Category: Kingdom

Psalm 88 – W.E. Smith

O Lord, God of my salvation;

I cry out day and night before you.

Let my prayer come before you;

incline your ear to my cry!

For my soul is full of troubles,

and my life draws near to Sheol.

I am counted among those who go down to the pit;

I am a man who has no strength,

like one set loose among the dead,

like the slain that lie in the grave,

like those whom you remember no more,

for they are cut off from your hand.

You have put me in the depths of the pit,

in the regions dark and deep.

Your wrath lies heavy upon me,

and you overwhelm me with all your waves. Selah

You have caused my companions to shun me;

you have made me a horror[b] to them.

I am shut in so that I cannot escape;

my eye grows dim through sorrow.

Every day I call upon you, O Lord;

I spread out my hands to you.

Do you work wonders for the dead?

Do the departed rise up to praise you? Selah

Is your steadfast love declared in the grave,

or your faithfulness in Abaddon?

Are your wonders known in the darkness,

or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?

But I, O Lord, cry to you;

in the morning my prayer comes before you.

O Lord, why do you cast my soul away?

Why do you hide your face from me?

Afflicted and close to death from my youth up,

I suffer your terrors; I am helpless.

Your wrath has swept over me;

your dreadful assaults destroy me.

They surround me like a flood all day long;

they close in on me together.

You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me;

my companions have become darkness.[d]

Dear saints, the following is a psalm of instruction, a maskil, designed to teach us something important of the ways of God, something very deep. It is not for those newly born, or with untried and untested legs in the faith.

And so what does it teach exactly? What is it trying to convey? What happy evangelical truth is it presenting?

Oh beloved – how we have been misled by the very source and purveyor of all mixture and corruption.

Where is this man in the psalm? Where is his heart, where is his relationship with God? Is he walking happily along? Is he sitting comfortably at the feet of Jesus with a wide grin on his face and a melody in his heart?

Or is the stench of death all over him? Is he grappling with all his strength with the very One who He loves and knows and seeks?

Where is His God in fact? Out in full view? Or hidden? Silent? Does he feel forsaken by the very One he knows can save him?

Is he surrounded by good Christian brothers to cheer him up? A men’s group perhaps? Or maybe he has just returned invigorated from a recent conference or retreat?

Is he full of answers or dark questions?

Is he a backslidden saint – has he turned his back and his heart away from His God?

So what is this trying to teach us? What cheerful truth is it trying to convey? What saintly conclusions does it draw?

I will leave it to you to answer such questions, but be careful, be honest in the spirit.

You see every trial, every test has at its core a fundamental reality, and it is this – the cross as it is applied us personally will cut to the very heart and core of our relationship with the only One who can deliver us from the grave of death. In fact, it is not so much the outward afflictions at all that represent the deepest pain through it all, but the sense that He has indeed hidden Himself, that He is silent, that He has put His right arm back into His cloak. “Father, Father – why have you forsaken me?”. All my friends asleep, the dark cloud of death closing in, and yet the only One who can act on my behalf is hidden away. He is not responding. Note the section which reads – “What good can come when I am dead?” he is saying. What can You teach me when I am in Abaddon? “Oh Lord if only You had come sooner”, said Lazarus’s sister. “If only you had not delayed”

So why do I trouble you so with this psalm? Why do I presume so much to take it upon myself to interrupt your comfortable christian life with such discomforting things? Should I not rather be encouraging you with “You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you” or resounding a chorus of Onward Christian Soldiers?

Because dear ones, darkness is coming, nay it is already here. And everything we believe, everything we have been taught will be tested in these fires. Everything will be shaken, and men will be forsaken by the very ones they least believed would do so. And everyone of us will be left alone on that dread hill of Gethsemane, alone and crying out to our God through the storm and the silence. Deep and dark questions will flood our soul and spirit, and the very foundations of what we believe will be shaken and tested.

Are you therefore bold enough for this? Are you tough enough? Are you deep enough with the Lord to endure this?

When He not only rocks your little world but also your little faith – will you stand? When Leviathan is unleashed, will you trip and stumble and let Him go?

Dear friends – as I beheld that meteoroid flash across the sky and explode yesterday, then shake the very foundations and windows all around, I thought of only one thing, and it was this –

Satan is coming!

Are you ready? Am I?

Oh Lord, make it so.

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Origin is Everything – W.E. Smith

Jesus’ food was to do the will of His Father – what is our our food?

Jesus did not join himself to any religious or political party or faction – do we?

Jesus was not in any way, manner of form, religious – are we?

Jesus’ zeal was for His Father’s glory and for His house – what is our zeal for?

Although He clearly loved and yearned for Israel, Jesus put His Father’s purposes above that of His nation – do we?

Jesus loved all men – even the filthiest of sinners – do we?

Jesus put His spiritual family ahead of His blood family – do we?

Jesus focus was on true things, spiritual things, eternal things – where is our focus?

Jesus followed His Father not the dictates of the moment – do we?

Jesus was content to be in the very center of the Father’s will and working – are we?

Jesus did not fear any man, or group, but He loved and feared His Father – do we?

The focus of Jesus life was on eternal life, spiritual life – not the life of the flesh – where is our focus?

Jesus hated all things that misrepresented Himself and His Father – do we?

Jesus sought first the Kingdom of God – is this what we seek first?

Jesus looked first at the hearts of men, not their deeds – do we?

Jesus didn’t just say He loved, He demonstrated it by laying down His life – do we?

Jesus didn’t seem bothered or anxious about money, habitation, temporal things – are we?

Jesus spoke the truth, regardless of who might reject or misunderstand Him – do we?

Jesus always did what pleased His Father – do we?

Dear ones – only in Him, as Him, from Him, out of Him, can we say yes to any of these things. Genesis lays down the principle of everything out of its kind. Well, He is our kind, He is the New Man, He is that which we rise up from, to live and walk as new spiritual sons in the Father’s house and heart. It all begins here. From one’s beginning. And He is our Genesis, the Alpha, the First One, a tree of life from which many branches and much fruit must come.

Please, please don’t focus on this list of things above – for that will only lead to failure and frustration – rather focus on the Beginning, from which we all come. He is the Divine Seed planted in the very midst of this tangled garden. He is the originator and progenitor of this new Life. And origin is everything.

So many layers, running so deep in me, my friends. So much of me that remains. Lord, I confess this, I aknowledge this, yet this is not what I am anymore. I am in You Lord, a part of You, and Lord, let that be the only palpable reality of my life in this dark world. Let the world see this light and taste this salt. Lord, let the only shadow cast be Yours Lord, so much bigger and wider than what I am in myself. Let fruit come forth, wonderful, rich, heavenly fruit that puts a smile in Your heart Father. In Christ, always and only in the Anointed One – Amen.

The Parables of the Kingdom by T. Austin-Sparks

The Parables of the Kingdom
by T. Austin-Sparks

In the thirteenth chapter of the Gospel by Matthew, which we may have open before us by way of reminder, we find the operation of the Kingdom illustrated in a sevenfold way.

THE PARABLES OF THE KINGDOM

I do not propose to attempt an exposition of that sevenfold way, but will simply lift out from the chapter the salient features of the operation of the sovereign rule of God. We have here that operation illustrated, in what have come to be called ‘the parables of the Kingdom’. That is the title which men have given to them, but it is well to remember that the title which the Lord Jesus gave to them was ‘the mysteries of the Kingdom’.

THE KEY TO THE PARABLES

These parables, or mysteries, of the Kingdom of Heaven are really impossible of understanding, except in the light of the definition of the Kingdom which we have just given – that is, as the sovereign rule of God. If you interpret them as indicating primarily a realm or nature, then you have gone beyond their warrant, and you will most certainly get into confusion. Few parts of the New Testament have been more subject to controversy than these parables. The various interpretations that have been given to them have divided students and teachers into irreconcilable schools. We shall see something of that as we go along. It is therefore necessary to discover the key to the parables, in order to be saved from this confusion and contradiction; and that key undoubtedly lies in the definition of the Kingdom as THE SOVEREIGN RULE OF GOD. Let me repeat: I am not embarking upon an exposition of these parables, but seeking to get at something of very great importance and value to ourselves at this time.

THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER

The first is what is called the parable of the sower (vv. 18-23). The Lord Jesus said that the seed is the word of the Kingdom. “When anyone heareth the word of the kingdom”, He said. Now re-translate that as ‘the word of the sovereign rule’. The word of the sovereign rule has gone forth. What is the result? Very largely failure. The success in the positive sense is very limited, cornparatively – some thirty, some sixty, some a hundredfold. You see how impossible it is to impart to the Kingdom the idea of a realm or a nature. That would imply that within the realm where God rules you have very largely failure. But that is not the teaching of the parable. The teaching of the parable is this. The word of the sovereign rule is sent forth, like seed; and, no matter if there is a large failure in response and reaction to that word, God is successful in the end with a body that is productive of that which is implicit in the Word.

Yes, man may fail. He may receive apparently with gladness, and then it may all come to nothing. He may respond in a way, and seem to be going to turn out all right – and then, because of difficulties and adversities, just fade out. But let there be failure, disappointment, breakdown: no matter – God gets something in His sovereignty. There is something that this sovereign government of God secures. You see, this is a tremendous word of the sovereignty for labourers. You labour, you scatter, you give, you work, you travail; but, if it is the word of the sovereign rule in very truth, it cannot ultimately fail. There may be much disappointment, but there will be an issue which answers to the intention of the One who gave it. Very simple: but you see how important it is to recognise the all-governing law of the sovereign rule which cannot, fully and finally, ultimately be defeated. A great deal may seem to argue that the labour is in vain; but the Lord is saying here in this parable: ‘No! When it is a word of the rule of God, it cannot ultimately return wholly void; there will be something resulting from it.’ The sovereignty is governing.

THE WHEAT AND THE TARES

The next is that commonly called the parable of the wheat and the tares – the darnel (vv. 23-30). Here from the word the thought passes to persons. It is not the word that is now sown – it is persons that are sown. Children of the Kingdom are sown in the earth, and then by night the enemy comes and sows his own children, children of his kingdom. They are the children of the Devil. His method is suitable to his object. His object being completely to nullify what is of God, his method is to imitate it. That is a wile of that evil wisdom of Satan – imitation children of God mixed in with the true children of God in order to nullify. The workers are represented as coming to the owner of the field and telling him what they have found there, and he says, ‘Ah, an enemy has done this.’ And they say, ‘What would you have us do? Shall we pluck up this other thing?’

He replies: ‘No – let the sovereignty have its way! Let them both grow together, and the sovereignty, the rule of Heaven, will progressively make very clear which is which, and the end will be an easy and a safe course. If you start doing that now, you have not got the wisdom of Heaven to discriminate. It is not your business, and you have not the faculty or capacity, to disentangle this deep work of the Devil, by trying to mark out what is true and what is an imitation. That is not your job, and you are not qualified to do it. Only Heaven can do that. So let it go on, and the sovereign rule will make manifest what is of itself, and what is otherwise.’

It is the sovereign rule that is going to solve and settle this whole problem. You cannot say that the Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God is like that which is pictured in this parable – an awful mixture. It is not. The Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven, is one thing, and only the sovereign rule of God can bring out into clearness what is of God.

But that will happen as we go on. We can trust the sovereign rule. That is very practical: it works like this. There are those who are truly of God, of Heaven; and then there are those who come in – who perhaps sing the hymns, use the phraseology, carry on the same way, associate with those of the Kingdom; but there is a difference. Deep down, they are really “not of us”. They are just imitations; they are not real, not the genuine thing. We may discern, as these men discerned, that there is something here that is not the same thing, something that is foreign, that is alien and strange. What are we going to do? Had we better turn them out, tell them to go?

No, no! Go on long enough, and they will go of themselves. The two things will be self-manifested, and it will be quite easy in the long run. “They went out from us”, said John, “…that they might be made manifest that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19). This is a heavenly principle, you see – there is a manifestation. It is difficult to endure patiently those people who you sense have not, as we say, the root of the matter in them – who are just camp-followers. But, as with the mixed multitude that left Egypt with Israel, time and testing will find them out. This is the way if the Kingdom, the sovereignty, operates, and it calls for much faith, and much patience.

THE MUSTARD SEED

The parable of the mustard seed (vv. 31, 32) is one of the most difficult of all, and one that has perhaps been the occasion of some of the worst interpretations and teachings. “The kingdom of heaven is like unto a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: which indeed is less than all seeds; but when it is grown, it is greater than the herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the heaven come and lodge in the branches.” Do you really believe, in the light of all these other parables and of His whole teaching, that the Lord Jesus said, ‘This is the Kingdom of Heaven – the Kingdom of Heaven is like that’? If the common and popular interpretation is to be accepted, then we are involved in some real difficulties. Admittedly, the parable does seem to mean that Christianity, or “the kingdom of heaven”, has very small beginnings and then grows to very great dimensions. There may be an element of truth in that. The beginnings in Jerusalem WERE small, and in the course of the centuries Christianity has become worldwide. But is that just what the Lord meant by the parable?

There are at least three things that would pull us up and make us think again, and think more energetically.

One is that at other times the Lord definitely used terms of strict and severe limitation in relation to salvation, the way and the issue. So much was this so, that His disciples were startled into ejaculating: “Lord, are there few that be saved?” (Luke 12:23). He spoke of the way to life being straitened, and few finding or accepting it: of the gate being narrow, and few entering thereby (Matt. 7:13,14). He called His disciples (representatives of His Church) the “little flock” to whom it would be the Father’s good pleasure to give THE KINGDOM (Luke 12:32). There are contrasting ideas between “wide” and “narrow”, “broad” and “straitened”, big and little, popular and unpopular. All this does not agree with the usual superficial interpretation of this parable.

Then what about the “fowls of the air”? Did He use this metaphor in a contradictory way? In the parable of the sower He had spoken of these in a bad sense: is He employing the same terms in a right and proper sense here? This violates the principle of consistency in inspiration.

Thirdly, is it COMMONLY true that the “mustard seed”, the smallest of all, grows into a tree so great as is here depicted? No, it is positively not true. If our Lord saw such a thing – and He may have done – and drew attention to it, He was drawing attention to something abnormal and not natural. It was sufficiently abnormal and unnatural to attract attention.

This brings us to the factor that is common to ALL the parables and all the teaching of Jesus, and of the Apostles subsequently. In all these parables there is a selective, discriminating, contrasting, comparative, good-and-bad element. The Kingdom of Heaven is like that: the sovereign rule is all-comprehending, but it is very particular, selective, and judicial. Consistency in every direction demands that we interpret this “tree” of Christianity as an abnormal, unnatural development, capable of housing many things that are not in keeping with the true NATURE of the Kingdom. These “fowls” are NOT the born-from-above people who alone can see or enter the kingdom (John 3). They are all the accretions, the camp-followers, the parasites, the various kinds of people and things that take advantages of Christianity, and use its cover, but are not of its nature.

The Lord was letting His disciples know that this is what would happen, and that the sovereignty took all this in its stride. It is as well that we should know that the Lord has foreseen the developments of Christianity and its abnormalities, but it is to great detriment that His spirit of discernment and discrimination does not have a way with so many Christians.

Does the New Testament, to begin with, indicate that there is any such thing as abnormality, or this kind of abnormal development, about the true work of God? It rather indicates that, although ultimately the sum of many, many centuries will be ‘a great multitude which no man can number’, there will be, as we get nearer and nearer to the end, a tremendous sifting out and falling away. It is definitely stated that that day will not come before there is a great falling away (2 Thess. 2:3), and that “judgment must begin at the house of God” (1 Pet. 4:17). Well, then, if this is right – a great falling away – the Bible contradicts itself. As we have said, the teaching of the Lord seemed to be so clear to the disciples on this matter that they exclaimed: “Are there few that be saved?” What is all this about the broad and the narrow way? The broad way – many go by it; the narrow way – few find it. The Bible does not contradict itself; but it says that God takes account of these things, and God in His sovereignty permits them. He does not come out and destroy this freakish thing popularly called ‘Christianity’. That may be there, but God in His sovereignty is pursuing His own course to secure what He is after. Though all this may be quite true, the sovereign rule of God goes on, the sovereignty is preserved.

THE PARABLE OF THE LEAVEN

The same principle is implicit in the next parable.

“The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till it was all leavened” (v. 33).

(a) THE LEAVEN

The popular interpretation is that the leaven is Christianity: Christianity being taken by the Church and put into the world until the whole lump is leavened – the whole world is ‘leavened’ with Christianity. It is suggested that we shall see the world saved by the deep, silent movement of Christianity, working strongly and deeply and hiddenly, like leaven. It is easy to say that sort of thing, but it is superficial reasoning. In the light of history, and in the light of the Word of God, it is very difficult to believe.

Look again. The world-population is vastly more in excess of the Christian population than at any time in the dispensation. After these almost twenty centuries of Christianity, an immense number over a very great part of the world have never heard the Gospel yet. Look at this – 1,200 million out of the 2,000 million people of the earth are still without the knowledge of Christ. Then what of the unspeakable revelation of iniquity in countries which have had the Gospel for centuries? We could make an immense build-up of facts which would shatter this interpretation of the leaven beyond reconstruction.

What, then, is the meaning of the leaven? I do not believe that leaven here stands in a different category from leaven anywhere else in the Bible. Consistency of Scripture demands that we interpret leaven always as the same thing, in the same light: and everywhere else in Scripture leaven is evil – something that has to be purged out. In the old economy they had to light their lamp on the eve of the Passover, and search the house high and low, nook and cranny, for any leaven and purge it out. The Passover could not be eaten till it was certain that there was no vestige or trace of leaven anywhere. They had to eat unleavened bread in the Passover. The Lord Jesus spoke of “the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matt. 16:6) and “the leaven of Herod” (Mark 8:15). And Paul spoke of ‘purging out the old leaven’ (1 Cor. 5:7). Everywhere it is something evil. The function or effect of leaven is to disintegrate, to break up, to tear apart – every housewife knows that. And it is not different here: still it is leaven and still it is evil. If you say that the Kingdom of Heaven, as a realm, is like that, you are in trouble. But the sovereign rule of God knows all about this deep, secret movement of disintegration, of evil, that has come into the realm of Divine things. It is not the Kingdom of Heaven that is like an alcoholic fermentation, disintegration, putrefaction.

(b) THE WOMAN

It is only necessary to look at such passages of Scripture as Revelation 2:20-23 (“the woman Jezebel”), and Revelation 17 (“the great harlot”) to realise that a “woman” so often in the Bible is the symbol of a system. Again and again it has been a woman, either personally or symbolically, who has corrupted Divine things, or brought corruption into relationship with them. See Samson; see Solomon; see later kings for examples. In the message to Thyatira, this insinuation of evil and corruption into the House of God is the occasion of the severest judgment – for it is called “the deep things of Satan” (Rev. 2:24). What foreknowledge and foresight our Lord had in these parables! But let us go on.

(c) THREE MEASURES

Three measures. Remember that three is the number of Divine Persons and Divine things. Evil has spread even through the Church, so that within Christianity itself the very Divine Persons have been subjected to questions and doubts. God Himself – the Son, the Spirit – has been misrepresented. With many other things of God, evil has come in to break them up – to destroy their effectiveness and power by destroying their solidity. What are you going to do about it?

The sovereign rule of God takes account of it – the working of evil, the working of falsehood, the working of misrepresentation and misinterpretation of the things of God. History is just full of it, as we know. We hate using terms and labels, but is it not just that which has happened in the last hundred years in the realm called ‘Modernism’ or ‘Liberalism’? Is it not the leaven disintegrating Divine things? The very Person of Jesus Christ is stripped of His Deity; the very Word of God is denied its authority and its finality; the very Holy Spirit is degraded from His dignity as a Divine Person; and so on. The Lord Jesus discerned the future, saw the way things would go, and spoke like this. He was saying. ‘This very generation will not be out before all sorts of heresies and errors will come into the realm of Divine things’ – which they did.

But the sovereign rule of God goes on. This does not spell God’s confusion and God’s defeat. His sovereignty is greater than all this. It is the only way really to be consistent both with the teaching of Scripture and with history itself. Surely it must be sheer blindness that reads history in any other way. As I said, I am not expounding these parables, but lifting out the point that is common to them all. From various angles, for various and differing causes, in differing situations, right down the age: whatever may be permitted by that sovereignty, that sovereignty is equal to it all, and will be fully vindicated in the end.

THE PARABLE OF THE DRAG-NET

We reach the last parable, that of the great dragnet let down into the sea – the sea always speaking of humanity – and gathering a great multitude of fishes. Yes, the sovereignty of God does that: in comes the net, with its multitude of fishes of all sorts, and then sovereignty gets to work and separates the good from the bad, and in the end God has what He was after from the beginning. He has got it at last. That is how the sovereignty works. There is much instruction here for Christians and for Christian workers. If we had our way, we would go to work to see to it that we always and only have the thing that is absolutely and certainly and positively according to God’s mind: we would select that, and put a hedge round it, and set up walls about it, and we would protect it and keep it, as an exclusive company. But these parables say, No! The sovereignty of Heaven does not do that sort of thing. The sovereignty of Heaven permits and tolerates very much that will ultimately be found to be not according to Heaven. Yes, it takes account of much; but it is driving its own course, and, in the end, through all, God will have what He set His heart upon.

THE COMPREHENSIVENESS OF THE RULE OF GOD

To sum up – see how comprehensive is this rule of God. The sovereignty of God is one of the most problematic and perplexing things to Christians, in relation to what God will allow even in association with His own work. We would not do that at all. We would be very, very particular. But see how comprehensive God is. He allows a very great deal. He not only allows it – He even uses very much that perhaps we would never use, or about which we would have a question. He comes through things in His sovereignty to get His ends. It is HIS END that is the great testimony to His sovereignty. We say: How could God get anything out of this, or out of that? Well, He does, that is all. How could God get anything in that way? He just does! Look at this, look at that, look at all these things: is anything possible for God? The verdict at the end is that God sovereignly did get something.

You see, this is the great heart and core of this whole teaching and revelation of the Kingdom of God. It does not mean that you and I need not be sensitive to the Lord – that is another thing altogether. We may come to that later, when we say something about the Kingdom and the Church. It does not mean that, because we see that God’s sovereignty reaches His ends in spite of everything, we are just to be careless and insensitive to the mind of the Spirit; to do all sorts of things that God, if He could have His way, would not sanction. But it does mean that this sovereignty of God is going to cover a lot of ground: it is going to get its end through many, many ways and means which in themselves, intrinsically, are not of Him. It is this rule of the heavens that is, so to speak, ‘getting on with its job’.

We, left to ourselves, are so fussy, so particular, that we would not leave room for the sovereignty of God. The great appeal here is: Leave plenty of room for God. That is what it amounts to. Never despair over any situation as being finally and utterly hopeless. In the presence of the spread of this evil thing, this leaven – the expansion of this abnormal, ‘freak’ Christianity, with its contradictions and disappointments – we are forbidden by this sovereignty to give up and say it is a hopeless thing. We have to come to the place where we say and believe and take our stand: ‘That looks a pretty hopeless situation, but God can get something out of it, and He will.’

That is the good news of the Kingdom, the Gospel of the Kingdom. I know that many of you who read these words can bear this out. You have known the most awful and impossible situations of mixture and hopelessness. You have despaired – and then you have seen God do something. What a strength and force that gives to the remainder of the statement! “This gospel of the kingdom shall be proclaimed… for a testimony unto all the nations”. In His sovereignty, God can turn the most unpropitious and unpromising situation, the most hopeless state of things, into a glorious testimony. Yes, He allows so much, but He governs all. And He makes use of all manner of agencies – even the Devil himself. That must be sovereignty! “An enemy hath done this.” Very well: we will use the enemy to show what is right and what is wrong, to make all the more manifest what is of God and what is not. The work of the Devil shall be employed to that end. That is the rule of Heaven.

All this is borne out in the later New Testament. “The things which befell me”, writes Paul (Phil. 1:12) – what were they? They were the Devil’s work. Again – “We would fain have come unto you, I Paul once and again; and Satan hindered us” (1 Thess. 2:18). Strange, mysterious statement! Yes, the Devil is busy; “a messenger of Satan” (2 Cor. 12:7) – he is very active. And what is the verdict at the end? “The things which befell me have fallen out rather unto the progress of the gospel”! Under the sovereignty of God the very works of the Devil are being used to reach God’s end.

Perhaps that is common knowledge, so often said. But we must come more definitely to this settled position, that GOD AND CHRIST ARE ON THE THRONE. This Kingdom is a present reality. There are many things which contradict it and work against it. God does not consume and annihilate them: He permits them, and then takes hold of them; and the end is that His throne is established and it is made manifest that “his kingdom ruleth over all” (Ps. 103:19).

What these parables say to us is this – that God faces facts and has no illusions. He faces the fact that a large proportion of the sowing of the word of the Kingdom will fail. He faces the fact that Christianity will become an abnormal conglomeration, without any distinctiveness of testimony. He recognises that there will be a secret hidden working of error, of evil, of falsehood, all to disintegrate. He faces it all – all the work of the Devil, all the work of evil, all the failure of man – and then He declares His sovereignty over it all. That is what arises here. Let us ask for strength to believe it.

GOD’S JUDICIAL WORK

I have not said much about another aspect of these parables: namely, that there is a judicial, discriminatory work going on all the time. Do not fail to see that. All through these parables, He is cutting a line, He is discriminating, He is acting judicially. God is not just saying, ‘Everything is all right – do not worry. Sit in your armchairs, ye Christian men; sit down, the Kingdom is coming.’ No; rather – ‘Rise up, ye men of God!’ God is not passive, indifferent, careless, saying, ‘Oh, it will be all right, this is all right; do not worry about it.’ He is not like that. He is acting, and will act, judicially. He is really putting things in their place, and dividing between, as He does with the churches in the Revelation. He is discriminating. He is putting this here and that there, and saying that they belong to two different realms. That is a part of His sovereignty.

But our chief point is this: The operation of the Kingdom, or the rule, of God is to bring in at last the triumph of that rule. Whatever else may come in, it means the triumph of that rule. The rule of Heaven, the rule of God, comes out in the end triumphant.

This is chapter 2 from the book “The Gospel of the Kingdom” originally published in “A Witness and A Testimony” magazine, Mar-Apr 1961, Vol. 39-2.

Living Principles of the New Creation – W.E. Smith

Grace and peace dear brother and sisters –

May we lift all of the Lord’s people up in this hour. He knows everything and the Spirit intercedes so graciously on our behalf, adding content and power to our feeble prayers. We are one in our intercessions for one another! Tho we are few and weak, we are always one in Him.

The Lord has been waking me up again (He did this for many years; waking me up to tell me things; to show me things, to flood my heart and mind with His thoughts).

I have been meditating on the New Creation of which we are all pilgrims and pioneers. That there is no future for this world, its God, the basic principles which under-gird everything about it. No more Adam, no more sin, no more death, no more corruption, no more pain, nor more failure, no more rebellion, no more!

Praise the Lord!

I thought of the Lord striding atop the waves of the sea (the sea, the waters, the deep picture death in the Word) – telling His disciples not to be afraid. “I am greater than death, greater than this world, its evil, its lies, its pain, its utter hopelessness, everything flowing out of the old creation. I am above it, and you who are in Me are as well. The life in you, My life, is part of the New Creation, operating on living principles that are eternal and righteous and perfect. The fruit of the True Vine; this Tree of Life, is fruit unto the New Creation, the new and better order of things, the Kingdom of God. There is no need to be afraid, or overwhelmed, or anxious – All is finished! I have judged this order of things, its god, and all those who are part of it – the nations, the principalities and powers who energize and animate it.”

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” (Rev 21)

The New Creation, standing on the other side of the cross of Christ, contains life that has risen up out of the old death; the old order of things; out of the fallen-ness of everything before. It is resurrection life, and so it must be. The living principle of this new creation is Christ. It was made through Him and For Him, and for all those who are in Him. Everything in this New Creation lives and moves and has its being in the Father’s Eternal and Beloved Son – He alone is the LIFE OF THIS NEW WORLD! Everything in it will express Him to the glory and praise of the Father, the Most High God. All contained within it will be His Temple, where He dwells with all worship and pre-eminence and honor!

Beloved saints of the Lord – please stop looking for life and meaning and a place in this dying world, this old order of things. Stop attaching yourself to it, seeking identification with it, allowing it to flood over you. In Christ we are to walk atop the death of this world, untouched, unafraid, as sojourners seeking a better country, a new order of things, built on the eternal foundation of Christ the Lord our God! This is what it means to seek first the Kingdom of God, to put it first, to place all of your hope and future in it; to subordinate all else to it – home and country and history in this world.

All you see and know is giving way to a new order of things – all that is of Adam and Satan and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil has been judged already. The curse pronounced at the beginning will run its course. The Lord divided the tongues long ago to form the nations, and He is judging them now. He is also saving many from out of the abyss of death, and feeding them on His Heavenly Bread. All that is not of Christ is marked already! Nothing of the old will be perpetuated in the new world that is coming; nothing, not even the good things. The Lord Jesus is the express image of God, and His life must run deep before it can grow up and out, and be manifest. He is doing this secret, animating work in His own right here and now in the midst of this dying order. Every fish taken out of the sea, and given as food for life represents this. Every system, every idea, every ‘ism and ‘ology, every thing, new and ancient – that is not of Jesus Christ will perish – it will not go on! This has been established from the beginning – the Lord has spoken it. Out of the chaos and ruin will come separation unto life. Newness of Life. A New Principle of Life! Not fiat life, not that formed solely by creative command, not that which formed the angels, but life out of death; life by virtue of victory over death; life triumphing over the very shadow and idea of death. Only the one who walks above the water, only the One not subject to the flood of death and judgment, will usher in and animate this new life. this New Creation, this New Jerusalem. He alone will be its its life and light! No more moon, no more reflected light!

In the old creation, the Creator God spoke. In the new, He poured out His life, that from out of this death, many sons should come forth, unto Dominion, unto His first intent. In the New Creation, all life must flow out from God; it must express Him perfectly, completely, lovingly, willingly – It must be a life laid down and poured out, not merely God-breathed. It must be life issuing from the very Tree of Life, the Eternal Son of God. Not self-life, but God-life! A life that pleases not itself, but the one who gave Himself for it.

Brethren, we are so much like Peter bobbing desperately in the sea, trying to keep our heads above water, above the death all around us, kicking our feet, flailing our arms, crying out for help. ‘TAKE MY HAND. Let me lift you above the perilous depths, the death of the old creation all around you. “TAKE MY HAND, and rest in Me, live in Me, breathe anew in Me. Let all that is in you that is part of the old order fall way, let it die, let it go, let it sink to the depths”.

Dearest saints, please hear this word in the very bowels of the spirit – time is so very, very , very short! The hour is at hand. All the players have taken the field. All is being staged on the world scene. The Lord is getting ready to act. The enemy is busy seeking whatever way means he can find. The hearts of so many men are trembling at the dark prospects before them. A time of separation, of sifting is upon us, and only His wheat will be taken up into His storehouse.

Let us take His hand as He offers it to us. Let us rise up in all the ways His Spirit speaks to us. Let us call upon the one who walks on the water, who sleeps in the midst of the tempest, who multiplies the fish from out of the depths unto life in His New Creation. Let us pray for this enlargement of vision, for all is being summed up in His Beloved Son! His Bride is being made ready, for only one so worthy, so pure, so finely dressed will appear in His presence, as the Father’s blessed gift to His Beloved and Faithful Son! She is the New Eve! No more will the forbidden fruit be tasted! She will eat from the hand of her Beloved!

COME LORD JESUS COME, COME GREAT KING! COME TO RECEIVE THE FULL REWARD OF YOUR SUFFERING! UNTO ALL GLORY AND HONOR AND THE LOVE OF ALL THOSE WHO LIVE IN THEE!

I pray this word speaks to you beyond the words, in the deep places, the Christ places of your hearts.

amen

your brother in travail –

The Power and Challenge of the Kingdom of God – T. Austin-Sparks

But I tell you of a truth (I tell you very definitely, emphatically, positively). There are some of them that stand here, who shall in no wise taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:27).

“The former treatise I made, O Theophilus, concerning all that Jesus began both to do and to teach, until the day, in which he was received up, after that he had given commandment through the Holy Spirit unto the apostles whom he had chosen: to whom he also showed himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing unto them by the space of forty days, and speaking the things concerning the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:1-3).

“There are some of them that stand here, who shall in no wise taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God.” “…by the space of forty days speaking the things concerning the kingdom of God.” The theme with which the Apostles were being occupied by the Lord during the forty days after His resurrection – the theme of the risen Lord – was the kingdom of God.

The Battle of Two Kingdoms in our Lord’s Earthly Life

Looking back into the years of His life from the Jordan to the Cross, we can see that, in His own personal case during that time, the battle of two kingdoms was going on. Along various lines and through

T. Austin-Sparks and Watchman Nee

various instrumentalities, influences were being brought to bear upon Him. He was moving within a circle of forces and activities the object and direction of which was to get Him to have a kingdom. At the very beginning, the conflict with the adversary in the wilderness during the forty days and nights headed right up to that issue. “The devil… showeth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and he said unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me” (Matt. 4:8-9). His own disciples were constantly pressing upon Him with their Messianic mentality and expectation, making it very difficult for Him in this way – that He knew they were as yet such children spiritually that it would be a disaster to disillusion them too quickly and disappoint their expectations and hopes. Those expectations, hopes and visions, and all that they included for these men, were for the Lord like barbed wire all the time pricking Him. He could hardly say anything of a disillusioning character but at once the disciples were offended, questioning, thrown all over the place, even to revolt. The crowd, the hysterical multitude, on one occasion would come and take Him by force and make Him king. There is something at work, coercing. He was fighting that something all along, putting it back, rejecting, repudiating; and it was no easy thing. At the last, as He stood before Pilate, when the accusation against Him was that He said that He was a king, Pilate said, “Art thou the King of the Jews?” and Jesus said, “My kingdom is not out from this world system – if my kingdom were out from this world system, then would my servants fight but now is my kingdom not from hence” (John 18:36). It was the repudiation of a kingdom; which meant that inwardly He was standing for another. It was not the repudiation of the Kingdom. He was fighting all the way along against a false for a true, against a temporal for a spiritual; but the powers that existed were seeking to precipitate this other matter, to get Him involved in a kingdom which was not His real one. You can easily see what an involving it would have been. Suppose He had capitulated, accepted a kingdom out from this system, put Himself on this level; well, a little thought at once betrays the sinister nature of the pressure, the offer. No, He was not accepting the framework which embodied the kingdom of Satan – that is what it amounted to. Within the kingdom out from this system, Satan, the prince of this world, was established, and the Lord was not accepting that at all. Through all these temptations, even though they might come through the lips and by the mistaken zeal of a beloved and devoted disciple of the inner circle – no other than Simon Peter himself – He was adamant. On that very matter of His going up to Jerusalem and being delivered into the hands of men to be crucified, when the human counsel is “Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall never be unto thee,” the instant rejoinder is, “Get thee behind me, Satan” (Matt. 16:21-23). He sees Satan entrenched in the very suggestion, and that is not the kingdom the Lord will accept. There would be a kingdom which He would have, but not of that kind.

The Kingdom Recaptured for God Through the Cross

So to the Cross, along the line of repudiating a kingdom after that order; and there, in the Cross, He went behind the framework, behind all the form and the system, and dealt with the prince of this world, and cast him out. How He cast him out we have been seeking to see in these meditations; He cast him out morally. “The prince of this world cometh: and he hath nothing in me” (John 14:30), so he is morally put out. And, casting out the prince of this world there in the Cross, He captured – let us rather say, recaptured – the Kingdom which had been betrayed by Adam into that usurper’s hands; recaptured it as the last Adam, the second man, the Lord from heaven; and, having recaptured it in and by His Cross (a matter about which we have yet to say more) He rose, and His theme was the kingdom of God – the fulfilment of His emphatic statement, “There are some of them that stand here, who shall, in no wise taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God.” They saw it on the day of Pentecost, the recaptured Kingdom in the hands of this victorious Christ Who knew how to refuse quick returns – a thing which we know very little about morally; and because He was able to let go, He secured all.

That is a law of tremendous value in spiritual life – being expert in letting go. We have seen the other one expert in laying hold – ‘I will, I will, I will.’ There again we shall have more to say. But now in the hands of this One, the Kingdom recaptured is brought in on the day of Pentecost in the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit the Life and Power of the Kingdom

But note, the point for us is that it is a reformed kingdom, that is, its constitution is altogether different from and other than that which was in the minds of the Apostles and was offered to Him by Satan. It is another kind of kingdom, essentially spiritual. It comes in by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is in charge of the Kingdom. He precipitates this thing and He keeps the reins in His hands in the projecting and the developing, the expanding and the establishing, of this kingdom. Everything is spiritual, and we find therefore that the Kingdom is, from first to last, essentially an inward thing. The Lord’s words about the kingdom of the heavens being within you were very, very truly proved on the day of Pentecost and afterward – it was the Spirit within that was the nature, the power, the life, the energy and the everything of this kingdom.

The Spontaneous Challenge of the Kingdom of God Through the Church

If that is the course and nature of things, what really is the heart of it all? Well, the heart of it is this, that when from the day of Pentecost men and women went out into this world in the good of what it meant that the kingdom of God as an actual reality had come, and that it was an inward fact, the thing which characterised them was that there was, by their very presence here in this world, an impressive and overwhelming impact of the kingdom of God upon that other kingdom lying behind the framework of this world system. It just happened. Their very presence disturbed, challenged, provoked that other kingdom, and the fact of these two kingdoms being in such deadly opposition became a manifest reality simply because those believers were there; and, mark you – this is something to be marked – their predominant note in preaching was not the salvation of men from sin (which was the result of something else) but it was the absolute lordship of Jesus Christ. Everywhere they bore witness to the resurrection of Jesus, and they proclaimed Him as Lord. When it came to dealing with exercise of heart under conviction, and with the enquiry, ‘What shall we do to be saved?’ then the interpretation or the application was that this Lord is also Saviour. You can be saved by Him because He is Lord. You can be forgiven because He is Lord. Let me say again – it is not just because He is officially Lord; but because He is morally in the position to forgive. Leave that again for a minute.

What I want to concentrate upon and keep to is this, that there needs to be recovered the spontaneous challenge of the kingdom of God in the Church. We may be preaching the gospel of salvation – let no one think for one moment any discrediting or weakening of that is intended – but that must come out of the established lordship of Jesus Christ in the preacher and in the Body representing Christ. It must be that – that Jesus is Lord – not as an item of a creed or of doctrine, but as something which has become an inward power. The lordship of Jesus Christ as an inward power, both in the life and in the Church, has to be registered in a spiritual way, not first upon men. I do not know whether you are able to follow further than I am saying; but why the vast amount of the preaching of the gospel to the unsaved without effect? Does that not exercise you, or is that a question which ought never to be raised? It is true is it not? The gospel is preached and preached and preached with little effect. Is the gospel weaker than it was in those days? Is the Holy Spirit withdrawn from the earth? What is the explanation? Is it that the Lord is different, His gospel is different, or His Church is different? Ah, I think it must be the last. It cannot be the others. What is the difference?

The Church is taking up something, and giving it out, very largely as objective teaching; of course, knowing something of the blessedness of being saved, of the good and joy of what the Lord Jesus is in terms of salvation. That is all very good, it gets so far, but somehow or other there is a tremendous margin of ineffectiveness; and the reason may be – I put it in that way – that first of all the preaching is to men, the registration is upon men, and there is not that which comes from behind spontaneously. The kingdom of God is not something worked up, properly arranged in addresses and sermons, it is not a theme, a subject, but it is the mighty power of the Holy Spirit coming from behind. You are there as the Lord’s witness, and there is something more than the power of the enemy present; the power of God is there too. The kingdom of God has come. The kingdom of God is an overwhelming thing. That, is the meaning. It is in this realm that the weakness of so much preaching lies. Now, we will go on with our preaching of salvation, we will proceed with our approach to men and women about this matter of salvation; we must, more than ever. But remember, if we come without the kingdom of God – not as a subject but as a power coming through us, so to speak, as from behind, coming right through and registering itself, not upon men and women in the first place but upon those forces behind in which the whole world lies – we shall be largely ineffective. It is very true that no one can believe, no one is free to turn to the Lord – however much they may crave to do so – unless the Lord does something to release them. This strong man has to have his house broken into by a stronger than he; and who is stronger than he? This kingdom has to be raided by another kingdom greater than itself. And so, although the Lord had given the disciples the sphere of their activity and the commission to go out into it, He said, “But tarry ye in the city, until ye be clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). “John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days hence” (Acts 1:5). ‘Until then, do not attempt the commission or you will fail, and the other kingdom will prevail over you.’

You see the point for us. It all centres in that, it is all summed up in that. What is our real business here? Is it to propound doctrines, expound truths, give out volumes of interpretations of Scripture? No! Whatever place that may have for edification, for instruction, it will all be unprofitable so far as real spiritual effectiveness is concerned, unless the kingdom of God is coming through – that is, unless there is the real registration of the fact that Jesus is raised from the dead and is Lord. It is no use saying that, unless you say it in the power of the Holy Spirit. “No man can say, Jesus is Lord, but in the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3). That does not mean that you cannot use the phrase “Jesus is Lord,” but there is something more in saying than using words. When God said; “Let light be” there was light – and that is the kind of saying that we are thinking of – a saying which is a fiat, an impact. One man may say, “Jesus is Lord,” and while it is quite true, the doctrine is correct and sound, nothing happens. Another man in the power of the Holy Ghost declares the lordship of Jesus Christ, and you feel something, you are conscious of something coming through of God. Now, this is not the privilege only of Apostles in the ecclesiastical or official sense. This is for the Church, and you and I are the Church in representation. Oh, that our prayer should be the impact of the Kingdom upon that other kingdom! That is what my heart cries for; for prayer should not be a list of petitions, a lot of things asked for, but there should be something done behind things. In all our teaching, though it may not be instantly seen, there should nevertheless be a steady work going on which is producing lives in the power of this kingdom – people becoming factors to be reckoned with by the enemy. It is the only justification of all our teaching, that those who receive it shall themselves become in turn factors which are marked by the enemy; of whom, as we have said before, the demons can say, “Jesus I know, and – so and so – I know.” It ought to be that we are known to the enemy by name as people to be reckoned with, to be taken account of, and not included in the category of those who do not count – “but who are ye?” (Acts 19:15).

The matter which occupies the risen Lord is the kingdom of God. It is the thing with which He would occupy His servants. The kingdom of God – not some framework of a temporal system, but the kingdom of God – is not in word, but in power; not in eating and drinking but righteousness in the Holy Ghost (Rom. 14:17). That is the kingdom of God; and you and I, dear friends, are in the very happy position of being included in that former statement of the Lord – “There are some of them that stand here, who shall in no wise taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God.” That is our privilege – to see the kingdom of God, and for the kingdom of God to come through us with a sense of Divine power. That is the heart of things. I have said already that all the rest we are talking about in these meditations gathers round that.

The Importance and Power of Letting Go to God

You say, ‘Well, I believe that is true, and all my heart responds, and I pray God that it may be so where I am concerned. I want it to be, but nothing happens. How can it be?’ That is just what we are getting at; and I have hinted already how it can be. It is intensely practical. When I said that the Lord Jesus was the greatest expert at letting go, I touched the heart of this matter. We have said again and again that everything is centred and focused in the human will. Let me ask here (though I shall have to refer to it again later on more fully), have you not many times discovered that your real power – the power which delivered you, the power which lifted you up and set you on high – came when you let go? You were holding on – and I am not saying that you were holding on to something that was necessarily wrong; you were simply holding on. It may have been something given to you by God, and your own natural possessiveness had got hold of it, and you were holding something of God to and for yourself, and saying ‘hands off’ to everybody else. There is no question that Isaac was given of God to Abraham; he was a perfect miracle, impossible unless God had given him. And then we read, “God did prove Abraham.” He said, “Take now thy son, thine only son, whom thou lovest” (and, He might have said, whom I gave thee) “…and offer him… for a burnt-offering” (Gen. 22:2, etc.). Abraham did not say, ‘Thou gavest him to me, do not contradict Thyself and take him away again; Thou didst make all Thy promises to hang upon him; I am not going to give him up!’ He gave him up and he got him back; got him back with a whole kingdom by which he became “heir of the world” – that is the statement (Rom. 4:13). He has the kingdom by letting go – the foreshadowing of this Son of God Who let go. They would take Him by force and make Him a king; He let go. He got His kingly place with increase, but He got it in a realm where Satan could not touch it; it was beyond the power of death. If He had accepted that thing which was offered Him it would have been subject to death. Here in resurrection He has it, and death has no power over it. But He got it like that – by letting go to God. You see, it is intensely practical. Oh, how can this be? By getting yourself out of the picture! That is why it cannot be – because self is in the picture! Self-will, self-interest, self-realisation. That is the kingdom of Satan, and God is not going to give you His kingdom on that ground. That was the ruin and the loss of the kingdom of God for man. You cannot restore it; like cannot overcome like. Something different, other, is needed; and whatever that self may mean, it has to get out of the way if the kingdom of God is to come in.

This is practical. I have to be quite sure that I am not in this, that some secret ambition of mine, some motive of mine, is not at work. Oh, how subtle are our hearts! You and I perhaps are ready to be utterly for the Lord. We mean well, and we mean it thoroughly. We would sing really with our hearts and with our voices at full strength, ‘None of self, and all of Thee,’ and we would mean it, and there would be no uncertainty so far as we are concerned. And yet God knows that we are all the time defeated in our very sincerity by secret motives, and nothing but a test position can prove whether we actually mean it. So He brings us to a test – to a prospect, and then a disappointment. How do we react? Is our sorrow, our pain, for the Lord or for ourselves? Are we disappointed, or is it really only the Lord for Whom we are concerned and we are not in it at all? You see what I mean – a test situation to find out after all whether it is ‘None of self, and all of Thee.’ We can never discover it except in practical ways along the line of very practical testings. The Lord knows it all right, but it is not enough that He knows it. You see, in order for us to come in, we have to come in intelligently and co-operatively. That is the point of every test. The Lord could do a thing with a stroke, it could happen mechanically. But we are in a moral world, and God acts towards man on moral ground. Man has a will that constitutes him a morally responsible person, and so he must exercise his will in co-operation with God.

You remember the words in Deuteronomy 8:2 – “Thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God hath led thee these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble thee, to prove thee, to know what was in thy heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or not.” Our version does not convey the full meaning. The words as quoted might raise a question as to whether the Lord knows what is in our hearts without trying us out. We cannot have any doubts about that. No, the real meaning is this – “that he might make thee know what was in thy heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments or not.” It was necessary for Israel to come to the place where they knew their own heart and repudiated what was contrary to the revealed will of God; and that was the battle of the forty years. The Lord had shown that His purpose for them was the promised land. They were discovering that in their hearts Egypt still had a place in opposition to the land; and the Lord was calling upon them to recognize what was in their hearts and to repudiate Egypt – repudiate it as much in the wilderness as they had repudiated it when they had fled from it. It is an inside thing. Until their hearts were wholly toward the land and for the land, the Lord could not get them into it. That is where Joshua and Caleb were – they wholly followed the Lord. Why did they go in when all the others of their generation failed? Because they had completely and finally and utterly slain Egypt, not objectively but subjectively, and embraced the land as God willed. These others were being tested, day after day, year after year, on that ground – ‘Do you really mean that you want to follow the Lord? You say, Yes – but do you? Let us try it out!’ The Lord was doing that, to make them know what was in their hearts.

I say, this kingdom of God within is very practical, explaining the Lord’s dealings with us. When we recognize the laws and principles of that kingdom there must come the test, when we give up our Isaac, not because we know we are going to get him back again but knowing that perhaps the Lord will really require him of us and that he will not be given back to us. There is the battle and the victory. None of us has fully got there yet, and that is why the Kingdom has not fully come where we are concerned; but inasmuch as we triumph in that matter, the Kingdom is coming through – power and salvation are coming through; and also, I believe, rest for our own hearts’ deliverance. The Lord show us the meaning of this word.

Note: This excerpt is taken from the book – “The Cross, the Church and the Kingdom”, linked here

The Kingdom of God – T. Austin-Sparks

We have tried to impart to you something of our strong feeling that we are at a very critical point in the spiritual history of this universe. To anyone who is observing the movement of these times, very little argument or evidence is needed to be brought to them that the movement is a very ominous one. So far as the work of God on this earth is concerned, it is a very serious situation. In different forms, under different names, and in varying degrees of intensity, the whole system of evil – that which is opposed to God – is becoming greatly accentuated; and it is perfectly clear that the effort is greatly increasing to press God out of this world. The place of God, so far as these things are concerned, is to be lessened here; even in those countries which have been called Christian, paganism is gaining the upper hand rapidly, and the mention of God is greatly decreasing. That of course we can see in other parts of the world in very much more intensified forms. What was once an innate tendency, more or less passive, has now become positive and is increasingly so. All this is a tremendous moving together of the one kingdom behind all, to raise the final issue – who is going to be the reigning lord of this creation? I could follow that very much more closely, raising many questions such as that of religious liberty, the freedom of mankind, and so on. But you see the direction of things, and the evil activity, by whatever name it goes. The one upshot of it all is this question of world dominion. We can see clearly that it is resolving itself, not into a number of issues but into one issue – which kingdom is going to prevail? That is a more pressing matter today than ever it was in the history of this world.

All the Lord’s people on the earth today stand related to that great issue. So far as we are concerned, we are being brought by the Lord to face it, and it is in that connection that all that has been said and will yet be said in these meditations has its significance.

The Kingdom of God God’s Domain

So we stand back from the details to try and focus this thing; and we note that we are set in no less a realm than that of the Divine purpose in creation. What is that? We can only speak of it in very broad terms. We say, then, that it is all gathered up into one phrase – the kingdom of God. We are so familiar with the phrase that I think we may have failed really to grasp what it means. Well, to begin with, the kingdom of God is God’s domain; and the domain of God expresses Himself. It must be that. The principle running through the whole Bible is that. Wherever God will be, that sphere must be conformed to Himself, it must take its character from Him, it must express His own mind, it must express what He is Himself. The kingdom of God is God’s domain which is expressive of Himself, which takes its character from Him, in which everything to the smallest detail speaks of God, shows what God is like.

The Blessedness of the Kingdom

It speaks of God, and therefore, taking its character from Him and becoming expressive of Him, it is filled with the blessedness of God; I know of no better word than that. You know there is a little fragment, which unfortunately is mistranslated in our version, “the gospel of the blessed God” (1 Tim. 1:11), which is, literally, ‘the gospel of the happy God.’ You can retranslate what is called the Sermon on the Mount in that way, not, “Blessed are…” these and those and those, but “Happy…” The Sermon on the Mount is, as you know, the setting forth of the moral foundation of the Kingdom, and it all represents a very blessed state of things, so that, when God’s kingdom is really established and spread over all, it is full of the blessedness of God. It is not just an imperious, despotic reign and rule of God the All-Terrible. The kingdom of God is a very blessed kingdom, and everybody in it is a very blessed, a very happy, person; and that lies back of the very existence of creation – the intention of God to extend His kingdom.

The Extension of the Kingdom on this Earth

This may, in part, be a speculation, because we do not know the condition of other planets and worlds. It may be that that very blessed state always exists there, seeing that God created all. It may be that this planet is the prodigal, that it has swung out of its spiritual orbit and lost the Kingdom and has to be restored. That is speculation because we do not know, therefore we have to use this phrase ‘the extension of the Kingdom’ with a certain amount of reservation; but I think we are not wrong in using it in this way – that God, so far as this world was concerned, was set upon extending His kingdom; that this world is the extension of the kingdom of God which we have just defined, and that God created it to be in some particular way a representation and expression of His kingdom; in its spiritual character, to give a manifestation of Himself. There is a great deal gathered into that, of course, which we cannot stay to speak about. The very fact that it was upon this earth that God became incarnate – with all that followed, God being in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself – and all the wonderful revelation that has been given to us as to what God is going to do on and by means of and toward this earth, does at least suggest that the kingdom of God has some particular and peculiar application to the world in which you and I live.

But our present purpose is to indicate the intention of God which has been made unmistakably clear by revelation – that the kingdom of God is the object and motive lying behind this creation; and the kingdom of God is that of which we have spoken – His domain, taking its character from Him, and filled therefore with the blessedness of God Himself.

But the kingdom of God is the sphere which is ruled by God – not under delegated government, but under His own personal government; and therefore infinite wisdom, infinite love and infinite power are the governing factors of His kingdom.

Infinite wisdom is a governing factor in the kingdom of God; wisdom far, far outstripping all the accumulated wit and understanding and knowledge of man to fathom; yes, infinite wisdom. Infinite love, for God is love; and infinite power. Well, that lies behind. That is the kingdom of God in the meaning of this creation.

The Kingdom on Earth Entrusted and Betrayed
(a) The First Adam

But we move to that terrible scene when that kingdom, for its realisation, had to be entrusted to man. Seeing that it is a moral kingdom – not just a mechanical one, not something brought about by the sovereign determination of God irrespective of man’s response – man had to co-operate by his own free will. We know how God committed the interests of His kingdom to man – in a sense, made man the custodian of His great purposes; and then the tragedy of the great betrayal, where man failed Him and betrayed His interests into the hands of a hostile one of whom we have spoken in our previous meditations, who had purposed in his heart to usurp God’s place, and who, finding that that did not work, determined that he would have a counter kingdom to God’s. Man betrayed the trust into the hands of that rival, so that, for the time being, the kingdom of God, so far as this creation is concerned, was suspended. But God did not abandon His intention because of the betrayal; so that, although the whole race which should have been the sphere of the realization of that Divine kingdom had been betrayed into those other hands, God moved in relation to His intention to take out of that race a people.

(b) Israel

We know the movement of God – first one man, then a family, a tribe, a nation; an elect nation in which all the meaning of the kingdom of God was to be illustrated in principle. It is a very wonderful thing to recognise fully the significance of that elect nation, that chosen people, that nation out from the nations but not reckoned among the nations. Why did God choose Israel? – in order to give in the midst of the nations a demonstration, an illustration, of the kingdom of God; a temporal and partial, but nevertheless a very true, expression of the kingdom of God, where the government is theocratic, and where God, having things according to His own mind and being able to express Himself, shows what a blessed thing it is for man to live under that government; for there is that side of Israel’s history which is a wonderful, even if imperfect, expression of what God means His whole domain to be. You hear of a land flowing with milk and honey and all that there was therein; you see that people really settled in the great days of their national history with overflowing wealth, with prosperity, with everything abounding unto them in that Divinely-chosen land of unexampled productiveness. It was indeed the centre of the earth, selected by God because it could, in a temporal way, set forth something of what things could be like if God were all. In the greatest days of Israel’s history – the time of Solomon – the land was overflowing with wealth. Read those chapters telling of the gold and the silver and the precious stones and all the fulness that there was in that kingdom. It is a wonderful story. Why? Simply because God is seeking to show in temporal and imperfect terms, but in such a way as to be better than anything else known in the history of this world, what the whole domain of God will be when His kingdom is established; and so He chose a nation, in order that in that nation – as far as could be in conditions such as those which exist spiritually in this universe – there should be some faint reflection and indication of what the kingdom of God is, where God is all in all.

But that nation failed; they too betrayed God – and into the hands of the same enemy; for the cry of the prophets throughout was against the idolatry of Israel, and idolatry is, in principle and background, control by the evil powers in this universe. God was betrayed again; but He was not defeated, He did not give up. He was moving in relation to His original intention.

The Kingdom Secured Spiritually in the Last Adam

We go on through His movements to the greatest event of all – the advent of His Son. “The final Adam to the… rescue came”; with Him and in Him the Kingdom. And He was not now dealing with temporal things, with earthly conditions. In the first place He was going to the root of the matter, to the primary causes, not the secondary, as we saw in our previous meditation; getting right back behind everything, in His Cross dealing with principalities and powers and the whole world system of evil rulership. We have yet to see more about that.

But from that point we find the new movement in relation to the Kingdom. It is not merely temporal and earthly; that is, it is not just a matter of time and of things here. It is that ultimate realm of the Kingdom. The new movement from that time is a spiritual one in relation to the Kingdom. The kingdom of God has come. Where has it come? It has come in Christ. And where is Christ? He has come into a Body, a spiritual Body, the Church which is His Body. That is the new elect, and yet the eternally elect, nation for this purpose; not an earthly thing, not a thing of time, not a thing now of temporal matters such as gold and silver and precious stones. Let the religious systems, whether called by Christian titles or not, be interested in what is ornate and luxurious on this earth, to make an impression; that is not the kingdom of God. “The kingdom of God is not meat and drink” (Rom. 14:17). This kingdom is spiritual, and it is now embodied in the Christ corporate; He Himself being Head of His Body the Church, the eternally elect Body. This is not some after-thought of God, something that has arisen because everything else has failed. God is not a God of dispensations, a God of then and now, but He is in the eternal Now. With Him a million years hence are as yesterday. He, from the beginning, foresaw, foreknew, foredetermined, predestinated. Those are the great words we come upon when we come to this particular vessel of His eternal purpose. So, in the fulness of time, Christ personally comes, and then constitutes for Himself a Body, and in that Body the kingdom of God from eternity is constituted.

God All in All

How? On what ground? That is God’s first sphere of domain where He is all in all, where the devil has no place, nor man as such. That is the great meaning of the Cross at which we are trying to get, where no systems of men are the ruling things, where God is all in all. You must remember that that is the end toward which everything is moving. It is moving through and by Christ in the first instance, and then through Christ through His Church, back to God complete. “…he shall deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father;… that God may be all in all” (1 Cor. 15:24-28).

That is the setting in which we are found. God is all in all, to begin with. Is He? Well, that is the whole battleground of our inner life. It was that point which we reached in our previous meditation. There we shall resume later on, if He wills. But it is the question, first of all, of God being all in all, the Lord being Lord, and there being no other lordship – the lordship of our will, our likes, our dislikes, our preferences, our prejudices, our selectivenesses, and all that belongs to us – that rises up and disputes the place and way and will of God. No other feature must have lordship, but He must be Lord of all. I do not expect literally to see Jesus Christ riding on a white horse with a name written on His garment, “King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.” I believe that is a symbol of the great spiritual truth that He will ride in majesty as Lord of Lords; He will trample down every other lordship and bring it into subjection to Himself, and – metaphorically, but none the less very truly – ride forth triumphantly as King. That is the end, and that absolute supremacy which He has attained He will hand up to the Father, for the Father’s ultimate satisfaction in accordance with the purpose which He purposed before the foundation of the world. The whole question of the kingdom of God is resolved in the very first instance into an inward matter in the case of every believer, as to whether He is Lord.

I said just now that that is the battleground in which we find ourselves continually; but, blessed be God, it is not all defeat! There is the mighty energy of the Spirit of God that makes it possible for us to cry – “when I fall, I shall arise” (Micah 7:8). That is not the assertion of self-assurance and self-sufficiency, but of faith that knows there is a power that worketh in us. The mighty energy of the Spirit of God is working the powers of the Kingdom in us, the powers of a coming age.

The Kingdom of God Within and in the Midst

And those powers are firstly spiritual, to bring this about. You and I, in this terrible conflict between the two kingdoms which is focused in our very souls – you and I, frail, faulty, a thousand times failing and slipping and blundering and erring – are nevertheless being carried on by a power and an energy that is not our own, that will bring us finally to the place of absolute ascendancy over the powers that are set against us. God is working that out in us; it is His kingdom. The kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven, is within you. It is an inward matter; that is where it begins. And it is in the midst of you – which expresses the corporate setting of the Kingdom; in the midst of the Church, a people secured and constituted by God and in whom first of all His absolute lordship shall be established.

I must add a word about the other aspect – that the Church is a people in whom the blessedness of God is known. Well, there is a sense in which that is true, but not true enough of us yet. The pressure and the intensity of this great spiritual warfare does register upon us, it does take its toll. This persistent determination of the enemy to wear us out leaves its mark, and we are not too characterised by the blessedness of God’s kingdom. But it does break out sometimes. We sing some of those songs of Zion together, we speak of the great day of Christ’s soon appearing, we remind ourselves of all the wonders of His Cross – ‘Oh, the sweet wonders of that Cross’ – and when we dwell upon these things the glory of His kingdom does well up; it shows itself from time to time. Perhaps that is one of the great blessednesses of Christian fellowship. We gather in meetings and in the Spirit, and the real nature of the Kingdom does come up and show itself. It is there, and more or less it is abidingly there, consciously there, all the time; but we are conscious too that we are up against things, we are in a grim fight. Yet in this kingdom we have to know more and more of the blessedness of God, the happiness of God. We must rebuke ourselves for what contradicts that and remind ourselves that, after all, we are a very happy people. “Happy is the people whose God is the Lord” (Ps. 144:15).

The Church to Administer and Manifest the Kingdom

But then the matter does not end there. Israel were a chosen nation, not to be an end in themselves, but to display to all the nations what the kingdom of God is, and to administer that kingdom in the midst of the nations. There were times when other nations got the benefits of Israel. When they were not against Israel, when they were amenable or favourable, great blessings came to them because of Israel, and so it has been since then. I am not at all sure that we have not derived a great deal of blessing in this country because of the attitude in past years toward that nation – even in their rejection. “I will bless them that bless thee, and him that curseth thee will I curse” (Gen. 12:3); and that holds good. But in a very direct way, when Israel were according to God’s mind, in line with Him, people were blessed because of them. And the Church is not an end in itself. We find in “Revelation” the end – the city is in its place of administration, and it is the nations that are deriving the benefit. The light of the nations, the leaves for the health of the nations, the water for the life of the nations, issue from that city. The Church, then, is to be so constituted as to be God’s instrument of administration and manifestation of His kingdom.

The Practical Issue – Ascendancy over the Kingdom of Darkness

But while we are set in that as the ultimate, and all the practical questions and challenges and issues bound up with that have to be brought home to our hearts, the whole matter resolves itself for the time being into one of registering all that is meant by the kingdom of God, the mighty sovereignty of God in Jesus Christ, not now so much upon kings and rulers of this earth as upon those principalities and powers and world rulers of this darkness, those spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenlies. That is where we are brought to, and if I were to gather into one statement what I believe to be the Divine intention in our present meditations it is this – to seek to bring us, as amongst that people, to the place where we count infinitely more in the spiritual realm than we now do, where we have to be reckoned with by the powers of evil back of this world system. It is there that value to God is decided in this dispensation.

Now you can reject all that we are saying and still be saved. In order to be saved, all that you need is to “believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31). With that you can go to heaven, you can be delivered from condemnation and from hell, without having any of this that we are talking about. Well, if that is all you want, you can have it. But I ask you this, are you as concerned to be useful to God as you are to be saved? That is another question. The matter of your value to God is decided here – what account are you to Him in the realm of the spiritual forces in this universe which are opposed to Him? How much account does the devil take of you? How much are you a menace to his kingdom? Not, how many services and meetings are you taking, how many addresses are you giving, how much running about are you doing; not all those etceteras in Christian activity; but how much impact do you register upon that dark, evil kingdom? It is just there that your value to God is decided. Well, if the devil gives you a very bad time and has made you know you are a marked man, a marked woman, take comfort; it shows you are of some value to God. But we do not always remember that. We have terribly bad times under the hand of the devil and get under them, we think how terrible and wicked he is, we get occupied with that, and forget – perhaps it is a kind of humility – that we must mean something, after all. That is where things count with God in this dispensation. It is not how many structures you can put up nor how big an organisation you can create on this earth, it is not anything in the temporal realm at all. It is, in all, through all, by all, how much is counting against the kingdom which is opposed to the kingdom of God? That is the challenge which we must seriously f ace.

The Kingdom Present in Principle Now

The kingdom of God is something very much more vital than we have realised. Oh, what a pity that men have so systematized this thing as to rob it of its real spiritual value! Some tell us, for instance, that the Kingdom is for a coming age, that this is not the Kingdom age. That is not true. The kingdom of God is a present issue, the supreme issue of this whole creation; and it is concerning that that all the forces of darkness, under whatever name they may be working on this earth, are converging under one evil, spiritual government and overlord – to make it impossible for the kingdom of God to be established and extended in this creation. Well, Christian people know it. The big question in missionary magazines now is whether we can go on with our work in many places, whether we must withdraw, whether there is any prospect for extending in the future. Doors are closing. But what about God’s kingdom? Is He Lord? Is He going to be pushed out of His universe? Well, the picture that the Word of God gives at the end is not that, but just the opposite. That is the battle we are in. It is a spiritual one, after all. The Lord bring home to our hearts the seriousness of the challenge, and help us to see that now it is a personal matter; the kingdom of God is a personal matter.

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Note: This excerpt is taken from the book – “The Cross, the Church and the Kingdom”, linked here

Stepping into Prayer – W.E. Smith

My Precious Lord – This new day I step into your peace, provision, power and purpose, into Your Beloved Son Whom You have made Lord of all Your Household; into His fullness and life; into the perfect and age-lasting work that You have given Him to do; into all grace that flows through Him into those joined as His body on this earth; into whatever it takes that this awesome work might be fully realized.

Oh Lord, I know not what the future holds, but I do know who holds that future. Into Your loving and wise care I commit my spirit, soul and body, all that I am and am becoming as one joined to the Son of Man. Father, I give you my heart and all that lies at the very center of my being, and ask only that you might grant me so worthy a love to love Thee as You deserve Oh Lord! Into your mercy I lay down my sins and my sinfulness, and all that this has wrought in me all the sordid years of my life; and I pray for healing, for purging, for purification, and for newness of life in Christ Jesus. I am nothing Oh Lord, yet He is the very beginning of everything in this new world that is Your Kingdom!

Oh Lord, I set before you my enemies and all those that would seek my hurt and my loss and my destruction, and I stand between them and Thee, to intercede on their behalf. Oh Lord, take my life for them, that they might be saved and brought over to the side of light and truth and love in the presence of so wonderful a Savior and Shepherd. Let not their sins be accounted against them Lord; please do whatever it takes that that precious seed of life, the genesis that is Christ, might be planted in their spirit. Oh Lord, take from my soul all bitterness and hatefulness and malice and vengeful-ness. Take it Lord, and let me trust in the One Who will settle all accounts and right all wrongs in the Day of Your Righteous Reckoning.

My Lord, please take all that I don’t know and cannot know, and let me rest in Thee Oh Lord, and trust You who knows everything about everything. Please grant Your soul-settling peace Lord, the peace in the midst of the swirl and the storm, in the midst of  so many impossible things, both within and without – Oh Lord, be my peace and rest and stillness when all seems out of control and out of balance and upside down.

Lord, I step into Thee this new day, that I might live and walk in You, that Your life and Your work might take the first place, not mine. I take the place of a bond-slave with no interests or claims of my own, such that the good of Your Household might be served in all that I am and do this day. Thy Kingdom come Oh Lord, and Thy Glorious King!

In Jesus’ Glorious Name,

Wayne