Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, to love the Lord thy God. Deu 30:6

  
Our Daily Homily




   
   The Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, to love the Lord thy God. Deu 30:6
     
      Circumcision is the sign of separation. It was enjoined on Abraham and his children that they might be God's peculiar people, chosen from all the nations of the earth. Similarly, the circumcision of Christ, which is made without hands, of which the Apostle speaks, is a putting off, a separation from the sins of the flesh, a participation in the grave and burial of Christ (Col 2:12).
     
      We must be separated from the spirit and temper of the world. Between us and its sins, ambitions, methods, there must be not only an outward, but a heart severance. We were separated in the purpose of God when Jesus was cast without the camp to die. But we must be separate in our personal behavior. Wouldst thou have this? Then claim that this promise should be fulfilled, and ask that God would circumcise thine heart - the seat of thine affections, the hearth of thy soul-life.
     
      Then thou wilt love the Lord with all thine, heart. This is why we love God so little. The force of our love is spread over too wide a sur-face-it is like the river Orinoco, which is lost in swamps as it approaches the sea. If only we were really separated from all that is alien to God, and. given up to Him wholly, we should find all the capacity of our hearts becoming filled with His love. We should love all things and people with a tenderness and glow which were steeped in colors obtained from His.
     
      You will never succeed in overthrowing the strongholds of Satan, Christian worker, till God has taken away your self-reliance, and has brought you down into the dust of death: then, when the sentence of death is in yourself you will begin to experience the energy of the Divine life, the glory of the Divine victory.


Monday, June 29, 2015

CHRISTIANITY -- A PROCESS OF TRANSFORMATION



T. Austin-Sparks


CHRISTIANITY -- A PROCESS OF TRANSFORMATION
Reading: 1 Corinthians 2.

"We ... are transformed into the same image"
(that is: 'We pass from one form to another')
2 Corinthians 3:18.

AS I have moved about amongst Christians in many parts of this world, and in many situations, one thing has been growing upon me more and more strongly. In the presence of a great deal of confusion amongst Christians and many complications in Christianity, the feeling has become stronger and stronger that the need is for Christians really to know what Christianity is, and to know what it is that they are in as Christians. That sounds, perhaps, rather drastic, but I am quite sure that a very great deal of the trouble -- and I think all agree that there is a good deal of trouble in Christianity generally -- is due to a failure really to understand what Christianity is. It may seem strange that I should speak to you, mostly experienced and mature Christians, about the true nature of Christianity. Well, if you feel that it is presumptuous and hardly called for, be patient, and I think that before we get very far you will feel as I do: that although we know a good deal about Christianity as it is taught in the New Testament, we are very often in difficulty ourselves for the very simple (or profound) reason that we have not really grasped the meaning of what we are in. So often, when distressed as to some situation, and perplexed that it should have come about, I have found that that is just what the Word has said would happen.

May I say to you (and I am sure you will agree after a moment's thought) that the major part of the New Testament, by which I mean all these Letters which make up the larger section of the New Testament, is all bearing upon this one thing: to make Christians understand what Christianity is. If that is true, and all these Letters were to Christians, surely we have to conclude that even New Testament Christians needed Christianity explained to them, and even then there was this necessity of just defining the real nature of that into which they had come.

Begin with the Letter to the Romans. Was that necessary for Christians? It was written to Christians, but what was it written for? To put them right in the matter of Christianity! Apparently those people were not quite clear in their position, in their lives and in their hearts as to the implications of that into which they had come by faith in Jesus Christ.

Proceed, as we are going to do, into the Letters to the Corinthians, and what are they? Set over against a background of real confusion and contradiction in Corinth, those Letters were written really to try to make the Christians understand what Christianity really is. And so on and on through the New Testament that is the object; that we and all who believe in the Lord Jesus should really have a clear understanding of what this is, of the meaning of the name we bear, and the meaning of that which we believe and into which we have come by the grace of God. We can gather it all up in this simple statement: that the whole Christian life is an education as to what Christianity is. Is that true? Do you not sometimes stand in the presence of some situation, some difficulty, some trial, some complication, some perplexity, some experience, and say: 'What does it all mean? I am a Christian. I have put my faith and trust in the Lord Jesus. I am His, but I don't understand what it all means. Why this experience? Why am I going this way? Why has this come my way? Why is my life such as it is? These many things are so full of mystery and perplexity. What is it that I have got into? Is this Christianity? Is this really what I have to expect and accept? If so, I need understanding, and enlightenment, and I need help as a Christian, for this thing is often beyond me altogether.'

Well, that is the setting -- but is that true? If there is anyone who has never been that way, who has never had a moment like that, and whose path has been so nice and smooth, with everything so right and well adjusted and without any kind of trouble, I will excuse you if you like to read no further, for I have nothing to say to you.

Well now, what is the point on which these words in 2 Corinthians 3:18 are focused? "We are transformed ...", and it is the present active tense: 'We are being transformed'; 'We are in a process of transformation, passing from one form to another.' There is a sense in which that fragment, that condensed verse put into those few words, touches the heart of the whole New Testament and explains everything.

Having said that, we come back to this second chapter of the first Letter to the Corinthians. This Letter (as indeed are all the Letters, but this is a very good example) is built around two contrasted words, and they are in this second chapter. Those two contrasted words describe two different types of humanity, two different manhoods, and between the two, firmly and squarely the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ is planted. Look at the chapter again in the light of that last statement! "When I came [90/91] unto you ... determined to know nothing among you save Jesus Christ, and him crucified", and everything after that rests upon that distinction between these two types which the Cross divides and says: 'That belongs to one category of human beings and this belongs to another category of human beings.' There is a cleavage cut by the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ between those two which separates them and makes them two different species of mankind. That truth follows right through this Letter. Read it through with this in your mind. The Apostle here speaks about a foundation and a building. He says: "Let each man take heed how he buildeth thereon. For other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ", and then he drives the wedge of the Cross right into the superstructure and speaks of one kind of work or works, which are the product of one type of man, or Christian, and another kind of work, or works, which are the product of another kind. The first will go up in flames and will never be found in eternity. It has gone for ever. The second will abide. It will abide the fire of judgment and the test of time, and be found in the ultimate structure, or building of God.

You see, Paul is applying this principle of the divide between two kinds of Christian people, and to the two kinds of work, or fruits, from each respectively, and the building, he says, as to its eternal value, will be determined by who is producing it, by what kind of man, or manhood, is producing it. Which of the two is producing this building? Think about this! These are not nonChristians. What an immense amount is being built upon Christ that is going up in smoke! Every man's work will be tried by fire, and its real value and its endurance will be determined by and will depend upon where it comes from, that is, from which of these two types of manhood.

Now you are wondering what the two words are which define the two types of manhood. Read the chapter: "the natural man ... he that is spiritual." There are the two words: the natural and the spiritual Christians . They are not unconverted people, not non-Christians. Is it necessary for me to put in all the detail to confirm and ratify what I am saying? May I remind you that the Apostle Paul had been in Corinth for two whole years with these people! I do not know what you think, but if you had the Apostle Paul going in and out for two whole years, you would have plenty of ground for consideration! He was there amongst them for two whole years, going in and out, teaching them probably every day, and then he went away for five years. Then he heard things which were reported to him by the household of Chloe. I wish everyone would do what the Apostle did! He did not take the report without investigating it. He got the report and then immediately despatched a reliable messenger to investigate, either to find that the thing was not true or to find that it was so. The messenger sent and came back, saying: 'It is all true, and worse than the report.' The deterioration in five years!

You are perhaps startled and shocked by that, and will say: 'Can it be?' Well, remember the messages to the seven churches in Asia in the Revelation, and how all those churches began. There were wonderful things in those churches at the beginning. Read the story of the beginning of the church in Ephesus, and what a story it is! Against such tremendous antagonism and hostility those people came out clearly, and they brought all their magic books, of which the price is given (and that represented a tremendous amount in human values!), and piled them up in the open street, or it may have been the market square, or some open place, and set them all aflame. That is a thoroughgoing division! But where is that church in the Revelation? "Thou didst leave thy First love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent" (Revelation 2:4-5). 



Saturday, June 27, 2015

A God That Hideth Himself







      "Verily, Thou art a God that hidest Thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour" (Isa. 45:15).


It is as though the Prophet was suddenly overawed and struck with amazement at what he was being made to prophesy! In the midst of his ministry something of its wonder broke upon himself and he interjected this ejaculation.

      Leaving, for the present, much of what this might imply as to prophecy as prediction and its vindication, we will stay with the exclamation itself. That statement is one in principle with several instances in the Scriptures. Looking at the present context we see that it is Israel's release from captivity, and return to the Land to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple, which is contemplated. No doubt there had been much speculation and discussing as to how the prophecies of their return would be fulfilled. Seventy years had been determined and made known as the duration of their captivity. 

The Gentile powers were in undoubted ascendancy and there seemed very little prospect or possibility of Israel's regaining their national power and glory amongst the nations. The state of things in their own country - the destroyed Temple, the burnt city, the land overrun with wild beasts, the enemy emissaries installed - and the disintegration among the people themselves in exile, made the outlook one fraught with seemingly insuperable problems, and it might well have led to complete bafflement and even despair.

      Then the Prophet is made to foretell that it would all come about - this restoration - at the hands or by the will of the Gentile power itself; that the Sovereign Spirit of God would come down upon one who - as yet - was not in the position to do it, and probably whose name was not yet known at all. Babylon was not yet overthrown: the Babylonian Empire was not yet destroyed; Daniel's prophecies were not yet fulfilled. But the one who would do it was mentioned by name and the details of his conquest are given in this forty-fifth chapter of Isaiah's prophecies. (Read it fragment by fragment.) And then, even although this man would be in ignorance of God, he would be constrained and compelled by God like an Anointed one to fulfil the Scriptures, release the people, provide the means, and generally facilitate the restoration.

      As the Prophet sees it all in his "vision" ("the vision of Isaiah," 1:1, one vision including everything) he is overwhelmed with wonder. All the problems are solved, the questions answered, the "mountains" levelled! Who would have thought of that? Who would have dreamed such a thing? Oh, how deep are God's ways, beneath our imagination, hidden from our most intense speculations. 'Verily Thou art a God that hidest Thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour."

      There have been several other great and outstanding instances of the mystery of God's ways in fulfilling His major purposes. All the race had gone from Him and become involved in Godlessness and idolatry. It was universal. How would God meet His own need? Well, He moved to put His hand on one man, and out of that one man He made a nation. In sovereign grace He made that nation His mystery, His secret, among the nations. Israel was God's mystery, God's hidden way. There was always something mysterious about Israel. Paul, in contemplating this method of God and finding it rise up with such overwhelming power, did just what Isaiah did. While writing it down he just interjected a loud and resounding ejaculation:-

      "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past tracing out!" (Rom. 11:33; A.S.V.).

      He might well have added, "Thou art a God that hidest Thyself." Who would ever have thought of the Incarnation, and that, not in glory, but in humiliation unto offending every expectation of man? Who would have thought of the Cross for God Incarnate as the method and means of solving the greatest problem ever known in this universe? Who would have suspected that it was all embodied in that Man of Nazareth, "the carpenter's son" as they called Him? There was the greatest mystery of God! Did it work? Has it proved to be the way, the only way, and the transcendently successful way?

 And what is true as to the mystery of Israel, and the mystery of Christ, is also true as to the mystery of the Church. There is a hiddenness about the true Church. No natural eye can discern it. No natural mind can explain it. Reduce it to human sense and description and you have lost it, you have got hold of the wrong thing. "God's wisdom (is) in a mystery," says Paul. Try to commend the Church to the world without faith and you have stripped your Church of its secret power! Unless men come right up against inscrutable God Who overwhelms them, that which claims to be His dwelling-place is an empty shell.

      And we would remind you that what is true in these great epochs of sovereign progress down the ages, these interventions and advents in the history of this world's spiritual life, is true in the life of each one of His true people. Such will be constantly confronted with the how? of impossible situations, in order that they may be compelled to repeated exclamations in the presence of His simple solutions -

      "VeriIy Thou art a God That hidest Thyself."

      "Deep in unfathomable mines
      Of never-failing skill,
      He treasures up His bright designs,
      And works His sovereign will."

      "I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that it is I, the Lord, Who call thee by thy name, even the God of Israel" (Isa. 45:3; ASV.)


In keeping with T. Austin-Sparks' wishes that what was freely received should be freely given, his writings are not copyrighted. Therefore, we ask if you choose to share them with others, please respect his wishes and offer them freely - free of changes, free of charge and free of copyright.


"And the Lord appeared unto Isaac the same night" (Gen. 26:24).

 
Streams in the Desert




      Be Still
     
      "And the Lord appeared unto Isaac the same night" (Gen. 26:24).
     
      "Appeared the same night," the night on which he went to Beer-sheba. Do you think this revelation was an accident? Do you think the time of it was an accident? Do you think it could have happened on any other night as well as this? If so, you are grievously mistaken. Why did it come to Isaac in the night on which he reached Beer-sheba? Because that was the night on which he reached rest. In his old locality, he had been tormented. There had been a whole series of petty quarrels about the possession of paltry wells. There are no worries like little worries, particularly if there is an accumulation of them. Isaac felt this. Even after the strife was past, the place retained a disagreeable association. He determined to leave. He sought change of scene. He pitched his tent away from the place of former strife. That very night the revelation came. God spoke when there was no inward storm. He could not speak when the mind was fretted; His voice demands the silence of the soul. Only in the hush of the spirit could Isaac hear the garments of his God sweep by. His still night was his starry night.
     
      My soul, hast thou pondered these words, "Be still, and know"? In the hour of perturbation, thou canst not hear the answer to thy prayers. How often has the answer seemed to come long after I The heart got no response in the moment of its crying--in its thunder, its earthquake, and its fire. But when the crying ceased, when the stillness fell, when thy hand desisted from knocking on the iron gate, when the interest of other lives broke the tragedy of thine own, then appeared the long-delayed reply. Thou must rest, O soul, if thou wouldst have thy heart's desire. Still the beating of thy pulse of personal care. Hide thy tempest of individual trouble behind the altar of a common tribulation and, that same night, the Lord shall appear to thee. The rainbow shall span the place of the subsiding flood, and in thy stillness thou shalt hear the everlasting music. --George Matheson
     
      Tread in solitude thy pathway,
      Quiet heart and undismayed.
      Thou shalt know things strange, mysterious,
      Which to thee no voice has said.
     
      While the crowd of petty hustlers
      Grasps at vain and paltry things,
      Thou wilt see a great world rising
      Where soft mystic music rings.
     
      Leave the dusty road to others,
      Spotless keep thy soul and bright,
      As the radiant ocean's surface
      When the sun is taking flight.
      --(From the German of V. Schoffel) H. F.


Thanksgiving is never out of season!



(James Smith)

"In everything give thanks!"
 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Everything we enjoy, should be viewed as coming from the gracious and liberal hand of our sovereign God.

All was forfeited by our sin.

All that we receive is by His grace.

The providence that supplies us — is the wisdom, benevolence, and power of God in operation for us — as expressive of His infinite love and unmerited grace!

Our talents to provide supplies,
our opportunities to obtain them,
and our abilities to enjoy them,
 — are alike from the Lord.

Every mercy increases our obligation — and deepens our debt to free grace!

Thanksgiving is never out of season
, for we have always much to be grateful for.

We must view all things as . . .
  arranged by His wisdom,
  dependent on His will,
  sanctified by His blessing,
  according with His promises,
  and flowing from His love!

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Carry all your concerns to Him—in the arms of faith!



(James Smith, "The Pastor's Morning Visit")

"Casting all your care upon Him—because He cares for you!" 1 Peter 5:7

The Lord knows all His people—all their needs, and all their trials.

He thinks upon them—to bless, deliver and supply them.

He keeps His eye upon them—in all places, at all times, and under all circumstances.

He has them in His hand—and will not loosen His hold.

He looks upon them always as His own 'treasured possession' . . .
  the objects of His eternal love,
  the purchase of His Son's blood,
  the temples of His Holy Spirit.

They are precious in His sight! 

He knows they are weak and fearful—and that they have many enemies. He teaches them to cast themselves and all their cares into His hands! And He has given them His promise—that He will care for them.

It is a Father's care which He exercises. It is a wise, holy, tender, and constant care. Therefore all will be well with you—only trust Him.

Believe that He cares for you this day. Carry all your concerns to Him—in the arms of faith! Leave all with Him, persuaded that He will manage all by His infinite wisdom, and bring all to a good outcome by His omnipotent power.

Cast all your cares upon Him—as fast as they come in.

Do not worry about anything.

"Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will support you! He will never allow the righteous to be shaken!" Psalm 55:22

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He cannot love you more!



(James Smith, "The Pastor's Morning Visit")

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." Philippians 4:6

The Lord cares for His children!

He knows our needs—and has promised to supply them.
He knows our foes—and will deliver us from them.
He knows our fears—and will make us ashamed of them.

All creatures and things are in His hand, and at His disposal; all circumstances are under His absolute control. He . . .
  directs the angel,
  feeds the sparrow,
  curbs the devil, and
  manages the tempest!

He is your Father—and His love to you is infinite. You are His delight—His dear child. Will He neglect you? Impossible! Cast then your cares upon Him. Tell out all your desires, fears, and troubles to Him; let Him know everything; keep nothing back. And then in the confidence of faith, expect Him to fulfill His Word, and act a Parent's part.

Bless Him for all He has given, for all He has promised. Plead with Him for all you may need. But never for one moment, or under any circumstances, distrust Him! He cannot love you more! He is your ever present help. He will rejoice over you to do you good, with His whole heart, and with His whole soul.

"Cast all your care upon Him, because He cares about you!" 1 Peter 5:7
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