again full of enthusiasm, full of zeal, full of what looked like real interest in the things of the Lord. Oh yes, they were going on, they were full of apparently real devotion to the Lord. But that was when the situation was pleasing them and when the prospect was presented so that it brought a great sense of possibilities for them, prospects for them, and their gratification. Oh, this is fine, this is good; tell us more about this wonderful land to which we are going, keep telling us about all its glorious wonders, and resources; go on, we are most interested in this, we are in for that! But it was all soul, self-conscious self-interest, self-gratification. And when there arose some situation, either present or in relation to that prospect which made it a matter of denying, sacrificing self, letting go self-interests, and having to face up to a very difficult situation which was going to be very costly to them, they were not so interested; their zeal went, and unbelief rose up; it was there and it rose up. They were not so concerned about this thing now, it was not now for them. What was it for? It was for the Lord ONLY first, and their interests were entirely eclipsed. They would only come into their inheritance when the Lord got His. The Lord first; “Seek ye first his kingdom and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33), and that putting first often meant a letting go of everything personal.

LIVINGWALK NOTE: Readers are strongly encouraged to read “What is Man?” by T. Austin-Sparks; to gain a practical understanding of the tripartite nature of humanity (spirit, soul and body), and how these pertain to man’s complete (past, present future / spirit, soul, body) salvation. It is very likely that you have never been exposed to such essential truths, as contemporary Christendom has largely been influenced by Freudian (id, ego, super-ego) psychology and humanistic notions of the perfection of the self.

Does not that get right to the heart of this thing? What is disappointment to us? Can we always say that disappointment which we think is disappointment with the Lord and over His things is because we did so much want the Lord to have what He wanted irrespective of our interests at all; we were prepared to let everything go, WE were not mixed up in this thing somehow? In the Lord getting what He wants, we see ourselves figuring in some way. It has to be a very sharp instrument that gets in between those two things and defines them because they are so mixed up. Is it not true that faith wavers, weakens and ofttimes goes right down and under when in the way of the Lord’s interests OURSELVES are entirely shut out?

What is the key to faith then? The key to faith is this dividing of soul and spirit, or, in other words, it is the complete abnegation of self-interests – not in the Buddhist sense of annihilation, but in the sense of God’s interests becoming positive and predominant. That is where the battle of faith rages; it rages upon that ground always. If we were so utterly – and not one of us really is – if we were so utterly consumed for the Lord’s interests alone that no other interest in our lives had any precedence or power to govern us, we would be in victory all the time. It is this completely disinterested concern for what the Lord wants that is the key to faith. If Israel in the wilderness had taken this attitude – Well, this is a very difficult experience, but the Lord is after something, the Lord wants something, and He evidently knows that that is the best way to get it; all right, I am with Him, I may lose everything, I may suffer the loss of all things, but it is what the Lord wants that matters. The Lord wants us in that land; well, if it means everything, to be there for the Lord’s pleasure, that is the thing that matters – if that had been their attitude, do you think they would have journeyed forty years in the wilderness round and round, do you think at the border of the land they would have been turned back to perish in the wilderness? You can see in the consummation, that next generation which did go in, went in on this matter of faith only. The whole story is based upon faith.

There is the faith of Rahab the harlot; her faith was the key to the land – Jericho. Then there was the faith of going round six days in silence and on the seventh the shout of faith, without drawing a sword or turning a hand to do anything but go round – ridiculous! It is all such utter faith. They went up and possessed on that basis. That generation did enter in because of faith, whereas the generation before did not enter in because of unbelief. But this generation went up because Joshua and Caleb had said, If the Lord delight in us, He will bring us in (Num. 14:8). That is the matter – it is the delight of the Lord, perfectly disinterested concern for what the Lord wants, and that is one of the most difficult things in life, to get this self out of the way.

The Result of Faith

(a) Rest

So, just finally, a little word on the result of faith. First of all, of course, it is rest. We are not now thinking of some future rest, some future land, whatever our hymn writers have to say about it. You read again this fourth chapter of the letter to the Hebrews, and you see “We who have believed do enter into that rest”. Some of us have already entered in, says the Apostle. God defines a day – it is not the future – and some of us do enter in. This rest is not a time period, it is a state, and the Apostle says here so clearly that entering into rest is simply a matter of entering into a settled faith in God. You know quite well that however doctrinal and technical this may seem, it is very true. We can prove it almost any day of our lives. When we get to the place where we put ourselves and what we would like on one side and accept the Lord’s will – not just resignedly saying Well, if that is what the Lord wants, I capitulate; if I could have it otherwise, I would, but this is evidently what the Lord wants: but if with all our heart we accept it and enter into this with the Lord to co-operate with Him, when we come there, rest enters into our souls, our souls come to rest, on all sorts of things, small and great.

(b) Power with God

Then victory comes because faith is power. If the Word of God is strong and clear about one thing, it is about this. Oh, faith is power. First of all, it is power with God. What is more powerful with God than to be well-pleasing to Him, and that is why I read about Enoch. “By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and he was not found because God translated him: for he hath had witness borne to him that before his translation he had been well-pleasing unto God”. That is all centred in, and made to rest upon, faith. “Without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing unto him”. Surely that is our ambition above all – to be well-pleasing unto Him. How? – to believe Him, to trust Him, to repose faith in Him, to be well-pleasing unto Him. It is power with God. We can consider that along the other line, that our weakness with the Lord is always found in our reservation, our question, our doubt, our uncertainty. That is our weakness with God, and the Lord waits.

(c) Power over Satan

It is victory over the Devil because, if there is one thing that is the playground of the Devil, it is unbelief, and if there is one thing that the Devil is always seeking to promote and maintain, it is unfaith. The hallmark of the Devil’s work from the Garden to the end is unbelief, doubt of God, to question about God and God’s ways – and God’s motives. That is where the Devil is coming all the time – with an ‘if’. If this and if that. If God were what He says He is, then this would not be. You know the thousands of ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ of the Devil. The only power of victory over the Devil is faith in God. We can use the language of victory and power over Satan and it counts for nothing. We must have a new position of power over the enemy. The key is faith; it may be faith in the Blood, or in the Name, or in the Lord, but it is faith.

(d) Power over the World

It is power over the world. “This is the victory that hath overcome the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4). The world in this sense is that whole system and order and atmosphere and attitude of things which must have the seen, and the present. What is the mark of the world? It must see, it must have now. Anything that is unseen and not present is utterly outside of the mentality of the world, and we know how much of the world there is in our nature and the battle is there. Faith overcomes that world that is in our own natures and around us. “The things which are seen are temporal: but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18). Faith has to do with those things.

We could talk for many hours on the matter of faith. Please do not think I am laying down the law to you. God knows the battle in all of our hearts on this matter and how true we know this to be in our own experience. We simply talk to one another solemnly. We shall always have to fall down before Him and say, Lord, increase our faith! There will be many times when we shall say, Lord, I have not faith for that, I have not faith to face this, to accept this. It is a matter of a new dealing with the Lord on this question of faith. There is the fact, it has to be faced, to be settled, to be resolved again and again. Everything depends upon it – the Victory in every realm, going on with the Lord, getting through to what God has purposed. It is all this matter of faith in God, and thereby being well-pleasing unto Him. “He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that seek after him” (Heb. 11:6). Lord, increase our faith!