Category: Life

Labels

I am personally finished with labels. They are designed solely to divide, exclude and discriminate, as they are so front-loaded with meaning and value. So what if you are not a “christian”, or an “evangelical” or this or that. The first response from those that are, is that “you are not one of us”, so there is suspicion. division and fear.

What is our first response when we here someone is a Muslim or a Buddhist or a Catholic?

Be honest now.

It is that you are not like me, you are not in my group, I have to change that. I either have to avoid you entirely or  convert you, change your mind in some way.

We hate racial prejudice but accept religious prejudice freely and loosely all the time. THIS IS WRONG and very dangerous, and it is not the way of our Lord. He never once said to anyone, go and become a christian, change your name. He said “go and sin no more” if I am not mistaken.

Look at how these pious, religious men treated lepers, the unclean, gentiles, Samaritans, and prostitutes in the New Testament. Look at how their labels reared up high walls around these human souls. Repugnant. Insidious. Then look at how the Master so graciously and irreverently tore them all down into heaps at their feet.

Let us here and now vow to stop labeling human beings, and start treating all human beings as children of God, individuals with a redemptive story, a history, value and meaning.

No more of this us and them mentality. No more caste systems! No more untouchables!

We will never learn anything or truly share anything with anyone if we are trying to convert them to our label. Love is impossible with labels, as you will never go deeper than the label and all of its associated bigotry and meaning.

Children do not use labels!

Go the playground and watch and listen.

Watch as little ones approach others they know nothing about.

Are their first words – “What are you?”

Or do they look for things they can share – a toy, an activity, an interest, and then plunge right in?

So over time, their parents begin the process of programming them to discriminate, and for this they need what – LABELS.

Black, white, rich, poor, christian, pagan, american, republican, democrat…

So by the time they reach adulthood, they are no longer looking for things they can share but things that discriminate and divide. They have become as narr0w, isolated and small as their parents.

“Come to me as little children” – said a very wise man.

Labels are a lazy, insidious, sheep-like way of making sense of all of the color and diversity in this world.

All is done.

Once you discover that the man over there is a Muslim, there is nothing else to know. You will never know what is in his heart, never discover that he deeply loves his family and works hard to support and provide for them, never know that the faith he holds is a sincere and deep one. You will never go to his home and share a meal with him.

In short, you will never, ever, ever be like the very one you profess to follow.

Consider how aggressively the various Jewish groups tried to get Joshua to proclaim which groups he was in – pharisee, saducee, herodian, etc. So they could then either shun or exploit Him. This still goes on today. The christian caste system is every bit as active and insidious as anything found in Hinduism.

“One can never safely approach God through theology, only by the Holy Spirit.”

Do you know who wrote that?

What would you say if I told you it was a Buddhist monk from Viet Nam.

“Oh but, but…”

See how this works.

NO MORE LABELS!!!!

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If God is Love…

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

“So what did you learn in Sunday School today darling?” said the father to his young daughter as they got into the car.

“We learned that God is love. That love is the thing that God is most known for”, she replied.

“A wonderful lesson my dear, so true, so very true. He loves us very much.”

As they drove through the thick, green countryside, there was a period of long silence, as the young girl seemed to be deep in thought.

“Daddy….”

“Yes darling?”

“When we see people who are not Christians acting with love towards each other, does that mean God is there with them?” she asked curiously.

“Hmm.” said the man pensively… “I suppose it does, doesn’t it.”

What if…?

What if… all the churches and denominations in America liquidated all of their buildings, all their schools, all their real estate, all their TV and media assets, all their publishing houses, and all of their investment holdings, then went out into the street with all that money and fed the hungry, sheltered the homeless, comforted the needy, clothed the naked, propped up all the hurting families who just need a leg up?

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What if… every American missionary sent abroad was brought home, and we simply prayed for the Lord to bring His Life and His Love to the poor and needy in this world?

What if all of the parasites and leaches who make a living off of the name of our Lord were exposed, dragged out into the courtyard, and told to “leave and never come back, just leave and never come back”?

What if …. every named “Christian”  group was surreptitiously dissolved, and all badges and labels that divide us were no longer? What if every sign was toppled and stamped into the dust?

What if… we stopped judging sinners and simply started loving and serving them?

What if… the sheep would rise up and turn the tables over, then take back all that was stolen from them in the name of God for over 2,000 years?

What if… if there were no more preachers and priests, no special chairs, no private rooms, no privileged status among God’s little ones? 

What if …men and thieves were to stop making merchandise of the things of our Lord, and simply worshiped Him in Spirit and in Truth?

What if… there were no more high places, no Jerusalem and Rome, only a hillside, and a place where we go to meet the Lord wherever He may be?

What if… the world saw something it has never truly seen before, and experienced a truth borne out of love, and enlightenment borne out of real grace?

What if… we finally realized that the One Narrow Way is a Person – not a religion, not a group, not a system, not a book nor a building?

What if… we rendered to Caesar the things that are his, and we rendered to the Lord everything else? What if every Christian and every group employing Jesus’ Name severed all reciprocal political and business ties? What if the singular ideology and imperative remaining was to simply serve the Lord?

What if Christians stopped pretending, stopped lying to themselves, stopped serving two gods, stopped raising themselves above the rest of humanity, stopped taking up arms to shed the blood of God’s children, stopped playing the harlot with the world?

What if…?

“Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers. “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell? “Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city,… (Matt 23)

No Place for Any Other First – W.E. Smith

Dear saints – It is with some fascination that I contemplate what men try so creatively, so ingeniously to do for the Lord. It is as though we don’t trust Him, or somehow feel we can do things better in terms of bringing about the fullest expression of spiritual body life. I absolutely relish this description by Sparks here of what really transpired shortly after He ascended –

“While there was some initial testimony, the Apostles did not formulate in conference an enterprise, a mission, with all the related arrangements and organization. The new Life forced off the old leaves and dressed the new organism with a new vesture from within. The might, energy and urge of the Holy Spirit within produced a Way and an order, un-thought-of, unintended by them, and always to their own surprise. What was happening was really that Christ was taking form within them, individually and corporately, by new birth and growth. The believers and the companies were becoming an expression of Christ.”

Now if I may speak quite frankly, such a thing positively scares the life out of many believers, especially those who feel that everything of Christ must be branded, named, organized, systematized, collectivized, boxed, replicated, scheduled, itemized, etc.

Where I wonder in what Sparks has described is there a place for one such as Diotrephes, who loves to be first, over others, standing apart, in some place of self-importance?

I dare say that such Nicolaitans create these unnatural religious mechanisms so that they can control them, lord over them and derive no small degree of stature and importance from them – all in the name of Christ, all for Him ostensibly.

“THESE THINGS I HATE!”

…said the Master.

Rather than step back and glory in what the Lord through His Spirit was doing back then, we rather pull a verse out of the Book of Acts and create a system, a methodology from it – oh what a wonderful idea.

“They met in homes” – Oh so the pattern for church is to meet only and always in homes.

“The church in this city.” – Oh so we must organize city churches with spiritual headship over each jurisdiction.

“They all sold what they had…” oh so we are to give all of our resources to a centralized church body and have them manage and distribute it as they deem suitable.

Dear saints, what is so delicious, so marvelously impressive about the Book of Acts, is not only these things specifically, but that the wind was blowing, and that these saints allowed themselves to be swept up and away in its moving. Nothing of men, All from the Lord. Attempting, even with the very best of intentions, to replicate, simulate or return to the various particulars of what happened HAVE AND WILL FAIL EVERY TIME!

This book is a book not of patterns and templates, but of free-flowing life. It is the most un-religious book ever written.

May we open all of our doors, tears down all of our walls, open all of our windows – and simply let the mighty wind of the Spirit bring forth life into our fellowship and union with one another in the Lord. May we lay down all pride and lust for power and control. May we learn from John in his first letter which speaks of real heaven-blown fellowship and oneness in the LIGHT, LIFE and LOVE of God.

May He breathe on these words as they pass through your day today… amen

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From TAS –

I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you. (Ephesians 1:18 NIV)

It is a seeing of the immense significance of Jesus in the eternal and universal order. With the Apostles that seeing was subsequent to the days of physical association. During the forty days after His resurrection it was like the dawning of a new day. First, those intimations, as when the uncertain light just passes over the heavens. Then more steady and certain rays, leading to the Day of Pentecost, when the sun appeared in full glory over the horizon dispelling the last shadow of uncertainty. On that day they saw Him as by an opened heaven. The mystery of the past was dispelled. The Bible lay open like a new book. They saw Him in the light of eternity. They began to see that, while He was the glorified, personal, Son of God, He was Himself the embodiment of a great, a vast heavenly and spiritual order and system. This seeing was absolutely revolutionary. It was a crisis out of which a new world and a new creation was born. True to this fundamental principle, all that vast revelation, which has come down the centuries from and through the Apostle Paul took its rise from that crisis described by him as “It pleased God… to reveal His Son in me” (Gal. 1:16). “I received it… by revelation of Jesus Christ” (vs. 12). All the implicates were in the crisis; the full content was a progressive and ever-growing revelation.

While there was some initial testimony, the Apostles did not formulate in conference an enterprise, a mission, with all the related arrangements and organization. The new Life forced off the old leaves and dressed the new organism with a new vesture from within. The might, energy and urge of the Holy Spirit within produced a Way and an order, un-thought-of, unintended by them, and always to their own surprise. What was happening was really that Christ was taking form within them, individually and corporately, by new birth and growth. The believers and the companies were becoming an expression of Christ.

He is…

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. (Col 1)

Now the words above are deeper than the deepest oceans, and vaster than any galaxy. They are in fact immeasurably and exceedingly wondrous and unfathomable. This is what the angels themselves ponder in abject and utter amazement, what the Father has determined to do in and through His Beloved Son. This is what set Lucifer out of joint way back then, one imagines.

That He is worthy of such things is why we worship and adore Him, why we sing exultantly His praises, why we perceive Him as Beautiful and Almighty, why all created things must be summed up in Him and set as His footstool.

No the wisest among us can only stutter at such thoughts. He becomes a babbling fool when trying to wrap his mind and words around such truths about The Christ.

The words above contain the gospel, but they go so much further than that, for the blood He shed is the very essence of the new creation. His tears will bring forth life that will never be contained in this world or the next. There will be no place where His shadow does not darken, no limit to His presence and authority. He will subsume and inhabit and pervade all that there is, for this was granted to Him by His Father.

Dear ones, let us not in this hour, become divided over external doctrines or teachings. Let us not advance or emphasize anything but Him as the all in all, as the beginning and end. Let us all agree that before this Being we are but shadows and dust, and blades of parched grass.

Everything is moving towards the realization of what we read here – EVERYTHING! For it is the Father’s good purpose to reward His Faithful Son, to grant Him the riches and rewards of His suffering!

Ask Him to grant you but a glimpse of what all this means, to anoint your eyes that you might possibly see even a sliver of what He represents.

He is fearfully and terribly awesome my brethren!

He holds your very heartbeat between His fingers.

Apart from Him we are all dead already!

Do we live in Him, do we move in Him, do we have our being in Him?

Focus on this, and everything else will take care of itself.

With much grace –

The Sentence of Death – T.A. Sparks

“Yea, we ourselves have had the sentence of death within ourselves that we should not trust in ourselves but in God, which raiseth the dead…. Always bearing about in the body the deadness of Jesus that the Life also of Jesus may be manifest in our mortal body” (2 Corinthians 1:9, 4:10).

Shaped By VisionThe burden of the Lord’s word is mainly to His own people, but there may be just at the outset a simple word which may take us right back to the beginning of things and reach any who are not quite sure that they are the Lord’s, or are quite certain that they are not, but who may nevertheless be reaching out to find Him; and to such I would like to say again, with renewed emphasis, that to belong to the Lord, to know the secret of His fellowship, and to have the realisation that you have passed from death into life, to be a child of God, is not to enter into any system of religion, though you might call it “Christianity”; and it is not to join a company of religious or Christian people whom you may call the Lord’s people, or “the church,” wherever they may be found or under whatever name they may go. To be the Lord’s is to receive into the centre of your very being a gift of God which is called LIFE: a LIFE which we by nature do not possess: a LIFE which is God’s own LIFE, and which alone can bring us into a place where sin no longer has dominion over us, where we are saved from sin, and where we have the assurance of that salvation.

There are so many who are struggling to be Christians, to be good, to be better, or the best they can be; struggling to be the Lord’s and to live as belonging to the Lord; struggling to move with the Lord and to do those things which are pleasing unto Him; struggling and striving and yet all the time despairing. And I tell you why; Satan cannot cast out Satan! Satan is Lord of Death, and he has gained a foothold in the very race at its beginnings, and death has passed upon all, and is in all. The nature of that death is separation from God, and thus it is with every child of Adam. Death reigns by the work of Satan, and by it he has this hold, this standing, this established place in the race, and everyone in that race is in this sense dead. Now what is the good of a dead thing trying to cast out death? What is the good of the thing which is but the fruit of death trying to overcome the very source of death? Satan cannot cast out Satan, and so you may struggle to the end and despair. You need LIFE – TRIUMPHANT LIFE – PERSONIFIED LIFE – for if death is personified in Satan, LIFE is personified in the Lord Jesus who says:-

“I AM THE LIFE,” AND “I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE.”

And you need Him as the Life resident within your very being to eject death, and “To overcome him that hath the power of death, that is, the devil.” So to be the Lord’s is to have the Lord, to be a Christian is to have Him as LIFE resident in your spirit, mighty, triumphant, able to resist the powers of death, and to make you to overcome by His LIFE. “The LIFE” – as this servant of God, Paul, put it:-

“The LIFE whereby Jesus conquered death.”

Now that is the basis of all Christian experience, and, as we may see, of Christian service, and I do want to urge upon you, for I know it is necessary, that it should be emphasised that it is not joining a fellowship, it is not coming into a company of religious people and associating yourself with them; it is not accepting some system of teaching; it is not merely deciding for Christ, it is something infinitely more than that, and all that may only prove the instrument of your undoing and your despair. You may be wretched even in the presence of heavenly joy, you may be miserable even in the place where heavenly light is, you may be ashamed where the glory of God is, you may be despairing in the very presence of the “Hope which maketh not ashamed” if you have not the one Life of the Son of God with all His children. The one Life! What you need is the gift of God, which is Eternal Life in and through Jesus Christ our Lord. That is the essence of the gospel, the beginning of the gospel, the end of the gospel: it is the gospel in sum total. THAT YOU SHOULD HAVE HIS LIFE.

Now, beloved, having said that, one goes on to speak mostly to the Lord’s people, though the others listening may by the Holy Spirit’s aid see something more for themselves, and the burden is this –

DEATH COMPLEMENTARY AND DEATH ANTAGONISTIC.

You will see by a glance through the word of God, with this two-fold thought in your mind, that death can be either of these. Death can be an advantage, or it can be a disadvantage; it can be complementary, or it can be antagonistic; it can make possible the higher purpose and blessings in God, or it can be absolutely paralysing and nullifying to all fruitfulness in Him. Now you wonder how death can be complementary or advantageous, the very ground of fruitfulness, because you so often hear it said that death is death, and that it is desolate and barren and there is nothing that can come out of it; but you must remember that it prepares the way for all the other, it brings you to the point where everything else is possible, and not until you have come to death is anything else possible at all. Now you notice the passages we read –

“Yea, we ourselves have had the sentence of death within ourselves that we should not trust in ourselves.”

That is the very basis of everything in real spiritual fruitfulness and effectiveness. “The sentence of death in ourselves.” Of course, here Paul is undoubtedly speaking in the first place about something very serious which had overtaken him. In the beginning of the chapter he speaks of this something which had come in the way of a terrible affliction, and he said he despaired of life and had the very sentence of death in himself so that there was no hope whatever for him from any human standpoint, there was no hope according to all human judgments and verdicts. He ought to have died – the very sentence of death was in him – and I do like the way he puts it, it is so richly significant: he uses just the little word THAT, and it gives an entirely different complexion to the whole situation. He might have put it: “We had the sentence of death in ourselves andwe cannot trust in ourselves,” but he did not put it like that. Of course, that would be quite logical to say, “We had the sentence of death in ourselves, it was there; and of course, that being the case, we were no good for anything at all, and there was no hope whatever, and therefore we cannot trust ourselves.”

But he did not put it that way. “We had the sentence of death in ourselves THAT -“. There is purpose in it – there is an object in it – there is something in it as a basic and fundamental principle. He realised that it was not the end but the beginning, with a design that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raiseth the dead. So that the sentence of death was not the end of everything it was the beginning of everything. There was a real purpose in this thing, and if you take up the Holy Spirit’s teaching in the New Testament, you find that this has become the foundational principle of all Divine activities and operations. The sentence of death passed upon us and registered in us and working out in us, and all the time another thing doing the work of God, triumphing over this sentence of death in us – this other thing which is in us, working through us, giving us ascendancy over death in Christ: so that the wonderful things of God are manifest by us when there is no accountableness for them in us. The Lord has swept away with one stroke the whole basis of our trust in ourselves – has wiped out forever any hope in ourselves, not to destroy us, not to make everything impossible, but THAT He who raiseth the dead might show the mighty works by this Resurrection Life which is fruitful in us.

Have you noticed this, I do not know where it came from, whether it was Satanic or Divine inspiration, that even Herod, “that old fox,” when it was reported to him that the Lord Jesus was doing His many mighty works, said, “This is John the Baptist, risen from the dead therefore these mighty works are shown!” Risen from the dead – mighty works! How he got that inkling I don’t know, but there is this principle in it, that resurrection from the dead implies mighty works – works mightier than those before death.

There is that there, and this is the principle all the way through the Word, that on the ground of a Life wrought in us through the cross by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, God is able to achieve and accomplish His supreme purpose. But in order to do it, the sentence of death must be planted right at the centre of our old life to rule it out, so that where we despair of life in ourselves and have no trust in ourselves, we know we cannot of ourselves accomplish anything, there is the mighty Life of God for everything. This that is “Christ in you,” the Life of God, the hope of glory.

God has brought us to this very point, in order that we might not trust in ourselves, but in God “Who raiseth the dead.” You notice that Paul puts the three-fold rescue work of God immediately over against that – and we do trust in Him who hath rescued us and doth rescue us, and we believe that He will yet rescue us, that we shall not be wholly swallowed up of death, but in death, maintained in Life.

Now this is only the beginning of things, the basis. This is the thing that is with one with tremendous force in these days, that if you are going to be effective in the realm where the prince, the Lord of Death holds sway, you cannot be effective by the means and resources in which he has got a stronghold; and he has that in all the resources of our natural life, however fine and splendid they may be from the natural standpoint. The only thing that can be effective in that realm is the Life whereby Jesus conquered death, and in order that that Life might have full sway and free course, and the utmost and fullest fruitfulness of that Life as triumphant over death might abound, all that in which the enemy has any hold whatsoever (our natural life) has got to be put out, and we must have no trust in ourselves for this work.

Now that immediately defines and delimits the measure of spiritual effectiveness. It is the measure of His Life coming through by the sentence of death being in ourselves. These cries of the Apostle in the fourth and sixth chapters of this second letter, concerning oppositions,  adversity, trial, affliction – he sees in all this a great advantage for the Life of God, and that this death is complementary really to the purpose of God, that it is aiding the purpose of God. Paul always looked upon things in that way. He saw that those things which might be reckoned impossible of fruitfulness to God were essential to make that fruitfulness possible. Death itself is not the end of all things, but is the beginning of things where God is concerned, and so he will say “a great door and effectual is opened unto me” – and with no repining or complaining, “but there are many adversaries,” rather with the complementary “AND there are many adversaries.” That is, that these things are included in the great door and effectual to make it all the more effectual. The fact that there are adversaries is not any reason why we should sit down and refuse to go in through the door, but the very reason why we should go in that very door to prove how effectual it is. Things which men would consider to be against are the very things which are for God, and death becomes His captive and the Lord of Death His slave to serve His higher ends, so that death must be registered in us in order that His Life might show what a triumphant Life it is. These paradoxes of Paul are very beautiful.

Now, beloved, we are right up against this whole situation, the situation of dealing with the system of spiritual evil and spiritual death. We have often said of late that we have passed, and are passing more completely, out of the era and time of certain orders of Christian work. I think it is recognised by most spiritually-minded people that the old forms of Christian enterprise – organised religious activity – are breaking down, are failing everywhere. It seems that the thing has been rejected and cannot meet the need.

We have passed into a new time, a new phase which we believe to be that culminating phase in the age when we shall come more directly into conflict with the forces of darkness – with the power of Satan. The church has been meeting him for a long time through things, and now it is going to meet him face to face; and that is the time and condition into which we are moving now. We are finding that means and old forms and institutions and organisations cannot meet the more direct encounter with the enemy. We are being forced to recognise the need of something more, and that something more is simply the naked Life of God as manifested in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ coming into tremendous contact with the whole system of death and of darkness. That is our position.

How many of you are able to appreciate this I do not know, but I know there are some who can appreciate it. God synchronises His provisions with recognised and realised needs. Now the movement is to be along this line where the Life of God, unmixed with the resources of men, with human machinery and human drive and human enterprise – the very Life of God has got to be directly, immediately, nakedly manifest in the church for the last phase of the battle unto the ultimate triumph. In order that this might be so, there must be this tremendous emphasis of God upon the need for the wiping out of all that which stands in the way of a pure and clear manifestation of His Life, and of the intermingling of those things in which there is death, that is, the natural life of man. All that intermingling has got to be removed, and God is coming to the time, has come to the time, when He is going to have very close accounts with His people, so that you cannot touch the earth, you cannot touch the flesh, you cannot touch the world, you cannot touch anything in which death is, without at once having a check and an arrest put upon your spiritual effectiveness; you have to stand absolutely clear.

Now that is why Paul in this fourth chapter, speaking about the Life of God being manifest in us because “We are always bearing about the deadness of the Lord Jesus” immediately goes on to say, “Be not unequally yoked together with an unbeliever, for what is there in common between God and Belial, light and darkness?” What fellowship, what in common? These two are poles asunder, and absolutely antagonistic, “Wherefore come out from among them and be ye separate.” And in as far as there is that coming out and being separate, and being cut off from all that in which death is, and a coming into that in which Life is, can there be a manifestation of the triumphant and effective Life of the risen Lord in us. There is always a big purpose, as big as eternity and as big as God Himself, in every injunction in the scripture, not just some little bit of spiritual advice; it is as big and great as God Himself, and as vast as His Eternal purpose, and when He says, “Be not unequally yoked with unbelievers,” He is not just giving you a bit of spiritual advice that will save you trouble in your domestic arrangements. He is laying down a vast principle that spiritual effectiveness to the maximum depends upon your being out of the range of the grip of death so far as your spirit is concerned and your life voluntarily lived.

Now I want to stay for a moment here – the Lord might just help some. Beloved, the principle of Life in your spirit is to be the guiding principle of all your service in the Lord Jesus Christ. I do not mean Life in your surroundings. The Lord may take you to a place where death reigns, but if death reigns in you, you may as well give up the whole thing at once. You may be there, and the Life of God may be in you to meet that situation, to triumph over it; but mark you, if you begin to touch what you call pieces of work for God and there is no Life in your spirit, and the thing is dead in your spirit, you have no right there until you get in your spirit the Life of God relative to that thing. Don’t touch it, or you will be found in dead works, trying to do something where there is no vital principle at all.

Now note, it is all very well to have a broad view and say, Yes, but the Lord Jesus Christ, as the Life, has come into the world where death is in order to save the world, and that Life can be taken as the broad basis upon which we should enter upon any work for the Lord that seems to offer itself or is presented to us. But that is no criterion. There was a time when the Lord Jesus recognised in His spirit that the living purpose of God was arrested with regard to certain situations, and He had no Life witness there and He came out. We believe that that was so in the case of Israel as a nation. He gathered the whole situation up in the incident of the fig tree. Ministered to, witnessed to for a long time, but the moment the curse of God had to fall upon it (what is the curse of God? It is death), from that moment He was cut off from Israel. He had no ministry to Israel as such; He recognised in His spirit that there was death there, and it was no use being sentimental about poor Israel, no use trying to act upon a basis of human sympathy and compassion and having imaginations and mental pictures of what could be done and what might be done; that was an end. I am only using this by way of illustration, for spiritual effectiveness demands that we should have the witness of LIFE in our spirit. A lot of people hold on and continue in certain realms, certain spheres, certain companies, certain connections, and they are there merely from the standpoint of natural reasoning and argument, sentimentally, traditionally, or somehow thinking that by staying in something is going to be done; and in their spirit they know the thing is dead, and they have no Life there. May that not be the Lord’s witness to them that they should serve Him where they have Life, where the witness of Life is in them, and a spirit of promise? If all around is dead but they have Life in themselves, it is all right; but if all around is dead and they have no Life in their ministry, surely something is wrong, the door is closed. It is important that for spiritual effectiveness up to the hilt, the witness of Life in us should be born.

Of course, we have swept aside in ourselves that which might bring the death – we have stood by the cross and seen that the sentence of death must be in ourselves as such, in order to make the Life possible; but if that has been dealt with and we have the sentence of death, and we no longer trust in ourselves but put our faith in Him who raiseth the dead, then we have the right to claim and receive the witness of Resurrection Life in ourselves for ministry as the Lord appoints, and the day in which the Lord brings death upon one’s spirit in any sphere or kind of ministry, that is the day when one will begin to look to see where the Lord is going to bear the witness of Life for ministry. Now that is important.

I do not know why the Lord should give one such emphasis upon this, but it is no use your going on to do God’s work when you have death in your spirit. Nothing will come of it; drop it, and ask the Lord to bring you into a place where you can in your spirit bear witness by Life – the Life whereby Jesus conquered death, to meet the situation as it is around you.

Now you notice one thing Paul says in this very connection, in this opening chapter of his second letter: “The afflictions of Christ came upon us above measure. We despaired of life, the sentence of death was in us.” How did the Apostle regard the afflictions of Christ? You read anything that the Holy Spirit says about this matter, and you will find that it is always related to a testimony, or to put it in this way, the afflictions of Christ, the sufferings of Christ are intimately related to, and, in fact, inseparable from, Who Christ is and what He is going to do. The impact of Christ with the purpose of God upon the system into which he has come has immediately precipitated this whole matter of affliction. You may go out and do Christian work, and you may do it in such a way and by such means as to reduce suffering to a minimum, to have a comparatively smooth and easy time. You may seem in that realm to be having a tremendous amount of success, the thing is beginning to get big and prosperous. Beloved, do not think for one moment that that is always a testimony to spiritual vitality.

On the other hand, you may go out in the service of what you call the Kingdom of God and you may suffer much because you run counter to the traditions of men, or to the accepted system of the day, or to the popular public mind, and, as a reformer, die a reformer’s death, being rejected and refused and perhaps murdered. That need not be a criterion either of spiritual effectiveness. How many there are who are deceived along both of these lines, and oh, tragedy of tragedies, how many of the Lord’s dear children are suffering in what they call His work without real spiritual value and result, without breaking through, without planting the standard of the victory of His cross in the enemy’s territory! They are out for the Lord, and they are suffering, having a hard time, a bad time, but nothing is coming of it all, they have run counter to a system, to traditions, they have run counter to the personal preferences and likes of mankind. You may take it that you can never, in corporate union with the Lord Jesus Christ move for the fulfillment of His mission without bringing His sufferings upon you. As to this, if you are in corporate union with the Lord Jesus and you are out with Him, and He is in you for the accomplishment of His purpose, there need be no fruitless sufferings, all the suffering will be fruitful. The explanation of course is that the world, not being an end in itself, but being embraced, circumferenced by this whole system of spiritual antagonism knows who Jesus is and knows the destiny of Jesus according to the will and determination of God, and therefore all its antagonism and wrath is stirred up from the bottom against Him and against Him in His corporate presentation as well as in His personal, against Him in the form of His Body, the one Body which is Christ, just as much as against Him as a separate entity.

Well now these are the sufferings of Christ relative to the work and person of Christ, but they are mightily effectual sufferings, and the Apostle recognised that and pointed that out. The sufferings are fruitful sufferings, they are mighty sufferings because they represent the challenge of the Christ of God, and they imply not His defeat, but His triumph. Satan would not bother himself if he knew that Christ could and would be defeated; he bestirs himself because he knows the end of this thing, what it means, the coming of the Christ of God into his domain. Now in order that this might be so, that deadness of the Lord Jesus to all that to which He died is the thing that has to be ruled out in order that the issues of His Life might be realised and manifested, and oh, that God’s people had discernment, spiritual discernment!

The one cry in our spirit is that His people might be more discerning, be able to discern in their spirit where Life is and where death is. You know it would accelerate and expediate the whole business if we had more of this discernment as to matters of life and death. You know how frequently we have tried to do a thing for the Lord, to do a thing with the best motive for the Lord and inside there has been death. Dead! And yet we have tried to do it, to force it, and there is nothing but waste of energy and waste of time. We have got to get on to the thing that God is doing, for only in this can we have the witness of Life that it is the thing of God and we shall get through. In order that He might be able to consummate His purpose, gather up His plan and bring it to a mighty, victorious issue in the coming of the Lord, our need is to have Life more abundant, and the spiritual discernment by Life to know where Life is and where death is.

You may be doing what you call the work of God and have death in your spirit; and that very doing of what you call the work of God, because there is death in your spirit is antagonistic to the purpose of God. You may have Life in your spirit and death all around, but the fact that you have the witness of Life is both the key and the assurance that something is to be accomplished.

I believe, beloved, that we dare not do a thing unless we have definite witness in our spirit that it is the thing of God to be done through us. We cannot take these broad sweeps, we must have the witness of Life, and not take the general conception that the world is to be saved, and therefore we ought to get out into the world to save it. Do not make that mistake, the world will not be saved. You may say “the whole wide world for Jesus,” but God is looking to take out a people from the nations, and this part of the dispensation will not see the whole wide world for Jesus. Is God in this, is God in that, has God undertaken it? The answer to that question in your spirit will not be an audible voice, it must ever be the liberty and the freedom and the uprising of His Life in you that gives you a clear way through in your spirit.

The Lord teach us how to be led thus in our spirit by the Holy Spirit that He may bring us to the place where the maximum of spiritual effectiveness is attained, and in order that it may be so, beloved, “We must have the sentence of death in ourselves (our flesh), that we should not trust in ourselves” and “always bearing the deadness of the Lord Jesus, that His Life might be manifested.”

God only works now on resurrection ground, by Resurrection Life, and this life in us is the basis of the Holy Spirit’s operation in revelation and service.

The law of the Spirit is Life. Romans 8:2.

T.A. Sparks Byline

Beware of the Leaven… (T. A. Sparks)

t_austin_sparksThe Gospel by Matthew, chapter thirteen, and verse thirty-three: “Another parable spake He unto them; ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till it was all leavened'” (ASV). This is the fourth parable on the kingdom, and like the ones before it, it has two interpretations. Bible teachers are quite divided on the meaning of this parable. The most popular interpretation is that the leaven is something good. Indeed, it is the Gospel of the Kingdom, and the Gospel of the Kingdom is going to spread all over the world until there is nothing bad left. Indeed, the world is going to become wholly good in this dispensation, I say, that is the most popular interpretation. It is popular because it is just what we would like it to be. We would very much like that to be true. But is that the true interpretation of the parable?

The much less popular interpretation is that the leaven is something bad. And that evil is going to spread more and more over all the world. Well, that is not a popular interpretation, and it is not popular because we do not like that idea. However, it is never a matter of whether a thing is popular or unpopular. A doctor’s medicine is not a popular thing because we do not like it, but it is the right thing. And there are many quite nice things that are not good for us. So it does not depend upon whether the thing is popular. The thing is, is it true? Which is the right interpretation?

For myself, I come down on the second interpretation; that the leaven is not something good, but something evil. And I am going to tell you why I believe that is the true interpretation. If you look into your Bible, and trace this word leaven all the way through, beginning with the first mention of leaven in the Book of Exodus, chapter twelve, and moving right through the Bible, until you come to the First Letter to the Corinthians, chapter five, you will find that with one possible exception, leaven is always something bad. It is always something which God will not allow. In the Old Testament, God gave very, very careful instructions about leaven. The passover bread was to be unleavened bread. In every Jewish household, to this day, on the eve of the passover they light a lamp and the wife or mother takes the broom and sweeps every room and every corner to see if she can find any leaven. This is what they believe to be God’s attitude toward leaven. So that wherever this word is used right through the Bible, it is almost, if not altogether, an evil thing.

You will remember that when we were speaking about the parable of the mustard seed, we pointed to the law of consistency. And we said that Jesus in His teaching never contradicted Himself. Never did He, in one address, use the same thing for two opposite meanings. So when we had the parable of the darnel (the tares), the darnel was the work of the evil one. When we had the parable of the mustard seed, the birds of the air which lodged in that tree are the same birds as in the parable of the sower. In the parable of the sower, Jesus said, “The birds of the air are the evil ones.” In the parable of the darnel, it was an evil one that did this thing. The law of consistency demands that we interpret this parable of the leaven as being something evil. Jesus is teaching that in this dispensation, we are to expect to find evil things in this world.

Now you notice that these parables all relate to this present age. And in the last parable, the parable of the drag-net, Jesus says, at the end of the age, He will send forth His angels, and they shall gather out of His Kingdom all things that make to stumble. The law of consistency demands that we say, they will gather out all the leaven and destroy it. Now I want to know where you stand on this matter. If these parables relate to this present age, which ends with the coming again of the Lord Jesus, is it true that the whole world is being converted? Is it true that all evil is being taken out of this world in this age? Is it true that the leaven of the Gospel is transforming the whole of this world and nothing evil is left in it? Is there anyone here tonight who believes that? If I ask for a vote, I am quite sure that everybody would say, ‘There is more evil in the world today than ever there was.’

The final argument is this, the Bible does not teach that the whole world is going to be saved in this dispensation. But it does teach that “evil men will wax worse and worse.” It does teach that “because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” So we are thrown back upon this second interpretation. We come down upon what the Bible says about this. The leaven represents evil, and leaven is everywhere forbidden in relation to the things of God. I can only make that statement, but if you would like to look at your Bible, you will find it is quite true.

So we are going to first of all look at the nature and the effects of leaven. Of course, you know what leaven is and what it is used for. If the brothers do not know, the sisters do. It is that which you put into the dough to make your bread. But what is its nature and what are its effects? First of all, leaven always sets up fermentation. Have you seen the effect of the leaven when it is put into the dough? The dough was a very quiet thing until you put the leaven in. There is no disturbance and no excitement until you put the leaven in the dough. But as soon as you have put the leaven in, you find something begins to work up excitement. Everything becomes disturbed. This leaven stirs up everything. Now you know that this is the same principle of alcoholic liquor. Alcohol is simply another form of leaven. And you know quite well that if you take alcohol, you begin to get excited. There is an inward disturbance. And if you take too much, you lose your senses, and then want to fight, and a lot of disturbance takes place. This thing ruins homes. It ruins lives. It ruins businesses. Indeed, alcohol is a curse. And that is only another name for leaven, for it is the same thing. That is the nature of leaven, and those are the effects of leaven to begin with. Just keep that in mind and we will come back to it.

The next effect of leaven is inflation; it makes things unnaturally big. I have noticed that in your market and outside your churches there are a lot of men selling balloons, hundreds and hundreds of balloons. Well, they are made to look very attractive with many pretty colors, but what are they? Well, you take this very thin skin and you begin to blow into it. You fill it with wind and you make it larger and larger with wind. And then you take a very little pin, and you prick it, and the whole thing is gone. It is an artificial inflation that cannot stand up to anything. It is something which has been made unnaturally big. An artificial increase of size.

When I was a very little child, I was sometimes sent to stay with my grandmother. And on Friday night, in the kitchen, the servants always made the bread for the next week. They made the dough in a big bowl, and having put the leaven in, they worked it with their hands and with their fingers, and then they just put it in the bottom of the bowl and they covered the whole thing over with a cloth, and they went to bed. The next morning I was up early, I went into the kitchen and I lifted the cloth, and the dough had filled the whole basin. In the dark, it had grown and grown. It had become something very big, the leaven made it do that. Hold that and we will come back to it.

Another thing that leaven does, it breaks things up, it disintegrates. You see the holes coming in the bread. The leaven tears the dough asunder. It makes the loaf into a thing with many, many parts and many holes in it. It just breaks things up and divides. Hold that and we will come back to that.

Then the last thing, unleavened bread is not very pleasant to the taste. Leaven is put in to make the bread taste nice. It is something to make an appeal to the natural taste. Unleavened bread is not very nice to taste, and so that we may be very pleased, we put leaven in. It appeals to our natural taste.

Now do you see the meaning, the nature and effects of leaven? There has come into this universe something that disturbs the universe. All these terrible wars, about which you know something, are the result of this disturbing influence which has come into the universe. There is something in this universe that stirs up human nature. Like alcohol, it makes men fight against one another. It keeps the world in unrest. It produces all this excitement of the human evil nature. Then, again, this something that has come into this universe results in an enlargement that is quite unnatural – a false development. That is a thing that we have seen in these last few years. In the case of the wars, there has been an attempt to develop this world in an unnatural way. Anything that results in unnatural development and enlargement is evil.

The Apostle Paul said, “Through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” Anything that makes us unnaturally big is evil. Whether it be the individual life, or whether it be what is called the work of God, trying to make it bigger than its real spiritual measure, inflating it beyond its genuine spiritual degree, that is something evil, that is leaven.

Anything that results in divisions and breaking up – disintegration is evil. Do not let us excuse our divisions. Do not let us look favorably upon the divisions amongst the Lord’s people. If there are only two of us who are divided, let us not make excuses for that, let us say, ‘This is wrong, this is evil, this ought not to be, there is some evil at work to divide us.’ And what may be true between just two people, is true amongst all the Lord’s people. We must not look upon divisions as being good, they are bad. And we must know that God is against divisions. He does not accept this working of leaven.

Then what about this leaven that makes things appeal to our natural taste? Paul said to Timothy, “The time will come when they will not endure sound teaching; and they will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.” And he goes on to say that they will believe the lie instead of the truth. Why is that? Because these teachers appeal to the natural life. These teachers cover over evil. Indeed, they will sometimes call evil good. People do not like the teachers who tell them what is wrong, that this thing and that thing are contrary to God. They like leavened bread, it pleases the flesh.

Well, these are the effects of leaven. And I am quite sure that there is no one here tonight who will argue that any of those things are good. You see, it is all bad. Now let us look at the symbolism of leaven: We will listen to the Lord Jesus and then to the Apostle Paul on this matter. Jesus gave three warnings to His disciples. First, He said, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees. Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees.” And what did He say was the leaven of the Pharisees? He said, it is hypocrisy – pretending to be something that you are not, something that is quite artificial and unreal. You have only got to watch those Pharisees to see it. They make long prayers in public. They look at a poor sinner and they say, “O God, I thank thee that I am not like that man.” They send somebody in front of them to blow a trumpet and say this wonderful righteous man is coming along; Jesus says, it is all hypocrisy. It is all false and unreal. And if there was one thing that Jesus hated more than another, it was unreality – pretending to be something that you are not, making a lot of noise amongst the people of God with nothing behind it. Indeed, the life behind is quite a contradiction.

Well, that is capable of a very wide application, but that is the principle of the Pharisees. Jesus said, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” I do not know what the word means in your language, but in the Bible language, it means, acting a part. It is the picture of an actor on the stage. He may be dressed up to represent a great king, but he is not a great king. It is only his dress. Or he may be there acting the part of something else, but he is not that something else. He is just pretending to be that. And that is the real meaning of the word hypocrisy. Jesus said, “Beware of play-acting in the things of God.”

The second warning was, “Beware of the leaven of the Sadducees.” Now we are told that the Sadducees did not believe in angels or spirit or resurrection. They said, ‘There are no such things as angels, there is no such thing as spirit, there is no such thing as resurrection.’ What did that mean? They ruled out the whole reality of the supernatural. They set aside everything that was spiritual. Therefore, they were pure materialists. They lived only for the present time because they did not believe there was anything afterward. They lived only for this world because they did not believe there is another one. For them, there was nothing supernatural, all was now – just material – in this life on the earth.

You see, that is a very convenient philosophy of life. It is very convenient for this reason, that it will not accept future judgment. If there is no resurrection, if there is no life after this one, if there is no other world after this one, then there is no such thing as judgment. Judgment goes, that is a very convenient doctrine. Jesus says, ‘Beware of that’; there is such a thing as the supernatural. God Himself is Spirit, He is the greatest reality in this universe. There is a life after this, for we shall all be raised: “Those that have done evil, unto the resurrection of condemnation, and those that have done good, unto the resurrection of life.” Jesus says, ‘Beware of anything that contradicts those great realities.’

Then He gave a third warning. He said to His disciples, “Beware of the leaven of Herod.” What kind of leaven is the leaven of Herod? Herod was a man who believed in great worldly splendor. He ruled his world by a great show of magnificence. Everything that looked wonderful was Herod’s idea. His was a reign of earthly glory. But this other thing also comes to life with regard to Herod; behind all that outward show, was a life which was absolutely corrupt. John the Baptist told Herod of his corrupt life, and Herod beheaded John the Baptist. Here is a life of outward show, with the inward life absolutely corrupt. Jesus says, ‘Beware of anything like that. That is leaven. It must not come into touch with any of the things of God.’

The scribes and the Pharisees came to Jesus one day, and they said to Him, ‘Be gone, get away, Herod will kill You.’ Of course, they wanted to get rid of Jesus. What did Jesus say? “Go and tell that fox, that I work today and tomorrow, and the third day I am perfected.” Go and tell that fox. You know what a fox is? Well, he is one who makes a great show, a great pretense. He looks like a very nice animal. But you let him get in amongst your chickens and see what he will do. His nature is a contradiction to his appearance. Jesus says, “Beware of that leaven.”

Now just a word about this that Paul has to say. In 1 Corinthians, chapter five, you have it. Something had happened in the church of Corinth. A man had committed fornication, and by his fornication he had brought evil into the church, and the church had not done anything about it. The church had not taken account of this evil as represented by this man. They let him stay there. They even let him come to the Lord’s Table. A man whose background of life was evil. Now Paul wrote to the church about that man. And he said to the church, ‘You must judge this thing, and you must put that man out and forbid him the Lord’s Table until he repents, because he is leaven, and he defiles the whole church by his presence, and the presence of that evil is robbing the church of its spiritual power.’ So Paul says, “Purge out the old leaven.” Fornication and uncleanness must not come into the house of God. And, it certainly must not come to the Lord’s Table. And Paul says the church is responsible for dealing with that thing. While the church allows that, the church is defiled, God’s blessing cannot be upon it. It will, therefore, lose its spiritual life and its spiritual strength. Purge out the old leaven, all that sort of thing is just the working of evil in the church.

Now we must gather this up and come to a close. In the parable of the leaven, Jesus is saying that right through this present age until He comes again, this thing will be in the world. Evil will spread everywhere like leaven. But as in the other parables, Jesus said about the sower and the seed, that while three parts of it would be bad, there would be a fourth part that would be good. As in the parable of darnel, there was the work of the evil one, but there were also the children of the Kingdom. So in this parable, He says, there will be leaven, will be corruption and defilement everywhere, but the teaching of the New Testament is: Keep yourselves pure. See that your garments are not spotted. Walk in this sinful world as those who do not belong to its nature. Although there is leaven everywhere, you be the unleavened bread. But, the world may not like you, the world will not like unleavened bread. It does not please the flesh, but the bread which is pure is pleasing to God. And in the end, He will gather out all that which offends. He will gather out the offending leaven, and He will burn it with unquenchable fire; but the children of the Kingdom, the unleavened bread of God, the pure in heart and in life, He will gather into His eternal Kingdom.

The Rule of Heaven will divide between the evil and the good, between the leavened and the unleavened bread. I think you will agree that this is the right interpretation of the parable. Because it is true to the Bible, it is true to history, it is true to what we see in the world; but it carries the warning, let us offer to God that which has none of this leaven in it.

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