Category: The Father

A Spirit-Felt Appeal for the Lord’s Testimony

 

So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. (Isa. 55:11)

Nehemiah’s Action – T. Austin-Sparks

Now from Nehemiah’s concern we move on to his action – for, as we have said, Nehemiah was no detached, negative critic of the situation. He was not just one who was pointing out all that was wrong, without knowing what ought to be done for the glory of God, and doing something about it. So he took action, and if there is one book in the Bible, or at any rate in the Old Testament, which is characterized by action more than another, I think this book is such.

When Nehemiah took action, he first of all fully and accurately acquainted himself with the situation. We have such words as these: “Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men out of Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, that were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem” (Nehemiah 1:2).

And then when he came to Jerusalem, we see him moving, in these descriptive words: “And I arose in the night, I and some few men with me; neither told I any man what my God put into my heart to do for Jerusalem; neither was there any beast with me, save the beast that I rode upon. And I went out by night… and viewed the walls of Jerusalem, which were broken down, and the gates thereof were consumed with fire” (Nehemiah 2:12,13).

So Nehemiah took pains to get to know exactly what the situation was. It is true that he had information. Report came to him, or he made it his business to get to know from those who had first-hand knowledge, as to what the situation was, but as soon as it was possible for him to do so on the spot, he verified the report and accurately informed himself at first-hand exactly how matters stood. And I would suggest that, in like manner, when the Lord is speaking concerning the recovery of His testimony which is the matter before us, those who are going to co-operate with Him must be accurately and fully informed. While their information may come indirectly, they must not be content with the best second-hand report, they must know at first-hand exactly how things are. You and I will never be of much use to the Lord until we know exactly what the spiritual state of things is and what needs to be done. We must really see and know this for ourselves, not just get it from the many people there are who tell us about it.

It is a fact that we can hardly go anywhere today in any part of the world, without finding people deploring the spiritual state of things amongst the Lord’s people. Their sense of things is in the main a right one – although, as we said earlier, many of them just complain and murmur and grumble and criticize without having anything to offer in the way of remedy and improvement. Nevertheless, their registration of the spiritual state of the Church is very largely true. It is very widely true, today, that everything is not right with the Church; things are not as they should be, as the Lord would have them. But we cannot go on a general – even though it be a very general – feeling that things are not right. This must come into our own being; we must know it for ourselves. I am not suggesting that we should go and try to find out all that is wrong and make a long list of all that is so defective and deplorable today; but I am saying this – that if we are to co-operate with God in getting things as He would have them, the matter must be a first-hand one in our own hearts. We must know it for ourselves. We must not just be professional grumblers, but those who have real travail of heart because of what we know to be the case, because of what we see, what is clear to our own eyes and what troubles our own hearts.

So Nehemiah did, in the first place, inform himself directly as to the situation. And it was a situation calculated to take the heart out of anyone. It really could have been so disconcerting that Nehemiah would not have gone on any further with it, but returned to Babylon and said: ‘We must make the best of a bad job. Things are not as they ought to be, they are quite hopeless. It is no use trying to do anything about it.’ But he did not give it up as a hopeless situation, bad as it was. I am quite sure that if you had been one of the men going round with Nehemiah that night, you might well have said: ‘This is something altogether beyond our handling; we will never be able to make anything of this. This is hopeless.’ Nehemiah was not like that. I think Nehemiah was one of the most courageous men of the Old Testament – a true hero: faced with a terrible situation, but facing it with confidence in God, because he knew, not only that this was a bad situation, but that God was on the move to put it right, to make something different of it. It was God’s will that it should be otherwise; and if God wills a thing, then we have a ground of confidence, however impossible it may seem to us. So he did not give it up, but faced it – faced it squarely.

I have a very great deal in my mind that will not find expression in these messages, but I have been taking in the whole compass of the Bible in connection with this, and I am especially moving in the New Testament, as you will see as we go on. I am thinking of the Apostle Paul, the great Nehemiah of this dispensation. What a situation he had to face amongst Christians! What a condition of things he had to meet and deal with! We feel, as we read his first letter to the Corinthians, that we would have given it up and said: ‘This is a hopeless mess – is this Christianity at all?’ But see how Paul heroically and courageously faced that situation. He did not give it up.

Today, we might be greatly discouraged, we might easily feel that it is not possible to have a full, clear testimony that glorifies God, seeing how the Church is destroyed, how “the wall… is broken down”, how “the gates are burned with fire” – that is, how the whole testimony is rent, and torn, and in ruins, as we might say. Yes, the situation is a disconcerting one and we have to face this question: Does God want it to be otherwise? Does God mean it to be otherwise? Is it the will of God that it shall be otherwise? Has God given it up? Is He desiring and intending – nay more, is He moving to secure a different state of things? If there is anything to prove that God is actively concerned about this matter, then we dare not abandon it. But it takes a great deal of courage, all the courage that God can give us, to face the present situation. Those who know it know that I am not exaggerating.

The Vision and Inspiration of Nehemiah

And then, once more, in his action Nehemiah brought others into his vision and into his concern. First of all, it was in his own heart and it was hidden in his heart. He said nothing to anyone of what God had put on his heart. It was something between himself and the Lord, in the first place, and it was not until he had reached a certain position, and made a certain decision consequent upon his investigation, that he opened his heart to others. I think that is a splendid thing, a thing of which to take note. It is so easy to have ideas and then to begin to broadcast your ideas and unload them on to other people. It is quite another thing, between yourself and God, to have got to grips with the situation and become fully impressed with the greatness of it, and then to resolve that this thing must be done and to bring others into your vision and inspiration.

You see, Nehemiah was made to be a tremendous inspiration. You read through this book and see what you might almost call the magnetism of this man’s personality, the inspiration that he was. People leapt to the impossible under the inspiration and vision of this man. There were times when they were very low in despondency, but then he pulled them out of their slough. What a force he was as a true leader to bring others into his vision! And do you not feel strongly that that is the real need today – of people who have vision, who have weighed up everything, who have faced the whole issue, and then who have such confidence in God, with the assurance that God wants and means something different, that they have come out with their positive impact upon others, so that others come into line? That truly is a great need. It is the easiest thing in the world to be a passenger, always to be carried. Ah, it is so easy to be a parasite, just living on and draining others. But it is quite another thing to be an inspiration, to be one who really does help others into the thing that God is after, to be an inspiration to them to come along to help in the work of the Lord. Nehemiah was that; and I put it to you that if we have any sense of things being other than according to God’s mind, and that God would have them otherwise, we ought to be positive people in this matter, and be an inspiration to others about it.

And so Nehemiah, having taken the full measure of it, and having weighed it all up, and having impressed himself with the greatness of the task in hand, without despairing, turned to it and so inspired the other men to whom he opened his heart that they said: “Let us rise up and build”. Oh, for a people like that! A people today who know all about it, and, seeing how things are, will say: ‘Let us do something about it – let us rise up and build!’

Well, that is the beginning of his action, and you will agree that that is action indeed. Of course, we are not just looking at this as a human matter, because none of us can be like this for very long, at any rate not unless we are energized by the Spirit of God. Consider the Apostle Paul again, who knew all about it, all about the conditions, and knew how discouraged and despondent the people of God could be about the situation. His prayer was this: “that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory… that ye may be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inward man” (Eph. 3:16); “that ye may be… strengthened with all power, according to the might of his glory, unto all patience and long-suffering with joy” (Col. 1:9,11). The mighty energies of the Spirit of God inwardly are the only energies by which we shall be able to go on. We must allow a large place for the inward working of God in the life of Nehemiah, because we know full well that only so can we do anything about this situation.

The Object – The Wall

Now let us come to the main features of the whole matter of this book. We said, in our first study, that they are three: namely, the Wall, the Work and the Warfare, or the Object, the Conduct and the Conflict. We begin with the object, the Wall, and we must be very clear as to what is represented by this wall that Nehemiah was going to repair – what the wall stands for. May I say three preliminary things about the wall, as to what the wall really was and what it is now.

First of all, the wall was a definition: that is, it defined. A definition: that means, spiritually interpreted – interpreted in our own time, according to Divine thoughts – a clear defining of what is Christ and what is not Christ. That wall of Jerusalem defined a certain area, a certain territory; and it stood there originally to say: ‘Now, what is within this wall, this mark, is of a certain order, of a certain character; within this, things are so and so.’ Of course, the character was given by the temple. right there at the centre, so to speak; but the wall was a defining factor, and we need not stay with detail about that. It is only necessary for us to say that in the recovering and completing of the Lord’s testimony there is the necessity for clear definition of what is of Christ and what is not. Things have become terribly confused. Here the wall is broken down and there is much rubbish. I am going to deal with the rubbish presently, but here is the fact – much rubbish where the wall had been. Multitudes of people today have no clear discernment, perception or apprehension as to what is Christ and what is merely ‘Christianity’. In evangelical Christianity things have become terribly mixed up, and what is necessary, it is evident, is the reconstituting of that which clearly and exactly defines what Christ is; that Christ shall be clearly understood and known and all the confusing and complicating and mixing elements shall be eliminated.

The wall was a defining thing. That means, spiritually, that it stands to represent the real character of Christ. I said a few pages earlier that there is very much behind what I am saying that cannot now find expression. but I have been thinking about walls – looking at walls in general through the Bible and passing from all the historic walls to the great inclusive wall at the end of the book of the Revelation, the wall of the New Jerusalem; and I find amongst other things that a wall is to define the character or nature of what is within. That is true, is it not, of the great wall of the New Jerusalem at the end of the Bible? Its main feature, we may say, is its character: its glory, its beauty, its purity. It is the character of Christ that is the first thing about His testimony, and that has to become established and very clearly defined.

And then – you may think that this is a distinction without a difference, but there is a difference – the wall represented a demarcation, that is, a distinction. Here things are not mixed at all; here at the wall there is a declaration and an establishment of the fact, that this testimony is a distinctive testimony. It is not a general thing; it is not something that brings into itself all sorts of different things. It is clear; it is distinctive. It has one thing to say, and that one thing is: ‘Only what is of Christ can pass this, can be within this’.

Now that is very, very searching, and very arresting. We shall find as we go on that this brother of Nehemiah’s, Hanani, was eventually made a policeman. And he, as policeman, was in charge of the gates, to deal with intruders, with merchants – and there are plenty of merchants finding their way into the testimony of Jesus, who have their own interests to serve, their own business to do, and all sorts of merchandise to bring into the confines of God, of Christ. And this wall said. ‘No!’ You read on to the end of the book, and see how Nehemiah and his policeman dealt with the merchants! They were having none of that – they chased them, they used strong measures with the merchants. But they did not do any more than the Lord Jesus did with the merchants of His day, with His knotted cord. No, the simple word is this: the wall spoke of a distinction between the precious and the vile; and that is covering much ground; it puts very much between what is of the Spirit of God and what is of another spirit.

And in the third place, this wall represented a defence. It was something which was placed as it were in a position of responsibility. It was responsible to protect the Lord’s interests and the Lord’s people from that which would invade, which would attack, which would corrupt, which would change the character. The Lord needs a testimony which challenges everything, a testimony which will not let anything pass that is not wholly of the Lord. That is where things have gone wrong with the Church, with the people of God, with the Lord’s interests. So much has been allowed to creep in, to have a place, that is not of the Lord, and there has not been a sufficiently strong testimony to what is of the Lord to meet it.

Again, in your New Testament you find that at the beginning, when the spiritual wall was first built, it was such a strong, clear thing in the power of the Holy Spirit, that first of all there were many that durst not join themselves – they durst not, they were afraid. The situation was such that fear was created in the heart where things were not right with God. On the other hand, people coming in fell down on their faces and said ‘God is in the midst of you’. The Lord needs a testimony like that, does He not? – something so clear, so strong, that those who do not mean business with God are afraid, and in our common expression, just ‘clear off’. “They went out… that they might be made manifest that they all are not of us” (I John 2:19), and that is a very healthy sign. Things are in a good condition when that happens. Ah, yes, but when things are in a bad condition you are afraid to lose anybody – you hold on to anybody. The Lord said: ‘No; don’t try to hold on to everybody, don’t try to bring in everybody’. This testimony, this wall, is a defence, a protection against anybody, anything. How necessary it was to Jerusalem in Nehemiah’s day! The whole book shows that. You look at these other people, and see what this wall meant to Tobiah and to the rest of the company. They knew the implications of this wall; they knew that they were not getting into this.

Well, that is the meaning of the wall in the first place. But let us go just a little further in the matter. The wall represents Christ on two sides. On the one side, it represents Christ outwardly to the people of the world and the nations. On the other side, it represents what Christ is to the Lord’s own people themselves. In a phrase, the wall is a testimony in fullness to the Son of God: what the Son of God means, as seen in this world, to the world and to the people of God.

The Need For Repairing the Wall

It is necessary that I should put in a word here, lest there should be a misapprehension of our meaning. Nehemiah was not building the entire wall all over again from the foundations. If you look closely, you will see that it is the repairing of the wall that is going on, the repairing and making complete of what had been broken down. Why do I say that? Well, it is not given to us, we are not called upon, to build this thing from the foundations. Thank God. the foundation was laid, and thank God, the wall was built, in the beginning. The book of the Acts shows the wall, the testimony, in fullness and completeness, and in glory and strength and grandeur: a mighty defence, a mighty revelation of Christ to the nations and a mighty meaning of Christ to His own people. It was there at the beginning. Nehemiah did not come to commence, to initiate this thing. He came to a scene where what had once been full, clear, perfect, was broken down, ruined, and his work was to repair it and make it complete again; and that is where we are. If we are called into anything, we are called into that. We are not called upon to do what the Apostles did. They did their work, and it stands; but since their time there has been a good deal that speaks of the conditions of Nehemiah’s day – a good deal of collapse, of breakdown, of disintegration and of spoliation; and the Lord calls in to recover, to recover what was. That, surely, is the work to which we are called.

So we look first of all at the wall in brokenness. Here it is: “Then said I unto them, Ye see the evil case that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire: come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach” (Neh. 2:17). The last word touches the spot, does it not? See the great enemy of God, of Christ, of the testimony of our Lord, having it as his one abiding object to bring reproach upon the Name of the Lord – anyhow, by any means, whether by direct assault or by subtle underworking; somehow to bring the Lord’s Name and testimony into reproach. “That we be no more a reproach”. What a motive to govern the people of God, to save the Lord and His people from the reproach of this broken-down condition!

Idolatry the Cause of the Broken-Down Condition

We must, before we can move to the recovery, examine and trace the fundamental and ultimate reason for this state of things. We are taking our cue from the illustration in this book and in the other books leading up to it. There is one word that goes to the root of the whole matter, and that word is idolatry. If you look at the wall in its ruins, its wreckage; if you meditate and contemplate and ask questions – ‘Why? Why this? How is it that this is come about? What are the reasons for this state of things?’ – the inclusive and fundamental answer is – idolatry.

Is it not very impressive to recognize that, because of the idolatry in Israel, the nation was sent to the very heart of idolatry to be cured of it? Babylon was the world centre of idolatry – you know that from the great image set up. Now Israel had allowed idolatry in her midst, and the Lord sent her to the world centre of idolatry to be cured of idolatry. I say that it is impressive, and it just means this: that sometimes the Lord’s way of curing is to give an overdose of the thing with which we flirt. They hankered and they flirted. The prophets cried, pleaded, wept, appealed, agonized, that the people would break with this thing, cease their flirtations with the gods of the heathen nations round about them: but they would not, they were wedded. ‘All right’, said the Lord; ‘have what you are after – have it to the full’ and indeed they had it to the full, and it cured Israel of idolatry in that form for the rest of their history. I am not saying that it cured them of the spirit of idolatry; we shall see that later. But that form of open complicity with the power of evil was destroyed by their being given that upon which their hearts were set.

Here is the extreme instance of the working of a certain law. The Psalmist said about Israel in the wilderness: “And he gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul” (Ps. 106:15). They refused to let go. They would have; they said ‘yes’ in the face of God’s ‘no’. ‘We will have.’ ‘All right’, said the Lord – and they were the losers in their getting.

Now that principle does work, you know, and I am not so sure that it is not working today. In the Church, in Christianity, the world has found its place. The Church of God went out to the world and brought the world in. There has been complicity with the spirit of this world, it has found a large place in Christianity; and while it is not my desire to speak in this way, we must be very faithful. Perhaps all unperceived, all unrecognized – God grant that it is so – even in evangelical Christianity, there is a good deal of worldly principle, the bringing in of unspiritual things – names, titles, resources and what not, to do the work of God. There is a hidden complicity to get favour, to get advantage; there is behind all that another spirit – the spirit of idolatry – which is getting a grip upon the Lord’s people. Very well: what has happened? The Lord has let the Church have what it wants, and today it is feeling that it has lost its power, lost its position, because the world has too much of a place. In its gaining it has lost: that is very patent, is it not?

That principle works – and mark you, it works personally too, if your heart is so set upon something that you will not take ‘no’ from the Lord; you insist, you will have it; and your threat to the Lord, even if it is not put in the form of a threat, is that unless the Lord gives you that, or does that for you, you are not going on. If there is anything like that, the Lord will give it to you, He will let you have it. It will be a curse to you. Abraham did that over Ishmael – and what a curse You see, there is the principle. Now the point is this, that these people allowed idolatry to come into their lives, in spirit and in principle; and the Lord, through His prophet, “rising up early”, appealed; but they refused to listen to the voice of the prophet, so the Lord said: ‘All right, have what you want – away to Babylon!’ They lost everything.

What is idolatry? If it is not bowing down to idols of wood and stone, it takes many, many subtle forms, and very often indirect ways. It is just heart communion with anything that takes God’s place, that gets in God’s way. What a lot of ground that covers! The ultimate effect is that the Lord is frustrated, the Lord is hindered, the Lord cannot have what He is after. That is idolatry in principle. It displaces the Lord, it makes difficulties for the Lord.

I said earlier that, although Israel was cured of that outer form of idolatry, the principle or spirit of idolatry was not eradicated: for in the days of our Lord they were worshipping tradition – and tradition can be an idol. Yes, tradition can be an idol: you can be so committed and devoted to tradition that the Lord does not have a chance. It obstructs the Lord’s way, like the rubbish that Nehemiah could not pass – the beast that he rode could not pass the rubbish. Very often the rubbish in the Lord’s way is the rubbish of a dead tradition, of a dead history, something that belongs to the past and is not alive now. That is the principle of idolatry. That was the fundamental and ultimate cause of the brokenness of the wall, the wreckage, the rubbish, the debris: idolatry, heart union and communion with that which is not of the Lord.

Remember that this book of Nehemiah is full of bad conditions, of evils and errors, and these things correspond to the state of the wall. I want you to get this, although I shall come back to it again. You look at that wall and examine it, and you can look through it, so to speak; and in looking through you see that the conditions of the Lord’s people tally exactly with the condition of the wall. There are all sorts of wrongs and evils and errors, and that is the rubbish, that is the broken-down state of things. You see, the people’s state corresponded to the state of the wall; the wall was just an illustration of spiritual conditions: so that when you come to ‘look through’ this wall, you find that what you are dealing with really is not a wall but spiritual conditions; and as Nehemiah went forward to deal with the wall, he found that he had at the same time to deal with spiritual conditions in the people. They were one and the same thing. It would in effect be foolish to put up a beautiful wall when the conditions behind the wall were a contradiction. You see the point? The two things must be consistent – the spiritual state and your testimony. The testimony must have a spiritual condition behind it. A spiritual condition must support the testimony. You cannot work upon building up something that is not in the energy of truth.

We shall see further what the wall means, and what the wall is made of; but for the time being, the Lord bring us into His own vision, into His own intention, and energize us with the same energy as that which possessed His servant Nehemiah and His servant Paul, and many others whom He has used to recover something more of the testimony of His Son.

Excerpted from The Recovering of the Lord’s Testimony in Fullness by T. Austin-Sparks

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In Him – W.E. Smith

“Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matt. 10;37)

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, (Col. 2:6)

In Him we live and move and have our being. (Acts 17:28)

And so where are you beloved saint? I mean what is the very essence of your being and existence at this very moment? Are you outside or inside of the Lord Jesus Christ? Are you attached to the Vine or to the Tree of this world? Is it some thing you  are seeking or someone? Has the written word become the Living Word within you? Is it gnosis (milk) or epi-gnosis (meat) you are walking in? What are the things you are placing above and ahead of the Christ – ways, methods, church, systems, doctrine, dogma, men, the world, family, sons and daughters, husbands or wives? Are you, in the penetrating words of Scripture –  worthy of the Living Christ? Are you content with His daily provision of Bread, or you grumbling, murmuring, looking over your shoulder, looking back to the chains of Egypt, the food, the security, the familiar life there?

Dear friends – to live is Christ. PERIOD! Everything else is death. We are either in Him or outside of Him. We either abide in Him or the world? How do we live, how do we move, how do we simply be? In Him, only and always in Him. He is our atmosphere, our ecosystem, our oxygen, to put in terms we may relate to. Sound too mystical and mysterious, too fuzzy for you? You would rather something you can sink your teeth into, like laws and rules and methods, and a tabernacle and priesthood maybe? Me too at times, me too. Yet this is not, I repeat, this is not the Christian Life! It simply does not work this way, and attempting to make it do so will waste your life, and frustrate you to no end.

“Abide in Me” is the living principle of the New Creation. Only in Him can we breathe, can we live and love and learn and grow – only in Him. Oh but how does a man live in another, you ask? Is this something like symbiotic relationships in nature maybe? ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symbiosis ). Perhaps if that helps you, but not really, not entirely. Better to think of God in His omnipresence, in His spiritual filling of all things, and enter into this atmosphere, this order, this “kingdom”. He uses pictures and parables to convey this – trees and the human body for example. And the Lord Himself lives this – “I am in the Father and the Father is in Me”. In the end, we really do not need on this side of heaven to comprehend how this works or what this means, only to accept and embrace it and to rest in it by living faith and love.

Get outside of the Lord and you will find trouble, you will be weak, you will stumble and the enemy will win.

Now men I dare say I have got all confused by this principle and taught many new converts that to be in Christ is to be in the church, in the group, in something representing Him. Nonsense! What this has done is convinced many who are not in the Lord at all that they are, and brought with it a false sense of security and empowerment. Only those who are in Christ are the Church, His Body.

Dear saints – the single most important thing right now and forever is that we are living and walking in Him, and that He is our very Being. “To live is Christ” – said Paul, and although even Peter may not have fully understood these words, we must in the spirit. Everything else is empty religion, it is of men and devils, it leads to wastedness and ruin. “This is my Beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased. Hear Him” – said the Father. And so what is it that pleases the Father- His Son. Only His Son, Nothing less and there is really nothing more!

An affirming word from Bro. Sparks –

In Him we live and move and have our being. (Acts 17:28)

This whole Bible is about bringing man back to God, bringing him into God, and restoring him to his environment. “In Him we live and move and have our being” is the fundamental truth of the spiritual life. There is one thing I suggest to you, or hint at, which, if you grasp it, would be such a tremendous help to you. When the Lord says anything, it may look on the face of it something very simple and not at all profound and wonderful; but anything that comes from the Lord, though it be apparently very simple, contains all the vast knowledge and understanding that the Lord has, and not to take account of that ‘simple’ thing may bring you into a vast amount of trouble.

When the Lord Jesus says: “Abide in Me” it sounds so simple and so ordinary, but it contains all this history, and this great principle and truth: “If you get out of your environment you are exposed to all the poisons and all that creates spiritual disease. Abide in Me for your health’s sake! For your life’s sake! For the sake of everything! Abide in Me, and I in you!” Have you got that? You look again at any seemingly ‘little’ thing that the Lord says, and if you could see you would find that you have a universe of meaning in it.

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

On Worship Pleasing to the Father – W.E. Smith

“Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:20-24)

In Spirit and in truth” – So this cuts to the heart of genuine Christian worship, the worship that pleases the Father, the kind that He is seeking, the quality and substance of worship that identifies “true worshipers” from false. But is it not the case today, dear friends, that what seems more important is the attainment of a professional worship leader or worship team; charismatic and talented individuals who can stir a congregation to great emotional heights, rouse the senses, and impress with their vocal and instrumental ability?

Has not the church suffered the worldly temptation of permitting the worship of the Almighty and Eternal God to be reduced to mere fleshly indulgence? It seems to this observer (and forgive me for generalizing to advance my point) that the focus on worship today is primarily on its institutional expression, or corporate worship, rather than the intimate and personal expression of adoration as the Holy Spirit reveals all the Lord is and represents.

We discover in this Scripture a distinction being made by the Master between “true worshipers” and false, between worship that is sought by the Heavenly Father and that which is not. So it follows then, that not all forms or manifestations of worship, even that directed in name to Him, is pleasing and acceptable to Him. Not all of those who say they know the true God of creation and the Bible are in fact known by Him.

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’  (Matt. 7:21-23)

No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. (1 Cor. 10:20-21)

“For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. (Acts 17:23)

Modern, Big-Church Spectacle vs. True Worship

This devil-wrought delusion whereby individuals are led to believe they are worshiping and serving the True God when in fact they are worshiping and drinking from the cup of demons is a dangerous one indeed. We must be completely sure that such Scriptures are not referring to us. Are we?

What then, is true worship? Is it only what has come to be known as the worship service that precedes the sermon or teaching session? Is it the highly charged entertainment portion every Sunday morning or Friday night; the part that seems so much more enthralling to the soul and senses; the singing down of God from His heavenly throne; the praising the roof off? Important questions indeed, brethren, for have we not ultimately been called and saved to worship, serve and adore our Lord and God? Is worship not the natural response of a creature who has been so mercifully spared from eternal judgment and brought near to the very heart of the Creator?

From the Scriptures, we discover that true worship is that which is spiritual (springing from the renewed spirit in man and directed by God’s Spirit) and truthful (directed at the true God as He truly is). In this we see that there is no contradiction, as the same Holy Spirit that enables us to apprehend spiritual things, is also the Spirit of truth, the Counselor and Helper without whom the twice-born child of God can attain nothing of eternal consequence. True worship can never be rooted in group ritual or isolated from the truth of almighty God as revealed in His Word. It can never find its inspiration beyond the individual spirits of those who have dedicated their lives to seeking and following the God of the Bible. If one does not enter into worship with a worshipful heart, then all the loud praises and singing and music in the world will not draw one nearer to the presence of God.

Sadly, much of what is called worship in the church today seems contrived and external; a slick combination of Broadway-style production and old-fashioned big-tent mood manipulation. Just as Hollywood has fine-tuned the art of rendering audiences to emotional reaction at will, so the modern church has discovered the assorted tricks and techniques for reproducing such results in the pews. But is it worship, my brother? Does it rise to the level of worshipful expression seen in the Psalms and Prophets for example? Does it represent a sincere prostration of the individual heart before a Being of extraordinary and inestimable power and glory? Is it a personal and powerful expression of homage and reverence directed at the true God, the only God, the very Father, Son and Holy Spirit found in the pages of the Bible – as He is and can only be? And finally, has such an expression, however wrought, been informed and shaped by the Spirit and Word of God, and not the soulish energies or machinations of men?

Idolatry of the Heart Prohibits True Worship

Then some elders of Israel came to me and sat down before me. And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their hearts and have put right before their faces the stumbling block of their iniquity. Should I be consulted by them at all? “Therefore speak to them and tell them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Any man of the house of Israel who sets up his idols in his heart, puts right before his face the stumbling block of his iniquity, and then comes to the prophet, I the LORD will be brought to give him an answer in the matter in view of the multitude of his idols, in order to lay hold of the hearts of the house of Israel who are estranged from Me through all their idols.”’

“Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Repent and turn away from your idols and turn your faces away from all your abominations. “For anyone of the house of Israel or of the immigrants who stay in Israel who separates himself from Me, sets up his idols in his heart, puts right before his face the stumbling block of his iniquity, and then comes to the prophet to inquire of Me for himself, I the LORD will be brought to answer him in My own person. “I will set My face against that man and make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from among My people. So you will know that I am the LORD.” (Ezek.14:1-8)

Perhaps I am mistaken here, but do we not see today a church at large estranged from God in their hearts while at one and the same time swept up in what we may accurately call praise and worship mania? Can a true and estimable God, demanding sincere and exclusive devotion as He does, present Himself to a people beset by competing loyalties, idols and even abomination? I think not. Rather, as we read in Ezekiel, there is a resulting separation and alienation from God and the things of God. No amount of singing, dancing, arm-waving, and hooting and hollering will alter this. No talented and dynamic worship leader can change this. And no perpetual ruminations of revival, without individual, heart-level change – spirit, soul and body – empowered by the Holy Spirit and informed by the Holy Scriptures, will amount to anything but idolatry and false worship. Indeed, if all of this is so, then one must wonder who is benefiting or being blessed from this unsanctified worship. Is it God or men, in other words?

Bad Doctrine Equals Vain Worship

‘THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME. ‘BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.’”  (Matt. 15:8-9)

These are perhaps the most severest words spoken by our Lord, my brethren. And yet by all accounts there are few who take them seriously. Worship today is more often a soul-seducing and contrived thing than the spirit-touching-bone reality acceptable to God. It is often allowed by church leaders to become an orchestrated and unquestioned experience, rather than the spontaneous and profound expression of praise, thanks and wonder that grips the regenerated spirit at the revelation of pure life and light.

Doctrine and Scriptural relevance of any kind is seen by many carnal believers as confounding and limiting to such an expression. Yet our Lord permitted no such demarcation between doctrine and worship. In His eternal wisdom, bad doctrine implied vain worship, for one cannot truly worship what one doesn’t know. Definition is, as we observe, important after all. It is not all we have certainly, but it serves to inform and structure all that we pursue in the faith, before God and each other. It contains emotion when emotion spills over into the unprofitable and unholy. Mere sentiment or sensation is so much like the impetuous teenager who sees a sweet face and cries out “I love you” with great passion and spontaneity. For one to argue that it is the passion or the spontaneity of this moment that proves the integrity of the love would be erroneous. And yet, this is precisely what is going on in the modern Praise and Worship movement. We need to be sure that anything representing the true worship of our Lord is not based on the soulish inclinations of men or big ministry mood manipulators who deal more in brash spectacle than the truth and reality of Almighty God.

Only Holiness Can Make Worship Real

“First, seek the heart of the Lord, and then you will possess a heart after God, passionate and sincere, unencumbered by man-ordained traditions and religious pretense.” – unknown

It seems the theme of the hour in Christian circles is worshiping God; and every church, pastor, teacher and denomination in North America has their own take on the most effective and “anointed” manner in which to carry this out. May I be so bold therefore as to suggest that there can be no true worship of the Most High and Holy One without holiness in the life of the worshiper?

For all those with ears to hear and eyes lit by the light of God, the Spirit affirms the integral bond between holiness in the life of the believer and the worship of a Holy God. For without the one, you cannot truly have the other. Holiness makes worship happen as naturally and as automatically as the wind kisses the water to make the wave. It is not some mechanical or compelled response, nor can it be.

Many have tried to define holiness both biblically and otherwise, and truly it is an onerous task. Personally, I have most benefited from a series of sermons delivered by A.W. Tozer on the attributes of God, one of which offered a wonderful examination on His holiness. Humbly and with the greatest of gravity, Tozer probed behind the veil to enlighten his audience as to what in fact makes God holy and unlike us in every moral and spiritual aspect.

God’s holiness is not simply the best we know infinitely bettered. We know nothing like the divine holiness. It stands apart, unique, unapproachable, incomprehensible and unattainable… Holy is the way God is. To be holy He does not conform to a standard. He is that standard.” (A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy)

Holiness then, is God’s standard. Beyond the Heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit, it is fulfilled only in Christ Jesus. To be holy is to be like Christ; like God. And one could suggest that it involves both an uncompromised moral quality and spiritual purity. It was the state Jehovah intended for ancient Israel, and it is clearly presented in the New Testament as the standard for the Church of Christ.

Holiness can, in another sense, be defined as – the state of being when a life is totally divested of self and wholly dedicated to the plans, purposes and character of God. Holiness asks –

What matters to God?
What is in His heart?
How would He have me relate to Himself and other human beings?
What does He think about this?
What does He love and approve of?
What makes Him smile?
What fills His heart with joy and gratification?
What does He want for my life, my time, my resources?

And I hope you see that what we are talking about is what could be called a very practical holiness, not merely the mystical and sentimental variety being stressed in many churches today. It grieves me to see that so much of what is called worship in the church today amounts to little more than a soulish (based on feelings, desires, emotions) religious zeal; more psycho-social hoopla than a spirit-informed  and loving response to the Lord. Dear saints, do we not know that mere sentiment, without living spiritual reality, amounts to little more than magic and self-gratifying religion, not God-glorifying, God-gratifying holiness?

The most natural expression of holiness in the human spirit is obedience, which is driven perpetually and powerfully by a spirit-borne desire to be conformed to the personification of holiness, the Lord Jesus Himself. To be holy is to be a purified and consecrated thing, dedicated solely and unequivocally to the purposes and character of God. This is what holiness meant to the Israelites and it is, I believe, what Peter was thinking when he wrote –

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.” (1 Pet. 1:14-16)

Holy in all your conduct” – this sounds most practical to me, real spirit-touching-bone stuff. It may also be helpful to remember what was engraved on the vestments of the Levite priests in the Old Testament: Holiness to the Lord. We, too, are a type of “holy priesthood,” representing our Lord, who is quintessentially and perfectly holy.

In 1 Chronicles 16:29 and elsewhere, David sang – “Oh worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.” In Zechariah 14:20-21, it is written that – “In that day ‘Holiness to the Lord’ shall be engraved on the bells of the horses,” and that “every pot in Jerusalem and Judah shall be holiness to the Lord of hosts.” How perfect and wondrous the creation will be when every person, beast and thing will again be dedicated exclusively to the design and integrity of the infinite and perfect God, when order is restored to this most tangled and inhospitable garden.

The gospel delivered through Paul is a message promoting holiness throughout. In Romans 12:1, he beseeches believers everywhere to –

…present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom. 12:1-2)

Dear ones, our lives are to be consecrated to the service of God. From the moment we accept Jesus Christ as savior and shepherd of our lives, we cease to live for ourselves so that we might live solely in Him and for Him. Our bodies are the vehicle for all moral activity, through which we fulfill our identity as either self-serving, godless creatures or true worshipers of the Living God. And it is holiness that is the clearest mark of a life devoted to God. And holiness can never rightly be measured by esoteric or ritual observance, but in the discipline and duty of everyday moral experience. This is the true worship of God, when we finally remember that we have been chosen by Him as ambassadors and representatives of His high and holy kingdom.

So we can conclude that holiness is founded on the fact that, as Christians, we represent Jesus Christ, who is Holy and who is God. Holiness then, is a mark of identification, a badge or seal, communicating to all the world that we belong to, and represent the Holy One.

For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification. (Rom. 6:19)

Often in the New Testament holiness is coupled with righteousness, and portrayed in combination as the sign of the new birth. Jesus taught at great length about the conduct required of the “new man,” about the need for exclusive devotion to the Holy Father, about where our heart-felt commitments should lie. Many other passages present holiness and righteousness as fruit of the sanctified life. Moral purity, sanctity, cleanness in the “inner vessel,” integrity of word, motive and conduct; all these represent what one is. They do not operate at the level of feelings and emotions, although they do influence the realm of the soul, where emotions reside.

Hebrews 12:14 goes so far as to pronounce that without holiness – “no one will see the Lord.” Serious business, this thing called holiness. Which is why it is so strange that in modern Christendom it is more often represented as a kind of garb that we put on, much like a pair of pants or shoes; why music and song and chanting and every form of mass emotive experience is seen as being able to arouse worshipful qualities in those participating; why sanctification is defined as some kind of split-second, on-the-spot transformation rather than the life-long, moment-to-moment, often quiet transformation of a heart committed to a Holy God.

Instant Holiness Now Possible” is the banner message of the hour, differing little from the claims of instant weight loss or a happy marriage. Or perhaps even more subtle and subversive to the truth are the countless christianized psychology messages emphasizing the need for layered or step-by-step behavioral change. Seven steps to experiencing God, three things you must do order to be physically healed, twelve steps to breaking the chain of addiction – all so neat and tidy, my brethren, but none of it Scriptural, none of it ordained by the Author and Finisher of our faith.

Beware, dear reader, for holiness can never come in a bottle or a manual, but only from the Holy One Himself. And it returns to Him, and glorifies Him, as others see His holiness reflected in all that you say and do and represent. It flows from the very life of the Holy One, transforming your life in very practical ways, and it leads you to your knees and to that quiet contemplation of all that He is and represents. When the Bible refers to the “beauty of holiness” it knows of what it speaks, for indeed holiness is beautiful, more beautiful than anything in this sin-blemished world.

It is, after all, holiness that makes worship real and honest. All of the wonderful spirit-breathed sentiment springing forth from a reconciled heart, the peace and consolation, the unrecognizable joy, the priceless order that results as our lives become synchronized with the original plan, the passion of meaningful service – I for one will take all of this over the artificial and momentary arousal being peddled in the big church on the corner. For I need no drunkard’s morning-after, and the hollow sense of longing that it brings. I need no drug-like stupor with all of its carnal side effects and insatiable need for more. What I need is to be holy for He is holy, and this, my friend, should be true for all of us.

Oh Most High and Holy Father – Help us, dear Lord, to see how much You are blessed when Your children present themselves to worship You in spirit and in truth; when all of our lives reflect Your holiness and purity. Grant, dear Lord, that no longer would we settle for anything else or less than what pleases You and Your Beloved Son in whom You are well pleased. In His Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

The Glory of God – T. Austin-Sparks

t_austin_sparksThe Father of Glory… The Lord of Glory… The Spirit of Glory

In pursuing the matter which has been before us, I want to call to your remembrance three fragments of the Word:

“For this cause I also, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which is among you, and which ye shew toward all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him” (Ephesians 1:15).

“My brethren, hold not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons” (James 2:1).

“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial among you, which cometh upon you to prove you, as though a strange thing happened unto you: but insomuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings, rejoice, that at the revelation of his glory also ye may rejoice with exceeding joy. If ye are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are ye; because the Spirit of glory and the Spirit of God resteth upon you” (1 Peter 4:12-14).

May I just remind you that we have been occupied with the truth that the end of all God’s works is glory. We have defined glory as being the expression of God’s full and final satisfaction, God giving out from Himself His pleasure, His delight, and, like a heavenly contagion, those who come within its range and its reach are very conscious that He is pleased and satisfied. In one place He is called “the blessed God” (1 Timothy 1:11), but the original says ‘the happy God’. You know that if you go into the presence of people who are really happy you are affected and infected by their happiness. It is possible to go amongst people who are heartily laughing, and you begin to laugh, not knowing what you are laughing at! The atmosphere influences you. Now, if God is happy, satisfied, well pleased and delighted, and you come within touch of Him, you catch something from Him and feel that happiness. That is exactly the meaning of glory: God being completely contented with a situation, or with a life, or with a person, and if you should happen to be that person you just take from Him something of His contentment and satisfaction. It is a glorious sense of contentedness, of satisfaction, of blessedness.

So the end of everything that is really of God is that wonderful power of His own personal pleasure. I think there is nothing in all the universe so blessed as to have a sense that the Lord is well pleased. It must have been a great day for Abraham, a wonderful, inexpressible day, when God called him His friend, and for Daniel, too, when the messenger of God said: “Oh Daniel, thou man greatly beloved”. What do you want more than that from God? That is glory, is it not? Well, God is working toward that in all His works in the universe, in the creation and in the redeemed.

You will have noticed from the three passages that we read that the triune God, the three Persons of the Trinity, are personally related to glory. First, the Father of glory; secondly, the Lord Jesus, the Lord of glory; and thirdly, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of glory. Each member of the Godhead takes character from this word ‘glory’, and each Person of the Trinity is supremely concerned with glory. That opens up a very large door, but I shall not go very far through that door just now. I will just mention that you can follow through the Bible how God, as Father, the first Person of the Trinity, is always concerned about glory; how the Lord Jesus, the second Person in the Trinity, is always working on the line of glory; and then how the Holy Spirit all the way along is operating toward glory, with glory as the governing concern. I leave that, for it is a long, long line of very blessed revelation. The point for me just now is that the Godhead is united, is one in this thing. The three are united concerning glory, and their interest is one interest. As we have already said, it is their priority. So the priority of the triune God is glory.

All I am going to do now is to say a little word about each of these designations – the Father of glory, the Lord of glory and the Spirit of glory – and may the Lord give us something in our hearts from our brief meditation!

THE FATHER OF GLORY

What does that mean? Well, it means that God is the source of glory, and that glory emanates from Him. The principle of fatherhood is that the father is the source, the beginning and the projector, so all that really emanates from God has, as its very purpose and destiny, glory. We are children of God, and the very object and purpose of our being His children in His mind is that we should come to glory, that is, that we should be brought to that position where at last – oh, wonderful thought! too wonderful to grasp! – God says: ‘I am perfectly satisfied and content.’ Can you imagine God saying that about you? Can you believe that the all-mighty, eternal, perfect, holy, great God could look down upon us and say: ‘I am well pleased. Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord, into the very satisfaction of My Father heart.’? It is too much for us to grasp just now, is it not? But that is the meaning of His Fatherhood. He has begotten us, brought us into being as His children, is responsible for our coming into being as His children, has taken responsibility for us as His children, and all with this one object of bringing us along the line, along the way, to the end, which is an entering into that unspeakable awareness that He has nothing whatever against us, but is satisfied to the last possible degree.

Whatever comes out from God, whether it is children or His creation, comes out as destined for that glory of His perfect satisfaction. Things are like that at the end of the Bible. There is a state of glory, a glorious condition, which means the outgoing, the emanation of God’s own perfect satisfaction. Paul puts it in this way: “Foreordained to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 9:29). What is that? His SON! – “My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). And we are to be conformed to that! We are to inherit God’s own attitude toward His Son, to come into that position and condition that His Son occupies of the perfect satisfaction of the Father.

You see, His Father-dealings with us are along that line. “My son, regard not lightly the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art reproved of him; for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth” (Hebrews 12:4). What is the chastening all about? “All chastening seemeth for the present to be not joyous, but grievous; yet afterward it yieldeth peaceable fruit unto them that have been exercised thereby, even the fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:11). What is righteousness? It is that complete peace in the heart that God’s sense of rightness is satisfied.

THE LORD OF GLORY

“Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory” is what James calls Him, and it is a wonderful thing that James, His own brother in the flesh, should say that of Him! There was a time when James did not believe on Him. “For even his brethren did not believe on him” (John 7:5), was what was said about James formerly. Of course, we have a fairly shrewd idea of why that was. In those early days James and the other brothers of Jesus were a bit worldly and they had an eye to business, to success, to popular acceptance, and they wished especially to stand well with the authorities. That is worldliness, is it not? It is the spirit of the world to wish to stand well with the authorities. This older Brother of theirs was taking a course that was getting Him into trouble with the people who had it in their power to take everything away from Him, and they belonged to His family, which meant that they would suffer because He had taken that line. Well, we will leave that, but I think it is a fairly true judgment of that statement: “Even his brethren did not believe on him.” They could not accept the way that He was taking, for it was not going to bring popularity.

Now here is this brother of His, these many years afterward, calling Him “the Lord of glory”. Something has happened! James is saying that his own Brother is “the Lord of glory”! Once he did not believe in Him, but now he calls Him “the Lord of glory”. That is indeed a wonderful thing! But what did he mean, and what does it mean to call Him “the Lord of glory”?

Well, you know, if anyone is a lord, he has everything under his control. If you should be a ‘lord’, then things are under your control and in your power. You dictate how these things are going to work out. Yes, you are lord in this situation and, indeed, in all situations. Jesus is Lord, and as Lord of glory He is in a position of mastery.

Peter, who at one time denied Him vehemently later said: “He is Lord of all” (Acts 10:36). A big thing has happened in Peter, too, as well as in James. Indeed, it had happened in all of them, for they all called Him “Lord”. We know from the very context of Peter’s words that he was at that time having to recognize the absolute mastery of the Lord Jesus. Peter was arguing a bit. It was very strange that he should have been arguing with the Lord Jesus at that time “Not so, Lord, for I have never eaten anything that is common and unclean”, but he had to succumb to the mastery of the Lord Jesus, and he did. Then he said: “He is Lord of all”, meaning that He was in charge both of Peter and of every situation, and, being in charge, this situation was going to work out to the end that He intended. So, when James says “the Lord of glory”, it means that the Lord Jesus is in charge of everything to make it work out for glory.

You have only to read through the book of the Acts of the Apostles, as it is called, and as you go through you see the Lord of glory holding the situations. Yes, in phase after phase, and stage after stage. We need only lift out one or two examples.

Peter is in prison, with his feet in the stocks and four quarternions of soldiers to guard him, and the inner and outer doors of the prison tightly closed. Herod has made very sure that THAT man is not going to escape! This looks a somewhat difficult proposition, does it not? I doubt whether it would have been possible for any man to have liberated Peter that night. At any rate, all the forces of this world are determined that he should not escape. He is the key man, the strategic man in this new movement, so he must be kept safe. All right, do all you can and all you wish. Take every precaution, every measure, to make everything secure. But the Lord of glory has other ways, and so an angel comes and smites Peter, who is asleep.

It is rather wonderful that when the Lord of glory is in charge you can go to sleep, even in situations where you are going to be brought out for execution tomorrow! You are in a condemned cell, and you know that tomorrow you are going the same way as the other James and be executed, but you just go to sleep right through the night. Well, it needs the Lord of glory to make you do that, so that you can say: ‘The Lord has this thing in hand, so I am going to sleep.’

I remember a man who was here in the West in the wild days of long ago. He was travelling and came to a shack, which was in a perilous place where bears were roaming about. He was very tired after travelling all day, but he found that he could not get into the shack. He could only rest under the awning outside, so he lay down there. He belonged to the Lord and before he settled down he read a Psalm: “He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.” He said: ‘Well, Lord, it is no use the two of us keeping awake. If You say You are keeping awake all night, I am going to sleep!’ And so he went off to sleep and had a good night. That is trusting the Lord!

Peter went to sleep and the angel smote him, struck off his chains and fetters, and said: ‘Rise up and follow me.’ They left the guards, the cell and the chains, and went out through the first door, then through the next, until they came to the outer gates, which opened of their own accord, and Peter was landed out in the open. This circumstance, so apparently adverse and impossible, was in the hands of the Lord of glory. And what about the glory? We have Peter’s Letters, written years afterwards, and they are wonderful Letters, are they not? His was a wonderful life, and so much wealth has come to us through Peter’s ministry in these Letters. Yes, there was glory, and Jesus is the Lord of glory.

One more thing from that Book of the Acts. We are in Philippi. Paul and Silas have arrived, because the Lord has sent them there. ‘They had assayed to go into Asia, but were forbidden of the Holy Ghost, and they assayed to go into Bithynia but the Spirit of Jesus suffered them not.’ Then, wondering what all that meant – ‘Why are we not allowed to go this way or that?’ – Paul, in a vision, saw a man of Macedonia and heard him say: “Come over into Macedonia, and help us.” “And,” said Luke, “concluding that God had called us for to preach the gospel unto them” (Acts 16:10), they set sail, arrived in Philippi, quite sure that the Lord had sent them there – and the next thing they knew was that they were in a dungeon with their feet fast in stocks and their backs bleeding after thorough lashing. Now what do you make of this? What are you going to do about it? It seems an absolute contradiction, and that a big mistake has been made. Are they saying: ‘We have got into confusion over our guidance’? No! Not a bit. In that condition they are singing and praising God at midnight. The Lord of glory has the situation in hand, and that is proved before the morning. There is the earthquake, the prisoners are released, the jailer and his house saved and baptized, and the church in Philippi established. The jailor and his family were amongst the first members and I do not believe his family were infants! It says: “They spake the word of the Lord unto them”, and you do not put a little innocent baby in a chair and preach the gospel to it, or teach it the things of Christ. They were intelligent and old enough to understand the teaching and preaching of Paul, and to accept it, so they were all baptized as responsible persons. They were amongst the first members of that church; and we have that beautiful Letter from Paul’s own prison, written years afterwards, when he was in Rome. We would not sacrifice that Letter to the Philippians for anything, would we? It is very precious. There is the Lord of glory, you see. It is the Book of the Acts of the Holy Spirit, the acts of the Lord of glory, for He is in charge. I wish we could always believe that when we are in prisons, tied up, with things all against us, and we are having a difficult time! If we could always just say: ‘The Lord is the Lord of glory. He has charge of this and the end is going to be glory’! Well, it works out that way, even though He has to say to us afterward: “O ye of little faith! Wherefore didst thou doubt?” Although we, under the trial, sometimes feel that there is nothing of glory in the situation, or in our condition, in the end He is faithful, and we find that glory is the end of His strange ways. He is the Lord of glory which means that He controls everything with glory in view.

THE SPIRIT OF GLORY

Peter calls the Holy Spirit “the Spirit of glory”. Now the context is necessary as the background of that title of the Holy Spirit. If you read this first Letter of Peter’s you will see that it is very largely about the sufferings of the Lord’s people to whom he is writing. It says that he is writing “to the elect who are sojourners of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father”. Then he opens up on this matter of the sufferings of these people: “Think it not strange concerning the fiery trial among you, which cometh upon you to prove you, as though a strange thing happened unto you.”

There is a lot about the sufferings of the Lord’s people in this Letter of Peter’s, and when he has mentioned the sufferings there are two things that he links with them: first grace, and then glory, grace issuing in glory. It is very helpful to notice how Peter speaks of grace, but, unfortunately, in our translation there are places where the word is changed, and the word ‘acceptable’ is used. In chapter 2:19 and 20 we read: “For this is ACCEPTABLE, if for conscience toward God a man endureth griefs, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye sin, and are buffeted for it, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye shall take it patiently, this is ACCEPTABLE with God.” But in putting this right we have something very rich: “For this is GRACE, if for conscience toward God a man endureth griefs, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye sin, and are buffeted for it, he shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye shall take it patiently, this is GRACE with God” (R.V. margin). Grace, then glory. In chapter 5:10 Peter says: “And the God of all grace, who called you unto his eternal glory in Christ, after that ye have suffered a little while, shall himself perfect, stablish, strengthen you.” ‘Through the suffering of this little while there will be grace sufficient to make us triumphant.’ Grace triumphant in suffering, and that means glory.

We sometimes sing:

Jesus, Thy life is mine,

Dwell evermore in me;

And let me see

That nothing can untwine

Thy life from mine.

Thy fullest gift, O Lord,

Now at Thy word I claim,

Through Thy dear name,

And touch the rapturous chord

Of praise forth-poured.

That came from the bed of an invalid! It is something, is it not? Well, that is what Peter is talking about – the sufferings, the fiery trial, and then he says: ‘Grace in that means glory.’ The Spirit of glory.

The Lord help us! We can say these things, and I say them carefully, guardedly, for we can be so put to the test on things that we say. The Spirit of glory can take hold of the things which could destroy us, and could be our undoing if we had the wrong reaction to them, and turn them to glory. This suffering, this reaction, this trial can mean glory. Paul said: “And by reason of the exceeding greatness of the revelation – wherefore, that I should not be exalted overmuch, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, that I should not be exalted overmuch. Concerning this thing I besought the Lord thrice” (and when Paul sought the Lord you may take it that he did so very thoroughly, and when he did it three times you may be sure that Paul put himself right into it!). “And he hath said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee; for my power is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

The Spirit of glory can take hold of our trials, and will do so, if we trust Him, and turn the dark things, the hard things, the painful things, into glory. That is, in those things He will lead us to find God’s pleasure, God’s satisfaction, God’s ‘Well done!’, and what more glorious thing could we desire than that we should hear Him say: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.’?

The Father of glory, the Lord of glory and the Spirit of glory. The Lord place this word in our hearts!