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Saturday, October 31, 2015

"The Rights of God" # 13

The Place of God In His House (continued)

If we take Isaiah's vision over into the New Testament, we see it confirmed there in the fullest measure. In Acts 1 we have a new beginning and we see two things there:

Christ in heaven, lofty and exalted, sitting on a throne, and: "Men of Galilee."

Nazareth was in Galilee. In a certain sense it was a 'forecourt.' One of the messages of the angels had said: "He goeth before you into Galilee." That had a special meaning. Galilee lay outside of the official religious center. Had not Jerusalem refused the Lord Jesus Christ the rights due to Him? Jerusalem had given the Lord of glory no room. They had rejected Him. They had taken what belonged to God into their own hand. That is why the Lord leaves Jerusalem. He goes to Galilee. He goes to where He is recognized. "Men of Galilee." It does not say: "Men of Jerusalem."

In chapter 1:13 we read: "They went up into the upper chamber." They did not go to the temple. The temple was the officially recognized center of religiosity in Jerusalem. But they
did not go there. They went to the upper room. They went to that place which in a vivid way speaks of separation: separation from everything that is only tradition and form. It speaks in a pictorial way of elevation, of that which is higher, separated from the earthly, because it is purposed to be heavenly.

We find Peter and John among those who are mentioned first. It is not insignificant that the new name of Peter is found at the beginning. Peter had gone through a deep experience. Peter had learned. He had learned a great deal. There had been a time in which he had raised objections at every opportunity. When the Lord wanted to go to the Cross, he had said: "This shall never be unto Thee." When Jesus wanted to wash his feet, Peter had said: "Thou shalt never wash my feet." Despite all his love for the Lord, Peter was clearly self-conscious as well as strongly assertive of his own opinions. But he had learned. When we read his Letter we see that he has much to say regarding submission. The Lord now has the place and room in Peter that He deserved!

This is the reason why his name is mentioned first in the church, because the church must be distinguished by the fact that in her the Lord has the first place. Everything depends on her being totally subjected to Him. Only thus can He fill His house.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 14)

Read How It All Turns Out! (and other devotionals)

First, Read How It All Turns Out!

BIBLE MEDITATION:

“I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.” Revelation 1:8

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT:

A boy was reading a murder mystery one day, and he became anxious about whether the heroine was going to live. To alleviate his anxiety, he read the last chapter and discovered that she survived!

Afterwards, when he read that the villain was planning a dastardly deed, he chuckled to himself and thought, “If you knew what I know, you wouldn’t be so haughty.”

ACTION POINT:

Christians know the last chapter, and that helps us cope with the present. Indeed, the glories of the future can help dilute the sorrows of the present. The devil’s doom is pronounced in Genesis—and it’s executed in Revelation.

~Adrian Rogers~

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Today's reading: Psalm 29:1-11

Psalm 29:1-2 commands us to ascribe (attribute or give) to the Lord glory. Then in the verses that follow, David does just that. He puts before us example after example of God's magnificence, power and splendor.

How and when do you give glory to the Lord? Is it your practice to verbally recognize and praise God for who He is as you go about your week? 

~Tami~

_______________________________


Settle Matters
Settle Matters 
Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison”. Matthew 5:25

Settle matters sooner than later, so all parties can focus on other significant issues. Lawsuits drain the life from relationships and can easily bring long-term relational harm. It is a financial bottomless pit that throws stewardship to the wind. Check everyone’s motivation, if fear, greed or anger is driving the legal process, then it is unhealthy.

Why go through the emotional torture of a long drawn out litigious process? A call for justice is legitimate, but can there be a fair settlement without having to drag the relationship through an adversarial trial? Can’t someone be the mature Christian adult and bring a close to the conflict? Money can be made again, but broken relationships may not be mended. Early Christians struggled with these issues of how to settle matters well.

“The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers” (1 Corinthians 6:7-8).

Maybe you are in a legal contract that is onerous, even unbearable. Circumstances have changed in your work environment and you are straddled with a commitment you are struggling to fulfill. Have you gone to the other party and explained your situation? Have you ask them for concessions and for a new contract? Perhaps there are other options that can be worked out between you. Humble yourself and trust God to work it out.

“My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, if you have struck hands in pledge for another, if you have been trapped by what you said, ensnared by the words of your mouth, then do this, my son, to free yourself, since you have fallen into your neighbor's hands: Go and humble yourself; press your plea with your neighbor! Allow no sleep to your eyes, no slumber to your eyelids. Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the snare of the fowler” (Proverbs 6:1-5).

Be honest and from a prayerful position seek to understand the needs of the other and then offer reasonable solutions to the situation. Pray the Lord will open the heart of the other party and bring creative alternatives to the table for discussion. Remember to keep your Christian testimony pure and attractive. Your kingdom is not of this world, so bring honor to King Jesus by doing the right thing in the right way. Settle matters soon.

Application: How can I settle matters in a manner that honors the Lord and all parties?

~Wisdom Hunters Devotional~


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Judges 7:20
The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon.
Gideon ordered his men to do two things: covering up a torch in an earthen pitcher, he bade them, at an appointed signal, break the pitcher and let the light shine, and then sound with the trumpet, crying, "The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon! the sword of the Lord, and of Gideon!" This is precisely what all Christians must do. First, you must shine; break the pitcher which conceals your light; throw aside the bushel which has been hiding your candle, and shine. Let your light shine before men; let your good works be such, that when men look upon you, they shall know that you have been with Jesus. Then there must be the sound, the blowing of the trumpet. There must be active exertions for the ingathering of sinners by proclaiming Christ crucified. Take the gospel to them; carry it to their door; put it in their way; do not suffer them to escape it; blow the trumpet right against their ears. Remember that the true war-cry of the Church is Gideon's watchword, "The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon!" God must do it, it is His own work. But we are not to be idle; instrumentality is to be used-"The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon!" If we only cry, "The sword of the Lord!" we shall be guilty of an idle presumption; and if we shout, "The sword of Gideon!" alone, we shall manifest idolatrous reliance on an arm of flesh: we must blend the two in practical harmony, "The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon!" We can do nothing of ourselves, but we can do everything by the help of our God; let us, therefore, in His name determine to go out personally and serve with our flaming torch of holy example, and with our trumpet tones of earnest declaration and testimony, and God shall be with us, and Midian shall be put to confusion, and the Lord of hosts shall reign for ever and ever.

~Charles Spurgeon~

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Ecclesiastes 11:6
In the evening withhold not thy hand.
In the evening of the day opportunities are plentiful: men return from their labour, and the zealous soul-winner finds time to tell abroad the love of Jesus. Have I no evening work for Jesus? If I have not, let me no longer withhold my hand from a service which requires abundant labour. Sinners are perishing for lack of knowledge; he who loiters may find his skirts crimson with the blood of souls. Jesus gave both His hands to the nails, how can I keep back one of mine from His blessed work? Night and day He toiled and prayed for me, how can I give a single hour to the pampering of my flesh with luxurious ease? Up, idle heart; stretch out thy hand to work, or uplift it to pray; heaven and hell are in earnest, let me be so, and this evening sow good seed for the Lord my God. The evening of life has also its calls. Life is so short that a morning of manhood's vigour, and an evening of decay, make the whole of it. To some it seems long, but a four-pence is a great sum of money to a poor man. Life is so brief that no man can afford to lose a day. It has been well said that if a great king should bring us a great heap of gold, and bid us take as much as we could count in a day, we should make a long day of it; we should begin early in the morning, and in the evening we should not withhold our hand; but to win souls is far nobler work, how is it that we so soon withdraw from it? Some are spared to a long evening of green old age; if such be my case, let me use such talents as I still retain, and to the last hour serve my blessed and faithful Lord. By His grace I will die in harness, and lay down my charge only when I lay down my body. Age may instruct the young, cheer the faint, and encourage the desponding; if eventide has less of vigorous heat, it should have more of calm wisdom, therefore in the evening I will not withhold my hand.

~Charles Spurgeon~

Friday, October 30, 2015

"The Rights of God" # 12

The Place of God In His House (continued)

We find in Isaiah 60 a remnant, those who have become ready for the full realization of the will of God. In reference to them the Word says: "Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee."

What does the glory of the Lord consist of? Nothing else but Jesus Christ Himself. He is the glory of God. In Him all God's thoughts and desires in relation to His people are fulfilled.

Isaiah writes: "In the year that king Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and His train filled the temple."

This sentence, "In the year that king Uzziah died" is immensely important. let us recall the history of this king. He was the king that dared to appropriate the things of God. The priests had warned him: "It pertaineth not unto thee, Uzziah, to burn incense unto the Lord." But he  became enraged. He forced his will through. The Lord struck him. Leprosy broke out on his forehead. He fled from the presence of the Lord. He died as a leper and - "In the year that king Uzziah died I saw the Lord." Isaiah sees Him, high and lifted up, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Did Uzziah believe he could put himself in God's place? Did he believe he could become proficient in the things pertaining to God? He had dared to want to be king in God's house. He had dared to act with natural power, instead of in the Spirit alone. Then God opposed him and struck him. "You have tried to take My place. This cannot be. This is My house. You must make room for Me." Then Uzziah fled. He died, overcome by the judgment of God (2 Chron. 26:16-23).

The next thing that Isaiah tells us is this: "The glory of the Lord filled the temple." He saw the Lord on the throne, the throne belonging to Him alone. This is the beginning in Isaiah. This is the beginning of all things that are God's

If we want to reach the fullness of Jesus Christ in our life, then God must  receive the place in our life that is due to Him. Then He must be the Lord in us, to Whom everything in us bows and Whose will we do entirely.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 13)

Do You Have a Prayer Life? (and other devotionals)

Do You Only Have A “Prayer Life”?

BIBLE MEDITATION:

“Pray without ceasing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT:

You are to pray when you are adding up prices in the grocery store line. You are to pray when you are changing a tire. You are to pray when you are singing a song. You are to pray when you are teaching a little one how to read.

We are commanded to pray all the time. But how do we do this? Think of a mother who has a child who is ill with a fever. Finally, the fever breaks and the mother and child settle down for some much-needed sleep. Not a noise from the television, from the street, or from the phone could awaken that mother. But one whimper from her child and she’s awake, right? That’s because even when she is asleep, she is in tune with that child—just as we are to be with God…constantly communing and attuned to His voice.

ACTION POINT:

Prayer to us should be as natural and continual as breathing. Jennifer Kennedy Dean asks an important question: “Do you ‘have a prayer life’—or are you living a praying life?” Think about the difference. 

~Adrian Rogers~

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Complete Safety 

"And of Benjamin he said, The beloved of the LORD shall dwell in safety by Him; and the LORD shall cover him all the day long, and he shall dwell between His shoulders"   (Deuteronomy 33:12).

Yes, there is no safety like that which comes of dwelling near to God. For His best beloved the LORD can find no surer or safer place. O LORD, let me always abide under Thy shadow, close to Thy wounded side. Nearer and nearer would I come to Thee, my LORD; and when once specially near Thee, I would abide there forever. What a covering is that which the LORD gives to His chosen! Not a fair roof shall cover him, nor a bomb-proof casement, nor even an angel's wing, but Jehovah Himself. Nothing can come at us when we are thus covered. This covering the LORD will grant us all the day long, however long the day. LORD, let me abide this day consciously beneath this canopy of love, this pavilion of sovereign power. Does the third clause mean that the LORD in His temple would dwell among the mountains of Benjamin or that the LORD would be where Benjamin's burden should be placed, or does it mean that we are borne upon the shoulders of the Eternal? In any case, the LORD is the support and strength of His saints. LORD, let me ever enjoy Thy help, and then my arms will be sufficient for me.

~Charles Spurgeon~

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Today's reading: Psalm 28:1-9

As I read through and considered Psalm 28, the bold declaration of verse 7 spoke to my heart because telling God that I trust Him, whatever my circumstances are and may bring, has been a regular part of my conversations with God lately.

"The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him." (Psalm 28:7, ESV).

This verse got me thinking about God as our help and what that really means. All too often, when we see verses stating that God is our help, we take the word "help" to mean fixing, solving or changing our physical situation. But that's not necessarily the case. It can be, but what I'm learning more and more is that when I let go and fully turn my circumstances over to God, the "help" I receive is His peace in the middle of my situation. And when I have His peace, my heart can exult and I can give Him thanks--regardless of my circumstances.

Think back over the past month. When and how was God your help? Now think back over the past few years. When and how did God strengthen and help you? 

~Tami~




Thursday, October 29, 2015

"The Rights of God" # 11

The Place of God In His House (continued)

In Isaiah 52:13-15, we see the Lord Jesus exalted and extolled:

"Behold, My servant shall deal wisely, He shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high. Like as many were astonied at Thee (His visage was so marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men): So shall He sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at Him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they understand."

And then we are taken further to the Cross, the great fifty-third chapter, and beyond the Cross to His reign.

"Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faced from Him; He was despised, and we esteemed Him not....

Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He hat put Him to grief: when Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. He shall see the travail of His sol, and shall be satisfied: by His knowledge shall My righteous servant justify many; for He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong; because He hath poured out His soul unto death: and He was numbered with the transgressors; and He bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors."

Thus we have in Isaiah a comprehensive presentation of the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The people of Israel did not fulfill the thought of God. Captivity was the only way left for them. Because God wanted to demonstrate His plan for His people, it was necessary to cut them off from the place of His glory, Jerusalem. A large section of Isaiah points to the captivity which awaited them.

But our attention is now drawn to the context in which Isaiah sees all of these events. Even the captivity stands in connection to the Lord on His throne. What else does this mean, except the irrefutable assurance that God's will will be done, that God's plan will be fully realized. But if God wants to reach His goal, then He Himself has to create the prerequisite for fulfillment in His people. Therefore He must educate His people in the school of suffering, by way of purging, so that they will be willing to walk in the way of His thoughts, to act with the deepest interest from the heart for His will to be done.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 12)

Our Eternal Rewards


Our Eternal Rewards

Throughout Scripture, we find references to "crowns." Let's take a look at these eternal rewards for a victorious Christian life and a strong relationship with Jesus Christ.
The Crown of Victory. To finish life well, believers need Olympic endurance. Athletes in those ancient games received a perishable circlet of laurel leaves. But when we are effective in our God-given ministry and triumph over sin, we'll be given an imperishable crown (1 Cor. 9:25-27).
The Crown of Exultation. The believers that we had a hand in bringing to Christ will be "our glory and joy" before the Lord (1 Thess. 2:18-20). Just imagine how you will rejoice in heaven upon seeing and talking with the people who recognize your contribution to their spiritual development.
The Crown of Righteousness. The Christian life is not easy, but there is great reward for living righteously when facing temptation or hardship. Believers who pursue godliness are always thinking about the life to come and striving to meet God with a pure conscience (2 Tim. 4:5-8).
The Crown of Life. Heartache and pain are unavoidable in this life, but we can take heart because much spiritual growth happens in adversity. Hang in there to receive the crown of life that the Lord promised to those who love Him (James 1:12).
In heaven, what will we do with the crowns we have earned? We will cast them before Jesus' feet (Rev. 4:10), laying them down as a tribute to the One who saved us, gifted us, equipped us, and lived in us. Everything good and right came to us through the Lord, so He deserves our crowns.

~Dr. Charles F. Stanley~

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

"The Rights of God" # 10

The Place of God In His House

Isaiah 6:1-7

"In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six winds; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory." And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.

Then said I, "Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts." Then flow one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: and he laid it upon my mouth, and said, "Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged."

God has intended great things for His people. He watches over the realization of His plan. We do well to have recognized the basis on which God completes His thoughts for us. If we long to see God's full thought for us accomplished, if we yearn for the fullness of Jesus Christ, then we have to know where God starts, we have to discern the secret that governs God's fullness. In Isaiah 6, we find the key for this. Great things are put before us. It is hardly necessary to say much about the place the Lord Jesus has in Isaiah. His prophecies are well-known enough for us to understand that they are all fulfilled in Christ.

In chapter 9, we find the familiar words:

"For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulders; and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace."

In chapter 11:1, 2:

"And there shall come forth a shoot out of the stock of Jesse, and a Branch out of his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the spirit of wisdom, and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord."

Then Isaiah 61:1-3, takes us further to the public ministry of the Lord, and we immediately hear Him say the words:

"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me; because the Lord hath anointed Me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He hath sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified."

In Isaiah 42:1-4, we see Jesus Christ as the suffering Servant of God:

"Behold, My Servant, Whom I uphold; My Chosen, in Whom My soul delighteth; I have put My Spirit upon Him: He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles. He shall not cry, nor lift up His voice, nor cause it to be heard in the street. A bruised reed will He not break, and a dimly burning wick will He not quench: he will bring forth justice in truth. He will not fail nor be discouraged, till He have set justice in the earth: and the isles shall wait for His law."

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 11)

Taming the Tongue


Taming the Tongue
Taming the Tongue 
Guest Writer: Meet my son-in-law Tripp Prince. We are blessed to have him as our guest writer.

For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. James 3:7-10

Have you ever said something and then immediately wished you could take it back? If you’re like me, you’ve done this more times than you can count! So often we speak without thinking. We hear words come out of our mouths and think, “Where did that come from?” At times this can lead to simple embarrassment or a laugh between friends, yet often our words are the source of deep pain and brokenness.  Perhaps even now as you read this you feel in your heart the wounds of someone’s words toward you or the burden of having wounded another with your words.

As James reminds us, each of us is capable of great good and devastating harm. We can speak words of blessing, encouragement, and hope over those we love and those who need to be uplifted. Yet we can then turn around and with the same tongue lash out in anger, put someone down so we look better than we are, or simply lie and deceive to get what we want.

This capacity for good and evil should remind us that our lives are always works in progress. No matter how long we’ve followed Christ or served him, we never fully arrive at maturity; there are still parts of our hearts that need to be given over to his will for our lives. When we speak a blessing over others, it is a sign of God’s renovating work in our hearts. On the other hand, when we speak harmful words, they reveal motives in our hearts that are not yet conformed to the will of God.

The tongue makes public that which the heart keeps private.

If you find yourself struggling to tame your tongue, don’t simply focus on behavior modification. The Lord doesn’t want us to merely change our actions, but desires that our changed behavior come from a heart that has been set on fire with love for Him! Therefore, let the Lord into the deep, dark places of your heart and allow Him to bring about real and lasting change. As we do, the Lord will renew our hearts and place words of joy and hope upon our lips. Then we will be able to join with the words of Scripture and proclaim, “my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced” (Acts 2:26).

Prayer: Father, help us learn to tame our tongues by fully opening our hearts and lives to your transforming grace.

Application: How does God want to tame my tongue? Who needs my words of affirmation?

~Wisdom Hunters Devotional~


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

"The Rights of God" # 9

Dependence Upon God (continued)

In James 5:17 we find a mention of Elijah. "Elijah was a man of like passions with us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain; and it rained not on the earth for three years and six months. And he prayed again; and the heaven gave rain ..."

Elijah knew how to pray. Elijah had learned the secret of prayer. This inner fellowship with God gave him power so that he could step forward and say: "As the Lord God of Israel, before Whom I stand ..."

Have we ever tried to encapsulate the meaning of prayer in one word? It is "dependency!"

Anyone who has recognized his dependency upon God will pray. Whoever does not pray, does not recognize how dependent he is upon God. Our effectiveness for God depends upon the amount of our dependence upon God, and our prayer life will be the measure of such dependence.

It can be said of Elijah: the whole foundation of his life and service lay in his dependence upon God. God kept him in this attitude. It gave him security and power.

We can say much about Elijah. The Jews thought a lot of him. When they saw Jesus performing tremendous deeds, they thought Elijah had returned. Where was the secret of his greatness to be found, the secret of his powerful and victorious service? What lay behind his destruction of heathen worship, so that the people said again: "The Lord, He is the God!"? It is the absolute dependence upon God. It is that which we see at the brook Cherith, in the house of the widow, and everywhere he went.

Now, that is the starting point for all of God's work in us: nothing from the world, all from God! Before, God attempts to accomplish His great deeds through us, we must be brought to this point. In himself, Elijah was just as we are. But he was a powerful prophet, because in and of himself he was nothing. And he was nothing in and of himself because he was conscious of being completely dependent upon God.

Many think too highly of themselves. That makes them unfruitful for God. It hinders their life of prayer. The Lord must bring us low. Those whom God uses most are they who trust Him alone, who are poor in themselves, but consequently rich towards God; those who are in themselves weak, but consequently are strong in the Lord.

May the Lord succeed in preparing instruments, willing for such dependence, so that He is able to restore through them the testimony of His life in a time when nothing is more needful than precisely that: THE TESTIMONY OF HIS LIFE.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 10 -  (The Place of God In His House)

A National Church is Unscriptural

A National Church is Unscriptural

Archibald G. Brown, October 10th, 1869, Stepney Green Tabernacle

"Jesus answered: My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm." John 18:36
"Jesus answered." Whom did he answer? Why, that miserable, vacillating, time-serving Pilate, who, prompted by men with shrewder intellects than his own, had asked our Master the cunning question, "Are you King of the Jews?" A question better adapted to the ends of the prosecution can hardly be imagined; its answer, whether in the negative or affirmative, was equally surrounded by difficulties.
In the manner which Pilate meant, the answer would be 'No;' but in a sense which never entered the head of the governor of Judea, the answer was 'Yes.' To have given therefore an unqualified negative or an unexplained affirmative, would have led to misunderstanding on the part of friends and foes alike.
To have answered the question with a bare 'No' would have appeared at first blush to be giving the lie to many of his previous statements in which he had claimed regal power. And to have simply answered 'Yes,' would have seemed to give grounds for the accusation that he was a competitor for Caesar's throne. Christ therefore, who in the language of Paul, witnessed "good confession before Pontius Pilate," 1Tim 6.13 gave an answer glittering with the wisdom of divinity. He accepts the title of king, with the explanation that his kingdom is "not of this world," and therefore he cannot possibly be a rival one to Rome. He repudiates the idea of his kingdom being one of earthly state and pomp, or having anything to do with earthly governments. It was established by no imperial legions, nor buttressed up by sword and spear. Its throne was not in some proud, wealthy capital — but in the hearts of all his subjects. Its laws were not the acts of some imperial worldly parliament — but the loving utterances of his own lips.
This declaration of the spirituality of Christ's kingdom is as true in the nineteenth century as when it first fell from the Master's lips, and the necessity for it is greater. For then, the very thought of union between the Christian church and state had never been entertained by the subjects of his realm; while now, unhappily, it is an accomplished fact. There never was greater necessity than in the present day for declaring in the most unmistakable language, the spirituality of Christ's church. There is a need to bring it, with all its outward pomp and show, face to face with the words spoken by the Savior in Pilate's Hall, "My kingdom is not of this world."
If this evening should give utterance to things that appear stern, and lacking in the spirit of charity towards other brethren in Christ, believe me, they are so in appearance only. It is quite possible to love the men — while you hate and denounce the system with which they are connected. And I for one cannot but love and honor many in the Established Church (the Church of England); nor can I ever forget that the man who was the means of leading me to Jesus was then, and is still, in her communion.
Besides which, much of what I want to say will apply with equal force to many who term themselves dissenters, and who yet seem to forget that "nonconformity" is something more than a mere distinguishing title. Many of our churches are pandering too much to the standards and whims of the world, losing their power for testimony, by trying to become all things to all men, if by any means they may please all.

I feel I will need much help from on high in treading upon what some would term dangerous ground — help that I may not needlessly wound the feelings of any, and help that I may be able fearlessly to proclaim what with all my heart I believe to be the truth, though that proclamation may condemn the system and practice of many. I will endeavor first and very briefly to try and explain what Christ here means by his kingdom. And secondly, direct your attention to what is said about the kingdom, namely, that it is "not of this world."

1. What does Christ mean by the term "My Kingdom?" I will be as brief as possible in trying to explain this definition, as I am anxious to devote most of my time and strength to the second division. It means, the empire Christ came to found on earth, or in other words the Church which he purchased with his blood. Although our Lord came on earth as man, and a poor, sorrowful, despised one at that — yet he came commissioned from Heaven to found an empire which would outlast and outlive all powers and dominions then existing. His deepest humiliation laid the deepest foundation for his future glory.
Every step he took downward, only added power and stability to the massive foundation of the kingdom he came to found. He laid the foundation in agony, and cemented it with his blood. Upon that immovable foundation, he reared his heavenly temple, composed of living stones, and which is destined to grow until the last elect person will have been gathered in — the last stone raised upon the walls, with shoutings of "Grace! Grace!"

The empire of Christ, consists of those who own allegiance to him. It was once far otherwise with them; with the weapons of the rebel grasped tightly in their hands, and with hearts burning with Hell's hatred, they blasphemously shouted "We will not have this man to reign over us!" They spurned his easy yoke; they scorned his gentle laws; and they cast off from them his loving cords. They were of the world, and therefore they hated the kingdom that condemned it.
But now all has changed. When the hour of the "day of his power" struck, omnipotent grace came forth to war. With a single stroke the day was won.Overpowered by the might of love, the rebels threw down their arms at the foot of Calvary, and tearfully cried for mercy. They found it full and free; and then with gratitude that knew no bounds, they offered themselves as loyal subjects to the one they once despised.
Lovingly their Lord received them and enrolled them as the members of his kingdom. And now listen to the shout that rises from all quarters of his wide domain. "All hail! All hail! King Jesus! We acknowledge you to be the Lord. We bow before your scepter. We worship at your throne. Bring forth the royal diadem and crown him Lord of all!"

The empire of Jesus consists of those in whose hearts he reigns. In every human breast there is by nature some hideous hateful Dagon — some proud usurperof the Savior's throne. But in the hearts of those who are included in the kingdom, this Dagon has been hurled with ignominy to the ground. The ark of the Lord has entered, and before, it the hideous idol has fallen. Christ has come with kingly tread, ascended the steps, and taken his rightful position. The heart's affections bow to him, and the whole man is under his control, while his daily language is,
"Nothing save Jesus would I know;
My friend and my companion, Thou!
Lord, seize my heart, assert Your right,
And put all other loves to flight."
The kingdom of Jesus is, as we have already said, his church. And what is the Church? Strange that such a question should need to be asked or answered! Yet it is not more strange than true; for no word is more wretchedly misunderstood than this simple one of Church. If you ask some what they understand by the word Church, they will point to some big building with spire or tower, ornamented with a glittering cross or a less pretentious weather rooster, and say "that is the Church." God forbid that it should be, for it is most certainly of this world. The glorious word "Church," is never more degraded or ill-used than when applied to a heap of bricks and mortar! It may be a parish building — but a parish church never.
And here I would utter my protest against the fashionable error that is fast gaining ground in some of our dissenting communities. The age is too respectable for old fashioned "Meeting Houses," but on every hand we have Congregational churches and Baptist churches springing up, prostituting a name belonging only to a blood-bought throng, to the work of the bricklayer. The building is no more the Church, than the house is the family; and it is nonsense if not blasphemy to call it so.
Nor is the Church a mere society. To hear some talk of "forming a church," one would imagine that it was a kind of religious building society that only needed its manager in the shape of the minister, and its directors by the name of deacons. The moment we place the Church on the level of a society, we do it foul dishonor.
The Church moreover does not consist of a visible union of believers. A Church may — but the Church does not. There are many who are in membership with our churches, who are not in Christ's church; there are many whose names are to be found in the church books in the vestry — but are not to be found anywhere in God's great Church Book of Life.
What is the Church then? The Church is a chosen, redeemed, blood-bought, blood-washed multitude, confined to no country, race or climate; to be found in all lands, among all nations, speaking all languages; to be found in connection with all classes, and in all denominations, and many in no denomination at all. The Church consists of all who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, and are, as sinners, trusting alone in him for salvation.
Perhaps no better definition of the Church can be found, than in the following lines of an unknown poet:
"A band of faithful men
Met for God's worship in some humble room,
Or, screened from foes by midnight's star-lit gloom,
On hill side or lone glen,
To hear the counsels of his holy word,
Pledged to each other and their common Lord.

These, few as they may be,
Compose a Church, such as in pristine age
Defied the tyrant's steel, the bigot's rage;
For when but two or three,
Whatever the place in faith's communion meet,
There, with Christ present, is a Church, complete."
Yes, friends, the place has nothing to do with the Church. It does not matter whether it meets beneath the stupendous dome of a cathedral — or in the dim transepts of the abbey; the gothic building — or unfurnished barn; in the dark catacombs beneath the city — or under the spreading boughs of the forest tree. In all places it is equally "the Church," the kingdom of our Lord.
One thought more, and I will close this first division of our subject. The kingdom of Christ shall last forever. Will you turn to the second chapter of Daniel and read with me the forty-fourth verse. You will there find a glorious prophecy concerning the kingdom. "And in the days of these kings the God of Heaven shall set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people — but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever." Unlike other empires, age shall never decay its strength, nor shall time cause it to become defunct.
The glory of other empires has faded into insignificance. Where is the martial pomp and prowess of Rome, before whose eagle banner the world trembled? Where is the magnificence of vast Babylon, or the brilliant influence of Greece? Gone! But the kingdom set up by God abides still, with undiminished glory and ever-increasing influence. Its sun has not gone down nor reached its meridian height. It has stood unshaken amidst the crash of empires and the fall of dynasties. And should the day ever dawn when, according to an eloquent writer, some New Zealander shall sit upon the broken arch of London Bridge and view the silent ruins of this myriad-peopled city — then shall the kingdom of Christ have upon it the dew of its youth. And when this world, with all its proud domains shall have been consumed in the final conflagration, then transplanted into Heaven, shall this kingdom shine, the only one that has outlived the general wreck of time.
 

II. Let us now consider what is said concerning this Kingdom. It is "not of this world" — that is, it is not worldly.

1. Christ's Kingdom is not worldly in its CONSTITUTION or RELATIONSHIPS. It is purely spiritual, and intended to be entirely separate from the world, and devoid of all that pomp and grandeur which is usually associated with kingdoms. Let us look at this great truth in detail.
The first question arising from the idea of a kingdom is, who is its king? Our answer is — one not of this world. In our text, the Savior claims the kingdom as his own, and thereby teaches the truth that He, and He alone is its king. For anyone else to assume imperial power, or in any way whatever hold the reins of the government of this kingdom in his hands, is to commit an act of high treason against "the King immortal and invisible!" 1 Tim 1.17. The moment an earthly monarch puts his hand on the ark of the Lord — we declare he is exceeding his jurisdiction, and touching that over which he has no control whatever. As subjects of the realm of Christ, we acknowledge HIS Headship, and HIS only.
"One army of the living God,
 To His command we bow,"
and we bow to no one else. As soldiers of his army, we will bend to him the knee, until the plumes of our helmets mingle with the dust; but to others, be they King or Queen, we may not, must not, will not bow in anything pertaining to this kingdom. Let us be zealous friends, of the glory of Christ in this particular, and acknowledge no other Head than Him, and recognize no other jurisdiction than His.
The lack of this, is the crying evil in the so-called Church of England. Worse than any other of its errors — for it is the foundation of them all — is its union with, or rather subjection to the state. The reigning monarch of England, whether good, bad, or indifferent — is in truth its head and ruler. The bishop appoints the incumbent, the premier appoints the bishop, and the throne appoints the premier — and then incumbent and bishop declare that Christ's kingdom "is not of this world!" Treason to the kingship of Christ, is stamped upon the brow of "Church and State."
But let us go a step further. Not only is the King himself not of this world — but when he came, he came in a manner not of this world. He was born in nostately palace — but in a lowly manger — for there was no room even in an inn for the Monarch of this empire; common swaddling clothes were his royal robes. To humble shepherds, his heralds announced his coming. His courtiers were rough fishermen.
The only triumphant entrance he ever made into Jerusalem, was made sitting "meek and lowly" upon the foal of an donkey, while the children shouted his praises. He only wore a crown once — and then it was one of thorns! His hands but once grasped a scepter — and then it was a reed given to him in derision! The only exaltation the world ever gave him — was upon the cross, and his grave was the gift of charity. Let then the Church be like its head, and learn from him to forego the emoluments, the pomp, and distinctions of the world. The King was not of this world; then shame to the subjects who accept what he refused.

2. The INSTITUTION of Christ's Kingdom was not of this world. The church has no cause to tip its hat to anyone. It is under no debt of obligation to any mortal man. It is the child of God — not the offspring of earthly royalty or wisdom. Its existence it owes alone to him mentioned in the verse we just read, "the God of Heaven shall set up a kingdom." He set it up, and did that without the help of man. Monarchs did not found it. Princes did not form it, nor is it the creation of a state. Neither the world nor the world's potentates gave birth to it. In origin, it is most emphatically "not of this world."
So far is the world from aiding its institution, that it has been set up in spite of the world's most bitter opposition. Had it been of the world, then the world would have loved its own — but as it came from above, the world hated it. Had the world been able to have its own way, it would long before this have stamped the church out with the iron heel of persecution, dripping with the blood of the innocents. In all ages, the church has been the bush burning with fire, and the only reason for the fact that it has never been consumed is that God is in the bush.
Do you want to know what the world has done for the church? I reply, "It has done its best to exterminate it!" Let the amphitheater of Rome, with its sand clotted with the blood of martyrs, tell how much the church owes its existence to the world's kind forbearance and help. Let those silent Alpine peaks find tongue, and tell how their eternal snows were stained to a gory red with the heart's-blood of the brave Waldenses. Let the hideous walls of the Catholic Inquisition confess how they have rung and re-echoed with the shrieks of racked and tortured Christians. Let old Smithfield itself recount the tale of those human bonfires, kindled by the world's malice. The united testimony of all is this: that Christ's kingdom in its origin is "not of this world!"

3. The SUBJECTS of Christ's Kingdom are not worldly. Of every single man, woman, or child, who is truly a subject of Christ and a member of Christ's spiritual kingdom, it may be said, "He or she is not of this world." All the members of Christ's church have been "born again, not of corruptible seed — but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which lives and abides forever." 1 Peter 1.23. No man is born by nature, as a child of Christ's spiritual kingdom; if it were so, the kingdom would at once be of this world, which it is not.
To be a subject of an earthly empire requires only one birth; but to be a subject of Christ's kingdom requires two. Every child of God has in him that which all the world could never give. He is an unearthly man, and it is his mission to make it day by day more evident that he and the world are opposed to each other in spirit and practice. He is the "salt of the earth;" that is, to counteract its putridity, not to blend with it. He is a "light in the world" — to illumine its darkness, not to be lost in it.
Moreover it is not in the power of man to introduce a subject into this kingdom; for, if it were so, then again, the kingdom would be of this world, which it is not.
The national church may declare in its service that the child is by baptism made an inheritor of the kingdom, and some dissenters may imagine their baptism in riper years has enrolled them among its subjects; but they are both miserably mistaken — as they will find out to their cost, if they are not born again, and thus brought into the kingdom by a way that is not of this world. Search Christ's realm, I mean His Church from end to end, and you will fail to discover a single unconverted man. Written over the portals in indelible characters is, "Unless you are converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven!"
To keep the visible church pure, is an imperative duty; and although terribly painful, it is far better to exercise discipline — than to have as a recognized member, a character known to be of the world. But what can be said of a church which, like the national one, embraces profligates and saints alike, and has in her communion men whose utter unfitness for church fellowship, is beyond a shadow of a doubt! Only one thing can be said, and that is, that such a church is in direct contradiction to the teaching of this text!

4. The DEFENSE and SUPPORT of Christ's Kingdom is not worldly. Just as the church owes nothing to kings and parliament for its origin — so it is equally independent of them for its defense and support. It requires no imperial legislation to maintain its existence, nor armies to subdue its foes. It thrives best when left alone, and grows the fastest when unaided by the world.
As sure as ever the shield of the state is held over it, it languishes and pines. The church has never thrived and flourished through the world's assistance — butagainst it. The influence of the world has never been an atmosphere in which the church has grown a healthy life. In fact, it was when she carried her life in her hand, that she flourished the most. It was the blood of the martyrs, not the smiles of government, that was her seed. The church that nestles under the wing of any state is only smothered — not strengthened by the warmth. A church pioneered by the sword and buttressed by a government — is the weakest church on earth, and one that is doomed to die.
Cast your eye but across the channel and see in poor Ireland's experience, how utter a failure is that church which depends for its existence on the money and patronage of a state. Well may the church exclaim, "Save me from my friends — I can deliver myself from my enemies." If the world were to withdraw tomorrow all its patronage from the Church of England, it would be none the worse — but so much the better for the loss, for the kingdom "is not of this world."

5. The LAWS of Christ's Kingdom are not worldly. On this point I need not dwell, as I have already said as much when I tried to prove its King was not. The laws which are binding on the church are only those which have been framed in Heaven, and are transcribed into God's statute book, the Bible; and we laugh all others to scorn. I can hardly imagine a more humiliating sight than a state parliament, discussing and debating and deciding the affairs of a church, as if it were merely some railway company. Christ's kingdom is so entirely spiritual, and so absolutely separate from the world, that to attempt to govern it by worldly laws is as impossible as it is wicked. "My kingdom is not of this world!" therefore the world has no ability to meddle with its government.

6. The COMMERCE of Christ's Kingdom is not worldly. No kingdom on the face of the whole earth has such a commerce, or rejoices in such a trade, as the kingdom of our Lord. It traffics in the costliest and choicest things, and all its merchants are merchant princes. Its ships are never wrecked. Its bank, for it has but one, possesses wealth that is infinite, and therefore can never break. None who have ever engaged in her commerce have been known to fail. Her trade is nearly all imports, and that is on an enormous scale. Morning, noon and night, indeed, every hour of the day, her ships are returning to her ports laden to the water's edge with untold wealth. True, she only trades with one port — but that one is sufficient to supply the needs of the whole kingdom, and make the fortune of every subject.
To drop the metaphor, or rather to explain it — the church's commerce is "not of this world." The port with which she trades is the port of Heaven. Her vesselsare her prayers, some larger and some smaller, yet all equally insured against shipwreck; the faintest sigh as well as the most eloquent petition reaches the ear of God. All come back laden with blessing, for never was praying breath spent in vain. The costly, precious wares she is constantly receiving, consist of treasures such as pardon — peace — joy — contentment — and holiness — all of which are "precious things of Heaven." Deu 33.13. Her exports consists of thanksgiving — gratitude — love — devotion. But O, did I not say very rightly that her trade is nearly all import? What poor returns we make for the mercies that are literally heaped upon us. How lightly laden are our ships of praise, how poor and weak are our highest love and deepest gratitude!
"I cannot serve Him as I ought;
No works have I to boast;
Yet would I glory in the thought,
That I should owe Him most!"
Now you will see, dear friends, that the commerce we have just described is not of this world, nor does it deal with the sordid things of earth. Far different is the commerce in which the Established Church, which is of this world, is engaged — I mean the hateful trade in "livings." One has now but to look into the columns of a church newspaper, to see "living" after "living" advertised as mere business speculations; while sometimes the beauty of the scenery and the smallness of the parish are mentioned as enhancing the value of the property. Such merchandising is a crying shame to England, and a blot on her name. It is impossible to use language too strong and scathing in the denunciation of so infamous a trade. There is not a member of the established church present who (if his heart is right with God) will not join me in the prayer, that this great disgrace may be swept from off the land. The church is not to engage in such commerce as this, which is nothing else than a "trade in souls." Let her remember that our Lord said, "My kingdom is not of this world."

7. The PRECEPTS of Christ's Kingdom are not worldly. The church's un-worldliness shines transcendently in this. "Do unto others — as they do unto you" is the maxim of the world. "Do unto others — as you would have them do unto you" is the precept of Christ's kingdom.
"Pay him back in his own coin" is the precept of the world. "Pay him back in Heaven's coinage" is the maxim of the church, and that coinage is as follows, "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he thirsts, give him drink. Do not be overcome by evil — but overcome evil with good."
"One good turn deserves another" is the proverb of the world." "One bad turn deserves a good one" is the teaching of the kingdom.
"Resist and retaliate" are the mottos of the world. "If he strikes you on the one cheek, turn to him the other also" is the command of our King.
"Every man for himself," says the world. "Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others!" says the word.
Surely we do not need to give other illustrations to prove that the precepts of Christ's kingdom go directly "against the grain" of the human heart. They declare in a voice too clear to be mistaken, that the kingdom and its subjects are "not of this world."

8. The POMP and SPLENDOR of Christ's Kingdom is not worldly. We do not say that it has none, for it has. It is a kingdom of kings, and a nation of priests. Every subject is arrayed in royal robes, and the poorest is an "uncrowned monarch!" Aaron, as he entered the holiest of all, was not more magnificently arrayed in priestly robes, than the weakest and most unknown believer. They are a "royal priesthood" 1 Peter 2.9. But their glory is not a glory that can be seen with human eye. Their splendor is not of this world. You may pass them in the street, and only see the outward signs of poverty and want — and yet they are "heirs" to an eternal throne! They are to be recognized by no outward pomp, nor distinguished by loud-sounding titles. The kingdom which is of this world may deck its priests in finest millinery, and call them by the pompous titles of Reverend — Very Reverend — Lord Bishop — and I know not what besides; but by doing so, it only condemns itself, and shows what little union it has with the kingdom which is spiritual, not worldly.
The kingdom which is from above is content with the glory that Heaven gives it, and not seek to array itself with the importance and grandeur of a world which it professes to renounce.

9. The WEAPONS of Christ's Kingdom are not worldly. The verse seems to teach this fact most clearly, for our Lord says, "if my kingdom were of this world, then my servants would fight, that I would not be delivered to the Jews." We are not allowed to pioneer the way for our religion by the spear, nor enforce its truths by the sword, as Mohammed did his lies. The rack and stake are not to be our arguments as they were Roman Catholicism's. The power we have to bring to bear upon the masses is a moral, not a physical one. The weapons placed in our hands to wield are spiritual, not carnal — and their very spirituality is their power.
"The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ!" 2 Corinthians 10:4-5. I would to God that his subjects would be content to take their weapons from his armory, and not attempt to fight the Devil with his own weapons. The Gospel in its simplicity is the ram's horn before which the walls of this world's Jericho will fall.
We have no time to dwell in detail upon the worldly instrumentality too often employed by the church. But the truth still remains that the weapons destined by God to pull down sin's strongholds are spiritual, not carnal.
And now to CLOSE, let me say in two or three sentences only, that this subject has a personal bearing upon all present. If Christ's kingdom is a spiritual one — then am I a subject of it? Have I ever known that inward spiritual change which alone gives entrance to it? Mere obedience to the outward routine and forms of religion will never save. The world can give that. Mere union with a visible portion of the church, is no proof that you are a member of the church. Christ's kingdom is spiritual, not visible, and it requires a spiritual union. Let the prayer of all our hearts be this: "Lord Jesus be our King. Enroll us among your subjects; and may we all at last be found in that glorious kingdom of yours which is "not of this world."
God grant it may be so, for Jesus' sake. Amen.

Monday, October 26, 2015

"The Rights of God" # 8

Dependence Upon God (continued)

Something else. Ravens brought him bread and meat. And he drank from the water in the brook. But after a certain time the stream dried up. The Lord took care that Elijah had something, but then He took it from him again. What does that mean? God wants to bring His servants to the point where their lives comes from heaven. Do not ravens themselves like to eat meat? We have to say that it was supernatural for ravens of all birds to have brought meat to Elijah. Every morning and evening. God was behind it. He had sent the ravens. They would not have come on their own. For some time it continued. Elijah could easily have taken it for granted. But then suddenly it stopped. They stopped coming and the brook dried up. What now?

God said to him, "Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow there to sustain thee." She was certainly no wealthy widow. We know what he found there. It had come to the point of baking the last cake and then dying. And the Lord had asked this woman to provide for him.

Let us make sure we see the deeper sense that lies hidden in this story.

When the Lord is in the process of restoring His testimony and forming His instruments as the restoration of His testimony demands, then on the one hand He takes over the complete responsibility for His maintenance; on the other hand, He teaches His instrument not to look for his maintenance in earthly things, but only from God.

For a spiritual testimony, there can be no natural resources. That is the reason why we see Elijah is, right from the start, totally dependent upon God.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 9)